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Inside Streaming (Feb 9th, 2018)

Deadline reported some new details about Disney's forthcoming streaming service, which it apparently now plans to launch in fall of 2019. The platform will launch in the US and then gradually expand overseas, and will include no R-rated content, which will instead be pushed to Hulu. The report also indicates that the various Netflix-Marvel series, including "Daredevil," "The Punisher" and "The Defenders," will remain in place. In the first year, Disney plans to launch 5 original films and 5 original series, potentially including multiple projects set in the "Star Wars" universe. Other film projects in development include an adaptation of "Don Quixote" and a remake of the Disney animated classic "Lady and the Tramp." – DEADLINE

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix paid Paramount more than $50 million for the streaming rights to "The Cloverfield Paradox." In an audacious move, Netflix announced the film with a trailer during the Super Bowl, and then added it to their streaming library immediately after the game. The concept was apparently conceived by producer JJ Abrams and Paramount chairman-CEO Jim Gianopulos as a way to salvage the long-delayed sci-fi film, which was initially set to debut in theaters in April. Paramount will still release the film theatrically in China, and retains the right to produce future films in the "Cloverfield" franchise, including an upcoming WWII zombie feature tentatively titled "Overlord." This week, Netflix acquired the streaming rights for the sci-fi thriller "Extinction," which had originally been scheduled for theatrical release by Universal. – THR

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Hulu TV has started to stream the Winter Olympics at 60 frames-per-second (fps) this week, the first step in a phased rollout. A Hulu representative announced the change initially on Reddit. Streams at 60 fps tend to look smoother, and are considered ideal for live events such as the Winter Games or the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. The first phase of the 60 fps rollout will also include content from CNN, NBC affiliates, TBS, TCM, Showtime networks and Cartoon Network. The streams are currently available on a number of devices, including Apple TV, Fire TV and Xbox One. – VARIETY

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On an earnings call on Thursday, Viacom executives announced plans to launch an ad-supported streaming service some time in 2018. Viacom CFO Wade Davis hinted that the new service would stream "tens of thousands of hours of content that cut across the library we have on a global basis." Some of this content, including shows from MTV and Comedy Central, already stream on other platforms as well. Davis did note that the service would not be marketed to "cord-cutters," indicating that it won't be a way to continue to watch Viacom programming without a cable subscription. – TECHCRUNCH

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Oscar-nominated actor Timothée Chalamet will star as Henry V in Netflix's upcoming original film "The King." The biopic will chronicle the period immediately after Henry assumes the throne, following the death of his brother in battle. The film was written by David Michôd and Joel Edgerton, and will directed by Michôd, who previously helmed "War Machine" with Brad Pitt for Netflix. Chalamet is nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award this year for his performance in "Call Me By Your Name." – EW

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YouTube announced that it would temporarily pull all advertising from celebrity vlogger Logan Paul's channel in response to his "recent pattern of behavior." Paul's channel has over 16 million subscribers. He first came under fire after posting a video shot in a Japanese "suicide forest," which appeared to show a dead body. After a three-week hiatus, and several apologies, Paul controversially discussed eating Tide Pods on social media (a potentially dangerous YouTube fad) and uploaded a video in which he used a Taser device on a dead rat. In addition to the temporary ad ban, YouTube has also responded by promising stronger enforcement of its existing policies; the company has raised the number of human curators looking at uploaded content to 10,000. – TECHCRUNCH

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Amazon will develop a series based on the Nick Clark Windo novel "The Feed" in partnership with European pay-TV service Liberty Global. "The Feed" is set in a dystopian future in which people have social media updates streamed directly into their brains, and chronicles the chaos that erupts when this "feed" suddenly goes down. (Deadline described as "The Walking Dead" meets "Black Mirror.") The 10-part series will stream on Amazon in the US, Canada and Latin America. Showrunner Channing Powell previously produced "Walking Dead" and the crime drama "White Collar." – DEADLINE

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According to Comcast's 10-K disclosure forms, Hulu lost $920 million in 2017. All together, Hulu's four parent companies - Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Disney and Time Warner - invested $1 billion in the same year (vs. $733 million the year before). A large chunk of the funds went to the launch of Hulu's live TV service and the production of original content. Hulu had previously indicated plans to spend about $2.5 billion on original programming and content acquisition in 2017. The company claims that, at the end of 2017, it had approximately 17 million subscribers to its video on demand and live TV services. – VARIETY

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Amazon Prime Video will begin streaming HBO content in Japan, Asia's second-largest market. Starting April 1, both current and catalog HBO programs will be available to stream through Prime Video. The deal was struck with HBO, rather than HBO Asia, which serves over 20 Asian countries, excluding Japan. New HBO programming will become available to stream on Amazon 6 months after it first debuts on Tohokushinsha’s Star Channel. HBO previously had a similar deal with Hulu Japan. – VARIETY

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REVIEW: TWO NEW BIG-BUDGET SCI-FI EXTRAVAGANZAS ON NETFLIX

ALTERED CARBON

There's a lot to like about the 10-part mindf*ck sci-fi action-thriller "Altered Carbon," but the show never slows down for even a second to let you actually take anything in. It undeniably opens with a tantalizing premise: a future world where all of your memories and personality are downloaded into a disc called a "stack." That means that anything can happen to your body, but as long as your stack is intact and can be removed, it can just be inserted into a NEW body (called a "sleeve") and you go right on living your life.

