Author: Jack Kirk


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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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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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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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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5 Captivating Performances From Method Actors

October 2, 2020
The Machinist

Method acting is a popular style of acting, wherein an actor becomes the role they inhabit. Some do this physically, such as walking with a limp or talking with a lisp, while others might mentally, such as what their character would prefer for breakfast. While many actors use this technique, sometimes a certain role will demand that they go the extra mile. Whether it be weight gain or loss, working under prosthetics or learning a new skill, some actors really go all out for their roles

Heath Ledger – The Joker (The Dark Knight)

Heath Ledger as Joker
Ledger received a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance. (Credit: Warner Bros.)

Heath Ledger’s defining performance gets a lot of praise, and deservedly so. Even if you’re the one person in the world who isn’t a fan, you can’t deny how dedicated he was to the role. Ledger locked himself in a hotel room for a month to get himself into the headspace, as well as keeping a diary. He even directed the hostage videos Joker makes in the film. One of the best and subtle parts of his performance is the constant licking of his scars, as the Joker can feel them on the inside of his mouth and never quite gets used to them.

Christian Bale – Trevor Reznik (The Machinist)

Christian Bale - Batman & The Machinist
It only takes 6 months to become Batman (Credit: Paramount & Warner Brothers)

This list could probably be filled with just Christian Bale roles, but this is one of his most dramatic transformations. Consuming just 200 calories a day, Bale lost over 25kg for his role as insomniac Trevor Reznik – and was willing to lose more before producers stepped in. Drinking whiskey and chainsmoking to lose weight. He consumed a single apple and tin of tuna during shooting. Perhaps most impressively, he then bulked up in a short six months to play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.

Ryan Gosling – Sebastian (La La Land)

Ryan Gosling - La La Land
Ryan Gosling had the option of a hand double but declined (Credit: Lionsgate)

Despite not transforming himself physically, Gosling still gives his all to his roles. His Oscar-nominated role in La La Land is no exception. Gosling learned to play the piano for the film, and all of the scenes of him playing are actually him. Practising for two hours, five days a week over the course of three months, Gosling learnt all of the pieces for the film by memory. On top of that, he also had to learn the dance choreography and the songs and his lines!

Meryl Streep – Sophie (Sophie’s Choice)

Meryl Streep - Sophie's Choice
Meryl Streep goes all out for every role (Credit: Universal Pictures)

Meryl Streep is an incredible actress, we all know that. Any role she’s ever had could probably go on this list. But for Sophie’s Choice she took it one step further. Her character in the film is Polish, and not wanting to offend anyone, Streep wanted the accent to be authentic. So rather than go the usual route and work with a dialect coach, to make her accent authentic, she learnt the language. When she found out that the script would also require some German, she performed it in the Polish accent, same for lines in English.

Marlon Brando – Ken (The Men)

Marlon Brando - The Men
Researching a role is the only time it’s ok to impersonate a veteran (Credit: MGM)

Another actor whose commitment doesn’t need to be questioned, his first film role shows his dedication. The Men is about a soldier who loses the use of his legs. So Brando (who was less recognisable at the time) checked himself into a veteran’s hospital as a paraplegic. After befriending some of the patients, he told them he was an actor, but most of them never knew. Amusingly, he even got out of the chair to prank someone in a bar with his new drinking buddies.

Also Read: Androids And The Actors That Play Them

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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.


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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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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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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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?


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

July 7, 2020

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 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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