Why You Should Watch Hulu’s “Harlots”

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Hulu has really stepped up its game recently with its new Hulu Original shows. The latest Hulu Original to debut to critical acclaim was “Harlots,” an 8-episode British period drama TV series that premiered on Hulu at the end of March 2017. The show has been described as “Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones,” so you can immediately get a sense of why viewers have been so enthusiastic about the show. Here are all the reasons why you should watch Hulu’s “Harlots.”

#1: “Harlots” delivers powerful female performances with a uniquely female point of view

One reason why this Hulu show has gathered so much acclaim is because it’s a show written by women, with female performers in the starring role. Unlike other shows, which might have used scenes of lust and sexual desire to drive forward a very male-influenced narrative, “Harlots” is very much a character-driven show with a very steady narrative plotline that’s informed by a female perspective on London’s famous 18th century courtesans.

The role that everyone is talking about belongs to Samantha Morton, who plays brothel madam Margaret Wells in late 18th century London. It’s a little more complicated than just that, however, since Margaret Wells is also the mother of two young girls, Charlotte Wells (played by Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lucy Wells (played by Eloise Smyth), who themselves are being forced into a life of prostitution.

Layered on top of that, we find out very early on in “Harlots” that Margaret Wells herself was thrust into a life of prostitution at a very young age by her alcoholic mother, who essentially sold her for a pair of new shoes. She’s now struggling to meet ends meet, and one of the early episodes of the show ends with her grappling with the decision of how to auction off her youngest daughter’s virginity to the highest bidder.

Things are not going to be easy, and that’s why it’s so important that we get a female, rather than male, perspective on these matters. What “Harlots” has in its favor is the “female gaze” (rather than the oft-described “male gaze”) – the show has female creators (Alison Newman and Moira Buffini), female directors, and female producers. The show itself was inspired by another female, Hallie Rubenhold, who created “The Covent Garden Ladies.”

#2: “Harlots” offers plenty of intrigue, plotting and ruthlessness

The dramatic tension at the heart of “Harlots” concerns the struggle of Margaret Wells to carve out a better life for her daughters. Part of that involves a move across town to a more upscale London neighborhood, where her clients can become notable members of the British upper class. That move, however, immediately pits her against her former boss, the madam Lydia Quigley (played by Leslie Manville).

That’s not going to be easy, though, since nobody enjoys having new competitors encroach on their turf, least of all when it concerns the ability to make a considerable amount of money from prostitution. That struggle between the two madams – Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley – constitutes another strong narrative plotline. And the dynamic performances from both of them are quite outstanding.

In many ways, the battle between the two rival brothels is as ruthless as a battle between two rival mafia clans. The tactics may be different, but the effect is the same. In one episode, there’s an attempt to use religious reformers as a way to shut down the upstart brothel and keep it from branching out into a more profitable neighborhood.

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#3: “Harlots” is not your standard 18th century period drama

If you were expected a slightly more lurid version of Jane Austen with “Harlots,” think again. Whereas many of Jane Austen’s works deal with the polite society of British lords and the unique dilemmas facing the members of the landed gentry, “Harlots” is firmly rooted in the gritty reality of a very debauched London.

As many viewers have pointed out, this realism is really what makes the show stand out. Yes, there is much of the stuffy decorum that we associate with that period, but we also get a glimpse of the poorest layers of society and the desperate measures they must take simply to stay alive. Being forced to sell your youngest daughter into prostitution is not exactly something that you’d encounter with Jane Austen, let alone Charles Dickens. (And, speaking of Dickens, one of the English estates used to film “Harlots” was also used to film BBC’s production of Dickens’ “Great Expectations”)

Thus, if you were expecting plenty of salacious bedroom scenes – or at least, the kinds of nudity we’ve come to expect from “Game of Thrones” – you might need to temper your expectations a bit. You’re just as likely to see depraved scenes of sex in a London alleyway as you are highly edited scenes of courtesans romping around in a stately English manor.

#4: “Harlots” offers insights into socio-economic problems still with us today

As “Harlots” makes clear from the outset, 18th century London was a place where as many as one-fifth of all women made a living by selling sex. There were only two real paths of economic opportunity – become a courtesan or marry well. One of the most popular reads of the era was called Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, which was essentially a ratings guide of the city’s best courtesans and how to find them. So you can get a sense of the debauchery of the era.

