HBO Max launches ‘Take Out,’ a culinary series hosted by Lisa Ling about Asian restaurants in the U.S.

April 22, 2021

Lisa Ling (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

  • HBO Max has given a six-part series order to the Max Original, “Take Out,” a timely docuseries from Part2 Pictures that follows award-winning journalist Lisa Ling as she takes viewers behind the counter and into the lives of the people and families who run some of America’s over 45,000 Asian restaurants.
     
  • Logline: Asian restaurants representing the diverse people and cuisines of the continent are as ubiquitous as McDonald’s, and each one of them has a unique and compelling story. Lisa explores the storied and complicated journey of the Asian community, past and present, at a critical time, while zig-zagging the country celebrating the joy that the little white take-out box can bring. 
     
  • Lisa Ling quote: “It is time that we learn about a community that has been integral to America’s development but has largely been ignored by American history. My own family’s path to their American dream started in a Chinese restaurant, and I cannot wait to learn the stories of those whose journey paralleled mine throughout different parts of this country.” 
     
  • Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max quote: “With ‘Take Out,’ we will pay tribute to the hard work and countless contributions of Asian Americans whose restaurants helped shape the cultural tapestry and cuisines of America. Lisa is one of a few storytellers who could paint the trials and triumphs of a community as told through the lens of a restaurant.”
     
  • David Shadrack Smith quote: “This has been a long-standing passion project that feels as relevant as ever. It’s a chance to join Lisa on an especially personal exploration – and build on our long relationship together delving deep into the dynamics of America through the people that make it diverse and complex.”
     
  • Credits: “Take Out” is produced by Part2 Pictures with executive producers Ling and David Shadrack Smith. Part2 Pictures is currently producing the eighth season of “This Is Life With Lisa Ling.”

Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig

December 24, 2020

by Carla Hay

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman 1984” (Photo by Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures & © DC Comics)

“Wonder Woman 1984”

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1984, primarily in Washington, D.C, plus other parts of the world, the superhero action flick “Wonder Woman 1984” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos, African Americans and Asians) representing different classes of people.

Culture Clash: Diana Prince, also known as superhero Wonder Woman, battles against a power-hungry business mogul who wants to rule the world, while one of her female co-workers falls into the mogul’s seductive trap and becomes his ally.

Culture Audience: “Wonder Woman 1984″ will appeal primarily to people who like family-friendly, comic-book-based movies that blend action with social issues and goofy comedy.

Pedro Pascal in “Wonder Woman 1984” (Photo by Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures & © DC Comics)

“Wonder Woman 1984” could have been subtitled “Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It,” because by the end of the movie, this old adage has been pounded into viewers’ consciousness to the point of being almost numbing. “Wonder Woman 1984” is the sequel to the 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman,” which was a less bloated, less sociopolitical movie than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but the original “Wonder Woman” movie took itself more seriously as an action film. Both movies (based on DC Comics’ “Wonder Woman” series) were directed by Patty Jenkins, who did not write 2017’s “Wonder Woman,” but she co-wrote the “Wonder Woman 1984” screenplay with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham.

The results in “Wonder Woman 1984” are mixed. On the one hand, the movie aims to be a crowd-pleaser appealing to various generations of people. In the first half of the movie, Wonder Woman has the type of fun-loving superhero action that’s almost cartoonish. In a chase scene that happens fairly early in the movie, Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot), also known as Diana Prince, thwarts a heist in a shopping mall by singlehandedly apprehending the four thieves who robbed a jewelry store in the mall. She gives a wink and a smile to some awestruck kids who witness this spectacle. There are also several campy moments in the movie with the character who ends up being the story’s chief villain.

But on the other hand, in the second half of the movie, there are some heavy-handed issues about the nuclear arms race, greed and political corruption that overwhelm the plot. And the plot goes a little bit off the rails because it involves people worldwide having to agree to undo a lot of things that already did significant damage. Not even Wonder Woman is that much of a superhuman political diplomat, but “Wonder Woman 1984” tries to bite off more than it can chew with this concept.

The movie’s total running time is a little too long, at two-and-a-half hours. The tone is very uneven, because “Wonder Woman 1984” has some problems balancing the comedic moments with the serious moments. And the visual effects are hit and miss. (Some of the human characters look very fake in CGI action scenes.) Despite the flaws in “Wonder Woman 1984,” it’s still a fairly enjoyable superhero movie, because of the convincing interactions between the characters and because it mostly succeeds as an entertaining story that holds people’s interest.

“Wonder Woman 1984” begins where “Wonder Woman” began: in her female-only Amazon homeland, the island nation of Themyscira, which is supposed to be a place that has secretly existed on Earth for eons. The actresses who portray the Amazons of Themyscira have a mishmash of European accents. A young Diana (played by Lilly Aspell), who’s about 9 or 10 years old, is seen in an intense athletic competition with adult Amazon warriors. There’s no explanation for why Diana is the only child in this competition, which involves several obstacle courses of running, riding horses and shooting arrows through giant circles placed on top of tall structures.

As a princess, Diana is expected to win for her team. But when she falls off of a horse and lags behind her competitors, she decides to take a shortcut to make up for lost time. She ends up finishing ahead of her competitors, but her mentor Antiope (played by Robin Wright), who’s also the competition’s judge, disqualifies Diana as the winner, because Diana cheated and therefore she’s “not ready to be a true winner.”

Diana’s queen mother Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen) comforts a disappointed Diana by telling her: “One day, you’ll become everything you dream of and more. And everything will be different. This world is not ready for all that you will do.” In case people don’t know about Wonder Woman already, she seems to be immortal, because as an adult, she’s able to live through several centuries and still look like she’s in her late 20s/early 30s.

The movie then fast-forwards to 1984 in Washington, D.C., where Diana is working at the Smithsonian Museum as a cultural anthropologist and archaeologist. She is grieving over the death of her American pilot boyfriend Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), who (spoiler alert) died during a heroic feat in the first “Wonder Woman” movie, which took place in 1918 during World War I. And now, Diana is moonlighting as Wonder Woman, who is only known to the public at this point as a mysterious crime fighter who’s recently been sighted in the D.C. area.

The four thieves who were apprehended by Wonder Woman in the shopping mall weren’t doing a run-of-the-mill theft in a jewelry store. The store had a hidden room with stolen treasure items that were being sold on the black market. One of the items stolen was a citrine, a classic stone used in fake gems throughout history.

A pointed citrine stone that was part of the stolen haul makes its way to the Smithsonian Museum, where the FBI has asked Smithsonian experts to help identify the origins of some of the stolen treasure. One of the Smithsonian experts enlisted for this task is Barbara Minerva (played by Kristen Wiig), a meek and socially awkward nerd who works in geology, gemology, lithology and cryptozoology.

Barbara is someone who is routinely ignored and/or disrespected by her work colleagues. Her co-workers barely acknowledge her presence when she greets them. Her supervisor Carol (played by Natasha Rothwell) doesn’t even remember interviewing Barbara, or even meeting Barbara, before she asks Barbara for her help with the FBI investigation.

The only person at the Smithsonian who treats Barbara like someone worthy of their social time is Diana, and the two women end up becoming work friends. Barbara and Diana meet when Diana helps Barbara pick some paperwork that Barbara accidentally dropped out of a briefcase on a lobby floor at work. Barbara is desperate for a friend, so she asks Diana to lunch, but Diana says she’s too busy.

However, Diana and Barbara end up in the same room with the stolen treasures in the FBI investigation. And the two women find out that they both have a shared passion for ancient artifacts. The citrine stone is not considered one of the more valuable items, in terms of monetary value. And during their conversation, it’s mentioned that the legend of the stone is that it can grant one wish to the person who holds the stone. Diana holds the stone and silently wishes for Steve to come back to life.

