What To Expect from “Death Note” on Netflix

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After nearly a year of anticipation, Netflix finally released a teaser trailer for “Death Note,” the supernatural thriller based on the popular Japanese manga series by Tsugumi Ohba, and it looks incredible. The trailer is just a minute long, but it suggests that this Netflix Original, scheduled to debut on August 25, is going to be just as dark and melancholy as the Japanese manga original. So far, this is what we know about “Death Note.”

#1: The plot and narrative will remain loyal to the manga classic

From what we know from director Adam Wingard, all attempts are being made to stay as loyal as possible to the manga classic (which appeared in serialized form in Japan from 2003-2006). So that means we know the basic storyline, as well as the key characters involved.

“Death Note” tells the story of a magical notebook that gives Light Turner (played by Nat Wolff), a genius high school student, the power to kill anyone whose name he writes down in the pages of the notebook. Obviously, that’s quite a power to have, and he decides to use the notebook to kill criminals and evildoers, and by so doing, to change the world.

He soon attracts the attention of an Interpol inspector – known only as Detective L (played by Keith Stanfield) – who is trying to figure out who is behind all these strange deaths. That leads to a cat-and-mouse game between L and Light Turner, and involves the presence of other individuals with the same power as Light Turner.

#2: The film is going to have to deal with claims of “whitewashing”

Any time you’re going to make a Hollywood version of a Japanese classic, you’re going to run into problems with the original’s loyal fan base. Netflix is finding that out the hard way – when it cast Nat Wolff in the lead role as Light Turner, it was immediately hit with charges of “whitewashing.” In fact, a petition to boycott the film has already picked up the signatures of more than 12,000 people.

According to these fans, the lead role should have been given to an Asian-American actor. Even more disturbing, according to these fans, Netflix has changed the name of the lead character from Light Yagami to Light Turner. That might not sound like a big deal, but what if a Japanese movie studio made a remake of “Star Wars” and called the lead character Luke Yagami instead of Luke Skywalker? And, adding insult to injury, Asian-American actor Edward Zo auditioned for the role, but wasn’t given the part.

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#3: Plenty of enigma and mysterious elements we need to piece together

When the teaser for “Death Note” dropped on March 22, fans immediately scrutinized it for clues and hints as to what they should expect when the film premieres on Netflix in August. The teaser was just that – a “tease” – but still, certain facts are now known.

For example, we’re shown the mysterious “Death Note” falling from the sky and landing on Earth. We’re given a brief summary of how the “Death Note” works – it requires the owner to write down the name of the person who must die within the notebook itself. We’re also shown an apple, which could be a way of representing the temptation faced by anyone given such God-like powers.

However, what’s really fascinating is that there are no signs of Ryuk the Shinigami, the Grim Reaper-like figure who sent the Death Note into the world. Instead, at the very end of the trailer, we hear a voice ask, “Shall we begin?” This voice sounds exactly like Willem Dafoe, who is scheduled to voice the role of Ryuk.

And there’s one other element of the trailer that’s a bit mysterious – we see the phrase “Justice for Kira.” In the original, Japanese “Death Note,” a Kira was an owner of a Death Note. The word “Kira” is actually a Japanese pronunciation of the word “killer.” And in the original, there were at least two other Kira in addition to Light Yagami, including one girl who becomes a romantic interest of Light Yagami.

And, finally, we’re shown the context of where the film is going to take place. One of the scenes shows us the iconic Seattle skyline. And we’re also shown some very brief scenes of a high school where, presumably, Light Turner is still a student.

#4: Questions of morality

According to the creator of the original Japanese “Death Note,” Tsugumi Ohba, the manga series was really a rumination on different moral themes. Most likely, the film will develop these complex themes, such as the difference between “vengeance” and “justice.” It will also ask, at least indirectly: Who has the ability to judge others and play God with their lives?

In some ways, then, the film might be similar to previous Hollywood films that have explored the role of vigilante justice. Often, acts carried out in the name “justice” or “security” go too far, leading to horrific mistakes. That could be the case with “Death Note,” where Light Turner has the ability to play God with people’s lives.

#5: The cat-and-mouse game between Light and L

We don’t really see any of it in the teaser, but a core plot narrative in the original was a cat-and-mouse game between Light and L. On one hand, you have the Interpol detective trying to figure out who is behind all these strange deaths. On the other hand, you have the genius high school student is trying to figure out the real name of L. (Presumably, once he knows his full name, then he has the power to write the name into his supernatural notebook.) As part of this drama, L begins to interact with Light’s family members and romantic interest, which raises the stakes even higher.

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It will certainly be interesting to see what director Adam Wingard comes up with as a finished product. As the former director of “Blair Witch,” it’s likely that we’ll get a supernatural horror aspect to this version that the original didn’t have. But with a great cast – Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Keith Stanfield and William Dafoe – “Death Note” looks like a real winner.

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Why “Steven Universe” Is Such a Hit

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Every now and then, there’s a TV show that completely changes what we expect from a genre. And that’s exactly the case with “Steven Universe,” the highly acclaimed animated TV series from Cartoon Network. Created by Rebecca Sugar, “Steven Universe” has now gone on to four successful seasons, and has already been renewed for a fifth. So what exactly has been behind its phenomenal success?

#1: A coming-of-age story with a twist

For any TV series to be successful over a long period of time, it has to have strong characters that viewers can identify with and want to follow. In the case of “Steven Universe,” the main character is Steven Universe, who lives in Beach City with the “Crystal Gems,” magical humanoid-looking aliens sent to protect planet Earth.

It’s a coming-of-age story because Steven Universe needs to come to grips with his unique powers, like the power of “fusion,” in which the Crystal Gems can merge their bodies and abilities. He must also deal with the story of his mother, Rose Quartz, who was actually a Crystal Gem but gave up her powers in order to have a child on Earth.

And, finally, he must  grapple with the fact that he is a “half-Gem” – someone who is part human and part Gem. You can easily read this as a metaphor for someone who is biracial or multi-ethnic: it can be difficult understanding who or what you are, and what your “real” nature is. According to the show’s creator, Rebecca Sugar, many of the ideas for what happens to Steven Universe is based on her reflections and memories of growing up in beach towns in Delaware like Rehoboth Beach. So it really is a way to tell the story of what it’s like to grow up.

