Six-Year-Old East London Gang Drama ‘Top Boy’ Gets New Life on Netflix

Netflix April 2 announced it has greenlighted a third season of 10 new episodes for “Top Boy,” the East London gangster TV series that last aired in the United Kingdom in 2013.

Ashley Walters (“Bulletproof,” “Sugarhouse”) and Kane Robinson reprise their roles as Dushane and Sully, joined by newcomer Micheal Ward as Jamie (“The A List,” “Blue Story”).

The first two seasons (which began in 2011) are now globally available on Netflix. The third season – which is executive produced by Drake and his business partner Adel Nur – is written by series creator Ronan Bennett. Daniel West is also a writer.

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The series features musical artists Simbi Ajikawo ‘Little Simz’, David Omoregie ‘Dave’. Shone Romulus (Out) returns as ‘Dris’ and Ashley Thomas (“24: Legacy,”” The Night Of,” “Black Mirror”) returns as ‘Jermaine’.

New cast members include Lisa Dwan (Trust), Jasmine Jobson (“Lie Low,” “Obey”), Kadeem Ramsay (“Sex Education,” “Blue Story”), Saffron Hocking (“London Kills,” “White Gold”), Kola Bokinni (“Hunter,” “Killer,” “Black Mirror”) and Hope Ikpoku.

The third season picks up as Dushane returns from exile to his home in London to reclaim his throne in the highly lucrative drug market. He teams up with Sully, his spiritual brother, partner and sometime rival who is also returning to the same streets after his own form of exile – prison – comes to an end.

Awaiting them both is Jamie, the young, hungry and ruthless gang leader whose ambitions leave no place for Dushane and Sully.

“Ten years ago, I witnessed a 10 year-old boy dealing drugs outside my local supermarket,” Bennet said in a statement. “It made me question what was going on in my own community and led me to create Top Boy.’”

Walters said the series is a “a raw, real representation” of street culture in East London. He said the show explores how children and adults in the area come to make the choices they make and gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look as to what is happening “on our streets today.”

“It needs to be talked about and the show doesn’t shy away from giving us the platform to tell our story,” Walters said. “We can’t change things if we do not acknowledge it and understand it first. Netflix is the perfect platform for this show, there aren’t many networks who would be brave enough to keep it this real.”

 

 

‘Greta’ Coming to Digital May 14, Disc May 28 From Universal

The psychological thriller Greta will arrive on digital (including Movies Anywhere) May 14 and Blu-ray, DVD and on demand May 28 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film follows a caring young woman who befriends a widow with a dark secret in New York City. It stars Isabelle Huppert (Elle, La Cérémonie) and Chloë Grace Moretz (The Miseducation of Cameron PostNeighbors 2) alongside Maika Monroe (It FollowsIndependence Day: Resurgence).

Bonus features on disc and digital include deleted scenes and the featurette “Greta: Enemies and Friends,” a look at the three main characters.

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IHS: 22% of Web Users Employ Voice-Commands to Control TV and Video Devices

Voice-activated consumer electronics in the home is growing in popularity.

New data from IHS Markit found that 22% of Internet users across four markets – the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and India – use voice-command software to operate their TV and video devices, including smart TVs and set-top boxes. Another 30% are interested in doing so in the future.

Next to content recommendations, content discovery and navigation is vital for video services as 20% of video cancellations are due to a perceived lack of available content, according to IHS.

The most common reasons for cancelling video servicesfrom an online survey of 9,636 Internet users in Australia, India, the U.K. and the U.S. conducted in November 2018, included cost, lack of use and lack of available content.

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Indeed, IHS found that the burgeoning amount of content available across media devices puts the user experience at the forefront of device and platform strategies, including discovery, recommendations and navigation.

Voice command functionality represents an increasingly important element in content discovery, as it allows users to not only search for content, but also control the video interface in some instances. Consumers already using voice commands on video are more likely to own connected living room devices, which indicates they may already have access to large content libraries across various services and devices.

 

London-based IHS found respondents using voice commands to operate video devices are more likely to own, or at least have access to, connected devices that allow access to over-the-top (OTT) video. These devices include smart TVs, games consoles and media streaming sticks.

Voice-command use peaks among 25-to-34 year olds, compared to all adults aged 18 to 64. Older age groups continue to use traditional methods of content discovery, and many are not engaging with all the features and content available to them

Content catalogs are a key reason consumers subscribe and engage with video services, so ensuring the right content makes it to consumer TV screens is increasingly important,” analyst Fateha Begum wrote in her report.“Easing navigation and improving personalization are critical ways to increase value to video consumers, so large content catalogs don’t become burdensome to the user experience.”

Begum said voice functionality is a key element for device manufacturers – particularly within home entertainment. The ability for devices to communicate and control other devices has become evident, as brands are increasingly launching proprietary digital assistants, according to the report.

“For TV providers, innovating in the areas of content discovery and recommendations is a means to ensure their content is easy to find, driving greater value and  ultimately reducing customer churn,” Begum wrote. “Pay-TV operators have an advantage over most OTT streaming services, because they can manage the user experience on the set-top box and can ensure their own content is prioritized on the platform.”

 

 

Duffy Reflects on ‘Man From Atlantis’

With Aquaman recently making a splash in theaters, the Warner Archive Collection March 30 reminded attendees at WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif., about another hero who once emerged from the ocean deep.

Patrick Duffy was on hand for a panel to discuss his experiences making “Man From Atlantis,” in which he played Mark Harris, an amnesiac with the ability to breathe underwater who agrees to help a government agency that conducts research in Earth’s oceans.

Duffy played the character in four TV movies in 1977 and a subsequent 13-episode series that ran until 1978. Warner Archive recently released the first Man From Atlantis TV movie on Blu-ray. The other telefilms and the complete series were previously released on DVD by Warner Archive.

The actor recalled how the show was filmed in tanks of water with practical visual effects and makeup, not green screens and computer-generated images. The process involved uncomfortable contact lenses to makes his eyes glow underwater, webbing between his fingers, and the need to inhale water into his sinuses to prevent bubbles from appearing while filming underwater scenes.

“Jason Momoa [has] nothing on me,” Duffy said.

Duffy said some of the stunts could be quite dangerous, recounting one that involved lifting him into the air while holding onto a handle attached to a cable.

“I’m really wet. This is really slippery. And I didn’t have a safety harness on because all I had on was my little yellow swimsuit,” Duffy said. “And I thought, this could end really badly.”

Another scene called for Mark to swim through a door before it closes.

“I had to have my lenses in,” Duffy said. “They roll the cameras and I push off and start swimming toward this wall, and I can’t see anything. And my timing was off. The wall closed before I got there. And Mark swims with his hands to his side. So I’m just stroking away trying to get to this opening that isn’t there, and I swim into the wall and I knock myself out underwater. Then I realized that anything could be dangerous.”

As a result, the actor took a more active role in assuring his own safety.

“The stunt coordinator came up to me and he said, you know Patrick, every time you do one of those stunts, you take a job away from one of my boys,” Duffy said. “And I thought, you’re right. Anybody could have done that. And I didn’t need to do it and I don’t need to do the more dangerous ones when I don’t have to because you’re not seeing my face. And these people get paid, they do it better than I do, they know how to be safe for themselves, and it’s their job.”

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Duffy joked about why he kept coming back for more “Man From Atlantis” movies and the TV series, alluding to the line at the end of the first movie that his character would stay with his new human friends because “I haven’t learned enough.”

“When I come back up, there’s a blip in the audio there,” Duffy quipped. “What I actually said was ‘I haven’t earned enough.’”

Duffy went on to play Bobby Ewing on “Dallas” opposite Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing through the 1980s. In the 1990s he starred on the sitcom “Step by Step,” episodes of which are also available on DVD from Warner Archive.

“Any actor who’s working is the luckiest actor in the world,” Duffy said. “And when you have a show for a while you just think, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you. And then ‘Man From Atlantis’ was canceled and then, most actors think they’ll never work again, and a lot of it’s true sometimes, unfortunately. Literally seven days after ‘Man From Atlantis’ was canceled, I signed my ‘Dallas’ contract. And then two weeks after ‘Dallas’ was canceled, I signed my ‘Step by Step’ contract. So I’m one of those rare, very fortunate actors.”

