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Inside Streaming (Dec 2nd, 2019)

1. CYBER MONDAY DEALS

Don't worry... This isn't paid advertorial or anything like that. I just found some stories about hot deals on streaming services and devices for Cyber Monday and gathered them here at the top for your convenience. - Lon

  • Hulu is offering its basic-tier subscription (that means WITH ads) for just $1.99 per month, provided you sign up for a full year. This is great if you just want access to Hulu content, but remember, you can also get a basic-tier subscription bundled along with ESPN+ and Disney+ for $13/month.
  • Disney+ is offering a full year subscription for $59.99, which is down $10 from the launch offering of $69.99 for the year. It's also less than you'd pay if you went with the standard $6.99/month rate.
  • Amazon has a number of deals happening throughout the day on Fire TV streaming devices, including $30 off the Fire TV Cube.
  • The Roku Ultra streaming box is on sale on Amazon today for $49, down from $99.99.
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2. During an interview on "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said she does not allow her children to use the main YouTube website. Wojcicki told reporter Lesley Stahl that she limits the amount of time her children spend watching YouTube videos, and allows them access exclusively through the YouTube Kids app. Wojcicki also discussed the central importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in governing how streaming services such as YouTube police and organize themselves, and talked about the platform's efforts to remain unbiased while hosting a diverse array of political speech. ("60 Minutes" reported that YouTube has removed over 300 ads for Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, without specifying what specific rules had been violated.) The full interview is available to stream for free (without a log-in) on CBSNews.com. – CNBC

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3. WHAT'S NEW ON STREAMING TODAY?

NIGHTFLYERS: Horror sci-fi series based on a novella and short stories by "Game of Thrones" author George R. R. Martin, this is about a team of scientists who venture into space to make first contact with aliens. The series aired on Syfy and was canceled after one season. [Netflix]

TEAM KAYLIE: In this live-action series for kids and families, a wealthy and spoiled teen influencer (Bryana Salaz) must lead an inner-city wilderness club after she has an unfortunate run-in with the law. It's back with the second half of its first season. [Netflix]

THIS ONE'S FOR THE LADIES: 2019 feature documentary about male exotic dancers The Nasty Boyz and the community that has grown around their performances in their native New Jersey. (CAUTION: Both this film AND its attached trailer are for adults-only!) [Hulu]

UMBRE: Romanian crime drama series originally produced in 2014 for HBO Europe. Șerban Pavlu stars as a mob enforcer who struggles to keep his violent work-life a secret from his family. Both seasons arrive on HBO US today. [HBO]

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4. Netflix canceled its reboot of the sci-fi comedy series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" after two seasons. Comedian Jonah Ray, who hosted Netflix's "MST3K: The Return" initially tweeted the news, but noted that "we don’t know what the future holds for the show." He further suggested that perhaps the show might get picked up for more seasons by the AMC horror-focused streaming platform Shudder. The series -- which featured a human host and two robot companions humorous riffing over bad vintage movies -- launched in the 1980s on a local Minneapolis UHF station, before moving to Comedy Central and, ultimately, the Sci-Fi (now Syfy) Channel, running for 10 total seasons. The original cast members have also spun off the franchise into numerous new projects, such as RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic. In addition to Ray, the revival also featured the voices of comedians Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn and supporting turns from Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day. – VARIETY

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MONDAY REVIEW: "THE REPORT" ON AMAZON PRIME AND "THE IRISHMAN" ON NETFLIX

Award season is upon us, and the major streaming platforms have started to release their big Oscar hopefuls. Later this week, I'll review Mati Diop's Cannes-winning "Atlantics," Amazon will drop "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" and Netflix will add Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story" to its collection. For now, here's a quick look at two festival hits that are now available to stream online:

1. THE REPORT:

Scott Z. Burns' drama relates the true story of Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones and his team, who spent years sifting through CIA files in order to compile a many-thousand-page report on the use of torture by the US intelligence community after 9/11. It's similar, both structurally and in terms of tone, to the memorable classics of the investigative genre -- stuff like "All the President's Man" and "Spotlight" -- with the addition of flashbacks showing us the actual development of the "enhanced interrogation" program. All in all, the film's very effective, if a bit dry and detail-oriented. 

Adam Driver stars as Jones, in a performance that's 90% grim determination with the occasional outburst of righteous anger. He's such a good actor, I found myself kind of wishing that Burns had a bit more interest in Jones, personally, beyond just serving as "the guy putting the report together who's always right." Here's basically there to stand up for the truth and transparency, and to serve as our guide through all the many obstacles that stood in the way of this information coming out to the public. Which is all well and good, though surprising from Burns, who's best known for writing character and personality-driven Steven Soderbergh procedurals like "Contagion" and "The Informant!"

Annette Bening is also solid in a supporting role as California Senator Dianne Feinstein, as is Jon Hamm as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Scott Shepherd as Sen. Mark Udall, and Michael C. Hall, as a scumbag CIA lawyer named Thomas Eastman, whom I think is a composite of multiple real-life scumbags. But again, the focus here is on the compilation of the report itself, what's in it, and why Jones (and Burns) feel it's so important to release publicly. There's an idealism and optimism to this film, which still fundamentally believes in American ideals like the rule of law, which can be a bit hard to access for viewers in 2019. But that's more an indictment of the country than the film.

