Samba TV: Content Diversity Draws Audiences

Netflix’s new LGBTQ+ comedy, “Uncoupled,” starring Neil Patrick Harris as a 40-year-old gay man who re-enters single life in New York City after his husband of 17 years divorces him, appears to be resonating among viewers looking for content featuring alternative characters.

New data from Samba TV found that 518,000 U.S. households streamed the July 29 show debut in the live, plus three-day (L+3D) window. The series was streamed by another 50,000 households in Great Britain, 18,000 homes in Germany and 4,000 homes in Australia.

Of the Top 25 largest designated market areas, San Francisco over-indexed the most (+85%), followed by Chicago (+55%) and Washington, D.C. (+34%).

Cole Strain, VP, measurement products at Samba TV, contends the data shows that programs starring LGBTQ+ characters attract a valuable, diverse audience, and streamers seem to be taking note.

“Netflix’s new [show] is the latest example of a top series starring a leading LGBTQ+ character [resonating] with significant LGBTQ+ populations more likely than the average U.S. household,” Strain said in a statement.

At the same time, “Uncoupled” found itself in the midst of controversy about ethnic stereotyping before the first episode even streamed.

Actress Ada Maris, who reportedly for the role of Carmen, an older Latina housekeeper for lead character Michael, played by Harris, was so insulted by her character’s dialog, she wrote an open letter to Harris and the show’s producer Darren Star (“Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Sex and the City,” and “Emily in Paris,”) to complain.

Netflix dropped the Carmen character from the show.

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‘Starship Troopers’ Gets 4K, Blu-ray Disc Steelbook for 25th Anniversary

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the sci-fi classic Starship Troopers with a limited-edition 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc Steelbook and all-cast reunion on Nov. 1.

Director Paul Verhoeven’s epic is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s classic sci-fi adventure. Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon and Michael Ironside star as the courageous soldiers who travel to the distant and desolate Klendathu system for the ultimate showdown between the species.

For the 4K Ultra HD release, the film is presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio + 5.1. The package includes a new 25th anniversary reunion featurette with screenwriter Ed Neumeier and actors Van Dien, Richards, Meyer, Clancy Brown, Ironside, Busey, Muldoon and Seth Gilliam.

For the Blu-ray Disc, the film is presented in HD with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio. Special features include director and cast commentaries, a FedNed Mode picture-in-picture, deleted scenes, screen tests, a making-of featurette, scene deconstructions, and several other documentaries.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/21/22;
Lionsgate;
Comedy;
Box Office $20.3 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and violence.
Stars Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Sharon Horgan, Paco León, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Sheen, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ike Barinholtz.

All hail Nicolas Cage.

Throughout a four-decade career, the iconic movie star has accumulated an enduring list of memorable roles by stamping each character with his unique blend of quirky charm and searing intensity, be it in comedy, drama or action.

In The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Cage takes on the role he was born to play — himself.

The hugely entertaining film provides a meta commentary on Cage’s career, telling the story of an aging star, haunted by his past successes, who finds himself creatively refueled by the unlikeliest of circumstances.

As Cage proclaims several times in the film, “I’m back. Not that I went anywhere.”

The premise flows primarily from Cage’s public perception the past few years, taking on countless direct-to-video projects to pay off some financial hardships, while his more-eccentric performances became the stuff of meme legend.

Cage himself was unsurprisingly wary of the project, as he notes in the film’s behind-the-scenes materials, until he realized how much fun it could be to portray the younger embodiment of his self-image.

The film finds Cage playing a fictionalized version of himself, vowing to quit Hollywood after losing out on another role he really wanted, and failing to gain the respect of his teenage daughter (one of the main deviations from reality, as real-life Cage has two sons). Cage frequently has visions of his younger self, Nicky (also played by Cage with some de-aging CGI based on his Wild at Heart days), who taunts him for his failures.

Desperate for cash, he accepts a personal appearance gig for $1 million to hang out at a villa in Majorca for a billionaire’s birthday party.

Cage discovers his new patron, Javi (Pedro Pascal) is a huge fan, and the pair grow closer through a shared love of cinema. But it turns out the CIA suspects Javi of being the mastermind of a huge international criminal enterprise, and they recruit Cage with the hopes of using the actor to learn the whereabouts of the kidnapped daughter of a Catalan presidential candidate.

