Author: Andre Melgar

The Matrix Resurrections: The Franchise That Did Indeed Conquer Death

In the year 1999, a film was released that would change the world. Perhaps one of the most iconic movies of all time, The Matrix captivated audiences with its rich storytelling with what was then considered the peak of digital effects. The following two movies succeeding would be relatively okay, but that isn’t what’s important. What IS important is that now, nearly 22 years later, the next installment in The Matrix franchise, The Matrix Resurrections is coming to theaters. That’s a long time for a franchise to be rising once again, so we will walk you through what you need to know and what you might expect from this film. 

Where Did We Leave Off?

First of all, if you haven’t seen the first Matrix, you need to go ahead and put that on your to-do list immediately. Take in everything it has to offer, then come back and read this game of catch-up. After finding out that Neo, played by none other than Keanu Reeves, is The One – a person who is prophesied to bring about the end of The Matrix, a simulation run by machines created to keep humans docile while turning them into living batteries – he sets about doing what this title entails of him. Aiding him the most consistently are Trinity, who is played by Carrie Ann Moss, Morpheus who is played by Laurence Fishburne, and The Oracle. In the second installment, The Matrix Reloaded, his quest to unravel the Matrix puts him into conflict with characters such as the Merovingian (played by Lambert Wilson) and the Architect (played by Helmut Bakaitis), as well as the Agent he seemingly destroyed in the first film, Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving). To add some icing on top of this cake, the aforementioned machines that turned humans into batteries sent an army of Sentinels (warrior machines) to wipe out the last human city called Zion, adding another layer of stakes to Neo’s quest. By the movie’s end, Neo falls into unconsciousness as he uses a newfound power to control machines in the waking world.

In the third movie, The Matrix Revolutions, Neo is trapped in a sort of limbo between The Matrix and the machine world which is known as Mobil Avenue. He is freed by his friends and returns to the waking world with Trinity and Morpheus to interrogate a man called Bane – the only survivor of a catastrophe surrounding the destruction of a fellow ship from Zion in the second film. This person turns out to be the perpetrator of said destruction and is revealed to be Agent Smith possessing a human body. During Neo’s fight with Bane, he is blinded but still manages to defeat Bane/Smith anyway, at least in the waking world. 

At this point, our heroes splinter off, Neo goes with Trinity to the Machine City, so he can confront the A.I. behind the machines. Morpheus and Niobe – a human from Zion first introduced in the second film – go back to Zion in order to aid the effort against the machine invasion. On their way to the Machine City, Neo and Trinity are ambushed by a swarm of Sentinels, a chase and crash landing ensues and results in Trinity becoming fatally wounded. Neo presses on and finally comes face to face with the A.I. or the “Deus Ex Machina” and strikes a deal. Neo offers to defeat Agent Smith, who has become too unruly within the Matrix, in exchange for peace with Zion. As Neo goes into the Matrix to fight Agent Smith, the machines halt their onslaught. Following a drawn-out fight with Smith, Neo allows himself to be assimilated by him in order to allow the Deus Ex Machina to put an end to Smith once and for all, sacrificing Neo in the process. The end sees the Matrix rebooted, Zion free of the danger of the Sentinel army, and people given the option to choose whether or not they want to stay in the Matrix. 

What Can We Expect?

Wowee. That was a lot of information to absorb. To close out our (hopefully) helpful recap of what happened last let’s brass some tacks. The new trailer has a lot of information embedded within it, much of it probably red herrings and things not appearing as they seem. There are some sure-fire things you should probably keep track of though. For one, Neo is clearly alive somehow, and so is Trinity (both actors reprising their roles from the earlier movies). The “White Rabbit” clue from the first film has also become a character and is played by Jessica Henwick. Morpheus has been recast with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and according to IMDb, Agent Smith has been recast with Jonathan Groff. The only other characters that seem to be reprising their roles are Jada Pinkett Smith who played Niobe from The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, as well as The Merovingian who was played by Adam Lambert. 

In terms of the plot, it looks like Neo (like the franchise itself) has been in some way, shape, or form resurrected and is part of the Matrix once more. Trinity seems to have suffered a similar fate. Given all the blue pills Neo appears to be taking, it looks like someone (or something) is either trying to keep him under control or Neo was in some capacity doing this willingly, its really too early to tell though. What we do know is that Morpheus and those that resist the machines are looking to enlist him in their fight once more. But as is usual with The Matrix franchise, things might not appear as they seem. The Matrix Resurrections was released in theaters on December 22nd, 202 and is available to stream on HBO Max.

The Tragedy of Macbeth: Another Look At Shakespeare’s Classic And Why We Need It

There’s something about revisiting a story you know and love that is truly satisfying. For some, it could be the ever-popular Marvel movies. For others, it could be a book or a video game – fill in the blank as you will. Last month, a Shakespear classic got a fresh adaptation starring Denzel Washington in the lead role. That timeless story, which we’ll be speaking about today, is none other than The Tragedy of Macbeth. We know the story, and we know it well…but the conversation we’re about to have spans beyond this film, yet is intricately connected to it, as well as the future of all films. 

This Film Is More Than “Another Adaptation”

Now, before you bellyache and go, “come on….not another adaptation”, hear me out. Granted, it wasn’t too long ago we spoke about repackaging and reselling content (or in this case, stories) when we covered Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl, but there is a pretty valid argument to be made here. The difference between conversations surrounding the aforementioned topic and The Tragedy of Macbeth is that we’re talking about two different industries. It is pretty safe to say that the gaming industry has been booming, the pandemic playing a large part in that. Just to give you an idea, an article from the Washington Post reads that just for Microsoft alone, the company “reported a 130-percent increase in multiplayer engagement across March and April [of 2020]”. Not to mention the success Microsoft’s Game Pass has seen, which raked in 10 million subscribers in 2020 alone (Washington Post, 2020).

The movie industry on the other hand, has not been doing so hot. Where gaming and its respective industry thrived because of the fact that everyone was stuck at home, the movie industry suffered for it. The bigger theaters like AMC and Regal Cinemas are still around, but smaller theaters wouldn’t have fared as favorably. Those are just the places that show movies, what’s to be said of the people making films? Covid restrictions undoubtedly made films harder to shell out, and since no one was going to the theaters, many films were forced to release on streaming services like Disney+. This was a problem too because deciding how to pay the filmmakers and their teams was something that needed to be done, and it was not always handled successfully (see our article on Scarjo v. Disney for an idea). 

This is why The Tragedy of Macbeth is perfect. As people are now starting to come back to the theaters, there will be less figuring out how to accommodate new releases on streaming platforms and less worrying about economic returns. We can go back to filmmakers receiving their dues the way they were originally intended to. Taking the opportunity to tell a story as epic and tragic as Macbeth’s once again is no mistake. In fact, what better way to pull viewers back into movie theaters than with the promise of a story you already know and love? Sure, Marvel is already doing a good job of bringing people back to theaters, but for those whose tastes lean towards the classics, Macbeth is surely the way to go if you’re trying to tap into that specific audience. As the end of the trailer suggests, The Tragedy of Macbeth looks like a movie that is fit for the silver screen, much in the way Dune was made to be as well. This film isn’t truly marketing a Shakespearean play, it is marketing the value of the silver screen. Streaming is great and all, but in truth, nothing beats the experience of watching a film in theaters. This is why supporting your local theater is important now more so than ever before. That is why there’s more to The Tragedy Of Macbeth than meets the eye. The Tragedy of Macbeth was released in theaters on December 25th, 2021, and starts streaming on Apple TV+ on January 14th, 2022.

Remembering MLK And The Actors Who Have Portrayed Him

This January, we once again celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and take the time to remember to reflect on his life and legacy fighting for freedom, civil rights and social justice. Here are some of the actors who have taken on the challenge of portraying the iconic civil rights leader in cinema.

David Oyelowo

First among the actors we will name is David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie Selma (2014). A distinguished British-American actor, he had the honor of portraying MLK in a movie that was exclusively about the civil rights icon.

Selma (2014) tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr’s endeavors to secure equal voting rights for Black Americans and recounts the three-month period in 1965 in which Dr. King led a massive march from Selma to Montgomery. What’s great about this film and this performance is that it went deep into the character of MLK, how seemingly insurmountable the challenges he faced were, and how he reacted to these challenges. In short, Oyelowo does a phenomenal job of making the character feel as close to the real person as one can get. Prior to this film, he was also in the movie The Butler (2013), where he played Louis Gaines. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it is – he’s the character, Louis, that had an interaction with Nelsan Ellis’ depiction of Martin Luther King. 

