Saturday, September 07, 2019

Around the Tubes: September 7, 2019

I have gotten a plethora of cool press releases have been flooding my inbox recently that you may find interesting. This post will include blurbs on Marvel’s Runaways, Reprisal, Castle Rock, Couples Therapy, Four Weddings and a Funeral, A Million Little Pieces (Motion Picture Soundtrack), Counterfeit, Oh Wonder, The Avett Brother, Anna of the North, Conan Gray, Donna Lewis, Private Lives of the Windsors, The Silence of Others, POV, and Downton Abbey

- New York Comic Con revealed their programming line up for the annual fest, which features three Hulu Original series. Fans can expect to see the world premieres of Marvel’s Runaways Season Three, upcoming drama series Reprisal and the highly anticipated Castle Rock Season Two. Screening and panel information is below.

- Marvel’s Runaways: Season Three World Premiere Screening and Panel: Marvel’s Runaways is headed back to Madison Square Garden with an action-packed panel you won’t want to miss! Be the first to experience the premiere episode of the highly-anticipated third season with the stars and creative forces of Marvel’s Runaways. After the exclusive screening, join Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Television, along with the cast and executive producers, to discuss what’s to come in season three. All episodes of Marvel’s Runaways season three drop on Friday, December 13th only on Hulu. Friday, October 4th 5:30 – 7:00 PM, Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden

J.J. Abrams & Stephen King’s Castle Rock: Season Two World Premiere Screening and Panel: Hulu’s hit psychological-horror series returns! Set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. In season two, a feud between warring clans comes to a boil when budding psychopath Annie Wilkes, Stephen King's nurse from hell, gets waylaid in Castle Rock. Panelists include stars Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, Paul Sparks, Yusra Warsama, Barkhad Abdi, Elsie Fisher and co-creator/showrunner Dustin Thomason. Castle Rock premieres Wednesday, October 23rd only on Hulu. Saturday, October 5th 3:30 - 5:00 PM, Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden

- World Premiere Screening and Panel of Hulu’s Reprisal: From the executive producer of The Handmaid’s Tale, comes Hulu’s new drama series Reprisal. Premiering at New York Comic Con, the hyper-noir story follows a relentless femme fatale (Abigail Spencer) who, after being left for dead, sets out to take revenge against her brother and his bombastic gang of gearheads. The thriller examines the intricacies of family – both the one you’re born with, and the one you make along the way. The series stars Abigail Spencer, Rodrigo Santoro, Mena Massoud, Rhys Wakefield, Madison Davenport, Gilbert Owuor, David Dastmalchian, W. Earl Brown, Craig Tate, Wavyy Jonez, Shane Callahan, and Rory Cochrane. All episodes of Reprisal will premiere on Friday, December 6th only on Hulu. Saturday, October 5th 7:00 – 8:15 PM, Javits Room 1A10

- Showtime has released all nine episodes of the new docuseries Couples Therapy to its subscribers. The episodes are available now for on-demand streaming or download on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime® apps and on partner on-demand platforms. From DGA® Award-nominated and Sundance Award-winning filmmakers Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg and Eli Despres (WEINER), Couples Therapy will debuted on air on SHOWTIME lst at 10 p.m. ET/PT and continue to air new episodes every Friday.

- Watch the finale of Hulu's romantic comedy series Four Weddings and a Funeral from co-creator Mindy Kaling next week! All episodes of Four Weddings and a Funeral are available to binge on Wednesday, Sept. 11 only on Hulu. A year after Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Ainsley's (Rebecca Rittenhouse) blowup, the fractured friend group hopes that a wedding may be the perfect occasion for a reunion. Sneak Peek.

- Grammy Award®-nominated collective The Avett Brother release a new single entitled “Bang Bang” today. Additionally, the pre-order for the group’s tenth full-length album, Closer Than Together [American/Republic Records], which hits stores October 4th, just went live today. Pre-order Closer Than Together HERE.

- Republic Records announces the release of A Million Little Pieces (Motion Picture Soundtrack) featuring an original song entitled “Always There” from the GRAMMY® Award-winning rock band Greta Van Fleet. Check out “Always There” by Greta Van Fleet, which was recorded during the same time as their debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army and produced by Marlon Young and Al Sutton, HERE and the full A Million Little Pieces (Motion Picture Soundtrack) HERE. In addition, the soundtrack features classics from R.E.M., Otis Redding, Tom Waits, and includes an original score by Academy Award winning film composer Atticus Ross (The Social Network), Leopold Ross (The Book of Eli) & Claudia Sarne (The Book of Eli).

- UK’s own Counterfeit. have announced their first release on Lava/Republic Records with their unifying protest song, “It Gets Better” out today. Check out “It Gets Better” Here!

- Oh Wonder make their highly anticipated return today with their first single in over two years, “Hallelujah”—listen HERE and watch the video HERE! If there has always been more to Oh Wonder than met the eye, “Hallelujah” heralds a newfound clarity in the alt-pop duo. Building from hushed harmonies and beautiful orchestration into breakneck electronics and dizzying pop, it’s easily the most urgent, infectious and anthemic moment of Oh Wonder’s career to date. Written, recorded and produced by Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West in their home studio, the song arrives alongside a joyous, one-take video made in collaboration with Gregory Ohrel and Supple Nam. “Hallelujah” announces Oh Wonder’s return in bold, brilliant fashion: no longer DIY pop-stars-in-hiding, but a duo whose musical and emotional alchemy is a timely testament to our purest need to connect.

- Anna of the North shares an infectious new single, "Dream Girl," and announces the release of her forthcoming sophomore album, out October 25th! The effervescent track blends Anna's idyllic, hypnotic vocals over saccharine melodies as she sings refreshingly honest lyrics. Alongside the track and album announce, Anna of the North treats fans with an exclusive album trailer.

- Buzzing 20-year-old pop singer-songwriter Conan Gray shares a new single and music video entitled “Comfort Crowd” this week. Listen HERE via Republic Records. Watch the official music video HERE. “I wrote “Comfort Crowd” during a particularly lonely part of my past year.” Conan comments on the new single, “I had just moved away to college, and all my friends were back home in Texas. I just really needed some company, that kinda company that didn’t require attention. That kinda company with someone who you’re so close to, you don’t need to say a single word to fill the “uncomfortable” silence”

- Following on from the success of ‘Bad Bad Love’ - incredible review by The Lumineers on Facebook and Instagram, feature in Clash Magazine, opening track of Chicane’s Sunset radio show to 6 million listeners worldwide, feature in TMRW and Made In Shoreditch magazines. David Baron and Donna Lewis up their game with a unique take on Kate Bush’s mega hit ‘Running Up That Hill’

- Smithsonian Channel ventures into the heart of the monarchy with two new programs this fall. The three-part series Private Lives of the Windsors reveals scandalous stories of the royal family’s previous generation via new access to private letters, diaries and photographs. One-hour documentary Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother introduces a new character to the Princess Di legend – her stepmother, Raine Spencer – giving first-hand accounts of their backstabbing rivalry with a twist ending. Private Lives of the Windsors premieres Monday, October 7 at 8 p.m. EST/PST. Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother premieres Monday, October 28 at 8 p.m. EST/PST.

- Filmed over six years, The Silence of Others reveals the epic struggle of victims of Spain’s 40-year dictatorship under General Franco, as they organize a groundbreaking international lawsuit and fight a “pact of forgetting” around the crimes they suffered. A cautionary tale about fascism and the dangers of forgetting the past. Directed by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar and executive produced by Academy Award-winning Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, The Silence of Others is the winner of over 30 international awards including the 2019 Goya for Best Documentary Feature (Spain’s Academy Award) and was shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature for the 91st Academy Awards. The Silence of Others has its national broadcast debut on the PBS documentary series POV and on Monday, September 30 at 10 p.m. (check local listings). The film is a co-production of Semilla Verde Productions, Lucernam Films, American Documentary | POV, Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), in association with El Deseo. POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series now in its 32nd season.

- At a pre-season party in small-town Steubenville, Ohio, a heinous crime took place: the assault of a teenage girl by members of the beloved high school football team. As it painstakingly reconstructs the night of the crime and its aftermath, Roll Red Roll ( uncovers the ingrained rape culture at the heart of the incident, acting as a cautionary tale about what can happen when teenage social media bullying runs rampant and adults look the other way. Directed by Nancy Schwartzman, winner of seven documentary feature awards, and nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors Spotlight Award, Roll Red Roll had its national broadcast and streaming debut on the PBS documentary series POV and on Monday, June 17. POV, American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, kicked-off its 32nd season with Schwartzman’s investigative film. The film is now streaming globally on Netflix.

- Lot18 cordially invites you to taste a new wine collection, crafted in honor of Downton Abbey’s eagerly awaited return for the first time on the big screen. Relive the romance, drama and intrigue of the beloved Crawley family and its fiercely loyal staff, as both the upstairs and downstairs members of the iconic residence continue to navigate their personal lives as well as larger events of the early 20th century. As the Dowager Countess would say, “You’ll find there’s never a dull moment in this house” – nor with this wine. Winemaker has teamed up with NBCUniversal and Focus Features to produce a collection of wine based on the beloved and multiple Emmy® Award-winning series, and soon to be released feature film, Downton Abbey, opening in the US on September 20, 2019. The new collection includes a Downton Abbey Sparkling Rose from Val de Loire, France, a 2018 Downton Abbey Bordeaux Blanc from Bordeaux, France and a 2018 Downton Abbey Bordeaux Rouge from Bordeaux, France.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Previewing Into the Dark: Pure

Well here we are at the end of the Into the Dark season. What started as an interesting concept of a monthly anthology with a holiday themed episode to go with that month. It had its ups and downs but never seemed to go past the initial belief that I had that these episodes were just concepts summited to Blumhouse Productions that the studio did not think were good enough to get people to theaters. But even without the restrictions of a movie ratings system, all but one of these episodes strived way too hard to be PG-13.

The last installment of the season could have really benefited from less restrictions that a streaming service provides but still remained pretty toned down. But it is a shocking end to Into the Dark. Nope the September episode is not a Labor Day themed episode, nope, it is inspired by a holiday I did not even realized existed: Daughter’s Day. And Pure is exactly the episode you are thinking for such a “holiday.”

Pure is about a Purity Retreat. Shay is a first time attendee on account she just met her father after the death of her mother and it not going to the retreat with her father and half-sister. And no, these religious zealots do not seem that concerned that this dude has to daughters about the same age from two different mothers. It is more about making sure their daughters do not have sex as te boys in the family just seem like a lost cause. Yeah, dudes who whine a lot about #MeToo will want to skip this one.

Naturally most of the girls, some that have been coming to this for ten years, are not much of a fan of the patriarchy and find the ritual as weird as a normal person would (there is a true believer or two). Scott Porter (Jason Street!) show up as the pastor who always just so happens to have a pistol on his sidearm (Chekov: check). As they always do, the girls try to raise Lilith, Adam’s hornier first wife who did not want to be subservient to Adam. Not surprisingly Shay is the key and things start getting weird from there.

But not weird enough and this is another episode of Into the Dark that suffers from the slow burn so by the time blood starts getting spilled you are ready for the episode to be over. And again the episode would have benefited from a little more blood and given the theme, a little R-Rated when the purity pledge gets violated. Watching a girl cry because a boy kissed making her un-pure is not as emotional as if they went a little further. Into the Dark does not go out on a complete dud, but I guess it goes out as a fitting end as it leaves the audience they went a little further into actual horror.

