Filmmaking

Returning to Netflix, Strange(r) Things Are Afoot

Stranger Things started out as a Netflix Original that featured cute references to the famous tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG), Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Since then, it’s safe to say that the show has become quite iconic within the sci-fi/fantasy genre and pop culture in general. However, the show’s season 4 looks like it is making some fascinating decisions that warrant discussion, specifically where the main antagonist is concerned. Without further ado, let’s get into why you might lose your mind.

The (Other) Looming Threat Within the Upside Down  

It has been a while since Stranger Things has adapted another character from the D&D. The show started us off with the Demogorgon in season one, with hints of something more. Seasons 2 and 3 dealt much more heavily with the Mind Flayer and eventually included variants of the Demogorgon (I’m looking at you Demodogs). Since it is not truly dead, the Mind Flayer might return once more, but the trailer chooses to focus on something else instead. Based on the visuals we have from the trailer, it appears the newest up and comer will be a being by the name of Vecna. 

Vecna is an interesting choice, mainly because of his background in D&D. According to an article from Gizmodo, Vecna, who is best described as “an ancient god-like Lich”, also has some critical supplementary details to boot. To give you a better idea of what Vecna is like, the being is also described as “calculating and ruthless” and one that manipulates a person’s greatest fears to his own ends and personal satisfaction. 

Better yet, there might be more to Vecna than meets the eye once we harp in on a key detail and look into his design some.

Speculations of the Strange

Before we start, it should be mentioned that Vecna is well and truly a credit to the magic of practical effects. It’s been stated by Ross Duffer, one of the creators of Stranger Things, that the villain will be a good “90% practical” in terms of special effects throughout the season. The talent behind this villain is none other than Barry Gower, who also worked on Game of Thrones’ Night King. Pictured below is what Vecna will look like in the show.

Vecna (human form with tentacles) from Stranger Things Season 4

Vecna’s appearance is intriguing, to say the least. He bears a notable resemblance between two antagonists that viewers have seen already, these being the Demogorgon and the Mind Flayer. Now it is possible that this could simply be a product of the Upside Down being his native dimension, but where’s the fun in chalking it up to that? There are a couple of potential explanations as to why he looks like this. 

For one, Vecna could indeed be the true form of the Mind Flayer. It is something of a stretch considering that Vecna and the Mind Flayer of D&D do not share any explicit connection. But it is not impossible either since Stranger Things isn’t necessarily married to D&D’s character lore. For instance, the Mind Flayer doesn’t look like a shadowy spider in D&D, this design is a creative adaptation. Speaking of the Mind Flayer, the most noteworthy thing about both of these characters’ designs is that they both have similar tentacle-like appendages. It’s possible that what we refer to as the “Mind Flayer” might in actuality be a projection of Vecna’s power. It’s certainly something a god-like Lich could pull off.

In this vein, the second and third explanations for Vecna’s appearance could be as follows: either Vecna is the one pulling the strings behind the Mind Flayer or the Mind Flayer is the one puppeteering Vecna (though not as heavily as it does the Demogorgons). This is supported by the way he seems to be “plugged in” to the Upside Down via his tentacle appendages. Whether that gives him greater control over his subordinates or how he draws his power from the Mind Flayer remains to be seen in terms of defining this relationship. 

A key detail we have yet to mention might also support the notion that Vecna is the true mastermind behind Upside Down. Going back to that article from Gizmodo, another part of Vecna’s description reads that “he sought to play with the toys left by other gods…and reshape the world, his Exandria, to his liking”. It has always been somewhat unclear why the Mind Flayer has such a vested interest in Earth, despite the fact that Eleven ripped a hole in the fabric of reality to the Upside Down, to begin with. The absence of dialogue from this character makes it all the more vague too. But Vecna, at least in his D&D lore, has a reason other than tormenting people for his enjoyment. Who’s to say his Exandria, or perhaps, in this case, his Upside Down is enough for him? Maybe he wants more worlds to reshape, and upon being presented with Earth, sees an opportunity to do this? This theory would also serve to deepen our understanding of the Mind Flayer, should it be revealed that it is a pawn or an alternate form of Vecna. 

As stimulating as these theories are, there is no way to truly know until the first part of Stranger Things is released, so we’ll just have to see now, won’t we? Volume I of the fourth season of Stranger Things will premiere exclusively on Netflix on May 27th and Volume II will release on July 1st.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Return of An Old Friend

 It’s a very exciting time for Star Wars fans. Ever since Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, there has been a clamor for Ewan McGregor to get his own show so that he could return as the famous Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over the years, rumors came and went concerning the production of one such TV series, but none of them turned out to be true. It wasn’t until 2019 when the Obi-Wan Kenobi (TV Series) was announced that fans could legitimately hope. Now that the time for waiting is nearly over, let’s dig into why everyone around you might be going nuts.

Why Obi-Wan? 

In case you may or may not have noticed, it is safe to say that the Star Wars fandom universally adores Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. He knocked his performance out of the park in Episodes I, II, and III, giving the role everything he had. 

For a frame of reference, in one of the best-choreographed fight sequences in Star Wars history (when he fights Darth Maul after said Sith Assassin kills his master, Qui-Gon) he didn’t use a stunt double for the beginning of that intense scene. That was 100% the actor himself performing that very physically demanding fight (save for the parts where Obi-Wan is doing backflips). Not that long ago, McGregor talked about that fight extensively with IGN, even going so far as to say they actually had to slow the footage down because of how fast they were going.

