Best of Digital – Netflix Movies

Icon-Movie-150Carrying on the series from last week’s Best of Digital – Netflix TV Shows, I’d like to highlight a few perhaps hidden gems of Netflix’s movie offerings.

Capote – Writer Truman Capote finds himself in a dance with the devil while researching the Clutter family murders for his masterwork, “In Cold Blood.” It won Philip Seymour Hoffman the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award in 2006.

Fargo  – When a car dealer conspires with dim-bulb criminals to kidnap his wife for a hefty ransom, a folksy — and pregnant — police chief is on the case. It won 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1997.

Stand By Me – When four boys seek adventure in the woods while looking for a missing teenager’s dead body, they learn some truths about themselves along the way.

Vanilla Sky – A man who has everything — money, good looks and a gorgeous woman — seemingly loses it all when his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident.

Fish Tank – The life of a hot-tempered teen outcast takes an unexpected turn when her mother brings home a handsome and mysterious boyfriend.

The Raid – Trapped in a tenement building during a raid, a SWAT team must fight its way out against the forces of a drug lord they were trying to assassinate.

Battle Royale – The Japanese government introduces a system whereby randomly chosen schoolchildren are taken to an island and forced to fight each other to the death.

Carrie – An outcast teen with telekinetic ability lashes out with her deadly power when the high school “in crowd” torments her with a sick joke at the prom.

The Square – As the Egyptian Revolution unfolds, this 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature immerses the viewer in the intense emotional drama of young people on the streets of Cairo claiming their rights and creating a society of conscience. As two governments topple, the personal stories of the freedom fighters unfold in an inspiring tribute to the power of citizenship.

Best of Digital – Netflix TV Shows

Icon-TV-150Digital streaming entertainment has come a long way in the last years, but what it sometimes struggles with is some form of curation. So, I’ll be working my way through the various digital TV and movie options, one at a time, and highlighting a few things.

This week, we start with Netflix’s TV offerings:

Justified – U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens takes the law into his own hands, frontier-style, as he faces off against crooks in the Appalachian town where he grew up.

The Returned – On returning home and finding they’re believed to be dead, a collection of near-strangers from the same village try to find a reason for their plight.Person of Interest

House of Cards – Kevin Spacey stars as ruthless, cunning Congressman Francis Underwood, who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious, and equally conniving wife

Orange is the New Black – Piper Chapman’s wild past comes back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates.

Black Mirror – This sci-fi anthology series in the vein of “The Twilight Zone” reflects on the darker side of technology and human nature.

The Bridge – When a body is found on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, a Danish inspector and a Swedish detective must work together to find the killer.

American Horror Story – Exploring humankind’s unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors.

The Thick of It – This award-winning fictitious reality comedy cleverly pokes fun at the intricacies — and ineptitude — of the modern British government.

Comixology and Frictionless Digital Consumption

I’ve long maintained that one of the things that increases consumption of digital entertainment is the reduction in friction. I don’t just mean the convenience of accessing digital media anytime and anywhere, but actually making it increasingly easy to keep consuming it; encouraging you to stay and consume more. Netflix does this very well. When you’ve finished watching an episode of a TV show, you don’t have to hunt down the next one. In fact, if you pause to consider for more than 15 seconds, the next episode will start to play automatically. Frictionless.

Breaking Bad Netflix Continue

I mention this because Comixology, the market-leading digital comics source, used to have the same thing, you’d get to the end of a comic and you’d be shown a screen with an option to read the next issue if you had it already, buy it if you didn’t, and if it was the end of a series you’d be shown similar comics. Again, frictionless. It was made easy to keep reading and keep buying.

The latter was the sticking point though. When Amazon bought Comixology, they decided to move to the same model as for Kindle books: Buying them as In-App Purchases cuts into Amazon’s profits as they’d have to give 30% to Apple or Google. So, as with Kindle books, Comixology purchases can now only occur on their website.

I understand their reasoning for this, nobody likes the idea of giving away 30% of profits, not when there’s another option. And there’s a strong argument for the fact that creators will get a bigger cut of profits. However, in my view it’s a bigger cut of a smaller pie. Because it’s no longer frictionless.

Now, if I want to read the next comic in a series, I have to put my tablet down, load up my computer, browse to the Comixology website, search for the comic, check out, enter my PayPal details… When previously, all I had to do was press the button marked Buy, then OK then start reading. Frictionless.

Time will tell whether Comixology really does take this predicted hit in sales, whether people will adapt to putting their tablets down, shift to buying Kindle Fire HDs or whether Amazon will cave in. But however you spin it, by adding friction Amazon and Comixology have fumbled this and lost a lot of goodwill.

Review: Orange Is The New Black

I don’t have a good success rate when I review a TV show after just starting to watch it. I loved the first episodes of Once Upon A Time, but then walked away when one of its cleverest conceits was nullified; I loved the first episode of Life On Mars, but it failed to keep my interest; I truly meant to keep watching Elementary after the first three episodes, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep up with it.

So, having learnt nothing, I really enjoyed the first episode of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black. This is Netflix’s third attempt at exclusive digital programming after the excellent House Of Cards and the excruciable Hemlock Grove.

OitnB, an acronym unlikely to catch on, is ostensibly a prison drama, a fish-out-of-water story punctuated by flashbacks to Jason Biggs. If you’re anything like me, that’d be enough to consign watching it to some time after the fourth re-watch of the criminally underrated TV show Threshold. And yet OitnB shines. It has very strong characterisation, immense pathos, charm and the blackest humour. The use of flashbacks as visual punctuation is especially well done; even the insipid Biggs (apparently you can only have a digital only show with at least one semi-recognisable name) is used to good effect to highlight contrasts between the world outside and the world inside.

I’m hooked. I just have to hope I remain so. Digital distribution needs to establish itself, partly so we can move past established actor vehicles and onto true indie productions.