Stuart Winchester

Critics Explore Rich Future World of Ghost in the Shell and Like What They Find

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There is almost nothing in the steampunk urban wilds of Ghost in the Shell that does not invite further exploration, so completely is the film’s cyber-enhanced near future stretched over the geometry of a recognizable city and society. Major (Scarlett Johansson), a cyber-enhanced, terrorist-thumping soldier roams a world where everything is at once fantastical and completely plausible, a realm where even the workaday infrastructure of normal living seems exotic and alien.

For example, her apartment:

Her crew:

Her suit:

And what is lurking in her brain:

On every detail, the film, which opens today, executes flawlessly, seeding these elements in a holograph-laced live-action dimension as dazzling as the anime that inspired it.

“Visually, it resembles nothing else in theaters,” writes AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. “…It is in its designs … that this new Ghost In The Shell finds tantalizing expressions of theme: the faces and limbs of hacked androids breaking up into insect-like forms as they attack; the lonely, recessed spaces of futuristic sleeping quarters; the grotesquerie of cybernetic enhancements; red light districts where human prostitutes dress like sex-bots to attract clientele. Johansson’s Kubrickian performance and the technical precision of the camera make its artifice seem almost haunting.”

Scarlett Johansson plays the Major and Pilou Asbaek plays Batou in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures.

Scarlett Johansson plays the Major and Pilou Asbaek plays Batou in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures. The spectacular future city rises in the background.

This is a common sentiment – the Telegraph’s Tim Robey writes: “As Blade Runner did before it, this slinky, cyberpunk action flick makes its style the entire statement, pondering a future of human-robot synergy simply by visualising it in as much eye-popping detail as possible.”

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Spike TV to Become Paramount Network in 2018 as Viacom Executes Core Business Strategy

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The Paramount Network will launch in the first quarter of 2018, adding a premium entertainment channel to Viacom’s portfolio and executing a core component of the company’s strategic shift under new CEO Bob Bakish. The new net will carry the very best of Spike TV – which Paramount Network will replace – along with high-quality scripted series that will appeal to a broad and diverse audience.

“Our mission is to establish Paramount Network as a prime destination for premium storytelling,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT. “From Alicia Silverstone as a trailblazing independent working mother in the 1970s to Michael Shannon as an FBI negotiator during the Branch Davidians dramatic standoff and siege, Paramount Network will be the home to compelling stories, unforgettable characters, and high quality production with a distinctive global appeal.”

We have three-quarters of a year until the new property drops onto the airwaves, and a lot more details will emerge between now and then, but here are three things we know right now about Paramount Network:

1) Paramount Network will be a destination for premium storytelling

The Paramount Network’s launch date announcement itemized an impressive roster of scripted series that will roll out in the channel’s first quarter.

Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari will star in American Woman, a 1970s drama about family and independence in a feminism-infused landscape. Heathers creates comedy anthology out of the 1988 film of the same name. Waco will transport us back to the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound with an entirely fresh perspective. And I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. is the latest in the acclaimed “I Am” documentary series from filmmaker Derik Murray.

While the already-announced slate is impressive, the possibilities for future franchises are enormous, particularly given the net’s relationship with Paramount Pictures. “Paramount Network is going to support and develop with Paramount,” Kay told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) in a wide-ranging interview. “Whether we make prequels or sequels to franchises that are Paramount movies or we develop our own stuff that becomes Paramount features, the same thing goes for Comedy Central and MTV — they’re in the movie business with Paramount.”

Kay hopes to establish a pipeline that supports eight premium scripted shows in any given year. “That’s a big number in this world we live in today and Viacom seems very willing to support that and help us build to that,” he said.

2) Your favorite Spike stuff isn’t going anywhere

Spike has become a destination for premium unscripted programming, with the full-throttle feel-good Lip Sync Battle joining longstanding network staples Bar Rescue and Ink Master, and all three will migrate to Paramount Network.

Spike, with its deep HD penetration and web of global outposts, was the ideal Viacom property to evolve into the Paramount Network. And, as Kay told THR, while Spike tended to still be viewed as a men’s channel, the iconic Paramount brand carried enormous gravity among fans.

“There is nothing negative in the consumer’s mind about the Paramount name,” Kay told THR. “Older people know The Godfather; some remember the Sherry Lansing years. Younger people know Transformers and Mission Impossible. Those are the franchises they identify with the Paramount name. I think it has a tremendous amount of value and sets a really high bar about premium in the consumer’s mind and it’s up to us not to screw that up.”