Diana and Barbara have dinner together that day. And over dinner, they talk about their lives. Barbara is a stereotypical middle-aged spinster who lives alone, has no kids and has no love life. The only cliché about this lifestyle that Barbara doesn’t have is a pet cat. But she actually does become a “cat lady” later on in the story.

When Barbara asks Diana if she’s ever been in love, Diana tells her that she used to be in love with an American pilot, who died. Diana doesn’t give any further details, but she makes it clear that she’s still heartbroken and not ready to move on to someone else. Barbara is very insecure about her looks and her prospects of finding love, but Diana tries to give Barbara a confidence boost throughout their conversation.

Diana compliments Barbara by telling her that she’s one of the most natural and funniest people she’s ever met. Barbara is surprised because she’s not used to hearing flattering remarks about herself. She tells Diana, “People think I’m weird. They avoid me and talk about me behind my back and think I don’t hear them.”

After this friendly dinner, Barbara is walking through a park by herself and gives her dinner leftovers to a homeless man. And soon afterwards, a middle-aged drunk and disheveled man (played by Shane Attwooll) accosts her and tries to get her interested in him. Barbara rebuffs his advances and he gets physically aggressive with her. It’s about to turn into a full-blown assault, but Diana comes to the rescue and pushes the man away with such force that he’s thrown to the ground and becomes temporarily incapacitated. Barbara thanks Diana for helping her, and this incident further strengthens their trust in each other and their budding friendship.

When Barbara goes back to her office, she sees the citrine stone and holds it. She says out loud, “I do know what I wish for: I wish to be like Diana: strong, sexy, cool, special.” The stone glows and there’s a slight wind that passes through the air. These visual effects are kind of cheesy, but they work.

Diana goes home and finds out that Steve is there and he has been reincarnated in the body of an unnamed handsome man (played by Kristoffer Polaha), who seems to have no idea that his body is now inhabited by someone who died in 1918. The rest of the world sees the unnamed man as his actual physical self, but Diana only sees Steve when she looks at the man. And that explains why actor Pine is shown as Steve during this reincarnation. (It’s not a spoiler, since Steve’s return was already shown in the trailer for “Wonder Woman 1984.”)

Meanwhile, there’s a slick and sleazy business mogul named Maxwell “Max” Lord (played by Pedro Pascal) who’s all over TV with commercials for his company Black Gold Cooperative, which is described as “the first oil company by the people, for the people.” It should come as no surprise that this company and this mogul are not at all what they want people to think they are.

Maxwell’s real last name is Lorenzano, and its later revealed that he’s an ambitious Latino immigrant who changed his last name and appearance (he dyed his hair blonde) to appear more Anglo. He’s also a divorced father who has weekend visitations with his son Alistair (played by Lucian Perez), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Maxwell is shown to be a very neglectful father, and his bad parenting is used as a “pull at your heartstrings” plot device in several scenes in the movie.

Maxwell finds out that the citrine stone is at the Smithsonian Museum. And so, he shows up at the museum one day, under the pretense of wanting to possibly donate millions of dollars to the department that has the stone. Barbara is immediately charmed by Maxwell’s flirtatious manner, while Diana is coolly skeptical.

Maxwell can see that Barbara is a lonely woman who’s desperate for attention, so he continues to flirt with her and makes it clear that he wants to date her. People who aren’t familiar with the “Wonder Woman” comic books can still easily figure out where the storyline is going to go with Barbara, because it’s similar to the more famous Catwoman story arc in DC Comics’ “Batman” series. And the trailer for “Wonder Woman 1984” already revealed the result of Barbara’s metamorphosis when there’s a showdown between her and Wonder Woman.

Not all of the action takes place in Washington, D.C., because there’s a subplot that takes Maxwell, Steve and Diana/Wonder Woman to Egypt, where an oil baron named Emir Said Bin Abydos (played by Amr Waked) has a pivotal role in the story. There are also many scenes that are supposed to take place simultaneously in different areas of the world, during the last third of the movie when the plot becomes a bit of a mess. “Wonder Woman 1984” falters when it becomes a little too much of a political statement about the nuclear arms race in the 1980s. The movie redeems itself when it focuses more on human interactions that are more relatable to everyday people.

The romance between Diana and Steve picks up right where it left off, but in “Wonder Woman 1984,” it’s more playful and amusing than it was in “Wonder Woman.” Steve’s culture shock of living in 1984 is used for great comical effect, as he marvels at 1984 fashion and other things that didn’t exist in 1918, such as escalators, breakdancing and computer-controlled planes. And the rampant materialism and capitalism that defined the 1980s in the United States are shown in not-so-subtle ways throughout the movie, as exemplified in everything from crowded shopping malls to the greedy villain Maxwell Lord.

Fans of Wonder Woman in the DC Comics, the 1970s movie series and as part of the DC Extended Universe will find plenty of things to like about “Wonder Woman 1984.” There are references that stay true to Wonder Woman canon, with a few tweaks here and there. (For example, in the comic books, Barbara Minerva is British, not American.)

And there’s a mention of Asteria, a legendary Amazon from Themyscira who was the first owner of the Golden Eagle armor that Wonder Woman wears in “Wonder Woman 1984.” It’s explained in the movie that Asteria sacrificed herself by wearing the armor while holding off the men who invaded Themyscira. Look for a cameo during the movie’s end credits that will delight a lot of Wonder Woman fans.

Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince can sometimes be a little wooden, but her best moments in the film are in expressing Diana’s grief over the death of Steve. At times, she looks more like a model playing dress-up as Wonder Woman rather than a bona fide action hero, but the visual effects go a long way in adding excitement to the action scenes. Gadot and Pine’s chemistry together isn’t very sexy or passionate, but it is fairly believable in their portrayal of two people who respect each other and were friends before they became lovers.

And for someone who died in 1918 (when women in the U.S. didn’t even have the right to vote), Steve is extremely enlightened in how quickly he adapts to feminist ideals of gender equality. He doesn’t feel threatened or act offended in situations where Diana/Wonder Woman has more abilities and greater strength than he does. At the same time, he doesn’t shrink from expressing his masculinity and showing his talent and skills.

It should come as no surprise that Steve gets to fly a modern plane. One of the best visual scenes in the film is when Steve and Diana fly in an invisible plane through a stunning display of Fourth of July fireworks. Nitpicky viewers will have to assume that the plane has an invisible shield to protect it from the firework explosions.

Because “Wonder Woman 1984” takes quite a bit of time developing the dramatic storylines for Barbara and Maxwell, there might not be as much action in the movie as some people might expect. Most of the suspense comes in the last third of the movie. To get to that point, viewers have to sit through seeing Maxwell become increasingly unhinged in an over-the-top way that often veers into being unintentionally comical.

Pascal’s portrayal of Maxwell as the chief villain is done in broad, over-the-top strokes. Viewers know from the beginning that he’s corrupt, and there’s almost no humanity in this character for most of the movie as he gets more and more maniacal. Wiig fares much better with her portrayal of the emotionally wounded and ultimately misguided Barbara. Her character can be viewed as a symbol of the negative effects of “silent bullying”: when people are treated as outcasts not by insults in their face but by being shunned and ignored.

It’s clear that the filmmakers of “Wonder Woman 1984,” just like the 2019 film “Joker,” wanted to have something more to say about society’s problems and international politics instead of being just another movie based on comic book characters. However, unlike “Joker,” which had an unrelenting but consistent dark and depressing tone, the tone of “Wonder Woman 1984” jumps over the place—and that inconsistency lowers the quality of the movie. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with being a lighthearted superhero movie instead of trying to tackle heavy social issues. And sometimes “saving the world” in a superhero movie doesn’t mean you have to get bogged down in international politics over weapons of mass destruction.

“Wonder Woman 1984” was released in cinemas in various countries outside the U.S. on December 16, 2020. The movie’s U.S. release date in cinemas and on HBO Max is December 25, 2020. In the United Kingdom, “Wonder Woman 1984” is set for a VOD release on January 13, 2021.

WarnerMedia shakes up movie industry: Warner Bros. Pictures Group releases in 2021 will debut simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max

December 23, 2020

The following is a press release from Warner Bros. Pictures Group:

Today, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group announced that it has committed to releasing its 2021 film slate via a unique, consumer-focused distribution model in which Warner Bros. will continue to exhibit the films theatrically worldwide, while adding an exclusive one month access period on the HBO Max streaming platform in the U.S. concurrent with the film’s domestic release. The hybrid model was created as a strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, particularly in the U.S. Following the one month HBO Max access period domestically, each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title. All films will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max. This announcement was made today by Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group (of which Warner Bros. is part) and Jason Kilar, CEO, WarnerMedia.

Warner Bros. Pictures Group’s 2021 expected* release slate currently includes The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho and Matrix 4. 

“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Sarnoff. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”

“After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months,” said Kilar. “More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”

“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We have a fantastic, wide ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able get these movies in front of audiences around the world. And, as always, we’ll support all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their theatrical debuts, while highlighting this unique opportunity to see our films domestically via HBO Max as well.”

About Warner Bros. Pictures Group: 

Warner Bros. Pictures Group includes Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Warner Animation Group and DC-based film production. Warner Bros. partners with the world’s most inspiring storytellers to create extraordinary entertainment on every screen for the global audience. Warner Bros. Pictures Group has been at the forefront of the motion picture industry since its inception and continues to be a leading creative force, producing the broadest slate of films comprised of worldwide theatrical releases and films premiering exclusively on HBO Max. To date, Warner Bros. remains the only studio to cross the $1 billion mark both domestically and internationally 19 years in a row—an industry record.  

About HBO Max: 

HBO Max® is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering, with 10,000 hours of curated premium content. HBO Max offers best in class quality entertainment, featuring the greatest array of storytelling for all audiences with the iconic brands of HBO, Warner Bros., DC, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and much more. Website: HBOMax.com

*Films and release dates subject to change. 

HBO Max reveals first trailer and premiere date for ‘Stylish With Jenna Lyons’

November 19, 2020

Sarah Clary, Jenna Lyons and Kyle DeFord of “Stylish With Jenna Lyons” (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

HBO Max debuted today the official trailer and key art for the new Max Original “Stylish with Jenna Lyons.” All eight episodes will be available to stream on Thursday, December 3, 2020 on HBO Max. 
 
As president of J. Crew, Jenna Lyons became “the woman who dresses America”—a formidable business and style icon. Now, Jenna is experiencing a rebirth, and her reputation is on the line. Like many others in 2020, her lofty plans required some adapting and rethinking. From this emerged her very first beauty line, LoveSeen; a ground-up build of a boutique hotel in the Abaco Islands; and several soon-to-be-revealed creative surprises. In a refreshing mix of elevated documentary and formatted competition, “Stylish with Jenna Lyons” follows Jenna as she tackles design projects that will help define her future business. These include renovating her friend’s Brooklyn townhouse, hosting mobile fashion makeovers, designing her new office, and launching LoveSeen—her fresh take on false lashes. Along the way, she’ll test a diverse group of creative associates, all vying for a life-changing spot in Jenna’s growing team. Jenna’s staff, including her chief-of-staff Kyle DeFord and stylist Sarah Clary, join her in this ambitious new venture, delivering a masterclass in taste, design, and fashion with every episode.

To complement the series launch, Jenna is also creating a virtual pop-up shop featuring covetable, handpicked home, beauty, and fashion goods from local makers that highlight Jenna’s discerning point of view. The pop-up shop will be open from November 26 through December 18, 2020. More information can be found on @popupish’s Instagram.

“Stylish with Jenna Lyons” is produced by Our House Media with OHM’s Simon Lloyd and Matt Hanna serving as executive producers, along with Lyons, David Tibballs, Paul Storck, Hillary Olson, Jae Goodman, and Michael Bloom for Bongo Pictures.

HBO Max becomes available on Amazon Fire TV devices

November 16, 2020

WarnerMedia announced today that HBO Max, the popular streaming platform, will begin rolling out on Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, Fire TV Edition smart TVs, and Fire tablets on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. This launch brings HBO Max into the living rooms of tens of millions of Amazon device customers. 
 
HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer streaming offering, with 10,000 hours of curated premium content. The platform is home to best in class quality entertainment, featuring the greatest array of storytelling for all audiences with the iconic brands of HBO, Warner Bros., DC, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and much more.
 
Immediately upon launch, current subscribers of HBO through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels will be able to log in to the HBO Max app with their Amazon credentials at no additional cost. The HBO app on Fire TV and Fire tablets will automatically update to become the HBO Max app; customers will be able to log in using their existing HBO credentials. New customers can also subscribe to HBO Max directly in the app. Additionally, all existing HBO Max customers—regardless of how they subscribe to the platform—can now access all of HBO Max via supported Fire TV and Fire tablet devices using their existing provider credentials.
 
Amazon Fire TV is the #1 streaming media player family in the US. HBO Max will be compatible with the entire Fire TV line-up including the all-new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite. 
 
“We are very excited that Amazon customers will now be able to enjoy the best-in-class content that lives within HBO Max,” said Tony Goncalves, Head of Sales and Distribution for WarnerMedia. “Our continued goal is to make HBO Max and its unparalleled content available to customers across all the devices they love. Fire TV is a favorite among customers and we look forward to working with the Amazon team to engage and grow our existing subscriber base by showcasing all that HBO Max has to offer.”
 
“We’ve worked closely with HBO for many years to bring their great content to Fire TV and to make it easier to discover and enjoy with features like search integration, Alexa and personalized recommendations,” said Marc Whitten, Vice President of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, “We are excited to continue that partnership with the launch of HBO Max to bring even more incredible content to customers on Fire TV. Alexa, play Raised by Wolves.
 
With Amazon Alexa, at launch customers can seamlessly navigate to the HBO Max app by saying “Alexa, find HBO Max” with Fire TV’s included Alexa Voice Remote or a paired Echo device for hands-free control. HBO Max content is also integrated into universal search on Fire TV, meaning that its content will appear in searches such as “Alexa, find dramas” or “Alexa, find Game of Thrones.” Customers can also ask Alexa to start watching something specific; “Alexa, play The Undoing.” 
 
This month, HBO Max features the debut of much-anticipated Max Originals, including The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco, Superintelligence with Melissa McCarthy and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion, plus the premieres of HBO’s critical hit new series Industry and special event Between the World and Me, a gripping adaption of the New York Times #1 bestselling book by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Fan-favorite films including Magic Mike, 13 Going on 30 and The Dark Knight are also available debuting on HBO Max this month. December brings the return of Euphoria with a special episode and the debut of Steven Soderbergh’s film Let Them All Talk starring Meryl Streep, as well as the platform’s very first holiday special, My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood.
 
HBO Max is widely available via most providers and device platforms. For more information on ways to access or to subscribe, visit HBOMax.com

HBO Max documentary series ‘Not So Pretty’ exposes the beauty industry

September 22, 2020

 

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

HBO Max has greenlit Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s Jane Doe Films limited docuseries “Not So Pretty” from studio Entertainment One (eOne). The four episode, half-hour investigation-driven project will bring awareness to the lurking dangers in the commodities we all use every day without question for makeup, skin-care, nails, and hair. “Not So Pretty” is currently in production. 
 
“Not So Pretty” will mark the first-ever comprehensive large-scale investigative expose of the trillion-dollar cosmetics, beauty and personal care industry. Celebrated and groundbreaking filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (“On the Record,” “The Hunting Ground,” “The Invisible War”) will take this monolithic industry to task via rigorous investigations, incisive wit and emotional storytelling to inform audiences of the hidden hazards of and safe, budget-friendly alternatives for their daily products.
 
“’Not So Pretty’ is a landmark exposé that will both captivate and educate viewers,” says Jennifer O’Connell, executive vice president original non-fiction and kids programming, HBO Max. “Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are masters of investigative storytelling and prime to reveal the unknown threats that affect us all. This series gives us the opportunity to spark change and arm consumers with the knowledge needed to make smarter personal care choices. We are pleased to continue our relationship with them after the acclaimed release of ‘On the Record.’”
 
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Kirby, Amy and the HBO Max team on this distinctly important project. ‘Not So Pretty’ is not just a gripping docuseries but also a vehicle to generate a crucial awareness among consumers. We can’t wait to share it with audiences around the world,” stated Tara Long, eOne’s President of Global Unscripted TV. 
 
Produced by eOne, the documentary is helmed and executive produced by Dick & Ziering. Tara Long of eOne will also executive produce. 

About HBO Max
HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering, which debuted May 27, 2020. With 10,000 hours of curated premium content, HBO Max offers powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs and movies, and fan favorites from WarnerMedia’s rich library including motion picture and TV series from Warner Bros., highlights from New Line, and catalog titles from DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. 
Website: HBOMax.com
 
About WarnerMedia
WarnerMedia is a leading media and entertainment company that creates and distributes premium and popular content from a diverse array of talented storytellers and journalists to global audiences through its consumer brands including: HBO, HBO Now, HBO Max, Warner Bros., TNT, TBS, truTV, CNN, DC, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others. WarnerMedia is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).
 
About Jane Doe Films 
Jane Doe Films (fka Chain Camera Pictures) is a prestigious, award-winning production company, home to the most groundbreaking investigatory documentaries today, headed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. Hailed productions from the filmmakers include “On the Record,” “The Bleeding Edge,” “The Hunting Ground,” “The Invisible War,” “Outrage,” “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” and “Twist of Faith.” Their notable accolades include two Oscar nominations, two Emmy Awards, an Independent Spirit Award, a Peabody, the Producer’s Guild of America’s Stanley Kramer Award, and the George Polk Award for Special Achievement in Investigative Journalism. 
 
About eOne
Entertainment One Ltd. (eOne) is a talent-driven independent studio that specializes in the development, acquisition, production, financing, distribution and sales of entertainment content. As part of global play and entertainment company Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS), eOne’s expertise spans across film, television and music production and sales; family programming, merchandising and licensing; digital content; and live entertainment. Through its extensive reach and scale, and a deep commitment to high-quality entertainment, eOne unlocks the power and value of creativity.
 
eOne brings to market both original and existing content, sourcing IP from Hasbro’s portfolio of 1500+ brands, and through a diversified network of creative partners and eOne companies including: international feature film distribution company Sierra/Affinity; Amblin Partners with DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, and Reliance Entertainment; Makeready with Brad Weston; unscripted television production companies Renegade 83, Daisybeck, Blackfin and Whizz Kid Entertainment; live entertainment leaders Round Room Live; world-class music companies Audio Network, Dualtone Music Group and Last Gang; and award-winning emerging content and technology studio Secret Location.

DC Universe expands under new name DC Universe Infinite; DC Universe video content moves to HBO Max

September 18, 2020

The following is a press release from DC Entertainment:

Calling all comic book fans to Explore the Multiverse! DC today announced the evolution of DC UNIVERSE into DC UNIVERSE INFINITE, a premium digital comic book service set to launch on January 21, 2021. With access to more than 24,000 comic books at launch, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscribers will also encounter digital-first comics, exclusive access to DC fan events, as well as a steady stream of recently released comics six months after the physical versions hit store shelves. Following its initial launch, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will begin expanding globally in SUMMER 2021.

“Our fans love the platform’s robust library of comic books and, with the transformation, we will not disappoint,” said DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee. “I’m excited to share that not only will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE members still be able to read all of the great comics that they’ve enjoyed but new issues are debuting on the platform quicker than before, digital first exclusives are being created, and the members-only events will begin as soon as possible. There has never been a better time to be a DC fan!”

DC’s premium digital comic book platform provides members with an expanded collection of comics and Original Graphic Novels, spanning over 80 years of the DC Multiverse. Fans can also download comics, graphic novels and originals for unlimited offline reading on their favorite devices from a smartphone or tablet.

Subscribers will also have earlier access to new Digital First comics that include titles such as Aquaman: Deep Dives, Batman: Gotham Nights, DCeased: Hope at World’s End, Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red, Injustice: Year Zero, Shazam!: Lightning Strikes, Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Swamp Thing: New Roots and Wonder Woman 84, and many more. Also debuting on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will be DC Universe Infinite Originals, including new comic content centered around beloved characters…stay tuned for updates!

The fan-favorite community area will be free to all registered and premium subscribers with a full calendar of events planned for 2021. Current DC UNIVERSE subscribers will not need to create a new account as their DC UNIVERSE login will transfer to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

For DC UNIVERSE subscribers who want ongoing access to premium DC originals, the special DC UNIVERSE monthly member offer to HBO MAX has been extended. In celebration of Batman Day and the announcement of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE, the special offer for eligible monthly subscribers to upgrade their service to include HBO Max for an additional $4.99 per month for a limited time is now available through October 30, 2020.

HBO Max will be the home for premium video content that will include new DC series, key DC classics and DC UNIVERSE originals like Young Justice Seasons 1-4, Titans Seasons 1-3, Doom Patrol Seasons 1-3, and DC’s Stargirl Season 1. Additionally, HBO Max has ordered a third season of Warner Bros. Animation’s critically acclaimed DC UNIVERSE adult animated comedy series Harley Quinn, starring Kaley Cuoco, who also served as executive producer during the first two seasons along with Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, Dean Lorey, and Sam Register. Harley Quinn will be a Max Original going forward, and all three seasons of the show will be available.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What Is DC UNIVERSE INFINITE?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE is the ultimate comic book subscription service. With access to more than 24,000 comic books at launch, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscribers will also encounter digital-first comics, member access to DC fan events, as well as a steady stream of recently released comics six months after their physical versions hit store shelves.

What content will be available on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE?

The Biggest DC Digital Comic Book Library Anywhere, Ever: An expanded collection of 24,000+ DC Multiverse titles including select graphic novels, Black Label, with more to come!

Earlier Access: DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscribers no longer have to wait a year. New release comics are now available 6 months after they hit stores!

DC Universe Infinite Originals: First-access to a collection of titles before they’re available anywhere else!

In addition, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will feature news and behind-the-scenes looks at DC Comics as well as full access to the DC character encyclopedia.

On what platforms will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE be available?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will be available for iPhone, iPad, Android Phone and Tablets and online for web and mobile web at dcuniverseinfinite.com.

Will I have access to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE on my TV or Amazon tablet?

In December of 2020 DC UNIVERSE will no longer be available on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon TV and tablet, and Xbox apps.

When will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE be available?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will launch January 21, 2021.

How much will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE cost?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will add a larger and more recent set of titles to its existing comics library at the same low price of $74.99/year and $7.99/month.

Eligible members of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE as of February 1, 2021 will also receive a “thank you” voucher to the DC Shop, subject to terms and conditions. Annual subscribers will receive a $25 voucher while monthly subscribers will receive a $10 voucher.

Will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE be available outside of the United States?

At launch in January 2021, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will only be available in the United States. Expanding to our international fans is important to us so we are working to bring DC UNIVERSE INFINITE to additional countries by summer 2021. Stay tuned for more updates.

I am already a DC UNIVERSE subscriber – how do I become a DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscriber?