#2: Fantastic girl power

What’s truly unique about “Steven Universe” is that, even though the series is ostensibly about a young boy, it’s a very girl-focused series. That’s partly the result of the show having been created by Rebecca Sugar. She is, in fact, the first-ever sole female creator of an animated cartoon series on Cartoon Network, and her feminine touch is evident throughout the show.

Take, for example, the character of Steven Universe himself. He is very much in touch with his feminine side, and he has absolutely no problems expressing his rawest emotions or hanging out with females.

And, of course, you can’t talk about “Steven Universe” without also talking about the Crystal Gems, who exude magical girl power. In talking about the series, Sugar once remarked that her goal in creating the series was to explore “the semiotics of gender in cartoons for children.” And that’s exactly what she has done – she has created unique, powerful and interesting female characters that challenge our notions of gender.

#3: A remarkable science fiction fantasy narrative

This show is, at its core, a sci-fi series. And the entire milieu has been constructed in fantastic detail. Each episode is only about 10 minutes long, so the show’s creators had to be very precise in laying out the entire background of the series within each new episode.

The result is really an epic science fiction tale, filed with female alien superheroes who defend the Earth, a great interstellar civilization, a narrative about saving the planet, and a full explanation of all the magic powers and how they were created and can be used. In many ways, say reviewers, this is not just a cartoon for kids – it’s also a cartoon for adults that includes as much detail as you’d expect from a TV series created for an older demographic.

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#4:The Comic-Con effect

The show’s original success has spawned an entire franchise around “Steven Universe.” There are books, comics, video games and toys. And the TV series has become popular at Comic-Con, where it has gone on to pick up many more fans. In fact, the show made a splashy debut at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con event, and has been a fan favorite ever since.

And, of course, there’s also the music from the show. For some people, the music is one of the highlights of the TV series. What makes it special is that the rap artist Estelle is actually one of the voices of the Crystal Gems, and some of her music appears in the TV series (like the song “We Are the Crystal Gems”) The show’s creators, who use the lyrics of the songs to help tell the story, think up how these songs can move along the dialogue and narrative.

#5: The cartoon binge experience

We all know that people love to binge-watch popular dramatic shows that appear on TV or on Netflix. And “Steven Universe” has been able to piggyback on that phenomenon. Unlike other cartoon series, which release one new episode per week, “Steven Universe” often releases episodes of five within the same week. There might be several weeks without any new shows, and then all of a sudden, there are five waiting to be watched!

For that reason, the show’s fans refer to these as “Stevenbombs.” The fans look forward to bingeing on this episodes, and when they don’t appear, they get worked up into a frenzy. That brings even more attention to the TV show. In fact, Cartoon Network has noticed that there are very regular ratings spikes for “Steven Universe” that occur every time there is a new “Stevenbomb.”

#6: Pioneer of a new genre

It’s easy just to refer to “Steven Universe” as “an animated TV series” or as a “fantasy science fiction cartoon.” But that hardly does justice to what Rebecca Sugar has created. She has referred to the unique “reverse escapism” aspect to the series, in which fantasy characters become infatuated with the real world around them. They are escaping from fantasy into reality!

And, given the strong female presence throughout the show, it’s unlike any other cartoon in how it challenges gender roles in society. In that regard, it’s similar to some versions of Japanese animation, in which girls have magic super powers.

For all these reasons, then, it’s easy to see why “Steven Universe” has become such a breakout hit for Cartoon Network. It’s simply unlike anything else you’d watch on TV. And the characters and milieu are so artfully created that it almost seems to be made for adults as much as kids. It’s no wonder that fans binge-watch the series and keep waiting for the next big “Stevenbomb” to drop. Subscribe to a satellite TV package today to catch “Steven Universe” on Cartoon Network!

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Comcast Customers Will Now Have a New Wireless Option: XFINITY Mobile

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Comcast is already one of the nation’s biggest telecom giants, offering XFINITY TV, home Internet and home phone service in markets across the nation. And now it wants to sweeten that package of offerings with a brand new wireless service, known as XFINITY Mobile, which it plans to launch by mid-2017.

For now, Comcast is positioning XFINITY Mobile as a value-added service for its 29 million customers. It will also be available to potential new cable TV and Internet subscribers who live within its service area.

For example, if you already have bundled together your cable TV and home Internet service with Comcast, why not just add in your wireless service as well? Instead of getting two different bills each month – one from your cable provider and one from your wireless provider (e.g. AT&T or Sprint) – you’d presumably have the option to get just one.

What’s new about XFINITY Mobile?

What makes this offering unique is that it is not a de novo wireless network. In other words, Comcast didn’t go out and build a brand-new 4G network to handle all that wireless traffic. What it is doing, instead, is partnering with Verizon Wireless.

However, Comcast is not branding the network as Verizon Wireless – it’s calling the network XFINITY Mobile. As a result, some customers might not even realize that Comcast is leveraging the Verizon network. (Although, in a wink and nod to Verizon Wireless, Comcast will note that “the most reliable 4G LTE network” powers its network. Sound familiar?)

All of this is possible because Comcast has 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots scattered around the nation. And, as part of a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement with Verizon Wireless that dates back to 2011, Comcast can fill in any coverage gaps with the Verizon Wireless cellular network. So you can think of XFINITY Mobile as being a hybrid network that builds on an existing infrastructure.

XFINITY Mobile plans to automatically connect users’ smartphones to Wi-Fi when it’s available via those hotspots. That’s a clever way of leveraging the network that Comcast already has in place. And customers, too, should like it, because it will save them from consuming data on a wireless network. According to estimates, 80% of all data is consumed via Wi-Fi, so customers may not even notice that they are being switched to slower Wi-Fi networks.

Why did Comcast create XFINITY Mobile?

In a world where customers already have a choice between wireless providers like Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, it might seem like Comcast is trying to re-create the wheel by launching its own rival wireless network.

But that’s not how Comcast views it. As representatives from the company have pointed out, “We’re not taking on the entire wireless industry.” And, indeed, as pointed out above, this is not even a new wireless network. At best, it’s a hybrid version of the Verizon Wireless network that’s being re-branded as XFINITY Mobile.

