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Coming 2020 – Introducing WarnerMedia’s New Streaming Service

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WarnerMedia today unveiled HBO Max as the name of its new streaming service, which will offer an impressive direct-to-consumer experience for everyone ranging from families with young children to adults of all ages. Anchored with and inspired by the legacy of HBO’s excellence and award-winning storytelling, the new service will be “Maximized” with an extensive collection of exclusive original programming (Max Originals) and the best-of-the-best from WarnerMedia’s enormous portfolio of beloved brands and libraries.

New deals with Warner Bros. Television and others for HBO Max announced today include:
 

  • The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all 236 episodes of “Friends” — one of the biggest hits on television and in streaming
  • The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all episodes of fan favorites “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Pretty Little Liars”
  • The exclusive streaming home to a string of new Warner Bros.’ produced dramas for The CW beginning with the fall 2019 season, including the highly-anticipated new DC Entertainment series “Batwoman,” and “Katy Keene” (spinoff of “Riverdale”)
  • New exclusive movie production deals with Greg Berlanti, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful producers, and Reese Witherspoon, Academy Award® and Emmy Award®-winning actress and producer; Berlanti will produce an initial four movies focused in the young adult space, while Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films

HBO Max, scheduled to launch commercially in spring of 2020, is anticipated to premiere with 10,000 hours of premium content.

“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform. HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is ‘Friends,’” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer.

“Under the leadership of two of the strongest creative visionaries — Casey Bloys (HBO) and Kevin Reilly (original content and acquisitions) — and two of the most experienced digital experts — Tony Goncalves and Andy Forssell — I have no doubt they and their dedicated teams will deliver the world’s best storytelling to audiences of all ages wherever and whenever they want it.”

Max Original series previously announced include:

  • “Dune: The Sisterhood,” an adaptation of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s book based in the world created by Frank Herbert’s book Dune, from director Denis Villeneuve
  • “Tokyo Vice,” based on Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat starring Ansel Elgort
  • “The Flight Attendant,” a one-hour thriller series based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, which will star Kaley Cuoco, who is also executive producing alongside Greg Berlanti
  • “Love Life,” a 10-episode half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring “Pitch Perfect” star Anna Kendrick, who will also executive produce alongside Paul Feig
  • “Station Eleven,” a postapocalyptic limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, adapted by Patrick Somerville and directed by Hiro Murai
  • “Made for Love,” a 10-episode, half-hour, straight-to-series adaptation based on the tragicomic novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting, also from Somerville and directed by S.J. Clarkson
  • “Gremlins,” an animated series from Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment based on the original movie

Highlights of HBO programming previously announced for 2020 and 2021 include:

  • Stephen King’s “The Outsider,” a dark mystery starring Ben Mendelsohn, produced and directed by Jason Bateman
  • “Lovecraft Country,” a unique horror series based on a novel by Matt Ruff, written and executive produced by Misha Green, and executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams
  • “The Nevers,” Joss Whedon’s new science fiction series starring Laura Donnelly
  • “The Gilded Age,” the opulent world of 1885 New York from “Downton Abbey’s” Julian Fellowes
  • “Avenue 5,” high satire aboard a space-bound cruise ship from Armando Iannucci (“Veep”), starring Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad
  • “The Undoing,” a psychological thriller from David E. Kelley, directed by Susanne Bier starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant
  • “The Plot Against America,” reimagined history based on Phillip Roth’s novel written and executive produced by David Simon and Ed Burns, starring Winona Ryder and John Turturro
  • “Perry Mason,” the classic legal drama for a new generation, executive produced by Robert Downey, Jr. and Susan Downey, with Matthew Rhys in the title role
  • “I Know This Much Is True,” a complex family drama starring Mark Ruffalo playing twin brothers, one of whom has schizophrenia, based on the best-selling novel by Wally Lamb, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.

Casey Bloys, programming president of HBO, continues to oversee content on the HBO service, with investment in HBO original programming having been increased 50% over normal spending.

Kevin Reilly, president of the WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks that include TNT, TBS, and truTV, also serves as chief content officer of HBO Max overseeing all new Max Originals and library content.

Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, now oversees the development of HBO Max with Andy Forssell, also from Otter Media and formerly CEO of Hulu, as the general manager.

Some of Hollywood’s most successful creators and producers are looking forward to the new service, including the following who are either producing for HBO and/or an upcoming HBO Max Original:

Anna Kendrick “WarnerMedia has three things going for it with this new streaming service. One, they have an incredible history and legacy of storytelling. Two, they’re super future-focused and trying to be the best. And three, they’re letting people like me embarrass myself episode after episode until I find love. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this family.”

Issa Rae “What’s exciting about HBO Max is that we have so many more resources and so many more voices of support for our show, and it’s an opportunity for other creators to have a bigger platform. I’m thrilled that my show will still be on HBO but now it will also be part of a new service that will reach more and more people.”

Greg Berlanti “What I’ve always loved about creating shows that connect with a young audience is that these fans grow up with the programs and will remember them for the rest of their lives. Now I get to do even more of that for HBO Max, where viewers will be able to discover shows on their own time, in their own way. Like any great novel, these shows will be there waiting for you. As a fan, what I’m personally most excited to watch on the service are all the great Warner Bros. movies that affected our entire culture and changed the way we live.”

Damon Lindelof “Working with HBO has been an entirely different level. People really care about these shows and they invest at such a high level. And now with HBO Max in the family, what I’m feeling is a greater sense of understanding and belonging that the family went from being a nuclear family to now there’s a couple more kids and there’s aunts and uncles and there’s cousins and they’re all cool. I want to go to that family reunion!”

Lena Dunham “To be able to work for a company that’s allowed me to grow as an artist, as a woman, as a creator is a real gift. I love being part of this specific group of HBO programs that have meant so much to me. And lots of people are obsessed with the concept of streaming and now HBO Max is the future of the medium because it’s all just about continuing to tell really smart stories, and to me, that’s evergreen. I’m working on more projects for HBO as well as something very exciting for HBO Max and I’m just in heaven.”

Nicole Kidman “It’s the dream of every artist to create art that inspires and even changes people. I’ve had a glorious experience doing ‘Big Little Lies’ on HBO and I’m so happy to also be developing a brand-new original drama series for HBO Max. This bigger platform will enable even more people to see the work that I and so many of my friends have poured our hearts into creating.”

George R.R. Martin “Back in 1991, after a decade in television, I began writing a series of novels that I knew would never be filmed. A GAME OF THRONES and its sequels were too big, too complex, too dark, too sexy, with a cast of thousands, gigantic battles, massive castles, direwolves, ice wights, and dragons. Too sprawling for a feature film, too expensive for television. I should have remembered, ‘It’s not television, it’s HBO.’ Working with HBO during the past decade has been a dream come true. What they did could not be done, but they did it anyway. And now they are embarked on a new venture. No, they won’t be tying their shows to the legs of ravens as I suggested… instead they are launching an exciting new streaming platform that will carry all the great HBO programming around the world… classic old shows and thrilling new shows, including (I hope) a return to my world of Westeros. Sign me up!”

Kaley Cuoco “I have been part of the Warner Bros. Television family for over 12 years. I treasure my time on ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ and I am thrilled that our relationship continues to flourish in my new role as a producer on ‘The Flight Attendant.’ When I read the book more than a year-and-a-half ago, I was instantly obsessed with it — and with the idea of bringing it to the screen. I could not be happier to collaborate with the team at HBO Max to make this dream a reality. WarnerMedia has a long history of supporting storytellers and empowering them to fulfill their greatest potential. I am proud to be working with them on this series and cannot wait for viewers to have the opportunity to see it.”

“Friends” was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman and aired for 10 seasons on NBC from 1994 to 2004. The show revolved around six friends and made stars out of its ensemble — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.  The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television.

