Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Atlanta (TV Show): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: Atlanta is one of the top cities for young rappers looking to make a name for themselves in the business. Among those up-and-comers is Alfred Miles, a hot new artist who is trying to understand the line between real life and street life. He is managed by his cousin, Earn, who gets caught up in the local rap scene and his cousin’s career after returning home to the ATL. Earn does whatever he can to try to get Alfred’s career to the next level. Darius, the rapper’s right-hand man and visionary, is also in Alfred’s entourage. When Earn isn’t busy managing his cousin’s career, he spends much of his time with best friend Vanessa, who is also the mother of his daughter.

Starring: Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield

Show: Atlanta

Channel: Amazon Prime, FX, Hulu

Creator: Donald Glover

Genre(s): Comedy

REVIEW

Atlanta is art that announces itself as art, instead of, like so much TV, slinking into the gallery through the doorway marked “entertainment.” A painfully funny show that is loaded with the same brilliant mix of social commentary, internal dialogue and making something out of nothing. There is a cartoonish craziness to these episodes that can be mind-boggling even while incorporating honest commentary about the reality of living in today’s America.

PREVIEW


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Monday, July 27, 2020

Distribution Tip: Shorts have an Audience Too

While short films may not have the same distribution opportunities as feature films, short filmmakers shouldn?t feel discouraged, as they are still invaluable in developing a filmmaker?s name and gaining an audience through limited release. Our Tipstor? panel agrees that shorts don?t have the same distribution life as feature films, and that their distribution is usually not to monetary ends. But there are distribution options for shorts.

The Tipstor? Team agrees we can easily bring attention to new short films, pointed out that?it?s always possible to sell rights to anything.?Beyond that, you can use outlets like YouTube, Facebook, Vero, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Tik Tok or Fandor to try and generate press around it. Unfortunately, in our culture, shorts are just calling cards, but you should always try to generate press around and release it that way.



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The Crow (Soundtrack): Tipstor? Pick

Summary: The film’s aura of death and gothic unease, moods that are brilliantly underscored by this well-chosen collection of stark alt rock, dark metal, and industrial dirges. The opener, the?Cure’s typically angst-ridden “Burn,” is about as sentimental as this album gets, bookended by?Jane Siberry’s wistful “It Can’t Rain All the Time.” Sandwiched in between is a virtual primer on powerful mid-1990s alt and industrial rock, from?Nine Inch Nails?hammering?Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” into its own image to the blistering snarl of?Helmet,?Pantera, and the?Rollins Band. So-called pop-song scores often have a cheap afterthought feel to them; this one, a refreshingly integral part of the film itself, stands as a great album in its own right.?

Album: The Crow

Artist: ?Medicine,?Rollins Band, Graeme Revell, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure?

Label: Interscope Records

REVIEW

The only things certain in life are death, taxes, and ?90s movie soundtracks peppered with brooding cover songs.?The Crow?was a prototype of the latter, filled with exceptional reinterpretations that would become the urtext of anti-authoritarian mall goths: Rollins Band pound out Suicide?s ?Ghostrider,? Pantera rip up Poison Idea?s ?The Badge,? Rage Against the Machine?reclaim?Zack de la Rocha?s former hardcore-punk band Inside Out, and we?re treated to maybe the only good Joy Division cover?ever?in Nine Inch Nails? heart-racing ?Dead Souls.? Think of this as the evil cousin of the?Singles?soundtrack, the underbelly of ?90s music, the sound of electronic-industrial noise-rock. Though?The Crow?is now?more of a slice of gothic lore than a memorable movie due to the accidental on-set death of its star, Brandon Lee, its grungy, gloomy cultural relevance owes a great deal to its music.

PREVIEW


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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Broadcast TV’s Ratings Winners and Losers (2020)

Below are the network ratings and high- and lowlights for individual shows in the season.

The Network Race

Fox will lead the season among adults 18-49 for the first time in eight years with a 1.7 rating in the key ad-sales demographic. Thanks in no small part to having the Super Bowl, a primetime NFC Championship game and a full season of The Masked Singer, the network is the only broadcaster up in both the demo and total viewers compared to last season.

CBS, meanwhile, will claim its 12th consecutive total-viewer crown on the back of its regular series. The network’s overall numbers are down year to year, due partly to not having the Super Bowl this season as it did last year. CBS also missed out on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which wasn’t played this year.

Here are the network numbers for the season, along with changes from 2018-19. Figures below are “most current” ? a combination of seven-day ratings and same-day numbers for the most recent two weeks ? through May 17.

Fox and CBS can stand on their overall leads, while ABC and NBC are both touting their relative strength without sports or news programming. Taking away those two categories ? which get a far greater percentage of their viewers via same-day ratings ? the networks are more tightly bunched.

ABC, Fox and NBC all average a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49 with entertainment programming, with CBS back a little at 1.0. ABC holds the slimmest of leads in the number of viewers in the key demo, with 1.46 million to 1.45 million for Fox and 1.37 million for NBC. CBS is at 1.23 million. Slicing the pie even thinner, NBC claims the No. 1 spot in scripted programs only.

As for the individual shows ?

WINNERS

Dick Wolf: The mega-producer has six series on two networks, and four of them ? CBS’ FBI and all three of NBC’s Chicago dramas ? rank in the top 10 in total viewers for the season. (All figures for individual shows are seven-day ratings through May 10, and rankings exclude sports pre- and post-game shows.) Chicago Fire (11.7 million viewers) and Chicago PD (11.23 million) grew slightly compared to last year, and FBI (12.55 million) and Chicago Med (11.22 million) are within 150,000 viewers of their 2018-19 averages. All four are within 0.2 of their year-ago averages in adults 18-49, as well. CBS’ FBI: Most Wanted is the most-watched new series of the season with 10.22 million viewers. Only Law & Order: SVU (6.46 million viewers, 1.4 in adults 18-49) suffered significant losses.

The Bachelor: The veteran ABC reality show put up ratings in 2020 that were virtually identical to its 2019 run: It averaged a 2.4 in the 18-49 demo in both seasons and managed to finish just ahead of last year in total viewers (7.93 million vs. 7.92 million). With overall broadcast ratings down.

The Masked Singer: Though the two cycles this season were both down from last year’s breakout first season, the Fox competition show will end the season as the only non-sports program to break a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 (there were three last year). It has a 3.2 rating for the season, and its 10.78 million viewers rank 12th overall.

The NFL: For the second straight year, regular-season games were up in the ratings: They averaged 16.5 million viewers across all broadcast windows, a 5 percent improvement over 2018 and the highest mark for the league since 2016. The first two rounds of the playoffs and the Super Bowl were also up, although the conference championship games fell to an 11-year low. NBC’s Sunday Night Football (20.09 million viewers) was the most-watched primetime show in same-day viewing for the ninth straight year.

911 and Station 19: The two first-responder shows (like Chicago Fire and PD) both improved in viewers, with Fox’s 911 adding about 350,000 people and ABC’s Station 19 growing by almost 900,000. Both are within 0.1 of their 18-49 ratings from a season ago.

Jeopardy: The Greatest of All Time: Were it a regular series, the four-night ABC event ? in which all-time Jeopardy winners Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer played a first-to-three-wins tournament ? would have been the most-watched show of the season with 16.39 million viewers.

All American: The second-year drama was the only CW series to increase its audience this season, averaging about 120,000 more viewers than it did in 2018-19.

LOSERS

This Is Us and Young Sheldon: These two come with a caveat, as the two shows were the top drama and comedy of the season. However, both also suffered significant ratings erosion in 2019-20. NBC’s This Is Us fell by 24 percent in adults 18-49 (3.8 to 2.9) and 16 percent in viewers (13.8 million to 11.55 million), while CBS’ Young Sheldon had second-year drops of 38 percent in the demo (2.6 to 1.6) and 22 percent in viewers (14.72 million to 11.45 million).

NBA Saturday Primetime: Mirroring ratings declines league-wide, ABC’s weekly NBA showcase was having a rough season before the league shut down in mid-March. Its audience slipped by more than 30 percent year to year to 2.39 million viewers.

Last Man Standing: The sitcom’s second year on Fox still brought in decent numbers, averaging 6.4 million viewers and a 1.2 among adults 18-49. It was also down quite a bit, falling by 1.9 million viewers (23 percent) and half a point in the demo (29 percent).

The Oscars and Emmys: After stopping four years of ratings declines in 2019, the 2020 Oscars fell to all-time lows in both total viewers (23.64 million) and adults 18-49 (5.3) for ABC. The Emmys also had all-time lows in September on Fox, falling below 7 million viewers and managing just a 1.7 in the demo. The Golden Globes and Grammys were also down compared to 2019, but their declines were not nearly as steep.

Remotely filmed versions of live network shows: Series including American Idol, The Voice and Saturday Night Live pivoted to remote production to close out their seasons, and the broadcast nets aired a host of at-home specials. The first wave of such shows, including the first Disney Family Singalong and the first SNL at Home, pulled in strong ratings. But subsequent SNL episodes and the final episodes of Idol and The Voice drew below-average numbers, owing in part to bad timing ? they aired as TV usage levels were falling ? and maybe partly to audience fatigue with the remote format.



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Office Ladies (Podcast): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: The Office Laddies co-stars best friends, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who are doing the ultimate The Office re-watch podcast for you. Each week Jenna and Angela will break down an episode of The Office and give exclusive behind the scene stories that only two people who were there, can tell you.We’re not the experts on The Office, you are! If there’s anything we missed, or if you have any burning questions you wanted answered about upcoming episodes, please send them to officeladies@earwolf.com with the episode.

Show: The Office

Host(s): Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey

REVIEW

What a fun podcast! I love the stories that Jenna and Angela tell from their experience on The Office. It seemed a little bit awkward in the first episode, but they’ve gotten really into a good groove with Fast Facts, Kinsey Tidbits, etc. I also love the guest they bring on and the perspective they add to the whole thing. We are calling it right now- this is going to be one of the top podcasts ever. Can’t wait to hear more stories.

PREVIEW


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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Apple Music Launches First Radio Show in Africa

The streaming platform launched ?Africa Now Radio with Cuppy? and will feature a mix of contemporary and traditional popular African sounds, including genres like Afrobeat, rap, house, kuduro and more.

Cuppy, the Nigerian-born DJ and music producer, will host the weekly one-hour show, which will be available at 9 a.m. EDT.

African music and artists have found success outside of the continent and onto the pop charts in both the U.S. and U.K. in recent years. Acts like Drake and Beyonc? have borrowed the sound for their own songs, while performers like South African DJ Black Coffee as well as Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Mr Eazi ? all with roots in Nigeria ? continue to gain attention and have become household names.

Apple Music?s announcement comes the same week Universal Music Group said it was launching Def Jam Africa, a new division of the label focused on representing hip-hop, Afrobeat and trap talent in Africa. The label said it will be based in Johannesburg and Lagos but plans to sign talent from all over the continent.



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Hannah Gadsby, Nanette (Stand-Up): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: Nanette is a live comedy performance written and performed by Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, which debuted in 2017. The work includes social commentary, evocative speech punctuated by comedy and emotive narration of Gadsby’s life, learnings and what her story offers to the world. Australian comic Hannah Gadsby reshapes standard stand-up by pairing punchlines with personal revelations on gender, sexuality and childhood turmoil.

Show: Hannah Gadsby, Nanetter

REVIEW

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Australian comic Hannah Gadsby and her must-watch stand-up special. Her hour-long set is changing the way we think about comedy, chucking the ironic detachment in the trash and instead, offering up a bit of humor interlaced with moving reflections on life. Most of Gadsby’s routine chronicles the joys and hardships of being a queer woman, her childhood in Tasmania, her praise for Monica Lewinsky, her commentary on why sexuality and comedy go hand-in-hand, but she also claps back against the idols of her early life, men like Louis C.K. who’ve now become the problem. In other words, Gadsby’s not holding any punches with this one.



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Friday, July 24, 2020

“Batman vs Superman”: VFX Breakdown (Video)

A look at VFX breakdown for the movie “Batman vs Superman.”

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.



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Gravity (Movie): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone – tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth – and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.

Starring: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock

Movie: Gravity

Channel: Amazon Prime, YouTube

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: PG-13

REVIEW

Gravity is out of this world. Words can do little to convey the visual astonishment this space opera creates. It is a film whose impact must be experienced in 3-D on a theatrical screen to be fully understood. A stunning space saga that takes off for new technical frontiers without leaving its humanity behind.

PREVIEW


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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Superhero Kid with Autism On New PBS Kids’ “Hero Elementary” Series (Trailer)

There’s a new crop of superheroes coming to our TV this summer but they may need a little seasoning. After all, they’re only in elementary school.

The PBS Kids’ animated series, “Hero Elementary,” is set inside a grade school where a diverse group of four superhero students are learning to master their special powers.

There’s a kid who can fly but is afraid of heights. There’s a girl with the power to teleport and a boy who creates forcefields of bubbles. Plus there’s a boy with an array of cool gadgets who is on the autism spectrum.

The creators have been subtle about how they’ve portrayed the character of AJ Gadgets, who is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. AJ doesn’t like loud noises or wet clothes or to be apart from his beloved backpack. But he’s part of the team and always comes to the rescue.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that one in 54 kids were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by age 8 in 2016, a nearly 10% increase over 2014 when the estimate was 1 in 59.

The series leans into scientific principles as the characters confront various missions, like dealing with a huge ball rolling through the city, or taking care of a just-hatched baby swan. A helpful teacher encourages them to keep finding solutions even if they don’t succeed at first, teaching such skills as observing, investigating, testing and predicting.

Linda Simensky, head of content at PBS Kids, said she was drawn to AJ’s inclusion and the show’s message of kids solving their own problems.

Ferraro and Parente are longtime veterans of “Sesame Street,” which in 2015 introduced Julia, a 4-year-old girl Muppet with autism. They didn’t initially intend to have a child with autism on “Hero Elementary,” but as they fleshed out AJ’s character it started to make sense.

AJ’s teammates are aware of his needs and preferences, in one episode they desperately search for his lost backpack, and the show’s creators hope the show can teach empathy and normalize the idea that all kids are different.

The series is designed for children ages 4-7, and premieres Monday on PBS stations, the PBS Kids 24/7 channel and PBS Kids digital platforms. Each episode runs about 11 minutes, with vibrant colors and a zany touch.

Viewers familiar with autism and the signs of autism might pick up on AJ’s behavior, but the creators are fine if other viewers don’t notice. They’ve purposely not directly addressed autism except for a double episode slated to run later in the series. Most of the time they just want him to be part of the group.



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Scissor Seven (Anime): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: With a trusted pair of hairdressing scissors and the ability to disguise himself, Seven offers contract killing for cheap; the problem is he often has trouble completing assignments.

Show: Scissor Seven

Channel: Netflix

Creator: He Xiaofen

Genres: Wuxia, Slice of life

REVIEWS

The second season of Scissor Seven is now on Netflix. If you haven’t seen the first season, now is your chance to binge it and get caught up on the adventures of the scissor-wielding hairdresser who moonlights as an assassin. Scissor Seven is by far one of the most unique premises I’ve seen in an anime in quite some time, with an animation style as absurd as the premise.

PREVIEWS


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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

AMC Cinema Chain Will Struggle to Survive

Movie theater chain AMC may not survive the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered its theaters and led film studios to explore releasing more movies directly to viewers over the internet.

It’s the latest danger sign for the “theater business” in North America, which was under pressure even before the pandemic. It has gotten a boost by raising ticket prices and revamping theater-going into a more luxurious experience with drinks and meals, but admissions have been gradually declining since 2005. The box office has become home mostly to blockbuster films: Sequels, remakes and superhero movies dominate. Meanwhile, the rise of streaming services, Netflix and a growing stable of rivals, is providing new competition.

The coronavirus pandemic threw in more challenges. U.S. cinemas shut down in March, so their owners haven’t been taking in money. Hollywood halted film production, which is likely to delay movies once theaters reopen and may limit consumer eagerness to spend money at the multiplex. The pandemic has prompted entertainment companies to release some movies directly to consumers, raising concerns that more will bypass theaters in the future. And when theaters do reopen, it’s not clear how many customers will want to be in enclosed, crowded spaces for hours at a time.

AMC, the largest U.S. chain, said it has enough cash to reopen its theaters this summer as planned. But if it’s not allowed to reopen, it will need more money, which it may not be able to borrow. Film delays are another concern. AMC noted that people may be afraid to go to theaters, but hopes the desire for social distancing is temporary and that people will want to go to the movies again.

Cinemark, another major movie chain that is on more solid financial footing, plans to begin reopening U.S. movie theaters on June 19. It said it believes it has enough cash to last it the rest of the year, even if its theaters remain shut. The company doesn’t expect the industry to return to normal until 2022.