David Oyelowo is also well known for his role in the HBO film Nightingale (2014) as Peter Snowdin, his roles as Robert Katende in Queen of Katwe (2016), and for portraying Seretse Khama in A United Kingdom (2016).

Jeffrey Wright 

In Boycott, a 2001 film, Jeffrey Wright also has the honor of portraying Martin Luther King Jr. The film itself is about the story of Rosa Parks and the early beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, specifically the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.

The film does well to touch upon Rosa Parks’ interactions with some of the movement’s key figures, which include Ralph Abernathy, Coretta Scott King, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. Here, the role of MLK is much more central to the story, as it only focuses on one era. In turn, we get to see Jeffrey Wright deliver a powerful performance as the civil rights leader. 

Levar Burton

Levar Burton, who is both an actor and director, portrayed MLK in the movie Ali (2001). The film focused on the life of Muhammad Ali, one of the most famous boxers of all time. There was, however, more to the man than just his boxing. Muhammad Ali was an outspoken civil rights advocator who had two very close friends who shared similar views. These two individuals are shown in the film, Malcolm X and none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

While the movie focuses more on Ali’s relationship with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, this doesn’t take away from Burton’s performance. Levar Burton is also famous for his roles in ABC’s miniseries Roots as Kunta Kinte and as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge in the sci-fi television series Star Trek: The Next Generation

Anthony Mackie

One of the more recent films to have been released, All The Way (2016), features MLK as one of the more central figures to the plot, akin to Boycott (2001) if not more so. The film follows Lyndon B. Johnson’s first term in office following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, where it focuses on his efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

In an interview with NPR, Anthony Mackie talks about his portrayal of the civil rights icon and how it felt channeling MLK. In keeping with the values MLK upheld, Mackie emphasized not only the importance of portraying the compassion intrinsic to the character but also just how “great and shrewd a politician” he was, as it was a dimension of the character he felt most people weren’t familiar with. He also did well to emphasize MLK’s role “as a leader of men” (NPR, 2016). 

Anthony Mackie is also famous for his role in the MCU as The Falcon and is now the new Captain America. To name a few others, he has also starred in The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Brother to Brother (2004) for which he won the Independent Spirit Award for best actor, and Notorious (2009), where he portrayed Tupac Shakur.

Nelsan Ellis

The late Nelsan Ellis stepped into the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the film The Butler (2013). Ellis was an American actor and playwright, who was best known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds in True Blood, an HBO TV series. 

The Butler (2013) is a film that told the story of Cecil Gaines, a black man who served as a butler in the White House through several presidential administrations. The character of Cecil is based on the life of Eugene Allen, a real butler who served in the White House.

One of the time periods the movie visits is the era of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968), where we get to see Ellis’ portrayal of MLK. In it, he is teaching Gaines’ son, Louis, a lesson about the struggles of racial equality not long before he is assassinated in Memphis. It’s a truly harrowing scene, one in which Nelsan Ellis gives an exceptional performance.

With that, so ends our commemoration of the actors who have had the honor of portraying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in film. In portraying him, they keep his story alive in a way that reaches more people and further cement his thoughts and timeless ideas into our memory, and we thank all of these actors for their profound work (and it goes without saying, MLK himself). We hope that you, our readers, have a great and restful MLK Day when it comes around!

Everything Marvel Coming Out In 2022  

Once again, Marvel is looking to take the movie industry by storm with a slew of content that further expands their ever-growing cinematic universe (MCU for short). In 2022 alone, we have seven productions to look forward to, not to mention the releases scheduled for 2023. Seven may not seem like the greatest amount but given the quality of these films and streaming series, it is quite a load to bear once you figure in things like cost too. Nevertheless, we’ll get you up to speed on what’s coming in 2022 where Marvel is concerned. If you would like to know what’s coming out in 2023, you can check out IGN’s article. Now, why don’t we start in on the movies? 

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (Film)

Following the already insane events of Spider-Man: Now Way Home, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness looks to set the bar for insanity even higher. As a second end-credits scene for the aforementioned Spider-Man film, the “backdoor trailer” for the Doctor Strange film tells us everything…yet nothing (as is Marvel’s way, fortunately for us). A number of actors will be reprising their roles, from Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular character, to Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlett Witch, Benedict Wong as Wong, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, and more interestingly, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo. Something else that comes as a surprise is that it seems Benedict Cumberbatch will also be reprising his role as another version of Doctor Strange, one viewers will be familiar with if they’ve seen Marvel’s What If?, – Strange Supreme. What’s more, it looks like Doctor Strange will be teaming up with Scarlett Witch too as he ventures forth into “the multiverse of which we know frighteningly little.” Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is set to be released on May 6th, 2022.

Thor: Love And Thunder (Film)

Thor: Love And Thunder has a pretty cool milestone going for it. This film will be the first MCU film with a fourth installment of a character’s arc. In this film, Chris Hemsworth will be returning as Thor, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, and MCU new entry Christian Bale will play Gorr the God Butcher. One of the cool plot points about this movie is that it will feature Jane Foster becoming the next Thor in line, Lady Thor. Thor: Love and Thunder is set to be released on July 8th, 2022.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Film)

Wakanda Forever movie

While some fans are excited about the film’s release, it is impossible to forget the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman who played the titular character, Black Panther. In honor of the actor’s legendary performance, the role will not be recast. Instead, the movie will likely focus on the other characters that were featured in the first Black Panther. Reprising their roles, actors Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, and Lupita Nyong’o will return as Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye, W’kabi, and Nakia respectively. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is set to be released on November 11th, 2022.

Ms. Marvel (Series)

Moving on to the upcoming Marvel series, among the first is Ms. Marvel. Not to be confused with Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel is a different character with a somewhat similar origin (at least in the comics). The heroine’s alter ego, Kamala Khan, is going to be the MCU’s first Muslim superhero too. Ms. Marvel will be played by Iman Vellani, and per IGN, will have a cast that includes actors Aramis Knight, Saagar Shaikh, Rish Shah, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Laith Naki, Azher Usman, Travina Springer, and Nimra Bucha. While there aren’t many details concerning the story, this series will surely be one to look out for as the Disney+ Summer 2022 release date draws closer.

The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (Series)

Before we get Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. III in 2023, we’ll be getting a small taste of the MCU’s beloved intergalactic heroes in a Holiday Special. The only thing that can be said of this production thus far is that James Gunn will be directing The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special and that, via IGN, he has confirmed that the Holiday Special will take place between the events of Thor: Love And Thunder and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. III. The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special is set to be released during the Holidays Season of 2022 on Disney+.

Moon Knight (Series)

On a personal note, this series has the hype. Moon Knight is a character in Marvel’s dossier that can be considered part of the fringe element. To give you an idea of what he’s like, Moon Knight is essentially Marvel’s version of Batman, only he doesn’t really care about taking in criminals alive. That, and the fact that he apparently wears white so that the villains and crooks he does meet can clearly see that he’s coming as he’s not trying to do any kind of hiding. The series itself will follow the story of Marc Spector, a former mercenary who, after being left for dead, is saved by a Moon god. Marc Spector also suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, which will be a focal point of the show. The titular character will be played by Oscar Issac, who previously played Poe Dameron in Start Wars and Duke Leto Atreides I in Dune, as well as many other roles. No official date has been confirmed, only that it is coming out on Disney+ in 2022.

She-Hulk (Series)

She Hulk TvVSeries

Finally, we have She-Hulk. This one, while greatly anticipated, is a painful reminder of the fact that we won’t be getting an outright Hulk movie anytime soon. But dreariness aside, She-Hulk is definitely worthy of celebration as a Marvel fan. Through She-Hulk, we can at least begin to expand into the mean and green side of things, which most fans have been dying for. Tatiana Maslany will play Jennifer Walter/She-Hulk herself, with Mark Ruffalo returning as Bruce Banner/The Hulk and Tim Roth as The Abomination. Where the story is concerned, IGN writes that “She-Hulk spotlights lawyer-slash-green powerhouse Jennifer Walters who specializes in superhuman-oriented legal cases” (IGN, 2021). Like Moon Knight, She-Hulk does not have an official release date as of yet, only that it is coming out on Disney+ in 2022.

