Archive for the ‘Netflix’ Tag

Netflix’s Marco Polo is a textbook “Don’t Judge a Book by it Cover”   Leave a comment

I watched the whole series over the course of three days, wrapping it up Thursday afternoon.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to think of it when I saw the trailer for it on TV around this time last year. Then I made time to watch the series earlier his year. After finishing the first two episodes, three things were made clear:

  1.  The sexually explicit scenes in almost every episode explained why no cable network picked it up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some things were toned down just so Netflix would carry it.
  2. It is telling a unique story during an interesting point in the Far East’s history. Kublai Khan and Marco Polo were real people though this Marco Polo is clearly fictionalized. Given the historical account of his travels in China is unknown 800 years later, the show does a pretty good job with it in my opinion. More on this in a bit.
  3. I can’t wait to see Season 2 when it is released this summer!

Like I mentioned above, the historical record regarding Marco Polo’s travels in China and Mongolia are disputed. I did some searching on Wikipedia and other websites and the only “proof” we have of Polo’s exploits are his accounts, which are inconsistent. There is no Chinese account of Polo and so his account is generally taken with a grain of salt for this reason. We do know that he was acquainted with Kublai Khan, who was ruler of China and founder of the Yang Dynasty at the time. In short, the real Marco Polo had to have went to China to know some of the things he knew. Historians on both sides of the debate do agree he likely exaggerated his “importance” to the Khan of Khans.

…Why am I bringing this up? Because Polo’s biggest inconsistency–Polo’s claim of sharing his knowledge of catapaults with the Mongols, allowing them to take Xiangyang–happens according to Polo’s account in the series. I’m willing to excuse it since the series is a fictional account of Marco Polo in general. That said, for those who don’t know the history Kublai took Xiangyang by the time Marco first visited China.

Moving on, Marco is much older in the series–I’d say about 10 years older–and he is by himself. The real Marco traveled with his father and uncle across Asia. The series opens with the three and their merchant group getting ambushed by Mongol soldiers. The Europeans are brought before Kublai Khan. Marco’s father offers his son in exchange for letting him and his brother go, which the Khan of Khan accepts. If you think that’s some messed-up parenting, you’re right and it gets worse: Later in the season when Marco’s father and uncle return to see him, all three are arrested when it is revealed the Polo Brothers were trying to smuggle silkworms out of China.  Marco narrowly escapes punishment though his father and uncle are branded and banished from the realm–by Marco.

Getting back to the siege of Xiangyang. In the series, things get complicated for Marco: After an incursion into the walled city to gather intel backfires, Marco is imprisoned and accused of treason. It is while he is in prison he sketches a Trebuchet on the floor of his cell, offering it as the key to taking the city Kublai has had his eyes on for some time. The series takes alot of creative liberties–let’s be honest, alot of things had to be fictionalized to make it work–but every effort is made to keep the feel of it historically accurate.


One of the biggest draws for me was easily the character development. Several stories are happening to bring the time period alive. Marco Polo may be the main character but he doesn’t dominate screen time. Hence the above graph. A few things I can’t help but highlight–and be warned, there are MAJOR spoilers–include:

  • Mei Lin’s daughter Ling Ling being revealed as the daughter of the late Emperor Song. His 5 year-old son is crowned Emperor, whose wareabouts after the fall of Xiangyang are presently unknown. Empress Chabi realizes this after asking the girl about her parents and suddenly the Khante is much closer to solidifying its control of its new territory. It also helps said girl is in the care of Empress Chabi. Hmm…
  • Mei Lin herself is at the mercy of the Mongol empress despite knowing her daughter is alive, well and very closeby. She likely doesn’t yet know her brother is dead any less than her brother knew Ling Ling had been smuggled out of the city. She may be the key to the Khanate’s prosperity…if she cooperates, that is.
  • Crown Prince Jingim finally recognizing Marco in the final moments of the season was a powerful moment. He stuck to his beliefs to the very end and that was something I loved about his growth throughout the season.
  • Kaidu suddenly breaking ties with Kublai is clearly setting the stage for conflict in season 2. You can be sure his daughter and future son in law will have their loyalties tested by both sides.
  • “Kokachin” is in a bit of a bind: Not only is she in love with a man she knows won’t be allowed to marry, she may be pregnant as well. If this turns out to be true, she could be killed. Things are made even more perilous given both people who knew her true identity were killed off, one by her own hands.  She is a political pawn but the question is whose?
  • Hundred Eyes–until the final episode, I had no idea he was actually blind. The 30-minute special that takes place 3 years before the start of the series explains how he first met Kublai and why he’s blind. It helps make his character feel less like a Mary Sue as he had to retrain himself to fight without the use of his eyes. It is also revealed he was the one who named the crown prince Jingim, meaning “Golden One”.
  • Kublai Khan is quite an interesting guy. On the one hand, his is portrayed as embracing knowledge and cultures from The West. On the other hand, the brutality and debauchery the Khans were known for during their respectful rule are not glossed over: He has Chinese prisoners maimed the night before the siege of Xiangyang.

