NBC Universal Expands ‘hayu’ Streaming Service in Asia

NBC Universal has expanded its subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) reality service “hayu” to the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Launched in 2016 in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, hayu features reality TV content, including “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and its spin-offs along with “The Real Housewives,” “Million Dollar Listing” and “Top Chef” franchises, “I Am Cait,” “Made in Chelsea,” “Flipping Out,” “Shahs of Sunset,” “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (UK and Ireland) and “Don’t Tell the Bride” (UK and Ireland), among others.

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The service expanded to Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark in 2017, and to Canada last year.

“Our direct-to-consumer launches in [Asia] — along with improved functionality on the platform — are two key milestones for hayu,” Hendrik McDermott, SVP, branded on-demand, NBC Universal International, said in a statement.  “Now available in 14 markets, hayu has distinguished itself as the must-have, all-reality service — built upon the foundation of NBC Universal’s expertise producing top-quality reality programming and the best third-party content.”

 

Disney Ups TV Channel Distribution With PlayStation Vue

Disney Media Distribution has upped its portfolio of TV channels offered on Sony’s online TV platform, PlayStation Vue.

The standalone TV service with more than 800,000 subscribers now has access to Disney’s recently acquired FX and National Geographic networks, in addition to ESPN’s ACC Network.

Sean Breen, SVP of Disney Media Distribution, said Vue offers subscribers personalization, which he said is “attractive” as consumers navigate video options.

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“We look forward to continue serving subscribers the full value of our content from Walt Disney Television and ESPN,” Breen said in a statement.

Existing Disney channels on Vue include ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN College Extra, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FXX, FXM, Fox Life, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, BabyTV, and ABC News Live.

The expanded carriage agreement comes after Sony raised the monthly Vue subscription fee $5, bringing the platform’s bundle options priced $50 to $85.

 

Mike’s Picks: ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Whirlpool’

Local Hero

Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Peter Reigert, Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson, Jenny Seagrove.
1983. Better than any movie of its era, Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero comes closest to pulling off full-fledged whimsy, and this deserving Criterion release now seems like feel-good perfection.
Extras: Fortsyth’s provides a commentary with film critic Mark Kermode, who asks really good questions. And cinematographer Chris Menges rates his own nearly hourlong documentary. My favorite extra, along with the Forsyth-Kermode voiceover, is a primer with how the picture came to be from inception through the ad campaign.
Read the Full Review

Whirlpool

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, Charles Bickford.
1949.
As movie-related tantalizers go, Whirlpool’s casting of a young Jose Ferrer as a sociopathic quack astrologer easily tops most.
Extras: Includes a commentary by the late Richard Schickel carried over from the long-ago DVD.
Read the Full Review

 

Local Hero

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Comedy;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Peter Reigert, Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson, Jenny Seagrove.

Better than any movie of its era, Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero comes closest to pulling off full-fledged whimsy — or at least, that’s what I thought in 1983 and up to about a week ago. But now, I can assert my huzzah without qualification because time indeed has been kind, and this deserving (but, to me, somewhat unexpected) Criterion release now seems like feel-good perfection without need of any “closest to” stuff.

Of course, as is noted in one of this release’s accompanying supplements (which are, as DVD Beaver’s Garry Tooze likes to say, “stacked”), there was some financial resistance to green-lighting this Houston-to-Scotland dose of chuckle bait at the time because everyone in it is so likable — the implication being that without anyone for audiences to hate, no one would come. Now, there’s a telling commentary for you on something, and one wonders if this would still apply to mass taste in 2019. Whatever the case, even this comedy’s potential villain — a CEO played by Burt Lancaster whose deep pockets want to turn a Scottish village into an oil refinery — is hard not to like. Part of this is due to the character’s compensating virtues and some is due to Lancaster’s trademark spectacular charisma, even in, as here, business attire.

