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  1. The plan is to make a lot of money as cheaply as possible TheThe last few weeks, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has started to feel like a villain in a Real Housewives show. He isn’t here to make friends. He’s here to make money. Films have been canceled, TV shows have been yanked off HBO Max with zero preamble, execs have been let go, worsening the company’s already notable diversity problem, and the company has lost $20 billion off its market cap — all in an effort to get $3 billion in savings and hopefully reorient a ship Zaslav has disagreed with the course of. Zaslav’s plan is to focus on making as much money as cheaply as possible. When he joined Discovery in 2006, it was a small collection of education-oriented cable channels. Zaslav turned it into the reality TV monster we know today. He’s made his money catering to audiences that don’t pay for streaming but, instead, flip the channel on the TV — and when they don’t find something to watch, pack up and head to the movie theater. So while what we’re seeing could be the fumblings of an egoist with no grasp on the properties he’s purchased, what feels much more likely is that Zaslav just doesn’t care about the stuff a lot of us care about, such as “a big spread of readily available content that speaks to smaller groups often underrepresented in popular media all at a fairly affordable price.” Zaslav isn’t here to better enrich our entertainment landscape — he’s here to make money. That means he’s got to shift a company that’s spent two years focusing its energies elsewhere. In the years leading up to the Warner Bros. and Discovery merger, Warner Bros. underwent a pretty radical transformation. COVID altered the way people operated in 2020 (and in much of 2021 and even 2022), and Warner Bros. went all-in, deciding to focus on streaming at the cost of its other businesses. As a person with a very nice home theater setup and a love of quick and easy access to content, this was very appealing to me — and I bet it was to you, too. Instead of risking illness to see the biggest movies in theaters, we could sit at home and watch King Kong body Mothra over Mexico or Paul Atreides whisper-talk his way into legend in Dune. As people’s concerns over COVID waned (though it’s still very much a pandemic, and you should be testing regularly and masking up indoors!), HBO Max maintained a steady stream of content designed to compete not with traditional Warner Bros. rivals like Disney and Universal but with Netflix, whose movies go straight to the streamer and only make pit stops in theaters for awards eligibility. Theater owners, already devastated by COVID, were furious at the new Warner Bros. plan. They’re much happier now that Zaslav has reversed course, widening release windows and even moving some direct-to-streaming films into theaters. (Even if a marketing budget crunch means the next few years will see fewer Warner Bros. films hitting theaters... it’s the thought that counts.) And Zaslav’s appeal to theaters is mutually beneficial. Direct to streaming makes a lot of sense for Netflix, a company with a very small distribution arm. Warner Bros. Discovery has a whole apparatus built up to make lots of money off films in theaters. “Why,” I’m sure Zaslav says to himself, “should we throw away all that potential money just to boost the $15 a month subscriptions we sell for HBO Max?” Instead, the company can put the movies in theaters and then move them to the streaming service and double-dip on us, the consumers. I, personally, am not a fan of that! I don’t want to pay a billion times for the same content. But I’ve done it with books, software, movies, and TV for a while now. Zaslav knows there are plenty of rubes just like me probably willing to pay. We don’t know how the shocking cancellation of Batgirl plays into Zaslav’s grand plan to reverse streaming courses and turn Warner Bros. Discovery into a much more traditional entertainment behemoth. Reports on the film have ranged from “it’s so bad it should never see the light of day” to “it wasn’t bad and had a really great message.” It might have been canceled because it looked a little too CW to appear after the Warner Bros. Discovery logo on the big screen. Or it might have been canceled to help eke out a few extra tax break dollars as Zaslav & Co. work to make the $3 billion in savings promised by the merger. When I spoke to Francine McKenna, a lecturer in accounting at The Wharton School and author of the newsletter, The Dig, she noted the move to cancel Batgirl for tax reasons was weird. “There are tax benefits to writing down the assets now if you are the kind of company who likes losses because they offset current or future tax liabilities,” she said via email. “WB is a loser to begin with so not sure why incremental losses based on trash canning finished films is that helpful.” In its Q2 filings, Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t reference the cancellation specifically but did outline its overall plan in very accountant terms: Content impairments for the three and six months ended June 30, 2022 of $496 million and $501 million, respectively, and content development write-offs of $329 million for the three and six months ended June 30, 2022 were due to the abandonment of certain content categories in connection with the strategic realignment of content following the Merger and are reflected in restructuring and other charges in the Studios, Networks and DTC segments. All of the above is accountant speak for “WBD has a lot of content it doesn’t think makes sense for the new business and will get rid of it to write it off on the company’s taxes.” Batgirl wasn’t the only thing to apparently fall victim to the accounting department’s very sharp pen. In the past few weeks, the company has quietly removed dozens of shows and films from HBO Max — often without even warning their creators. One showrunner The Verge spoke to only learned of their show’s removal from Twitter. The reason for the culling seems to be that the content wasn’t hitting a big enough audience, and much of the content catered to an audience the new Warner Bros. Discovery just has no interest in: kids. Sources told CNBC that “Warner Bros. Discovery has decided to move away from the category with its future investment budget.” Earlier this week The Daily Beast reported that much of this culling, including the layoffs of the divisions overseeing HBO Max’s unscripted, kids and family, and international content, was in part to reorient the service and the company to better pursue Zaslav’s real money cow: Middle America. “If David Zaslav had his wish, he would just program Chip and Joanna all day long,” one unnamed executive told The Daily Beast. “There was just a massive, ‘We don’t need you. You’re not offering the things we’re focused on.’” And that’s what he’s doing to Warner Bros. Discovery. But Zaslav’s goal, to craft a company that can make money hand over fist by catering to the largest possible audience with a predictable (and cheap) slate of content, isn’t really what any of the rest of us want. The last few years, we’ve enjoyed a renaissance of TV. So much TV has been made so quickly and for so much money that there’s now a shortage of qualified showrunners. So much TV has been made as every company scrambles to populate their new streaming services with stuff to watch that a wide variety of people who have rarely — if ever — had the opportunity to see their lives represented on TV have gotten that opportunity. Ten years ago, lesbians frantically watched queerbaiting fare like Rizzoli & Isles for just the idea of two women being close enough kinds of friends that they might be romantic. Two weeks ago, Amazon Prime gave us A League of Their Own, a TV show featuring almost an entire cast of queer women and their stories. The glut of content has, by its nature, produced a diversity of content. But at Warner Bros. Discovery, Zaslav is turning off the content spigot and reorienting the company into something much more fiscally (and potentially culturally) conservative. The company’s stock has been on a downward spiral, but this could very well be a great thing for investors in Warner Bros. Discovery. It just won’t be as great for the rest of us. HBO Max and Warner Bros. Discovery seem to be on fire, and that’s on purpose
  2. HBO Max has cut 36 titles from its catalog, according to a report from NPR. The company has pulled kid-friendly content from its streaming platform this week. It's the service's latest content removal in a series of recent cost-cutting moves. The content set to disappear includes HBO Max originals like the teen drama Generation, an unspecified selection of Sesame Street specials, and several animated shows, including Infinity Train. Citing the pending merger of HBO Max and Discovery+, which are both owned by parent conglomerate Warner Bros. HBO Max sent the following statement to NPR: "As we work toward bringing our content catalogs together under one platform, we will be making changes to the content offering available on both HBO Max and discovery+." Here is a list of the titles HBO Max says it will remove this week: 12 Dates of Christmas About Last Night Aquaman: King of Atlantis Close Enough Detention Adventure Dodo Ellen's Next Great Designer Elliott From Earth Esme & Roy The Fungies! Generation Hustle Genera+ion Infinity Train Little Ellen Mao Mao, Heroes of Pure Heart Messy Goes to Okido Mia's Magic Playground Mighty Magiswords My Dinner with Herve My Mom, Your Dad Odo OK K.O.! - Let's Be Heroes The Ollie & Moon Show Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness Select Sesame Street Specials Make It Big, Make It Small Share Squish Summer Camp Island The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo The Runaway Bunny - Special Theodosia Tig n' Seek Uncle Grandpa Victor and Valentino Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs The content purge is just the start of multiple changes with Warner Bros. HBO Max was hit the hardest during the merger between Warner and Discovery. Source: NPR HBO Max cuts 36 titles from its catalog