To learn the details, Cage proposes working with Javi on a new screenplay, and at this point Unbearable Weight’s fourth walls all but fold in on themselves as the film channels some of Cage’s quintessential movies and morphs through a variety of genres.

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The Blu-ray includes two deleted scenes that total about five minutes. The first is a bit of fluff about Javi’s Wifi password. But the second is practically a short film of its own — a four-minute battle between Cage and Nicky through several Cage films re-created in the style of the 1920 German expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which is mentioned throughout the movie by Cage as one of his favorite films.

The deleted scenes are available with optional commentary by writer-director Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten. The pair also provides an informative commentary track for the movie as a whole, usually alternating between stories of Cage’s contributions to the story and how COVID protocols affected the production schedule.

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The Blu-ray also offers about a half-hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes. The seven-minute “The Mind” delves into the creative process behind the film; the four-and-a-half-minute “Everybody Needs a Javi” spotlights the creation of Pascal’s character; the seven-minute “Second-Act Action” looks at the film’s action sequences in its latter half; the four-and-a-half-minute “Nick, Nicky and Sergio” deals with Cage portraying three versions of himself, while the five-minute “Glimmers of a Bygone Cage” shows some of the visual effects and film techniques used to create Nicky.

On the humorous side, “Cages 5 and Up” is a two-minute reel of a bunch of kids “auditioning” to play Nic Cage.

Finally, the Blu-ray offers a 16-minute clip from a Q&A of the cast and filmmakers at the SXSW Film Festival, though the discussion mostly veers into feting Cage.

The Matrix Resurrections

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/8/22;
Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $37.69 million;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD DVD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The fourth “Matrix” movie has a lot of fun with the idea of serving as a meta-commentary on the original trilogy. When it actually has to zero in on being a “Matrix” movie, it kind of hits a wall, but at least it opens the door for more movies.

At the end of the third movie in 2003, Neo and Trinity (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Annie Moss) seemingly sacrificed themselves to bring peace between the remnants of humanity and the machines that sought to enslave them. Resurrections opens with the idea that the original story might have been a video game created by Thomas Anderson  Reeves). Then word comes down that his gaming studios’ parent company, Warner Bros., wants a fourth “Matrix,” and will do one with or without the original creative team. This is pretty much what happened in real life when the studio starting planning for a reboot of the franchise before director Lana Wachowski and Reeves signed on. So Resurrections is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title referencing both the return of the characters thought killed off, and the long-dormant franchise itself.

Anderson is getting therapy to deal with thoughts of his life just being a computer simulation like his games, before events similar to the opening of the “Matrix” start to unfold to once more lead him back to reality (while using flashbacks to clips from the original trilogy to hammer home the point that it’s all connected).

This leads to some lengthy exposition and a healthy dose of philosophical ruminations about the nature of consciousness and free will, since it wouldn’t be a “Matrix” movie without it. Then the second half of the film is essentially an extended sci-fi action scene to hit the reset button on the premise so that Neo and Trinity can lead a new crop of characters in the fight against the machines. However, the lack of popular legacy characters such as Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus is likely to leave a lot of fans cold.

Matrix Resurrections is entertaining in parts and has some intriguing ideas, but if there are future sequels they will have a lot of heavy lifting to do to prove there’s still life left in the franchise beyond running in circles.

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The Blu-ray includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes, including a nine-minute video of various cast members awkwardly recapping the story of the original trilogy. In act many of the featurettes are somewhat introspective about examining the film within the context of the franchise.

The primary behind-the-scenes featurette is the 31-minute “Resurrecting the Matrix,” which delves into revisiting the franchise after 18 years and crafting the new installment to expand the mythology (described at one point as not another box in a series of boxes, but a box that encases the previous ones).

The eight-minute “Neo & Trinity: Return to the Matrix” gives Reeves and Moss a chance to reflect on their characters’ journeys and their own personal friendship. The eight-and-a-half-minute “Allies & Adversaries: The Matrix Remixed” features supporting cast members reflecting on the expansion of the franchise, while the six-minute “Matrix for Life” features more reflections on the franchise from the cast and filmmakers. The five-minute “I Still Know Kung-Fu” explores the making of some of the action scenes.

Rounding out the bonus materials are “The Matrix Reactions,” a series of nine videos totaling nearly 49 minutes in which members of the cast and production team discuss individual scenes.

Overall, the extras, with almost two hours of combined footage, present a pretty thorough examination of the making of the film.

Originally published as a streaming review Dec. 27, 2021.