But how far off are those socio-economic troubles from those we see in Western society today? Go to any large metropolitan area in the United States, and we see the same stark division of society into the “haves” and the “have nots.” For some ethnic and racial groups, there is also a very limited number of paths to economic opportunity, such as playing sports or selling drugs. Any other path is really a dead-end.

As we see in “Harlots,” prostitution is not glamorous, and the sex is not “sexy.” 18th century London was a nasty, brutish place, and so you can almost excuse the machinations and intrigue of the two brothel madams at the heart of the story. This is a powerful TV show, and one that has earned all of its critical acclaim. You really should be watching Hulu’s “Harlots.”

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How AT&T Is Handling the Net Neutrality Debate

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On July 12, AT&T reaffirmed its support for net neutrality and the open internet. The move, timed to coincide with the internet “Day of Action” protests taking place around the nation, were intended to show Internet users that AT&T is firmly behind the development of a free, open internet.

Consider just some of the steps that AT&T took on July 12 – it displayed web banners articulating its support for an open internet. It sent messages to DirecTV users with the same message. And it gave internet users a very clear call-to-action: send a message to Congress to create lasting rules to make an open internet possible. And, to top it all off, AT&T linked to an “Open Internet” site on the company’s main website.

Why AT&T supports the open internet

There has been a common misconception in recent years that AT&T and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not in support of an open internet. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The open internet, as AT&T sees it, stands for several key principles, all of which are at the heart of the net neutrality debate:

  • Transparency in rules and pricing for customers
  • No blocking of Internet traffic
  • No censorship of Internet traffic
  • No discriminatory throttling of Internet traffic

All of these are principles that are also espoused by supporters of the open internet. That’s because they are all based around fundamental beliefs that most (if not all) American citizens have. These citizens don’t want companies trying to censor content, and they don’t want companies throttling or otherwise slowing down content that they don’t approve of or don’t support.

If you look at how the modern Internet has evolved, it’s clear that the key to innovation and competition is ensuring that traffic flows freely. Yet, the way that the internet is regulated is largely at odds with this vision of a free and open internet.

AT&T supports a new regulatory approach that favors innovation

The reason why AT&T has been so supportive of customers reaching out to their congressmen and congresswomen about the open internet is because the way the internet is regulated now is largely an anachronism. Congress has been looking for the right way to regulate companies like AT&T, and can’t find the right piece of legislation that will favor innovation and competition.

During the early 2000s, Congress settled on classifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 as an “information service.” But then in the mid-2000s, the push was made to re-regulate ISPs under Title II of that same act, in which they would now be classified as “common carriers.”

You might think that switching from Title I to Title II wouldn’t be a big deal – but you’d be wrong. That’s because Title II was designed to regulate the original phone companies in America. As phone companies began to form and expand in America, there had to be some way to ensure that all communities could receive the same quality of phone service at an affordable price. It wouldn’t be fair, would it, if New Yorkers could make phone calls to each other at a certain level of quality, while those living in rural areas in America couldn’t?

And, in the minds of many people in Congress, the growth of the Internet resembles the growth of the phone companies. They envision wires and cables that the Internet Service Providers use to connect Internet service to your home, and that immediately reminds them of the wires and cables that the phone companies used to connect homes to phone networks. So they are adopting the same regulatory framework.

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What’s the best way to regulate companies like AT&T?

But is the Internet the same thing as your phone network? That’s hardly the case – think of all the things that you use the internet for – yes, you use it for communication purposes, but you also use it for other things, like entertainment or news or information. You can’t define what the Internet is because the uses for it keep changing. Who could have imagined streaming movies and TV shows over the internet even 20 years ago?

That’s why regulating AT&T under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 seems so ridiculous. And so, on the “Day of Action” for the open internet on July 12, AT&T let that fact be known. One message that AT&T sent out to consumers simply read, “Make sure the internet isn’t subject to heavy-handed laws created for the rotary phone.”