  3. Save big before House of the Dragon premieres and the service changes New HBO Max owner Warner Bros. Discovery has been playing fast and loose with content recently on the streaming service as a result of fallout from the messy megamerger. Even though it’s been shedding shows and movies from the service to save money — and even canceling late-stage projects — it’s trying to course-correct any lost subscriptions by offering a new deal to bring in subscribers. New and returning subscribers can get 30 percent off a one-year subscription to HBO Max when signing up and prepaying the full year by October 30th. This knocks the ad-free plan down to $104.99 instead of $149.99 for the year (equivalent to $8.75 per month), and the ad-supported plan goes from $99.99 to $69.99 (equivalent to $5.83 per month). It may be an obvious attempt to lock people in for a full year, but it covers next week’s premiere and season run of the Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon and more — at least, what’s not already been canceled. It’s hard to predict what the future service combining HBO Max and Discovery Plus will look like, but it’s hard to imagine that app can get much worse than HBO Max’s current one. In the meantime, if you’ve been interested in HBO Max anyway, you might as well save as much as you can on it. HBO Max is offering 30 percent off a one-year subscription for new and returning subscribers
  4. Warner Bros. Discovery has begun the process of combining HBO Max with Discovery+. A unified streaming service that will offer content from both platforms will arrive next year. Apart from a premium ad-free subscription, the service will also offer an ad-lite tier. As reported earlier, HBO Max and Discovery+, two streaming services that are quite diverse in terms of content served, are coming under the same roof. The new service doesn’t have any official name yet, but is expected to arrive in the summer of 2023, announced Discovery chief David Zaslav during the second-quarter earnings call. The United States will be the first region to welcome the new streaming service, and 39 counties in Latin America will soon follow. European subscribers will be able to access the service in 2024, followed by the Asia-Pacific. The service could also enter a few as-yet-untapped new markets. JB Perrette, CEO, and President, Global Streaming and Games, hinted at why HBO Max is being merged with Discovery+: There’s lots to do, and we’re determined to get it right. We recognize that both of our existing products have shortcomings. HBO Max has a competitive feature set, but has had performance and customer issues. Discovery Plus has best-in-class performance and consumer ratings, but more limited features. Our combined service will focus on delivering the best of both. The combined streaming service is expected to assimilate nearly all the content from HBO Max and Discovery+. In other words, titles from Warner’s considerably huge portfolio, which includes HBO, CNN, DC Comics, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Magnolia Network, OWN, TBS, and TNT, could be available through a single subscription. It is not clear if “Max Originals” will be a part of the package. However, a few days prior to the combined service’s launch, HBO Max and Discovery+ will start sharing select content. HBO and HBO Max had a total of 76.8 million global subscribers at the end of the first quarter of 2022. Discovery+ is nowhere close, but collectively, the two services currently have 92 million subscribers. After merging the two streaming services, WarnerMedia Discovery hopes to reach 130 million global subscribers by 2025. Via: TV Line Unified HBO Max/Discovery+ streaming service to arrive next year with an ad-lite tier
  5. And with it goes some of the good TV ItIt should not surprise you that HBO Max is about to be in a world of hurt. It is larger and more successful than its current sister streamer, Discovery Plus. But it’s also a part of Warner Bros. Discovery, a company now helmed by David Zaslav, and Zaslav is a man who loves him some reality TV and is okay gutting channels, canceling cool shows, and axing movies if it means the accounting books will look a little prettier. Now, just days after his company canceled Batgirl for a tax write-off, rumors are flying that HBO Max is going to be gutted, too. By most recent estimates, HBO Max, despite a terrifically bad app, had over 76.8 million global subscribers. Discovery Plus, the service launched by Zaslav pre-merger, had about 22 million. It’s firmly the third-largest streaming service by subscribers, behind Netflix and Disney Plus. HBO Max, again despite just a terrible app that needs a total overhaul, felt like proof that you didn’t need huge Marvel- and Star War-grade franchises or Netflix’s luxury of being an early mover in the streaming space to build a fairly robust streaming business. Jason Kilar, then-CEO of WarnerMedia, instead took a lot of things the company already had (the stellar HBO and its many successful properties; a huge catalog of WB films and TV shows; and a big fancy bag of successful intellectual property like DC Comics and Harry Potter) and formed HBO Max. To better differentiate HBO Max from Disney Plus and Netflix, Kilar also risked upsetting Hollywood by providing some particularly important incentives for customers stuck at home due to the pandemic. HBO Max had day and date releases for theatrical films. Zaslav was supposedly not a fan of Kilar’s strategy. Never mind his company was merging with Warner Bros. and coming in with a much less popular streaming service full of the stuff you watch when doing laundry or you’re stuck at your parents’ place for the weekend. Never mind the broader strategy of streamers is to produce “appointment TV” to compete with YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch. Zaslav is a reality TV guy. He built Discovery up into a reality TV empire and has long preferred the fast, cheap, and easy reality show to that more critically acclaimed but pricey scripted TV. Earlier this year, he hinted at the doom coming for the fledging HBO Max. “Our goal is to compete with the leading streaming services, not to win the spending war,” he said on a call in February. On the same call, CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said the new company would seek “content efficiencies.” The Wrap and folks on Twitter claim that Warner Bros. Discovery may announce a major restructuring today during the company’s Q2 earnings call. The HBO Max side of the business will apparently face the brunt of it, with 70 percent of their development staff being laid off — according to an anonymous source The Wrap spoke to. The idea is that HBO will continue to be a marquee product for Warner Bros. Discovery but HBO Max, the streaming service that hosts the library of HBO and Warner Bros. and a surprisingly sturdy stable of original programming, will disappear, merging into a new app that will host all of the current content for both HBO Max and Discovery Plus (with the obvious exception of Batgirl). We’ve known the two apps would be combined since March, when Wiedenfels confirmed it at the Deutsche Bank 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference. At the time, he called for “some very, very detailed and disciplined planning” to transition customers and merge to two services. If the rumors are true about today, either plans have changed or someone didn’t get the memo. Instead of a thoughtful rollout, the last few days have been chaos for the company. The cancellation of Batgirl has sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment world. The next day, HBO Max quietly pulled a number of HBO Max-exclusive films from the service and canceled others in production, further raising fears. (Fortunately, the pulled films are still available. Instead of being stuck in the vault with Batgirl, they’re now merely available on demand for sale or rent.) This morning, HBO Max announced Discovery darlings Chip and Joanna Gaines would be bringing select content from their Magnolia Network to the streaming service. “We can’t wait to bring these stories we love—including our next adventure, Fixer Upper: The Castle—to HBO Max this September,” said a statement from the couple in an HBO Max press release. Things are suddenly moving very fast at Warner Bros. Discovery, and the shiplap is on the wall. What that means for the many current HBO Max originals remains to be seen. Shows like Hacks, Harley Quinn, and Our Flag Means Death have earned big accolades and vocal fandoms. Other shows have died on the vine — the Ridley Scott sci-fi show Raised by Wolves was just canceled after two mediocre seasons. Later today, Zaslav could repeat what his company did at The CW and commence with a second “Red Wedding,” going on a canceling spree to further chip away at the $55 billion debt the company incurred in the merger. That debt is a sword hanging over the company’s head. And HBO Max, the pricey streamer trying to compete with Disney and Netflix, may be used as a shield to protect the still lucrative linear cable business at the heart of Warner Bros. Discovery. HBO Max might get maimed
  6. Instead of going straight to streaming, it’s going nowhere About a week ago, industry observers noticed that Comic-Con 2022 came and went without any mention of Batgirl, the Warner Bros. film shot over the winter and apparently due for release in 2023. Today, the New York Post, The Wrap, and other entertainment outlets report that despite being in the final stages of post-production, Warner Bros. and DC Films have decided not to release the movie on any platform or in theaters. The list of American unreleased films on Wikipedia is not a long one, and the flicks on it usually have a reason for being there — see the 1994 Fantastic Four effort or Netflix’s shelved Bill Cosby 77 project. The Post says this film will join them due to new Warner Bros. Discovery executive David Zaslav and new Warner Bros. head Michael De Luca seeking to cut costs and focus on movies made for theaters instead of straight-to-streaming. Batgirl was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys for Life) and stars Leslie Grace (In the Heights) in the title role. The Post quoted one source saying that after poor receptions from test audiences, Warner Bros. thought the movie “is going to be irredeemable.” Clearly, those test audiences never saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. DC Films president Walter Hamada laid out the previous strategy in early 2020, taking on Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe with two of its own: the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and the DC Films multiverse. The idea was to release up to four movies in theaters every year, with another one or two slotted as HBO Max exclusives. Not long after that, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and upended the planned release schedule. When HBO Max launched one of its biggest promised offerings was DC films, including a director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Recently, Rolling Stone reported that the hype for “Snyder cut” was largely led by bots and inauthentic accounts. That might make a campaign to save Batgirl a little more tricky. HBO Max’s $90 million Batgirl movie is headed to the vault
