Microsoft rolls out revamped Xbox One user interface

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on November 15th, 2015

On November 12, Microsoft rolled out a new Xbox dashboard update and it brings a totally revamped user interface to the surface along with backwards compatibility. Microsoft’s been keen on doling out monthly updates to its home video games console/entertainment hub, and this latest one is its boldest yet.

Xbox One now features a UI based on Windows 10 with a focus on speed, efficiency, and social interactions. Along the top you’ll notice four sections: Home, Community, OneGuide, and Store. Inside Home, you’re presented with your most recently used games and apps, and your pinned games and apps live below them under a category titled “My stuff.” Along the left-hand side there’s a new Guide pane that presents quick access to Friends, Parties, Messages, Notifications, Settings, and app-snapping functionality. From here you can also sign-in and manage users. This pane can be accessed at anytime (read: inside games and apps) by double-tapping the Xbox button on your controller. Inside Community, you’re presented with an activity feed filled with unlocked achievements, screenshots, and clips shared by your friends. Here you can interact with them with likes, comments, and sharing. Above the feed, there are buttons to refresh it and dive into your Game DVR. Next to the feed you’ll see what’s trending on Xbox Live with quick access to content from sources like Xbox and YouTube. A new OneGuide section features trending entertainment offerings across TV, movies, and sports. App channels from content providers like Amazon and Crunchyroll provide quick access to preferred programming. Last, there’s Store; when this section is selected it auto-expands to reveal sub-sections Games, Apps, Movies & TV, and Music. These redesigned storefronts highlight popular media and make it easy to discover and search for content thanks to large thumbnails and detailed splash screens.

In addition to the faster, streamlined UI, the “New Xbox One Experience” brings with it Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, a feature that gamers have been clamoring for ever since launch. Microsoft is launching the initiative with 104 Xbox 360 titles on Xbox One, and it promises more to come as soon as December. You can view the complete Backwards Compatibility Game Library right here, and you’ll want to bookmark that link to stay updated about future additions. Oh, and it’s been confirmed that multiplayer-enabled games will support cross-play between the 360 and the One–how cool is that?!

Kinect owners may notice that motion-activated gestures are no longer supported by the dashboard with this update. There’s no need to fret, though. An even more natural way to navigate the system is coming and that’s Cortana integration. Soon you’ll be able to call up Microsoft’s digital assistant to perform even more advanced commands; finding out if a friend is online, inviting a friend to a party, and recording and sharing gameplay to your activity feed will be handled swiftly by Cortana in the near future. Also coming in 2016 is DVR functionality, so you can look out for that, too.

I’ve spent some time with the updated dash and I’m happy to report that it’s a breeze to use. The redesigned Home, Community, OneGuide, and Store sections present consolidated and streamlined portals into the best of what Xbox has to offer. Accessing your content and sharing your achievements are simple affairs. Peering into your Xbox Live community (Friends list, Parties, Messages, etc.) is made much more efficient thanks to the new Guide. Your favorite Xbox 360 titles are injected with new life on Xbox One; in addition to emulating them on your console, you can also take advantage of Xbox Live’s latest features including taking screenshots, recording Game DVR clips, and even game streaming to Windows 10 devices. In an effort to make Xbox One an easily accessible destination to play games with friends and consume streaming entertainment, Microsoft succeeded with flying colors with the New Xbox One Experience.

In case you haven’t automatically received the NXOE yet, you can manually download and install it inside Settings. And if you’ve got time to kill, jump after the break to preview the nooks and crannies of the new UI with Xbox’s Major Nelson. (Click here for more…)

J.J. Abrams & ‘Infinity Blade’ developer collaborate on new video game ‘SPYJINX’

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 15th, 2015

Play video games? Dig the curious mind of director/producer J.J. Abrams? Well, here’s an excitingly fresh piece of news for you. Abrams (LOSTStar Wars)–who previously struck a deal with Valve–is teaming up with Infinity Blade developer ChAIR to produce a game called SPYJINX. Here’s what we know so far:

Powered by Unreal Engine 4, SPYJINX is a unique mix of action strategy gameplay, dynamic world building and RPG character development – all set in a thrilling, treacherous world of espionage.

