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Author: Jack Kirk

Editorials

Why LEGO Batman is the Into The Spider-Verse of Batman Films

August 8, 2019
LEGO-Batman-Spider-Verse

Despite receiving excellent reviews upon its release “The Lego Batman Movie” has largely been forgotten about when it comes to Batman films. With most of the recent discussions being about the upcoming “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson, “Justice League” and the fabled “Snyder Cut” or even some of the excellent fan films. Lego Batman has vanished from pop culture quicker than the Dark Knight himself can.

Meanwhile “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” is regarded as one of the best in the genre, not only winning an Oscar, but also acknowledging that the character of Spider-Man can have many different interpretations, but that all are equally Spider-Man (or Spider-Woman/Ham etc) something that most Batman media tends to shy away from. Except for Lego Batman.

A Hero Can Be Anyone

Batman has had several different live-action incarnations over the years (WB/DC 1943- 2016)

Batman has been around for 80 years (and aged phenomenally) and has been adapted countless times, with each version of the character having some differences but still being Batman, despite the film versions often having no reservations about killing (which is a whole other debate). Many of these are reactions to the previous version. For example, the Adam West ’66 show and Clooney’s “Batman & Robin” are infamously campy takes, while the ’89s Micheal Keaton and Bale’s “Batman Begins” are much darker and serious in tone. “Batman Begins” did this with such success that nearly every other film had to be “dark and gritty” as well.

The same is true of Spider-Man, and “Into the Spider-Verse” celebrates these different versions of the character by bringing them all together. It has a few laughs at their expense, but it doesn’t shy away from those aspects of the character, it celebrates them. Just like Lego Batman does. It acknowledges that the dark and gritty Batman and the goofy camp Batman is all still Batman.

Why Do We Fall?

This could easily be Batman and Robin if you drew some pointy ears and capes (Sony Pictures Animation, 2018)

There are some other surface similarities between the two films as well. Both are animated and feature a veteran hero (Batman/Peter B. Parker) begrudgingly mentoring a younger character (Robin/Miles) along with a female version (Batgirl/Spider-Gwen). As well as someone back at base to offer advice and gadgets (Alfred/ Aunt May). Both feature arcs where the younger character must prove themselves to their peers and both feature creative twists on classic villains.

On a thematic level, they both deal with the idea of loneliness and pushing people away. Batman pushes people away due to the loss of his parents, while Peter initially pushes Miles away and volunteers to sacrifice himself due to his fear of having children. Despite their wacky premise, they both tell very relatable, human stories, like some of the best comic books.

A Watchful Protector

The Lego Batman Movie perfectly captures the dark and gritty world of Batman V Superman `(WB, DC, 2017)

While both films take artistic liberties with their setting (Gotham City being made out of LEGO) the city our heroes protect is as much a character as the actual characters themselves. Lego Gotham City is a mash-up of the gothic Tim Burton designs and the modern Nolan city, while each Spider-Person comes from their own distinct version of New York City.

There are tons of easter eggs and references for the hardcore fans to appreciate in these films, such as the various selections of costumes, to vehicles and callbacks to previous films, like the Shark Repellant Bat Spray. These films work as standalone and someone with a passing knowledge of the character can enjoy them, but the more a viewer knows of the history and adventures of the hero, the more there is to pick up on and enjoy.

Despite some people considering animation as “just for kids”, Into the Spider-Verse and Lego Batman are for the fans, regardless of age, while the older viewers will likely get more out of the experience, as they will appreciate the little details. There is often a debate about which Batman is the best, and while Lego Batman is rarely at the top of favourites lists, it’s underrated and understands Batman in a way that many live-action interpretations don’t. Even if Lego Batman hasn’t had the influence of “The Dark Knight”, Batman doesn’t kill, which is more than most films can say, and for some Bat-fans, that’s the most important factor.

Also Read: 5 Batman Fan Films available to watch on YouTube.

Editorials

What’s Next For Disney?

July 27, 2019

Since 2010, Disney has released (mostly) live-action remakes of some of their classic films, originally these started off with them being sold as a reimagining, such as Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s point of view, which was the premise of “Maleficent”, however as time goes on and more have been made, they have become more remake than reimagining, with the latest being “The Lion King”.

But with live-action versions of “Mulan”, and “The Little Mermaid” on the way, are they running out of classics? Most of their current remakes are from their “renaissance” period, and only a few films from this time remain without remakes. Is Disney still capable of their classic magic? Or are they forced to rely on nostalgia?

Once Upon A Time

Walt Disney and the classic Mickey Mouse design.

Disney has been around since the 1920’s when they produced cartoons featuring Oswald the lucky rabbit. When they lost the character rights to their distributor, they had to create a new character, Mickey Mouse.

After the Mickey Mouse cartoons became popular, merchandise featuring the character also became popular. This led to the company’s first feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. Several classic animated features followed, as well as a theme park, with Disney quickly becoming a household name.

A New Fantastic Point Of View

The original animated Cinderella, and Lily James in the remake (Disney 1950/2015)

Disney has relied heavily on nostalgia in the last decade with their remakes and it’s working. This trend arguably started with 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland”, which is a rather unique interpretation, as with Maleficent, with a different point of view, however the 2015 version of Cinderella is very faithful to the original, but adds some additional backstory to give her more agency, one of the criticisms of the original story. This version received mostly positive reviews, although some critics were disappointed with the lack of innovation.

This was followed by Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” another faithful adaptation, with artistic license used on the animals to make them seem more intimidating, whilst also capturing an actor’s performance, it was another big hit for Disney. The technology and techniques used would lead to Favreau remaking Lion King.

A Tale As Old As Time

Young Simba (JD McCrary) and Zazu (John Oliver) in the photo-realistic modern version of “The Lion King” (Disney, 2019)

Disney’s next remake was “Beauty and the Beast”, this received similar reactions to the Cinderella remake which may be something to do with the director having similar intentions. This was followed by “Christopher Robin” which acted more like a continuation of the “Winnie the Pooh” franchise, rather than a remake.

