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Author: Jack Kirk

Editorials

Why James Cameron’s Avatar Sequel Has Come At The Right Time

January 17, 2020

In 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar took cinemas by storm. It quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time (a record that has since been beaten). The film had been in development for several years, along with Alita: Battle Angel, Cameron had been working on both in the years since Titanic, his previous film, which was released in 1997.

After technology finally caught up to his vision, development was paused on Alita and Avatar took centre stage (Cameron would eventually take a backseat on Alita, due to focusing on Avatar and it’s sequels). It was released to critical as well as commercial acclaim. While the film dominated the conversation in 2009, and sequels are planned, the film doesn’t have as passionate a fanbase as franchises like Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), leaving some to question the demand for a sequel.

However, a lot has changed since 2009, both in the world of film and the world at large, and many of Avatar’s themes are more relevant today than they ever were…

Imperialism

Jake Sully - Avatar
The struggle between the technology-based RDA and the nature-based Na’vi is at the centre (20th Century Fox, 2009)

The story of Avatar follows Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine who takes the place of his deceased twin brother and travels to Pandora, an alien planet whose atmosphere is deadly to humans. Sully and his team use avatars to explore the planet and interact with the local people, the Na’vi. After falling in love with one of the Na’vi Jake and his team of sympathisers switch sides, and help force the humans off the planet.

The final battle of the film revolves around the Hometree, a huge tree that, while considered sacred to the Na’vi, is on top of a large mineral deposit. Although Cameron has been understandably vague about some of the themes, he has hinted that the evil corporation may have connections with America and it’s pursuit of oil in other countries.

Cameron has stated the parallels to Iraq and Vietnam are “by design“. With a technologically superior military force, facing off against natives. While this has led some people to consider it an example of “The Messiah Complex“, a white man saving an indigenous people, a common complaint of several stories (and something Black Panther avoided) while others have disagreed with this, arguing that the main character is himself paraplegic, and actually discards his human body for his Na’vi avatar at the end.

Environmental Themes

Avatar, Dragons, Jake Sully
The Na’vi fight alongside the creatures of Pandora rather than against them. (20th Century Fox. 2009)

While climate change was an issue in 2009, it has become a far more pressing concern in the decade since Avatar. James Cameron has actually “declared war” on climate change and the film is very overt with its environmental message, rivalling Wall-E. The brief mentions of Earth refer to it as having “no green” and a “dying planet”. Pandora itself has an atmosphere that is toxic to humans. The film is set in 2154. Scientists estimate the planet could be well on course for such a fate. The energy crisis that results in the humans travelling to Pandora is another problem we are facing today. Science fiction is a way for us to explore our hopes and fears, and Cameron is clearly showing us his fears.

The Na’vi have the exact opposite relationship with their home planet. An almost symbiotic bond with nature, they can literally connect to other life with their hair. Cameron hoped the film would make people reconsider their connection to nature. The film clearly takes the side of nature being superior, with the Na’vi winning with the aid of the creatures of Pandora. Jake is originally promised a fix for his legs if he helps the RDA but is given a whole new (and physically superior) body by choosing nature over technology.

The Sequels

Jake Sully & Neytiri, played by Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana
Only James Cameron knows for sure what the sequels will be (20th Century Fox, 2009)

Almost as soon as Avatar grossed $1 Billion at the box office, an (inevitable) sequel was announced. With several others planned, the first of which is aiming for a 2021 release date (although this is after several delays). With rumoured titles of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Avatar: The Seed Bearer,” “Avatar: The Tulkun Rider,” and “Avatar: The Quest for Eywa”, the ecological theme seems to run through the sequels as well. Although very little plot details have been given. According to some reports, Fox had to donate a considerable amount to Cameron’s environmental fund before he would even sign on for the sequels.

The sequels will likely follow similar themes of the importance of nature, but the titles hint at slightly more specific concerns. “The Way of Water” could be focused on rising sea levels and the damage of human waste to ocean life forms. “The Seed Bearer” could deal with plant life, and Tulkun Rider on creatures and their habitat. In the lore, Eywa is a goddess of all life, meaning the film could deal with our connection to living things.

Whatever the sequels end up being about, they will definitely be incredibly ambitious, as with all James Cameron films. He has planned this world in great detail and clearly has a lot to say. What messages it brings will be revealed when the films are released…

Also Read: “Little Women” & Cinema for the self-partnered

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Editorials

Quibi And The Rise Of Short Films

December 30, 2019
Quibi Short films

The streaming wars are well underway, and while not every service has launched yet, they are starting to get expensive as people decide how many streaming services they actually need. While some platforms are getting by having access shows like “The Office” or “Friends” others are spending millions on exclusive content that people just have to see, whether for watercooler moments or awards potential.

Quibi, however, is trying something completely different- all of its programmings will be around 10 minutes or less (The name is a mash-up of “quick bites”). Its content is designed to be watched on a smartphone or tablet, perfect for on your break or waiting for the bus, similar to a lot of Snapchat’s content. but with added production value, as well as wider variety.

Who is supporting it?

Just some of the people developing projects for Quibi (Fortune, 2019)

The company has raised over $1 billion investment which it plans to spend on content, with 7,000 short episodes as a target. It has even attracted some big names, including Guillermo Del Toro, Sam Raimi, Jason Blum, Anna Kendrick, Laurence Fishburne and Kiefer Sutherland all have projects that will debut on the platform, in a variety of different genres. “Spielberg’s After Dark” (Yes, that Spielberg) will only be available after dark (get it?) and will be unavailable during the daylight.

