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Inside Streaming (Aug 21st, 2019)

1. Negotiations between major US theater chains and Netflix over the release of Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman" have dragged on for months, and remain unresolved. Scorsese reportedly wants the film -- which will open the New York Film Festival next month and has considerable award season buzz -- released theatrically nationwide. But theater chains, including AMC and Cineplex, are insisting on a three-month exclusive window, in which the film would remain unavailable on streaming services. (Two other chains, Regal and Cinemark, told the New York Times that they are not currently in negotiation with Netflix about screening the film.) The film, which entered production in 2017, was made for approximately $159 million and stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. – NYT

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2. According to Deadline, Christian Serratos, (Rosita on AMC's "The Walking Dead") has entered negotiations to play iconic singer Selena Quintanilla for Netflix's biographical series. Netflix has not yet commented on the casting, which could depend on Serratos' ability to juggle time between the Selena project and the 10th season of "Walking Dead." (Serratos joined the zombie drama as Rosita during its fourth season.) "Selena: The Series" is expected to run on Netflix for at least two seasons, and will cover the early years of the Mexican-American singer-songwriter's career. Quintanilla's life and tragic death previously inspired the 1997 Warner Bros. film "Selena," starring Jennifer Lopez. – THR

[You can rent J. Lo's "Selena" on Amazon Prime or YouTube. The first eight seasons of "Walking Dead" are streaming now on Netflix; Season 9 arrives on September 1. - Lon]

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WHAT'S NEW ON STREAMING TODAY?

AMERICAN FACTORY: Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar's documentary surveys the culture clash resulting from the 2014 purchase of an abandoned Dayton, Ohio, General Motors plant by Chinese auto glass maker Fuyao. The film debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it was acquired by producers Barack and Michelle Obama. [Netflix]

HYPERDRIVE: Charlize Theron executive produced Netflix's latest reality competition series, in which drivers from around the world race through a series of challenging automotive obstacle courses. [Netflix]

THIS WAY UP: Irish comedian Aisling Bea created, wrote and stars in this six-part comedy-drama series that aired in the UK on Channel 4. Bea plays a woman who's putting her life together after suffering a nervous breakdown; Sharon Horgan ("Catastrophe") co-stars as her concerned sister. [Hulu]

A SIMPLE FAVOR: Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") directed this darkly funny mystery-thriller about a small-town single mom (Anna Kendrick) investigating the sudden disappearance of her new, high-society friend (Blake Lively). [Amazon Prime, tomorrow on Hulu]
[This movie is delightful and deserves a much larger audience! Particularly if you are a fan of either of these actresses, you should check this one out. - Lon]

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3. Hulu renewed the Blumhouse-produced horror film anthology series "Into the Dark" for a second season. Each month sees the release of a new "Into the Dark" feature, inspired by a different annual holiday or celebration. Hulu had previously greenlit 15 films as part of the series and just added 9 more, bringing the order to two full years worth of films. Blumhouse TV co-presidents Marci Wiseman and Jeremy Gold that they plan to continue in the same vein as the first "Into the Dark" series, by focusing on filmmakers "who are vision first, script later." – VULTURE

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WORLDLY WEDNESDAY: "SACRED GAMES" ON NETFLIX

Typically, I avoid re-reviewing shows that I've already discussed in this space, even when they return with new seasons. There's just SO MUCH content out there to stream, with more shows arriving every day, I strive to constantly turn your attention to something new and in need of more eyeballs. I'm breaking my own rule for Season 2 of "Sacred Games," because I genuinely think that it's one of the best streaming shows of the present moment, and I rarely see it mentioned or discussed. Don't let the subtitles turn you away; this is some fast-paced, smart, exciting and tightly-produced TV.

The very first Netflix original series from India, "Sacred Games" combines sweeping historical crime epic with a race-against-the-clock police thriller, by following two narratives in parallel. In the present, struggling Mumbai cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) receives a dire warning of a looming, deadly but vague threat to the city, and pursues an ever-evolving and at-times wildly dangerous mission to thwart its shadowy organizers. In flashback, the brilliant, psychopathic gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) pursues a ruthless rise to power from Mumbai's slums to the very apex of its underworld. 

The series is based on a 2006 novel by Vikram Chandra, and it has the feel of reading a weighty tome, using its primary story of shifting alliances and shocking betrayals to reflect on the past 30 years of Mumbai history and the religious tensions constantly threatening to plunge the city into violence. The fact that it manages to balance all this along with insights into Sartaj's personal, emotional journey is a testament to the strength of the adaptation and Neeraj Ghaywan's assured, confident direction (in Season 2's episodes, anyway).

OK, so that's all you need to read if you've never seen "Sacred Games." Watch this show. Because Season 2 picks up RIGHT where Season 1 left off, and it's a complex, twisty drama with lots going on, I'm also going to include a quick Season 1 catch-up for anyone looking to jump right into the new episodes. It's just below "The Basics."