One reason for launching the service is simply to get a new incremental revenue stream. If Comcast can convert even a small share of its 29 million customers, that could have a big impact on the company’s bottom line. What’s interesting, though, is that Comcast doesn’t appear to be going out and actively convincing customers to switch.

It’s not paying “switching fees” or “termination fees” to sweeten the pot for consumers who might be on the fence. (Compare that to the world of cable, where Comcast is a lot more aggressive.)

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So you could argue that Comcast is not trying to poach customers from other service providers – and certainly not from Verizon Wireless, which is a partner. One strategic option for Comcast might be to use XFINITY Mobile as a sort of trial balloon – if all goes well, Comcast might consider building its own 4G or 5G network. Or, it might decide to gobble up one of the smaller wireless service providers, such as Sprint.

That’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility, given the fact that all the telecoms these days are turning into rival behemoths. In order to compete with the likes of AT&T, a telecom giant has to offer every possible service to customers.

That’s because the way customers consume content continues to change rapidly. One good example: consumers now enjoy watching TV on the go, right on their mobile phones.

That’s an entirely new customer behavior, and one that a traditional cable giant just couldn’t accommodate. But if you offer a wireless option to customers, that frees them up to consumer content wherever they go, on any digital device.

Case in point: the new AT&T/Time Warner mega-entity is now offering AT&T mobile subscribers with unlimited data plans the chance to watch HBO (which is part of Time Warner) for free on their mobile phones. That’s a powerful incentive to switch to AT&T, right?

How much will it cost?

Comcast is apparently pricing its new XFINITY Mobile service so that it will be affordable enough for most consumers to consider. There will be two different options: an unlimited data plan available for $45 or $65 per month (depending on which other Comcast services you currently are signed up for), and a “pay-by-the-gig” plan, in which customers will pay $12 per gigabyte (GB).

XFINITY Mobile customers will also have the option to mix-and-match plans within a family. Thus, one line on an account might be the “unlimited” plan, and another would be “pay-by-the-gig.”

That seems to be very flexible for customers – but it might be confusing in reality. What happens if someone in the family uses another person’s phone, and racks up a lot of data charges by binge-watching TV shows on the go?

Does it make sense to join XFINITY Mobile?

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to sign up for XFINITY Mobile might involve other factors, not just cost. For example, there’s the whole question of “equal access.”

If XFINITY Mobile users and Verizon Wireless users are essentially sharing the same wireless network at times, will Verizon Wireless users get priority of any kind when it comes to speed and quality?

And then there’s the whole question of which phones will be eligible for XFINITY Network. At launch, it looks like only new iPhones and a few high-end phones from Samsung and LG will be eligible. Customers won’t be able to bring their own phone to the service, so that will obviously slow adoption.

Conclusions

Overall, XFINITY Mobile is an interesting new addition to the wireless scene. More competition should be good for consumers. However, it is getting harder and harder for consumers to understand all of the competing offers and services from the top telecom and cable giants. It will be interesting to see what FCC has to say about all this.

All of them now offer a mix of media, entertainment, wireless and broadband services, and it’s up to consumers to find the right combination that’s right for their own lifestyle.

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What To Expect From Season 2 of “Sense8”

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The Netflix Original Series “Sense8” is coming back for Season 2 on May 5 of this year, and fans couldn’t be happier. When “Sense8” premiered back in June 2015, there was a lot of buzz about the first-ever TV series directed by The Wachowskis, known for their legendary “Matrix” films. Here’s what we know so far about Season 2 of this exciting new science fiction drama.

#1: This series will take us around the world to 8 different cities

8 sensates, 8 cities. That was the fundamental premise of the first season, and it looks like that’s the focus of Season 2 as well. In Season 1, we met Nomi from San Francisco, Lito from Mexico City, Will from Chicago, Riley from London, Wolfgang from Berlin, Capheus from Nairobi, Kala from Mumbai and Sun from Seoul.

According to Netflix, “Sense8” has been shooting all over the world, including London, Reykjavik, Nairobi and Mumbai. That means this is going to be another great TV series spanning the globe. The one city to keep an eye on is Reykjavik. The other three cities mentioned by Netflix all match up to the homes of one of the sensates. But none of them are from Iceland. So this could be a major clue to understanding the show and what happens next.

#2: 7 of the original 8 cast members are coming back

The first season featured an ensemble cast from all over the world, who are linked mentally and emotionally by the mysterious death of a woman. Doona Bae (Sun), Jamie Clayton (Nomi), Tina Desai (Kala), Tuppence Middleton (Riley), Max Riemelt (Wolfgang), Miguel Angel Silvestre (Lito) and Brian J. Smith (Will) are all coming back for a Season 2. But there was one cast member from the original eight – Aml Ameen – will not be coming back after a dispute with one of the Wachowskis. Instead, Toby Onwumere will replace him in the role of Capheus, the sensate from Kenya.

Other recurring members of the cast from Season 1 – Daryl Hannah (Angelica), Naveen Andrews, Freema Agyeman (Amanita), Terrence Mann (Whispers) and Anupham Kher – are also expected to come back.

#3: The show will continue to tackle issues of sexuality, religion and gender

Before Season 1 launched, Lana and Lilly Wachowski said that they wanted to make a science fiction TV series to tackle some of the big issues – like politics, sexuality, identity, religion and gender – that are not typically covered in science fiction shows. So expect a good part of the next 10 episodes comprising Season 2 to include plenty of thematic elements that explore concepts like gender and identity in a global, multinational era.

#4: We’ll learn about the linkages between each of the sensates

In Season 1, the eight people from across the globe were able to connect with one another’s thoughts and actions despite never having met in person. In Season 2, we’ll likely learn more about the links between all eight of these sensates, and why they are so unique. From what we know so far, the sensates are able to tap into shared skills, shared knowledge and even shared language skills. Netflix has hinted that we’ll see more of this “expanding mind” in Season 2.

However, in terms of the actual action that we’ll see in Season 2, it’s still rather opaque. Netflix’s plot summary is vague at best, saying that the 8 sensates will “come together both physically and mentally, plunged into the middle of each other’s tragedies and triumphs.”