Duffy has since branched off into directing and writing.

In 2016 Duffy wrote a book exploring the culture of Atlantis and continuing the storylines from the show.

(L-R) Warner Archive’s D.W. Ferranti shows off the ‘Man From Atlantis’ book written by Patrick Duffy.

“Any job that’s your first job that leads to the rest of your career life is a memory that you just never let go of gratitude for. That’s one reason I love that character,” Duffy said. “I had the idea for the book from the time we did the pilot. I knew where he came from in my own mind, I knew who his mother and father were. And I knew that he had a love interest. And these are all just things that as I was intending to be this fictional person, it was so intriguing to me who this strange person was. So I figured all this stuff out. And the more I figured it out, once the show was canceled, the more I couldn’t let it go. And it became a series of notes. I wrote four or five pages that took me to the present day, where he would be now, and how could he go home.”

Duffy also reminisced about some of his “Man From Atlantis” co-stars, including the late Victor Buono, the heavy-set actor best known for playing King Tut on the 1960s “Batman” series who also played a villain in the first “Man From Atlantis” movie and on the series.

“Victor was a sweetheart,” Duffy said. “He brilliant, he was wonderful. He was the most intelligent person I think I’ve ever worked with. Sorry Hagman. He was a poet, a raconteur, he was cultured, he was everything, and he was one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.”

Netflix Increases Credit Facility by $250 Million

Netflix is projecting a first-quarter (ended March 31) global subscriber tally topping 148 million with revenue of nearly $4.5 billion. But that didn’t stop the SVOD pioneer from widening its access to other people’s money.

The streaming video behemoth April 1 announced it entered into an amendment revolving credit facility agreement with Morgan Stanley, increasing the size of the lender’s commitments by $250 million to $750 million.

The maturity date of the loan extended from July 27, 2022 to March 29, 2024.

 

Discovery, BBC Studios Ink 10-Year Pact for New SVOD Service

Discovery and BBC Studios April 1 announced a series of agreements for a new 10-year distribution deal, which includes content for a pending global streaming service. The deal also involves a development pact for BBC Studios’ genres of natural history, animals, adventure, science, travel, space, history and civilization documentaries.

The new partnership, effective in all territories outside the United Kingdom, Ireland and Greater China, will make Discovery the exclusive global home of BBC natural history programs on SVOD, including the “Planet Earth,” “Blue Planet” and “Life” franchises, as well as future BBC-commissioned series from BBC Studios, following their linear TV transmission.

Discovery also acquired SVOD rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres. All of this content will form one of the pillars of a new global streaming service, which will also include some of Discovery’s programming library and original content created for the service.

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The service will launch by 2020 and will form a key part of Discovery’s growing portfolio of direct-to-consumer services that will also be made available to TV distribution partners for retail.

Separately, the two companies finalized a strategic split in the joint UKTV’s channels business in the U.K. that complements the strategic focus and commercial business of both organizations.

“As the two market leaders in natural history and factual programming, [BBC CEO Tony Hall] and I look forward to working together again – our teams represent over 100 years of combined experience,” David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, said in a statement. “From the planets to the poles, and documenting every species in between, the world has always been part of Discovery’s DNA. It is who we are.”

Report: Netflix Driving Latin America SVOD Growth

On July 11, 2011 Netflix announced plans to expand service into South America spearheaded by Brazil. The SVOD pioneer at the time had 23 million subscribers in the United States and Canada – the latter Netflix’s first foreign expansion.

Leapfrog to the present and Latin America is forecast to reach more than 51 million SVOD subs by 2024 – about double the 27.1 million recorded at the end of 2018, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

The top six regional platforms – driven by Netflix – will account for 85% of the region’s paying SVOD subscribers by end-2024.

Netflix is projected to reach 26.3 million paying subscribers in 2024 – or about 50% of the region’s total – but down from 66% market share at the end of last year.

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Simon Murray, principal Analyst at Digital TV Research, said Netflix’s declining market share in Latin America is due to the rise in ad-supported VOD and subsidized SVOD platforms in the region.