Starting in October 2020, DC UNIVERSE subscribers will be able to confirm that they would like to continue their account to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE when it launches. Confirming your account will provide uninterrupted access through the transition from DC UNIVERSE to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. More information on this process will be available soon.

As a thank you, any subscriber who confirms and maintains their account through the launch of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will also be eligible to receive a “thank you” DC Shop voucher of $25 for annual subscribers and $10 for monthly subscribers, subject to terms and conditions.

I am not a current DC UNIVERSE subscriber can I sign up for DC UNIVERSE INFINITE?

Yes — starting in October users will be able to sign-up for DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

How can I continue to access the DC UNIVERSE community?

Access to community will remain unchanged for all DC UNIVERSE members – whether premium or registered via the web through our evolution. We have exciting things in store in the year ahead – stay tuned for more details!

Will you be digging into all the new issues hitting DC UNIVERSE INFINITE? Let us know in our Community!

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will be available online at DCUniverseInfinite.com, iOS and Android devices for $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year ($6.25 a month). On February 1, 2021, every DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscriber, existing members or those joining during the pre-order offer window will receive a special thank you voucher redeemable at the DC Shop subject to terms and conditions. Annual subscribers will receive a $25 voucher, while monthly subscribers will receive a $10 voucher.

Review: ‘An American Pickle,’ starring Seth Rogen

August 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Seth Rogen and Seth Rogen in “An American Pickle” (Photo by Hopper Stone/HBO Max)

“An American Pickle” 

Directed by Brandon Trost

Culture Representation: Taking place in Brooklyn, New York, and in an unnamed Eastern European country, the comedy film “An American Pickle” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the middle-class and the working-class.

Culture Clash:  In 1919, an immigrant worker at a pickle factory in Brooklyn has a freak accident that preserves him alive in a pickle vat for 100 years, and when he’s discovered in 2019, he experiences major culture shock that includes living with his great-grandson who looks just like him.

Culture Audience: “An American Pickle” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Seth Rogen or to people who like comedies about families, time travel or the immigrant experience.

Seth Rogen in “An American Pickle” (Photo by Hopper Stone/HBO Max)

In the comedy film “An American Pickle,” star Seth Rogen takes a break from the usual foul-mouthed raunchiness that he has in his live-action films and makes a sweetly sentimental statement about family love that is not bound by time. Rogen convincingly handles two roles in “An American Pickle”—Herschel Greenbaum and Herschel’s great-grandson Ben Greenbaum, who are two very different people from very different eras. Under the comic-book-styled direction of Brandon Trost, “An American Pickle” (written by Simon Rich) provides satisfactory entertainment for people looking for some lightweight escapist comedy, but it’s not the type of movie that is going to be considered one of the funniest films of the year.

In the beginning of the movie, Herschel is a ditch digger in an unnamed Eastern European country in the early 1900s. Herschel and his good-natured wife Sarah (played by Sarah Snook) are poor but happily married. During their courtship, they confided in each other about their respective hopes and dreams. For Sarah, her dream is to be able to afford her own gravestone. For Herschel, he dreams of one day being able to drink seltzer water.

One day, Herschel and Sarah’s village comes under attach by Russian Cossacks, who invaded and caused destruction in the area, and causing many of the villagers to flee. Herschel and Sarah decide to move to the United States. Their arrival at the U.S. immigration checkpoint is a quick biting commentary on the prejudices that await non-English-speaking, non-Christian immigrants. The movie shows Jewish and Polish people shoved around and treated like cattle at the checkpoint, after getting a “Welcome to America” greeting.

Soon after arriving in America in 1919, Herschel and Sarah set roots in Brooklyn, New York, where Herschel gets a job at a pickle factory. Sarah then finds out that she’s pregnant. Herschel thinks his job at the pickle factory will be a step up from ditch digging, but he’s assigned a job on the factory’s lowest end of the totem pole: He has to kill the rats that frequently run around the factory area.

One day, while chasing some rats at the factory, Herschel has a freak accident and falls into a large vat of pickles. His fall makes a large splash and causes a ruckus, but somehow, no one in this crowded factory notices. Almost immediately, like people moving props in a stage play, some factory workers put a locked lid on the vat, and Herschel is trapped inside. (It goes without saying that his movie requires huge suspensions of disbelief, where viewers have to ignore the idea that Herschel would shout for help or try to escape from the vat.)

At any rate, Herschel ends up being preserved alive in the vat for 100 years. In 2019, two teenage boys find the vat in the long-abandoned factory. Herschel is discovered alive, intact, and perfectly preserved. And he’s about to undergo major culture shock.

Herschel is taken to a hospital for medical tests. While undergoing testing, he finds out that his wife Sarah died in 1939. Herschel is upset about it, but knows there’s nothing he can do to bring her back.

During a press conference announcing Herschel as a medical miracle, skeptical reporters ask how Herschel’s existence could be possible, and they wonder if it’s a hoax. But then, medical experts at the press conference state that it’s medically possible, and the reporters quickly believe them. It’s an obvious send-up of how the media can easily swallow information from “experts” without doing their own investigations.

Herschel briefly stays in a hospital for tests, but he’s eventually let go after it’s discovered that he has a living relative named Ben Greenbaum. Ben happens to live in Brooklyn too (in a rented apartment), and he’s the same age that Herschel was in Herschel fell into the pickle vat. And so, Herschel goes to live with Ben, who is happy and surprised that he has a living relative.

Ben is unmarried and has no children or siblings. Ben’s parents David Greenbaum (played by Geoffrey Cantor) and Susan Greenbaum (played by Carole Leifer) died in car accident in 2014. And as a freelance mobile app developer, Ben works most of the time from home.

For five years, Ben been working on an app called Boop Bop, which reviews and rates companies based in the companies’ ethics. Ben is hoping to get major investments in the app to be able to sell it to a mass market of consumers, and eventually get rich by selling the app. Of course, all of this new technology is over Herschel’s head.

“An American Pickle” has the expected “fish out water” scenes of Herschel being amazed or having a hard time adjusting to life in 2019. Herschel is ecstatic when he sees that Ben has a seltzer machine that can make seltzer water any time he wants. But Herschel is completely confused by technology that has to do with computers, the Internet or mobile phones.

When Herschel and Ben take a walk outside and see a black man and a white woman holding hands, Herschel looks shocked. However, Ben tells him, “Interracial couples are cool now,” then he pauses and says, “in parts of the country,” in an obvious reference to the ongoing racism problems in America. And when Ben uses a scooter, Herschel scolds him: “You have legs. You don’t need these things.”

One of the best parts of “An American Pickle” is how it pokes fun at the neoliberal “hipster” culture of Brooklyn. While Herschel and Ben are walking down the street, a bearded hipster, who has on clothes that are similar Herschel’s, stops and compliments Herschel on his garb and asks if it’s vintage. A running joke in the movie is how Herschel sometimes misgenders a person, based on the length of their hair and if they’re wearing unisex clothes. (Females with short hair are mistaken as males, while males with long hair are mistaken as females.)

Back at Ben’s apartment, Herschel notices that Ben doesn’t have any pictures of family members on display. And so, Ben gets out his family photo album to tell Herschel about Herschel’s descendants whom Herschel never knew. It’s very important to Herschel that his descendants made something of their lives that would make him proud.

Herschel’s son Mort was a foreman of a brick factory. Mort’s son David (Ben’s father) was an accountant. All of this information makes Herschel very happy, but he notices that Ben finds it difficult to talk about his parents’ death. Ben and Herschel also have very different views on religion: Herschel is devoted to the Jewish faith, while Ben is an atheist. Herschel has a hard time understanding how Ben’s atheism.

A turning point in the story comes when Ben and Herschel visit Sarah’s grave, which is in a small, unkempt lot near a freeway. Herschel is offended that the gravesite is in such a run-down area. Herschel gets even more offended when he sees that a billboard overlooks the gravesite.