Looking at these release dates, it seems well-paced out so as to combat the effects of any potential “Marvel fatigue”. With everything we’ve gotten so far though, it seems impossible to think that any fan might be suffering fatigue of any sort, as things have just started to ramp up storywise. Marvel fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming year. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home Is Shaking Up The Spiderverse  

Spider-Man: No Way Home probably has to be one of the most anticipated Marvel movies, rivaling the likes of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Why? There’s not only an interesting set of stakes, but many highly anticipated cameos. In addition to that, the implications of one of these cameos mean big things are afoot concerning Spider-Man’s future. 

The Cameos Of The Century

Confirmed to appear in the movie are a number of characters that are not “indigenous” to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). There are two other alternate “film universes” the movie will be drawing characters from. The first we’ll mention is one that fans affectionately call “The Raimiverse”, which refers to the Spider-Man movies made by Sam Raimi (a total of three films). From this universe, the characters (we know of) that will be making an appearance include Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Defoe), Doctor Octopus/Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the Sandman/Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church). The other alternate film universe in play is the Amazing Spider-Man films (a total of two movies). Characters from this universe will include The Lizard/Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans) and Electro/Maxwell Dillon (Jamie Foxx). 

As the reader, you might be wondering why the appearance of these characters and the actors tied to them matter so much. To help you stop wondering, picture this. The MCU doesn’t exist. Marvel’s properties are scattered in the wind, some with films that were well received, and others not as much. It was during this time that Sam Raimi made his Spiderman movies. For the most part, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were pretty good, and the fans liked them too. Willem Defoe’s performance as Green Goblin was fantastic, as was everyone’s favorite villain of the two movies, Doctor Octopus, who was played by Alfred Molina. Spider-Man 3 wasn’t as good as the two preceding it, but there was still something there. That something was the Sandman and his alter ego, Flint Marko, who was surprisingly a very deep and interesting character. 

The same can be said of The Lizard from The Amazing Spider-Man. Electro, both as a character and character design, on the other hand, was not received well by fans when he appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. For Electro, it’s a redemption arc of sorts, a redemption in that the character can be done right and that Jamie Foxx can be a great Electro, he just needs a chance. 

Now here’s the kicker. By the time the hugely popular MCU came around, it wasn’t hard to imagine that fans were disappointed that these phenomenal actors and the characters they played would never get to interact with the Marvel universe we were growing to love. Not to mention that those Spider-Man movies are owned by Sony and not Disney, so there was always that additional hurdle when it came to leasing. But lo and behold, the stars have indeed aligned, both narratively and in the proprietary realm. Fans have come a long way from Spider-Man’s first appearance in the MCU all the way back in 2016 with Captain America: Civil War. Who knew we’d more or less be getting a Sinister Six movie (and you’ll see why I say that) featuring the breakout cast of the older Spider-Man films, IN the MCU no less. It’s wild. 

The last infinity stone, if you will, that we need for this Spiderverse gauntlet Disney is gift-wrapping for fans is the possibility of seeing the two Spider-men from their respective film universes (Raimiverse and The Amazing Spider-Man films). On this note, there is some division among fans concerning who was the better Spider-Man, but barring that, there is no doubt that both iterations were loved. There hasn’t been much in the way of solid confirmation as to whether or not they’ll be appearing in the latest Spider-Man film but fans will be holding out hope. There is, however,…one more character we haven’t gone over who will be appearing in Spider-Man: No Way Home who might have one of the most influential roles in the movie.

There Is…Another?

Strap in your seatbelts, because this last one is a doozy. If you haven’t seen the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, there exists an after-credits scene where Eddy and Venom suddenly phase (I guess?) their way into the MCU. Speaking as a fan, the many narrative hula hoops you have to fly through and accept to begin processing this information are a bit odd. Whether you agree with it or not though, it has been confirmed by Kevin Feige himself (the primary producer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) that, at the very least, Venom is actually in the MCU. For more on Kevin Feige’s comments,check out this article by Collider. That being said, there is every possibility that Venom will be joining the fray in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Insider Marvel comics time. If you’ll recall, it was mentioned earlier that this could be some form of a “Sinister Six” movie. To briefly preface it, the Sinister Six is a group of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery (numbering six of course) who only have one goal. That goal is to confront and beat the tar out of Spider-Man for being such a quippy pain in the butt. It probably seemed a little awkward that this group was brought up before, seeing that there are only five confirmed villains. Well, we present to you the sixth possible member out of Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, The Lizard, The Sandman, and Electro…Venom! It’s a pretty cheesy (and personally, kind of lazy) way to do it, but Venom utters a little throwaway line as he watches Tom Holland’s Spider-Man on live TV.  Essentially, due to how this line is delivered, it doesn’t appear that helping Spider-Man is on his to-do list during his stay in the MCU. Venom’s more likely to join in on the clobbering. 

Final Thoughts

We’ve discussed the villains you’re going to see in this film, and the (potentially) last-minute addition to the villain RSVP. The bigger question you as readers should be asking yourselves is this, what does all of this mean for the “Spiderverse”? This is just a theory, but if you just take a look at the title “No Way Home”, that might not just refer to Spidey’s rogues gallery being stuck in the MCU with no way back. It may very well mean that Spider-Man might just walk on out with these villains back to what we can presumably start calling the “Sonyverse” or “Sony’s Spiderverse”…with no way “home” so to speak. Whatever the case may be, the hype for this movie is way up there, and it will be interesting to see just how Spider-Man: No Way Home ends up unraveling (see what I did there? Because the multiverse is unraveling in the movie too…). Spider-Man: No Way Home comes to theaters on December 17th, 2021.

Films for The Holidays: Classics, Action, and Horror, Oh My!

The festive time of year has finally returned. The time where you kick back and get ready to receive guests, conk out on the couch, or spend some quality time with your inner circle of friends or close family. For some, there’s no better way to get the ball rolling than gathering ‘round the TV and putting on a Christmas classic or two. Down below, we’ll list four movie flicks that are essential, as well as two film suggestions that might pique your interest if your looking for something a little less on the nose.

Die Hard – The Action (Almost) Christmas Movie

Fun fact: the first Die Hard movie, believe it or not, is actually a Christmas movie. Ever the family man, John McClane (Bruce Willis) comes home to visit his wife and two daughters for Christmas. What could go wrong right? Well, the office party he is supposed to meet her at goes sideways and winds up being held hostage by the likes of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his band of terrorists. We put this one under the experimental category because the movie does mostly center on the action. If you’re looking for a nice change of pace and want to have some explosive fun, Die Hard is the way to go!

Krampus – A Very Scary Christmas

Speaking of a change of pace, this film is a stretch grittier than the suggestion before it. Directed by Mike Dougherty, Krampus is a horror film that sees a family terrorized by Santa Claus’ fiendish counterpart, a spirit known as Krampus. This spirit is much like Santa in that he travels about the world visiting families, but a visit from Krampus isn’t one you look forward to. Krampus only appears to families that are devoid of Christmas spirit, so instead of showering these families with presents and cheer, this being sees fit to punish them for their yuletide transgressions. Should you like to explore the “other” Santa you better watch out for, Krampus is your go-to.

It’s A Wonderful Life – The Timeless Classic

Moving on from scary things both thrilling and truly horrifying, let’s liven up the mood a bit. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of those time-honored movies that has the perfect lesson fitting of the holidays. The story follows the life of a man named George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who eventually finds himself in a pretty rough patch. Sent to aid him in his earthly struggles, an Angel named Clarence goes down to Earth to help him sort it out. It’s A Wonderful Life follows George’s journey to some dark and challenging places, which makes its truly heartwarming message of love and gratitude all the more powerful.

Home Alone – KEVIN!

Home Alone sees young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) left behind at home as his family leaves for Christmas vacation. During this time, two burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) attempt to break into Kevin’s house… with a few unforeseen hurdles. This family comedy is perfect for those that want to laugh their way through the holidays. After all, who wouldn’t want to see two grown men continually fail to break into a house defended by a lone child? It’s timeless and inventive comedy gold that simply has no equal.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Dr. Seuss for the Holidays

From the iconic soundtrack to the wonderful animation that still holds up pretty well, there’s no way you can go wrong with a viewing of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. As the title does well to explain, the titular character isn’t feeling the holiday spirit very well this year. Naturally, if the Grinch can’t enjoy Christmas, no one around him can either. So hatches the nefarious plot to steal Christmas. Another film you can watch with the kids, How The Grinch Stole Christmas teaches forgiveness and selflessness, as well as drives home what makes the holidays truly special. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas – A Modern Classic

Last but not least, we have The Nightmare Before Christmas. Feeling a lack of drive, Jack Skellington seeks something invigorating beyond the borders of Halloween Town, and in so doing discovers another holiday in Christmas Town. With fiery passion lit aflame once more, Jack plans to take over the next Christmas that comes around. This holiday film is unique, as it not only features multiple holidays throughout the story, but the messages it contains span even beyond the scope of Christmas. It’s a journey not only of discovery but of self-discovery as well. The stop motion animation is simply brilliant and awe-inspiring as well, complimenting a well-written story that comes to embody the essence of the Christmas spirit. 

The New York Film Academy wishes everyone a joyous Happy Holidays!

Top Thanksgiving Flicks For Your Viewership

In the United States, a special time of year is settling in where we visit family or a close-knit crew of friends and celebrate what these special people mean to one another. It’s a coming  together over a feast for Thanksgiving. It can also become tradition that after the feast, it’s time to sit down and watch a film. Here are some Thanksgiving-inspired movies you can add to your watch-list for this Thanksgiving:

 

Friendsgiving

Differing from our old list, this is one of the newer films out there, having been released in 2020. The story follows Molly, played by Malin Akerman, and Abby, played by Kat Dennings, both of whom decide to host a Thanksgiving dinner for their friends. 

Even among friends, a simple, peaceful dinner won’t be what the two hosts are in for. More like a pretty dysfunctional and chaotic dinner is what actually unfolds. This movie is best reserved for more mature audiences (like the friends you’ll be hanging around). But all in all, it goes to show that for those who aren’t on the best terms with their family, there’s still a way to celebrate the holiday without feeling left out or lonely.  

 

Home For The Holidays

Home For The Holidays has a timeless message that’s more important than ever. The film strives to both teach and remind us that even the most divided families can realize the value of being alive and together. In this film, a single mom named Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) loses her job and flies to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with her parents in Baltimore.

The family dinner descends into madness when family members with contrasting opinions are gathered together at the dinner table. Among these members is a highly-conservative sister, some spoiled nieces and nephews, the eccentric Aunt Glady, and more.

The festivities barely stay ordered as tension rises. For all their differences, however, this film doesn’t let its viewers forget the core themes of family union, peace, and thankfulness that sometimes comes from a certain degree of effort that always proves its worth.

 

Pieces of April

Not all families agree with one another politically, you’d be hard-pressed to find one in perfect harmony in that regard. As a result, politics are the last topic you want to be brought up at the Thanksgiving dinner table. But no matter how heated such a conversation gets, it probably won’t be as weird as with the dysfunctional family in “Pieces of April.”

This comedy-drama is about April Burns, a young woman living in Manhattan with her boyfriend. Despite choosing not to involve herself heavily in family matters, April invites them over for a Thanksgiving dinner, including her mother who now has breast cancer. As one can imagine, there’s plenty that goes wrong, but in the end, they’re able to enjoy a nice dinner together while appreciating the importance of family.

“Pieces of April” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was well-received by critics. It earned several awards nominations and won many, including nearly a dozen Best Supporting Actress awards for Patricia Clarkson’s performance.

 

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles

In this classic American comedy, Steve Martin (played by comedy legend Neal Page) is a marketing executive who’s anxiously trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. His journey home becomes woefully elongated (like from a two-hour trip into a three day trip) when he runs into a goofy curtain ring salesman named Del Griffith (John Candy).

Both men are forced to work together as they accidentally find themselves in Wichita, with their shared goal to arrive home in Chicago before Thanksgiving. A great deal of the laughs in this film comes from Neal losing his temper, while Del makes things worse by making mistakes that make their adventure even longer.

In short, this is one of those must-watch Thanksgiving-themed films where, if you haven’t seen it, now is definitely the time!

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Last but not least, how could we not include the classic 1973 Charlie Brown TV special. In this episode, Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown’s for a Thanksgiving feast. There is only one small problem… he hasn’t prepared the feast they’re looking for. With the help of his friends, Charlie and the gang do their best to put together a traditional Thanksgiving feast — enlisting the help of Lucy, Snoopy, Woodstock, Marcie, Franklin, and Linus.

Not only is this special episode a viewing everyone can enjoy, but it’s also only 30 minutes long. Short and sweet, like a nice slice of pumpkin pie!

As we begin to wind down, we here at the New York Film Academy would like to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving!

House of Gucci: The Film That May (Or May Not) Have Snuck Up On You

A film telling the story of the Gucci family just dropped. Naturally, if you’re someone who not only follows fashion trends, but also follows what goes on behind the scenes, you’re well versed in what this film is going to be about. However, if you have no idea that the Gucci’s had a scandal or that this film was even coming out, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

What’s This Film About?

The movie itself follows the story of Patrizia Reggiani “an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel their legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately…murder” (IMDb, 2021). In short, it appears the film will be following Reggiani as the main character as we begin to familiarize ourselves with all the players within the House of Gucci. 

What About The History Behind It?

Let’s go over some of the basics, crash course style. Gucci, the source of all the drama, is a very well known fashion brand that’s based out of Florence, Italy. As a company, it was prestigious enough that it was worth fighting for control over. Maurizio Gucci is a very important figure in both the company and the family that ran it. Depending on where the movie takes place, he will either be in the process of or already have begun to “consolidate his control” over the company by becoming “involved in various court battles in [a] bid to drive his family members from the board” (Forbes, 2019). As in all things related to family and running a business, it isn’t impossible to imagine how mucky this situation would grow to become. But that isn’t even half of it.

House of Gucci poster mosaic

In 1972, he married a woman by the name of Patrizia Reggiani, who came from humble beginnings. As a result, one individual in particular, Maurizio’s father Rodolfo, didn’t approve of their union. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this story isn’t that external pressures like Maurizio’s father existed, it was that he and his wife Patrizia were happily married, at least for just over a decade before their marriage began to break down. When Rodolfo Gucci died in 1983, Maurizio inherited half of the company’s stake, and here is where things began to change. The way Maurizio began to handle the company was not to Patrizia’s tune. Alongside other factors, their marriage began to degrade until 1985, when both her and Maurizio fell into a decade long protracted legal battle as they tried getting divorced. To top it all off, Maurizio had begun seeing someone else, and planned to marry his new girlfriend, the younger Paola Franchi. It wouldn’t be long until the pent up feelings of resentment and jealousy manifested themselves in a gruesome plot for Reggiani to kill her husband. After that, the dominoes would fall in place as an anonymous tip sent the investigation straight to Patrizia’s doorstep.

Final Thoughts

As someone who doesn’t particularly follow the world of fashion, much less even heard of this story, doing the research for this film and storyline was interesting in and of itself. It can’t be that far out of the realm of possibility that watching a film adaptation of this story is sure to be an equally fun watch.

If the premise isn’t enough of a hook, House of Gucci has quite the all-star line up too. Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci, Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, and Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci, just to name a few (heck, even Al Pacino’s is in it). House of Gucci released in theaters November 24th, 2021.

Iconic Clint Eastwood Film Gets Navajo Dub

For Native American Heritage Month, we have a pretty cool bit of news to share. A couple weeks back, A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood, was dubbed in Navajo. Hearing about this for the first time? Say no more, and we’ll get right into it.

The Why And The How

AP News’ coverage of the news tells us this came about as a request by Navajo elders to the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, Manuelito Wheeler. This request has been out there since “Star Wars IV: A New Hope was translated into Navajo in 2013.” The dub of A Fistful of Dollars was supposed to be released in 2020, but was halted as a result of the advent of COVID-19. The dubbed film premiered on November 16th, 2021 at a movie theater in Winnow Rock, Arizona. 

Why Is This An Important Film & Story?

Aside from the marvel of translating an entire film into another language, there’s a lot more to it than that. As the article also mentions, spaghetti westerns have a habit of having “inaccurate if not offensive depict[ions] of Native people” (AP News, 2021). Luckily, there was nothing of the sort in A Fistful of Dollars, but it is certainly a staple of a lot of these older films. Though the issue wasn’t quite extant in this instance, having it dubbed in Navajo was important, in a way.

In a genre where inaccurate and/or offensive depictions serve to tarnish people’s image of Native peoples, having a film dubbed in a Native American language could be seen in a somewhat cathartic light. Cathartic in that instead of being the subject of a pretty insulting depiction, Native Americans have a chance to make this film their own in a way, and in a way that isn’t offensive to them.  

