Trouble at HBO Max; a midnight rendezvous with “Weird Al” Yankovic; struggling to understand NOPE; Batgirl star Leslie Grace and the film’s directors speak out. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.
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Weird Al in Toronto at Midnight: Weird: The Al Yankovich Story will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness section on September 8. It will eventually air on the Roku Channel. Here’s Weird Al with details.
Props: To TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky, who is responsible not only for this midnight rendezvous with Weird Al but also for executive producing two of the films I’ve been most effusive about in recent days: Franklin Ritch’s The Artifice Girl and Mickey Reece’s Country Gold.
The Future of HBO Max: Remember almost two years ago, when Christopher Nolan declared HBO Max “the worst streaming service”? Today, thanks to the joys of Sopranos rewatches and fantastic original HBO content from White Lotus to Succession to Euphoria (pictured) to Hacks, as well as pandemic-fueled quick releases of epics like Dune, HBO Max is one of the best. So it may seem there’s only one thing to do now: Ruin it. At least, that’s the fear of many viewers, in light of the sudden decision to kill Batgirl and the quiet removal of six HBO Max films.
What’s Happening, Exactly? Maybe nothing! But online fan panic is in full swing because of the two developments above, as well as a Wrap report yesterday that the Wrap‘s “multiple insiders” contend “a major restructuring of marquee streaming platforms HBO Max and Discovery+” is coming soon, and could involve 70% of HBO Max’s extremely good development staff being cut. The operating theory is that frugal Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav may reject the strategy by his Warner Bros. predecessors — in part because that strategy was shaped by the pandemic shifting so much viewing from theaters to homes. The success of films like Top Gun: Maverick suggests that theaters, not streaming, may be where companies can find the most opportunity for profit growth, especially if streaming has hit a ceiling for the moment.
When Will We Know? Again, maybe nothing is happening. But Reuters, which I trust a lot (the Reuters folks were our very worthy competitors when I spent a decade at The Associated Press) agrees with TheWrap that we may get some news in today’s Warner Bros. Discovery earnings call this afternoon. “The company is likely to provide additional details about its plans to bring together the HBO Max service’s collection of dramas, comedies, movies with the reality programs of Discovery+,” Reuters reports. It adds that the price and the name for this new streaming service are still being debated, according to two Reuters sources, so we aren’t likely to get such details today. (If this even happens.)
‘May You Watch TV in Interesting Times’ is our modern variation on a beloved ancient Chinese curse.
NOPE: Five years ago, podcasters Aaron Lanton and Keith Dennie invited me on their show to talk about Jordan Peele’s instant classic Get Out. Today, the three of us host another podcast, Low Key, and on the latest episode we discuss Peele’s latest film, NOPE. Everything comes full circle. What did we think of NOPE? Well: I don’t think I got it, but maybe through this conversation with Aaron and Keith I’m starting to get it a little more. You can listen on Apple or Spotify or here:
‘Batgirl for Life’: Leslie Grace, lead of the shelved Batgirl, is keeping her head up. “On the heels of the recent news about our movie Batgirl, I am proud of the love, hard work and intention all of our incredible cast and tireless crew put into this film over 7 months in Scotland,” she wrote on Instagram. “I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged relationships for a lifetime in the process! To every Batgirl fan — THANK YOU for the love and belief, allowing me to take on the cape and become, as Babs said best, ‘my own damn hero!’ Batgirl for life!” Babs, of course, is Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl.
Also ‘Batgirl for Life’: Batgirl directors also issued an Instagram statement — good lord, what happened to holding a classy press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping? — to share their disappointment. “We are saddened and shocked by the news. We still can’t believe it,” said filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who have also worked on Disney+’s Ms. Marvel. “As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah.” Here’s their full statement:
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