And it just so happens that some workers are replacing the old billboard with a new one, for an ad display of Russian vodka. See this ad triggers Herschel into thinking that Russian Cossacks are behind the ad, so he starts a fight with the billboard workers to try to stop them from putting up the billboard. The fight turns into an all-out brawl that lands Herschel and Ben in jail.

After they get out of jail, Herschel tells Ben that he’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of that Russian vodka billboard. Ben explains that it will take about $200,000 to buy a new billboard. And so, Herschel decides to start selling pickles at a street stand to raise money for the billboard.

Herschel’s pickles become an instant hit in Brooklyn, because the hipsters love that the “artisanal” and “organic” nature of the pickles and that it’s “locally grown.” When a gay couple named Christian (played by Eliot Glazer) and Kerin (played by Kalen Allen) pass by Herschel’s pickle stand, they are charmed by Herschel’s eccentric and “no filter” personality. Christian begins posting videos about Herschel on his social media, which become viral videos.

The local TV news takes notice, and Herschel and his pickles become even more popular. But not everything is going smoothly. Through a series of events, Herschel and Ben have a falling out, and they go to war with each other. Their family feud teaches them some lessons along the way about what’s important to them in life.

Despite some major plot holes and simplistic ways of getting around those plot holes, “An American Pickle” is enjoyable to watch overall because of Rogen’s talented ability to play two characters in ways that work well for this screenplay, which Rich adapted from his short story “Sell Out.” The movie’s supporting actors—including The Lonely Island comedy troupe member Jorma Taccone, in a cameo as a potential investor named Liam—are good-enough, but “An American Pickle” is really Rogen’s movie to carry as an actor, since he’s in every scene.

Even though Ben and Herschel are mentally the same age, Rogen does a very good job of portraying how each of these two characters’ life circumstances have affected their emotional development. Herschel became an adult during a time when people were expected to have religious beliefs and get married and have children by a certain age. Ben became an adult during a more open-minded time and place, where society allows more options for people.

Marriage, children and religion in modern-day Brooklyn are not “required” in order for society to think you have a fulfilling adult life. And because people’s life expectancy is longer than it was in 1919, there are more people like Ben who have an “arrested development” lifestyle, where it might take longer for adults to figure out what to do with their lives or achieve their life goals. It’s one of the reasons why Herschel is shocked that Ben has been developing his app for five years but still hasn’t sold the app.

There isn’t anything outstanding about Trost’s direction for “An American Pickle,” although the visual effects for the film at least look believable. “An American Pickle” isn’t a big slapstick movie, because the movie’s humor is a lot more low-key and satirical. There are many sly commentaries that make people think about the pros and cons of living in 2019, compared to the society that Herschel lived in 100 years prior. These comparisons bring up notions about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. The “culture shock” and “time travel” aspects of the story are really just ways to point out that family love can transcend space and time.

HBO Max premiered “An American Pickle” on August 6, 2020.

Review: ‘On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries,’ starring Dana Bash, Kyung Lah, Jasmine Wright, Daniella Diaz, Kaitlan Collins, Annie Grayer and MJ Lee

August 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Daniella Diaz in “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” (Photo courtesy of CNN/HBO Max)

“On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” 

Culture Representation: Taking place in various cities across the United States, the documentary film “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” features a racially diverse (white, African American, Asian and Latino) group of female CNN reporters as they cover the primaries in the 2020 U.S. presidential race.

Culture Clash:  Several of the reporters talk about how their line of work conflicts with having a “normal” lifestyle; the intense competition between the political candidates; public animosity toward CNN and other media outlets that get criticism for being “fake news”; and issues such as racism, sexism and the massive divide between Democratic and Republican politics.

Culture Audience: “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” will appeal primarily to people interested in how CNN reporters work behind the scenes, because there’s very little in the documentary that includes exclusive access to the political candidates.

Kyung Lah and Jasmine Wright in “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” (Photo courtesy of CNN/HBO Max)

HBO Max’s “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries,” produced by CNN Films, is part behind-the-scenes documentary, part promotional vehicle for CNN on how the network covered the U.S presidential primary campaigns of 2020. (HBO Max and CNN share the same parent company: AT&T’s WarnerMedia.) Because this documentary was intended to make CNN look good, people who hate CNN probably won’t be interested in watching, unless CNN haters (who love to call CNN “fake news”) are curious to see how critics of CNN are depicted in this film.

For everyone else—people who like CNN or people who are neutral about CNN—the movie gives some insight into not just the political campaigns but also about the employee politics of working for CNN. The documentary definitely puts CNN in a positive light. But there are some cracks that show how CNN, which has an image of being “left-leaning” and “liberal,” has some work to do in practicing the progressive ideals preached by CNN’s opinionated anchors and hosts, who are the collective voice of the network. (There’s no director credited for the entire documentary, which has the executive producers listed as Amy Entelis, Katie Hinman, Toby Oppenheimer and Courtney Sexton.)

Perhaps to try to deflect criticism of CNN being a male-dominated company (just like many news/journalism companies tend to be male-dominated), “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” only focuses on the female CNN journalists who were assigned coverage of various U.S. presidential candidates. There were many more Democratic candidates than Republican candidates (with Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, since he had no real competition in the Republican Party), so most of the documentary is about coverage of the Democratic candidates.

The documentary gives a brief explanation of the hierarchy of campaign assignments at CNN and other major TV news companies like CNN, by describing the difference between a correspondent and an embed. A correspondent is assigned to cover a particular candidate’s campaign and make their reports on camera, while an embed is the lower-level person assigned to cover a particular candidate’s campaign by doing all the traveling to follow the candidate.

Embeds do a lot of the behind-the-scenes grunt work, while correspondents (who typically have more job experience) have more flexible hours and get the glory of being on TV. A correspondent usually has at least one embed counterpart who can do the correspondent’s work if the correspondent isn’t available. That doesn’t mean that correspondents don’t have to do a lot of traveling. It just means that correspondents get to travel less than the embeds.

Therefore, the embeds tend to be younger employees, who usually don’t have children. It’s mentioned many times in the documentary how this type of journalism is very hard on raising children and maintaining committed relationships. It’s also implied, but not said outright, that women are judged more harshly than men for having these jobs that take time away from their loved ones.

The CNN employees featured in the documentary are:

  • Dana Bash, chief political correspondent
  • Kaitlan Collins, White House correspondent, assigned to cover Republican candidate Donald Trump
  • Jessica Dean, correspondent, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Joe Biden
  • Daniella Diaz, embed, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren
  • Annie Grayer, embed, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders
  • Kyung Lah, senior national correspondent, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar
  • MJ Lee, political correspondent, assigned to cover Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg
  • Abby Phillip, correspondent, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg
  • Arlette Saenz, correspondent, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Joe Biden
  • Jasmine Wright, embed, assigned to cover Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar

Throughout the documentary, it’s clear that for all the money that CNN spent to put these journalists on the campaign trail, the political candidates featured in this documentary didn’t really single out CNN as the “go to” outlet to do in-depth, one-on-one interviews with any of the journalists featured in the documentary. The only one-on-one interview time that’s shown in the documentary is a quick interview (lasting maybe a few minutes) that CNN’s Phillip did with Buttigieg after a campaign speech. The majority of the time, the CNN journalists are either lumped in with the rest of the press corps, who end up getting the same candidate soundbites at a speech or rally, whether the cameras are stationed on a platform or are following a candidate like a pack of vultures.

There is no footage of the journalists on the candidates’ buses or traveling with the presidential candidates by plane. (By contrast, Showtime’s docuseries “The Circus” has this type of footage.) There’s no footage of a candidate in a personal or informal setting. Instead, there’s a lot of footage of the CNN journalists in their homes or hotel rooms, packing suitcases or getting ready for their next trip. As Diaz says in the documentary, “I stalk presidential candidates for a living.”

