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Author: Jack Kirk

Editorials

What Is The Maximum Screen Resolution Detectable By The Human Eye?

March 6, 2021

It seems like it’s impossible to have the latest technology, whether it be a phone, TV, or some other device. It’s almost like as soon as you upgrade, a newer model is out. In the world of TV’s, the biggest leap in recent years has been the move to 4K resolution. As 4k starts to become the new standard, the next upgrade already looks to be in sight, with Sony having developed a 16K TV. But not everyone has made the jump to 4K yet, and do we really need 16K?

What even is Screen Resolution?

Common Screen Resolution Sizes

Screen Resolution is the number of pixels on a screen. Counting both horizontally and vertically across. As an example, a resolution of “1024 x 768” would be 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 vertically. The resolution of a screen is not always connected to the size. If comparing to screens with the same size but different resolutions, the higher resolution will likely show more and have a sharper image.

The other phrases that get used a lot are OLED, LED and LCD. The most common type is an LED (Light Emitting Diode) although it is sometimes confused with LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). There isn’t really much of a difference between the two, and they are often used together when comparing against OLED. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is often found in premium phones or devices. The main difference is that LED/LCD produce a backlight, whilst OLED produces it’s own. This mainly affects brightness and dark colours on a screen, with both having pros and cons

Why is 4K a big deal?

Blade Runner 2049
Films like Blade Runner 2049 really shine in 4K // Credit: Warner Brothers, 2017

4K (or 2160p if you prefer) is the standard for most new TV’s and monitors available now, provided they are large enough. One of the cool things about these is that they can “upscale” lower resolution content into 4K. For example, something that was filmed in HD can be upscaled to 4K, so that it looks normal when viewing on a 4K TV, however, some models do this better than others.

In addition to TV’s, many films are now being re-released in 4K or Ultra HD. These have been very common with older films, restored from the original negatives, rather than a digital copy. While most have been positively received, some titles are more of a mixed bag, with unintended side effects in the colours or audio mix, or unintentional dating some special effects. The remaster of T2: Judgement Day is an infamous culprit. While it’s sometimes it’s hard to notice until a side by side comparison is made, it’s hard to go back from 4K. This format is catching on enough that some streaming sites offer their content in 4K, such as Disney+.

So what about 8K?

You might have to rethink your viewing position to make the most of 8K

As the name implies, 8K is double the resolution of 4K, with around 4 times as many pixels. While recording in 8K will lead to an incredible picture, it is unlikely to be noticed by the average household. This is partly because 4K was designed for cinema screens, so unless your TV is massive or you sit very close, there is little difference.

Where 8K will likely see an audience is in large or curved screens, such as museums, planetariums, and cinemas. Shooting footage in 8K will allow for more options with editing and cropping, especially into 4K, but it is unlikely it will catch on outside of this. 8K cameras are being marketed more towards shooting raw footage than anything else. 8K cameras haven’t really caught on in Hollywood yet. What’s the point in having an 8K TV if nothing is shown in 8K?

Unless you have a huge TV or plan on sitting very close to it, it’s unlikely you’ll truly notice much of a difference with 8K. Anything higher also seems pointless, as 8K is probably the clearest the human eye is able to process. If you haven’t upgraded to 4K yet, maybe it’s time to start thinking about it, but 8K likely won’t make much of a difference unless you’re in the cinema.

Also Read: Did High End TV Replace The Mid-Budget Indie Film

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News

Amazon Prime Purges Independent Films From Its Platform?

February 28, 2021

For independent filmmakers, there are a variety of places to show their hard work when it’s finished. As many of them don’t get theatrical releases, they are often posted online to various sites. Many filmmakers put their work on Amazon Prime. As one of the big streaming services, the fact that almost anyone can upload their work is a huge bonus, allowing their films to potentially reach a much bigger audience than it would on YouTube or Vimeo.

Recently, many people that had films uploaded on Prime suddenly found that their content was no longer there. With only a brief notice that it is no longer being accepted. Just what exactly is going on?

What is Prime Direct?

Prime Direct gives users various tools to not only upload their content, but also maximise and moniter it’s engagement

Prime Video Direct is a system that lets filmmakers upload their work onto Amazon Prime. The service lets them control various aspects, such as whether it is included with Prime, what countries it is available in etc. It also lets them control a rental price and potentially earn royalties from ads. As Prime is such a recognisable site, being able to upload films on there is a big deal for indie films.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. In early 2019, many creators suddenly found their content was no longer on the service, even after they had been approved recently. It’s not uncommon for content to disappear from a streaming service, like when a license expires, but this is a different situation. One of the things that make Prime stand out from competitors is that users can upload their own content. Unfortunately for the creators, whether the content stays up or not is purely at Amazon’s discretion.

Why Is Amazon Purging Content?

Is Prime just house cleaning? Or is there a bigger plan at work?

The short answer is, nobody really knows. Until Amazon offers up an explanation all we have are theories. Considering that the first “purging” of content was never explained, it is unlikely that this one will either. This could be something they decide to do every few years, which while concerning, is within their right.

The most prevalent theory is that it’s “decluttering” the library. The fact that anyone can upload a film on there means that the quality won’t always be as high as it some other streamers. Likewise, some with little to no views that no one knows are actually on there. This is the most plausible answer, although many well-rated submissions are also being removed alongside films with lower ratings.

