Why Gotham Deserves Your Attention Right Now

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When the Fox TV series Gotham was launched, it was pitched as the Detective James Gordon’s pre-Batman era chronicles in the coldest, darkest, and most corrupt city in America. It began with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents – Martha and Thomas, and Gordon was assigned to investigate them. Gordon was designed to be the central character of the show. That, he is. But, as it always happens with anything Gotham, the story arc of Bruce’s childhood was simply irresistible to the writers of the show. One thing led to another and now, we have a show that hopes to achieve something that none of the movies, animated shows, video games, and other media on Batman could ever do – provide an insight into how Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight mentally and physically. And that alone is all the reason you need to watch this show.

Witness Bruce’s Transformation Into the Bat

Most movies and other media on Batman do not do justice to the character development of Batman. They almost always start with the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne right in front of Bruce in his childhood. Then the scene is cut to his teen years, when he begins to train himself in various forms of martial arts, scientific fields, and so on. The final phase is this coldblooded “Bat” character that is insomniac, beats criminals to pulp with his fists, and speaks gibberish with a Martian accent. Oh, and he is a control freak (at least according to Damian, his son. Sorry, if you didn’t know he had a son). While we can see how he beefed up his biceps during all this, we hardly get to see what went inside his head the entire time. This is the very gap that Gotham is trying to fill up, and it is doing a wonderful job at the moment.

While Gordon was investigating into the murder of Thomas and Martha, Bruce was also carrying out his own investigation. Bruce grew out of his comfort zone of crying over his parents’ death, and eventually gravitated towards the world’s greatest detective that he is destined to be. The showrunners are doing everything they can to help the non-comic readers understand the rationale and motivations behind every aspect of the Batman’s personality.

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The Great Alfred

With the death of his parents, Bruce could have easily ended up as a rich a**hole kid, or a clueless teenager. Except he did not. And, the credit goes to his guardian, Alfred. We all know that Alfred is more than just a butler. He is the closest thing Bruce had to a father, growing up. In Gotham, we can see that Alfred was more than a model father figure. He nurtured, protected, and helped Bruce in every way he can. Alfred helped him make sense of the tragedy of his parents’ death. As he grew older, and faced bullying in school, Alfred was there to not only console him, but also to teach him how to defend himself. This act of teaching him to stand his ground and confront his bully is what sowed the first seeds in Bruce to take the onus of cleaning the crime and slime plaguing Gotham by himself. In a way, it was Alfred that made Batman out of Bruce. This is the very heartwarming and profound narration that Batman’s story always needed.

The Birth of the Scum

Every good hero story needs an equally, if not better, strong villain story. If you want to make sense out of Batman’s existence, then you have to understand the scum and darkness that lurked in Gotham’s dark alleys. Gotham does a good job of touching upon the origin stories of some of the most popular villains in the Batman’s universe. As the show progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that a single young honest detective, is so ill-equipped in the city of the corrupt to stop the crime that runs rampant in the city. Everyone from the top-down – the mayor, commissioner, other police officers, and so on – are corrupt. One good policeman, no matter how honest and dedicated, is too small, too under-resourced to make a difference. Perhaps, his unyielding spirit inspired the young Bruce to never give up, even when the odds are against him. While Gotham’s villains are nowhere in the same league as Nolan’s, and are easily forgettable, they do a decent job of convincing the viewers that there is no hope for the city. If the city has to endure, then the dawn of Batman was its only hope, and completely inevitable. To check out Gotham, you must have a TV plan from XFINITY.

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The Scoop on Justin Timberlake’s New Netflix Concert

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Netflix has invested heavily into producing original content, and hosting exclusive content on its service. One of the highlights of the streaming service’s lineup for October was Justin Timberlake’s new movie, Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids. The top streaming service also released trailers for this amazing title and all the Justin’s fans were waiting with bated breath to catch the movie. The movie released on Netflix on October 12.

