Some language in French and Yucatec with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of Earth, the superhero action film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” features a racially diverse cast of characters (black, Latino and white) representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.
Culture Clash: After the death of King T’Challa, the fictional African nation of Wakanda becomes under siege from various factions, including the secret underwater kingdom of Talokan, that want Wakanda’s help in obtaining the precious metal vibranium.
Culture Audience: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Black Panther” franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and superhero movies that include multiculturalism issues.
In more ways than one, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shows how healing from a tragedy can turn into a triumph. This top-notch sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther” is an epic story of grief, loyalty, greed and the resilience of the human spirit. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” should more than satisfy fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and will inspire repeat viewings. Do people need to see “Black Panther” before seeing “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”? No, but it certainly helps, especially in understanding the backgrounds of the characters who have the most poignant moments in this sequel.
Directed by Ryan Coogler (who co-wrote the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” screenplay with Joe Robert Cole), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” puts the women of the fictional African nation of Wakanda in the front and center of a story that also pays respectful tribute to Wakanda’s deceased King T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman in 2018’s “Black Panther.” Coogler directed and co-wrote (with Cole) the first “Black Panther” movie, which helps in keeping a consistent tone for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
The beginning of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shows King T’Challa’s younger sister Princess Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) frantically trying to find a medical solution to save T’Challa, who is dying from an unnamed illness. (Boseman tragically died of colon cancer in 2020. He was 43.) All of Shuri’s efforts don’t work, and T’Challa passes away.
The people of Wakanda have an elaborate funeral for T’Challa that includes mourning his death and celebrating his life. Everyone is dressed in white for this event. At the end of the funeral, T’Challa’s casket floats up into the sky. As explained in the first “Black Panther” movie and in Marvel’s “Black Panther” comic books, Wakanda is a self-sufficient nation that is somewhat of a utopia and where supernatural things can occur. Wakanda is protected by an all-female army called the Dora Milaje.
One year after T’Challa’s death, Shuri and her mother Queen Ramonda (played by Angela Bassett) are grieving, but Shuri has had a more diffcult time trying to move on with her life. Shuri is a genius scientist who blames herself for not being able to find a medical cure that could have saved T’Challa. Much of Shuri’s storyline in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has to do with Shuri’s grief and other traumatic things she experiences in the movie.
Meanwhile, Queen Ramonda has to contend with pressure from different entities that want Wakanda’s help in finding vibranium, a rare metal that has the power to harness kinetic energy. An early scene in the movie shows a regal and confident Ramonda at a United Nations meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, one year after T’Challa’s death. During this meeting with world leaders, Ramonda is told that the United States is disappointed that Wakanda has not shared resources in the quest to find vibranium.
However, Wakanda (a self-sufficient nation that is somewhat of a utopia) has a policy not to get involved in other nations’ politics, and Ramonda reiterates that fact. She also has members of Dora Milaje bring in some captives: several men who tried to invade one of Wakanda’s member facilities that handles vibranium. A flashback shows how members of the Dora Milaje captured these invaders. Ramonda’s sternly tells the assembled officials that she knows that a member state of the United Nations was probably behind this attack, and this capture serves as an “olive branch” warning for this attack not to happen on Wakanda again.
Meanwhile, a U.S. ship in the Atlantic Ocean has been looking for vibranium underwater. The ship then experiences something unexpected and bizarre. Crew members of the ship seem to go into a daze and start jumping off of the ship to their death. And then, a group of blue-skinned people rise out of the ocean and attack the ship. The attackers’ leader is dressed like a Mayan king and has wings on his feet that allow him to fly. Viewers later find out that his name is Namor (played Tenoch Huerta Mejía), and he’s the ruler of Talokan, a hidden nation under the sea.
One evening, back in Wakanda, Ramonda and Shuri have a heart-to-heart talk on a beach. Ramonda is concerned about Shuri’s emotional well-being because Shuri seems to be deeply depressed. Shuri tries to brush off her mother’s concerns. Ramonda says she has a secret about T’Challa that she wants to tell Shuri. But just as she’s about to tell Shuri, Namor appears out of the water.
Namor is not there to pay a friendly visit. He essentially tells Ramonda and Shuri that Talokan needs Wakanda’s help to defend themselves from extinction and to get vibranium. If Wakanda refuses to help, Talokan will declare war on the world, and Wakanda will be Talokan’s first target. A stunned Ramonda tells Namor that Wakanda does not get involved in other people’s wars and refuses to give in to his demand. Namor leaves and ominously says that he will return in one week.
Meanwhile, CIA operative Everett K. Ross (played by Martin Freeman) reprises his role from 2018’s “Black Panther.” Everett is an ally to Wakanda but he gets into conflicts about it with higher-ranking agent Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who is pressuring Wakanda to cooperate with the U.S. government to find vibranium. Valentina (who communicates with a brittle, sarcastic tone) has another, more personal connection to Everett that is revealed in the movie.
Also reprising their roles from “Blank Panther” are Okoye (played by Danai Gurira), the courageous leader of the Dora Milaje; Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba), a powerful enforcer of the Dora Milaje; M’Baku (played by Winston Duke), the leader of Jabariland, Wakanda’s isolated region known for its snow and mountains; and Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o), who is the best spy in Wakanda’s history and T’Challa’s former love partner. New to the Dora Milaje team is Aneka (played by Michaela Coel), a high-ranking member.
During the course of the story, Shuri and Okoye travel to Haiti, where viewers find out that Nakia has been living for the past six years. In Haiti, Nakia has been working as a teacher of children in elementary school. Shuri and Okoye have to plead with Nakia to come back to Wakanda to help them, but Nakia is very reluctant to go back. Why did Nakia leave Wakanda? And why is Nakia reluctant to go back? Those questions are answered in the movie.
Wakanda also has another ally, who finds herself involved in this brewing war through no choice of her own. Her name is Riri Williams (played by Dominique Thorne), a brilliant 19-year-old MIT student and aspiring scientist. Riri and Shuri are thrown together in circumstances where they have to learn to work together. Riri is sometimes overwhelmed by the danger that comes her way, but she can be counted on to come up with helpful ideas. She has a sassy personality that is the comic relief in the movie.
Meanwhile, Namor has been assembling his own troops to prepare for war. His two main sidekicks are Talokan’s strongest warrior Attuma (played by Alex Livinalli) and Talokan’s most fearless warrior Namora (played by Mabel Cadena), who have unwavering loyalty to Talokan and their leader, Namor. At one point in the movie, viewers find out more about Talokan and Namor’s backstory to explain why he is on such a brutal revenge mission.
“Black Panther” won Academy Awards for its production design (led by Hannah Beachler) and its costume design (led by Ruth E. Carter), with Beachler and Carter both leading the same teams for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” The production design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is even more elaborate and awe-inspiring, particularly in how Talokan was designed. (It looks like an underwater Mayan paradise inspired by Atlantis.) The costume design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is also Oscar-worthy, although many of the Dora Milaje costumes are understandably the same or similar to as they were in “Black Panther.”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has better visual effects than “Black Panther.” The cinematography is also an improvement over the first “Black Panther” movie, particularly when it comes to the scenes in Talokan and some of the camera angles during the fight scenes. Every action sequence looks believable, given the characters’ superpowers. But all of these dazzling components to the film would be wasted if the story wasn’t compelling and the acting performances weren’t up to par.
Shuri becomes the heart and soul of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” as she comes to terms with T’Challa’s death; faces doubts and moral dilemmas about where he should put her loyalties; and sometimes clashes with her strong-willed mother Ramonda on decision to make about Wakanda’s future. Wright gives a standout performance in having to convey a wide myriad of emotions of someone who is the heir to the throne but has inner and exterior conflicts about her leadership, while living in the shadow of T’Challa and his legacy.
Bassett is also noteworthy in her performance as Romanda, who has to find a way to reconcile her pain with a possible new direction for Wakanda. Huerta Mejía a gives solid performance as the movie’s villain, who is alternately stoic and filled with rage. Namor isn’t the most fearsome villain of the MCU, but his backstory will make viewers see that underneath his anger is a lot of personal pain and pride for his people.
Because of the real-life death of Boseman, there are expected tearjerking moments when the movie shows flashbacks of T’Challa. There’s also the brief return of another major character from the first “Black Panther” movie, with the character appearing to Shuri in a vision. A mid-credits scene (there is no end-credits scene) in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shines a bright light of hope for the future of Wakanda, but it’s with a bittersweet tone that T’Challa is immensely beloved and will always be missed.
Marvel Studios will release “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in U.S. cinemas on November 11, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Colombia, France, the United States, Morocco, the United Kingdom and China, the action film “The 355” features a racially diverse cast (white, Latino, black and Asian) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Five women from five different countries join forces to prevent a world-destroying computer hard drive from getting into the wrong hands.
Culture Audience: “The 355” will appeal primarily to fans of the movie’s star-studded cast and spy movies that are big on action and lacking in believable and well-written stories.
If you’re going to do a “female empowerment” film set in the world of international espionage, then don’t make a movie that’s not just embarrassing to women but also to anyone who wants to make or see a good movie. Even with an all-star cast of headliners, “The 355” is just a silly parade of fight scenes to distract from all the plot holes and lack of logic in this witless spy caper movie. “The 355” has a very talented and experienced cast, but the entire story is so cringeworthy and badly conceived, it seems like it was made for a beginner student film instead of a major studio film starring at least two Oscar winners.
“The 355” was directed by Simon Kinberg, who co-wrote the atrocious screenplay with Theresa Rebeck. Kinberg is best known as a producer and writer of several “X-Men” movies. He made his feature-film directorial debut with the 2019 tedious train wreck called “Dark Phoenix,” which was a lackluster end to “The X-Men” prequel movie phase that began with 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.” “The 355” is another train wreck, but at least it has more adrenaline-packed action than “Dark Phoenix,” even if the action scenes are ridiculously staged.
“The 355” is about five women from five different countries who band together to stop the wrong people from getting a computer hard drive that’s capable of destroying the world. Four of the women have experience in international espionage, while the fifth woman is a “fish out of water,” which is just an excuse to have a woman act like a Nervous Nellie in a gun-toting action movie because she’s afraid of guns. The movie’s title refers to the code name for the unidentified female spy who was crucial in helping the Americans in the U.S. Revolutionary War. Some female spies are still referred to as 355.
The five heroines of the story are:
Mason “Mace” Browne (played by Jessica Chastain), a hard-driving American who’s an independent-minded agent for the CIA.
Marie Schmidt (played by Diane Kruger), a ruthless German spy working for an unnamed agency, who’s even more of a cold-blooded assassin than Mace is.
Khadijah Adiyeme (played by Lupita Nyong’o), a computer-savvy Brit who used to be an agent for MI6, but she left the agency to become a computer specialist.
Lin Mi Sheng (played by Bingbing Fan, also known as Fan Bingbing), a mysterious Chinese operative who plays the role of a wealthy art curator in charge of a pivotal auction in the movie.
Graciela Rivera (played by Penélope Cruz), a Colombian psychologist who unintentionally gets mixed up with these spies and spends a lot of time complaining about it.