Cinemark said it’s taking a slew of measures to tempt back moviegoers as it reopens. Those include discounting and vigorous cleaning protocols for theaters, like disinfecting seats in the mornings and before each showtime. It will also require employees, but not customers, to wear masks and will stagger showtimes to thin out crowds.

Local rules for theaters vary across the U.S. New York City has not even begun to reopen, and California hasn’t gotten to that phase of its reopening yet. In Texas, theaters are allowed to be at 25% capacity.

Theater chains are also concerned that film studios could push more movies straight to the streaming services that they own. Since the pandemic shut down theaters, entertainment companies have delayed most movies. But Comcast’s NBCUniversal released “Trolls World Tour” on video on demand in April, triggering an angry response from the theater industry, and Disney will release “Artemis Fowl” to its streaming service, Disney Plus, in June, rather than theaters.

Research firm MoffettNathanson expects box office receipts in the U.S. and Canada to drop 50% in 2020, to $5.5 billion from $11.4 billion in 2019, and then to rebound to $9.7 billion in 2021. Box office hasn’t been below $10 billion since 2008.



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Persona 4 Golden (Game): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: In a quiet town in rural Japan sets the scene for budding adolescence in Persona 4 Golden. A coming of age story that sets the protagonist and his friends on a journey kickstarted by a chain of serial murders. Explore meeting kindred spirits, feelings of belonging, and even confronting the darker sides of one’s self. Persona 4 Golden promises meaningful bonds and experiences shared together with friends. Fan-adored Persona 4 Golden stands as one of the finest RPGs ever made, delivering on enthralling storytelling and quintessential Persona gameplay.

Game: Persona 4 Golden

Platform: PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows

Developer: Atlus

Genre(s): Role-Playing, Japanese-Style

Rating: M

REVIEW

Atlus’ classic Japanese role-playing game makes a surprise jump to PC, bringing with it the Carl Jung-inspired story and exciting monster-slaying action that makes it a beloved series entry. If you missed Persona 4 Golden’s original PlayStation Vita release, or simply wish to revisit the game, you can now enjoy the masterpiece in its best form.

PREVIEW


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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Top 5 Addictive Couch Co-op Games

These are some of the best cooperative multiplayer games, all playable on a single TV.

1. Team Sonic Racing

If you’ve played a Mario Kart game, you’ll instantly get this cooperative kart racing game. It has team-play, letting players divide into groups of two or three in order to outrace foes as a pack. It also encourages trading items mid-race with allies and using their speed to increase your own, meaning an eagerness to help squadmates is mandatory to score first place. It’s an exciting, innovative co-op racer built for gamers who know that teamwork makes the dream work.

Up to 4 players can race together.

2. A Way Out

If The Shawshank Redemption had a video game adaptation, this would be it. The game only works with two players, and tasks them with teaming up behind bars in order to find (you guessed it) a way out of prison. This game’s an action-adventure like no other, loaded with heists, big-budget set-pieces, unique co-op mechanics, and enough narrative heft to satisfy just about every kind of gaming duo who’ve ever wanted to try their hand at escaping jail from the comfort of a couch. Plus, A Way Out offers online co-op even if only one of you owns the game!

2 players are needed to escape prison.

3. Portal 2

Use your portal gun to shoot portals in two places so you can walk into one and come out the other. That’s what the original Portal first-person puzzle game was all about. Now, multiply that portal count by two and you’ll begin to imagine the mind-bending fun of Portal 2, which has a cooperative campaign that requires a pair of players to figure out how to make four portals transport them through some seriously tricky puzzle rooms. If you like physics, teamwork, and funny characters, this is a fantastic, one-of-a-kind puzzler to blaze through with a friend.

2 players can solve puzzles together.

4. Rayman Legends

Rayman Legends is an absolutely gorgeous, must-play platformer. Every level is smartly designed, movement physics have a great sense of momentum, the characters and animations are quirky and lively, and this game has it. Plus, it has music levels, which task you with platforming to the beat of some incredible music tracks. Up to four people can play at once, so there’s no reason not to gather a whole party for this game.

2 – 4 players can get limbless together.

5. Cuphead

Harkening back to the ye olde days of film-grain-riddled Mickey Mouse cartoons, the 1930s-inspired Cuphead is a visual treat as well as a genuinely exciting game. Beyond its sumptuous visuals, Cuphead delivers a nails-tough and immensely satisfying gameplay experience via a uniquely punishing brand of bullet hell mayhem. Playing co-op doubles the challenge by giving bosses more health, so for masochists who want to brave this beast of a game together, know that no title on this list might test a friendship as much as this one.

2 people can get animated together.



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Planet Earth: Blue Planet II (Tipstor® Pick)

Summary: A follow-up to the 2001 award-winning show “The Blue Planet,” this natural history series sees Sir David Attenborough return as narrator and host. A breathtaking exploration of the world’s vast oceans, hourlong episodes capture animals and other living organisms in their natural habitat, presenting viewers with a fascinating insight into what life is like underwater. From tropical seas to the harsh conditions of the Arctic, the makers of “Blue Planet II” use modern filming equipment and techniques to shine a light on areas of the planet that humans have never seen before.

Show: Planet Earth: Blue Planet II

Channel: Amazon Prime, AMC, BBC America

Presented By: David Attenborough

Genre(s): Movie/Mini-Series, News/Documentary, Documentary, Science

REVIEW

There really cannot be enough praise for the series, which knows how important it is to engage viewers on both an emotional and intellectual level. The results are a riveting, often heartbreaking look at both the strength and fragility of the world’s oceans. A worthy successor to the original, Blue Planet II also brings an urgent environmental warning that the first lacked: It demonstrates that the seas are in trouble and that the world must act.