Season 2 is sure to be interesting when it is released this summer. No doubt it will pick up where the first season left off. I look forward to seeing how it goes ^_^



Fuller House Season 2 Confirmed!   Leave a comment

I just finished watching the Pilot and the third episode. All I can say is it’s a shame none of the networks tried to match Netflix’s offer. Folks should have paid attention when the Full House sequel was announced in 2014. This series secured Netflix as a powerhouse provider for original content as promised.

For those who loved the original series, the sequel  goes above and beyond. As was announced, everyone except Michelle returns for the new series set 20 years later. Danny Tanner explains her absence when Stephanie asks, referencing her running a Fashion Empire in New York. Before I continue, the show is called Fuller House for two reasons: The obvious reboot and the fact DJ’s name is DJ Tanner-Fuller. Her husband died, leaving her to raise her three sons with help from Stephanie and longtime friend Kimmy Gibler, who both move in to the old Tanner Family home.

The new series does continue the tradition set by the original: Tommy Fuller is played by twins Fox and Dashiel Messitt. As everyone knows, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen took turns playing Michelle. That said, the big news announced today is there will be a Season 2. Awesome! This leaves the question of if Michelle Tanner will make an appearance. The Olsens declined appearing in Season 1 (though there have been references and recounts of the Tanner daughters’ antics when they were kids) though there is the possability Michelle could appear in Season 2.

To me, Fuller House is a reminder of the need for the citcom genre to make a comeback. The values that are taught are needed now more than ever. It’s easy to get caught up in the toxic values being spread on today’s TV networks. Fuller House is a great reminder of what quality family TV programming used to look like. I was originally planning to end my Netflix subscription in April but if more sitcoms come–complete with the canned studio audience reactions–I’ll probably extend it through the rest of the year ^_^


Full House spinoff series premieres on Netflix February 26, 2016   Leave a comment


Earlier today, pics of the cast on the set were released online. Here is ome with mostly familiar but some new faces as well:


Noticably absent is the beloved child star of the original TV series Michelle Tanner, who was played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (they took turns playing her). The Olsen Twins declined being a part of the new series despite a personal request by Bob Saget and John Stamos. While they declined the offer due to their respective busy schedules–by the way they’re 28 now–it’s likely they don’t want to be a disrtaction for what their on-screen family is doing AND they want the new cast to have their time to shine. Tabloids and critics will be quick to twist it and say it’s because of their unflattering moments from a few years ago. That said, I doubt their recent very public issues would have stopped them from participating if they really wanted to. Their fans and TV family understand and that’s all that matters.

That and unlike a Family Matters reboot, Fuller House has plenty of star power to keep the show going even without the Olsen Twins: Lori Laughlin (Played Becky) and John Stamos (Played Jessie) were the most prolific since the original series ended, appearing in several Primetime TV shows including One Tree Hill and ER. Bob Saget (Played Danny) did theatre while Dave Coulier (Played Joey) returned to standup comedy. Jodie Sweeden (Played Stephanie) and Candace Cameron (Played DJ) returned to private life while the Olsen Twins (took turns playing Michelle) were the most prolific for the 13 years following the end of the original series. The Olsens were hospitalized for Drug Abuse and Anorexia about 10 years ago on separate occasions but they seem to have made a full recovery based on the pics from the Full House Reunion two years ago.,h_750,w_1000/t_mp_quality/v7hvdrfefyxigeyzu4jh/where-has-the-time-gone-check-out-the-family-matters-stars-then-and-now-338215.jpg

Getting back on topic, the reason Fuller House has a better shot at being successful compared to Family Matters is the latter only had one star: Steve Urkel, who was played by Jaheel White. White, who pulled a Nutty Professor and played himself under the alias Stephon Erkel through that show’s run from 1990 to 1996 went out of his way to distance himself from Family Matters’ star character. White wanted to continue his career in showbiz and knew from the experiences of other child stars how difficult a transition it would be. Hence why he took steps in this direction long before the show ended.

