Industry Trends

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.

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. 

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.

5 Important Questions to Ask about Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

Marvel is back at it once again, with an extensive slew of projects set to release in theaters and their streaming platform Disney+. Among Marvel’s upcoming projects is an interesting film called Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. For those not familiar with the titular character, there is quite a bit to unpack. Here’s what you need to know before the film comes out this fall. 

1. Who is Shang-Chi?

To answer your potential question, Shang-Chi is actually an established character in the Marvel comics. The character first debuted around the time Enter the Dragon came out, which featured Bruce Lee. Since the 70s, the western world has become more intrigued in kung fu which prompted Marvel to incorporate the art into their stories. They would acquire the rights to a villain by the name of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the brainchild of novelist Sax Rohmer. Shang-Chi’s story would center around turning away from his villainous father, who they wrote as being Dr. Fu-Manchu. But what is Shang-Chi’s power? Well, put simply he is Marvel’s master of the martial arts. Like he’s really, really good at what he does. So much so that he’s being pitted against a particularly powerful and equally crafty villain in the Marvel comics. Which leads us to the Ten Rings part of the title.

Shang-Chi and Ten Rings

2. What are the Ten Rings?

As far as the comics are concerned, the ten rings are a set of powerful rings that grant their user otherworldly powers. Each one has a name and grants the user a specific power. We’re going to breeze through them here:.

  1. Zero Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to freeze things close to absolute zero.
  2. Liar Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to mind control targets and influence their thoughts.
  3. Lightning Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to generate and control electrical energy.
  4. Incandescence Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to use heat-based attacks.
  5. Daimonic Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to manipulate different kinds of energy.
  6. Nightbringer Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to summon a veil of darkness that absorbs nearby light. 
  7. Spectral Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to shoot a beam of energy that can destroy the bonds between atoms, even bonds at the subatomic level as well.
  8. Spin Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to generate a vortex as powerful as a tornado or a hurricane.
  9. Influence Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to generate concussive blasts and powerful sonic booms. 
  10. Remaker Ring: A ring that allows the wielder to manipulate matter to their liking. 

Now, it is important to note that the rings as they are described here may not work the same way as they will in the film. The creators at the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have a penchant for rearranging details and retelling certain aspects of already existing stories. However, one thing has remained constant, and that is the wielder of these rings of power. Bringing us to the next part of our discussion, the long-awaited arrival of a villain known as The Mandarin.

3. Who is The Mandarin?

The Mandarin is a character that technically isn’t new to the MCU. The first time we get a glimpse of this character is in Iron Man 3. Viewers learn however that not only is The Mandarin initially presented as a fake, the “true” Mandarin in that film was a character named Aldrich Killian. Killian was someone who was wronged by Tony Stark, and to take revenge, he gave himself abilities by undergoing a gene manipulation technique called Extremis. Even Comicbook says it in their article, this version of the character wasn’t very satisfying to fans who knew what the real Mandarin is like. The real Mandarin isn’t an actor playing a role or even a genetically enhanced one percenter. The true Mandarin uses the aforementioned ten rings of power to bring his enemies to heel. He is also one of Iron Man’s more notable foes, as in the comics, his rings err more on the side of being technological in origin (even though there are some versions which hold their origin to be mystical). As far as the trailers for Shang-Chi are concerned, it looks like there’s a possibility the rings could be following a mystical track, but there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. On another note, the real Mandarin was also stated as being behind Tony Stark’s kidnapping in the first Iron Man film, as the organization behind it was called The Ten Rings. An organization which is not only a nod to the Mandarin, but one that will be reappearing in Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings with the Mandarin as its leader. As cool as it is to see a classic iteration of this villain getting the screen time it deserves, the Mandarin isn’t the only Marvel character that is getting a revamp.

4. Who else will we be seeing?

Teased in the trailer is a most peculiar fight. In one corner we see one of the sorcerers that are known for working alongside the Sorcerer Supreme (thought to be Wong from Doctor Strange). In the opposing corner, the movie looks to be making an MCU deepcut in terms of revisiting a character from the franchise’s beginnings by including The Abomination. The two characters fighting are indeed Wong and the Abomination, with none other than Marvel’s chief executive, Kevin Feige, to verify this. The last time we saw the Abomination was in Hulk’s one and only standalone movie in the MCU, The Incredible Hulk. When we last saw the Abomination, he was taken in by General Ross and kept under his supervision. At least as of 2017, the only other time there is a reference to this character is in the comic book The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week and a short film called The Consultant (according to CinemaBlend). In the comic book, Abomination was locked up in The Vault, which is a prison in the MCU. In the short film, there is a movement by the World Security Council to free Abomination, but this attempt to free him is thwarted by Tony Stark, Phil Coulson, and Jasper Sitwell. Since then, there has been no mention of Hulk’s nemesis within the larger MCU universe. Until now that is. In addition to the villain’s return, he also sports an appearance that is much more reminiscent of his original comic book look. For those that have waited for the payoff, it is finally here and it’s not stopping here either. Tim Roth, the actor that portrays the Abomination, is set to reprise his role in the upcoming Marvel series She-Hulk which will be released on Disney+.

5. Why is Shang-Chi so important as a film?

While all the items previously touched upon are important in their own way, the true highlight of the Shang-Chi film runs deeper than anticipated cameos and revamped villains. Shang-Chi will be the first Marvel movie to feature a lead Asian American actor, as well as a predominantly Asian cast. Marvel has been taking strides to up their representation game, which first started with Black Panther. We’ve talked a lot about representation in the film industry in the past (see our articles on Cruella and Scarlett Johansson), and the same rings true with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (pardon the pun). Everyone deserves to see a hero in their own image, and thankfully, Shang-Chi will be more than ready to provide that role model energy as the MCU continues to unfold.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings official release date is September 3, 2021.

The Suicide Squad: What You Need To Know And Insights Into The Movie Industry

Warner Bros. has not had the best track record when it comes to expanding its live-action DC cinematic universe (DCEU). One can make the case that the race to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) took its toll, as well as other controversies related to the Justice League film. That’s not to say they haven’t had successes. Wonder Woman, Shazam and Aquaman were pretty fun and well received movies. However, if Warner Bros. were to begin charting the course going forward, its success might rely on changing things up to keep these movies fresh and interesting to new and returning viewers. Which is why a movie like The Suicide Squad might be just what both the fans and Warner Bros. need in order to break the cycle once and for all.

What Does The Suicide Squad Bring To The Table?

The Suicide Squad can be a plethora things. It can be gruesome. It can be comedic. It can be a great deal more than anyone expects. That’s the great thing about this particular property. In concept, the Suicide Squad (also known as Task Force X) is a band of incarcerated villains that are forced to carry out nigh impossible missions for the government for a chance at reducing their sentences. The concept alone leaves the property very much open to all kinds of visions a director may have for it. Especially since there are many different team members that have been phased in and out of the Suicide Squad throughout its comic book history. In short, a director could theoretically craft a team to fit any genre they desire. This versatile quality of the Suicide Squad’s is what could ultimately be its saving grace in terms of success.

An article by the Daily News attests to the film’s versatility, which delves into the relationship between Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and John Cena’s Peacemaker. From Cena’s description, the two characters appear to be set to clash with each other as teammates, resulting in an “‘alpha-male struggle’” between the two (Daily News, 2021). In addition to that, he goes on to point out that both characters are pretty identical to one another in terms of skill set, save for the personalities each character exhibits (Daily News, 2021). One can look at this relationship as a mere microcosm of the Suicide Squad as a whole, especially when one considers the sheer size of the cast. There is an interesting dynamic between the Peacemaker and Bloodsport from what we’re hearing, without a shadow of a doubt. But now imagine similar dynamics between the host of other actors portraying the other members of the Suicide Squad. There is a lot of potential for an enriching degree of character building in this film, which will hopefully lend itself towards the film’s success. If that wasn’t enough, Idris Elba’s comment on what we can expect from the film also attests to the multifaceted approach James Gunn appears to be taking. Elba says that The Suicide Squad will feature “lots of drama and action moments, but also heart and humor” along with “a new cast [being brought into the] franchise” to further freshen things up (Daily News, 2021). 

A Tale In Movie Magic

Depending on the kind of movie you’re making, there are different requirements that need to be met as each project is its own unique creature, so to speak. For The Suicide Squad, one of these requirements was that the actors needed to be kept both sweaty and dirty as one of the sets was a hot jungle climate. Cinemablend writes that one actor in particular, John Cena, needed makeup treatment to simulate sweat interestingly enough. Granted, the actor is in good shape and has an extensive history of physically rigorous roles, it makes sense that he would be in need of the immersive touch up. The application of fake sweat as a practice probably isn’t very much noticeable, but important through and through. Simply for the reason that when you’re in a humid jungle, you sweat. It’s one of those things filmmakers do to make sure the viewer is fully immersed in what they’re seeing, which only adds to the experience. In summation, with all the work that’s going into the movie behind the scenes and without, The Suicde Squad looks like it’ll be a fun summer ride. The Suicide Squad releases in theaters and on HBO Max on August 6th, 2021.

Scarlett Johansson v. Disney: Why Scarjo is Suing Disney Over Black Widow

Over the course of these past few days, Scarlett Johansson has locked horns with Disney in a legal dispute. Johansson claims that Disney breached her contract upon the release of Black Widow in both theaters and on their platform Disney +. The actress’ pursuit has prompted other Disney actresses (Cruella’s Emma Stone and Jungle Cruise’s Emily Blunt) to begin assessing their options as well. Why is this such big news though, and why should we care? Join us as we break down this legal dispute and delve into the greater discussion at hand.

Why is Scarlett Johansson suing Disney?

Covid-19 is responsible for a lot of setbacks in the film industry these days, as well as why movies are being released the way they are. Since the need to social distance made theatrical releases difficult, some companies (like Disney) have decided to release their movies on the streaming services they own. The issue between Scarlett Johansson and Disney lies here, with the way the film is initially distributed to viewers. Per Variety’s coverage of the matter, Johansson’s contract read that Black Widow would be guaranteed “a ‘wide theatrical release’…meaning [that] the film would be shown on at least 1,500 screens” (Variety, July 30th, 2021A). Now that snippet there implies that the movie was supposed to be shown on at least 1,500 movie theater screens, which does not technically include the vast multitude of screens that streaming platforms have access to. Additionally, Johansson’s legal team argues that the understanding was that Black Widow’s theatrical release was supposed to be exclusive, which would have implied that the movie would not hit other platforms until after 90 to 120 days have elapsed (Variety 2021A). Variety also cites that the actress’ team has on hand an email from Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi, which appears to support the idea surrounding the theatrical exclusivity the film was supposed to receive. Galluzzi’s email also reads that any deviation from the original agreement would reopen the floor to discussion as Johansson’s deal is “‘based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.’” (Variety, 2021A). 

 

Black Widow Movie Scene on Motorcycle

Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in a scene from “Black Widow”

To wrap it up in a bow, Disney was supposed to renegotiate Scarlett Johansson’s contract with her so that she could be properly compensated for having her movie released on Disney +, which was not originally part of the deal to begin with. Paired with the notion that the Covid-19 crisis is still ongoing with the advent of the Delta Variant, theaters still aren’t hosting audiences at their fullest capacity, despite being open. This in short means that Scarlett Johansson’s payout would not be as generous as it ought to be, as the Galluzzi email mentions her deal is predominantly focused on box office bonuses. Johansson’s team estimates that Disney’s move “cost the actress $50 million in backend compensation” (Variety, 2021A). Granted, Scarlett Johansson did make $20 million from her part in Black Widow, but the problem is more intricate than that. The problem is how Disney has responded to the actress’ dissatisfaction. For a more detailed breakdown of Scarlett Johansson’s side of things, Variety’s article has much more information to offer.

What is Disney doing?

In response to Scarlett Johansson filing the lawsuit against them, the Walt Disney Company issued a statement that read, “‘There is no merit whatsoever to this filing…The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.’” (Variety, July 29th, 2021B) Disney is also credited with providing how much they have already paid out to Johansson (which was the aforementioned $20 million). It is also worth noting that, at the time the article was written, Disney had not yet provided any information regarding a renegotiation of any kind regarding their deal with the Black Widow star (Variety, 2021B). For a more detailed and in-depth description, here’s Variety’s coverage of Disney’s response.

The main takeaway from Disney’s response is that they aren’t having it. According to the first article cited from Variety, the corporation appears to believe that it has done Johansson no wrong. In fact, Disney claims that they have upheld their end of the contract in terms of Black Widow getting a wide theatrical release. They seem to be making the semantic argument, saying that the fine print doesn’t necessitate an exclusive release in theaters alone (Variety, 2021A). 

The case that’s building between Scarlett Johansson and Disney is looking like it could be greatly influential in more ways than one. Not just because everything isn’t as picture perfect as we thought in the realm of Disney, no. The outcome of this legal affair could determine how women negotiate wages in the film industry going forward. Even though she is a pretty wealthy actress, Johansson still deserves to be paid in full for the work she put into Black Widow. One can argue that her situation is symptomatic of a larger, more widespread issue. Even an actress of Johansson’s caliber appears to be finding herself a victim of the wage gap between actors and actresses in the film industry.

The Track Record for Equal Women’s Compensation

For some time, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has taken the opportunity to track gender inequality within the film industry. Here are some metrics that are relevant to Scarlett Johansson’s case. To put things in perspective, $20 million may seem like a lot to those of us who make substantially less. However, we would like to implore you to consider this upcoming metric for a moment.

NYFA Pay Inequality Infographic

(Source: NYFA Gender Inequality Infographic page.)

As you can see in the chart above, there are male actors who have been paid a great deal more than $20 million. The wage difference between male and female actors in the film industry is quite stark. This is just from the year 2017 too. Notice that only 3 actresses barely came close to the $30 million mark in that year alone. It isn’t like Jennifer Lawrence and Jennifer Anniston aren’t A-List movie stars, they are in fact A-List movie stars. Seeing such dramatic differences begs the question, why does it exist in the first place? The quality of their acting is on par with the other actors listed in this graphic, and yet they are paid less for that self same quality their peers exhibit. Purposeful or not, it is an observable trend in the movie industry, one that needs to be rectified. In the year 2018 during the 90th Academy Awards, of the 19 categories that were not acting-related, 131 men were nominated whereas 40 women nominated. To top it all off, in all the history of the Academy Awards, out of the women nominated only two have won the award they were nominated for (Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 and Chloé Zhao in 2021 won Best Director). Based on the legwork the NYFA has done to track these developments, it’s fair to say that there is a notable degree of both gender bias and gender inequality in the film industry, and the scales are not tipped in women’s favor. For more detailed information on Gender Inequality in the Film Industry, please visit our website.