2019 saw three different remakes: “Dumbo”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”, which opened to varied reviews from critics and audiences alike. “Dumbo” stretched the original’s length by almost an hour, which generally bored most viewers, and is actually the worst-reviewed of the remakes (not including the “Alice in Wonderland” sequel).

“Aladdin” and “The Lion King” stayed fairly close to the originals, albeit with some added elements, and with a recast Genie and photorealistic animals respectively. While the visuals of these were praised, many think they lack some of the heart of the originals are a little soulless.

Let’s Get Down to Business

Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond is at the heart of Frozen (Disney, 2013)

Disney has several live action adaptations of other projects in the works, with only a handful of original (i.e. not sequel or remake) films to be released until 2023. They could be moving away from original stories, as sequels and remakes of proven franchisees are always more profitable than something completely new.

However, the studio has proven that they can still produce iconic, original stories, just look at the impact “Frozen” had, (and Frozen 2 will likely have when it’s released at Christmas). Which is arguably as big a hit as any of their “renaissance” films. “Moana” a traditional Disney fairytale, but focusing on a Polynesian village and culture, proves that they are still capable of producing the magic that we know them for with original tales.

One possible attitude is that Disney is seeking to “modernise” it’s classics, by bringing them up to modern day standards and attitudes. Both the “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” remakes especially give their lead princess more agency in an attempt to move away from the criticisms of the traditional versions. Pixar’s (which is owned by Disney) “Ralph Breaks the Internet” features several scenes poking fun at the princesses, which some argue is an attempt to breakdown the stereotypes the films have produced.

The live-action remakes will continue while Disney still has films left (although don’t rule out another set of remakes in another 20-30 years), but it would be unfair to say that they have run out of original stories quite yet. Time will tell whether any of them will become as iconic enough to deserve their own live-action remakes.

Also Read: Disney Strikes Back: Disney+ Breaks The Internet

Editorials

Dynamic Duos: Iconic Actor/ Director Match-Ups

July 11, 2019

Batman and Robin, Doc and Marty, Bonnie and Clyde, Han Solo and Chewbacca. There are many iconic duos on screen, but there are just as many iconic partnerships between some actor and director duos that are behind some iconic films.

Martin Scorsese / Leonardo DiCaprio

Dicaprio and Scorsese

This duo first appeared in 2002 with “Gangs of New York” and have produced four feature films together since, with two more in development as well as a promotional short. While this partnership has not produced as many films as Scorsese’s other famous partnership with Robert DeNiro, it is arguably more varied, with their collaborations including genres like crime, comedy (“The Wolf of Wall Street”)and biopic (“The Aviator”), with Leo helping the director win his first Oscar with his role in “The Departed”

Interestingly it was actually DeNiro who introduced the pair, after having worked with DiCaprio previously, DeNiro sang the young actors praises and that Scorsese needed to work with him, with the director referred to as “extraordinary fortune” and that they wanted to make movies the same way

Christopher Nolan / Michael Caine

Nolan directing Sir Micheal Caine on the set of “The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures, 2012)

When Christopher Nolan turned up at Micheal Caine’s house, he was initially going to turn down the part of Alfred, Batman’s loyal butler, as serving dinner and coffee didn’t really appeal to the veteran actor. Then he read the script and quickly changed his mind, noting that he had “written great parts for real actors“.

Michael Caine is a prolific actor who has been in the business for over sixty years, so it’s fair to say he recognises talent when he sees it, and that’s exactly why he keeps partnering up with Nolan. Since “Batman Begins” in 2005, Nolan has included him in every one of his films, with a small voice cameo in “Dunkirk” being the only time he hasn’t appeared in person.

Sam Raimi / Bruce Campbell

Campbell and Raimi at a promotional event (WDIV ClickOnDetroit )

Raimi and Campbell have been friends since high school, making short films in their spare time. They eventually convinced some dentists to invest in their first feature “Evil Dead” and both of them became cult horror icons.

Bruce Campbell has gone on to have roles in various fan favourite projects, but aside from his role as Ash Williams, he is also known for his memorable cameos in various Raimi movies, especially his Spider-Man trilogy, appearing in various roles through the series. If Spider-Man 4 had ever gone into production, Campbell would once again appear, this time as the villain Mysterio.

Guillermo Del Toro / Doug Jones

Del Toro and Jones, talking about “Shape of Water”

Possibly the least recognisable duo on this list, not due to the body of work, but because Doug Jones’ face is often hidden behind hours worth of prosthetics, with his first big break actually being a McDonald’s ad. He first met Del Toro on the director’s English language debut “Mimic“. Despite the films’ troubled production, the two became friends, bonding over their love of monsters and movies.

Jones has appeared in all of Del Toro’s films since the original “Hellboy”, except for “Pacific Rim”, with his biggest arguably being the creature in Del Toro’s “Shape of Water” which won an Oscar for Best Picture.

Matthew Vaughn / Mark Strong

Matthew Vaughn and Mark Strong

Some partnerships happen because of a pre-existing friendship or a recommendation. Some just happen because the pair find each other easy to work with, as is the case with Director Matthew Vaughn and actor Mark Strong.

The pair have worked together four times since their first collaboration in 2007’s “Stardust” with Strong only being absent for X-Men First Class. Having previously played villainous characters in “Stardust” and “Kick-Ass” he plays Merlin in the “Kingsman” films, in which he is a member of the super-secret spy organisation.

Wes Anderson / Bill Murray

Anderson and Murray going over a scene for “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (Beuna Vista Pictures, 2004)

Murray has worked with Anderson since his second feature “Rushmore”. Anderson sent him the script with no expectations, then had an executive leave their own office while Murray talked to him about the role. His role in “The Royal Tenenbaums” happened simply because Murray lived close to the shoot, the two talked about “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”.

Murray and Anderson have such a good rapport, that he instantly says yes when the director calls, no matter the project. He must get the call a lot as Murray has appeared in all of Anderson’s film since, totalling eight, with some being important parts, and others just wordless cameos.