A less likely but more hopeful option is that Amazon are separating their channels, and creating a separate space for its submissions. Prime has so much content on there it is often difficult to find anything, let alone a very obscure indie film. The purge could be to clear them from the site in hopes creators will post them to a new site. This seems unlikely though, as submissions are not closed.

Final Thoughts

The downsides of streaming have made themselves known as the medium has gone on. With things being removed seemingly with no warning, or being edited and censored. While this is an important debate, these arguments are always focused on established entertainment, this effects new and upcoming filmmakers. Creators that rely on revenue from their content have lost a huge platform for it, and as a result, potentially a large audience. At the time of writing, Amazon are still not accepting various submissions or have offered an explanation. Although it is unlikely we will get one, we can always hope.

Also Read: Alternative Streaming Platforms

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Editorials

Did High-End TV Replace The Mid-Budget Indie Film?

February 24, 2021

In recent years, TV has come to rival films, not only in scope but also in budgets. With blockbuster TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian costing around $15 million an episode, a whole season of these can cost more than some blockbusters, never mind a low budget film.

But what about films that fall in the middle? After all, not every director can get hundreds of millions to make their film. When studios have to decide between one small film or a whole season of television, the series seems like much better value for that money. So could this be the end of mid-budget films?

The Mid Budget Movie

Seven - Morgan Freeman & Bradd Pitt
Fincher’s Seven is a perfect example of a successful mid-budget movie // Credit: New Line Cinema, 1995

A mid-budget film can often be hard to define. As things like inflation and marketing costs can make them hard to determine. While there is no hard rule for what counts as mid-budget, it’s usually something around $5 million to $50 million. The lower range of these tends to be debut indies, films like American Psycho, 28 Days Later, The Blair Witch Project and Christopher Nolan’s Memento all had budgets of under $10 million.

At the upper end of this scale, can be a whole range of things. Many low brow comedies and rom-coms are often hugely profitable. With most of the budget being spent on the cast and a few set pieces, such as The Hangover, Bridesmaids, Zombieland and 21 Jump Street.

Other films that made in this range are often thrillers, often with a big name attached or a simple hook, a lot of mid-budget sci-fi tends to do well at the box office, with films like Seven, Looper, District 9 and Limitless being good examples. There are also occasional adaptations of books, however, these tend not to be franchises. Some Oscar contenders and winners have been produced with less than $50 million, including The Help, Straight Outta Compton, American Hustle and Bridge of Spies.

The Rise of High-End TV

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian costs around $15 million per episode // Credit: Lucasfilm, 2020

It’s a common complaint that most of the big films that come out are franchise films. Either a sequel, prequel, spin-off, or a reboot, it seems rare that a totally original film makes an impact. Because audiences are familiar with the Avengers or Fast and Furious franchises (Understandably so, they’re great), they are a safer bet for a studio. If they have the option of investing $30 million into a one-off thriller, like Seven, and making $80 million, or investing $200 million in the next Bond and making a billion, the latter usually wins.

At the same time, shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos have proven that viewers enjoy those types of stories. Not only is a season of a tv show cheaper (Breaking Bad cost around $3 million per episode at its peak), it also builds a larger audience the longer it goes. When a show is released weekly, like Game of Thrones or The Mandalorian it becomes a talking point every week.

For creators, writers often have much more say in TV, rather than film. Matthew Weiner had total freedom on Mad Men, and that story could not have been told in the span of one film. The Streaming Wars seem to be focused on series rather than films, with Netflix investing in shows such as The Crown, Stranger Things and The Witcher, for it’s biggest numbers. This in turn has left other studios trying to catch up. Disney recently announced that two of it’s biggest franchises, The MCU and Star Wars, were both going to be focused on TV for the foreseeable future.

Are Mid Budget Movies Dead?

Knives Out
Could Knives Out have renewed interest in this type of film? // Credit: Lionsgate

While it certainly seems that a lot of things are heading towards TV, it doesn’t seem like it’s over yet. Spielberg has relaunched Amblin Entertainment, which almost exclusively focuses on these types of films, and has found success. Recent films from established, indie directors that have found success often occupy this space, such as Taika Waiti with JoJo Rabbit.

Some of the genres mentioned previously simply don’t need a huge budget to be profitable, such as comedies, and films like the upcoming The Little Things are telling stories like True Detective on the big screen. Crime films especially seem to do exceptionally well in this range, with the recent Knives Out and Murder On The Orient Express proving surprise hits. Likewise, many Oscar contenders are often made for a more modest budget, so while the future might be changing, it doesn’t look like these mid-budget successes are going anywhere just quite yet.

Also Read: Fast & Furious: The Making of a Billion Dollar Franchise

Read More: The Mandalorian – A New Hope For Star Wars

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Editorials

The Highs and Lows of Nicolas Cage

February 2, 2021

For a lot of actors, the career they have worked so hard for can vanish instantly. Whether it be a string of box office bombs, being typecast, or just getting older. One actor that seems to be impervious to these is Nicolas Cage. Since his first role in 1981, he has over 100 acting credits, with several more in the works. It’s hard to define him by a single role, having appeared in everything from animated features to indie horrors. From winning an Oscar to losing his entire fortune. No one has a career quite like Nic Cage.

