The broken promise of the streaming era
Our favorite movies and TV shows were supposed to be available forever. Not quite. PLUS: Auliʻi Cravalho won’t play Moana in the live-action cash grab, and the story behind 'Fast X' credits cameo.
It’s a Tuesday edition of Popculturology.
We’re a few weeks late to Freevee’s Jury Duty, but we finally sat down to watch that one over the weekend. Wow.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jury Duty, it’s a mockumentary show about a sequestered jury with the twist that everyone is an actor — except one person. Ronald Gladden is a real human being who thinks he’s participating in a documentary about a jury, but it’s all fake.
I have no idea how Gladden ever trusts anyone or anything in life again, but he came off like a genuinely good guy and seems to have taken the show’s twist in stride.
It took me some time to figure out what Freevee is and where to find it. The concept that there’s no way to pay your way around commercials is a weird one for me in 2023, but I guess free ad-supported TV (FAST) is where things are headed for a good chunk of the streaming world …
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Feature Presentation: Turns out the streaming era is just another series of vaults
The News: Auliʻi Cravalho won’t play Moana, how the Fast X credits scene cameo came together
Trailer Watch: Secret Invasion
Playlist: Succession, Barry
Odds and Ends: Animating Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s Rocket and Groot
Turns out the streaming era is just another series of vaults
The streaming era was supposed to change how we interacted with movies and TV shows. No longer would you have to wait for syndication to rewatch your favorite episode. No longer would you have to wait for Disney to release a movie from the vault so you could purchase it.
In the world of streaming, everything would be available forever.
Turns out that’s not how streaming works.
Over the past few months, a few of the major streaming services have yanked content from their platforms, either squirrel shows and movies away or selling them to FAST services like Tubi or Freevee.
Warner Bros. Discovery kicked off this process late last year, scaling back what was available on HBO Max. Westworld, The Minx, Genera+ion and The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo — all no longer viewable on what’s now just “Max.”
Disney is now joining in on this trend. Over the next month, Willow, Y: The Last Man, Mighty Ducks: Game Changers and Stargirl will be among dozens of shows and movies pulled from Disney+ and Hulu.
Look, I don’t understand the legal math behind pulling these shows and movies. Something about a tax write-off. But it’s happening — and it goes in the face of the promise these streaming platforms made with subscribers when they launched.
Willow creator Jonathan Kasdan tried to put a positive spin on the recent developments.
“I’ve been quiet on this news that Willow is leaving Disney+ ’cause ... I’m kinda into it,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “I grew up at a time when Disney movies were periodically re-released and not available to own, and it made them ... more special. I worry about many things … but NONE of them are that Willow will never be available again, either on Disney+ or perhaps ... someplace else, & ya never know where that could lead ... stranger things have happened.”
I’m sure if you’ve gotten your paycheck (along with other big paychecks from things like cowriting Solo), it’s easy to not care that the series you worked on is gone. But if you’re just starting out, if a show like Willow was your big break, are you “kinda into” it getting pulled from Disney+ less than a year after it premiered? Do you think that makes it “more special”?
For a long time, I was a DVD/Blu-ray guy. That was my thing. In college, if you wanted to borrow a movie, you visited my dorm room. They were on a fancy shelf, alphabetized by title and backed up by a spreadsheet that I had to keep track of what I owned and who might have borrowed it. (I still know who never returned my copy of The Butterfly Effect.)
As the years went by, my collection grew. At its height, I had over 400 DVDs and Blu-rays on display. There were piles of cases in my closet as overflow. At some point, I made the major decision to pull most of the discs from their cases, recycle the cases and sort away the discs in giant binders.
Last year, I revisited my physical movie collection. Years of buying digital copies and subscribing to the growing number of streaming services had stagnated it. There were gaps in franchises. Some of my favorite movies didn’t have a corresponding spot in my physical library.
I had the realization that not only did I not control the movies I loved that were available on streaming services, I technically didn’t even own the digital movies I “owned.” (This is true for every streaming services. All those songs in your Apple Movie library? Apple can disappear them tomorrow if they want to. You’re leasing a placeholder.)