The sought-after destructive computer hard drive is shown in the movie’s opening scene, which takes place 150 miles south of Bogotá, Colombia. A British financier named Elijah Clarke (played by Jason Flemying) has arrived at the palatial estate of a man named Santiago (played by Pablo Scola), who is obviously a shady character, based on all the menacing-looking armed bodyguards on his property. Santiago’s young adult son is a computer whiz named Jeronimo (played by Marcello Cruz), who has invented a computer program that can cause massive global destruction, including worldwide blackouts and aircraft explosions—all by doing a few keystrokes on a computer.
Jeronimo and Santiago proudly show off a few demonstrations for Elijah, by making a plane explode in the air and causing a citywide blackout in Bogotá. Jeronimo brags about his destructive computer program: “Try to make a copy, it deletes itself. I’m the only one who can make it.”
Meanwhile, a group of six Colombian National Intelligence Directory agents are hiding outside in a jungle near the estate. The agents are armed and ready to attack, because they think a major drug deal is happening in Santiago’s home. But they hear on their audio surveillance equipment that this isn’t a drug deal. It’s something involving computers and cyber destruction.
When the agents see the plane explode in the air, the agents go on the attack and raid the home. A shootout happens that leaves almost everyone in the house dead, except for Elijah (who made a quick escape) and a Colombian National Intelligence Directory agent named Luis Rojas (played by Édgar Ramírez), who takes the computer hard drive. Luis then decides to sell the hard drive to whoever is the first to pay him $3 million, because he wants to take the money and disappear with his family to have an anonymous, wealthy life.
Someone should’ve told Luis (and “The 355” filmmakers) that $3 million is a ridiculously low amount of money for this type of weapon that can cause global destruction. And it’s really not even enough money for a family to live on for the rest of their lives, if they want to be considered “rich.” It’s one of many poorly conceived details in “The 355,” which is one of the worst big-budget, major studio movies about international espionage in the 21st century.
The word gets out to various government intelligence agencies that this destructive computer drive is up for sale on the black market. As an example of how creatively bankrupt “The 355” is, the filmmakers don’t even come up with a name for the computer hard drive. The characters in the movie just keep referring to the computer hard drive as “the drive.”
“The 355” then shows how various people (heroes, villains and some people in between) try to get possession of “the drive” and all the dumb shenanigans that ensue. There are so many things wrong with how badly these operations are bungled. For example, this scenario is repeated to boring predictability in the movie: People who think they’ve stolen the drive find out that they don’t have it after all.
This computer hard drive is the equivalent of a deadly weapon, but no one in the movie takes any precautions to put this computer hard drive in any type of protective casing to avoid scratching or other damage. Time and time again, the drive is plopped into backpacks, mishandled and tossed around in so many fights, it’s a miracle that this hard drive comes out unscathed, as it does in this grossly unrealistic movie. And if this hard drive is a weapon of mass destruction that can’t be duplicated, then none of the “heroes” thinks of taking the obvious action, until toward the end of the film.
Another ludicrously awful thing about “The 355” is how it depicts spy agencies of First World countries as woefully understaffed and incompetent. It’s the only illogical reason to explain why these agents zip around the world with almost no accountability to supervisors, but they have miraculous access to resources that can only be cleared through supervisors. Major decisions about international security are staged to look like only one mid-level spy supervisor in each country makes all these important decisions, thereby completely erasing a realistic chain of command.
That’s what happens when Mace and her longtime spy partner/best friend Nick Fowler (played by Sebastian Stan) get assigned by their supervisor Larry Marks (played by John Douglas Thompson) to retrieve “the drive” in Paris. Larry’s CIA title is never revealed, but he’s not at the highest level, based on the small number of people who report to him and the low-quality office space where he works. The same could be said for Marie’s boss Jonas Muller (played by Sylvester Groth), who is later described as Marie’s closest confidant, even though he doesn’t really trust her.
Why do Mace and Nick have to go to Paris? It’s because the CIA somehow found out that Luis will be there at an outdoor cafe to sell “the drive.” Why choose an outdoor cafe where there could be dozens of witnesses, street cameras and many things that could go wrong in a public place? Why not choose a private place to do the deal in secret? Because it’s an idiotic movie like “The 355,” were so-called trained professionals make the dumbest decisions.
Mace and Nick have been assigned undercover identities for this mission, where they have to pose as American newlyweds named Joel and Ethel Lewis. And they just happen to sit right next to the same outdoor cafe table as Luis. Nick just happens to have a backpack that’s identical to Luis’ backpack. Luis, like a fool, leaves his backpack on the ground.
You know what’s in the backpack. Nick does too. And so does a cafe waitress, who is really German spy Marie going undercover. Nick and Mace try to distract Luis in a conversation, so that Nick can switch his backpack with Luis’ backpack when Luis isn’t looking. But what do you know: Marie, posing as a waitress with Nick’s order, spills the food and drinks on Nick, and then steals Nick’s backpack intead of Luis’ backpack. A person with common sense would’ve taken both backpacks, in order to leave nothing to chance.
The ruckus results in two simulatenous chase scenes: Mace chases after Marie, who ends up getting away in a subway train. Nick chases after Luis, who takes his backpack and runs away in a panic on a busy street. The chase scenes predictably have “near miss” scenarios where subways and cars get in the way, and it looks like people might be run over if they’re not careful. And after all that trouble, Marie finds out that she took the wrong backpack.
Luis goes into hiding at a hotel, but the Colombian government finds out where he is and dispatches Graciela to offer him therapy. “I’m the only one in the agency who really knows you,” Graciela tells Luis. It’s an obvious ploy to see if Luis will give up secrets about where he has “the drive.” And that’s how Graciela gets caught up in this battle for “the drive.” She finds out the hard way when she barely escapes a shootout that takes place when she’s walking with Luis through a fish processing facility, while Luis still has “the drive” in his backpack.
Graciela has a husband and two sons (the kids are about 6 to 9 years old) at home in Colombia, so the movie makes a big deal of Graciela being not just the only mother in the group of five heroines but also the only one who’s not trained to be a spy. Therefore, “The 355” has multiple scenes of Graciela lying to her family on the phone by telling them that’s she’s away on a safe business trip, while griping to everyone who knows the truth that she doesn’t belong in this dangerous mess.
Graciela is so afraid of guns, she doesn’t even want to touch guns. Why did Graciela choose to work for a government spy agency then? Couldn’t she be a psychologist somewhere else? Of course not, because then “The 355” wouldn’t have a stereotypical “I’m so not prepared to defend myself in fights” confused character that always seems to be in action movies that are plagued with the laziest clichés.
And here’s another lazy cliché for a spy movie: If a female spy is a lead character in the movie, then she has sex with a co-worker. That’s what happens when Mace and Nick hook up for real, shortly after they find out that they’re supposed to be posing as newlyweds. The movie drops big hints that Mace is secretly in love with Nick but she doesn’t want to admit it to anyone.
Nick has been hot and heavy to be “more than friends” with Mace for quite some time, but she tells him: “You’re my best friend. I don’t have anybody else. I don’t want to mess this up.” Immediately after she gives Nick this mini-lecture about wanting to keep things strictly professional between them, she starts seductively undressing in front of him in their Paris hotel room, and they have sex.
After the debacle of losing “the drive” in Paris, Mace goes to London to reconnect with her estranged friend Khadijah. Mace, who has now become a rogue agent, begs Khadijah to help her find Luis and “the drive,” as well as to get revenge on Marie. Khadijah, who has comfortably settled into civilian live with her understanding husband Abdul (played by Raphael Acloque), reluctantly agrees to help Mace on this mission. Abdul handles Khadijah’s decision to go on this mission and possibly be killed as casually as a husband being told that his wife is going away on an adventure trip.
More chase scenes and shootouts ensue. Marie poses as a police officer and whisks Graciela into her custody in a hotel room. Mace and Khadijah burst into the hotel room because they’ve been tracking Marie. They all decide they have a common enemy and decide to join forces. The scene where they decide to team up is so trite and overly contrived, you almost half-expect them to yell, “Girl power!”
Mace, Khadijah, Marie and Graciela end up in Morocco. And when an unimaginative action movie takes place in Morocco, you know what that means (cliché alert): a chase scene in a crowded outdoor marketplace in Marrakesh. And “the drive” gets bounced around in more backpacks and knapsacks.
After the hijinks in Morocco, the four women go to Shanghai, where there’s an auction of luxury art. That’s how Mace, Marie, Khadijah and Graciela meet Lin Mi, who is overseeing this event. And you know what that means (cliché alert): the female spies dress up in banquet attire so they can mix and mingle with elite society people at this auction. Predictably, it’s a scene where the women’s sex appeal is used as a distraction to men in at least two instances.
More clichés clog up the film. And almost all of them are unconvincing. One of the clichés is about someone who supposedly dies during a fight. But surprise! This person isn’t really dead after all.
This person’s “departure” is so abrupt and unrealistically handled in the movie, as soon as this person is announced as dead, it’s obvious that this person will be back in the movie at some point. The fake death subplot doesn’t take into account that many people (including a medical examiner) would have to see the body in order for a death certificate to be signed. Of course, “The 355” filmmakers assume that viewers are too dumb to know these facts.
“The 355” is so shoddily filmed, it’s obvious to tell who the stunt doubles are in the action scenes. In a scene where Mace and Marie are in a physical fight before they decide to team up, there’s a shockingly bad close-up where the face of Chastain’s stunt double can clearly be seen. Kinberg and Chastain are two of the producers of “The 355,” so they bear a lot of the responsbility for how this disaster of a movie turned out.
Beyond the stunts, some of the action scenes are plotted with absolutely no sense. There’s a scene were certain people are held captive in a house, then they are inexplicably let go (when in reality they would be killed by their captors), and the newly freed kidnapping victims find out that there’s an arsenal of loaded weapons in a nearby unlocked room. How stupid do kidnappers have to be to let that happen? As stupid as they are in “The 355.”
The acting in this movie is nothing special, and it often looks subpar because of the moronic dialogue. Khadijah is written as the most intelligent and level-headed of the five heroines, but she also just spews a lot of computer jargon that’s very phony. Unfortunately, Fan’s acting as Lin Mi is so stiff, it’s easy to see why she has the least screen time out of the five actresses—she doesn’t appear in “The 355” until the last third of the film.
Even though Marie is supposed to be the secretive “ice queen” of the group, ironically, she’s the only one of the five who’s given a backstory, so that she can have a scene where she gets emotional about her past. (It has to do with her father, who was also a spy.) It’s worth noting that Kruger replaced Marion Cotillard, who was originally cast in “The 355” as a French spy named Marie. Cotillard should feel relieved that she didn’t get stuck in this terrible movie.
Graciela is a one-note character, whose main purpose is to say variations of “I don’t belong here! I want to get back to my family!” Mace is a hollow shell that the filmmakers obviously want to portray as the group’s badass leader. Too bad they forgot to give Mace an intriguing personality.
“The 355” also perpetuates outdated and sexist movie stereotypes that the best female spies can’t possibly be mothers too. It’s no coincidence that in “The 355,” the only trained spies in this group of heroines are women who don’t have children. It’s a not-so-subtle message that if you’re a female spy, being a mother is supposed to ruin your chances of being great in your career. In reality, there have been plenty of prominent female spies who were mothers at same time they were spies. Mata Hari and Josephine Baker are just two examples.