“There’s a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic”

Nicholas Cage
There have been some iconic looks for the star over the years // Credit: Buena Vista Pictures, 1997

Cage made his acting debut in 1981’s The Best of Times, a tv pilot that was never picked up. Following a small part in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he went on to have substantial roles in Valley Girl, Raising Arizona and Peggy Sue Got Married. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, he played in a variety of genres, from light-hearted comedy, drama, and even romantic leads. He won an Oscar for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas, where he played a suicidal alcoholic who decides to drink himself to death. It is currently his only Oscar win, although he was nominated again for his dual role in Adaptation.

His Oscar win and some box office success led to a much bigger profile in the 90’s. Finding success in action-adventure films, he starred in Con Air, The Rock and Face/Off, where he played a dual role opposite John Travolta. A huge comic book fan, he was also set to be cast as Superman, in the doomed Superman Lives. His son is named Kal-El, after the character.

Gone In 60 Seconds

Kick Ass - Nicholas Cage
His role in Kick Ass was rightly praised // Credit: Lionsgate, Universal, 2010

As the new Millenium began, Cage’s career reached new heights. Gaining a much bigger profile with films Gone in 60 Seconds, Ghost Rider and the infamous The Wicker Man remake, you know the one. He also starred in the National Treasure films, which have a cult following. His role in Kick-Ass, as the Batman homage, Big Daddy, was a standout. He also tried his hand at directing, with 2002’s Sonny, which did poorly with critcs and had a limited theatrical run.

Proving that his tastes are as varied as his acting roles, Cage spent much of his $150 million on a variety of weird and interesting things. Highlights include 15 residences, (including “the most haunted house in America” and two castles), a 9-foot burial tomb, a dinosaur skull, and a copy of the first Superman comic. Naturally, these spending caught up with him. After several divorces and an issue with the IRS. The comic was stolen, then found, then sold. the skull had to be returned, and his properties were also sold. Leaving Cage with a lot of debt to pay off, and taking several roles a year to pay it off.

“That Super 8 Feeling”

Mandy -  Nicholas Cage
Mandy has quickly become a cult classic because of his performance // Credit: XYZ Films, 2018

Recently, Cage has found cult success in several smaller films. While not all have been well-received (or even had a cinema release), they are classic Cage performances. Cult horrors like Mom and Dad or Mandy seem like roles that he was born to play. Cage himself has said that the best reason to make a film is “the super 8 feeling” – just because you love the film.

Cage certainly seems to have found his niche, but he’s still impossible to define by a single role. In 2018, he finally played Superman, albeit in voiceover, as well as Spider-Man Noir, in the Oscar-Winning Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. He also played Red in Mandy, which is a role that only Nic Cage could have played (his performance was based on his recent divorce). He also teamed with the studio behind that film for The Colour Out Of Space, a H.P. Lovecraft adaptation.

While some may doubt his acting skills, it’s hard to argue that anyone can play a role like Nicolas Cage. With upcoming roles as a theme park guard, Joe Exotic and himself that doesn’t look to change any time soon. Part of his appeal is that his roles are so varied, and he clearly enjoys his work. It’s impossible to predict his next role. Who would guess Ghost Rider starred and Oscar winner? While he seems to have drifted away from triple-A Blockbusters, he shows no signs of slowing down. Who knows? Maybe there is another Oscar-Winning role out there for him.

Also Read: A Horror Fans Film Guide To 2021

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Editorials

First Thoughts: WandaVision And The New MCU

January 19, 2021

After a long year, the MCU has finally brought some heroes to save us, in the form of WandaVision, a sitcom-inspired adventure featuring Scarlet Witch and the Vision. But Vision being alive isn’t the only weird thing going on, and what does it mean for the universe going forward?

Mild Spoilers for the first episode to follow

“This is gonna be a gas!”

Superheroes trying to live in a quiet neighbourhood is an excellent premise for a sitcom, even without the mystery // Credit: Disney

In case you were worried about “Superhero fatigue“, WandaVision is closer to a classic sitcom, than a superhero show. Although their powers are used, they aren’t fighting evil aliens or homicidal robots. Instead, Wanda is using her powers in the kitchen, to quickly cook a meal for Vision’s new boss. She also may or not be responsible for their new life, but more on that later.

The show captures the sitcom feel perfectly, with a musical title sequence explaining the “premise” of the show: he’s a robot, they’re an odd couple. Vision has an office job, even though he isn’t quite sure what he does, using his powers to look like a normal human. While Wanda is trying to be the perfect housewife with the help of their neighbour. The look and feel of the show is perfect for the era it’s going for. The formal accents, clothes and even the way characters walk really sell the era. Perhaps most importantly, it’s actually funny, and not in the typical Marvel self-aware way. Even without the franchise connections, this is a solid premise for a sitcom.

It’s not all audience laugh tracks though, it’s implied that there is something “strange” (pun intended?) going on. Wanda and Vision can’t seem to remember how they arrived in the neighbourhood, or anything outside it. The trailer seems to hint that this will become a mystery throughout the season, but with no second season offically announced, who knows how it will end?

“What’s your story?”

Despite the idyllic surroundings, something is not right… // Credit: Disney

Wanda is set to return in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, so it’s safe to assume that whatever happens here will lead into the upcoming film. The MCU is in a transition phase, as new heroes step up to fill the gaps left in the wake of Avengers: Endgame. With no Avengers 5 to build towards, it’s unclear where she’ll show up after that. Likewise, it’s unclear if Vision will appear after the series ends.

