By Brian FungNovember 9, 2018 at 10:51 a.m. ESTAdd to listThe business dispute that yanked HBO off the air for millions of Americans on Nov. 1 is entering its second week — with no signs of a respite.As many as 2.5 million customers have lost access to hit HBO shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” through Dish Network, America’s second-largest satellite TV provider.The blackout affects an additional 10.2 million Dish subscribers who aren’t signed up for HBO but who could be potential customers of the premium entertainment channel.It’s the first time HBO has ever “gone dark,” in the parlance of TV execs. Viewers are being caught in the middle, with potential consequences on both sides: An extended outage could lead to significant customer losses.
“In 1980, a few months before Charlie Ergen co-founded the company that would become Dish Network, he and a gambling buddy strode into a Lake Tahoe casino with the intention of winning a fortune by counting cards. Ergen, then 27, had bought a book called Playing Blackjack as a Business and studied the cheat sheets. Unfortunately for him, a security guard caught his pal lip-syncing numbers as the cards were dealt. The two were kicked out and subsequently banned from the casino.
More than three decades later, Ergen, now 60, again stands accused of cheating the house — but this time the house is here, nestled in the confines of executive suites from Burbank to Beverly Boulevard. And now, Ergen’s Englewood, Co.-based Dish Network, the nation’s third-largest satellite/cable TV provider, a public company that’s grown from a $60,000 startup to an empire with 14 million subscribers and $14 billion in annual revenue, is the entertainment industry’s Enemy No. 1. With increasing frequency, Ergen has engaged in ugly, high-stakes games of chicken with Hollywood. In his brutal battle over ballooning carriage fees with AMC, he dropped The Walking Dead and Mad Men network from the Dish system for months. He also has spent years fighting with broadcasters over the practice of distantly retransmitting TV signals without a license and even was caught violating a promise to stop that he made under oath — all while Dish was named “America’s worst company to work for” by a watchdog website. But all that was just preamble to the Hopper.”
” . . . . During the mid-2000s, when Ergen was fighting TiVo over who owned rights to DVR technology, not only did TiVo convince a court that Dish had violated a patent, but the judge in the case found it “distasteful” that Ergen’s company would “engage in an ad campaign that touted its DVRs as ‘better than TiVo’ while continuing to infringe TiVo’s patent.” In 2009, Dish officially was sanctioned by the court. (The parties later settled.)
Perhaps most notoriously, there were the irate judges who officiated Dish’s recent battle with Cablevision/AMC after Dish terminated a 15-year deal to carry the Voom networks, a suite of 21 little-watched HD channels such as Kung Fu HD and Film Fest HD. In the early days of the case, Dish was penalized for “bad faith” or “gross negligence” in the destruction of internal company emails. A visibly angry New York Supreme Court Judge Richard Lowe later threatened to launch an investigation unless Dish documents were turned over. The suit became so ugly that at one point, Dish executive Carolyn Crawford hit the father of the opposing side’s lawyer on her way out of the courtroom. She later apologized in open court.
In a sexual harassment case in Maryland in 2005, a judge wrote that “EchoStar [was] guilty of gross spoliation of evidence.” In a 2012 trademark dispute, a judge said of Dish lawyers that he had never encountered “such divisiveness or contentiousness” in his 17 years on the bench.
“Most corporations have an institutional bias against litigation and see it as necessary evil,” says one network insider. “But for Charlie, that’s how he likes to run his company. You’ll never see him suing in his home state, though. Their name is mud in Colorado. Judges are on to them.” . . .
“This has been a very special show for me,” he told the hosts of this broadcasting safe haven where he had workshopped his birther message, shared gossip and conspiracy theories, and repeatedly set the tone for his entire administration’s day. “We’ve had a great relationship, and you have a great show. So, it’s my honor.”
But his remarks quickly turned pointed that Tuesday morning as he boasted about how well he had done in the job of president, despite unexpected challenges — not from China or Russia or North Korea, he said, but from the United States. And he mused rhetorically about what had changed the most for him since 2016.”
“NASHVILLE — My favorite coffee mug is emblazoned with words of advice: “Lead like Jed. Advise like Leo. Think like Josh. Speak like C.J. Argue like Toby. Write like Sam.” What the mug doesn’t say but implies by its very existence: “Believe in America like a fan of ‘The West Wing.’”
Set in the White House of fictional President Jed Bartlet, “The West Wing” is an hourlong serial drama that aired on NBC from 1999 to 2006. It features the moral quandaries of President Bartlet — economist, Nobel laureate and Democrat — along with those of his family and staff. The show’s cast of thousands includes assistants and interns, journalists, political consultants, pollsters, White House attorneys, military advisers, Supreme Court justices, and congressional adversaries and allies.