One of the most laughable things about “The 355” isn’t on screen but it’s in the movie’s production notes. There’s a statement in “The 355” production notes about the intention of the movie: “Character, realism and authenticity were key to the filmmakers’ vision.” However, almost everything in “The 355” is the opposite of realistic. As a spy movie, “The 355” is as unrealistic as James Bond being a Russian astronaut becoming an American cowboy who starts working for the CIA.
Universal Pictures will release “The 355” in U.S. cinemas on January 7, 2022.
Directed by Beyoncé, Kwasi Fordjour, Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch and Jake Nava
Culture Representation: This visual album of Beyoncé’s original songs for the 2019 “The Lion King: The Gift” soundtrack features a predominantly black cast (with a few white people, Asians and Latinos) primarily representing life in Africa in a musical format.
Culture Clash: Many of the songs’ lyrics and the movie’s narration are about pushing back against fear, bigotry and self-doubt.
Culture Audience: Beyoncé fans are the obvious target audience for this movie, but “Black Is King” should also appeal to people who like to see visually stunning musical numbers set to contemporary R&B music.
People already know that Beyoncé is capable of making a collection of memorable an impactful music videos, so it’s not too much a surprise that she has done it again with “Black Is King,” a visually intoxicating and emotionally empowering movie that celebrates self-confidence and Afro-centric culture.
Whereas Beyoncé’s visual collection for her critically acclaimed 2016 album “Lemonade” was her feminist response to issues going on in her personal life at the time, “Black Is King” is more of a rousing anthem directed at generations of people, especially those whose ethnic roots are in Africa. There are no conversations in “Black Is King,” but the messages are loud and clear.
Because “Black Is King” is a visual representation of Beyoncé’s 2019 soundtrack album “The Lion King: The Gift,” the songs themselves (and some of the music videos) were made available a year before the full “Black Is King” movie was released. But seeing all of these songs together as musical numbers in “Black Is King” puts the soundtrack in a whole new light.
“Black Is King” is not a traditional movie, since there is no real plot. Rather, it’s an atmospheric journey of eye-catching sights, sounds and philosophical thoughts. The choreography? Spectacular. The hair and makeup? Gorgeous. The costumes? Unforgettable.
Folajomi “FJ” Akinmurele portrays Beyoncé’s fictional son Little Simba throughout “Black Is King.” At the end of the film, this dedication appears on screen: “Dedicated to my son Sir Carter. And to all our sons and daughters, the sun and the moon bow for you. You are the keys to the kingdom.”
The movie has narration that includes lines from the 2019 “The Lion King” movie, which had Beyoncé as the voice of warrior lioness Nala. But the most intriguing narration comes from a script whose credited writers are Beyoncé, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Clover Hope and Andrew Morrow, featuring poetry by Warsan Shire.
James Earl Jones provides the opening voice narration as he intones in “Balance (Mufasa Interlude)”: “Everything that you see exists together in a delicate balance. You need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling creatures to the leaping antelope. We are all connected in the circle of life.”
Beyoncé also voices several messages of Afro-centric pride, including “Black is the color of my true love’s skin” and “Let black be synonymous with glory” and “Black is king. We were beauty before they knew what beauty was.”
There are also calls of empowerment, such as “Life is a set of choices. Lead or be led astray. Follow your light or lose it.” And she also speaks about the importance of representation: “To live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist.”
It wouldn’t be a Beyoncé visual album without cameos. They include members of her immediate family: husband Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter); their children Blue Ivy, Sir and Rumi; and Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles Lawson. “Brown Skin Girl,” with Saint Jhn and Wizkid featuring Blue Ivy Carter, celebrates inner and outer beauty and includes visual appearances by Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland, who is one of the original members of Destiny’s Child with Beyoncé. Jay-Z, Knowles Lawson and Rowland can also be seen in “Mood 4 Eva.”
And several artists on the audio soundtrack can be seen in “Black Is King,” including Jessie Reyez (“Scar)”; Nija, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack and Moonchild Sanelly (“My Power” ); Shatta Wale (“Already”); Tiwa Savage and Mr Eazi (“Keys to the Kingdom”); and Salatiel and Pharrell Williams (“Water”). Meanwhile, Beyoncé hands over the spotlight to Lord Afrixana, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi, who perform “Don’t Jealous Me.”
Noticeably absent from “Black Is King” are Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer and Childish Gambino (also known as Donald Glover, the voice of adult Simba in 2019’s “The Lion King”), who are featured artists on the audio soundtrack’s songs but don’t make visual appearances in the “Black Is King” movie. Lamar can be heard on the duet track “Nile,” while Major Lazer is featured on “Already.” Childish Gambino/Glover is a featured artist on “Mood 4 Eva.”
Speaking of “Mood 4 Eva,” it’s one of the highlights of “Black Is King” and it has explosion of beauty that’s both raw and luxurious. (And there’s also a scene of Beyoncé and Jay-Z holding hands that’s reminiscent of their famous 2018 “Apeshit” video that was filmed in the Louvre Museum.) “Don’t Jealous Me,” another standout segment, conjures up African tribal imageries that includes giant yellow python around the neck of certain people, including Beyoncé. “Water” is pure glam, with Beyoncé in outfits ranging from a stunning magenta gown to flared ’70s-styled denim with Rapunzel-length hair.
Although “The Lion King” takes place in Africa, and “Black Is King” is very Afro-centric, “Black Is King” was actually filmed around the world: Africa, New York, Los Angeles, London and Belgium. However, the movie prominently several African actors in the story segments, including Folajomi Akinmurele, Connie Chiume, Nyaniso Ntsikelelo Dzedze, Nandi Madida, Warren Masemola, Sibusiso Mbeje, Fumi Odede, Stephen Ojo and Mary Twala.
Not everyone likes Beyoncé’s music. Not everyone likes the 2019 movie version of “The Lion King.” However, “Black Is King” is a perfect example of why Beyoncé is a superb entertainer who’s a major influence on pop culture while speaking out on issues that are important to her.
Disney+ premiered “Black Is King” in July 31, 2020.
The following is a press release from WarnerMedia:
WarnerMedia today unveiled HBO Max as the name of its new streaming service, which will offer an impressive direct-to-consumer experience for everyone ranging from families with young children to adults of all ages. Anchored with and inspired by the legacy of HBO’s excellence and award-winning storytelling, the new service will be “Maximized” with an extensive collection of exclusive original programming (Max Originals) and the best-of-the-best from WarnerMedia’s enormous portfolio of beloved brands and libraries.
New deals with Warner Bros. Television and others for HBO Max announced today include:
· The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all 236 episodes of “Friends” – one of the biggest hits on television and in streaming
· The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all episodes of fan favorites “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Pretty Little Liars”
· The exclusive streaming home to a string of new Warner Bros.’ produced dramas for The CW beginning with the fall 2019 season, including the highly-anticipated new DC Entertainment series “Batwoman,” and “Katy Keene” (spinoff of “Riverdale”)
· New exclusive movie production deals with Greg Berlanti, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful producers, and Reese Witherspoon, Academy Award(R) and Emmy Award(R)-winning actress and producer; Berlanti will produce an initial four movies focused in the young adult space, while Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films
HBO Max, scheduled to launch commercially in spring of 2020, is anticipated to premiere with 10,000 hours of premium content.
“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform. HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is ‘Friends,'” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer. “Under the leadership of two of the strongest creative visionaries – Casey Bloys (HBO) and Kevin Reilly (original content and acquisitions) – and two of the most experienced digital experts – Tony Goncalves and Andy Forssell – I have no doubt they and their dedicated teams will deliver the world’s best storytelling to audiences of all ages wherever and whenever they want it.”
Max Original series previously announced include:
· “Dune: The Sisterhood,” an adaptation of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s book based in the world created by Frank Herbert’s book Dune, from director Denis Villeneuve
· “Tokyo Vice,” based on Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat starring Ansel Elgort
· “The Flight Attendant,” a one-hour thriller series based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, which will star Kaley Cuoco, who is also executive producing alongside Greg Berlanti
· “Love Life,” a 10-episode half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring “Pitch Perfect” star Anna Kendrick, who will also executive produce alongside Paul Feig
· “Station Eleven,” a postapocalyptic limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, adapted by Patrick Somerville and directed by Hiro Murai
· “Made for Love,” a 10-episode, half-hour, straight-to-series adaptation based on the tragicomic novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting, also from Somerville and directed by S.J. Clarkson
· “Gremlins,” an animated series from Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment based on the original movie
Highlights of HBO programming previously announced for 2020 and 2021 include:
· Stephen King’s “The Outsider,” a dark mystery starring Ben Mendelsohn, produced and directed by Jason Bateman
· “Lovecraft Country,” a unique horror series based on a novel by Matt Ruff, written and executive produced by Misha Green, and executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams
· “The Nevers,” Joss Whedon’s new science fiction series starring Laura Donnelly
· “The Gilded Age,” the opulent world of 1885 New York from “Downton Abbey’s” Julian Fellowes
· “Avenue 5,” high satire aboard a space-bound cruise ship from Armando Iannucci (“Veep”), starring Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad
· “The Undoing,” a psychological thriller from David E. Kelley, directed by Susanne Bier starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant
· “The Plot Against America,” reimagined history based on Phillip Roth’s novel written and executive produced by David Simon and Ed Burns, starring Winona Ryder and John Turturro
· “Perry Mason,” the classic legal drama for a new generation, executive produced by Robert Downey, Jr. and Susan Downey, with Matthew Rhys in the title role
· “I Know This Much Is True,” a complex family drama starring Mark Ruffalo playing twin brothers, one of whom has schizophrenia, based on the best-selling novel by Wally Lamb, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.
Casey Bloys, programming president of HBO, continues to oversee content on the HBO service, with investment in HBO original programming having been increased 50% over normal spending.
Kevin Reilly, president of the Warner Media Entertainment Networks that include TNT, TBS, and truTV, also serves as chief content officer of HBO Max overseeing all new Max Originals and library content.
Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, now oversees the development of HBO Max with Andy Forssell, also from Otter Media and formerly CEO of Hulu, as the general manager.
Some of Hollywood’s most successful creators and producers are looking forward to the new service, including the following who are either producing for HBO and/or an upcoming HBO Max Original:
“WarnerMedia has three things going for it with this new streaming service. One, they have an incredible history and legacy of storytelling. Two, they’re super future-focused and trying to be the best. And three, they’re letting people like me embarrass myself episode after episode until I find love. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this family.”
“What’s exciting about HBO Max is that we have so many more resources and so many more voices of support for our show, and it’s an opportunity for other creators to have a bigger platform. I’m thrilled that my show will still be on HBO but now it will also be part of a new service that will reach more and more people.”
“What I’ve always loved about creating shows that connect with a young audience is that these fans grow up with the programs and will remember them for the rest of their lives. Now I get to do even more of that for HBO Max, where viewers will be able to discover shows on their own time, in their own way. Like any great novel, these shows will be there waiting for you. As a fan, what I’m personally most excited to watch on the service are all the great Warner Bros. movies that affected our entire culture and changed the way we live.”
“Working with HBO has been an entirely different level. People really care about these shows and they invest at such a high level. And now with HBO Max in the family, what I’m feeling is a greater sense of understanding and belonging that the family went from being a nuclear family to now there’s a couple more kids and there’s aunts and uncles and there’s cousins and they’re all cool. I want to go to that family reunion!”
“To be able to work for a company that’s allowed me to grow as an artist, as a woman, as a creator is a real gift. I love being part of this specific group of HBO programs that have meant so much to me. And lots of people are obsessed with the concept of streaming and now HBO Max is the future of the medium because it’s all just about continuing to tell really smart stories, and to me, that’s evergreen. I’m working on more projects for HBO as well as something very exciting for HBO Max and I’m just in heaven.”
“It’s the dream of every artist to create art that inspires and even changes people. I’ve had a glorious experience doing ‘Big Little Lies’ on HBO and I’m so happy to also be developing a brand-new original drama series for HBO Max. This bigger platform will enable even more people to see the work that I and so many of my friends have poured our hearts into creating.”
George R.R. Martin
“Back in 1991, after a decade in television, I began writing a series of novels that I knew would never be filmed. ‘A Game of Thrones’ and its sequels were too big, too complex, too dark, too sexy, with a cast of thousands, gigantic battles, massive castles, direwolves, ice wights, and dragons. Too sprawling for a feature film, too expensive for television. I should have remembered, ‘It’s not television, it’s HBO.’ Working with HBO during the past decade has been a dream come true. What they did could not be done, but they did it anyway. And now they are embarked on a new venture. No, they won’t be tying their shows to the legs of ravens as I suggested… instead they are launching an exciting new streaming platform that will carry all the great HBO programming around the world… classic old shows and thrilling new shows, including (I hope) a return to my world of Westeros. Sign me up!”
“I have been part of the Warner Bros. Television family for over 12 years. I treasure my time on ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ and I am thrilled that our relationship continues to flourish in my new role as a producer on ‘The Flight Attendant.’ When I read the book more than a year-and-a-half ago, I was instantly obsessed with it – and with the idea of bringing it to the screen. I could not be happier to collaborate with the team at HBO Max to make this dream a reality. WarnerMedia has a long history of supporting storytellers and empowering them to fulfill their greatest potential. I am proud to be working with them on this series and cannot wait for viewers to have the opportunity to see it.”
“Friends” was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman and aired for 10 seasons on NBC from 1994 to 2004. The show revolved around six friends and made stars out of its ensemble — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television.
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was created by Andy Borowitz and Susan Borowitz, and ran for six seasons on NBC from 1990 to 1996. The show revolved around Will Smith as a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with his wealthy aunt and uncle in their Bel-Air mansion after getting into a fight in his hometown. The show made Smith a star. Also starring in the comedy were James Avery, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Janet Hubert-Whitten, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana M. Ali and Joseph Marcell. It was produced by The Stuffed Dog Company, Quincy Jones Productions-Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment and NBC Productions.
“Pretty Little Liars” was developed by I. Marlene King, based upon a series of books by Sara Shepard, and aired for seven seasons on ABC Family/Freeform from 2010 to 2017. The series follows the lives of five high school girls whose clique falls apart after the leader of the group, Alison, goes missing. The series features an ensemble cast, including Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish. It was produced by Alloy Entertainment, Long Lake Productions and Russian Hill Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television.
Warner Media 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 Entertainment, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others. Warner Media is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).
September 12, 2019 UPDATE:
Making its first move into the key unscripted space, HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring of 2020, has ordered two original unscripted series, Legendary and The Greatest Space (working title) straight to series.
Legendary will be serving up 10 episodes of all body and face, with no shade. In this show, divas will battle on voguing teams called “houses,” with the chance to win a cash prize in ballsy fashion and dance challenges to ultimately achieve “Legendary” status. Voguing is a competitive style of modern dance featuring over-the-top fashion and choreography based on poses struck by models on a catwalk. Legendary will feature 10 voguing “houses,” each comprised of five performers and a leader – the house “parent.” The teams rotate in a round-robin format, and each episode documents a themed ball from start to finish. They Walk. They Serve. They Live to Slay.
The Greatest Space (wt), a 10-episode epic design competition show, will feature interior designers traveling around the world to transform an eclectic mix of empty rooms into spectacular spaces. In each one-hour episode, pairs of professional designers will head out on a country-hopping adventure, traveling to a new city in search of their canvas. Along the way, challenges will force them to lift directly from some of the most glamorous, audacious and ambitious rooms all around the world. From ballrooms to bedrooms to treehouses and everything in between, competitors battle to win the judges’ favor. High stakes, surprises, language barriers and exotic locales await these designers, along with unpredictable eliminations. But, if they can hold on, the dwindling designers will gain access to larger, more surprising and more imaginative spaces, in pursuit of a substantial cash prize.
Legendary is executive produced by Scout Productions’ Emmy® Award-winning team David Collins, Michael Williams and Rob Eric (Queer Eye) along with Renata Lombardo and Shant Tutunjian.
The Greatest Space (wt) is produced by New Media Collective (NMC) and Scout Productions with NMC’s Emmy® Award-winning Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri along with Mark Dziak (The Amazing Race), and Scouts’ David Collins, Michael Williams and Rob Eric serving as executive producers.
September 13, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max, a division of WarnerMedia Entertainment, today announced a straight-to-series order for “Americanah.” Based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best-selling novel of the same name, “Americanah” is an epic story of a woman born in Nigeria who leaves for America and her extraordinary experiences with love, heartache, adversity and self-discovery. The 10-episode limited series will star Academy Award® winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”; “Black Panther”), with the pilot being written by showrunner Danai Gurira (“Black Panther”; “Avengers: Endgame”), who was nominated for a Tony Award® for writing the Broadway show “Eclipsed.”
“Through ‘Americanah,’ Chimamanda brought the African female voice into mainstream consciousness in an unprecedented way. It is intellectually incisive, indicting, yet full of humor, and riddled with humanity. She makes unheard voices familiar, universal and yet palpably specific,” said Gurira. “I am honored to bring her incredible novel to life on the screen. I’m thrilled to collaborate once again with Lupita who brings her astounding ability as a performer and producer shepherding this project, along with HBO MAX’s unbridled enthusiasm to bring this groundbreaking narrative to the TV audience.”
“Americanah has been a passion project for me since I read Chimamanda’s beautiful novel in 2013. It’s a tale that is simultaneously timely and timeless,” said Nyong’o. “HBO Max is the perfect partner to bring this profound and celebrated story to life, and I’m thrilled that Danai will bring to the project her intelligence, wit, and understanding of the stories and the worlds of Americanah.”
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu (Nyong’o), a young, beautiful, self-assured woman raised in Nigeria, who as a teenager falls in love with her classmate Obinze. Living in a military-ruled country, they each depart for the west, with Ifemelu heading for America, where, despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple for the first time with what it means to be black. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous undocumented life in London. A highly lauded tale that has become a leader in the cultural conversation, “Americanah” is an incredible exploration of the human experience that crosses three continents to give an empathetic, compelling view of the complex realities of race, politics, immigration and identity.
The series will be executive produced by Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o for Eba Productions, Plan B Entertainment, Andrea Calderwood (“Generation Kill”) for Potboiler Television, Didi Rea and Danielle Del for D2 Productions, and Nancy Won (“Jessica Jones”).
September 15, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max, the upcoming streaming platform from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring of 2020, has secured the first-ever U.S. streaming rights to all 12 seasons of the massive comedy hit “The Big Bang Theory.” All 279 episodes will be available on HBO Max when it launches in spring of 2020. In addition, TBS has extended its agreement to continue airing the show through 2028.
September 19, 2019 UPDATE:
Building upon its expanding original film roster, HBO Max has confirmed production of “UNpregnant,” adapted from the young adult HarperCollins novel authors Jenni Hendriks (“How I Met Your Mother”) and Ted Caplan (music editor for “The Hate U Give,” “The Greatest Showman”). From PICTURESTART and Berlanti Productions, the film offers a mix of humor and grounded human emotion as it tackles complicated friendships and the difficult road to adulthood, all while in a stolen El Camino. Starting production in New Mexico this fall, Emmy® winner Rachel Lee Goldenberg (“Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” “The Mindy Project”) has signed on to direct.
“Unpregnant” tells the story of seventeen-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson), who never thought she’d want to fail a test—that is, until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with two solid pink lines. With a promising college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica considers a decision she never imagined she’d have to make. This tough and never-taken-lightly decision leads her on a 900+ mile road trip to New Mexico over three days with her ex-best friend Bailey (Barbie Ferreira), where they discover that one of the most important factors in your life is who your friends are.
“When the opportunity to produce a film based on ‘UNpregnant’ arose in partnership with the incomparable Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and Erik Feig, I knew HBO Max was the right place for this story,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “We want to create authentic, relevant films that are told with grace and humor to serve our young adult audience, and this is exactly that.”
Berlanti Productions, led by Greg Berlanti (“Love, Simon,” “Arrow,” “Riverdale,” “The Flash”), Sarah Schechter (“Supergirl,” “Riverdale”) and Michael McGrath will executive produce alongside PICTURESTART’s Erik Feig (“The Twilight Saga,” “The Hunger Games” franchise, “La La Land”), Lucy Kitada (“The Babysitters Club”) and Jessica Switch (“Nerve”). This is the inaugural film within Berlanti’s overall HBO Max film deal.
About Haley Lu Richardson
Haley Lu Richardson can next be seen in Kogonada’s “After Yang” opposite Colin Farrell. She recently starred in “Five Feet Apart” opposite Cole Sprouse for CBS Films. She starred in Kogonada’s highly-acclaimed “Columbus,” which premiered at Sundance in 2017 to rave reviews. Haley was nominated for Best Actress at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and the film also received Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay and Best Cinematography.
She was most recently seen in writer-director Chris Weitz’s “Operation Finale,” in which she stars with Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley. Haley also stars as legendary silent screen star Louise Brooks in “The Chaperone” for Julian Fellowes, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Her film “Support the Girls,” directed by Andrew Bujalski, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and recently received nominations for Gotham and Independent Spirit Awards.
Haley is repped by 3 Arts Entertainment, Gersh, and Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern.
About Barbie Ferreira
Barbie Ferreira is best known for her role as Kat on the HBO hit show “Euphoria.” The show marked her return to HBO having previously appeared on Sarah Jessica Parker’s, “Divorce.” Time Magazine named Ferreira one of the Most Influential Teens globally for her influence in giving a platform to women on topics like self-empowerment, representation, and body diversity in fashion. Ferreira also starred in her own Vice series exploring facets of social etiquette entitled “How to Behave,” for which she won a Webby Award as Best Web Personality/Host.
She is repped by Aperture Talent Agency, Authentic Talent and Literary Management, and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson.
September 27, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring of 2020, has teamed up with Emmy® Award Winner Ellen DeGeneres, ordering three original shows straight to series: “Ellen’s Home Design Challenge,” “First Dates Hotel,” and “Little Ellen,” as well as docu-series “Finding Einstein” in development. DeGeneres announced the pickups today on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and didn’t stop there. She also surprised her audience with a two-year HBO Max subscription in celebration of the news.