Justin Timberlake is not new to acting and has been a part of major productions in the past. The most noted among those are his roles in The Social Network, Trouble With the Curve, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Friends with Benefits. But, this movie is different. Here, Justin is playing himself. The concert film actually replays the final show of Justin’s 20/20 Experience World Tour. This took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 2015. Justin Timberlake can be seen singing, dancing, and enjoying himself in the concert, playing in front of his huge band, The Tennessee Kids, in the back.

Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids is definitely a must-watch for all the fans of the pop icon. The movie is indeed special. Apart from the content of the film itself, the team behind the movie is extraordinary as well. None other than the Academy-winning director, Jonathan Demme is behind bringing this concert movie to the Netflix users. He is known for making movies like Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Stop Making Sense, and others. Talking about the film, Demme has said, “It’s very emotional, very exciting, ….It’s a space age music film!”. You can see the exceptional quality of the video, and can vividly hear every sound, which is such an integral part of the movie. This is something that viewers were expecting of an Oscar-winning director. Demme has that quality to put all the cameras in the right places and the knowledge to put them together in the best way possible.

The movie has been produced by the Emmy Award winner, Gary Goetzman. He is known best for his productions like Olive Kitteridge and Big Love. The executive producers for the movie are Johnny Wright, Rocco Caruso, Rick Yorn, Michael Rapino, and H.H. Cooper. The movie is only about the final date of the almost a 2-year long tour that Justin and his crew undertook. Of course, it is very close to the heart of Justin Timberlake.

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Timberlake even dedicated this movie to the music legend that we lost this year, Prince. As Justin revealed that he was greatly influenced by the multi-talented artist. He feels that he speaks for most of the artists of his generation when he says that they have been inspired by the musician. As he puts it, “…..his influence is all over everyone’s music and there’s so much that I feel like I’ve maybe consciously and unconsciously borrowed from him that it felt…right…..It just feels right to dedicate the film to him.” Jonathan Demme was also 100 percent behind this move. He said that “the film’s been blessed with that name and that spirit.”

The movie was also showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival and was celebrated there. Justin Timberlake was very excited at the premiere. He has portrayed different people in various movies, but this is the first time he will see himself being himself. He said, “…..it’s a version of a character of me being on stage but it’s me…..I feel like I’m going to sink down in the chair.”

But as it turned out, Justin was worried for no reason. The movie has gained excellent reviews from the audiences as well as the critics. It is an out and out entertainment. It shows all the back stage madness and all the incredible effort that goes behind making a successful performance. JT fans would have especially loved the front row ticket to one of the best Timberlake concerts along with a behind the scenes’ pass. Even if you are not a JT fan, you will appreciate how well the movie has been made and while you are at it, enjoy some good music. Maybe JT will air his concert on a regular cable channel eventually, so people without Netflix can enjoy the show.

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Is “Big Brother: Over the Top” Working for Fans?

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Big Brother is a hugely popular CBS show that just wound up its eighteenth season on the network. Recently, on August 3, 2016, the network announced that it will be presenting an exclusively online version of the show called Big Brother: Over the Top. This was when the eighteenth season of Big Boss was still on air. Big Brother: Over the Top premiered on the network’s streaming service CBS All Access on September 28, 2016.

So far, there is not enough information out there to make a comment on whether this format of the show is actually working or not. But, if you have been following the series, you will know that season 18 was not exactly a success. From the very beginning of the eighteenth season, the producers were under fire for raking in some of the worst viewership numbers the show has seen yet. So, it was only obvious that the set format was not working. Clearly, a change was in order, and possibly, Big Brother Over The Top is that change.

The format of the online show is not the same as its ‘television’ version. There are some significant changes in the show. The biggest one is how the voting works. The viewers of the show will now vote for the contestants on the show (that are now called House Guests). This is something that America had not seen since Big Brother Season 1. Voting for the winner is actually better, because you will be more focused on which contestants you want to keep in the show. On the contestant’s side, this means that they have to differentiate themselves from the get go. They cannot sit around and let somebody screw up their chances. No matter what kind of game they play, the format of the show ensures that they play one in order to survive in the house.