Marvel’s current slate includes a mix of old and new characters, over films and series. With most of these focusing on new heroes or ones that haven’t been a focus (like WandaVision or Falcon and Winter Soldier), the universe is clearly moving forward. Most of these seem much smaller scale than recent entries, more akin to Phase 1. It could be that the franchise is going for a “soft reboot”. With over 20 films, there are a lot of plot threads and characters to keep up with, so some smaller stories which could see new heroes replace older ones (Hawkeye, Falcon and Winter Solider) would be welcome. Additionally some multiverse, time travel stories could fix some continuity errors or close some plot threads.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Marvel has clearly gone as big on its Disney+ offerings as Star Wars has. Unique and refreshing, it’s a real treat after the superhero drought. Olsen and Bettany have great chemistry, and it captures the sitcom feeling perfectly. With dozens of theories already out there, the wait for answers seems like it’s going to be worth the wait.

While they may have been gone longer than intended, the next stage of the MCU is finally here. And if this is anything to go by, it’s going to be like nothing we’ve seen before…

Also Read: MCU Storylines That Are Still Unresolved

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Editorials

George Lucas: Beyond Star Wars

January 14, 2021

Whether you are a fan or not of the franchise or not, it is impossible to escape Star Wars. Lucas’ science fiction fantasy blasted into cinemas in 1977 and has been a huge pop culture fixture ever since. Although Lucas did not direct the two follow ups, he remained a driving creative force (pun intended), and later directed the prequel trilogy several years later.

With such a huge success on his hands, it’s not much of a suprise to find that Star Wars dominated Lucas’ life and career. When Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 Billion in 2012, Lucas effectivly retired from filmmaking. Although it may be his most well know and influential work, Lucas was involved in several other projects and has actively changed filmmaking as we know it.

THX 1138

THX 1138
THX’s visuals are often praised and have some clear influences on Star Wars (Lucasfilm, 1971)

Lucas’ first feature film, based on his award-winning short film, was a dystopian sci-fi about a world where the population takes emotion suppressing drugs. On its initial release in 1971, it received mixed reviews and a poor box office reception. However, since the success of Star Wars and the director’s cut (with CGI additions of course) the film has gained a cult following. There are several references to the film throughout other projects Lucas was involved in, such as the cell block Princess Leia is in.

American Graffiti

Harrison Ford in American Graffiti
Harrison Ford’s role in American Graffiti would lead to his most famous roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones (Lucasfilm, 1973)

Lucas’ second feature had much better reception and is held in high standards today. It currently features in the list of “1001 Movies to Watch Before you Die“. Lucas and his friend, Francis Ford Coppola, had to fight the studios to get a theatrical release after they demanded cuts and planned it to be a TV movie. It is notable for its heavy use of licensed music, and including a full list of cast and crew in its end credits, which are both common practice now. It also featured a young Ron Howard and a breakout role for Harrison Ford. Although it was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, it did not win any.

Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones
Raiders of the Lost Ark became an instant classic (Lucasfilm, 1981)

Arguably his second most popular work, and again featuring Harrison Ford, Lucas is a writer on the first three entries in the series, and an Executive Producer on the fourth. Famously pitching the script to Spielberg while on holiday to escape the madness of Star Wars. Lucas wrote a detailed timeline of Jones’ adventures. Some of which were used for The Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones, a tv series which he wrote and produced.

Lucasfilm

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm has an animation division.

Although the company is mostly associated with Star Wars, they have produced or been involved with films outside of the franchise. Most notably Indiana Jones. However, they have also produced several independent films, such as Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Willow (Lucas has a “story by” credit) and another children’s animated classic The Land Before Time. While these were relatively successful, or have gone on to be, they also produced some flops, such Radioland Murders (another “story by” credit) and the infamous Howard the Duck. The last film the company released before being acquired by Disney was Red Tails, which Lucas served as an Executive Producer on, and even directed some footage, as it was a passion project for him.

Industrial Light & Magic

ILM has worked some of the biggest films of the last few decades

Outside of actually making films, one of the biggest contributions to cinema Lucas has made was the foundation of Industrial Light & Magic. Initially, just a small team that worked on the original Star Wars, it quickly expanded and has now worked on over 300 films, including Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Transformers and the Avengers films. The company has won 16 Best Visual Effects Oscars and 40 additional nominations. ILM are also responsible for creating the Photoshop software before it was sold to Adobe. The studio has created groundbreaking special effects and continues to do so

As his friend Francis Ford Coppola lamented, Star Wars took over Lucas’ career, for better or worse. Although it may have prevented him from directing more films, he still had a very active and interesting career as a producer and ideas man and helped lead the way for visual effects.

Also Read: The Mandalorian: A New Hope For Star Wars

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Editorials

How The Friendship Between Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Led To Their Iconic Fight Scene

January 1, 2021
Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Game of Death

In 1972 Bruce Lee started production on Game of Death. In addition to writing, producing and directing, Lee also starred in the film as Hai Tien. His character would fight his way up through five levels of a pagoda filled with deadly martial artists and collect the treasure at the top. During filming, Lee took a break to star in Enter the Dragon. Unfortunately, Lee passed away before production could resume, with most of the film unfinished.

Game of Death: Bruce Lee vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Credit: Concord Productions / Columbia Pictures)

Of the footage that was filmed, the highlight is undoubtedly the fight with Mantis, played by Lee’s student and NBA Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. An iconic fight featuring a screen legend, but also a collaboration between friends.