As is tradition in the world of Bad Robot, juicy details surrounding the upcoming title are being closely guarded for now. SPYJINX is expected to roll out on PCs and mobile devices during its 2016 launch, and the plan is for the game to hit consoles sometime thereafter. Gamers are invited to sign up for the beta now to help the developers shape the game and work out the kinks.

Watch Abrams and ChAIR founder and creative director Donald Mustard discuss their new collaborative effort in the video hanging here. As more information spills around SPYJINX, you’ll know where to find it.

Dory swims back to theatres this summer in ‘Finding Nemo’ sequel

Posted in Image cache,Movies,Video by Scott Meisner on November 15th, 2015

Here’s a first look at Disney & Pixar’s sequel Finding Dory. It picks up six months after the events of 2003’s Finding Nemo and it explores the origin story of everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang fish, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). Instead of getting lost like Nemo does in the original, in the sequel Dory and friends (including clownfish Nemo and Nemo’s father Marlin) go on an adventure in search of answers about her past. Along the way we’ll discover Dory’s parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) and we’ll find out where she learned to speak Whale. The first teaser trailer, embedded above, is a slice of nostalgia as it instantly transports you back to the animated blue ocean we all fell in love with in ’03.

Andrew Stanton returns as director. Filling out the star-studded voice cast are Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, and Ty Burrell.

Finding Dory swims into theatres June 17, 2016. Pop after the break to view the initial theatrical poster. (Click here for more…)

Coldplay announces seventh studio album ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ & releases lead single–listen here

Posted in Uncategorized by Scott Meisner on November 7th, 2015

Coldplay has emerged from the studio with a major announcement. Their seventh album, A Head Full of Dreams, drops December 4. Not only that, the ubiquitous British band has released the lead single, “Adventure of a Lifetime,” and it previews the fun-loving, positive ball of energy nature that frontman Chris Martin promises the album will deliver. “We just wanted to make this big, colorful, joyful thing called A Head Full of Dreams,” he told SiriusXM this week. You can listen to new track after the break, and stream it on Spotify and download it on iTunes.

A Head Full Of Dreams consists of 11 tracks (12 if you include the hidden track “X Marks the Spot”) and it will feature a handful of special guests including Beyoncé, Noel Gallagher (of Oasis), Tove Lo, and Merry Clayton. Norwegian duo Stargate and frequent Coldplay collaborator Rik Simpson helped produce the new album which was recorded on both sides of the pond in Malibu and London. Though the band didn’t tour their last release, Ghost Stories, Martin and company promise an exciting world tour is in the works for this latest release.

For Coldplay fans, album #7 may be the last collection of new material from the band for awhile. Last year, Martin let slip to then-BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe that A Head Full of Dreams may very well be Coldplay’s final hurrah. “It’s our seventh thing, and the way we look at it, it’s like the last Harry Potter book or something like that,” he said. “Not to say that there might not be another thing one day, but this is the completion of something.” Sounds to me like they might take an extended hiatus between 7 and 8, rather than dismantling the band for good. Especially if you listen to Martin’s more recent radio interview, it’s apparent that all the bandmates are in a good place and are very grateful for having lasted this long together. I’d be shocked if this was the end, that’s all I’m saying.

Regardless! Play the new single below the fold and preorder the album today. Come Dec. 4, we’ll all have fresh ethereal, feel-good music from the ever-evolving Coldplay. Eye the album artwork and track list below the fold. (Click here for more…)

First look & details: Potter prequel ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ with Eddie Redmayne

Posted in Images,Movies,News by Scott Meisner on November 7th, 2015

It sure is a great time to be a fan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Less than a month after a Harry Potter stage play was announced, more information surrounding the tightly veiled Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has surfaced. But before we dive in, here’s a quick refresher.

In September of 2013, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced a new partnership with Warner Bros. to adapt her 2009 standalone paperback Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them into a movie. Fantastic Beasts, a text book that serves as an extensive introduction to the magical beasts that exist in the magical, non-Muggle world, is actually mentioned in the first Potter novel, The Sorcerer’s Stone; it’s a required reading for first-year students. The text is written by famed magizoologist Newt Scamander. A magizoologist, mind you, is a person who studies magical creatures. In her surprise announcement, Rowling shared, “The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.”

Since then, Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) has been cast to star in Fantastic Beasts as Newt Scamander, and it’s been confirmed that Rowling will make her screenwriting debut here and David Yates (director of the final four Potter films) is back at the helm.

Entertainment Weekly recently published pictures from the set and shared some non-spoilery plot points. Here’s what we know so far:

Eccentric magizoologist Newt Scamander comes to New York (for a reason [EW] won’t disclose) with his trusty weathered case. This case is one of those way-way-way-bigger-on-the-inside magical devices, and within are expansive habitats for a collection of rare and endangered magical creatures from Newt’s travels around globe. He discovers the American wizarding community is fearfully hiding from Muggles (who are called “No-Maj” in the States [pronounced “no madge,” as in “no magic”]) and the threat of public exposure is an even graver concern than in the UK (remember the Salem witch trials?). Fantastic Beasts is the story of what happens when this uniquely skilled English wizard travels to wiz-phobic America and a variety of his creatures, some quite dangerous … get out of their case.

Catch your first glimpse of Redmayne as Scamander in EW‘s cover photo above. The mag reveals that he’s posing here in the “art deco-influenced Magical Congress of the United States of America (or MACUSA), which is the American version of the Ministry of Magic that’s housed inside the Woolworth Building in the film.”

You’ll find even more photos in the gallery below. Featured alongside Redmayne are more new, original characters including Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (played by Katherine Waterston), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).

Despite the film taking place in 1926 New York City, some 70 years before Harry realizes his potential across the pond at Hogwarts, I am beyond confident that Rowling and Redmayne will deliver an exhilaratingly fun new adventure for wizarding world fans new and old.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is due out November 2016. Don’t be surprised if we get a trilogy out of this.

[Via EW 1, 2, 3, 4]

Jimmy Kimmel strikes again as parents prank their kids over missing Halloween candy

Posted in Hilarity,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

Every Halloween Jimmy Kimmel tells parents to prank their children by telling them that mommy and daddy ate all their candy. You’d think that some kids might catch on to this annual, cruel joke. Some do! But for the most part, the joke lands and it lands hard. Turns out children are wired to completely freak out and cry in sadness and anger when they’re told that all of their Halloween candy is gone. Parents and Jimmy Kimmel Live audiences (myself included!) can’t help but belly-laugh at the mere sight of these ridiculous reactions. It’s schadenfreude at its finest, and it never fails to completely and utterly entertain.

Happy Halloween, kids!

Supernatural ‘Preacher,’ AMC’s latest comic book adaptation, aims to please

Posted in News,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

A supernatural Preacher, a gun-toting ex, and an Irish vampire walk into a bar…

During last Sunday’s Morgan-centric installment of The Walking Dead, AMC aired this first-look trailer at the network’s latest comic book adaptation. Preacher, which lasted 75 issues from 1995-2000, was published by Vertigo and hailed from witer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon. The TV adaptation has been a dream project for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the comedic duo behind Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express. The frequent collaborators are teaming up to bring the cult comic book to life, along with writer Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad). Catlin will also serve as EP and commands showrunner duties.

Preacher is the story of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, Agent Carter), a conflicted preacher in a small Texas town who is inhabited by a mysterious entity that allows him to develop a highly unconventional power. Jesse, his ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and an Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun, Misfits) embark on a journey to, literally, find God.

And man, does it look fun. In Rogen and Goldberg I trust. Preacher lands on AMC in mid-2016.

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‘Star Trek’ to make anticipated return to television…with a questionable twist

Posted in News,Television by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

J.J. Abrams was successful in resurrecting Star Trek to the big screen. Now it’s time to see if CBS can do the same on the small screen. The network is employing producer Alex Kurtzman to shepherd Star Trek‘s return to TV. Kurtzman is no stranger to the Star Trek universe; he previously co-wrote and produced Abrams’ reboot films Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. We don’t have a definitive title or plot synopsis just yet; what we have is this:

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

In a nutshell, the new TV series will not incorporate the classic original series characters like Kirk and Spock. Instead, it will introduce a new crew and fresh locations and inhabitants to explore.

Now here’s the kicker. CBS will premiere the new Star Trek on its network in January 2017, but following its “special preview broadcast,” the show will be airing exclusively on the network’s CBS All Access streaming service. That’s a subscription-based service that demands a $5.99/month fee to use. Currently, CBS All Access is home to the majority of all the network’s current and past seasons on demand, including all prior Star Trek iterations. This will mark the first time that CBS is adding a new, exclusive series into the fold.

