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Author: Jack Kirk

Editorials

The Snyder Cut Saga

November 25, 2019
Justice League - Snyder Cut

On November 17th 2017, Justice League arrived in cinemas everywhere. After several missteps, the DCEU was finally going to rival the MCU. Then people saw it.

Reviews were mixed, with the film currently sitting at a 6.4 on IMDb. After director Zack Snyder stepped down due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon finished the film. Despite reassurances that the film would not be affected, the result was a frankenstein of a film. Tonal shifts, deleted scenes, bad CGI and the infamous moustache removal. The final product did not live up to the hype. But then whispers of another cut began to emerge- The Snyder Cut

So what’s so special about it?

Snyder’s cut of the film included the villain Darkseid, amongst other characters that were cut from the theatrical release (WB, 2017)

Snyder’s original plan for the film was part of a five long film arc. Starting with “Man of Steel”. However he was forced to edit much of part 2 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, most of this was eventually restored in the “Ultimate Cut”. Parts 3, 4 and 5 would have been a Justice League trilogy (with standalone movies for each character appearing in between). His cut of the film would have felt much more like part of that universe, with the “Knightmare” scene becoming a key plot point, and the heroes actively working to stop it.

Regarding the heroes, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was supposed to be a much bigger role. Jason Momoa’s version of Aquaman was largely created by him and Snyder, and the original film was supposed to introduce a lot of the mythology surrounding him before his own film. Snyder frequently posts images and teases from his version on his Vero and Twitter accounts.

Why is this such a big deal?

The Snyder Cut reportedly featured Cyborg in a much bigger role, exploring his origin and relationship to the Mother Boxes featured in the film (Snyder, Vero, 2019)

The theatrical cut of Justice League disappointed almost everyone. In an effort to please everyone, they pleased no one. While Snyder’s films often get mixed reviews, he does have a dedicated fanbase, as do DC comics and their heroes.

The Release the Snyder Cut movement started shortly after the film was released, and has gained a massive following. Several big names in the business have given their support, including Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot. Even Ben Affleck has joined the chorus, despite no longer being Batman.

The Snyder Cut movement has been all over the internet since it began, especially anything related to DC films and although they have developed a reputation for being entitled and mean, that isn’t always true. For San Diego Comic Con 2019, the movement set up a crowdfunding page and bought billboards around the convention center. The additional funds went to a suicide prevention charity, in honour of Zack Snyder’s daughter and the reason he stepped away from the project.

Is it finished?

The fan movement bought ad space around the area for SDCC 2019, despite WB not actually attending (Twitter, 2019)

This one is a little trickier, as there are a lot of mixed reports. Snyder himself claims that “it’s done“. Reports say that principal photography was completed, with some VFX work still in progress, which is more likely. However several people, like Jason Momoa, have seen it, so it is at least viewable, albeit likely with several effects shots not finished.

The problem is whether the film is in a suitable state. Unfinished edits are nothing new, as test screenings often have unfinished VFX or audio. If the cut were to be released, it could potentially look something like the “alternate universe” cut of Into the Spider-Verse, with unfinished scenes and storyboards with sound slotted in. The problem with this is how much unfinished footage would be added. Of course, it is entirely possible that WB or Snyder could spend the extra time and money to complete it. But is it worth it?

Is the Snyder Cut good?

That can’t really be answered until we see it. Of course, all art is subjective. Snyder’s films, especially Batman V Superman, are rather divisive. The Snyder Cut would likely be similar in tone to that film, as well as picking up plot threads. However, Directors Cut’s are often seen as improvements over the theatrical releases. Snyder himself has several Director’s Cuts, with the aforementioned Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman adding in 30 minutes of cut material, and his Directors Cut of Watchmen. The Snyder Cut is presumed to be around 214 minutes (about 3 and a half hours) long. So it likely depends on how you feel about his previous film.

Will we ever see it?

Never say never. Director’s Cuts are popular. And although the DCEU has moved away from the original plan, there is still clearly a big demand for this version. All cards seem to be in WB’s hands, and some suspect a release on HBO Max. The 2 year anniversary of Justice League gave the movement a big resurgence, so it seems like they won’t stop until it’s released.

Also Read: Joke’s On You: A History Of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis On The Big Screen

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Editorials

Rebel Without A Pulse, Art Without A Soul?