Another factor that is working for the show is that there are no edits. The live feed of the house ensures that people see every House Guest for what they are. It does not really depend on the editing team to show someone in good or bad light. More often than not, contestants have no idea how much of them is being shown to the public. The edited footage from the house can lead to a lot of wrong perceptions. But, this is not going to work on Big Brother Over The Top, because everything will be playing live. So, there is really not much room for the contestants to play the viewers. People will have a better idea about how a contestant really is.

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In fact, audience members have more power over the game than ever. The viewer involvement in this game is unparalleled. Since it is not about choosing the least favorite person, but upvoting your favorite, the game is all ready to create a fan base for the house guests. These fans will then be able to ensure that their favorite contestants are safe and also lend them some really important advantages. This level of interaction has never been seen before. But, it is still in the familiar Big Brother format.

Another good thing about Big Brother Over The Top is that the show comes right after season 18 of Big Brother aired. So, the producers did not have to spend much on the sets. And anyway, the cost of production of reality shows is generally lower than that of typical TV dramas. Since the costs for the show are low, the producers will not mind if the show can work up average ratings.

Well, by the looks of it, Big Brother Over The Top has really touched a sweet spot, for now. The new house rules and the changes seem to be going down well with the viewers. The show offers them a lot of action and also promises to be more honest than the summer versions that are heavily edited. The daily activities, the thirteen guests and the slightly twisted voting process has made the show really interesting. It still remains to be seen that if a 24-hour live feed may take its toll on the entertainment value of the show. As of today, the show is working just fine and it will be interesting to see which House Guest the viewers will shower their love on, till the end. Stay tuned for the next season of Big Brother when it airs on CBS over the summer; you can tune in as long as you have a reliable cable TV connection!

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Drones Give TV Viewers all Angles of the Action

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A jewel thief is sprinting through a parking garage.  With the police in pursuit, he jumps across onto the roof of a building.  He runs the length of it.  We see him coming toward us, his face contorted in fear, but with a hint of defiance.  We see him running from right to left as the cops make the leap to the building.  We see all of it from straight overhead.

This kind of action is being aired as we speak, and will soon be aired increasingly, shot with drone aircraft, which are being implemented in more TV shows.  Viewers will soon be able to see things in a way they haven’t before.  In this example, the hovering shot from overhead would’ve required a helicopter, while the shot of the culprit bombing right at the screen would’ve been impossible if the crane couldn’t fit between one rooftop and another (and if it could, that’d be a long jump).

Drones are now making the ultimate leap out of geekdom, acceptance by television, still one of the most powerful media on Earth.  They have been used on TV series such as the BBC’s Planet Earth II, which uses as its key marketing point the treacherous shots never before possible; Supergirl; and Dual Survival.  Drones have also found employment in Nike and Tesla commercials.

The fit isn’t much of a mystery.  As mentioned above, TV crews are used to using helicopters, booms, and even mountains or tall buildings to shoot action from above and from the most strategic angles.  The Steadicam is another technology that has helped moving shots.

However, helicopters cost much more than drones, and they can’t get in the face of a character or hover near a rooftop.

Fortunately, the FAA was sympathetic to this plight, and authorized the use of drones last year, opening the door first to movie production crews and then TV.

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Seeing More is Knowing More

Planet Earth II is billing its show as the “most high-tech series” in history, and is using this technology—drones with top-of-the-line cameras—to educate.  People are in some danger around crocodiles, etc., while drones are at least repairable.

So, drones and the daring angles from which they can operate can be thought of as not just affording awesome cinematography, but as opening new doors, literally enriching our experience of the world.

This is true nowhere else than in the world of TV news.  The Washington Times reports a survey from this spring that says 23% of America’s newsrooms have either used drone footage or plan to do so soon.  The uses are as obvious as they are varied.  MSNBC used a drone to cover winter storm Jonas, a situation in which an aerial vantage is of great use.