It's obvious that this concept can lead to a lot of potential observations and storylines. Having a stack makes you immortal, but you have to be pretty rich in order to keep affording new sleeves all the time. If a loved one suddenly showed up in a new body, would it effect the way you treat them or feel about them? It also has implications for law enforcement: how do you track someone who can keep changing bodies on you?

"Altered Carbon" does explore a lot of these ideas, but I think the main problem is that it also tries to explore about 10,000 other ideas. In addition to all the stack/sleeve stuff, it's also a future-noir murder mystery, about a fabulously wealthy man (James Purefoy) whose stack was destroyed. (He survived by uploading his brain data to a satellite once every 48 hours, but now wants to know who tried to kill him. Naturally.) PLUS it's a drama about a damaged ex-super soldier (Joel Kinnaman) who's placed in a new sleeve 250 years after he was killed, and has constant flashbacks to the guerilla leader who trained him. PLUS it's a police procedural about an investigation into a dead woman who mysteriously fell from the sky. PLUS it's a tragic drama about desperate father (Ato Essandoh) whose daughter - in stack form - is trapped in a virtual reality nightmare from which she can't awake. PLUS there's a ton of stuff about creepy artificially-intelligent hotels that stalk their guests. 

It's not that any of these are BAD stories or dumb ideas. There's just way too many of them to properly service in any reasonable way, and there's CERTAINLY no time to explain all of these high-concept gimmicks AND develop interesting, three-dimensional characters, artificially intelligent or otherwise. Unfortunately, "Altered Carbon" tries anyway, and the result is a chaotic mish-mash that never coheres into a single, compelling narrative. The sheer amount of exposition each actor is forced to deliver made me genuinely depressed for them; many sequences play out like RPG video games, where Kinnaman's soldier wanders around a new setting and people randomly come up to him and explain facets of how this universe works. To US in the audience, this is a wild new way of seeing the world, but to the people in this reality, it's just their everyday life! Sometimes they'd talk about traffic, or how they're feeling that day, or sports or something.

Credit where it's due: future San Francisco (now known as "Bay City") looks stunning, and a lot of the details are thoughtful and clever. (Yeah, it owes a lot to "Blade Runner," but what dystopian noir-y sci-fi thriller doesn't?) The Golden Gate Bridge is now essentially a favela, covered in storage containers that people have converted into living spaces. The wealthiest, essentially immortal citizens live above the clouds, in Jetsons-like mega-skyscrapers, and have customized sleeves that secrete MDMA-like drugs when they are aroused. An AI simulation of Edgar Allen Poe conducts a ritual in a simulated pink bedroom within an urban VR nightmarescape.

Unfortunately, I never cared about anything that was happening, or any of the people involved, which makes the entire experience kind of a slog. Also, I should add, the show is shockingly, gruesomely violent. This makes a kind of sense - in a world where bodies were essentially disposable, you wouldn't treat them as quite so sacred, and seeing things like wounds or corpses would be more commonplace. But the fixation on the ways stack/sleeve tech could theoretically be used vivisect and torture is relentless and probably unnecessary to get the point across. "Altered Carbon" will likely be too much for more sensitive viewers. You've been warned.

THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX

As a big fan of the previous two "Cloverfield" films, it saddens me to say that this third entry - originally titled "The God Particle" - misses the mark. It makes intuitive sense, after seeing the film, that producer JJ Abrams and Paramount would shuffle this off to Netflix. It's one of those movies that starts out strong but just runs out of steam, and I feel like ticket purchasers would feel a bit burned by the experience.

As with "10 Cloverfield Lane," the movie intersects tangentially with the other films in the franchise, but essentially functions as a stand-alone sci-fi thriller. The premise: A group of astronauts has spent several years on an Earth-orbiting space station conducting a variety of potentially dangerous particle accelerator experiments, hoping to solve an energy crisis back home. But on their most recent attempt, they experience an anomaly that transports them to a mysterious alternate dimension, where normal rules of time and space apparently don't apply.

Pretty much every astronaut is played by a great actor who has been delightful in other projects, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw from the iconic "Black Mirror" episode "San Junipero"; David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King in "Selma"; Chris O'Dowd of "Bridesmaids" and "Get Shorty" and "Molly's Game"; Ziyi Zhang from "Crouching Tiger" and more. I WANTED to like these characters and get emotionally invested in their adventure, and what was happening to them, but the film just doesn't develop this story in interesting ways.

Essentially, it reverts to a conventional sci-fi horror movie formula (as the frequent social media comparisons to "Event Horizon" indicate): crazy inexplicable things happen, everyone freaks out, then someone comes up with a plan and yells a lot of jargon about what they need to do next. Repeat. It soon enough becomes clear that the movie has no interest in actually explaining itself, or why any of these baffling things are happening to this crew. It's just an inter-dimensional slasher movie, with "the fabric of space-time" in the role of Jason Voorhees.

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