PREVIEW


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Monday, July 20, 2020

“Magic for Humans” Is Real, and Really Funny (Trailer)

The rise of the internet was intended to be a pipeline of facts available at everyone’s fingertips, but it’s proving just as useful if not more so at spreading unwarranted skepticism. With minimal searching, anyone can find someone who believes in anything. Or, more accurately, find people who don’t believe in something.

On Reddit, I came across plenty Rusers claiming the first season of Magic for Humans used CGI, green screens, camera tricks and actors to pull off his stunts instead of incorporating the same type of magic that has been practiced for centuries.

Willman came to his own defense online, even coming close to explaining the tricks to prove there was no camera trickery, but that’s the great paradox of being a magician. You can’t prove you’re legit without spilling the beans on age-old secrets or tricks you worked hard to create.

One of the illusions from the first season that really set doubters off involved Willman pulling his wife out of a bag before a group of onlookers. Many figured it was done using green screen, with users freezing frames to try and expose amateur scammery.

Magic for Humans, which is produced by Tim & Eric and the same production company that made Nathan for You and The Eric Andre Show, takes the idea of real vs. fake head on in the Season 2 episode “Fake” every episode of Magic for Humans is anchored by a theme with Willman pretending to be a hack and asking a group of onlookers to fake amazement at his tricks while promising the magic will be added in post-production (the entire scene is right below). It’s a prime example of what makes Magic for Humans special; it’s as much a comedy show as it is a street magic show, and in this instance, a meta comedy show.

As he runs the onlookers through scripted lines in a direct wink to the doubters he engaged with online, he climbs on the back of a man kneeling on all fours and dressed in a full green screen outfit (think It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Green Man) to pretend that he’s levitating, and then he pulls a green screen slowly up over his body to pretend it’s disappearing in stages (again, in supposed post-production). Once the screen is above his head, it quickly drops, revealing only the man in the full green bodysuit on all fours on the ground. Willman has disappeared. The man pulls the hood off, and it’s Willman. The onlookers no longer have to pretend to be amazed.

It’s such a spectacular stunt I have to take Willman’s word for it that there are no cuts that it’s sure to be this season’s version of the wife-in-the-bag trick for doubters. William explained it involved no camera tricks, no editing, and no CGI, just a lot of hard work and rehearsing to get it right.

But healthy or not, those spending all their time trying to “solve” Willman’s tricks are missing a lot of what makes Magic for Humans such an enjoyable watch. Willman’s brand of magic, which is peppered with humor and inviting rather than exclusionary and hoisting the magician up to the clouds like a god, is designed to bring people together. Season 2 is an improvement over the first season because it’s a more personal look at Willman, grounding him as just another one of us humans rather than a warlock to be burned at the stake. Willman became a father between seasons, and an episode is focused on him trying to be a good dad while also trying to continue his magic. And the season’s last bit involves an emotional trick for his mother, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

100 percent it is real, he promised. They do shoot the show on the streets of Los Angeles, so a lot of people have a headshot. No one is hired or paid to act amazed or do or say a certain thing, everyone is just pulled off the street. Everyone’s real, and nothing is accomplished with fancy CGI or anything of that. Obviously ethically, but mostly because they can’t afford it.

Magic for Humans on Netflix.



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Good Will Hunting (Soundtrack): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: The soundtrack to Good Will Hunting doesn’t strive for fake urban cool; this film about white, working-class Bostonians gets a mostly white, working-class sound. The soundtrack effectively mirrors the half-filled desires and lives that the film capitalizes on: restlessness, ennui, doubt, and unrequited love rule here. Elliot Smith contributes the most, and the best, songs, beautiful weepers that outshine Danny Elfman’s somber original score, which makes only a few appearances.

Album: Good Will Hunting

Artist: Danny Elfman

Label: Capital Records

REVIEW

Alongside a wintry score by Danny Elfman, Smith contributed several lovely tracks from his album Either/Or and also wrote an original one: Miss Misery, a husky, farsighted waltz that casts bittersweet echoes down an empty highway, subtly echoing the film while adding new, universal dimensions of yearning. It almost won an Academy Award, but the prize was irrelevant; in its pristine, snowglobe capturing of a too-sensitive soul begging the world’s pardon, Miss Misery was Smith’s own perfect equation.

PREVIEW


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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Top 5 Reasons Not to Miss “Adventure Time’s” Return on HBO Max (Trailer)

HBO Max launched Wednesday, May 27, and the Distant Lands specials star June 25. Here are our Top 5 reasons Adventure Time is so much fun to get lost in, and why now is the perfect time to start watching.

1. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of candy people

How many shows do you know that have a post-apocalyptic setting with citizens made of candy? In the very first episode, “Slumber Party Panic,” there’s a surprise zombie candy invasion in which the dead attack Candy Kingdom citizens because of a graveyard experiment gone wrong. Jake and Finn show up to help save the day using their wits, charm and math skills. By the way, this wasteland, the Land of Ooo, also has a Wildberry Kingdom, Cloud Kingdom and Fire Kingdom, just to name a few. 

2. It’s a story about a young boy and his loyal dog

There’s nothing more classic than a tale about a kid, his dog and their quests. But in Adventure Time that familiar story takes place in a magical world where not only does the dog talk, he can also stretch his body into all kinds of shapes and sizes. Finn the human and Jake the dog also have more of an equal friendship than a master-and-pet dynamic. They always have each other’s backs even when fighting against a threatening foe like the Ice King, or when one of them accidentally ends up in the astral plane and needs help getting back.

3. There’s a vampire queen who rocks out

Fun-loving vampire queen Marceline is one of my favorite reasons to watch Adventure Time. She might be a 1,000-year-old vampire but she looks more like a hipster Goth who enjoys playing her battle-ax electric bass guitar. Unlike the usual evil kind of vamps, Marceline doesn’t drink blood (she actually just eats and drinks the color red). And she loves to pull pranks. She’s like the female Loki of the Land of Ooo.