“Several mobile and pay TV operators provide free and limited SVOD platforms to their top paying subscribers. This stifles pay SVOD take-up,” Murray said in a statement.

SVOD subscription revenue will drive overall over-the-top video revenue across 19 countries with $6 billion of the projected $8.25 billion in revenue through 2024. The latter up 147% from revenue of $3.33 billion in 2018.

Brazil will remain the SVOD revenue leader by 2024 – supplying 40% of the regional total. Mexico will provide another 24%. Combined, Brazil and Mexico will account for 66% of the region’s SVOD revenue by 2024.

 

Report: Younger Demos Prefer Online TV

The rise in popularity of standalone online TV services such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now is largely due to age demographics, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group.

The firm found that found that 18-44 year-olds accounted for 71% of respondents from an online survey of 6,715 households in the U.S. that had online TV services, which included Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, Charter Spectrum Choice, Fubo TV and PlayStation Vue. Overall, 16% of adults ages 18-44 currently have online TV service – compared to 6% of adults older than 45.

Among current online TV subs, 43% transitioned from a cable, satellite or telecom pay-TV service, while 17% switched from another online TV service, and 15% were non-subscribers to any type of pay-TV service.

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The report also found that among Madison Ave.’s coveted 18-34 demo, 42% had online TV, 26% had traditional pay-TV and 33% had no pay-TV service.

Nearly 75% of online TV subs claimed to be “very satisfied” with their service, but 20% said they are “very likely” to switch to another online TV service in the next six months.

Among online TV subs, 93% also have an SVOD service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and/or Hulu, compared to 71% of traditional pay-TV subs, and 74% of non-subs.

Notably, 78% of online TV subs consume the product at home, compared to 82% of HBO Now subs and 88% of Netflix viewers.

“[Online TV] services were first introduced about four years ago, and the market for these lower-cost [monthly] services is still growing and evolving,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG, said in a statement. “Consumers continue to experiment with the various services, along with other traditional and streaming options, to find the best combinations of video content and cost.”

 

 

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Body Snatcher’ and ‘Road to Utopia’

The Body Snatcher

Shout! Factory, Horror, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Russell Wade.
1945.
The Body Snatcher finds the young Robert Wise in his career breakout (or something close), adapting a Robert Louis Stevenson story into a 77-minute fan favorite that goes against certain expectations.
Extras: Beyond 4K scanning, the Blu-ray is a nice mix between the recycled and new, starting with a shared commentary between Wise (who died in 2005) and Steve Haberman. There’s also the 2005 doc Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy, plus the new featurette You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting The Body Snatcher.
Read the Full Review 

Road to Utopia

Kino Lorber; Comedy; $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Douglass Dumbrille.
1945.
The fourth of the “Road” pictures hinges on a stolen map to an Alaskan gold mine.
Extras: In addition to recycling a long-ago featurette on the series, there’s a new joint commentary by producer/historian Greg Ford and music historian Will Friedwald. We also get the 1945 short subject Hollywood Victory Caravan.
Read the Full Review

The Body Snatcher

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Horror;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Russell Wade.

The Body Snatcher from 1945 finds the young Robert Wise in his career breakout (or something close), adapting a Robert Louis Stevenson story that does not have celestial seed pods nor Dana Wynter in a cocktail dress as standout components. The result is a 77-minute fan favorite that goes against certain expectations, though most would venture a good (and also correct) guess that Val Lewton produced it. Lewton’s onetime boss David O. Selznick may have had Dom Perignon budgets at his disposal, but Lewton had to do it the hard way. His touch remains as unmistakable here in terms of mood, atmospherics and tight storytelling — except that he had to produce quality on bankrolls, which, by comparison to the wallet marked DOS, conceivably might have floated a six-pack of Nehi’s.

The mild surprises I noted come in the casting. Here’s a Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi pairing filmed not at those horror titans’ standard homestead Universal but at RKO — though, yes, 1940’s You’ll Find Out had been at RKO as well. Of course, that one was primarily a Kay Kyser musical, which tends to take it out of this discussion — though I suppose one can make a case that Ish Kabibble (who was popular band leader Kyser’s house lunatic) was as scary as either. The other surprise here has to do with some misleading hype: against Lewton’s wishes, a second-billed Lugosi was added to the cast as an afterthought for some added box office clout — and yet it’s a surprisingly small role even if Lugosi does totally nail it in one his big scene here of note.

