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Ciara Celebrates ‘Black Excellence’ While Performing With Baby Bump In ‘Rooted’ Music Video

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Weeks after she gave birth to her second child with Russell Wilson, Ciara released ‘Rooted,’ her new song with Ester Dean. It arrived with a powerful music video that paid tribute to Black culture and demanded justice for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

It seems baby Win Wilson won’t be the only major release from Ciara in 2020. Less than a month after Ciara, 34, gave birth to her and Russell Wilson’s second child, the singer decided to let her hair down and give fans what they’ve been craving for over a year: new music! Ciara dropped “Rooted,” a song featuring singing/acting sensation Ester Dean, on Aug. 12, which also arrived with a powerful music video that paid tribute to Black culture.

Ciara
Baby bump in tow, Ciara takes her throne in the music video for “Rooted,” released on Aug. 13, 2020. (Courtesy of YouTube)

Both the music video and lyrics celebrate “Black excellence,” which Ciara proudly sings about in her empowering anthem. “All my songs come with melanin / Got the heart, got the soul like Harriet,” Ciara sings, as the music video shows images of traditional Black hairstyles and clips of Black mothers with their children. But the song is also a rallying cry for Ciara’s fans to “keep marching” in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers who barged into her apartment on a “no-knock” search warrant. Both George and Breonna’s faces are featured in the music video, as Ciara — along with the other guests in her music video — raise their fists in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ciara, Future Zahir Wilburn, Sienna Princess Wilson
Ciara with her children, son Future Zahir Wilburn (whom she shares with ex Future), and daughter Sienna Princess Wilson (whom she shares with husband Russell Wilson). (Courtesy of YouTube)

“Rooted” is Ciara’s first new song since releasing “Melanin” – a track that featured City Girls, Lupita Nyong’o, LaLa Anthony and Ester Dean – in November 2019, the same year she released her seventh studio album, Beauty Marks. “This is ultimately an anthem of self-love, which is a journey I’ve been on since my Beauty Marks album,” she said about “Melanin” in a statement, per Rolling Stone. “It celebrates the beautiful shades of culture that comprise the inner and outer beauty of everyone. Embracing the unique nature of our skin tones threads together the tapestry of humankind.”

Ciara announced the track hours before its release by posting an image of her, still-pregnant with Win, reclining on a Rattan chair. Both her other children – Future Zahir Wilburn, 6, and Sienna Wilson, 3 – were by her side, with Sienna matching her mother’s naturally gorgeous hair. Future Zahir rocked a knit cap and still looked just as cool.

Ciara performs during Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series in Central Park on May 31, 2019 (SplashNews)

While the announcement seemingly came out of nowhere, certain fans weren’t caught off guard. Some of Ciara’s followers suspected something was cooking because right before she gave birth, she posted a trio of social media posts, all with the “#rooted” hashtag. In each shot, Ciara posted a picture of her with a different hairstyle. “Can’t pool the hood our of me… I’m #rooted,” she wrote along with a shot of her with braids. “ATL Bred #Rooted,” she wrote along with a shot of her with more frizzy, curly hair.

“I don’t forget where I came from,” Ciara said during an April Instagram Live session with evangelical leader Judah Smith, per BET, “and so I’ll never take any of my blessings for granted.” During the talk, Ciara opened up about the highs and lows of her music career. “I’ll be honest. In this generation we’re living in, I feel like things are so convenient that it creates a false perception of success, and if you’re so consumed with being successful, you lose who you are in the process,” she said. “That’s one thing I’ve always said. I’m really afraid of losing my soul and losing myself.”

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Netflix is developing a live action ‘Assassin’s Creed’ show

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Netflix announced this morning that it’s partnering with Ubisoft to adapt the game publisher’s “Assassin’s Creed” franchise into a live action series.

The franchise jumps around in history, telling the story of a secret society of assassins with “genetic memory” and their centuries-long battle the knights templar. It has sold 155 million games worldwide and was also turned into a nearly incomprehensible 2016 film starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, which underperformed at the box office.

The companies say that they’re currently looking for a showrunner. Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik of Ubisoft’s film and television division will serve as executive producers. (In addition to working on adaptations of Ubisoft’s intellectual property, the publisher is also involved in the Apple TV+ industry comedy “Mythic Quest.”)

“We’re excited to partner with Ubisoft and bring to life the rich, multilayered storytelling that Assassin’s Creed is beloved for,” said Netflix’s vice president of original series Peter Friedlander in a statement. “From its breathtaking historical worlds and massive global appeal as one of the best selling video game franchises of all time, we are committed to carefully crafting epic and thrilling entertainment based on this distinct IP and provide a deeper dive for fans and our members around the world to enjoy.”

It sounds like there could be follow-up shows as well, with the announcement saying that Netflix and Ubisoft will “tap into the iconic video game’s trove of dynamic stories with global mass appeal for adaptations of live action, animated, and anime series.”

Netflix recently placed an eight-episode order for “Resident Evil,” another video game franchise that was previously adapted for the big screen. And it also had a big hit with its adaptation of “The Witcher,” which is based on a fantasy book series that was popularized via video games.

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Original Content podcast: ‘Lovecraft Country’ is gloriously bonkers

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As we tried to recap the first season of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” one thing became clear: The show is pretty nuts.

The story begins by sending Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smolett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip across mid-’50s America in search of Tic’s missing father. You might assume that the search will occupy the entire season, or take even longer than that; instead, the initial storyline is wrapped up quickly.

And while there’s a story running through the whole season, most of the episodes are relatively self-contained, offering their own versions on various horror and science fiction tropes. There’s a haunted house episode, an Indiana Jones episode, a time travel episode and more.

The show isn’t perfect — the writing can be clunky, the special effects cheesy and cheap-looking. But at its best, it does an impressive job of mixing increasingly outlandish plots, creepy monsters (with plentiful gore) and a healthy dose of politics.

After all, “Lovecraft Country” (adapted form a book by Matt Ruff) is named after notoriously racist horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but it focuses almost entirely on Black characters, making the case that old genres can be reinvigorated with diverse casts and a rethinking of political assumptions.

In addition to reviewing the show, the latest episode of the Original Content podcast also includes a discussion of Netflix earnings, the new season of “The Bachelorette” and the end of Quibi.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:36 Netflix discussion
3:18 “The Bachelorette”
6:30 Quibi
14:35 “Lovecraft Country” review
31:32 “Lovecraft Country” spoiler discussion

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The short, strange life of Quibi

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“All that is left now is to offer a profound apology for disappointing you and, ultimately, for letting you down,” Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman wrote, closing out an open letter posted to Medium. “We cannot thank you enough for being there with us, and for us, every step of the way.”

With that, the founding executives confirmed the rumors and put Quibi to bed, a little more than six months after launching the service.

Starting a business is an impossibly difficult task under nearly any conditions, but even in a world that’s littered with high-profile failures, the streaming service’s swan song was remarkable for both its dramatically brief lifespan and the amount of money the company managed to raise (and spend) during that time.

A month ahead of its commercial launch, Quibi announced that it had raised another $750 million. That second round of funding brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

“We concluded a very successful second raise which will provide Quibi with a strong cash runway,” CFO Ambereen Toubassy told the press at the time. “This round of $750 million gives us tremendous flexibility and the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Quibi’s second funding round brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

From a financial perspective, Quibi had reason to be hopeful. Its fundraising ambitions were matched only by the aggressiveness with which it planned to spend that money. At the beginning of the year, Whitman touted the company’s plans to spend up to $100,000 per minute of programming — $6 million per hour. The executive proudly contrasted the jaw-dropping sum to the estimated $500 to $5,000 an hour spent by YouTube creators.

For Whitman and Katzenberg — best known for their respective reigns at HP and Disney — money was key to success in an already crowded marketplace. $1 billion was a drop in the bucket compared to the $17.3 billion Netflix was expected to spend on original content in 2020, but it was a start.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, who had also recently announced plans to spend $1 billion to launch its own fledgling streaming service, the company was enlisting A-List talent, from Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Ridley Scott to Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and LeBron James. If your name carried any sort of clout in Hollywood boardrooms, Quibi would happily cut you a check, seemingly regardless of content specifics.

Quibi’s strategy primarily defined itself by itself by its constraints. In hopes of attracting younger millennial and Gen Z, the company’s content would be not just mobile-first, but mobile-only. There would be no smart TV app, no Chromecast or AirPlay compatibility. Pricing, while low compared to the competition, was similarly off-putting. After a 90-day free trial, $4.99 got you an ad-supported subscription. And boy howdy, were there ads. Ads upon ads. Ads all the way down. Paying another $3 a month would make them go away.

Technological constraints and Terms of Service fine print forbade screen shots — a fundamental understanding of how content goes viral in 2020 (though, to be fair, one shared with other competing streaming services). Amusingly, the inability to share content led to videos like this one of director Sam Raimi’s perplexingly earnest “The Golden Arm.”

It features a built-on laugh track from viewers as Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan lies in a hospital bed after refusing to remove a golden prosthetic. It’s an allegory, surely, but not one intentionally played for laughs. Many of the videos that did ultimately make the rounds on social media were regarded as a curiosity — strange artifacts from a nascent streaming service that made little sense on paper.

Most notable of all, however, were the “quick bites” that gave the service its confusingly pronounced name. Each program would be served in 5-10 minute chunks. The list included films acquired by the service, sliced up into “chapters.” Notably, the service didn’t actually purchase the content outright; instead, rights were set to revert to their creators after seven years. Meanwhile, after two years, content partners were able to “reassemble” the chunks back into a movie for distribution.

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