November 21, 2019
James Dean

Recently it was announced that James Dean would be playing a lead role in “Finding Jack” a drama about a Vietnam soldier trying to rescue the dog he served with. Normally an actor being cast in a film isn’t that big news, it is their job after all. Except that James Dean has been dead for over 60 years and the film will use his “digital likeness”.

But it’s not actually going to be him though, is it? It might look like him and maybe even sound a bit like him, but it’s not going to BE him on set. Actors die during productions and need stand-ins for workarounds sometimes, but this is being billed as his fourth role. The press release mentions his family approve of the “casting” but others in the industry have been less kind. Can it work?

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today”– James Dean

Robert Deniro in The Irishman, showing how digital effects can be used to age a person up and down (Credit: Netflix, 2019)

Unfortunately, cast and crew passing away mid-production is nothing new. When a key character dies, it can often add extra complications to a film as they may not have finished all their scenes. If most of their scenes were complete, a few rewrites and additional lines from other characters could suffice, others require more creative approaches. If their scenes were not very far along or it was a small role, they may simply be recast.

As technology and visual effects have advanced, the options available to filmmakers in this potion has grown. Recently de-ageing has become popular with films such as “Captain Marvel” and “The Irishman” allowing actors to play roles across decades. This allows them to look age-appropriate in flashbacks.

If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man” – James Dean

A look at the process of transforming Guy Henry’s performance into Peter Cushing (Credit: Lucasfilm/Industrial Light & Magic, 2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story infamously featured Peter Cushing, reprising his role as Tarkin from the original film. This process involved having an actor on set (Guy Henry) and then digitally compositing Peter Cushing’s face. It’s a similar process to deepfakes. But it’s the original actor’s choices that made the character what it is. A computer is just trying to recreate it.

Dean died in 1955, long before this idea of CG “resurrection” had ever been conceived, and as such his likeness is not protected from usage after his death. Robin Willaims restricted usage of his likeness for 25 years after his death. This practice could become more common as technology evolves. Worldwide XR, the company who owns the rights to Dean’s likeness, also owns several other deceased famous faces. This list includes Malcolm X, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman and Rosa Parks. So does this mean we’ll start seeing them in films too? Well, nothing is stopping them.

To me, acting is the most logical way for people’s neuroses to manifest themselves, in this great need we all have to express ourselves” – James Dean

Hatsune Miku is a Vocaloid, a virtual popstar who sells out stadiums worldwide (Crypton Future Media)

Obviously, the whole idea of an actors face being used years after their death is a serious debate that’s only going to get louder as time goes by. But one aspect worth considering is the effect on actors currently working. It’s hard enough to have a successful acting career, but they have to worry about competing with dead ones too?

Taking this into science fiction territory, could we see films without traditional actors at all? Animation only requires actors for voices, but this technology must allow for voices to be synthesised. Could we see Orson Welles voice the villain in the next Toy Story? Could Dean win an Oscar for his role? The rules are always changing, so it wouldn’t be unheard of.

Another consideration is the rise of holograms. Recently technology has allowed musicians like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Amy Winehouse to tour and perform “live” at concerts. If we can have people perform at a concert, and have them appear in a new film, could we get them to promote it too? Could a hologram appear on a talk show?

Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. You are all alone with your concentration and imagination, and that’s all you have” – James Dean

This is all speculation, of course, a lot can go wrong between a film being announced and it being released. Dean’s “performance” could just be a marketing ploy (despite the director’s claims). But if it does work, this “necromacting” could be just the beginning.

Also Read: Your Favourite Movies Deepfaked

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News

Was It Really That Bad? The Mummy (2017)

October 28, 2019

In the wake of the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, studios saw the huge amounts of money it was making, then went through their back catalogues to see what they could make their own shared universe out of. Soon, everyone had a shared universe. The MCU, The DCEU, the Monsterverse, and The Dark Universe.