With these thoughts in mind, perhaps now we can better appreciate Scarlett Johansson’s struggle to attain what she is owed from Disney. As of this moment, she fits the terribly unbalanced metric displayed above. As the star of her own movie, Johansson should receive much more for the work she has done for them, plain and simple. Which is why her dispute with Disney is so momentous. Her success or failure in this matter will undoubtedly set a standard for actresses going forward. It already has for a couple of other actresses who’ve done work for Disney recently, but in the long term, the results of this dispute could affect how actresses who aren’t as soundly secure in their reputation negotiate what they earn in the future. 

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, Taking Reboots in Stride 

The G.I. Joe movies do not have the best track record, with movies G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe Retaliation not being very well received. The next movie in the G.I. Joe franchise, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, appears to promise a different approach. From what we can see in the trailers and other promotional material, the movie looks like it is not only going to be an origin story for the titular character, it is also going to be a reboot for the franchise. Here’s the trailer for reference.

What Exactly Does The Snake Eyes Movie Change?

To answer this question, there are a couple of key details that need to be taken into account. For one, since it is an origin story, Snake Eyes will not be a part of the Joes’ ranks quite yet. Per an article by Collider, the movie will instead focus on his time with a clan dubbed the Arashikage. It will also feature Cobra, a shadow organization that has long been the archnemesis of the Joes. According to the trailer, Arashikage will be taking an active role in taking the fight to Cobra Command. It’s an interesting choice, entwining Snake Eyes’ origin with Cobra, but it makes sense given what other characters are seen in the movie. Portraying Snake Eyes himself will be Henry Golding, known widely for starring in Crazy Rich Asians. Andrew Koji, who recently starred in Warrior, will play Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes’ eventual nemesis. Other stars in the movie include Uko Kwais as Hard Master (Snake Eyes’ Master & leader of the Arashikage), Samara Weaving as Scarlett (a member of the Joes), and Úrsula Corberó as Baroness (a prominent member of Cobra Command). 

Speaking of casting and choice of character, Paramount in collaboration with Stoopid Buddy Studios took the time to create a funny little YouTube video, outlining who will and will not be featured in the new Snake Eyes film. 

The promotional video, which uses stop motion and G.I. Joe figurines, pokes fun at the state of the G.I. Joe franchise in terms of organizing its canon. For one, characters seen here who are not being included in the Snake Eyes movie include Duke, Roadblock, and Gung Ho. This is important because these are characters we have seen in the movies previously. Duke was played by Channing Tatum in G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra, and Roadblock was played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in G.I. Joe Retaliation. What does this suggest? Even though the video claims it’s more of an origin story than a reboot, choosing not to include or make reference to the past two movies more so suggests that it trends along being a reboot. This is not to suggest we may never see these characters, as an article by Gizmodo posits that depending on how well the Snake Eyes does, “[their] inclusion makes it fairly obvious those are characters could appear in sequels” (Gizmodo, 2021). It’s worth noting that Snake Eyes is one of the most popular G.I. Joe characters out there, so there is a possibility that the movie can do well enough to sire sequels. Making Snake Eyes’ movie the start to a brand new cinematic canon for the G.I. Joe franchise is a smart choice, but only time will tell in terms of the movie’s success.

Space Jam: A New Legacy, What You Need to Know and Why You Should Be Excited

It is not farfetched to say that, for many, the year 2020 was riddled with one turbulent event after another. Thankfully, an announcement made in 2019 gave people a small ray of sunshine to look forward to in 2021 (Radio Times, 2021). That ray of sunshine was the announcement of Space Jam: A New Legacy (also called Space Jam 2). Its predecessor, Space Jam (1996), was very well received, making $90.5 million domestically and $159.7 million overseas. To say that it was successful as a movie is an understatement, which is why when the sequel was announced, it was sure to make a splash with Space Jam fans.

The Second Trailer

From what we can see in the trailer, Space Jam: A New Legacy looks like it has a lot to offer, promising a fun and adventurous movie. Many of the classic characters from the 1996 movie are set to return, including Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, and many more. The plot centers around pro basketball player LeBron James traversing Tune World to create an Allstar team to win his family back in a game of basketball from a malicious computer program holding them hostage. Wacky as it sounds, it promises to be a deeper and more involved story than the first Space Jam, which even then, didn’t need to have the most complex story to become a cultural icon. 

(For more on how the first Space Jam came to be, check out this article by Entertainment Weekly for more). 

The stakes are also just as high, since they range from Lebron James playing to win his family back, to “how all the Looney Tunes will be deleted if they lose the game” (Gizmodo, 2021). 

Further Insights

Speaking of interesting, among the cast of Looney Tunes characters being reintroduced, Lola Bunny is going to have “a make-over for the film” (Radio Times, 2021). To better fit the times, Lola’s look is going to be updated so that it isn’t as overtly sexualized as past incarnations of the character. Since Space Jam 2 is supposed to be a kids’ movie, the director, Malcolm D. Lee, felt there was no good reason for Lola Bunny to be in a crop top, stating that it “just [would have] felt unnecessary” (Radio Times, 2021). It’s good that the director made this call, because it ties back into our conversation regarding Cruella and representation. Keeping with what the director noted as “a long history of [sexualization] in cartoons” would have only continued reinforcing the male gaze. Making this choice steers female representation in cartoons to a more acceptable place, one that does not allow the male gaze to loom over it. Had Lola Bunny’s look not been changed, that detail, subtle as it may be, would have only served to further indoctrinate children into this mindset. 

Lola Bunny Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) vs Space Jam (1996)

Another change the movie will be making is that it will no longer be including Pepe Le Pew (a character notorious for his pursuit of another Looney Tunes character, Penelope Pussycat). According to Radio Times, there was a scene planned where Pepe Le Pew would be informed about consent by Greice Santo, a star from Jane the Virgin (Radio Times, 2021). Why the scene was cut from the film is still conjecture however, since Warner Bros. has not commented on the decision. Though to be frank, polarizing as it may have been, it would have been a good way to at least work towards airing out the controversy surrounding the character while speaking to why the character had become so polarizing in the first place. For more on this subject, this article by Deadline sheds more light on the intended scene and the conversation surrounding Pepe Le Pew. 

Final Thoughts

Space Jam: A New Legacy looks like it is going to be a blast overall. The plot, which is just as insane and ballistic as its predecessor, looks like it will be offering what the original did and more. Although, something you might be wondering as a reader at this point might be, “the title says ‘why you should be excited’… but isn’t controversy the opposite of that?” To answer that question honestly, yes and no. Space Jam 2 is meant to be what it promises, a nostalgic, comforting movie for viewers of all ages to have fun seeing. That is where the excitement is. On the other hand, controversy can be just the opposite of that, as you can often find yourself on opposing sides of a debate which can go from zero to a hundred pretty quickly. This however, is why it is important that we do not shy away from these conversations. Recognizing the breadth and importance of the conversations that go on behind the scenes (pardon the pun) is important. The kinds of decisions movie makers choose or do not choose to make is an important subject. With this in mind, to see Malcolm D. Lee making the decisions he did in service to the audience is worth the mention. Space Jam: A New Legacy releases in both theaters and on HBO Max on July 16th, 2021.

Black Widow: Milestones in Representation

Before Captain Marvel (2019) was released and the upcoming release of Marvel’s Black Widow (2021), it is pretty fair to say that Marvel wasn’t doing the best when it came to female representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is also fair to say that sentiments like those expressed by this article from Vanity Fair aptly echoed the dissatisfaction of critics and viewers alike (if not a portion of both groups). Granted, strides have been made in recent years to beat back on this issue, but female representation in film is still something of a pervasive issue. A lot of why it remains this way has its roots in not only outmoded thinking, but the kinds of stories women are featured in and what roles they assume. Let’s take a look at what’s going on here, with Black Widow’s story as our introductory guide.

Black Widow’s Arc and the Issue at Hand

Black Widow is among the oldest of all the characters introduced in the MCU (with Bruce Banner/The Hulk and Tony Stark/Iron Man coming before her, chronologically, as main characters). Despite this, she has not had a very fulfilling arc, only appearing as a side character in the Avengers movies or other characters’ stand alone movies (Iron Man 2 (2010), Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), and Captain America: Civil War (2016)). In Iron Man 2, Black Widow debuted as an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who worked her way up to being Tony Stark’s personal assistant (which was done so she could keep a closer eye on Tony Stark). Her introduction is a bit rocky as FilmSchoolRejects points out.

Black Widow’s first appearance starts off with an “uncomfortably sexualized scenario” between her and Stark (her employer) and, as the film progresses, she gets to show off her talents as a spy and as a hand-to-hand combatant (FilmSchoolRejects, 2019). While the film does well to demonstrate Black Widow’s prowess, the character is very notably “subjected to a leery male gaze”, as there are other scenes in the movie aside from her introduction that aren’t very appropriate (FilmSchoolRejects, 2019). Luckily for viewers trying to focus on Black Widow’s character, this trend doesn’t last forever and as she appears in more MCU titles. In Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Black Widow starts to come into her own more as a character. While appearance still played a pretty big part in how she was portrayed, she was given room to come into her own, albeit she was mostly playing off other characters like Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers. This aspect of Black Widow’s development arguably had a hand in how well she was received by both viewers and critics. Even though she was given that room to grow, it didn’t feel like room enough. Even though Bruce Banner/The Hulk also suffered from this issue, as the only woman on the team, she definitely deserved having more of her story fleshed out and realized. Having her simply play off the other characters was never truly going to be enough to provide viewers with a satisfying story.

As a main character, Black Widow deserves to have her background delved into, especially since she goes on to become a pretty integral part of the MCU. Black Widow continues more or less playing off of other characters in the MCU, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and finally, Avengers: Endgame (2019). With Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow made a bittersweet exit in service to the story, sacrificing herself so that the Avengers can overcome the devastation left behind by Thanos in the movie before. On the one hand, her sacrifice did show how much she had grown (or what little you saw of it) over the course of the MCU movies she debuted in. On the other… it fell flat in some sense because, as a character, she had so much more to offer. Vanity Fair provides an excellent breakdown concerning Black Widow’s treatment in Endgame, should you choose to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. The moral of the story however is that Black Widow was killed off too soon, or rather, her arc wasn’t fulfilling enough for it to be considered finished. Thankfully, that is hopefully what Black Widow’s (very) long awaited standalone movie will do once it releases later this July. 

