Category Archives: Movies

Like a brick: Chevy uses more than 300,000 Lego pieces to construct full-size pickup truck

(Chevrolet Photo)

Still working on that 4,000 piece Lego set you got your kid for Christmas? The people over at Chevrolet just unveiled a full-size pickup truck that has 334,544 pieces and took more than 2,000 hours to build.

Chevy relied on 18 Lego Master Builders to construct the model of its 2019 Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss and it debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Saturday morning.

The effort is part of a marketing push for the vehicle, obviously, as Chevy has teamed with Warner Bros. Pictures to get the truck in “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” which hits theaters on Feb. 8.

Here are some more specs on the truck:

  • Dimensions: 6 feet high, 20 feet long, 8 feet wide.
  • Total weight: 3,307 pounds.
  • Most common Lego brick used: red 2×8 stud brick.
  • The LEGO® Silverado took 18 builders more than 2,000 hours to assemble.
  • Designed and assembled by Master Builders in the Lego Group’s Model Shop in Enfield, Conn.

Check out the time-lapse video below showing it all snap together:

Plex plans to offer ad-supported movies and more premium subscriptions

Media software maker Plex is preparing to take on The Roku Channel and Amazon Prime Video Channels, possibly as soon as this year. The company is in discussions with rights holders and content providers, with a focus on bringing free, ad-supported movies to the Plex platform – similar to how The Roku Channel got its start. It’s also talking to premium networks and content providers about offering their programming and subscriptions through Plex.

The talks follow the company’s recent partnership with music service TIDAL.

By working with TIDAL to sell bundled subscriptions to its streaming music service along with the Plex Pass subscription, Plex had to build certain transactional capabilities into its platform that it didn’t have before. That has paved the way for Plex to expand its subscription offerings to include new partners in the future.

“Now we have the ability to sell other services and bundles,” noted Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Scott Olechowski, in a discussion this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “We’re bundling a Plex Pass with TIDAL. That took a little bit of backend work,” he continued. “You can imagine a bunch of different premium [content] that comes together in a single or multiple bundles, potentially.”

In Plex, content is organized not by source but by type – like music, movies, TV, etc. So when Plex rolls out premium content and subscriptions, it would show its users what sort of movies they have access to based on their subscriptions within the app’s movies tab. The same goes for TV and so on.

Premium content is only one area of interest for Plex going forward. It’s also looking to offer ad-supported content – like ad-supported movies.

As Plex expanded beyond organizing personal media collections to offer access other media – like podcasts, news, and web series, for example – it built out its ad tech platform, too. Today, Plex serves ads in its streaming news and web series, and is now capable of doing so for ad-supported movies.

“We have the ad integration that we didn’t have before. That wasn’t there a year and a half ago,” Olechowski pointed out.

“I think, from a commerce perspective, we’ll have ad-supported, we’ll have free obviously, and we’ll have subscriptions. And I think we would like this year to launch transaction [capabilities] as well, just as an option for certain types of content,” he said.

Plex isn’t ready to launch these new offerings yet, to be clear. It needs to work on the DRM portion and the transactional components for one-off purchases before it’s able to finalize deals with content providers or launch features for the Plex user base.

However, that could be coming as soon as this year, Plex believes.

“We have a bunch of conversations that make it potentially possible in 2019,” Olechowski said.

Beyond the technical considerations, there are also larger issues Plex needs to figure out before these products would launch to users – like which deals make sense for Plex, how will the offerings be bundled together, how the economics will work, and more.

“Now, it’s really a question of what’s the right order of battle, given the conversations we’re having with content providers who are all super excited about getting content into Plex,” added Plex CEO Keith Valory. “We can’t do it all at once,” he said.

While Plex doesn’t have deals to announce at this time, it’s confident it will get them done.

“The market is heading in this direction,” said Valory. “People realize there are too many services, too many silos. There’s just too much. It’s just madness. So if there’s a way to get in front of these users – and do it in a way that they love it – they want to be part of that,” he said.