The Tower From Power

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the LA Lakers in '78
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the LA Lakers in ’78 // Credit: Focus On Sport / Getty Images

Even those that don’t follow Basketball, will likely recognise Abdul-Jabbar’s name. Regarded as one of the best NBA players, he was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) six times. Establishing himself as one of the league’s top scorers with his signature “Skyhook“, he played 20 seasons, 18 of which he helped his team to the playoffs and reached the final of 10. He currently ranks second on the list of “Greatest NBA Players of All Time” (Behind Michael Jordan). Off the court, he has made several cameos in film and TV, such as Airplane!, and written several pieces on issues like race and religion. In 2012, he became a cultural ambassador for the US.

Whilst studying at UCLA, he took up martial arts in his spare time. A friend recommended he studied with Lee and introduced them. They quickly formed a strong friendship in addition to their student/teacher relationship over the 4 years they trained together. Abdul-Jabbar credits this training as the reason he was able to play with so few injuries over his 20-year career. They bonded over their shared philosophies, and desire to see better representation in media. He recently criticised Lee’s portrayal in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, mentioning that Lee always turned down challengers as he had nothing to prove.

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the set of Game of Death
Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the set of Game of Death // Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Lee, who became known to American audiences for his role as Kato in The Green Hornet, had to fight to use his martial arts skills on the show. When he was allowed to use them, he was too fast for the cameras and had to fight in slow motion. The series was cancelled after one season and growing frustrated with playing supporting roles, he returned to Hong Kong. Kato proved to be the star of the show there, and he used this as leverage to star in The Big Boss and Fists Of Fury which were both huge hits. This gave him complete control over Way Of The Dragon as writer, director, producer and choreographer. Along with increased control, the film also got a US release. His battle with Chuck Norris is regarded as one of the best in martial arts and film history.

Next Lee began work on Game of Death, although this would be postponed to allow him to star in Enter The Dragon. Six days before it’s release, Lee passed away, the film became one of the highest-grossing of 1973 and sparked a wave of martial arts tv shows. However, he had only filmed some parts of Game of Death. It was completed, controversially, using an (unconvincing) look-alike and double. Due to Lee’s death and the lack of footage, the plot is vastly different from the original project.

Game of Death

Bruce Lee - Game of Death Poster
Despite only appearing in 11 minutes worth of footage, Lee is still given top billing // Credit: Golden Harvest, 1978

The original plot was much simpler and would feature Lee’s character Hai Tien battling through a pagoda. Each floor is guarded by skilled opponents, with a treasure at the top. The film would follow Hai as he was forced to enter the pagoda and battle his way up the five floors.

Most of the guardians were to be played by friends and students of Lee’s, along with Abdul-Jabbar, roles were also planned for Taky Kimura, Dan Inosanto and Robert Baker. Before production was paused, scenes for the third, fourth and fifth floors were filmed. The film was intended to showcase Lee’s personal philosophies of martial arts, with each fighter being defeated with a distinctive weakness or flaw. With such creative control, Lee chose his former students roles himself.

Lee is still regarded as one the most influential martial artists ever, and responsible for introducing martial arts films to a much wider audience, subsequently launching the careers of stars like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Despite the final film being unfinished, the fight with his former student is a fitting tribute to his legacy.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade

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Editorials

Alternative Streaming Platforms To Check Out (Other Than Disney+, Netflix & Amazon Prime)

December 16, 2020
Alternative Streaming Platforms

The streaming wars are well and truly underway. It seems like everyone has their own streaming service now. But with so many services, how do they stand out? The new must-watch show, Star Wars, 10 minute long episodes? (Ok maybe not that last one)

The good news is that whatever you want to watch, there is probably a dedicated streaming service for it. So if you’re getting a little tired of rewatching The Office or Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the fifteenth time try out one of these other streaming sites to help you through isolation

Shudder

Host - Horror Film - Shudder
Host, a horror set over computer screens, was perfect for life in 2020

Horror has always been a popular genre, especially on streaming services. Whether it’s for Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House or Blumhouse premiering a series of films exclusively on Prime. While there are plenty of original horrors being made, there are plenty of classics also available. Anyone who loves horror should check out Shudder. Although the UK version only has around 200 titles, it does have ShudderTV, a 24/7 Livestream of its content which replicates the feeling of channel surfing and missing the first few minutes of a film, which is a neat way of discovering your next watch.

MUBI

MUBI
MUBI features films from all over the world

While some services are slowly expanding into showcasing International films, MUBI is the place to beat. Showcasing primarily festival darlings, it adds a new film every day, and it’s usally gone 30 days later, the length of an average theatrical run. While this can be frustrating, it does ensure that there is always something to watch. Hosting a huge variety of international, classic and modern films, MUBI is excellent for film fans that want to branch out.

BFI Player

BFI’s content regularly highlights different eras, genres, and cultures

The BFI promotes and preserves filmmaking, so it’s only natural that they would have their own streaming service focused on important and classic films. With curated collections from critics like Mark Kermode and exclusive introductions and retrospectives. BFI also doesn’t actually require you to pay a monthly subscription, instead of letting you just rent a lot of its titles. For those outside the UK, the Criterion Channel is a very similar option.

Shout Factory

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon?

