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Author: Jack Kirk

Editorials

Flashpoint: The Defining Film of DCEU?

September 11, 2020
The Flash DCEU Justice League

Originally announced way back in 2014, The Flash movie has had a troubled development. Various writers and directors have signed on then left the project, with the film ironically being delayed several times. Now though it seems as if things are finally moving. Things have changed a lot since it was announced, with DC opting to tell more standalone tales rather than fast-tracking a marvel style universe. The films have done a tonal 180 and the landscape is very different. But could all of this have worked in its favour? Could Flashpoint set the standard for DCEU going forward?

Flash of two worlds

Ezra Miller's Flash meets Grant Gustin's Flash in "Crisis on Infinite Earths"
Ezra Miller’s Flash meets Grant Gustin’s Flash in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (WB/DC 2019)

Ironically, The Flash is having a very slow journey to the big screen. The film was announced in 2014, with Ezra Miller in the title role, along with several other DC comic films. Many were disappointed that Grant Gustin, who plays the character in the CW/Arrowverse series, wasn’t going to be involved. Instead, this version was going to feature in Zack Synder’s Justice League, but that’s a whole other story. The character had a cameo in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and another in Suicide Squad.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, was announced to make his directorial debut with The Flash, as well as writing the script. He left the project in April 2016 and was later replaced by Rick Famuyiwa. This seemed promising, as we got news that Iris West and Henry Allen were cast, but Famuyiwa left the project later that year over “creative differences”. A new writer and several other directors are considered, notably Robert Zemeckis, with Back to the Future cited as an influence.

Flashpoint

The orginal Flashpoint was used to reboot much of the DC universe (Flashpoint, DC Comics, 2011)

The film is currently due to be directed by It‘s Andy Muschietti. Miller and comic scribe Grant Morrisson wrote a draft of the script, but this was apparently dismissed by the studio. It seems as though the movie will be inspired by the “Flashpoint” storyline. In the comics, Flash accidentally altered the timeline, causing the world to look very different. After regaining his powers with the help of Batman, Bruce died in the alley instead of his parents, and stopping a war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, Flash cancels out the timeline and returns to his own, with some small changes.

The original Flashpoint story was a mini-series that served to relaunch the DC Comic universe, by simplifying continuity and bringing in characters from other universes, such as Vertigo. The series was designed as the end of the old, convoluted continuity and the launch of the “New 52”. It has also been adapted into a direct to video animated film, as well as a (very different) plotline in season 3 of the show.

The film following this approach could mean that DC is embracing it’s now disjointed continuity, with its films being set across multiple worlds, unburdened by the continuity of individual films. This would allow them to do more experimental and different films, without having to worry about how it affects any other films. Another interesting thing is that these worlds could still crossover with each other, and themselves, like Into the Spider-Verse but with Batman.

Batman Returns

Michael Keaton as Batman (WB/DC 1992)

Speaking of Batman, it was recently announced that Micheal Keaton, who played Batman in the Tim Burton films, is set to be reprising his role for the film. A short time later, it was also revealed that Ben Affleck would be reprising his role as Batman. That’s two Batmen in one film (three if Robert Pattinson has a cameo). The film could retroactively make the original Batman films canon, similar to how the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover made various old shows part of its canon.

Ben Affleck’s return is surprising, after the uncertainty with “The Batman” (now going forward with Robert Pattinson). Affleck’s return, along with the Snyder Cut finally being released, suggests that DC may not want to move entirely away from their “shared universe” quite yet. Perhaps the original plan of a Justice League trilogy could go ahead, but with “Elseworlds” films as well? The Flash could open up worlds of possibilities.

Also Read: DC FanDome Recap

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Editorials

Underrated Movies: Power Rangers (2017)

September 2, 2020

If there’s one genre that has dominated the last decade, it’s been superheroes. The Avengers ushered in a new wave of superhero films, and soon every studio was trying to kickstart their own cinematic universe. Combined with the effect of the Transformers franchise, and every toy you had as a child was getting a feature film release – enter the 2017 version of the Power Rangers.

Teenagers with Attitude

Power Rangers Cast
The 5 five rangers have since gone to have exciting roles in other franchises, like Stranger Things, Aladdin and Black Mirror (Image Source: https://geekandsundry.com/why-representation-matters-in-the-new-power-rangers-movie/)

Designed as a franchise starter (like everything else) this reboot takes the original Mighty Morphin lineup, Jason (Red), Kimberly (Pink), Billy (Blue), Trini (Yellow) and Zack (Black) and plants them firmly in the modern-day. These aren’t the carefree teenagers with attitude from the ’90s, they’re much more like your everyday teenagers, that just so happen to be able to summon robot dinosaurs.

The original series follows the kids as they become the Power Rangers under the guidance of Zordon, with them balancing their lives as teenagers with saving the world as the Power Rangers. The film tips the balance of this somewhat, with the kids having eleven days to master their new powers. Unlike in the original series, the rangers cannot morph at will, instead of having to achieve the correct emotional state and trust in each other. This results in the rangers all having a solid character arc for them to overcome, rather than just use a device.

It’s Morphin’ Time!

Power Rangers (2017)
The costumes are a mix of the traditional with a modern-day, armour aesthetic (Photo Credit: Lionsgate)

While the film does suffer from the “dark, gritty reboot” trend, it does have some rather heartfelt moments to it. For one, the film is actually very diverse, especially for a Hollywood blockbuster. While some of the races are switched around, the filmmakers were very focused on diversity. This extends to the characters’ backstories as well. Not all of these kids are aspirational, Jason has a criminal record and Kimberly is a cyberbully. All of the rangers have their own stories, Billy, who is also on the autism spectrum, has never gotten over the death of his father. Zack cares for his sick mother and fears that he will one day return home to find she has died alone. Trini struggles to fit in at her new school and fights with her parents as she questions her sexuality.

Like a lot of superhero movies, this is an origin story for the rangers and shows them overcoming their individual challenges by opening up to and trusting each other. They start out as strangers and become a team, by believing in themselves they unlock the ability to morph and achieve their full potential. Although they had some abilities, like the strength and agility, the armour symbolises their progress.

Go Go Power Rangers!

Megazord - Power Rangers
Even the Megazord got an upgrade (Photo Credit: Lionsgate)

Once they’ve morphed, the finale plays out like a big-budget version of a typical episode. The rangers use their newfound powers to defeat the monsters, then form the Megazord to fight a giant one. It’s exactly as awesome as you remember, except this time you’ve seen them grow from a group of troubled teens into a team of superheroes. Even the classic theme tune starts to play. The design of the suits and the Zords are faithful enough to be recognisable, but also being distinct as their own interpretation, something that even Marvel and DC have struggled with at times.

The film ends with a tease of a new classmate- Tommy Oliver, who in the show becomes the Green ranger, after initially being an antagonist. Although we will never actually get to see a sequel, as a reboot is in development, the film does have some good ideas and is a solid foundation for future instalments. Putting the rangers in a modern-day setting and borrowing from superhero films is an excellent idea, and it is a shame that it never quite manages a consistent tone, or make the most of its premise, with the only real big action scene coming at the end.

It suffers from the “gritty reboot” problem because it also wants to be based on a children’s show, and can never quite decide between the two. It does, however, give the kids some excellent character development, and balances it’s ensemble well. It’s a shame it never quite comes together in the way it wants to, but it does have some genuinely great ideas behind it, as well as good performances and effects.

Also Read: Underrated Actors: Malcolm McDowell

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Editorials

Locations From Popular Movies You Can Visit

August 20, 2020

There are many iconic locations from movies. Like the Emerald City, Hill Valley or the Mos Eisely Cantina. Some of them are just as important as the characters, while others offer us insight into their psyche. While often they exist purely in a studio, sometimes a real-world landmark will be used, although you might not always notice. Here are a selection of real-world buildings used in famous films, so you too can visit these famous places.

Hatley Castle – Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (X-Men)

Hatley Castle - X-Men
As well as the exterior, some of the rooms and corridors feature in the films (Photo Credit: thevintagenews.com)

Hatley Castle in British Columbia has a rich real-world history of its own. Originally a mansion it has been a naval training facility, a military college, and a university. The location is probably most well known as Xavier’s Mansion in the X-Men films, where Professor X provides safety and teaches mutants to control their powers. Some of the interiors are used across the series, although no one has reported a hidden, futuristic basement or high tech jet plane leaving the grounds. The castle has featured in several other projects, such as Arrow, Smallville, and The Changeling.

Skellig Michael – Ahch-To (Star Wars)

Skellig Michael - Ahch-To
Ireland is the last place anyone would think to look for Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Disney, Lucasfilm, 2017)

When The Force Awakens opens, the opening crawl reveals that Luke Skywalker has vanished. At the end of the film, Rey travels to the planet of Ahch-To, to find Skywalker living in exile atop a small island. That island is actually Skellig Michael, one of the Skellig Islands just off the coast of Ireland. On the summit is a 6th Century Monastic settlement, which is where the Caretakers lived in The Last Jedi. It is also home to a variety of birds, most notably puffins, which, because of their protected status, couldn’t be moved out of the way. Rather than digitally remove them, the filmmakers decided to work with them and they became the adorable porgs.

Waikato – The Shire (Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit)

Waikato - The Shire
You can knock on Bilbo’s door (Photo credit: Hobbiton)

While this list could easily be filled exclusively with New Zealand and locations that double for Middle Earth, the Shire is arguably the most iconic. Home of the titular hobbits, both Middle Earth trilogies begin in this beautiful, peaceful land. When Jackson and crew returned to film The Hobbit trilogy, they rebuilt Hobbiton with more permanent materials, meaning that it will stay as it appears in the film for years to come. As well as building Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn has also been recreated, as well as themed celebrations taking place.

Timberline Lodge – Overlook Hotel (The Shining)

Timberline Lodge - The Shining
It only looks slightly less creepy in the daytime (Photo Credit: OregonLive.com)

While one may expect a hotel with a reputation like the Overlook Hotel to not have many visitors, in reality it’s appearance in the film has only made it more popular. While the exterior shots were filmed here, most of the interior shots were shot in a studio, and ironically based off another hotel entirely. The hotel managers requested that the filmmakers change the room number, fearing it would deter guests. This has actually had the opposite effect, with room 237 now the hotels most requested room. The hotel that inspired the original book is a whole separate hotel, which could actually be haunted.