Amazon wins two Golden Globe Awards for stars of ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and ‘Very English Scandal’

(Twitter screen shot via @amazonstudios)

Amazon returned to another awards show and took home more prizes Sunday night, as the tech giant won again at the Golden Globe Awards.

CEO Jeff Bezos was on hand at the annual Hollywood party to see Amazon Studios win two Golden Globes. The studio received a total of nine nominations.

Rachel Brosnahan, star of the Prime Video series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” won Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series. Brosnahan also won an Emmy Award last fall for the role, for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

While Brosnahan was thanking “the team at Amazon” from stage, cameras caught Bezos beaming at his table.

Amazon’s other win came earlier in the night when Ben Whishaw captured Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for “A Very English Scandal.”

Amazon shows no signs of slowing down in the ultra-competitive streaming TV battle. Reports last year said the company was expected to spend about $5 billion on video content in 2018, with an emphasis on big-budget original shows and sports rights.

While its chief rivals are Netflix and Hulu, Amazon is likely to be up against more competition soon as traditional media companies such as Disney and and AT&T are expected to launch their own streaming services.

Speaking of Netflix, they had a good night, too, on the strength of eight nominations in the TV category and five in film.

The film “Roma” won Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director for Alfonso Curan.

“The Kominsky Method” picked up two wins, for Best Television Series  – Musical or Comedy and for star Michael Douglas for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.

Richard Madden won Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama, for Netflix’s “Bodyguard.”

Netflix also won for best tweet of the night, in our opinion, considering its platform and the audience watching on traditional broadcast TV:

Apple is bringing iTunes content to Samsung’s Smart TVs

Ahead of Apple’s plans to introduce its own streaming service this year, the company has partnered with Samsung to allow iTunes content to be accessible on Samsung Smart TVs. Samsung announced this morning that it will offer access to iTunes Movies and TV shows through a new “iTunes Movies and TV” app on its Smart TVs across 100 countries, and it will offer AirPlay 2 support on its Smart TVs in 190 countries worldwide.

Samsung is the first TV maker to have direct access to iTunes content though this new “iTunes Movies and TV” app, but this is not the first time that iTunes content has been accessible outside of Apple’s own ecosystem.

iTunes content is already accessible today through the third-party Movies Anywhere application, alongside purchases from Prime Video, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, Vudu, and others. That app currently works on a number of streaming media devices, like Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and others, but not yet on Samsung Smart TVs. In addition, Apple Music can today be streamed on Android devices and iTunes is available on Windows PCs. 

According to Samsung, Apple’s new “iTunes Movies and TV Shows” app will allow Samsung Smart TV owners to browse their existing iTunes library and the iTunes store, where they can purchase and rent hundreds of thousands of movies and TV episodes, including a large selection of 4K HDR titles. The movies and TV shows will also work with Samsung Smart TV features, like the Universal Guide, the new Bixby, and Search.

Meanwhile, Samsung is making AirPlay 2 support available on a range of Smart TVs, including QLED 4K and 8K TVs, The Frame and Serif lifestyle TVs, as well as other Samsung UHD and HD models. This will allow TV owners to play videos, photos, music, podcasts, and more on their TV.

“We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home,” said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services at Apple, in a statement about the launch.

Given Apple’s plans to launch its own streaming service in 2019 – presumably through its existing iTunes app – it makes sense that Apple would make that app available on more devices in the living room, where it doesn’t have as much of a presence thanks to Apple TV’s small footprint.

The new app and AirPlay 2 will be offered on 2019 Samsung Smart TV models this spring. Samsung says. 2018 Samsung Smart TVs will receive a firmware update to enable access.

Watch: Netflix releases ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ trailer and it’s another dark take on tech

“Relax, don’t do it,” sings Frankie Goes to Hollywood in a new trailer for the Netflix movie event “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” But when it comes to the creepy sci-fi series, we can’t help but tune in.

And fans will be able to just that on Friday as the streaming service announced it is releasing the much-anticipated 5+ hour film.

The description on the trailer reads like so: “In 1984, a young programmer begins to question reality as he adapts a sprawling fantasy novel into a video game and soon faces a mind-mangling challenge. Welcome back.”

