3 New Movies For Weekend Streaming: ‘Terror On the Prairie,’ ‘Rise,’ And ‘Operation Mincemeat’

To generate buzz over the holiday weekend, top streaming services are premiering big titles—while a conservative-driven upstart is making a splash with their independently produced drama. It comes as stakes for the streaming wars have never been higher. 

Market leader Netflix has faced massive stock declines and staff layoffs in recent months. Their major competitors like Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Paramount Plus have altered strategies to better compete. And, in light of some parents’ backlash to Hollywood agendas, right-leaning players like Daily Wire are making initial moves to reach critical mass.

Increased competition could mean better value for subscribers — if people can navigate the glut of new films and series, many of them forgettable. This weekend, Netflix has the latter half of “Stranger Things” season four rolling out, but they’re holding big-budget actioner “The Gray Man” until July 22. Prime Video has premiered Chris Pratt’s “The Terminal List” Navy SEALS series, while Paramount Plus comedy flick “Jerry and Marge Go Large” is getting rave reviews

Three recent film releases deserve a closer look, including the much-talked-about Western produced by Daily Wire and a couple of based-on-true-story dramas from top streamers. Here are three capsule reviews as your family considers what to watch during downtime. 

‘Terror On the Prairie’: Aptly Titled Drama Depicts Violent Conflict With Evil

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, which tracks the most popular streaming films, has lately ranked two films from conservative distributor Daily Wire in its Top 10 list: documentary “What Is A Woman” and old-school Western “Terror On the Prairie.” While the latter made Hollywood headlines when announced, mainstream critics have kept quiet since release.

“Terror On the Prairie,” featuring a cast led by Oscar winner Nick Searcy (“The Shape of Water”) and Gina Carano–former co-star of “The Mandalorian” famously fired for some errant tweets—marks a strong second effort for Daily Wire Entertainment. The first, “Shut In,” introduced audiences to filmmaker Dallas Sonnier and his R-rated “pressure-cooker movies” which he aims to be “unadulterated, unfiltered, genuine, [and] not neutered by the studio system.”

With stunning, untouched Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, this post-Civil War story unfolds on the barren landscapes of southwestern Montana. A mother of two, including a newborn, Hattie McAllister (Carano) feels no qualms about her husband leaving their cabin for a day to get supplies in town. Until, that is, four men on horseback arrive uninvited. 

Producer Sonnier is known for crafting scenes of breathless tension, certainly in evidence here as the black-hat gang chats over food with the fierce mother — until all hell breaks loose. Film critic Christian Toto describes one unexpected element of their stand-off: “The characters shoot, and shoot, and rarely hit their targets. It’s a more realistic version of Wild West gunplay that offers another layer of realism.”

Carano, a mixed martial arts champion prior to her acting career, plays to her strengths without coming off as a superhero. Unquestionably bloody and almost too efficient — a stronger music score might’ve helped a sometimes-lagging pace —“Terror On the Prairie” isn’t for everyone. Despite pulpy archetypes, this revenge plot has more layers than may be immediately apparent. 

‘Rise’: Gripping Family Drama Deflated By Flat Basketball Action

Anyone who grew up watching “Remember the Titans,” “Miracle,” or other inspired-by-true-stories films, have longed for Disney to return to high-caliber sports dramas. After seeing middling biopic “Rise,” just out on Disney Plus, it’s apparent fans will have to keep waiting.

The story of star power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly provides the raw material: raised in poverty in Greece, tried out for a local basketball team, trained to improve himself, and ultimately was picked 15th in the NBA Draft in 2013. Last year, he was named NBA Finals MVP after leading his Milwaukee Bucks to take home the championship trophy. 

“Rise,” produced with Giannis’ family, depicts the origins and personal context of his journey. Viewers encounter Giannis’ parents emigrating from Nigeria to Turkey to Greece, in search of a better life. They raise four sons in Athens, only able to take odd jobs due to their uncertain legal status; a fifth son, their eldest, even had to be left behind with his African relatives. While unexpected in a sports flick, all the immigration policy drama brings greater realism.

Struggling to provide for and raise his boys right, Charles (Dayo Okeniyi, from “The Hunger Games” films) has many up-close conversations with them about discipline and risk. Real-life Nigerian-American brothers Uche and Ral Agada portray rising athletes Giannis and Thanasis. When first joining a regional basketball team, their family can only afford one pair of sneakers; a scene of one in socks as the other laces up tangibly illustrates their shared sacrifice.  

The family’s Christian faith shows up, albeit in a minor role. Parents lead their sons in the Lord’s Prayer before bedtime, and a crucifix hangs prominently in their home. But the script doesn’t engage those really interesting questions: why did a Nigerian family convert to the Greek Orthodox Church? Their mother Vera (Yetide Badaki) says, “God makes no mistakes. Give it your all then let God do his work.” But it lacks context to know the true role of faith in their lives.

What “Rise” glaringly lacks is compelling in-the-paint basketball. The film’s limited hoops action consists mostly of layup shots and players doing drills — less than some Disney Channel flicks. There’s even buildup to Greece’s national scouting exhibition game filmed in a large arena. Characters react as if seeing some incredible Giannis plays on the court, but it’s not there. 

