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  1. "Choose not the oath of fear, but that of faith." Prime Video's new original series, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. With HBO's House of the Dragon debuting to a record nearly 10 million viewers, one might have forgotten that another new big-budget fantasy series is waiting in the wings. Prime Video reminded us of that by dropping a new trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Based on notes and lore penned by J.R.R. Tolkien, the eight-episode series will revolve around the late author's "Second Age" era. Per the official description: This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone. As we've reported previously, the large ensemble cast includes Morfydd Clark as a young Galadriel, "now a hardscrabble warrior leading the Northern Armies," who is determined to hunt down her brother's killer. She ends up adrift at sea with a new character named Halbrand (Charles Vickers). Charles Edwards plays Celebrimbor, whom hardcore LOTR fans will recognize as the elven smith who forged the legendary rings. Robert Aramayo plays a younger version of Elrond, and Maxim Baldry will play the infamous Isildur, ancestor of Aragorn, who eventually defeated Sauron but fell victim to the One Ring's corrupting power. Peter Mullan plays the dwarf King Durin III. There's also a breed of hobbits known as the Harfoots, who mostly try to stay hidden and keep to themselves. But two curious young hobbits, Poppy Proudfellow and Nori Brandyfoot (played by Megan Richard and Markella Kavenagh, respectively), are more adventurous and somehow encounter The Stranger (Daniel Weyman), a mysterious man "who falls from the sky in a flaming meteor." A Harfoot hobbit with a big heart offers an apple to a mysterious stranger. YouTube/Prime Video The first teaser landed in February during the Super Bowl and gave us some eye-popping visuals, consistent with the rumored $500 million budget for the series. Prime Video released a nearly two-and-a-half-minute teaser trailer in July, two weeks before San Diego Comic-Con. This was followed by a full trailer during the convention. Attendees were treated to four exclusive clips from the series, each focusing on different protagonists. As Ars Tech Culture Editor Sam Machkovech reported: The dwarvish Prince Durin IV participates in a rock-smashing contest; the series' leading harfoot duo encounter and are nearly caught by a sleeping giant; Arondir manages to defeat a number of orc captors while restrained in chains; and the leading elf duo of Galadriel and Elrond share a solemn conversational moment that, at least in this event's context, could be seen as flirty. This latest trailer opens with a voiceover by Galadriel, telling us that her brother gave his life "hunting the enemy." She takes up the cause in his stead. She asks for others to stand with her, as we see shots of several central characters who, one presumes, will become her comrades in arms. Or perhaps they will decline the offer. That seems to be the case with Halbrand, who insists, "I am not the hero you seek," suggesting a dark secret in his past. "Whatever you did, be free of it," Galadriel tells him. Galadriel seems to be emerging as the most major protagonist, but we also get new footage of several other characters scattered throughout Middle-earth, including dwarves and hobbits. The latter, while humble, do have their strengths. "One thing we can so better than any creature in all Middle-earth—we stay true to each other, with our hearts even bigger than our feet," Nori's dad, Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith), says. It looks like different kinds of struggles and battles will be waged on many different fronts, as befitting a sweeping epic series of this magnitude. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres on Prime Video on September 2. Amazon is launching the series in "over 240 territories" simultaneously. Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs. Listing image by YouTube/Amazon Prime We’re loving the lavish epic visuals in the new LOTR: Rings of Power trailer
  2. "I may be a superhero, but I'm also just a man who fell for the wrong woman." An uneasy peace will be shattered in The Boys S3. The Boys is coming back to Prime Video for its third season, and the streaming platform has released the official trailer. Our crew of misfits had arrived at some closure in their battle against the "supes" and gone their separate ways at the end of the second season. But it looks like that uneasy peace is about to be shattered, given the number of exploding bodies and glowing laser eyes showcased in the trailer. (Spoilers for S2 below.) As I've written previously, the show is based on the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but are corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, operated by the Vought Corporation, which created the supes with a substance called Compound V. The Seven is headed up by Homelander (Antony Starr), a violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero. Homelander's counterpart as the head of the titular "Boys" is Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a self-appointed vigilante intent on checking the bad behavior of the Seven—especially Homelander, who brutally raped Butcher's wife, Becca (Shantel VanSanten). The second season ended with a bloody showdown that saw the demise of Becca as well as the mutilation of Homelander's supe squeeze, Stormfront (Aya Cash), who turned out to be a Nazi disguised as a "patriot." Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) and Starlight (Annie Moriarty) successfully blackmailed Homelander into loosening his bullying stranglehold on the Seven. Meanwhile, the government cleared the Boys of all wrongdoing after they were publicly smeared as terrorists. A disillusioned Hughie (Jack Quaid) decided to try to fight the Seven through politics rather than violence and went to work for Congressperson Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit)—but he doesn't know she's actually a super-powered assassin with her own murderous agenda. There's something seriously wrong with Homelander—well, more wrong than usual. YouTube/Prime Video So what can we expect from the third season? We already knew that the first episode is entitled "Payback"—the name of an earlier Vought group of superheroes, loosely based on Marvel's Avengers. Payback members include Eagle the Archer, who appeared in S2 of The Boys (played by Langston Kerman). He's the one who recruited the Deep (Chace Crawford) and A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) to the Church of the Collective before the cult turned against him. A fictional Seven on 7 news report last summer informed us that Eagle had quit the superhero gig and is now trying to become a rapper. Expect Payback to play a major role this season, since two other members are joining the cast: Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) and Crimson Countess (Laurie Holden). We also know that the third season will incorporate one of the comic's most shocking storylines: Herogasm. In this standalone comic miniseries, the Boys infiltrate Vought's annual superhero party, which turns out to be just one long weekend of kinky sex and drug use on a secluded island. Jensen Ackles joins the cast as Soldier Boy. YouTube/Prime Video Per the official premise: It’s been a year of calm. Homelander’s subdued. Butcher works for the government, supervised by Hughie of all people. But both men itch to turn this peace and quiet into blood and bone. So when The Boys learn of a mysterious anti-Supe weapon, it sends them crashing into The Seven, starting a war, and chasing the legend of the first Superhero: Soldier Boy. Prime Video released a red band teaser in March, in which we got our first glimpse of Soldier Boy and the Crimson Countess. We also saw Butcher decide to even the odds by taking Compound V himself, thereby gaining his own laser-eyed superpowers. There were the usual exploding heads and bodies and a brief shot of Deep gazing longingly at a starfish while engaged in sex (likely from the Herogasm episode). Looks like a scene from the rumored musical episode? YouTube/Prime Video The full trailer has even more blood and gore and footage of a laser-eyed Butcher on the rampage, but the focus is on Homelander's continued unraveling. The stresses of losing Stormfront, not being able to see his supe son by Becca, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), and being forced to go on a national apology tour for dating an actual Nazi have taken a major toll. "I may be a superhero, but I'm also just a man who fell for the wrong woman," he says during his PR spiel. "Out of crisis comes change. So I spent the last year really slowing down and reconnecting with myself. And I am very excited for everyone to meet the real me." Starr has always been brilliant at showing us the cold-eyed psychotic killer behind the radiant all-American smile, and here the actor dials it up even more to show us a psychotic superhero fast reaching a breaking point. Homelander's fragile mental state seems to be the rationale behind Queen Maeve's plan to resurrect Soldier Boy. That latter plan is definitely going to backfire since it looks like Soldier Boy is suffering from some serious destabilizing trauma himself as we watch him frenetically beat someone to a pulp with his shield. Meanwhile, Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso) is back with his family, and Butcher has been under Hughie's supervision—which has to sting his pride, but it's the only way he'll still be able to see Ryan, whom he considers to be his son, not Homelander's. It's clear that something will drive Butcher to take the Compound V from Maeve to get his temporary superpowers, thereby becoming everything he's vowed to fight. "The whole point of what we do is that no one should have that kind of power," Mother's Milk says. We also see Hughie admitting that his nonviolent approach might not be working because "it's all rigged," so he and Butcher likely will re-form their unlikely alliance. The trailer doesn't tell us much about what Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and Kumiko (Karen Fukuhara) are up to, but we see them dancing in what seems to be a psych ward—perhaps a scene from the rumored musical episode. The first three episodes of the third season of The Boys will premiere on Prime Video on June 3, 2022. After that, there will be a new episode each week until the season finale on July 8. There’s something seriously wrong with Homelander in The Boys S3 trailer