Dubbing this film in Navajo also provides the opportunity to aid preserving their language, while encouraging others to speak and learn Navajo. As an added bonus, it gives those that speak Navajo already the ability to better enjoy the film. In short, within a genre that, unfortunately, does a disservice to Native people, in this case, it did them a great service, culturally, which is about as satisfying as a story can get.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl: Repackaged And Resold or Satisfying Update To The Originals?

The Pokémon franchise finds itself in an interesting place (at least as far as this writer is concerned). As someone who has played a couple of the Gameboy and Nintendo DS iterations of the games, there was a certain level of joy in hearing that Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl were finally getting their remake. It’s a trend the Pokémon games have been following since they came out with Pokémon FireRed and Pokémon LeafGreen, and have done accordingly with a couple of other titles in their roster. The newest of these remakes will be Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl. If you’re still on the fence as to whether or not you wish to buy this game, feel free to peruse the following discussion. Hopefully, it does well to inform your decision one way or the other.

The “Repackaged and Resold” Dilemma

Despite feeling that tinge of joy, in the back of my mind, a singular question resounded. “Will I get it?” Truthfully, it was a tough question to confront, mostly because of how loaded the decision is. To put things in perspective, the first Pokémon game I ever played was Pokémon Platinum, it was a hybrid successor of sorts to the games based in the Sinnoh region, Diamond and Pearl. If there is to be any choice between the two new games, Pokémon Shining Pearl has the most allure as Palkia is, personally, the preferred legendary to its counterpart Dialga. 

As the decision-making process continued, something somewhat obvious came to mind. “I’ve played this game already.” Not just Platinum either, the actual game Pokémon Pearl was once a game I’d owned. It was at that point that the decision-making process came to a halt as a particular revelation reared its ugly head. There was a looming possibility that Pokémon Shining Pearl was going to be another instance of the whole “repackaging and reselling” scheme, which is essentially putting out the same game but with one, two, or a few changes that are supposed to separate it from the original. It’s not a practice that many gamers are fond of since it feels like a cheap and lazy way to make a buck. 

With Pokémon, it’s somewhat difficult to discern though. For one, both Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are going to be released on the Switch. What does that tell us? Well for one, releasing it on the Switch means they’re trying to reach the younger generation of their demographic as the platform is relatively new. One of two motivations at work here is that they’re trying to introduce the Sinnoh region to the new generation of players, which isn’t a bad thing really. Diamond and Pearl were games originally released on the Nintendo DS, which at this point, has become something of a relic of a time long past. On the other hand, the second motivation at work here is that these games are remakes of previously existing games. The move is without a doubt meant to invoke a sense of nostalgia to get those that played the originals to buy it. For those among the older generation that haven’t already done so, it also becomes a great excuse to finally get the Switch if you’ve been holding off. To give credit where credit is due, it’s an ingenious strategy, which is why it is hard to discern at a glance whether or not this is truly a case of repackaging and reselling. 

 

But Where Is The Line Between A True Remake and A Repackaged and Resold Product? 

As fuel for thought, an article by Digital Spy also provides some further insights into this matter. According to the article, “the original story [is] faithfully reproduced” but in addition to that, these new games see “vast improvements graphically and feature-wise, with new additions that include expanded minigames, Pokémon Hideaways, and a new character customization option.” 

This is the part where the decision-making process proves most difficult. The updated graphics were a given, the Pokémon games have come a long way since their Gameboy/Nintendo DS days. One of the bigger, and arguably more interesting features is the addition of the Grand Underground. The Grand Underground, which replaces the Underground from Diamond and Pearl, will not only retain all of its predecessor’s features but expand on them. Utilizing the Pokémon Hideaways mechanic from Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, it seems players will be able to customize spaces within the Grand Underground in order to, essentially, summon rare Pokémon.

To answer the question previously posited, it really depends on buyer perception. The line between a true remake and a repackage/resell lies in whether or not you believe these new additions are enough to call these new games remakes. On a personal level, the concept of the Grand Underground sounds interesting as it appears to add a new dimension to the Underground of the previous games. But this sentiment may not necessarily be held universally. To someone else, the new addition may not be enough to warrant spending another $50 or so on a game you feel you’ve already played. 

Final Thoughts

As a fan of the franchise myself, I’ll admit I’m still on the fence as to whether or not Pokémon Shining Pearl will be this year’s self-addressed Christmas present. Nintendo walks a fine line here, skirting the line between remake and repackage/resell. To be fair to Nintendo however, these aren’t the only Pokémon games they’re putting out and have yet to put out. Enough so that perhaps it is worth giving these new titles the benefit of the doubt. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl will be released for the Nintendo Switch on November 19th, 2021.

Netflix’s Big Splash In Gaming

In the world of both streaming and gaming, the streaming wars look like they’re getting taken to the next level.  This month, Netflix launched a few gaming titles for Android users on their mobile app. As of November 10, those very same games were released for iOS. Now you, our esteemed readers, might be thinking, ‘A movie app having gaming content? That’s pretty odd.’ However odd it might seem, this move by the streaming service is interesting, to say the least. Join us as we begin unraveling the why and the implications of the why. 

What Games Will Netflix Have?

Per an article by Gadgets 360, there are currently five games on Netflix’s roster. These include Stranger Things 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up, and Card Blast. The two Stranger Things games are by a gaming studio by the name of BonusXP, Card Blast by Amuzo & Rogue Games, and Shooting Hoops as well as Teeter Up is by Frosty Pop. For more on what Netflix’s new mobile gaming venture entails, we refer you to explore the aforementioned article for further details.

Stranger Things 1984 on Netflix Games

Speculating the Future of Streaming

A step like this has been in Netflix’s sights for some time now, having come a long way since its beginnings. Netflix first started out as a rental service that rivaled the likes of Blockbuster (kudos to you if you can remember who they were). Slowly, Netflix came into its own niche as a streaming service that let you watch movies without the hassle of going to the old Netflix vending machine to physically rent them, having a hand in eventually rendering both discs and video tapes nearly obsolete.

The point here is that Netflix knows its way around the block as a proven innovator. Given time, they were able to crack the formula for their current business model and for a hot minute, they ran relatively unopposed until companies like Disney and other programming networks decided to jump in the game. 

Like last time, the streaming service is once again trying to find ways to innovate their brand, and if the past has taught us anything, there is a snowball’s chance that the people over at Netflix could work their magic once again. But it all comes down to time and how decent the content is. Another important factor in this brave new world is who decides to work with Netflix of course. If they manage to collaborate with the right gaming studios, we could be looking at a world where Netflix becomes the next gaming platform (which is very odd to think about, truthfully). 

As of right now, you can download the Netflix app on your Xbox or PlayStation console and watch movies and shows from there. That could very easily change if this gambit of theirs proves successful. As a streaming platform themselves, they could branch out even further and become direct competitors with the likes of Steam, which if you don’t know already, is a platform that allows you to stream games from the comfort of your computer or PC. If you’re one that dares to dream, who’s to say they won’t go the extra mile and come out with a console of their own? The situation and all the trajectories it entails are pretty fascinating to ponder. 

Final Thoughts

It’ll be intriguing to see how this plays out, but as of right now, all you need to play Netflix’s mobile games is a subscription to their service. It isn’t impossible to imagine there’ll be some kind of bump in their pricing, but to conceive of a service that provides an impressive catalogue of movies, shows, AND games is scarily appealing. In some respects, Netflix’s latest venture could very well be revolutionary if handled tactfully, changing the landscape of both the gaming world and that of streaming overall.

“Eternals”: What You Need To Know Before You Watch

Marvel season is back, after fans of the franchise have eagerly waited for new content following the end of the Infinity Saga. Since Marvel made its comeback, it has come out with short series WandaVision, Falcon & The Winter Soldier, and Loki. More recently, Marvel has come out with films Black Widow and Shang Chi, as well as a short animated series called What If. As far as the franchise is concerned, they’ve come back pretty strong with more to come too. Among the projects to come is Eternals, arguably one of Marvel’s lesser known properties (unless you’re a super fan of the comics that is). In that vein, you might be wondering what on Earth the Eternals even are. We’ll get you up to speed on what you need to know for the upcoming movie.

Uh…What Are The Eternals?

As in all things MCU related, we’ll be going back to the comics to answer this question. The Eternals got their own comic run in 1976. The Eternals themselves are beings that were created to be “immune to time and death” and are a smaller sub-population of humans (CinemaBlend, 2021). They’re, in essence, humans that were bred to be godlike beings. 

Who Made Them And Why Do They Exist?