Black Widow Movie Scene on Motorcycle

The Issue at Hand

Black Widow has had an interesting journey within the MCU, sadly, it played out this way for a reason. An article from BBC covers the issue pretty well, especially when it comes to how Black Widow’s arc has been part of a larger, long-standing problem in the MCU. To quote that BBC article, the issue is namely this, “in 10 years and 20 MCU movies so far, not a single film has been led or directed by a woman” (BBC, 2018). Granted, that was back in 2018 when Captain Marvel (2019) hadn’t come out yet. Even then, Marvel went a considerably long time without including some serious representation for women. It begs the question, why wait that long to come out with a woman-led movie? Well, part of the reason is that, at least a couple of years ago, there was a pretty prominent stigma in Hollywood concerning actress-led movies. 

In retrospect, it is true, the movies did not do very well. But it is doubtful that this was a result of the movie being female-led. The BBC article makes it a point to mention that, in the case of Catwoman (2004), the movie wasn’t good because it had “an awful script, they didn’t put enough money into the budget, and there wasn’t CGI at the time to really do [the movie] right” (BBC, 2018). The same can likely be said of Supergirl too, not to mention that superhero movies weren’t as popular then as they are now. So in reality, they weren’t given the best budget because they were superhero films too! Paired with the stigmas surrounding actress-led movies, there was no way Catwoman was succeeding as a film in 2004. Luckily for us, that stigma was called into a considerable amount of question when Wonder Woman released in 2017, a success that shattered expectations. It proved that a female character could certainly lead a film, as well as not detract or take away from its ability to succeed. It’s a shame as well, since Black Widow is an equally compelling character. Not to mention a character that also received some build up in movies that were not her own, so a stand-alone Black Widow film would have worked. Theoretically, after Age of Ultron at the very latest, you could have had a Black Widow stand-alone film as part of the MCU’s Phase 2, even though all main characters were supposed to be introduced to audiences in Phase 1 (for more on the Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how they are constructed, visit this article by Daily Dot). Case in point, Black Widow should have had her own film a long time ago. 

Final Thoughts

It is great to see that Marvel is starting to ramp up female representation within their universe, but there is still a lot of work to be done in that arena. Representation is key, especially in film, because whether it is intentional or not, the way a film represents people informs its viewers’ attitudes towards the people that are represented. It is a responsibility that filmmakers should always keep in mind so as not to reinforce outmoded ways of thinking and other potentially harmful dispositions viewers may or may not already possess. Additionally, while it is likely knowledge that is commonplace, it’s important for the next generation of viewers to see themselves in the heroes they look up to. That’s why representation in film is so important, especially in this day and age. Black Widow releases in both theaters and on Disney+ with premier access July 9th, 2021.

Forever Purge: A Series In Review

The Purge series asked an essential question, which gave life to four movies, and now, a fifth come July 2nd. The question these films ask is this: If people could act without fear of consequence, what would they be capable of? To preface the premise of the movies, The Purge is a dystopian take on American culture, where one night a year, any and all crime is allowed to take place. One would imagine that part of the series’ success comes from how enamored we are with the question it poses to its viewers. Interestingly enough, one can also make the case that the movies also serve as a mirror, which tries to show its viewers some of the darker, more malevolent aspects of American society.

The Purge in Sequence

In order to fully capture the depth of The Purge films, a quick movie by movie synopsis might be in order. The first movie, simply titled The Purge (2013), kicks the series off with quite the headline so to speak. In the year 2022, unemployment is at an all time low (below 1%) and crime is pretty much non-existent. Why, you ask? Well, because eight years before, a political party called the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) instituted a “holiday” of sorts. Essentially, as a means of “concentrating crime and mayhem into one single night” the NFFA set up The Purge, a day where “all crime is legal and all emergency services are suspended for 12 hours, beginning annually at 7 p.m. on March 21” (Vulture, 2018). It is also worth noting that, in the movie, some radio talk show radio callers are seen deliberating what the true purpose of the Purge is. They argue that it exists as a “mechanism for population control”, a way to get rid of disadvantaged people in the interests of the “wealthy and the powerful so [that] the government no longer has to shell out as much for assistance programs like welfare or health insurance” (Vulture, 2018). The film then follows the Sandin family as they are subjected to the horrors of the Purge.

The second movie, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), follows a different cast of characters, the only exception being Edwin Hodge who reprises his role as The Stranger. The film is also different in terms of setting too. Where the first Purge movie took place in suburbia, this one takes place on the streets of Los Angeles. Set two years after the events of the first Purge movie, it now focuses on Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul), Shane (Zach Gilford) and his estranged spouse Liz (Kiele Sanchez). Through each character’s perspective, the film further delves into everything wrong with The Purge, building on what the first movie established (Vulture, 2018). The NFFA returns as well, but we’ll cover why that’s important later on.