Unlike Alfonzo Robiero, who played Carlton Banks on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air he came to hate the fact all people knew him for was the character he played on Family Matters. Robiero had the same problem but unlike White, he didn’t hate his on-screen self because of it. Only recently has he seemed to have accepted this part of his life, appearing with a life-sized Steve Urkel doll in a car commercial. Where am I going with this? It’s very possible The Olsens have the same thought about Michelle Tanner.

Think about it: Unlike fellow twin TV stars Tia and Tamera Mowry, The Olsens took turns playing one character. This worked to their advantage they both didn’t necessarily need to be present to shoot episodes. The obvious downside is since they were both playing the same character, it was less about them and more about their on-screen character. Another difference the Mowrys (who made a very brief cameo appearance on an episode of Full House) had is they enjoyed success long after their show Sister, Sister ended. They saw the fact that they performed both together and with younger brother Taj (got his start on Full House as one of Michelle’s friends) as a strength and when they started acting separately, it was to showcase their individuality. Tia starred in a sitcom on CW for 2 seasons while Tamera co-starred in a season of Diagnosis Murder. The Mowrys currently star in a reality TV show on E!

So, Michelle Tanner won’t be on Fuller House. So what? They’ll come up with a clever cover story to explain her absence from the show. I doubt she’ll be killed off but they’ll probably say she’s doing her own thing just like the actresses who played her are. All in all, it’lls be a nice trip down memory lane for those who liked the original series.


Ending my Netflix subsctiption in Spring 2016   Leave a comment


The main reasons I haven’t yet cancelled despite overwhelming reasons to do so are two:

  1. As long as I stay subscribed through May 9, 2016 I will save a dollar on the monthly streaming subscription (subbed since March 2011).
  2. I can use it on my Android phone, PS Vita, 3DS, iPod and iPad.

My attitude this year on owning vs. streaming is why I’ve decided to end my Netflix subscription next spring: I prefer to own the movies and TV series I’m gonna watch frequently. All of the Anime I watched for the first time on Netflix I now own: Clannad, Spice & Wolf and Ouran High School Host Club to name a few.

Having stopped my WWE Network subscription yesterday, the plan going into next summer is to only use Crunchyroll as my streaming provider. In light of Netflix ramping up on original programming (an inevitability I’m aware of) and introducing advertisements to the streaming service (even though it’s for their original programming), the company has fallen further into disfavor with me. That said, the projections for this coming winter is the main reason why I am going to keep my netflix sub going through the next 8 months including September but not May. As long as I stay subbed to then, I will still pay just $8.

Now that I’m on the subject, WWE Network’s monthly sub is $10. Crunchyroll’s is $9. World of Warcraft’s is of course $15 though the introduction of the WoW Token makes it possible to buy game time with-game currency, not cash. From April to June, I had all four active so for three months that was $42, or $126 total across all three months. Yeah, way too much to pay for all four of those with my salary >.>;

I don’t really care for Netflix’s original programming and iTunes has Netflix beat when it comes to NEW movies: I bought Mad Max: Fury Road and Selma from iTunes while both were still in theaters. Straight Outta Compton’s rumored to go on sale at the end of September on iTunes so…yeah. I no longer see the need to rely on Netflix when I can get a better deal from elsewhere: Crunchyroll takes care of my Anime needs despite being subbed only and I can get movies super-cheap from a certain store in Downtown Boston.

Netfix is targeting a certain demographic that I don’t fall into with these original shows. That isn’t what bothers me. What bothers me is their willingness to cut their ties with content providers who then turn around and sign exclusive deals with Hulu or develop their own streaming service. I once called Netflix the Streaming King. It still is but for what I’m looking for, Netflix fails epically. The main draw for me was Anime but most of the Anime they have now is subbed even though the dub can easily be found elsewhere or has aired on Toonami.


So much garbage on American TV these days   Leave a comment


The more I seriously think about, the happier I am with my decision to only watch network TV for sports, the news and Cartoon Network’s Anime block Saturday at 11:30PM to 6:00AM Sunday morning (though I only watch the first hour for Attack on Titan and Bleach, both of which are in their final episodes) . Anything else I might want to watch is where DVDs/Blu-Ray sets, Netflix and Crunchyroll come in.

What’s really sad is there are alot of sensible people out there who would rather watch junk on TV than do something else with their time. This isn’t like the 80s and 90s where you just knew not to watch Daytime TV. These days, it’s rare to find meaningful programming outside PBS. For those with Cable/Satellite you can no longer rely on The History Channel, The Discovery Channel or even TLC.