By the time this documentary premiered on HBO Max, it was already known which Democrat in the race was the last one standing (Joe Biden). And that’s why there’s no real suspense in seeing the ups and downs of certain candidates’ campaigns. Therefore, the documentary spends a lot of time giving background stories on several of the CNN journalists who are featured.

Out of all the journalists in the documentary, Bash has been with CNN the longest. She joined CNN in 1993, not long after graduating from George Washington University. She admits that she’s been “lucky” to have been given the opportunities that she’s had. (Most on-air journalists at CNN usually have to spend years paying their dues working at local news stations before getting a job at a national network such as CNN.)

And she says of her political coverage of this election cycle: “I get to have a front-row seat to history.” It’s an apt description, since she spends more time seated in front of a camera than traveling on the campaign trail with the candidates, compared to her CNN colleagues who are featured in the documentary. Out of all the CNN journalists featured in this documentary, Bash has the highest position in the employee hierarchy. And with that ranking comes the privilege of not having to travel so much, but she still has to work under a 24-hour news cycle where anything can happen.

Bash says in the documentary, “I’m so lucky that I get to work with so many young women. I know what it was like for me when I was younger, to have somebody help me keep perspective, and so I really try to do that with them.” However, the documentary doesn’t actually show Bash do any mentoring, other than a few sentences of encouragement that Bash gives to Diaz during some free time in a hotel’s event area after a candidate’s appearance. If Bash does in fact devote significant time mentoring her younger colleagues, it’s not in the documentary.

Bash, who has a son named Jonah (born in 2011) with her second ex-husband John King (who’s also a CNN correspondent), is shown talking about the difficulties of balancing raising a child with a busy career that doesn’t have regular 9 to 5 hours. While in the CNN studios, Bash and King are seen doing a video conference chat with Jonah. There’s no mention of who’s at home watching their son while they’re at work, but Bash and King make the type of CNN salaries where they can easily afford a nanny. A lot of people watching this documentary know that being able to afford great child care isn’t a problem for a CNN star like it is for a lot of average working folks, so Bash won’t get much sympathy from viewers, especially since a lot of people already think that CNN stars are “out of touch” with their “privilege.”

Whatever salary Lah is making at CNN, it’s obviously not nearly as much as Bash’s salary, because Lah doesn’t have outside help in raising her children. Lah’s husband stays home and watches their two kids while Lah is at work. Lah (who worked in Japan as a TV journalist before joining CNN) says that her husband, who used to work at ABC News, had to make sacrifices in his career in order to have the time to take care of their children: “He’s definitely taking the professional hit, in order for me to do what I’m doing.”

Lah adds, “If you were to ask my kids, they’d tell you that they don’t like my job at all.” However, Lah says she loves doing this kind of journalism and wouldn’t trade it for any other career. “In order to tell the story, you have to go to the story,” she comments on all the travel required for her job. Lah is a straight-talking, often foul-mouthed, sometimes abrasive journalist who comes across as more “real” than some of her CNN colleagues in the documentary, who seem afraid of admitting to having any flaws or painful experiences in their past.

Lah opens up about being a Korean immigrant and how coming from a working-class background are indelible to who she is and how she approaches reporting, since she can relate to the people whose struggles are often ignored by politicians. Lah says that her parents had master’s degrees when they immigrated to America, but because of language barriers, they couldn’t get jobs in their desired fields. Instead, her parents owned and operated a store, which eventually went bankrupt. Lah breaks down and cries when she says that she spent so much time working in the store, she remembers what the inside of the store looked like more than she remembers what her childhood home looked like.

According to Lah, her immigrant background made her strive hard to achieve the American Dream that her parents didn’t quite have. A few moments of comic relief are in the documentary when Lah’s mother calls her, almost like a mother in a sitcom, to nag Lah about her job and not being at home with her kids. Lah says that her mother sometimes drives her crazy with these calls, to the point where she no longer tells her mother where she is going when she has to travel for her job. Even though Lah acts annoyed by her mother at times, it’s obvious that they have a lot of deep love for each other.

Bash and Lah are the only female CNN journalists in the documentary who were in these two categories when this documentary was being filmed: (1) mothers and (2) over the age of 40. Whereas Bash doesn’t really express concerns about her job security (in an industry where getting older can be more harmful to a woman’s career than a man’s career), Lah says that complacency is not an option for herself. Lah is also candid in saying that, as a woman color, part of her drive to work extra hard comes from knowing that racists will see her as “less than,” just because she isn’t white, and she wants to prove the naysayers wrong.

Wright also has a similar outlook on life, so that’s probably why the documentary shows that she and Lah have a special bond, which they both talk about in the film. It’s a mentor/protégée type of relationship where it’s obvious that they really enjoy working together and respect each other. It’s a great example of the type of female empowerment in the workplace where women can help each other, and it’s not about bashing or badmouthing men.

A proud native of Chicago, Wright seems to have been born to work in politics in some way, since her parents took her to political rallies and events, ever since she was a child. She also comes from a well-educated family. Her mother was a surgeon, and her father was a lawyer who was an aide to former Chicago mayor Harold Washington. Wright’s father also did presidential campaign work for Bill Clinton. She says of her politically active upbringing: “It really shaped my view of the impact that I wanted to have on the world.”

Out of all of the CNN journalists in the documentary, Wright is the most outspoken about how being a woman of color affects her job at CNN. Wright says in the documentary that she told CNN bosses early on that CNN needed to cover Klobuchar’s record of siding with police officers accused of unlawful killings of black men, when Klobuchar was a county attorney in Minnesota, before Klobuchar became a Minnesota U.S. Senator. Wright says that her CNN bosses told her that it wouldn’t be a good time to cover it because the New Hampshire primaries were coming up.

“There’s always [supposed to be] a time for this story!” Wright says in exasperation, as she mentions that she could’ve reported this story first if she hadn’t been stonewalled by her CNN bosses, whom she does not name on camera. Later, when Klobuchar’s county prosecutor record was fully exposed and covered by the media, Klobuchar awkwardly defended herself in interviews when she was asked if her county prosecution record made her look too sympathetic to police accused of racist brutality. Her fading presidential campaign took a big hit and never recovered.

During the final days of the Klobuchar 2020 campaign, Wright comments that it’s ironic that she is the only African American embed at CNN, and it’s for the remaining Democratic candidate who has the least amount of support from black voters. It’s a pointed comment to let people watching the documentary know that even though CNN has an image of promoting “liberal” politics, it still has problems with racial diversity when it comes to the journalists they hire and promote. As of this writing, CNN has no women of color anchoring any of the weekday newscasts, which have higher ratings and more prestige than the weekend newscasts.

Just like Lah, Diaz also comes from a working-class immigrant background (her parents are from Mexico) and is very close to her mother. Diaz wears her mother’s wedding ring and engagement ring as unusual good-luck gifts that her mother gives her—an indication of how highly Diaz’s family must think of her to entrust her with wearing that jewelry in a job where Diaz has to frequently travel and be in large crowds.

Diaz says she grew up poor in McCallen, Texas. Her parents came to the United States to give their family a better life and to pursue the American Dream. Diaz says that although she is very proud of her ethnicity, she constantly has to fight some people’s misperception that her ethnicity is a detriment to her qualifications as a news journalist. Diaz comments that it really irritates her when she’s told that “being white is objective, and being Latina is biased.”

Diaz, Lah and Wright all say that because America is continuing to be more racially diverse, being a woman of color in U.S. journalism matters for an accurate representation of what the U.S. population looks like. And it’s pointed out in the documentary that although Republican presidential candidates generally don’t need a lot of people of color to vote for them to win, the opposite is true of Democratic presidential candidates. Biden’s major comeback in winning the 2020 South Carolina caucus is shown as proof (he went from the middle of the pack in the Democratic candidate polls to first place), since his victory was significantly boosted by black voters.