The film stars Fionn Whitehead (“Dunkirk”) as the lead character and is reportedly a choose-your-own-adventure style movie.

The critically acclaimed “Black Mirror” is known for its dark take on technology in the modern world or near future. Netflix renewed the series for a fifth season this year.

Flight or fright? Action-packed movies top Alaska Airlines’ list of most watched inflight entertainment

“Blade Runner 2049” is cued up on an airplane headrest screen during a flight out of Seattle this year. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Depending on what kind of air traveler you are, the inflight movie entertainment could either serve as a welcome distraction during flying or just make matters worse when it comes to your nerves.

Alaska Airlines released its list of the 10 most watched inflight movies by passengers who used the airline in 2018 — and we’re not sure what some of these titles say about the way people want to be entertained at 35,000 feet.

The list is topped by “Oceans 8,” the crime caper starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling and more.

  1. “Oceans 8”
  2. “Rampage”
  3. “The Post”
  4. “Ready Player One”
  5. “Murder on the Orient Express”
  6. “Battle of the Sexes”
  7. “Wonder Woman”
  8. “Love, Simon”
  9. “Justice League”
  10. “Blade Runner 2049”

Some other tense action could be found in “Rampage,” “Ready Player One,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Wonder Woman,” “Justice League,” and “Blade Runner 2049.” As Alaska said in its blog post — so much for comforting, feel-good classics.

I managed to catch “Blade Runner 2049” from the back of the headrest in front of me on one flight across the country and another over the ocean to Hawaii. While it was certainly more beautiful on the big screen at Seattle’s Cinerama, it did the trick on an airplane screen with its ability to make me forget where I was for more than two hours.

Macaulay Culkin is Google Home Alone and it’s the Christmas ad for our time, ya filthy animals

Is it really possible to be home alone when a voice assistant is always at your beck and call? Famed child actor Macaulay Culkin finds out in a new ad for Google Assistant in which he reprises his role as Kevin McCallister, the little kid left to his own devices in the 1990 comedy “Home Alone.”

The ad shows a grown McCallister going throughout his day in his parents’ big suburban house much like he did in the movie, except this time he has Google Home and other smart devices to handle a lot of his needs.

After waking up, he has Google Assistant check his calendar — “you have one event called ‘house to yourself,” the AI replies. From there, McCallister uses the assistant to add aftershave to his shopping list, set a reminder to clean bed sheets, check the front door for a pizza delivery (which he paid for online) via a Nest doorbell, adjust the home temperature and ultimately “begin operation Kevin.”

That operation was the highlight of the original movie, as McCallister fended off bumbling burglars with a myriad of tricks and traps. Too bad the ad had to end before Google Assistant could show us just how clever it could be.

Alibaba Group takes majority control of loss-making movie unit Alibaba Pictures with $160M share purchase

Alibaba Group announced today that it will increase its stake in Alibaba Pictures from 49% to 50.92%, making it the loss-making movie production company’s controlling shareholder. Under the agreement, Alibaba Pictures will issue one billion new shares, priced at HKD $1.25 each share for a total of HKD $1.25 billion (about $160 million), to Alibaba Group.

The announcement of Alibaba Group’s new share purchases comes the week after Alibaba Pictures chairman and chief executive officer Fan Luyuan took charge of Youku, Alibaba Group’s video streaming unit, after its former president Yang Weidong stepped down. Yang is currently under investigation as part of a police anti-corruption probe.

Now that it has majority control over the movie company, Alibaba Group said there will be more integration between Alibaba Pictures and its services, including Youku. In a press release, Fan said “Alibaba Pictures is excited to become a subsidiary of Alibaba Group. As an internet film and TV company, we can leverage the Group’s edge in big data technology and e-commerce and enhance cooperation with other Alibaba’s digital media and entertainment businesses such as Youku, Damai and Alibaba Literature.”

In his statement about the deal, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said “the proposed share purchases is a vote of confidence in Alibaba Pictures, and we will continue to invest resources and take full advantage of our ecosystem to help Alibaba Pictures tap into the promising growth prospects of China’s film industry.”