So what are the other alternatives? Well, one suggestion that some have mentioned is Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which is much more up-to-date than the 1934 Communications Act, by more nearly 60 years. But it still dates back to 1996, during the early period of the Internet. Back then, Netflix hadn’t been invented yet. Facebook didn’t exist. There was no iPhone or iPad. So even that 1996 act might not be all that useful or effective.

There is one big advantage of the 1996 act over the 1934 act – and that’s the diminishment of the regulatory burden on companies like AT&T. Just one section of the 1934 act – Title II – runs to over 100 pages of rules and guidelines and regulations. That’s a lot! But compare that to Section 706 of the 1996 act – that’s only 2 paragraphs long!

And Section 706 specifically mentions the need to “promote competition” and “remove barriers to infrastructure.” Both of those are vital to today’s consumers. It means that they will have a choice of services in a very robust, very competitive marketplace. And it also means that companies like AT&T will have a much easier time deploying new, faster and more efficient broadband infrastructure. Everyone wins in this scenario.

So if any new legislation gets passed by Congress, it will almost certainly contain these two clauses – more competition and faster deployment. When AT&T talks about reducing the regulatory burden, it’s talking about moving from 100 pages of regulations to 2 paragraphs of regulations!

Title II is not the same thing as the open internet

The problem right now is that some people are trying to confuse the issue of Title II and the open internet. They see AT&T fighting against an old, obsolete and burdensome regulatory framework, and they assume that AT&T is fighting against an open internet.

But nothing could be further from the truth – AT&T has repeatedly laid out its support for all the most important principles of an open internet. And it has gone one step further by suggesting that the open internet be protected by a full and permanent law. Once net neutrality and the open internet are enshrined in law, it will be a lot harder for anyone to change it later. That’s going to benefit both AT&T and internet users, and is going to be one of those rare examples of a “win-win” in business.

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The fate of an open internet in a Trump administration

So why are we having this debate over the open internet now? The easiest answer is that the new Trump administration, which officially came into office in January 2017, has been signaling its support for changes to net neutrality.

If any changes are going to happen, they will start with the FCC, which now regulates the Internet. The current chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is very much in favor of removing regulations and making it easier for companies like AT&T to invest in modern 5G infrastructure as well as create new innovative services for customers. From the perspective of the FCC, too much regulation is a bad thing for business, so it’s important to get rid of any unnecessary regulations.

That means that a decision about Title II could be coming soon. The FCC is very much in agreement with companies like AT&T that Title II doesn’t make sense. The FCC keeps asking the question: Why is Congress trying to regulate a modern technology company like AT&T the same way it regulates a phone monopoly? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Just keep in mind — if any change is forthcoming, it will meet a lot of resistance from people who are afraid that net neutrality is coming to an end. They will fear that the FCC is trying to end an open internet.

But, as we’ve seen above, that’s confusing the facts. All the FCC is trying to do is remove the burden from AT&T that’s keeping it from doing some really spectacular things with the Internet.

And AT&T is just trying to ensure that what it refers to as the “FCC merry-go-round” (the changes in FCC rules with every new administration) finally comes to a stop. AT&T doesn’t want to have to worry about the open internet with every new U.S. president – it wants the fundamental basis for an open internet to be set down in law so that it can move on to bigger things, like building a really cutting-edge broadband network for its customers.

Would AT&T support a compromise solution?

There is one other possible scenario in the net neutrality debate, and that’s moving regulation of the internet from the FCC to the FTC. That would be a recognition of the fact that ISPs should be regulated like all other commercial companies. That might be a way out of the impasse.

As companies like AT&T become even bigger, and as they get involved with even more kinds of services for customers, it’s clear that they can’t be treated as just “information services” or as just “communications companies.” It’s clear that a big company like AT&T, which recently acquired DIRECTV, is blurring the line between entertainment, communications and information. That should open up more opportunities for the further growth of the internet.

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Jodie Whittaker is the New Doctor Who!

In mid-July, the BBC announced the identity of the new Dr. Who, driving fans wild with anticipation about what’s going to happen with the beloved British science fiction series in 2018. That’s because, for the first time in the more than 50-year history of the show, the BBC selected a woman (Jodie Whittaker) to play the role of Dr. Who. Here’s a list of what else to expect next season from “Doctor Who”…

Jodie Whittaker will help to reinvent “Doctor Who” as the first-ever female Time Lord

It’s now official: Peter Capaldi will leave his role as Dr. Who at the end of the year. According to tradition, the last show of the year is always on Christmas, so on December 25, “Doctor Who” will officially transition over to a new era. According to what we know so far, that episode will feature a regeneration scene, in which Peter Capaldi will disappear from the show and be replaced by the actress Jodie Whittaker.