“Ellen is a singular talent, and a powerhouse, creative triple-threat that we are lucky to have now bringing her talents to bear on behalf of HBO Max,” said Kevin Reilly, Chief Content Officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Ellen’s flair for home design and matchmaking will most certainly inspire and delight – but HBO Max is full service, so as not to leave the kids out she’s bringing them back to the hilarious misadventures of her childhood in an imaginative animated series.”
Ellen DeGeneres added, “I’m very excited to bring my new shows to HBO Max. I don’t know who Max is, but I can’t wait to work with him.”
In “Ellen’s Home Design Challenge,” design aficionado DeGeneres is giving eight forward-thinking designers the chance to push their creativity to the limit. DeGeneres will be on hand to weigh in on each challenge and provide humorous, colorful commentary. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television and A. Smith & Co. Productions in association with Telepictures and A Very Good Production, with DeGeneres, Jeff Kleeman and Arthur Smith serving as executive producers.
“Little Ellen” is a 2D animated children’s show that explores the world through the eyes of a hilarious and unpredictable seven-year-old Ellen DeGeneres. On her adventures in her musical hometown of New Orleans, Little Ellen takes big risks and makes big mistakes, but she’s always able to laugh at herself and bounce back when things don’t go as planned. The 40-episode quarter-hour series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Ellen Digital Ventures. DeGeneres, Kevin A. Leman II, and Sam Register serve as executive producers. Jennifer Skelly is a co-executive producer and Jason Blackman is a producer.
“First Dates Hotel” takes matchmaking to new heights. Based on the hit UK format devised by Twenty Twenty Productions, Ltd., this charming dating series set at an affluent boutique hotel will find single people from multiple generations gathering for an intensive and tailor-made romantic experience. After fun, amusing and potentially disastrous dates at the hotel restaurant, poolside and under the stars, if the potential lovers like each other, they can choose to stay on for a second date in the hopes of finding out if they’re ultimately a match. Produced by Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television in association with Shed Media, A Very Good Production and Twenty Twenty Productions Limited, DeGeneres, Jeff Kleeman, Pam Healey, and Dan Peirson will serve as executive producers on the project. Previous seasons of the UK series “First Dates” and “First Dates Hotel” will also be available on HBO Max.
Currently in development, “Finding Einstein” is an inspiring docu-series, blessed by the Einstein estate, that will seek out, celebrate and support a fresh generation of Einsteins. Some may be a stone’s throw away …others may be in a tiny village halfway around the world…all of them are motivated to live up to Einstein’s ideal of changing the world for the better. The series is executive produced by Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television in association with Telepictures and A Very Good Production, with DeGeneres, Kleeman and Todd Goldman serving as executive producers.
October 9, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max continues to expand its storehouse of exceptional content by ordering 8 episodes each of two unscripted kids competition series, Karma and Craftopia.Karma, an hour-long series, will be hosted by Michelle Khare, an extreme lifestyle enthusiast with almost 2 million followers on YouTube, and Craftopia, a half-hour series, will be hosted by Lauren Riihimaki, aka LaurDIY, one of YouTube’s top creators with over 21 million followers across all her social platforms. Both social media gurus are known for inspiring their followers to think creatively and follow their dreams.
“We are giving kids an opportunity to show us their absolute best as they strive for excellence in both challenging and creative situations,” said Jennifer O’Connell, executive vice president, original content, HBO Max. “With Michelle and Lauren at the helms, we are aiming to surprise and delight our young viewers. These shows are incredible additions to our growing list of HBO Max kids originals.”
Karma, currently in production, takes 16 contestants, ranging in age from 12 to 15, completely off the grid to solve puzzles and overcome physical challenges, with the laws of karma setting the rules. This adventure competition series hosted by YouTube sensation Michelle Khare, will test the mental and physical stamina of its young contestants as they unravel how their social actions impact their success in the game. Focus, giving, humility, growth, connection, change and patience are the path to becoming the “Karma Champion.” But more importantly, the players learn one of life’s most profound lessons: “What you give out, you get back.”
Karma is executive produced by JD Roth, Adam Greener and Sara Hansemenn for GoodStory Entertainment with Fred Pichel serving as showrunner and executive producer.
“After over 30 years of making kids television, this partnership with HBO Max has given me the ability to make a show about something important — Karma,” said Roth. “Teaching kids that the energy you put in is the energy you can expect to get back has been transformative. This show is a rare opportunity to entertain while teaching and I’m loving every minute of it!”
Craftopia is an epic kids crafting competition show hosted and executive produced by Lauren Riihimaki, who was deemed the “millennial Martha Stewart” by Forbes. On Craftopia, 9-to-15-year old contestants put their imaginations to the test and make their crafting dreams come true in a magical studio. After racing to fill up their carts with inspiring materials from the studio “store,” crafters meet larger-than-life challenges, making the most amazing creations the world has ever seen. Production will begin later this year.
Craftopia is executive produced by Rhett Bachner and Brien Meagher for B17 Entertainment.
“Kids are so incredibly inventive. They look at an empty cardboard box and a paper towel roll and see a pirate ship with a telescope.” said Bachner and Meagher. “So with Craftopia, we are thrilled to work with HBO Max to see what happens when we give ingenious kids a store full of every material imaginable.”
October 15, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max has ordered Grease: Rydell High, a musical series inspired by the 1978 Golden Globe® nominated film Grease. A joyous musical series set in and around the world of Rydell High, the show reimagines the global smash hit movie with some characters you already know, and a whole lot more you will soon meet. It’s still the 1950s, a world that rocks with big musical numbers from the period combined with new original songs as well. It’s the peer pressures of high school, the horrors of puberty, and the rollercoaster of life in middle America with a modern sensibility that will bring it to life for today’s musical lovers.
“Grease is an iconic pop-culture phenomenon that works for every generation, and I’m thrilled that our friends at Paramount were excited about the idea of opening up the show and putting it on a larger canvas for a weekly series,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “This is high school and life in small-town USA told on the scale of a big rock’n’roll musical. It’s Grease 2.0 but with the same spirit, energy, and excitement you immediately think of when you hear any of these iconic songs. You’re the One That I Want!”
Said Nicole Clemens, President of Paramount Television, “Grease is one of the most beloved Paramount titles and it’s a thrill to be re-imagining it for today’s audience with our good friends at Temple Hill and Picturestart. When Bob Greenblatt called about bringing it to television, we knew we would be in the perfect hands because of our great working relationship with HBO Max and Bob’s genuine passion for musicals and Grease in particular.”
Picturestart and Temple Hill will serve as executive producers and Paramount Television and Picturestart will produce the series. Additionally, Temple Hill, Picturestart and Paramount Pictures are in development on a feature film prequel to Grease, entitled Summer Lovin’.
October 16, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max pays tribute to the epic origin stories of the LGBTQ+ movement with EQUAL, a masterful four-part docu-series that captures the gripping and true backstories of the leaders and unsung heroes, pre-Stonewall, who changed the course of American history through their tireless activism. These warriors gave voice, often in a life or death battle, to millions of people yearning for equality and the desire to be themselves.
Each hour-long episode in the series plays like a thriller, bringing to life the high stakes and hard deadlines of historical events that have not yet been given their due. EQUAL honors the rebels of yesteryear through high-end re-enactments, never-before-seen footage, and captures the emotions of the times with messages just as relevant today.
Over the course of the series, viewers will meet a wide range of LGBTQ+ pioneers, including: Harry Hay, a gay rights activist and the founder of the modern gay movement; The Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian civil and political rights organization; Christine Jorgensen, transgender woman who flew to Europe in 1951 to undergo sex reassignment surgery and publicly transitioned; and gay rights and African American rights leader Bayard Rustin. Part four chronicles The Stonewall Riots from start to finish as well as the first Pride, the year after Stonewall.
“In June, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which shepherded in a new era for LGBTQ+ pride. While we know the story behind that fateful summer night, there’s a lot of fascinating, untold history of the patriots, artists, and thinkers who paved the way,” said Jennifer O’Connell, Executive Vice President of Original Non-fiction and Kids Programming, HBO Max. “It’s time to share their heroic tales, and we could not have more perfect partners in Jim Parsons, Greg Berlanti, Jon Jashni and Scout to introduce our HBO Max audience to these historical trailblazers.”
“We are extremely proud to partner with these groundbreaking producers on a subject this important, at a time this critical,” said Mike Darnell, President, Unscripted & Alternative Television at Warner Bros. “What a perfect project to launch Warner Horizon Unscripted Television’s new documentary series unit.”
EQUAL is executive produced and led by Scout Productions’ Emmy Award-winning team David Collins, Academy Award® winner Michael Williams (The Fog of War) andRob Eric (Queer Eye) and Joel Chiodialong with Emmy nominated Berlanti Productions’ Greg Berlanti (Love, Simon, Arrow, Riverdale, The Flash) and Sarah Schechter (Supergirl, Riverdale), Emmy and Golden Globe® winnerJim Parsons(The Big Bang Theory, The Normal Heart, The Boys in the Band) and Emmy nominee Todd Spiewak (Special, Young Sheldon, A Kid Like Jake) from That’s Wonderful Productions, Jon Jashni (Lost in Space) from Raintree Ventures, and Mike Darnell and Brooke Karzen, Warner Horizon Unscripted Television.
October 17, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max will bring the wonder of Japan’s legendary, Oscar®-winning animation house, Studio Ghibli, to its slate of premium content that will be available at launch in the spring of 2020. HBO Max will be the US streaming home to the entire Studio Ghibli film library, one of the world’s most coveted and revered animation catalogues. The landmark deal with North American distributor GKIDS for the twenty-one Studio Ghibli feature films marks the first time these beloved films have been licensed to a streaming platform.
Available at launch of the service will be the Academy Award®-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, Castle in the Sky, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya and more.
“Studio Ghibli films are visually breathtaking, completely immersive experiences” said Kevin Reilly, Chief Content Officer, HBO Max and President, TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Exciting, enchanting, and deeply humanistic, these wonderful films have captured people’s hearts around the world, and we are proud to showcase them in an accessible way for even more fans through HBO Max.”
“We are excited to be working with HBO Max to bring the complete collection of Studio Ghibli films to streaming audiences in the US. As a premium content brand, HBO Max is an ideal home for our films,” said Koji Hoshino, Chairman of Studio Ghibli. “Upon launch of the service this spring, existing Ghibli fans will be able enjoy their favorites and delve deeper into the library, while whole new audiences will be able to discover our films for the first time.”
Studio Ghibli is one of the most acclaimed and influential animation studios in the world, inspiring filmmakers and audiences alike over the last 30 years with beloved stories and breathtaking visuals. Under the brilliance of visionary animation directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki, the studio’s films have won countless international awards, including an Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature for Spirited Away, as well as four additional Academy Award® nominations for Howl’s Moving Castle, The Wind Rises, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and When Marnie Was There. Director and studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki was separately given an Honorary Award at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards in 2014, and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will pay tribute to his artwork with a special exhibit when the Museum opens in 2020.
