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Snowpiercer, War of the Worlds offer more Apocalypse

In this age of media-overload, why on earth do some folks find the need to be reminded of ongoing events? Are we so darn oversaturated with viral videos, movies, TV, and news broadcasts that we actually desire to watch programming that mirrors what is going on right now? I guess so, because despite the fact that we’re living in a Virus-Crisis, we have more and more entertainment that further explores the horror that our neighbors live with.

Horror and Sci-Fi programming War of the Worlds, the latest Epix network TV-Series adapted from the classic radio broadcast, and Snowpiercer — the TV-series spin-off of a feature film are now available.

I did enjoy a few of the War of the Worlds episodes, especially because the streaming was offered as part of a free preview with my Dish package. But I wouldn’t pay to watch the show, and it certainly didn’t encourage me to subscribe to Epix. The series was captivating at first because the situation was mysterious, and the creatures were quite frightening.

However, after a few episodes there was a scene that really disappointed me. We were given a glimpse of the alien-creatures early on in the show (don’t worry, this is really not a spoiler — unless you’re entirely new to the War of the Worlds story.)

A little history…In 1938 Orson Welles broadcast on radio an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds. Notably, then came the 1953 film (my favorite) and then the 2005 version by Steven Spielberg with Tom Cruise. (There also are many low budget productions available, including two by C. Thomas Howell. Although I really like this actor, I have tried to watch these, and I can’t in good faith recommend them.)

Here’s a very cool short documentary about the 50’s films, complete with detailed examples of effects — and if you haven’t yet seen the “creatures,” or the “spaceships” it’s a must see — but you may wish to hold off on seeing this video until you can catch the entire feature film.

Oh yes, back to my sort-of spoiler. The creatures in the Epix series firstly looked very scary to me, but in a few episodes later, there is a scene where Bill (Gabriel Byrne) encounters one of them:

SPOILER ALERT: The creature just plods up to Bill like a dog with three legs, Bill then grabs it and holds it at bay as it (attempts) to kill him. Not scary – the creature appears to be less than formidable. What a let down. And there’s other holes in the story, like the predictable scene wherein “Catherine” is looking for her missing sister, only to find a young girl who was hiding in a cave. Does Catherine ask the girl if she has seen her sister…perhaps hiding in the cave too? Nope. I found it just dumb and a tell. Would Catherine’s sister show up later in the show…and where was she hiding? The answer is predictable! 😉 😉

Moving on to less epic films based upon previous broadcasts, we have the Sci-Fi “Snowpiercer.” When I watched the feature film, I tired of it after the first half hour. I just didn’t find it plausible. But, apparently many folks have, because now we have a TV series based upon the feature.

Recently AXS TV showed a few Snowpiercer clips that did entice me. So I guess I may watch the TV series sometime after this virus-crisis. But for now, I’ve had enough dystopian programming. I just can’t watch any more dark, apocalyptic movies and TV. Right now, I need positive TV. So instead — I’ll watch my Movies Plus and TMN Roku or Fire TV channels.

[Update 5/19/2020 – Dish offered me a free preview of the series with one of my favorites, Jennifer Connelly. So I decided to break my rule early — I watched SnowPiercer, one episode of the series.

SPOILER ALERT! Sorry, but I’m still not convinced that a train is best place to go in the time of an Apocalyptic Ice-Age. SnowPiercer is a train that bye the way – apparently never stops. Think about it — I did, during the show. And that’s not good. You’re not supposed to be thinking about the plausibility of a premise during a movie or TV show. After you watch it, sure — it’s okay to reflect upon the show. But during it, suspension of disbelief is supposed to take hold. But they never answer the question of how.