The Dark Universe was to feature characters from Universal’s classic library of monsters, such as the Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and the Creature From the Black Lagoon. The first entry was The Mummy (After a failed start in 2014). It is also the only entry to have been released. 5.5 IMDb rating too harsh? Grab your map, get your notebook and ask whether The Mummy was really that bad…

“A new world of Gods and monsters”

Sofia Boutella is excellent as the Mummy, both in performance and design. (Universal, 2017)

This version of the Mummy switches out Brendan Fraiser for Tom Cruise, which, while not a bad thing on paper, turns this from a fun Indiana Jones- lite adventure flick, into Mission Impossible: Ancient Egypt. Cruise is playing Tom Cruise and all of the charm that comes with it. His character is amusingly outmatched, ill-prepared and mostly disinterested in the history and lore the film attempts to set up.

Sofia Boutella is also great as the eponymous mummy, and gives a stellar performance despite all the prosthetics and dodgy CGI surrounding her. Cast after her role in Kingsman, she is clearly the star of the show here. It’s a genuine shame she is sidelined as much as she is.

The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t really make much of an impression. Even Russel Crowe, as Dr Jekyll (yes that one) looks like he’s confused and bored by most of the exposition he gives. Crowe’s character is arguably the biggest problem, as his character bears little weight on the actual story, and exists simply to set up other films. What Marvel did in a post credits scene is instead done halfway through the action. It’s almost the cinematic equivalent of pausing the film, looking up the next few films, then pressing play again.

“Where’s your sense of adventure?”

's
Tom Cruise defines this film, in both a good and bad way (Universal, 2017)

The Mummy could be a solid, if generic, action flick. Some of the set pieces, including the infamous plane scene featured in the trailer, are genuinely impressive. But as reviewers have pointed out, the film is largely too unfocused, not knowing what it wants to be. Forcing it to rely on Cruise’s star power and the faint promise of more to come.

As some more generous reviews point out, there are some good points. The film sets up the protagonists as morally ambiguous originally, with no one entirely trusting each other, but this never really goes anywhere.

The film is largely a Frankenstein of several different ideas wrapped together. It’s horror routes are acknowledged, but not present enough to actually scare. It’s not as campy as the 90’s version, but the action is serviceable if uninspired.

Really That Bad? Yes

Cruise is game as always, and The Mummy herself is great, but there’s nothing here that is particularly memorable or noteworthy. The whole thing just feels rather soulless. It’s best ideas are used either in the first thirty minutes or not explored enough.

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

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Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Robin Hood (2018)

October 20, 2019
Robin Hood

Robin Hood has had an interesting history when it comes to cinematic adaptations. As a character in the public domain, there are no rights or licenses required, meaning anyone can make a “Robin Hood” film. The latest attempt, was 2018’s Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Rocketman) in the title role.

Upon its release, it was not well received by critics and failed to make much of an impression with audiences. Sitting at a measly 15% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.3/10 on IMDb, this version quickly came and went through cinemas almost as quick as one of his arrows. With it landing on Netflix recently, now seems like a good opportunity to revisit the film. So pull up your hood, draw your bow, take aim, and ask whether Robin Hood was really that bad.

“We’re Men, we’re men in tights!”

If Batman were around in the late 1100’s he’d probably look something like this (Lionsgate, 2018)

The big trends in Hollywood for the last few years have been superheroes and shared universes. Robin Hood tries to be both of these things and not in a subtle way. This is an origin story for Robin (Taron Egerton), his usual green hood and tights, replaced with a more practical hood and scarf. He takes several cues from Batman (or Green Arrow), rubbing shoulders with the rich by day and robbing and fighting crime by night. Complete with brooding over Marion in his manor.

It has all the beats of a superhero film, complete with a training montage and big reveal of our hero in costume for the first time, as well as maintaining a double life between his public persona and “The Hood”. However it doesn’t quite lean into this angle enough, with the action not being anything spectacular, and a disappointing lack of archery prowess.

“This won’t be like any war you’re used to”

Ben Mendelsohn liked his costume from “Rogue One” so much, he wore it for this too (Lionsgate, 2018)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film and one it should have leaned into more are its modern-day influences. The film stops short of being set in the present, but the inspiration is clearly there. Especially in the scenes set during Robin’s time-fighting in the crusades, which look like scenes from “Black Hawk Down” or “The Hurt Locker” rather than a Robin Hood film.

This extends to the costumes too, with are a perfect blend of past and present, with Robin now sporting a leather jacket, but still looking like he belongs. This applies to all the characters, particularly the Sherrif and Marion. It’s an odd style choice but works. It’s a shame the film wasn’t just set in modern-day. The way arrows fly past and damage walls, as well as the small, handheld crossbows, are clearly meant to be in place of guns.