Studio Ghibli’s acclaimed catalog of films include:
Castle in the Sky The Cat Returns From Up On Poppy Hill Howl’s Moving Castle Kiki’s Delivery Service My Neighbor Totoro My Neighbors the Yamadas Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Ocean Waves Only Yesterday Pom Poko Ponyo Porco Rosso Princess Mononoke The Secret World of Arrietty Spirited Away The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Tales From Earthsea When Marnie Was There Whisper of the Heart The Wind Rises (launching Fall 2020)
About Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by animation directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and is one of the most successful and well-respected animation studios in the world. Cultivating a creative force of talented directors, animators, and storytellers under the revered brilliance of Miyazaki and Takahata, Studio Ghibli’s films have been praised for their originality, dazzling animation, and epic storytelling. The films have become a beloved part of Japanese popular culture and have garnered worldwide acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away won the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature of 2002 and in 2005 Miyazaki was named one of “the most influential people” by TIME Magazine.
GKIDS is a producer and distributor of award-winning feature animation for both adult and family audiences. Since 2010, the company has scored eleven Best Animated Feature Oscar® nominations for their titles, including eight in the past six years. Current and upcoming releases include Promare from Studio TRIGGER and Weathering With You from director Makoto Shinkai. GKIDS also handles North American distribution for the famed Studio Ghibli library of films, one of the world’s most coveted animation collections with titles Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and others. GKIDS is the producer of ANIMATION IS FILM, an annual animation film festival taking place Oct 18-20, 2019 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood. gkids.comanimationisfilm.com
October 17, 2019 UPDATE:
Adding to its slate of premium content from leading industry powerhouses, HBO Maxhas picked up Superintelligence, an original film starring beloved Oscar-nominated actress Melissa McCarthy (Spy, The Heat, Bridesmaids). Directed by Ben Falcone (Life of the Party, Tammy) and written by Steve Mallory (The Boss), the comedy is slated to premiere on HBO Max when the service launches in Spring 2020.
With a star-studded cast, including Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man and the Wasp, upcoming Motherless Brooklyn), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Widows), Jean Smart (Fargo, Life Itself) and James Corden (upcoming Cats, Peter Rabbit, Into the Woods), Superintelligence tells the story of Carol Peters (McCarthy), to whom nothing extraordinary ever happens. But when she starts getting snarky backtalk from her TV, phone and microwave, she thinks she’s being punked. Or losing her mind. In fact, the world’s first superintelligence has selected her for observation, taking over her life…with a bigger, more ominous plan to take over everything. Now Carol is humanity’s last chance before this artificial intelligence-with-an-attitude decides to pull the plug.
“We used the A.I. from Superintelligence to look at every single platform in the world, and then used its super knowledge and big artificial brain-like thing to determine that HBO Max was the right home for our film,” laughed McCarthy and Falcone.
“This is the perfect high concept comedy with an artist we all love to work with, and shows the top caliber of talent we’re bringing to HBO Max,” said Kevin Reilly, Chief Content Officer, HBO Max and President, TNT, TBS and truTV.
“The pairing of HBO Max with the tremendous talent of Melissa and Ben demonstrates the advantage of collaboration across WarnerMedia, and our ability to work with our creative partners to determine the distribution platform that will deliver the greatest success for their projects,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group.
Falcone and McCarthy also produced Superintelligence, alongside Rob Cowan, whose credits include the Falcone/McCarthy comedy Tammy and the Conjuring films.
October 18, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max,the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in spring of 2020, has ordered a lifestyle follow-doc series Brad & Gary Go To… (working title). The six-episode series will follow Hollywood power couple, Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti, as they go on a jet-setting culinary adventure around the globe, inspired by their Instagram stories.
“Brad and Gary have become an Internet sensation and it was actually their over one million followers who requested this series. These same fans also helped turn Gary’s go to Starbucks order into a viral sensation known as ‘The Gary.’ said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “We can’t wait to travel the world with them and capture their fabulousness and hilarity.”
Brad Goreski is one of the hottest celebrity stylists in the industry and his A-list clients are a fixture on “Best Dressed” lists. From The Rachel Zoe Project to his own show on Bravo It’s a Brad Brad World to Fashion Police and Live from the Red Carpet Brad has become a trusted expert in the fashion industry. He has traveled the world styling clients, photoshoots and campaigns and has served as the brand stylist for Kate Spade for four years.
Gary Janetti is an Emmy nominated producer and writer of Family Guy, Will & Grace, and Vicious, among others. His first book, Do You Mind If I Cancel? is set for release on October 22, 2019. Gary is currently making a lot of noise with his Instagram account garnering international media attention with his satire of British Royals through the eyes of young Prince George of Cambridge.
The series will be produced by Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti as well as Purveyors of Pop (Married to Medicine, Ex on the Beach,Lady Gang, and Real Housewives of Miami) and Entertainment One (eOne). Matt Anderson, Nate Green, and Cooper Green will serve as executive producers for Purveyors of Pop and Tara Long for (eOne).
Purveyors of Pop
Purveyors of Popis an independent entertainment company producing cutting-edge programming across multiple platforms. Founded in 2010 by veteran executive producers Matt Anderson and Nate Green, POP specializes in programming at the forefront of the pop culture zeitgeist. Known for their string of hit TV series, the duo has developed and produced shows ranging from MTV’s The Ashlee Simpson Show to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, where they have executive produced over 200 episodes. Under the POP banner, the outfit has produced series for major cable networks including Bravo (Married To Medicine Atlanta/Los Angeles/Houston, Real Housewives of Miami), MTV (Ex On The Beach), E! (Lady Gang), VH1 (Love & Listings), Lifetime (Jordin Sparks: A Baby Story), and A&E (Psychic Tia).
About Entertainment One
Entertainment One Ltd. (LSE:ETO) is a global independent studio that specializes in the development, acquisition, production, financing, distribution and sales of entertainment content. The Company’s diversified expertise spans across film, television and music production and sales; family programming, merchandising and licensing; digital content; and live entertainment. Through its global reach and expansive scale, powered by deep local market knowledge, the Company delivers the best content to the world.
Entertainment One’s robust network includes 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 Whizz Kid Entertainment, Renegade 83,and Daisybeck Studios; live entertainment leadersRound Room Live; world-class music labels Dualtone Music Group and Last Gang; innovative music platform Audio Network; and award-winning emerging content and technology studio Secret Location.
October 18, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring of 2020, has ordered the documentary Expecting Amy (working title) from Emmy® Award Winner Amy Schumer.
The unfiltered documentary shows the struggle, strength and ambition that has made Schumer one of the singular comic voices of all time. It takes viewers behind-the-scenes as Schumer goes through an extraordinarily difficult pregnancy while touring to prepare for a stand-up special. From hospitalizations to going out in front of a crowd of thousands, to quiet moments at home with her family, Schumer shares it all. Beginning the day she found out she was pregnant, through the birth of her child, she showcases her incredible journey on the road, revealing just how challenging it can be working night after night, week after week, with no regrets or excuses. Expecting Amy (wt) offers a hilarious and raw 360 degree look at this new stage of her life. With her family and colleagues along for the ride to support her and keep her sane and balanced, she does it all with perseverance, heart and the priceless sense of humor she’s known for.
“Amy Schumer is an inspiration and this project is such an honest look at her experience being on the road while preparing for her special,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max.“Her willingness to showcase her immense vulnerability, during the most challenging time in her life, is both empowering and hilarious.”
”Women are warriors, every one of us. And I hope sharing my story brings more awareness to the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth,” said Schumer.
Produced by Schumer, Expecting Amy (wt) is being edited by Alexander Hammer, who previously edited Homecoming for Beyoncé.
October 21, 2019 UPDATE
HBO Max has picked up the groundbreaking documentary 15 Minutes of Shame from executive producers Monica Lewinsky and Max Joseph (MTV’s Catfish). Produced by Six West, the documentary features Joseph with appearances by Lewinsky as they take an in-depth look at the public shaming epidemic in our culture and explore our collective need to destroy one another.
15 Minutes of Shame features well known, bold-faced names and is a timely, irreverent roller-coaster ride through the world of public shaming. Using follow-doc storytelling, social experiments, and the examination of social behavior, this documentary film will feature individuals from around the globe who have been publicly shamed – while exploring the bullies, the bystanders, the media, psychologists, politicians and experts in between. 15 Minutes of Shame is about one of the most pressing and unaddressed issues of modern life, brought to you by the people who know it best.
“Monica Lewinsky is an anti-bullying activist with unparalleled authority, making her the perfect partner for this project,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “And Max’s strong advocacy for social justice and distinctive storytelling make him particularly well-suited to explore this complex modern phenomenon.”
Lewinsky’s impactful work includes her 2015 TED Talk “The Price of Shame,” which has garnered over 16 million views, as well as several award-winning anti-bullying campaigns including 2018’s “Defy the Name” and 2017’s Emmy-nominated “In Real Life.” Joseph is an award-winning filmmaker who has made over 100 shorts, commercials, and viral videos. He directed and co-wrote the feature film We Are Your Friends (acquired by Warner Bros in 2015) and his non-fiction work has been featured at Sundance, Telluride, SXSW, and the Cannes Creativity Festival where he won a Cannes Lion. Joseph co-hosted and executive produced MTV’s Catfish for seven seasons.
Steve Ascher and Kristy Sabat serve as executive producers for Six West.
October 21, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max cordially invites you into the opulent, over-the-top world of the Ho family with a series order for a new docu-series from Lionsgate TV, The Ho’s (working title). The inaugural season of this comedic, full-hearted doc style series in the spirit of Crazy Rich Asians will include 8 thirty-minute episodes.
Led by patriarch Binh Ho and his wife, Hue Ho, the power couple immigrated from Vietnam to the United States with little money, relying on hard work to establish the ultimate American dream. They have built a multi-million dollar bank, a real estate development company and a new generation of American Ho’s. The series pulls back the curtain of their lavish Houston lifestyle and showcases the tight family connections that unite them as well as the multi-generational outrageous drama that ensues. While Binh and Hue have laid down a golden foundation for their children, Judy Ho and Washington Ho (yes, named after the nation’s founding father and whose kids are named Lincoln and Roosevelt), they are not exempt from the constant pressure to achieve and to live up to their parents’ lofty expectations. Despite the power struggles, at the end of the day, the Ho household is filled with love, laughter, and a few designer handbags, of course.
“Rarely do you come across a family that is so rich in so many ways – not just in wealth, but in heart, traditions and love for each other,” said Jennifer O’Connell, Executive Vice President of Original Non-fiction and Kids Programming, HBO Max. “There’s great pride in being a Ho and they are ready to give the world a seat at their luxurious table.”
“The Ho family is wildly engaging and we’re very excited to partner with HBO Max in bringing this hilarious and exuberant series to viewers,” said Alice Dickens-Koblin, Lionsgate SVP and Head of Unscripted Programming.
The Ho family tree includes:
Binh Ho, 71, despite being the super strict patriarch of the Ho family, Binh has nothing but good intentions. Originally from Vietnam, his hard work has paid off and he is now the owner of a successful bank. Although Binh is living the ‘American Dream’ he feels the need to control every move his children make.
Hue Ho, 66, is Binh’s loving wife and the matriarch of the family. Hue is always the perfect looking, highly critical mom who thinks her children can do no wrong. She often defends the children when Binh seems unreasonable, especially over Washington’s hard-partying ways. Her love for her family is rivaled only by her love of cooking, which is on full display at the weekly Sunday dinner she hosts. The authentic Vietnamese fare is mouth-watering but the drama at the table is even juicier.