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was created by Andy Borowitz and Susan Borowitz, and ran for six seasons on NBC from 1990 to 1996. The show revolved around Will Smith as a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with his wealthy aunt and uncle in their Bel-Air mansion after getting into a fight in his hometown. The show made Smith a star. Also starring in the comedy were James Avery, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Janet Hubert-Whitten, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana M. Ali and Joseph Marcell. It was produced by The Stuffed Dog Company, Quincy Jones Productions-Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment and NBC Productions.

“Pretty Little Liars” was developed by I. Marlene King, based upon a series of books by Sara Shepard, and aired for seven seasons on ABC Family/Freeform from 2010 to 2017. The series follows the lives of five high school girls whose clique falls apart after the leader of the group, Alison, goes missing. The series features an ensemble cast, including Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish. It was produced by Alloy Entertainment, Long Lake Productions and Russian Hill Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television.

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Dune Part Two: The Lisan Al Gaib comes for you!

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Welcome back to our struggle for control of the known universe already in progress, the continuation of the journey of Paul Atreides from exile to Emperor, Dune Part Two

So when we last left our intrepid if dubious heroes, House Atreides had been betrayed and virtually destroyed, by a combination of House Harkonnens surprise attacks and the added treachery of Emperor Shaddam and his Sardaukar. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the last surviving heir (so far) of House Atreides and his mother Jessica, have taken refuge on the desert planet of Arrakis amongst the indigenous Fremen, and as far as most are aware, the other remnants of House Atreides are dead as well. And here is where we catch up with everyone, as the struggle for Atreides emergence and dominance begins in earnest! 

The Emperor’s daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) is known for her many skills, but her copious note-taking and writings on the large events shaping her world come to the forefront as she takes counsel with her father amidst games of chance on their homeworld. Her life is one of luxury and privilege but alas, Irulan is a trained Bene Gesserit and is well aware that in all likelihood, she will be used as a pawn in the marriage games empires have to go through. Bet she never imagined it could be to a House everyone swore had been utterly destroyed. 

Meanwhile, on Arrakis, Paul is trying to integrate himself into the Fremen way of life, which is admittedly far different from the life he led back on the Atreides homeworld of Caladan. (If nothing else, Caladan has vast oceans.) The Fremen are fiercely independent, gloriously strong fighters, survivors who dare to ride and revere the giant sandworms that inhabit their planet that they call Shai-Hulud, and rightfully distrustful of outsiders. After all, the previous stewardship of Arrakis belonged to House Harkonnen, known for their cruelty and glee at hunting Fremen and torturing their victims, sometimes for weeks at a time. But Paul won his and Jessicas way into the Fremen by fair combat against Jamis, and if nothing else, the Fremen are firm in their beliefs of the old ways. 

Or rather, the elder Fremen are, most particularly the famed Fedaykin fighter and Naib (leader) of Sietch Tabr Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is adamant in his unshakable belief that Paul is the foretold Lisan Al Gaib, the Voice from the Outer World, that will lead the Fremen to peace and paradise. Stilgar’s steadfast belief in Paul’s potential only grows, and he manages with just that to convince a great many of the other Fremen elders. The younger generation of Fremen however, of which Paul’s beloved Chani (Zendaya) is a part, generally scoff at the legends of otherworldly prophets and Arrakis as a fabled green, wet heaven. In the beginning, Paul himself swears he doesn’t want to be the Messiah, only a Fremen fighter amongst the rest of them, hundreds of years of the Missionaria Protectiva, the Bene Gesserit practice of spreading useful religious propaganda as seeds on various planets, is working double-time against him. It doesn’t help that Paul’s mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is expounding on that myth as much as she possibly can. 

And why would she do that? Survival yes, but also, Jessica is a thoroughly trained Bene Gesserit and knows of plans within plans within plans. Jessica also has many secrets of her own, and one very important one happens to be that she’s pregnant with Paul’s sister. The Bene Gesserit bodily control may be something out of legend, but even Jessica, possibly Reverend Mother Mohiam’s best and most fractious student, will have trouble with the trial the Fremen are insisting she go through to become truly one of them. The Reverend Mother equivalent of Sietch Tabr, known as their Sayyadina, is old and dying, and the Fremen have to have a Reverend Mother. Jessica tells Paul this much and explains that each culture is different in their trial to become a Reverend Mother, so she honestly doesn’t know what to expect. The reality happens to be worse than she could’ve imagined – Jessica must drink the Water of Life, a deadly poison that comes from Shai-Hulud (sort of), and come out the other side of it. And Jessica manages to do it, barely, with almost all of the consequences going to the poor fetus in her womb, the girl that will grow to become Alia Atreides, an insane legend in her own right. But for now, the unnamed fetus is awake and aware and full of the memories of generations of Bene Gesserit women that came before her – before she was even born

Paul participates in razzia raids amongst the Fremen as they work to take out the spice mining operations of the Harkonnens, immerses himself in the vastly different desert culture of his chosen people, and perhaps most importantly, his romance with his beloved Chani only grows stronger. After declaring his desire to join the fierce fighter elites amongst the Fremen known as Fedaykin, Paul is told by Stilgar that he must summon and ride one of the giant sandworms, the embodiment of Shai-Hulud where the Fremen get their terrible tooth Crysknives from. And after much sendup, in a glorious scene of blinding sand and huge monstrous killer worm-riding, Paul is triumphant and riding atop the sacred creature, his Maker hooks set properly to control the great beast, waving at great distance to his fellow Fremen as Chani looks on in bemusement. 

But that’s all external, and inside Paul is beginning to become divided on what he wants to do. As Jessica pushes the Protectiva hard amongst the women and priestesses of the Fremen, she is also pushing her son to become much larger than he ever wanted to be, if nothing else a conqueror can take revenge for the destruction of House Atreides and the death of her beloved Duke Leto. Paul may have earned his place amongst the Fremen and been given new names – Usul, meaning the strength of the base of the pillar, as his private name within the Sietch; and Muad’Dib, from the small mouse survivor of the desert, well versed in desert ways, called ‘Instructor-of-Boys’ in Fremen legend, as his open-use name – but now everyone wants Paul to be something greater, and potentially more destructive, than what he currently is. It only gets worse when Paul begins to suffer prophetic dreams, and visions when he’s awake, prodding him further to his destiny as an epic conqueror of worlds. Nothing can be done for it, Paul convinces himself that he must take the Water of Life himself, to awaken the sleeping prophet inside himself, and allow him to hopefully See a path through the future. 

The problem with that plan, is that Bene Gesserit are almost exclusively all women, and only they are supposed to know how to transmute poisons internally, along with all sorts of other “witchcraft”. But Jessica has been training Paul in forbidden Bene Gesserit ways all his life, and as much as Paul might rail and even quail against it, there is no denying his incoming destiny, crushing any resistance he may have with all the force of a giant sandworm hunting a spice blow. And even when Paul has finally given in and taken the cursed substance almost mockingly called the Water of Life, it falls to another strong and prophetic in her right female in his life, his beloved Chani, to save him from himself. But even Chani can’t stop Paul’s destructive destiny as the conqueror of the known worlds, guilty of slaying millions upon millions of people in his quest for vengeance, thinly disguised as peace. 

Over on the Harkonnen homeworld of Geidi Prime, “Beast” Rabban (Dave Bautista) is disgusted and enraged at the continuing Fremen raids against the Harkonnens on Arrakis, and terrified of what his uncle the notoriously cruel Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), will do to him in response. The Baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), heir apparent or na-Baron to House Harkonnen, demonstrates his blood-inborn savagery in a slaughter of the remnants of House Atreides gladiator-style, as his birthday celebration. Pleased with the spectacle, the Baron commands Feyd-Rautha to take control of the fight against this Fremen rebel known as Muad’dib, as Rabban is proving himself more and more useless. And any tool or toy that the Baron finds broken or unusable, is destroyed before being discarded. 

As the legend of Muad’dib grows off Arrakis and circulates among the Imperial worlds, the Emperor grinds his teeth in frustration and the Bene Gesserit, led by Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) as the Emperor’s Truthsayer, begin pushing forward their plots and machinations. Lady Margot Fenring (Lea Seydoux), a criminally underused character in this respect, demonstrates her willingness to be a pawn in Bene Gesserit machinations, but never forget, strong Bene Gesserit women have been breaking their own rules for generations. Just look at what Jessica did. 

As the raids and rebellion on Arrakis continue, both the Emperor and the Baron become more and more desperate, sending in mercenaries and smugglers in the hopes they might have more luck. And aboard one of those smuggler’s vessels happens to be an old hand at being a smuggler himself, the warrior troubadour with the scarred face given him by “Beast” Rabban himself, Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). Reunited with his beloved Duke’s only son, Gurney finds himself swept up in the legend of Muad’dib in the making along with everyone else, though at least from Gurney’s point of view, Paul is using the messianic angle to take revenge for House Atreides. 

Finally, in an act of what could be considered the ultimate in arrogance, Emperor Shaddam Corrino himself comes to Arrakis, along with Princess Irulan and many others of his Court, the Baron, and Feyd-Rautha in tow as well, to crush this upstart Muad’dib and his Fremen warriors. Sadly for all that the powerhouse actor Christopher Walken plays him, Emperor Shaddam Corrino is shown as a doddering old man, cowed in the face of Muad’dib’s overwhelming vitality and growing-ever-stronger legend. And there is where we will end the review, for the final confrontation between all key players in the Known Universe is full of spoilers and derivations from the original opus of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune

For those of you who stuck around long enough to get to the end, after all, Dune Part Two is almost three hours long itself, if you are fans of the original novel and the zany Lynchian masterpiece that was the first Dune film, you may be disappointed or even angered at the changes made to the story for the climactic end scenes. Director Villenuve has an eye for making grand epic scenes like Paul’s sandworm ride but can be a bit scattered when it comes to piecing the story together with all the key players needing to be involved in a way that can be understood by any layman. Dune in any form is a rich, vast universe of storytelling, and even an almost three-hour-long sequel simply can’t cover every last bit that’s in the novels. But if nothing else, the film is an overwhelming feast for the eyes and should bring a whole new legion of fans to the many worlds contained within Dune

If you want to dive further into the Dune-iverse, do yourself a favor and read the Dune prequel books written by Herbert Jr. and Kevin J. Anderson. Until then, dive into the sands of Arrakis along with Shai-Hulud and scream vengeance to the skies with Paul Muad’dib Atreides in Dune Part Two, in theaters now! 

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Thatsmye Interviews: Les Weiler on Henchin’: the Series

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The 8 Episode Series Tries To Encompass A Lot Leaving Fans In A Cliffhanger.

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The 2010 “Avatar: The Last Airbender” movie by M. Night Shyamalan faced criticism for its deviations from the beloved animated series. The film struggled with pacing, casting, and a lackluster script, disappointing fans who cherished the source material. In contrast, the 2024 Netflix series has generated positive buzz for its commitment to diverse casting, adherence to the original storyline, and improved character development. The series seems poised to capture the essence of the animated show, offering a fresh and faithful adaptation that resonates with both new and existing fans.

Even though the Netflix series comes closer to the core ideals of the animated series, I feel it lacks heart. Many scenes barely scratch the surface of the relationships between the characters and the push-and-pull relationship between Aang and Zuko. I will admit the CG versions of Momo and Appa are just so gosh darn cute.

The 8 episode series tries to encompass a lot leaving fans in a cliffhanger. It’s worth a watch and I am hanging on for the next season to be announced.

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