Cobra Kai: Season 4

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Drama;
Not rated.
Stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, Martin Kove, Vanessa Rubio, Thomas Ian Griffith.

The creators of “Cobra Kai” have the show firing on all cylinders in its fourth season, bringing to a head storylines dating back to the original “Karate Kid” trilogy from the 1980s.

In fact, season four of “Cobra Kai” is so good it retroactively makes The Karate Kid Part III almost watchable.

The third season ended with the stakes set for an epic showdown, as the rival dojos agreed to let the next All-Valley Tournament decide their fates, with the losing factions shutting down. Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) broke free from Cobra Kai and his former sensei, Kreese (Martin Kove), to form his own dogo, Eagle Fang. He reluctantly forms an alliance with his old rival, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) to take down Kreese, who turns to help from his old pal Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), the main villain from The Karate Kid Part III.

Silver, a wealthy industrialist who has mellowed out with age, needs some convincing to return to the fold, in one of many scenes in which the show knowingly, necessarily and hilariously picks apart the absurdity and stupidity of the awful Part III.

Meanwhile, Johnny and Daniel’s clashing styles threaten to upend their partnership as the rivalries between their students and those of Cobra Kai only grow more intense, particularly the feuds between Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and “Queen Cobra” Tory (Peyton List), and Johnny’s own son (Tanner Buchanan), who joined Cobra Kai to take on Johnny’s prized student, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña).

However, the show doesn’t paint the characters as simple heroes and villains, but offers shading to their personalities to make them sympathetic regardless of which factions to which they belong. When the tournament finally plays out over the season’s epic finale, there are so many angles culminating that it’s nearly impossible to figure out how they are going to play out, which only adds to the palpable excitement of the episodes.

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As with the previous seasons of the series, the abundant references to “Karate Kid” lore and its tangents, and 1980s culture in general, make this an easy sell to franchise fans, but the show is also developing into a decent character piece with a lot to say about bullying, parenting and the power of self-reflection.

While the season provides some satisfying payoffs to story arcs and conflicts that have been years in the making, it also sets the stage for some intriguing new directions, steering the story in a way that’s just begging for a certain Oscar winner who starred in The Next Karate Kid to show up in season five.

The French Dispatch

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Disney/Searchlight;
Comedy;
Box Office $16.05 million;
$19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for graphic nudity, some sexual references and language.
Stars Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Christoph Waltz, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston.

Writer-director Wes Anderson’s penchant for quirky storytelling is on full display in The French Dispatch, an ode to journalism and the eclectic practitioners of the profession.

The film is an anthology structured like the format of a magazine, in this case a journal for the fictional French town of Ennui. The magazine, called The French Dispatch, is the local arm of a newspaper in Kansas. The vignettes shown in the film represent the final issue of the magazine, which is shut down upon the sudden death of its editor (Bill Murray), whose life story is presented through his obituary.

The tribute issue begins with a roving reporter (Owen Wilson) giving a brief recap of the history of Ennui, where little has changed culturally in 200 years.

The main story concerns an artist (Benicio del Toro) sentenced to prison for murder, whose paintings are inspired by a guard (Léa Seydoux) with whom he has fallen in love. His work catches the eye of a corrupt art dealer (Adrien Brody), while the tale is recounted by an indulgent lecturer for the gallery that ended up with the prisoner’s work.

Next up is the story of a student protest whose leader (Timothée Chalamet) inspires the writer of the piece (Frances McDormand) to break her objective coverage of the situation and help him write his manifesto while they enjoy a love affair.

The final segment involves a food journalist (Jeffrey Wright) whose examination of a new type of cuisine specially designed for police officers is interrupted when the town’s criminal syndicates kidnap the son of the police commissioner.

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The sketches are infused with Anderson’s usual eccentricities, such as varying aspect ratios, an intermixing of color and black-and-white, charming personalities, sharp wit, spitfire dialogue, rapid editing, and the precise framing of each scene with imagery evocative of a snapshot.

The set designs and visual style make the film seem like somewhat of a spiritual cousin to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Blu-ray doesn’t include any bonus materials, but since it’s a Wes Anderson movie there’ll probably be a Criterion Collection release in a few years offering a smattering of supplements.

Netflix, HBO Dominate Event-Less 79th Golden Globe Awards

The Netflix original movie The Power of the Dog Jan. 9 won three awards at the 79th Golden Globe Awards, including the streamer’s first-ever best motion picture (drama) win. The movie also landed Netflix best director (Jane Campion) and best supporting actor (Kodi Smit-McPhee) wins.

The subscription VOD pioneer ended the evening with five Golden Globes, including Korea’s O Yeong-su winning best supporting actor for the streamer’s wildly popular “Squid Game” TV series.

The other big winner, HBO/HBO Max, won six awards, including best TV drama series (“Succession”); best comedy/musical series (“Hacks”); Jeremy Strong for best TV drama actor (“Succession”); Jean Smart for best TV actress comedy/musical (“Hacks”); Kate Winslet for best TV actress for limited series (“Mare of Easttown”); and Sarah Snook for best TV supporting actress (“Succession”).

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The evening’s winners were announced via social media posts after NBC canceled televising the 2022 event —which typically launches the annual industry awards season — due to revelations that Globes organizer, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, had no blacks among its 103 official members. Additional allegations of unethical behavior within the organization resulted in numerous actors, celebrities and industry companies boycotting the event.

Last year, actor Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globe statues in a move largely seen as a protest against HFPA’s lack of diversity.

In a statement, HFPA said it now has a chief diversity office, and 21 new members, including six blacks. The association also says it has revamped its code of ethics and entered into a five-year partnership with the NAACP.

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ multicultural musical West Side Story won three awards, including Rachel Zegler for best actress in a comedy/musical, while Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress. The Steven Spielberg-directed film won best motion picture (musical or comedy).

Best lead actor (drama) went to Will Smith in Warner Bros. Pictures’ King Richard, Andrew Garfield won in the musical/comedy category for Netflix’s Tick, Tick … Boom!, and Nicole Kidman won best lead actress in Amazon Studios’ Being the Ricardos.

Other movie awards included Kenneth Branagh for best screenplay for Focus Features’ Belfast; Hans Zimmer for best original score for Warner’s Dune; Billie Eilish and Finneas for best original song for MGM/United Releasing’s No Time to Die title tune; Walt Disney’s Encanto for best motion picture (animated); and Japan’s Drive My Car for best foreign-language motion picture.

TV show winners included Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” for best alternate; Amazon Prime Video’s “The Underground Railroad” for best limited TV series; Jason Sudeikis for best TV actor in a comedy or musical for “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+; Michael Keaton for best actor in a limited series  for Hulu’s “Dopesick”; and MJ Rodriguez was named best TV drama actress for FX’s “Pose.”

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Continues Weekend Box Office Dominance With $33 Million Haul

Sony Pictures’ lucrative webslinger franchise continues to fire on all cylinders. The latest release, Spider-Man: No Way Home, again dominated the weekend box office (through Jan. 9), generating an estimated $33 million in ticket sales across 4,100 North American screens. The tally upped the Tom Holland-starring superhero actioner’s domestic haul to $668 million to make it the sixth-highest grossing North American release in history.

Through the weekend, No Way Home passed Paramount Pictures’ Titanic at $659 million, and Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World with $652 million. The movie is just $10 million behind No. 5 Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War at $678 million. No Way Home has generated more than $1.5 billion in global ticket sales.

Meanwhile, Universal’s animated musical Sing 2 generated around $12 million across more than 3,700 screens to push its North American tally to $100 million — equaling Disney’s Frozen 2 in 2019.

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Finally, Universal’s new female-driven actioner, The 355, met its modest predictions, generating about $5 million across more than 3,000 screens. Co-starring Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, and Luptia Nyong’o, the movie is set to hit retail channels, including premium VOD, on Jan. 23, and on Peacock Feb. 20, as part of Universal’s shortened box office strategy.

Discovery Rebrands DIY Network to Magnolia Network — Headlined by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Chip and Joanna Gaines’ media empire has officially taken off. The home improvement superstars from Waco, Texas, has officially launched the Magnolia Network, which involved corporate parent Discovery rebranding the longstanding DIY (Do It Yourself) Network with the “Magnolia moniker” — a move that includes transferring more than 50 million paid pay-TV subscribers.

The Gaines are media darlings, whose empire includes a restaurant, bakery, home furnishings, cookbooks and real estate, among other interests. They, along with the Property Brothers, are mainstays to the Discovery+ subscription streaming VOD platform that launched on Jan. 4, 2021.

After taking a TV break from their popular “Fixer Upper” home improvement program, there was much scuttlebutt where the Gaines would end up. After speculation the program might move to Netflix, HBO Max or Amazon Prime Video, Discovery CEO David Zaslav ended the speculation early, announcing the Gaines would feature prominently on Discovery and the Discovery+ streaming service.

The Magnolia Network features initial seasons of “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home” and “Magnolia Table With Joanna Gaines,” in addition to new shows “Growing Floret,” “The Lost Kitchen,” “Homegrown,” “Family Dinner” and “Restoration Road with Clint Harp” — Joanna’s longtime go-to carpenter.

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In a media statement, the Gaines said the Magnolia Network’s goal is to keep families informed, inspired and entertained.

“That’s what we’ve set out to build … and we’ve been amazed by the stories and storytellers we’ve found, people whose lives are living proof that our world is full of beauty, hope, courage, and curiosity,” Chip and Joanna said.

‘No Time to Die’ Tops Disc Sales Charts for Second Week

MGM’s No Time to Die spent a second-consecutive week at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Jan. 1.

Distributed on Blu-ray Disc and DVD by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, No Time to Die is the 25th James Bond film from EON Productions and the fifth to star Daniel Craig as Agent 007, his final turn in the role. The film earned $160.8 million at the domestic box office.

Sony Pictures’ Marvel Comics-inspired Venom: Let There Be Carnage stayed at No. 2 on both charts for a second week in its in its third week on shelves, while Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was No. 3 on both charts.

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The No. 4 overall disc seller (No. 9 on the Blu-ray chart) was Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga, while the No. 4 Blu-ray (No. 9 on the overall disc chart) was Funimation’s Demon Slayer: Mugen Train.

The week’s top newcomer was Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures’ The French Dispatch, the latest quirky comedy from director Wes Anderson. No. 5 on both charts, the film is an anthology built around a fictional American magazine in a small town in France printing its final issue following the death of its editor (Bill Murray). It earned $16 million at the domestic box office. Blu-ray Disc accounted for 72% of its total unit sales.

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The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Jan. 2 also had No Time to Die at No. 1 for a second week, with Venom: Let There Be Carnage again at No. 2.

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ The Last Duel remained the No. 3 rental, while Warner’s Cry Macho remained No. 4, and Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy climbed three spots to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 1-1-22
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 1-2-22
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 1-1-22
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 1-1-22
Sales Report for Week Ended 1-1-22
Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 1-3-22

CES Closes With 40,000 In-Person Attendees; 2,300 Exhibitors

The Consumer Technology Association announced that CES 2022 in Las Vegas, which concluded Jan. 7, tallied 40,000 in-person attendees.

The show also registered more than 2,300 exhibiting companies from around the world, including more than 800 startups, according to the CTA.

In January 2020, just before COVID-19 hit, the show drew more than 170,000 attendees and 4,400 exhibitors. The show went virtual in January 2021.

The 2022 show opened Jan. 5 with a smaller footprint and a shorter run, three days instead of the usual four, due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, which the week before Christmas saw 42 exhibitors opt for a virtual rather than a physical presence, including such heavyweights as Amazon, AT&T, Google, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Meta (Facebook) and T-Mobile. 

Attendees included 1,800 global media, across 11 indoor and outdoor venues, with 30% of attendees traveling from outside the United States, representing 119 countries, according to the CTA.

“We hope to see you at CES 2023, Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas,” read an email from organizers.

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Through Jan. 31, registered CES 2022 attendees can replay events from the show, access keynotes, select session recordings, exhibitor showcases and show floor content with Brian Tong through the digital venue. Starting Jan. 10, look out for newly added session recordings that were not previously available in the venue.

Disney+ to Exclusively Premiere Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ March 11

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution has announced that Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red will premiere exclusively in homes worldwide on Disney+ March 11.

In international markets where Disney+ is not yet available, the film will be released theatrically, with premiere dates to be announced.

“Disney+ subscribers around the world enthusiastically embraced Pixar’s Academy Award-winning Soul and the critically-acclaimed Luca when they premiered exclusively on the service, and we look forward to bringing them Pixar’s next incredible feature film, Turning Red,” said Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. “Given the delayed box office recovery, particularly for family films, flexibility remains at the core of our distribution decisions as we prioritize delivering the unparalleled content of The Walt Disney Co. to audiences around the world.”

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Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red introduces Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter — an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited, she “poofs” into a giant red panda. The film is directed by Academy Award winner Domee Shi (Pixar short “Bao”).

Amazon and Sony Mount Bus Tour for ‘Hotel Transylvania: Transformania’

In celebration of Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, which starts streaming on Prime Video Jan. 14, Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Animation are sponsoring a cross-country bus tour.

The Johnny Monster Bus and Character Tour will be making its way to the cites below, with giveaways, character meet and greets, and oversized inflatable characters for photo-ops:

Jan. 8 — Woodland Hills, Calif. — Amazon Fresh
Jan. 8 — Marina Del Rey, Calif. — Amazon Books
Jan. 8 — Minneapolis — Mall of America 
Jan. 8-9 — New York, Manhattan/SoHo — Amazon 4-Star 
Jan. 9 — Long Beach, Calif. — Amazon Fresh
Jan. 11-16 — Philadelphia — Philadelphia Art Museum “Rocky Steps”
Jan. 13 — Austin, Texas — The Hive 
Jan. 12-16 — Chicago — Millennium Park Promenade 
Jan. 13-16 — Los Angeles — The Original Farmers Market
Jan. 14-15 — Austin, Texas — The Domain
Jan. 14-16 — Phoenix — Arizona Coyotes Game/Zoolights 
Jan. 14-18 — Houston — Discover Green
Jan. 15-16 — Miami — Brickell City Centre
Jan. 15-16 — Lynnfield, Mass. — Amazon Books
Jan. 17 — Miami — MLK Day Parade
Jan. 17 — Boston — Boston Common Frog Pond 
Jan. 17-18 — Houston — Discovery Green
Jan. 21 — Atlanta — Atlanta Hawkes Game 
Jan. 22 — Cleveland — Cleveland Monsters Family Day

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Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is the latest and final chapter of the “Hotel Transylvania” film series. The film features the voices of Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Brian Hull, Fran Drescher, Brad Abrell and Asher Blinkoff. In the film, when Van Helsing’s (Gaffigan) mysterious invention, the ‘Monsterification Ray,’ goes haywire, Drac (Hull) and his monster pals are all transformed into humans, and Johnny (Samberg) becomes a monster. In their new mismatched bodies, Drac, stripped of his powers, and an exuberant Johnny, loving life as a monster, must team up and race across the globe to find a cure before it’s too late — with help from Mavis (Gomez).

CES 2022 Diary, Day 4: Closing Thoughts and Parting Shots

I arrived home from CES 2022 last night and for my fourth and final CES Diary entry thought I would share some general thoughts and observations:

For starters, I believe Gary Shapiro and his team at the Consumer Technology Association made the right decision when they decided to proceed with an in-person show, despite the sudden and unexpected COVID-19 surge triggered by the emergence of the Omicron variant.

As Bill Maher said in a tweet back in the spring of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, “I worry that the past two months of quarantine have given people the idea that the way for humans to win our million-year war with microbes is to avoid them completely, and I’m here to tell you: you can’t.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID and its various permutations are here to stay, and we need to learn to live with it, to deal with it. We have vaccines that are at least as effective as our annual flu shots on the preventive front and certainly work as therapeutics, minimizing the risk of serious illness in most people. If we can have indoor arena sports games and concerts we should be able to have big trade shows. Everything in life is a tradeoff. If you are at risk, don’t go out. If you feel sick, stay home. But no more shutdowns, lockdowns or other Draconian measures to combat something that will likely be with us forever, like the flu.

Secondly, the show’s rapid shift over the last decade toward technology and away from its legacy consumer electronics makes perfect sense. On the entertainment front, we’ve come about as far as we can go. We have evolved from three networks to hundreds of cable channels, from our first taste of on-demand viewing with VHS to DVD, Blu-ray Disc and streaming — all of which fit the definition of home entertainment as any filmed content available for viewing at the consumer’s discretion.

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Content is no longer just king — it’s everywhere, with an overwhelming choice of great movies, series and miniseries across a multitude of platforms. Our choices have never been greater — or better.

All these new areas that CES has been moving into recently — smart homes, smart cars, food tech, space tech, digital health, even virtual worlds — are designed to make life easier and better and more efficient.

And as life gets easier, doesn’t that leave more time for entertainment?