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Nick’s Number One! (And Number 2, and Number 3, and Numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…)

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Behind a wide-ranging slate of live-action and animated shows, Nickelodeon swept ratings compilations of the top 10 children’s programs for the first quarter of 2017 among kids 2-11 and 6-11.

The accomplishment continues a torrid winning streak for Nickelodeon, which marks its third year as the top kids’ network among kids 2-11 and preschoolers. This is Nick’s seventh consecutive quarter winning those two demos, and its second in a row among kids 6-11. Ratings grew among all three demos during the quarter.

By locking in the top 10 children’s shows in two core demos, Nick pulled net double digits ahead of its competition. The net also owns four of the top five shows among kids 2-5: number one PAW Patrol; number two Shimmer and Shine; number four Team Umizoomi; and number five Blaze and the Monster Machines.

Underscoring Nick’s deep influence on kids’ culture, its annual Kids’ Choice Awards was the top-rated show for the week ending March 12 among kids 2-11, kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14.

Scroll down to see the 10 Nick shows that won the quarter in both the 2-11 and 6-11 demos:

Kids 2-11

#1 The Thundermans

#2 Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn

#3 SpongeBob SquarePants

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Nick Grabs 18 Daytime Emmy Nominations, MTV Adds 1 for 19 Total Viacom Nods

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Behind an outstanding slate of animation, young children’s programming, and special activations, Nickelodeon locked in 18 nominations for the 2017 Daytime Emmy Awards, a rousing affirmation of the net’s broad impact and influence on the television landscape. MTV’s Transformation, which documents the struggles of young transgender individuals, grabbed an additional nomination, bringing Viacom’s total to 19.

Nick’s Peter Rabbit earned a trio of nominations, while Pig Goat Banana CricketDino Dan: Trek’s AdventuresMutt & Stuff, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, and Bubble Guppies each snagged two. Harvey Beaks and Wallykazam! also grabbed one nod apiece, while nominations for the 2016 Kids’ Choice Awards (one nomination), Kids Pick the President (two), and the Ultimate Hallowen Haunted House 360 Challenge (one) underscore the strength of the network’s special programs and initiatives.

Congratulations to all of the nominees. The National Academy of Arts & Sciences will announce the winners of the 44th Annual Daytime Emmys on April 30.

Scroll down the page to check out all of Viacom’s nominations and watch clips from select programs.

MTV 

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL CLASS SPECIAL

MTV Docs: Transformation 

Director: Melissa Johnson

Producer: Katelyn Howes

NICKELODEON

OUTSTANDING PRE-SCHOOL CHILDREN’S SERIES

Dino Dan: Trek’s Adventures

Executive Producers: J.J. Johnson, Blair Powers

Co-Executive Producers: Matthew J.R. Bishop, Christin Simms

 

Mutt & Stuff

Executive Producers: Marty Krofft, Sid Krofft, Cesar Millan, Bradley Zweig

Co-Producers: Bob Aniello, Leigh Hale, Deanna Krofft Pope, Jacob Moffat

Producer: Irene Oncley

 

OUTSTANDING PRE-SCHOOL CHILDREN’S ANIMATED PROGRAM

Wallykazam!

Executive Producer: Adam Peltzman

Co-Executive Producers: Koyalee Chanda, Dave Palmer

Supervising Producer: Laura Barbera

Line Producers: Sara Kamen, Ian Murray

 

OUTSTANDING INTERACTIVE – ENHANCEMENT TO A DAYTIME PROGRAM OR SERIES

Nickelodeon’s Ultimate Halloween Haunted House 360 Challenge

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Logo’s Global Ally Examines the Less Sunny Side of Jamaica

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“Growing up, my mother was always saying that [if] any of her child become gay or lesbian, she would take them out personally,” says the unidentified man in the red tank top, his head sliced from the camera shot. “Meaning she would kill us herself.”

Facing these sorts of attitudes and resorting to clandestine behavior are the reality for the LGBT community in Jamaica, where same-sex relations are scorned by an enormous chunk of the population: more than 80 percent, according to a new video from Logo’s Global Ally campaign and the Where Love Is Illegal organization, believe that homosexuality is immoral. And while homosexuality is not illegal, “acts of gross indecency” – intimate relations between members of the same sex – are.

