Industry Trends

The Snyder Cut of “Justice League” – How Fans Got a Different Film

It’s here. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally here. 

After three years and four months campaigning against the theatrical release that was put out by Joss Whedon and Warner Bros., the fandom finally prevailed and the fabled Snyder Cut of the Justice League film was released on HBO Max on March 19, 2021. 

Before diving into the four-plus hour epic, let’s rewind it back for some context as to why a new cut was necessary and shouted into existence by the fandom and Snyder himself.

After the tragic death of Snyder’s daughter Autumn, he departed Justice League to be with family. At this time, the film was pretty much completely shot and all that was left was digital effects, some reshoots, and editing. Enter Joss Whedon who was brought in to do the rest of the reshoots and rewrites, however, he was given more creative control. Thus, a film very different from Zack Snyder’s vision was put out into the world. This film was released on Nov 17, 2017. Then on Nov 19th, just two days later, the online campaign for the Snyder cut began. 

The original release of Justice League was so poorly received that the campaign to release the Snyder caught traction from the cast and Snyder himself, who began to jump on the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement. Warner Bros. had no choice but to give the fans what they wanted. 

(Left) Whedon’s opening cut with Superman and (Right) Snyder’s opening cut with Superman

Snyder was then given free rein (mostly) to put together his vision of Justice League as he intended it to be, and in 2020 it was announced that it would be released on HBO Max. That vision included a film presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, divided into multiple parts, and given an R rating. Not to mention, the film is over four hours long, so prepare to schedule plenty of bathroom breaks and an intermission stretch. 

Let’s talk about the film. 

It’s good. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. This version of the film could truly have been great had there been just a little less of it. A little less of…everything. 

First off, while the story in parts was a great idea in place of the film that was already released and seen by the entire fandom, there could easily have been 30 seconds shaved off of nearly every scene. Did we really need the entire Norwegian song at the end of the first Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry scene? Do we need THAT much slo-mo? And while it was a cool sound effect the first few times, did we really need the wailing Amazon sound effect on every single Wonder Woman scene? Probably not.

Snyder is well known for being an overindulgent filmmaker as evidenced by his directorial style (300, Watchmen, Suckerpunch), with a penchant for highly extended versions of past films and an excess of every detail in some of the most mundane scenes. So it’s not entirely a surprise

Still from Snyder’s “Justice League” ending (HBO Max)

Next is the ending. This film would have had the most perfect ending had the film ended with the final scene of the entire justice league officially assembled for the first time post-victory. Instead, we get an epilogue that’s an additional 20 minutes in length which includes a dream sequence that is completely disconnected from the story told in this film. While the final scene, which was shot for the first time for this release, does indeed pertain to some events that have taken place within the Snyderverse, it would have been better served as a mid or post-credit scene. Placed where was, only serves to confuse the audience. 

Important additions that needed to be made.

The most apparent change to the story comes with the inclusion of the storylines for people of color in the film. In the theatrical cut, the people of color who play a strong pivotal role in the story of the film, their scenes of character development, and the overall arcs of some of these characters were completely cut out by Whedon. 

Joe Morton, who played Victor Stone a.k.a Cyborg’s father, played an immensely pivotal role in the entire film. Without understanding his relationship with his son, his desire to right his wrongs as a father, and his direct involvement with the Mother Box (an item of interest to the antagonist of the film), you do not have a compelling foundation for Ray Fisher’s Cyborg at all. 

Whedon’s cut had Victor’s screentime cut down dramatically, along with the complete removal of scenes with Kiersey Clemmons, Harry Lennix, and Zheng Kai. Most notably, Snyder’s cut gave us more Cyborg, while in Whedon’s cut, the lack of Cyborg was an absolutely disrespectful and full-on disservice to Cyborg’s involvement in the storyline and his own character arc. 

Fisher’s anger towards Warner Bros. and Whedon seems to be in full merit based on the performance showcased in the Snyder Cut. In fact, Cyborg is the heart of the film and is the reason this film’s narrative is so good. Cyborg’s story, coupled with Fisher’s performance, is the only reason you need to sit through this four-hour epic.

Cyborg, The Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman (HBO Max)

Other improved elements include Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash, who all receive more fleshed-out storylines in Snyder’s cut. Steppenwolf also gets more on-screen time to cement him as a phenomenal villain with emotional range and purpose. In addition, Synder’s cut treated true DC fans to the reveal of Darkseid and a revived Superman donning a black suit and cape. 

What’s next?

This is a new era; one in which the fans can strongarm major companies and bend them to their will with a simple keyboard stroke. With the success of Snyder’s Justice League, Warner Bros. would be hard-pressed to not turn their back on the fans and continue his vision for the rest of the DC Snyderverse. Do they turn back the hands of time and pick up where they left off or is this it? 

Only time and fans will tell.

Star Wars, Marvel, and More: Your Ultimate Guide to Disney Investor Day Announcements

It’s been quite an eventful year for Disney. Like many, they were left trying to figure out a whole new theatrical release model for big-budget films like Mulan in the midst of the pandemic and pushing their new streaming service platform, Disney+, to the forefront to compete with the likes of Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and others. 

They stole our hearts with Baby Yoda (sorry, we still won’t be calling him Grogu) in Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian, as part of their slate of first original programming, nabbed Broadway darling Hamilton for a streaming event so epic that it made even your typical non-musical fans sing “The Schuyler Sisters,” and they dropped two massive music events for the most prolific artists of the last decade, Taylor Swift (Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions) and Beyoncé (Black is King).

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Enter Disney Investor Day; boy did Disney deliver. The Mouse paraded a whole lineup of new shows, movies, and company announcements that would send any fan of pop culture into media overload and make any company executive jump up and down from all the intellectual property that is about to be put on display. Don’t worry, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Let’s break down some of the highlights. 

1) It’s all about numbers, and Disney has them: 137 million global paid subscriptions, to be exact, which includes:

  • 11.5 million ESPN+ subscribers
  • 38.8 million Hulu subscribers
  • 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers

Disney plans to see these numbers rise tremendously by the 2024 fiscal year, with projections of 300–350 million total subscriptions, driven primarily by a significant increase in content output.

(Photo Credit: Disney)

2) “Content is King,” and Disney is coming for the crown: Disney announced that they would be targeting 100+ new titles per year on Disney+. Yep, you read that right. For Disney+ alone, Disney revealed an impressive slate of content spanning across the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic catalogs. They also announced that they would be releasing some feature films in theaters and Disney+ simultaneously.

Some of the top content announcements included:

  • Star Wars getting the Marvel treatment: Easily one of the biggest surprises of the day was Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy, announcing a slate of 10 Star Wars series stretching into 2023 for Disney+, the most aggressive creative expansion of the franchise since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. The theatrical film, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, was also announced with director Patty Jenkins attached as director. Taika Waititi has also been attached to an unnamed Star Wars feature film. Probably the biggest Star Wars news of the day, however, was the return of Hayden Christensen to play Darth Vader alongside Ewan McGregor in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, sending fans into a frenzy

  • Avengers may be over, but Marvel is just getting started: Starting off Marvel’s Phase 4 is WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Loki. Joining the previously announced lineup, Disney announced three new series for Disney+ including the Samuel L. Jackson-led Secret Invasion, Ironheart with Dominique Thorne as a genius inventor, and Armor Wars, starring Don Cheadle as James Rhodes. She-Hulk is here; starring Tatiana Maslany as lawyer Jennifer Walters. “Guardians” fans will be happy to hear that James Gunn will return to write and direct The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special for Disney+, and everyone’s favorite baby tree will get his own series in I Am Groot. Marvel Studios also revealed that Black Widow will be released in theaters, Christian Bale joins the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther 2 will retire the character of T’Challa in memory of Chadwick Boseman, and Nia DaCosta (Candyman) will direct Captain Marvel 2.

  • Pixar is still focusing on quality over quantity: While Pixar’s latest film, Soul, will launch on December 25 on Disney+, Pixar revealed three new films: Lightyear, an origin story starring Chris Evans; Luca, set in a seaside town of Italy, arriving in theaters June 2021; and Turning Red, which follows a 13-year-old girl with the ability to transform into a giant red panda.

  • Disney Animation is Bringing Your Favorites Back: Zootopia Plus, a series based on the little-seen creatures of Zootopia, will arrive on Disney+ in spring 2022; Baymax!, featuring the robot of Big Hero 6, will be released in 2022; Moana will be receiving a long-form musical comedy series spinoff; and Tiana, based on The Princess and the Frog, is also getting a spinoff. Raya and the Last Dragon will receive a day-and-date release in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on March 5, 2021, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will be writing music for Pixar’s new Columbia-set musical comedy Encanto.

