Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/12/23;
Shout! Studios;
Comedy;
$19.98 DVD, $26.98 Blu-ray, $36.98 UHD BD;
Not rated.
Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Thomas Lennon, Spencer Treat Clark, Julianne Nicholson, Toby Huss, Arturo Castro, Will Forte, Jack Black, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quinta Brunson, Diedrich Bader, “Weird Al” Yankovic.

What else would a movie about the life of song parody specialist “Weird Al” Yankovic be but a spoof of musician biopics?

Based on a fake trailer posted by Funny or Die in 2010, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story pokes fun at the music scene and pop culture in the 1980s.

It begins with a young, misunderstood boy whose parents discouraged his dream of writing goofy new lyrics for established songs, telling him that, for the sake of the family, he should “stop being who you are and doing the things you love” and get a job at the local factory.

Instead, the adult Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) moves to Hollywood with a passion for the accordion, but is rejected by the record labels. Taking his talents to open mic nights at bars, he’s discovered by novelty act radio broadcaster Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), and quickly becomes the bad boy of the music industry, sparking a relationship with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) that takes him down a dark path and a confrontation with drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

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Needless to say, almost none of this actually happened. But the film is a treasure trove of laughs for fans of Yankovic’s songs who will most appreciate the meta humor on display. For instance, in Al’s first meeting with the brothers who run his record label, one of them berates him as a worthless, no-talent hack while the camera cuts to the other brother, who is played by the real “Weird Al,” wincing in discomfort at the insults.

But the film’s best scene might be a take-off on the pool party from Boogie Nights, as Al is introduced to the wacky menagerie of the offbeat personalities and oddballs of the 1970s and ’80s, and is challenged by Wolfman Jack (a precision cameo by Jack Black) to come up with a parody song on the spot, which Al defiantly does to cement his path toward becoming a legend.

However, Al quickly becomes disenchanted by his success as a parody artist, and endeavors to create his own original songs. So after a drug-infused vision straight out of The Doors, he writes “Eat It,” leading to one of the film’s better running jokes that posits musicians such as Michael Jackson are actually parodying Yankovic’s songs. (There’s a bit of irony here as the real-life Yankovic has plenty of originals in his catalog, though still in a humorous vein.)

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Just to complete the journey of his life’s work, Yankovic contributes a new song for the end credits, as no blockbuster would be complete without a new tune cynically produced for awards-season bait. (The song, “Now You Know,” was indeed nominated for an Emmy).

There is nothing here to be taken seriously, but plenty to appreciate for the hilariously dumb fun that it is, just like Yankovic’s music.

Originally released for streaming by the Roku Channel in 2022, Weird makes its way to 4K, Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Studios with an extensive selection of bonus materials.

The 4K combo pack includes the film on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray Disc, and offers an informative commentary track with Yankovic and director Eric Appel in which they discuss pretty much every aspect of the production.

There are no additional extras on the 4K disc, but plenty on the Blu-ray.

Yankovic and Appel also appear in a 24-and-a-half-minute video in which they introduce and discuss a number of deleted, extended and alternate scenes which are pretty funny but were ultimately removed for timing and tone issues. The segment includes about a dozen unused clips.

Also included is a four-minute making-of featurette, and numerous clips of the stars hitting the interview circuit. Included are Yankovic and Radcliffe on “Late Night with Seth Meyers: (10 minutes); TheWrap.com interviewing Yankovic and Appel (four minutes); and Variety.com interviewing Radcliffe, Wood and Appel at the Toronto International Film Festival (eight minutes). There’s also a two-minute IMDb.com video about the cameos in the pool party scene.

Rounding out the extras is a five-minute lyric video for “Now You Know,” the film’s trailers, and a two-minute montage of Yankovic doing Roku promos of the film.

About the only thing not included is the original Funny or Die trailer, which can be found easily enough online.

Originally published as a streaming review Nov. 13, 2022.

Roku Channel Unveils Trailer for Original Series ‘Reptile Royalty,’ Due July 21

The Roku Channel has released the trailer for the first season of its original reality series “Reptile Royalty,” which starts streaming July 21.