By the time the third movie, The Purge: Election Year (2016), rolls around, Frank Grillo reprises his role as Leo Barnes who is now a security agent for a senator running in opposition to the NFFA. This senator, Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), runs with a big change in mind. Roan is dead set on doing away with the Purge, having been a victim of it herself. In a bid to run unopposed and stay in power, the NFFA tries to orchestrate her death (and fails, resulting in their very timely demise). Finally, the next movie in release order is the First Purge (2018), which shows viewers the origin of the fictional holiday. As a prequel to all the movies before it, the First Purge shows “how grotesque the idea of the Purge is” at its core. 

Collage of Forever Purge Character Posters

A Commentary on Our Society

One thing all of the past iterations of the Purge movies have in common is that they speak to some of the issues the United States often has trouble with. For one, there’s the issue with getting unemployment down to a consistently low level. Not to mention the contentious debate surrounding just how much disenfranchised people should be supported in government policy. That’s where the wicked idea of the Purge comes in. According to an article by the Los Angeles Times, the directors had a very specific concept in mind when constructing the in-movie atmosphere which leads to the normalization of the Purge. They set the movie in a “near-future dystopia in which a dominant ultraconservative party…has legalized for one night each year” (Los Angeles Times, 2018). In our current political climate, there is still much debate that goes on regarding how much support people ought to be…well, supported. Just look at the conversation surrounding stimulus checks from a couple of months back. In the first movie, the Purge is hinted as being specifically designed to eradicate disenfranchised people or the people who need support. People that are homeless, poor, sick, they’re the ones who are being targeted since they can’t do much in the way of aptly defending themselves, which make them easy targets for various Purgers trying to rack up a kill streak. The Vulture article previously mentioned also notes that the debate for welfare pretty much becomes moot, since having this weeding system is beneficial to both the top 1% and lawmakers as they no longer need to “shell out as much [money] for assistance programs like welfare or health insurance” (Vulture 2018). That notion right there is arguably the heart of the matter. Deciding what is worth spending on and what isn’t. The movie attempts to address quite an interesting question, it asks: “At what point does blatantly neglecting the less fortunate members of our society become that much more appealing?” It leaves one to conclude that, in a way, it’s already occurring. Discussions like these are not solved overnight, as they are complex problems by nature. Sadly, people don’t just stop struggling because we haven’t found the be-all end-all answer yet. The only difference between waking life and The Purge is that said neglect is not as straightforward as a holiday like the Purge. That’s just the first movie. 

The Purge: Anarchy then shifts itself away from the perspective of some of the wealthier individuals in society and delves into what the Purge looks like for people that are disenfranchised. To quote the director, James DeMonaco, he says that he wanted to show how the Purge as a system is “unhealthy” and goes on to further note that it is meant to be a “metaphor  for the predatory economics that we’ve seen over the years where we’re feeding the rich and taking from the poor” (Los Angeles Times, 2018). It’s meant to show that even the system we have now isn’t perfect, that while this is a dystopian universe, it is not at all that far removed from our own reality. When The Purge: Election Year released, that’s when the conversation really began to ramp up. There was some allusion to this theme in the movie before, but in this one, it was heavily leaned into. The Purge: Election Year dove headfirst into the politics of the former President, where DeMonaco perceived a pretty distinct “parallel between the New Founding Fathers” and the previous Administration, doing well to outline their penchant for “the[ir] use of fear tactics” for the sake of motivating people (Los Angeles Times, 2018). It’s also important to mention that, according to the directors, they weren’t explicitly trying to emulate reality for Election Year. That in a bizarre nightmarish way, “the mirrors to ‘The Purge’ [were coming] true” (Los Angeles Times, 2018). Outlandish as it sounds, the situation only speaks to the direction America was indeed headed towards. 

Final Thoughts

Whether one agrees with the creators’ outlook or not, the Purge movies do well to stimulate a much needed conversation people do need to be having with one another. Ignoring or pushing our collective issues off to the side doesn’t solve them, arguably, it only exacerbates them. Which is why they’re conversations that need to be had. The Purge’s commentary on American society does well to get these conversations going, and only serves to underscore the importance of the film franchise. That being said, the newest installment, The Forever Purge, will likely also do well to stimulate similar conversations if the film franchise’s track record holds. The Forever Purge is set to release on July 2nd, 2021.

‘Fast and Furious 9’: What You Need To Know & What’s Changed Over The Course Of The Film Series

Fast and Furious 9 (or F9) is part of a series of films that spans nine movies as well as one spin off film. Suffice it to say, there is a lot that goes on in the Fast and Furious universe, and it can’t simply be boiled down to racing and cool stunts. Here’s what you need to know for the upcoming film F9

The Timeline

The Fast and Furious movies can get complicated in places. There are a ton of ancillary characters to keep track of, but the story mainly revolves around Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor, and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty Ortiz. Eventually, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Luke Hobbs becomes a character the movies focus on. Other notable stars that have found their way to the franchise include Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Gina Carano, Rhonda Rousey, and in the upcoming F9, John Cena, to name a few. In addition to the fates of some of these characters, this opens up the conversation to the trickiest aspect of the Fast and the Furious universe. The in-movie timeline gets pretty windy, despite the release dates of the films. As a quick and easy reference, here is a list of the Fast and Furious movies in order of release.

  1. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
  2. 2Fast 2Furious (2003)
  3. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
  4. Fast and Furious (2009)
  5. Fast Five (2011)
  6. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
  7. Furious 7 (2015)
  8. Fate of the Furious (2017)
  9. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
  10. F9 (2021)

The first two films, The Fast and the Furious (2001) and 2Fast 2Furious (2003) are where they should be as the start of the film series’ canon. All is well and good until you debate which movie you should watch after viewing those two. An article by CinemaBlend notes that “2003’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” should be next in line “if you’re watching in the franchise’s order of release” (CinemaBlend 2020). However, the story these films lay out for their audience actually suggests that next in line is Fast and Furious (2009). This is because of the appearance of a character named Han Lue who dies in Tokyo Drift. Han is also seen in Fast Five (2011) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013). This particular storytelling choice then makes Fast and Furious (2009) as well as the two films after it, prequels to Tokyo Drift. The movie series’ prequel streak ends in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) when the film revisits and retcons the circumstances surrounding Han’s death. After seeing Fast & Furious 6 you can safely begin to entertain watching Tokyo Drift (even though it was retconned). As the movie where Han’s death actually occurs, it would make sense that it would come next. From here on, viewers can immerse themselves without any timeline oddities. To make simple what was explained above, here is the revised watchlist when considering the in-movie canon.

  1. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
  2. 2Fast 2Furious (2003)
  3. Fast & Furious (2009)
  4. Fast Five (2011)
  5. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
  6. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
  7. Furious 7 (2015)
  8. Fate of the Furious (2017)
  9. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
  10. F9 (2021)

For more insights as to the reasoning behind this viewing order, CinemaBlend’s The Fast And Furious Movies’ Timeline Explained (from which a majority of this information was sourced) covers some of the finer details of the Fast and Furious in-movie canon.

Fast and Furious movie posters

The Fast Saga’s Inception

Now that we have the complexities out of the way, we can move on to how the series began. According to an article by the Chicago Tribune, the movie was inspired by a combination of two things. The first being a film that came out before The Fast and the Furious called Point Break (1991), which was a movie about an FBI agent going undercover to infiltrate a community of surfers (some of whom are bank robbers). The Fast and the Furious 2001 film isn’t that much different, as Paul Walker’s character (also an undercover cop) infiltrates a gang of notorious car thieves to learn their identities. Both main characters also develop complex relationships with the people they are sent to investigate.The other key source of inspiration for The Fast and the Furious was an article published by Vibe called “Racer X”. The article, written in 1998, covered “real-life illegal street-racing gangs in California” (Chicago Tribune, 2019). This aspect lends itself nicely to Dominic Toretto’s own gang, since they not only steal cars, they use them in street races as well. From this starting point however, the long road that represents the Fast saga twists and turns from a narrative perspective as often as the characters themselves.

The Series’ Evolution

Ever since the first movie in 2001, the Fast & Furious movies have always been about family. But at a certain point, it stops being about other things, such as the racing aspect the first film introduces its viewers to. Revisiting the Chicago Tribune’s article, 2Fast 2Furious is where the series’ first divergence is hinted at. In this movie, the action becomes “more cartoonish” and is otherwise referred to as a “bizarre follow-up” (Chicago Tribune, 2019). It introduces what the series will later become widely known for, which is its insane car related stunts. The next movie, Tokyo Drift, sees a change in both directors and writers as Justin Lin and Chris Morgan respectively are brought on. From there on, they direct and write pretty much every movie that comes out following Tokyo Drift. With each movie that comes out after Fast and Furious (2006), the stunts get progressively bigger and badder, as does the action. It isn’t until Fast Five however, that the series completely does away with any semblance of realism and “fully embrace[s] the ludicrousness” of the Fast and Furious universe (Chicago Tribune, 2019). In short, the Fast and Furious movies become off-the-wall crazy, not bearing much resemblance to the movie that started it all back in 2001. 

Reception and Final Thoughts

Believe it or not, despite how far removed the Fast saga might be from reality, it actually made the franchise that much better. A quick glance at the reviews for each movie on Rotten Tomatoes shows that, since Fast Five, the franchise trends upwards in terms of reception. All in all, Fast Five set the tone going forward quite successfully. The Chicago Tribune also affirms this notion and notes that this new formula would prove worthwhile, as Fast Five “grossed $626 million worldwide, a number [which] would only increase with future installments” (Chicago Tribune, 2019). 

By now you might be asking yourself, “okay, what do I do with all this info?” Well, to quote the Notorious B.I.G., “if you don’t know, now you know”. All jokes aside though, if you were on the fence about watching the upcoming F9 before, hopefully this article piques your interest in the franchise. F9 is set to release on June 25th, 2021.