If all of these are a bit too mainstream or acclaimed for you, then check out Shout Factory. It’s full of the kind of films that have long populated bargain bins. It’s big selling points are the classic Mystery Science Theater collection, with most of the films able to watch for yourself. The other is it’s VHS vault, full of forgotten films that haven’t received modern releases. Shout Factory is full of cult classics such as Ultraman, K9 (The Doctor Who spin-off) and Super Sentai, which was the basis for Power Rangers.

Eros Now

Indian Cinema has something for everyone

For those who prefer Bollywood to Hollywood, Eros Now has 1000’s of Indian hits, as well as originals and one’s exclusive to the site. They have a huge collection of Indian cinema, ranging from the 1950s to today, as well as its own original content. Aside from the films, they also have the soundtracks available for much of its library, so you can listen to the soundtracks or other Indian music via the service.

Also Read: Five Thought-Provoking Documentaries to Watch on BirdBox

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Editorials

Fast & Furious: The Story of A Multi-Billion Dollar Film Franchise

November 21, 2020
Fast 9 Poster

It’s hard to believe, but when Fast 9 releases next year, it will have been 20 years since we first met Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor in The Fast and the Furious. In that time the series has transitioned from street racing to globe trotting spy action. While still maintaing the core of being about “Family”.

The franchise now sits as the 10th highest-franchise of all time. With 9 films released, and several others in development. While the main story is set to end with part 11, it’s unlikely “la familia” will be driving off into the sunset for good. It’s fair to say that the series has lasted longer than anyone anticipated.

“A Quarter-Mile at a Time”

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker weren’t big names in 2001 (Universal, 2001)

Inspired by an article about street racing, the original film “The Fast and The Furious” wasn’t trying to be the next billion-dollar franchise. On a modest budget of around $38 million and relative unknowns starring (Diesel’s biggest credit was Pitch Black). The film did much better than the studio expected, opening at number one and quickly earning over $200 million. A sequel was quickly greenlit.

While Paul Walker returned, Diesel decided to work Chronicles of Riddick instead. This led to Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris being cast as Roman and Tej, who would later rejoin the series in bigger roles. While 2 Fast, 2 Furious wasn’t reviewed as highly as the original, it managed to knock Finding Nemo off the number one spot at the box office, and greenlight another sequel.

The third film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, has no actors from the previous films returning, despite a brief cameo from Vin Diesel at the end. The original script actually followed Toretto learning to drift while solving a murder but was rewritten to focus on new characters. Introducing us to Sung Kang’s Han, an instant fan-favourite, as well as Justin Lin, who will direct several other entries. The film did well at the box office, but was the least successful of the trilogy, leaving the series future uncertain…

“From Misson: Impossible to Mission: In- freaking-sanity!”

The introduction of Dwanye Johnson’s character Lucas Hobbs was part of the series’ transformation (Univeral 2011)

Vin Diesel’s cameo at the end of Tokyo Drift renewed his interest in the series and managed to reunite the main cast of the original film for the first “true” sequel. Lin directed again, and Kang reprised his role as Han, shifting the timeline to resurrect him. The car culture elements were toned down, giving the series more general appeal. It was a huge commercial success and renewed interest in the series.

The real change came with Fast Five. Featuring only one actual race, focusing on action and heists, as well as introducing Dwayne Johnson to the series. This is where the series becomes how we recognise it today. Considered by many to be the best in the series, it was a huge critical and commercial success, and perhaps the first instance of a trailer being revealed on a star’s Facebook Page. The films continued to be massive hits onwards, during press for Furious 7 Diesel announced spin-offs were being discussed, the first of these, Hobbs & Shaw was released in 2019.

“Let’s make some money”

 Hobbs & Shaw
The first spin off, Hobbs & Shaw was a huge success (Universal, 2019)

After the release of Tokyo Drift, theme park attractions based on the franchise started. While starting as just vehicle stunt shows, they have gradually expanded into full experiences and rides, with characters from the films “appearing”.

Several videogames based on the franchise have also been released, mostly mobile games but several console games. The highest-profile games are arguably the expansion for Forza Horizon 2 and the Dodge Charger in Rocket League. Several replicas of the cars used in the films have been produced by Hot Wheels and in 2020, a LEGO model of the Dom’s Dodge Charger was announced. In 2019 Fast and Furious Spy Racers, an animated series focusing on Toretto’s cousin aired on Netflix.

Against all odds, The Fast Saga has not only survived but it has gotten stronger than ever. Even the tragic death of co-lead Paul Walker hasn’t been able to stop it, with Furious 7 going on to gross $1.5 Billion (£1.1 Billion) worldwide alone and the entire film franchise grossing more than $5.8 Billion (£4.4 Billion) in cinemas worldwide. With the main series set to end with number 11, it seems like there is nothing that can stop it.

Also Read: How To Revive A Franchise After Many Years

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Editorials

MCU Storylines That Are Still Unresolved

November 12, 2020

After a mammoth 23 films and 11 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wrapped up the long-running “Infinity Saga”, the main story that the franchise had been building towards. Characters like Iron Man and Captain America reached the end of their arcs. The Infinity Stones were dealt with, and big bad Thanos was defeated. Phase 3 ended with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” as it’s epilogue.

Although the main characters and big plotlines were resolved, the story isn’t over. After all, heroes like Thor, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange all have films coming, continuing their adventures. However, there are some threads that seem to have been forgotten. Will Phase 4 resolve them?