Quentin Tarantino / Samuel L Jackson

Quentin Tarantino and actor Samuel L. Jackson pose at the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 21, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Tarantino has several actors that he frequently collaborates with, which he refers to as his “Tarantino superstars“. However. he clearly has a favourite, Samuel L Jackson, whom he frequently writes roles in mind for. The admiration goes both ways, as Jackson cites some of his roles in Tarantino’s films as his favourites.

Jackson has appeared in 6 of Tarantino’s 9 films (Tarantino considers “Kill Bill” one film, and Jackson does not feature in “Once upon a time in Hollywood”). He actually auditioned for “Reservoir Dogs” but didn’t get the part, when he saw Tarantino again later at the premiere, the director told him he was writing something for him, which would turn out to be his Oscar-nominated role in “Pulp Fiction”.

Also Read: Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films in the UK

Editorials

Has The Marvel Cinematic Universe Reached Its Peak?

July 3, 2019
Marvel Cinematic Universe - First 10 Years Banner

With Avengers: Endgame sitting just behind Avatar as the second highest grossing film of all time, the franchise has constantly reached new heights, especially with the team-ups. But with Endgame being the final appearance from some of the characters that made it the juggernaut it is, is it all downhill from here?

No one could’ve predicted just how big the MCU would become when it started back in 2008, Iron Man wasn’t as popular as characters like Spider-Man, so there was very little chance the film would be a success, let alone that it would give birth to the highest grossing franchise ever. It not only catapulted “cult” comic book characters into household names but also inspired several other studios to adopt the “shared universe” model.

“Become part of a larger world…’

2008’s “Iron Man” officially started the universe, but “The Avengers” took things to a whole new level. (Marvel/Disney, 2012)

The first “Avengers” film is still to date the 6th Highest grossing film worldwide and is when people really started to pick up and take notice of the franchise after all the planning and easter eggs had paid off. “Iron Man 3” kicked off “Phase Two” a year later, which included “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”, the former being the first film directed by the Russo Brothers, who would go on to direct “Infinity War” and “Endgame”, while the latter proved Marvel could experiment with the more outlandish elements of their canon, leading to films like “Doctor Strange” and “Thor: Ragnarok”

“Phase Three” saw Marvel get even more ambitious, with everything leading towards the massive crossover events of the final two “Avengers” films as well as putting their own spin on familiar characters, when they struck a deal to use Spider-Man in their shared universe, who now gets to share the screen with the Avengers just like in the comics, as well as have a film directly deal with the fallout of Avengers: Endgame, the film that broke box office records almost instantly.

“We’re in the endgame now”

“Avengers: Infinity War” features a huge cast of characters (Disney/Marvel, 2018)

The MCU won’t be stopping anytime soon, although Marvel has yet to officially announce any of the films in Phase 4, there are several rumours about what could come next. And the recent Disney/Fox merge means that they now have access to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, so expect to see them appear alongside (or even against) the Avengers before long. While this crossover would likely not feature the cast of the previous X-Men films, it would still be exciting to see versions of them with characters we are familiar with, such as a Spider-man and Wolverine team up.

However due to the scale of “Avengers: Endgame”, it is likely that the MCU will slow down and tell smaller stories for a time, focusing on more standalone stories with occasional team-ups, like Falcon’s cameo in “Ant-Man” or the Hulk’s role in “Thor: Ragnarok”. While the solo films are popular, they never quite reach the heights of the Avengers films, although several have grossed over $1 billion dollars, like “Black Panther” so a sequel would likely do very well.

“Avengers Assemble”

Could Avengers 5 give us even more heroes in one battle? (Marvel/Disney, 2019)

But the appeal of a shared universe is the team-ups and connections, otherwise, they may as well be standalone franchises (which is no bad thing). As of Endgame, there are over 20 superheroes, that either have their own franchise (Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther etc) or are major players in another (Falcon and Winter Soldier have huge roles in the Captain America films) and that cast is only likely to expand as the films go on. In addition to the feature-length outings, several established characters are getting spin-off series on the upcoming Disney+. These will crossover with the films “in a big way” (although previous Marvel shows, such as Agents of SHIELD and The Defenders, had tenuous connections at best).

Given all of this, it’s likely “Endgame”, as a conclusion to “The Infinity Saga” will be the last official Avengers film for a while, but the characters will crossover with each other at every opportunity. Given the success of some solo outings like “Black Panther” that are guaranteed sequels, it is possible that one of them could break even more records. However, the likely option is that Marvel will once again try to replicate their success several years down the line. With several newer characters, the old guard can call in for back up. So while Endgame might be the end for the foreseeable future, don’t expect this to be the last time the Avengers assemble…

Also Read: Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not to Spoil…

Editorials

Can We Predict How Likely You Are To Succeed As An Actor?

June 24, 2019

It’s likely that almost everyone has dreamt of being an actor at some point, maybe there are a few aspiring actors reading this now. A recent report by researchers at the Queen Mary University in London tried to work out how likely someone is to become a successful actor. Using IMDb and looking at actors from the birth of film in 1888, all the way up to 2016. It claims this model can predict if an actor or actress has had their most productive year with 85% accuracy, as well as shedding some light on the realities of how likely an actor is to stay in work.

Most actors are “One hit wonders”

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” retired from acting after his one role (Paramount Pictures, 1971)

The study looks at 1,512,472 actors and 896,029 actresses and the number of credits they had each year of their careers, (a year without any credits, still counts, but scored a 0). “One hit wonders”, actors whose career spans only a single year, are the norm in show business rather than an exception, with around 69% for males and 68% of females falling into this category- over half of both the groups studied. Further analysis shows that while women are more likely to have a career that spans more than one year, it is often a shorter career than for males, which suggests a gender bias in men’s favour.

Work leads to more work

Johnny Depp (left) frequently stars in Tim Burton’s (right) films ( images2.fanpop.com)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also found that getting roles increases the likelihood of future job opportunities. So while some mega stars have got discovered, the best route is to get a job, which inevitably leads to contacts and recognition, leading to more jobs, it’s all a big loop. Producers and directors often have a pool of actors and actresses they will reuse for subsequent films, like Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton casting Michael Caine and Johnny Depp respectively.

This creates a “rich get richer” effect, where famous actors are taking multiple roles while others are still trying to get their first credit. This is nothing new, however, the study does suggest that the circumstances regarding an actor “making it” are rather arbitrary and unpredictable, with no discernible pattern to success, meaning that actual acting talent may be less of a factor than networking when it comes to a successful career. Additionally, the career length is no indicator of activity. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio regularly takes breaks from acting, sometimes with a 2-year gap between roles, but has still managed to maintain a successful career since it began in 1979.

Actors have “hot” and “cold” streaks

Daniel Day-Lewis has had several cold streaks, mainly due to retirement (IMDb)

A “hot streak” refers to an actor having lots of credits over a short span of time, usually a couple of years, whilst a cold streak is a few if any roles. The study claims that both actors and actresses, experience hot streaks, where they work more based on if they worked the year before, interspersed between long cold streaks, where they work much less, if at all that year. These streaks of employment match findings with other creative and science industry jobs.

The biggest of these hot streaks, an actors’ “peak” (the year in which they have the most credits) takes place towards the beginning of their career, with an average peaking at around two and a half years from their first role, before experiencing a steady decline.

Conclusions

The main takeaways from this study strongly imply that most actors will be a “one hit wonder” with their career likely to span just one year. It also indicates a gender bias towards males, as the data shows that they on average have more credits each year and are active for longer, with just 2% being able to make a living out of the profession, whilst the number of actors compared to available roles means there as many as 90% unemployed at a time.

The more credits an actor gets, the more credits they are likely to get in future, as the industry works on a “rich get richer” scheme, with well-known actors being offered more work than newcomers, making it extraordinarily difficult to break into the industry. Actors usually peak around two and half years into their career, although this can vary based on how active they are, with their career coming in hot streaks with lots of work, followed by longer cold streaks, with little to no work. Perhaps most worryingly, their careers seem to show a steady decline after their peak.

Also Read: Great Scenes With No Dialogue

Editorials

Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not To Spoil…

June 15, 2019

Spoilers are everywhere, even in this article. Some people avoid spoilers at all cost, while some people actively seek them out and try to spoil things for as many people as possible. Even science says knowing a spoiler helps you enjoy a story more. But do spoilers have a time limit? After all, everyone knows Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s father. What actually counts as a spoiler? In the age of the internet, is it actually possible to remain spoiler free?

Loose lips sink Starships

Captain America reminding people not to spread spoilers (Disney/Marvel- 2014)

Anticipation for the next big franchise instalment can be a double edged sword, on one hand, there’s always lots of attention and excitement, but on the other, everyone wants to know what happens. Leaked footage and photos are constantly making their way onto the internet, sometimes even because of the stars of the films themselves. The Russo Brothers put out letters to the fans before the release of their “Avengers” films, warning fans that “Thanos demands your silence” and urging them “Don’t spoil the Endgame” after leaked footage was uploaded online. Creators obviously want moviegoers to enjoy their work on the big screen as intended, not recorded on a phone with people getting up for the toilet halfway through.

As such, they often go to some extreme lengths to prevent potential leaks. Even Quentin Tarantino asked for a spoiler ban when his latest film “Once upon a time in Hollywood” premiered at Cannes ahead of its official release. Avengers: Endgame crew gave cast incomplete scripts containing only their scenes and filmed against green screens, so the cast could not give anything away. The new series of Star Wars films even stage out toy and merchandise releases, so as not to reveal any surprises. Game of Thrones famously claimed to film multiple endings to throw people off, after previous episodes were leaked, including the final episode.

Cursed with Knowledge

Kylo Ren hates spoilers (Disney/ Lucasfilm- 2015)

Despite all these leaks, it is possible to go spoiler free, although the internet does make it more difficult. Muting keywords, and avoiding certain websites are key, but that won’t stop someone posting a spoiler on the comments of something entirely unrelated. Obviously, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to avoid spoilers (“Empire Strikes Back” came out in 1980, almost 40 years ago), seeing the film or episode as soon as possible is ideal. The Russo brothers’ ban on spoilers lasted two weeks, although they admitted they would have liked it be longer stating “we can’t control the internet”.

Staying off the internet is the most effective way of avoiding spoilers, but even then you might not be safe, some trailers can give away important story beats in an effort to get people excited. Even actors can give away important plot points in interviews, making many interviews potentially unsafe for spoiler-phobes. Many reviews and previews can detail particular scenes even if they are not major plot points, so avoid those too.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Fan theories can seem crazy, but they do occasionally get some things right (FX, 2008)

With spoilers literally everywhere, and the extremes both creators and audiences go to avoid them, not to mention the consequences for those who do spoil things, some are beginning to wonder if it’s going too far. Even if isn’t going too far, who’s responsibility is it to keep audiences safe from spoilers? Filmmakers? The Audience? Critics? The trailers for “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” all but confirmed the death of a major character, but the director insisted it wasn’t a spoiler. Many people would likely argue that the death of a major character is indeed a spoiler, no matter where in the film it takes place. Fan theories can tread a fine line between outlandish and spoiler, with countless theories posted online, some closer than others.

Ultimately, unless one decides to live under a rock, it is almost impossible to go into something completely spoiler free. With behind the scenes information such as actors contracts regularly reported, and constant rumours and leaks, not to mention fan theories, audiences will never go in completely blind. How much this bothers someone is entirely up to them, after all, while knowing a twist might help the audience pick up on subtle clues and foreshadowing, you only get one chance to experience the twist the first time.

Also Read: American Psycho: 19 Years On

Editorials

Movie Marketing: Films That Thought Outside The Box

June 7, 2019

Marketing a movie is usually similar for lots of films. A few trailers, poster reveals, showing the best parts of the film, press tours with actors talking about their experiences making it and then the film itself. While this often does the job, some films go the extra mile with their marketing campaigns. Here is a selection of films that should give their marketing teams a raise:

Deadpool 2

Deadpool talks about the sequel in a heartfelt, honest interview (20th Century Fox, 2018)

Deadpool is famous for his sense of humour and fourth wall breaking, and the studio embraced his sense of humour for its marketing campaign, from posters pitching it as a Valentine’s Day romantic comedy, to poking fun at the character’s history, as well as Ryan Reynold’s career, to much success. The marketing was as good if not better than the final film, so when the sequel was announced, there were high expectations

Somehow they outdid themselves, with the first teaser showing Deadpool channelling his artistic side in a Bob Ross parody. There was also a James Bond inspired intro song, performed by Celine Dion (complete with high-heeled dancing Deadpool), and box art for other films featuring the character. Footballer David Beckham featured in one spot as a response to a joke in the first film. It even managed to raise money for a charity. It was impossible to not know this film was coming out, even on LinkedIn.