4. There are many princesses, and none is a damsel in distress

Candy Kingdom has a princess, but she’s not the traditional kind of fairytale royalty: Princess Bubblegum is a scientist. Fire Kingdom is ruled by short-tempered Flame Princess, and Cloud Kingdom is ruled by a sarcastic purple cloud named Lumpy Space Princess. They’re sassy, smart and pack plenty of power, but also face their own faults and limitations. The show’s many episodes usually feature these princesses learning a thing or two about compassion, trust and friendship.

5. Life should always be looked at as an adventure

As the show’s name suggests, there’s always time for adventure, if you want it. Life is messy, and scary, and often unfair. But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope of having any fun. Adventure Time teaches us that even when we’re all stuck in the middle of a dire situation like a zombie candy outbreak, positive thinking and friendship and the desire to have a blast can get us through just about anything.

Here’s what the four new Adventure Time: Distant Lands episodes on HBO Max are all about:

  • BMO: When there’s a deadly emergency far away in space, the lovable robot BMO comes to the rescue.
  • Obsidian: Marceline the vampire and Princess Bubblegum team up on a journey to Glass Kingdom to prevent a catastrophe.
  • Wizard City: Peppermint Butler is just another inexperienced Wizard School student. When mysterious events on campus cast suspicion, he must master the mystic arts in time to prove his innocence.
  • Together Again: Finn and Jake reunite to rediscover their friendship and embark on the most important adventure of their lives.


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Rose Byrne Reads “Tale of Peter Rabbit” (Video)

The quintessential cautionary tale, The Tale of Peter Rabbit warns naughty children about the grave consequences of misbehaving. When Mrs. Rabbit beseeches her four furry children not to go into Mr. McGregor?s garden, the impish Peter naturally takes this as an open invitation to create mischief, read by Rose Byrne.



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Saturday, July 18, 2020

New Female-Focused “Star Wars” Series Coming to Disney Plus

Leslye Headland, co-creator of “Russian Doll” on Netflix, is the rumored showrunner for the upcoming “Star Wars” series.

Star Wars movies might be slowing down, but it looks like a new TV series focusing on female characters could be on the way to Disney Plus.

Netflix’s Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland is writing and will serve as showrunner on the new Star Wars series.

No details have been revealed about casting, possible characters or storyline, but sources told Variety it will be “a female-centric series that takes place in a different part of the Star Wars timeline than other projects.”

In addition to Russian Doll, Headland worked on the movie “Sleeping with Other People” and the TV shows “Terriers,” “Blunt Talk,” “SMILF” and “Black Monday.”

Currently, Lucasfilm and Disney are hard at work on the next season of the hit Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

Two other live-action Star Wars shows are also in the pipeline at Disney Plus — a “Rogue One” prequel series starring Diego Luna and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor.



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Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters (Lego): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: Do you love the Ghostbusters movie from 1984 Well, this set is a three-story building that represents their headquarters, and it includes 4,600 pieces that are going to be ideal for making a laboratory, a darkroom, and even a containment area for all of the ghosts. There is even an area for the minifigures to cook, sleep, and essentially live. The building is 14 inches tall, nine inches wide, and 14 inches deep, but when the walls are open, it doubles in width.

Lego Set: Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters

REVIEW

There are pink and blue ghosts that come with the set that can be placed around the building as well as on the outside. Slimer is also available to place anywhere around the building. Nine minifigures come with the set, and they include: Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Raymond, Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, Janine Melnitz, Louis Tully, Dana Barrett, a zombie driver, and a ghost from the library.

There are also household accessories that come with the set. Some of these accessories are oozing with slime, while others are designed to be regular objects that may be found in their headquarters. The walls of the building open up so that the rooms can be accessed more easily. There is even a fireman’s pole on the one side that is designed to allow the characters to exit the building more quickly.

PREVIEW


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Friday, July 17, 2020

“Salt”: Storyboards (Video)

This storyboard shows a scene where Salt is hanging from a rope and eventually lets go. Notice how the storyboard artist understand composition and how to create background imagery. 

Scene: Rooftop
Storyboard Example - Salt Storyboard - Tim Burgard - StudioBinder

Salt storyboard example by Tim Burgard.

Synopsis: When Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) became a CIA officer, she swore an oath to duty, honor and country. But, when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy, Salt’s oath is put to the test. Now a fugitive, Salt must use every skill gained from years of training and experience to evade capture, but the more she tries to prove her innocence, the more guilty she seems.



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Parasite (Movie): Tipstor? Pick

Summary:?Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist, to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide ?indispensable? luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims? newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

Starring: Andreas Fronk,?Hyae Jin Chang,?Hye-jin Jang,?Hyun Seung-min,?JaeWook Park,?Jeong Esuz,?Jeong-eun Lee,?Ji-rye Lee,?Jung Hyeon-jun,?Jung Ik-Han,?Kang Echae,?Kang-ho Song,?Lee Joo-Hyung,?Myeong-hoon Park,?Pak Hyo-Shin,?Seo Joon Park,?Seon-gyun Lee,?So-dam Park,?Woo-sik Choi,?Yeo-Jeong Cho,?Yeo-jeong Jo

Movie: Parasite

Channel: Amazon Prime, Hulu

Director: Joon-ho Bong

Genre(s):?Drama,?Thriller,?Comedy

Rating:?Not Rated

REVIEW

Parasite, Bong Joon-ho?s latest masterpiece and the best film we?ve seen so far this year, is about two families of four at opposite ends of the economic spectrum, and how the one on the lower end systematically takes over the lives of the other. Thrillingly played by a flawless ensemble cast who hit every note and harmonic resonance of Bong and co-writer Han Jin-won?s multitonal script, it?s a tragicomic masterclass that will get under your skin and eat away at your cinematic soul.

