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Author: Jack Kirk

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

Editorials

Has The Marvel Cinematic Universe Reached Its Peak?

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

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

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

“Become part of a larger world…’

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

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

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

“We’re in the endgame now”

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

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

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

“Avengers Assemble”

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

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

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

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

Editorials

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

June 24, 2019

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

Most actors are “One hit wonders”

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

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

Work leads to more work

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

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

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

Actors have “hot” and “cold” streaks

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

Also Read: Great Scenes With No Dialogue

Editorials

Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not To Spoil…

June 15, 2019

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

Loose lips sink Starships

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

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

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

Cursed with Knowledge

Kylo Ren hates spoilers (Disney/ Lucasfilm- 2015)

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

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

Great Power, Great Responsibility

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

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

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

Also Read: American Psycho: 19 Years On

Editorials

Movie Marketing: Films That Thought Outside The Box

June 7, 2019

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

Deadpool 2

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

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

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

The Blair Witch Project

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

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

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

Psycho

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

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

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

The Cloverfield Paradox

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

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

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

The Dark Knight

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

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

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

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror