Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen to Star in Comedy Series for Apple TV+

Apple TV+ will launch a new comedy series, “Platonic,” starring Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen.

The series will be co-written by Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco (“Friends from College”) and will be produced for Apple by Sony Pictures Television.

“Platonic” reunites Byrne and Rogen with director Nick Stoller following their collaboration on the “Neighbors” films.

The 10-episode, half-hour comedy explores the inner workings of platonic friendship. A pair of former best friends who met in their youth (played by Byrne and Rogen) reconnect as adults and try to mend the rift that led to their falling out. As their friendship becomes more consuming, it destabilizes their lives and causes them to reevaluate their choices.

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In addition to writing, Stoller will direct. Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen and Conor Welch will serve as executive producers.

Apple TV+ is available at $4.99 a month with a seven-day free trial.

An American Pickle

STREAMING REVIEW:

HBO Max;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some language and rude humor.
Stars Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Jorma Taccone.

Seth Rogen gives a spirited performance in the dual role of a European immigrant and his great-grandson who find themselves co-existing through a bizarre matter of happenstance.

As Herschel Greenbaum, Rogen plays a man looking for a better life with his wife (Sarah Snook) in 1919 by moving to America to raise a prosperous family. However, the only job he can get is smashing rats at a pickle factory in Brooklyn. Due to an accident, he becomes trapped in a vat of pickle brine, just as the factory is permanently shut down due to health code violations.

A century later, some kids stumble across the condemned remains of the building and inadvertently free Herschel, who has been perfectly preserved in the brine thanks to a scientific explanation that only the characters in the film are privy to.

In 2019, Herschel learns his only living descendant is a great-grandson, Ben, who is the same age as he is (all things considered). The idea of seeing how two members of the same family from different eras would get along is something of an inverse of the situation from Back to the Future, when it was the son going back in time to meet his father, rather than the ancestor being thrust into the future.

However, Herschel’s excitement about learning of the wonders of the modern age soon turns to disappointment, as he accuses Ben of disrespecting the family’s legacy.

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Ben, a software engineer, has big plans for a new app he’s designing that can rate the ethical worthiness of a product. But Herschel would rather turn his efforts toward cleaning up the local cemetery where his wife is buried, and removing a billboard for vodka that hangs over their graves. When their disagreement reaches an impasse, Herschel sets off to build a new pickle empire in America.

The movie offers some good jokes about the contrast between the hardships of life 100 years ago compared with the amenities of today that even the impoverished take for granted. And Herschel’s adventures in building up a 21st century company provide a nice microcosm of the business landscape of America and the entrepreneurial spirit. His insistence on viewing the modern world though his 19th century context is amusing in a “the more things change, the more they stay the same” kind of way.

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On the whole, though, An American Pickle is a rather low-key affair, limited in scope and uncomplicated in its execution. This is first and foremost a showcase for Rogen, and the degree to which the film works at all owes to his ability to seamlessly play against himself.

HBO Max Orders Adult Animated Series With Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman

HBO Max has ordered the adult animated series “Santa Inc.” from Lionsgate, featuring voice performances by Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen.

The eight-episode, half-hour series will be written by showrunner Alexandra Rushfield (Shrill) and will be produced by Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures as part of their multiplatform partnership with Lionsgate.

“Santa Inc.” is the story of Candy Smalls (Silverman), the highest-ranking female elf in the North Pole. When the successor to Santa Claus (Rogen) is poached by Amazon on Christmas Eve, Candy goes for her ultimate dream — to become the first woman Santa Claus in the history of Christmas.

“I have long dreamed of a taking a beloved holiday tradition and adding a feminist agenda and some ‘R’-rated comedy and when I read this script from Ali, with Seth and Sarah attached to voice, I knew that it was a perfect fit for us at Max.” Suzanna Makkos, EVP of original comedy and animation for HBO Max, said in a statement.

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“Sarah and Seth are the perfect comedy duo for this empowering and very funny animated series shepherded by the hysterical Alexandra Rushfield,” said Lionsgate head of scripted development Scott Herbst in a statement. “We look forward to diving into the world of animation with our Point Grey partners, and to bring the holidays to HBO Max in a totally unexpected and fresh way.”