In truth, all three principals nail what primarily turns out to be a heavyweight acting duel between Karloff and Henry Daniell, as the former finesses a characterization fully equatable with his career meal-ticket Frankenstein — while Daniell carries a huge chunk of the story’s dramatic load playing a med-school proprietor and potentially brilliant surgeon who’s also become a borderline dissipated sot. The latter’s fall from grace is due to the Daniell character’s sanctioning of grave-robbing from a nearby cemetery in 1831 Edinburgh to make it possible for his students to have hands-on experience, which is probably not the way to get invited to all the best parties. Karloff is the actual robber who graduates to the deal-breaking practice of murder, and their unholy alliance extends way back into their younger days — leading to a kind of blackmail situation that pretty well guaranteed that Karloff would become a lifelong leech.

A master at projecting constipated villainy often accompanied by a mean streak, Daniell had been unforgettable not long before his turn as boarding school proprietor Reverend Brocklehurst in the 20th Century-Fox version of Jane Eyre — the one whose sadistic severity leads to little Elizabeth Taylor’s death from pneumonia. In Body Snatchers, his character is rigid as well, yet with a sympathetic streak that suggests a potentially good man, at least at the beginning, who never had a chance to relax. It takes nearly a movie’s length of prodding even to get him to consider operating on a little girl (RKO’s resident femme child Sharyn Moffett) whose paralysis he might cure.

As the editor of Citizen Kane, the young Wise had wanted to direct, and he got his chance for at least a shared on-screen credit when initially hired Gunther V. Fritsch fell behind schedule on Lewton’s The Curse of the Cat People and had to be replaced mid-production. Wise’s work pleased the studio, and his work was seamless with Fritsch’s — something you can easily see in People’s earlier Scream Factory Blu-ray release. That one was more visually stunning (particularly in the Simone Simon apparition scenes) than this heavily nocturnal Stevenson yarn, but this Body Snatchers Blu-ray is a big leap over the old DVD. Beyond that, it rarely lets up in the character dynamics, and even the comparably bland Russell Wade as a med school student/assistant projects the naive sincerity his role demands.

Lewton produced 11 low-budget movies at RKO from 1942 to 1946 (two of them unsuccessful non-horror entries) after his Cat People debut became one of the biggest box office sleepers of the war years. Body Snatchers came late in the horror cycle (seventh of the nine) after a multi-picture contract with Karloff pushed the series into a slightly higher production bracket. Though their choice of material couldn’t have been more different, Lewton’s success was eerily reminiscent of Preston Sturges’; both filmmakers were like comets who had an amazing but brief run of movies that are as good now as when they were made. Oddly, Lewton’s slide began when he left RKO for Paramount after a contract skirmish, while Sturges lost his touch after leaving Paramount for — talk about a fool’s errand — a typically pipe dream deal with mercurial Howard Hughes.

Beyond 4K scanning, the Blu-ray is a nice mix between the recycled and new, starting with a shared commentary between Wise (who died in 2005) and Steve Haberman, whose credits include the screenplay for Mel Brooks’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It, whose stake-through-the-heart scene got the single hardest guffaws I ever heard at a New York press screening. Both voiceovers are self-contained, with Haberman taking over after Wise’s personal reminisces (i.e. they’re not scene-specific) about what was for him a pleasant experience. There’s also the 2005 doc Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy, plus a new featurette (You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting The Body Snatcher) that in part tries making the quite defensible case that this was the best horror film of the ‘40s.

When all was said and done, Wise also rated Body Snatchers as a personal career favorite, along with The Set-Up, The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Sand Pebbles, to name three for which he had significant fondness. I’m assuming he had considerable affection for West Side Story and The Sound of Music as well, both Oscar winners that were a long way from the Lewton pictures, Wise had his share of clunkers to go along the films of his that are still beloved, but there weren’t too many directors whose careers had as many dimensions.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Body Snatcher’ and ‘Road to Utopia’