  7. Now that Harley and Ivy are an item, let the eat, bang, kill tour commence Rather than marrying Kite Man (hell yeah) in the season 2 finale of HBO Max’s animated Harley Quinn series, Poison Ivy came to her senses, ditched her fiancé, and finally admitted to Harley that the romantic feelings between them were mutual. After driving off into the sunset with one another, Harley and Ivy are back in the first trailer for Harley Quinn’s upcoming third season and ready to share their love with the world. Though Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy (Lake Bell) were able to escape from Kite Man’s botched wedding unscathed, at least some of Gotham’s other villains who were in attendance were captured, like Clayface (Alan Tudyk) and King Shark (Ron Funches). The new trailer finds Harley and Ivy still basking in the glow of being newly out and deeply in love. While the pair would be perfectly fine keeping to themselves, Harley can’t help but kidnap and present her girlfriend with Amanda Waller as a two-week anniversary gift. It isn’t long before the new couple is back in Gotham robbing banks to finance their newest villainous endeavors and letting everyone know that their sex life is popping off. Harley and Ivy aren’t the only couple getting busy, and the trailer also implies that this season will feature more of Batman (Diedrich Bader) and Catwoman’s (Sanaa Lathan) relationship as well as the introduction of the Court of Owls. Harley Quinn’s third season hits HBO Max on July 28th. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are ready to get even freakier in season 3 trailer
  8. "Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality." The fourth season of HBO's original series Westworld, returns on June 26. The teaser for the fourth season of Westworld that dropped last month was tonally evocative and visually stunning, but it told us very little about what to expect from the narrative. Now we have the full trailer, and it has made us eager to learn more, as it looks like the show is about to head into some very interesting places. (Spoilers for prior seasons below.) As we've reported previously, Westworld's third season was the first to take place largely outside the tightly controlled environment of the original theme parks. Opening three months after the events of the S2 finale, Dolores (Evan Rachel Woods) had re-created her host body. We learned she was targeting an AI system called Rehoboam, which was developed by a company called Incite. To access the system, Dolores had to take on its creator, Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel), and various other adversaries with their own motives for stopping her—including William, aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who vowed to destroy any remaining hosts. In the S3 finale, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Dolores battled it out, and Dolores ended up in the hands of Serac. She was connected to Rehoboam but refused to give Serac any data about the hosts, so he deleted her memories. It was actually quite a moving scene, as in her last moments, Dolores made an emotional appeal to convince Maeve to turn on Serac. Rehoboam was deleted, William was seemingly killed by a host replica of himself, and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) learned that the system was merely delaying the collapse of human civilization rather than preventing it. He entered the Sublime, hoping to figure out how to rebuild. The final shot was Bernard re-emerging into his body, covered in dust—so who knows how much time had passed? As the series has progressed, it has become harder and harder to keep track of the convoluted plot, multiple timelines, and characters—who's a host, who's human, who was human and is now being controlled by a host, which host is in which body, and so forth. The third season definitely unraveled a bit in the second half, although the finale was pretty powerful, giving us hope for the fourth season. A memory-wiped Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) awakens as a writer named Christina. Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) means to control the Man in Black (Ed Harris) Charlotte vs. Charlotte? Caleb (Aaron Paul) finds himself in the middle of a simulation. Attack of the faceless host! This new trailer provides more hope about the direction of the series. It opens with the host formerly known as Dolores waking up as a new persona, Christina, identified as a writer. Her voiceover informs us that this is the story of a girl who can see what nobody else can: "That there's something wrong with the world. And that it's her fault." Meanwhile, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) has captured the Man in Black. "Your kind made a sport out of hunting us," she tells him as we see a small bug crawl into his eye. "You controlled our every move, and now I'm going to do the same to you. It's time to evolve into the species that we were meant to become." Bernard might have found a path toward realizing that evolution. But what if, as another voiceover contends, "We're not here to transcend. We're here to destroy." It seems that Maeve has re-created a Westworld prototype of some sort; a horrified Caleb (Aaron Paul) finds himself in the middle of it just as everything sets into motion. There is a montage of explosions, fight scenes, and an attack by a creepy, faceless android host, plus a brief shot of Teddy Flood (James Marsden) looking far more violent than his original programming intended. The final shot shows Caleb screaming as flies crawl over his face, presumably seeking an orifice through which to enter the body and assume control. Christina might want a story with a happy ending, but there are clearly forces at work intent on ensuring she doesn't get it. The fourth season of Westworld premieres on HBO Max on June 26, 2022. Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max It’s the hosts versus humanity in tantalizing Westworld S4 trailer
  9. "History does not remember blood. It remembers names." HBO's new series, House of the Dragon, is a prequel based on George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood. Many Game of Thrones fans no doubt view the looming debut of House of the Dragon, GoT's first spinoff series, with considerable trepidation. On the one hand, the 10-episode prequel series is based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, and it's complete, so there's no chance of the series getting too far ahead of the source material. On the other hand, the GoT series finale was a crushing disappointment to many (if not most) fans, and HBO has a bit of an uphill battle ahead to win back their trust. HBO just dropped the official trailer for House of the Dragon, which is visually sumptuous and confirms the likely plot and overall tone. But it will take more than a decent trailer to set those lingering doubts to rest. HBO also unveiled new, appropriately brooding posters for each major character. As I've written previously, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of its predecessor, chronicling the beginning of the end for the reign of House Targaryen. Those events culminated in civil war and the extinction of the dragons—at least until Daenerys Targaryen came along two centuries later. In addition to co-creators Martin and Ryan J. Condal, Miguel Sapochnik—who filmed some of the most eye-popping, complicated battles on Game of Thrones—serves as co-showrunner and directed the pilot and several other episodes. Paddy Considine plays King Viserys I, who makes a controversial choice for his named heir. YouTube/HBO Max Fire and Blood, a fictional history of the Targaryen kings, begins with Aegon I's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, thanks to the family's advanced weaponry in the form of dragons. This is followed by a period of relative peace before the inevitable succession crisis. The final two sections of Fire and Blood deal with the fallout of that crisis and serve as the primary source material for House of the Dragon. In the book, a council of lords selects King Viserys I Targaryen to succeed Jaehaerys I, passing over Princess Rhaenys Velaryon, a dragonrider known as "the Queen Who Never Was." Viserys I has no sons from his first wife and decides his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, will succeed him. But this is Westeros, so there are others scheming for the Iron Throne, most notably Ser Otto Hightower, Hand of the King—whose daughter Alicent becomes the king's second wife and wants her son Aegon to be the heir—and Prince Daemon Targaryen, the king's younger brother. The cast features Paddy Considine as King Viserys I; Emma D'Arcy as the older version of Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock plays the younger version); Olivia Cooke as Lady Alicent Hightower; the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, as Prince Daemon; Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower; Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, aka the "Sea Snake"; and Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon. That would be Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy). YouTube/HBO Max Sonoya Mizuno plays the foreign-born dancing girl Mysaria; Fabien Frankel plays the Dornish-born Ser Criston Cole, a skilled