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#5: We’ll find out more about the shadowy organization tracking them down

In Season 1, there’s one sensate known as “Whispers” (played by Terrence Mann) who is part of a mysterious, shadowy organization who’s trying to track down these sensates. But we don’t really know who he is, or why he is doing this. All we know is that the sensates represent some kind of threat to the global order. Presumably, we’ll find out more in Season 2.

This idea of a shadowy, governmental organization trying to clamp down on certain technologies or certain powers being made available to certain members of the public is a staple of science fiction movies and shows (e.g. “X-Men”), so it will be interesting to see how “Sense8” develops this further.

#6: This series will reflect the vision of Lana Wachowski

The first season of “Sense8” included Lilly Wachowski, the co-creator of the show as well as its co-director. This season, though, she will not return, handing off the executive producer and director duties fully to Lana Wachowski. So, unlike the previous season, which was billed as a production of “The Wachowskis,” this season will be much more of a solo adventure. That means we’ll see a series that’s largely shaped by the creative vision of Lana, not Lilly. The good news here, though, is that Lilly has said she would return for a Season 3, if Netflix decides to green light it.

#7: We’ll learn more about the true story of the sensates

The one strand that tied together Season 1 was the mysterious death of the woman known as “Angelica.” All of the eight sensates saw visions of this same woman, and all of them were haunted by her violent death. But who was she, really? And why was this such a catalyst for the sensates to come together? We’ll surely get more answers to these questions in Season 2.

Every great science fiction has some kind of “origin story” that helps everything to make sense, and it’s likely that the origin story for “Sense8” will explain better the role of Angelica. We might also get a better idea of why there were only 8 people around the world who are linked, as well as the special significance of each of the chosen 8 cities. After Season 1, some fans complained that the series just didn’t make sense, so it will be the job of Season 2 to tie up all the loose ends and have everything make sense.

If Season 2 ties up all the loose ends from Season 1, this could really be an exciting science fiction show when it comes back to Netflix on May 5. It has so many great factors in its favor – the Wachowski brand name, the young multinational cast, a great story, and globe-spanning adventure and drama. Most likely, fans of the show will eagerly binge-watch all 10 episodes of Season 2 as soon as they’re made available. This is one Netflix Original Series you won’t want to miss, and you don’t have to when you sign up for an excellent internet connection in your home.

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Did the New “Power Rangers” Movie Deliver?

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On March 24, the new “Power Rangers” movie made its big screen debut, and delivered a strong – but not entirely impressive – performance at the box office. Over the three-day weekend period, the film grossed just over $40 million – not nearly enough to topple “Beauty and the Beast” from its No. 1 spot – but still good news for executives at Saban Media and Lionsgate, who are hoping this film can become the foundation of a franchise powerhouse.

Rocking the ‘90s nostalgia

The biggest thing going in favor of “Power Rangers” was the built-in fan base from the popular ‘90s TV show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” This is a movie that has literally had almost 25 years to build up a worldwide fan base. It is, at its core, a PG-13 take on a campy TV show from the 1990s that was based on a simple premise: young superheroes against silly monsters.

If you like goofy superhero battles, impossibly ridiculous monsters and campy intergalactic villains, then “Power Rangers” more than delivers. It’s like they took the DNA from the original TV show and implanted it into this movie. Older adults, though, might be feeling a bit guilty that they actually enjoyed this kind of thing 20 years ago.

The Vulture blog from New York magazine captured the mood perfectly, noting that the film was full of “empty nostalgia calories” but that it still “tastes sweet.” You know how you go to the supermarket and buy stuff that you know is just bad for you – but you still buy it because it reminds you of your childhood? Well, that’s what it’s like to watch “Power Rangers.” All those nostalgia calories are amped up by special appearances and cameos in the movie.

The fan-critic divide

Judging by purely commercial criteria, the new film “Power Rangers” was a success. This film made $40 million at the U.S. box office in three days – how can the film not be a success? Even if you assume that the film’s box office performance will likely trail off in coming weeks, it’s easy to see that the film is going to more than make back the $100 million it took to make the film – especially when you factor in global box office receipts, not just U.S. box office.

Word-of-mouth buzz for the film was largely positive (as evidenced by a 7.2/10.0 score on IMDb). So fans tended to like the movie, but did critics? That one is a bit harder to sort out. The film only has a Metacritic rating of 44%, which is what you’d call “mixed.” And, indeed, most reviews tended to focus on all the film’s shortcomings, before coming to the conclusion that it was somehow worth watching.

For example, Screen Rant says that “playful storytelling and spectacle” offset all the flaws. The Vulture blog, as noted above, basically says that all the empty calories are a fun treat. And even the New York Times – a media outlet that you’d fully expect to turn up its nose at such middlebrow entertainment fare – lauded the “slick repackaging” and the film’s ability to deliver a credible origin story (spoiler alert: it involves power crystals hidden deep within the Earth’s core).

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The action scenes certainly deliver…

This is essentially a superhero film, and what do you expect with any blockbuster superhero film? Yes, that’s right, lots of blow-your-mind action sequences, plenty of gratuitous CGI special effects and the kind of action scenes that you’d expect from a fun, raucous summer blockbuster. In short, “Power Rangers” delivers the goods when it comes to the action. Granted, some of the action can be silly, goofy and just plain head scratching weird at times, but it’s always entertaining (especially the fun training montage, where the rangers learn to use their powers).

But the teenage drama scenes don’t…

The other essential element of a superhero film, of course, is the person (or persons) that we root for as the superhero. In this case, we’re given five high school outcasts or misfits, and told that they’re going to become superheroes together. There are two popular jock types (Jason and Kimberly), one kid “on the spectrum” (Billy), one anti-authority teen (Zack) and one loner (Trini). Of these five, perhaps the one that audiences will identify with most will be Billy, played by RJ Cyler (a 22-year-old newcomer who’s best known for his work in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”).

As for the other four teenagers, let’s just say that one reviewer called them “walking talking robo-teen action figures.” They are supposed to be confronting serious high school social issues and delivering a bit of teen angst and teen-inspired drama along the way, but here it’s not so certain that the film delivers.

But will it franchise?