Edgartown – Amity Island (Jaws)

You can even go in the sea if you’re feeling brave enough (photo credit: The Telegraph)

Despite being a fictional setting, Amity Island exists almost in it’s entirety in Martha’s Vineyard. Spielberg elected to shoot in the sea rather than in a studio, and consequently saved several small buisnesses in the area. The town hall remains in use today, while the beach itself is more popular than ever. Even the ravaged remains of the “Orca” the boat our heroes sail in, are displayed proudly. Perhaps the most unexpected star is the “Jaws bridge”, where tourists throw themselves into the sea and climb back to land just like in the film.

Also Read: Big Screen To Small Screen: Films That Would Make A Great TV Series

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Editorials

Big Screen To Small Screen: Films That Would Make A Great TV Series

August 12, 2020
District 9

While TV shows and films are different mediums, some TV shows have made the transition to feature films. The Mission: Impossible franchise started out as weekly television series, and Downton Abbey had a sequel film after the events of the series. Having previously looked at TV shows that could make great films, we take a look at films that could make great TV.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner - Harrison Ford
It’s unlikely Harrison Ford would appear, but the world is full of interesting characters (Warner Brothers, 1982)

Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic finally got a sequel a whole three decades later, with Blade Runner 2049 but there is still much of this world to explore. The 30-year timeframe between the films was briefly explored in some shorts and comics, but a lot can happen in 30 years. Or even in the years preceding the original film. Netflix’s Altered Carbon has many visual similarities, but the noir story and unique soundtrack would be perfect for a 10 episode series. Maybe some we could even have some characters from the films show up?

Hellboy

Hellboy
David Harbour deserves to be in a good Hellboy adaptation (Lionsgate, 2019)

Despite being around for over 25 years and starring in 3 feature films, Hellboy remains with his “cult” status. While the first two live-action efforts were well-loved, they didn’t do well at the box office. Director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman tried unsuccessfully to finish the trilogy. A 2019 reboot with David Harbour was plagued by issues and scored less favourable with critics. The franchise could work better as a series, with each season adapting a different arc. Netflix has had success with lesser-known properties like Daredevil and Umbrella Academy. The series lends itself well to a “monster of the week format” with the BRPD, and it would have much more time than the films do.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter
The Order of the Phoenix would be a great idea for a series (Warner Brothers, 2007)

The wizarding world has captured the imagination of a whole generation. Which is why it’s such a surprise that there is so little outside of the books and films. Although the series has focused mainly on Harry, there are plenty of other characters and stories that are only hinted at in the world. Harry’s parents at Hogwarts? Or even his children. The Order of the Phoenix has a rich history that it is dying to be explored. A show would help flesh out some side characters that are interesting but pushed aside in service of Harry’s story.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Some parts of the film already feel like stand alone episodes (Columbia Pictures, 2019)

Tarantino’s love letter to the golden age of Hollywood introduced us to Rick Dalton and his pal Cliff Booth, but there is still a rich world there to explore. Rick and Cliff have a history that’s practically begging to be explored, or maybe some new characters? An anthology in this setting could be great, one episode following an aspiring actress and the next a director struggling against the studio system. It could even take a cue from the film and feature historical events and faces, perhaps creating its own alternate history. Tarantino has teased an extended cut, so there may be more to come.

District 9

District 9
It’s been over 10 years, we need something (Tristar pictures, 2009)

This a premise that’s perfect for a TV series. Aliens living in worn down camps in South Africa, and their interactions with the locals. Director Neil Blomkamp has said he’d love to do more set in the world. While the film mostly tells it’s own story, there are plenty of other stories to tell in this world, either before or after the events of the film. They could even set it in another district, following entirely new characters and have little connection to the film, but the idea is begging to be explored more.

Also Read: Five Upcoming 2020 Horror Releases

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Editorials

Top 5 Black Mirror Episodes

July 29, 2020
The Best of Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror first aired in 2011 and has been scaring us ever since. It’s depictions of the dangers of technology and potential future of society can be shockingly accurate. Even from the first episode. As the world has descended into chaos, the later seasons have actually had some episodes with a happy ending. The series has looked at everything from dating to politics but it’s main focus is on technology. It’s looked at things like VR gaming and China’s Social Credit System. And even had an interactive experiemntal episode about video games with Bandersnatch.

With the show taking some time off, now seems like a good time to revisit the series, and take a look at 5 of the best.

5. Fifteen Million Merits (1.02)

Black Mirror - Fifteen Million Merits
Fifteen Million Merits stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown Findlay (2011)

Taking a look at the future of talent shows and advertisements, this episode features a pre-Get Out Daniel Kaluuya, riding an exercise bike. Every few pedals of the bike earns the rider merits, which they can spend on food and drink as well as items for their digital avatars. The sleeping quarters are walls of screens with adult advertisements constantly intruding, and a paid fee to skip them, rather like paying for subscription services in real life. This is one episode that has proved rather timely as streaming and subscription services have come into our lives

4. Be Right Back (2.01)

Black Mirror - Be Right Back
Domhall Gleeson and Hayley Atwell in Be Right Back (2013)

Grief is something that everyone, unfortunately, goes through at some point, and everyone deals with it differently. The final and most important aspect of grief is accepting the loss. This episode shows one way of dealing with the loss of a loved one, use their internet history to make an android with their personality. This is one of the most human and relatable episodes of the series, and one of the most thought-provoking.