Good Boys

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/12/19;
Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $83.08 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout — all involving tweens.
Stars Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Josh Caras, Will Forte, Sam Richardson, Stephen Merchant.

As Master Yoda once said, “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” But what happens when you make them wonder about sex, drugs and random debauchery?

And that’s where Good Boys comes in, and the fact that it comes from Seth Rogen’s production team pretty much explains exactly what to expect from the film.

It’s Stand by Me meets American Pie, a satire of the simplistic perspective kids tend to have of things. As such, it mines the intersection of the innocence of children and the seediness of the adult world for great laughs.

The question of whether how appropriate it is for such a young cast to form the basis of a film like this is not lost on the filmmakers and comes up several times in the bonus materials. Before the film had come out they had already hit upon the audacious marketing hook that the film was too raunchy for its young stars to even see it. Nowhere is this concept more prominent than on the film’s own Blu-ray box art, which comes emblazoned with an oversized graphic of the MPAA ‘R’ rating and the three main characters glancing upward at a line proclaiming “You Must Be This Tall to See This Movie.”

The film stars up-and-comer Jacob Tremblay as 12-year-old Max, who gets invited to a kissing party and freaks out because he doesn’t want his inexperience to scare off the girl that he likes. So he enlists his best friends, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) to help him research how to kiss. Eventually, the group, who call themselves the Bean Bag Boys, decide to use an expensive drone that is the prized possession of Max’s father (Will Forte) to spy on some local teenagers making out.

But when the drone gets destroyed, the Bean Bag Boys must scheme to come up with the funds to replace it, skip school and embark on a trek to the local mall (a distant journey of at least four miles) to replace it before Max’s dad gets home and grounds him so that he can’t go to the party. Along the way, they must deal with the teenagers they were spying on hunting them down for drugs they accidentally stole, not to mention cops, frat boys, sex toys and the peer pressure of drinking more than three sips of beer.

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The Blu-ray includes a fun, laid-back commentary from the film’s co-writers — director Gene Stupnitsky and producer Lee Eisenberg — that covers many of the inspirations for the film and the specific jokes involved.

There’s a two-minute alternate ending and more than 10 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, many of which are alluded to in the commentary.

Also included is a two-minute gag reel and six featurettes that provide about 14 minutes of behind-the-scenes material. These offer the usual tidbits about the cast and filmmaking process, including the interesting nugget that the school used in the film was Tremblay’s actual school in Vancouver.

But it all comes back to the filthy language used by the young stars, and some hilarious discussions about how they have no idea what the dialogue they’ve been given to say actually means.

The mind of a child, indeed.

The Lion King (2019)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Disney;
Family;
Box Office $543.2 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.
Voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones.

Director Jon Favreau’s new version of The Lion King stands as both a zenith for Disney’s live-action remakes as well as something of a nadir.

As a re-creation of the 1994 animated classic in a live-action style, the film represents a pinnacle of visual effects to simulate photorealistic environments and animals.

On the flip side, the film doesn’t really strive to be anything more than a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the animated film, with mostly the same dialogue and songs as before. As such, it comes across as the most striking example that, from a creative standpoint, there isn’t much of a reason for Disney to produce these remakes other than because it can (and the box office results are certainly proving the merits of those decisions).

Like many of Disney’s live-action remakes, it’s a competent cover version of one of the studio’s popular musicals, so it will always have that watchability factor. The stunning visuals, cute animals and rousing songs will make it as enjoyable for kids today as the original was for its generation of youngsters. But anyone already familiar with the animated version (i.e., the parents of the kids seeing it with fresh eyes) will be hard pressed to see it as more than a curio.

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To my mind, the conversion to the live-action template actually dampens the impact of the story (famously inspired by Hamlet) of young lion Simba growing up in exile after the death of his father, only to return to challenge his uncle, Scar, for leadership of the Pridelands.

As a cartoon, the artistic reality makes it easier to accept the concept of the animals talking and singing. But with a photorealistic setting, the illusion that this is somehow taking place somewhere takes a bit of a hit.

