CBS All Access ‘Twilight Zone’ Producers Discuss Reimagining the Series

Taking on a reboot of the iconic “Twilight Zone” series from Rod Serling was daunting, but executive producer Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) made it simple.

“Jordon said to me, ‘Dude, “Twilight Zone’s” not broken. The more that we can honor the original, the more that we can be humble about the lessons we learned from Rod Serling in the original series, the better this show will be,’” said executive producer Win Rosenfeld.

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Producers discussed the reimagining of the iconic series March 30 at WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif., and the influence of Peele. The series debuts on CBS All Access April 1.

“He’s just a deeply ethical and moral person who really cares about the world that we live in, and I think the reason he’s become, he’s gotten the accolades and the attention he’s gotten in the last few years, is he also happens to be a master of genre,” Rosenfeld said of Peele on a panel during WonderCon.

Questions from immigration to guns to violence and corruption are ripe for the genre treatment, panelists said.

“What Jordan is great at is realizing the best way to address these things is through science-fiction and fantasy,” Rosenfeld said.

Fellow producer Glen Morgan noted that Serling had always been focused on society’s ills.

“Rod serling was writing dramas on TV and the networks were telling him you can’t talk about that, and that’s why he did ‘The Twilight Zone,’ so he could talk about those things, about bigotry and greed and warnings about upcoming technology,” Morgan said.

“The advantage of genre is actually — and in a way it gets underestimated — is you can slip things under the radar,” added writer Alex Rubens.

Reimagining the score had to include the legendary “Twilight Zone” theme, co-composers noted.

“The first thing we thought was we gotta keep the theme,” said co-composer Marco Beltrami. Co-composer Brandon Roberts commented it would be “musical suicide” to redo or reject the theme music. But they added new and old (including a theremin) influences into the musical score.

But the music isn’t the only thing recalling the old series.

“We’re Easter egg junkies, and there’s certainly a lot of that in there,” said Rosenfeld.

Producers went so far as to borrow a prop from an old “Twilight Zone” episode, the dummy Willie. The nearly century-old dummy (from Vaudeville times) was owned by David Copperfield.

“This thing is worth half a million dollars,” noted Morgan. Copperfield generously lended it to the series for a mention.

“He’s sitting in the green room in an episode,” Morgan said.

Netflix ‘She-Ra’ Cast and Producer Discuss Girl Power at WonderCon

The 1980s TV cartoon character She-Ra is having a renaissance with DreamWorks Animation’s Netflix original series “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.”

The second season of the series, which debuted in November 2018 with 13 episodes, drops (all at once in seven episodes) April 26, and the show runner and voice actors from “She-Ra” converged on WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif., March 30 to discuss the reboot.

Panelists included executive producer Noelle Stevenson, Aimee Carrero (voice of Adora/She-Ra), A.J. Michalka (voice of Catra), Marcus Scribner (voice of Bow), Karen Fukuhara (voice of Glimmer), Lauren Ash (voice of Scorpia) and Merit Leighton (voice of Frosta).

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While the new series may pay homage to the original (and there are some Easter eggs about the original series in season two), it’s definitely a different take, with complex female relationships.

“I think it’s what I’ve been the hungriest for in media,” said Stevenson in an interview after the panel. “You see these male characters who get to have all of these really complex relationships to each other, like even villains and heroes and the richness of those relationships, and it just was something I was really hungry for.”

The relationship between Princess Adora (She-Ra) and Catra is at the center of the show. Leader of the Princess Alliance, Adora in season two is embarking on a quest of self-discovery as She-Ra while fighting her former friend Catra, who is rising in the ranks of the Horde.

“I think it’s been my favorite part of acting in this show because so rarely do you see complex female relationships in a show about young people, and it’s probably one of the things that young people deal with the most, having to say goodbye to a friend that no longer is going in the same direction that they are going in, but still having a lot of love for them but not being around them and making the difficult decision to separate from them,” said Carrero (voice of Adora) in an interview after the panel.

The relationship is a fan focus.

“It’s definitely been talked about between a lot of fans, and Aimee (Carrero) and I, as well, as actors,” said Michalka (voice of Catra) in an interview after the panel. “And I think there is kind of a really deep love between those two characters in the sense that I think maternally Adora has kind of taken care of Catra for years and now Catra is figuring out who she is as an adult. I think a lot of anger is coming out of this character from the fact that Adora is no longer in her life. But these are two best friends and their relationship is beautiful, and I do think there’s something deeper there, and hopefully we will be able to explore that later in the show.”