Judy Ho, 39, is the first born of Binh and Hue Ho. The self-pegged responsible and reliable one, Judy was the perfect candidate to become a lawyer and did so with flying colors as she is the consummate perfectionist. She is a mom to three kids and is going through a divorce.
Washington Ho, 38, is the “former” playboy of the family with a reputation of dating questionable women and partying way too hard. Once he met Lesley, his future wife who would eventually steal his heart, he was forced to settle down … a little. Now, he’s a devoted father of two adorable kids, Roosevelt and Lincoln, but all of this is about to change as he attempts to prove he’s a changed man and ready to step out of his father’s looming shadow – he just hasn’t quite figured out how.
Lesley Ho, 34, is Washington’s independent, outspoken, down-to-earth and loving Vietnamese-American wife who juggles being the mother of their two beautiful children with her career as a pharmacist. Growing up in a small town, middle-class family in Oklahoma, she’s had to adjust to the over the top lifestyle that comes with being a Ho.
Aunt Tina, 58, is the Aunt that likes to be noticed and makes sure that everybody does. From her purple streaked hair to her tight dresses, Aunt Tina is all about…well, Tina. She likes to work hard and play harder. As one of the younger immigrants of the Ho family, she grew up in Vietnam before following in her older brother’s footsteps and moving to America.
Cousin Sammy, 29, should probably have her life a little more together but instead, lives for the moment even if it doesn’t always work in her favor. Since she and Washington are so close, he decided to offer her a job as his head of marketing.
From Wallin Chambers Entertainment in association with Lionsgate Television, the series is executive produced by Katy Wallin and Stephanie Bloch Chambers. Amanda Ly and Rosalina Lydster serve as co-executive producers with casting by Peter Huntley. Wallin Chambers Entertainment and the Ho family are represented by UTA.
October 22, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max has greenlit travel docuseries Birth, Wedding, Funeral as part of an overall deal with Lisa Ling. Each episode of the series will immerse viewers in a different country to reveal their cultures through the lens of the three universal rituals—births, weddings, and funerals. In a quest to understand what connects us and celebrate the diversity of deeply rooted customs around the world, each episode is a riveting investigation of the human experience in a specific region, and a dramatic dive into an intimate moment in the lives of the people who live there.
As host of CNN Original Series This is Life with Lisa Ling, currently airing its sixth season, this deal marks an expansion of Ling’s relationship with WarnerMedia. As part of her overall deal, HBO Max will have a first look at new projects she will continue to develop for the streamer.
“We are living in a deeply polarized world and I am elated for the opportunity to bring us closer to one another through stories about the most defining moments in people’s lives: their Births, Weddings and Funerals,” said Lisa Ling.
“As part of the CNN family, Lisa has carved out a unique space for herself using her style of gritty, investigative journalism to drive at the heart of every human story she tells,” said Jennifer O’Connell, executive vice president, original content, HBO Max. “Birth, Wedding, Funeral takes audiences on a global journey through a range of societies, exploring the rituals around three critical life events and we are eager to bring this illuminating storytelling to our HBO Max audience.”
The concept of Birth, Wedding, Funeral was created by legendary journalist Dan Rather, Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre. The series is produced by Part2 Pictures, with Ling executive producing alongside Rather (60 Minutes, The Big Interview) and Philip Kim for News and Guts.
“Over the course of my many travels, I have always welcomed the chance to learn about the world’s varied cultures through how they experience life’s most intimate and transformative benchmarks,” said Dan Rather. “I am thrilled that Lisa, a skilled and compassionate storyteller, will bring these moments into our homes and allow us to renew our faith in the common bonds of humanity.”
October 23, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max is re-crystallizing the Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning smash hit Adventure Time greenlighting four new one-hour specials titled Adventure Time: Distant Lands that will premiere exclusively on HBO Max with the first two set to debut on the streamer in 2020.
These four new specials will continue the Adventure Time stories that captured imaginations and introduced unlikely heroes Finn and Jake, best buds who traversed the mystical Land of Ooo and encountered its colorful inhabitants.
“The enchanted world of Adventure Time has mesmerized viewers and critics alike as Finn and Jake right wrongs and battle evil,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max.“The addition of these specials to the HBO Max kids and family programming lineup is sure to make kids everywhere say ‘Slam-bam-in-a-can!’”
The first two specials, BMO and Obsidian are set to premiere on the streamer in 2020 followed by Wizard City and Together Again.
BMOfollows the lovable little robot from Adventure Time. When there’s a deadly space emergency in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, there’s only one hero to call, and it’s probably not BMO. Except that this time it is!
Obsidian features Marceline & Princess Bubblegum as they journey to the imposing, beautiful Glass Kingdom—and deep into their tumultuous past—to prevent an earthshaking catastrophe.
Wizard Cityfollows Peppermint Butler, starting over at the beginning, as just another inexperienced Wizard School student. When mysterious events at the campus cast suspicion on Pep, and his checkered past, can he master the mystic arts in time to prove his innocence?
Together Again brings Finn and Jake together again, to rediscover their brotherly bond and embark on the most important adventure of their lives.
“Adventure Time was a groundbreaking series and a creative playground for so many talented creative artists,” said Rob Sorcher, Chief Content Officer, Cartoon Network Studios. “Producing Adventure Time: Distant Lands for HBO Max will allow our studio to explore this beloved world in an all-new format.”
Created by Pendleton Ward and executive produced by Adam Muto, Adventure Time is a critically decorated show that garnered numerous entertainment awards and cultivated a generation of talent who have helmed such hits as Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall, and Clarence.Adventure Time: Distant Lands is produced byCartoon Network Studios.
October 24, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max as picked up gen:LOCK for a second season following its success as Rooster Teeth’s newest animated series. Starring Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther), the half-hour animated series focuses on a near-future dystopia undergoing a new, technologically driven world war. gen:LOCK originally premiered on Rooster Teeth. Season 2 of gen:LOCK will premiere on HBO Max and 90 days later will be available on Rooster Teeth for FIRST members.
Fifty years in the future, gen:LOCK tells the story of an oppressive authoritarian force that threatens to conquer the world. A daring team is recruited to pilot a new form of devastating mecha, but they must be willing to sacrifice everything to save the world.
Dakota Fanning (The Alienist, Twilight Saga), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones, Early Man, New Mutants), Golshifteh Farahani (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales), and David Tennant (Jessica Jones, Dr. Who) are all set to return to the series along with Jordan.
“We are proud to bring gen:LOCK’s bold vision, inventive style, and extraordinary cast to HBO Max, and to build on the success that our partners at Rooster Teeth and Outlier Society have crafted so skillfully,” said Billy Wee, senior vice president original animation, HBO Max.
“We’re beyond excited to be producing a second season of gen:LOCK for HBO Max,” said Matt Hullum, co-founder and Chief Content Officer at Rooster Teeth. “Billy Wee and the team at HBO Max have been incredibly supportive in the development process, and we’re thrilled to be working closely with them on this project. We were blown away by the response to the first season of this show, both by the Rooster Teeth community and the Adult Swim audience, and cannot wait to bring it to more fans of action, sci-fi, and mecha animation.”
gen:LOCK is executive produced by Michael B. Jordan and Alana Mayo of Outlier Society, along with Rooster Teeth’s Matt Hullum and Ryan P. Hall. The series is produced by Rooster Teeth’s in-house animation studio.
October 24, 2019 UPDATE:
HBO Max has greenlit four original unscripted projects from CNN for the streamer. The slate includes Heaven’s Gate and Generation Hustle (wt) from CNN Original Series and two feature-length documentaries, The Scoop and Persona (wt) from CNN Films – each offering a compelling lens through which the modern world comes into focus.
“We are tremendously inspired by CNN’s history of award-winning documentary storytelling and journalistic integrity,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “This slate of projects with CNN demonstrates our power as a media family to create quality programming that covers the captivating and critical issues of today.”
“We are so pleased to produce original nonfiction projects with HBO Max and to release new content from CNN Films and CNN Original Series via a streaming partner that complements our brands and creative goals,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide. “We look forward to partnering on future projects as well.”
Heaven’s Gate is an intimate, four-part HBO Max original from CNN Original Series that explores the infamous religious movement and the stranger-than-fiction circumstances that culminated in the biggest mass suicide to ever take place on U.S. soil. It is a raw, honest depiction of the shared experiences of those directly involved with the group, and those closely affected by it. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel, Heaven’s Gate is produced by Campfire, the scripted and nonfiction production company from prolific television and film producer Ross Dinerstein (The Innocent Man, 2018; Stephen King’s 1922, 2017), and Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney, and Erik Diehn for the digital media company Stitcher (Heaven’s Gate podcast, Sold in America podcast).
Generation Hustle (w.t.) is a 10-part HBO Max original from CNN Original Series about the lengths young people will go to for fame, fortune, and power. From the Academy Award- and Emmy® Award-winning Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions (The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, 2019; Death Row Stories for CNN Original Series, 2014;Dirty Money, 2018), the series will be executive produced by Yon Motskin, Stacey Offman, and Richard Perello.
The Scoop (w.t.) is a documentary feature produced by CNN Films and will follow the exhilarating and exhausting lives of CNN’s fearless female political reporters as they cover the most unpredictable presidential campaign in American history. This behind-the- scenes documentary draws from unprecedented access to the campaign press corps and reveals how these powerhouse political reporters deal with the candidates as well as with the challenges of life on the road.
Persona (w.t.) is a documentary feature produced by CNN Films that explores the riveting and unexpected origin story of America’s obsession with personality testing. Embedded in everything from dating sites to job applications, Persona reveals the profound ways personality testing has formed and influenced the world around us.
HBO continues to blossom ordering Full Bloom, an eight-episode, hour long competition series featuring 10 of America’s budding florists vying to be crowned America’s best.
With incredible artistic creations and floristry face-offs, Full Bloom will allow audiences to escape into a surreal world as contestants will design and execute some of the most wondrous, Wonka-esq floral creations ever seen. Each episode features themed challenges centered around a unique stem of the floristry world including fashion, art, events and weddings. Contestant’s designs and creations will be mentored and judged by legendary floristry artists Maurice Harris, Elizabeth Cronin with celebrity florist Simon Lycett serving as host.
“Full Bloom will transport viewers into the intricate and fantastically colorful word of competitive floristry,” saidJennifer O’Connell, executive vice president, original content, HBO Max. “HBO Max is the trellis for this series to bloom and shine the light on this incredibly beautiful art form.”
“We are thrilled to be working with HBO Max and some of the best floristry artists in the world in this celebration of creativity, color and competition” said Chris Culvenor, CO-CEO of Eureka productions. “It’s a series that lets imagination blossom.”
HBO Max along with the cast and crew of Full Bloom are committed to using all the fantastic creations from this series to brighten someone’s day. At the end of each episode, unsuspecting people will be surprised with a floral extravaganza that we hope inspires everyone to always find time to stop and smell the roses.
Full Bloom is created and produced by Eureka Productions with Chris Culvenor, Paul Franklin and Wes Dening serving as executive producers.