A cross-cultural story built on family bonds, “Rise” aims for the inspirational genre similar to last year’s “Blue Miracle.” By the end, with its dramatic NBA Draft scenes and highlight reel of Antetokounmpo brothers, three of them now NBA stars, it leaves viewers inspired. But it also underlines the film’s lack of actual basketball play, an egregious oversight that sadly limits potential impact and shelf life of “Rise.” 

‘Operation Mincemeat’: War Thriller Soars With Spycraft, Unrequited Romance 

As theater screens shift to mostly big-spectacle blockbusters, it’s led to mid-budget dramas and comedies gradually drying up. Thankfully, streamers have stepped up — with World War II drama “Operation Mincemeat” on Netflix a stellar example. 

Academy Award winner Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) stars as an MI5 agent seeking to fool the Third Reich with an elaborate hoax and ultimately get Hitler to relocate troops. Another newly-minted spy (Matthew Macfadyen, who also once played Mr. Darcy in “Pride & Prejudice”) proposes hiding deceptive documents on a corpse, and the two collaborate to execute the ruse. 

Comparisons to last year’s “The Courier” are inevitable, as it’s another British-produced “dad movie” that brings viewers behind-the-scenes of spy craft. While that past war film explored the sacrifice of an everyman keeping his family in the dark, “Operation Mincemeat” depicts a love triangle between the two agents and a member of their clandestine team (Kelly Macdonald, sparkling as ever.) Vying for her affections starts as subtext, gradually coming to the forefront.

Veteran director John Madden (“Miss Sloane”) exudes class and precision in every shot, aided by cinematographer Sebastian Blenkov whose lighting expertly accentuates the ensemble cast. Screenwriter Michelle Ashford, who previously penned episodes of “John Adams” and “The Pacific,” collaborated with author Ben Macintyre to craft a script packed with historical details.

In plotting that recalls “Top Gun: Maverick,” the central mission gets summed up, detailed, and tested about three times before it’s executed—which actually makes it work. How does one stage a floating corpse with a briefcase and other minutiae so it’s believable to the best minds in espionage? A curious wrinkle of history, author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, played a role in this real-life operation and is depicted in a cameo. An odd title for a unique mission, “Operation Mincemeat” recounts a story worth knowing. 


Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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‘Fatherhood’: Touching, Hilarious Film About a Single Dad

Two Kisses for Maddy fatherhood book“Fatherhood” is a heartwarming and humorous film about a single dad doing his best to be a good parent to his daughter. Between the laughs, there are nuggets of wisdom about the parenting journey and the irreplaceable love and care of a father.

Recently on a flight — my first flight with my baby son — I was able to catch the 2021 comedy-drama Fatherhood, starring the irrepressible Kevin Hart of Jumanji fame. The film centres on single dad Matt Logelin, left alone with his baby daughter Maddy after Matt’s wife Liz unexpectedly dies following childbirth. It is based on a true story by the real Matt Logelin, published under the title Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love.

Matt’s mother-in-law Marion hovers around after Liz’s funeral, not trusting that Matt can actually look after her granddaughter. “What would I look like goin’ home before I know that you are capable of taking care of my newborn grandchild?” she asks.

Exasperated, Matt retorts: “How are you ever gonna know if you don’t let me do it?”

Community is Key

The story unfolds with Matt succeeding against all odds at being a single dad as well as the sole breadwinner. His buddies rally around to support him, despite their own lack of childrearing experience, and provide the friendship (and levity) that he needs to get through as he tackles cot-building, nappy-changing, and baby-soothing.

Unable to get the baby to sleep, Matt barges in on a parents’ group full of mothers and begs for advice. Armed with new pearls of wisdom (white noise!), Matt finally manages a good night’s sleep with the aid of the vacuum cleaner. He brings the baby to work, and along comes the vacuum too…

A work presentation turns topsy-turvy when the baby started wailing in the distance, but the clients, who happen to be parents as well, all chime in with their parenting tips. His boss Howard contemplates firing him: “This is a place of business, right? It’s not a place of babies.” Thankfully, Matt manages to keep his job and impress the clients.

Dads are Vital

In a vulnerable moment, Matt sighs, “You know Maddy, if you could have only one parent, I wish you could’ve had your mom.” Indeed, childrearing often comes more easily to mothers, and fathers can feel like a spare tyre at times, particularly during the early years — especially if the child is mainly breastfed.

However, research shows that the more hands-on a father is during his child’s infancy, the higher the child’s IQ and eventual chance of success in life.

Lacking a dad of his own, Matt turns to his father-in-law, Mike, for parenting advice. “Welcome to not knowing the right thing to do. That’s a dad speciality,” quips Mike. He is a friendly mentor for Mike, encouraging him through the tough times.

Precious

Marion turns up uninvited for the baby’s first medical appointment, which the child thankfully passes with flying colours. “Matthew, today was a good day for you as a parent. You keep all these little victories like you had today in a little box inside you. They’ll be your most prized possessions,” she tells him.