Of course, the ultimate test of success for this film is whether or not this “Power Rangers” film will lay the foundation for a future film franchise. There’s a lot going in its favor – a young cast, a rabid fan base, plenty of nostalgia, and a solid box office foundation. It’s possible to envision studio executives green lighting the next in the “Power Rangers” series for summer 2018. If not, well, there’s always Netflix.

One key point that many reviewers brought up was the importance of establishing the origin story for this film. Think of that as the pivot that will enable future directors to go backwards and forwards in time to create prequels and sequels. “Power Rangers” now has that. There may be some fine-tuning and tweaking of the young cast, but it’s clear that this is the beginning of something very exciting for Saban and Lionsgate.

Ultimately, “Power Rangers” delivers. This is not a cinematic masterpiece, but you don’t have to make any excuses to your friends about why you’re seeing it in the cinema. If you’re young, you’re going for the action, adventure and the teen drama. If you’re a bit older, well, just tell people that you’re going to relive childhood memories and slurp up all those empty nostalgia calories. For $100 million (the cost of the movie), we might have expected a slightly better movie than we received. But it’s still slick enough and action-packed enough to make it worth seeing. Stream the new Power Rangers flick online with an internet package from Comcast XFINITY.

What to Expect From Will Smith’s “Bright”

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If you stepped away from the live broadcast of the Oscars this year even for a few minutes, you might have missed the exciting new teaser trailer for the Netflix Original movie “Bright” starring Will Smith. In just 30 seconds, Netflix gave us just the briefest of glimpses at what promises to be one of the most talked-about movie debuts this year. And, with a budget of $90 million, this new film promises to be one of the showcase new projects turning Netflix into a true original content powerhouse.

So what do we know about “Bright”? Netflix has released only the broadest of outlines of what this show is all about. The film, written by Max Landis and directed by David Ayer, is being billed as a “fantasy film” starring Will Smith as a Los Angeles Police Department officer who must team up with an orc cop in a modern-day world populated by all kinds of mythical creatures like elves, dwarves, goblins and orcs.

#1: A “Suicide Squad” look to the film

Some people, when they first saw the “Bright” teaser trailer, thought they were seeing a sequel for “Suicide Squad.” That’s because both films have the same director, David Ayer, and the same overall aesthetic (plus all the fantastic-looking creatures). What we do know is that we’re going to get a fantasy cop thriller filled with all manner of mythical creatures. Netflix is pitching this as a movie of where “fantasy has become reality.”

In the teaser trailer, it looks like the film is based in modern-day Los Angeles. But the city seems to be some kind of police state, with violence, fires and gang members doing battle with the heavily-armed police presence. In the trailer, the song “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie plays in the background, at which point we’re immediately presented with an orc police officer (played by Joel Edgerton) and all kinds of fantastic creatures. So have these creatures taken over?

#2: Magical super weapons and an epic quest

OK, so this is not just a modern-day dystopian film or a futuristic film like “Blade Runner.” There appears to be a strong fantasy component to the film, involving a medieval-looking rusty sword and a magic wand. From notes that have been leaked out about the show, we know that there will be some kind of “super weapon” that Will Smith and his fellow orc police officer will have to find.

We also know that Lucy Fry will play the role of Tikka, a young elf with magical powers. She apparently has a magic wand that is very important for the future outcome of the quest for the sword. Noomi Rapace will also play a mythical creature in the film, although her title and role has not yet been disclosed.

In an interview in Los Angeles, the writer for the show, Max Landis, pointed out that the idea for the show is a modern-day version of Dungeons & Dragons, with a few allusions and references to popular films like “Lord of the Rings” and popular shows like HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” With all the orcs, goblins and dwarves, it definitely has a very distinct “Lord of the Rings” feel to it.

As Landis explains, the whole backstory of this film is that some of these mythical creatures are still amongst us, but they are dying out as a result of hereditary diseases. And nobody practices magic any more. However, there appears to be some kind of quest involved. In the trailer, we hear Will Smith say, “I’m assuming this doesn’t end well…” So it’s a given that this is going to involve some dangerous encounters.

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#3: A story of brotherhood, friendship and racial harmony

We also know that Netflix is going to play up the brotherhood and friendship aspects of this film, with an emphasis on the relationship that Will Smith must form with his orc police partner. In fact, you can take a very metaphorical look at this and see a broader story of race involved here. The “first orc cop” is really a metaphor for the “first black cop” or the “first Hispanic cop.” As we know based on the trailer, Will Smith and the orc must team up to complete the quest, find the magic super-weapon and restore order to Los Angeles.

#4: A high-energy cop thriller

When the teaser-trailer first came out, many were quick to call this Will Smith movie a “supernatural cop thriller.” Max Landis, though, has said that even though this will be a cop film, he preferred to think of it as a “fantasy” film rather than a “supernatural” film. We know that it’s going to be up-tempo, action-packed and filled with some great action sequences – but no occult references.

We know, though, that the FBI is going to have some kind of “magic division” staffed by both humans and elves, and that there is going to be some kind of violent orcs gang – the Fogteeth Orcs gang. But it’s not clear if Joel Edgerton (as Nick Jakoby the orc cop) is going to have any relationship to this orc gang.

#5: Massive spending on studio special effects

The reported budget for “Bright” is $90 million, making it one of the most expensive exclusives that Netflix has ever attempted. In fact, $90 million is the type of budget a major Hollywood film would require. (And Netflix doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon – they’ve also lined up Brad Pitt for an upcoming $60 million film called “War Machine.”)

Thus, get ready for all kinds of special effects and some massive CGI spending. The goal, it appears, is to mash-up a modern-day dystopian Los Angeles (with all the built-in assumptions of troubled race relations in this controversial city) and a fantasy realm populated by elves, orcs, goblins and dwarves.

All we know is that when this film hits Netflix in December 2017, it’s going to cause movie viewers to finally confront the question: What are they going to do when all the big blockbuster films start becoming exclusives on streaming services like Netflix? Presumably, you won’t be able to plunk down $20 in a cinema and watch “Bright” in IMAX or 3D, you’re going to have to be a subscriber to Netflix or potentially miss one of the biggest film debuts of the year. When it’s released, stream “Bright” on Netflix after you sign up for a speedy internet connection.