  3. Hit series shows no sign of pulling back on its violently bloody outrageousness. Prime Video's hit series The Boys returns for a third season on June 3. Prime Video unveiled a new red band teaser for the third season of its hit series, The Boys, during a SXSW panel on Saturday. The show is based on the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. There are a couple of new faces among the cast, plus a scene in the teaser that definitely takes place in THAT infamous storyline from the comic book series. (Spoilers for the first two seasons below.) The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but are corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, operated by the Vought Corporation, which created the supes with a substance called Compound V. The Seven is headed up by Homelander (Antony Starr in a career-making performance), a violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero. Homelander's counterpart as the head of the titular "boys" is Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a self-appointed vigilante intent on checking the bad behavior of the Seven, especially Homelander, who brutally raped Butcher's late wife. The S1 finale ended with a major cliffhanger: Butcher, intent on blowing himself up and taking Homelander with him, changed his mind when the psychotic superhero told him he'd discovered that Butcher's ex-wife, Becca (Shantel VanSanten), was still alive—and raising her (superpowered) son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), the result of her rape by Homelander. That's pretty much where S2 picked up. As the season opened, the Boys were fugitives, having been framed for a S1 murder actually committed by Homelander. Their attempts to clear themselves were hampered by a mysterious assassin who kept blowing up anyone who could give them useful leads. They were also charged with tracking a telekinetic terrorist who turned out to be Kimiko's (Karen Fukuhara) younger brother, Kenji (Abraham Lim). Butcher struggled to accept Becca's son Ryan, while Homelander tried to be a father figure and teach Ryan how to use his powers. Homelander (Antony Starr) must deal with the aftermath of the S2 finale, plus a possible new superpowered rival. YouTube/Prime Video Homelander's dominance of Vought was also challenged when CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) brought on a new member—Stormfront (played by Aya Cash, who stole scene after scene). The two became lovers and Stormfront helped Homelander recover from a PR disaster. Of course, Stormfront turned out to be a Nazi-affiliated superhero formerly known as Liberty, and the first superhero created with Compound V. And Homelander experienced his first moral dilemma, torn between the woman he loved and his general hatred of all things Nazi. In the S2 finale, Homelander and Stormfront kidnapped Ryan, forcing a showdown between Butcher and Becca. Ryan crippled Stormfront with his laser eyes when she threatened his mother—but accidentally killed Becca too. Ryan was taken into CIA custody after a grief-stricken Homelander was blackmailed into letting them go. A-Train (Jesse T. Usher) and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) rejoined the Seven, but The Deep (Chace Crawford) was once again excluded. Meanwhile, Hughie (Jack Quaid) left the Boys to work for Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit)—who, unbeknownst to him, is the mysterious assassin. What will S3 bring? One helpful clue is that the first S3 episode is entitled "Payback." In the comics that's the name of an early Vought group of superheroes, the successor to The Avenging Squad, which was destroyed in the Battle of the Bulge in the 1940s. Payback is loosely based on Marvel's Avengers. Its members include Eagle the Archer, who appeared in S2 of the TV series (played by Langston Kerman). He's the one who recruited Deep and A-Train to the Church of the Collective, before the cult turned against him. A fictional Seven on 7 news report last summer informed us that Eagle had quit the superhero gig after the Church publicly humiliated him, and is now trying to become a rapper. Jensen Ackles plays Soldier Boy, a former WWII cohort of Stormfront, aka Liberty. YouTube/Prime Video Two other Payback members are joining the cast in S3: Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles)—briefly name-checked in S2 as a colleague of Stormfront back when she went by Liberty—and Crimson Countess (Laurie Holden), who has heat-related powers. There is no news yet on whether we'll be seeing other Payback members such as Tek Knight, Swatto, and Mind Droid (who is romantically involved with Crimson Countess in the comics), but the odds seem good. We also know that the third season will incorporate one of the comic's most shocking storylines: Herogasm, a standalone comic miniseries in which the Boys infiltrate Vought's annual party for its superheroes on a secluded island, which which turns out to be just one long weekend of kinky sex and drug use. Fans had been daring showrunner Eric Kripke to bring that storyline to the screen, and he confirmed on Twitter last January that the sixth S3 episode will indeed be titled "Herogasm." Laurie Holden joins the cast as Crimson Countess. YouTube/Prime VIdeo Just how far will the series take the Herogasm storyline? It's difficult to predict—the comic panels are pretty explicit—but the mere concept alone should push the boundaries of what Prime Video has thus far allowed The Boys to put on screen. I mean, apart from all the blood and guts, S2 had a hilarious throwaway scene where the Boys encounter Love Sausage (Andrew Jackson), whose exposure to Compound-V gave him a stretchable prehensile penis that he can deploy as a weapon. It played out exactly how you'd expect. All we see in the teaser is a snippet of Deep gazing longingly at a starfish while engaged in sex—which is just so Deep. (We already watched him fend off the advances of a horny dolphin in S1.) As for the rest of the teaser, the biggest reveal is that Butcher decides to even the odds by taking Compound V himself, thereby gaining his own laser-eyed superpowers. Given that the substance is known to have some serious side effects, will Butcher become even more unstable? (Yeah, probably.) We get glimpses of Soldier Boy and Crimson Countess, and a lot of exploding heads and bodies. In other words, the series shows no signs of reining in the gloriously violent outrageousness that has become its trademark. The Boys S3 debuts on Prime Vido on June 3, 2022. Listing image by YouTube/Prime Video Soldier Boy and Crimson Countess revealed in The Boys red band teaser
