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Review: Don’t call it a comeback—The Boys returns better than ever in S2

Superheroes abuse their powers rather than using them for good in The Boys, which just concluded its..

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN8fFM1ZdWo?start=0&wmode=transparent&w=980&h=550]
Superheroes abuse their powers rather than using them for good in The Boys, which just concluded its second season.

In my review of The Boys S1 last year, I called the Amazon Prime series "a wickedly funny, darkly irreverent adaptation" and "ideal late-summer therapy for anyone who has grown a bit weary of the constant onslaught of superhero movies." I wasn't alone in my love for the show: The Boys was a massive hit, and that success has continued with S2, which was the most-watched global launch of any Amazon series to date, pretty much doubling the show's worldwide audience. S2 is even better than its predecessor, deftly tackling timely themes and hot-button issues, while never sacrificing all the biting satire and good, gory fun that we loved about S1. And can we just give Antony Starr an Emmy already for his stunning performance as Homelander?

(Spoilers for S1 below; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals.)

The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, headed up by Homelander (Starr), a truly violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero, who mostly bullies his supe team into compliance. The other members include A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who boasts super-speed but has also become addicted to the experimental performance-enhancing substance called Compound-V. The Deep (Chace Crawford) can breathe underwater, thanks to having gills—voiced in S2 by Patton Oswalt during a hallucination sequence—and converse with marine creatures.

Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell) is a silent Ninja-like superhero with enhanced strength and agility who never speaks, while Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) is Homelander's former girlfriend who suffers from burnout and a bit of guilt-ridden PTSD from all the horrors she's witnessed on the job—many of them, it must be said, inflicted by her own team, especially Homelander. Finally, there is relative newcomer Starlight (Erin Moriarty), who quickly becomes disillusioned with the Seven even though joining them had been a lifelong dream.

Homelander's counterpart as the head of the titular "boys" is Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a self-appointed vigilante intent on checking the bad behavior of the Seven, especially Homelander, who brutally raped Butcher's late wife. Butcher recruits an equally traumatized young man named Hugh "Hughie" Campbell (Jack Quaid, son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) to help in his revenge, after a juiced-up A-Train literally runs through Hughie's girlfriend, killing her instantly. Rounding out the crew are Marvin, aka Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and Kimiko, aka The Female (Karen Fukuhara). She has enhanced strength and healing abilities thanks to being (forcibly) injected with Compound-V.

Bloodied but unbowed

  • Butcher (Karl Urban) is probably the most wanted man in the world right now. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • In the S1 finale, Butcher discovered that his wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten) was alive and raising her son by Homelander. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Homelander (Antony Starr) shows he kinda sucks at fatherhood. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Giancarlo Esposito plays Vought International CEO Stan Edgar YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Butcher finds his way back to his Boys YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Meet the Boys: Laz Alonso as Marvin T. "Mother's" Milk (MM), a former Marine who oversees the group's operations. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Meet the Boys: Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) and Frenchie (Tomer Capon), a munitions and communications expert. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Still one of the Boys: Kimiko, aka the Female (Karen Fukuhara), who developed enhanced strength and regenerative healing powers after being injected with Compound V. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Homelander can still play the superhero patriot to an adoring crowd. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Give Homelander the finger, get zapped by his laser eyes. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Starlight (Erin Moriarty) is technically a member of the Seven, but secretly in league with Hughie. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) has superspeed but has become addicted to Compound V. Amazon Prime
  • Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) shows her sass. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Ousted from the Seven, The Deep (Chace Crawford) enters therapy. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Homelander is really not happy about having a new member of the Seven join without his input. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Meet Stormfront (Aya Cash), who has plasma-based abilities. Amazon Prime
  • The girls of the Seven get it done. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • The Boys in the crosshairs. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Butcher came prepared. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • The Deep tries to get back into the Seven's good graces. YouTube/Amazon Prime

In S1, Butcher & Company tracked the source of the compound back to Vought International, the parent corporation behind the Seven, which had been using it to create more superheroes. But someone else had gotten their hands on Compound-V and was using it to create super-powered terrorists, in order to manipulate the US government into welcoming the Seven as a super-extension of the military.

The various subplots included budding romances between Hughie/Starlight, and Frenchie/Kimiko; Deep getting kicked out of the Seven for sexual harassment and being assigned to a small Midwestern town instead; the revelation that Queen Maeve is bisexual and had a secret girlfriend; and A-Train's continued abuse of Compound V caused him to have a heart attack, sidelining him from the Seven. Oh, and the Seven are down a member after the Boys took out Translucent (Alex Hassell), a perverted voyeur who could turn himself invisible by changing his skin into a carbon meta-material that warped light around him.

The S1 finale ended with a major cliffhanger: Butcher, intent on blowing himself up and taking Homelander with him, changes his mind when the psychotic superhero tells him he has discovered that Butcher's ex-wife, Becca, is still alive—and raising her son, the result of her rape by Homelander. That's pretty much where S2 picks up. Per the official premise:

Butcher, Hughie and the team reel from their losses in Season 1. On the run from the law, they struggle to fight back against the superheroes, as Vought, the company that manages the heroes, cashes in on the panic over the threat of supervillains. And a new hero, Stormfront (Aya Cash), shakes up the company and challenges an already unstable Homelander.

The fugitive Boys are holed up underground, soon rejoined by the missing Butcher, with the goal of capturing a supe terrorist who has been going around blowing up people's heads with his/her telekinetic abilities. Starlight is a secret ally, thanks to her relationship with Hughie, but Butcher doesn't trust any supe, and is frankly more interested in finding Becca. Tracking down the terrorist is simply a means to that end. And Hughie is angry and disillusioned with Butcher for dragging him into the fray and then abandoning the group for weeks on end.

Things aren't exactly peaceful with the Seven either. Homelander's dominance of Vought is challenged when CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) brings on a new member—the aforementioned Stormfront, who quickly wins over the public with her sassy charm, just as Homelander's approval ratings are sinking. Still in exile, the Deep joins the Church of the Collective in hopes of boosting his self esteem and regaining his spot with the Seven. A-Train faces competition from Shockwave (Mishka Thébaud), another superpowered speedster who might replace him on the Seven. A vindictive Homelander cruelly outs Queen Maeve, and the resulting Vought PR campaign selling her as an LBGQT role model ("Brave Maeve") further stresses her relationship with girlfriend Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude).

It's Homelander's world, we're just living in it

  • A useful ally meets a mysteriously messy end. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Stormfront's true colors start to emerge. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • She's still lauded by an adoring public, thanks to Vought's expert spin machine. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Kimiko ponders her revenge. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Homelander is just a wee bit jealous of all the media attention Stormfront is getting. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Psycho-Superhero foreplay. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Ain't supe-love grand? YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • We finally meet Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore), a pyrokinetic former member of the Seven with ties to Frenchie's past. YouTube/Amazon Prime
  • Read More – Source

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Google suspends ‘free speech’ app Parler

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Google has suspended “free speech” social network Parler from its Play Store over its failure to remove “egregious content”.

Parler styles itself as “unbiased” social media and has proved popular with people banned from Twitter.

But Google said the app had failed to remove posts inciting violence.

Apple has also warned Parler it will remove the app from its App Store if it does not comply with its content-moderation requirements.

On Parler, the app’s chief executive John Matze said: “We won’t cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!”

Launched in 2018, Parler has proved particularly popular among supporters of US President Donald Trump and right-wing conservatives. Such groups have frequently accused Twitter and Facebook of unfairly censoring their views.

While Mr Trump himself is not a user, the platform already features several high-profile contributors following earlier bursts of growth in 2020.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz boasts 4.9 million followers on the platform, while Fox News host Sean Hannity has about seven million.

It briefly became the most-downloaded app in the United States after the US election, following a clampdown on the spread of election misinformation by Twitter and Facebook.

However, both Apple and Google have said the app fails to comply with content-moderation requirements.

Analysis: Necessary or draconian action?

By Shayan Sardarizadeh, BBC Monitoring

For months, Parler has been one of the most popular social media platforms for right-wing users.

As major platforms began taking action against viral conspiracy theories, disinformation and the harassment of election workers and officials in the aftermath of the US presidential vote, the app became more popular with elements of the fringe far-right.

This turned the network into a right-wing echo chamber, almost entirely populated by users fixated on revealing examples of election fraud and posting messages in support of attempts to overturn the election outcome.

In the days preceding the Capitol riots, the tone of discussion on the app became significantly more violent, with some users openly discussing ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory by Congress.

Unsubstantiated allegations and defamatory claims against a number of senior US figures such as Chief Justice John Roberts and Vice-President Mike Pence were rife on the app.

Google and Apple say they are taking necessary action to ensure violent rhetoric is not promoted on their platforms.

However, to those increasingly concerned about freedom of speech and expression on online platforms, it represents another example of draconian action by major tech companies which threatens internet freedom.

This is a debate which is certain to continue beyond the Trump presidency.

In a statement, Google confirmed it had suspended Parler from its Play Store, saying: “Our longstanding policies require that apps displaying user-generated content have moderation policies and enforcement that removes egregious content like posts that incite violence.

“In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”

Apple has warned Parler it will be removed from the App Store on Saturday in a letter published by Buzzfeed News.

It said it had seen “accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate” the attacks on the US Capitol on 6 January.

Mr Matze said Parler had “no way to organise anything” and pointed out that Facebook groups and events had been used to organise action.

But Apple said: “Our investigation has found that Parler is not effectively moderating and removing content that encourages illegal activity and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users in direct violation of your own terms of service.”

“We won’t distribute apps that present dangerous and harmful content.”

In a related development, Google has kicked Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast off YouTube, saying it had repeatedly violated the platform’s rules.

The ex-White House aide’s channel had more than 300,000 subscribers.

“In accordance with our strikes system, we have terminated Steve Bannon’s channel ‘War room’ and one associated channel for repeatedly violating our Community Guidelines,” Google said in a statement.

“Any channel posting new videos with misleading content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential election in violation of our policies will receive a strike, a penalty which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube.”

The action was taken shortly after the channel posted an interview with Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, in which he blamed the Democrats for the rioting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

One anti-misinformation group said the action was long overdue after “months of Steve Bannon calling for revolution and violence”.

“The truth is YouTube should have taken down Steve Bannon’s account a long time ago and they shouldn’t rely on the labour of extremism researchers to moderate the content on their platform,” said Madeline Peltz, Senior Researcher at Media Matters for America.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55598887

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20 years of tech with Jeff: From green iMacs and DVDs to the iPhone era

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When I started covering technology here two decades ago, I didn’t own a cellphone, nor did my company deem it in their interests to buy me one.

My tenure at USA TODAY pre-dates text messages, soundbars, talking speakers, QR codes, video chat, Uber, DoorDash, Zoom calls, YouTube, Wi-Fi, affordable flat-screen TVs….you get the idea.

So many changes in such a short period of time! This is my last column for USA TODAY as your Talking Tech columnist. Let’s say goodbye by celebrating how far we’ve come through the years.

My stint started in 2000 – I began at USA TODAY earlier, covering entertainment – at a time when we spent a lot of time talking about the big three tech companies: AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. AOL had just shocked the world by buying Time Warner for $165 billion. (You know how well that turned out. But I digress.)

We did use computers, yes indeed, mostly desktops, and they were Windows machines with black-and-white monitors. We weren’t online; we went online, with a phone line attached to our computers. You know, the type we used on our landlines. Remember them?

Apple back then had less than 3% market share. It wouldn’t start its evolution into the world’s most valuable $2 trillion company until 2001, when it introduced the iPod MP3 music player and helped bring digital music to the masses. This is after the short-lived Napster popularized MP3s by showing how easy it was to copy licensed music. In 2003, the iPod shifted into a mainstream product when CEO Steve Jobs (who rejoined the company in 1997) opened it up to be used on Windows computers with the iTunes music store, the first easy to use, legitimate avenue for buying music, back then at 99 cents a song. Streaming and the celestial jukebox was a far off dream.

We started Talking Tech in 2006 as a weekly, ahead-of-its-time video series, produced bicoastally on two webcams. The first episode – with my former partner, Edward C. Baig – was a review of the Flip Video camera. Remember that one, kids?

By 2010, Flip was soon to be gone, as Apple introduced the iPhone 4, the first iPhone with a decent camera. Kodak became a memory, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and other mainstays of the camera business saw their sales tumble, as people preferred the camera that was in their pocket, their phone.

But I have to admit, I never foresaw just how great the smartphone cams would become. I always loved using them, but there was a stigma to “cellphone video.” Now we can shoot 4K video that looks nearly as good as what you get from a traditional camera, mostly due to computational photography tricks. But I’m not complaining. Have you seen my iPhone sunsets?

Then there’s Google and Facebook.

It was in 2000 that Yahoo handed over its search keys to a scrappy startup that said it had a method for more effective online searches. From there, we got Google stepping out onto its own in 2003 by sending people to its website and popularizing the verb, “Google It.” We got Google Maps (remember life without it?), Gmail (free e-mail without being tied to our internet provider), Google Translate, Google Photos and so many other features that I don’t think we could live without today.

That’s the good side.

There’s also Google tracking our every move, in order to put personalized ads in front of us everywhere we go, and saying goodbye to our privacy. Google will claim that much of the privacy invasion is “opt-in” and that we agreed to it when we signed up for services. But who remembers doing that?

Facebook took the snooping to an even greater level. But today’s column is about celebrating tech. So let’s bypass the misinformation and online rage that erupted from the social network and instead just give props to a site that reconnected some 2 billion people with old friends and family. I announced my pending exit on my newsletter, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. You know where I got the lion’s share of responses? Facebook, hands down.

Amazon. Who believed you could order anything you ever wanted with one click, and have it arrive the next day? By 2001 Amazon had announced its first profit, but it was more recently that we saw Amazon really showcase what was it was to become, by acquiring Whole Foods and launching Amazon Fresh, the supermarket with a radical cart that automatically tallied up your purchases, launching the smart speaker craze with Echo and Alexa and being a dominant force in streaming with Fire TV.

But Amazon missed out on phones. Google got in early, in 2008, with the Android operating system, which it grew by giving it away for free to companies like Samsung, LG and Huawei. That business model would enable Android to claim a whopping 85% market share, where it’s featured on so many low-cost phones.

If I had to pick the most influential tech device of my generation, there’s no hesitation. It’s the iPhone, hands down, even bigger than the VCR or the personal computer.

Because the iPhone (and other smartphone brands to follow) put the computer into our pockets, untethered and presented in a easy, intuitive way that appealed to the masses. Listen to music, answer the phone, watch TV, surf the net, all on one device. One in which we can also monitor our daily steps, show us how to get around and take amazing photos. (Again, those sunsets!)

I love my laptop, but it didn’t change my life.

So what of the future?

In 2016, I did a column quoting analysts saying that the smartphone as we know it, would cease and morph into some form of eyewear within the next few years. I didn’t believe it then, I don’t believe it now.

Having stuff flying in front of your eyes as you walk down the street is a distraction. (Take that, Google Glass.) We watched screens in the 1950s. We’re going to be looking at screens in the 2020s and 2030s.

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Are you willing to pay for email? How about podcasts? Here are our tech predictions for 2021

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It’s that time of year when we make predictions about what to see from technology in 2021.

We already know we’re good for new iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, new smart speakers from Amazon and beautiful new smart TV sets that will have higher resolution than ever before – at a lower cost.

So let’s offer up some tech predictions about what else we’ll see, or just might.

Let’s start with a given:

You’ll be paying for email in 2021

The world’s most popular email program Gmail, is owned by Google, which has decided to follow in Apple’s footsteps by getting more people hooked on monthly subscriptions. (Apple’s Services – which includes Apple Music, News and iCloud – is now its second-highest revenue generator, above Macs, iPads and Apple Watches.)

As of June 1, Google will no longer allow users to upload their photos and videos to Google Photos for free. Google offers 15 GBs of free storage for photos, but that also includes Gmail and Google Drive backup. The ask is that you pay for storage, which starts at $1.99 a month – but for just 100 GB of storage.

I don’t know about you, but my Gmail is 41 GBs worth now, I have 15 GBs worth of photos in Google Photos and 1.7 TBs on Google Drive.

Sure, I can clear out Google Drive, but the thing is, my email is a living, growing thing that is just not going to get smaller, no matter how hard I try to clean it up. It grows every day. So if you like your Gmail, get used to it – you might be paying.

Microsoft and Yahoo still offer free email, but they’re littered with ads, and you’re encouraged to step up to the “premium” versions, which starts at $5 and $3.49 a month, respectively, to go ad-free. Yahoo is eliminating the ability to automatically forward emails from Yahoo Mail beginning next week, unless you spend $34.99 a year for the service.

Big tech won’t find the new administration any friendlier

Facebook and Google’s woes in Washington, D.C., won’t change with a new Biden administration, we believe. The companies will continue to be hauled into Washington to defend against being broken up. President-elect Joe Biden has complained to the social network many times about all the disinformation coming out about him on Facebook, and the company declined to act. That certainly isn’t likely to play well in the Biden years.

The streaming wars will lose a big player

Many new streaming networks launched in 2020, most notably HBO Max and Peacock, and many more are on the horizon for 2021, including Paramount Plus and Discovery +, but at least one of the new networks will go down. Or so says my USA TODAY colleague Brett Molina, who puts Paramount Plus as the most likely victim.

Paramount Plus is the soon-to-be new name for what was CBS All-Access, with the addition of movies from the Paramount Pictures library and TV shows from the Viacom (MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon) vault. “There’s just too many of them,” Molina says. “I can’t see it lasting.” (You will see many more first-run films on streaming channels in 2021, as Warner Media has announced its entire slate for HBO Max and Disney + has first-run fare scheduled as well.)

5G won’t get any better until late 2021

The launch of new phones with access to the supposedly faster wireless speed of 5G, and the wireless carriers’ breathless hype about speed left many consumers scratching their heads. The promised speeds were no faster than 4G. One day 5G will live up to the hype, but not until late 2021, believes Gene Munster, an analyst and investor with Loup Ventures. For real progress, we’ll have to wait for 2022.

Local retailers will find a way to compete with Amazon

It’s an aspirational wish, but “someone will solve the need and find a way to fill it,” says Kieran Hannon, the chief marketing officer for OpenPath, a company that offers next generation office entry technology. He believes a service will be developed to help local retailers compete with the Amazons of the world by letting customers order from a direct website serving locals and have products delivered to them at home, thus keeping sales in the neighborhood.

Zoom and video meetings will only get bigger

Business travel may start to come back from the dead in the second half of 2021, but all the companies that saved money from the trips won’t likely be as eager to send staffers traipsing around the country when meetings can be done cheaper and more efficiently via video.

Students will one day return to the classrooms, but company meetings, seminars, webinars and the like will likely continue. No need to return those ring lights to improve your appearance yet.

Speaking of Zoom, a possible acquisition?

The video networks is one hot property that saw its usage numbers climb from 10 million to 300 million amid the pandemic, making it one prime acquisition target. Who better to buy Zoom than Amazon?

The companies already work together, with Amazon Web Services providing the server backbone for all those Zoom meetings. Unlike Google, Apple and Facebook, which have their own well-established video networks (Google Meet, FaceTime and Messenger), Amazon doesn’t have one.

So with Zoom in the company, and all those meeting minutes (about 2 trillion in April alone,) what an attractive target that would make for Amazon to remind us to use Alexa and buy more stuff, right?

Pay for podcasts?

Finally, Munster from Loup Ventures believes Apple will follow its smash success with the Services division by introducing a new way for podcasters to make money on their shows by charging admission. He sees a “Podcast +” that sees everyone’s favorite audio shows (like Talking Tech) added to the Apple One bundle with Apple Music. “Good news for podcasters, who may see Apple as another avenue to monetize their listener base.”

We love it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Read from source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/12/30/could-you-paying-email-2021-here-our-tech-predictions/4064371001/

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