“I reckon he’s just getting started”

Robin (Taron Egerton) trains Marion (Eve Hewson) to use a bow for the sequel (Lionsgate, 2018)

Many reviewers were not kind to the film. citing it as boring. Several compared it to Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” which took a similar “dark and gritty” approach to the character, with poor results. Another common criticism was the borrowing of elements from better films, such as “The Dark Knight”, without doing anything new of its own. As well as being pre-occupied with setting up a sequel.

However not every review was negative, and even the negative ones praise the actors. Taron Egerton and Ben Mendelsohn receive plenty of recognition, as well as the unique costume designs. The action scenes were mixed, with them being enjoyable but the later ones harder to follow

Was It Really That Bad? …. No

It’s not perfect by any means, and would probably be more interesting if it fully embraced it’s modern influences and changed the setting, but Egerton is likeable as ever, and Mendelsohn could play the Sherrif in his sleep. We’ll probably never see the sequel it desperately tries to set up but there are worse ways to spend two hours.

Robin Hood (Trailer)

Also Read: Your Favourite Movies Deepfaked?

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Editorials

Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis On the Big Screen

October 2, 2019

The Joker is Batman’s most iconic villain. While many of his other villains are more physically imposing, none have left quite an impact like the Joker. The villain is so iconic, that he’s even getting his own standalone movie. The new film is completely separate from all other continuity and even earning Oscar buzz, but also it’s fair of backlash.

With the film in cinemas soon, now seems like the perfect time to take a look at the Joker, some of the iconic performances, why it’s such a great role, and whether audiences should be worried about going to see it in cinemas…

“Wait ’til they get a load of me”

Cesar Romero famously refused to shave his iconic moustache for the role (Credit: ABC/20th Century Television, 1966-68)

The Joker first appeared in 1940 in the first issue of “Batman” (who finally got his own book after starting in “Detective Comics”). Initially intended to be a one-off villain who was killed off at the end of the story, a panel showing his survival was added at the last minute. The Joker would return several times, with his own unique brand of chaos changing from serial killer to prankster and a hybrid of both as the years went by. The first live-action incarnation came alongside the campy Adam West Batman (1966-68) played by Cesar Romero. He was tied for most popular villains on the show appearing in 22 episodes, as well as the feature-length movie.

Jack Nicholson initially turned down the role but changed his mind when he found out Robin Williams had been offered the part. (Credit: WB, DC, 1989)

The next time Joker appeared in live-action, it was in 1989’s Batman played by Jack Nicholson, starring opposite Micheal Keaton’s Caped Crusader. He wouldn’t appear again in a film until 2008, despite the Batman franchise being hugely successful in the 90’s before Batman and Robin put it on ice (Mr Freeze pun intended). However, the character lived on in comics and animated series, with Mark Hamill being the definitive voice for many fans.

“You wanna know how I got these scars?”

Heath Ledger redefined the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (Legendary, Credit: WB 2008)

In 2008, Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight which was met with huge disapproval from fans (some things never change). Despite this, production continued resulting in the iconic performance that makes The Dark Knight the phenomenon that it is. Ledger went to extreme lengths to get into the mindset of the character, locking himself in his hotel room, keeping a journal in character, and directing the hostage videos seen in the film. His best-known role, it would also tragically be his last, as he was found dead in his room a few months after completing filming (He was part way through his final film, which had to use clever recasting for some scenes). His untimely death sent shockwaves throughout the world and helped his Joker transcend just the one film. He posthumously won a (well deserved) Oscar for the role, helping the film transform comic book movies as well as the Oscars.

However, not all the effects of The Dark Knight were positive. Ledger’s death meant the character did not appear in The Dark Knight Rises. At a midnight showing of the film, a gunman opened fire on the audience claiming he was the Joker and was inspired by the character, which was an unfortunate addition to Ledger’s legacy.

Jared Leto immersed himself in the role by sending “gifts” to his castmates, including bullets and a dead pig. (Credit: WB/ DC, 2016)

The next film the Joker appeared in was 2016’s Suicide Squad played by Jared Leto. Naturally, he had some big shoes to fill and Leto responded by taking the method acting up to 11. Leto lived the character resulting in some quite disturbing set stories. After so much build-up, audiences were disappointed to find out he had barely 15 minutes of screentime. This film was the first to feature his relationship with Harley Quinn, an abusive relationship in the comics.