3. USS. Callister (4.01)

Black Mirror - USS Callister
Jesse Plemons channels William Shatner in USS. Callister (2017)

Riffing on both Star Trek and VR technology, this is one of the most imaginative episodes of the show. A lonely programmer lives out his space captain fantasy in VR, modding in his co-workers as his crewmates. The episode focuses on this power fantasy and spills into the real world, with allusions to Harvey Weinstein. It is one of the highest concept episodes, with Brooker describing it as “The Black Mirror version of a space epic”. This episode even won several awards, for its performances, cinematography, and sound design.

2. San Junipero (3.04)

Breakout perfomances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davies in San Junipero (2016)

The first episode conceived for season 3, this was written “as a conscious decision to change the series“. The episode is at its core, a love story between Yorkie and Kelly. It is also unique for being a period piece (with the exception of the interactive Bandersnatch). This episode is a great example of how the show can expand from its study of the dangers of technology and actually shows hope. This episode also garnered awards and topped a lot of “best episodes” lists.

1. White Christmas (2.04)

Jon Hamm talks to a “Cookie” in White Christmas(2014)

This festive special takes three different stories and connects them, unlike other episodes which just reference other stories. As the two characters share their life stories over Christmas dinner, the stories slowly connect. This episode is a soap opera, sci-fi and romance all in one. Although the individual stories are very short compared to regular episodes, the quality remains the same, and each of them could easily be fleshed out into full-length episodes.

Also Read: The Best Sci-Fi Films of the Decade

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Editorials

Inside the Mind of Jordan Peele

July 23, 2020

Even if you are unfamiliar with his face or his name, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know his work. Half of the comedy duo “Key and Peele”, their sketches have amassed millions of views since they were uploaded online after their show. The voice of Bunny in Toy Story 4 and the mastermind behind Get Out and the reboot of The Twilight Zone. Jordan Peele has made a name for himself and cannot easily be placed into one box.

From his work on the oscar-nominated Get Out, which won him the best original screenplay accolade and his follow up Us. He has also made a name for himself and his production company in the horror genre, producing the upcoming Candyman reboot.

Who is he?

Keegan-Micheal Key and Jordan Peele
Keegan-Micheal Key and Jordan Peele (Indiewire, 2009)

Peele got his break on Mad TV, a sketch comedy show, where he also met Keegan-Michael Key. The two would then go on to make their own sketch show Key and Peele which ran from 2012 to 2015, and several skits went viral online. Their success spawned Keanu a buddy comedy where the two rescue a cat from gangsters. It received positive reviews and the duo continued acting together, playing FBI agents in the first season of Fargo and stuffed fairground toys in Toy Story 4.

While his comedy had made him well known, he has also made a name for himself in the horror genre with his directorial debut Get Out. A social thriller tackling race issues, it had a great buzz and earned Oscar nominations. Peele won for Best Original Screenplay making him the first African American to win the award.

In an interview, Peele compared his comedy background to his horror feature, and how the genres have some things in common. How both are often used to shine a light on society and issues, and how they often hinge on reveals. While they are usually considered opposites, they are rather alike and humour is often sprinkled into his films. He carried this into his next film Us. Where Get Out dealt with race, this focused on class and privilege. It also received great reviews, although no Oscar nominations.

Peele’s work often has something to say, which is apparent in his films as well as The Twilight Zone, an anthology which usually ends with a twist and a moral. Peele narrates the series, in place of Rod Serling, who gives the opening and closing narration to each episode,

Monkeypaw Productions

Get Out, Momkeypaw Production
Peele’s work often comes through his production company, Monkeypaw Productions (Monkeypaw Productions, 2019)

In 2012, Peele founded Monkeypaw Productions, which produced the series Key and Peele as well as the duo’s feature film Keanu which Peele wrote and starred in. Peele has slowly stopped acting, finding directing more fun. It probably helps this his two efforts so far, Get Out and Us have been hugely successful, both having scored over 80 on Metacritic.

As well as his own work, Monkeypaw also produces work from other writers, with them producing Spike Lee’s BlackKklansmen as well as the upcoming Candyman reboot. They are also involved in the latest iteration of The Twilight Zone, with Peele also narrating. Several other projects are also in development, like Lovecraft Country and the second season of Amazon’s Hunters.

The Future

Jordan Peele
Peele presents “The Twilight Zone” as well as producing (Vulture, 2019)

Peele doesn’t seem like he is going anywhere anytime soon. Although he is moving away from acting he is still actively writing, producing and has ideas for his next few films already. Some of his sketches have had features developed around them for a while, but time will tell if anything comes of them. Most people are likely excited for his next feature, although he appears to be focused on Candyman which he is producing. There are currently no hints as to what his next feature could be, but it’s sure to be excellent.

Also Read: My Favourite Actor: Octavia Spencer

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Editorials

Quibi: Where Does The Short Film Platform Go From Here?

July 7, 2020
Quibi

This April, Quibi, a unique streaming service launched. All of it’s content is designed to be “bitesized” around 10 minutes or less. Perfect for watching on a lunch break or on the tube. With some big names involved like Spielberg, Del Toro and Jason Blum involved, it seemed like it had potential to get to the big leagues. So why isn’t it?

Quibi launched right in the middle of the global pandemic when everyone had free time on their hands. With everyone stuck inside, they need longer series to keep invested in, rather than 10 minute long episodes. It is also only available in the US and Canada, although that wasn’t really an issue for Disney+. While it does seem that the release couldn’t really have come at a worse time, there are likely other factors.