In August, CNN launched its own drone news division, which quickly put UAV’s to work capturing footage of flooding in Louisiana and the water crisis in Flint, MI.  One can see the absolutely vital role drones could play in filming riots, car chases, protests, and—by patrolling key areas—crimes in progress, before the police are even on the way.

Vicarious Living

One of the boss concepts of video by drone, one that the company GoPro has tapped into (and is now implementing into their new drone, Karma), is being in the shoes of the person experiencing exhilarating action.  When you use the available technology to shoot yourself skiing down a hill, the friends with whom you share the vid can feel as though they are doing what you’re doing.

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That’s a concept that fuels the universal viewing of sports.  Why watch total strangers chasing a ball around or racing a car if not that you’re wondering what it would be like to actually do those things?  That’s partly why various football leagues and TV networks have experimented with helmet cams that give dizzying point-of-view footage.

Well, trying and trying to get extraordinary angles is a thing of the past—drones can now get production companies the shots they want, and this tech is being applied to sports, which is a natural fit.

Fox News has used drones at the Women’s World Cup and the U.S. Open.  They combine the benefits of the comprehensive bird’s-eye view with the availability to fly that bird down low.  That means the bird’s-eye view doesn’t have to seem detached.

Drones are being implemented in the televising of some high-octane sports that many people will never play, like snowboarding, Supercross, and auto racing.  The venues for these sports are more accessible to drones than many NFL and MLB stadiums, which are often too close to airports, where drones aren’t allowed.

However, what happens when drones aren’t just part of the production crew, but the stars of the show?  At that point, you really get exciting new vantage points.  It’s called drone racing.  Yes, drone racing is now a sport, and it’s the ultimate sport in which the participants film from their own points of view.

ESPN now has a docket of ten Drone Racing League episodes that debuted on Oct. 23.  Early footage show the UAV’s barrel rolling, zipping through windows, and negotiating the obstacles that make up the racing course.

With high-definition, tilt-shift, and 3D, a new generation of viewers is growing accustomed to complex and visually-arresting frames.  It’s been a race to be most visually-compelling for years, and it only makes sense that drones will be next.

In the world of social media, we’re all the star of our own story, and can all create content.  We now live in a world in which everyone wants to be a participant and feel the adrenaline.  Passive viewing is taking a backseat now, and feeling you’re part of the action, whether that means feeling the motion of the activity or looking at the action from the star’s POV, close-up, in-the-story angles will almost certainly become more and more common, and drone aircraft will provide the technology. Hopefully, shows with these angles will air on regular cable television in the future!

MOVIE REVIEW: Tyler Perry’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween”

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Tyler Perry continues to give his fans exactly what they want, and the latest installment in his “Madea” franchise takes the same humor, crude language and physical comedy that we’ve come to expect from the popular comedian, and transfers it to Halloween. “Boo! A Madea Halloween” opened in cinemas nationally on October 21, and it’s clearly positioned as the type of film that could become an annual rite for Tyler Perry fans, right up there with trick-or-treating and costume parties.

The star of the film, of course, is Tyler Perry himself, who plays not one, not two, but three different roles within the film. He plays the title role of Madea, of course, the sassy, no-nonsense aunt who manages to slip in mentions of her younger days “on the pole” and getting money from strangers for performing certain sexual acts that are definitely PG-13. But Tyler Perry also plays the role of Joe, who is the white-haired father of Brian Simmons, a single dad who’s having a tough time corralling his spoiled, beautiful 17-year-old daughter, Tiffany (played by Diamond White).

And it’s here that we can find the central humor premise of the film – it’s a clever juxtaposition of different generations and how they’re dealing with the issues of raising kids. Brian, the single dad, can’t seem to use the same tactics that were popular a generation ago and is having trouble with control over Tiffany. The funniest scenes, in fact, involve discussions between Madea and her friends, as well as between Madea and Joe, of how they’d deal with a wayward child like Tiffany. No surprises here, but a core component of such a strategy would involve a “whuppin.” Child gone off the rails? “Whup ‘em.”