The movie depicts how Matt and Maddy develop as a father and a daughter, through her first years in school, navigating dress codes and dealing with bullies. They also have to adjust to new dynamics when Matt’s colleague introduces him to a lady to whom he takes a fancy.

Parenting is a challenging journey. At the same time, it is very rewarding and full of fun. Fatherhood portrays this wonderful mix of emotions and the personal growth of the main characters, with the single dad learning how to tend to his daughter’s needs and realising that, although his parents-in-law may be able to provide a good home for his daughter, they can’t quite replace him.

The film is full of poignant moments and well-timed hilarity. Available on Netflix, it makes for a good show for parents to laugh over together. Unfortunately, with several instances of swearing and some politically correct plot points (Maddy’s Catholic school is portrayed as archaic for insisting that all girls dress in the appropriate attire, and Matt makes some passing comments supporting transgender ideology), it is probably not advisable for younger children to watch.

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

The moving story in “Top Gun: Maverick” of a fatherless son’s journey toward healing is proving popular with audiences worldwide. This is a film highlighting the importance of fatherhood, portraying a tale of reconciliation and redemption.

Top Gun: Maverick is smashing box offices, and it’s easy to understand why.

The film is spectacularly outpacing its weak-because-they’re-woke counterparts, because the film’s unapologetic dad themes resonate.

Alongside the gutsy F-18 camera shots, audiences are in love with the Tom Cruise/Joseph Kosinski sequel because its father-son backstory hits home.

Even the, “it’s all flag-waving, MAGA propagandist tripe” critics are applauding the sequel for keeping to the consistency of the first film’s deep relational backbone.

As The Atlantic’s David Sims explained, the film’s ‘emotional weight rests on Pete Mitchell (Maverick) fighting to earn the respect of Goose’s son (Rooster), who blames Maverick for the tragic loss of his father.’

Childhood Memory

For me, Top Gun: Maverick cut deeper.

My family and I recently saw the film for a birthday bash. The only thing missing was my dad.

Watching the first Top Gun at the cinema with my dad was to be one of the only long-lasting positive memories I would have of him.

It was 1986, I was 9, and we’d turned up late to the cinema.

Missing the iconic afterburner intro of the first Top Gun, dad and I slid into our seats in rhythm with Tony Scott’s smooth golden orange sunset, shot high above a lone F-14 landing on the silhouette of the USS Enterprise.

It became a shared interest, a mutual pursuit, a common bond solely shared between father and son.

From the soundtrack, which always seemed to be on repeat in our broken-down housing commission home, to the old-school Amstrad computer game, the movie connected us.

This was true, right up until my dad’s final week, when, knowing he would never get a chance to wear it, I gifted him a T-shirt with the Top Gun logo on it.

Now covered in dust, I still hold onto the volumes of Warplane magazines he’d chosen to buy me, instead of paying “through the teeth” for participation in a weekend sport.

Healing

I related to the second film because of the first.

Similar to ‘Goose’s’ son in the film, I was confronted by what was lost, what might have been, and what my dad chose to abandon somewhere along the way.

The sequel made the memories all the more material when Val Kilmer (Iceman), tells Maverick — still haunted by the death of ‘Goose’ — “It’s time to let go.”

Seeing the first film at the cinema in 1986 with my dad was an oasis event, an anomaly of normalcy in a wasteland of ash.

This explains why, in almost every scene of Top Gun: Maverick, I heard, and felt my dad’s absence, and choked up at Hans Zimmer’s rendition of Faltermeyer’s iconic Top Gun anthem.

We’re taught in The Good Book to raise up thanksgiving in the face of suffering. Even the smallest object or event that is worthy of our gratitude puts points on the board when it comes to healing trauma.

In retrospect, watching Top Gun with my dad in ’86 was the first, and only time he offered me a healthy introduction to manhood.

His wasn’t perfect, but that was a perfect day. That day my dad did good, and for that I thank him.

For me, the only thing missing from Top Gun: Maverick was the man who took me to see the first one, sitting, at his best, beside me and my uber-impressed family.

Top Gun was, and is, about loss, grief, and recovery; fatherhood, and fatherlessness — as much as it is about courage, defiance, and the determination to overcome obstructions encountered along the way.

The sequel builds on its original father-son backstory. It is “dad cinema” at its very best.

To lean on Miles Surrey’s review in The Ringer,

‘Every single dad — past, present, and those who are expecting to be dads in the near future — should check out Maverick, if not for the sanctity of ensuring Dad Cinema doesn’t fade away, then for experiencing a blockbuster that surpasses its predecessor in every respect.’

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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After Disney Doubles Down On Sexualizing Kids, ‘Lightyear’ Falls Way Short At Box Office

After Disney Doubles Down On Sexualizing Kids, ‘Lightyear’ Falls Way Short At Box Office

“Lightyear” didn’t come close to breaking infinity and beyond at the box office during its opening weekend after the radicalized Disney lost its magic with average families.

The latest installation in the “Toy Story” franchise earned only about $51 million in North America on its opening weekend, failing to dethrone “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which sits at No. 1 for the second week in a row.

