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Inside Streaming (Aug 23rd, 2019)

1. HBO's sports comedy-drama series "Ballers," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a football pro-turned-financial manager, will wrap up after its upcoming fifth season. The final season of "Ballers" kicks off this Sunday night, August 25. Johnson confirmed the news on Instagram, thanking the fans and celebrating the show for providing a platform for up-and-coming actors. "To me, the opportunity 'Ballers' created for so many others, is the real gold of our show," Johnson said. The series, created by Stephen Levinson, is one of a number of long-running HBO series to wrap up in 2019, including "Game of Thrones," "Veep" and "Silicon Valley." – VARIETY

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2. FOLLOW FRIDAY: @BREZNICAN

First up, a reminder to subscribe to the official Inside Streaming list on Twitter. It includes a lot of fascinating writers and thinkers and creators from around the world of streaming video, including a lot of the journalists whose work appears regularly in the newsletter itself. (Plus it now contains a few suggestions from Inside Streaming readers! Thanks to everyone who reached out, and if you have more suggestions for accounts that should make the list, hit me up: lon@inside.com.) Outside of reading Inside Streaming every day, checking out this list is probably the best way to get a quick-hit update on what's happening with your favorite streaming platforms.

OK, on to today's selection: entertainment writer Anthony Breznican. Breznican was formerly the guy from Entertainment Weekly who always seemed to have the first-look early preview for the biggest movie franchises out there, from "Star Wars" to the Marvel films. (He's currently showcasing "IT: Chapter 2" on the feed a bunch.) Definitely one of the premier writers in the space, Breznican just announced this week that he's got a new gig for Vanity Fair, where he'll now be a special correspondent. Who knows where this new assignment may take him; it's worth signing up now.

ALSO: Side note: Anthony B's also a published novelist. His well-reviewed debut, "Brutal Youth," was released back in 2014. Follow him up.

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3. WHAT'S NEW ON STREAMING TODAY?

13 REASONS WHY: The controversial teen drama returns for a third season, revolving around the mystery of a Liberty High student's murder. [Netflix]

EL PEPE: UNA VIDA SUPREMA: 2018 documentary about the life and legacy of former Uruguayan president José "Pepe" Mujica, from the celebrated Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica. [Netflix]

HERO MASK: Writer-director Hiroyasu Aoki's anime series, a Netflix original, is a police procedural set in a London where high-tech masks give their wearers supernatural abilities. It's returning for a second season. [Netflix]

RUST VALLEY RESTORERS: This docuseries about three unconventional guys who flip junked cars for profit airs on HISTORY in Canada. [Netflix]

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT: The sixth big-screen "Mission: Impossible" adventure finds Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt performing a daring HALO jump, leaping between London rooftops, racing motorcycles through Paris and crashing a helicopter in Kashmir. Henry Cavill, Vanessa Kirby, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, and Alec Baldwin co-star. [Hulu and Amazon Prime Video]

JAWLINE: Feature debut from documentarian Liza Mandelup, centering on a 16-year-old wannabe internet star from rural Tennessee. Mandelup received the Special Jury Award for an Emerging Filmmaker at this year's Sundance. [Hulu]

OPERATION FINALE: 2018 historical drama from director Chris Weitz ("About a Boy") about the Israeli team that tracked down and captured former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann in 1960 Argentina. Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley co-star. [Hulu]

ALONZO BODDEN: HEAVY LIGHTWEIGHT: The one-time "Last Comic Standing" grand prize winner returns with a new special that swings back and forth between light and dark topics. [Amazon Prime Video]

ALICE WETTERLUND: MY MAMA IS A HUMAN AND SO AM I: The comedian -- a regular on both MTV's "Girl Code" and Comedy Central's "@Midnight" -- brings her very first special to Amazon. [Amazon Prime Video]

MIKE E. WINFIELD: STEPMAN: The comedian's new special centers on his evolving relationship with his step-son, who is close to him in age. [Amazon Prime Video]