Into the Dark Power Ranking
1. The Body (October)
2. Culture Shock (July)
3. All That We Destroy (May)
4. Down (February)
5. New Year, New You (January)
6. Pure (September)
7. School Spirit (August)
8. Pooka! (December)
9. I’m Just Forking with You (April)
10. They Come Knocking (June)
11. Treehouse (March)
12. Flesh and Bone (November)

Into the Dark: Pure premieres today on Hulu.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Most (and Least) Anticipated Questions of 2019-20 Television

The Challenge premiered last week, Wu-Tang: an American Saga started yesterday and Titans premieres tomorrow which means the slow start of the fall television is upon us until the flood gates upon in two and a half weeks when the networks unveil their line ups. As I usually do every fall, I am asking all the big questions heading into the new television year.

1. Will someone get into The Good Place for the first time in 521 years? You know it has gotten too hard to get into The Good Place when Doug Forcett is currently not on track to get there. But the judge has let Team Cockroach set up a new version to see if people can get in without having to worry about racking up negative point for doing things that in theory sound good like buying flowers for your mother because unfortunately too much gasoline was used to get them there. Of course The Bad Place it doing everything to keep their cupboards stocked by picking four people that will hinder The Brainy Bunch. Which adds a secondary question, who else did Shawn pick? We met an annoying blogger that triggered Tahani. When I heard Shawn got to pick, I initially thought Eleanor’s mom, Tahani’s sister. Chidi’s ex-girlfriend, and Donkey Doug, but the blogger really ruined that prediction. Chidi’s ex still seems very likely, but I really hope Donkey Doug makes an appearance.

2. Will Mr. Robot and Homeland stick the landing? Two shows that had meteoric rises that then had rough sophomore seasons. After seven seasons, Homeland has mostly ironed itself out (aside the season where Peter Quinn slowly and painfully died). Mr. Robot on the other hand has to iron itself quit quickly because this is it. Here is hoping one if not both of these shows can go out in the way they came in.

3. Will Disney+ be a Netflix killer? Netflix has been a behemoth for almost a decade now with even the deep pockets of Amazon, Facebook, and YouTube (who has already thrown in the paid streaming towel) unable to put much of a dent into it. But two companies with even deeper pockets, Apple and Disney are launching their own paid subscription streaming services this fall. Now if I am Netflix, I am not too worried with Apple (one word: Ping) who seems to be more along the lines of Amazon who seems more interested in selling other stuff (though that may change after Amazon bought the rights to tell Lord of the Rings stores for about a billion dollars) but Disney is pushing hard with big name IP (Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, along with their classic animated movies) and a very nice price point at $7, one dollar cheaper than Netflix cheapest tier. Expect Disney+ gives you four log-ins to Netflix’s one, and 4K compared to standard definition For $13, Netflix will let you stream in HD on two screens while at that price, you still get Disney+ in 4K with four streams, but you also get ESPN+ and Hulu with ads (no Hulu ad free or live TV bundles announced yet). Disney+ also has discounted yearly rates. Sure these are introductory rates and I would expect a rate hike within five year, but I would still be worried if I were Netflix. And I have not even brought up HBO Max and the unnamed Comcast streamer both coming next year which will be taking two of Netflix’s biggest performers, Friends and The Office respectively.

4. How will Shameless move on without Fiona? After nine seasons it is an end of an era as Fiona finally cashed out and went south away from the bitterly cold Windy City. But there are still five Gallagher children left since Ian, who announced right after Fiona he was leaving the show only to announce his return months later; six if you count Franny and seven if you count Lip’s who is on the way (his baby mamma has been bumped up to series regular as well as Mickey who is regaining that status). So there will likely still be plenty of trouble brewing on the south Side.

5. Who is going to die/show up on Crisis on Infinite Earths? The former may be a bit easier to answer since Arrow has already cancel and the titular character has already been cast on a dude version of G.L.O.W. which I have zero interested in. Of course the comic book had two major death so there may be a surprised death (most surprising would be if it is the same as the comic book). So the bigger question is will there be any surprise appearances. Burt Ward from sixties Batman has been already announced as well as the voice of many Batman animated shows and movies Kevin Conroy. But will there been any surprise guest? Rumor that the three main Smallville actor may show up (Chloe is, um, otherwise busy). But can the lowly CW get anyone from the movies? Can they get anyone from the DC Universe show (the Swamp Thing cast is very avaiable right now) . I hear Ben Affleck is also very available to play his Batman. I just hope they land Black Manta or anyone from the upcoming Bird of Prey movie.