PREVIEW


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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Top 5 Shows To Watch If You Like “Vikings”

We’ve compiled our Top 5 list of shows that follow in the spirit of?Vikings. Some are about Vikings, some follow other groups of warriors throughout history, and some feature more of the medieval swords and shields battles that?Vikings?has become famous for. If you’re here just to see epic battles, you’ll find what you need in these shows that are similar to?Vikings.

1. Game of Thrones

Where to watch:?HBO

We’ll start with the obvious pick: HBO’s Game of Thrones. In fact, since Game of Thrones predates Vikings by a few years, it’s quite possible you found Vikings because of your love of Game of Thrones. But if for some reason you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, then a) where have you been? and b) you’ll find the only show in the last decade that has better battle scenes than Vikings does. And contrary to what you may have been told, Game of Thrones doesn’t emphasize fantasy elements. Yes, there are dragons, but when author George R.R. Martin crafted the story, he based it on history, specifically the War of the Roses in which several different families laid claim to the crown. It’s your call whether you want to watch the final two seasons, which sadly didn’t live up to the rest of the show.

2, The Last Kingdom

Where to watch:?Netflix

Of all the shows on this list, The Last Kingdom is going to be most like Vikings, and should be your first stop if you’re trying to relive the thrills of Ragnar and company. Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon StoriesThe Last Kingdom nearly overlaps with the events of Vikings (which begins in 793), starting with the 866 Viking conquest of York. The show’s hero is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon who is adopted by invading Vikings and raised as one of their own after the Vikings conquer his homeland, pulling him in two different directions as he has the blood of a Saxon but came of age as a Danish Viking. As the two shows are loosely based on the same history, some characters appear in both shows at different ages in similar stories separated by a generation of history. 

3. Black Sails

Where to watch:?Hulu, Starz

If “Yarrrrrr” is more your speed than “Skoll!,” then set sail for the underrated pirate drama Black Sails. Like Vikings, it intricately details a culture that most of us know more from Halloween costumes than actual history, with different factions set up against each other as they all want the same thing. In Vikings‘ case, it’s land, in Black Sails‘ case, it’s treasure. Black Sails is actually a gritty prequel to Treasure Island, with characters like Long John Silver, Captain Flint, and Billy Bones from Robert Louis Stevenson’s books brought to life in a thrilling drama. It doesn’t have as many battles as Vikings, focusing more on the renegade cutthroat strategy of these sea-faring bandits, but when ships do clash in the crystal-blue open waters, it’s some of the best action ever seen on TV.  

4. Spartacus

Where to watch:?Starz

You know what? It’s OK to like Vikings for its bloodletting. And if it’s spurting crimson you want, it’s a tidal wave you’ll get in the Starz series Spartacus. One of the most brutal and violent series ever, Spartacus is set in 72 B.C in the Roman Empire and follows the gladiators who made murder a sport, which Spartacus is more than happy to show off in artfully cinematic ways. And in keeping with the hedonism of the times, the show is also loaded with sex and nudity, because I know that’s also your thing. 

5. The Witcher

Where to watch:?Netflix

If?Vikings‘ complex political drama is what intrigues you, you’ll get a faceful of the same in Netflix’s?The Witcher. It’s far more fantasy-based, however, spectacularly bringing Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels about a monster hunter fulfilling an unknown destiny to the small screen, while also laying out an expansive battle for a continent between a brutish empire and several independent nation-states. Plus,?Henry Cavill?is the only other charismatic sword-swinging hunk who can hold a candle to?Travis Fimmel. ??



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Archer (TV Show): Tipstor? Pick

Summary:?The animated comedy from the same people who brought you Adult Swim introduces Sterling Archer, a spy for ISIS, whose boss is also his mother and his ex-girlfriend is a fellow spy.

Starring: Aisha Tyler,?Jessica Walter,?Chris Parnell

Show: Archer

Channel: Amazon Prime, Hulu, FX

Creator: Adam Reed

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Action

REVIEW

Archer is the rare show that’s in love with its own wordplay and good enough that this love becomes endearing rather than annoying. This wittily raunchy spy spoof from Adam Reed features intentionally stiff cartoon characters led by the title hero. With its demented story lines, idiotic characters, out-of-control banter and fantastic send-ups of a spy genre that had seemingly been overspoofed already, Archer is destined to put another feather in the cap of FX.

PREVIEW


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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Amanda Peet Nails It as Betty Broderick in “Dirty John” (Trailer)

Compassion for Betty isn’t easy, and Dirty John doesn’t portray it as such, if that is what showrunner Alexandra Cunningham is trying to do at all. She previously explored the duplicity of suburban women on Desperate Housewives and Bates Motel. But here, she attempts something trickier: contextualizing what led to a mother of four (Amanda Peet) horrifyingly shooting her ex-husband (Christian Slater), Dan, and his wife (Rachel Keller) in their sleep, with the pastel-tinged ’80s era as a backdrop.

Cunningham pulls off this element of fa?ade ? the happy and privileged Reagan-era housewife masking a broken woman ? quite intriguingly throughout the series, even at the height of Betty’s madness. Gliding back and forth in time, Dirty John peels back Betty’s many layers to unravel a life that had for a long time been controlled, first by her conservative parents then by her college sweetheart-turned-husband.

This gradual but steady build-up to the shocking night works best in the first few episodes of the series when we are still getting to know Betty. It goes from the 1960s flashbacks when she’s a college student (Tiera Skovbye, in these younger years) eagerly suppressing her love of science to act as the intellectually inferior woman on the charming Dan’s (Chris Mason) arm to the perfectly primped yet overwhelmed housewife in the 1970s. Intermittently, the story jumps to the years-long courtroom saga deliberating whether Betty’s murders are brought on by being a victim of her husband’s emotional abuse, like when he called her crazy for (rightfully) accusing him of cheating, or whether she is just pissed because the man she gave her entire youth to traded her in for a newer model and took all her credit cards away.