  4. Various software tools aggressively promoted online have the stated purpose of allowing people to download movies and TV shows from services including Netflix and Disney+. While most work on a base level by providing a file that can be stored and watched independently of the service in question, the results are a poor replacement for the services themselves. For those who remember using audio cassette tapes, VHS and Betamax video recorders and similar wizardry, recording content from various sources to keep for a while was the sole purpose of the technology. Whether those recordings were songs from the radio, ‘backup’ copies of friends’ legitimately purchased movies (or, more likely, tapes hired for the night from a rental store), recording media onto tapes was a way of life for millions spanning decades. Then digital happened and everything changed. Media Collections Aren’t What They Used To Be – At Least Legally These days, people are more likely to stream music and movies from Spotify and Netflix but what neither of these platforms offers is a way to become a collector. Many people still like to have permanent copies of content on their own devices, rather than having to continually connect to the Internet or maintain a subscription. This presents problems. Essentially, those looking to maintain a collection today either need to spend small fortunes on physical media, rely on downloads from streaming platforms, or head off down the piracy route. At least in terms of music and TV shows (legalities aside), the latter is by far the easiest option but what if there was a way to download content from legal streaming services to keep forever, just as people did with tapes decades ago? Downloading from Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Over the past few years, several apps have appeared on the market claiming to allow users to do just that. Flixgrab, for example, claims to allow users to download from Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and more, with the software itself freely downloadable either directly from the maker’s site or from the Microsoft Store. “FlixGrab is a new powerful application for downloading videos from the most popular online video websites. You can download and watch videos from anywhere: Netflix, Amazon Prime, HULU, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and many others with only one FlixGrab app. This freeware absolutely contains no adware, no spyware, no registration or other unwanted software,” the marketing reads. While all of that sounds attractive enough, there are also caveats that are so significant that they are likely to put people off acquiring a collection using these kinds of tools. These Apps Do Not Download – They Record When using a tool such as youtube-dl, for example, the user downloads a digital file that’s an exact replica of the one they were listening to on YouTube. However, with apps such as the one mentioned above, that’s simply not the case. While they are billed as ‘downloaders’, they are essentially a type of screen recorder that take the original source material from the service in question, convert it on the user’s machine, and spit out a transcoded video file. While this may sound attractive to some, there are serious quality issues. While subscribers to Netflix or Disney+ consume content in 4K or even the relatively lower 1080p, when files are ‘recorded’ through these apps the end result is a million miles away. The files that are produced may claim to be 1080p (‘pseudo’ 4K isn’t available – yet), their filesizes give away the quality on offer and a few hundred megabytes for a 1080p movie just doesn’t cut it. Essentially, if people think they are going to get a quality copy for keeps, they’re going to be disappointed. Plenty of Positive Reviews Online But Caution is Advised Those looking to research these kinds of apps online will quickly discover lots and lots of positive reviews claiming they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, people should be aware that it’s possible to get free keys to access premium versions of these tools in exchange for writing nice things about them. So, if you’re watching a great review on YouTube, reading a five-star Trust Pilot recommendation, or even posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that read like an advert, those reviews stand a good chance of being connected to a free key. Some may be genuine of course, but proceeding with caution shouldn’t be dismissed. Ultimately, tools that actually download high-quality video from services such as Netflix and Disney+ aren’t available to the masses and even when ‘professional’ pirates ‘screen record’ to produce so-called ‘web-rips’, they certainly don’t use these commercially available tools – the results would be way too disappointing for the discerning pirate. Source: TorrentFreak