As the great philosopher Butt-Head once pondered, how would we know if something was cool if there weren't things that sucked; here are the five least anticipated questions:

1. Can the Titans defeat Trigon after he mind controlled Dick? Um, the trailer shows Raven with a gem in her forehead, so I am going to go ahead and guess yes.

2. What crappy IP can The CW exploit next? Half of The CW schedule is based on DC heroes (Batworman joins the fall lineup after a lackluster appearance in last season’s team up) that are not to say there is much for any new ideas. The only shows on the fall that are not based on existing IP is some football show and a show that is older than the network itself (granted two of the five midseason shows are original ideas) with dark Nancy Drew also joining the lineup. The Lost Boys has been in development there for a couple years, how long until they do dark Fat Albert?

3. Who will win the battle of Catherine the Great shows? Remember the nineties when there were two asteroid movies, two volcano movies, two Mars movies, and two insect animated movies release within months of each other? With the overabundance of airtime, we might get that version on television. Over the next couple months we are likely to have multiple shows based on a Russian Empress from the eightteenth century. Okay the two will likely be very different as seventy-four Hellen Mirren will star in the HBO adaptation starting October 21 while the Hulu version has twenty-one year old Elle Fanning playing a slightly younger version. No word when Hulu will premiere The Great but if you remember, earlier this year, Hulu surprise dropped their Frye Festival documentary just days before Netflix released their much hyped version. My guess is that the HBO show will get more viewers but the Hulu one will be much more entertaining.

4. Who’s going to watch CBS comedies? For most of this century, CBS comedies have dominated the rating but in the last couple years it has mostly being kept afloat by The Big Bang Theory. But that show is now gone and being replaced by… Bob Hearts Abishola. And as stupid as the name is, the trailer made it look really creepy as a hospital client starts to stalk his immigrant nurse. Then The Unicorn and Carol’s Second Act do not look much better. Compare that to NBC’s Thursday line up and the peacock may finally getting its Much See TV mojo back with the funniest show on television, The Good Place, the always solid Superstore and two freshmen show that look pretty good.

5. How can you make Survivor worse than Edge of Extinction? Well, have an island full of Idols that is inhabited by a giant bust of Boston Rob seems like a good start. Meh. Wake me up when they bring Lauren back.

Here is everything I will be watching this fall. Way too much on Sunday and Wednesday, the networks really need to stary spreading out their shows.

8:00 – The Neighborhood (CBS, September 23)

8:00 – The Little Mermaid Live! (ABC, November 5)
9:00 – Mix-ish (ABC, September 24)
9:30 – Black-ish (ABC, September 24)
10:00 – The Purge (USA, October 15)

Wu-Tang: An American Saga (Hulu, yesterday)
Castle Rock (Hulu, October 23)
8:00 – Survivor (CBS, September 25)
8:00 – The Goldbergs (ABC, September 25)
8:30 – Schooled (ABC, September 25)
9:00 – The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 (MTV, Already Started)
9:00 – Not Just Me (October 2, FOX)
9:00 – Modern Family (ABC, September 25)
10:00 – Stumptown (ABC, September 25)

8:00 – Superstore (NBC, September 26)
8:30 – Perfect Harmony (NBC, September 26)
9:00 – The Good Place (NBC, September 26)
9:30 – Sunnyview (NBC, September 26)

Titans (DC Universe, September 6)
Light as a Feather (Hulu, October 4)
Dollface (Hulu, November 15)
Reprisal (Hulu, December 6)
Marvel’s Runaways (Hulu, December 13)
8:00 – The Blacklist (NBC, October 5)