And that leads to the core plot device, involving events that take place around Halloween. Tiffany is determined to attend a big frat Halloween party at the local college, where there’s bound to be plenty of drinking, risqué costumes and questionable behavior. Brian doesn’t know how to deal with the situation when Tiffany sneaks out of the house to attend the party, so that’s where he enlists the help of the very Old School Madea, who’s determined to take care of things just like they did in the old days — even if that means embarrassing Tiffany in front of her friends. And that’s exactly what happens –with all her matronly gusto, she steps right into a scene of partying collegians and tries to drag Tiffany back home.

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But that move isn’t going to go unnoticed or unanswered by these college kids. So that’s when the collegians decide to have a little fun with Madea. They come up with various plots involving ghosts, ghouls, zombies and even a killer clown to try to get their revenge. Obviously, this is a Halloween-themed film, and that’s where the film either starts to go right – if you’re a big fan of Tyler Perry – or start to slip off the rails with satire and parody that comes dangerously close to being self-parody. Is this the next Tyler Perry movie, or just a parody like “Scary Movie”?

It’s hard to believe that this is the 16th film from Tyler Perry, with his first Madea film released back in 2006 – “Madea’s Family Reunion.” By now, he has a sense of the comic timing and the types of jokes that will delight his fans.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any cringe-worthy moments in “Boo! A Madea Halloween.” One moment comes when an obviously overweight trick-or-treater shows up at the door of Madea, and she refers to him as “Biggie.” For many, the murder of Biggie Smalls is still too fresh and too raw to turn it into a joke in a movie.

Where some would prefer Tyler Perry really push things is in the area of race relations. While the movie is directed by an African-American and features a largely African-American cast, the subject of race is not something that figures prominently. While some of the (white) frat members of the Upsilon Theta house engage in black gangster-inspired talk, there is no commentary about the cultural appropriation of urban themes by the nation’s white suburban youth. Given the recent year of tension and social discord featuring injustice to the nation’s African-American community, this is a place where the strong, opinionated Madea would seem best able to dish out some biting social commentary.

Instead, Perry sticks to the much safer theme of parents standing up to their kids and the much more difficult job that parents have today in keeping their kids under control. The theme of corporal punishment is one that’s remaining dormant under a thin social veneer – just witness the uproar that resulted last year when an NFL football star resorted to the stick as a form of punishment with his young son. It would be interesting to see how Madea would react to that.

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Given all the stock elements employed in this film – killer clowns (once again in the news, so maybe not so funny as they once were), zombies, and ghosts – “Boo! A Madea Halloween” sometimes feels like yet another satirical send-up in the style of “Scary Movie.” By now, scenes that audiences once found terrifying — being surrounded in the dark woods by zombies at the exact moment that your car breaks down — has been transformed into yet another cheap laugh.

One thing is clear, though. Tyler Perry will continue to mine American pop culture for laughs. It’s easy to see how the “Madea” franchise – which includes “A Madea Christmas” and “Madea’s Class Reunion” – will be continually extended until all the major holidays and social events in our lives have been exhausted. It’s easy to think of a few new additions to the franchise – like Thanksgiving, now that “family reunion” and “Halloween” have been used already.

There’s much to admire in Tyler Perry’s comedic talents, and while this film may not be his best work – it certainly is full of funny antics, raucous laughter and funny comic moments. As a comedian, Perry may be finally hitting his stride. Let’s just hope that he continually pushes the bar, rather than settle for the type of generic comedic fare that will delight his fans, but leave little reason to hope that the film will be any more memorable than Perry’s 13th, 14th or 15th film was.

“Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” is rated PG-13. It has a total running time of 1 hour, 43 minutes. To watch a Madea movie on FX or TBS, all you need is a TV subscription from XFINITY!