Controversial from the start, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo was finally cancelled by TLC last month despite having just recorded a new season (which will reportedly cost the network $19 Million). The reason: The matriach of the family’s new boyfriend is a convicted child molester. What’s worse: The ex-con was convicted of molesting her now 21-year old daughter, who was the age of the show’s star at the time. Major props to TMZ for breaking the story and Kudos to TLC for doing the right thing in both cancelling the show and offering counseling to the family.

Moving on, I make it a point to avoid network TV (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX and CW) during state and national elections. The only real way to stop the special interest groups is to not watch at all. I think I mentioned this during the election for Boston mayor last year but many people do not do their own research on candidates or wait until the day before an election to try to do research. A considerable number of folks in this demographic decide who they’re gonig to vote for based on the TV Spots, candidate personality, party affiliation or a combination of all three. This was how Mitt Romney became Governor of Massachusetts and Scott Brown became a Senator in Massachusetts. Yes, the same Scott Brown who tried and failed to run for Senate in NH and the same Mitt Romney who ran for President in 2012.

Anywho, I’m content paying the $15 a month I pay for Netflix and Crunchyroll to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it on demand. I’m also fine with buying DVD or Blu-Ray box sets of my favorite TV Shows or buying digital copies from iTunes, Xbox Live or The Playstation Network. Yes, I hate Political Ads THAT much and no, I don’t use Pandora either. I like being able to own the music I listen to be it digital or physical. Everyone who would prefer to go to the pirate sites for movies are not as smart as they think they are and they are taking money out of someone’s paycheck. Not the actors and the guys on the top but the unsung middlemen who do 80% of the work and are only mentioned by name in the closing credits.

Don’t wanna buy alot of movies? Just wait until it comes out on Netflix.


I’m done with Netflix   Leave a comment

As I said in this blog post the main reason I got Netflix was for the Anime first and foremost.

Aside from that I’d watch a couple movies as they were released or old movies I found but other than that I still bought what I watched if it wasn’t on DirecTV. Since buying my iPod Touch and especially since buying two Anime DVD sets at Anime Boston this year I’ve had less and less reason use Netflix.

I cancelled my subscription early last month.

Let’s be honest: Most people who use Netflix either for DVDs or Streaming have a particular genre or series in mind. For me, Anime was the main draw. Since their Anime library has been steadily getting smaller over the last 16 months, I figure I’m better off just buying it on iTunes, Xbox Live or DVD. As one person who commented on my previous blog on the subject said it looks like Netflix wants to get rid of fans of that genre.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. I know how the whole licensing thing with Netflix works. They can only license something for a certain number of years. If the company they made the deal with choses not to renew they have to take it down and there’s nothing they can do. I get that. To make matters worse for Netflix, Funimation and Aniplex both stream many of their titles on their websites. Why get your milk from the store when you can get it straight from the cow?

There’s also the fact some streaming services want an exclusive deal with content providers. That puts the provider at a bit of a disadvantage: If they have a licensing deal with mutliple services they collect mutliple checks. With exclusive deals everyone else is shut out. For example last year Netflix inked an exclusive deal with Disney. Most people didn’t see the significance of the deal until Disney announced they bought LucasFilms a few weeks later. Thanks to their exclusive deal the Star Wars movies can be streamed from Netflix. As a reminder Disney also owns the distribution rights to Marvel (X-Men, The Avengers, Spiderman, etc.).

All in all I’m done with Netflix.

It was great while it lasted but I no longer have a reason to keep using it.

The thing about DRM You Should Know   Leave a comment

When we talk about Bootleg Media and Pirated Movies or Music this usually comes to mind:

Or this:

Times have certainly changed.

As you may be aware Movie, Music, Software and Video Game companies have been taking agressive steps over the last 14 years to combat the piracy of their products. At the close of the last century, when you talked about Pirating Music this website came to mind:

For those who don’t know their Internet History, Napster was the first and most popular Filesharing King. That was before the service and Napster Founder Sean Parker–then considered the Robin Hood of the Industry by Napster supporters–were taken down by the RIAA (Record Inudstry Association of America), which was originally formed specifically to shut down Napster and the copycat filesharing serrvices it spawned. Of course, in the years since then Napster came back as an online music store.

Even so, the internet has since been feeling the effects of the revolution Napster ignited before they want legit. Copycat filesharing services like Limewire, eMule, Etomi Pro and Kazza stepped in to fill the massive void created whe Napster was taken down. Given several million people worldwide engage in filesharing worldwide, it’s clear threats of multimillion dollar fines and 100-year prison sentences from the RIAA aren’t enough to discourage the people who do it.

That isn’t to say companies aren’t getting with the times and offering services similar to the filesharing programs to give people more control over how they can get their mits on their favorite media. Before I continue, first let me refer you to a couple of You Tube videos on the subject of DRM (Digital Rights Management).