A bolder creative direction might have been to step back from the idea of a strict remake and instead pay a bit of homage to the studio’s cinematic past by styling the film more like one of Disney’s “True-Life Adventures” nature documentaries from the 1950s. Instead of the animals talking and singing, a narrator would explain the story and who the various characters are as they go about their business. The classic songs could even be played as part of the soundtrack over the action, as a few already are (such as “Circle of Life”). Strictly speaking, there really isn’t anything stopping a version like this from being made with the film as it already exists, in the form of a fun, alternate audio track applied to the footage.

It would also be cool if these live-action remakes were connected in some larger cinematic universe, giving them at least some reason to exist beyond milking nostalgia with new versions of older films. Anyone who has seen Tim Burton’s Dumbo knows how easily that film could connect to The Jungle Book. And Jungle Book was of course the film that Favreau directed to pave the way for his gig to redo Lion King. And the fact that some of the films take place in different eras shouldn’t impede the characters meeting, especially since one of the movies has a time-bending Genie in it.

This new version of The Lion King has also generated some buzz over the semantics of referring to it as live-action, given that after the initial shot of the sunrise, the entire movie is digitally animated. To me, the terms “live-action” and “animated” have more to do with aesthetic than they do with photography. The film is meant to depict a real-world environment, and does so using visual effects. A film is typically classified in the “animated” genre because its characters and settings are meant to portray a stylized reality unto itself. There are certainly exceptions here and there, and the digital tools filmmakers now have at their disposal have certainly blurred the lines between what could be considered “animated” and “live-action,” so much so that the discussion over it could be considered something of a cinematic Ship of Theseus.

Consider any real-life scene that could be filmed practically, and imagine touching up that scene with photorealistic CGI. Elements in the background are replaced one by one until the only thing left that was really there is a person in the foreground (not unlike Jungle Book). Now remove the person — you get an “animated” scene of a live-action setting. That’s what Lion King has essentially done, just pushing past the step of shooting something real to begin with. It’s “live-action” when the world has been re-created with visual effects; it’s “animated” when the pictured environment is not meant as a portrayal of something real.

And we see from the extensive Lion King bonus materials how the process of creating this simulated live-action film differs from that of the usual CG animated film, involving animators plugging data into their computer. To better simulate the live-action environment, filmmakers created a virtual reality studio, using a real cinematographer (Caleb Deschanel) and real cameramen walking around the virtual set to craft the image, just as they would any live-action film.

And consider this: The very nature of film projection is an illusion — a procession of still images presented in a sequence meant to fool the eye into perceiving motion. This is the simple truth that made cartoons work in the first place. If anything, traditional cel animation would have as much claim as being “live-action” as anything, considering how they are basically a series of photographs of static drawings that actually existed in the physical realm, which is more than can be said about the artwork of most modern cartoons.

On the Lion King’s home video extras, the process for creating the film shares considerable real estate with some nostalgia for the original, mostly owing to how the filmmakers wanted to be faithful to the story and characters.

Favreau in his informative solo commentary also waxes over the Lion King stage show, which convinced him that the basic musical storytelling elements translated well across whatever visual medium they were presented. Favreau also details the most notable changes between the new and old versions, mostly having to do with toning down the anthropomorphizing of some of the animals and punching up the verisimilitude of musical numbers where the animation could depict some colorful, wacky dance sequences. Favreau also provides a minute-long introduction to the film.

The centerpiece of the extras is the three-part “The Journey to The Lion King” documentary that runs about 54 minutes in total. “The Music” (14 minutes) deals with updates to the original music, which involved bringing Hans Zimmer to reprise the score, and the new cast’s reaction to singing the well-known songs; plus, Beyoncé added a song, and Elton John, who wrote the original songs, recorded a new song for the end credits. “The Magic” (21 minutes) focuses on the filmmaking techniques employed in the film, blending live-action photographic techniques with virtual reality and CGI. “The Timeless Tale” (19 minutes) lets the filmmakers reflect on the legacy of the original film.

Three “More to Be Scene” segments take an iconic musical sequence from the film and show the different layers needed to create the scene, from storyboards to rough animation to voice recording, compared with the final product. The songs include “Circle of Life,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Hakuna Matata.”

Finally, the Blu-ray and digital presentations include music videos for the new Elton John song, “Never Too Late,” and the new Beyoncé song, “Spirit.”