Samuel Sterns – The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk
The last time we saw Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) he was transforming into The Leader (The Incredible Hulk, 2008)

While not remembered as fondly as some of the other films, The Incredible Hulk is one of the most interesting. Acting as a psuedo-sequel/reboot, the film finds Banner on the run from the military and trying to cure his “condition”. He enlists the help of Samuel Sterns to help him, who later starts to mutate into his alter ego “The Leader”.

We haven’t seen him again since, and there hasn’t been a small reference to the character. The Incredible Hulk occupies a strange place in the franchise’s history, with the character tied up in a rights issue and Banner being recast for subsequent appearances. General Ross reappeared in Civil War, and the events have been referenced, but no mention of Sterns as yet. Interestingly the actor was contracted for 3 appearances, so he could still return one day. Kevin Fiege himself has ruled it out, it’s just a matter of finding the right place for him, with no sequel in sight, that isn’t the easiest task.

The Mandarin – Iron Man 3

This Mandarin was revealed to be a fake (Iron Man 3, 2013)

The controversial Iron Man 3 saw Tony deal with PTSD after the battle of New York. While a new terrorist group led by the Mandarin attacks. Tony discovers that the Mandarin is actually a character, played by an out of work actor. Aldrich Killian then claims to be the villain in the finale, but the one-shot “All Hail the King” reveals that another, more comic accurate version, is the true one.

Tony Leung has been cast as the Mandarin in “Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings” which should hopefully connect some of the dots. “All Hail The King” ends with Trevor being taken to see the real Mandarin, which is presumbly the one who will appear in Shang-Chi. Whether the Iron Man 3 versions were inspired by or just using his name remains to be seen

Ultron Lives? – Avengers: Age Of Ultron

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, when peter is trapped inside the crate he finds  an Ultron bot made by Tony Stark : MovieDetails
The red eyes imply the head is still active (Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017)

The second Avengers film sees the team reunite to defeat Tony’s rogue A.I protector. Ultron quickly hacks the internet, makes thousands of copies of himself and plans humanity’s extinction. The Avengers defeat him with the help of Vision, an android Ultron intends to use as a new body. Vision removes Ultron from the internet and is left alone with the last drone.

It’s made clear in Age of Ultron that if one drone survives then he could return at full strength. The final exchange between Ultron and Vision is left ambiguous, but it’s fair to assume Vision destroyed him. Where it gets murkier is the apperance of an Ultron head in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. The final battle with Ultron took place in Sokovia, so why is there a head in New York? Further, it’s in the posession of Adrian Toomes and crew, so it’s not on it’s way to be destroyed. While this could be little more than an easter egg, it would be interesting to know where it ended up.

Time Travel – Avengers: Endgame

Avengers Endgame
Once you’ve introduced time travel, it makes everything compicated (Avengers: Endgame, 2019)

After their devastating defeat at the hands of Thanos, The Avengers are lost. Half of all life in the universe has been extinguished, and the world mourns. After 5 years, with some helo from Ant-Man, Tony Stark discovers time travel, allowing them a second chance. The Avengers perform a “time heist” to gather The Infinity Stones, to bring everyone back. After, Captain America returns the stones to their proper place in the timeline.

It’s unclear if the Avengers tell the public about their time travel adventure. But it’s possible that some people like Nick Fury are aware. Bruce Banner is still a public figure and time travel is a huge scientific breakthrough, so what are they going to do with it? It’s hard to believe the Avengers are just going to let it sit in their base gathering dust, but they can’t exactly use it for guided tours. It’s established that they can’t affect the future with time travel, but that wouldn’t stop them from looking at events in the past to solve mysteries or crimes. It’s likely this one won’t be resolved for a while until they need it again.

Also Read: Has The Marvel Cinematic Universe Reached It’s Peaked


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Editorials

With No New Big Budget Films At Cinemas Will Indie Films Have Their Time to Shine?

October 30, 2020

2020 hasn’t been the year any of hoped it would. As events were cancelled, people were forced to stay inside, it’s been tough on everyone. Ordinarily, we could go to our local cinema and escape for a few hours, but with many big releases now not arriving until 2021, things are different. Many theatres aren’t open at all, while others have reduced opening hours. Even when they are open, some are eerily quiet.

But there are still some films to watch. With the likes of Bond and Fast and Furious and even Wonder Woman are holding back, to the dismay of cinema chains, independent films are shining. Without the large budgets to make back, smaller, cheaper films are filling the gaps studios normally stay well clear of. This summer was supposed to see the release of blockbusters such as Black Widow, Candyman and Top Gun: Maverick. Instead, Trolls World Tour became the film everyone was talking about, ushering in a wave of films being released to streaming sites. But this isn’t just good news for Trolls, it means that most theatres have been left wide open…

Cheap Thrills

James Bond
The delay of No Time To Die has reportedly cost around $50 million (MGM: 2020)

Independent films are often buried when the new big summer blockbuster is out. Cinemas can only show so many films after all. Often if given the choice between an indie drama or another showing of a blockbuster, the latter will win. With most people in Britain only going to the cinema 3 times a year, they like to get their money’s worth. Watching something they know they will enjoy rather than take a gamble on something they haven’t heard of. Blockbusters are often longer, so it feels like more of an occasion. However, between the actor’s and crew’s salaries, post-production and marketing costs, these films are expensive and have to earn much more money before they start returning a profit.

