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Forthcoming Google-made Android TV dongle & new UI leak in render

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At the start of last month, we exclusively reported on Google’s plans for a new Chromecast Ultra based on Android TV. Subsequent reports described a content-focused revamp of the operating system, with new leaks today showing off the next Chromecast, its remote, and “Google TV’s” new look.

Marketing material acquired by XDA today shows a pebble-shaped puck that is slightly taller than the current Chromecast. A ‘G’ logo is embedded with three colors (black, white, and pink/sand) shown. The flat HDMI cable is also seen — though the connector is not — and similarly hued.

As we previously described, we see a “Remote Control” that’s very similar to the Daydream View’s. Up top is a circular D-pad, while six circular buttons are below. From today’s leak, we see a back, Assistant, home, star/favorite, play/pause, and volume mute.

Next up is a leak of the content-focused Android TV revamp, which we hear might be rebranded to Google TV when the Chromecast launches. The homescreen starts with a top bar where search is the top-left corner. This is followed by For you, Movies, TV, Live — more about what’s new here, Apps, and My Library. It’s rather similar to the current layout of the Play Store on Android TV.

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Front and center is a cover image advertising Game of Thrones from HBO Now and other shows, while there’s a “Play next” carousel below. Another capability touted is the ability to “manage your home from your couch” with a “Noise detected” notification appearing in the bottom-left.

These graphics originate from a video that will play during the set-up process, while firmware that XDA also acquired suggests an Amlogic chip that supports Dolby Vision. Codenamed “sabrina,” the retail name for this device has yet to leak, thought Nest branding was suggested by Protocol last month.

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Borat Sequel to Release in October on Amazon Prime Video Worldwide: Report

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 30 September 2020

A sequel to the comedy Borat has been purchased by Amazon Prime Video and is expected to hit the streaming platform before November’s US election, a source familiar with the deal told AFP Tuesday following a media report.

The movie will see British comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen reprise his cult favorite role as a bumbling and politically incorrect reporter from Kazakhstan, after nearly 15 years.

The 2006 original, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, grossed more than $260 million (roughly Rs. 1,916 crores), winning over critics and spawning endless catchphrases among devoted fans. It even earned an Oscar screenplay nomination.

A sequel to the comedy Borat has been purchased by Amazon Prime Video and is expected to hit the streaming platform before November’s US election, a source familiar with the deal told AFP Tuesday following a media report.

The movie will see British comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen reprise his cult favorite role as a bumbling and politically incorrect reporter from Kazakhstan, after nearly 15 years.

The 2006 original, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, grossed more than $260 million (roughly Rs. 1,916 crores), winning over critics and spawning endless catchphrases among devoted fans. It even earned an Oscar screenplay nomination.

According to Deadline, the follow-up movie was shot covertly with minimal crew as soon as coronavirus restrictions eased this summer in the US and overseas. It will debut on Amazon Prime Video in late October in 240 countries and territories, the report adds.

The original saw Cohen’s fictional and homophobic journalist blundering across the US in search of cultural enlightenment, with the joke at the expense of Americans, who nevertheless lapped it up at the box office.

The sequel will again see Cohen “going undercover to get people to reveal their true selves and their often unflattering biases, with only the slightest provocation,” the Deadline report said.

The controversial satirist’s anarchic, gonzo-style comedy has spawned multiple celebrated TV and movie characters such as wannabe rapper Ali G and gay Austrian TV presenter Bruno.

Cohen, who also made the 2012 movie The Dictator starring himself as a Moamer Kadhafi-style despot, was recently seen pranking public figures in the TV series “Who is America?”

In one memorable scene from the show, Cohen hoodwinked Republican politicians into endorsing a made-up plan to train preschoolers in how to fire a gun, although the show drew mixed reviews.

Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee and ex-Alaska governor, slammed the comedian’s “evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor.'”

Cohen plays a leading role in Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-tipped drama The Trial of the Chicago 7, streaming on Netflix next month.

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Netflix Confronted by US Republican Senators Over Chinese Sci-Fi Show Three-Body Problem

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 September 2020

Five Republican US senators have confronted Netflix over the streaming giant’s plan to adapt a Chinese sci-fi book trilogy, expressing concern over the original author’s comments about claims of forced labor in Xinjiang.

Liu Cixin’s bestselling “The Three-Body Problem,” which tells the story of humanity’s first contact with aliens, is set to become a major Netflix series co-written by the creators of Game of Thrones.

In a letter to content boss Ted Sarandos, the senators accused Liu of “parroting dangerous [Communist Party] propaganda” and suggested Netflix was “providing a platform to Mr Liu in producing this project.”

They highlighted a New Yorker article from last year in which Liu is quoted defending mass internment in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, where activists say more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim Turkic-speaking people have been incarcerated in camps.

“Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks?” Liu told the magazine. “If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty.”

According to the senators’ letter, adapting Liu’s work would represent “the normalisation of, or apologism for, these crimes.”

“We ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr Liu in producing this project,” it concluded.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump’s administration has ramped up pressure on China on a wide range of issues, imposing sanctions over policies in Xinjiang.

With Trump’s reelection bid looming closer, Republicans recently pulled Netflix into the US election fray with a separate row over French film “Cuties,” accused of sexualizing little girls.

Conservative activists say the drama is a by-product of an overly liberal culture often associated with Hollywood — and that it promotes pedophilia.

Its director denied the charges and said the movie is a critique of the over-sexualisation of young girls.

Republicans have also pointed out that Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings is a significant Democratic donor.

Liu’s father joined the Communists during China’s civil war, but was later sent to work in coal mines in the country’s north, while the author himself is described as “no dissident” in the New Yorker profile.

The trilogy by Liu — whose famous fans include former president Barack Obama — imagines an alternate history in which a female Chinese astrophysicist makes contact with an alien civilisation, prompting global fears of an invasion.

Netflix announced its adaptation earlier this month, with Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson serving as an executive producer, along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment company.

Game of Thrones duo David Benioff and DB Weiss will co-write the series.

In an official statement at the time, Liu said the apocalyptic series “transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races.”

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Apple Buys Cherry From Avengers: Endgame Directors, the Russo Brothers

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 September 2020

Apple has purchased Cherry, the first film directed by the Russo brothers since their all-time record grossing Avengers: Endgame, in a major deal expected to boost the new streaming service’s Oscar hopes.

The opioid crisis drama from Anthony and Joe Russo, starring Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, will debut on Apple TV+ early next year. It is also expected to have a limited run in theatres.

Based on Nico Walker’s semi-autobiographical novel, Cherry follows a former Army medic who falls into addiction and crime after returning from Iraq with extreme undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Apple purchased the completed film from the Russos’ production company in a deal reportedly worth more than $40 million (roughly Rs. 294.79 crores). Neither party has publicly confirmed that figure.

Speaking at last year’s Comic-Con fan convention, the filmmaking brothers described the project as a “mature” and “complicated” look at the US opioid crisis set in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

“It’s touched our families, the crisis, so it’s a deeply personal movie for us,” said Anthony at the time.

“Joe and I are now in a position now where we can get those movies made, and we want to use that sort of capital that we built up,” he added.

The brothers directed four Marvel superhero movies, three of which grossed more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,369 crores). Their fourth, Avengers: Endgame, last year surpassed Avatar to seize the all-time box office record of $2.798 billion (roughly Rs. 20,621 crores).

The deal puts Apple TV+, which launched last November, in the race for an unusual awards season.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen major productions delayed, and theatrical releases postponed by a year or more, potentially benefiting streaming platforms.

Hollywood’s motion picture academy pushed back the Oscars by two months to allow more films to compete.

It eased some eligibility rules, allowing movies that skip the big screen and appear on streaming platforms to contend this time around.

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John Cena to Star in the Suicide Squad Spinoff Peacemaker

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By ANI | Updated: 24 September 2020

Comic book fans can rejoice as The Suicide Squad star John Cena is in line for his own streaming series.

HBO Max (currently exclusive to the US) announced on Wednesday that it has ordered a spinoff of the upcoming James Gunn film, which features the 43-year-old professional wrestler as the Peacemaker from the pages of DC Comics supervillain team-up.

The eight-episode series will skip shooting a pilot and proceed right to series production.

Gunn will write all of the episodes and is said to be helming most of them, according to Deadline.

The former WWE star will also serve as a co-executive producer.

The series is expected to explore the origins of Cena’s The Suicide Squad character. In the comics, his name is Christopher Smith, a pacifist diplomat and son of a Nazi death camp commandant who fights dictators and warlords as the founder of the Pax Institute.

“James Gunn has the unique ability to create an expansive universe while also bringing to life the soul and wit of each character. We look forward to a deep dive into the world of Peacemaker, said Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer for HBO and HBO Max.

Gunn added, “Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag. I’m excited to expand The Suicide Squad and bring this character from the DC film universe to the full breadth of a series.”

Cena will be next seen in F9, the ninth instalment of the popular Fast & Furious franchise, and is also tapped to play co-host to the revival of Wipeout on TBS.

Other DC Universe (also exclusive to the US) originals that have since moved to HBO Max include Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn, Titans, Swamp Thing, and Young Justice.

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Quibi Streaming Service Explores Strategic Options, Including Sale: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 22 September 2020

Quibi, the streaming service founded by former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, is exploring several strategic options including a possible sale, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company is also considering raising more money or going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, the report said.

Quibi said it does not comment on rumour or speculation.

Quibi, the streaming service founded by former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, is exploring several strategic options including a possible sale, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Amazon Cranks Up Its Music Service With Podcasts

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 17 September 2020

Amazon on Wednesday added podcasts to its streaming music service, tapping into a trend and taking on rivals including Spotify and Apple.

Amazon Music added hit podcasts such as RadioLab and promised a line-up of original shows from radio host DJ Khaled, actor Will Smith and others.

The podcasts are included in Amazon’s streaming service in the US, Britain, Germany and Japan.

“Our customers’ listening habits are constantly evolving, and we know they’re looking to us to provide them with a rich experience rooted in music and entertainment,” said Amazon Music vice president Steve Boom.

Amazon Music subscribers can listen to the service at its website, through smartphone apps, or on Echo smart speakers sold by the Seattle-based company.

A survey on podcast consumption this year showed that 37 percent of US adults had listened to a podcast within the previous month, a figure which has more than tripled over the past decade, market tracker Statista reported in June.

Weekly consumption of podcasts has also jumped, with some of the world’s top publishers seeing millions or streams and downloads monthly, Statista concluded.

A follow up survey in the US found that 10 percent of younger listeners, ages 18 to 34, said they believe people should pay for podcasts and they should be ad-free, according to Statista.

“We’re thrilled to offer customers a convenient podcast listening experience that fits their lifestyle,” said Amazon Music podcasts director Kintan Brahmbhatt.

Productions coming to Amazon Music include a new multi-media podcast from musician Rebbeca Gomez, known as “Becky G,” exploring issues and trends, with each episode devoted to nonprofit organization.

“In quarantine, with so much time to consider the world around us, it felt like the perfect opportunity to open a new line of communication and pay it forward,” Gomez said.

Shares in Spotify, which features podcasts at its streaming music service, slid some three percent in trading on the New York Stock Exchange in the wake of the Amazon Music news.

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