This news is a bit of a shocker to me and the industry overall. Star Trek is such an iconic franchise, and limiting its return to the medium that gave birth to it is a poor decision. Of course, CBS envisions Star Trek‘s inherent popularity to draw audiences to its All Access service. I’ll be curious to see how this all goes down; perhaps if things don’t go according to plan, CBS will do a 180 and air the series on CBS proper. Are you will to pay another monthly fee to access a show not available through your cable provider, even if that show touches that nostalgic place in your heart?

Jump after the break for choice quotes plucked from CBS’ Star Trek press release. (Click here for more…)

Netflix and Amazon original series rule in November: Marvel’s ‘Jessica Jones’ & more inside

Posted in News,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

The month of November is dominated by highly anticipated new original series from Netflix, and one from Amazon (and no, it’s not Transparent). Skip after the break for the full rundown on what to watch this month, streaming service edition. (Click here for more…)

Status update #2 on your favorite new and returning shows

Posted in News,Television by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

The TV landscape is a fickle thing as viewers decide whether or not to tune into new and returning series. With that being said, it is prime time to check back into the status of programs spanning the big networks, cable, and premium cable. Shall we?

CBS is a fan of Limitless, the new fall drama that’s based on the 2011 Bradley Cooper film; it has received the Back 9 order that lifts its episode count to a full-season 22. The same can be said for ensemble sitcom Life in Pieces.

NBC is injecting even more life into its solid performers BlindspotChicago FireChicago P.D., and Law & Order: SVU. All four dramas–including Blindspot, which was previously granted a full season order–have been allotted one extra episode, upping their respective seasons from 22 to 23 episodes. Elsewhere on the Peacock network, underperformers The Player and Truth Be Told are getting episodes taken away from them. The Wesley Snipes casino drama is seeing its episode count reduced from 13 to 9, and the barely-on-the-radar sitcom is shedding three episodes seeing its total drop from 13 to 10.

Over on FOX, Tuesday night sitcoms Grandfathered and The Grinder led by John Stamos and Rob Lowe, respectively, have both received Back 9 orders, thus sealing their fates to last at least until May of next year.

More updates from ABC, FX, AMC, Starz, and HBO after the break. (Click here for more…)

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 Collection revealed, ships this December with Morag Orb in tow

Posted in Image cache,Movies,News by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

Do you consider yourself to be the ultimate Marvel fan? Alternatively, are you a huge film buff who simply requires the latest and greatest collector’s editions? Well, perk up, because the studio behind Iron Man and The Avengers is back with its second limited edition package. Say hello to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 Collection. Naturally, it comes packed with all six of the Phase 2 films including Iron Man 3Thor: The Dark WorldCaptain America: The Winter SoldierGuardians of the GalaxyAvengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. Each movie comes in three formats: Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and Digital Copy. An exclusive bonus content disc comes with over 2 and a half hours of content including deleted and extended scenes, all of the Marvel One-Shot short films, making-of featurettes, and more. And just as the Phase One collection came inside the tesseract suitcase, this bundle will also ship with special extras for fans. A 1:1 prop replica of the Morag Orb containing an infinity stone is yours, as well as exclusive artwork and related memorabilia including a gold-foiled page from the book of the Dark Elves, an ancient drawing from the Morag vault, Avengers and S.T.R.I.K.E. uniform patches, and a replica of the Tony Stark tattoo from Iron Man 3.

The Phase 2 Collection is being sold exclusively by Amazon. It’s up for preorder today at $199.99 and ships December 8. To borrow from the Guardians campaign, you’re welcome.

[Via Marvel; Amazon]

Harry Potter returns in London-based stage play from J.K. Rowling coming next year

Posted in Entertainment,News by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

The eighth story.

Nineteen years later.

These are strings of words that are being used to describe Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage play from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. I’ll give you a second to catch your breath.

Unlike the upcoming film penned by Rowling called Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them which takes place in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter but some 70 years before Harry blinks into existence, Cursed Child is a true continuation of Harry’s story that picks up where the Deathly Hallows epilogue left off. The official logline reads:

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

This is pretty incredible. The only official post-Deathly Hallows information we’ve received directly from Rowling herself has come in the form of bite-sized tweets and other articles posted on Pottermore, such as this Rita Skeeter column. A full-on, two-part stage play is bound to kickstart Pottermania back into high gear again.

