Star Wars: The Last Jedi Was Reportedly Targeted By Russians

Rian Johnson couldn’t have predicted the reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Every movie comes with built-in pressure, especially a chapter in a Skywalker Saga trilogy. But Johnson’s first foray into the galaxy far, far away proved to be quite divisive, with fans taking up sides to defend or tear down decisions made by the filmmaker as he explored the need for the Jedi, and the direction of the Resistance. The levels of hate online reached epic proportions, and a new research study finds that the driving force behind some of that social-media backlash might have been Russian trolls.

Now, we know that complaining about Russian bots on social media is the go-to excuse whenever someone takes up an opinion that goes against your own. However, a research paper conducted by Morten Bay from the University of Southern California examined the users who attacked Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi on social media were, in fact, Russian bots, and concludes:

Rian Johnson, himself, shares Morten Bay’s study, and clarifies that this is not about fans liking, or disliking, the middle chapter of the new Star Wars trilogy, but more to address what he sees as a “virulent strain of online harassment,” stating:

Ironically, another movie, Venom, is running up against an online smear campaign at the moment, where bots appear to be Tweeting the same statement over and over, from different accounts, claiming the Sony movie is bad, and A Star Is Born is much better. How can one explain this?

Is the Internet increasingly becoming a more-divisive playground on which people can share their opinions? Absolutely, and it’s probably fair to come to the conclusion that Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi beared the brunt of too much rebellious backlash against his movie — a movie that proudly subverted expectations and genuinely annoyed some fans, but certainly isn’t the trainwreck that Twitter might lead you to believe.

Read the rest of Morten Bay’s study. Do you agree with its conclusions? Do you see this social-media problem being resolved anytime soon, or will Twitter keep evolving to cause headaches for filmmakers and film studios? Weigh in below in the comments with your best guesses.

Stephen Amell Has Us Thinking He’ll Play A Different Hero In The Arrow-verse Crossover

This year’s big crossover between the various Arrow-verse shows (save for Legends of Tomorrow) is shaping up to be the most promising one yet for the future of The CW’s DC franchises. It will finally open the metaphorical doors to Gotham City and Ruby Rose’s Batwoman and Lois Lane, and it might just be giving Arrow star Stephen Amell something new to do… possibly as a different costumed hero. Here’s how Amell kicked off the latest round of super-speculation.

Now, let’s not put on the entire tinfoil suit after donning the cap. Stephen Amell obviously isn’t saying that he’s going to, for example, be wearing one of Barry’s Flash suits, or Ray’s Atom suit. And the term “outfit” is a very particular word to use here, possibly as a way to deflect fans from guessing. (This is also a much different tease from his “not wearing any outfits at all” image he recently shared.) He did share another recent shot where he was being prepped for some kind of prosthetic for the face and chest area, so maybe that has something to do with it.

It didn’t stop fans from guessing, and it was Stephen Amell’s next response that is the more convincing point for anyone who wants to believe that Oliver will take on a different identity in some way. Here’s what he posted a few hours later:

Which means that he was going through and reading the responses to see what people were saying, which means he knew right away that people would be guessing. And the comments are full of fans hoping for him to be Batman or for him to hit upon another comic-specific look from the Green Arrow books, among other hopes. So if Stephen Amell was expecting these kinds of reactions to his post, that has to mean he’s be temporarily portraying a very noteworthy character, right?

Of course, this IS the social media-savvy Stephen Amell, who knows exactly which buttons to press in order to get his fanbase active. As such, this post could realistically be a trolling exercise to incite reactions, with Amell not actually playing any other well-known DC comics or villains. His new “outfit” might just be wearing a mail carrier’s uniform, or one for a college basketball team, or some other clothing that has nothing to do with Oliver or Green Arrow’s personas. Such is the power of Amell’s random Twitter posts.

What do you guys think? Will we see Oliver pimping out someone else’s duds, or is Stephen Amell over-exaggerating for emphasis? We might not find out for a while, since the crossover eps aren’t happening until December. But you can catch Arrow Season 7 debuting on The CW on Monday, October 15, at 8:00 p.m. ET. And way more shows are coming down the line, too, which can all be found in our fall TV premiere schedule.

Venom Has Screened, Here Are The Early Reactions

Sony’s experiments with Venom over the years have been… interesting. By all accounts, the alien symbiote was forced on Sam Raimi for the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, miscasting Topher Grace as a smarmy Eddie Brock and relying on practical effects to create Venom’s signature suit. And now that the studio is trying to bring Venom back to the big screen in a solo origin story, behind-the-scenes business deals mean they need to do so without the assistance of Venom’s true rival, Spider-Man.

Venom held its world premiere on Monday night, and social media reactions dropped overnight, with people in general feeling mixed-to-negative about Ruben Fleischer’s film. I’ll start with my own Tweet, where I claim:

Trying to elaborate, I follow up with:

Meanwhile, over at ComicBook, Brandon Davis weighs in with:

And SuperBrosMovies goes this far:

But on some of the Tweets, the tide turns, as a few viewers believe that the comedy in the movie saves it, or that Venom merely isn’t as bad as they feared it could be. Backhanded praise, but praise, nonetheless. Perri Nemiroff from Collider states:

And Beatrice Verhoeven of The Wrap claims:

Unintended laughter is still laughter, right? The datedness of Venom is what strikes most people, with this Tweet summing it up:

Soon, you will be able to see for yourself. Tom Hardy stars as Venom, in a movie that surrounds him with Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate and Woody Harrelson. It will be in theaters starting Thursday night. Do you think you will check it out?

Will you see Venom in theaters?

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Manifest Has Broken A Ratings Record At NBC

Fall TV season is in full swing, and one of the most ambitious new series to hit the airwaves is Manifest on NBC. The show’s premiere spun a mystery that has the potential to drive the story for a long time, and it’s difficult to guess where that story is going next. A big question was whether the mystery was teased well enough in the trailers for folks to tune in. Well, the numbers are in, and it turns out that enough folks tuned in for Manifest to break a ratings record already.

Manifest is officially the top time-shifted series premiere on record for NBC. The show already got off to a strong start with Live+Same day viewership of 10.41 million people. Thanks to delayed viewing and time-shifting for the Live+3 day calculations, Manifest added more than 5.7 million people to its total. The total viewership is currently 16.13 million, making Manifest‘s first episode the most-watched series premiere in Live+3 day calculations in six years. Back in 2013, The Blacklist delivered 16.94 million in Live+3. NBC has a lot to be happy about with Manifest.

That’s not even the only record broken by Manifest‘s series premiere! The 5.7 million viewer bump marks the biggest for any NBC premiere in measurement history. Given that measurement history dates back to May 2007 and NBC has had some high-profile hits over the past decade, Manifest has some serious bragging rights. The previous record was held by the premiere of the Will & Grace revival, which could boast a bump of 4.6 million viewers in Live+3 day and broke records of its own.

In case solid rankings on NBC aren’t enough for you, there’s more. The Manifest premiere currently ranks as the show with the third highest bump from Live+Same day to Live+3 day viewership in all of broadcast and cable television. It falls behind two series premieres of ABC shows: the 2018 premiere of the short-lived Roseanne will a boost of 6.59 million and the 2014 premiere of How to Get Away with Murder with 5.93 million. Throw in the fact that Manifest‘s premiere is fourth all-time for the biggest bumps in Live+3 in broadcast and cable TV for premieres and other episodes, and we can probably count on Manifest not going anywhere any time soon.

As for ratings in the key 18-49 age demographic, Manifest can claim the second biggest lift of any NBC series premiere to date with a bump of 1.47, from 2.16 to 3.63. The show that can claim the very biggest lift is the Will & Grace revival. Congratulations to Manifest and any viewers who were already hooked after the premiere! If the ratings continue to deliver in the coming weeks, we can probably count on the mystery being solved, even if only bit by bit.

To catch new episodes of Manifest, tune in to NBC on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET. There are plenty of other options for viewing this fall, so if Manifest‘s mystery doesn’t appeal to you, you can make another choice.

3 Big Ways Better Call Saul Set Up An Intense Season 4 Finale

Mike Is On The Hunt For Werner

Who is truly to blame for the way the episode ended? Is it Rainer Bock’s overworked Werner, who took advantage of each olive branch he was offered by Mike, including the strip club visit and the extended phone call to his wife? Or is it Mike, who believed in Werner’s claims about how quickly and efficiently his crew would be able to complete the superlab’s construction, possibly only because Mike was sick of already having dealt with other applicants?

Oh, right, Werner is definitely to blame. He spent all that time out there in mostly solitude, only to sabotage it all in the end by plotting an escape to go back to his home. Knowing Mike — who is definitely not comparable to Walter White, according to star Jonathan Banks — the German team leader’s home won’t actually be his final destination. Instead, I think he’ll end up taking a long nap somewhere in the desert, perhaps even beneath the superlab’s floors. And that’s not even considering the fate of everyone else on the construction team. Kai has had a target on his head all season, but will the others also get murdered in quick haste?

How Last Man Standing Will Handle Politics On Fox

Politics and current events are hot topics in TV these days, and not just on the news. A big question many had about Last Man Standing after it made the move from ABC to Fox was whether the sitcom about a politically conservative man would tackle politics. After all, Tim Allen’s character did dress up as Donald Trump for a Halloween episode before the show got the axe at ABC. Last Man Standing showrunner Kevin Abbott recently weighed in on the issue of whether the show would stay out of politics in its second life on primetime, saying this:

Last Man Standing will not go the Saturday Night Live route of mentioning politics and political figures on a regular basis, although Last Man Standing‘s take on current events would undoubtedly be quite different from SNL‘s. According to Kevin Abbott’s comments to EW, the show wants to appeal to all viewers rather than just conservative viewers. Last Man Standing isn’t about Donald Trump or any other political figures. Besides, as Abbott says, the news cycles between big stories very quickly nowadays. Interestingly, the South Park creator said something similar a couple years ago about being unable to keep up with current events with the show.

Kevin Abbott did tease that an upcoming episode would deal with gun control, so that will be one of the larger issues addressed by Last Man Standing‘s first season on Fox. If the numbers for its premiere hold up, a lot of people could be tuning in to watch Last Man Standing work through these issues while keeping the focus on comedy and attempting to unite rather than divide. The show absolutely dominated with its first episode back, scoring a 1.8 rating in the key 18-49 age demographic and winning 8.01 million viewers. Given that Friday nights typically don’t deliver terribly high ratings, Fox has a lot to be happy about with Last Man Standing so far.

Star Tim Allen has already said that his personal political leanings shouldn’t matter to fans, and it seems that Last Man Standing could be a conservative but less divisive show than pre-cancellation Roseanne. Assuming the ratings stay decent, the recastings don’t turn viewers off, and Tim Allen sticks around, Last Man Standing could last for a decent amount of time on Fox.

We’ll have to wait and see. New episodes of Last Man Standing air on Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. There are plenty of options in the fall TV lineup this year, but Friday offers fewer big series, so it should be interesting to see how many people continue to turn to Last Man Standing for Friday night entertainment.

Real Housewives Of Potomac’s Ashley Darby Isn’t Worried About Husband’s Sexual Assault Allegations

A shocking number of accusations of sexual misconduct about figures on the small screen have emerged over the past year, and Real Housewives of Potomac is the latest show to be rocked by allegations against somebody involved in production. Michael Darby, husband of RHOP star Ashley Darbty and who has appeared on the show, has been accused of sexually assaulting a cameraman. The allegations are obviously quite serious, but Ashley Darby doesn’t seem too worried about them. In a social media post featuring a photo of her husband, Darby shared this message:

Ashley Darby, 30, shared her message on September 29 with an Instagram story, and her message indicates that she’s standing by her 59-year-old husband and isn’t bothered by the allegations against him. Interestingly, her comment of “No Bravo suspension” contradicts a statement released by Bravo the day before that stated Bravo and production company Truly Original had suspended filming with Michael Darby. Is Ashley Darby simply mistaken about the suspension? Was the issue somehow resolved between September 28 and September 29? Does she have behind-the-scenes info that gives her no reason for concern about what’s in store for her husband?

Whatever the reason for her very optimistic post, Michael Darby isn’t just facing potential problems from Bravo. He has evidently been charged with felony assault and misdemeanor improper sexual conduct, according to court records (via People), and Bravo is standing by its statement regarding Darby’s suspension. The alleged assault happened on September 1 during filming for an episode of Real Housewives of Potomac. Cameraman Orville Palmer claims that Michael Darby grabbed and groped him, then followed with “a flirtatious look.” Orville reportedly told Michael Darby to stop his actions, and then informed his supervisor.

Back in a Season 1 episode of Real Housewives of Potomac, fellow star Gizelle Bryant claimed to Ashley Darby that she’d seen Michael Darby touching another man’s backside. That moment was likely forgotten by most viewers until the allegations were raised in late September. It should be interesting to see how the case against Michael Darby does or does not impact RHOP and his wife’s role on it.

Unlike cases such as those against NCIS: New Orleans producer Brad Kern, AMC’s Chris Hardwick over the summer (which came to nothing), and the Arrow-verse’s Andrew Kreisberg (which cost him his job), the RHOP case is not being handled internally now that Michael Darby has been charged through the court system. Darby’s future on RHOP will be dictated by Bravo and Truly Original, but his fate is otherwise in the hands of the courts. Was his wife’s optimism premature?

NCIS Star Diona Reasonover’s Favorite Things About Being On The Show

NCIS has made some major changes to its lineup over the past few years, and the latest exciting edition is none other than Diona Reasonover as Kasie Hines. Kasie made her first appearance back in Season 15 as Ducky’s new graduate student, and she stepped up for Season 16 following the departure of Abby. Reasonover already shared the touching advice she received from Pauley Perrette before stepping into her forensic science shoes, and she also revealed in a chat with CinemaBlend some of her favorite things about being on NCIS as a regular:

Diona Reasonover is in a unique position as an actor joining a very long-running series well into its run as a fresh character, especially given that her character is taking over for a fan-favorite who had been on board NCIS since way back when it was still a JAG backdoor pilot. Kasie already delivers some of the lightness and comic relief in a series that can get fairly dark at times, and it seems that Reasonover is able to pitch jokes and help develop the character.

And there are other perks! Viewers likely never think too much about the costume designers that help build the world of a particular TV show, but NCIS‘ costume designer has clearly made working on set all the more fun for Diona Reasonover. Not every actor gets the chance to wear leopard print as part of their day job! All things considered, collaboration seems to be a key part of working at NCIS, and that is clearly a good thing.

In our chat, I also learned that the NCIS set is the place to be for craft services, with a wide variety of cookies and even a day all about barbecue. Who wouldn’t want to work on NCIS? Diona Reasonover went on to explain her favorite part of bringing Kasie to life on the small screen, saying this:

As Kasie, Diona Reasonover gets to bring a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to life on the small screen. Given that women and people of color still don’t land STEM roles all that often, Kasie represents something important for the small screen and could even inspire younger viewers to pursue a career in STEM. Pauley Perrette actually revealed back in 2016 that she’s been contacted by people all over the world telling her about her influence as Abby and her enthusiasm for math and science. Kasie has the potential to do something similar in the new era of NCIS.

As an added bonus, Diona Reasonover gets to use some chemistry in her new job! She may not have to take any high school exams any more, but she certainly uses plenty of scientific terms and developments to advance the cases for the agents of NCIS.

You can find Diona Reasonover in action as Kasie Hines when new episodes of NCIS premiere in the fall TV lineup on Tuesdays, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

FIFA 19’s Loot Box Odds Are Worse Than You Think

Electronic Arts created a massive storm of outrage and discussions involving all sorts of legalese regarding gambling, and of course, brand new bans on loot boxes being featured in premium games within Belgium and the Netherlands. Some regions felt that if publishers were going to include the digital equivalent of gambling in their games, then those same publishers should also have licenses if they’re going to include loot boxes in the games. Some other regions dictated that if publishers are going to include loot boxes in premium titles, they would need to include the percentages for the win-rates, and oh boy are some of those numbers fascinating. FIFA 19 was one of the games where the win percentages were unveiled and you probably won’t be too surprised at the results.

Eurogamer did a short article on the percentages of certain cards players would be able to acquire from the FUT packs in FIFA 19. The most startling stat was for a super-rare player card under the category of “Ones to Watch”. These cards represent players with breakout stats, usually recent transfers like Cristiano Ronaldo who moved from Real Madrid to Juvuntus, or Nainggolan, or Goretzka. These “Ones to Watch” cards are ranked higher than the standard gold cards, and there are only 23 exclusive OTW cards available across the FUT packs. So, what are your odds of getting your hands on one of these 23 ultra-rare cards? Less than 1%.

As pointed out by Eurogamer, this means that you could technically have a 0.001% chance of getting your hands on the card, or as high as a 0.9% chance of getting your hands on the card. Either way, it’s less than 1%.

You could technically spend inordinate amounts of cash on the FUT packs (which are the equivalent to loot boxes) and after opening a hundred or so packs, you still may not get your hands on the OTW version of Cristiano Ronaldo. Even more than that, the percentage rate is for the OTW cards in general, not the player in particular. Meaning you have less than a 1% chance of getting your hands on an OTW card, and an even smaller chance of getting your hands on the player you actually want.

This figure isn’t a guesstimate or some sort of analytical representation from a separate firm. The figure comes directly from Electronic Art’s own computational simulation. According to the publisher, the contents of the packs are “dynamically generated” and the probabilities are verified by EA’s own in-house figures. That means, first hand, you know that you have less than a 1% chance of getting an OTW player card for FIFA 19.

The ratings change drastically depending on the stats of the player as well, where those with an 85+ rating have a 4.3% chance of being unlocked, and those with a rating of 82+ have a 41% chance of being opened, while there’s a 100% chance you’ll get a gold 75+ player in a card pack.

In simple terms, you’ll have to spend a lot of money on the card packs to get your hands on FIFA 19’s OTW version of Cristiano Ronaldo.

I don’t know if that’s actually going to change the amount of time and effort players spend on card packs, given that when China made publishers disclose the percentage rates of loot boxes in games like Overwatch, it didn’t slow down or stop players from putting money into the loot box system. Now that loot boxes have become national topics in certain regions, one must wonder if this sort of revelation will have an impact on the way some gambling commissions view loot boxes in general.

Production Company Buys The Rights To Street Fighter: The Movie Game, 64 Other Retro Titles

Retro gaming is all the rage these days, which is exactly why Liquid Media Group has decided to pick up 65 video game properties, including Street Fighter: The Movie, for a deal equaling about a million dollars. While licensing issues will keep them from publishing or creating sequels for some of these games, the fact that they’ve been acquired means that Liquid Media is likely planning to resurrect at least some of these titles in some fashion or another.

Of the 65 games Liquid Media Group has acquired from Throwback Entertainment, the one that immediately caught our eye is Street Fighter: The Movie. This bizarre fighter is best known for how awful it was, as a game based on a similarly terrible movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was also Raul Julia’s final film, which just seems cosmically unfair. Still, if Liquid Media is able to get it back out on the market, we imagine quite a few folks would want to add it to their collection for its weird place in gaming history alone.

The folks over at Geek Wire have the full list of recently-acquired games ready for your perusal, including the likes of All Star Baseball, Bubble Bobble, Bust A Move, NBA Jam, NFL Quarterback Club, NHL Breakaway, Tee-Off and more. Again, licensing will likely provide plenty of red tape for preventing some of these games from making their way onto the market easily, but we’ll just have to wait and see what Liquid Media Group has planned. Based on their announcement, it sounds like they’re more interested in making these old-school games available for a new audience rather than developing sequels or spin-offs.

In a statement explaining the acquisition, LMG Chairman Joshua Jackson explained that his team has been motivated by the resurgence of classic gaming. Nintendo has found much success with its NES and SNES Classic and, just a couple of weeks ago, Sony announced it will be launching a PlayStation Classic this holiday season pre-loaded with 20 games. There’s clearly a market for this brand of gaming, as both Nintendo mini-consoles sold like crazy and PlayStation expects a similar reception. If nothing else, acquisitions like this are exciting because it shows some companies are interested in preserving games history, potentially making older titles available on digital markets rather than letting them fade completely into obscurity.

According to the original report, Throwback Entertainment received 670,000 shares of Liquid Media stock in exchange for rights to the 65 games, which amounts to a transaction worth about a million bucks. Given their inspiration from Sony and Nintendo, it’s possible we could be looking at a collection of some sort, rather than a bunch of older games being made available piece meal.