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Marco Polo: Is it really the next Game of Thrones?

- December 13th, 2014

Man, I really can’t wait for Season 5 of Game of Thrones. Everyone I talk to, whether it’s my uncle, or neighbour, or barber, is excitedly thinking the same thing – we’re only a few months away from revisiting Westeros and seeing the fallout from Tyrion Lannister’s bold (and violent) choices in the Season 4 finale.

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Aside from viewing past seasons of Thrones over and over again, what should you watch in the meantime? Industry buzz suggests that Netflix’s new historical series, Marco Polo, might hit the spot. The show, which recently hit the streaming service, follows the Italian explorer as he finds himself in the court of Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan. The 10-episode first season reportedly cost US$90 million to make, second only to Game of Thrones as the most expensive series ever.

And while many critics have been comparing the epic series to the HBO hit – even Marco Polo executive producer Harvey Weinstein has described the shows as looking similar – not everyone working on the Netflix series thinks it’s an accurate comparison.

“There’s something very different tonally about our show,” says Marco Polo director and executive producer Daniel Minahan, who has also directed several episodes of Game of Thrones. “I think (Marco) is more of an adventure show. We have kung fu fighting, and there’s an element of playfulness about this that I hope comes through, and a kind of wonder, which is I think different from Game of Thrones.”

And while Marco Polo definitely contains political maneuvering, spying and shifting relationships – some of the best things about Game of Thrones – it goes about it in a different way.

“We have a lot of that, but it’s different, because we have one protagonist,” says Minahan. “That’s sort of our eyes into this world.”

Australian actor Remy Hii, who plays Prince Jingim in the Netflix series, says comparisons between the two shows are inevitable, especially since everyone and their barber are watching Game of Thrones.

“I think Game of Thrones is just running so hot at the moment,” he says. “They really opened up fantasy to the mainstream. Whereas, we’re working with a very epic, grand, historical story. It is rooted in fact. And as an artist, I don’t think that you want to compare yourself too much…I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, I love it, but I recognize that what we’re doing here is very different.”

What do you think? Is it fair to put both shows in the same category? And, more importantly, does Marco Polo contain that binge-worthy quality that makes Thrones so addictive?

Stream This: Three picks for this week

- June 23rd, 2014

Each week, we look at three digital entertainment offerings to stream or download. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

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Bad Words
Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with this black comedy about a middle-aged man who hijacks a spelling bee competition. Find it on: iTunes

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The Amazing Spider-Man
Now that you’re seen the sequel in theatres, log onto Netflix and revisit the origin story – the film that made us realize that Andrew Garfield could kick Tobey Maguire’s butt any day. Find it on: Netflix

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Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Johnny Knoxville stars as an 86-year-old grandfather, who embarks on a road trip with his grandson while getting into trouble along the way. This is the first Jackass movie to be nominated for an Oscar. Find it on: Netflix

In this week’s Stream This column, we chat with Orange is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba about the respect she feels for her character Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren. Check it out here.

Stream This: Three picks for this week

- June 16th, 2014

Each week, we look at three digital entertainment offerings to stream or download. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

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Uzo Aduba’s Orange is the New Black audition
This joke audition tape shows talented actress Uzo Aduba trying out for every single role in Orange is the New Black, before being cast as fan favourite Crazy Eyes. There’s some colourful language in this one, so be cautious if you’ve got kids in the room. Find it on: Funny Or Die

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Rock of Ages
While this 2012 musical didn’t leave anyone wanting an encore, it’s still fun to watch actors like Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Julianne Hough play dress-up. It arrives later this week. Find it on: Netflix

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Watching Game of Thrones with people who haven’t read the books
If you’ve already devoured all of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books, then you’ll relate to this sketch. Just don’t send us any spoilers, alright? Find it on: College Humor

In this week’s Stream This column, we look ahead to the fourth season of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Check it out here.

Stream This: Three picks for this week

- June 11th, 2014

Each week, we look at three digital entertainment offerings to stream or download. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

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The Wolverine
It seems like X-Men fanatics can’t get enough of their favourite Canadian mutant. If you’re into it, stream The Wolverine on Netflix – doesn’t Hugh Jackman look insanely ripped in that? How can we learn his workout routine? – before checking out Days of Future Past in theatres. Find it on: Netflix
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Archer (season 5)
Archer’s fifth season served as a reboot for the series, as the writers ditched the spy format and showed the characters beginning a life of crime by trying to sell a whole lot of cocaine. It hits Netflix later this week. Find it on: Netflix
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Pretty Little Liars (season 5)
This teen mystery series, starring Ashley Benson, should be around for a few more years – it just got renewed for a sixth and seventh season. The fifth season starts this week. Find it on: iTunes

In this week’s Stream This column, we interview the creators of the funny (and profane) Canadian web series Bill and Sons Towing. Check it out here.

Stream This: Three picks for this week

- June 5th, 2014

Each week, we look at three digital entertainment offerings to stream or download. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

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Homeland
Has it been a while since you’ve watched Claire Danes screaming, crying and contorting her face into bizarre shapes? Then it’s probably time to get caught up with Carrie Mathison and the gang. Season 2 of Homeland is on Netflix now. Find it on: Netflix

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True Blood
True Blood, starring Anna Paquin, puts the fangs away for good when the seventh and final season airs this summer. Prepare yourself for the bitter end by binging through these Season 6 episodes beforehand. Find it on: iTunes

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Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson fans embraced the filmmaker’s latest quirky film, featuring Ralph Fiennes in the lead role, when it hit theatres this past spring. Find it on: iTunes

In this week’s Stream This column, we discuss the onslaught of sophomore seasons for shows from Netflix Originals, including Orange is the New Black, Derek and Hemlock Grove. Check it out here.