Even if you somehow discount that, his relationship with Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker is nothing short of legendary. In short, aside from Alec Guinness who played the character in the original trilogy, McGregor is truly the one and only Obi-Wan.

When Does The Series Take Place And What’s It About?

Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place around a decade, maybe half of one, after the events of Revenge of the Sith which detailed Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader and the fall of the Jedi Order. At the time the series takes place, the Jedi are becoming even fewer and far between as they are being hunted tenaciously by Vader’s Inquisitors. What are the Inquisitors you ask? Think of them as force sensitives who have essentially been trained and/or tortured by Darth Vader himself to become the ultimate Jedi-hunters in the galaxy.

From what the trailer shows us, it looks like Obi-Wan has to find a way to stay off the Inquisitor’s radar as much as possible so as to not only protect himself but also protect the young Luke Skywalker who is still growing up on Tatooine. Everything about it screams absolutely bleak, which makes sense given the Jedi’s crushing defeat at the hands of Darth Sidious, or as he is more colloquially known, the Emperor. In short, before we can start looking to A New Hope, Obi-Wan has to find any kind of hope he can get to begin with. 

Sources of Contention?

As a long-time fan of the franchise, there is only one thing that gives me pause about this series. This isn’t even going to be about the Grand Inquisitor, whose appearance in the show is beginning to grow on me just a little despite initial reservations. This is going to be about the show’s biggest cameo yet, Darth Vader. Granted, it’s great to see Hayden Christensen back in the ring again. I also like that the actor went above and beyond to prepare for his return as Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Entertainment Weekly writes that the actor “binged the Star Wars animated shows [in order] to prepare for Obi-Wan Kenobi.” That’s dedication in the highest and the highest of kudos to Christensen’s devotion to the role.

What has me worried is what this particular appearance does to the franchise’s timeline. You see, in Star Wars: A New Hope Darth Vader says a very specific line and delivers it in an equally particular way. When sensing Obi-Wan aboard the Death Star, he says, “I felt something; a presence I’ve not felt since…” and then proceeds to search for the Jedi Master. Now at least as far as intention goes, when Vader says this, it is generally intended to refer to the last time he saw Obi-Wan, which is supposed to be when they had their fateful duel on the molten planet Mustafar. Technically, he could very well be referring to the encounter we will see in Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it feels like a bit of a stretch since that line feels like it refers to an event that transpired much earlier as opposed to maybe a few years back.

This may not seem like a very big deal, but it does when one considers the following: for one, Vader isn’t just making a quick cameo and then going back to his regularly scheduled program. Talk about the character’s appearance has been followed by promises of a rematch between him and Obi-Wan. As much of a Vader fan as I am and the awesome chemistry that we will no doubt see between these two characters…this just doesn’t work.

While it is not very hard to imagine Obi-Wan giving Darth Vader the slip, there needs to be an exceptionally well-thought-out reason why Vader doesn’t find him again until A New Hope, because I doubt he’d give up looking for his old master that easily (not to mention, Obi-Wan is hiding out on Vader’s home planet of all places). 

How they navigate this territory, at least in this fan’s humble opinion, will make or break the show as continuity is an essential aspect of a well-written story. Disney already has our hopes up by including John Williams’ epic score, “Duel of the Fates,” in the trailer. Hopefully, the highly anticipated TV series is up to snuff. Obi-Wan Kenobi will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on May 27th.

Al Pacino: 7 of the Actor’s Most Memorable and Iconic Performances

When you think of iconic actors, who is the first to come to mind? Now this question can obviously vary with respect to one’s personal opinion. For us, Al Pacino certainly fits that bill. He’s been in a number of movies since the 1970s, and more than a few of them are some of the most unforgettable movies you’ll ever see. If you’re in need of some proof as to why Pacino should be considered iconic, our list below showcases some of the most memorable performances he’s given over the course of his career. With that, let’s get to convincing.

Devil’s Advocate

In this film, Pacino co-starred with the equally legendary Keanu Reeves. Both work at a well-established law firm in New York City, but Pacino’s character is not only Reeves’ boss, he is quite literally, The Devil. Interesting as that premise might be, you might be scratching your head right about now. It’s possible you’re wondering, “oh, this is supposed to be about Pacino, why aren’t we talking about a movie where he alone is the big star?” Arguably, one of the qualities of being the best of the best is one’s ability to work with fellow actors and play off one another to deliver the performance of a lifetime. This was one of those performances as their synergy was just on another level.

Scarface

This entry can make the list based on the sole fact that it is widely regarded as a cult classic. Scarface tells the story of a Cuban immigrant named Tony Montana, who makes his way over to the United States to try to make a name for himself. Montana achieves this but in doing so, he also becomes one of the most powerful drug traffickers in Miami. This is one of the movies where you see get to see Al Pacino (famously) really go over the top. From the story’s theme that power corrupts all to the bloody violence that was a staple of the 1980s, the film is just pure iconic material, all thanks to Pacino’s work.