Scribner (voice of Bow) said in the after-panel interview that he appreciated the new take on the series.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of a remake that’s staying true to the source material, but at the same time is kind of flipping the script and reflecting a more accurate tone or reality and culture that we are in right now,” he said.

When asked about the LGBTQ implications of the series during the panel, Stevenson said she wanted the series to speak for itself.

“If you stick with the show, you’ll find the answers to some of your questions there, but I really want the show to stand on its own and speak for itself,” she said. “It’s always important to us. It’s at the heart of the show, and you will see it on your screen.”

Season two is just seven episodes while the first season was 13. The shorter sequence should help audiences keep engaged, showmakers said.

“All of the seasons were planned as 13-episode arcs, but now they’re being divided so it’s going to be a little bit different experience, and I’m interested to see how it goes,” said Stevenson.

“The good thing is there won’t be a ton of lag time between seasons, which I think is good just in terms of memory and intake because, we’re all used to seeing so much on all these streaming platforms so how do you stay engaged with where a season’s leaving off and when a new one starts,” added Michalka.

During WonderCon, DreamWorks introduced a trailer for the second season:

The Sights of WonderCon 2019

WonderCon 2019 took place March 29-31 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. The annual pop culture confab featured a number of projects tailored to the home entertainment market, including the premiere of Warner’s direct-to-video animated movie Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, YouTube previewing season two of “Cobra Kai,” and Paramount promoting the home video release of Bumblebee with a larger-than-life Bumblebee statue.

Nickelodeon Buys ‘Sparkler’ for Noggin SVOD Service

Nickelodeon March 29 announced the acquisition of children’s learning technology platform Sparkler for its branded Noggin subscription streaming video service.

Viacom-owned Nickelodeon named Sparkler co-founder Kristen Kane EVP for the preschool subscription service that features more than 1,500 full-length library episodes, short-form videos, Spanish-language videos and music videos.

Over the next year, Sparkler’s technology will be integrated into Noggin’s platform, enabling parents to guide and support their kids’ growth and development through playable content and experiences on and off screen, with personalized features that track progress over time.

Kane will oversee the integration of Sparkler and drive Noggin’s strategy and next phase of development as an educational digital platform. She will be based in New York and report to Brian Robbins, president of Nickelodeon.

“Pairing Sparkler’s capabilities with our curriculum-driven content will fully transform Noggin into a premier interactive learning destination for preschoolers and their families,” Robbins said in a statement. “Kristen brings extensive experience in the education and technology space, and she will help drive Noggin’s growth with an increased focus on delivering even greater value to our direct-to-consumer service.”

Subject to the terms of the transaction, Sparkler’s work with schools, healthcare providers, and social services providers will continue through a new non-profit organization called Sparkler Learning, and Viacom will support its mission of helping families give their children a strong start in life through partnerships with educators, doctors, and others serving young families.

Previously, Kane was the founding COO of Amplify, an education technology company dedicated to collaborating with educators to create learning experiences for students K-12. Prior to that, she was COO of the New York City Department of Education in the Bloomberg administration, responsible for the implementation of reforms and oversight of daily operations. Kane also served at the Federal Communications Commission, where she led the development of strategies for applying broadband technologies in the education, healthcare, and energy sectors.

Since its launch in 2015, Noggin has ranked among one of the Top 10 Kids Apps on the Free Apps chart on the App Store, in addition to the No. 1 grossing app for music and video in the family category on Google Play. Noggin was also selected by Apple as an Apple TV app of the year.

Since launching in 2015, Noggin subscriptions have grown by triple digits from 2017 to 2018, and the service is currently available for iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, Android, Fire tablet and Roku devices, as well as on Amazon’s Prime Video Channels and The Roku Channel.

 

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Tubi AVOD Service Available on Cox

Tubi March 29 announced the launch its ad-supported VOD service on Cox Contour giving the pay-TV operator’s subscribers free access to more than 12,000 movies and television series.

Cox subs are able to watch movies such as Up in the Air starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick and Rango starring Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher, as well as TV series such as “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “The A-Team,” “Major Dad,” “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Alf,” among others

In addition, starting April 1, Contour subs will be able to access first seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” “Trista and Ryan’s Wedding Special,” and the co-co nuts fifth season of “Bachelor in Paradise.”

“Our partnership with Cox expands upon our mission to make entertainment accessible to everyone,” Farhad Massoudi, CEO of Tubi, said in a statement. “With the addition of Cox Contour, Tubi will continue to have the widest distribution of any ad-supported streaming service.”

San Francisco-based Tubi claims to be one of the most-watched apps on the world’s largest platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Android, among others.