Try before you buy

Quibi Dashboard
Quibi offerings feature a wide variety of genres (Source:TechHive)

Like most streaming services, Quibi is a paid service. While it does offer a 14-day free trial, it previously offered a 90 day when it first launched. The 90-day trial is a better representation of Quibi, which adds new content weekly. After the two week trial, there are two payment options, a $4.99 which is slightly cheaper than most streaming services but features ads. The other option removes the ads for $7.99. Most paid-for streaming services do not feature ads, with Netflix offering several plans based on how many people use the account.

Another problem unique to Quibi is its content. Because of the “bite-sized” nature of its content, it doesn’t have any existing content to tempt viewers. Whereas Netflix had the likes of Breaking Bad, and Disney has its vast library. Quibi only has original content which can be much harder to sell, especially when you only have 15 minutes of a show. While it might have some top talent involved, it’s hard to get people invested in a show that only has one 15 minute long episode.

(Don’t) Tell your friends

One of the big reasons Netflix gets shows to go viral is because it actively starts conversations. When new shows like Tiger King or Bird Box are released, the twitter account engages with it. By actively encouraging discussion and showing clips or sharing memes, Netflix helps build the conversation around its shows. By contrast, Quibi does not even allow users to take a screenshot whilst in the app, and no sharing onto social media, making it hard to grow buzz for a series without getting people to sign up for it and watch it themselves with little to no context.

Another issue is that Quibi is mobile-only, with no option to watch on a computer or cast to a TV. This has the unfortunate side effect of making it difficult for more than one person to watch any content on there. Watching a funny Youtube clip on a mate’s phone might be good at school, but it doesn’t really work in this context.

Where does Quibi fit in?

Quibi
Quibi doesn’t really offer much that can’t be found elsewhere (Credit: Quibi)

In a world where anyone can create short content and upload it to the internet on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, a paid service seems odd. While it has the benefit of big names, most of them are active on other platforms and have other much more exciting projects planned. Actors like Jack Black and Will Smith have their own YouTube channels, which viewers can watch for free, so why sign up for Quibi?

While the actual content on Quibi isn’t the issue, some of the more weird and high concept shows are perfect for the platform. However, a lot of the shows could go onto YouTube, which already has it’s own premium option. Also, YouTube already has access to new content it also allows other benefits.

While Quibi is an interesting idea, it appears that it just doesn’t have enough to make it stand out from existing platforms, it’s a combination of Netflix and YouTube which is interesting, but those platforms offer different things for a reason. Many of the shows on Quibi are well funded and produced, but seems like a lot of money to throw at shows that total little over 2 hours when finished. It still has a chance to recover and be successful, but only time will tell if that happens.

Also Read: Amazon To Own Odeon Cinemas?

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Reviews

Review: Da 5 Bloods

June 27, 2020

The latest “Spike Lee Joint” could not have come at a more apt time. With the Black Lives Matter movement calling for justice and diversity, and a global pandemic meaning most people are stuck watching Netflix.

“We fought in an immoral war that wasn’t ours for rights we didn’t have”

Da 5 Bloods tells the story of ageing Vietnam veterans, Paul, Otis, Eddie and Melvin, as they return to modern-day Vietnam. They arrive to bring back the remains of their fallen leader, Norman, as well as the gold they buried. While the Bloods are the central characters, most of the focus is put on Paul and Otis. Paul, suffering from severe PTSD and wearing a MAGA hat, has had the hardest time adjusting to civilian life. While Otis has an old flame he reconnects with in Vietnam. Melvin and Eddie get less development, but the camaraderie of the four is excellent, as they do elaborate handshakes and have in-jokes. Norman, the fifth member is presented as an almost mythical figure, described as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Although he only appears in flashbacks, the loss they feel without him is clear.

Chadwick Boseman's "Stormin' Norman"
Chadwick Boseman’s “Stormin’ Norman” has a huge presence, despite being dead for decades (Netlix, 2020)

 The group are first reunited in modern-day Vietnam, a stark contrast to the usual depiction and how they remember it. The culture clash is even more jarring after the opening, which uses real-world footage about the war and black people’s struggles at the time (many of which are still present today). Just as things are settled, there is a grim reminder that, while time has passed, the war hasn’t ended for everyone. The film does a great job at exploring this theme, despite the aspect ratio and grainy footage, the characters remain the same age in flashbacks. No recasting or de-ageing ala The Irishman. It shows how they feel they haven’t changed since the war, as well as highlighting the tragedy of Norman being killed as a young man.

“After you’ve been in a war, you understand it never really ends”

Delroy Lindo
Delroy Lindo’s performance as Paul is one of the films biggest strengths (Netflix 2020)

The film is at it’s best during these moments, a simple interaction at a marketplace causing Paul to have a panic attack. Or a prankster setting off firecrackers meaning all four of them dive to the floor. It’s clear that despite the passage of time, they’ve never really forgotten. Paul’s support of Trump is implied to be a direct cause of the war, having spent so long being told people who look different are the enemy. This distrust extends to Vinh, the Vietnamese guide taking them to the jungle, whose family thought for the Viet-Cong. Like BlacKkKlansmen it makes use of real-world footage, here flashing footage of the horrors and figures of the Vietnam war. While these are quite jarring and distract from the film, they are incredibly effective. It’s one thing to hear about something but another to actually see it.

Unfortunately, the film does start to lose steam around the hour mark as it switches gears. Having found the gold, the veterans have to survive long enough to keep it. Becoming more of an Indiana Jones-style adventure film than, the Vietnam character study it was before. The film doesn’t totally abandon the themes, with Delroy Lindo delivering some exceptional monologues to the camera as Paul wanders the jungle alone, unable to trust anyone. While the action scenes are well done, they grow stale towards the end and are far less interesting than the psychological battles being fought. The film is also a touch too long, coming in at two and a half hours.

Final Verdict

An effective and important tale that tackles it’s themes head on. Although things become unfocused in the later half, it is still a worthy watch, with a powerful perfomance from Delroy Lindo and some execellent uses of Marvin Gaye. It’s a shame the second act doesn’t hit as hard as it should, but it sticks the landing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Also Read: BlackKklansman (Review)

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Editorials

Amazon To Own Odeon Cinemas?

June 12, 2020
Odeon Cinemas

With the global pandemic, movie theatres, like many businesses have been forced to shut down. People were advised to stay at home, and only leave the house for essentials. So trips to the cinema weren’t included. As the pandemic has gone on, some smaller businesses have unfortunately had to close for good. Many surviving businesses will likely take time to recover. A recent report indicated that AMC Theatres could be seeking a buyer. AMC also owns the Odeon chain in the UK. The potential buyer? Amazon. Yes that Amazon.

So could Amazon really own a cinema chain? And what would that mean for cinemas?

What’s this all about?

Trolls: World Tour
Trolls: World Tour became an unexpected hit via on demand (Universal, 2020)

Streaming services have been invaluable while everyone is in lockdown, and Prime has been a heavy hitter for a while. Especially in the UK, which didn’t get Disney+ until a few months ago. Amazon Prime has the added benefit of additional discounts from the main site. It also lets users rent and purchase many films, even if they don’t have prime, unlike most other services.

With cinemas closed, many studios have had to either delay big films or release them on demand. The pandemic has cemented the influence of streaming services, and many people are asking what the future holds for cinemas. With streaming being easier and often cheaper, audiences may not be as inclined to visit cinemas anymore, except for “event” films such as “Tenet”. The latest trailer confirmed it would be “only in theatres”.

Why does it matter?

Amazon Studios
Amazon have had success with some of their orginal films

So Amazon has a successful streaming service and want to buy a cinema chain. This is good for Amazon, as they could give their original content theatrical releases. Existing Prime customers could also get additional perks. But what about cinemas they don’t own? Could we start seeing some releases exclusive to some cinemas? Amazon has had success with original films like “The Big Sick” and “Manchester By The Sea“. Although the Oscars temporarily allow films streamed digitally to be eligible, traditionally they need a theatrical release. Although they have started to move away from this, like most streaming services. Netflix had a big exception with Scorsese’s “The Irishman“, which had a limited theatrical run so that it qualified for Oscars. This would allow them to release a film on their streaming service for subscribers, while also being awards friendly.

If Amazon did this, it’s likely other streaming services would follow suit. Disney is a likely contender. Along with Universal, they have been less concerned with cinemas, releasing films soon after theatrical releases. If these studios begin buying up cinemas, they could have the best of both worlds. Many cinema chains are refusing to show Universal movies if they continue ignoring the theatrical window. This could potentially lead to a scenario where huge franchises are only available in certain cinemas. You could watch Fast and Furious 9 at your local, but then have to travel to a Disney owned chain for the new Star Wars. Imagine the streaming wars, but with actual cinemas!

How bad would this be?

Orson Welles infamously clashed with studios on most of his projects (Source: Vulture. com, 2015)

This would actually be a step backwards. Back in the 1920’s studios not only owned the theatres but had exclusive contracts with actors and directors. This meant that they could only work for that studio for the duration. and created a monopoly on the industry. During a two-decade-long court case independent producers, like Orson Welles and (ironically) Disney fought to end the practice. Eventually succeeding, the Supreme Court managed to end the practice of block booking in 1948. Although some argue those rules are no longer needed, meaning we could see a return to this model…

This would give studios complete control over films, with potentially much more “studio interference“. Director’s Cut’s would be very hard to produce as they would now be tangled up in rights issues. It would also be much harder for directors or actors to leave a project or refuse one.

Luckily, it seems like these talks may just be rumours, as neither company has confirmed they are actually happening, but if it did happen, it could be very bad news for everyone but the studios.

Also Read: Why We Need To Support Independent Cinemas Now More Than Ever

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Editorials

UK Government Allows Film & TV Productions To Restart Filming, But How Practical Are Their Guidelines?

June 6, 2020
Camera operator wearing face mask

With the outbreak of Covid-19 and industries being brought to a standstill, everyone has been eagerly awaiting new information. With some shows having to end seasons earlier than planned and even beloved soaps running out of new material. People have been itching to get back to work. The UK Government announced new guidelines allowing the film and TV industries to get back to work. But are these guidlines too restrictive? Or is this all a bit too soon?

The Government guidelines encourage people to work from home whenever possible, and when not possible, to maintain social distancing. While some select programmes have continued filming, such as the news and chat shows, albeit with no studio audience and most guest appearing via webcam. This has faced many of these shows to adapt. Saturday Night Takeaway transformed from a studio show to being a skype chat from the host’s living rooms, with old footage.