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Will “Ultimate Beastmaster” Be a Success For Netflix?

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On February 24, Netflix launched its first ever reality TV series, “Ultimate Beastmaster,” created specifically for streaming audiences. The show features skilled competitors from all over the world taking on an impossibly dangerous and challenging obstacle course known as “The Beast.” The big question, of course, is whether “Ultimate Beastmaster” will be a success for Netflix.

The first thing you need to know about the show is that “Ultimate Beastmaster” has absolutely no relationship with the 1980s sword and sorcery cult film “The Beastmaster” starring Marc Singer and Tanya Roberts. Instead, this is a reality show executive produced by Sylvester Stallone and Dave Broome (creator of “The Biggest Loser”) in which “the Beast” is an extraordinarily difficult obstacle course pitting 108 different competitors from 6 different countries – the United States, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Germany and Japan – against each other. That’s 18 different competitors from each of the 6 nations.

In judging whether this streaming TV series is going to be a success or not, here are five important factors to keep in mind…

#1: Does it move forward Netflix’s global ambitions?

This show is really part of Netflix’s broader strategy of branching out into 130 different countries to transform the company into a truly global powerhouse. Thus, one core aspect of this show is making sure that it appeals to a global audience. Not only are there 108 different competitors (18 from each nation), there are also 6 different teams of announcers (one from each of the nations).

Moreover, there are 6 different show formats, each designed for a specific audience. Thus, the audience watching in the U.S. is mostly going to see U.S. athletes, while the audience watching in Brazil is mostly going to see Brazilian athletes. The idea is to create the same type of national pride that one gets from watching a major sporting event like the Olympics. (In one teaser clip, the show’s hosts are shown chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”)

#2: The ability to turn a reality show into a video game

The one narrative element that ties together the show is “the Beast.” Each part of the obstacle course is modeled on a different part of the beast’s body. So the key to creating compelling drama is to make this unscripted show as exciting as possible. For that to happen, there needs to be a general consensus that the show is really based on talent and grit, and not just blind luck. The best and most talented team should win, not just the luckiest.

One of the underlying motifs of the show is that it’s “like a videogame.” In order to succeed, competitors have to move to the next “level.” So it’s obvious is that the way the action is filmed is going to reinforce that perspective. In a world where even ESPN now covers e-sports, this videogame narrative could prove to be a surprisingly effective tactic.

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#3: The ability to showcase characters we care about

The (unofficial) star of the show is probably Sylvester Stallone, who is one of the executive producers. In fact, some critics have noted that the whole show has been imbued with “Stallone machismo.” In terms of athletes to follow, the one that the show appears to be staking the most on is former U.S. Olympic swimmer Ed Moses. He’s the “hero” featured in all the “Ultimate Beastmaster” clips for U.S. audiences.

So, just as certain stars emerge during the Olympics, the hope on the part of Netflix is that certain stars of this reality show will also emerge, complete with their own fan base. In the trailers for the show, Netflix is playing up that some of the athletes are quite accomplished in other fields of athletic endeavor.

#4: Can the show hosts attract repeat audiences?

The two hosts of the U.S. version of the show are Terry Crews (from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Charissa Thompson (from Extra TV and Fox Sports). For now, they’ve drawn less than favorable reviews as they try to explain what’s happening to the athletes when they try to navigate “the beast.” One critic complained of the “vapid, empty, worthless commentary.” Listening to the co-hosts say stuff like, “Wow, that sure looks hard,” isn’t going to win over too many fans. These hosts need to be more like the hosts of “American Idol.”

#5: The ability to add twists to the standard reality TV concept

Netflix has always been known as an innovator in the streaming TV space, so it will be interesting to see what kinds of twists and turns the streaming giant can bring to the reality TV format. Executive producer Dave Broome, when talking about why he helped to make the show, explained that Netflix gave him a lot of creative freedom to make the show as compelling as possible for audiences. That’s partially what’s behind the idea to create 6 different shows for 6 different markets.

For now, though, the show looks and feels much like what you’d expect from an obstacle course competition series like “American Ninja Warrior,” just with a few high-tech bells and whistles. For example, Netflix shot this series in 4K with 50+ cameras.

This may be the first reality TV series from Netflix, but it’s not the first-ever reality TV show from a streaming giant. Amazon, for example, created a QVC-style show (“Style Code Live”) that was meant to create some synergies with its online e-commerce business. The basic thinking was that people would check out some of the styles featured in “Style Code Live” and then go to Amazon.com and purchase them. But that didn’t exactly work out as planned, with the show garnering only mixed reviews.

The big takeaway from all this is that creating a show simply to fill a business need – creating a global reality TV show to make it easier to expand globally – sounds good on paper, but doesn’t always work out in practice.

That being said, it’s exciting to see that Sylvester Stallone is back in the game, and maybe he can turn “Ultimate Beastmaster” into an audience smash. It’s already picked up some good reviews (7.7/10.0 on IMDb) online, and so it’s just a matter of convincing Netflix’s millions of TV show fans to also check out the next great reality TV show. Check out Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix with a fantastic internet connection in your home.

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Comcast Head Reveals His Vision for the Company in the Streaming Era

Image result for comcast logoRecently, on March 6 of this year, a major tech conference was held in Palm Beach, Florida. This was the Deutsche Bank’s 25th Annual Media & Telecom Conference. This tech conference is one of the biggest annual events in the industry. It is where the who’s who of the tech industry come together.

So, it wasn’t a surprise that the President and CEO of Comcast Cable, Neil Smit, was at the conference. Not only was he at present at the venue, but also opened up before the investor conference regarding the direction in which Comcast and its subsidiary, NBC Universal are going.

When asked about the impact of over-the-top or streaming services like YouTube, DIRECTV Now, Hulu, Sony, and others, he shared his optimism for Comcast’s X1 platform. He noted that the platform is “very competitive”, and has been able to deliver amazing customer satisfaction, even though other OTT services faced numerous technological problems in the beginning.

Smit effused confidence that they “know how to compete”, clearly intended against the streaming services. Turns out, Comcast does know how to compete. Although they have lost customers who have been migrating to the streaming services for nearly a decade now, things are finally picking up for Comcast.