I upgraded my Blu-ray player to an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and chased down a few missing movies that I wanted for my collection. (Yes, I even bought a steelbook copy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to match the rest of my Star Wars movies.) When our Internet went down for a weekend shortly after this, I was happy to have made the investment in physical media as we looked through the handful of titles on the shelf before picking The Martian.
This strategy still has its flaws. Unless it was a theatrical release, the shows you love on Disney+ likely never got a physical release. There’s no WandaVision or The Mandalorian Blu-ray box sets out there. Netflix is hit or miss on this, making a bare-bones version of The Mitchells vs. the Machines available but so far refusing to release Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion on Blu-ray.
None of this is good for fans of movies and TV shows. The continued treatment of art and entertainment as content to be shuffled between companies and platforms, hidden away if it means a tax write-off that’ll please shareholders, isn’t healthy.
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Auliʻi Cravalho won’t play Moana in the live-action version of the film
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Disney moving ahead with a live-action version of Moana. And I’m especially not a fan of Dwayne Johnson positioning himself as the face of the movie now.
When the live-action Moana was announced, there wasn’t a mention of whether Auliʻi Cravalho would reprise the title role in addition to being an executive producer on the film. Cravalho cleared that up on Instagram on Friday.
“In this live-action retelling, I will not be reprising the role,” Cravalho said. “I believe it is absolutely vital the casting accurately represents the characters and stories we want to tell.”
The actress noted that she would be involved in casting the next Moana.
“So, as an executive producer on the film, I cannot wait to help find the next actress to portray Moana’s courageous spirit, undeniable wit and emotional strength,” Cravalho said. “I’m truly honored to pass this baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent to honor our incredible peoples, cultures and communities that help inspire her story.”
Cravalho is the heart of Moana. While this is the right choice, it’s one that further centers Johnson as the core of the movie. I’d love to get an update on the Moana animated series that Disney announced a few years ago.
How Fast X’s big credits scene cameo came together
I’m not sure if this is a secret still since Fast X is already in theaters and the trades have been tweeting about it at every opportunity, but a big name returned to the Fast and Furious franchise thanks to a Fast X credits scene.
Take this moment to skip ahead to the next item if you don’t want that return spoiled …
So Johnson is back in the Fast and Furious universe. After appearing in Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 and The Fast of the Furious before getting a Hobbs & Shaw spinoff, Johnson disappeared from the franchise due to a feud with Vin Diesel. Johnson and Diesel seemed to legitimately dislike and even disrespect each other, making any kind of reunion appear impossible.
Fast X director Louis Leterrier accomplished the impossible.
“The peace treaty … I kind of [brokered it]. We all did. Ultimately, the movie did,” Leterrier told The Hollywood Reporter. “We sort of looked at each other from across the room and winked a few months back, saying, ‘We should work together.’ And then I had this idea and I presented it to the producers and the studio. And then we reached out to Dwayne and his team, and said, ‘Just come and watch the movie. You have to love the movie first.’ So he came to see the movie and really loved it, and then we started talking.”
Diesel also sounds pleased to have Johnson back in the mix.
“The conversations are what makes the best movie? What feels right for a franchise? How do you make as many people happy in this world? And both of them clearly make people happy,” Diesel told THR. “Underscore that with this running theme of unity that prevails in the Fast and Furious saga, and it’s a match made in heaven.”
Interestingly enough, though, Johnson has yet to comment on his Fast X credits scene appearance. The man couldn’t stop spoiling that he had dragged Henry Cavill back as Superman for a Black Adam credits scene, but radio silence on this one. Maybe he’s just happy to be back in a successful franchise?
‘A pawn in Dwayne’s failed attempt to control a piece of DC‘: How Henry Cavill, The Rock and James Gunn collided
Charlize Theron hasn’t ‘gotten a call’ about reprising her MCU role
You would think the addition of Charlize Theron to a franchise would be a big deal. Especially a franchise as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Theron appeared as Clea in one of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ credits scenes, giving fans the idea that the actress would play a major role in a future Doctor Strange film.