There’s also a sing-along viewing mode for the film, plus seven song sequences playable on their own with text lyrics. That should keep the little ones happy without watching the whole film again.

The three-minute “Protect the Pride” is a PSA featuring Favreau pleading for the conservation of lions and their habitats.

There are also a couple of digital-exclusive extras. The three-minute “Perfecting the Pride” details the filmmakers taking a research trip to Africa, while the three-and-a-half-minute “Pride Lands Pedia” is a fun video hosted by Dembe the dung beetle, who profiles some of the animals and environments seen in the film.

 

Universal Releasing ‘Good Boys’ Digitally Oct. 29, on Disc Nov. 12

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release the ‘R’-rated comedy Good Boys through digital retailers Oct. 29, and on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 12.

The story involves 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay) being invited to a kissing party and asking his best friends Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) for pointers on how to kiss. After they accidentally destroy the precious drone of Max’s dad (Will Forte), they skip school and embark on an epic misadventure to replace it, avoiding the cops while encountering accidentally stolen drugs, frat-house paintball and two terrifying teenage girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis).

The film earned $73.3 million at the domestic box office.

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Home video extras include feature commentary with director/co-writer Gene Stupnitsky and producer/co-writer Lee Eisenberg; an unrated alternate ending; unrated deleted and extended scenes; a gag reel; the featurette “Boys for Real,” a look into the casting process and real-life friendships that evolved on-set; “Welcome to Vancouver,” in which Tremblay shows off some of his favorite things about his hometown; “A Fine Line,” in which the filmmakers and cast discuss the raunchy dialogue; “Ask Your Parents,” in which the cast and filmmakers talk about how they were able to navigate adult questions from curious child actors; “Bad Girls,” a discussion with Molly Gordon and Midori Francis; and the featurette “Guest Stars,” about some of the cameos in the film.

Netflix’s ‘Money Heist’ Remains Top Binge, ‘The Boys’ Leads ‘Shows on the Rise’ on TV Time Charts

The Spanish-language Netflix series “Money Heist” continued to top TV Time’s “Binge Report” while Amazon Prime’s “The Boys” came in at No. 1 on its “Shows on the Rise” chart for the week ended July 28.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program.

Season three of “Money Heist” dropped July 19. In this season, the Professor and his team reunite to free Rio, targeting the Bank of Spain with a new plan. Meanwhile, the Resistance continues.

“The Boys,” co-created by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Eric Kripke, dropped July 26. It follows a group of vigilantes who embark on a quest to take down selfish superheroes The Seven, a group who abuses their powers rather than using them for good.

Coming in at No. 2 on both charts was Netflix’s prison drama “Orange Is the New Black.” The seventh and final season of the series dropped July 26.

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended July 28 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Money Heist” (Netflix) — 11.78%
  2. “Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix) — 5.03%
  3. “Stranger Things” (Netflix) — 4.25%
  4. “Lucifer” (Neflix) — 2.33%
  5. “Friends” (NBC) — 2.13%
  6. “Glee” (Fox) — 1.77%
  7. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) — 1.47%
  8. “The 100” (The CW) — 1.24%
  9. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.22%
  10. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.09%

 

Top Shows on the Rise Week Ended July 28 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “The Boys” (Amazon Prime Video) – 100%
  2. “Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix) — 88.5%
  3. “Veronica Mars” (Hulu) — 54.1%
  4. “Queer Eye” (Netflix) — 29%
  5. “Big Little Lies” (HBO) — 14.8%
  6. “The Flash” (The CW) — 11.9%
  7. “Supergirl” (The CW) — 11.8%
  8. “Suits” (USA) — 11.6%
  9. “Rick and Morty” (Adult Swim) — 9.9%
  10. “Station 19” (ABC) — 7.7%

Long Shot

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/30/19;
Lionsgate;
Comedy;
Box Office $30.32 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.
Stars Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Lisa Kudrow, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård.

The often crude but usually charming Long Shot reframes the tropes of the romantic comedy by setting them against the backdrop of the arena of American politics, blended with a touch of stoner humor for good measure.