While this approach can work for programmes in post-production, like Netflix’s Umbrella Academy, as post-production can often be worked on at home, with actors even recording lines hiding in their cupboards. It is much more difficult to actually film new footage with the lockdown. With UK Government advice being to keep a distance of at least 2 meters between other people, filming would take much more time if not be impossible. This has resulted in some unique programming, as people have tried to adapt and entertain.

New Guidelines

ITV's Isolation Stories (Source: Deadline.com)
Some shows have been produced entirely in lockdown, like ITV’s Isolation Stories (Source: Deadline.com)

The new information means that some industries can go back to work, including the film and TV industries, however, things have not completely back to normal. For instance, the 2-metre rule should still be followed wherever possible, including by actors. This means that scenes may have to be re-written and planned to ensure this. It also means actors should apply their own makeup, costumes and microphones whenever possible and floor markings to clarify the distance.

Additionally, scenes set in open, outdoor spaces are to be prioritised, and the use of green screen is encouraged. This allows actors to film scenes without actually being on set. Senior actors, or ones with underlying health conditions, are to stay at home. Crews from local areas are to be prioritised, so as to reduce the spread of infection. Stunts and special effects sequences have even more planning and should consider demand on the NHS.

Is it too soon?

Social distancing has to be obeyed both in front of and behind the camera (Source:Cityam.com)

While these measures seem reasonable, they seem restrictive. Having to rewrite scenes so that characters are 2 metres apart in every scene could prove difficult. Especially in scenes between love interests or other emotional beats. There are very few natural reasons to not comfort someone in distress with a hug. Will every show now need to set an episode in the pandemic? While soaps and some other shows might be able to work with this premise, other’s won’t. The Walking Dead will be much less effective with all the Walkers social distancing.

While the effort to restart production is admirable, these measures do seem too restrictive. Although some programmes have still been filming, it clearly won’t work for everything. Even if only one person is on camera, there will be several behind it, unseen. With dozens of people on set, all trying to do a job, social distancing will be very hard. Things will likely take even longer on set, as everyone has to constantly stay apart, and do things on their own.

The reaction to these measures has understandably been mixed. While people are glad to get back to work and filming again, there are still concerns. Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite summed it up “There’s no quarantine-friendly version of making a film“. While writers rooms and pitch meetings can still happen via Zoom or Skype, not everything can. It is much harder to direct actors and crew without physically being in the space with them. Many also feel that the job isn’t worth risking people’s lives over.

While the impact of coronavirus will likely be felt for months to come, things are slowly returning to normal. While some are arguing it is too soon, precautions are being taken. Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer before our favourite shows are back to normal.

Also Read: Coronavirus: How It’s Affected The Film Industry

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Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

May 20, 2020

The Rise Of Skywalker had the odds stacked against it very early on. Original director Colin Trevorrow was replaced by J J Abrams, legacy star Carrie Fisher had tragically passed away, and it had to not only follow up The Last Jedi, which proved incredibly divisive but also end the trilogy as well as the nine-film Skywalker Saga. Initial reactions were not positive. Fans on either side of The Last Jedi debate were dissatisfied with the “undoing” of several plot elements, the return of arch-villain Palpatine and the film’s reliance on nostalgia and references to the original trilogy. Now that some time has passed, it’s time to revisit Episode IX and ask, was it really that bad?

“I have a bad feeling about this”

Whatever faults this film has, at least it gave us Babu Frik (Disney, Luasfilm, 2019)
Whatever faults this film has, at least it gave us Babu Frik (Disney, Luasfilm, 2019)

Rise of Skywalker currently sits at a 6.7/10 on IMDb, putting it just ahead of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and scoring the least of the sequel trilogy. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has the second-lowest score of the whole franchise, with only the animated Clone Wars film scoring lower. After the division that The Last Jedi caused in the fandom, it was important for the final installment to have more universal appeal, unfortunately, in trying to appease everyone, the film doesn’t take any risks and relies heavily on nostalgia, without any of the buildup that made the orignal moments so satisfying and iconic. In addition, many of the plot points were retconned, Rey did have an important lineage, Kylo Ren donned his mask again, and Palpatine was brought back from the dead by cloning or dark magic or… something.

So, without the magic of a midnight screening, would I see the stitches holding this film together? Well.. yes and no

“Bring balance to the Force”

Reading the reviews for Rise of Skywalker (Disney, Lucasfilm, 2019)

Some of the film’s faults are apparent right away, Palpatine, after dying in Return of the Jedi, has returned with an ominous and vague plan. How he returned is handwaved over, almost like the film is trying to jedi mind trick you, and his message announcing his return to the galaxy is never heard (except in Fortnite, because of course). Although it is always wonderful to see Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, his presence doesn’t really add anything other than tie up some plot threads that had already been dealt with. And while the film does seem to go out of it’s way to attempt to put things back on track, it really doesn’t do that much damage when compared to some of the orginal retcons. Let’s not forget that Vader and Anakin Skywalker were once two seperate people, and that Luke and Leia weren’t related. While the Rey reveal in particular does more harm than good, she does still have a solid arc about choosing her own family.

The film also has a few plot points that don’t make much sense, such as the Sith dagger. It does feel like it’s jumping through hoops to explain some elements but not others. Again though, this isn’t a problem unique to this entry, Palpatine’s plots are hilariously convoluted in the prequels as well as Luke’s rescue mission in Episode VI. It also leans very heavily on nostalgia. Nearly every iconic moment from the original films is referenced. Some of these moments work better than others. But the things the film expands upon are some real highlights. The connection between Rey and Kylo Ren remains the best thing about the trilogy. Their “Force Skype” power expanding to allow physical objects to pass between them adds an intriguing new dynamic. The final duel between them is suitably dramatic. The main trio finally being together is wonderful and some legacy characters get a great sendoff.