The video, This is Who I Am: LGBTQ Stories of Survival, is the latest in Global Ally’s year-long storytelling project that launched last year on The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biophobia to unite victims, activists and supporters of LGBT rights around the world.

The Jamaica that unfolds on the video is a brutal realm where LGBT individuals often live in constant fear of violence, exiled from their families, unemployed and uneducated because they are forever shunning public places.

In an atmosphere so tainted, why, then, would anyone come out at all?

“Our personal stories, which display our humanity, are very important, because it’s not real to Jamaican people unless they know somebody who’s part of the community,” says one man, echoing Logo’s position that increased visibility of LGBT individuals – whether in one’s personal life or the media – is the best way to diffuse homophobia.

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Baywatch Hits the Big Screen with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Baywatch is sprinting back up the beach this spring to a Paramount feature film, led by Dwayne Johnson (Mitch Buchannon) and Zac Efron (Matt Brody), the all-business vet and the brash newcomer, whose brewing rivalry is subdued by a joint mission to save the bay from criminal scheming.

There are leaping jetskis, gun fights, and gun fights on leaping jetskis. There are daring rescues and dives from moving motorcycles into the water. There are drugs and dumped bodies and a ruthless ringleader at the head of it all. And there are the humor-laced moments of quirk and vanity that make Baywatch everything fans would expect it to be: Buchannon critiquing a sand-carved effigy of his physique, a drowning woman pummeling would-be rescuer Brody, a lifeguard tryout involving two refrigerators mounted to a carrying pole.

Johnson and Efron bring good company along on the ride: Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera. Baywatch, directed by Seth Gordon, hits theaters on May 26.

Snowed in? Don’t worry, summer is coming.🔥 #BeBaywatch #Blizzard2017 #SnowDay

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Scarlett Johansson Rocks a Futuristic Dinner Party in the First Five Minutes of Ghost in the Shell

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Ahead of the film’s wide release next week, Paramount aired the first five minutes of its highly anticipated Ghost in the Shell film adaptation in a Facebook Live stream earlier today. [Slide to 1:30 to begin watching the preview.]

This is our first extended look at Scarlett Johansson as cyber-enhanced asskicker Major, an impossibly fluid super soldier who leaps off skyscrapers and bursts through glass in a terrorist-levelling, guns blazing, ninjitsu-flipping onslaught heavy on violent efficiency and devoid of mercy.

It isn’t clear from this opening scene exactly who dispatched the machine gun-equipped gang that Major pulverizes, although the shadowy Hanka Robotics is mentioned by an expiring kabuki robot. What is clear is the stunning future setting, a towering urban techtopia of building-sized holograms and ubiquitous robots, where wired humans download the entire French language into their brains in a few beats of song and an entire building’s security network can be scanned in moments from a virtual headset.

But that world is a backdrop to the story of Major, a one-time human whose body was so damaged in an accident that it was replaced with her exoskeleton – or so she was told. “Who is the Major is a good question,” says Johansson in the clip below, “and this film is really about the journey of self-discovery for the character.”

The Rupert Sanders-directed film, which costars Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche and Michael Pitt, will open in theaters nationwide on March 31.

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Four Reasons Critics Love Comedy Central’s Detroiters

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
Detroiters - 824

Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson have inherited a once-great Detroit ad agency on Comedy Central’s hilarious new series, Detroiters. Photo from Comedy Central Press.

They crash the steakhouse luncheons of high-flying auto executives. They know the local garbage truck drivers by name. They’ve devised elaborate rituals around bathroom breaks.

They are Detroiters, and they have landed at Comedy Central with a new half-hour show, bringing delighted reviews along with them.

Starring Sam Duvet (Sam Richardson – Richard Splett on Veep) and Tim Cramblin (Tim Robinson – Saturday Night Live), both alumni of the famed Second City comedy club (watch them here), and native Detroiters themselves, the comedy delivers plenty to satisfy critics, fans, and native Michiganders:

1) It’s hilarious

The duo inherited a Detroit advertising business when Tim’s father “went insane.” Their office, bedecked in the drab and lightless décor of some long-ago era, has been emptied of most employees and all major clients, which once included such blue chips as Budweiser and Delta Air Lines.