“Lightyear” had everything going for it: notoriety from a much-beloved franchise, excessive advertising, and word-of-mouth buzz. Its underperformance at the box office, however, proves that no amount of media attention can mask the distaste many Americans have towards Disney since its dive into the deep end of wokeism.

Hollywood newsletter The Ankler scrambled to explain the faceplant on Monday, pointing to every possible explanation except Disney’s recent doubling down on pushing its sexual agenda on children. They attribute its failure to its lack of appeal to girls, an unrelated tie to the original Toy Story movies, and the harm that putting Pixar films on Disney Plus has had.

Chris Evans, who voices the titular character and replaced the right-of-center actor Tim Allen who originated the role of Buzz Lightyear, has called critics of the movie’s use of an animated same-sex kiss to further Disney’s LGBT agenda “idiots” who will eventually “die off like dinosaurs.”

It never dawned on The Ankler, Evans, or Disney defendants that the reason the entertainment giant is losing stake in American households is that many parents do not support the over-sexualization and indoctrination of their children.

In a poll conducted by The Trafalgar Group in April 2022, 68 percent of respondents were turned off by the entertainment company’s increased focus on creating content that exposes children to sexual ideas.

“News reports reveal Disney is focusing on creating content to expose young children to sexual ideas,” the survey asked. “Does this make you more or less likely to do business with Disney?”

57.2 percent of respondents said they were “much less likely” to do business with Disney, 11 percent were “less likely,” and only 9.4 percent were “more likely” to do business with them.

Meanwhile, 14 countries banned screenings of “Lightyear” due to the same-sex kiss scene between two women. Although it is not confirmed yet, it is likely the movie will also be banned in China after Chinese authorities asked for “cuts” to the scene and Disney refused (although Disney has been all too willing to bend to the demands of Chinese Communist Party censors before).

Disney is digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole as it doubles down on its self-proclaimed “not-at-all-secret gay agenda” in response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education bill that prohibits teaching children in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation or gender identity.

If Disney continues down this anti-family path, it can expect to see its place in the American household fizzle as inauspiciously as this last installation of the “Toy Story” franchise.


Elise McCue is an intern at The Federalist and student majoring in multimedia journalism and professional and technical writing. She also reports on the Southwest Virginia music scene for The Roanoke Times. You can follow her on twitter @elisemccue or contact her at mccueelise@gmail.com

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Father Stu: Marvellous Movie with a Fatherhood Theme

Father Stu: Marvellous Movie with a Fatherhood Theme

“Father Stu” is not a movie for the fainthearted, but with the true story of a man who overcame his trauma and his failures to become a solid spiritual father, it has an inspiring message for us all.

I go to movie theatres these days in fear and trembling. I just don’t know if I am going to like what I see. Sometimes it is like buying a ticket in a lottery that you know you are going to lose.

On one of our twice-weekly date nights, my wife suggested we go and see Father Stu. The fact that it was based on a true story encouraged me.

She had seen a great review in Movies Change People. I was not convinced, but I have become a true believer.

Father Stu certainly had a star-studded cast including Transformers star Mark Wahlberg, Passion of the Christ producer/actor Mel Gibson and Australia’s own Jacki Weaver.

Let me add one caveat. The language is very strong. If you have worked in the mining or building industry as I have, it will not be anything new to you. All around, it is a strong movie and not for the fainthearted.

Strong Hope

It is a movie about manhood and faith, with the underlying theme of fatherhood gone wrong and fatherhood gone right. Thankfully, there is hope for us all. Watch the trailer here.

The reactions from pre-screening by the Movies Change People team in Australia were amazing. Of the people who saw it, 92% of them said they would recommend it to a friend

“Amazing true story, well worth seeing.”

“RAW AMAZING WORTH SPREADING.”

“It’s a powerful, inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes.”

Powerful Story

Having seen Father Stu, I would say the same. Sadly, reviewers dismissed the movie in a predictably pathetic fashion. I searched high and low for an honest assessment of the film. Ron Cerabona from the Canberra times hit the middle ground with his 3-star review below.

“Cards on the table: I’m not a believer in any religion. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a well-done religious movie. I don’t play or enjoy watching sports, either, but there are good sports films.

Mark Wahlberg, who stars and produces, and Mel Gibson — who plays a major role and whose partner Rosalind Ross is credited as writer and director — are both devout Catholics with troubled pasts. It’s not surprising, then, that they would team up for a religious-themed biopic about a man who overcame many challenges — some his fault, some not — to become a priest.

Stuart Long (Wahlberg) hasn’t had much of a life in Helena, Montana. He and his mother Kathleen (Jacki Weaver) are estranged from his abusive, alcoholic father Bill (Gibson) – the couple split after Stu’s younger brother died as a child – and he’s a self-centred, foul-mouthed delinquent and a not very successful amateur boxer still fighting at an age where most men are retiring from the ring.

When medical issues prevent him from continuing to box, he decides to go to Hollywood to become an actor.

Kathleen opposes this, but Stu is a stubborn man, and off he goes.