You’ll notice that the word “bred” was used not too long ago. Well, that’s because the Eternals answer to overlords of their own. Recall in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, there was a scene where The Collector was explaining the nature of The Orb (which turned out to be the Power Stone, which is one of the Infinity Stones). In his explanation, we can see a large, rather peculiar looking giant using the stone. That was our first glimpse at a Celestial. The Celestials are cosmic beings that are a head above the Eternals, as they are the ones who created/bred them. You can think of them as the Titans to your Olympians (in this case, the Eternals) if you’re well versed in Greek mythology. 

The Celestials didn’t just create the Eternals however, they’re responsible for creating or “perfecting” modern day humans and a race of beings known as the Deviants. If the Eternals were considered perfect, the Deviants are the complete antithesis. As a result of their monstrous nature, the Eternals take it upon themselves to defend the humans from the Deviants, making it their mission. 

Some Interesting Trivia

The trailers that have come out for Eternals are interesting to say the least, as they are loaded with some pretty important questions and answers. For one, why didn’t they do anything when Thanos snapped away half the universe? Well…it wasn’t their place to intervene. As a call back to their comic origins, it’s stated that they were instructed by the Celestials not to intervene in conflicts aside from the ever looming threat presented by the Deviants, who had only been dormant until the “reverse snap” (I guess you can call it that?) took place. 

One of the bigger fun facts is that Thanos is a relative (cousin to be specific) to one of the Eternals. This is also from the comics, as well as the notion that Thanos is actually an Eternal/Deviant hybrid. His Deviant nature is actually why he looks the way he does, as well as why he’s so mighty a foe even without the Infinity Stones. 

Final Thoughts

It’ll be interesting to see how Eternals fare in theaters since, like Guardians Of The Galaxy used to be, it is one of the more fringe comic titles in Marvel’s repertoire. Though that might not be as much of a factor now since Marvel seems to have grown considerably in popularity. The film will be a test drive of sorts in multiple respects too, as it will not only feature a hero that is openly gay, but according to the director, it will also be the first Marvel movie that features a sex scene. In short, this movie looks like it is going to be juggling quite a bit, hopefully in a way that is successful. Eternals releases on November 5th, 2021.

Dear Evan Hansen: The Pros And Cons Of Adapting Broadway Material To The Big Screen

A well-known Broadway production, Dear Evan Hansen now has its own film adaptation. The show turned movie tells the story of a high school senior struggling with social anxiety disorder, who following the tragic suicide of a fellow classmate, goes on a journey of acceptance and self-discovery. As critically acclaimed as the film’s source material is, there lies an interesting conversation beneath the film’s potential success. This isn’t the first time a Broadway show has been adapted to the big screen, as it’s been done for shows like West Side Story (1961) and Phantom of the Opera (2005). Today, we’ll briefly weigh the pros and cons of stage production to film adaptations.

Pro: Reaching Larger Audiences 

The great thing about movies is that, as a visual medium, it is much more readily accessible to the public. For the most part, the moviegoing experience is cheaper than grabbing a couple of Broadway tickets. It also gives people who aren’t as inclined to see the stage production version a chance to engage with the material through a medium they’re more familiar with (or quite possibly, open their minds to giving the stage production version a chance). 

Con: The Translation Conundrum Betwixt Visual Mediums

One of the potential downsides of transitioning to a film adaptation is that of vision. When it comes to movies, there is always a chance that a certain aspect of the broadway show could get lost in interpretation when exchanging mediums. Screen Rant’s 5 best & 5 worst Film Adaptations Of Hit Broadway Musicals attests to this problem, explaining that there’s a certain “magic” about stage productions that oftentimes filmmakers just aren’t able to replicate. It is why movies like Cats (2019) and A Chorus Line (1985) weren’t welcomed by the best reviews (Screen Rant, 2021). It could be the way a certain scene is shot or the dialogue between two characters. A minute change, no matter how seemingly small and inconsequential, could change the way audiences view and perceive the story, resulting in a “translation conundrum”. 

Pro: Employing Digital Capture

An article by Rolling Stone offers a solution to the translation conundrum. One of the ways directors can bring a Broadway show to movie theaters without making any real changes is by doing what’s called a Digital Capture. Simply put, a Digital Capture is a “film or video recording of a stage production”. Instead of lining up an all-new cast and tweaking the narrative, Digital Capture allows viewers to partake of the Broadway experience without the translation conundrum. 

 

Con: Undercutting Stage Productions

While making a film adaptation has the potential to increase a stage production’s exposure, there’s something of a catch-22. If the show’s movie adaptation does well in theaters, that could attract viewers to the source material on stage, promoting it. The issue here is what if the film adaptation does its job too well? That instead of attracting viewers to the stage production the film is based on, the film does the opposite and becomes the medium of preference among viewers? Such a thing could then be damaging to stage productions at that point, as the production is now, in a way, more “convenient” in terms of viewer consumption. Undercutting stage productions should be the last thing anyone wants, as it is the means by which we as viewers are getting these amazing stories to begin with.

Final Thoughts

Despite the ups and downs of this process, there may be hope for Dear Evan Hansen yet. An interesting tidbit about this movie is that some of the cast is composed of the same Broadway actors that portray their characters in the stage production itself (see Collider’s article for more on who is who). A typical flaw of film adaptations, this film will not be suffering from this issue thankfully, which could lend to how good it can be. To further bolster the film’s “street cred” so to speak, the writer for the film is none other than Adam Levenson, who is the playwright that wrote the show on Broadway as well. In short, Dear Evan Hansen’s film adaptation looks like it will be blending the best of both worlds in order to do justice to the original stage production, all while expanding its audience. Dear Evan Hansen is now in theaters.  

The Many Saints of Newark, The Prequel You Probably Didn’t See Coming

Many many moons ago, HBO put itself on the map by running a show by the name of The Sopranos, created by David Chase. It’s been 14 years since the show ended, but now, eager fans of the series have hope. Chase is back at it again with the new prequel film The Many Saints Of Newark. To better appreciate this surprising comeback, we’ll get you up to speed on what you need to know for the upcoming film.

Who Were The Sopranos?

In case you’ve never heard of or seen The Sopranos to begin with, that’s okay, we’ll go over that too (and not spoil too much either). The show follows Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mob boss who deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life that affect his mental state,  resulting in him seeking professional psychiatric counseling to cope with the stresses he faces. The series ran 6 seasons long, with 13 episodes a season, with the exception of  Season 6 which got 21 episodes. When last the iconic series aired, the DiMeo crime family (run by Tony) were in a tight spot as the New York and New Jersey crime families were warring with one another. Its ending was ambiguous, and is held in high regard as one of the greatest series endings of all time. 

Resurrecting An Iconic Story

The Many Saints of Newark will be turning back the clock, visiting Tony Soprano in his younger days. The film takes place during the long hot summer of 1967, a time of considerable “political and civil unrest”. Amongst the turmoil the setting presents, the DiMeo crime family’s hold over the city is being challenged by rival gangsters as they begin to rise up against them. The film will focus on young Tony’s relationship with his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti, who also struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities much like Tony will in The Sopranos later on. The movie will ultimately bear witness to the experiences that shape Tony into the mob boss fans are familiar with.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, The Sopranos is considered a time honored classic when it comes to drama. For those who might be less eager, there is a compelling discussion that seems to be hidden under the surface of all this good news. One of the things the article by Collider expresses, is something of a cautionary hesitance in its initial remarks about the film. Especially when talking about it being “a huge undertaking”, speaking to the notion that audiences would need to “trust a return to this world so long after the finale”. These remarks are interesting, very much so when one considers that most praise The Sopranos to be one of the best shows out there, in addition to having what is widely regarded as one of the greatest endings a series can get. It begs the question, did we really need this prequel?

To have achieved such a masterful ending, one would have had to create a distinct air of finality. Although a prequel, would this film in some sense be violating that sense of finality? It does, after all, seek to continue a story that has been finished for 14 years. To be fair though, it isn’t like the property is being brought back into existence by some stranger, David Chase himself is coming back to tell this story. If there’s any one who has the inherent right to exercise revisiting the world of the Sopranos, it is the creator of the series. On top of that, without spoiling the ending, there were many questions concerning how the show ended, so it isn’t like there wasn’t any desire whatsoever to revisit the story. The Many Saints of Newark, starring NYFA Alumni Michael Gandolfini (playing Tony Soprano) and Gabriella Piazza (playing mob wife Joanne Moltisanti), is screening in theaters.