October 25, 2019 UPDATE:
CNN Films, HBO Max, and Focus Features are partnering for a documentary film about the uncommon life of the late storyteller, explorer, and chef, Anthony Bourdain, to be directed and produced by Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom). Focus Features will first release the documentary exclusively in theaters worldwide before the film premieres on television on CNN and streams via HBO Max. CNN Films and HBO Max will executive produce the film. Neville’s Tremolo Productions will produce the film.
“Morgan is the top of the game when it comes to documentary filmmaking and we’re delighted to be working with him again on this project with our great collaborators at CNN Films and HBO Max,” said Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski.
“We are thrilled that Morgan will bring his singular voice to this film, revealing what we loved so much about Tony. Partnering with Focus Features and HBO Max ensures even more of Tony’s devoted fans will be able to celebrate him,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development, on behalf of CNN Films.
“Anthony Bourdain did more to help us understand each other than just about anyone in the history of television. He connected with people not in spite of his flaws, but because of them. To have the opportunity to tell his story is humbling. CNN is in the DNA of Tony’s work, and the perfect partners in this journey. I’m thrilled to be re-teaming with Focus Features after our journey on Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I am also happy that HBO Max will make sure Tony’s audience only continues to grow,” said Neville.
Neville has spent more than 20 years making documentary films that illuminate and explore the struggles and triumphs of the human condition. In addition to his Oscar®-winning ’20 Feet from Stardom,’ Neville‘s highly acclaimed body of work also includes the Emmy® Award-winning Best of Enemies (2015) and the Emmy® Award-nominated The Music of Strangers (2015). Neville’s extraordinary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the number one highest-grossing biodoc of all time about Fred Rogers, was also distributed by Focus Features.
“It requires a filmmaker as expert and prolific as Morgan Neville to capture the essence of a raconteur and world explorer like Anthony Bourdain,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “We are honored to partner with CNN Films and Focus Features on this project that is so close to all of our hearts and give viewers the opportunity to celebrate his legacy.”
This project is the third announced film collaboration between CNN Films and HBO Max. Previously announced features include The Scoop (wt) and Persona (wt). In addition to the worldwide theatrical distribution to be managed by Focus Features, the Bourdain documentary will premiere for television on CNN, and HBO Max will stream the film for its subscribers. WarnerMedia is the parent corporation for HBO Max and CNN.
For five years, Bourdain brought a relentless authenticity to his work for CNN, through Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (CNN Original Series) and CNN Films. Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown was honored with 36 Primetime Emmy® Award nominations and 12 wins, and a George Foster Peabody Award. Bourdain also executive produced a theatrical documentary with CNN Films about a chef who inspired him, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, in 2016.
Lydia Tenaglia and Christopher Collins, founders of Zero Point Zero Production (ZPZ), creative collaborators with Bourdain for nearly two decades, including the series Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, will be consulting producers for the film. Kimberly Witherspoon, Bourdain’s longtime agent and literary executor, will also serve as a consulting producer. The Bourdain estate will provide access to family photos, home movies, letters, music, and other content that will add greater insights into his work and life.
“Having worked with Anthony Bourdain for close to 20 years, Chris Collins and I felt very protective over the story of his life and the decision on who to direct it. In Morgan Neville’s hands, we are sure to get a nuanced portrait of the complex, wildly creative man we knew,” Tenaglia said.
The deal between CNN Films and HBO Max and Focus Features was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs for CNN Worldwide, and Stephanie Schroeder, senior vice president for business affairs for direct-to-consumer content for WarnerMedia, on behalf of CNN Films and HBO Max, respectively, with Carol Smithson, vice president for business and legal affairs for Focus Features.
Recently, CNN Films executive produced the Todd Douglas Miller-directed and produced Apollo 11, an archival documentary exploring the historic NASA mission that resulted in humanity’s first steps on the moon and safe return home. The Rob Epstein-, Jeffrey Friedman-directed Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice about the life and musical journey of the legendary singer, also executive produced by CNN Films, is currently in theaters. Scandalous, about the history and cultural influence of the National Enquirer newspaper, is directed by Mark Landsman and will open in theaters Nov. 15.
The following is a press release from the Hollywood Walk of Fame:
A new group of entertainment professionals in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Live Theatre/Live Performance and Recording have been selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was announced today, June 25, 2018 by the Walk of Fame Selection Committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. These honorees were chosen from among hundreds of nominations to the committee at a meeting held in June and ratified by the Hollywood Chamber’s Board of Directors. Television Producer and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona, Chair of the Walk of Fame Selection Committee for 2018-2019 and Walk of Famer Ellen K, host of The Ellen K Morning Show, announced the new honorees with Leron Gubler, President & CEO for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who is also the emcee of the Walk of Fame ceremonies.The new selection was revealed to the world via live stream exclusively on the official website www.walkoffame.com. The live stream began at 1 P.M. and was held at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce offices.
“The Walk of Fame Selection Committee is pleased to announce our newest honorees to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Committee always tries to select a group of talented honorees that appeal in various genres of the entertainment world,” Chairman and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona, “I feel the Committee has outdone themselves and I know the fans, tourists and the Hollywood community will be pleased with our selections. We are excited to see each and every honoree’s face as they unveil that majestic star on Hollywood’s most famous walkway!”
The Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2019 are:
In the category of MOTION PICTURES:
Alan Arkin, Kristen Bell, Daniel Craig, Robert De Niro, Guillermo del Toro, Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong’o, Tyler Perry, and Gena Rowlands.
In the category of TELEVISION:
Alvin And The Chipmunks, Candice Bergen, Guy Fieri, Terrence Howard, Stacy Keach, Sid and Marty Krofft, Lucy Liu, Mandy Moore, Dianne Wiest, and Julia Child (Posthumous).
In the category of RECORDING:
Michael Bublé, Cypress Hill, The Lettermen, Faith Hill, Tommy Mottola, P!nk, Teddy Riley, Trio: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, and Jackie Wilson (Posthumous).
In the category of LIVE THEATRE/LIVE PERFORMANCE:
Idina Menzel, Cedric “The Entertainer”, Judith Light, and Paul Sorvino.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame Selection Committee congratulate all the honorees. Dates have not been scheduled for these star ceremonies. Recipients have two years to schedule star ceremonies from the date of selection before they expire. Upcoming star ceremonies are usually announced ten days prior to dedication on the official website www.walkoffame.com.
The Marvel Studios film “Black Panther” is set to have the largest-ever opening weekend for a Marvel superhero movie so far, and probably the biggest opening weekend of all time for a February release . According to Fandango and several media outlets, “Black Panther” (which opens on February 16, 2018) is projected to have an opening weekend of at least $150 million at the U.S. box office alone.* (“Avengers: Infinity War,” which is scheduled for release on May 4, 2018, could break that record.)**
“Black Panther” is Marvel’s first superhero movie with a black character as the headliner. (Let’s not forget that 1997’s “Spawn” starring Michael Jai White and 1998’s “Blade” starring Wesley Snipes were groundbreaking when it comes to black superheroes headlining their own movies.)
In “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman stars as the title character, an African prince named T’Challa, who leads a technologically advanced nation named Wakanda. The cast also includes several highly respected black actors, including Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, Letitia Wright and Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o. White actors in the cast include Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman.
Here are five ways “Black Panther” is a game changer in the entertainment industry:
1. “Black Panther” proves that a movie with black people in the majority of the prominent roles can be a major blockbuster without being a comedy.
Before “Black Panther,” the conventional wisdom in Hollywood was that any movie with mostly blacks in starring roles had to be a comedy if it had a shot of making more than $100 million at the box office. (For example, 2017’s “Girls Trip.”) Although black or multiracial actors such as Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Zoe Saldana have made great strides in having starring roles in big hit movies, these movies usually have casts of multiple races in the most of the prominent roles. “Black Panther” shatters the stereotype that hit movies with mostly black stars have to be low-budget and/or a comedy.
2. “Black Panther” proves that a movie with a mostly black cast can get outstanding positive reviews—and it’s not a heavy drama about racism or the oppression of poor black people.
Let’s face it. A lot of movies with mostly black casts are saddled with the negative stereotype of having substandard filmmaking or appealing to a limited audience. It’s why movies that star Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, Sanaa Lathan or anyone from the Wayans family tend to get reviews that are mixed but usually negative. “Black Panther” has been getting rave reviews from those who have seen it before the movie’s theatrical release. The Internet has made it much easier for people to share information and commentary about movies, so the advance positive buzz has only helped drive ticket sales.
On the flip side, critically acclaimed dramas with mostly black actors tend to be statement-heavy period films about racial or social oppression, such as “Twelve Years a Slave,” “Selma,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.” “Black Panther” is an entertaining thrill ride, first and foremost, and is not meant to be a history lesson on the black experience. Far from being poor and/or oppressed (which is often the case with most black protagonists in black-centric movie dramas) , the black protagonists in “Black Panther” are respected leaders, innovators and royalty.
3. Black Panther” proves that blockbuster superhero movies can and should have talented people of color working behind the scenes in high-ranking positions.
“Black Panther” is directed by Ryan Coogler, the critically acclaimed African-American filmmaker who previously helmed the 2015 boxing movie “Creed” (a spinoff of the “Rocky movies”) and the 2013 indie drama “Fruitvale Station.” Coogler co-wrote the “Black Panther” screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, an African-American whose previous screen credits were the 2011 independent film “Amber Lake” and two episodes of the 2016 miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
Other African-Americans who have prominent behind-the-scenes roles on “Black Panther” include executive producer Nate Moore, production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth E. Carter. In addition, several of the hair and makeup artists for “Black Panther” are African-American.
And just like “Wonder Woman” (directed by Patty Jenkins) proved in 2017, the biggest superhero movie of the year does not have to be directed by a white male. The type of inclusion shown for the “Black Panther” crew is a step in the right direction for blockbuster movies to have more diverse, qualified team members who work behind the camera. “Black Panther” is the type of movie that appeals to a diverse audience, and the people who make these kinds of movies should also be a reflection of that diversity.
4. “Black Panther” proves that a major blockbuster movie with a mostly black cast is not a “fluke” or a “fad.”
This is not a one-hit wonder. This not a passing trend. You don’t have to be a genius to know that “Black Panther” will spawn many sequels, prequels and/or spinoffs for years to come—not to mention all the money from merchandising, home video sales and other business revenue. “Black Panther” could also pave the way for more non-Caucasian superheroes to get their own headlining films.
5. “Black Panther” proves that a superhero movie with black actors in the most prominent roles can have massive international appeal.
Movies with a mostly black cast are often mischaracterized as appealing mainly to African-American audiences and hard to sell to countries outside of North America. The unquestionable global success of “Black Panther” blows away that stereotype. Movie audiences have spoken in their choices of what tickets to buy, and the message is loud and clear: They are hungry for more variety—and if it’s high-quality, that’s even better.
*February 20, 2018 UPDATE: According to Box Office Mojo, “Black Panther” had $202 million in ticket sales at the U.S. box office from February 16 to February 18, 2018, and $242 million at the U.S. box office from February 16 to 19, 2018 (counting the Presidents Day holiday). This breaks the opening-weekend box-office records for movies that opened in February; superhero movies headlined by a solo character; movies that opened on a holiday weekend; movies that opened on a four-day weekend; and non-sequel movies.
**March 1, 2018 UPDATE: Marvel has changed the release date for “Avengers: Infinity War” from May 4 to April 27, 2018.