  • Title: The Report
  • Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
  • Running time: 120 minutes
  • Genre: Political drama

2. THE IRISHMAN:

Martin Scorsese is a Catholic, so it's perhaps not entirely surprising that many of his films -- particularly his crime films and gangster movies -- pick apart and investigate different sins, and their particular consequences. "Goodfellas" is about many things, but chief among them is greed. Henry Hill grows up poor, coveting the wealth and status of the neighborhood thugs and criminals, until he becomes one himself. "Casino" revolves around lust and jealousy, and how Ace Rothstein's feelings of ownership over his casino as well as his need to possess his wife, bring about his downfall. And now we have Scorsese's latest epic masterpiece, the 3.5 hour "The Irishman," a study in the fatal flaw of pride.

"The Irishman" relates the life story of Frank Sheeran, or at least HIS version of his life story. (Many of the details remain highly contentious among mob historians and journalists.) Regardless, with Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro in his best performance in many years) as our narrator, we track his life from the 1940s through his stay at a senior care facility in the early '00s. Sheeran served in WWII, where he discovered that killing didn't bother him, and then returned home to his native Philly, to become a truck driver and mob hitman. His work for Pennsylvania boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) brings him into contact with Teamsters chief Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), and close relationships with these two powerful men will come to define his life. Far more so than, say, his love for his growing family.

Throughout his career, Scorsese has taken a lot of heat (undeservedly, in my opinion) for glamourizing organized crime and mob life. It's certainly true that "Goodfellas" is a fun and entertaining movie that's very quotable, but as with most classic crime movies, it's about a rise and fall. We don't just see the good times but watch these characters pay the price for their choices. "The Irishman" dispenses with the "good times" entirely, and plays right from the top as a cautionary tale. Instead of introducing mob figures by their quirky nicknames and personal tics, as he did so memorably in "Goodfellas," Scorsese here identifies everyone with captions noting the violent ways in which they ultimately died. We're confronted immediately, and repeatedly, with the empty, fatalistic nature of this work. No one joins the mob for a few years, makes some cash, and then retires to Tahiti. You do this crummy, thankless, soul-crushing, dangerous, degrading work until you end up in jail or dead.

I could praise "The Irishman" for several thousand more words, but I've got other streaming news to cover. It's very long, and deliberately paced, but it's full to bursting with insight and human drama and a surprising amount of humor and really brilliant performances from a vast ensemble of great actors. Obviously, seeing De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino play off of one another with such thoughtful, nuanced material is a pure delight, but I'd also single out Ray Romano as Russell's brother, and mob attorney, Bill Bufalino; Lucy Gallina and Anna Paquin, who give sensitive and nearly-silent performances as Sheeran's daughter Peggy, at different ages; Stephen Graham as Tony "Pro" Provenzano, a key rival for Hoffa; and "Boardwalk Empire" vet Louis Cancelmi as a real creep named Sally Bugs, who gets to play the film's funniest scene, concerning a wet car seat.

Even if you have to watch it broken up into chunks, you owe it to yourself to give "The Irishman" a shot. 

[I know a lot of people have been talking about the use of digital de-aging effects in some scenes to make the actors, especially Pesci and De Niro, appear younger. It was a bit distracting to me at first, mainly because we're so used to seeing what these guys actually look like, but I adjusted within a few minutes. To be honest, I found the fact that they gave De Niro blue eyes more distracting than making him look younger, but I got used to this, too.]

  • Title: The Irishman
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Running time: 209 minutes
  • Genre: Crime drama
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5. HBO Max will exclusively stream the British crime drama "White House Farm" in the US. The six-part series is based on the true story of an infamous multiple homicide, involving several members of a single family, at an Essex farmhouse in the 1980s. Stephen Graham -- who can currently be seen in Netflix's "The Irishman," and played Al Capone on "Boardwalk Empire" -- stars as the detective investigating the case, alongside Freddie Fox, Mark Addy, Gemma Whelan, Mark Stanley, and others. HBO Max will be the US home for a number of high-profile British series, also including "Doctor Who," the UK version of "The Office," "Top Gear," and "Luther." – DEADLINE

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7. Over 300 million pay-TV subscribers worldwide now have access to Netflix content, according to a survey by Ampere Analysis. Netflix reaches these households through partnerships with local pay-TV operators and cable companies, such as Sky (owned by Comcast) and France's CanalPlus. According to the report, about half of the world's pay-TV subscribers outside of China can now watch Netflix content via their set-top boxes. HBO Max hopes to build an international subscriber base around a similar strategy, utilizing HBO's existing relationships with cable companies and pay-TV operators. – THR

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8. The FBI's Portland field office issued a warning over the holiday weekend for new smart TV owners, urging them to secure their devices from hackers. According to the notice, which was posted on the field office's website: "Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home." In some cases, the FBI cautioned, hackers could actually take control of a smart TV's camera and microphone, though such instances are relatively rare. Earlier this year, a group of hackers demonstrated the ability to take control of Google’s Chromecast streaming stick device and broadcast videos to thousands of users simultaneously. In addition to keeping their smart TV software updated, the FBI encouraged owners to place black tape over unused cameras on the devices. – TECHCRUNCH

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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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