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Still basking a little in residual ensemble glory for his role in National Lampoon’s Animal House, Peter Riegert turned out to be a felicitously droll choice to play the ambitious company exec that Lancaster picks to negotiate the deal. Riegert’s assignment is due to the fact that with “MacIntyre” as his character’s last name, Lancaster’s assumption is that this guy must be Scottish, though it turns out that this was just another case of immigrant name-mangling when the former’s Hungarian ancestors came to America. No matter: Lancaster’s “Felix Happer” — how can any audience dislike a Felix? — keeps failing to recognize his underling on subsequent meet-ups, even though the two have shared a passionate conversation (at least on the boss’s side) about this corporate giant’s overriding passion: astronomy.

The central joke here is that the Scottish locals are assumed to be financial patsies when, in fact, they can probably negotiate a deal as well as Hollywood’s old-school finest could (think Lew Wasserman or Swifty Lazar). This is less a case of villager veins getting a fresh infusion of ice cubes every morning than of this supposedly unassuming populace being set in ways that sometimes stretch back centuries if you factor in inherited land holdings. On the other hand, the populace isn’t so adverse to change that enough green might not make them reconsider. There is one key holdout: He lives in a ramshackle pile of something that doesn’t even have a front door, so to gain entrance, visitors have to climb in through a window. In other words, he’s not exactly motivated by money.

A good filmmaker might come up with one idiosyncratic writing or directing “ping” to enhance a scene, but writer-director Forsyth, who at the time was coming off the sleeper success Gregory’s Girl, floods us with as many as Robert Altman did. They can come out of anywhere: hilariously set-up gags about the degree to which the Scottish point-person played by Denis Lawson turns out to be a professional jack-of-all trades; a humble village dance (guys playing the fiddle and all that) where a punker stands out as much as Pavarotti would have; divulgence of the true biological identity of a dreamboat marine researcher played by Jenny Seagrove; Lawson’s pragmatic or lackadaisical approach (take your pick) to wedded bliss when every negotiating tool is in play; and the escalating extremes in the actions of a certifiable nut job that Lancaster has hired to insult and even humiliate him at work. The last is likely over Felix’s inadequacies over having inherited the family business, which kept from marrying and otherwise fulfilling his own potential.

Local Hero has a couple secret weapons. One is the unbeatable score by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, which captures both the comedy and the strain of melancholy that runs through the movie (Riegert’s character is lonely, too). To my surprise, because the score has a cult, it’s the one major component not really covered in the bonus section, though Fortsyth’s voiceover (with film critic Mark Kermode, who asks really good questions) does go on about Knopfler’s contribution at one point.

The other is the almost incalculable contribution of Chris Menges, who within four years of Hero’s release would win two cinematography Oscars (The Killing Field and The Mission). Usually, with whimsical screen material, one expects the premise, dialogue, comic situations and a deep bench of supporting players to carry the load. To be sure, all of that happens here, but this is also a movie laced by an underlying sadness, as well as one that deals substantially with the pull of the universe: bigger game, though it wouldn’t think of rubbing our noses in it. The imagery here is frequently thrilling and that’s not too strong a word. Menges even manages to elicit a substantial emotional kick from the manner in which he frames and lights a phone booth, which Criterion appreciated enough to make the structure the centerpiece of its cover art.

Menges rates his own nearly hourlong documentary in the bonus section, dealing with earlier works, which is instructional because they deal with films not widely known. My favorite extra, along with the Forsyth-Kermode voiceover, is a primer with how the picture came to be from inception through the ad campaign — an unusually specific fly-on-the-wall chronicle (Hero producer David Puttnam makes his one major appearance in this section) for which I can remember few screen precedents. As I keep asking with nearly every look at a Criterion release: How do the company’s sleuths keep finding the mausoleums where this stuff is buried? In this case, a lot of the material comes from the archives of Scottish TV.

One thing that wasn’t a factor in 1983 was the existence of You’ve Been Trumped, a 2001 documentary that everyone should have seen pre-election. With Forsyth’s fiction replaced by fact, though with meanness subbing for ultimate decency, it tells how Donald Trump high-pressured Scottish locals who wouldn’t sell him their land by turning the off their water as stacks of unwashed dishes piled up in their sinks. All so that he could build another of his golf courses for fat-cats and, presumably himself when he needed a spare place to shoot his standard 212 on the first nine holes before rewriting his scorecard.