Independent films can still be expensive (the original Iron Man is technically an independent film) but they are traditionally much cheaper to produce in comparison. This often means they have much lower expectations behind their performance. One advantage of this is that directors often have more creative control and more freedom. When millions of dollars aren’t at stake, some risks seem affordable, and different stories can be told in interesting ways. It also means that if the film is delayed, it isn’t bleeding money through delayed marketing, like Tenet and No Time To Die. Warner Brothers decided to release Tenet and it wasn’t quite the success they were hoping for. Meanwhile, After We Collided, a romance based on One Direction fan fiction did better at the box office than The New Mutants.

The Times Are Changing

Host - Horror Film
Released online, Host has been one of the suprise hits of this year (Shadowhouse Films, 2020)

Does this mean huge blockbusters will be gone soon? Definitely not. But it could mean that studios, and cinemas, stop relying on them. Indies can be treated as “filler” to use screens and keep cinemas afloat until the next big film. But this year has proven this isn’t sustainable. Instead, cinemas should embrace smaller films. Not only does it allow new talent to shine and get exposure, but it also allows different films to be more widely seen. A common complaint of the industry is that it’s always the same few properties having endless sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots, but independent films help prove that is not the case. Films like Saint Maud, Queen and Slim, and Babyteeth, as well as the success of this year’s virtual London Film Festival, have shown that there is plenty of good stuff to watch.

So next time you plan on going to the cinema, and don’t see any films you recognise, give an independent film a try. You might be introduced to your new favourite director, or the next big actress. Cinemas and audiences alike should start embracing independent films.

Also Read: Disney Shifts Its Focus Away From Cinemas To Its Streaming Platform


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Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Terminator: Salvation

October 16, 2020

The Terminator films have been living in their own shadow ever since Terminator 2. Sitting at an impressive 8.5 on IMDb, it built on the foundations of the original, introduced the iconic T-1000, and advanced special effects forever. Which to be fair, is quite hard to beat. It’s little wonder then that the following instalments have been considered disappointments. With three different attempts at launching a new trilogy, and desperately trying to live up to its own legacy, it’s future is uncertain

Back in 2009, after the disappointing third instalment, came Terminator: Salvation. Moving on from Judgement Day, the post-apocalyptic war with the machines is in full swing, and Batman is John Connor. While Bale’s infamous rant is more well-remembered than the film itself, several other sequels have come and gone. Salvation currently sits at a 6.5 on IMDb, the highest of any post T2. So is it really that bad?

“There is no fate but what we make”

Christian Bale as John Connor and Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese are highlights (Columbia Pictures, 2009)
Christian Bale as John Connor and Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese are highlights (Columbia Pictures, 2009)

Salvation is set in the distant future of 2018. Judgement Day has been and gone, Skynet is at war with humanity. John Connor is all grown up and fighting the machines. Which seems like the natural next step for the series and actually seeing the future is pretty cool. Some of the new terminator designs are also interesting, but nothing comes close to the T-800 or T-1000. Christian Bale makes Connor the figure he is described as in the original. Likewise, Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is an interesting younger version of the one we know. As a premise, that’s pretty solid and interesting.

The film focuses on Marcus, a criminal who sold his body to science and wakes up in this dark future. Upon his resurrection, he meets Kyle Reese, who is looking for the resistance. John Connor meanwhile has a plot to destroy Skynet and the film jumps between these two stories. All seems pretty promising so far. Unfortunately, Marcus isn’t much of a character. This is likely due to rewrites, where John Connor appeared briefly at the end before his role was expanded. But the most interesting thing about him is the obvious twist – he’s a terminator. It does actually seem like a logical jump, after all, the T-800 learnt to about being human. But the film never does much with it

“We’ve been at war since before either of us even existed”

Sam Worthington in Terminator: Salvation
A Terminator who think he’s human is an interesting idea (Columbia Pictures, 2009)

The reveal that Marcus is a terminator, while interesting, is blindingly obvious. It does lead to an interesting exchange with Connor when the two finally meet, but when the evil plan is revealed to Marcus, it’s too late to care. It also makes little sense, with Kyle Reese already being a prisoner, the machines can just kill him and win. No going back in time so no John Connor. Game over.

Despite the weak plot, the action itself is serviceable, except for the finale. The final battle opts for the usual terminator in a factory battle, like every other film in the series. Except for this time, Arnie is CG because he was busy. Like the rest of the film, it looks the part but isn’t particularly inventive. The final battle, despite supposedly the whole resistance launching an assault, only features John and Marcus. Even Kyle Reese, who most of the film has revolved around in some form, sits out the fight.

The ending is perhaps a microcosm of the film itself, a lot of potential and interesting ideas but not wanting to alienate fans. After being mortally wounded by the T-800, John Connor is dying. Earlier drafts of the script featured Marcus taking on his likeness to continue his legacy and inspire hope. An even darker ending would have “John Connor” proceed to kill everyone. While these would certainly be controversial twists, at least they would be memorable and make an impact. As is, Marcus sacrifices himself to save John Connor and…that’s it. The heroes fly away, and the credits roll

Was it really that bad?…. Yes

Despite having some adequate dumb action scenes, the characters are so uninteresting that there is no reason to care what happens to them. The events of the film don’t seem to make much of an impact on the character or the war. Nor does it add anything to the previous entries. It just feels rather mechanical. There is a great deal of potential here, it’s just a shame none of it is realised. Perhaps in an alternate timeline, this would be a much better film.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad?: Jennifer’s Body

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