In the six-episode season, running the world-renowned Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a neverending adventure for social media sensation Jay Brewer and his team. Viewers will encounter one scale-covered tale after the next, as Brewer cares for more than 600 of the rarest and exotic reptiles on Earth alongside his daughters and fearless fellow animal lovers. Get an all-access pass to the famous zoo, jam-packed with laugh-out-loud adventure and unavoidable chaos.

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Roku Channel Serves Up Season Two Orders of ‘Martha Cooks’ and ‘Emeril Cooks’

The Roku Channel has ordered second seasons of its originals “Martha Cooks,” featuring March Stewart, and “Emeril Cooks,” with Emeril Lagasse.

“Emeril Cooks” season two will debut Feb. 17, and “Martha Cooks” season two will debut April 3. The series starring the culinary and lifestyle icons will stream exclusively on The Roku Channel.

The first seasons of both “Martha Cooks” and “Emeril Cooks” premiered in the fall of 2022 on The Roku Channel.

The second season of “Emeril Cooks” brings viewers to the cook’s beloved New Orleans to experience the unique blend of tradition and innovation that powers his cooking. The new season will feature 10 30-minute episodes. The series is produced by Marquee Brands for The Roku Channel.  

 

The second season of “Martha Cooks” welcomes viewers into Stewart’s farm kitchen and visits some of her favorite places to create cuisine, confections and treats. Working with world-renowned chefs and friends, she will reveal techniques and how-to instructions. The new season will feature 10 30-minute episodes. The series is also produced by Marquee Brands for The Roku Channel. 

 

In addition to Roku originals starring Stewart and Lagasse, The Roku Channel offers viewers more content from the two for free. Audiences can stream complete seasons of library content, including “Martha Bakes” seasons 1-11, “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School” seasons 1-5, “Martha Stewart Living” seasons 1-11, “Essence of Emeril” seasons 1-11 and “Emeril Live” seasons 1-19.

The Roku Channel also has created dedicated linear channels with this programming, Martha Stewart Channel and Emeril Lagasse Channel. 

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AFM Panelists: Free Ad-Supported Streaming Platforms Fertile Ground for Indie Content

Free ad-supported streaming platforms are becoming an attractive distribution venue for independent content, said panelists Nov. 3 at the American Film Market.

“The pandemic just accelerated the trend to streaming,” said Jennifer Vaux, head of content acquisition at the Roku Channel, likening the content flow to “drinking from a firehose filled with Red Bull.”

“AVOD saw a huge lift,” she added.

Roku acquired the Quibi library during the pandemic. Its short chapter-like content provides a natural place for an ad break, she said.

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Years ago, it was difficult for filmmakers “to get on board with” AVOD distribution, said Brian Stevenson, CEO and founder of the Chromata Consulting Group. But the pandemic changed that view, he said.

“I got a lot more filmmakers who were interested in licensing to AVOD platforms,” he said. “They just needed to understand what that platform was all about.”

“I think our company is long on AVOD, and we’re big believers in it,” said Michael Messina, EVP of distribution for Screen Media.

“Most of us have overall deals with AVOD platforms,” he said. “These are rev-share deals with platforms. Those aren’t new deals that are being cut. You have a master agreement with Tubi, with Pluto. You push as much content through it as they can take on a rev-share basis. Beyond that, pitching them specific pieces of content for them to pay you an exclusive license fee for — that’s all relatively new, and I don’t think any of us know how many of those deals they’re doing.”

AVOD is taking some content that would have formerly gone to SVOD services.

“The line between SVOD and AVOD is becoming blurred,” said James Emanuel Shapiro, EVP of U.S. distribution for XYZ Films. “It’s possible now to do [exclusive] Pay 1 deals now with AVOD, which before was almost exclusively SVOD. There’s so many eyeballs going to IMDBTV, Roku — the SVOD market is getting extremely saturated and consumers are being forced to have a number of studio platforms at this point, so it’s becoming a cost issue, and AVOD is going to keep growing because it’s free.”

Filmmakers can’t just count on getting that big acquisition paycheck from subscription services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

“SVOD, unless you have an output deal, every title is a grind, you have to go out and pitch it and sell it,” Messina said. “Their shelves are pretty full, and the guys who were paying the most money are now creating a ton of content, and they’re not really looking to license content in at least at the same levels as they were, so that’s a challenge.”