Rowling dreamed up Harry’s next adventure with Jack Thorne (SkinsLet the Right One In) and John Tiffany (OnceBlack Watch). The famed author is playing a major role in resurrecting the boy who lived, however she is leaving writing and directing duties to Thorne and Tiffany, respectively. Imogen Heap has been tapped to compose the score.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will premiere at the Palace Theatre in London’s West End in Summer 2016. As mentioned earlier, the play will be broken up into two parts, and thankfully they will release at the same time (unlike the Deathly Hallows theatrical two-parter that had fans waiting a year to finish Harry’s story). The two parts are intended to be seen in order on the same day; for example, you’d see Part 1 at a matinee show and Part 2 in the evening. Alternatively, you can see Parts 1 & 2 on two consecutive evenings. Previews begin in London on June 7 and opening performances go into full swing starting July 30. For those of you who don’t live in the UK or can’t fly out in time (myself included), here’s to hoping that Rowling and company have the tenacity to bring Cursed Child stateside.

As we await more news to come from this exciting announcement, let’s contemplate casting. Do you think Rowling will reel Daniel Radcliffe (who has Broadway experience!) and the rest of the original film actors to take part in this new story? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Via The Play; Pottermore]

‘Star Wars’ drops theatrical poster and trailer ahead of ‘Force Awakens’ December release [Update: New character posters]

Posted in Image cache,Images,Movies,Video by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

The new Star Wars is just a little over a month away from hitting theatres–can you believe it?! To satiate fans’ eager anticipation, Disney and Lucasfilm have released the official poster for J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens as well as the official full-length theatrical trailers that clocks in at 2 minutes and 35 seconds. Eye the poster above, and watch the new trailer after the break.

On a slightly depressing note, said poster is surprisingly not illustrated by iconic artist Drew Struzman. Special effects master and my friend Greg Aronowitz says it like it is in his latest blog post titled, “You disappoint me, Disney.” Though I didn’t grow up with Star Wars, I empathize with Greg’s ultimate grief over Disney attempt at replicating Struzman’s work as opposed to simply using it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens December 18.

Update (11/4): Today a slew of new posters hit the ‘Net, each featuring a major player from The Force Awakens. Newbies Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) look fiercely confident with their respective staff and blue-bladed lightsaber. Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver lightsaber emits a sinister red hue. And then, of course, we have our returning franchise veterans, Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford); thanks to some fancy photoshop, they both have aged incredibly well. All in all, I’m definitely digging the design motif here–the left side of each poster draws a distinct vertical line. What can it mean? Also, where’s Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)? Here’s not here, and he isn’t even positioned in the official theatrical poster posted above even though everybody else is. Abrams certainly has a trick up his sleeve here, and I can’t wait to get to the bottom of this mystery. Eye the new character posters in the gallery below.

Update 2 (11/6): Another new trailer–this one’s international and is targeted towards the Japanese audience–has landed and it features new, never-before-seen footage. What are you waiting for–it’s embedded after the break!

(Click here for more…)

Kanye West outs new, recognizable material

Posted in Music,News by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

Calling all Kanye fans, we’ve got a curious case on our hands. After releasing a handful of singles assisted by the likes of Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Sia, and Vic Mensa, Mr. West has created his very own SoundCloud account and is using it to drop (not so) new music into the laps of his fans. Let me explain.

Rising rapper Travis Scott sent out an Instagram in mid-October tagged with an image of the new SoundCloud account and the words “It’s starts.” Poor grammar aside, the link to the account brings you to two Kanye-driven tracks titled “Say You Will” and “When I See It.” Those titles should ring a bell. The first song is an altered version of ‘Ye’s opening to track his fourth studio album, 808s and Heartbreak. Though the differences to the original are not startling here, the inclusion of featured artist Caroline Shaw adds a new dimension to the already epic production.

The other released track, “When I See It,” is a reworking of The Weeknd’s song “Tell Your Friends.” In case you didn’t know, this particular beat was originally imagined and produced by West, and he ended up gifting it to The Weeknd for him to package inside his third studio album Beauty Behind the Madness. Here, West puts his own spin and his original record. One wonders if the undeniable presence  of autotune here is laying the groundwork for what we can expect from West’s next effort.