Serpico

Serpico is one of those movies that fits a bill, the good kind. In a one-man versus the whole system set-up, Al Pacino’s Frank Serpico is the only New York City detective that’s willing to do what’s right in the face of widespread corruption. However, with Pacino at the helm as its star, this seemingly simple premise quickly becomes one of the actor’s most unforgettable films. Unlike the entry that came before, Pacino’s role in this film is more nuanced, showing he has the chops to do more than just go over the top. It only serves to further attest to the actor’s status as an icon. 

Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story (Serpico too by the way), Dog Day Afternoon follows Sonny, a first-time bank robber who attempts to steal from a bank in order to pay for his partner’s sex-change operation. The situation spirals out of control when it becomes a hostage situation and a full-blown media circus. Despite how potentially “wrong” this film could have gone, as always, Pacino gave it his all, delivering a truly passionate performance that made the movie great.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross Horizontal Movie Poster

This film is credited with having many impeccable performances. The movie essentially follows the story of a group of real estate salesmen doing their thing. Among these phenomenal portrayals we see in the movie, there is only one actor who received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in this movie. Can you guess who that was? Yep, if you guessed Pacino, you guessed right. Though he didn’t get the award, it is still worth mentioning that out of all the superstar performances viewed in the movie, only one guy came close to getting the Oscar. If that doesn’t say something about Al Pacino’s work as an actor, I don’t know what does. 

 

Heat

Heat is an incredible film by and by. In a nutshell, it pits Al Pacino as LAPD detective Vincent Hanna in a cops and robbers match against Roberto Deniro’s Neil McCauley, a shrewd and conniving criminal mastermind. The tension in this movie never lets up, and it’s all thanks to the antagonistic chemistry between these two actors’ characters. By the time you reach the end of Heat, you simply can’t help but appreciate Pacino even more than you did before.

The Godfather & The Godfather Part II

We’re going to lump these two together since he’s playing the same character, but it is worth mentioning that many hold The Godfather Part II to be the better of the two in terms of the actor’s performance. In what are considered some of the most iconic movies known to cinema, Pacino brings nothing short of his A-game to the character of Michael Corleone. It’s really the first time you fall in love with the guy as an actor because in these two movies you see it all: nuance, going over the top if ever so briefly. Pacino had spectacular material to work with. His acting in these movies is indisputably the pinnacle of his achievements.

We ask you once more esteemed readers when someone asks you about iconic actors, whose name is the first that comes to mind? Hopefully, we’ve done a good job of convincing you that Pacino is that first name and we hope you enjoyed the read!

Better Call Saul Season 6, The End of an Era (and a recap if you need it)

Everyone’s favorite shady lawyer is back (or about to be at least). Unfortunately, Season 6 of AMC’s Better Call Saul will be marking the end of the iconic series and content from the Breaking Bad universe for a bit. In the meantime, as we prepare for Saul Goodman’s story to come to a close, we figure it’s been a while since you’ve seen Season 5. With that in mind, if you need the refresher, say no more because we’ve got you covered.

Since We’ve Been Gone

Season 5 of this show premiered all the way back in February of 2020. It’s been close to two years since Better Call Saul’s fifth season ended and unless you’ve been binge-watching in preparation for the season premiere it’s probably been a while since you’ve seen an episode.

So what happened? What should you as the viewer need to keep in mind as Season 6 begins? Well, first and foremost, in Season 5, we begin to see Jimmy take the plunge and fully embody his new persona, Saul Goodman. He even went as far as to indirectly, and later directly, turn his former employers at HHM (Hamlin, Hamlin, McGill) down when given a job offer. In the midst of that, tensions between Gustavo Fring and Lalo Salamanca start slowly but surely to rise more and more. Little things like halting the work on Fring’s laundry project and other petty grievances soon start to escalate into bigger events like framing Lalo for murder rather indirectly delivering him to the authorities. 

Saul Goodman finds himself representing Lalo and his crew as his and Fring’s rivalry escalates, going as far as coaching and helping Krazy-8 get out from under the thumb of two very familiar DEA Agents (Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez). Unrelated to his illegal dealings with the drug traffickers, his partner Kim has some trouble at Schweikart & Cokely via the Mesa Verde Bank and Trust account. Despite her best efforts, an unruly landowner who has continually rebuffed the bank from removing him from his lands proves difficult for Kim to deal with too. She would eventually turn to Saul for help as he would come to represent this disgruntled landowner (i.e. playing the game from both sides).

On the Gus/Lalo front, things get to be so bad that Nacho, one of the Salamanca’s top lieutenants, is caught in the crossfire between the two. He must find a way to spy on Lalo for Gus without tipping him off, which gets to be increasingly harder the more suspicious Lalo gets over the course of the season. Remember how Gustavo had Lalo thrown in prison? Saul, who had previously helped him out with Krazy-8, asks him to represent him too. Luckily for Saul he gets the trafficker on bail, unluckily for Saul, he has to journey through the desert to pick up the bail money. And a wild journey it was, thank goodness he had Mike (who now formally works for Gus) to bail him out of what became a dicey situation. 

Everything that transpired in Season 5 would come to a head when the following events took place. There came a point during the Mesa Case when Kim and Saul should have stopped before things spun out of control. Both agreed to lay down arms…only Saul didn’t. He would go on to find a bombshell to threaten Mesa Verde with, and in the process, effectively burn Kim. This debacle would almost have them at their breaking point when in an odd turn of events, they decided to get married instead. She would eventually quit Schweikart & Cokely and leave Mesa Verde and her former firm altogether.

Nacho’s already impossible situation became just a little more impossible. After the bid to keep Lalo in prison fails, Gus decides to go scorched earth on him and devise his complete and utter demise. Using the now established trust Lalo had for him, Nacho lets Gus’ execution team into Lalo’s home/compound after having been invited there, leaving without a scratch and thinking he’s home free now. The only problem is that Lalo is able to escape the massacre at his compound. Nacho is now as high on Lalo Salamanca’s kill list as Gustavo Fring is, and it’s not hard to imagine he’ll be scorching some earth of his own in Season 6.

Going Forward?

That about does it in terms of the need-to-know plot points in preparation for the upcoming 6th season. The final season of Better Call Saul is sure to have us at the edge of our seats, but it’s still sad to hear that it is ending. 

Alas, there is some hope out there fellow lovers of the Breaking Bad universe. According to an article by IndieWire, Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul revealed that he is working on a new original show that is ‘something really different’ from his previous projects.” He went on to also say that there are “still stories left to tell” in the Breaking Bad universe, not just some he’ll be telling anytime soon as he wants to try his hand at that “something different” project. So again, the hope truly is there, but fans will need to be patient. The new season of Better Call Saul premiered on AMC and on AMC+ on April 18th.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, How It Was Versus How It’s Going

Well Potterheads, the time has almost come. In a couple of weeks, the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts series, The Secrets of Dumbledore will finally come to cinemas in the United States. It’s been roughly 4 years since The Crimes of Grindelwald with not much in between to quell the sheer anticipation for this film. But for those who don’t know what to expect of the new installment, let’s see if we can’t help you on your way. 

Concern Amongst The Fandom

Isn’t there always? All the same, its perfectly natural for fans to feel concern. An article from The Guardian pulls no punches, as it calls to mind the some of the issues a fan might have had with The Crimes of Grindelwald. Suffice it to say, it appears that it is up to The Secrets of Dumbledore to steer the franchise back in the right direction. According to the same article, the new film will be returning to Hogwarts once more, perhaps for nostalgic value of some kind. Whether or not this move achieves what some hope it will achieve, remains to be seen. 

Where the plot is concerned, it looks like one of the more important points of the movie will be to discovering the true identity of a character by the name of Credence Barebone. Speculations (amongst the characters too) are in full swing, with theories from him being Dumbledore’s long lost brother to being Leta Lestrange’s long lost brother. Whatever the case may be, we may finally find out when Secrets of Dumbledore comes out. 

Then of course, we also have Newt Scamander returning to help deal with the nefarious Grindelwald and the forces he has organized up to this point. Clearly this is the latter’s next big bid in order to wrest control of the Wizarding World at large once and for all. A grand fight it is what it is sure to be.

The Verdict?

Speaking of things remaining to be seen, we do have some initial reviews of the film floating around out there. According to some early viewers, there’s plenty of good things to say. An article from Digital Spy has comments that range from “an improvement on the sequel”, to “Fantastic Beasts 3 rectifies fans biggest qualms with [Fantastic Beasts 2]”, to even hailing the director as someone who has “miraculously salvage[d] a sinking ship”. 

It’s looking pretty good for Potterheads out there right now, with something rightfully exciting to look forward to. From what the reviews are saying, it appears The Secrets of Dumbledore has found a way to both answer the questions fans have had while also catering to some of the more nostalgic aspects of the the series. All in all, the new Wizarding World film looks like it is sure to be a fun time for those that are heavily invested in the story as it has been told thus far (there’s hope yet!). Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore releases April 15th, 2022 in theaters.

Halo The Series, A Long-Awaited Adaptation and Why We Need It

If you’re a fan of the Halo video games, then you know that this has been a long time coming. Originally, the franchise was slated to be a feature-length film by Neill Blomkamp, but that ended up being scrapped and turned into Elysium. There were some other short shows that came and went, but none of them seemed to stick the landing (barring the wonderful collection of animated shorts we know as Halo Legends). It didn’t seem like Halo fans would ever catch a break…until now.

What’s the Big Deal?

For those that have never played a Halo game, there’s a reason why this day was a long time coming. Halo is not only known for its enamoring gameplay experience, it is also known for its immensely engaging storytelling. There is so much material, games and otherwise, to pull from, not unlike Star Wars. From the contentious relationship between the Insurrectionists and the UNSC to the ideology behind the Covenant’s religion known as The Great Journey, there’s a lot for the show to play with in terms of lore.

Seeing it finally get adapted into a show is exciting, to say the least. The games were great at keeping you hooked as you soldiered on through the campaign but as great as the story was, it was more so about the gameplay experience than anything else. Converting the story to a streaming medium allows the storytellers to really do a fun deep dive into the expansive universe Halo has become.

What Can We Expect From Halo The Series?

Now fans and incoming viewers are likely thinking about what this show has to offer. According to GameSpot, Halo The Series is going to be set in its own timeline, meaning that this will not be considered a canonical story where the games are concerned. While it is somewhat disappointing, there’s a good reason why the creators of the show have decided to go this route. By making this its own canon, it gives everyone working on the project free reign to explore the characters in different ways we’d never imagined before. Plus, it also means they don’t have to worry about being confined or married to the original story, and thus, don’t need to worry about inconsistencies with the story at large or breaking canon (which would be pretty bad).

It also gives Halo fans something fresh to consume, while also inviting newcomers to the franchise. If it were telling the original story scene-by-scene, there would be a lot of catching up to do in terms of familiarizing oneself with all the content that has come out prior to the series. At the end of the day, it looks like the creators want to make Halo The Series as enjoyable for everyone as possible, which is something to be appreciated. 

Though this isn’t meant to be a review of the first episode, it is worth mentioning that this fan of the Halo franchise has seen it. To other Halo fans out there, I would like to say this: there are some things the show does that are quite different, but so far, there hasn’t been anything truly egregious that completely detracts from the viewing experience. As for what happens closer to the end of the episode (you’ll know what I mean when you see it), I err on this side of saying, give this route a chance. Is it ideal? No, but we are dealing with a different visual medium when it comes to storytelling. So making the decision that they did is in some way understandable. The only way that this peculiar element can become truly problematic is if they did it on a regular basis, which would in my humble opinion, be too much.

That being said, if you’re in need of a new super-awesome sci-fi show, as it currently stands, I cannot recommend Halo The Series enough. Halo The Series can be streamed exclusively on Paramount+.

Umma, Horror Made With A Dash of Mother’s Love

Sometimes, there is a very real fear among parents that they themselves will turn into their parents. Apparently, the prospect of such a notion was so horrifying that filmmakers have found a way to give this concept life on the silver screen. It’s an entry that goes into one genre in particular, one that might make viewers go, “huh? No way…” The genre that director Iris Shim’s Umma falls under, is horror. Odd as it might sound that mom is out to get you (as the villain), let’s dive into why it works so well as a horror film. 

What Gives Umma That Extra Scary Kick?

The best horror stories aren’t always those that glorify an insane amount of gore, fun as those can be. Often, it is the stories that hit closest to home, whose frightening themes have an actual chance of happening to us as individuals. 

Umma follows two women, a mother (Amanda played by Sandra Oh) and her daughter, Chris ( played by Fivel Stewart), both of whom sport a pretty reclusive lifestyle living on a bee farm. They appear to get along pretty well in the trailer, but everything comes to a head when a surprise visitor visits their farm. In tow, this visitor has brought Amanda the ashes of her Umma, which translates to mother in Korean. From there, we begin to see everything descend into chaos as they are plagued by the ghost of Umma. 

At a glance, sure, it works perfectly as is. It’s a ghost story, so of course, it would fall under horror. But Umma goes the extra mile with its storytelling. According to an interview-style article by NPR, the crux of the story rests upon intergenerational trauma, specifically the fear of turning into one’s own mother. Now for some people, this isn’t a concept that is necessarily horrifying. But as we know all too well, no one is perfect. The same is said of parents, especially when it comes to what we pass on down to the next generation. Some of it is good, sure, but some of what is passed down can be damaging too. 

It’s this notion specifically, that the film tries to grapple with. To quote the aforementioned article, the movie puts “three generations of women into conflict [with one another]”, each with their own sets of ideas and beliefs. How much do these values align? How much do they differ? These are all things that add to the film’s intrigue, making for the promise of some very interesting character interplay. To go even further, as stated earlier, this theme is what really makes the film such a fitting entry into the horror genre. If you’re the kind of person who can’t get on board with the supernatural in horror movies, this movie is perfect because the very real fear of becoming your parent is what grounds the film in reality and, ultimately, makes it even more compelling through and through. Umma is out in theaters now. 

Turning Red, The Next Disney/Pixar Tag Team Project

In need of a wholesome pick-me-up film? In the mood for that film to be beautifully animated? Look no further than Disney and Pixar’s latest release, Turning Red. The film stars Rosalie Chang as the main character, Meilin, Sandra Oh as Ming, Ava Morse as Miriam, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, and Wai Ching Ho as Grandma, to name a few members of the cast. Turning Red, directed by Domee Shi, follows a relatively simple premise like most Pixar films do. Meilin is unique in that whenever she gets overly excited, she turns into a giant red panda. Don’t let the simplicity of the premise fool you though, because as is often the case with Pixar films, there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

Turning Red is a must watch and here’s why

Aside from being a movie animated by Pixar, Turning Red has a lot going for it. For one, it is a film that celebrates Asian culture. Disney already had its head start with the likes of Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Raya and the Last Dragon in terms of Asian representation. What sets this film apart from its predecessors is that it’s a bit more family-friendly if violence and action aren’t for you and yours. As cool as fighting in movies can be, it’s nice to just be able to appreciate the culture without the need for physical conflict. You can appreciate it by delving into the traditions that add to and structure life, sharing the stories that inspire and enliven the imagination, or even something as simple as appreciating how good the cuisine is, these are all things that Turning Red does in spades (organically too).