Just last quarter, Comcast managed to gain 80,000 new video customers. This is slightly lower than the year-ago period, when Comcast had added 89,000 new customers. However, considering that cord cutting is still a popular thing, Comcast’s growth is nothing short of a surprise to many.

In fact, as recently as 2015, the company had lost 36,000 subscribers. Come 2016, they have managed to win 161,000 new customers. That’s a major achievement in favor of Comcast.

Speaking at the conference, which was webcast, Smit explained how his company, along with its subsidiary, NBCUniversal, is reinventing their tactics to fight off the competition from OTT services. He believes that the bundles (TV + Phone + Internet services), which have become immensely popular, have great value.

And then came the question on the proverbial elephant in the room – Ajit Pai and his appointment by President Trump as the new FCC Chairman. To this he replied, “we have always believed in a free and open Internet, but the current title 2 regulation, which Pai has criticized, was not the right way.”

Highlighting the spectacular growth of Comcast Cable and NBC he noted that the success of the two was not coincidental, but a product of their seamless integration. It is true that Comcast has been consolidating its hold on all the industries in which it operates.

And, it knows its limits too. Responding to a question on the increasing programming costs, Smit was quick to point out that these costs are dependent on sports and retransmission fees, which are not in Comcast’s control. Instead, Comcast is focusing on managing its costs smartly with some help from high-margin businesses like broadband services.

Smit was also happy to reiterate his company’s next big move – wireless. Comcast has struck a deal with Verizon to offer wireless services, which will be launched later this year. Once that happens, Smit expects the company to win a sizeable number of customers in a fairly short period. In fact, he appears to believe that wireless will play a major role in reducing the subscriber churn that Comcast, like any other cable service, is experiencing at the moment. For this reason, the wireless service will be mainly targeting the existing subscribers, and will be packaged as part of Comcast’s bundle.

This year is going to be an exciting one for all the technology and entertainment fans.

Why “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Is Surprisingly Hilarious

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Ever since it premiered in October 2015 on The CW, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has seemed like it was right on the cusp of breaking out and becoming a huge TV hit. While the ratings may not have yet caught up to the critical acclaim and fan support (a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!), there are just so many reasons why “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is surprisingly hilarious.

#1: It simply defies any conventional genre

First of all, it’s hard to describe to your friends what “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” actually is – is it a romantic comedy, a satire, a comedy-drama or a musical? Each episode seems to combine a little of each, and that’s what makes it so hard to classify. Do you watch it with your girl friends or your guy friends? Or both?

The core story, of course, is that a New York City lawyer (Rebecca Bunch, played by Rachel Bloom) has packed up and left her crazy, frenetic Manhattan lifestyle behind in order to follow her first teenage love (Josh Chan, played by Vincent Rodriguez III) to a California suburb. That explains the whole title – Rebecca is a little bit still strung out and some might refer to her as the “crazy ex-girlfriend.” But there’s a lot of layers here to peel back – the title is also a reference to how society tries to attach easy labels to women.

#2: It’s charming and eccentric, in a “Seinfeld” kind of way

Some critics have called “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” a mash-up of “Broad City” and “Seinfeld,” but that probably doesn’t do the series real justice. There’s something about the star, Rachel Bloom, that’s so wonderfully eccentric. Just to give you an idea – before she signed up for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” perhaps her biggest claim to fame was an award-winning video from 2010 called “F*** me, Ray Bradbury,” in which she fantasizes about having sex with the famous science fiction novelist. (WTF?)

This show is about more than young wayward girls trying to make it in a big city, as “Broad City” is. In fact, quite the opposite – it’s the story of an Ivy League-educated lawyer NOT trying to make it in the big city and pursuing romance instead.

And it’s about more than just little trivial events taking place in New York City, filled with amusing characters, as “Seinfeld” essentially was. The common joke about “Seinfeld” was that it was “a show about nothing.” Somehow, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” feels like more than that – it’s almost a social satire, or a biting social commentary about human relationships.

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#3: The upbeat musical numbers are mini-comic routines in themselves

Part of what makes “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” so funny to watch are all the great musical numbers. It’s too easy to say that it’s just like “Glee,” because the songs in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are really more about pushing the plot forward and explaining the subtext of different scenes. Unlike “Glee,” the show is not about using pop culture or popular songs from the past to win over the audience.

In fact, many of the musical numbers (they’re not just songs!) seem like comedic sketches you might see on a show like “SNL.” There’s a bit of comedic bite to the musical routines that you just don’t see coming, and that’s what makes the show so hilarious. It’s also the reason why Rachel Bloom is now a Golden Globe winner for her work in the show.

For example, consider the “The Sexy Getting Ready Song” – it’s one of the best-known songs from the show and a music video of the song posted on YouTube by The CW has already picked up nearly 700,000 views. The song is at times sweet and charming, and at other times, raunchy and NSFW.

It basically takes the premise of a woman getting ready to go out on a date and turns it into a biting satire. The woman (Rachel Bloom) is plucking her eyebrows, shaving her legs, applying all kinds of creams and ointments, all while shimmying around in spandex and a silk robe. And then come all the comic moments –when there’s blood splattering everywhere when too much hair is taken off, or when the screen shifts to show “how the guys are getting ready” (a guy asleep on the couch in a t-shirt). There’s also a completely unexpected appearance by a rapper, who suddenly gives up in the middle of the rap, and basically says, “This is nasty. I’m out of here.”

And that’s what you get with most of the songs, some of them with NSFW titles, like “Let’s Have Intercourse.” And yet, they are just hilarious. It’s like taking a break from the sitcom (oops, comedy-drama!) just to watch a funny YouTube clip that someone sent you. In “Let’s Have Intercourse,” a handsome guy tells Rachel Bloom, “Fortunately, I want to have sex with you. I don’t know what’s happened… Maybe you’ve lost some weight?” It’s devastatingly funny and you can’t help laughing and cringing throughout the whole song – it’s like a brutally honest love song that’s gone off the rails.

#4: The humor is its own brand of crazy

When you watch a show like “Seinfeld,” you know what type of humor to expect – it’s stuff that Jerry Seinfeld would use in a stand-up comedy routine. When you watch “Broad City,” you also know what kind of humor to expect. But you just never know what to expect from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Part of that is by design – Rachel Bloom has pioneered a new form of musical comedy that’s unlike anything you’ve seen or heard before. And it’s crazy.