As you might imagine, the selection of a female lead to play the new Dr. Who has resulted in a tsunami of fan opinion online. Most of the critical reception has been positive. However, some fans of the long-time series are at least apprehensive about what it means to have a female Time Lord at the helm.

The good news is that Jodie Whittaker (best known for her roles in “Broadchurch” and “Black Mirror”) is well aware of what fans are thinking and saying online, and she’s doing her best to calm any fears. In a public statement, Jodie noted, “Fans have been through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.” In other words, if you’ve been a long-time fan of this beloved British sci-fi series, there’s no need to worry.

And, certainly, amongst directors and TV talent, there’s been an outpouring of support for Jodie Whittaker. Charlie Brooker, creator of the hugely popular “Black Mirror” series, simply tweeted out, “Great choice.” And fans have been sharing their opinions online using new hashtags like #Doctor13 making it very easy to see what everyone’s saying. (This will be the 13th Dr. Who, hence the #Doctor13 hashtag)

The nearly 50-year-old show will become bolder than ever before

The selection of Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who is not the only major change coming to the show in 2018. There’s also going to be a new lead executive producer, Chris Chibnall, who will take over for Steven Moffat as the showrunner next year. In an interview, Moffat has voiced his full support for Chibnall and his evolving vision for the show, so anticipation is building.

Moffat says to expect “beautiful dialogue” and an “amazing” show that takes “Doctor Who” in a new direction. Within the BBC, there has been concern that the show was starting to lose its freshness and inventiveness. Top BBC executives have pointed to falling merchandising revenue and the need to inject a new jolt of enthusiasm into this show. Some have described the need for a “total refresh” heading into 2018.

So, from what we can glean from newspaper reports, the BBC is looking for “risk and boldness” next year. They aren’t afraid about bringing in a new executive producer and letting him determine the new look of the show. The choice of Whittaker could just be the beginning of the changes coming. According to rumors, Chibnall has been given a five-year contract to develop the show in a new direction. Chibnall himself is a huge “Doctor Who” fan, so it’s almost a certainty that he will preserve all the best features of the show, while introducing new, fresh perspectives based on his earlier work with the sci-fi series “Torchwood.”

“Doctor Who” is going to reflect the broader change in the cultural zeitgeist

Right now, it’s clear that shows are being developed, created and re-imagined with women in mind. The spectacular summer success of “Wonder Woman,” the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), has set into motion a number of new initiatives. At one time, the idea of a female-led project or a project starring a female hero meant that it wasn’t possible to get as big an audience as possible. That myth has now been debunked.

And it’s not just “Wonder Woman.” Some “Doctor Who” fans have pointed to the success of “The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, as further proof that sci-fi films featuring strong female leads can be hugely popular.

The real question, then, is what a new female lead will mean for the plot direction of the show in 2018. Once Peter Capaldi regenerates into Jodie Whittaker, what can we expect to happen? The same battle of good vs. evil may not change, but the tools and approaches might.

The next season of “Doctor Who” is going to appeal to a younger audience

Right now, we don’t have any advance trailers for the new season. No scenes have yet been released because shooting has not yet started. From what we know now, filming on the series will only begin in January 2018, with the new series debuting in autumn 2018. Right now, the next season is expected to be 12 episodes, plus the traditional Christmas special, for a total of 13 episodes.

That means we have more than a year for the “Doctor Who” rumor mill to start. We’ll get a big clue in the Christmas 2017 special, when Jodie Whittaker will get her big debut. Unless you’re a fan of “Broadchurch,” you might not know much about her. She’s a 34-year-old actress from Yorkshire who’s starred in a detective serial. Clearly, the choice of such a young actress is part of a broader strategy to bring in a more youthful audience.

According to BBC, that’s all part of a bold new plan to boost the popularity of the show amongst young kids. That might mean more plot lines that involve topics that are front and center with kids today. Just as time travel fascinated audiences from 40 and 50 years ago, today’s youth are fascinated by topics like artificial intelligence and robots. So what might that mean for the TARDIS?

There are a lot of science fiction programming options out there, and certainly far more than existed more than 50 years ago, when “Doctor Who” first became a sensation. What’s really interesting to note that Charlie Brooker of “Black Mirror” is really supportive of the new show, and he’s generally considered one of the most original and creative thinkers out there.

Other women may play a big role in next season’s “Doctor Who”

If you assume that the new “Doctor Who” will have more of a female point of view and perspective, then it’s only natural to take a closer look at the evolving role of Michelle Gomez. She was one of the first major “Doctor Who” characters to be reinvented as a female character. It was already proven in previous seasons that Time Lords could regenerate as different races and genders. And that’s what made it possible for Michelle Gomez to take on the role of “The Master,” a villain played traditionally by a man.

To reflect the new role of Gomez, the current version of “Doctor Who” recharacterized the villain as “The Mistress.” That move was pulled off without any complications, so maybe fans are just thinking too much about Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who. It will be new to have a female Time Lord, yes, but it’s been very seamless so far to transition some traditionally male roles into female roles.

Chris Chibnall is going to bring a new artistic vision to “Doctor Who”

Chris Chibnall is hardly a newbie to the world of “Doctor Who.” Even though he’s coming over from “Broadchurch,” he has described himself as a lifelong “Doctor Who” fan. So perhaps it’s worth looking over his recent work for clues on how he will produce the next iteration of “Doctor Who.” His work with the sci-fi series “Torchwood” is especially relevant.

Judging from fan reaction online, there’s been a lot of love for Chibnall. Even diehard fans of “Doctor Who” realize that the show was in need of a refresh. Any show – even a classic – can always be improved with some fresh thinking. And Chibnall has shown everyone that he’s really a first-rate showrunner. As Moffat himself has pointed out, Chibnall is coming in a very real advantage because he already has a background as an executive director, so he won’t have to figure things out on the fly. He’s been given a clean slate to deliver a wonderful new “Doctor Who,” and it looks like he’s fully up to the task.

It’s clear that the BBC had so many different directions it could go with the next season of “Doctor Who.” Just check out all the bold-faced names who had been considered for the role of the 13th Doctor: Tilda Swinton, Kris Marshall, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (from the BBC comedy “Fleabag”), and Michaela Coel (from the drama “Chewing Gum’).

Perhaps the best advice about what to expect next season comes from Jodie Whittaker herself, who has commented on her commitment to making this the best “Doctor Who” yet. It looks like she is very focused on building strong fan rapport. She’s been reunited with Chris Chibnall (both from “Broadchurch”), so it’s clear that the two have very good chemistry together. If you’re a “Doctor Who” fan, it’s time to get very excited about what to expect in 2018. This could be the best season yet.

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When Will the “Planet of the Apes” Franchise End?

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With each new “Planet of the Apes” movie, we’re getting closer and closer to the end of an epic journey that started nearly 50 years ago with the original 1968 “Planet of the Apes” movie starring Charlton Heston. And, yet, judging by the massive critical acclaim surrounding this new film (a 93% freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes) – the third in the much-hyped “Planet of the Apes” reboot – we might have at least one more film to go before the end of this popular franchise.

#1: This is the best “Planet of the Apes” yet

Once again director Matt Reeves has delivered a masterpiece, picking up on the action as we left it at the end of the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and focusing once more on the sentient ape Caesar (as played by Andy Serkis) as he faces off against the megalomaniac military veteran known as The Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson).

Everything about this “Planet of the Apes” is better – the music, the cinematic sweep and especially the motion-capture technology. Everything about these apes appears to be so realistic – you can literally feel and see the wet fur of our simian rivals. And the eyes, too, are just so remarkable. At one point, a character looks into the eyes of one of the apes and is blown away by how “human” they look.

But that’s not all – director Matt Reeves has a deft hand for the pacing and narrative arc of this blockbuster. The first two-thirds of the film set up an epic climax at the end, in which the rogue military colonel must do battle with Caesar to determine the future of the world.

#2: You’ll actually be rooting for the apes in “War For the Planet of the Apes”

Surprisingly, the underlying narrative of “War For the Planet of the Apes” is not one of war, but of humanity and morality. Throughout the film, we are asked to explore what makes us human and distinct from the apes. Is it our morality? Because at times, the apes appear to act better than the “monkey killers.” Is it our compassion and ability to forgive? Because Caesar comes a lot closer to this than Woody Harrelson. Is it our humor? Well, there are plenty of apes – including the new “Bad Ape” – who bring a new kind of feeling and emotion that is nearly humanlike.

It all adds up to the fact that you might be rooting for the apes and not the humans by the end of this film. It is the apes – including both Caesar and Maurice, the kindly orangutan – that are embarked on an epic quest for revenge, but as we find out, it is the apes who actually hold the upper hand. Apes fight only when their survival has been challenged, unlike humans, who have a variety of reasons to embark on warlike behavior.

#3: The cinematic value of “War For the Planet of the Apes” is unsurpassed

It’s a no-brainer that this “Planet of the Apes” is going to do very well around Oscars season, at least in the technical categories. Fans and critics can’t stop talking about the photorealistic motion capture, and how life-like the apes look. Andy Serkis, in his role as Caesar, is just phenomenal.

Combine that with the cinematic sweep of the movie and this is a clear winner. The crisp, dark images and gloomy colors on screen lend a brooding mood and atmosphere, as well as a sense of tension. The musical score, too, is ominous and dramatic, but not to the point where it overshadows the action taking place on the screen.

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#4: “War For the Planet of the Apes” is not your typical summer blockbuster

Judging from the title alone, you’d expect “War For the Planet of the Apes” to be filled with battle scenes and epic explosions. Yet, as hard as it may be to believe, there were probably more explosions and battle scenes in the earlier “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” And what war-like action takes place here does so in the final third of the movie, as it builds to a dramatic climax.

And the look and feel of this movie pays homage to so many other genres because it is so richly textured. For example, part of the movie plays out like a 1950’s Western movie, with a band of adventurers traveling through the Colorado Rockies. Another part of the movie will be reminiscent of WWII prisoner of war (POW) movies. The character of Woody Harrelson as the rogue military leader will remind you of Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now.” And still other scenes will evoke classic military films like “Full Metal Jacket.” There’s a lot more here than just chimps and guns.

#5: “War For the Planet of the Apes” provides tantalizing clues about what comes next

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 50 years since the original “Planet of the Apes” movie with Charlton Heston. That movie really forced us to consider so many future scenarios, including one in which simians take over a planet that humans have somehow lost control over. How did we go from our present reality to that dim future where apes rule the planet?

This film is billed as the end of Caesar’s journey, but it does not mean that it is the end of this film franchise. There’s a clue nestled inside this movie, and it comes in the form of a young girl named Nova (planned by Amiah Miller), who may be the secret to the future of humanity. In the film, she is aided by the apes and not the humans, and that opens up all kinds of other ambiguities.

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War For the Planet of Apes” may be the last official film in the trilogy involving Caesar, but the franchise as a whole has a lot of staying power. There may still be a few more gaps to fill in before you want the “Planet of the Apes” franchise to stop.

By the end of this very thought-provoking film, you’ll be saying things like “Apes together strong” and wondering what difference – if any – exists between “good apes” and “bad humans.” That might be the real magic of this film, beyond all the truly transcendent CGI and motion capture work – forcing movie audiences to re-think what makes us truly human after all these years of evolution.

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What to Expect From This Season of “Big Brother”

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If it’s summertime, it must be time for another season of “Big Brother!” And this 19th season of “Big Brother” on CBS is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ones yet. Here’s what to expect from this season of “Big Brother.”

Surprise guests

First of, we had the totally unexpected return of Season 18’s runner-up, Paul Abrahamian. We thought that we were going to start the season with 16 players in the BB house, but we got 17! Abrahamian is not only a veteran of all the “Big Brother” alliances and in-fighting of the previous season, he’s also one of the most talked about characters, capable of swinging alliances and really stirring up the pot. Bringing him back was epic.