“Madness is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little push”

Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian who slowly becomes unhinged. (Credit: WB/DC, 2019)

Joaquin Phoenix is the next person to play the Joker and, if early screenings are any indication, gives a phenomenal performance as the character. However, some feel that, by making him the protagonist and sympathetic, it reinforces ideas about toxic masculinity and violence that have led to real-life crimes like the shooting (the cinema it took place in will not show the new film) and some authorities preparing for copycats.

It is hard to say if people are right to be worried about such things until the film is released. While it is likely that this is an overreaction, some people are understandably worried. These fears could impact its opening weekend, but it seems unfair to blame Phoenix, who could still be on track for an Oscar.

Also Read: Holy Fan Films, Batman

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Editorials

Your Favourite Movies DeepFaked

September 21, 2019
The Shining DeepFake

It’s likely you’ve heard the term “deepfake” if you’re keeping up with the latest advances in digital wizardry. The idea is basically photoshopping someone’s face onto another person, by using a computer to scan and map their faces on top of the other. Sounds like something out of science fiction! It has many scary “fake news” applications already, but like most things, it can be used for good as well as evil. Well, maybe not good, but fun and entertaining at least. Like the Chinese app Zao, which allows anyone to upload their face onto a clip from a film or TV show. Here are some of the most interesting deepfakes of famous faces, as well as the reasons behind them.

Spider-Man – Tobey Maguire as Tom Holland/ Tom Holland as Tobey Maguire

Spider-Man has appeared on our screens several times since his big-screen debut in 2002. During that time the franchise has been rebooted twice, with a possible third on the horizon. Each reboot brings with it a different take on the character, as well as a new actor suiting up as the hero. These two videos place Tom Holland’s youthful, cheerful, Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3 with the black suit and New Goblin drama. Meanwhile, Tobey Maguire battles the Elementals and meets Mysterio. Maybe this is all just one big Mysterio illusion?

Tobey Maguire as Tom Holland (Credit: Aldo Jones)
Tom Holland as Tobey Maguire (Credit: Aldo Jones)

The Matrix – Will Smith as Neo

One of the most famous Hollywood “what if’s” is Will Smith as Neo in The Matrix and it’s sequels. Smith was approached for the role before Keanu Reeves, but he turned it down, after not understanding the pitch. He went on to make Wild Wild West, which was critically panned. Smith has gone on record saying it was a mistake, but also that he “would have ruined it” and that Reeves and Laurence Fishburne “killed it”.

Will Smith as Neo (Credit: Sham00k)

The Shining – Jim Carrey as Jack Torrance

The Shining is regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time and Jack Nicholson’s performance is one of the reasons why, along with Stanley Kubrick’s direction, of course. Author Stephen King infamously disagreed with the casting, wanting more of an “everyman” quality to make his descent more disturbing. But if the film were made in the 90’s, who would have been cast? It’s impossible to know for sure, but this deepfake is a compelling case for Jim Carrey to take over the role, maybe if Nicholson doesn’t want to do any flashbacks for Doctor Sleep?

Jim Carrey as Jack Torrance (Credit: Crtl Shift Face)

Terminator 2 – Sylvester Stallone as the Terminator

Another film full of great casting “what if’s” is The Terminator. The studio originally wanted Arnie for the role of Kyle Reese. Which in turn meant someone else was needed for the killing machine, who could outmatch Arnie himself. Some of the studio’s choices were Mel Gibson, O.J Simpson (who they struggled to see as a killer) and Sylester Stallone. Obviously things changed and Schwarzenegger was cast in the title role, but for those wondering what Sly would have looked like as another famous 80’s killing machine, it might have looked something like this.

Sylvester Stallone as the Terminator (Credit: Crtl Shift Face)

Iron Man – Tom Cruise as Tony Stark

While nowadays it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the role other than Robert Downey Jr. For several years, rumours persisted that Tom Cruise came close to playing the role. Cruise was apparently “not close” to playing the character and “can’t imagine anyone else in that role” just like the rest of us. Putting an end to the rumours hasn’t stopped the internet though and this deepfake goes one step further, with a very convincing impression to offer us a look at this alternate casting.