How do they get fresh water or energy on a train that never stops? Just show me a darn solar panel (oops — no sun!) Or show me a snow-scooper thing-a-ma-jig that turns snow into drinkable water. Uggh! I’m done, I won’t be watching this show again, despite the fact that I love Sci-Fi. Also, they showed a preview of the next episode, and it featured a bunch of people rebelling, and a bloody massacre. Who needs it – I don’t! Sorry to be so harsh…]

I hope you carefully choose what you watch and to be positive too, please don’t let negative distractions bring you down. Cheers to ya – and I invite you to join me in the conversation – especially if you feel that I’ve been too harsh in my reviews. (c) Dean Lachiusa

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Captain Z-Ro is not a zero!

Ahhh, the 50’s an innocent era of television where you if you actually owned a TV, the reception was so poor and limited that you were likely to tune in black and white static and fuzz. And on a good day or during “prime time” the programming was limited to slightly out of focus live Boxing matches or family-variety shows by talent like Joey Bishop and Red Skeleton.

Local channels started to capitalize upon the relatively new medium by producing shows that were sponsored by manufactures like Lucky Cigarettes and Lark Automobiles. Usually a television show featured the sponsors advertisement prior to the show, but in rare occasions there was no promotion at all — like the California production “Captain Z-Ro.”

Captain Z-Ro was a family friendly show that is actually very well done, especially for something that resembles a “KINO” production.

Kino was the process of filming a live production for the purposes of archiving a program, and it was usually done in black and white, 16mm film. The quality was typically low-contrast because the film-camera recorded directly from a Television camera monitor.

That being said, Captain Z-Ro is a very nice watch because the editing is incredibly precise, and the sets are pretty darn good. Especially if you consider the high cost of doing “period pieces.” Also, if you watch the show you’ll enjoy the Mod looking exterior of the Captain’s Space-Base, and the groovy space-aged laboratory inside.

Show creator and lead-man Captain Z-Ro is played by Roy Steffens. His young, trusty sidekick Bruce Haynes plays Jet.

Every episode is History oriented. It’s actually quite entertaining and informative, in it’s quaint way — I mean, in our day and age television is competitive and the production quality is usually excellent. So, when I look at an old show, I try to appreciate it for what it was back in the day.

Captain Z-Ro is a family show, each week our hero’s use their cool ‘time-machine’ to visit a new place in history, and they correct any wrong doings or impending errors to the timeline. (And we all know that our history books are perfectly accurate — so you can see how Captain Z-Ro can apply what is written in order to…”safeguard mankind and history from impending harm…” wink, wink, wink 😉

This fun show ran for 26 episodes from 1955 – 56, and was directed by David Butler. I really got a kick out of the first episode, and if you’d like to watch to see this and more, FREE and AD-FREE, then I hope you add my TV Channels, and donate what you can via my Patreon campaign to help me afford to add the complete series here’s the link: www.patreon.com/moviesplus

That’s it for now, but please don’t hesitate to let me know (if) you’d like to see more episodes. Leave a comment or gift a buck or more on the Patreon site, and then I’ll post them here and on my Roku/Fire TV channels. Cheers! (c) Dean Lachiusa

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Cord Cutting 101, how to save money on your TV bill

Cord Cutting 101, the how-to guide to free TV and alternatives to expensive Cable TV bills…

Have you heard about “Cord Cutters” and how they are saving hundreds? (Yes, cord cutters save $200 or more a month!) This article covers numerous ways to save money on TV.

Two years ago I was paying Comcast over 300 dollars a month for my Cable TV, Internet, and digital (landline) Phone. Before Comcast I tried AT&T, and the cost was about the same. And both companies enjoy a monopoly of-sorts, so they were constantly charging more for their services. And I really hated the way that these big co’s treated me. I mean, I wanted to watch NBA, and in order to do so, I had to buy a freak’n “bundle.” And the bundles offer all kinds of extra programming that I paid for – but didn’t want. You’ve probably gone through the same torment, so I’ll end my complaint session here. Moving on…

A BRIEF SATELLITE STORY…
Last year, I switched to Dish and I saved a ton of money. They didn’t push me to upgrade to bundles, and they allowed me to downgrade to an el-cheapo service of 40 bucks a month. But still, I felt that I was paying for local-tv programming that is offered free through my antenna.

Later, I downgraded my Dish to a “pause” plan. This cost me $5 month, and it allowed me to keep my Dish SAT while I tested the alternative – local TV channels delivered via OTA (over-the-air) antenna. So far, I’ve experienced mixed results. When it rains or the wind blows — so does the local TV.

In Metro Detroit, DISH has a introductory plan that cost about 30 dollars, and it has local channels plus TBS, Motor Trend TV, and many more…This was my latest adjustment to my Dish plan. It saves me allot of money, and I get reliable Local News, as well as LINK TV and International news from China. A nice plus is Dish’s “studio” channel where they feature films from some of their add-on channels, like MGM. You might want to ask if they offer it in your area.

Not very often, on a very Stormy day, my Dish may go out temporarily. And on the rare occasion when I use my alternate — an over-the-air Antenna (you may recall the old rabbit ears) the programming is good. However a breezy day will bring poor reception. Bad reception over an antenna is usually very bad – meaning…the picture on my TV is either totally black or displaying a bunch of square-pixels accompanied by the audio cutting out. That’s when I switch on my Roku or Fire TV.

If you like what you’re reading…you’re a “Cord Cutter” and you might like my line of cord cutting swag, from pillows to mugs – click the pic below to get your own 🙂

A LOOK AT OTT, CTV, AKA “SET TOP BOXES”…
Set Top Boxes like Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV all function the same way — you must have an Internet connection, 4mbps or better to use these devices to watch movies and Shows on your Television. (My current company says my Internet speed is 25mbps or so – and although that is not a consistent speed, it is perfectly fast enough.)

Using your Set Top Box (or “stick”.) You need to plug in the unit into your HDMI port or your composite (RCA) jacks on your TV. Just look for the “in” ports, it’s pretty standard on most TV’s, “Input” RCA jacks are Yellow for Video, and Red for Right-Audio, White for Left-Audio. Then plug in the power on the unit, turn on the TV, select the “source” aka “input” for the signal you’d like to watch. (In other words, this set-top-box “source” is an alternative to just turning the TV on and watching via an antenna or cable/sat TV.)

Next you should see that your Roku/Fire/AppleTV is asking you to connect to an Internet Signal. I’m sure your Internet Provider set you up with a WiFi Router. You’ll need the name of it, and it’s password. Type that into the prompts on your TV, and it will eventually connect you. Now click on the “home” button for your Roku or whatever — and you see they’ve automatically loaded a few starter channels. Yay! Your ready to watch.

USING THE INTERNET TO WATCH TV IN STANDARD DEFINITION…
As a side-note, on my second-TV, I adjusted my Roku’s display settings to Standard Definition, 16×9 Wide-Screen. This saves data-use aka “Internet Bandwidth.” My Fire TV doesn’t have the same settings, because I have a Fire TV “stick” which plugs in via the HDMI port on my TV, offering a HD display of 720 or better. Therefore, when I want to save bandwidth, I instead use my Roku because I can use the composite plugs and a SD setting.

Why save bandwidth? Because my Internet Provider allows me 1TB of data use per month. And, because I operate a Film Festival, and CTV channels, I often find myself downloading large movie files, converting them to the proper streaming format (mp4) and then re-uploading these files, which demands a large amount of Internet data. So for me, 1TB is nice, but it is easy to use up in one month.

You might appreciate another reason why I sometimes watch Roku-TV in SD mode. For one, usually the picture clarity is fine. When I watch programming on my own channels (Movies PlusArt House MoviesFilm Fest Best) — or Sony’s Crackle, or competitors like Netflix, I get a clean looking picture. And when a movie is offered in UHD, and then displayed in SD, typically I do not recognize much difference in image quality when I watch in SD mode. (Now, if I were to place a TV with an HD image right next to it, then of course I’d see the difference – but that doesn’t happen.)

Thirdly, I set up my “second-TV” in SD-wide display mode because when/if someone in my house watches a streaming-TV-program, they just might forget to turn it off. And that means that the Netflix or whatever they are watching will automatically play through the night…resulting in my bandwidth getting used up, and then I end up paying the Internet Company a penalty fee for overuse.

TV-APPS AKA SETBOX-TV CHANNELS…
Ok, moving on. Let’s say you have a Roku or another box that you’ve paid 25 dollars or more for. (The only cost for a Roku/Fire is the one-time purchase fee.) Additional fees apply to Netflix, Hulu subscriptions, if you opt for their programming — but really, you don’t have to. Great channels (aka TV-Apps) include Pluto, Crackle, Movies Plus (of course,) ABC, Petticoat JunctionTMN (The Movie Network) and many others like CW Seed.

Netflix is an App. It also is considered a channel on Roku. I subscribe to it. And I love my Netflix at about 8 dollars a month for the non-UHD reception. I get some great shows like LOST IN SPACE and LILLYHAMMER and quality feature films. BUT – I do not get my local programming. No local news, no Nightly News unless I want to watch the previous days programming.

Hulu is similar to Netflix. I pay about 6 bucks every month with advertising. Great programming like Dirk Gently, Quickdraw, and Misfits is here. But again, there is no live-local programming like Detroit area news, etc.

So, the dilemma is if I’ve fired my Cable TV company then: How do you get LIVE, LOCAL TV broadcasts in RELIABLE QUALITY without spending too much money?

Some services like Sling offer paid packages that deliver content to Roku and FireTV for about $40 monthly. This might be the way to get a few local LIVE channels, plus some other networks like Starz.

You’ll be hard pressed to find an economical package that offers NBC, ABC, and CBS. You may be thinking…I’m trying to save money — that’s why I “cut the cord!” So what is the solution?

The answer might be Digital Re-Broadcast. For example, a temporary solution could be services (like) “Locast.” I found this on my Roku. It works in just a few towns like NYC and San Francisco. They’re not in Detroit yet. My bro uses it in NYC and he is very happy because his digital antenna is about as reliable as mine is. From what I can see, the App is free, and it appears to be legal (appears!) After some research I found out that Locast just might be pushing the boundaries of what they are allowed to do.

Both Aereo, and FilmOn lost their argument to rebroadcast local channels, and I think that although Locast is non-profit, they might be pushed to shut down operations. I recently found an article that said they were being sued, and I’m not surprised.

If re-broadcasters like Locast actually license local rebroadcasting rights, then we might see TV-APPS that work in more towns like Detroit. I also tried “Stirr” because its description on the Roku channel promised Local programming, but I have yet to see any local Metro Detroit channels, and certainly not local news or “network” channels. So again, the free services that promise you access to local network channels are usually “re-broadcasters” and likely a bunch of horse-hockey. They usually operate until a complaint is made, and the FCC brings them down. Read more below…

What you should know about services that offer digital re-broadcast via Roku, Fire, and Android…
Most of these services are designed for our troops abroad. That is, like the AFN (American Forces Network.) Some rebroadcasters have agreements that allow them to re-broadcast HBO, STARS, and other networks to foreign countries. These re-broadcast services are not licensed (or intended) for use in the USA. Have people found a way to use these APPS in the USA? Yes, but I won’t say how because firstly it’s illegal, and secondly you cannot depend on the service when you use it outside of the way it is intended.

PS: Kodi is one of the biggest to offer rebroadcasting. When it functions as a digital rebroadcaster, it is what I consider to be the pirates haven – and being a filmmaker (and a righteous-dude) I absolutely hate this service — but that’s just me living in a world of thieves and catch-me-if-you-can thinkers. (Waaaaaa – cry baby!)