Surprising eliminations on “Big Brother”

On the opening night premiere of this season’s “Big Brother” we learned that one of the houseguests was going to be evicted less than 24 hours after arriving in the BB house. Like, thanks for playing. And the Night 1 exit turned out be Cameron Heard, the cute young microbiologist who totally couldn’t believe that he was leaving before he’d even had a chance to establish himself in the house.

The ebb and flow of rival alliances on “Big Brother”

Right now, the house is split into two groups of people – the insiders and the outsiders. The person who seems to have the most power right now is Cody Nickson, who was named Head of Household, and had the early power to break any ties in votes for eviction.

And here’s the thing… the first eviction is coming up on July 6 and it’s likely going to require Cody voting to break the tie. From what we know, it looks like the vote is either going to go down 7-5 to evict Jillian Parker (the blonde timeshare sales rep). But not everybody seems willing to vote for who they said they are going to vote for, and that means the final tally could be 6-6. If that happens, then Cody would almost certainly decide to evict Christmas Abbott, who is such a threat to everyone in the BB house.

What makes this event so dramatic are two big reasons. The first reason is that it will be a LIVE eviction ceremony presided over by show host Julie Chen. There have already been all kinds of blog stories written about this, predicting some really amazing outcomes. And the second reason is that it will test “the alliance” to see how strong it really is. It’s almost a certainty that, if Christmas is not voted out of the house, that the first alliance is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Who can you really trust on “Big Brother”?

It looks like Paul Abrahamian is going to play a huge role here. In the first week of the show, he has been working behind the scenes to turn people against Cody and Jessica. If the alliance seems to be fraying at the edges as a result of the first live eviction ceremony, then it could result in a massive change of circumstances for Cody – the person who seemed to be running things with the potential for picking off people at will could find himself getting evicted if he’s not careful! Paul is now safe for 3 weeks, and has totally turned the tables on Cody.

Totally unexplainable events

Put enough strangers into a small enough house, and strange things are going to happen. For example, one strange event that happened within the first two weeks was the surprise exit of Megan Lowder due to an “urgent personal matter.” There have been a number of different reasons offered online about what really happened, but the best explanation offered so far is that Megan had some kind of PTSD-triggered emotional breakdown.

On her bio page, Megan describes herself as a 28-year-old dog walker. But she apparently also worked as some kind of guard in Middle East prisons, so she’s probably seen a lot. You would too, if you worked in Iraq, right? So the buzz among “Big Brother” fans is that Megan “self-evicted” – she couldn’t take the fact that people seemed to be colluding against her, and that triggered some kind of PTSD-based event.

Romances on “Big Brother”

The 19th season is not even two weeks old, and we’re already starting to see the rise of “showmances” – or the short-term relationship between a hot girl and a hot guy as a way of protecting each other. (And it doesn’t hurt things, either, that “temptations” are a big part of this season!)

The first big “showmance,” of course, involves Cody Nickson and Jessica Graf. Cody walks around way too often with his shirt off, and Jessica is a real hot cutie herself, so maybe they really do have feelings for each other. But it’s far more likely that they are only using each other to advance far enough in the show so that they can win.

We’ve already seen why that might be a dangerous idea. Cody Nickson was one of the people pushing the idea for a grand alliance to take down all the “outsiders,” But within two weeks, he was already scheming to play a dirty trick on the alliance and take out some of his strongest rivals. First, he picked Paul for eviction, and then he picked Christmas. So if you were Jessica, would you really trust Cody?

Epic challenges

And, of course, no season of “Big Brother” would be complete without a set of epic challenges. In the premiere episode of the season, this challenge involved a really hardcore fitness challenge, as well as temptations from “snakes” with “poisonous apples” in some kind of demented Garden of Even.

Most of the houseguests seems to be in great physical shape, so it’s likely that future challenges will require more than just being a fitness superstar (Hahaha — just ask Christmas, who calls herself a “fitness badass”). It will take someone who’s smart, clever and able to wrap people around his or her finger.

And it’s likely that people who seem to be doing the best early in the “Big Brother” series are going to find the tables turned on them. After all, if you appear too strong, you’re likely to be targeted by the others. And don’t forget for a minute that Paul Abrahamian is now back in the house. His presence alone almost guarantees that Season 19 is going to be a thrill-a-minute epic fun ride to see who can be the last guy or girl left standing!

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