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Inside Streaming (Sep 4th, 2019)

1. On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced $170 million in new fines against YouTube for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This marks the largest COPPA fine in history (music-themed mobile video app TikTok was fined for similar violations in February, but only had to pay $5.7 million). The settlement alleges that Google, YouTube's parent company, knowingly promoted the service's popularity among young viewers to advertisers, and tracked the viewing histories of minors in order to better serve them ads. YouTube will have to adjust some of its policies as a result of the settlement to more accurately and clearly identify videos intended for younger viewers, and remove ad tracking from these titles. The FTC agreed to the settlement in a 3-2 party-line vote; Republicans on the committee supported the action, whereas Democrats argued it did not go far enough. – VERGE

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2. Hulu will develop a series based on "The Testaments," author Margaret Atwood's new follow-up to her original 1985 novel "The Handmaid's Tale." Atwood's "The Testaments" lands in stores on September 10, and picks up 15 years after the events of the original book. Hulu's series adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale" recently wrapped up its third season, and has been renewed for a fourth; the show has already extended the storyline well beyond Atwood's first book. Nonetheless, creator/producer Bruce Miller is already in discussions with Hulu about how to adapt "The Testaments" as a companion series. – THR

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WHAT'S NEW ON STREAMING TODAY?

WU-TANG: AN AMERICAN SAGA: The second high-profile 2019 streaming series looking back at the formation of the Wu-Tang Clan (after Showtime's terrific "Of Mics and Men" doc), "An American Saga" takes the scripted docudrama route. As with "Mics and Men," Wu-Tang founder Robert "RZA" Diggs serves as creator/producer. [Hulu]

THE PURGE: USA Network's series is based on the horror movie franchise of the same name, about an alternate totalitarian US where all crimes -- including murder -- are permitted during a single 12-hour period. Season 1 of the series -- which follows a number of seemingly unconnected characters over the course of a single Purge Night -- arrives today on Hulu. [Hulu]

TRUTH OR DARE: 2018 horror film from Blumhouse (the same studio that makes "The Purge" films!) about a seemingly harmless game of truth or dare that turns deadly for a group of friends. Lucy Hale (soon to be TV's "Katy Keene"!) and Tyler Posey ("Teen Wolf") co-star. [HBO]

THE WORLD WE MAKE: 2019 romantic drama about an interracial teen couple (Caleb Castille and Rose Reid) who face prejudice and intolerance in their otherwise progressive small town. [Netflix]

A STUDENT'S GUIDE TO YOUR FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE: This 10-episode tutorial series with a self-explanatory title is a collaboration between NowThis and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Topics include applying for financial aid, seeking out mentors and the basics of living on your own. It will stream on the NowThis News channel. [YouTube]

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3. Comedy series "Grace and Frankie" was renewed by Netflix for a seventh and final season. Including the final season's 16 planned episodes, "Grace and Frankie" will close out as the longest-running Netflix original to date, with 94 total episodes. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star as the titular duo, who became friends after discovering that their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) were having an affair together. The sixth season of "Grace and Frankie" will debut in January of 2020. The show was created by Marta Kauffman of "Friends" and "Home Improvement" producer Howard Morris. – VARIETY

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WORLDLY WEDNESDAY: "CLIMAX" ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

As with any new feature from Argentinian/French filmmaker Gaspar Noé, "Climax" comes with a stern content warning. This film is NOT appropriate for children, obviously. But it's also not designed for people looking for a conventional narrative film experience. If you want a coherent storyline populated by relatable characters in straight-forward situations who are having worthwhile experiences from which they learn and grow as people, you are going to need to look elsewhere this week. "Climax" is an experimental dance film combined with an arthouse horror descent into drug-fueled madness. Noé, whose past films include the brutal backward revenge thriller "Irreversible" and the psychedelic post-death mindf*ck "Enter the Void," concocts here the most vivid, squirm-inducing nightmare vision of his career. It's full to overflowing with nudity, sex, violence, disturbing situations, and mayhem of all kinds. You've been warned.

OK. Glad we got that out of the way. All of Noé's films, in some fashion or another, play around with the extreme limits of human experience. His characters dance -- quite literally here -- atop the thin line between life and death, madness and sanity, modern and primal. "Climax" is set in 1996 within a single large, cavernous building -- perhaps some kind of empty dance school -- which at the start is filled with a dance troupe in rehearsal. Well, it's sort of the start. Technically, the film opens at the end (the climax?), then skips to interviews with the cast -- recorded on VHS, because it's '96 -- and THEN the story begins with rehearsal, itself a genuinely impressive dance sequence.

Post-rehearsal, the dancers throw a little party, drinking sangria, trading secrets and casually hanging out and gossiping as coworkers sometimes will. It turns out, however, that someone has spiked the sangria with a WILDLY potent strain of LSD. The rest of the film unfolds in segments. Some are focused on dance, as the drugs coarse through everyone, making their movements more fluid and extreme. But for the most part, we watch helplessly as the dancers first recognize they're very high, start to freak out and eventually descend into what can only be described as an animalistic state. As with Noé's past projects I namechecked, the technique here is almost supernaturally stomach-turning. Everything from the twisty, gyroscopic cinematography to the droning bass-driven soundtrack to the dancing itself is designed to throw the viewer off-balance, to vaguely simulate the sensation of doing hard drugs.