It’s The American President by way of Pineapple Express, as secretary of state and presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) has a chance encounter with Fred, an opinionated writer (Seth Rogen) she used to babysit, and asks him to join her campaign as a speechwriter. As they grow closer, some of her refinement starts to rub off on him while he helps her loosen up a bit, both in the pharmacological and carnal sense. This leaves the rest of her staff to wonder what the potential relationship could mean for the campaign.

Though set in the political world, the love story doesn’t get bogged down with too many political specifics, which is probably for the best as the political landscape presented in the film doesn’t bear much scrutiny. Then again, the film isn’t aiming for Sorkin levels of verisimilitude here.

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Charlotte is basing her presidential campaign on a major environmental initiative, which Fred likes, but works for an administration that Fred ultimately opposes, with a president (Bob Odenkirk) who used to play a president on a TV show and decides to forgo a second term to cash in his popularity to pursue a film career.

The president will endorse Charlotte to replace him if she doesn’t make too many waves, but his media tycoon buddy (Andy Serkis, unrecognizable in heavy prosthetic makeup) wants to chip away at the effectiveness of her activism. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s chief of staff (June Diane Raphael) wants to set her up with the equally available, but socially awkward, prime minister of Canada (Alexander Skarsgård). The more willing Charlotte is to compromise herself for political expediency, the more Fred is left to wonder where the candidate ends and the woman he may be falling in love with begins.

The satirical look at the broader strokes of the American political system are cute, but let’s face it, the odds of the nation’s chief diplomat getting away with negotiating a hostage crisis while high on Molly are slim to none. So, the only way the movie works is if the audience buys the relationship between Charlotte and Fred, and luckily Rogen and Theron work well together, finding an easygoing chemistry that helps us enjoy their adventures for what they are.

The Blu-ray includes about 100 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes that cover everything from the writing to the casting to the wardrobe. The most interesting is an interview with comic book artist Todd McFarlane, who contributes a key piece of art to one of the funniest gags in the film.

Long Shot

Lionsgate Bringing ‘Long Shot’ Home in July

Lionsgate will release the comedy Long Shot digitally July 16, and on Blu-ray and DVD July 30.

The film stars Seth Rogen as a hard-partying journalist who has a fling with a presidential candidate (Charlize Theron) who hires him as a speechwriter. The cast also includes O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Lisa Kudrow and Alexander Skarsgård.

Long Shot earned $30.3 million at the domestic box office.

The home video edition will include several behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The Blu-ray features Dolby Atmos audio.

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Lionsgate Partners with Seth Rogen’s Production Company

Lionsgate has announced a joint venture with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, partner James Weaver and their Point Grey Pictures to produce multi-platform content.

PGP content includes BlockersNeighbors, Sausage PartyThe Night Before, This is the End, the television shows “Future Man,” “Black Monday,” and “Preacher,” as well as Lionsgate’s pending romantic comedy Long Shot, starring Rogen and Charlize Theron, which won the Audience Award in the Headliners section of SXSW and will be released in the U.S. and select markets on May 3 before expanding worldwide.

Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron

PGP will continue to operate autonomously under Rogen, Goldberg and Weaver’s leadership while working closely with Lionsgate’s executive teams to develop content for the company’s motion picture, scripted and unscripted television, digital and location-based entertainment businesses.

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“Seth, Evan and James are visionary entrepreneurs and three of the greatest storytellers in the business,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “We look forward to a partnership that turbocharges the continued ramp up of our film and television slates, while creating exciting opportunities across our entire portfolio of businesses.”

“From our days at Mandate and Good Universe [which Lionsgate acquired in 2017] to our experience working with them here at Lionsgate, we have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Seth, Evan and James on some of their most iconic films and we could not ask for more incredible or collaborative creative partners,” Joe Drake, motion picture group chairman, and Nathan Kahane, president of motion pictures added in a joint statement.

Drake and Kahane’s relationship with the Point Grey team included collaboration on comedies NeighborsThis is the End, and The Night Before, as well as the dramedy 50/50, Academy Award-nominated The Disaster Artist (starring James Franco), and Blockers, among others.

The collaboration is the latest in a string of partnerships Lionsgate has formed with content creators, including the recent pact with 3 Arts Entertainment, the first-ever deal between a major Hollywood studio and a talent management and production company.