swordsman; Graham McTavish plays Ser Harrold Westerling, a member of the King's Guard charged with protecting Rhaenyra; Ryan Corr plays Ser Harwin Strong, the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms; Jefferson Hall plays identical twins Lord Jason and Ser Tyland Lannister (clearly twins run in the Lannister bloodline); David Horovitch plays Grand Maester Mellos; Bill Paterson plays Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin; and Gavin Spokes plays Lord Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal. HBO dropped a teaser for House of the Dragon last October, which didn't do much more than give us an idea of the general look and feel of the series. This full trailer confirms that the storyline largely hews to the events of the final two sections of Fire & Blood. A dragon sighting. YouTube/HBO Max The trailer opens with a shot of a melancholy Rhaenys Velaryon gazing out over the sea as a voiceover (identified as Corlys Velaryon) intones, "What is this brief mortal life, if not the pursuit of a legacy?" That pretty much sets the tone as we briefly meet a few of the key players whose last names will be very familiar to GoT fans: the aforementioned Corlys, Rickard Stark, and Boremund Baratheon. All are seen declaring fealty to King Viserys Targaryen and his named heir, Princess Rhaenyra. But she's clearly a controversial choice, as Rhaenys Velaryon knows all too well: "Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne." We see dragons, a dragon egg, a possible wedding, and a possible funeral, with intrigue lurking in every corner of Daemon's conniving smirks. And of course there will be battles. All in all, it seems very Game of Thrones. It's an "ugly game," as Otto Hightower says, and we know all too well how the losers of such games typically fare. Who has the determination to win it—and what will that victory cost? House of the Dragon debuts on HBO Max on August 21, 2022. Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max HBO drops official trailer for House of the Dragon prequel series
  10. It still trails Netflix and Disney in subscriber count Earlier this week Netflix reported quarterly earnings results that showed its subscriber numbers dropping for the first time in a decade, but not every streamer is experiencing that kind of pullback. Even though AT&T has offloaded HBO and the rest of WarnerMedia to their new home with Discovery, it still had one more set of subscriber numbers to reveal with its own earnings report Thursday morning. The numbers showed HBO added nearly 13 million subscribers last year across both traditional HBO and HBO Max, including growth of three million in the last quarter. Now both services combine for 76.8 million subscribers worldwide, which is still dwarfed by Netflix’s 221.64 million subscribers and even the most recent Disney Plus count of 129.8 million. As we noted in January, HBO Max is doing great... according to HBO Max. AT&T Q1 2022 report: At the end of the quarter, there were 76.8 million global HBO Max and HBO subscribers. Global HBO Max and HBO subscribers increased 12.8 million year over year and were up 3.0 million sequentially, primarily driven by international as well as domestic retail subscriber gains reflecting strength of the programming slate. At the end of the quarter, there were 48.6 million domestic HBO Max and HBO subscribers versus 44.2 million in the year-ago quarter, up 4.4 million year over year. We’ve come to the end of HBO Max’s strategy of day-and-date movie premieres that ran through the 2021 calendar year, but it still has a fairly strong library of content including new hits and options from the Warner Bros. catalog. Also, unlike Netflix, HBO still has a number of new territories where it’s expanding, so it could be a while before they run into the problem of not having any more new customers to find. AT&T CEO John Stankey isn’t the boss of HBO anymore, but he did remark on password sharing, which Netflix identified as an issue stalling its growth. As Deadline quoted him from the investor call, Stanke said “We were thoughtful about how we built the product and that we gave customers enough flexibility but we don’t want to see rampant abuse.” For any more information about the future of HBO Max (and the sudden death of CNN Plus), we’ll wait until next week, when Warner Bros. Discovery holds its first earnings call. HBO and HBO Max added 13 million subscribers last year, as Netflix’s growth slowed
  11. Various users have reported about the HBO Max app's performance and stability on Apple TV devices. Fortunately, a report from Variety says that the new iteration of the app has improved stability and enhancements. Other than enhancement, the updated version brings several other improvements as well. The sign-in and the sign-up process is now simplified and there's also a new feature called "binge mode" that skips credits and jumps directly to the next episode for you. The homepage is revamped as well with a scrollable hero banner. The upgraded app has also got user-curation capabilities including "My Stuff" where users can edit and sort their "My List" and "Continue Watching" list. The new app will also be able to take advantage of the power Apple TV devices have while also adding and improving dynamic interface animations. WarnerMedia's EVP Sarah Lyons said to Variety that the company made a deliberate decision to use the existing HBO Go and HBO Now apps. By using the code base originally developed for BAMTech (now part of Disney Streaming Services), the company was able to make the app ready for its market rollout faster. She further added that the company knows that the original platform wasn't designed for a big content catalog and that they will have to re-platform it later. WarnerMedia is currently in the process of merging with Discovery. This also means that all of Discovery Plus' content will be available on the HBO Max app in the future. After the Apple TV update, WarnerMedia plans to release a new version for Amazon's FireTV platform followed by the web version of the streaming platform. Source: Variety WarnerMedia starts rolling out stability update for HBO Max on Apple TV devices
  12. Discovery Plus is all set to get merged with HBO Max to create a unified streaming experience. The news comes after Discovery's merger with AT&T's WarnerMedia to ultimately become Warner Bros. Discovery. The news was announced by Discovery CFO Funnar Wiedenfels. Warner Bros. Discovery will retain the CFO at the same position in the newly created company. Wiedenfels said that the first step of integration will be some form of bundling between Discovery Plus and HBO Max, while the new company figures out a way to merge both the services and its content. However, the company's post-merger plans definitely include a combined product. Wiedenfels said: “One of the most important items here is that we believe in a combined product as opposed to a bundle. We believe that the breadth and depth of this content offering is going to be a phenomenal consumer value proposition. The question is, in order to get to that point and do it in a way that’s actually a great user experience for our subscribers, that’s going to take some time. But the main thrust is going to be harmonizing the technology platform. Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while.” Discovery Plus currently boasts of over 22 million worldwide customers, while HBO and HBO Max have a combined subscriber count of 73.8 million around the world. While Discovery Plus currently costs $4.99 a month with ads and $6.99 without ads, HBO Max is priced at $9.99 with ads and $14.99 without them. There are no insights about how much the combined streaming experience will cost per month to the users, but since both the products already include ad-supported and ad-free versions, it will make it to the final combined product as well. Source: Variety Warner Bros. Discovery is merging Discovery Plus with HBO Max
  13. Colin Farrell will reprise his role Now that The Batman is out in theaters, the new take on Gotham is set to expand to HBO Max. The network announced today that a spinoff about the Penguin is coming in the form of a limited series. Not much else is known about the show, but it will see Colin Farrell reprise his role as the iconic villain. It will be executive produced by The Batman director Matt Reeves, along with Farrell, Dylan Clark, and Lauren LeFranc, who will also serve as showrunner. “Colin exploded off the screen as the Penguin in The Batman, and having the chance to thoroughly explore the inner life of that character on HBO Max is an absolute thrill,” Reeves said in a statement. “Dylan and I are so excited to work with Lauren in continuing Oz’s story as he grabs violently for power in Gotham.” The Batman debuted on March 4th and introduced Robert Pattinson as the latest version of the Dark Knight, alongside Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman. It’s not clear when in the timeline the new Penguin show will fit, nor when it will hit HBO Max, but Farrell adds that it “will be good to get him back on the streets of Gotham for a little madness and a little mayhem.” The Batman is getting an HBO Max spinoff about the Penguin