Tom Cruise as Ironman (Credit: Collider Videos)

Bonus – Nicholas Cage as… Everyone

Arguably one of the first viral attempts at deepfakes involves Nicholas Cage and casting him as.. well any role you can think of. The Oscar winner has certainly proved he has range throughout his actual career, but these edits go the extra mile, putting him in several iconic roles, including Tyler Durden, Neo and Thanos.

Nicholas Caged deepfaked (Credit: Derpfaked)

Also Read: Breaking Through The Box Office

Editorials

Breaking Through the Box Office

September 12, 2019
Darkest Hour

A common complaint of modern cinema is that it’s full of sequels, remakes and reboots. This was certainly true in 2018, with only 3 of the top 20 films being original stories, “Coco”, “Darkest Hour” and “Peter Rabbit”. While there is an argument that Hollywood is out of original ideas, and those ideas are seen as more “indie” and never make the same impact as the latest superhero film, clearly some do. So what do these films have that others don’t?

Big Names

Pixar have been producing original hits since 1995, although much of their recent works have been sequels (Credit: Disney/Pixar 2011)

It’s likely you’ve heard of at least one of those three films, if not all of them. “Coco” is from the wizards at Pixar, “Darkest Hour” was based on a true story and pushed for Oscar nods, while “Peter Rabbit” is based off the children’s books that ingrained the character in British Culture.

All of these films are rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so the general consensus is that they are all good films (scores ranges from 64% – 97%). But clever release dates may also have played a part in their success. “Peter Rabbit” was released in February, making it the only children’s film in cinemas for several weeks. This lack of competition likely helped the film’s success.

Darkest Hour, despite being released in late December, was marketed as an Oscars contender early on, especially Gary Oldman’s performance and the hair and make up effects used to transform him into Winston Churchill. Oscar buzz is a huge selling point for any film.

Meanwhile, Coco is from Pixar animation, the studio behind classics like “Toy Story” and “Wall-E”. Pixar’s pedigree rivals the Disney Renaissance , with “Cars 2” the only weak link in it’s (at the time) 19 films.

Where are all the originals going?

“Okja” was a big original release that was released on Netflix (Credit: Netflix, 2017)

As with most years, the top films were all part of franchises. “Avengers: Infinity War” took the top spot, with the number two spot being filled by the “Mamma Mia” sequel. The top ten also consisted of entries in the Jurassic World, Fantastic Beasts, Mission Impossible and Star Wars franchises. As well as a sequel to Mary Poppins and Spider-Man spin-off “Venom“.

Many original stories do get full theatrical releases, but often the biggest ones are feature big names attached, such as the recent “Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood“, with director Quentin Tarantino and actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt involved to draw-in audiences.

A common place to find original stories is on streaming sites, with Netflix having some of the most high profile releases, such as “Okja” or “Velvet Buzzsaw”. Streaming sites have grown in popularity and content in recent years, with content that struggles to find distribution often picked up by streaming sites, such as “The Interview” after the drama caused with the Sony email hack. Although more high profile releases are heading to streaming sites, such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”.

The Future

James Cameron’s “Avatar” was an original story, and managed to hold the record for “highest-grossing film” for 10 years (20th Century Fox, 2009)

It’s unlikely that every film released in cinemas will be a sequel or part of a franchise. There are enough “big” original films released with the likes of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” as examples, while streaming will only get more high profile releases.

Avatar, which was recently dethroned as the highest-grossing film of all time, is an original story (although it has spawned a franchise) so there is clearly potential for them to succeed, but perhaps a big name must always be attached in some form or another for them to make a big impact?

Also Read: Five Great Films About Filmmaking

Editorials

Spider-Man: Course Correction

August 29, 2019
Spider-Man Thumbs Up

After over 10 years of being the only hero in New York, Spider-Man finally got the chance to interact with other heroes when Marvel and Sony reached a historic deal to have the character appear in the MCU. After a scene-stealing debut in “Captain America: Civil War”, this new version of the web-slinger went on to have to his own adventure in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, before joining the Avengers in their fight against Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”.