“Last Night In Soho,” The Wonders of Allstar Casting

It may seem like a very simple premise, but it is often an important one to keep in mind when it comes to filmmaking. Last Night in Soho, a film that’s been garnering an increasing amount of interest, is one such example of the wonders of having a cast that hits the sweet spot so to speak. It seems like there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to why this film has gathered this much traction (aside from an interesting premise and striking visuals), but as stated earlier, it’s really quite simple as it all lies in the casting. 

So Who Handles This Whole Casting Business?

To answer that question, let’s start with the basics. Casting is a fundamental part of filmmaking. In a production project, there’s an entire subdivision dedicated to it. Typically, the directors and the producers of a project will see fit to hire a casting director, who will then often hire a team to help them facilitate the administrative and organizational aspects of the process. The casting director’s sole focus is to seek the talent the project needs and present the directors and producers with choices. Boiled down, the process of casting includes auditions, screen tests, and callbacks.

Casting director checklist

Okay, But Why Is This So Important?

There are a couple of different factors at play here. One important notion that the actor needs to have is a “believable performance”. If the audience can’t take the actor seriously in the role that they play, it could end up being detrimental to the film. Of course, some actors’ roles are determined by how well they’ve handled similar roles in the past too.

Another factor is the might of “star power”. There are some people within an audience who go to see movies just because an actor they like is part of the cast. Take Anna Taylor Joy for instance. She’s been part of a number of recent thrillers, a few of which include Split (2016), Thoroughbreds (2017), and New Mutants (2020). The actress is without question part of the star power of Last Night In Soho, doubly so as it’s a thriller of sorts too. The same can be said of Matt Smith, who is most widely known for playing The 11th Doctor in Doctor Who. Sure, the demographic won’t comprise the majority of Doctor Who fans, but his presence in the project is sure to attract some from the Doctor Who camp to this new film’s way. 

Final Thoughts

Casting matters not only to the survival of a film but also how well it is able to initially cultivate its audience. Last Night In Soho is now available through streaming platforms and theaters.

“Dune,” A Video Game Adaptation Done Right?

Dune is one of those franchises in the sci-fi community that is a time-honored classic. Over the years, there have been attempts to adapt it to long-form media. Unfortunately, they haven’t always been successful or even well-received by fans. The newest iteration of Dune looks to be the antithesis of this trend, as excitement for this film has gone through the roof. So what is Dune? And why is this film such a big deal? Join us as we unpack and answer those two very essential questions. 

 

What on Earth is Dune?

Let’s roll back the tape a bit here. Dune is actually a little more than just a video game. In its inception, Dune was a book authored by Frank Herbert. The story follows Paul Atreides, the heir to one of a few noble Houses that hold dominion over other planets. His story begins when “[Paul] and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the universe’s only source of the spice melange” (IndieWire, 2020). The franchise would first make its debut in theaters in 1984, the film was titled Dune and it was directed by David Lynch. Unfortunately, critics of the time such as Roger Ebert wouldn’t receive the movie very well, calling it “a real mess” as it had “one of the most confusing screenplays of all time” (Roger Ebert Reviews, 1984). According to IndieWire, the film would become something of a “cult classic” but suffice to say, it isn’t the best adaptation of the franchise… and that’s coming from fans and critics alike. It would later become a game developed by Cyro Interactive in 1992. There would be more games after this, not all by the same developers, but the gem of this roster is Dune II. This game alone would revolutionize strategy gaming as well as PC gaming in general. For more on this topic, we invite you to check out IGN’s review of the gaming classic. All in all, it is without question that the Dune franchise is near and dear to gamers and readers alike, which is why the new adaptation is so important. 

A still from the movie Dune (1984)

A still from the 1984 David Lynch adaption of “Dune”

Hiccups in Adaptation

As history has shown, adapting various kinds of media to the big screen, especially video games, doesn’t always have the best track record. Take Mortal Kombat for example. The Netherrealm classic is without a doubt more than ten games strong and a pretty popular title. When it comes to the movies… not so much. Like Dune (1984), Mortal Kombat has its own slew of not very well received movies, turned cult classics, these being Mortal Kombat (1995) and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). To speak plainly, they’re the kind of movies that invoke an odd degree of nostalgia yet are fun enough to enjoy laughing at every now and again. This is a trend that one often sees with video game-to-film adaptations, and sometimes, depending on the property, some book-to-film adaptations. In Dune’s case, this has been an issue plaguing fans of the franchise for a couple of decades now. Granted, you had the pretty well-received Dune shows on Syfy in the early 2000s, but aside from that, no one has been able to crack the code for translating Dune’s complex story to the big screen. The stakes are especially high here since Dune is not only successful as a book but as a video game too. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from the 1990s, and video game adaptations are starting to deviate from the campiness they were once associated with. But that begs the question… 

Where Does This Leave Us With Dune?

Well, if you like spoilers or being informed about what you’re getting into, the title for the New York Times review of the film reads, “The Man Who Finally Made A Dune Fans Will Love”, that man being Denis Villeneuve who directed the film (NYT, 2021). If that’s any indication of how good it is, it seems like there’s been a step in the right direction in terms of adapting the material. In addition to that nugget, it appears that the new film is being accompanied by a brand new TV show set to come out on HBO Max. According to Variety, Dune: Sisterhood has a showrunner and still appears to be a work in progress. The new Dune is now in theaters and on HBO Max. 

Far Cry 6: Why Character Enrichment Is Worth It 

Far Cry is one of those games where you don’t need to necessarily focus on the story in order to enjoy it. In a sense it’s like Grand Theft Auto, you can find the perfect weapon, steal a car, and go on your merry way causing mischief and mayhem. Where some might see that as a flaw, the Far Cry games have always proven fun and engaging. As a way of spicing things up,   appears to be adopting a new tactic to make the game more compelling. In addition to some new mechanics and acting talent Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame, the game will be giving its new lead, Dani Rojas, an in-depth backstory.

Why Is This A Big Deal And Why Now?

Right now, you might be wondering why this decision is so important for the Far Cry series. As an article from Game Rant points out, the series’ mains are for the most part presented as blank slates, “having very little in the way of backstory or character depth.” Take Jason Brody from Far Cry 3 for example. In that game, his entire reason for being on Rook Island is because his vacation took a wrong turn. It isn’t the worst backstory, but it certainly isn’t the best either. For the main character of the game, one would expect something deeper in the way of a story. On the other hand, Far Cry 3 wasn’t terrible either. For one, the game had a breakout star in the villain, Vaas, who by and large was more intriguing than Brody as you got to know why he is the way he is. There’s a reason why this perceived disparity exists, and it’s thought that for all the work that is put into the gameplay of a Far Cry game, “[not] a lot of room is left for the narrative and the characters to shine” (Game Rant, 2021). 

That’s why the new main character, Dani Rojas, is revolutionary in more ways than one. One of the things that makes this character special is that players can choose whether or not Dani will be male or female. Already, players are given more agency than prior games (with the exception of Far Cry 5 which also gave players this option), serving to strengthen the storytelling of the new game. On top of that, Dani Rojas backstory isn’t nearly as superficial as being a tourist who took a wrong turn. The main character of Far Cry 6 will be a native resident of the island nation Yara, which is where the story takes place. It’s a simple detail, but it changes a lot as the themes of revolt and revolution supplant the series’ traditional one of survival which gives the story a new, compelling element. 

The best part about having a compelling main protagonist, is that you now have someone for the main antagonist to bounce off of. Giancarlo Esposito’s Anton Castillo already had the internet in an uproar when Far Cry 6 was first announced. It would have been criminal to have such great talent pitted against yet another blank slate protagonist the series is infamous for. With Dani being as fleshed out as she appears to be, the story is sure to have more soul and richness to it. Each represents the polar end of a binary, Castillo, who represents the “pros” authoritarianism brings on a structural level, and on the other end Dani, who will (likely) come to embody the “cons” of a revolutionary upheaval. The binary is being framed here like this because, as far as the trailer is concerned, both sides make it clear they’re willing to do anything to achieve what each perceives as “paradise”. Meaning, according to both, the ends will justify the means, which could lead to darker roads regardless of intention. Already, you have the makings of an interesting story, but it only works because both the antagonist and the protagonist can both effectively and meaningfully push back against one another. A storyteller wouldn’t be able to achieve this if one of the characters, protagonist or antagonist, were blank slates.

The Moral Of The Story?