As the episodes progress, it becomes clear that Dirty John is saying that both can be true and leaves it up to the audience to determine our own moral commitments as they pertain to her case. The most pointed question it does raise is whether her ultimate punishment ? 32-years-to-life in prison ? is justified, considering all the details we learn about her and Dan’s marriage throughout the series.

What is she entitled to after everything she (willfully) sacrificed to be with him? Dirty John wants us to interrogate how much of Betty’s treatment by Dan (and subsequently what she went through throughout the legal process) was brought on by an overwhelming patriarchal standard without offering us any information to do so. It assumes viewers are just equipped with this understanding, which makes her vicious act even more incomprehensible.

While there are certainly gendered issues at hand, Dirty John is far more successful at painting a portrait of a woman who in many ways had been living on the brink of sanity for years ? muffled by, sure, the patriarchy but also her desire to lead a perfect life of financial means. How much of that is imposed on her and how much is actually true? The series doesn’t seem to know either way, which makes it a little less provocative and merely more of a retread of its ’90s Lifetime movie counterparts.

But it is Peet’s performance that ultimately incites even a smidgen of compassion for Betty, not so much because she is her husband’s victim but because she’s a longtime hostage of her own delusion. When one piece of her veneer is stolen from her, however unceremoniously ? whether it is the luxury vacations, perfect marriage, wonderful family or paper-thin country club friendships ? she, well, snaps. And that’s often as painful to watch as it is deeply disturbing.

Peet’s career-best performance is perfectly paired with Slater’s appropriately stoic and conniving portrayal, effortlessly delivering a grade-A depiction of gaslighting, sometimes to the beat of a fun Neil Diamond song. Skovbye and Mason as their younger counterparts, as well as a pitch-perfect wide-eyed Keller, are also riveting to watch as they round out a series that is ultimately shallow, but you simply can’t look away.

Dirty John on Netflix.



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Monster Hunter World, Iceborne (Game): Tipstor? Pick

Summary: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is the highly anticipated massive expansion to Monster Hunter: World, the best-selling Capcom title of all time with more than 12 million units shipped worldwide adding to the series total of more than 53 million units to date. This gargantuan follow-up rivals the gameplay volume from the original release and features a new icy setting, storyline, monsters, gameplay options, and more.

The game’s all-new story picks up after Monster Hunter: World and whisks hunters away to the newly discovered chilly locale that, once fully explored, becomes the largest region in World so far. The new locale is home to several new and returning monsters ready to challenge hunters throughout their expeditions and raises the stakes with the added higher difficulty Master Rank. Iceborne continues the skill-based progression and robust crafting system found in World and expands that with several new gameplay features that broaden the player’s combat repertoire. All this leads to the ultimate hunter test against the mysterious new flagship monster, Velkhana. 

Game: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Developer: Capcom

Genre(s): Role-Playing, Action RPG

Rating: T

REVIEW

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a perfect expansion and worth every penny. The new content is substantial, but the sheer amount of improvements, extensions to existing ideas and game changing additions offered up alongside the new area and monsters makes it so easy to recommend. This is a game that does not give up its secrets easily, but offers players a wealth of options to succeed – with enough perseverance.

PREVIEW


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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Top 5 Netflix Original Series of 2020 (So Far)

Here are the top rated Netflix Original Series in 2020:

1. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness

If you haven’t yet succumbed to the Tiger King hype, now is the time. Netflix’s bizarre seven-part documentary series tackles big cat ownership in America as it follows Joe Exotic, a tiger breeder and private zookeeper in Oklahoma, through his various campaigns for office, polygamous marriages, music videos, and vicious feuds. With a cast of characters whose wild quirks and crimes must truly be seen to be believed, the show is as engrossing as it is flawed. At the very least, it’ll take your mind off the news cycle for a few hours.

2. Unorthodox

Unorthodox is the story of a young Hasidic Jewish woman who flees from her life in Brooklyn, her community, and her arranged marriage to start anew in Berlin. The four-part series is based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, and is Netflix’s first foray into Yiddish content. The show is a nuanced, thoughtful portrait of a community and what it means to be an individual within it. The cast’s wonderful performances make it a gripping watch from start to finish.

3. Gentefied

Gentefied is the beautiful result of what happens when companies like Netflix allow communities to tell their own story. Latinx from top to bottom, Gentefied is a peek inside a California neighborhood that is seeing the firsthand effects of gentrification. Most complexly, it also asks its three main characters exactly what their role is when it comes to the neighborhood’s ever-changing population. As hilarious as it is thoughtful, Gentefied feels like the little engine that could, and that little engine is delivering a dose of representation that the streamer could really use.

4. Sex Education

Sex Education brings all of the same endearing characters and retro vibes to Season Two while also highlighting the very real issues associated with the show’s namesake. While Season One entertained us with many honest and uncomfortable stories of budding teen sexuality, this season got even more real and made even more of a statement by addressing things like female pleasure, consent, asexuality, anal sex and the epidemic of misinformation surrounding STDs. It’s somehow hilarious and touching and powerful all at the same time, making it an absolute must-watch for 2020.

5. The Stranger

If you like thrills, murders, and being confused, The Stranger is an engaging—albeit overly complicated—mystery, with many a spooky storyline to follow. Based on Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name, The Stranger mostly follows a—you guessed it—stranger, who goes around town revealing people’s secrets. The stranger’s motive varies—sometimes she blackmails people for money, others she tries to help by revealing truths. If you like crime and the occasional pop-up, The Stranger definitely won’t bore you.



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