Next up, this is also a movie that tackles a discussion that isn’t very often had in film. To quote EW’s review, the movie does well not to shy away from “normalizing the emotional and physical messiness of puberty”. A topic that’s considered a “cinematic boundary” has now lost one of its foundational bricks, and in a good way. Being able to have an open conversation is always a good thing, and it helps when there is a platform that aids in getting that conversation going. It goes without saying that puberty is a very important topic for boys and girls alike. To have the metaphor of the red panda transformation gives children coming into that age group a pretty smooth (and dare I say cute) transition into talking about puberty. That being said, Turning Red is looking like the next best coming-of-age film of our time.

So if you’re ready to cry as is typical with every Pixar movie that has come before it, Turning Red is definitely up there on the recommendation list for either a nice family night out or a cozy movie night with the kids. Turning Red can be streamed exclusively on Disney+, having yet to make its way to theaters in the United States.

Vikings: Valhalla, Historical Fiction at Its Finest

Depending on who you ask, you’ll either get a giddy sense of excitement or a groan of disdain when you ask someone about historical fiction. There’ll be those who love it for what it is, and others who simply ask “why can’t they just pick a lane??” But for those of you who are fans of the genre, you’ve probably heard by now that Vikings: Valhalla (the series) was recently released on Netflix, and are rightfully excited. For those of you who are on the fence, perhaps this preparatory recap could convince you to give the show a shot. Maybe you’ll even find yourself a fan of the genre, or at the very least, of the show itself. 

What Was The Previous Series About?

That’s right. Before this series was announced, there was a series that existed before it, simply titled Vikings. This show featured Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok as the main character. The story mainly dealt with how the Vikings went about discovering the West. It took care to show the divisions in Viking society and also didn’t shy away from leaning a bit into supernatural aspects of Viking mythology. Vikings also covered their first encounter with England, which plays a very important role in the series after it, Valhalla. Overall, all these elements with the added spice of drama made for a very compelling 6 seasons. Vikings originally aired on Amazon Prime and the History channel.

What Will Vikings: Valhalla Cover?

This show will tell the story of one of the most well-known members of Vikings history, the legendary Leif Erikson, played by Sam Corlett. Accompanying Leif as the main character is his sister, Freydís Eríksdóttir. According to Collider, Valhalla takes place more than a century after the events of the first series. The show looks like it will place more focus on the tensions between the Vikings and the English, specifically the ramifications of each societies’ religions clashing with one another. Like its predecessor, it will do well to lean into the history behind the story, while also not being shy to include some supernatural elements (as an example, the show includes seers who more often than not, more or less validate the existence of the gods). 

Unlike the original Vikings, our main characters do not have interests that necessarily align, making for a much more interesting and complex story. How interesting and engaging? If you want a better idea of how it goes, you can continue reading Collider’s review of the show. But if you want to challenge yourself and try something new, why not decide for yourself first? Vikings: Valhalla was released on Netflix on February 25, 2022.

Death on the Nile, Why Whodunits Can Never Go Out of Style

Death on the Nile, a film starring Gal Gadot and a host of other actors, Kenneth Branagh, Armie Hammer, and Letitia Wright to name a few, is already out and about. Based on a book of the same name by Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile is the sequel to Murder on the Orient Express (2017). Despite the controversy surrounding the film, which has more to do with what went on behind the scenes than the actual film itself, there’s every chance that Death on the Nile is an enjoyable movie worth watching. Why you might ask? Simply because there’s nothing that beats a well-written whodunit. 

If you want to learn a little more about this genre and its origins, look no further. We got you covered. 

How Far Back Do Whodunits Go?

The first question that might be on your mind is how far back this genre goes. It begins with the coining of a phrase. There’s a little back and forth on who exactly created the term, but Cinema Journal holds that it was conceived by Donald Gordon in 1930 upon reviewing the book Half-Mast Murder

The term ‘Whodunit’ would later be applied to movies for the first time in 1934, when the film adaptation for Arnold Ridley’s Recipe for Murder came out. After the passage of two world wars, the genre began to blossom and grow into what we know it to be today. Among the authors that rose to fame after World Wars I and II, the most famous of them was Agatha Christie. Cinema Journal notes that “she is considered a master of the genre.” If that name sounds familiar, it should, because her books are what Kenneth Branagh’s films use as adaptation material. Something which should attest to how good the film is.

Why They’ll Be With Us For A Long Time

Now onto why Whodunits won’t be leaving us anytime soon. What makes a really well-executed whodunit film special is that it can be engaging for all audiences. In an age where people like predicting things and making speculations left and right, these movies allow viewers to do that in spades. Especially in an era where properties like the MCU drive speculation through the roof with appearances alone. 

Depending on the level of complexity a given story decides to employ, as well as gore and other adult themes, they can generally reach and entertain people of multiple if not all age groups. It’s a solid genre that can get the whole family engaged through the aforementioned penchant for inspiring speculations and theories. It’s quite fun as an activity too when everyone has differing theories. Essentially, if you don’t have any party poopers or spoilers, watching whodunits have the potential to be great family pastimes.

That being said, Death on the Nile looks like a pretty solid whodunit, having a decent scoring on Rotten Tomatoes. So if you want to start a new family tradition and explore the world of whodunit, maybe consider putting Death on the Nile on your queue. 

The 11 Most Anticipated Movies of 2022

With a new year comes a whole fresh batch of movies. There’s a lot to be looking forward to this year too, so much it seems nearly impossible to stay on top of. We’ve picked some films from this year’s catalog that you should definitely consider checking out when they’re out. 