He’s not very successful in Hollywood, either. One man offers help in exchange for sexual favours (hotly refused) but mostly Stu is stuck working in a supermarket.

One bright spot comes when he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and is instantly smitten.

Not only is Carmen wary of this stranger’s sudden infatuation but she’s a pious Catholic, a Sunday-School teacher not interested in a fling.

To win her over, nonbeliever Stu starts going to church and gets baptised…

Then comes a major life change. Stu is badly injured in a motorcycle accident that a stranger seemed to predict…

In fact, we see Stu’s plain-speaking sincerity can make connections where other, ostensibly more suitable candidates — like the patronising Jacob (Cody Fern) — cannot. But then there’s another test for Stu: he is diagnosed with a rare muscular disease and the prognosis is dire.

Although Ross has the onscreen credits for writing and directing, Gibson’s influence seems to loom large beyond his onscreen presence as a damaged man who finds a way to reconnect with both his (somewhat similar) son and his spirituality.

Gibson’s films as director often lay on the suffering — think The Passion of the Christ — and that’s a big part of this story. Stu’s physical, spiritual, and emotional pain are heavily emphasised…

As so often liberties have been taken with the truth for reasons of time and dramatic effect — for example, Bill is apparently depicted far more harshly than he really was, and Stu’s mother encouraged his Hollywood ambitions (presumably in real life she didn’t refer to Los Angeles as being “full of fascist hippies”). And Stu’s path to the priesthood was much longer.

During the end credits, there’s footage, photos and words from the real Father Stu — who died in 2014 at the age of 50 — and a cute if incongruous moment with Wahlberg and a child.

Father Stu is sincere and well-acted with some touching moments. It’s not perfect but better than many other movies about religion, even if, like me, you don’t subscribe to the theology or find the rationalisations for suffering very credible.”

Lovework

Father Stu is really a man’s movie and his struggle to become a man in the absence of a loving father.

The good news is love triumphs in the end, as it always does. Grab a few mates and go and see it if you are able. You won’t be disappointed.

Yours for the Power of Love,
Warwick Marsh

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First published at Dads4Kids. Image: The Sun.

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7 Counterpoints About Whether Netflix Will Keep Bleeding Subscribers

7 Counterpoints About Whether Netflix Will Keep Bleeding Subscribers

Few thought the bubble would burst—until it did. Netflix, the leading global provider of paid streaming video on demand, announced last week its first major dip in subscribers after more than a decade of consistent growth. Subsequently, a 35 percent stock drop wiped out more than $50 billion in market value overnight. 

Naturally, Netflix tried to spin it as a blip, related to subscriber password-sharing and other factors. But many now question fundamental strategy assumptions.

The acronym TAM, or Total Addressable Market, is the current buzzword. Bullish streaming observers have said the United States could grow to well beyond 100 million streaming subscribers, while others contended 80 million is probably near the ceiling. Netflix has hovered around 74 million for years.

In popular entertainment, both business and cultural factors are at play. Here are four reasons Netflix is bleeding subscribers, and three unique advantages the top streamer has that could result in a rebound (and continued dominance) down the road.

1. Netflix Competitors Are Creating Originals, and Taking Back Hit Netflix Shows

For years, almost every major Hollywood player—from Disney to Comcast-NBC-Universal to Warner Bros. Discovery—has been trying to mimic Netflix’s strategy and Wall Street golden-boy status. While execs perhaps have privately smirked at their rival’s tumble, it’s a wake-up call that streaming success will be harder than most thought.

Those competitors have poured billions into their own streamers, creating a few hits like “The Mandalorian” (Disney Plus) and “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus). But the bigger loss for Netflix has been studios pulling back their most-binged shows, with “The Office” moving to Peacock, Marvel shows to Disney Plus, and “Friends” to HBO Max. No wonder subscribers left.

2. But the Top Streamer’s Critical Mass of Subscribers Will Be Difficult to Overtake

With tech-savvy innovation, Netflix basically invented the streaming service in 2007. For millennials, many who’ve never had a cable TV subscription, the Netflix brand is synonymous with in-home entertainment, like Kleenex is to hand tissues. As Entertainment Strategy Guy reports, Disney has to combine figures from their two services to approach the reach of Netflix. 

Netflix quickly moved to expand its app worldwide, currently available in more than 190 countries. Powered by servers across the globe, the streamer is widely accessible on every device. Major rivals, along with smaller conservative-alternative services like Frndly TV, Dove Channel and PureFlix, are all playing catch-up to the first-to-market leader. 

3. Some Families Canceling Disney Plus Likely Decided to Dump Netflix Too

The clash of values between Hollywood and conservatives has been obvious for decades. Lately, entertainment empire Disney—once trusted for its family-centered approach to storytelling—has become the target of many conservatives’ ire. Few know if that effort made an effect until analyzing Disney’s latest subscriber figures, set to be updated May 11

It’s possible that the greater scrutiny given Disney Plus (“Turning Red” among other films) has caused some families to dump the top streamer too. Netflix shows like “Sex Education” and animated “Big Mouth” feature explicit content that push even their TV-MA rating. Their update of “The Baby-Sitters Club” has a biological boy joining the girls’ club. And French film “Cuties” on Netflix, featuring scenes of sexualized minors, has sparked an ongoing legal battle in Texas. 