His second solo adventure, “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, dealt with the hero’s new place in the aftermath of Endgame, setting him up as big part of the universe going forward, ending on a massive cliffhanger….

And now, suddenly, ol’ webhead’s future is uncertain. While Marvel and Sony try to reach a new deal behind the scenes, the fans are understandably worried, but is all really as dark as it seems for our hero?

“This is my gift, my curse”

Peter’s reboot senses are tingling… poor Uncle Ben (Sony Pictures Animation, 2018)

Spider-Man has been one of Marvel’s most popular characters since long before anyone could dream of the MCU. When Superman and Batman got live-action films that did well, Marvel started looking at the same for their characters, unfortunately, they were in financial trouble and close to bankruptcy. This lead to them selling the rights to some of their most famous characters, like the X-Men, Fantastic Four (which they now own again, due to the Disney/Fox merger), Hulk (Universal own the distribution rights) and of course Spider-Man, along with his supporting cast, which was purchased by Sony.

After a successful trilogy and a less successful reboot that focused heavily on setting up its own universe in the wake of the MCU’s success, and the Sony email hacks, a deal was made allowing Spidey to feature in the MCU, with Sony financing the standalone films, but with Marvel (and Kevin Fiege) having creative input.

That original deal also allowed Spider-Man to appear in other films and interact with other heroes like in the most recent Avengers, however, Sony receives no revenue from these team-ups (Despite Endgame being the highest-grossing film of all time). For his solo efforts, Sony is the one paying, whilst Marvel receives a percentage of the profits, and also money made from merchandising. As negotiations to extend the deal have started, Sony have rejected Disney’s new offer, which is causing the drama.

“Everywhere I go I see his face”

Many fans see a loophole if Peter fully commits to the “Night Monkey” persona (Sony Pictures, 2019)

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. The MCU doesn’t need Spider-Man. The films were successful enough before the original deal and even films he hasn’t appeared in have crossed the 1 billion mark. An argument could be made that Spider-Man needs the MCU. The films were slowly grossing less with each instalment and “Far From Home” was the first Spidey film to reach 1 Billion dollars, which was no doubt helped by its ties to Endgame. But Sony also owns his supporting cast and rogue’s gallery, which they are planning a shared universe of their own with, the first of which was “Venom”.

During the run-up to the release of Venom, there was a constant debate about whether it is set in the MCU, with Sony insisting it was, and Marvel saying it wasn’t, there were even rumours of a Tom Holland cameo. Although it is not set in the MCU, the recent Sony deal could mean that the crossover could happen, something Holland himself seems up for. With a sequel and a Morbius film in production, Spidey could easily appear in any of these films if he is no longer in the MCU.

The MCU is wide enough that they could wave away Peter’s absence with a line or two, although that would rightfully disappoint fans. Sony would have a much harder time pretending the Avengers no longer exist, especially given the close relationship this Spidey had with Iron Man. If the two companies can’t come to a deal this could be the case. However, Holland may have one final film in his contract, which they could use to end his story and either move forward without him, or introduce a new version, either a total reboot or more of a legacy sequel featuring Miles Morales.

“Spider-Man always gets up”

Maybe this is the opportunity we needed to finally get Spider-Man 4 ( Sony/Columbia Pictures, 2004)

“Into the Spider-Verse” proved that the franchise has a life outside of Peter Parker, and the character was popular before the films. So there’s no need to worry about not seeing him on the big screen, and after working so hard to bring Spidey home it’s unlikely Marvel would let him go so easily. The only thing to do is to hope that both businesses come to an agreement that is beneficial for everyone, including Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland. In the meantime, keep an eye on this handy website for updates True Believers!

Also Read: Star Wars: Course Correction

Editorials

Androids And The Actors That Play Them

August 23, 2019
Love-Death-Robots

A staple of the science fiction genre, robots and androids can sometimes be interchangeable, (although there is a difference). They are often some of the most iconic characters in a science fiction story, whether that be because of their unique design or their personality, there are many memorable machines in films brought to life by talented actors, this list takes a look at a wide variety of the spectrum, including robots, androids, cyborgs and everything in between.