Seeing Hero again made me long for the years when I programmed the AFI Theater because here was a dream double bill plunked in front of me. Just about the time I was congratulating my brainstorm after making the connection between the documentary and Forsyth’s more life-affiriming riff, my self-admiration was dashed upon hearing Forsyth and Kermode make the link themselves. The two thoroughly destroyed my thunder with a wink, the way the Scots do to do Big Oil here.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Whirlpool’

Whirlpool

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, Charles Bickford.

As movie-related tantalizers go, Whirlpool’s casting of a young Jose Ferrer as a sociopathic quack astrologer easily tops most, and it’ll continue to do so until the day when concession stands once again begin selling Jujyfruits and Dots (I’m partial to the green ones). This is especially true when we’re also talking about a straight-faced narrative with “A” production values — and also when the Ferrer character proves to be far more than a stock villain, given that he does have intellectually powerful hypnotic powers, notwithstanding his quack-dom. Given that few actors could do “smarmy” as well as Ferrer, the picture gives us a hook that challenges the rest of the package to live up to its potential.

Despite a narrative that gets loopier in increments after a terrific extended set-up, Otto Preminger’s prototypically cool cookie (script by heavyweights Ben Hecht and Andrew Solt, from an interesting sounding novel by Guy Endore) gives it a polished shot that qualifies as a clean standup double. And, actually, it’s one of the better movies the famously tyrannical one directed during his long early career tenure at 20th Century-Fox — a few years before he ultimately “went indie” with the once scandalous The Moon Is Blue, which got all Dinner Theater-ribald about Maggie McNamara’s virginity.

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But 1949’s Whirlpool is a studio product all the way, laced with in-house craft contributions that were once almost unfathomably routine: Alfred Newman conducting an instantly peggable David Raskin score; three-time Oscar-winner Arthur C. Miller as cinematographer; and, in a guest shot, Oleg Cassini as the costumer for Gene Tierney (the movie’s lead) at a time when they were married in real life. In other words, we’re not exactly talking Attack of the Crab Monsters, though there’s probably no shortage of jumbo shrimp at the fancy parties where Ferrer has recently been showing up with married Tierney at his side as his mind-reading (he does that, too) wows posh L.A. society.

This is not, though, the setting in which the two of them meet — which, in its grabber of an opening, might offer a perverse twist on the old “meeting cute” screenwriters’ concept were Ferrer only interested in her money. With a psychoanalyst husband (Richard Conte) who does fairly well on his own plus inherited family riches that can satisfy just about any whim on her frivolous wish list, Tierney suffers from kleptomania and has just been busted for snatching a $300 pin from a posh department store where she has a large charge account. Opportunist Ferrer just happens to be on the scene, and, like an ambulance-chasing lawyer who in those days might have been putting a happy face on another Tierney (Lawrence’s) real-life rap sheet, defuses the situation in a smoothly executed scene. Say what you will, the guy is competent.

So we have a kleptomaniac and an astrologer who has at least some knowledge of the human mind, which isn’t exactly your everyday 1949 screen twosome. Of course, there’s also the husband, but Conte’s role is unwritten (in contrast to his co-stars’), and a key sub-topic here is his significant ignorance of his wife’s hangups, even though he treats patients in their home all the time. In a way, Ferrer fancies himself as an under-appreciated professional rival to Conte, the way a chiropractor might when being compared to an NFL orthopedic surgeon. And yet, we also get the sense — is this Preminger’s much written-about “objectivity” in action? — that were Ferrer willing to clean up his act and use his gifts in a positive way, he might be be seen as some sort of genius practitioner, as opposed to Conte’s more common competence.

Ferrer’s act is hardly clean. He has a history of fleecing women patients in sometimes dreadful ways and now has his eyes on Tierney’s fortune. This occurs just as a previous one-sided relationship goes bust to launch the movie’s second half on a melodramatic path — one that gives audiences a lot to swallow and is perhaps less interesting than Ferrer’s initial and artful burrowing into Tierney’s mind. This said, the film’s second half has a lot of Charles Bickford, an actor who always merely had to show up to convey instant credibility. As for Tierney, she goes through much of the movie in a wide-eyed daze but effectively so: a risky performance in a difficult role that doesn’t rate that far behind her defining roles in Laura, Leave Her to Heaven and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Too be sure, it’s a bit creepy watching her with knowledge of the own real-life mental breakdowns that kept Tierney off the screen for protracted periods. If you know something of Tierney’s background or have read her excellent autobiography (Self-Portrait), you know the degree to which her emotional problems were not just honestly earned but tragically so.

Preminger, and not just at Fox, had a way of treating melodramatic material with exceptional restraint, and the combination made his best films (and this doesn’t mean Hurry Sundown or Skidoo, whose rewards are more perversely twisted) come off as exceptionally grown-up for their day while perhaps not delivering the catharsis melodrama fanciers demand. Twilight Time’s release, which adds a commentary by the late Richard Schickel carried over from the long-ago DVD, delivers another keen rendering of that Fox black-and-white “look” that has given me so much pleasure over so many decades.

I’ve said this before, but I think that from about 1945 to ’55, Darryl Zanuck was the most competent studio head ever. By no means were all the Fox films of this period masterpieces, and, in fact, few of them were — though Joseph Mankiewicz and Henry King were fashioning the best work of their careers around this time. But nearly every example of the studio’s output gave you something, and here it’s a pro job with one performance that’s so inarguably great that I can’t believe that it has fallen into obscurity. I first saw Whirlpool for the only previous time in 1961 almost immediately after it was sold to TV, and Ferrer’s oiliness has stayed with me for almost 60 years.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Whirlpool’

HBO Max Inks Ellen DeGeneres

WarnerMedia continues to spend big securing talent for its pending HBO Max subscription streaming video platform.

The former Time Warner company has signed daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres to a four-year production deal for a variety of programming projects.

Shows include DeGeneres’ take on dating, a home design challenge competition, and herself as a seven-year-old girl, among other topics. Another series, “Finding Einstein,” is in development.

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“Ellen is a singular talent, and a powerhouse, creative triple-threat that we are lucky to have now bringing her talents to bear on behalf of HBO Max,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV, said in a statement. “Ellen’s flair for home design and matchmaking will most certainly inspire and delight – but HBO Max is full service, so as not to leave the kids out she’s bringing them back to the hilarious misadventures of her childhood in an imaginative animated series.”

Max, which launches early next year at an undisclosed price, has been on a tear recently hiring executives to further its nonfiction projects. The service also signed up exclusive streaming rights to “The Big Bang Theory”.

And earlier this month after months of entertaining bids from all the big SVOD players, including Netflix, Apple TV and Comcast, among others, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” director J.J. Abrams opted to stay with Warner Bros. in an exclusive production deal reportedly worth upwards of $500 million.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/1/19;
Sony Pictures/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $389.86 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated’PG-13’ for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Stars Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, Martin Starr, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Peter Billingsley, Marisa Tomei.

Well, that could have been awkward.

Amid reports that Sony Pictures and Disney would not renew their landmark deal to share Spider-Man, the home video release of the latest film featuring the character looked to be in the unenviable position of reminding audiences just how valuable the partnership had been, both from a financial and a creative standpoint.

And since Spider-Man: Far From Home ends with a cliffhanger that recasts the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Spidey’s place within it, a fresh viewing of the film under the shadow of its sequel potentially not being connected to the MCU only puts a more glaring spotlight on the impasse, much to the disappointment of fans. The bonus materials accompanying the release don’t sidestep the issues, either, with direct discussions of Spidey’s impact on the MCU (particularly the four-minute “Stepping Up” featurette).

Fortunately, such prospects were avoided with the news of a new agreement to allow Marvel to make a proper sequel, completing a trilogy with Tom Holland as the title character at the very least, and paving the way for whatever Sony has planned for the character down the road.

And that’s very good news indeed, as Far From Home offers a spectacular adventure, from the perspective of both a Spider-Man story and the 23rd chapter of the MCU (serving as the epilogue of Phase 3).

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With the world adjusting to the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Holland) and his high school class take a summer trip to Europe, where Peter hopes to relax, take some time away from being Spider-Man, and explore a relationship with MJ (Zendaya). Unfortunately, he is recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) battle a threat from another dimension. As Peter struggles to balance his personal and superhero lives, he is confronted by the legacy of Tony Stark.

But as Peter questions what his place within that legacy is, he learns that things are not what they seem, forcing him to step up to become the hero he was destined to be.

The film looks great, blending scenic European locales with dazzling visual effects to create an eye-popping piece of entertainment.

Holland remains one of the most likeable stars of the MCU, handling with ease whatever challenges the movie throws at him. Gyllenhaal makes for an engaging Mysterio, an effective counterbalance to Peter’s crisis of confidence. Far From Home features a lot of surprises, both in terms of how the story unfolds and in references to earlier Marvel movies.

As with the previous film in this particular franchise, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villains are remnants of Stark’s actions in prior films, which has left some fans a bit miffed that the MCU Spider-Man seems more like an Iron Man Jr. cleaning up Stark’s messes. There is some truth to that, but within the context of the story of the films, it works really well.

The Blu-ray also includes what is billed as a new original short, but it’s essentially a three-and-a-half minute deleted scene of Peter preparing for his vacation, clips of which were used in some of the earliest Far From Home trailers.

Separately, the disc includes another six minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, plus a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

The four-and-a-half-minute “Stealthy Easter Eggs” featurette shows off some of the film’s hidden references, while the five-minute “Teachers’ Travel Tips” offers a comedic look at the chaperones played by Martin Starr and JB Smoove trying to ensure a smooth trip.

For behind-the-scenes footage, the disc offers nine featurettes that run about 40 minutes in total. These cover everything from the new suits, new locations and new cast members seen in the film, to the extensive stunts, a look at MCU guest stars, and how director Jon Watts put his spin on the material.

Another section of the extras offers eight minutes of comparisons between pre-vis storyboards and the final version of select scenes.

Finally, there’s a 12-minute video called “The Brother’s Trust,” an inspiring look at the charity work of Holland and his brothers.

 

Mill Creek’s movieSpree TVOD Service Launching ’31 Nights of Fright’ Promotion

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently launched transactional VOD service movieSpree has launched the 31 Nights of Fright promotion in October, offering a free horror movie a day to stream without any interruptions, commitments or ads.

Also, the entire bundle of 31 movies can be added to a consumer’s movieSpree library for a discounted price of $10.31.

The horror lineup includes:

Oct. 1  Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Oct. 2  Attack of the Monsters

Oct. 3  House on Haunted Hill

Oct. 4  Zombie Shark

Oct. 5  Ghostquake

Oct. 6  Did I Kill My Mother?

Oct. 7  Status: Unknown

Oct. 8  The Atomic Brain

Oct. 9  Monsters from a Prehistoric Planet

Oct. 10 Vipers

Oct. 11 The Stranger Beside Me: The Ted Bundy Story

Oct. 12 Sisterhood of Murder

Oct. 13 The Clown at Midnight

Oct. 14 The Manster

Oct. 15 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2007)

Oct. 16 Sudden Fury: A Family Torn Apart

Oct. 17 Attack of the Giant Leeches

Oct. 18 Ghost Shark

Oct. 19 Ghouls

Oct. 20 Eye of the Beast

Oct. 21 House of Bones

Oct. 22 House of the Living Dead

Oct. 23 Chrome Angels

Oct. 24 Silent Night, Bloody Night

Oct. 25 Santa Jaws

Oct. 26 Flora

Oct. 27 Gamera the Invincible

Oct. 28 Monsterwolf

Oct. 29 Arachnoquake

Oct. 30 Headless Horseman

Oct. 31 American Horror House

The movieSpree app is available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android devices or on the website.

Consumers also can buy the entire collection of horror flicks now at https://www.moviespree.com/series/31-nights-of-fright.

‘Ringu’ Collection, ‘The Prey,’ ‘Killer Nun’ Among Titles Due on Disc from Arrow and MVD in October

The “Ringu” collection, The Prey and Killer Nun are among nine releases coming to disc from Arrow and MVD in October.

Oct. 1 on Blu-ray comes The Prey, an early 1980s film about a group of teens attacked by a disfigured killer while camping in the Rocky Mountains. The cult classic is presented with a new 2K restoration and three different cuts.

Toys Are Not for Children, due Oct. 8 on Blu-ray, is a psychological drama about a woman with daddy issues suffering through a devastating downward spiral. It also features a new 2K restoration and a host of bonus content.

Next up Oct. 15 on Blu-ray is director Giulio Berruti’s Killer Nun. Anita Ekberg stars as Sister Gertrude, a nun lured into the world of drugs and perversion. The cult classic comes to Blu-ray with a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative.

Two releases head home on Oct. 22. First is Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance Crimson Peak on Blu-ray. The story follows an aspiring author that travels to a remote English mansion, where she is haunted by ghostly visions. The second release, on Blu-ray and DVD, is Billy Senese’s The Dead Center, in which Shane Carruth stars as a hospital psychiatrist that is pushed to the edge of insanity when a deranged patient claims to have died and brought something awful back from the other side.

Four releases are due Oct. 29. The John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London stars David Naughton stars as an American tourist attacked by a vicious creature while hiking in the Yorkshire Moors. The Oscar-winning special effects from the legendary Rick Baker are restored in 4K using the original camera negative and approved by Landis.

Hideo Nakata’s 1990s Japanese horror hit Ringu is slinking to Blu-ray, also on Oct. 29. The story about a cursed VHS tape features a new 4K restoration approved by DP Junichiro Hayashi. Also due that date on Blu-ray is the “Ringu Collection,” a boxed set with the original film, the sequel Ringu 2, the origin story Ringu 0, and the “lost sequel” The Spiral.

Finally Oct. 29 on Blu-ray comes Man of a Thousand Faces, a biopic about one of horror’s first icons, Lon Chaney. It stars James Cagney as the multifaceted silent screen legend. Director Joseph Pevney not only chronicles Chaney’s rise to stardom but captures the drama is his day-to-day personal life. The screenplay, written by R. Wright Campbell, Ivan Goff, and Ben Roberts, was nominated for an Oscar. This release comes with a number of special features including a new audio commentary from film scholar Tim Lucas.

Free TV Streaming Service ‘Locast’ Fights Back Against Major Broadcasters With Countersuit

Locast, the free New York-based service that streams broadcast television feeds online, on Sept. 27 filed a lawsuit against NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC, alleging the major broadcasts colluded to undermine its business, among other claims.

The service claims to have about 700,000 registered users/donors across 13 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, N.Y., is counter litigation against against a civil complaint filed by broadcasters in July against Locast and its non-profit advocacy group Sports Fans Coalition NY parent, alleging the platform violated the content copyrights and revenue streams from pay-TV distributors.

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Locast founder David Goodfriend, in his countersuit, claims the networks colluded to put pressure on pay-TV operators in an effort to undermine his business model.

Under federal law, broadcasters must make their signals available to the public through a digital antennae. But pay-TV operators pay networks retransmission fees to distribute their signals.

Locast, as a non-profit, argues it merely acts as a “signal booster.”

“This is classic copyright abuse,” read the complaint. “[Networks] have misused copyrights to expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect.”

Unique to the case is the fact Locast has received funding from major media companies such as AT&T ($500,000), which owns WarnerMedia, and Google’s YouTube.

The suit alleges the networks threatened YouTube with litigation if it enabled Locast to operate on its servers.

Yet, when AT&T’s DirecTV satellite distributor and U-verse pay-TV channel had a retransmissions fee dispute with CBS this summer, it directed its 6.5 million subs blacked out from CBS content to use Locast.

Indeed, Dish Network offers the Locast app to its satellite and Sling TV subs as alternative on its AirTV devices.