4. Yet Netflix Still Has Broadest Library And Best Usability of Any Streamer 

Every month, Netflix adds more than their rivals to what’s essentially the largest film and TV streaming library. It’s not only in horror, reality TV, and rom-coms (I’ll pass), but an impressive slate of documentaries, World War II titles (“Operation Mincemeat” out soon), and favorite films from the 80’s-90’s-and-today. To their credit, since Netflix brought on popular and controversial “Seinfeld,” they haven’t edited any episodes.

Boosted by originals like big-budget series “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” with new seasons out in coming months, the real secret sauce of Netflix is its recommendation engine. In multiple user-friendly ways, it constantly suggests other similar titles and gets users to fill up their watch list. Other services stream classics, but Netflix does better at maximizing its library. 

5. This Year’s Slate of Netflix Originals Has Done Far Worse Than Last Year 

Analyzing Netflix’s woes, Jim Geraghty of National Review explains how data drives the top streamer’s decision-making process. He wrote: “Running show-creation proposals through an algorithm probably ensures you’ll get shows and movies that are like shows and movies that were hits in the past—not necessarily new creations that are bold, unusual, or surprising.”

The numbers back up this observation. Only four years ago, half of the 30 top-rated shows on IMDb could be found on Netflix, according to one Hollywood insider. Today, that figure is only 8 of the top 30. Netflix generated buzz with its trailer of 87 films to come in 2022, but the track record of hits to misses hasn’t been hot. 

6. However, Netflix Is Still Placing Big Bets On Many Diverse Producers 

Surprisingly, Netflix has funded shows that defy or even mock leftist orthodoxy. Karate-centric dramedy “Cobra Kai” skewers political correctness and promotes personal responsibility. Even after provocative comedian Dave Chappelle sparked a walk-out of Netflix staff over his latest special, the streamer announced they’d be working with him on future comedy programs. 

If adaptations of gritty comics and video games aren’t your thing, prepare to skip many Netflix originals. But in terms of historical drama, true-crime series, sports documentaries, and those random favorites everyone has (i.e. “Blue Miracle” or “Floor Is Lava” returning soon), hidden gems of many varieties can be found amidst the dross. 

7. Constant Price Increases Result in Many Dropping Netflix, Other Streamers

As inflation hits hard, many are tightening their entertainment budget, and Netflix is the most pricey of the major streamers. Rivals won’t get off easy either. Word has it that Disney Plus plans to hike prices this fall, when it launches a cheap version of their streamer with ads. While Hollywood is counting on such strategies to drive growth, no one knows for sure.

With spring in full bloom, and summer sports and travel around the corner, many households will have less time for screens. (Watch for details about Screen-Free Week.) Just as being active outdoors strengthens the body, engaging with stories—including ones playing out on screens—can feed the soul. Discerning viewers know the content and purpose of those stories matters.


Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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Pat Boone Smashes Hollywood’s Slow Death By a Thousand Woke Cuts

Pat Boone Smashes Hollywood’s Slow Death By a Thousand Woke Cuts

American singer and actor Pat Boone speaks up about the toxic effects of declining morals and increasing political correctness on Hollywood productions. Their virtue-signalling is in stark contrast with their cowardice in the face of actual human rights abuses.

Living legend Pat Boone has slammed Hollywoke in a promotional event for his latest faith-based film, The Mulligan.

Boone, 87, criticised Hollywood’s new ‘morality’, and how it is dragging the American entertainment industry further away from its ‘altruistic’ roots.

He told Fox News,

“I don’t know how to put it strongly enough, but I just think the film industry is committing suicide. It’s killing itself as far as I’m concerned. America’s image is being destroyed. High ratings have become more important these days. We used to try to put our best foot forward.”

The biggest name next to Elvis in the 1950s described movies being made today as ‘immoral’, unimpressive, and devoid of meaning.

Mucked-Up Media

For Boone, it’s not just the film world. The depravity is also infecting streaming services and television.

He added,

“On television, you can hear all sorts of swear words. Nothing short of actual pornography is celebrated now. Sure, people can criticize those films today and call them unrealistic, but we were being altruistic. We wanted to present people in the best light. Now, we’re just taking pleasure in profit, presenting people in the worst light and celebrating it.”

Boone, a friend of Christian vaudeville-esque rock musician Alice Cooper, used Netflix’s Big Mouth as an example, with Fox noting the animated show’s “vulgar sexualising” of children in their early teens.

Expanding on this, the NYPost wrote, Boone, who is still a devout Christian, laid the blame for the mess Hollywood is in at the feet of ‘studio executives.’

Boone ‘claimed’ they were ‘resorting to shock tactics in a desperate bid to gain ratings.’

The NYP article cited the Walk of Fame star’s moral backbone, explaining how his consistent morality was linked to his faith, and how this, coupled with a discerning work ethic, keeps Boone from “scrapping his moral code for the box office.”

He once turned down a Marilyn Monroe film, expressing concern about playing a man who has an affair with an older woman.