Of course this one specifically targets people who upload copyrighted material to You Tube despite the fact 90% of time the uploaded media is covered by Fair Use or would otherwise be considered a Derrivative Work.

…And this one is pretty self-explanatory =D

Here is the text he pasted in the video:

“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”

Again: 90% of what people upload to You Tube is covered by Fair Use. The link above goes into more detail.

Now here is DRM explained:

VERY recently DRM was front and center when Microsoft unveiled its Xbox One game system. The next-gen console, which is going to be released later this year was originally going to have strict anti-piracy systems in place–at the expense of the consumer. Read this blog I wrote before Microsoft backpedaled after the public uproar.

Speaking for myself, I support a company’s right to protect their product from theft. What I have a problem with is cases like SimCity 2013 in which you don’t actually own the game you paid for and instead you paid $60 for a client to stream the game on your computer. While I buy the reasons Maxis explained for this at the core, it’s because of DRM they released the game the way they did.


Sony Music is easily one of, if not the worst offender when it comes to DRM: In 2009 it was revealed Sony been embedding spyware and trackware on physical music CDs. Spyware and Trackware are both programs used to monitor the computers they’re install on, usually for malicious purposes. Sony’s explaination for the spying? To scan the hard drives of customers for pirated music. That’s their explaination but that could and usually does lead to other things. Luckily it was discovered when it did or other companies would think it cool to do that. It’s not about weather someone has something to hide. It’s the principle as well as a blatant invasion of privacy. Someone going through your hard drive is no different from someone going through your bedroom.


Contrary to a long standing popular belief, when you buy a physical or digial media (Movie, Song, game, etc.) you don’t actually own it. Your purchase is simply you buying the license to use the media for personal, commercial or private use depending on the license. For example you don’t actually own your copy of The Departed. You simply have legal permission to watch it however you want whenever you want but only if the audience is 50 people or less and you don’t charge people to watch the movie. Both would legally be considered theft. Even movie theaters have to pay a licensing fee (distribution). NO ONE is exempt.

Now that I’ve no doubt half-scared some of you or made another chunk of you a little paranoid, DRM does work both ways. You are entitled to certain rights as the licensee or to say that in plain English; The person who bought the movie or album.

  • Your purchase should work as advertised or you are entitled to a refund or similar compensation.
  • You are protected from prosecution as long as you do not try to profit from the media in some way.

Some companies have been going above and beyond what’s expected of them to support their consumers:

  • Apple’s iCloud is easily the best: Once you buy a movie or song you more or less “own” it forever. You can download it to as many authorized devices as you want without restriction at no additional cost. Got a new computer? You can download ALL of your iTunes purchases with a single click on your new one.
  • Xbox Live (XBL) and The Playstation Network (PSN) come in second with theirs. Once you buy a game, movie or TV Episode you can immediately download it to your console or PC (If you use Media Go or Zune) or just stream it if you prefer. Once it’s been downloaded you can use it as much as you want even if the title is no longer available for purchase later. The drawback to both XBL and the PSN is your license only grants you 5 downloads so if you use up all of those downloads you’ll need to make a new account to get it again. I was lucky when I got my desktop 3 years ago and was able to convince Microsoft to give me a full refund in Microsoft Points of purchases I couldn’t transfer to my new computer. A good $215 worth of media.
  • Amazon and Netflix both offer Streaming in addition to physical movies. Amazon has a streaming App for Apple, Android and Microsoft Products that you can use to enjoy your music and movies without even having to download them. The Netflix Client can be used on everything under the sun including the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita so…yeah.

And of course when you buy Blu-Ray Movies you usually get three copies: The Blu-Ray version, a Standard Definition Version (Regular DVD) and a digital copy. These days, many software companies require online registration to use their products. Some of you might remember this blog I wrote for Microsoft Office 2013. This is obviously Microsoft’s way of protecting its product from being pirated but as I said in that blog, I use Open Source alternatives to MS Office.

All in all, if you’re going to use DRM it shouldn’t infringe on the rights of the honest people who make up the majority of people who consume media. On the other hand there are times when piracy can and does actually help companies by telling them what consumers want. Just look at Napster and iTunes. iTunes exists because of Napster. The same can be said for Megaupload, and the Cloud services that have popped up in recent years. For the video game industry it’s because of Steam all of the console makers give gamers the option of downloading full games directly to their consoles, cutting out need to get a physical copy.

Think what you want about it but for all intents and purposes, if it wasn’t for Napster online stores as we know them probably wouldn’t exist.

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