“C-3P0” played by Anthony Daniels (Star Wars)

Daniels has portrayed Threepio in several projects outside of the live-action films

C-3P0, along with his companion R2-D2 are the first characters we are introduced to in “Star Wars”, and have appeared in every chapter of the saga since, including a cameo in spin-off “Rogue One”. Daniels has played the droid in over 20 different projects since the original film. He is also the only actor to appear in all nine films in the main Star Wars saga, all the more impressive when the first film was released in 1977, and that he wasn’t a science fiction fan. Despite their numerous adventures together in space, Daniels reportedly did not always get along with his costar.

“Ava” played by Alica Vikander (Ex Machina)

Promo image for Ex Machina, featuring Ava (Universal Pictures, 2014)

Ava is an android designed with artificial intelligence, so advanced that she is capable of independent thought and consciousness. The android challenges the traditional “Turing Test”, a common method used to determine if a machine has consciousness used in tons of science fiction by her body clearly being mechanical. Vikander was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for her role as Ava. She later went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in “The Danish Girl” the following year. While she had some success in her native Sweden, “Ex Machina” was a role that made her a name in other countries.

“Alita” played by Roza Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel)

Rosa Salazar as Alita (20th Century Fox 2019)

Alita is based on the Japanese manga of the similar name. Originally James Cameron’s passion project Robert Rodriguez eventually took over. Alita is based in a near-future where most people have cybernetic enhancements. Alita herself is a highly advanced combat unit, rescued and rebuilt who slowly gains her memories over the course of the film. Salazar plays the character via a mix of motion capture and CGI, with the cyborgs look inspired by the original manga and anime, with the medium’s traditionally large eyes transferring into live-action as a tribute, as well as reinforcing the idea the Alita isn’t human.

“T-800” played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator)

The Terminator is a metal endoskeleton, that disguises itself as a human in order to carry out its mission (Tristar pictures, 1991)

Arguably the most iconic character on this list, the T-800 is a killing machine from the year 2025 (or whatever year the updated timeline moved things to), it disguises itself as a human and is incredibly durable. Although it is his most famous role, Schwarzenegger was originally approached for the role Kyle Reese, despite the fact that the Terminator is designed as an infiltration unit and Arnie sticks out in a crowd.

“Chappie” played by Sharlto Copley (Chappie)

Chappie is a police robot given intelligence and taken in by gangsters

Chappie was created as part of the new police department, but when his creator imbues him with artificial intelligence, Chappie is forced into hiding and is taken in by gangsters, as his consciousness is new, he is childlike, with the gang members taking advantage of his naivety. Unusually for a film like it, the title character was actually not created with motion capture, but Copley performed as the robot on set which was used for reference, before being created both digitally and physically for some shots.

Honourable Mention- Rick Deckard? – Harrison Ford (Blade Runner)

Deckard spends his life hunting replicants, but is he one of them?

In a list about androids, it wouldn’t seem fair to not include a character from “Blade Runner”. While Pris and Batty or even characters from the sequel are all memorable, the debate about whether Deckard himself is a replicant is one of the reasons the film is so iconic. Even the sequel deliberately avoided answering the question definitively, offering clues to sway audiences on both sides of the debate. Ford himself thinks that the character is human, while director Ridley Scott, thinks he’s a replicant, leaving it up to viewers to decide who to believe.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them

Editorials

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

August 8, 2019
LEGO-Batman-Spider-Verse

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

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

A Hero Can Be Anyone

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

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

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

Why Do We Fall?

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

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

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

A Watchful Protector

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

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

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

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

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

Editorials

What’s Next For Disney?

July 27, 2019

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

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

Once Upon A Time

Walt Disney and the classic Mickey Mouse design.

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

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

A New Fantastic Point Of View

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

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

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

A Tale As Old As Time

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

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

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

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

Let’s Get Down to Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorials

Dynamic Duos: Iconic Actor/ Director Match-Ups

July 11, 2019

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

Martin Scorsese / Leonardo DiCaprio

Dicaprio and Scorsese

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

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

Christopher Nolan / Michael Caine

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

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

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

Sam Raimi / Bruce Campbell

Campbell and Raimi at a promotional event (WDIV ClickOnDetroit )

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

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

Guillermo Del Toro / Doug Jones

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

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

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

Matthew Vaughn / Mark Strong

Matthew Vaughn and Mark Strong

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

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

Wes Anderson / Bill Murray

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

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

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

Quentin Tarantino / Samuel L Jackson

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

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

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

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