Pat Boone has sold over 45 million albums and starred in 12 Hollywood films. Billboard rated the singer as the ‘second-biggest charting artist of the later 1950s.’

His latest film, The Mulligan, tells the story of an avid golf player and businessman who meets a retired golf pro. He is then challenged to repair his damaged life by turning towards God, and ‘what really matters in life.’

Stifling

Boone’s criticisms of Hollywood’s corrosive moral downgrade are shared by Hollywood in Toto editor, Christian Toto.Virtue Bombs Hollywood book

Toto’s new book, Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost its Soul, analyses the politically correct paralysis holding back creativity.

One of his key premises is that the woke revolution is the ‘antithesis of creativity.’

Quoting God’s Not Dead and Unplanned co-creators Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, Toto asserted “the goal should be to tell a good story or great story.”

However, going woke means applying Cultural Marxist restrictions to storytelling:

“The stories that the woke people want to tell are for only one point of view and one perspective […] They don’t want our virtues. They don’t want our vision of what’s right and wrong. They don’t believe in families, in traditions.”

Peeling back the layers of wokeism, Toto explains how Hollywood is, always has, and always will be, guided by fear.

On top of the fear of missing out, aging, and offending the wrong director sits the new fear of ‘being cancelled’ for not being “woke” enough.

In light of Toto’s analysis, Pat Boone’s blunt critique of the industry he’s called home for over 50 years takes on sharp poignance.

Boone is closer to the bone of fact than disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fairytale assertion in 2009, “Hollywood has the best moral compass.”

As I stated in a Caldron Pool article criticising actor John Cena’s woke apology to the CCP from June last year: Christians and Conservatives are out. Cultural Marxism is in.

Whitewashed

Putting to one side the terror of McCarthyism, Hollywood and Communism have a shared history.

The ongoing appeasement of Chinese Communists is not far from Hollywood’s celebration of Stalin’s barbaric “antifascists.”

(See Disney’s “social justice” woke warriorism vs. Disney’s silence on the CCP’s human rights abuses, such as the persecution of Christians, mistreatment of prisoners, and ethnic minorities.)

This appeasement is also not far from Hollywood’s decision in the 1930s to maintain neutrality wherever possible. In order to keep from directly enraging the Germans, Hollywood practised a selective self-censorship of anything which displayed blatant opposition to the Nazis, or Nazi ideology.

When Hollywood did move to oppose Nazism, it froze that activism, in support of the Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop-pact from which the Soviets and Nazis carved up Poland.

This two-faced nature of the Hollywoke industry is probably why A.W. Tozer called the entertainment world one of the ‘sleaziest fields of human endeavour.’

Thank the Source

‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ Is Nothing All Over The Place For Two And A Half Hours

‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ Is Nothing All Over The Place For Two And A Half Hours

This article contains spicy spoilers. Approximately 250,000 on the Scoville Spoiler Scale.

During my down moments in the days of Holy Week preparation and celebration, I repeatedly encountered effusive praise for a film that recently opened in theaters nationwide — a zany, multi-layered exercise in sci-fi mayhem, absurdist comedy, and family drama called “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (henceforth EEAAO). Knowing nothing about the film beyond the rave reviews and the plot being rooted in some sort of multiverse concept, I took advantage of a lazy Easter Monday and booked two tickets to a film I expected to floor me with its bonkers uniqueness and annoy my wife with its bonkers uniqueness.

It’s easy to see why critics loved the film, which currently holds a 97 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. EEAAO is tender and thoughtful throughout. It’s creative and clever, complex yet easy to follow. It’s delightfully weird and gut-bustingly hilarious in spots, though irredeemably vulgar in others. (In an uncharacteristic move, this humble pastor did not check the film’s rating before purchasing tickets.)

The actors deliver great performances, and the kooky fight scenes are a welcome relief from the copy-and-paste, computer-generated-images-overload action sequences found in the typical sci-fi fare that has filled cineplexes in recent years. In numerous ways, EEAAO is profoundly original.

In the most important way, however, the film is tragically unoriginal. While the film uses its nutty premise to explore deep, aching questions, it offers only shallow answers we’ve already heard countless times before.

Despite the nutso nature of the film, the film’s plot is relatively simple. Evelyn is a Chinese-American immigrant who, in her youth, defied the wishes of the father who never truly accepted her, married a man he didn’t approve of, and sailed off to America. But now she has been drained by the emptiness of existence. She’s mismanaged the finances at her unfulfilling job. Waymond, the husband she’s pushed away, wants a divorce, and she has crushed her daughter Joy’s joy by not sufficiently affirming her lesbian relationship.

Alternate Universe

Evelyn’s banal existence is shattered, however, during her IRS audit. That’s when she learns that an alternate universe version of herself, Alpha Evelyn, made it possible for people to both consciousness-jump into their alternate universe minds and transfer their skills, namely martial-arts related ones, to their alternate universe bodies.