“Not everything can be [Hulu acquisition] Palm Springs,” said Adam Koehler, manager of acquisitions at IFC Films, adding that sometimes “it’s difficult to manage expectations of sales agents and filmmakers.”

During the pandemic, IFC sent content to drive-in theaters and genre content in particular to VOD. IFC also has its own streaming service, which provided an outlet for content.

“Luckily, our release strategy was diverse,” he said.

“Very often, we’ll come across a title that will do spectacular on VOD but maybe not have a theatrical life,” he said, such as certain genre films. He said the distribution of films on VOD or streaming simultaneously with theatrical release doesn’t necessarily hurt theaters, noting that major films with that release pattern, such as Halloween Kills and Dune, are “still doing phenomenally well at the box office.”

“With IFC, we kind of pioneered the day-and-date model almost two decades ago,” he said, adding the theatrical release bolsters word of mouth.

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Some genres do better than others on streaming services, panelists agreed.

“Documentaries are tough for the Roku Channel audience,” Vaux said. “It’s hard for them to pop — unless they’re true crime.”

“I think it’s a rule of thumb throughout the industry that true crime does very well,” said Koehler, pointing to IFC’s documentary acquisition Hold Your Fire, which includes some social commentary but also has a true crime aspect. The film, about a hostage negotiation, “kind of plays in a lot of ways like a thriller,” he said.

Stevenson said issue films and inclusive (black, LGBTQ, etc.) content can find a place on the vast number of platforms out there.

“You’ve got to start thinking about what audience you’re speaking to,” he said. “I always tell [filmmakers] to start looking at some of the AVOD platforms and what’s on there.”

For instance, he said Peacock was looking for complementary content to package with its documentary series “The Defiant Ones,” about Black music mogul Dr. Dre and record exec Jimmy Iovine, and a company he works with, Never Wish for Justice, had the documentary Black Boys and was able to fill that need. The ability to target a specific demo with content is also valuable to ad-supported platforms, he said.

Good artwork and cast members are also attractions for streamers, said panelists.

Vaux compared marketing a title on a streaming service to “Blockbuster when you had the video boxes on the wall where you would turn them over and look at the cast.”

“AVOD platforms always request a metadata sheet,” Stevenson said.

“If there is somebody [in the cast] that has a name … it’s easier to work with some of the AVOD platforms and their marketing people,” he said.

Roku Acquires ‘This Old House’ Business

Roku has acquired the “This Old House” business, including its global distribution rights and all of its subsidiary brands, including the “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House” TV programs, the show libraries, all digital assets, and the television production studio.

“This Old House” and “Ask This Old House” were the two top-rated home improvement programs in the United States in 2020, according to Nielsen data, and have earned a total of 19 Emmy Awards and 102 nominations, according to a Roku press release. Past seasons of “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House” are already available for free on The Roku Channel through both linear and on demand programming. Current seasons (“This Old House” season 42 and “Ask This Old House” season 19) are available for free on The Roku Channel as on demand episodes after they air on local PBS stations.

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“As the top-rated home improvement programs in America, ‘This Old House’ has the broad appeal that is perfectly suited to support The Roku Channel’s ad-supported growth strategy,” Rob Holmes, Roku VP of programming, said in a statement. “‘This Old House’ created the television home improvement genre and is beloved by millions of fans. We are thrilled to welcome this incredible team, and we could not be more excited to help grow the brand for an entire new generation of home improvement enthusiasts.”

“The passion of the craftspeople on ‘This Old House’ is matched only by its viewers, and we take great pride that over the past four decades we have helped them improve their most valuable asset — their home,” Dan Suratt, CEO, This Old House Ventures, said in a statement. “Roku is not only the No. 1 TV streaming platform in America, it also represents the future of TV, and we could not think of a better home for ‘This Old House’ to grow and to continue its leadership position in the home improvement genre.”