Like all the other post-Yeezus material Kanye has dropped to this point, it’s hard to say where these songs may eventually land. The rapper’s long-incubating seventh album Swish (formally known as So Help Me God) is still in the works but with no release date in sight. If you’ve been yearning for something, anything from Kanye West, this is for you. And cherish it, because who knows when West’s next production will make it out of the woodwork.

YouTube Red brings ad-free streaming experience to the masses

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

Can you remember back to the days when YouTube wasn’t muddled with pre-roll advertisements? Yeah, I know, it’s straining. Well, Google is looking to finally alleviate the pain that comes packaged with having to sit through tediously boring commercials. The new initiative is called YouTube Red, and yes, like all magic it comes with a price. For $9.99/month you can stream YouTube videos completely ad-free. Oh, and thankfully there’s more to it. With a YouTube Red membership, you can also save videos for offline playback and background playback is enabled (the latter meaning playback continues even if you’re bouncing around other apps or if you’re mobile device falls asleep). Another perk? A Google Play Music subscription is part of it, too. Of course, Red benefits do not apply to those YouTube videos that require you to pay to view such as film rentals and the like. The rest, praise be, indeed go ad-free.

In time, YouTube Red will also offer exclusive content such as YouTube Music (a new way to curate and listen to music coming next year) and YouTube Red Original Series produced by some of the sites biggest stars like PewDiePie and Joey Graceffa. Preview ten of the new series coming in 2016 over here.

As of October 28, YouTube Red has gone live and you can live the ad-free experience by signing up today. YouTube’s offering a free one-month trial for you to find out if the $10 barrier to entry is worth it to you. If you happen to be a proud owner of a YouTube channel, do note that if you are ever looking to support your videos with ads, you will be forced to pay up for a Red membership. With that slightly sour but understandable point out of the way, go give YouTube Red a test drive and see if the reality lives up to the hype of living in an ad-free YouTube world.

[Via YouTube 1, 2]

Snapchat upgrades video capabilities and Twitter invites users to poll, like & heart

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

Snapchat’s selfie Lenses and Twitter’s Moments were just the beginning of new updates sprinkled on the popular social networks. Let’s discuss the new features and changes making their way to your mobile devices, in brief.

The app that does away with your fleeting snaps has added additional functionality to shooting its equally fading video recordings. After shooting a video, swipe through the handy filters and you’ll notice three new ones. Instead of switching up the physical appearance of the videos, they actually play around with speed. A filter marked with a snail aptly slows down your recording. Another marked by a rabbit speeds it up, and a third one plays your clip in reverse. Snapchat calls these fun new filters Speed Modifiers, and they are baked into the app’s latest update. Also included in the refreshed app is 3D Touch support; so, if you own an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, you can now force touch the app to pull up quick action shortcuts to chat with friends and add some more.

Twitter, on the other hand, has pushed polls out to everyone. Now you can create your very own poll to receive near-instant feedback from your followers about a topic you’e concerned about. Creating and tweeting out a poll is simple as pie. Update the app and when you go to compose a tweet, you’ll notice a new pie chart icon next to the location and camera icons. Click it to compose a poll, and you’ll have 166 characters to ask a question and 20 characters each for two choices your followers can choose from when responding to the poll.

Elsewhere, and most recently, Twitter is switching up its vernacular when it comes to Favorites. To the point, Favorites are now Likes, and the symbol has been changed from a star to a heart. Many users are confused about the sudden, erm, change of heart, and in a blog post the company does its best to support the facelift:

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

Love it or hate it, Likes and hearts are the new Favorites and stars and you better get used to it as they’re rolling out Twitter’s mobile apps and desktop web portal today.

[Via TechCrunch; Twitter 1, 2]

Apple reports 2015 Q4 results: $51.5 billion revenue & $11.1 billion net profit

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2015

On October 27, Apple reported its 2015 fourth quarter financial results. Apple posted a quarterly revenue of $51.5 billion and net profit of $11.1 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $42.1 billion and net profit of $8.5 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook in a press release: “Fiscal 2015 was Apple’s most successful year ever, with revenue growing 28% to nearly $234 billion. This continued success is the result of our commitment to making the best, most innovative products on earth, and it’s a testament to the tremendous execution by our teams. We are heading into the holidays with our strongest product lineup yet, including iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch with an expanded lineup of cases and bands, the new iPad Pro and the all-new Apple TV which begins shipping this week.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold 48 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 39.2 million in the year-ago quarter); 9.8 million iPads (compared to 12.3 million); and 5.7 million Macs (compared to 5.5 million). As for iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, the company stuffs these products into a single category called Other Products and unfortunately does not disclose how many units of each were sold. However, what we do know is that this division accounted for $3 billion of Apple’s revenue this quarter (compared to 1.9 million in the year-ago quarter).

Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2016, Apple CFO Luca Maestri expects revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion.

[Via Apple]

Happy Back to the Future Day!

Posted in Hilarity,Movies,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on October 21st, 2015

Great Scott, we made it! In Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown and Marty McFly travel to the future, specifically October 21, 2015. And that day is today! No, we don’t have flying cars, but the Cubs are in the playoffs and Biff is running for president! To celebrate this special occasion, check out this BTTF reunion staged by Jimmy Kimmel. Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox return in character for a fun, 10-minute conversation about the present future they arrive in, via Delorean DMC-12, of course. Then, jump after the break to watch Lloyd as Doc once more in a special announcement hyping the Blu-ray trilogy.

In other BTTF news, Nike has announced a followup to its Nike Mag sneaker. Unlike its predecessor, the 2015 Nike Mag will, in fact, feature power laces that lace themselves, just like they do in the movie. As we near the end of 2015, more details are bound to surface so stick it here for when that happens.

‘Paranormal Activity’ prank spooks unsuspecting house hunters

Posted in Hilarity,Movies,Video by Scott Meisner on October 16th, 2015

Are you a fan of the Internet pranks that truly terrify people in the name of good marketing? Well, today’s your lucky day. I’ve got a juicy one here for you, and it comes from Paramount, the studio behind the Paranormal Activity franchise. To boost awareness for The Ghost Dimension, the sixth and final film in the franchise, PA producer Oren Peli has dropped this highly entertaining prank video that follows unsuspecting house hunters entering the original haunted house featured in the 2007 original film. Peli shared the clip on his Facebook page with the caption, “Can you blame me for selling my house?” Fun fact: Peli, who wrote and directed the first one, shot it in this very San Diego-based home that he owned at the time. Now watch as the open house hauntings make those who enter quake in fear and scream bloody murder.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension opens October 23.

Status update #1 on your favorite new and returning shows

Posted in News,Television by Scott Meisner on October 16th, 2015

We’re nearly one month into the 2015 fall TV season, so there’s no better time than now to check on the status of your favorite shows, new and old. I’ll break it down by network.

At CBS, its summer fare was taken under the microscope and only one series made it out alive. Zoo, the animal-themed thriller based on the James Patterson novel starring James Wolk, is coming back for a second season next summer. Sci-fi dramas Extant and Under the Dome are ending after two and three season runs, respectively. The Halle Berry starrer underwent a creative reboot in season 2 and simply couldn’t drum up the ratings needed to continue. Dome, based on Stephen King’s novel, ran out of steam fast as the show quickly exhausted its source material.

NBC is the first network to grant a new fall series a full-season order. Blindspot, starring Jaimie Alexander as an amnesiac Jane Doe who’s covered head-to-toe in mysterious tattoos that are connected to a larger conspiracy, will live on to air a full 22-episode first season on the Peacock network. The FSO follows a pickup of nine additional scripts ordered more than a week prior. Elsewhere, Debra Messing and her crime procedural The Mysteries of Laura has been awarded five additional scripts as its second season aims to go the distance (read: May sweeps).

Fox is showering its Animation Domination fans with love by renewing cult comedy Bob’s Burgers for a seventh and eighth season. As far as new programming is concerned, and in a fairly surprising move, Fox is handing out a full-season order to the Morris Chestnut crime procedural Rosewood before making decisions on higher profile offerings like Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens and sophomore The Last Man on EarthRosewood‘s FSO comes a week after Fox ordered three additional scripts for it. Elsewhere, things are looking up for new sitcoms Grandfathered and The Grinder. The John Stamos and Rob Lowe comedies have both been tasked to pump out six additional scripts apiece. Monday night sci-fi drama Minority Report, on the other hand, reports a gloomy forecast; due to low ratings, the network has cut three episodes from its original 13-episode run. Episode 10, which was written as a fall finale, will now serve as a season (or series) finale, according to Deadline.

More updates from ABC, The CW, FX, and AMC after the break. (Click here for more…)