  14. HBO Max miniseries adapts critically acclaimed comics by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli. Rosario Dawson stars in HBO Max's new miniseries, DMZ, based on the comic book series of the same name. Rosario Dawson stars as a woman hunting for her missing son in the dystopian ruins of Manhattan in DMZ. The new miniseries is based on the comic book series created by Brian Wood and illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli. Part of the show will premiere during SXSW this month before landing on HBO Max. The official trailer just dropped, and it seems to be equal parts Escape from New York and FX/Hulu's Y: The Last Man. (Some mild spoilers for the comic books below.) Published from November 2005 through February 2012, Wood and Burchielli's comic book series is set in a near future in which the US has been devastated by the Second American Civil War, and Manhattan has turned into the demilitarized zone of the title. Only about 400,000 people remain on the island, mostly people too poor to evacuate, snipers associated with various factions, and stubborn holdouts who just refuse to leave. (The comics are very New York-centric, inspired by Wood's experiences living in NYC in early 2003—i.e., the aftermath of 9/11 and US invasion of Iraq.) The US government's forces are at war with the Free States of America, which is more of an "idea" than a geographically specific entity. The movement started as a series of grassroots revolts against the federal government's focus on foreign wars while the infrastructure of America's cities and states crumbles. The two forces are at a standoff, complicated by several rogue factions. These include a private military contractor; DMZ militias formed by the remaining residents; Wilson's Triads, a criminal organization operating out of Chinatown; former soldiers who make up the Central Park Ghosts; the Fur Hat Militia; and a combined political party/militia group called Delgado Nation, loyal to the elected populist "governor" of the DMZ, Parco Delgado. The main protagonist in the comics is photojournalist Matty Roth, who goes into the DMZ with a film crew for the fictional Liberty News Network as a war correspondent. They are attacked by militia, and a wounded Matty ends up stranded in the DMZ. Fortunately, a former medical student named Zee Hernandez treats his wounds and ends up being his guide in the DMZ. Matty is soon sucked into Delgado Nation, eventually leading his own military unit and mistakenly massacring a group of civilians. His actions turn him into a pariah and haunt him for the rest of the series. Benjamin Bratt plays populist leader Parco Delgado, "governor" of the DMZ. YouTube/HBO Max Syfy was interested in adapting the comic book series back in 2014, but nothing concrete seems to have come of it, and in October 2019, HBO Max announced its own miniseries. HBO hired Roberto Patino, best known for his work on Westworld and Sons of Anarchy, to create it. Ava DuVernay (Selma, When They See Us) signed on as executive producer and also directed the pilot episode. Based on this trailer, the miniseries is deviating substantially from the comic series by focusing on Dawson's character, Alma Ortega, who seems to be loosely based on Zee. Benjamin Bratt plays Parco Delgado, and Hoon Lee (Warrior) plays what looks like a version of Wilson, head of the Chinatown triads. The cast also includes Freddy Miyares, Venus Ariel, Jade Wu, Rey Gallegos, Agam Darshi, Juani Feliz, Rutina Wesley, Mamie Gummer, Nora Dunn, and Henry G. Sanders. None of them is playing Matty Roth, so who knows if the character will even appear? All four episodes of DMZ will debut on HBO Max on March 17, 2022. We'll have to see if there's an appetite for a dystopian near-future where the US has been ripped apart by another civil war, given recent real-world events. Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max Rosario Dawson hunts for her son as Second Civil War rages in DMZ trailer
  15. James Gunn took this seemingly irredeemable character on a journey that made us love him. John Cena shows he has some dramatic chops as well as comedic timing in Peacemaker. HBO Max We had our doubts about Peacemaker, the HBO Max spinoff series based on John Cena's character from 2021's The Suicide Squad. But I'm happy to report that those doubts were entirely unfounded. Series creator James Gunn has successfully taken a seemingly irredeemable character and sent him on an emotional journey that made us love him—all framed in a blood-soaked, action-packed, cheekily irreverent main story that makes for top-notch entertainment. (One big spoiler for The Suicide Squad below. Some spoilers for Peacemaker, but no major reveals.) Gunn wrote the series for fun during his downtime in 2020 and ended up pitching it when DC Films approached him about a spinoff series for one of the characters in The Suicide Squad. HBO Max ordered Peacemaker straight to series. When the first teaser dropped last year, I admitted to being a bit skeptical. Cena's performance in The Suicide Squad was terrific, but he wasn't exactly a sympathetic character—or a particularly complex one. On the other hand, Gunn clearly felt there was more of the character's story to tell, and that instinct proved correct. The eight-episode series is set five months after the events of The Suicide Squad, specifically after the post-credits scene, in which we learned that Peacemaker—aka Christopher Smith—had survived what appeared to be a fatal shooting. That scene hinted that the US government still had some use for him, and in the show, he ends up being recruited for a new mission: the mysterious Project Butterfly, led by a mercenary named Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji). He gets assistance from A.R.G.U.S. agent John Economos (Steve Agee) of the Belle Reve Penitentiary, National Security Agency agent and former Waller aide Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), and new team member Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). Peacemaker and the Project Butterfly team, ready for action. YouTube/HBO Max The cast also includes Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) as Chris' crusty father, Auggie Smith, who thinks his son is a "nancy-boy"; Freddie Stroma as Adrian Chase (aka Vigilante), a sociopathic district attorney who fights crime and thinks he's Peacemaker's BFF; Annie Chang as police detective Sophie Song; and Nhut Le as Judomaster, a bodyguard and martial arts specialist. And of course, there's Eagly, Chris' beloved American bald eagle companion, voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. Cena turns in a truly standout performance; he brings a surprising sweetness and vulnerability to his portrayal of a character Gunn once described as "douchebag Captain America." Chris is wrestling with his guilt over killing Rick Flag in The Suicide Squad, and he's haunted by Flag's last words: "Peacemaker. What a joke." He is also forced to deal with his own tragic backstory over the course of the season, including the loss of his brother, and that backstory is surprisingly poignant. If you were raised by a white supremacist thug like Auggie Smith—who trained his son to be a killer and misses no opportunity to remind Chris that he's a worthless waste of space—you might have grown up into a jingoistic mass murderer for hire, too. Chris introduces Leota (Danielle Brooks) to his signature Peace Train cocktail: gin, vermouth, vinegar, peppercorn, a touch of maple syrup, and yak butter. She calls it a "feces drink." YouTube/HBO Max Chris' growing uneasiness with the Peacemaker persona he created manifests early on when he balks at killing a senator and his family on Murn's orders. (Vigilante has no such qualms about killing women and children.) The family turns out to be "butterflies": an alien species from a dying planet who use human bodies as hosts and seek to dominate Earth. Chris does take out his fair share of butterflies as the mission heats up, but he also befriends one of them and keeps it in a jar in his trailer. It's that inner mushy side that repeatedly earns his father's ridicule, but it also makes Chris someone worth rehabilitating. Eagly loves him, after all, and if you can't trust the instincts of an American bald eagle, what can you trust? Deep down, Chris just wants to belong, and one of the best arcs of the season sees him eventually finding a family of sorts in his Project Butterfly teammates. Robert Patrick is brutal and menacing as Auggie Smith. YouTube/HBO Max The script is clever, the cast is outstanding, the pacing is brisk, the tone is perfect, and above all, everybody seems to be having a lot of fun—right down to the cheesy opening credits, which feature the cast dancing to Norwegian metal band Wig Wam's "Do Ya Wanna Taste It?" I have just one minor quibble with the otherwise excellent finale, and that's the speech a Butterfly delivers at a crucial moment to convince Chris to switch sides: Not long after we arrived, we realized that people of Earth were on the exact same trajectory as our people had been: ignoring science in favor of populist leaders who tell you that the floods and fires and the disease are unrelated to your own actions. Valuing profit over survival. Treating minor inconveniences as assaults on your freedom. And so we made a vow to do anything we could to change your future. We made a vow to make the choices for you that you were incapable of making on your own, to save your people, and your world, no matter how many lives it cost us. That might be a frank assessment of our current predicament, and it's in keeping with Peacemaker's driving philosophy (at least in The Suicide Squad), but it's just too preachily on the nose to really work dramatically. Peacemaker works best when it's making its points a bit more indirectly. But that's easily overlooked in this nearly note-perfect show. All episodes of Peacemaker are now streaming on HBO Max. The series has already been renewed for a second season, and Gunn has said it will explore the repercussions—both good and bad—of the events of the first season. Here's to seeing more of Christopher Smith, Eagly, and this scrappy crew of likable misfits who bonded and fought for a better world despite their myriad differences. They're role models for us all. Rock out and dance along to the opening credits of James Gunn’s Peacemaker, starring John Cena. Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs. Review: We had our doubts, but Peacemaker is a cheeky, irreverent delight
  16. "Dude, we're saving the world! It's every thing we've ever wanted." Peacemaker explores the continuing story of the character that John Cena reprises from James Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad. It's a brand new year, and HBO Max has kicked it off with a shiny new red-band trailer for Peacemaker. As we've reported previously, the eight-episode spinoff series is set after the events of Gunn's 2021 filmm The Suicide Squad—specifically after the post-credits scene, in which we learned that Peacemaker had survived what had appeared to be a fatal shooting. The first teaser dropped in October, showing Peacemaker (aka Christopher Smith) being recruited by Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) for another mission in order to avoid going back to prison. Once again, he's basically an assassin, but at least he's only killing bad people (maybe). He gets assistance from warden John Economos (Steve Agee) of the Belle Reve penitentiary, NSA agent and former Waller aide Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), and new team member Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). The cast also includes Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) as Peacemaker's crusty father, Auggie Smith, who thinks his son is a "nancy-boy"; Freddie Stroma as Adrian Chase (aka Vigilante), a district attorney who fights crime and has rapid-healing abilities; and Nhut Le as Judomaster. An extended teaser released in October was heavy on the cheesy, off-color bro-humor, but it showcased Cena's gift for physical comedy, and the irreverent, over-the-top tone was note-perfect—very much in line with the character. The full trailer, released last month, fleshed out the basic premise and gave us a Peacemaker who was a bit less mindlessly violent and more introspective after the Very Bad Events of The Suicide Squad. He had qualms about being ordered to kill women and children, for instance, and struggled to deal with long-suppressed daddy issues. (Among the standout lines: Peacemaker trying to have a heart-to-heart with his imprisoned father: "Maybe I'm a grower, not a shower. An individual you don't and then you learn to like.") And now we have the red band trailer, which returns to R-rated zaniness. The trailer opens with Peacemaker making a special appearance at a local elementary school, bragging about how he defeated the world's most dangerous villains "with only my two fists, my desert eagle, and two rocket launchers." Oh, and also that one time he met Wonder Woman. ("She did spend an entire party eye-f---ing me from across the room.") Hey, he's trying, okay? It's hard to strike the perfect balance between embodying the murderously efficient SOB his current mission needs, and being a decent human being capable of functioning in normal society. John Cena's Peacemaker shows off his guns YouTube/HBO Max Harcourt is gonna be a harder sell than the schoolkids. "Just because you're handsome doesn't mean you're not a piece of s--t," she tells him after he says she can call him Chris. And because deep down he's incredibly insecure, all he hears is that she thinks he's handsome. There's a lot of off-color hijinks and profane humor—Eagley gets a bit inappropriate with Economos, and Peacemaker seems just fine with Vigilante being tortured—and of course, there's a fair amount of red-band worthy gore. The cast looks like they're all having a great time, so this series is definitely on our watch-list for January. The first three episodes of Peacemaker premiere on HBO Max on January 17, 2022. New episodes will air weekly every Thursday after that through February 17, 2022. Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max HBO Max rings in a raunchy new year with Peacemaker red band trailer
  17. New comedy series is coming to HBO Max on March 3. Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi star as Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard, respectively, in HBO Max's new comedy series, Our Flag Means Death. HBO Max has released the full official trailer for Our Flag Means Death, the streaming platform's new period comedy, featuring Taika Waititi's hilariously deadpan portrayal of the infamous 18th-century pirate Blackbeard. As I've written previously, the series is about an aristocrat who abandons his comfy life to become a "gentleman pirate." Even better: the main character, Stede Bonnet (played to effete perfection by Rhys Darby), is based on a real person who really did sail with Blackbeard for a period. (You can read a bit about the actual pirate here, and/or listen to this episode of the wonderful Footnoting History podcast.) The first teaser for Our Flag Means Death dropped last month and won us over immediately with its fish-out-of-water premise. Clearly, the series is unlikely to attempt much in the way of historical accuracy, which is entirely the right decision. Tonally, it evokes something along the lines of Hulu's extraordinary period comedy series The Great, which takes historical characters and facts and embellishes them, complete with the odd deliberate anachronism. Per the official premise: The unique new comedy is loosely based on the true adventures of 18th century would-be pirate, Stede Bonnet. After trading in his comfortable life for one of a buccaneer, Stede becomes captain of a pirate ship, but struggles to earn the respect of his potentially mutinous crew. Stede’s fortunes change after a fateful run-in with the infamous Captain Blackbeard. There are also some impressive guest stars, including Leslie Jones, Fred Armisen, Nick Kroll, and Kristen Schall. Nathan Foad, Samson Kayo, Vico Ortiz, Ewen Bremner, Joel Fry, Matt Maher, Kristian Nairn, Con O’Neill, Guz Khan, David Fane, Rory Kinnear, Samba Schutte, and Nat Faxon all play additional crew members. Gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) gets an unwelcome surprise. YouTube/HBO Max As the trailer opens, we see Bonnet considering the exploits of famous pirates like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, whom an acquaintance describes as being very talented. Bonnet has a new vision for a gentleman pirate: "Instead of killing with weapons, he kills with kindness!" He considers dressing well a power move, even among pirates: "Make people feel underdressed and suddenly you're the one in charge." Pretty much all of Bonnet's respectable friends are skeptical of his aspirations, and the footage of him hanging off a rope ladder while trying to push a beached ship back in the water doesn't instill confidence either. "Pirating is not for everyone," a crew member explains to Bonnet. "It's a very dangerous lifestyle." For his part, Bonnet thinks his crew members are really sweethearts deep down, "they're just dealing with a fair amount of trauma." Extra points for showing Leslie Jones as a tough female pirate holding Bonnet at knifepoint and calling him a "genital pirate." Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and Bonnet bond. YouTube/HBO Max We only had the briefest glimpse of Waititi's Blackbeard in the teaser, but his character is front and center in the full trailer. He swings onto Bonnet's ship with a confident swagger that makes every crew member giddy with fanboy delight. Blackbeard wants to cause some havoc, and havoc does indeed ensue. Bonnet does loot a library, which he defines as replacing all the books he steals with books he's already read. It seems like Blackbeard will develop a grudging affection for his unusual partner in piracy—"You're a lunatic, and I like it"—perhaps because Bonnet makes a good cup of tea and serves tapas aboard a rowboat headed to shore. But are good manners enough to save Bonnet and his crew from annihilation by British forces? Our Flag Means Death debuts on HBO Max on March 3, 2022. Tapas means small plates! YouTube/HBO Max Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max Taika Waititi is diabolically funny as Blackbeard in Our Flag Means Death trailer
  18. The Oscars underdog hits streaming a few weeks before the awards show Actors Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tôko Miura with the titular car Cannes Film Festival If you’re one of those people who wants to see all the Oscar potentials before the awards show, you’re in luck: Drive My Car, a limited release in theaters, comes to HBO Max on March 2nd, Deadline reports. A critically lauded, three-hour Japanese drama, Drive My Car is the kind of movie often relegated solely to the International Film category. But this year, it took surprising Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. Drive My Car is a quiet movie about grief and how we communicate that — to others, as well as ourselves. So if you’re looking for a gutting and cathartic drama, this is the movie for you. Or maybe you just want to watch someone be driven around in a red Saab for a while. Really, Drive My Car has something for everyone. (Personally, it was my favorite movie of 2021, and I have no problem admitting I saw this gutting drama twice.) If you want to stream some of director Ryosuke Hamaguchi’s other work ahead of Drive My Car’s HBO Max arrival, two of his films are available on the Criterion Channel: the excellent, moody romance Asako I & II, in which a woman’s lover mysteriously vanishes and, two years later, reemerges as an entirely different person (or so she thinks!); and for the more ambitious viewer, there’s Happy Hour, a quiet excavation of the friendship and lives of four women in Kobe (also very good, but with a five-hour runtime, I recommend breaking this up into multiple viewings). Hopefully, the success of Drive My Car inspires more platforms to pick up Hamaguchi’s earlier work. Though the movie is based on a Haruki Murakami short story, it takes its source material in a very different and more expansive direction. But if you’re curious, there are three other Haruki Murakami film adaptations. Lee Chang-dong’s terrific, haunting 2018 drama Burning is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. A very melodramatic take on Norwegian Wood from 2010 is currently on Tubi — not a great film, but the costuming and Jonny Greenwood score might make it worth it for you. But unfortunately, the very underrated Tony Takitani isn’t streaming anywhere I could find, though if you have the means, I recommend seeking out a physical copy of it. In the meantime, though, enjoy this picture of me watching the end of Drive My Car: Best Picture nominee Drive My Car hits HBO Max this March to emotionally ruin you