The Blair Witch Project

Posters like these were pinned up on college campuses and at film festivals (Haxan Films, Artisan Entertainment, 1999)

A rare example of a marketing scheme that wouldn’t work today, the film was marketed as genuine found footage, with the three characters pitched as actual missing persons on posters. The whole movie was sold as a “true story”, with the website featuring interviews with concerned family members and the actual film being recovered from their investigation.

“The Blair Witch Project” was the first film to really take advantage of the internet (it was released in 1999) and kicked off the found footage genre used in films like “Cloverfield” and “Paranormal Activity”. As part of the “true story” angle, the directors even posted in forums to give “evidence”. Many people thought the film was real, with the actors not appearing at the premiere and being listed as deceased, leading to family members receiving sympathy cards.

Psycho

A poster for Psycho, featuring Hitchcock, informing viewers they wouldn’t be let in if the film had started (Paramount Pictures 1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 thriller was shrouded in secrecy up until it’s release, with one trailer simply giving a tour of the Bates’ Motel. With very little of the plot revealed in the marketing, stars not doing press and no critic screenings, Hitchcock oversaw all the promotion, ensuring that no secrets would be revealed before people had chance to see it.

There was a method to his apparent madness though, especially not allowing latecomers into screenings, as he didn’t viewers to miss the film’s biggest star before they get killed off early on. This caused long queues to form, much to the delight of cinemas, and Psycho is now one of the most famous films of all times, with the shower scene being homaged or parodied countless times.

The Cloverfield Paradox

‘The Cloverfield Paradox” follows a group of scientists as they accidentally open portals to other dimensions (Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot, 2018)

The “Cloverfield” Franchise always has mysterious marketing, with the trailer for the first film having no title, just a release date. Each release is also accompanied by an Augmented Reality game, which provides vague clues, such as a conspiracy about a slushy company in the Cloverfield universe. While many of these bits of information do not connect to the films in a big way, they do flesh out the world and help to connect each entry in the series, with an active fan page, logging and connecting each clue

The third film, “The Cloverfield Paradox”, had it’s announcement trailer debut during the Super Bowl Halftime Show, with the film being available later that day. A 3rd film had been announced but no official information given until the trailer dropped, with the full film available almost at the same time. it’ll be hard to top for a fourth entry.

The Dark Knight

The first official look at Heath Ledger as the Joker, which was “unlocked” during the marketing

The marketing for Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film began 15 months before the film was to be released in theatres. Whereas most marketing makes an audience aware of the film, this time they actually got to be involved. For every email address that signed up to a (fictional) Harvey Dent campaign site, a pixel was removed, when enough people signed up less than 24 hours later, it revealed the first image of the Joker.

At San Diego comic con, the “Joker” took over, asking guests to complete a series of challenges, which unlocked a teaser trailer. The campaign brought Gotham City out into the real world. Heath Ledger’s untimely passing, created a bigger buzz about his role as the Joker, even winning him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror

Editorials

Small Screen To Big Screen: TV Shows That Deserve A Movie

May 30, 2019

TV and feature films are very different mediums. TV shows often last several years, allowing us to spend more time developing characters and plotlines. Films often last around 2 hours, often having to cram in lots of material into that runtime. However switching between the mediums is not impossible, as Downtown Abbey and What We Do In The Shadows, proving it can work both ways. Here is a selection of TV series, that could make a great movie

Community

The original cast of Community (NBC, Yahoo 2009-2014)

Six seasons and a movie” has long been the rallying cry for fans of the show since season 2. Through several cancellations, cast changes, even network changes. Community managed to survive for the 6 seasons and bring a satisfying ending to the study group, though it did leave room for more adventures. Dan Harmon has regular discussions about a movie, with directors Justin Lin and the Russo Brothers both directing episodes before moving onto Hollywood blockbusters.

A Community movie seems more like a “when” than an “if”, but it will likely be a long time before anything gets started. Harmon has 70 more episodes of Rick and Morty to write and most of the cast have moved on to other things. Donald Glover especially has become huge since leaving in season 5, with his own show Atlanta, delayed by his own busy schedule, so it could be sometime before we see it

Hannibal

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter (NBC 2013-2015)

Not to be confused with the 2001 film, but instead the TV adaptation starring Mads Mikkelsen which was cancelled after 3 seasons in 2015. Following news of the cancellation, there have been talks with Netflix and others to revive the show, but a film adaptation could also be on the cards.

Hannibal always aimed for movie quality, and although Mikkelsen thinks it should remain on TV, it’s not as if the character wouldn’t work in a film (See 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs”) . A film would make the film more focused, cutting out a lot of the fluff that TV has simply due to being longer. Even though it has been 4 years since the show last aired, it’s still looking for a new home, why not the big screen?

Agent Carter

Agent Peggy Carter on a top secret mission (Marvel/ABC 2015-2016)

Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter proved to be one of the standout characters from the early days of the MCU. Being a driving force of Captain America’s arc throughout his story even if she didn’t appear in person. Her popularity led to a One-Shot, and then her own show. Both following her adventures post World War 2 and the early days of SHIELD. However, Agent Carter was cancelled after 2 seasons, mainly due to budget reasons.

Atwell herself is clearly still interested in playing the character, having recently reprised the role in “Avengers: Endgame”. With Agent Carter being streamed on Disney+, as well as Peggy being the focus of one of the “What If? episodes, it’s possible we could see a revival. A film would give the character the spotlight she truly deserves, on top of being a great period spy thriller.

Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany plays several roles in “Orphan Black” (BBC America 2013-17)

Orphan Black actually managed to end on it’s own terms after 5 seasons, but that doesn’t mean there are no more stories in this universe to tell. The series ended with the main five doppelg√§ngers free of their pursuers and able to live their lives. But the show established there were other experiments out in the world that didn’t get involved in the series.

Star Tatiana Maslany has said she would be game if the script was good, and there is a lot of potential with the premise that it could either be a prequel or a spin off set at the same time as the series. Maslany would star as a new character (or several) that we didn’t see during the series and explore what they were up to. The show has a rich history that could be explored for a potential film, and it would not have to feature the main four characters and risk messing with the excellent finale

Batman Beyond

A new hero must take on the mantle of Batman in a future version of Gotham (WB,DC 1999-2001)

Technically Batman Beyond got a movie, but it was never actually released in theatres and was more like an extended episode. The actual series lasted for 3 seasons before ending, along with most of the other DC animated shows. Although the character hasn’t appeared on screen since 2001, his adventures have continued in comic form. One of the perks of animation is that characters don’t have to age, meaning that the original cast could return to a feature length adventure, including fan favourite Kevin Conroy as Batman.

Conroy would still love to take on the role if it was a live-action version, and with DC films taking a more standalone approach instead of a cinematic universe, that could be a possibility. If it’s a live action version, then Micheal Keaton could play old Bruce Wayne with it being a legacy sequel to the Tim Burton films. A Blade Runner/ Akira inspired Gotham would look gorgeous in live action or animated but either way Batman Beyond has been in the shadows for too long.

Also Read: Peaky Blinders – Big Screen Blinders

Editorials

Cinema Therapy: How Movies Can Heal

May 23, 2019
MediCinema

Movies are awesome! They can make us laugh or cry, transport us to a strange new world, or experience a period of history – sometimes all in the same film. With mental health awareness rising and becoming more important, the use of movies as a therapeutic tool is also on the rise. Recent studies have looked at the benefits of cinema for those with learning difficulties and mental health conditions, as well as how to accommodate them in standard cinemas.

MediCinema

The first MediCinema opened in 1999 with the goal of providing a chance for patients and families to escape their hospital surroundings and enjoy a cinema experience they may not have access to. The charity provides specially designed cinemas that accommodate wheelchairs and hospital beds, giving patients a chance to catch the latest releases.

MediCinema has opened a total of six cinemas since it began, with plans to double that number by 2025. However, as a charity, it relies entirely on fundraising. From charity events to advance screenings, the money all goes to funding and supporting the cinemas. Some of the organisation’s famous patrons include Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeremey Iron, Ewan Mcgregor, Helen Mirren, and Simon Pegg.

Autism In Film

“Inside Out” follows five emotions, helping kids identify their feelings (Disney, Pixar, 2015)

As Autism awareness has increased, many cinemas have tried to be more accommodating to those on the spectrum. With the inclusion of Autism friendly screenings, films can be shown with various adjustments, such as a lower volume, no allocated seating and the ability to leave at any time.

Films can also help people on the spectrum understand things they may struggle with in day to day life, such as “Inside Out” and its personification of emotions, or Disney cartoons helping a child speak.

Autism is also seeing positive representation in many films, Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, who is on the autistic spectrum, in the “Fantastic Beasts” films, after discussing it with the film’s creator, JK Rowling. Many see Guardian’s of the Galaxy’s” Drax as on the spectrum. Even the Blue Ranger from 2017’s “Power Ranger” openly greets characters with his diagnoses. All of which are positive portrayals, with the characters in question being heroes and autism not being their defining trait.

Cinetherapy

“The Wizard of Oz” is a popular choice for cinetherapy (MGM, 1939)

Cinetherapy is the process of watching a film, relevant to a personal issue, and find some therapeutic benefit from it. One of the ways it helps is to somewhat “normalise” the condition. For instance, watching a film like “Room” can help people come to terms with PTSD, abusive relationships, and other conditions. All sorts of media can be used from “The Wizard of Oz”, episodes of the “X-Files” to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Films have such a widespread subject matter, that just about everything has been covered at some point.

This approach can help people with a vast array of mental health conditions, such as feelings of grief or transitioning to different stages of life. It’s about the use of metaphors and universal themes of films. Even just crying at film can be therapeutic, even if you have no experience of what the film is about. This is known as “popcorn cinema therapy“, an emotional release as a result of the film.

It is unlikely that cinematherapy would work on its own for deeper issues, as most practitioners use it in conjunction with other methods, but it is a useful and pleasant way of helping people come to terms with and express their problem, alongside other creative outlets.

Awareness

As well as helping people deal with issues, films can also help to raise awareness of them to others, like the recently released film Five Feet Apart raising awareness of Cystic Fibrosis. Although most films based on true events take artistic liberties, the fictional version of events is the one people remember. However, they can still succeed in making audiences aware of the subject. For instance, The Theory of Everything, a biopic about Stephen Hawking and his struggle with motor neurone disease, raised more than £20,000 for a dedicated charity, as well as awareness of the condition.

Films are great for so many reasons and there is a lot to love about them. Everyone loves different films for different reasons, some of them may be a result of Cinetherapy, or because it highlights a key issue that is important to them. Others might just be because it made them cry or they really related to a particular character, whatever the reason, a night at the movies can make things better, even if it’s only for a little while

If you would like to donate to any of the charities mentioned in this article, follow these links:

Also Read: The Many Faces of Andy Serkis

Editorials

Superhero Standoff: Superheros vs Art

May 17, 2019

Superhero movies are everywhere, and likely will be everywhere for the foreseeable future. With everyone and their mum seeing “Avengers: Endgame” it seems like superheroes have something to offer every viewer, but that doesn’t mean they’re always loved.

J Jonah Jameson isn’t the only one trying put Spider-Man down, as despite the genre’s overwhelming success (Endgame earned over $1 Billion in its opening weekend) it is often neglected upon awards season. With powerful enemies like James Cameron against them, can our heroes ever get the respect they deserve?

“For your consideration..”

