Auto-Play Will Always Be a Maybe

One of the most annoying features on Netflix is how it auto-plays trailers for movies and shows as you are scrolling through its vast library of content. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. Auto-playing a trailer for something that I’m not sure I even want to watch sounds like a classic first-world problem, and oftentimes you can simply move on and completely forget about that new Adam Sandler movie. I’ve been doing that for years anyway.

No, what really bothers me about auto-play has more to do with the nature of trailers these days. There have been too many instances recently where I will watch a teaser and come away feeling like I just saw the whole movie. In a digital world where spoilers are waiting for us at every turn, it’s downright disheartening that movie studios willingly give away plot details like free tickets to a WWE pay-per-view. It’s gotten so bad that rarely do I ever watch more than a single trailer for a film that I want to see, and even then I hesitate before I hit the play button. Netflix’s auto-play function makes it that much harder to sidestep those previews, and as a result, all the more difficult to go into a new movie completely blind.

Lovers of film know this plight all too well, which is why after my fiance and I finished watching a movie on Netflix, and then it immediately jumped into the trailer for Always Be My Maybe, I was certain that I knew all the ins and outs of this “new” romantic comedy: childhood friends Sasha and Marcus hit adulthood and have an awkward sexual encounter, contact between them is severed, they randomly encounter each others years later and feelings are rekindled, but then Keanu Reeves (playing himself) emerges as a romantic rival for Marcus, creating a huge obstacle to win Sasha’s heart (seriously, that is all in the trailer). To be fair, romantic comedies all more or less hit the same beats (minus Keanu playing a sardonic version of himself), but if you feel like you know the outcome before you even start the movie, then it just feels like a waste of time.

Regardless, we both found ourselves home sick one day and decided to give Always Be My Maybe a chance. The upside to rolling the dice on a Netflix film is you can always stop watching 20 minutes in if you don’t like it, and my fiance is a fan of Ali Wong’s standup, so we figured why the hell not? Much to my surprise, this latest romcom had more depth than I was expecting and featured great chemistry between Wong and co-star Randall Park. There were also (gasp!) many key scenes and developments that were NOT highlighted in the trailer. Had I not been feeling so rotten that day, I would’ve done a victory dance in my living room in celebration of a trailer that actually did its job: provide the audience with an idea of what to expect and pique our interest so that we’ll actually tune in.

Thank you Always Be My Maybe. You were not only a refreshingly fun and poignant romantic comedy, but you also didn’t ruin any of that for me beforehand. If only all of the other trailers would follow suit (or, ya know, Netflix could do away with its intrusive auto-play). Neither of these seem likely, so continue to tread lightly when it comes to previews, friends.

There be monsters out there.

The Problem with Bird Box and Comparisons

Humans are obsessed with control. This is a big issue because life is pure chaos. And yet this fact does little to dissuade us. We still create rules, search for meaning, and do our best to increase our chance of survival on a day-to-day basis. We also make comparisons. We try to put things into neat boxes as a way to organize and understand the world. This can be good. It can lead to discovering new things you might enjoy. Hey, you like the band Led Zeppelin? Check out Greta Van Fleet! Did you grow up playing Monopoly? Give Settlers of Catan a go! Enjoyed the eerie, engrossing, and tightly paced movie A Quiet Place? Check out the cheesy, predictable, and scattered film Bird Box on Netflix right now! Wait a minute…

Comparisons don’t always work. In fact, they can make you feel ripped off. Like when your friend tells you to check out the new Netflix original movie Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock because it’s *just* like 2018’s critically acclaimed movie A Quiet Place except with the danger being vision not sound! Great, I thought, John Krasinki’s brilliant directorial debut is having a quick and important impact on modern horror films! What could go wrong? Bird Box, that went wrong.