  19. WarnerMedia has announced that its streaming platform, HBO Max, is launching in 15 additional European countries on the 8th of March, 2022. Now, the users from these countries will also be able to watch series and movies from Warner Bros., HBO, DC, Cartoon Network, and Max Originals in one place. Top Warner Bros. films, including The Matrix Resurrections, Dune, King Richard, The Suicide Squad, and Tom and Jerry will also be available on HBO Max for users to enjoy. General Manager, HBO Max EMEA, Christina Sulebakk stated: HBO Max is a new streaming experience offering the very best entertainment, movies, original series and kids programming from Warner Bros., HBO, DC, Cartoon Network, Max Originals and more. We are thrilled to confirm that on March 8th, HBO Max is arriving in 15 additional European countries as we continue making the platform available across the continent and beyond. The 15 countries getting HBO Max include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Previously, the streaming platform launched in the Nordics and Spain in October 2021. Currently, HBO Max is available in 46 territories throughout North and South America, and Europe, and with these launches, the number will rise to 61. WarnerMedia also mentioned that HBO Max will expand to six more European countries including Turkey and Greece later this year. Head of HBO Max International, Johannes Larcher stated: The global roll out of HBO Max continues at pace as we launch the platform in 15 additional European countries, taking us to 61 territories worldwide. We are delivering on our strategy to go direct-to-consumer around the world which coupled with our beloved content will give us the scale needed to be one of the top global streaming platforms. HBO Max will be available on various devices and platforms, including smart TVs such as Samsung, LG, and Android TV, through streaming devices such as Apple TV 4K and Google Chromecast, game consoles including PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S, and mobile and tablets. HBO Max to launch in 15 European countries, more regions later this year
  20. HBO Max horror-fantasy drama The Nevers gets a pretty awesome first trailer Check out the new TV show from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Image credit: HBO Max) HBO Max has revealed the first trailer for new drama The Nevers, a new genre-blending fantasy/horror series created, written and directed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Avengers overseer Joss Whedon. The show will debut on HBO in April, rolling out with six episodes, and will stream on HBO Max. The new series is set in the final years of Victorian London, where people called the 'Touched' start to develop powers – some of which are kind of cool, others of which are more on the upsetting side. The show features a massive ensemble cast, but the two leads are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), a widow who's adept at beating people up, and an inventor called Penance (Ann Skelly). They fight on the behalf of this lowe class group of gifted people. Here's the first teaser, which looks pretty promising: Whedon, who's a complicated figure to discuss these days, stepped down from the show back in November 2020. Other Buffy writers are involved with the show, including Doug Petrie and Jane Espenson. The cast for The Nevers also includes Olivia Williams, Nick Frost, Pip Torrens, Tom Riley, Kiran Sawar and Ben Chaplin, among other recognizable British TV names. The search for the next Game of Thrones Prior to Game of Thrones, HBO had True Blood, but otherwise was better known for more serious, realistic dramas than sci-fi and fantasy. These days, it's a very different story – 2019's Watchmen, His Dark Materials and last year's Lovecraft Country show that making these kinds of series are a priority for the premium cable channel. The Nevers, then, is the next link in the chain on that effort. It certainly looks like no expense has been spared to bring it to the small screen. HBO Max horror-fantasy drama The Nevers gets a pretty awesome first trailer
  21. All eight Harry Potter movies are streaming on HBO Max much earlier than expected The films were previously tied up with NBCUniversal All eight Harry Potter movies are streaming on HBO Max, which is surprising considering executives were clamoring to bring the Boy Who Lived home to the newly launched streaming service but weren’t clear as recently as earlier this week when that would happen. The Harry Potter films were originally tied up in a deal with NBCUniversal — which has a number of TV networks alongside its own Peacock streaming service, and still maintains a robust library on Hulu — until 2025. Kevin Reilly, HBO Max’s chief content officer, told Business Insider this week that the company didn’t have a “timetable” for getting Harry Potter rights back, but he added that “it is high on our priority list.” Clearly. NBCUniversal paid a hefty amount to secure the TV rights to the Harry Potter films back in 2016: the deal was reportedly in the $250 million range, according to The Wall Street Journal at the time. Although the agreement between WarnerMedia and Universal also gave Universal’s theme park rights to “exclusive content and events,” NBCUniversal told the Journal at the time that it was the largest movie acquisition in the company’s history. The deal only went into effect two years ago and isn’t even halfway through its run. It’s unclear how much WarnerMedia paid to bring those films over to HBO Max for its launch, but the streaming rights likely cost a pretty penny. NBCUniversal will continue to play the films on its traditional linear television networks. This sort of last-minute rights wrangling isn’t new in the streaming space. Disney announced that Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would stream on Disney Plus the day before the streaming service launched. Prior to that announcement, several of those films were locked in complicated rights deals with other companies. A Disney executive at the time told The Verge at a Disney Plus event that deals were being made right up until the platform’s launch. Disney also worked out a deal with Starz, which held the rights to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to ensure the film was available to stream on launch day. Clearly, WarnerMedia is making similar moves here. Regardless of how it came to be, all eight main Harry Potter films are streaming on HBO Max if you’re looking for something new to marathon while stuck at home. Source: All eight Harry Potter movies are streaming on HBO Max much earlier than expected (Wired)
  22. The ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League is coming to HBO Max in 2021 Years after the film was released The long rumored “Snyder Cut” of director Zack Snyder’s Justice League is very much real, and it’ll be streaming on HBO Max as an exclusive in 2021. “I want to thank HBO Max and Warner Brothers for this brave gesture of supporting artists and allowing their true visions to be realized. Also a special thank you to all of those involved in the SnyderCut movement for making this a reality,” said Snyder in a statement announcing the news. It’s not clear yet what form the Snyder’s version of the movie will take — apparently the director and Deborah Snyder (who produced Justice League and is also married to Zack) are still determining whether the director’s cut will be released as a nearly four-hour film or divided up into a six-part series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The cost of producing the new cut (which will include re-editing the film, scoring new music, and redoing and adding new visual effects) is said to be between $20 and $30 million, also per THR’s report. The Snyder cut’s history is long and convoluted. Snyder originally stepped away from Justice League after the death of his daughter, and Warner Bros. brought in director Joss Whedon — who had already been recruited to help with script rewrites at an earlier stage — to oversee reshoots and shepherd the film through editing and post-production. Everything between the studio and Snyder seemed amicable at first. But once the movie was released in November 2017, fans took issue with Whedon’s lighter, more comedic contributions to the film. A campaign started not long after the film’s initial release for Warner Bros. to deliver a “Snyder cut.” In the nearly three years since then, “Release the Snyder Cut” has developed into a full-force campaign from fans around the world. Online petitions were launched, public demonstrations were held outside the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, and Time Square ads were taken out in New York City. Some Snyder cut campaigning has been positive. The official Release the Snyder Cut campaign group has also raised money for suicide awareness (in tribute to Snyder’s daughter). People have made friends via the campaign, and fans bonded over their favorite Snyder DC movies, which also include Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel. Actors like Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot have also participated in the campaign, tweeting out photos from Justice League with the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag. Unfortunately, the Snyder cut campaign also saw some of the worst fandom toxicity bubble over the last few years. People who tweet negatively about the Snyder cut are inundated with attacks from fans on Twitter. DC Comics creative executive Geoff Johns and Whedon are referred to as “snakes” on social media by fans upset that Justice League didn’t live up to their own expectations or perform well at the box office (just under $658 million worldwide, not hitting the studio’s breakeven point for the film). Other directors inside the DC Universe at Warner Bros. — like Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and The Batman’s Matt Reeves — are tweeted at by fans angry over their films being made, as if the studio is prioritizing their film over producing a finished Snyder cut of Justice League. There’s no question that interest in the Snyder cut is palpable, both from a fan’s and curious bystander’s perspective. From WarnerMedia’s perspective, it’s also the perfect time for the company to announce the project. HBO Max, AT&T and WarnerMedia’s crown jewel streaming service, is set to launch on May 27th. Bringing as many subscribers to the service from the get-go, helping to scale as quickly as possible, is crucial. The Snyder cut can drum up both the interest and signups that WarnerMedia executives are hoping to see. The bigger conversation releasing the Snyder cut brings up, however, is about fan entitlement — one that’s similar to a situation the gaming industry saw in 2013 with Mass Effect 3 — in an age of growing toxicity. Source: The ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League is coming to HBO Max in 2021 (The Verge)