This kind of experimentation forms much of Quibi’s ethos, as well as most short films in general. The shorter format allows for some interesting results, with filmmakers being put under a short time limit or having a smaller budget they often have to get creative. Quibi hopes to be more creative and unique with its content than other streaming providers like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Short films have often been an important step on the road to feature films, with many directors honing their skills with shorts before directing their first feature. Films such as Taika Waititi’s “What We Do In The Shadows”, Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” and the original “Saw” film all started as short films before finally becoming the films we’re familiar with (The short film versions of these and a few others can be viewed online). These are often submitted to festivals such as the London Short Film Festival or Aesthetica Film Festival, in the hopes of gaining an audience. Some even have their own premieres before being posted online (Big Picture Film Club sometimes helps with this).

How will this change streaming?

Quibi is designed to be used on either a smartphone or tablet (credit: Quibi)

With such big creators focusing on short-form entertainment, Quibi could attract a lot of viewers that don’t have time in their lives to sit down and watch a three hour epic like The Irishman or binge all of Mr Robot. People have busy lives and, if Quibli is successful, we could see more content geared towards it. Short films could become much more popular. Feature films get released on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, could we get short films released on there too? Having names like Spielberg, Del Toro would help create buzz, and move away from the “student film” label many shorts are given. It is also giving some projects a new lease of life. “When the Stree Lights Go on” was originally envisioned as a feature, then a series, and will now premiere as a series on Quibi.

How other platforms adapt to Quibi is a mystery, as it will launch in April of 2020, it is unlikely that the big streaming sites will suddenly only have short programming, but we may see a rise in it. As Co-Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said “Quibi is not a substitute or a competitor for television” rather it aims to have your attention instead of YouTube, Snapchat, or other apps used on your phone during the day. Although some people may rather wait for a full season and watch the short episodes all at once. The main issue it could come across is the subscription. Why would people pay when they can watch YouTube for free? (Which also has it’s own subscription model). Whether people will want to spend their commute watching “Biggest Little Cook-Off” or scrolling through Instagram remains to be seen.

If you would like to sign up to Quibi’s newsletter or apply to be a part of their team, you can do so here

Also Read: British Brown Girls: Short Films Re-Defining British Asian Women On-screen

More: Advice For Firest Time Independent Feature Filmmakers

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Editorials

Alternative Christmas Movies

December 19, 2019
Alternative Christmas Movies

It’s that time of the year again! Christmas is the time where we gather round and watch a festive film with our loved ones. Sometimes they may not even be particularly good films. Often they are films you’ve seen dozens of times, they’re classics for a reason. But if you’re growing tired of quoting “Home Alone” or “Elf” this year, or just need something a little different, then consider these alternative Christmas films…

Lethal Weapon

Nothing says Christmas like getting to know your new work friend (Warner Brothers, 1987)

While every year the debate goes on about whether Die Hard is a Christmas film (it is), the original Lethal Weapon is conspicuously absent. Aside from being set at Christmas time, it’s about family. Riggs is in a dark place having lost his, but slowly comes to accept Murtagh as his new family. The film ends with him being invited in for Christmas dinner. Can’t get much more Christmassy than that.

Lethal Weapon is available to buy/rent on Amazon Prime, Google Play and YouTube, as well as physical media.

Batman Returns

You likely won’t get a fully functioning Batmobile for Christmas, but you can watch Batman do it (Warner Brothers, 1992)

If you like your Christmas films a little more creepy, then a tale about a bat, a cat and a penguin is a good choice. While often overlooked or underrated, this stylish and unique is an excellent alternative to Burton’s classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. Gotham city is covered in snow at Christmas time, and the bat-signal shines in the sky like a star and a kiss under misletoe. It doesn’t quite have the themes of family or coming together for the season, but this is a list of alternative films after all.

Batman Returns is available on DC Universe as well as buy/rent on Amazon Prime, Google Play and YouTube, as well as physical media.

Iron Man 3

Be honest, if you got an Iron Man suit for Christmas, you’d sit in it all day too (Disney/Marvel 2013)

Marvel fans also have some festive superhero action to celebrate with. Tony Stark’s battle with PTSD and the Mandarin takes place over Christmas (like most of Shane Black’s films). Despite the heroics, the film does emphasise that the holiday is a time to spend with loved ones. It also works as a version of the Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol”, with Stark as Scrooge and facing ghosts from his past, in order to save his present and future. It’s even listed as a Christmas film on Disney +.

Iron Man 3 is available on Disney+, as well as able to buy/rent on Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, as well as physical media.

Brazil

Just because you live in a dystopian future, doesn’t mean Santa won’t bring gifts (20th Century Fox/ Universal Pictures 1985)

It’s actually easy to forget that this Orwellian Sci-Fi is set around Christmas time. It’s drab grey corridors and cramped buildings don’t exactly promote Christmas cheer. But that’s what makes the few glimpses of Christmas we do get that much more impactful. Brazil is an excellent Christmas film, as Sam dreams of a better life and escaping his mundane one, and the holiday is a good representation of that.

Brazil is available on Amazon Prime, as well as physical media.

In Bruges

Monopoly with the family gets quite intense (Focus Features, 2008)

Like Brazil, it’s easy to forget this one is set at Christmas, as the characters make very little mention of it. Aside from a few scattered decorations, the opening takes place in a church and the film features a lot of reflection and looking to the future, things usually associated with New Year but also at Christmas. Ray, Ken and Harry make a very dysfunctional family, and naturally fight over Christmas, although hopefully, the average family Christmas squabble involves fewer bullets.

In Bruges, is available to watch on Netflix, as well as buy/ rent on Google Play and physical media.

Also Read: The Grinch: Who Did It Better?

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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