A Quiet Place was deliberate, with moment-to-moment tension. Each moment had a purpose and a chilling threat that something could go wrong at a literal drop of a dime. It also had the advantage of a more cinematic human sense, sound, being stripped away from it’s characters. The film could, and did, mute the sounds in key scenes to let you see the world from Regan’s deaf point of view. In addition, they spent very little time digging into the character’s lives and back stories. Typically ignoring this side of your characters would drag a movie down. In this case it forced the viewers to feel more empathy, and therefore fear, for this family. All the audience knew was this was a family, stripped down to straight survival.

Meanwhile, Bird Box opens up with a family, on a river, blind folded. There’s a mother and two children. They are surrounded by an eerie and cold fog. It’s gripping and intense. The mother is scolding the children like a military leader. Ruthless, annoyed, but it is clear what she is saying is important and their only chance of survival. Who are these people? How did they get here? It doesn’t matter, all the audience needs to know is they are on a river in a small boat without sight and they need to survive. I’m all in.

And then? Flashback to five years earlier. We see the mom, she’s pregnant, the news is reporting a strange wave of mass suicides, she goes to the doctor, on her way home the thing that was on the news is happening around her, people are dying, she needs to find shelter, she gets trapped with an eclectic group of diverse strangers, what will they *ever* do to survive? Yawn.

This is the difference between these two thriller movies. A Quiet Place hardly ever lets up for the audience. Bird Box endlessly jumps back between a standard grade, B-movie, apocalypse story (without any songs this time!) and a thrilling, minimalist survival movie on a roaring river without sight! This is two movies plopped together with the former, less enticing, story taking the majority of the film time while the latter follows along wishing it could take the spotlight on it’s own.

While I was left frustrated, I feel like I should be fair and admit it’s mostly due to the lazy comparisons to a movie I loved. Bird Box is worth checking out for Sandra Bullock’s performance and for the cinematic river scenes. Oh and the memes. ALL. OF. THE. MEMES! Plus the sub-text is fun to dissect, is it about motherhood? Or maybe racism? Maybe both?

And yet, despite Bird Box reportedly being the most viewed original movie in it’s first week, when you strip away the memes and the comparisons and you imagine a different, less-heralded actress in the starring role, it’s plain to see that Bird Box is nothing but a standard apocalypse movie that takes the worst things about The Walking Dead (too many characters, awkward acting, the endless hope of sanctuaries) and puts a blind fold over the camera sometimes.

My Year with MoviePass: A Quiet Place Review

Tired of my normal movie watching process, which amounts to me spending an inordinate amount of time searching through Netflix, Hulu, or illegal streams searching for the perfect movie only to be interrupted by my constant pausing to do the dishes, or let the dog out, or look at memes on Instagram, I decided to embark on a year journey of returning to the physical cinema thanks to the company MoviePass.

MoviePass is a subscription service that allows you to attend one movie a day at any cinema across the USA. There are minor limitations and exceptions but for the most part the entire world of cinema is open to you all for $9.95 a month (or, if you got lucky like me, $6.95 a month due to a promotional price).

I decided to use this year to explore different movies and to chronicle my experience. Lucky for you that means my movie review game should increase heavily. Most of my reviews will be short and sweet. My rating system will be pretty simple and based on the premise of MoviePass. I will tell you whether or not I would recommend someone who is not a MoviePass user to go out and pay full price to see the film in theaters. Meaning this is more about the experience of how the film plays in the theater than it is a full recommendation of the film. I might love a film but admit there was  no reason for the theater experience. Or I might not enjoy a film but be blown away by visuals that you need to see on the big screen.

I will also chronicle how much money I am saving (or losing) with the MoviePass service. Thanks for reading and click the jump to read about my first official MoviePass film, A Quiet Place.

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Let’s Talk About Stranger Things

Here at Pegboards we like to imagine that you, our faithful readers, enjoy reading Jesse and I discussing the latest trends in TV, movies and sports. While traditionally we will review TV shows like Survivor, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Better Call Saul in episodic fashion, there is a new wave of TV shows that don’t work well in that format. Usually these are Netflix shows that are meant to be binged upon and then discussed. Which brings me to today’s review/discussion. The hit Netflix show Stranger Things. Take a jump with us to…Be warned that full season spoilers haunt this review much like a demogorgon.

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