Black Panther
“Black Panther” won several Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture (Disney/Marvel, 2018)

To be clear, superhero films have been nominated and won in some cases. Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his Joker in “The Dark Knight”. “Black Panther” won in three categories as well as being nominated for best picture. Even Spider-Man 2 won for Special Effects. But many big names in Hollywood still seem to dismiss them.

Comic book movies are regularly nominated in several technical categories, with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” winning “Best Animation” at the 2019 Oscars, for its unique animation style. But it is rare they win any of the “big awards” such as best actor/picture. There are several calls for Robert Downey Jr to earn an Oscar, for his portrayal of Iron Man.

And regardless of whether he does or not, it’s hard to argue that the character is ingrained in pop culture, with Downey Jr a massive part of that. It’s no secret that the character was a B-Lister before 2008, but now everyone knows Iron Man. Joe Russo (co-director of Avengers: Endgame) thinks he deserves it for the way he’s motivated pop culture, and that “there’s a prejudice against popular cinema”.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes don’t just deal with super villains (Marvel Comics, 2019)

This superhero snobbery doesn’t just apply to movies, comic books are often considered childish, and, true, Batman punching someone with a large “Kapow” bubble might not be the most complex thing to follow. But some of them delve into real-world issues. Iron Man famously had a storyline where he dealt with alcoholism. While the films didn’t follow this, “Iron Man 3” features him dealing with PTSD.

This isn’t the only time the MCU deals with mental health. Captain America shows several symptoms of depression. A big part of Thor’s arc in “Avengers: Endgame” deals with coming to terms with his failure and if he is still worthy. The Avengers might be superheroes, but they’re still flawed, like the rest of us.

But they also tackle social issues, the “Captain America” films deal with him adapting to the modern world after living in WW2. “The Winter Soldier” deals with the idea of a surveillance state. While in “Civil War” he battles against Iron Man about whether the Avengers should be ruled by politicians.

This isn’t just Marvel either. “Man of Steel” is rammed with political themes, from, climate change on Krypton to Superman being an immigrant. Films allow us to explore different themes, and superheroes are no different

Origin Stories

Swap out the Stark suit for wings, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is basically the story of Icarus (Sony 2017)

Superhero stories are the Greek myths of our time. With each generation of filmmakers wanting to retell the story with a more modern perspective. “Shazam” for instance, features a young Billy who has grown up with Superman and co, so he and his friend are aware of all the tropes, as people today are. A huge part of the “Deadpool” films’ appeal is its fourth wall breaking antics and how it pokes fun at superhero cliches (like the “superhero landing“)

This self-awareness could be a sign the genre is becoming stale, with the dreaded “superhero fatigue” setting in and Spielberg himself saying they will “go the way of the western”. While that may be true, it is far more likely the genre will simply evolve, as it always has done. Superhero films are arguably an evolution of 80’s action classic’s like “Rambo” and “Robocop”. While they may not have powers, they still perform superhuman feats, like surviving explosions, big dramatic leaps, stopping villains taking over the world.

And Superhero films have evolved, with the release of “The Avengers” it seems like every studio has been trying to launch its own franchise. From DC to the failed “Dark Universe”, it seems like every studio has been trying to follow in their footsteps, with mixed results. The “Marvel Cinematic Universe” now encompasses 22 films, as well as several TV shows (and counting). It’s hard to think that what started as a huge gamble for a company on the verge of bankruptcy, is now the behemoth it is.

In the 1970’s “Jaws” created the summer blockbuster. In 2012, “The Avengers” created the “cinematic universe” and superhero films will likely continue to push new boundaries with special effects, like the latest de-aging, storytelling (“Endgame” is the end of a 22 film long storyline), and more. Films like “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel are helping to prove that girls are just as good as boys, inspiring young girls as well as bringing in huge bank.

Superhero stories might seem silly on the surface, but whether in comic book or movie form, should not be dismissed as “just for kids” because they are so much more than that.

Editorials

Don’t Make That: Films That Don’t Need A Sequel/Reboot

May 8, 2019
Goonies Cast

A common complaint is that Hollywood lacks ideas, with everything being either a sequel, prequel, reboot or remake. This doesn’t seem to be stopping with Disney releasing a remake of “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” this year. But there are some films that many people regard as untouchable, that don’t need a remake or even a sequel.

Back To The Future

Doc Brown & Marty (Universal Pictures)

Back to the Future already has two sequels, and the world is forever grateful that the cast and crew remained largely the same throughout the trilogy. Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox’s chemistry in the series is one of the many, many highlights, and would be an almost impossible task for a new pair of actors to replicate. Doing something different wouldn’t feel like “Back to the Future”. If the reboot also travelled 30 years into the past, we’d have Marty Mcfly meeting his parent’s in the ’90s, which has the potential to be funny but wouldn’t really highlight the generational differences between him and his parents as well as the original.

In terms of a sequel, Fox suffers from Parkinson’s disease, so isn’t as active as he used to be, Lloyd is still working regularly and has reprised his role as Emmet Brown, for several tie in and parodies, including the video game. Director, Robert Zemeckis has no plans for a fourth instalment and says part 4 won’t be made until he’s dead.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Lead actors Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara & Alan Ruck (Credit: Craig Duffy)
Lead actors Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara & Alan Ruck (Craig Duffy)

Most of John Hughe’s filmography could fill this list, but the hardest one to imagine a version of in present day is this one. Ferris’ plan to help his best friend Cameron would be much more difficult in the age of mobile phones and the internet, all it would take is one tweet and he would be caught out. While it could be argued that Ferris dodging internet fame would still be interesting, the overall tone and themes of the film, enjoying life, as well as the idea of “having a day off” would be lost if he was constantly dodging cameras.

Interestingly, a sequel has been written, sort of. It reportedly follows a middle-aged Ferris, who is now a life coach, and, yep you guessed it, has another day off. While exploring a 40 something Ferris’ life could be interesting and offer some funny insights into dealing with a mid-life crisis, it’s unlikely it would have the same heart without Hughes, who died in 2009, and would probably just ride the nostalgia of the original.

The Goonies

Goonies Cast
“It’s our time now, down here, in 2023” (Warner Bros)

The Goonies is likewise another example of a film that would never work with today’s technology, mobile phones would ruin dozens of films, as well as the internet. The Goonies putting a doubloon and map on eBay doesn’t make a thrilling adventure film. Even if the film was set in the 80’s everyone would need to be recast, and recreating those iconic kids would be daunting for any young actor, not to mention that it would probably be a franchise with modern action editing. Not to mention the franchise it would spawn

Speaking of franchising, there was talk of a sequel in 2014, but there has been little concrete news about it since. Most of the actors have moved on, either playing much bigger roles (the gang would include Samwise Gamgee and Thanos if they were to reunite) or moved away from acting all together. It could still happen though, after all “Goonies never say die”

Inception

Inception Screenshot - Leonardo DiCaprio
But was he in a dream or not? (Warner Bros)

Christopher Nolan’s 2010 thriller has a cliffhanger ending ripe with for sequel set up- Cobb turns away from his spinning top to be with his children, unsure if he is in a dream. Nolan has never returned to this world, despite the critical and commercial acclaim, but has explained the ending.

Aside from The Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan doesn’t do sequels, and Inception is clearly his baby. Despite the world-building, there isn’t really any need for a follow-up, with most questions being answered and character arcs completed.

A reboot could happen, but without Nolan, it likely wouldn’t have the same creativity or brains to it, and would likely be a franchise starter, with each sequel being a different dream heist. It sounds cool, but a lot of what makes “Inception” special is that it’s unique.

Leon: The Professional

Leon : The Professional
American actress Natalie Portman and French actor Jean Reno on the set of the film “Leon”, directed by Luc Besson. (Photo by Patrick CAMBOULIVE/Sygma via Getty Images)

Luc Besson has been responsible for several films that could easily have started a franchise, and tried to. But one that definitely shouldn’t get a sequel is Leon, the story about the unlikely friendship formed between a hitman and an orphaned child. The sequel set up is obvious, with Mathilda wanting to follow in Leon’s footsteps from the beginning, despite his objections.

But his objections are exactly why it doesn’t need a sequel. Although there is little doubt about Natalie Portman’s acting ability, two out of three of the original main characters perished in the final act. Without that central relationship, the film would be a generic action film, which is what a sequel would risk becoming. The alternative is just a rehash of the original, which also doesn’t sound appealing.

Also Read: The Many Faces of Andy Serkis

Editorials

The Many Faces Of Andy Serkis

April 30, 2019

Andy Serkis is a man who, oddly for a prolific actor, you may not recognise straight away. But even if you’ve never seen a film of his (and you definitely have) it’s likely you’ve felt the pioneering influence he’s had on Motion Capture (or MoCap) Technology.

Serkis began his career with a series of small roles in series like “The New Statesman” before taking the lead role in “Streetwise”, a drama about bicycle couriers in London. Several other roles followed, including a role as Bill Sykes in a mini-series adaptation of “Oliver Twist”. However, a call from his agent during this time would lead him perhaps his most iconic role- Gollum in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy.

Andy Serkis performing in a motion capture suit, along with a rendering of Gollum

Gollum was always intended to be a digital character, but it’s hard to argue the character would become as iconic as it has without Serkis behind the mo-cap. Inspired by his cat coughing up a furball, he not only created a distinctive voice that people are still doing impressions of over 10 years later but also pioneered motion capture as one of the first fully CGI characters in film. Although not the first (Ahmed Best as the infamous Jar Jar Binks in “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” has that honour) Serkis played Gollum as much less humanoid and more like an animal, something that would become a trademark for his career as it progressed.

Origin of Mocap

While Motion Capture is often associated with the likes of Gollum, it’s origins can actually be traced all the way back to 1915. When animator Max Fleischer, who worked on “Betty Boop” and “Popeye”, invented rotoscoping. Rotoscoping involves having an actor perform and then tracing their movements, frame by frame. This makes characters move more fluidly. In the ’60s this progressed, with simple computers able to track movements.

As technology advanced, and computers got faster, this process took less time. More and more industries started using the technology, with it being very useful in medical and sports sciences. With also the gaming industry making huge advances, able to capture and render movements in real time.

Rise of the Motion Captured Apes

After wrapping up his role of Gollum, Serkis had a few other roles, including a Simpson’s cameo. He teamed up with Peter Jackson again in 2005 to play the title role in his King Kong adaptation. Serkis had originally planned for his mo cap performance to be a one-off, but changed his mind when offered the part of Kong.

Serkis as Caeser

Of course, Kong wouldn’t be the only ape Serkis would play, after some more human roles including Nikola Tesla’s assistant in “The Prestige” and voicing a rat. In 2011 he began his role as Caeser, in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” a role he would return to in two sequels, leading an army of mo-cap actors turned apes and even earning talk of an Oscar nomination.

Imaginarium

Serkis continued his mo-cap roles, reprising Gollum for the first instalment of “The Hobbit” trilogy and serving as second unit director for the series. He also starred as Captain Haddock in “The Adventures of Tintin”, which was fully motion captured and animated. And went on to play the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”. He’s even added the Marvel franchise to his increasing list of film credits, having had a small role in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, which was expanded in “Black Panther”.

In 2011, he opened “The Imaginarium” a production company with a base in London, equipped with a motion capture studio. Through this, he has helped work on the motion capture for several of his films, as well as working on several video games. His directorial debut “Breathe” was also produced by the studio.

Following on from “Breathe”, Serkis decided to use his knowledge of motion capture to direct “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” a different interpretation of “The Jungle Book” featuring more “artistic license” on the animals who were all created using performance capture. The goal was less realism but have more expression and character to the creatures

As well as directing, Serkis also plays Baloo

Following on from this Serkis is planning to adapt George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in a similar style to “Mowgli” as well as set to reprise his role as Captain Haddock in the rumoured “Tintin” sequels. His work with Imaginarium will also continue and motion capture performances will only improve, as technology gets better and the process becomes more streamlined. It’s only a matter of time before the next big innovation.

And maybe, Andy Serkis will finally earn that Oscar he deserves…