  5. Amazon launches mobile-only, more affordable Prime Video plan in India Image Credits: Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg / Getty Images Amazon is doubling down on one of the biggest strengths of Prime Video streaming service: Aggressive pricing. The e-commerce giant on Wednesday launched Prime Video Mobile Edition, an even more affordable tier of the on-demand video streaming service — now also bundling some mobile data. Prime Video Mobile Edition, for which Amazon has partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel, will feature 28-day mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) access to customers in India for Rs 89 ($1.22). This tier will include 6GB of mobile data that customers can consume during the subscription period. There’s also a slightly expensive plan for Prime Video Mobile Edition that will charge customers Rs 299 but will offer 1.5GB mobile data for each day of the subscription. To anyone who subscribes to Prime Video Mobile Edition, Amazon says it will pick the tab for the first month. Amazon Prime subscription costs $1.7 a month in India and includes access to Prime Video and Prime Music. The new Prime Video plan is currently only available in India. Its launch comes two years after Netflix unveiled a similar plan in India. Affordable pricing is key for on-demand steaming services that are looking to make inroads in India, the world’s second largest internet market. Even as more than 600 million users are online in the country today, only a fraction of them currently pay to access digital subscriptions. In a recent report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated that gaming, and video streaming market in India could clock as much as $5 billion in gross value transactions by March 2025. “India is one of our fastest growing territories in the world with very high engagement rates. Buoyed by this response, we want to double-down by offering our much-loved entertainment content to an even larger base of Indian customers. Given high mobile broadband penetration in the country, the mobile phone has become one of the most widely used streaming devices,” said Jay Marine, Vice President, Amazon Prime Video Worldwide, in a statement. Airtel, the second largest telecom operator in India, is the first roll-out partner for Prime Video Mobile Edition, said Sameer Batra, Director, Mobile Business Development at Amazon, suggesting that the company may ink similar deals with other telecom operators in the country as it looks to expand the “reach of our service to the entire pre-paid customer base in India.” Nearly every on-demand video streaming service in India, including Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar, maintain various partnerships with local telecom operators and satellite TV providers to reach more users in the country. Amazon did not explicitly say when or if it plans to extend Prime Video Mobile Edition outside of India. Source: Amazon launches mobile-only, more affordable Prime Video plan in India
  6. When reality bites, you call Guinan Paramount Plus Just when it seemed like Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard might have been ready to bid the galaxy farewell, Star Trek: Picard gave the legendary space explorer a second shot at life that raised some questions about just who and what he is now. While first trailer for Picard’s second season doesn’t directly answer any of them, it brings back one of the few characters perfectly suited to help guide Picard and his allies through this next chapter of their journeys. Beyond getting the recently resurrected Jean-Luc and his fellow explorers back aboard La Sirena and in the depths of space they long for, Star Trek: Picard’s second season is also about to send its heroes into the existential deep in as they embark upon a journey spanning across time and space, and seemingly multiple realities that have all been fractured somehow. As disorienting as Picard is when he wakes up in what appears to be the past, it’s the sort of turn of events that Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan likely sees coming long before her old friend even thinks to come looking for her El-Aurian wisdom. https://youtu.be/OyuddrlFajs Along with Guinan, Picard’s second season will also see John Delancie’s Q and Annie Wersching as the Borg Queen in the mix, and the show’s decision to lean heavily on familiar characters from Next Generation makes sense given how this arc’s poised to focus on key moments from the franchise’s history. Star Trek: Picard’s second season hits Paramount+ on March 3th, and premieres internationally on Prime Video from March 4th. Picard’s first season 2 trailer has Guinan going for it
  7. Amazon is ending Evangelion by bringing the final film to Prime Video Evangelion 3.0 + 1.01 Thrice Upon a Time premieres on August 13th Image: Amazon Amazon is bringing the conclusion to the Rebuild of Evangelion film series — adaptations of the beloved anime Neon Genesis Evangelion created by Hideaki Anno — to Prime Video on August 13th. Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.01 Thrice Upon a Time came out in Japan in March but will be making its global premiere on Prime Video in over 240 countries and territories, Amazon says. Alongside the final fourth film, Amazon will also stream the other films in the series, Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone, Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance, and Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo. The company hasn’t said when those films will be available on its service, but hopefully in time to catch up for Thrice Upon a Time’s August release. You can watch a trailer for the new movie below: The Evangelion “Rebuilds” are an interesting mix of reworked moments from the original anime and entirely new plot lines and character backstories that only appear in the film series. If you caught up with Neon Genesis Evangelion when it came to Netflix in 2019, there are lots of interesting departures and fully animated Eva battles to discover in the Rebuilds. Plus the show and films’ darker psychological themes probably hit too close to home for anyone who’s had a mini-existential crisis during the pandemic. That Amazon managed to snag Thrice Upon a Time and its predecessors seems like a pretty big knock against Netflix’s anime empire. Most streaming services are now trying to have some kind of anime strategy, either through the acquisition of other platforms or just by throwing money at popular creators. Netflix missing out on scooping up more Evangelion to go with the series and original two feature films it already offers is a loss. More mechs for Bezos, I guess. Amazon is ending Evangelion by bringing the final film to Prime Video