Moving on….Antennas!
What a cluster-frak. You can shop all day long, but I have to say that I’ve used Amplified and non-amplified antennas (like the old rabbit ears.) And neither one really works great in my house in Metro Detroit. We have about 20 great channels too, ranging from NBC 4 to 4-2 and “4-dash-3.” Sounds confusing? It isn’t really. The channels are set up just like they were in the analog broadcasting days, accept that channels like Channel 4 now has “multicast” channels like Heroes and Icons (H&I) on their 4-2 channel. Don’t worry, you don’t have to find these manually, and you really don’t have to understand how multicasting or “subchannels” work in your town.

If you have a TV set with a Digital Tuner, then simply plug in an Antenna into the “Antenna In” coaxial port of your TV. Then go into your TV’s settings and use the Channel set up options to “auto tune” your OTA (Antenna.) It might take a few minutes, but your TV should find a few channels. And most new TV’s have a “skip” option that allows you to weed out the channels that you don’t want to watch.

Before you buy an antenna, you might consider a homemade solution. I know of two designs, and one that I currently use. Before we start on this – please take note: A coaxial port can be damaged – so don’t just jam any old metal thing into it…Okay, that being said, let’s examine a couple do it yourself indoor antennas…

ANTENNA DIY…
1.) I read about a guy who says to use a PaperClip — I would guess that the (big) business grade clip could work. He took a clip, and straightened out one end, then he gently pushed it into his TV’s “antenna in” jack. Done, with limited channel reception of course. But hey, don’t quote me, and don’t blame me if you decide to test your TV with a PaperClip or a wire.

2.) A coaxial cable. After buying both a Amplified Antenna, and a Rabbit Ear antenna, I decided to use a DIY antenna made out of an old cable-tv-cable. One end screws into the port “it’s the coaxial jack” of your TV, and the other end needs to be prepared like in the following tutorial….

3.) Proceed at your own risk…
Carefully, snip ONE end of the cable off. Then carefully…carefully (so you don’t cut yourself) skin the protective rubber housing off of the cable. You need to do this slowly so that you DO NOT cut into the copper wire on the inside. (Pardon me for being redundant.)
Now, without cutting the inside lining…shear anywhere from 6 inches to a foot of the housing off, but like I say do it carefully and don’t cut all the way through because you’re just trimming off the protective rubber exterior. You may throw this rubber piece away.

C) Now you’ll see the lining, it’s a mesh — a wire mesh. This easily pulls back. It’s like putting on a condom (don’t get mad – this is the best analogy I can offer.) When I made my antenna, I didn’t have to cut the mesh. You should also be able to simply pull it back upon the cable, and then tape it up. Use a good tape like black electrical tape. Okay? Tape up that mesh that you pulled back.

D) Now you’ll see a plastic piece that protects the inner copper wire. If you have a good wire cutter then carefully…carefully slice this housing (WITHOUT CUTTING THROUGH THE WIRE INSIDE.) Now pull off that plastic housing.

E.) The copper wire is revealed. This is your antenna. Place it AWAY from a wall, as close to a window as you can get. And of course don’t place it near any open wires, metal, or a where a child can poke himself or a power-socket. Don’t use it outside – you don’t want this thing to become a lightning rod.

F.) Reminder – the end of the cable with the Coaxle plug goes into your TV 🙂

I get about 30 channels with my DIY antenna, but like I say it’s not a perfect solution because the weather conditions greatly affect the picture and audio quality.

My ultimate solution…
I’ve opted to use two main solutions, and one backup. I have the el-cheapo “SAT” plan for 28 bucks a month — this provides my local network news, TBN, Motor Trend, etc. I secondly have Internet bundled with digital phone. I use my Internet to connect my Roku and Fire TV devices, and on these devices I have the cheapest Hulu plan, coupled with many free TV-APPS that run on my Roku/Fire. My backup is my homemade “DIY” Antenna, which I rarely use.

Did you find this article helpful? Then please visit our Patreon campaign, it’s a very inexpensive way of saying “Thank You.” https://www.patreon.com/moviesplus — (c) Dean Lachiusa