Tubi’s partnership with Cox Contour marks its second MVPD deal after Comcast Xfinity X1, and remains the only AVOD streaming service with distribution as a standalone app.

Cox Contour’s library of apps also includes Netflix, YouTube, YouTube Kids, iHeartRadio and NPR One, as well as a sports app that shows live stats and scores on the TV screen.

 

 

Starz Original Series ‘Vida’ Wins Outstanding Comedy at GLADD Media Awards

The Starz original series “Vida” received the “Outstanding Comedy Series” award March 28 at the 30th Annual GLADD Media Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton.

 The event recognizes media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ community and issues.

Actor Sean Hayes was honored with the Stephen F. Kolzak award, while Beyoncé and Jay-Z received the organization’s vanguard award for their work for the LGBTQ community.

With a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Vida” — a drama series about two Mexican-American siblings and extended family from East Los Angeles — was an audience award winner at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

“Vida” stars Melissa Barrera (“Club de Cuervos”) as Lyn, Mishel Prada (“Fear the Walking Dead: Passage”) as Emma, Ser Anzoategui (“East Los High”) as Eddy, Chelsea Rendon (Bright) as Marisol, Carlos Miranda (The Bling Ring) as Johnny and Roberta Colindrez (“I Love Dick”) as Nico. Raúl Castillo (“Looking”) and Adrian Gonzalez (“Superstore”) join as guest stars this season.

“Vida” Season Two will make its world premiere as an Official Selection of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

The 10-episode second season will be available on the Lionsgate-owned Starz app and Starz On-Demand in the U.S. and Canada and on StarzPlay in the U.K. and Germany on May 23.

“Vida” will also premiere on Starz on May 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, airing each episode week-to-week.

 

 

ITV Boss: BritBox U.K. ‘Not Too Late’ in Crowded SVOD Ecosystem

In the aftermath of Apple’s decision to launch an enhanced subscription streaming video service through more than 1 billion Apple iOS connections globally, U.K. pay-TV operator ITV contends the market for British-themed SVOD service BritBox in the region is not mute.

The SVOD, launched two years ago in the United States as a $6.99 standalone service,  is a joint venture of BBC Studios and ITV featuring current and past programming seasons from the BBC and ITV.

Speaking this week to the Broadcasting Press Guild in London, Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said BritBox would fill a niche programming need when expanded across the Atlantic.

“It’s not Starz, it’s not Showtime, it’s not HBO. It’s not all about stuff you’re going to get on Sky and on the Web,” McCall said, as reported by Advanced-Television.

ITV boss Carolyn McCall

She said the proposed U.K. service, which has more than 500,000 subs in the U.S., wasn’t “too late” in the rapidly crowding over-the-top ecosystem, which includes U.K. mainstays Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

“It’s distinctively British-originated content,” McCall said. “It’s highly differentiated and BritBox will allow viewers to come to one place both to get the past: archive content curated in an interested and creative way; the present: because the window will be catch-up and then to BritBox, and then we will originate new content and that will be distinctively British.”

Indeed, she said BritBox U.K. would offer content specific to the region.

“The British product is not intended to roll out to the U.S.,” McCall said,

Viacom International Media Networks has expressed interest in joining the venture through its Channel 5 public service broadcasting subsidiary.

“I know there are different views about the need for it, but fundamentally, in the U.K. there’s a huge appetite for British programming,” Dan Fahy, VP, commercial and content distribution, VIMN, told the Connected TV World Summit 2019.

McCall confirmed discussions with VIMN as well as other public service broadcasters’ interest in the BritBox expansion.

“We’ve been having conversations with them for some time, so more to come,” she said.

 

 

Bumblebee

 BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/2/19;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $127.2 million;
$29.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $34.99. UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action violence.
Stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Glynn Turman, Len Cariou. Voices of Dylan O’Brien, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen.

It’s hard to deny that the five live-action “Transformers” films have just about worn out their welcome even among the most avid fans of the franchise and toy line on which it’s based. With the movies for the most part having devolved into spectacles of mind-numbing action, incomprehensible plotting, unrecognizable characters and a jumble of references to the iconic “Transformers” lore established in the old cartoons and comic books, it was clear a change in direction was in order.

Bumblebee, directed by stop-motion animation veteran Travis Knight, is just the creative spark the franchise needed to re-connect with the audience, returning to the basics of the brand’s premise without over-complicating the story with an abundance of jokey characters and a fetish for the military industrial complex.

As the sixth live-action “Transformers” film, Bumblebee could be seen as either a prequel to the other five, or as a reboot, depending on what direction producers decide to take it in the future. There are obvious references to the other films embedded throughout, so if further movies didn’t materialize then it plays pretty well as a prequel, with some mental gymnastics employed to explain away moments where the story seems to completely ignore what has been established in the earlier films.

It’s somewhat evident that an earlier iteration of the movie was meant to more closely align with Bay’s world, particularly since a comic book prelude released before the film depicts Bumblebee working with the British secret service in the 1960s, playing off his involvement in World War II in the fifth film. Bumblebee, on the other hand, shows him landing on Earth in 1987, which isn’t necessarily inconsistent, but raises a few questions. An alternate opening sequence — included among the Blu-ray’s 19 minutes of deleted scenes — is a bit more vague about Bumblebee’s arrival on Earth.

So, in the same vein as X-Men: First Class, it wouldn’t be surprising if future sequels didn’t bother connecting to the existing continuity, though, recently one of the film’s producers indicated future installments would lean more toward the Bay continuity after all.

Bumblebee plays like a throwback to a 1980s Steven Spielberg movie, while the story is somewhat of a gender-swapped version of the set-up to the 2007 film, in which Shia LeBeouf came across Bumblebee in a used-car lot.

Fleeing from the Decepticon conquest of his home planet of Cybertron, Bumblebee crashes on Earth and loses his memory. Having taken on the disguise of a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle, he is discovered in a junkyard by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a mechanically inclined rebellious teenager looking for meaning in her life following the sudden death of her father. She repairs Bumblebee and learns that he’s an alien robot with the ability to transform into a car. And he’s being pursued by the U.S. military and Decepticon bounty hunters. With Charlie’s help, Bumblebee starts to regain his identity enough to remember the mission given to him by Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to protect Earth from the Decepticons so the Autobots can use it as a base to regroup.

The film comes to life with seamless visual effects that look great on Blu-ray, and a soundtrack peppered with some of the top hits of the 1980s.

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The girl and her living car angle might also bring to mind Herbie: Fully Loaded, which itself was an attempt to freshen up a shopworn franchise. For the most part, though, Bumblebee offers up a good chunk of the kind of “Transformers” fun that fans have been waiting to see since the 1980s, particularly the battles on Cybertron.

The Blu-ray also comes with a mini-comic featuring Bumblebee’s next adventure, in which he tussles with another Decepticon who has come looking for him. One of the extras on the disc is a motion comic containing this story with an extended ending that more explicitly ties Bumblebee to the events of the first Bay movie.

The disc also contains 10 minutes of outtakes, a four-minute profile of various “Transformers” characters with their “Generation One”-inspired designs, and 47 minutes of decent behind-the-scenes featurettes.

‘Spider-Verse’ Edges ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ on Disc Sales Charts

The week ended March 23 saw a pair of newcomers in a close race for No. 1 on the national home video sales charts, with Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse outpacing Walt Disney Studios’ Mary Poppins Returns.

Spider-Verse climbed to the top spot of the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart after taking in about $190 million at the domestic box office and claiming the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to the 1964 family classic Mary Poppins, sold 90% as many copies as Spider-Verse. It earned $171.9 million in U.S. theaters.

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The previous week’s top seller, Warner’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, slipped to No. 3 on both charts.

Disney’s Animated Ralph Breaks the Internet took No. 4 on both charts in its fourth week.

No. 5 on both charts went to Universal Pictures’ Mortal Engines.

Blu-ray Disc formats comprised 78% of unit sales for both Spider-Verse and Mary Poppins Returns. Of those, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc edition accounted for 16% of Spider-Verse sales, compared with 8% for Poppins.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended March 24, Spider-Verse debuted at No. 1, with Grindelwald slipping to No. 2.

Paramount’s Instant Family held onto the No. 3 spot, while Universal’s Green Book slid to No. 4. Mary Poppins Returns was the No. 5 rental.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 3-23-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 3-24-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 3-23-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 3-23-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 3-23-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 3-25-19

Documentary ‘The Uncondemned’ Coming to Digital and DVD April 9 From Virgil

The documentary The Uncondemned is coming to EST, VOD and DVD April 9 from Virgil Films.

It follows an underdog group of young lawyers and activists who defied the odds to do what had never been done: prosecute rape as an international war crime.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was understaffed, underfunded and overwhelmed as they attempted to prosecute their first case of genocide in 1997. Then, three heroic Rwandan women overcame their fears and feelings of shame to come forward and speak for all those who could not.

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The film captures the remarkable story — involving secret memos, witness assassinations and other setbacks and barriers — that changed the course of international judicial history.