The fictional West Wing of two decades ago doesn’t always hold up to 21st-century standards for workplace relationships and attitudes, but my coffee mug sums up the main characters pretty well. Imperfect though they can sometimes be — making colossal errors of judgment, sabotaging promising relationships, being rude to subordinates — they work collectively as a kind of role model for unstinting service to the country we all love.
Story lines on “The West Wing” include the usual grudges, hookups, missed opportunities and hurt feelings endemic to television drama, but the show is far more than a nighttime soap opera. At its heart, “The West Wing” is a multiyear civics lesson, and every episode is a parable.”
- NYT Critic’s Pick, Directed by Thomas Kail. Biography, Drama, History, Musical. PG-13, 2h 40m
“The opening scenes of the filmed version of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which starts streaming on Disney+ on Independence Day weekend, pull you back in time to two distinct periods. The people onstage, in their breeches and brass-buttoned coats, belong to the New York of 1776. That’s when a 19-year-old freshly arrived from the Caribbean — the “bastard, immigrant, son of a whore” who shares his name with the show — makes his move and takes his shot, joining up with a squad of anti-British revolutionaries and eventually finding his way to George Washington’s right hand and the front of the $10 bill.
But this Hamilton, played with relentless energy and sly charm by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music, book and lyrics, also belongs to the New York of 2016. Filmed (by the show’s director, Thomas Kail, and the cinematographer Declan Quinn) in front of a live audience at the Richard Rodgers Theater in June of that year, the movie, while not strictly speaking a documentary, is nonetheless a document of its moment. It evokes a swirl of ideas, debates, dreams and assumptions that can feel, in the present moment, as elusive as the intrigue and ideological sparring of the late 1700s.”
By Jason BaileyUpdated April 28, 2020Sign up for our Watching Newsletter to get recommendations on the best films and TV shows to stream and watch, delivered to your inbox.The sheer volume of films on Netflix — and the site’s less than ideal interface — can make finding a genuinely great movie there a difficult task. To help, we’ve plucked out the 50 best films currently streaming on the service in the United States, updated regularly as titles come and go. And as a bonus, we link to more great movies on Netflix within many of our writeups below. (Note: Streaming services sometimes remove titles or change starting dates without giving notice.)Here are our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video and the best of everything on Disney Plus.
“Contagion,” Steven Soderbergh’s smart, spooky thriller about a thicket of contemporary plagues — a killer virus, rampaging fear, an unscrupulous blogger — is as ruthlessly effective as the malady at its cool, cool center. Set in the world-is-flat now, the movie tracks a mystery pathogen after it catches a ride on a flight from Hong Kong to Chicago, an early hop for a globe-sprinting pandemic that cuts across borders and through bodies as effortlessly as Mr. Soderbergh moves among genres, styles and eras, this time by updating 1970s paranoia freakouts like “All the President’s Men” for the anti-government, Tea Party age.
Among the first casualties is an executive, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), who, shortly after returning home from Hong Kong, is twitching on her Minneapolis kitchen floor, mouth foaming and eyes glassing over. Was it the moo goo gai pan? Not exactly, her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon in a small, crucial, sympathetic performance), soon learns. And that’s something you learn quickly in turn: Nothing moves slowly here, especially the disease, which, within days, cuts down seemingly everyone who’s been within touching, kissing, handshaking, dice-blowing distance of a carrier. Like the ladies in the old shampoo ads (“I told two friends about it and they told two friends and so on”) Beth just keeps on giving.
Working with regular collaborators like the writer Scott Z. Burns, the composer Cliff Martinez and the editor Stephen Mirrione, Mr. Soderbergh invests the story with visceral urgency, opening it with a screen steeped in black — an intimation perhaps of the looming abyss — and the sounds of a few hard, rasping coughs. This almost deviously funny overture is followed by a close-up of Beth wearing a sheen of sweat and no visible makeup, the image stamped “Day 2.” Listing forward, as if she was about to throw up on the camera tilted up at her, she looks about as bad as Ms. Paltrow probably can, given the ugly situation and the queasy-beautiful yellowish light that Mr. Soderbergh expressionistically employs throughout.
She doesn’t vomit, but your own gorge may rise when the camera shifts from Beth — who takes a flirty call from her unseen lover, her wedding ring gleaming in the shot — to linger briefly on a jar of shelled peanuts set on the airport bar in front of her. Beth may be (relatively) bad, but those peanuts are murder, as is the credit card she hands to the waitress. The story subsequently hopscotches to several other people — a young man stumbling through a Hong Kong market, a Japanese salaryman grimacing on a plane and a model staggering in London — who flash in and out of the movie . Like Beth, whose young son, Clark (Griffin Kane), welcomes her home with open, vulnerable arms, each proves to be part of the lethal puzzle.”
“. . . The virus seriously rattles your nerves, and you may want to start stockpiling antibacterial soap now. Yet what’s really scary in “Contagion” is how fast once-humming airports and offices, homes and cities empty out when push comes to shove comes to panic in the streets.
“Contagion” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It contains gun violence, multiple on-screen if nongory deaths and a graphic autopsy during which a human head is peeled like a banana. “
“The title of Davis Guggenheim’s three-part Netflix documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (which debuts on Friday, September 20th) speaks to its subject’s opacity. What makes one of the world’s wealthiest people tick? What formed him? How did he come to dominate a fiercely competitive industry so thoroughly that the US government sued Microsoft under antitrust statutes?
Guggenheim gets into all that… sort of. Over the course of nearly three hours, Inside Bill’s Brain covers the basics of Gates’ life: his childhood, education, Microsoft stewardship, marriage to his wife Melinda, and the charitable foundation they co-manage.
At times, though, it seems like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is this doc’s real subject. Each episode of Inside Bill’s Brain focuses on one of the foundation’s major initiatives: improving sewage conditions in developing countries, eradicating polio, and developing a cleaner, safer form of nuclear power. Each of the three parts shifts rapidly between interviews, biographical material, and fly-on-the-wall footage of the Gates team’s philanthropic missions. Guggenheim eschews traditional transitions, and instead jumps from subject to subject, even when there’s no clear connection between them.”
Oscar-winning documentary director Davis Guggenheim enlists Gates’ cooperation for a three-part Netflix series on some of the billionaire’s passion projects.
“One of the hottest tickets at this year’s Telluride Film Festival was not one of the eagerly awaited narrative features but the first showing of a Netflix docuseries on Bill Gates. Patrons lined up for the screening of Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, with the subject himself on hand for a discussion. The series was directed by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, He Named Me Malala), and it contains some of the filmmaker’s best work.
No doubt Gates trusted the director enough to provide candid interviews on his personal life, along with information on his ambitious projects to use his wealth to build a better world. Although the docuseries does not skirt controversial episodes in Gates’ past, it gives him credit as a visionary thinker while also painting a surprisingly human portrait of the computer geek turned philanthropist and concerned citizen.
The three parts of the series encompass Gates’ efforts to provide clean drinking water for people in the poorest countries of the world, his battle to eradicate polio and his efforts on behalf of safe nuclear power as an alternative to climate-destroying fossil fuels. Along with exploring these potent issues, the film delves into Gates’ early family life and his marriage to Melinda, who is partnered with him on his charitable foundation, which he has focused on since stepping down from Microsoft in 2008.
Guggenheim collected an impressive group of pundits to discuss some of these issues, including scientists and technical experts, along with New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, who provides especially pithy interviews. But the series also includes interviews with Melinda, Gates’ two sisters and, of course, extensive talks with Gates himself. Some of the most revealing interviews concern Gates’ relationship with his mother, a strong woman and something of a community leader in Seattle; he describes her early death as the most difficult time in his life.
Gates’ developing relationship with Melinda also provides fascinating material. Clearly Bill had difficulty entering into personal relationships, and when he was debating whether to marry Melinda, he prepared a detailed chart listing the pros and cons of a union. She has proven to be an invaluable partner; for one thing, he acknowledges that she is much better at dealing with people, a crucial quality in accomplishing the goals that he wants his charities to produce.
One of the thorniest of these issues is Gates’ commitment to nuclear power. As the film indicates, he and his team were making progress on changing public opinion until the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 once again incited widespread fears. There are also issues regarding the disposal of nuclear waste, and Trump’s trade war with China has made Chinese cooperation on this project more challenging.”
“In his relentless pursuit to try to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems around sanitation, disease eradication and climate change, Bill Gates is practically robotic in his quest for information and in his inability to give up. It’s glimpses of the Microsoft co-founder’s human side that help power “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” a three-part documentary series from Netflix.
Directed by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), the series is at times an intimate and revealing look at Gates’ life, from his upbringing to his education, his family and friendships, the drive to make Microsoft a global powerhouse, the transition to philanthropy, and his love for and partnership with wife Melinda Gates.
For those familiar with many of the benchmarks and anecdotes from Gates’ long life in the public eye, there are repeated tales of his accomplishments and idiosyncrasies. They are spliced throughout three 50-minute episodes with footage from his home and offices in Seattle to far-flung locations around the planet.”