#IMomSoHardLIVE: The first-ever comedy special from Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, the creators of the #IMomSoHard hashtag and a number of popular videos about living that mom life. [Amazon Prime Video]

FARRUKO: EN LETRA DE OTRO: The Puerto Rican reggaeton artist shares stories and inspirations from his childhood, along with reimagined versions of classic songs, in this HBO Latino music special. [HBO]

HITSVILLE: THE MAKING OF MOTOWN: Showtime's documentary feature, produced by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, tracks the history of the iconic label from its 1958 creation in Detriot through the early '70s, when the company moved to Los Angeles. [Showtime, Saturday]

MORTAL ENGINES: Peter Jackson produced this lavish 2018 fantasy-adventure film, set in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by massive, heavily armed cities on wheels. [HBO, Saturday]

MAPPLETHORPE: On-time Doctor Who Matt Smith stars as the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989 at age 42 due to complications from HIV/AIDS, in writer-director Ondi Timoner's 2018 biopic. [Hulu, Saturday]

THE AFFAIR: The fifth and final season of Showtime's drama series takes place after a several-decade time jump. Anna Paquin joins the cast as Joanie, the now-adult daughter of Ruth Wilson's character, Alison Lockhart. [Showtime, Saturday]

ON BECOMING A GOD IN CENTRAL FLORIDA: Kirsten Dunst stars in this dark comedy series from producer George Clooney as a water park employee rising through the ranks of the same pyramid scheme that bankrupted her family. [Showtime, Saturday (but the first two episodes are already available to stream!)]

BALLERS: The comedy-drama series, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a former NFL pro turned financial manager, returns for a fifth and final season. Rob Corddry co-stars. [HBO, Sunday]

POWER: The sixth season will be the last for crime-drama series "Power," though Starz has a few potential spin-offs in development. After 10 episodes air, the show will take a break, before the "final five" debut in January of 2020. [Starz, Sunday]

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4. Disney will no longer move forward with a planned adaptation of the "Book of Enchantment" series for Disney+. The novels, by Serena Valentino, relate stories from the perspectives of noted Disney villains, such as Ursula the Sea Witch and Maleficent. According to Deadline, halting the project was a creative decision, as executives were concerned about the dark, bleak tone of the scripts coming out of the writers' room. Because of the involvement of so many classic and centrally important Disney characters, executives were apparently monitoring the show's progress carefully. – DEADLINE

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FICTIONAL FRIDAY: "ON BECOMING A GOD IN CENTRAL FLORIDA" ON SHOWTIME

This is the second darkly comedic series set in Florida that I've reviewed in the past month, and I promise it wasn't intentional. (The other was TNT's "Claws," which you can stream on Hulu.) Both shows boldly skirt a line between assaying and ridiculing the state's unique culture and people. I think they both get away with it, but honestly, it's kind of a close call. If anyone who reads Inside Streaming is from Palmetto or Orlando (adjacent) Florida, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how the community has been depicted by these shows, and whether or not you think it's fair.

"On Becoming a God in Central Florida" gets away with as much Florida Man mockery as it does only because of the strength of the performances. Though they're carefully-paced and smartly-plotted, and frequently build to outrageous and/or funny moments, the scripts for the first two episodes (by co-creators Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky) come perilously close to redneck caricature at times. In the wrong hands, this material could've gone very wrong, I fear. 

Fortunately, the scripts found their way to Kirsten Dunst, who almost single-handedly makes "On Becoming a God..." a worthwhile enterprise. She's Krystal Stubbs, a new mom and water park staffer with a gullible dreamer, Travis, for a husband. Travis is played by Alexander Skarsgård, and the character could not be more of a 180 from his role in "Big Little Lies." Honestly, the transformation is remarkable; I'm not sure I would have even realized it's the same guy, if I didn't already know going in, and they really didn't even do much to disguise him. Anyway, Travis has gotten himself hooked up with a cult-like pyramid scheme, and after his questionable deals have bankrupted the family, it's up to Krystal to work the system in their favor.