11.) Spider-Man: Across The Spiderverse (Part One)

Release Date: October 7th, 2022

Spider-Man has been all the craze since Spider-Man: No Way Home released in theaters. Even before that entry into the MCU, there was another film that worked up just as much of a commotion for the webhead. Going all the way back to 2018, that film was none other than Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse. Utilizing an art style that could’ve just as easily been ripped out of a comic, the film was adored by fans and newcomers alike. Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse (Part One) is the sequel to this rousing success of a movie, one that all Spider-Man fans are just dying to sink their teeth into.

10.) Doctor Strange: Into The Multiverse of Madness

Release Date: May 6th 2022

Piggybacking off of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the last post credits scene of the film served as a “backdoor trailer release” of sorts. In short, we got to see where the next phase of Doctor Strange’s journey takes him in the trailer for the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Now that trailer was something else, teasing the return of Mordo from the first Doctor Strange, revealing the role Wanda Maximoff will be playing in the film, as well as a few other little easter eggs if you know where to look (like the possible appearance of Strange Supreme from Marvel’s What If). With all the crazy things that happened in Spider-Man: Now Way Home alone, the new Doctor Strange movie looks like it’s going to be dialing that up 200%, and we can’t wait to see it. 

Wakanda Forever movie

9.) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Release Date: November 11th, 2022

This entry into the MCU is sure to be an emotional one. There was scarce a person that didn’t enjoy Chadwick Boseman’s performance as the legendary Black Panther. We also grew to love the nation of Wakanda, the country the Black Panther hails from. Wakanda is a city/nation-state that’s one of the greatest technological marvels that exists in the Marvel universe. Wakanda Forever will very likely revisit that setting and will give fans a proper goodbye to Boseman’s character, as the actor tragically passed away in 2020. 

8.) Black Adam

Release Date: July 29th, 2022

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been tooting the horn for this film for quite a long time. The quote was always “the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change”. Well, come July 29th, that hierarchy officially changes. The great thing about Black Adam is that he fits into the interesting “antihero” category, so it’s not gonna be your typical superhero movie. Long story short, it’s going to be deeply gratifying to see all that hype the Rock drummed up for us finally come to fruition. 

7.) The Batman

Release Date: March 4th, 2022

Speaking of even more hype, there’s one upcoming DC project that probably trumps them all. The Batman has undergone quite the journey. It started out with Ben Affleck at the helm as the director, writer, and Batman. The project then underwent various changes as time marched on, the most notable being that Ben Affleck was no longer involved. Once the project finally came into focus, people liked what they saw, and what they saw was a film that looked like it leaned into the detective side of Batman – though it looks like we’ll get plenty of the brawler side too. Either way you slice it, The Batman is going to be a blast when it comes out. A very thrilling blast.

6.) Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Release Date: July 25th, 2022

For the Harry Potter fans in the crowd, there’s a new film coming out just for you. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore picks up after the events of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as Dumbledore puts together a team of capable wizards and witches to stop Grindelwald from making his power play in the wizarding world. If you’ve been following the Harry Potter prequels or just want to watch something with just the right amount of magic and mythical beasts, this film will be right up your alley.

5.) Halloween Ends

Release Date: October 14th, 2022

The thrilling conclusion to Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode and Hollywood’s most infamous slasher, Michael Myers’, story comes to a close this October. It feels very surreal because not unlike the character himself, the Halloween franchise seemed like it could go on forever, never truly staying dead. That all comes to a gruesome finish with the final installment in the sequel/reboot trilogy, Halloween Ends. Once again, Laurie Strode will be facing off against one of horror’s greatest icons, but as the title suggests, it might be for the last time.

4.) Lightyear

Release Date: June 17th, 2022

Once upon a time, Disney came out with what can be considered some of the most seminal movies in the history of film and animation. You guessed it, we’re talking about Toy Story. Even though the original franchise is pretty much done, it looks like Disney and Pixar have found another way to bring these classic characters back to the silver screen. Lightyear tells the story of Buzz Lightyear, but not the toy whom we are all much more familiar with. It looks like this film will tell the story of the man the toy is inspired by if that makes sense. Different though it may be, it looks interesting enough to check out. 

3.) Avatar 2

Release Date: December 16th, 2022

The first Avatar, directed and written by James Cameron, is still the highest-grossing movie of all time. Now he’s back at it again, set to deliver Avatar 2 in mid-December. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film will once again follow Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana Neytiri’s characters on Pandora along with the family they’ve built together. Following the return of old foes, they’re forced out of their home and search for a new one. The film has a pretty interesting lineup (including the dream team that made the first one work), which now includes Kate Winslet, Michelle Yeoh, and Edie Falco. 

2.) Top Gun: Maverick

Release Date: May 27th, 2022

This particular film took its sweet time cooking in the oven. After a whopping 30 plus years, Top Gun (1986) is finally getting a sequel. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a Top Gun fan, especially since it looks like they’re going all out for this film. Tom Cruise is set to return as Maverick, Val Kilmer as Iceman, and they’ve even gone as far as recruiting Miles Teller in order to portray Goose’s son, writes Rotten Tomatoes. If as a viewer, you want to see Tom Cruise some off-the-wall tricks and stunts with a jet, by all means, we implore you to give Top Gun: Maverick a shot.

1.) The Northman

Release Date: April 22nd, 2022

Last but not least, we have an all-new project coming out in April called The Northman. Did you like The Lighthouse? Did you like The Witch too? Well the guy who directed both movies, Robert Eggers, is more than likely going to wow you again with this gory, unhinged film. The setting is tenth-century Iceland, and a viking Prince is out for blood after his father is murdered. Per Rotten Tomatoes, Eggers took care to do it right too, co-writing with Icelandic writer Sjón, and also features Björk, a famous singer-songwriter from Iceland. The cast is extra crunchy too, featuring the likes of Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, and Alexander Skarsgard. 

2022 is looking like a very good year for movies, and we can’t wait to see how awesome all these new films turn out (and hopefully you, most avid reader, can’t wait either)!

94th Academy Awards Forecast

Look alive folks, voting for the 94th Academy Awards has opened up. Despite how tough this year has been on the movie industry, some pretty great films came out nonetheless. That said, there are only so many awards to give out, and quite a selection of potential contenders. We’ll be going over who we think will be the prime contenders for the big five awards. 

Best Picture

Dune

Right off the bat, the first movie to come to mind is Dune. It has to have been one of the most beautifully shot movies of 2021. It boasts many breathtaking scenic shots as well as some great set pieces for the camera operators to take advantage of. To be frank, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a modern marvel where the silver screen is concerned.

According to the Los Angeles Times, other contenders for this award include The Tragedy of Macbeth, Don’t Look Up, CODA, Belfast, King Richard, West Side Story, The Power of the Dog, and Tick, Tick … Boom!

Best Director

There’s also something to be said of the director who helmed Dune, Denis Villeneuve. He took what was once considered an unfilmable property and managed to make a pretty satisfying iteration of Dune. Without his willingness to take the project and his vision for it, a good Dune movie might have taken a little longer to come about.

Denis Villeneuve                        Sam Raimi

Another director worth mentioning is Sam Raimi and his film Spider-Man: No Way Home. Marvel has had a pretty great track record so far when it comes to handling its properties. Sony? This answer tends to vary. The newest Spider-Man however took the best of what Sony had to offer, without forgetting to progress and enhance the newest Spider-Man’s story. All while delivering a pretty satisfying story to newer and old fans alike.

According to the Los Angeles Times, other contenders for this award include Paul Thomas Anderson for his film Licorice Pizza, Steven Spielberg for West Side Story, Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog, and Ryûsuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car

Best Lead Actor

Denzel Washington

For this category, hats truly have to go off for Denzel Washington. Last year, he had the privilege of playing the tragic figure Macbeth in The Tragedy of Macbeth. His performance was true to form as always, doing justice to the conflicted nature of the character, playing off the supporting characters in an exceptional manner that was nothing short of remarkable.

The Los Angeles Times offers Javier Bardem for his work in Being The Ricardos for best lead actor, positing that many of the voters more likely saw Being the Ricardos more than anything else, a feasible argument to be sure. Other possible contenders they offer for this award include Benedict Cumberbatch for his role in The Power of the Dog, Andrew Garfield for his role in Tick, Tick … Boom!, and Will Smith for his role in King Richard. 

Best Lead Actress

According to Awards Watch, there are a couple of different notable contenders for this award. 

First up we have Jessica Chastain for her role as Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. The actress showed just how committed she was to the project, as she had to put on layers upon layers of makeup and prosthetics in order to play the role. 

Jessica Chastain                     Jennifer Hudson 

Another plausible candidate for this award is Jennifer Hudson for her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in Respect. The actress did well to do justice to some of the artist’s greatest hits and portrayed the music star just as admirably. Jennifer Hudson has also won an Oscar before, back in 2008 for her role as a supporting actress in Dream Girls

Nicole Kidman is also in the running for trying her hand at portraying Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos. Initial on-set photos left the internet in an uproar, but that uproar would soon die down as the actress shocked viewers of the movie with how great her performance was. Nicole Kidman has won the Best Actress award before for her performance in The Hours in 2002.

Nicole Kidman                      Lady Gaga

Last but not least we have the multi-talented Lady Gaga for portraying Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci. The actress really got to let loose with this role, showing viewers what 10 years of studying method acting looks like (she did that before she became a musician). Lady Gaga came close to winning an Academy Award when she starred in 2018’s A Star Is Born and was nominated for Best Actress. Perhaps this time around, she’ll get the award outright.

Best Screenplay

Best Screenplay is interesting. According to Variety, the Writers Guild of America released their nominations which include Being the Ricardos, The French Dispatch, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, and lastly, Don’t Look Up. Of the five listed here, Don’t Look Up probably stands the best chance though. Why? Well, despite being quite a heavy-handed comedy, there’s a lot that takes place in the movie that deeply resonates with waking life. A scary amount, in fact. While comedic, it did not shy away from its dark ending either, which only piles on to the respect this film deserves. Despite the mixed reviews it garnered, it speaks to some of the biggest issues of our time in a manner that manages to be both witty and take itself somewhat seriously at the same time.

The 94th Academy Awards will take place on March 27th at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

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 Shakespeare 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!