At times, the humor is whimsical, and at other times, it’s just plain grim. At times, the humor is slow and steady, and at other times, it’s fast-paced. At times, it’s almost conventional, and at other times, it’s edgy and risqué and just about any other adjective that basically amounts of DGAF.

And that DGAF attitude is why some people say that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is really meant for something bigger than network TV. You can’t try to wedge it into a conventional TV time slot. The show is going to demand a different kind of audience than you’re going to get in primetime – more of a YouTube or Netflix audience.

The good news is that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has been renewed for a third season. You know what they say – the third time is a charm. We’ve started to fall in love with the comic genius of the show, and 2017 could be the year that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” finally becomes the huge comic breakout hit that it deserves to be. Check out Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix — all you need is a speedy web connection from XFINITY!

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What To Expect From “24: Legacy”

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The all-new “24: Legacy,” which premiered right after the Super Bowl on February 5, looks like it’s going to be more than just another reboot of the long-running “24” franchise. We’ve only had three episodes appear on FOX, and it looks like “24: Legacy” is staying faithful to the original premise of “24” (all action taking place within 24 hours), while also offering a few new wrinkles and twists that make it a worthy successor to the “24” franchise.

#1: Corey Hawkins as the new Kiefer Sutherland

The first major change that everyone’s talking about is Corey Hawkins (who played Dr. Dre in “Straight Outta Compton”) as Eric Carter, replacing Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. Hawkins has been described as a more athletic hero than Sutherland and that’s just perfect for the non-stop, frenetic action pace of “24: Legacy.” In this series, Eric Carter is a former Army Ranger who’s trying to adjust to private life in the Washington, DC area after leading a major commando raid on Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid.

In Episode 1, it’s Eric Carter who’s in danger, as the Islamic terrorists are now after him, determined to snuff out the 6 Army Rangers who took a prized possession of the Sheik – a lock box containing a USB with the names of all the terrorist sleeper cell members in the United States. The heat is getting so hot that Eric Carter has to turn to friends in the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) in Washington for help.

There are signs that the Eric Carter character is going to be a vehicle to take on issues that are relevant today – such as the issue of soldiers with PTSD and the difficulty of soldiers adjusting back to regular civilian life in the United States. And we may also get more information about him and his family life than we did about Jack Bauer. One big narrative thread will be Eric Carter’s attempts to keep his wife safe, even if it means giving her over for safekeeping to his gangster brother. In Episode 1, it’s clear that Eric and his brother have a troubled history.

#2: Plot twists galore

Not everything is at it seems in “24: Legacy.” It turns out that one of Eric Carter’s Ranger squadron mates, Ben Grimes (played by Charlie Hofheimer), has realized what a valuable commodity he has – the lock box with the USB with the sleeper cell members – and is determined to sell it to the highest bidder. The only problem is that Grimes seems to be battling some inner demons and has gone off the grid.

And that’s not all –there’s apparently a mole within the highest ranks of government, possibly even within the CTU. As a result, there are only a few people that Carter can trust, and one of them is Rebecca Ingram (played by Miranda Otto), who is the former head of the CTU in Washington and now the wife of Senator John Donovan (played by Jimmy Smits) who has presidential aspirations. The only problem is that nobody really knows where the mole is – it could be within the CTU, or it could be within the CIA or FBI or NSA.

#3: The same frenetic 24-hour countdown style of narrative

When “24” first burst onto the scene nearly a decade ago, the idea of a real-time narrative taking place over a 24-hour period was fresh and buzzworthy. We’ve now grown used to the timing and pacing of the show – but just as we keep watching the next James Bond flick or the next Jason Bourne flick – we also can’t keep our eyes away from the screen in “24: Legacy.”

The chase is an effective storytelling technique, and it’s clear that “24: Legacy” is going to leave us on the edges of our seats, just as the other seasons of “24” have. There is a certain excitement in seeing events unfold in real-time. It may limit some of the ability of the show’s creators to tell us what’s happening, but it means there’s a real premium placed on amazing, non-stop action. And the split-screen action scenes are great!

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#4: A more nuanced take on radical Islamic terrorism

Given the recent presidential election, it’s impossible to hear the words “radical Islamic terrorism” and not have a strong reaction. In a sense, that’s a very real issue that the creators of “24: Legacy” are going to have to address through the series. There are still Arabic-speaking terrorists, but we’re likely to see a more nuanced view of them: in today’s America, it’s no longer possible to talk about Islamic terror without facing charges of Islamophobia and getting into a discussion of the “Muslim ban.” Just what are these terrorists trying to do?

#5: Cat-and-mouse storylines

Part of what makes the narrative so powerful in “24: Legacy” is that you have a game of cat-and-mouse taking place on multiple levels. You have Eric Carter engaged in a cat-and-mouse with the Islamic terrorists who are intent on taking him out. You also have a cat-and-mouse game taking place at the highest reaches of the U.S. government. Our assumption is that Rebecca Ingram is someone we can trust, but that’s not true of other people within the U.S. government. There’s even been some fan chatter than Senator John Donovan (Ingram’s husband) may be willing to burn Eric Carter if there’s a chance of advancing his career.

#6: The final terrorist showdown

This non-stop action is going to play out over 12 episodes, and it’s almost guaranteed that the final hours of the show are going to be based around the evil terrorist plot to launch a major attack against the United States. Right now, we don’t have the details, but it’s a safe bet that this plot is going to be so dastardly and epic that the terrorists are going to stop at nothing to use the terrorist sleeper cells to their advantage.

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It looks like FOX has another winner on its hands. While the ratings of Episode 1 on Super Bowl night were a bit lower than expected, there’s still plenty of action, adventure and intrigue left in this winning franchise. Some fans may mourn the departure of Jack Bauer, it looks like the show’s creators have found a more than suitable replacement in Eric Carter. “24: Legacy” is going to be nail-biting, down-to-the-wire action that is almost certainly going to be another TV hit for FOX. If you missed an episode, stream the series online with a Comcast XFINITY internet plan.

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