Sure, Noé definitely has some real questions on his mind. How much of the dancers' drug-induced behavior was already inside of them, all along? Is the LSD merely bringing these feelings out to the surface, or are the drugs making everything more twisted and depraved? Some moments in "Climax" seem to suggest that LSD is simply bringing everyone's truth -- good or bad -- to the surface, but we're also constantly reminded that these are not normal, everyday circumstances. The drugs have fundamentally changed the space in which these dancers exist. For the film's last 45 minutes, we're in a neon hell, full of blood and screams. Maybe just being in that environment changes a person, turns compassion to cruelty and tenderness to panic.

So, yes, "Climax" is about stuff. But I'm recommending it not because it's so smart or savvy, but because it's such an immersive experience. Even though that experience you're being immersed in is a nightmare no one would actually want to be inside. That's the power of a film. You get to dip a toe into what it would be like to be a dancer, high on LSD, locked inside a school, covered in blood and screaming, without having to actually do any of those things. They should probably put that on the DVD box.

THE BASICS

Title: "Climax"
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
Running time: 96 minutes
Genre: Arthouse dance horror (a first for Inside Streaming!)
In French with English subtitles

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4. Apple scrapped plans for an eight-episode drama series, "Bastards," starring Richard Gere. The Apple TV+ series, based on an Israeli drama, was to feature Gere as one of two Vietnam veterans who, after an old flame dies in a car accident, embark on a shooting rampage. (This synopsis raised eyebrows around the web.) Showrunners and co-writers Howard Gordon and Warren Leight previously collaborated on "Law and Order: SVU," and apparently clashed with Apple executives about the show's dark, violent tone and focus on "vigilante justice." According to The Hollywood Reporter, Apple outbid a number of other potential outlets for the rights to the series and will pay a significant financial penalty for failing to move forward. – THR

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5. Netflix released a trailer for the 12-part international anthology series "Criminal." The first season of "Criminal" will be divided into four blocks of three episodes, each set in and starring a cast from a different European country: UK, Spain, France or Germany. The series has been described as a "stripped down" cat and mouse drama, focusing on the interactions between police and suspects in interrogation rooms. Hayley Atwell and David Tennant will appear in some of the UK segments. The full series "Criminal" launches globally on Netflix on September 20. – VARIETY

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6. Martha Plimpton will star in the comedy-drama pilot "Generation" for HBO Max. The half-hour series follows a group of teenage girls experimenting with their sexuality in the conservative suburban community of Orange County, California. Plimpton will play the mother of two of the teens, whose roles are still being cast. Lena Dunham is an executive producer on the series, which was written by 17-year-old Zelda Barnz and her father, "Cake" director Daniel Barnz. Plimpton won an Emmy for her role on CBS' "The Good Wife," and also appeared on the Fox sitcom "Raising Hope." – DEADLINE

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7. Despite reports to the contrary that spread online this week, Netflix has no plans to switch from a binge model to weekly episode releases for its original series. The confusion started with posts on ComicBook.com and Complex, noting that a few Netflix series would release new episodes each week. However, both shows cited by the original articles -- "The Great British Bake-Off" and the upcoming reality competition series "Rhythm + Flow" -- are special cases rather than precedent-setters. In the case of GBBO, episodes have always been released weekly as part of the show's licensing deal. "Rhythm + Flow," meanwhile, is a timed 3-week competition, and releasing all episodes at once would break the format, and risk spoiling the "winner" for fans who watched at a slower pace. Netflix responded to the Complex article, saying the company has no intention of altering its overall release strategy. – FORBES

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8. Netflix ordered a 20-episode first season for the animated kids' fantasy series "Centaurworld." The story follows a warhorse who is magically transported to, yes, a world full of singing, dancing centaurs, and then undertakes an epic journey home. First-time showrunner Megan Nicole Dong is a DreamWorks animation vet who worked on "How to Train Your Dragon 2." She's also a supervising director on Netflix's "Pinky Malinky," and one of three women who will debut as showrunners on upcoming Netflix Animation series. (Dong joins Elizabeth Ito of "City of Ghosts" and Shion Takeuchi of "Inside Job.") – THR

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9. Producer Ryan Murphy teased some additional upcoming Netflix projects, including a 10-episode adaptation of "A Chorus Line"; a series starring Ewan McGregor as the influential '70s fashion designer Halston; a documentary series about artist Andy Warhol; and a film or series featuring Jessica Lange as classic film star Marlene Dietrich. 

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10. Netflix will give audiences a first look at the long-awaited second season for the sci-fi reboot series "Lost in Space" at New York Comic Con in October.

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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

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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