Deeper main characters beget deeper, better stories, plain and simple. When crafting the story you want to tell, all aspects of the characters, especially the main character, should be considered. How your main protagonist relates to the other characters they meet and interact with is part of what will make your story a page turner so to speak. It’s why details are key when it comes to character depth. The only way Jason Brody of Far Cry 3 could relate to Vaas meaningfully was that he murdered his brother. It was instrumental in that it was Brody’s driving force, but beyond that, it was an arguably superficial relationship that they had. In effect, Vaas did all the “legwork” while Brody simply reacted to whatever he did, bringing nothing else to the table in terms of depth. Thus, since Brody’s backstory wasn’t fleshed out enough to make him interesting, the story ultimately suffered for it.

On the other side of the aisle, one can make the case that by making the main character a blank slate, it can be more immersive for the viewer/player/reader experience. It is true in some cases too when planned and executed well. For instance, Skyrim is an open world game like Far Cry, but it is a role playing game (RPG) at its core. The blank slate main works better because the character is well and truly an open canvas. They have no solid backstory save for whatever the player decides or even imagines. The reason why it doesn’t quite work for Far Cry is because the groundwork for the character is already set, so the only agency players really have is the choices they make. Essentially, their main character exhibits traits reminiscent of RPG games, meanwhile the game doesn’t inherently revolve around the RPG experience. It creates an oddly disparate experience that doesn’t do the game justice. That’s not to say these games aren’t enjoyable, but this is why their storytelling can feel flat at times. Luckily for fans of Far Cry, this is all going to be turned around with this newest installment in the series. Far Cry 6 will be available on multiple platforms including Playstation, Xbox, PC, and more, and releases on October 7th, 2021.

Blood Brothers: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali: A Brief Rundown Of The Bond Between Two Cultural Icons

Recently released is a story most people are familiar with. For those that aren’t, a documentary focused on civil rights activist Malcolm X and one of the most famous heavyweight boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali’s, friendship is coming to Netflix. Here’s what you need to know about Netflix’s upcoming documentary.

Their Story

The documentary is based on a book of the same name, Blood Brothers, and is set to delve into the beginning of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali’s friendship, right up until it began to fracture. The book was written by “Georgia Tech associate history Professor Johnny Smith and his former academic advisor Purdue University history professor Randy Roberts.” According to an article by Collider, the movie uses “historical footage and interviews with family and friends” some of which include “Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, and Ali’s brother Rahman and daughters Maryum and Hana.” The trailer begins by showing what brought these two great individuals together. Both found shared ground in their faith in Islam. Likewise they were both outspoken intellectuals, advocating for civil rights during the era of segregation. Through these commonalities, they became brothers. The trailer for the documentary goes on to cite anecdotes by the aforementioned interviewees, attesting to their powerful friendship. Divisions in ideology would be what caused their bond to unravel, how and why it got to this point is something the documentary seeks to answer. 

NYFA recently had the honor to host the director of the documentary, Marcus A. Clarke. He explained that he was struck by the absence of any real record of their friendship and aimed to bring about awareness of the subjects’ relationship.

Overall, the documentary appears to promise an enriching as well as introspective look at both men, their beliefs, and how these beliefs evolved as time progressed. Blood Brothers: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali released on Netflix September 9th, 2021 and is available now to steam. 

Blue Bayou, Shining A Light On What It Means To Be An “Immigrant”

In a few days, a film by the name of Blue Bayou will be getting its theatrical release in the United States. Blue Bayou was one of a couple of films that received awards at the 2021 Deauville Film Festival, and before that, the Cannes Film Festival in July. Directed by Justin Chon, the story follows Antonio LeBlanc (also played by Chon), whose past comes back to haunt him when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) comes knocking on his door. Here’s what you need to know about the award winning film, and why it’ll be worth the watch.

Why Blue?

There’s a reason why “blue” should stand out, but before we get into that, some context is in order. Antonio LeBlanc was born in Korea and migrated from there to the U.S. through the adoption process. To quote Variety, “he’s as American as the tattooed eagle spreading its wings defiantly across his throat, down to his lived-in Southern drawl acquired over more than three decades.” He’s a family man, who is married to the love of his life and loves a daughter that isn’t his own, with one more on the way that is. Unfortunately, LeBlanc is not a man of means, mostly due to his criminal record holding him back. It is this same sore spot in his history that prompts ICE to begin looking into him. Pair that with LeBlanc’s “faulty paperwork” which was a result of his adopted parents not having him properly processed, the government agency works on trying to deport him once he shows up on their radar. The movie doesn’t just work to unpack the challenges immigrants face in the United States, the director also made sure to lean into other important discussions such as “highlight[ing] the prejudice[s] that [are] endemic to the Asian-American experience” (Variety, 2021). So why is the bayou blue? Well, even though the film doesn’t technically fall under this category, one can argue that it is at its heart a tragedy.

A Close Look At Harsh Truths

Blue Bayou doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the issues it addresses, mainly ICE and immigration. The role ICE plays is an interesting one, as the film tries to illustrate the institution’s potential for being punishing towards immigrants rather than the protector homeland security and public safety. The film aims to bring to light how the “American Dream” can be at times, undermined by the system that can punish people under the misguided notion that they don’t belong here. It’s a concept that runs contradictory to what the United States stands for, yet can find a way to persist nonetheless in institutions like ICE. Chon’s movie looks to tackle these themes head on to strike a chord with audiences, and will endeavor to do so through Antonio LeBlanc’s trials and tribulations. Blue Bayou released in theaters on September 17th, 2021.

Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut and What’s Keeping The Hit Playstation Game Fresh

For a couple of months now, Ghost of Tsushima has been all the rage on the Playstation side of console gaming. In a blogpost direct from Playstation’s website, it was announced in early July that the breakout game was set to receive an expansion dubbed the Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut. An odd choice for a name given it is a game, but aptly named nonetheless if one is familiar with the game’s remarkable story and visuals. The new edition of the Ghost of Tsushima features a new chapter in the main character, Jin Sakai’s, story as well as “some new updates that are a direct response to some of the community’s most-requested features” (Playstation, 2021). For a quick and digestible overview of what the Director’s Cut entails, we’ll be referencing articles from Gamespot, IGN, and The Verge to get you up to speed.

What’s Different About the Director’s Cut?

As previously mentioned, Ghosts of Tsushima: Director’s Cut does more than simply add a new chapter of the story to the game. The new chapter adds a new area to explore, Iki Island, and updates and features fans have requested of Sucker Punch, the developer of the game. For one, Jason Connell, the creative and art director for the game, has stated that Jin Sakai will be getting more abilities in addition to the plethora he already possesses, as per Gamespot’s coverage of the topic. Additionally, according to comments made in the same article, Connell explains that the PS5 version of the game boasts a more immersive experience. The game takes full advantage of the PS5’s features, including utilizing the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers “to create a greater ‘spatial feeling’ in the environments around the player” (Gamespot, 2021). Essentially, the 3D audio coming from the controller will be able to simulate pretty believable sound effects that add to the experience.

Where the story is concerned, Jin Sakai will be pitted against the remaining Mongol forces on Iki Island, “gathered under the banner of the shaman Ankhsar Khatun” (Gamespot, 2021). The new villain is particularly interesting, as Khatun is not only a female antagonist, but may very well be impactful in different ways. According to an IGN article which details an interview with Jason Connell and the game’s Senior Writer Patrick Downs, Khatun’s goals may be different, as well as “‘her style of leadership [and] what she’s trying to accomplish…’” Patrick Downs also raises an equally interesting question, which asks whether or not this new style will “affect Jin in ways that maybe he hasn’t been challenged [in] before…’” (IGN, 2021). Jin looks like he’s going to be in for a tough time on Iki Island suffice it to say. 

The expansion will also include the addition of horse armor as well as a brand new horse skill, which allows the horse to charge ahead as a battering ram of sorts to tackle and disperse nearby enemies. In their blog, Playstation also mentions that there will be new techniques, new enemy types, new mini-games, lip-sync for the japanese dub of the game, game save transfers from the Playstation 4 (PS4) to the Playstation 5 (PS5), and other utility updates such as alternate controller layouts. Finally, an article by The Verge tells of a kind of “petting” expansion. Where players could only pet foxes, then dogs a few months after the game first released, the new expansion will allow players to also pet cats, deer, and monkeys (The Verge, 2021). Ghosts of Tsushima: Director’s Cut releases for the PS4 and the PS5 on August 20th, 2021.