Founded in 2014 to capitalize on China’s burgeoning movie market, expected to be the largest in the world soon, Alibaba Pictures has turned out to be a costly, money-burning venture. Despite doubling its revenue and posting its first profit in 2017, Alibaba Pictures’ losses also grew to $165 million in the same period. It’s misfortunes continued this year when its big-budget fantasy picture “Asura” became “the most expensive flop in Chinese history,” according to Variety.

‘Bathtubs Over Broadway’ unearths the wacky world of corporate musicals: Where did they go?

Cast of "Bathtubs Over Broadway"
The cast of Dava Whisenant’s documentary, “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” does their big production number. The film’s central character, comedy writer (and record collector) Steve Young, is wearing a hat, tie and jacket — and singing his heart out. (Cactus Flower Films / Focus Features)

No fan of Broadway musicals should miss classics like “I Never Enjoyed My Operation More,” “My Insurance Man” and “My Bathroom Is a Private Kind of Place.”

What’s that? Never heard of ’em? For decades, those songs were heard only by employees at morale-boosting events, plus a precious few record collectors enchanted by what are known as industrial musicals.

Now one of those record collectors, TV comedy writer Steve Young, has had his quest turned into a hilarious and sweet documentary titled “Bathtubs Over Broadway.” The movie has already been picking up awards on the film-festival circuit, and it’s opening this weekend in Seattle for a regular run at the Varsity Theater.

Ironically, the innovations that have allowed Young to flesh out the little-known saga of industrial musicals — including the rise of the modern tech industry, the internet and online video — also contributed to the decline of industrial musicals.

Times were different during the genre’s heyday in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. “The earlier generation of tech companies definitely loved doing this stuff,” Young told GeekWire. He’s not talking about Microsoft or Amazon, which didn’t exist back then. He’s talking about IBM and Xerox.

Those companies, and others ranging from Ford and Oldsmobile to American-Standard, commissioned musicals that were meant to be seen only by employees, and heard again only on souvenir vinyl records that were distributed afterward.

The performances sometimes served as training sessions made more palatable with a spoonful of sugary lyrics, but at their heart, they were bonding experiences for the employees in the audience. “Suddenly they were being shown a version of their world in which they’re the heroes, and it’s glamorous,” Young says during one scene in the movie.

Industrial musicals were by no means low-class productions. They tended to draw up-and-coming songwriters and performers who were just looking for a little extra dough-re-mi. Songwriters like Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who did “Ford-i-fy Your Future” as well as “Fiddler on the Roof.” And performers like Florence Henderson, Chita Rivera and Susan Stroman, all of whom were interviewed for “Bathtubs Over Broadway.”

In 1956, the same year that “My Fair Lady” was produced on a budget of $446,000, Chevrolet commissioned a one-shot industrial musical at a cost of $3 million. “If you could be in four ‘industrials’ in a year, you could survive in New York,” Stroman recalls in the movie.

Young was drawn to the phenomenon while he was a writer for David Letterman’s late-night comedy shows. It was his lineup of quirky, vintage LPs that fueled a long-running shtick called “Dave’s Record Collection.”

Among the quirkiest records that Young collected were those souvenir records documenting industrial musicals. Thanks to online forums and auction websites like eBay, Young gleefully built up a thick stack of hits like “Diesel Dazzle” and “Got to Investigate Silicones.”

Young lost his comedy-writing gig when Letterman retired from late-night in 2015, but by then, his search for industrial musicals had become his passion. He wrote a book about the genre, titled “Everything’s Coming Up Profits,” and worked with film director Dava Whisenant to document the hunt for the people behind the productions.

Along the way, Young forged friendships with legendary figures on the industrial-musical circuit who are little-known today, such as songwriters Sid Siegel and Hank Beebe, and performers Patt Stanton Gjonola and Sandra Geller (stars of “The Bathrooms Are Coming.”)

“I found myself very inspired by the lessons of these writers and performers,” Young told GeekWire. He came to see strong parallels between the fleeting nature of industrial musicals and his own ephemeral craft of TV comedy writing. Both have their moment in the spotlight, but can “quickly be forgotten,” he said.

Today Young continues to take on TV gigs, but he’s also writing songs, teaching TV history at New York University, and doing what he can to make sure that “Bathtubs Over Broadway” makes a splash.

“The movie being done so beautifully, I feel like the war has been won,” he said.

Because of the film and the book, recordings of the old industrial musicals seem to be coming out of the woodwork. “I usually estimate that I’ve come across 1 to 2 percent of what’s been done in this field,” Young said.

Steve Young
Comedy writer Steve Young combs through the stacks at used-record stores for quirky records, including souvenir LPs from industrial musicals. (Cactus Flower Films / Focus Features)

Young hasn’t come across anything from Boeing or other companies with Pacific Northwest roots, but “Bathtubs” has a strong Seattle connection in the form of composer Anthony DiLorenzo, who’s lived in Seattle for more than a decade. DiLorenzo teamed up with Young to write the movie’s opening theme song, “It’ll Change Your Life.”

DiLorenzo also wrote a musical score that knits together the documentary scenes with snippets from the old musicals. “It’s kinda like the peanut butter between the bread,” he joked.

The composer is also a trumpet player with the Seattle Symphony, and recruited some of his fellow musicians to perform the score. “For documentaries, it is really unusual to have a small orchestra for a score,” DiLorenzo told GeekWire. “It’s really a labor of love.”

So what happened to the industrial musicals? Has anything taken their place?

In the 1980s and ’90s, musical theater became less of an art form for the masses. Big-name corporations have turned instead to big-name concerts to entertain their employees. Amazon, for example, brought in Lorde for its big post-holiday party at CenturyLink Field in January, and signed up Demi Lovato and Ariane Grande for this summer’s post-Prime Day celebrations.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is known for creating videos that boost employees’ spirits and poke fun at its corporate culture. The best-known examples starred Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer in spoofs of “Austin Powers,” “The Matrix” and “A Night at the Roxbury.” For Gates’ epic farewell video in 2008, Microsoft recruited a pantheon of celebs including Matthew McConaughey, Jay-Z, Bono, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore.

There is the occasional epic fail, of course: The most infamous example is the song written for Microsoft’s raunchy dance routine at the Norwegian Developers Conference in 2012, which included this line: “The words MICRO and SOFT don’t apply to my penis.”

That sort of thing would never fly during the golden age of industrial musicals. But is that age really gone forever? In recent years, musicals have been making a comeback on the big screen (as in “La La Land” and next summer’s “Rocketman”) and on the small screen (with live performances of “Grease” and “Peter Pan” on prime-time TV). Even Young acknowledges that there could be an unexpected plot twist ahead.

“It may be we’ll see a resurgence in this,” he said.

Check out IndustrialMusicals.com to learn more about the movie and Young’s book, “Everything’s Coming Up Profits,” and to listen to more than a dozen songs from industrial musicals.

‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and two other series help lead Amazon to nine Golden Globes nominations

Rachel Brosnahan, star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” (Amazon Photo)

Amazon made another strong showing among the streaming TV pack on Thursday with nine nominations, and it also picked up one for film as the hopefuls were announced for the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards.

Three nominations for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “A Very English Scandal” and “Homecoming” helped power Amazon Prime Video. Netflix had eight TV nominations and Hulu had two.

“Maisel,” which won best comedy series last year and picked up five Emmy Awards in September, is nominated for the best comedy award again and star Rachel Brosnahan is nominated for best actress in a musical or comedy series. Alex Borstein got a nod for best supporting actress.

“A Very English Scandal” was nominated for best limited series or motion picture made for television. Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw received nods for lead and supporting actor respectively.

The new Amazon series “Homecoming” was nominated for best drama series, and Julia Roberts received a best actress nod while Stephen James was nominated for best actor.

Timothee Chalamet, star of Amazon’s “Beautiful Boy,” was nominated for best supporting actor in any motion picture.

Check out the full list of nominees over at Variety.

The 76th Golden Globes will air Sunday, January 6 at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on NBC.