  8. It's based on popular Critical Role web series; S1 funded by Kickstarter campaign. The Legend of Vox Machina is based on the hugely popular livestreamed Dungeon & Dragons-based web series Critical Role. Rowdy misfits-turned-mercenaries become unlikely heroes in the red-band trailer for The Legend of Vox Machina, a new adult animated fantasy series coming to Prime Video. The series has an inspiring origin story. A group of professional voice actors used to get together to play Dungeons & Dragons, and when actress Felicia Day (Eureka, The Guild) heard about the game, she invited the actors to play in a livestreamed format for her YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry. (Day herself played a guest role as a human wizard named Lyra.) Voice actor Matthew Mercer served as Dungeon Master, and the campaigns took place in a fictional world he created called Exandria. The web series Critical Role was born. Eventually, the folks at Critical Role formed their own production company and split from Geek & Sundry in February 2019, streaming new shows on their Twitch and YouTube channels and launching a spin-off comic book. Episodes typically run for three to five hours, and between 30,000 to 40,000 people watch live each week. Add in VOD and YouTube, and most episodes garner around 1 million views each week, making Critical Role a bona fide media mini-empire. After failing to pique Hollywood's interest in creating an animated series based on their campaigns, the Critical Role actors decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to make their own 22-minute animation—essentially a prequel covering the events of the streaming portion of the campaign. They hoped to raise $750,000 and surpassed that goal within an hour of launch, raising more than $4.3 million and breezing past all their stretch goals by the end of the first day. The members of Vox Machina are misfits-turned-mercenaries who become unlikely heroes. YouTube/Prime Video By the time the Kickstarter closed on April 19, 2019, the project had raised more than $11.3 million, and Critical Role's members decided to expand the project into a 10-episode animated series. It's one of the most quickly funded projects in Kickstarter history, raising more money than the high-profile Kickstarter campaigns for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and the Veronica Mars feature film. That's the kind of money that catches Hollywood's attention, and Prime Video soon acquired the streaming rights to The Legend of Vox Machina. The studio commissioned two additional season 1 episodes and renewed the series for a second season of another 12 episodes. The pandemic delayed the series premiere, which was originally slated for June 2020, but the show is now ready to make its debut later this month. All of the original cast members will reprise their characters for the series, except for Orion Acaba's character Tiberius. (Apparently, Acaba had a falling out with the rest of the Critical Role crew early in the first streaming campaign and left the game.) Mercer plays Sylas Briarwood; Ashley Johnson plays a gnomic cleric named Pike Trickfoot; Travis Willingham plays goliath barbarian Grog Strongjaw; Laura Bailey plays half-elf ranger Vex; Liam O'Brien plays half-elf rogue Vax; Taliesin Jaffe plays human gunslinger Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III ("Percy" for short); Marisha Ray plays half-elf druid Keyleth of the Air Ashari; and Sam Riegel plays the gnome bard Scanlan Shorthalt. Per the official premise: Based on the beloved characters and adventures of Critical Role’s first livestreamed tabletop role-playing game (RPG) campaign, The Legend of Vox Machina is an animated fantasy-adventure series for adults that follows Vox Machina, a band of misfits with a fondness for boozing and brawling. In a desperate attempt to pay off their mounting bar tab, these unlikely heroes end up on a quest to save the realm of Exandria from dark magical forces. From a sinister necromancer to a powerful curse, the group confronts a variety of obstacles that not only test their skills, but also the strength of their bond. The first two episodes will tell a new story featuring the seven Vox Machina team members, set before the events of the first streaming campaign. The rest of S1 will adapt the Briarwood story arc from the first campaign, incorporating a few other classic story arcs as well. The team travels to Percy's ancestral home, Whitestone, which his family once ruled until Lord and Lady Blackwood killed most of his family and took control. The Briarwoods are also really into necromancy and a secret cult, and Vox Machina must prevent them from completing a dangerous ritual that would endanger everyone in the kingdom. The Legend of Vox Machina premieres on Prime Video on January 28, 2022. You can also tune in to Critical Role's ongoing third campaign, which premiered last October on Twitch and YouTube. Listing image by YouTube/Prime Video Prime Video releases red-band trailer for Legend of Vox Machina animated series
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