“I haven’t gotten a call. Is that bad?” Theron told MTV’s Josh Horowitz (via TheWrap).
Earlier this month, I took a look at which recent MCU credits scenes have paid off, and the answer was not many of them. That’s OK, though, since at this point in the MCU, these credits scenes exist to add new toys to the MCU toy box, giving future filmmakers new characters to weave into their stories.
That said, it’s wild that the people who are signing on for these roles don’t even know what’s happening beyond a 45-second credits scene. I assume Theron has a contract to play Clea beyond the quick appearance in Multiverse of Madness?
No one’s ever asked Natalie Portman to return to Star Wars
If there was ever a moment for Natalie Portman to return to Star Wars, it would’ve been alongside Hayden Christensen in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. It could’ve been a flashback or even a live-action version of the Force nightmares Darth Vader has in the comics.
Apparently no one at Lucasfilm thought that would’ve been cool.
“I have no information on this. No one has ever asked me to return, but I’m open to it,” Portman revealed during a video segment for GQ.
It’s nice to see that Portman would be willing to return to Star Wars — if anyone ever asked.
Emma Stone as Sue Storm? Jeff Sneider revealed during his weekly podcast that Marvel Studios wanted the Cruella actress to anchor its Fantastic Four reboot (via SuperHeroHype). Turns out Stone’s asking price of $20 million was too much for the film’s budget.
‘Pay your writers.’ Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was booed and protested while giving the commencement address at Boston University.
Ray Stevenson dies. The Punisher: War Zone actor was 58. A cause of death has not yet been disclosed. Stevenson will soon appear in the Ahsoka series.
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OK, so this isn’t actually a full trailer, but it is a new preview of Secret Invasion. What’s everyone think of this one? It looks good, right? Back to those Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes?
Secret Invasion premieres on Disney+ on June 21.
💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!
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Episode: “Church and State”
Brutal episode for Roman. After telling everyone around him that he had pre-grieved his father’s death, it became apparent this episode that the youngest Roy sibling was not prepared to face the finality of Logan’s death. Another highlight reel for Kieran Culkin, both as he broke down in front of his father’s casket in church and as he wandered into the mass of protestors in New York City.
Feels like Shiv should be paying attention to how often everyone around her keeps saying “American CEO” instead of Shiv’s name. Lukas and Mencken are talking about you, Shiv, no matter certain you are that this will finally be the time your master plan comes together.
I’d tell Shiv to watch out for that rake behind her, but she’s never met a rake that she won’t step on.
Next episode is the series finale of Succession. What’s everyone’s guesses for how things end? Plane crash kills all the Roys? Gerri or Tom becomes CEO?
“That’s because you fucked it. … Look, it happens. … You thought you were Dad, tried to Dad it. … But you fucked it.” — Kendall to Roman
Episode: “a nice meal”
With just one episode of Barry left to go, the show’s endgame is on the table: Barry versus Hank, with Hank holding Barry’s family.
The final shot of this episode, Barry crouched against a mantle, his hand shaking and his neck pulsing, reminded me of Bruce Banner on the verge of hulking out. Barry may be in hiding as Clark Kent, but are we going to see him transform into Hitman Hulk in the series finale?
“Hey, don’t downplay your accomplishments, that’s still a shitload of coups, Todd.” — Hank
Attention, Hollywood: De-Aging Isn’t Working, So Please Stop Using It (Clayton Davis, Variety)
Why Ted Lasso’s Shoe Game Is So Strong (Sarah Bahr, The New York Times)
The slow cracking of Greg the Egg (Steve Kolowich, The Washington Post)
The Blurred Lines Between Comedy and Drama Pose Emmy Classification Confusion (Tyler Coates, The Hollywood Reporter)
I Ate Burger King’s Red Across the Spider-Verse Burger (Matt Singer, ScreenCrush)
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Animating Rocket and Groot
It’s amazing how far special effects have come. It wasn’t very long ago that the Andy Serkis Planet of the Apes movies broke barriers by creating hyperrealistic intelligent apes. The animation teams on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 absolutely delivered with Rocket.
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