Comcast Finally Strikes a Deal to Offer HBO Max to Xfinity Cable Subscribers

HBO Max launched today, bringing a new option to the crowded offering of streaming services. Though the new endeavor from WarnerMedia had already struck deals with a variety of cable providers, streaming services, and various devices to offer access to HBO Max, there was one huge holdout: Comcast. Thankfully, that changed today with a last minute deal that now allows Xfinity customers to access HBO Max through their Xfinity cable services and gives current HBO subscribers access for free.

Comcast and WarnerMedia announced the HBO Max deal in an official press release today, just in time for subscribers to get access to the streaming service on launch day. Comcast customers with Xfinity X1 and Flex services will be able to download the HBO Max app through their cable boxes sometime in the future, but they’re still working on the logistics of making that happen. Meanwhile, Comcast customers who already subscribe to HBO will be able to access HBO Max immediately through their preferred devices by way of their Xfinity subscription, just like many other streaming apps with ties to cable packages.

Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President, Video and Entertainment at Comcast Cable said in a statement:

“X1 and Flex bring our customers an unmatched depth and breadth of live, on demand and streaming entertainment, and we look forward to partnering with WarnerMedia to integrate the HBO Max app on our platforms alongside close to 200 other streaming services – all searchable with the award-winning Xfinity Voice Remote.”

Meanwhile, Rich Warren, president of Warner Media Distribution, added:

“We’re thrilled to cap off the excitement of today’s launch by adding Comcast’s Xfinity to our roster of distributors who are now offering HBO Max to their customers. This deal marks another important step in the distribution of HBO Max and provides millions of Xfinity customers with access to the product.”

As a current Comcast subscriber, I was prepared to end my HBO subscription through Xfinity and potentially my cable service altogether if they didn’t figure out a deal to offer HBO Max. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that anymore, and I’m glad it’s so easy for me to get access this way, even if it took until the last possible minute for a deal to come together.

HBO Max joins the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, HBO, YouTube, EPIX, STARZ, Pandora and many other services that are accessible through Xfinity platforms. Customers with X1 Xfinity and Flex also have early access to NBCUniversal’s new Peacock streaming service before it’s available to everyone in July.

So if you have an HBO subscription through Comcast, get signed up and start watching a bunch of new streaming content, including the surprise availability of the Harry Potter franchise, which previously wasn’t going to be available right away on the service.

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HBO Max Conjures Up All 'Harry Potter' Films to Stream on Launch Day

Harry Potter weekends are back, baby. HBO Max has worked its magic and summoned all eight Harry Potter films to stream the day of its Wednesday launch. Warner Media has been trying to buy back the streaming rights to the Harry Potter franchise from Universal, which has owned the exclusive rights to stream the series since 2016, and on the day of the HBO Max launch, was able to accio the Harry Potter films back the company to which they belong.

TV Line reports that HBO Max has added all eight original Harry Potter films to its library, just in time for its anticipated Wednesday launch. Every Harry Potter film from The Sorceror’s Stone to The Deathly Hallows Part II will be available to stream on HBO Max — but bad news for Fantastic Beasts fans (if you exist): the second Fantastic Beasts movie, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald is only available on “HBO Max via the HBO service.”

The Harry Potter films used to be a staple of ABC Family, and then Freeform, reruns, with the Disney-owned cable network playing the magical films in “Harry Potter Weekends” for months straight. But since Freeform lost the rights to air the franchise in 2018, we’ve been bereft of our favorite boy wizard, and typical streaming deal complications kept Harry Potter off the air and off many streaming platforms. The streaming rights to the Harry Potter series have been in question since Universal struck a deal in 2016 to secure the exclusive on-air and digital rights to all Wizarding World films.

Warner Media has been actively trying to buy back those rights for years, in what industry analyst Matthew Ball called a “big, costly, and important move” as the company prepared to launch its new streaming service HBO Max, which would have to compete with streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and the intimidating fellow newcomer Disney+, which has all of the Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars films in its arsenal.

WarnerMedia has all the Warner Bros. archive at its disposal, yes, and the coveted (and costly) streaming rights to Friends, but Harry Potter is probably the only franchise that can stand up to Marvel and Star Wars combined. Because of that, HBO Max content chief Kevin Reilly told Business Insider that getting the Harry Potter films for HBO Max was a “high on our priority list.” And it seems they were able to pull it off at the last minute.

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Now TV releases 2020: All the new movies for June and July

Just in time for the summer months, Now TV is packed full of new movies for fans to enjoy. Not only are these movies great for families and children, but also for couples and mates wanting to live text their favourite film. For the summer there are new releases coming for everyone, and here are our picks of the best new movies.

Downton Abbey

The hit TV series finally hit the big screen, and it was really loved by fans.

Lord Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville) and his family were descended upon by royalty in this instalment, which saw all of Downton’s inhabitants frantically trying to put on the best show.

The film also hinted at the end of the Dowager’s (Maggie Smith) time in Downton, leaving fans desperate that if any more movies or specials come, she will be centre stage.

Frozen 2

Fans of Frozen will be thoroughly excited to find the second film available on their TVs.

The first film saw Anna and Elsa discovering who they are, but this only continues in the second instalment, when a force threatens to destroy their kingdom.

The second instalment stars Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, along with Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff.

Angry Birds 2

Josh Gad is back using his voice in the video game adaptation.

Angry Birds is the famous game where the birds fight against the green pigs trying to take over their homes, and in the second instalment things change dramatically.

Here, the birds are forced to team up with the pigs when an advanced weapon threatens both Bird and Piggy Islands.

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IT: Chapter Two

Stephen King’s IT sees a group of children traumatised but their dealings with Pennywise the Dancing Clown return as adults to defeat him.

The second chapter of the new film series shows the adult group come back together when Pennywise begins killing children again.

The horror flick is truly star-studded, with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader among the actors.

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The Great Gatsby

While this is not a new movie, The Great Gatsby is arriving on Now TV for fans to enjoy once again.

In the adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel from Baz Luhrmann, a mysterious millionaire entertains the elite at his Long Island mansion.

The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan.

Here is the full list of movies arriving on Now TV:

Arriving in June

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Gemini Man

Downton Abbey: The Movie

The Great Gatsby – returning to the platform

No Country for Old Men – returning to the platform

Arriving in July

IT: Chapter Two

Frozen 2

Angry Birds 2

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How to stream ANYTHING from your computer to your Chromecast or Android TV

Chromecasts are hugely useful little gadgets. The HDMI dongles plug into your TV and let you wirelessly beam photos and videos from your iPhone, iPad and Android devices and Windows 10 and macOS computers to the big screen. Apps usually have to be updated to support Chromecasting – denoted by a small icon with a wireless signal in the lower left-hand corner.

However, it is possible to beam (almost) any file to your Google Chromecast. So, if you’ve got an iMovie project that you’ve rustled up during lockdown of some treasured family memories, or if you’ve ripped an old DVD that is not available to stream on any digital service – you should be able to enjoy them on the big screen with a few quick clicks.

If you’re struggling to play your file, either because of the format of the video or photo or because the app on your smartphone you’d like to use doesn’t have an in-built Cast button, we’d recommend Videostream. This brilliant little utility works by super-charging the Google Chrome web browser with the ability to beam almost any content to the living room television using a Chromecast. First up, you’ll need to download the app and install it on your machine.

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With that done, you’ll need to launch the new Videostream app. Rather than load a standalone app, this will launch a new tab in the Chrome web browser. From there, you’ll be able to select the video from your files using the “Choose A Video” button in the middle of the window.

After you’ve picked the file you want to watch on the big screen, the service will load a small pop-up to let you pick a device you want to stream to. Any Chromecasts, Google Nest Hub Maxes, or Android TVs in the house will appear here. And if you’ve loaded-up a music file, you’ll have even more choice – with the likes of the Google Home and Home Max joining the fray.

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Choose your weapon and then hit play to enjoy movie night.

It’s worth noting that if you already have popular open-source media player VLC installed on your computer, this boasts the ability to beam a wide variety of files to any Android TV or Chromecast in a few clicks.

Simply load up the video inside VLC as normal, but head to the Playback menu option at the top, then scroll down to Renderer. In the small sub-menu that loads, you should see any compatible Chromecast, Google Home or Android TV devices listed. Pick one and hit play.

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'Out' Trailer: Disney+ Debuts Heartwarming LGBTQ Pixar SparkShorts Film

Pixar has been steadily churning out animated shorts through its SparkShorts program, an initiative dedicated to cultivating new talent through short films, that has allowed Pixar animators to experiment with more than the 3D animation the studio is known for. Everything from hand-drawn animation to new styles of CG animation are on display in the shorts, which first debuted theatrically and on YouTube last year before moving to Disney+. And Disney+ has kept the program alive, steadily releasing new shorts that remind us of the magic of Pixar shorts.

Out Trailer

Out is a new Pixar SparkShorts short film that broaches the uncomfortable subject of coming out to one’s parents. In a beautiful, warm hand-drawn animation style that resembles that of a children’s coloring book, the Out trailer follows a man named Greg who chats with his dog Jim while holding a framed photo of himself and his boyfriend, Manuel. Greg is talking his way through coming out to his parents, when the doorbell rings and his parents arrive to help move him out of his house. But in a panic, he leaves the picture frame to be discovered by his mom, in a cliffhanger ending for the trailer. The trailer is sweet and short (what else can you be, while teasing a Pixar short film?) and even features a cameo from Toy Story character Wheezy (check out the penguin in Jim the dog’s mouth).

Pixar’s SparkShorts was launched in 2019, with the three inaugural short films getting a theatrical and YouTube debut before getting added to Disney+ upon the platform’s November 2019 launch. The first three shorts, Float,Purl, Smash and Grab, were soon joined by Kitbull,Windand Loopwhich debuted on Disney+ in the following months. The program is meant to further the informal practice of Pixar shorts as a medium for rising Pixar animators to experiment with new technologies and hone their storytelling skills, which were then shown before Pixar theatrical releases. But those Pixar shorts were soon replaced by Disney or Simpsons shorts, with the beloved experimental Pixar shorts moving online.

“The SparkShorts program is designed to discover new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows,” President of Pixar Animation Studios Jim Morris said in a statement when the program was launched in January 2019. “These films are unlike anything we’ve ever done at Pixar, providing an opportunity to unlock the potential of individual artists and their inventive filmmaking approaches on a smaller scale than our normal fare.”

You can watch Out on Disney+ now.

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David Lynch Short Film 'Fire' Debuting on YouTube

David Lynch is about to gift us with another one of his hard-to-find short films. Fire (Pozar) is a short written, directed, and animated by Lynch, featuring music by Marek Zebrowski. As part of the experiment of the movie, Lynch gave the short to Zebrowski and the composer then made music without any input from the director, with Zebrowski interpreting the visuals in his own way.

Earlier this year the David Lynch short film What Did Jack Do? unexpectedly arrived on Netflix. Now, another Lynch short is headed our way – via YouTube. Lynch announced that he would be releasing the short on his YouTube page:

— David Lynch (@DAVID_LYNCH) May 18, 2020

Up until now, Lynch’s YouTube page has been home to his weather reports, in which the acclaimed filmmaker sits alone in his studio, looks out the window, and proceeds to talk about his local weather:

As for the short film Fire (Pozar), it’s a collaboration between Lynch and composer Marek Zebrowski, with Zebrowski left to his own devices regarding the music. “The whole point of our experiment was that I would say nothing about my intentions and Marek would interpret the visuals in his own way,” Lynch said. “So I say it was a great successful experiment, and I loved the composition Marek wrote for the Penderecki String Quartet.”

Zebrowski added: “I thought it was a very melancholic film in a certain sense and also very poetic.  Without trying to be too explicit, I tried to illustrate further what David was doing. For example, there is something that looks like a hailstorm and I used a lot of pizzicato, but I also used a soaring melodic line to add a lyrical element to it.”

As for what Fire is about, well…I was unable to find any real info on that. We’ll all just have to wait and see what happens when Lynch drops the short on his YouTube page today.

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'The Simpsons' Aspect Ratio Problem on Disney+ Will Finally Get Fixed on May 28

When Disney+ launched last fall, one of the more appealing pieces of the streaming service’s library of content was access to every single episode of The Simpsons (with one major exception). However, that ended up being a disappointment because a bunch of The Simpsons episodes that were originally broadcast in the 4:3 full screen aspect ratio (before high-definition, widescreen televisions came along), had been zoomed and cropped to fill a 16:19 widescreen format.

The Simpsons aspect ratio problem resulted poor image quality and even the loss of some visual gags, and after outcry from fans, Disney+ vowed to fix the issue by the end of this month. Thankfully, that moment is nearly upon, and Disney+ has confirmed that the first 19 seasons and part of the 20th season of The Simpsons will be restored to their proper aspect ratio starting on May 28.

Here’s the official announcement from Disney+ and The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean:

— Disney+ (@disneyplus) May 20, 2020

The reason this fix only applies to the first 19 seasons and some of the 20th season is because halfway through that season, The Simpsons started broadcasting in a widescreen high-definition format. So every episode after that was made for the 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s a shame it took this long to make this adjustment, especially when FX Now already had the entire library of The Simpsons presented in the correct aspect ratio. But at least it’s getting done.

When Disney+ announced they’d be fixing The Simpsons aspect ratio problem, they also teased “new features and additional viewing options,” so maybe we’ll get some of the episode commentaries that were previously available when The Simpsons was available to watch over on FX Now.

One new addition to the Simpsons library on Disney+ will be a theatrical short film that was released back in 2012:

— Disney+ (@disneyplus) May 20, 2020

The Longest Daycare was attached to screenings of Ice Age: Continental Drift in the summer of 2012, and it went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Funnily enough, it ended up losing to Disney’s short film Paperman. You can start watching it on May 29.

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'Hannah Gadsby: Douglas' Trailer: The Stand-Up Comedian Returns to Netflix After the Success of 'Nanette'

Two years ago, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby took the world by storm with her Netflix stand-up special Nanette, an unconventional mixture of comedy and tragedy which earned rave reviews and scored Gadsby an Emmy for Outstanding Writing and a Peabody Award to boot. Now she’s heading back to the streaming service with Hannah Gadsby: Douglas, a new special which directly addresses Nanette‘s success and continues to explore other humorous corners of Gadsby’s brain. Watch the trailer below.

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas Trailer

Nanette was intended to be a mic-drop finale for Gadsby’s decade-plus-long stand-up career. But her atypical structuring, give-no-fucks attitude, and heartbreakingly real stories in that show resonated with audiences in a huge way, and catapulted her to a level of fame she’d never before attained. So she changed her plans, and wrote and previewed a new special in March of last year before filming it for Netflix as a follow-up. (It’s called Douglas, and it’s named after her dog, which you can see some homages to on the stage around and behind her in the trailer.)

Trailers can be deceptive – especially for comedy, and especially for comedians with styles like Gadsby’s, which aren’t always best suited for quick bursts of jokes that can be easily digested in two minutes. Nanette was more of a slow burn (a weird thing to say about a comedy special, but true nonetheless), and an early review of the Douglas preview in Australia paints a promising picture for this special as an equally complex experimentation with form and content:

The tension Gadsby so expertly deconstructed and created during Nanette is less baked into the show’s format, although Douglas does see her explore some personal revelations – which I won’t disclose here – with empathy, wit and some extremely relatable metaphors.

But at its core Douglas is about names and labels, and how they can mean a lot, or very little. They can shape the world, be oppressive and belittling or even a little bit liberating, whether it’s pedants questioning Nanette’s classification as ‘comedy’, living in a world categorized and named by long-dead men or, perhaps, a medical diagnosis.

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas premieres on Netflix on May 26, 2020.

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7 Fascinating Facts About the Hollywood Sign

7 Fascinating Facts About the Hollywood Sign

The incredibly famous Hollywood sign sits atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills, watching over the film industry’s most well-known city. The sign itself has starred in a number of movies and TV shows — like Netflix’s Hollywood, where the sign played the location to actress Peg Entwistle’s tragic end, which is a true story. But did you know that when the sign was built, it didn’t exactly say Hollywood? Or that some very famous names helped refurbish the sign when it started falling apart in the 1970s? Read all about those fun facts and more when you scroll through the gallery ahead.








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'One Punch Man' is a Hilarious Anime Parody of Superhero Stories

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

The term “superhero fatigue” is usually brought up and discussed when a new superhero movie hits theaters. Now that we have no superhero movies (or movies of any kind!) coming out for the next few months, many people are starting to miss having a big, bombastic action movie starring people with superpowers. In the meantime, you can always turn to anime to provide enough exhilarating fun to forget that you’re staring at your TV and not the silver screen.

This brings us to One Punch Man, one of the few shows of the last decade that managed to cross over to the mainstream, or at least as close to it as an anime goes. Just like its titular hero, One Punch Man the anime comes from an unlikely origin story. It is based on a webcomic from a no-name manga author that goes only by the moniker ONE. The story follows a young, bald, average-looking man called Saitama. He’s trained so hard that he’s become the strongest being in the universe, a man capable of defeating anyone or anything with just one punch (hey, that’s the title of the show!). Though he’s a superhero for fun, Saitama no longer finds any joy in doing what he does, his only wish is to face someone that can challenge him.                         

We’ve covered some heavy-handed shows in this column, so if what you need is a good laugh, don’t look any further, because One Punch Man offers all the thrills of a high-budget Marvel movie, but with an absurd amount of laughs not really found in the genre. 

What Makes It Great

It is often said that with anime you need to watch 3 episodes of a show before deciding whether to commit to it or drop it, but in the case of One Punch Man all you need is half the first episode. From its opening scene, the show takes what we know about both the superhero and the shonen genres, and turns it on its head. When a monster starts attacking a city and heroes get defeated, our only hope is a single hero named Saitama. He looks nothing like Superman, Iron Man, or even Goku. Indeed, he’s an average-looking guy, not really tall, talks with an awkward and not very commanding voice, and very much unlike Goku — he’s bald. Yet he moves at incredible speed to save a little girl, and also completely obliterates the monster with a single punch. But instead of throwing his fist up in the air to celebrate his victory, he falls to his knees and screams “Damn it!” because, once again, he only needed one punch to kill his enemy. 

There are tons of tropes and clichés normally found in superhero and shonen stories that One Punch Man subverts and pokes fun at, and it all starts with this one scene and this one guy who has grown so powerful he no longer finds any joy in life. It’s pretty much like the end of an RPG video game where you find that nothing can kill you and the game is no longer challenging, presented with a fair amount of Looney Tunes-like antics and physics. 

You would be forgiven for thinking such a concept is pretty limited and would get tired really fast. But despite knowing how every battle will end up, One Punch Man finds a way to subvert expectations and find new ways to make an indestructible guy kill monsters fun. This is mostly done by using Saitama as a plot device to help the show’s ensemble cast grow and develop. From characters who are inspired by seeing Saitama’s incredible feats of strength, or those who think he’s a fraud because there’s no way a guy can get that powerful with such a simple routine. There’s also the show’s focus on the mundane life of Saitama. Because he’s a hero for fun, his biggest worries are not what the villains are up to, or how to save the world, but how to pay rent and whether or not he can make it in time to the big sale at the supermarket, and the show manages to make the lack of tension work because it’s constantly providing laughs. 

Then there’s the animation. You know how shows like Gundam try to comment on the horrors of war, but end up making the robot fight scenes look so cool you end up wanting more despite how traumatic they are for the child pilots? One Punch Man goes the opposite direction. It uses a bit of an unconventional team of animators, grabbing freelancers from a variety of backgrounds that are masters of their different crafts to give us incredibly epic action scenes while constantly cutting away to Saitama looking superbly bored. That way it comments on how, where every other person on the planet would look at a fight scene like this and think “wow that is so cool” Saitama finds no joy in it because there is no challenge or difficulty. As Jacob Chapman said in his review of the first season finale for Anime News Network, it’s like if you take the nonsensical way every young kid tries to describe the big battle in a superhero movie, and turn it into reality. 

What It Brings to the Conversation

Though not incredibly deep by any stretch of the imagination (this is still very much a comedy, after all), One Punch Man does try to comment on heroism and what exactly makes a hero. During much of the first season, we see Saitama fight against incredible opponents and save citizens of various cities, only for the people to either credit someone else with saving them, or outright think Saitama cheated somehow. He pretty much takes a Batman in The Dark Knight approach and agrees to take all the blame, as long as people don’t lose hope in heroes.

That being said, the show also has something to say about a world where superheroes are organized. Unlike My Hero Academia where the vast majority of people have superpowers, here it is regular people with out of the ordinary skills, people with cybernetic augmentations, and a handful of superhumans that become heroes. But the way they are organized, with a ranking based on tests and popularity, means that certain heroes gang up on newcomers to prevent them from going up in the charts, which is not very heroic. Likewise, season two, though underwhelming animation-wise, does offer the closest the show has to an antihero. We are introduced to a guy named Garou, which essentially acts as the Vegeta to Saitama’s Goku, and wants to destroy heroes because he’s always seen monsters and villains as the underdogs, and the heroes as bullies. The show doesn’t spend too much time with this, but it’s an interesting subversion of superhero tropes, and of course, it comes with fantastically funny visual gags. 

Why Non-Anime Fans Should Check It Out

Like My Hero Academia, you don’t have to know a lot about anime to get into One Punch Man, as its parodying of the superhero genre is universal enough that anyone can get into it. The jokes land incredibly well and the animation is gorgeous and hype-building. That being said, be warned that the show sadly does suffer from outdated racial and queer stereotypes that are completely out of place, but past that is a world full of epic fights, and one man who can’t catch a break.

Watch This If You Like: My Hero Academia, Kick-Ass, Deadpool

One Punch Man is now streaming on Netflix and Hulu.

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