“This Old House,” which marked its 40th Anniversary in 2019, has broad distribution that “enables fans to find the authoritative voice in home improvement on their platform of choice, and makes the shows an ideal partner for leading national brands seeking to reach the attractive home improvement consumer segment,” stated the Roku press release.

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Roku plans to expand both the production and distribution of the “This Old House” brand, according to the press release.

Roku acquired TOH Intermediate Holdings, which owns the “This Old House” business, from TZP Group. The executive team of “This Old House” will join Roku, including CEO Dan Suratt. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Giant Interactive Launches Baby Einstein App on Roku Channel Store

Giant Interactive on July 28 announced it is launching a Baby Einstein app on the Roku Channel Store.

The entire library of 34 Baby Einstein Classics is available for streaming, at no cost.

Baby Einstein expands a baby’s view of the world as he/she embarks on adventures with friendly characters, discovers numbers and letters, and develops an appreciation for classic lullabies and nursery rhymes.

“Now, more than ever, there is a need and desire for parents to help cultivate curiosity for their children with resources like the Baby Einstein Roku channel,” said Jeff Stabenau, co-founder and president of Giant Interactive. “With daily routines disrupted and schooling impacted by shelter-in-place, Kids2, Roku, Piro and Giant Interactive are aiding parents by bringing interactive content directly to the home.”

Users can install the free Baby Einstein channel in the Roku Channel Store, or by simply clicking this link.

Giant Interactive builds and deploys customized applications like the Baby Einstein Roku channel as well as providing video processing, digital platform delivery and content aggregation services to Apple TV, Prime Video, Netflix, PlutoTV and more, along with DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD disc authoring. In addition, Giant Interactive recently launched the popular Giant Pictures channel on Roku.

‘Kids & Family’ Service Added to the Roku Channel

Roku has announced the addition of the “Kids & Family” service on the Roku Channel, making it easy for children and parents to find a selection of tailored content available for free and through premium subscriptions, according to the company.

In addition, Roku is rolling out parental control features for the Roku Channel.

“We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options,” said Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement, Roku, in a statement. “’Kids & Family’ not only provides a selection of great free, ad-supported content from partners like pocket.watch with ‘Ryan’s World’ and Lionsgate’s ‘Leapfrog,’ but also highlights kids’ entertainment from existing premium subscriptions partners. Parents looking to find great programming for their children will enjoy the ease of going to the Roku Channel as their one place for kids and family entertainment.”

“Kids & Family” delivers a blend of shows, movies, and live linear and short-form video typically found across multiple free and paid kids’ channels and brings them together to watch in a single place, according to a Roku release. In addition to free, ad-supported options, users who have already subscribed to premium subscriptions through the Roku Channel will be able to view subscription-based kids and family content from partners such as Hopster, Noggin and Zoomoo, as well as children’s entertainment from services such as HBO and Starz, directly within “Kids & Family.”

Roku’s in-house editorial team created the “Kids & Family” experience to feature series, movies and entertainment for kids, according to the release. It offers 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes from more than 20 partners such as All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, and pocket.watch, among others. Programming includes  shows such as “Care Bears,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Leapfrog,” “Little Baby Bum,” “My Little Pony,” “Rev & Roll,” “Super Mario Brothers” and “Thomas & Friends”; live/linear streams featuring 24/7 kids programming available from Moonbug, pocket.watch and partners powered by Xumo, including Ameba, BatteryPop and KidGenius; five exclusive episodes of 22-minute series “Ryan’s World” by pocket.watch available directly on the Roku Channel for the first time; and premium subscriptions from Blue Ant Media’s ZooMoo, CONtv, Dove Channel, HBO, Hopster, Noggin, Starz or Up Faith and Family through the Roku Channel, featuring such series as “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “PAW Patrol,” “Peppa Pig” and movies including Adventures of Elmo in Groucholand and Muppets Take Manhattan.

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“There is a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach with the quickly growing audience on the Roku Channel,” said Chris M. Williams, founder and CEO, pocket.watch, in a statement. “Family time is often enjoyed in the living room where Roku is so successful and we’re thrilled to bring our biggest creator partners, like Ryan from ‘Ryan’s World,’ into the heart of the home through the new pocket.watch channel.”

Kids & Family” will have approximately 40% of the advertising time of traditional linear television, according to Roku. Lego Systems has signed on as the first advertising sponsor of the service.

“Roku offers a custom experience that will help us connect with our kid and family audiences, who are consuming content on an evolving array of platforms,” said Michael McNally, senior director at the Lego Group, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be the exclusive sponsorship partner in ‘Kids & Family’ on The Roku Channel.”

PIN-based playback controls to the Roku Channel help parents set access limits to content based on ratings within the Roku Channel. If the setting is enabled, a PIN will be required in order to view videos on the Roku Channel based on the content rating.

“Kids & Family” is now available to users of the Roku Channel in the United States and will be available on Roku devices, via the Web and on select Samsung smart TVs that access the Roku Channel.

‘Robotech’ Catalog Streaming on AVOD Platforms

All series and the feature Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles from the anime franchise “Robotech” are available to stream at no cost on AVOD platforms, including The Roku Channel, Vudu and FilmRise, FilmRise announced.

The announcement was made July 18 during the Robotech panel at San Diego Comic-Con by Harmony Gold.

The content available to stream includes all 85 episodes of  the original syndicated television series, all 85 re-mastered “original edit” episodes of the entire series, all 36 episodes of “Super Dimension Fortress Macross,” all 23 episodes of “Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross,” all 25 episodes of “Genesis Climber Mospeada,” the feature The Shadow Chronicles, and up to 11 hours of bonus features from both the series and the film.

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View the trailer here.

Cinedigm Adds Combat Go and Wham to Ad-Supported Roku Channel

Cinedigm has added two more digital channels — the martial arts platform Combat Go by JungoTV and the esports network Wham — as linear offerings on the free, ad-supported Roku Channel.

Both channels also feature a VOD component, and join Cinedigm networks The Dove Channel, CONtv and Docurama, which launched in the Roku Channel Store in September.

The Roku Channel is a top five channel on the platform in active account reach, according to the Cinedigm release. Customers can access content via Roku devices, including Roku TV, as well as via the Web.

Combat Go is a partnership between Cinedigm and the global distribution company JungoTV. Created by JungoTV CEO George Chung, a five-time World Karate Champion and Inductee in the Black Belt Hall of Fame, Combat Go presents curated content selected by martial arts experts, featuring fight commentary and analysis, original docuseries and martial arts movies.

Created for gamers, Wham Network provides programming covering all aspects of the gaming industry from esports to casual gaming. The channel’s offerings include original series, top teams competing in esports tournaments, in-depth coverage of special gaming events, and updates on the latest in esports and gaming news.

“Cinedigm is proud to continue our partnership with Roku, as we bring Combat Go and Wham Network to one of the best-selling streaming devices on the market,” said Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks. “Martial arts and esports have quickly emerged as two of the most popular sports in the world. Now, with the additions of Combat Go and Wham Network, Roku users will be able experience this global phenomenon first-hand, as they discover and enjoy a diverse range of hard-hitting martial arts action and in-depth esports programming carefully curated by the industry’s top experts.”

Roku Inks JVC to Smart TV Program

Roku announced an agreement with China’s Shenzhen MTC Co. to build smart TVs under the JVC brand featuring the Roku operating system. The JVC smart TVs are expected to ship in the U.S. later this year.

“[The] Roku streaming platform … is incredibly easy to use and offers access to countless movies and TV episodes all from the home screen,” John Araki, chief technology officer of JVC, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to marrying our longstanding history of innovation with Roku’s popular smart TV platform as we aim to improve our customers’ everyday life with smartly designed products making life a little more fun.”

The Roku TV licensing program offers TV OEM partners a cost-effective way to build smart TVs connected to the Internet. Roku provides hardware reference designs, so TV brands can offer smart TV options at competitive price points.

The Roku operating system provides consumers with access to an ever-growing library of content as well as regular, automatic software updates.

“We look forward to working with MTC to grow the JVC smart TV presence in the U.S.,” said Chas Smith, GM of Roku TV & Players. “We know most TV manufacturers will license a TV OS and are proud of our low-cost purpose-built solution and the level of collaboration and support that we offer our partners while delivering a superior experience to consumers.”