Despite occasional zealous pursuits of big-name clients, they remain hapless and amusingly frustrated. It often feels as though Sam and Tim are a couple of amped-up teenagers left unsupervised while dad is off for a brief business meeting – in the first episode, the duo is sidetracked from an urgent deadline by an extended experiment to shatter the “unbreakable” glass panel beside Tim’s office door.

Such mishaps are unending. They run over a Chrysler executive on a way to pitch him. Sam is mistaken for a male prostitute – and rolls with it. A shoot promoting a mirror store is botched – because Sam and Tim are reflected in all of the shots. Their film school editor transforms a kitschy hot tub commercial into an art-house meditation on life and middle age and makes their client – Eddie Champagne, the hot tub king of Detroit – look like a creep.

That Sam and Tim remain so rambunctiously unselfconscious throughout these shenanigans, and that they keep trying to win business and remain friends, balances the absurdity with an endearing dimension. “The new Comedy Central series … is also an opportunity for Richardson and Robinson to dive into absurd situations and physical comedy with an admirable lack of inhibition,” writes Vulture’s Jen Chaney. “There is no ridiculous moment whose boundaries can’t be pushed that much further, into even more ridiculous territory.”

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MTV + Movies + Television = The MTV Movie & TV Awards

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Since Demi Moore announced Terminator 2: Judgement Day as Best Movie from a Burbank stage in June of 1992, the MTV Movie Awards have celebrated the best of Hollywood’s explosive, moving, heart-pounding annual slate – with an MTV-appropriate musical touch delivered by the big name performers of the day (that inaugural show included En Vogue, Ugly Kid Joe, and Arrested Development).

After 25 years of Golden Popcorn statues and hijinks that have included Jim Carrey crashing the stage as an anonymous hippie, Rainn Wilson gearing up in nothing but a Teddy bear, and lots of surprise makeout sessions, MTV is taking a great thing and making it even better, with the inclusion of television in its award categories. The network has officially renamed the show the MTV Movie & TV Awards.

MTV Movie and TV Awards

“We’re living in a golden age of content, and great storytelling and characters resonate regardless of whether you’re watching it in a theater or on TV,” said MTV President Chris McCarthy. “The new MTV Movie & TV Awards will celebrate even more of the brightest, bravest, funniest and most shared films and TV shows resonating across youth culture.”

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Trevor Noah Locks In Highest-Rated and Most-Watched Month Ever in February

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

On the strength of fearless political commentary and a globally resonant perspective, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah hammered through February with record ratings, wrapping his most-watched and highest-rated month with 1.5 million viewers. International ratings shot up 22 percent.

Great news, right Trevor?

via GIPHY

Even in a crowded late-night talk show space brimming with talent, Noah continues to stand out, recording the only current monthly or quarterly year-over-year ratings increase in both total viewers and in the 18-49 demographic among daily late-night talk shows:

Daily Show Ratings Success February 2017

Noah’s ratings have climbed as he offers smart, incisive commentary on a bruising political landscape of fake news and alternative facts, of accusations of mass voter fraud and U.S. immigration bans. His analysis of President Donald Trump’s first week in office has been viewed nearly 5 million times on YouTube alone:

That ratings have increased even as the news cycle accelerates under the Trump Administration is a reflection of The Daily Show staff’s creative tenacity. “Things have definitely sped up,” Daily Show head writer Zhubin Parang told Slate’s Jen Chaney recently. “We used to be able to predict what the show would be the afternoon before the day, and now we just can’t ever assume that the show we have planned at 7 p.m. the night before is going to be anything like the show that’s ultimately going to air the next day.”

While Noah’s commentary frequently critiques Republican policies and actions, part of the show’s appeal is his willingness to engage guests from across the political spectrum. His December conversation with conservative television and online video host Tomi Lahren about Black Lives Matter, the meaning of the American flag, and race relations is the show’s most-watched on YouTube:

Bold conversations like these have helped propel the show’s digital and social engagement as well, with a 42 percent bump in digital views over February 2016 and more than 6 million social actions (likes, shares, comments, reactions, retweets), a best among the daily late night shows.

 

You can join the social conversation by following The Daily Show on TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat, and by liking the show’s Facebook page.

As Noah continues on pace toward his best ratings quarter ever, Comedy Central has announced a new edition to its late-night lineup: American and Australian comedian Jim Jefferies will join the network for a weekly show starting this summer. Here’s a little taste of Jefferies’ acerbic style from a Netflix special he released last year: