As the 2024 Major League Soccer (MLS) season kicks into high gear, fans are in for a treat with the return of the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
“Nothing brings the family together like a road trip,” says Dan Morgan (Mark Wahlberg) in Apple TV+’s new film The Family Plan; little does his family know, this isn’t your average matching t-shirt family trip.
At the top of the film, Dan and his wife Jessica (Michelle Monaghan) celebrate their anniversary in the same way since they started dating over a decade ago, going to the amusement park and riding a specific rollercoaster. Jessica foreshadows the rest of the movie when she hints about wanting to switch it up and have some excitement in her life; again, little does she know what’s about to come to her.
While leaving the park, Dan catches someone recording him, and when he tries to intervene, the antagonizer graces him with a slushie shower. On the way home, Jessica teases him for diverting the situation because she believes he isn’t a “fighter.”
A few days later, while Dan is shopping for groceries with his newborn, he is again matched with a former enemy who will stop at nothing to harm Dan, leading to an all-out brawl ending with smashed glass and, in good film fashion, no consequences. On the other hand, Jessica meets a new friend, Gwen, (Maggie Q) who doubles as a travel agent at her boxing class.
It’s important to note that if you’re watching this with friends/family, you should watch the trailer beforehand because up until this point, there is no mention of Dan’s former life, making it a bit confusing to anyone who may not have context.
It isn’t until after this altercation that we learn Dan was a former assassin and a good one at that.
Dan soon realizes he’s not safe in Buffalo, so he embarks on a family vacation, a.k .a. a mission to get his family out of Buffalo for good. After tossing everyone’s cell phones off the highway in the name of safety, we learn about Dan’s older children.
Nina (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is a high school senior, soon heading into college on what should be a journalism major. She is in a situationship with someone who persuades her to be the opposite. Kyle (Van Crosby) is the idea of a “nobody” in the real world, but when he logs onto his gaming system, he is the ultimate celebrity. The overall family dynamic is exceptionally developed, allowing viewers to see themselves in one of the members.
During their road trip, the family stops along shady motels and visits Nina’s desired university choice, only to discover her “boyfriend” has found someone else to toy with. A few keg stands and yet another battle later, the Morgans are back on the road to Las Vegas, where the family will get the tickets to their new lives.
In Vegas, the parents go to dinner, and the kids go against their parent’s wishes as they head to the hotel ballroom for one of the year’s biggest gaming conventions. Throughout the dinner, Dan tries breaking the news to Jessica, even telling her in French; the problem is that she doesn’t speak French.
Nonetheless, the couple heads back to the room where one of his enemies hides. After threatening Jessica’s life, Dan has to put his hitman skills to use and take him out, much to the dismay and confusion of his wife. The following 10 minutes are the epitome of action-packed and comedy-driven as Dan has to take out more rivals in front of his family.
Once things slightly settle, Dan finally comes clean to his family, who are less than thrilled with their father’s former job. Jessica is so distraught she calls up her travel agent friend, Gwen, to help get her back home. Of course, her friend comes to the rescue, only to reveal that she is working on the side of the assassins and captures the Morgans.
As it turns out, they’ve been trying to get Dan and his family to get him back because an email wouldn’t have worked, right? Therefore, they give him the ultimatum to walk away from his family and back to the assassins, or his family goes. Another Hunger Games-esque violent battle ensues, and the whole family is in on it this time.
Jessica gets beaten time and time again before putting her track and field skills to use and taking down her friend with the help of her daughter. On the other side, Dan and Kyle team up to take down the rest of the squad until it’s only Dan and the head of assassins, also Dan’s father.
In one last fight, Dan takes down his father, and his family is freed for good. They go on to live subtle suburban lives where Dan is now a squad trainer; Jessica coaches the local high school’s track and field team; Nina is studying journalism at Standford, and Kyle is making a killing as the virtual celebrity, Killboy.
Overall, The Family Plan utilizes comedy to balance out the hard-hitting fight scenes, contributing to portraying the story in an effective way and leaving no holes in the plot at the end.
So, when you need a break from the holiday rom-com, be sure to check out The Family Plan on December 15, only on Apple TV+.
Wednesday, October 18th, 2023. Hall des Lumieres, Manhattan, New York. — National Geographic, the editorial brand whose legacy is drenched in 135 years of vivid storytelling and exploration, hosted an inspirational gathering to celebrate its renowned explorers, which include a group of bright photographers, scientists, journalists, educators, producers and broad ranges of talent that share their journeys through documentaries at the Hall des Lumieres. The Hall opened its stunning doors to media press, influencers and explorers of the National Geographic family to host “A Night Of Storytelling’‘, an intimate content showcase sharing films and stories across a wide range of genres that include travel, adventure, exploration, science, history, culture, wildlife and much more. The content showcase, featured films to be aired in the coming months. National Geographic and its iconic yellow rectangle is synonymous with groundbreaking research, incomparable journalism and visually spectacular storytelling through pens, lenses of photography and film. Their award winning works are world renowned, taking its viewers into spaces and on journeys that would otherwise be inaccessible. Their trusted name has landed them the spot as the #1 brand on Instagram, further echoing the strength of its legacy. National Geographic credits its success to creating a platform that highlights transparency in storytelling that is only made possible by garnering the best photographers, explorers and creative talents in the world.
The event began with generous offerings of hors d’oeuvres and beverages of refreshing sparkling water, wine and champagne to sip as guests mingled on the ground level of the hall. Low lit and encapsulating, the ground level was illuminated with luminous hues of blue and ornamented a backdrop of transitioning images of wildlife. The space held a relaxing ambiance, preparing the guests for the main event upstairs. Upon entering, I checked in with the event hosts, placing my order for a choice of three available entrees: the Seared Atlantic Cod, served with fall Market vegetables, Marble potatoes and aioli and lemon Pistou; a Truffled Fall Orecchiette, the vegan dish, complemented with roasted butternut squash, shiitake, leeks and crispy sage; or the Grilled Filet, which was my preferred choice of the three and served with a side of rosti stuffed spinach, and red beet soubise.
After moments of mingling, the guests were escorted upstairs in small waves and led into the marble showroom floor. We welcomed by iridescent lights that projected waterfalls and cascaded behind the podium, and two extra long banquet tables, dressed with a white tablecloth, silverware, crystal wine glasses and dining ware. The two banquet tables were separated by foliage that ran parallel to one another, awaiting guests to be seated at their designated spaces. Once seated the media guests and the Nat Geo explorers, both nominated and award winning, sat interwoven at the tables and took the opportunity to share their respective up and coming documentaries.
I had the honor of dining beside Dr. Serena McCalla of “Science Fair: The Series”. Dr. Serena McCalla, ecstatic about her involvement with Nat Geo as a newly named explorer, gushed sharing her background and her excitement for the impact her work makes on education and her students. McCalla dedicates her life to advancing science education and research with the most promising youth in the world and has built the Jericho, New York, High School Science Research curriculum into one of the most preeminent science research programs globally. Her career in research education led her to founding the iResearch Corporation (iRC), a corporation that promotes excellence, inquiry and equity in science. The iRC encompasses a variety of research-centric programs that seek to unlock the potential in every science teacher and student while promoting scientific prowess in underserved communities. Dr. McCalla’s students are lauded annually for their success in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) competitions, as displayed in the National Geographic feature documentary “Science Fair” and the all-new upcoming series. McCalla aspires to support all students to make a difference by discovering something new within themselves and the world. “Science Fair: The Series” which has been nominated and won the Emmy and Peabody awards and premieres Dec. 10 on National Geographic; Dec. 11 on Disney+ and Hulu.