Collins, the only CNN journalist in the documentary whose job is to cover a Republican presidential candidate, talks about coming from a family and community in Alabama which are mostly Republican and very pro-Donald Trump. Since Trump’s hatred of CNN is well-documented, Collins obviously doesn’t get to interview him. Instead, the documentary shows Trump and his supporters at some of his rallies. When Trump brings up “fake news” and the media, the crowds boo, and Collins looks both embarrassed and defensive.

Collins doesn’t reveal what her political views are, but she does comment in the documentary: “I don’t think that people think about what they’re saying when they say, ‘Fake news.’” She adds that people’s general perception of the media is that “We all think alike and act alike.”

It’s a very myopic and untrue statement, because there are plenty of media outlets to serve all kinds of people, whether their politics are conservative, liberal or somewhere in between. In fact, conservative-leaning Fox News gets higher ratings than liberal-leaning CNN and MNSBC. Clearly, there are millions of people who don’t believe everyone in the media thinks alike, by virtue of the fact that numerous media outlets exist for diverse groups of people. Collins seems like a nice person, but she’s not the smartest of this bunch of CNN employees in the documentary.

The documentary shows a little bit of socializing between the younger CNN employees, to give viewers an idea of what their camaraderie is like. Diaz, Grayer and Saenz are seen eating breakfast together at a diner and talking about how their work is affecting their love lives. (Not surprisingly, they all say that it’s hard to maintain a relationship because all the traveling they have to do.) Diaz, Wright and Grayer are seen in a hotel room together, watching the Democratic candidate debate in Las Vegas on February 19, 2020, and reacting to Warren’s tear-down of Bloomberg during the debate.

Diaz says that she’s not surprised that Warren was capable of that type of attack. Multiple times in the documentary, these CNN journalists say that they’ve become experts on the candidates they’re supposed to cover, but they don’t share any interesting anecdotes about things they learned about their candidates while following them on their campaigns. And the only time that the documentary shows something that’s close to these journalists getting a “scoop” is when Wright got a tip (that she passed on to Lah) that Klobuchar was going to end her campaign. The information turned out to be correct, so Lah was able to be one of the first TV journalists to report it.

The movie ends with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to hit the United States, leading to campaign events being cancelled, and journalists having to social distance and doing their reporting from home. Lah ended up getting sick and had to quarantine herself, while the CNN journalists who covered presidential campaigns that ended had to stay at home and wait for their next assignments.

“On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” doesn’t have any surprising revelations about how the featured presidential candidates operated in their campaigns, and there are no interesting interviews with any of the candidates. Instead, the movie is more of a showcase of female journalists covering politics for CNN.

If CNN Films is making a documentary about CNN employees, there’s going to be an inherent bias. It’s impossible for most viewers to know how many negative things behind the scenes could have been edited out of the documentary. However, if people want to see a documentary about female colleagues in TV news where their work relationships are about camaraderie instead of catfights, then this movie serves that purpose.

HBO Max premiered “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” on August 6, 2020.

HBO Max announces premiere date for Selena Gomez cooking series ‘Selena + Chef’

August 5, 2020

Selena Gomez in “Selena + Chef” (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

HBO Max announced today that the Selena Gomez cooking show, SELENA + CHEF will premiere on the streamer Thursday, August 13th. The series is executive produced by Gomez for July Moon Productions, along with executive producers Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, and Leah Hariton on behalf of Industrial Media’s The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC). The unscripted 10-episode cooking series features the multi-platinum selling recording artist, actress, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist as she navigates unfamiliar territory: making delicious meals while stuck at home in quarantine.

The world-renowned chefs featured during the season includes Angelo Sosa, Antonia Lofaso, Candice Kumai, Daniel Holzman, Jon & Vinny, Ludo Lefebvre, Nancy Silverton, Nyesha Arrington, Roy Choi, and Tonya Holland

“Having some of the best chefs open up their kitchens to me was a humbling and fun experience. I definitely discovered I have a lot more to learn. I’m also really happy that we were able to highlight and raise money for some incredible charitable organizations,” said Gomez.

“Watching Selena with these incredible chefs has been a delicious joy,” said Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max. “You don’t need to be an experienced chef yourself to enjoy the show; you learn with her and get to see all the fun that happens in the kitchen. Try not to watch it while hungry!”

Since social distancing at home, Selena has been spending more time in the kitchen than she ever imagined. But despite her many talents, it remains to be seen if cooking is one of them. In each episode of this unapologetically authentic cookalong, Selena, with the support of her Quaranteam, will be joined remotely by a different master chef. Together, they’ll tackle cuisines of every variety, share invaluable tips and tricks, and deal with everything from smoking ovens to missing ingredients. Each episode will highlight a food-related charity, and this casual, funny, and informative series will embrace both the struggle and the joy of learning to cook — while inviting audiences to follow along at home.

Selena Gomez began making the transition from young actress to adulthood with such films as Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers.” She appeared in the Academy Award nominated film “The Big Short” opposite Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling as well as “Fundamentals of Caring” alongside Paul Rudd.  Most recently, she starred in Jim Jarmusch’s film “The Dead Don’t Die” opposite Bill Murray and Adam Driver. Gomez has added executive producer to her list of credits serving as an executive producer of the hit Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why”   Most recently, she executive produced the critically acclaimed Netflix docu-series “Living Undocumented” which created much buzz and discussion regarding the polarizing issue of undocumented people living in the United States.  Selena also executive produced the upcoming feature film “The Broken Heart Gallery.”  Earlier this year, Gomez released her critically acclaimed album RARE which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 her third consecutive studio album to debut atop the chart.   The first single, “Lose You To Love Me,” gave Gomez her first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As a solo artist Gomez has accumulated over 22 billion global streams.  Next up, Selena will launch her highly anticipated Rare Beauty cosmetics line exclusively at Sephora.  The mission behind the brand it to embrace one’s own uniqueness and build a community of support around a healthy self-image.

This project marks the second collaboration between IPC’s Holzman and Saidman and Gomez following the last year’s groundbreaking, six-part docuseries Living Undocumented, which the three executive produced and Saidman also co-directed. Holzman and Saidman also lead IPC’s parent company, Industrial Media, an independent production group with ownership interest in IPC, Sharp Entertainment, 19 Entertainment, and B17 Entertainment which is currently producing Craftopia hosted by YouTube star LaurDIY for HBO Max.

Gomez is represented by WME, Lighthouse Management + Media, Ziffren Brittenham LLP.


About HBO Max 

HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering, which debuted May 27, 2020. With 10,000 hours of curated premium content, HBO Max offers powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs and movies, and fan favorites from WarnerMedia’s rich library including motion picture and TV series from Warner Bros., highlights from New Line, and catalog titles from DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. Website: HBOMax.com

About WarnerMedia
WarnerMedia is a leading media and entertainment company that creates and distributes premium and popular content from a diverse array of talented storytellers and journalists to global audiences through its consumer brands including: HBO, HBO Now, HBO Max, Warner Bros., TNT, TBS, truTV, CNN, DC, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others. WarnerMedia is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).

About The Intellectual Property Corporation
Industrial Media’s The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC) is an Emmy-winning IP creation and production studio based in Van Nuys, California. Founded in 2016, IPC develops and produces a wide range of television, film, documentary, and interactive mobile content. The company has series in production or development with a wide range of US broadcast, cable networks, and streamers. In 2017, the company was awarded an Emmy and in 2018 a Producers Guild Award for its series Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath which was nominated for another Emmy in 2019. IPC was acquired by Industrial Media in 2018.