When Alpha Evelyn perceived that her daughter possessed great aptitude for unlocking the power of the multiverse, she pushed her so hard that Joy tapped into the suffering she experienced in countless universes at the hands of her mother, who oppressed her with the rigid judgmentalism she inherited from her father. The influx of infinite suffering then transformed Joy into Jobu Tupaki, a superpowered villain who murders versions of her parents through the multiverse and ultimately seeks the destruction of everything in order to escape the pain of existence.

Jobu Tupaki is thus a deeper villain than you’ll find in most cinematic sci-fi experiences. Her villainy is not formed by lust for power, betrayal, or madness, but by nihilism. She kills to escape the loneliness she feels in the presence of those who love her and whom she loves. She is driven to destructive despair by infinite instances of rejection from those who embrace her.

Despite her daughter’s penchant for multiverse matricide, however, Evelyn will not give up on saving Joy. This is, of course, quite noble, but it’s also what leads to the film’s rather vacuous conclusion. What wondrous feat does Evelyn perform to pierce light into the multiverse of darkness? What great act of heroism does she undertake to heal the unhealable heart of the villain?

‘Be Nicer’

She celebrates her daughter’s lesbian relationship. At the film’s beginning, Evelyn only half-heartedly accepts her daughter’s girlfriend and passes of their relationship as mere friendship to her stuffy, old-world father.

But after Joy internalizes Waymond’s high-drama admonition to “be kind,” she reveals the true relationship to her father and praises Girlfriend With 37 Seconds of Screen Time as this great force of love and forgiveness who completes Joy, just as the husband her father never accepted completes her. This is the act that saves the multiverse, saves the relationship between mother and daughter, and saves the marriage of husband and wife.

There you have it. Inescapable sorrow overcome by LGBTQ affirmation. This is revolutionary stuff we’ve never seen before except in six thousand arthouse films, 8 million television episodes, and 5 trillion viral TikTok videos telling us that embracing people’s gender identity will eternally drive away the sorrow we all know will hound them again in seven months.

The film tells us that unfathomable emptiness can be healed when overbearing authority figures accept their children for who they are — a bold and audacious solution never seen before except when it swirled around 8,000 glittering Disney princesses. The final act declares that we can prevent inevitable destruction by being a smidge nicer to each other. Cinematic ground has not been broken this brazenly since the days of “Rocky IV.”

Generation Fractured Fairy Tale

While it’s fair to fault EEAAO’s director duo known as Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) for their film’s philosophically lackluster ending, it’s also fair to note that their film is reflective of our contemporary culture’s approach to these existential issues. We are a people who speak more than we think and complain more than we consider, which is why we have a strong talent for identifying problems and virtually no aptitude for finding solutions.

Raised in the First Church of Self-Worship, we know what it means to experience emptiness but can’t understand that fulfillment can’t be accomplished with a heavier diet of navel-gazing. We are Generation Fractured Fairy Tale, deluding ourselves into thinking that we can escape the melancholy monster if only our mothers tell us we’re pretty and powerful, our fathers apologize for dashing our dreams with their dastardly wisdom, and we learn to be proud of who our fleeting passions tell us we are.

Finding True Meaning

How, then, should Daniels have offered meaning to a culture that doesn’t know how to find it? Not by repackaging the Disney solution, but by repudiating it. If you ask people to stare at an ocean of emptiness, you won’t comfort them with the suggestion that the emptiness can be conquered if we just make room for everyone on the raft of self-love.

True comfort comes in the promise that there is a God who has filled every drop of the ocean with true love, meaning, and beauty. If you ask people to wrestle with the idea of infinite lonely universes, the only worthwhile comfort comes from pointing them to the Creator who has wrested every atom of His creation away from sin and sorrow and made you one with Him in the sacrifice of His Son.

For decades, films have tried to soothe the pain of rejection by urging us to slather ourselves in the benzocaine of self-affirmation, only to exacerbate the problem when the numbing agent wears off. If you ask your audience to stare into the void of that pain, you need to sew that void shut with something much better than “let’s boost human kindness by ten percent across the board.”

You need to sew it shut with the promise of the One who can kill everything sinful and filthy within you and raise you up as a new creation, perfect and pure. Nietzschean problems require divine solutions, not Instagram moralizing.

If it sounds like I’m saying EEAAO could only find a satisfying conclusion by embracing explicitly Christian themes, that’s because I am. Christ’s atonement, healing, and self-sacrificial example are the only things that can end the existential crises men endure, which means they’re the only things that can cure our culture’s woes, which means they’re the only satisfactory answers to the questions our culture asks through its art.

This is why the parable of the Prodigal Son will still be known in 3,000 years, while “Frozen” will have long since melted in the dustbin of history. Stories about fathers who clothe their sons in sin-destroying, undying grace last because they’re true. Stories about daughters who find salvation by being true to themselves will perish with the narcissistic cultures that create them.

EEAAO’s mixture of martial arts mayhem, dadaist doofery, and frenetic philosophical questions yielded a film that was enjoyable in the moment. But the shallow answers robbed us of a film that mattered once the credits rolled. Daniels could have given us the multiverse of meaning and mercy. Instead, they gave us “The Kung Fu Lesbian Little Mermaid.”

Very 2022. But not very original.


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