The opening remarks of the evening were held by Nat Geo’s President Courteney Monroe whose powerful statement reminded us all of the importance of our work and responsibility as media professionals and individuals. She inspired us to be mindful of our impact in our messages in the media and to remain vigilant in expressing the truth of what we offer to our readers and viewers alike,
“We are without question living in an extraordinary time. A time when factual accuracy and credibility in media have never been more essential. A time when optimism feels in short supply.” Monroe continues on to add, “It is in times like these that I believe National Geographic’s storytelling is more vital than ever. It contextualizes the complexities we face and it reminds us that the world is still an amazing and miraculous place, filled with beauty, awe and wonder… [tonight] we celebrate that storytelling and the power of National Geographic,” and with those words a night of storytelling began.
The presentation of Nat Geo’s, “A Night Of Storytelling,” was led by the National Geographic Executive team which included Nathan Lump, Senior Vice President and Editor In Chief; Tom McDonald, Executive Vice President of Global and Unscripted Content and Senior Vice President of Inclusive Content and Engagement, Karen Greenfield; along with Executive Vice President of Scripted and Documentary Films, Carolyn Bernstein.
In between presentations, guest were appetizers of Crudite (heirloom carrots, red endives, Romanesco, watermelon radish and dried figs); spreads of Pine nut hummus, Cilantro Tahini, Fennel Chutney and garlic oil toasted baguettes and grilled Naan bread along with refreshing little Gem & blood Orange salads. Choice wines included Cotes du Rhone Mon Coeur, J.L. Chave Selection (Rhone Valley) and Sauvignon Blanc Lieu Dit (California).
Centered primarily on the 2023-2024 Fall/Winter slate and show lineups, the showcase included notable documentaries that piqued many of the guests’ interest, such as the Disney and Pixar inspired, “A Real Bug’s Life” (premiering on Disney+ Jan. 24) narrated by Awkwfina. The film takes an introspective look into nine different micro bug worlds around the globe and the tiny heroines that survive through their own miniature catastrophic scales they likely deem as “forces of nature” to survive day to day life. Other films included “QUEENS” (premiering March 4 on National Geographic; March 5 on Disney+ and Hulu) is Produced and Directed by Faith Musembi and narrated by Actress, Angela Bassett, is a documentary that features matriarchies and female leaders around the world to tell a story of sacrifice and resilience but also of friendship and love. “QUEENS” brings the natural world into focus through the female lens for the very first time. The seven-part series leverages cutting-edge technology to reveal surprising insights into how females in the natural world rise to power. The final episode of the series celebrates the women who have gone to the ends of the Earth and dedicated their lives to documenting and protecting animal queens found in nature.
“Photography” a documentary centered around notable photographers Cristina Mittermeier, Paul Nicklen, Dan Winters, Campbell Addy, Krystle Wright, Muhammed Muheisen and Anand Varma highlight the skilled visual artists who became renowned photographers and their life journeys that led to the inspiration behind their artistic medium. I was tipped by a fellow media professional in attendance to look more into London based photographer, Campbell Addy whose work and narratives highlights the expression of authentic emotions found in nature and casting underrepresented faces. I later became equally intrigued with Anand Varma’s work, whose photobook was given to the guests as gifts upon departure. More films showcased that stirred the crowd included “A Blink of An Eye”, “JFK”, Ceasar Milian’s, “Better Human, Better Dog”, and “Genius: MLK/X”,
created by multi-hyphenate Reggie Rock, explores the formative years, pioneering accomplishments and dueling philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The showrunner of Apple TV+ series, “Swagger” holds notable credits include, “A Different World”, “Get On The Bus” and the film “Notorious” about famed lyricist Christopher Wallace whose life ended tragically in 1997.
Another notable explorer being honored at the event was the empathic Albert Lin of, “Lost Cities Revealed” sat adjacent of me and Serena McCalla. I had the pleasure of speaking one on one with the explorer post presentation. Lin takes a technologist’s approach to uncover humanity’s stories and explores new frontiers while honoring the artifacts and environment of the landscapes he explores. Passionate about the human experience, Lin began his career with the Valley of the Khans project, a technology-enabled search for Genghis Khan’s tomb. What makes his work spectacular is that Lin utilizes tools such as satellite imagery, crowdsourcing engines, machine learning, drones, and ground-penetrating radar permitted to search widely for archaeological sites while respecting the traditional beliefs of local Indigenous peoples. His ethical approach has also led him to survey the the First Emperor’s tomb in China and the Mayan Temples of Northern Guatemala. Lin is featured in the up and coming new season, “Lost Cities Revealed” premiering November 23, 2023
Last and certainly not least in the up and coming series, “TRAFFICKED WITH MARIANA VAN ZELLER” (Muck Media) Premieres January 17, 2024, on National Geographic; and January 18, 2024 on Hulu. I had the brief honor of meeting and photographing with the Emmy Award-nominated series host and creator Mariana van Zeller . In “TRAFFICKED,” the courageous journalist takes her viewers on an investigative and dangerous journey, exposing the inner workings of shadow markets, criminal organizations and trafficking networks around the world. In the upcoming season, the award-winning journalist Mariana van Zeller investigates new emerging underworlds: the trade in body parts, hired assassins, sextortion and the smuggling of people across the U.S. – Mexico border; and she will meet the players and learn the business behind the dark underworlds. Mariana puts her life at risk to better understand these multi trillion-dollar shadow industries and economies and the people behind them.
The evening closed with bite sized desserts choices of fresh fruit tartlets, pumpkin cheese cake bites, turtle brownies, and mini chocolate cookies; and an after dinner drink of Espresso Martinis (Vodka, Kahlua and simple syrup). Guest left with logo branded gift bags from National Geographic that included an illustrated story of the life of the late John Chaus, a young American missionary, killed on a remote island in North Sentinel Island; SPACE, a special Issue of National Geographic, released October 2023; an enormous 365 page photo-book, “INVISIBLE WONDERS (Photographs of the Hidden World)” by Ananad Varma (of Nat Geo’s original film, “Photography”); and a Home Pod mini, compliments of Apple and Nat Geo.
The most impressive part about the evening was the very idea of the Executive board celebrating their talents and the work they all produced. Not only were the explorers all in solidarity about their joys, respect, admiration and thrilled with the opportunity to work for and with National Geographic as a platform; it speaks volumes in a professional work setting where the human capital that makes a company great, tend to go unnoticed. I have gained so much respect for this brand and organization based on this display of humility and the gratitude leadership has shown for the hands that move this publication and the celebration from Nat Geo leadership than any program or award the platform could ever air. I highly encourage you to tune in and follow this remarkable brand. They are, behind the scenes, everything they present to the world: richness, array of color, depth, substance, appreciation and an ever evolving story that moves our world forward.
As cliche as it seems, finding true love is painful.
The cast of this Apple TV+ series strut down the red carpet with “Swagger” at the season 2 premiere during Tribeca Film Festival. The premiere was shown at AMC 19th Street. In attendance was Reggie Rock Bythewood, the creator, director, and executive producer of the series.
On The Scene: Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key, Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess, Aaron Tveit and more Talk “Schmigadoon!” Season 2 at Apple Q&A
Few things are more subjective than one’s feelings about being trapped inside of a musical, and in Appletv+’s hit musical comedy Schmigadoon, Cecily Strong’s Melissa and Keegan Michael Key’s Josh find themselves in this exact dilemma.
Scandinavian Streaming Giant Viaplay Launches in the US with a Vast Collection of Nordic Cinema and TV
Viaplay, a popular streaming service from Scandinavia, has launched in the United States, offering a unique collection of curated content from the Nordic region.
Exclusive: Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, Briana Middleton and Benjamin Caron Talk New AppleTV+ Film ‘Sharper’
After a film screening of the new Apple TV+ film, ‘Sharper’, the cast and director join a conversation with The Knockturnal to discuss the movie and what it took to make this film noir come to life.