  23. HBO Max drops first trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League Restored version will air in four one-hour installments on the streaming platform. The first teaser for Zack Snyder's Justice League is set to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Fans who have been clamoring to see Zack Snyder's director's cut of the disappointing 2017 film, Justice League, will finally get their wish, as HBO Max released a two-minute trailer for Zack Snyder's Justice League during the virtual DC Fandome event. The trailer actually leaked online before the panel, but was quickly pulled until the official release. (Some spoilers for the 2017 Justice League below.) The original Justice League was the third film in a trilogy that included Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). It brought together Ben Affleck's Batman and Henry Cavill's Superman with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). They are on a mission to save the world from arch-villain Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a New God in search of three "Mother Boxes" that will enable him to terraform the Earth into something more hospitable to him and his army of Parademons. Snyder completed all the principal photography and was well into post-production. But he stepped down as director in May 2017, following the tragic suicide of his daughter, and the studio turned to Joss Whedon (The Avengers) to complete the film. Whedon rewrote the script, adding some 80 pages, and did extensive reshoots, bringing more humor and a brighter tone into the mix. (A common criticism of Batman v. Superman was that it was slow, lacked humor, and was too dark in tone.) He also cut more than 90 minutes of Snyder's original footage to accommodate the studio's requested 120-minute run time, although Whedon's version retained the basic story outline. The result was what some critics called a "Frankenstein" film, struggling to incorporate the very different visions of two directors. Reviews were mixed, and while Justice League wound up grossing $657 million, the purported break-even point was around $750 million. Its poor box office return may have influenced Warner Bros.' subsequent decision to shift way from the Marvel model of a series of interconnected films in a shared universe, in favor of standalone films and franchises. The rumored production woes had some fans clamoring for an alternate "Snyder cut" soon after the theatrical release, leading to a social media campaign that occasionally got ugly. In May, during a virtual watch party for Man of Steel, Snyder confirmed that his cut would air on HBO Max, insisting it would feel like an entirely different movie, with new visual effects sequences, additional character development, and some added dialogue. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. During the DC Fandome online panel, Snyder confirmed that his cut will be aired on the streaming platform in four one-hour installments. In addition to being darker in tone, Snyder said that the character of Steppenwolf has been redesigned, and that Steppenwolf's uncle, Darkseid (Ray Porter), will be the main villain. (Darkseid did not appear at all in the original theatrical release.) Miller and Fisher also appeared on the panel, and Snyder said we will see more of their respective characters. The Flash will have "more of an emotional arc," and Cyborg will be "the heart of the movie," per Snyder. "He holds the team together in a lot of ways and I’m excited for fans to see how it’s realized.” That should be especially good news for Fisher, who has recently aired his frustrations with the behavior of Whedon on the Justice League set after Snyder's departure. Although Fisher had been a good soldier while promoting the theatrical release during the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, he retracted those statements in early July. “Joss Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable," the actor tweeted, adding that producers Geoff Johns and Jon Berg “enabled” Whedon. WarnerMedia has since announced an investigation, and Fisher called the decision a “MASSIVE step forward," tweeting, “I believe this investigation will show that Geoff Johns, Joss Whedon, Jon Berg (and others) grossly abused their power during the uncertainty of AT&T’s merger with Time Warner.” Zack Snyder's Justice League will debut on HBO Max in early to mid 2021. It definitely feels like a different beast from the theatrical release. It remains to be seen just how much of an improvement Snyder's version will be. Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max HBO Max drops first trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  24. HBO Max and Ava DuVernay are making a series based on the @OnePerfectShot Twitter account A celebration of cinematography Danielle Levitt/August Images Ava DuVernay is partnering with HBO Max and the team behind Twitter’s popular One Perfect Shot account to create a half-hour documentary series of the same name, the company announced today. One Perfect Shot will look at an iconic shot from different films, with the directors of those films walking viewers through a detailed breakdown of how it came to be. Each episode will feature a different director “walking through the scene in 360 moments that allow viewers to join an immersive exploration of moviemaking,” according to a press release. Essentially, think of the show as a celebration of cinematography. DuVernay, who directed A Wrinkle in Time, Selma, 13th, and created Netflix’s When They See Us, is set to narrate and executive produce the series. One Perfect Shot is designed around the actual act of filmmaking — the technology and behind-the-scenes work that goes into making movies. “I’ve long wanted to create a series about the art of directing,” DuVernay said. “To chronicle the craft of great filmmakers is a dream come true for me and all of us at ARRAY Filmworks.” The One Perfect Shot Twitter account, which has just over 560,000 followers, was started in 2013 by filmmaker Geoff Todd. In 2016, the account’s ownership was given to publisher Neil Miller and became a part of the Film School Rejects portfolio. Since then, the account has grown and Miller has launched a newsletter under the same name to further talk about the art of filmmaking. Here’s a brief excerpt on why Miller and Todd believe that One Perfect Shot has become as popular as it has online: We’re fans of the work. We obsess over every scene, every frame, and every filmmaking technique. We’re often attracted to sophisticated, detail-oriented filmmaking and storytelling. We love filmmakers who use the entire frame, regardless of their medium. And most of all, we love learning about the craft of filmmaking. Whether it’s the director’s commentary track on a home video release, a deep-dive essay that explains a filmmaking technique, a thoughtful video essay, or a conversation with anyone who works on set, we are always seeking to learn about how the things we love are made. There’s no estimated premiere date for the show or a list of which directors are attached right now. HBO Max and Ava DuVernay are making a series based on the @OnePerfectShot Twitter account
  25. The Justice League Snyder Cut on HBO Max could be 4 hours long It's more than 214 minutes long as it stands (Image credit: Warner Bros) The Zack Snyder cut of 2017's Justice League movie could be almost four hours long when it arrives on HBO Max in 2021, it's been revealed. The film, which is a reworking of the poorly-received 120-minute theatrical cut that's more in line with Snyder's vision, is currently over 214 minutes long. That's lengthier than Batman Vs Superman's Ultimate Cut, also directed by Snyder, which clocked in at 181 minutes. "I have famously advertised the runtime at 214 minutes,” Snyder said in an interview with Beyond the Trailer (via GamesRadar), referring to a December 2019 social media post that revealed the Justice League cut's existence. "Now, in its current state, it’s going to end up being longer than that yet…[it's] exciting to bring all this new material to the fans." Snyder says the final runtime is a "slightly closely guarded secret". "I'm still working on it, so I don't want to say," he said. "No one's going to accuse me of making short movies, that's a fact," Snyder added. "My track record, especially with my director's cuts, is pretty crazy." Snyder was also asked if his cut of the Justice League will fit in to the continuity of the DC Extended Universe as it stands. "It's a good question. We shot the movie in 2016. It'll be five years old when it comes out, for me. And frankly, the DC cinematic universe has branched like a tree and blossomed and grown in amazing and great ways." Snyder then went on to praise upcoming movies like Wonder Woman 1984 and The Batman, as well as their respective directors Patty Jenkins and Matt Reeves. "But for me, in where the movie falls, I believe that it really starts to represent its own path. It's kind of separate now from what I would say the DC cinematic universe is in continuity." Snyder's next movie is Army of the Dead, which is coming to Netflix, and sounds like it's almost finished. That film will star Dave Bautista. The Snyder Cut of the Justice League will debut on HBO Max in 2021, though we're unsure how it'll be released to territories outside the US right now. Fans probably won't mind A film that's over 214 minutes long doesn't sound like our idea of a good time at the theater, but it matters less when we're talking about a streaming service exclusive. To those campaigning to get the Snyder Cut of the Justice League, seeing the most complete version of the movie possible is one of the reasons they wanted this to happen. In the case of Batman Vs Superman, the Ultimate Edition of that movie is somewhat better than the theatrical edition, but not dramatically so. In Justice League's case, the differences between the Snyder Cut and the one released in theaters will be extensive, requiring new effects work and costing more than $30 million to finish. The Justice League Snyder Cut on HBO Max could be 4 hours long
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