THE BASICS

Title: "Sacred Games"
Where to Watch: Netflix
Episodes: 16 (2 seasons)
Running time: 43-58 minutes each
Genre: Crime thriller
In Hindi and Marathi with English subtitles

SEASON 1 CATCH-UP

When we first meet Mumbai cop Sartaj Singh, he's on the outs with his fellow officers, after refusing to lie about a crime scene to protect a colleague. Also, his wife has left him. He receives a call from notorious Mumbai gangster Ganesh Gaitonde, telling him about some sort of cataclysmic event that will happen in 25 days. Gaitonde says only a local official, the Home Minister Trivedi, will survive. Sartaj manages to track Gaitonde down to some kind of nuclear bunker, but Gaitonde then shoots himself. He has also killed a woman we know very little about, other than the fact that she has procured him prostitutes in the past. She's named Jojo Mascarenas. From then on, we divide our time between flashbacks showing Gaitonde's rise to power in the Mumbai underworld -- beginning in his childhood -- and Sartaj's attempts in the present to prevent the looming disaster.

Beginning with the murder of his own mother, Gaitonde cuts a swath of violence through Mumbai, amassing more power and influence at every turn. We meet his right-hand man, Bunty, who's wheelchair-bound in the present, and his arch-rival, Suleiman Isa. Much of the season will concern essentially a turf war between Gaitonde and Isa, which results in Bunty's injury, the murder of Gaitonde's wife, and eventually Isa skipping town and Gaitonde's imprisonment. While being held in solitary, he meets a kind jailer who shows him compassion; it turns out, this is Sartaj's father, and the connection that will ultimately bring the two men together.

On Sartaj's side, he works along with a federal agent -- Anjali Mathur -- to investigate Trivedi and his connection to the plot. Ultimately, during the course of the investigation, Anjali is murdered by a mysterious enforcer known as Malcolm. Sartaj as well is captured by Malcolm, who chops off his thumb and nearly kills him. But an injured Sartaj gets away and is eventually recovered by his fellow officers. While watching a religious broadcast featuring a guru named Guruji, Sartaj sees a familiar pattern (or mandala) that he recognizes from Gaitonde's bunker. Returning there, he finds a hidden room, where an unconscious Trivedi has been tied up. And that's where Season 1 concludes, with 12 days remaining until the impending disaster.

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4. In a promotional video released by Netflix, producers Barack and Michelle Obama discuss the newly-released documentary "American Factory" with co-directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. The former First Couple provides some insight into the kinds of projects they're hoping to bring to Netflix, which includes content that will help viewers "understand something they didn't before." Barack Obama tells Reichert and Bognar that he saw storytelling and making connections with people as a major part of his job in politics. Bognar added that: "Working people, their stories, their struggles, their hopes [are] equally compelling to superheroes." "American Factory" -- the first project the Obamas have produced for Netflix -- is now available to stream. – THR

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5. The first trailer for Netflix's sci-fi thriller series "The I-Land" mocks that infamous Fyre Festival promo video. The series, from creator Neil LaBute ("In the Company of Men"), centers on a group of 10 strangers who wake up to find themselves on a dangerous island, being forced into various survival challenges, with no memory of how they arrived there or who is holding them. Kate Bosworth, who also serves as a producer, stars in the series, along with Natalie Martinez ("Kingdom") and Alex Pettyfer. The minute-long trailer is purposefully made to resemble the initial advertisement for the failed Fyre Festival, right down to the swimming pigs. "The I-Land" will debut on September 12. – IO9

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6. According to Bloomberg, YouTube plans to halt all targeted advertising on videos likely to be viewed by children. The move is likely a response to an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), into YouTube's potential violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The FTC and Google -- YouTube's parent company -- apparently reached a settlement over the summer, but the specific terms of the deal remain undisclosed. – VERGE

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7. Actor/comedians Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps will co-star in the half-hour family sitcom "The Upshaws" for Netflix. Sykes and Epps will play a working-class Indiana couple doing their best to raise a family "without any blueprints." [I'm not 100% sure what this means, as no family has "blueprints," but that's what Deadline says it's about.] Both Sykes and Epps have made comedy specials for Netflix, and Epps will also co-star alongside Eddie Murphy in the upcoming Netflix biopic "Dolemite Is My Name." "The Upshaws" has been in development at Netflix since last fall. – DEADLINE

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8. The first Australian original Amazon Prime series will be the comedy competition "LOL: Last One Laughing," hosted by Rebel Wilson. Amazon debuted the "LOL: Last One Laughing" format originally in Japan and has also produced a season of the show for Mexico. In the series, a cast of 10 comedians and comic actors compete to see who can make the others laugh first. Wilson will both host and executive produce the Australian version, which will get a six-episode first season. – THR

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9. HBO ordered a third season of the comedy-drama series "Succession." 

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10. Amazon picked up the US rights to the Brazilian film "The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão," which took home the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes.

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Lon Harris is the writer and editor of Inside Streaming, and was the very first person to ever write an Inside newsletter. He lives in Los Angeles, California, and also writes about TV and film for Fandom, Screen Junkies, Rotten Tomatoes, Gamma Ray and others. He competes on The Movie Trivia Schmoedown as "The Professor." You can follow him on Twitter @lons

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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