Occasionally hacky "flyover country" jokes aside, Dunst invests Krystal with real urgency and humanity. Her performance never descends into caricature or sketch comedy; it feels real and essential. At one point during the pilot, she tells Travis "I'm not going to be poor again, ever," and in that moment, the whole show just clicks. We understand who Krystal is, and what's driving her, and we're along with her for the ride. 

There are a few other notable turns here as well. Newcomer Théodore Pellerin is exceptional as Travis' "upline," Cody, a true believer who has based his entire life and personality around Founders American Merchandise (FAM). "Last Man on Earth" vet Mel Rodriguez is quietly heartbreaking as Ernie, Krystal's sweet but desperately sad manager at the water park. And I wasn't immediately sold on the idea of Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill from "Silence of the Lambs") as Obie Garbeau II, the guru-like creator of FAM, but he nails it, particularly the narration on the motivational tapes every FAM member must buy.

"On Becoming a God in Central Florida" does have some larger points to make, about American capitalism, and the widening gap between true friendship and the often-superficial friend-like connections we share with many of our co-workers and neighbors. But it's at its best, at least in early episodes, as a character study about a desperate woman who reaches her breaking point, and starts discovering hidden strengths she never even knew she had.

[NOTE: Technically, "On Becoming a God..." debuts this weekend on Showtime TV. However, they've already put the first two episodes up on Showtime Anytime to stream. Also, the premiere is streaming for free on Showtime's YouTube channel.]

THE BASICS

Title: "On Becoming a God in Central Florida"
Where to Watch: Showtime
Episodes: 2 so far (new episodes on Saturdays)
Running time: 45-50 minutes each
Genre: Satirical dark comedy

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5. Amazon released a trailer for the third season of its legal drama series "Goliath," starring Billy Bob Thornton. Dennis Quaid and Amy Brenneman will join the cast for the new season as a billionaire rancher and his sister, with "Twin Peaks" vet Sherilyn Fenn playing an old friend of Thornton's character, attorney Billy McBride. Beau Bridges, Griffin Dunne, Julia Jones, Graham Greene and Illeana Douglas co-star in the new episodes, which hit Amazon Prime on October 3. – TVLINE

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6. With its "Dark Crystal" adaptation, Netflix is exploring new directions for its video game tie-ins. Netflix has thus far released three video games, all based around the series "Stranger Things." (A fourth "Stranger Things" game was in production until its developer, Telltale Games, shut down.) The new "Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" tie-in game, "The Dark Crystal Tactics," represents the company's first-ever turn-based role-playing title. "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" premieres on Netflix on August 30; "The Dark Crystal Tactics" will be available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Mac later this year. – ENGADGET

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7. Musician Travis Scott appeared to tease a new Netflix project during an event in his native Houston on Thursday night. Scott initially posted a photo to Instagram featuring some VHS-style boxes for what appears to be a documentary titled "Look Mom I Can Fly," captioned with the address for the pop-up event and instructions to "Netflix and Chill." At the event itself, Scott apparently handed out and signed copies of the film on VHS tapes. – PITCHFORK

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8. While speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday, ITV director of television Kevin Lygo explained that BritBox is not intended as a Netflix or Amazon rival. Lygo told attendees that the service -- which combines the extensive ITV and BBC back catalogs -- provides a helpful alternative or supplement to major US services. "Although Netflix and Amazon are wonderful things, they don’t do a lot of British programming at all," Lygo said. (Variety points out that "The Crown" stands as a major exception.) BritBox already has 500,000 subscribers in North America and will launch in the UK later this year. – VARIETY

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9. Netflix's revival of the UK Channel 4 crime drama "Top Boy" will debut on September 13.

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10. Disney and Lucasfilm released a poster for the upcoming Disney+ series "The Mandalorian." More details and potentially even some footage from the series will likely debut at this weekend's D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. 

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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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