Was it really that bad?…No

It doesn’t manage to compete with top tier entries, but it certainly isn’t the worst. It feel more like a sequel to Force Awakens than Last Jedi and it can’t quite decide what it wants to be or have guts to stick with some plot points. It feels rather similar to Solo, which isn’t a bad thing, but feels to safe for what should be the final word in the story.

Would Trevorrow’s version have been an improvement? It’s hard to say as the two are very different, but have some interesting similarities.

Overall, this one just needed more time in the oven. The rushed development and behind the scenes drama creates a lack of vision, but there is still a solid action flick in here akin to Force Awakens or Abram’s Star Trek reboot.

Also Read: Was It Really That bad?: Star Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

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Editorials

Dynamic Duos: Iconic Actor Match-Ups

May 7, 2020

As there was an article previously that talked about directors that are always teaming up with the same actors, there are often a lot of actors that pair up too. Sometimes these are unintentional casting decisions, other times it is because of their proven chemistry and track record, or even because they’re close in real life.

Simon Pegg / Nick Frost

Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
It’s really weird when one of them is a film without the other (Indiwire 2019)

While many people assume they have been friends since childhood, the pair didn’t actually meet until Simon had graduated University. His girlfriend was a waitress with Frost, and introduced them. The two becoming fast friends after Pegg did his Chewbacca impression and both realised how big a nerd the other was. When Pegg was writing Spaced, he wrote a character especially for Frost, and continued when he wrote Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, with Edgar Wright. The pair have also worked together on Paul, and the final film in the Cornetto trilogy, The World’s End. They are currently working on a series about paranormal investigators, and recently did an updated version of the famous “the plan” scene from Shaun of the Dead, in response to the Coronavirus outbreak

Johnny Depp / Helena Bonham Carter

Few actors capture that Tim Burton style quite like these two (Warner Brothers, 2012)
Few actors capture that Tim Burton style quite like these two (Warner Brothers, 2012)

Director Tim Burton is known for his unique style and visuals, and for casting Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in everything (or at least it feels like it). The pair have teamed up together six times, each time because of Burton and usually play a couple. Although they haven’t appeared together in the franchise, they are both apart of the Wizarding World, with Carter playing Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and Depp playing Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts. Although they have not worked together for a while, it’s surely only a matter of time before they are reunited for another weird and wonderful project

Matt Damon / Ben Affleck

Affleck and Damon at 1998 Oscars, where they took home the award for Best Original Screenplay with Good Will Hunting, which they also starred in (ABC, 1998)
Affleck and Damon at 1998 Oscars, where they took home the award for Best Original Screenplay with Good Will Hunting, which they also starred in (ABC, 1998)

Bursting into the public eye with their Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting, these two have actually been friends since high school, with Affleck even helping Damon out in a fight. The pair actually shared a bank account which they pooled money that was only to be used for auditions. The pair co-wrote as well as starring in Good Will Hunting and Dogma, in which they play fallen angels, as well as various producing credits. Although they haven’t acted together for several years, the two remain firm friends, with Damon publicly speaking up for Affleck during his battle with addiction. They are currently working on a screenplay together, although it is likely going to be a while before we see them on screen in it.

Emma Stone / Ryan Gosling

Gosling and Stone as Sebastion and Mia in La La Land (2016, Lionsgate)
Gosling and Stone as Sebastion and Mia in La La Land (2016, Lionsgate)

Despite only appearing in three films together, these two have become fast friends, which is probably a good thing considering that they’ve always played love interests. The pair have nothing but nice things to say about each other, with Stone once declaring she “couldn’t imagine life without him“. Naturally, rumours of a romance have often circulated but nothing has ever really suggested these two are more than friends. Perhaps their biggest and arguably best collaboration is La La Land, a musical in which they play a couple while also trying to achieve their dreams.

Ben Stiller / Owen Wilson

Stiller and Wilson behind the scenes on Zoolander 2 (Paramount, 2016)
Stiller and Wilson behind the scenes on Zoolander 2 (Paramount, 2016)

Once comedic actors are paired up in a film, they often become inseparable. This is exactly what happened with this duo, who since their first on-screen team up in 1996’s The Cable Guy, which Stiller also directed, they have worked together on screen no less than twelve times in total, including the Night at the Museum and Zoolander films, which are arguably their most successful. Although they are known for their comedy work, their appearance in The Royal Tenenbaums proves they can do dramatic too.

Robert De Niro / Joe Pesci

Goodfellas is widely regarded as one the best works for both Scorsese and the main actors (Warner Brothers, 1990)
Goodfellas is widely regarded as one the best works for both Scorsese and the main actors (Warner Brothers, 1990)

De Niro is one of the most famous and talented actors around, so it’s fair to assume he has some standards about who he works with more than once. The equally great Joe Pesci is one of those actors. The pair starred in three Scorsese films, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino, before a long-awaited reunion in The Irishman. They have also appeared in Once Upon A Time In America, and Pesci had small roles in two of De Niro’s directorial projects.

Also Read: Dynamic Duos: Iconic Actor/ Director Match-Ups

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