8:00 – Ray Donovan (Showtime, November 17)
9:00 – Supergirl (The CW, October 6)
9:00 – The Walking Dead (AMC, October 6)
9:00 - Watchmen (HBO, October 20)
9:00 – Shameless (Showtime, November 3)
10:00 – Mr. Robot (USA, October 6)
10:00 – Silicon Valley (HBO, October 25)
10:00 – Kidding (Showtime, November 3)
Brain Games (Nat Geo, December 1)

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Previewing Wu-Tang: An American Saga

Who would have guessed that a quarter century after the release of their debut album, 2019 would be the year of Wu-Tang Clan? Okay so they have not released a full length album that was available for mass consumption in five years and I am guessing that most people would be surprised to learn that individual members have released twelve solo albums since then (Ghostface Killah and Inspectah Deck both put one out this year). Then what was the last memorable single, Uzi?

2019 is not the year of the Wu for any new music (there was a mostly forgettable EP released earlier this year); it is because the seminal rap group has been the subject of two shows this year. First was the pretty good four part documentary on Showtime’s Of Mics and Men (I wished the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin got its own episode). Now comes the fictionalized version of the group’s formation with the Hulu mini-series Wu-Tang: An American Saga premiering today.

Most of us were introduced to the Wu when Raekwon said, “I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side. Staying alive was no jive.” C.R.E. A.M. is the visual representation of An American Saga; there is drug loots, running up on gates, making ways on fire escapes, sticking up white boys, and most importantly getting with a sick click and going all out. The show paints very graphic look at what it was to be a young black youth living in Staten Island in the early nineties.

Okay, I have to get this out of the way: the actors on the show do not look like their real life counterparts at all. Over half way through the series and really the only two Wu members I could recognize without any other cues were RZA who is tall and scrawny and the ODB who has the wild hair. I also thought I had Method Man pegged because he has the wild braid except then he dies making me realize that there were two dudes on the show with the same hair (later in the show a guy who I sort of thought was GZA also dies so I was wrong there too).

Worst is Ghostface Killah who is being played by some dude who could pass as a male model. About half way through the first episode I had to look up this dude Dennis is only to be shocked that it was Ghost’s name. Though in retrospect they did tip who it was in his first scene when he is talking about the Iron Man comic with his special needs brothers, Ironman is the name of his solo debut and he routinely refers to himself in rhymes as Tony Starkz. And that is just when they use their government names, sometimes they use nicknames that are not their Wu aliases; for instance, look out for Sha who you will know better as Raekwon.

It does help in the second episode where there are cartoons that look much more like the real versions that morph into the actors but unfortunately that is the episode that utilizes this technique. For a group brought up on over the top kung-fu stories, a show based on their lives could haed utilized a little more flashiness in its storytelling. I wished they would have flashed a chyron whenever a new member pops up so we could keep the characters straight. Although, even though I am half way through the season, I do not even think I have seen Masta Killa, Cappadonna, or U-God. Those three were not pictured in the promo above but at least Masta Killa and Cappadonna were at least listed at the end.

Really most the Wu members take a back seat to the Diggs family, RZA being Bobby Diggs. His bother Divine (one of the few actors that actually looks like his real life counterpoint) who may have been the most entertaining part of the documentary, may get the second most screen time in what I have seen. Bobby’s litter sister even gets her own episode and Momma Diggs also gets a weird storyline involving Italian gangstas. These are the weakest parts of the show. A show about the Wu-Tang Clan should not give more screen time to someone’s little sister than half the group.

With that said, Wu-Tang: An American Saga is a compelling tale of life in big cities in the early nineties that we saw on the big screen many times at the time from Boyz n the Hood to Juice that we can now live with a little longer thanks to peak television. And the show only gets better as it goes along as it morphs from the crime story, which could be a bit tedious, to the rise of a group of brothers that would go on to conquer the world. After watching, I am sure you will be dusting off your copy of Enter the Wu-Tang album like I did. And be sure to watch with the whole family because everyone who lived through the nineties know, Wu-Tang is for the children.

Wu-Tang: An American Saga premieres today on Hulu with its first three episodes. New episodes are released every Wednesday.