Two Lindelof-written dramas deserve your undivided attention this weekend.
MoviePass is going to die, but it has let the industry live.
The subscription-based program that allows people to watch one move per day for $10 a month has come under fire in recent weeks for making changes to its service, notably invoking surge pricing (an extra $3 or so, depending on the film) for new releases and shows at peak hours. It’s supposedly designed for the biggest summer blockbusters on opening weekends, but when I checked times for “Ant Man and the Wasp” (released July 6) last weekend, every single showing, at every theater in the area, was surge pricing. That was over a week after the film’s release. The fact that MoviePass can claim surge pricing seemingly whenever it wants is troubling.
Other unpopular changes the company has made include limiting people to seeing a given film only once, forcing users to upload pictures of their ticket stubs before selecting another film to see. These changes are coming because MoviePass loses money on each ticket customers buy. Truthfully, it seems like the whole idea behind the company is “Let’s have people pay for a movie subscription service and then dissuade them from ever seeing a movie,” which probably isn’t sustainable!
I'm a MoviePass subscriber, and I used to be a MoviePass fanatic. I would pitch the service to friends at a frequency bordering on annoying. I called it "the steal of the century" at one point. Even with the changes, I think its still a good deal for people who go to the movies a lot. But it's getting to be a bit much.
The good news is, we’re all going to gain from this in the end. Despite the company itself being a terrible idea, the subscription service in general has caused box office sales to rise 9% year-over-year in 2018, according to The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey. Competitors both old (Sinemia) and new (AMC’s A-List service) are offering similar services now, with the important caveat that these companies are capable of making money from the service by offering discounts to concession stands, etc., which they also own, plus no restrictions on screen type (IMAX, etc.) and the ability to reserve seats days in advance. Regal is also rumored to be launching its own subscription service soon. I haven’t switched away from MoviePass yet, but the temptation grows with each passing change the company makes.
That won’t matter soon, because like I said, MoviePass is going to die. But it changed the way the film industry works, forever. There’s no going back from the subscription model now, not after people got a taste of the sweet life (i.e. not paying $35 for a movie ticket and a small popcorn). So thanks, MoviePass, for doing that. Now hurry up and sink so we can all jump on a bigger and better ship.
In a way, MoviePass just copied the Netflix model and applied it to theaters, right? Appropriate, since we’re here today to talk about streaming. This week, I have two critically-acclaimed shows for you, one you have for sure heard of and one you probably haven’t.
Hulu, TV-14, six seasons (118 total episodes), 44-minute run time
I mentioned last week that “Chuck” was the second show I fell in love with as a serious media consumer. “LOST,” created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, was the first, and is probably the reason I still care as much about the medium as I do today. You’ve probably seen it, or at least heard about it, if you were alive back then.
For me, watching “LOST” was more than a one-dimensional experience. I was a frequenter of internet message boards dedicated to the show, like The Fuselage, where people would try to find clues to the show’s plot and meaning and dissect every morsel of information. The sites were a precursor to Reddit and other modern platforms in a lot of ways (with less toxic opinions). I stayed up late into the night reading theories in lieu of doing homework.
Fan theories for high-concept shows are everywhere now, so much so that some theory posited is going to be right about each one, and then everyone gets to complain about how the shows are “so predictable” just because one person figured it out and then thousands of others shared it. It’s becoming bad for TV. In an effort to “fool” the internet, writers are creating storylines that twist without a reason to twist, sacrificing good plotting for “gotcha!” moments (Hi, “Westworld”). Back then, though, show-specific communities struck the perfect balance between being detectives and letting the show surprise them.
This gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, but “LOST” also had incredible characters in addition to the whole science fiction element. My favorite was always Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan), the addiction-battling, joke-cracking rock star who turns out to be a pretty great guy, but if you don’t like him, take your pick: Do you relate to Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox), the doctor with daddy issues who is the leader of the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors? Maybe Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly), the woman who killed her abusive father and spent years on the run, is more your speed, or perhaps Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews), the former Iraqi Republican Guard member whose bad side you do not want to trigger. Then, of course, there’s John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), who… man, how do you explain John Locke in one sentence? You can’t, really, and that’s the sign of a great character. I could keep going; the show has like 20 main characters over the course of its run, after all.
While we’re here, this has to be said: The ending of “LOST” is good. Actually, no, it’s great. It was reviled at the time by about half the fanbase, but I’m convinced those people either didn’t pay attention to the show’s themes or only watched the final season to be part of the cultural moment. I won’t ruin it here for any first-time watchers, but rest assured the ending isn’t the disaster it’s made out to be, and in fact serves its characters well while hitting an appropriately emotional note.
If you’ve never watched “LOST,” there’s no better time than now to fix that error. If you have, there’s no better time to lose yourself in the show’s magic once again.
Jack said it best, after all: “We have to go back.”
“The Leftovers” (2014-2017)
HBOGo, TV-MA, three seasons (28 total episodes), 60-minute run time
Damon Lindelof just gets me, I guess, because I'm about to recommend another of his shows.
“The Leftovers” is at its core a show about loss: Of life, of innocence, of sanity. It begins with the disappearance of 2% of the population, seemingly out of thin air. But unlike other shows with a similar premise, the show doesn’t focus on the disappeared. In fact, it doesn’t care about them at all, never giving an explanation as to what happened to them. It instead focuses on those still on Earth, who now have to come to grips with what happened and move on with their lives — if they can at all.
Justin Theroux plays Kevin Garvey, a cop in a small New York town whose wife Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman) joins a speechless cult in the event’s aftermath, and whose daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) and son Tom (Chris Zylka) head down very different paths themselves. Carrie Coon never got the awards-show hype she deserved for her performance as Nora Durst, a woman who lost her husband and two children during the event. She’s incredible, and you should watch this show for her performance alone.
The first season is based off a Tom Perrotta novel of the same name, and while it’s good, seasons two and three are some of the best things HBO has ever produced. They see the characters travel across the globe in search of answers about the event and themselves, keeping things fresh. “The Leftovers” is a show about spirituality, in some respects, but it’s not preachy. You don’t have to believe in anything in particular (or anything at all) to relate to character motivations. We’ve all lost people we care about, and personally, I’d do some crazy things for the chance to see them again, or to keep their legacy intact. The people on "The Leftovers" are no different.
I honestly don’t know how much to say about this show, because it goes places I never expected and want you to find out for yourself. It has more than a few similarities to “LOST,” but probably not in the ways you’re thinking.
Be warned: This show can get bleak, especially early in its run. But if you stick with it, you’ll find yourself in the midst of something special.
(Quick aside: This show also introduced me to the band Wolf Alice, who are now one of my all-time favorites despite only releasing two albums in their young career. I urge music fans reading this to check them out.)
These are two real deep shows, so I’m going to end here and let you decide which one will take over the next few weeks of your life. Also, just to bring the mood up a bit, here’s a picture released this week of Keanu Reeves on the set of “John Wick 3: Parabellum,” riding a horse through New York City:
“John Wick” isn’t currently streaming anywhere, but “John Wick: Chapter 2” is on MAX GO (rated R, 122 minutes) if you need a weekend pick-me-up. They’re two of the best action movies of the decade, and if the above picture is any indication, the third will be as well. John Wick on a horse! Incredible.
See you next week!