  • More titles announced: The Sanderson Sisters will return in Hocus Pocus 2; Noah Hawley is developing an Alien series for FX; Andy Samberg and John Mulaney will voice our favorite chipmunks in a reboot of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers; and Will Smith and Chris Hemsworth are each getting their own National Geographic shows. Lucasfilm is also rebooting Willow with Warwick Davis returning as the beloved character, with Jon M. Chu announced to direct the pilot. 

This only scratches the surface. Check out all of Disney’s upcoming content here.

3) Star power: The media giant also announced that it will be launching another general streaming service called Star for the international market as a fully-integrated part of Disney+ that will launch in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore as early as February 23, 2021. Star will feature more adult-orientated content from the company’s ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios brands.

In short, Star will act like a service similar to Hulu, which Disney CEO Bob Chapek mentioned has “no brand awareness” outside of the U.S. Star will also include aggregated third-party content (likely from Hulu) and will instead focus on shows that Disney owns, as well as content that does not fall into other licensing arrangements on a global scale.

4) Latin America is getting its own version of Star: In the offshoot of Star, a standalone streaming service, Star+, will launch in June 2021 and will feature Disney’s umbrella of general entertainment content and live sports. The decision for Star and Star+ is said to be a result that followed the launch of Disney+ Hotstar in India in April 2020 and Indonesia in September 2020. 

For years now, Disney has sold its ABC shows to linear broadcasters and local streaming services around the world. So, essentially, Disney has a massive web of content to untangle when it comes to acquiring certain rights for content again, which is why Star is the answer to that solution…for the time being. 

In conclusion, the ambitious business moves from Disney prove that it is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to expand and compete with other streamers. With more than 137 million subscriptions worldwide, in a world where shows and films are now being launched at any moment on a streaming platform, Disney has shown they are committed to developing their intellectual properties (IP) to keep their viewership intrigued and gain more subscribers.

DC’s FanDome Event of Blockbuster Reveals – The Batman, Wonder Woman 1984, and More

“United.”

Ben Afflecks’ Batman in the trailer for Justice League: The Snyder Cut uttered this word and it could not ring truer for the feeling fans have come away with DC’s FanDome event this past weekend. 

2020 has upended every single industry in the world and the film industry is no exception. Theaters shuttered, productions postponed and film releases delayed; some until next year. Most large scale live events have been canceled for the year as the whole world takes a mulligan and push plans for the following year hoping 2021 returns a bit more normalcy to live events however some have found innovative ways to bring large scale events to screens across the world such as DC’s FanDome streamed convention. 

This past weekend, DC put on a digital showcase of all the most exciting news and trailers of upcoming films and projects that is normally reserved for the largest comic book conventions of the year, usually the San Diego and New York Comic Con events. Accessible to all who registered online for free to the event, the streams began at 1pm ET showcasing panel after panel with a live performance by Daughtry and going off without a hitch. Each panel was different, big names and big reveals were had and the excitement for DC is at an all time high. 

Here were the biggest announcements of the day.

The Batman
Directed by Matt Reeves

We’re going to start with the hottest thing to come out of FanDome, Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Set to Nirvana’s “Something in The Way,” the trailer gives us our first real glimpse into the director’s vision for the world’s greatest detective’s new world. 

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman’

The new iteration of the Caped Crusader will not be an origin story per se but, as Reeves puts it. follow his “second year” of fighting crime. A gritty fusion of Zack Snyder’s hues with David Fincher’s melodramatic tones, we get our introduction to all that is expected from a new entry into the Batman franchise. Robert Pattinson in the suit, his portrayal as a young Bruce Wayne, quick shots of Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, NYFA Filmmaking alum Paul Dano as The Riddler, and…the Batmobile. 

Fans are always craving to see the latest iteration of the iconic car and, whether you’re a fan of the new look or not, one thing is for sure, visceral fast paced action will be on display. And if you were wondering how the former Twilight star might fare in a fight, the clip of “Battinson” brutally taking down a thug should put the whole world on notice that he is up to the challenge of filling into the cowl of his predecessors. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Directed by Zack Snyder

After years of social media fervor, hashtags, emails, petitions and practical groveling from fans around the world, Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have finally answered those prayers. 

Zack Snyder, who after the tragic death of his daughter, had to leave the project during principle photography on Justice League has finally come back to finish his director’s cut. An ask that fans have been begging for after the debacle that-was the official release helmed by Joss Whedon. 

Film poster for Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’

It is only fitting that Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was the track chosen for the most anticipated trailer for a movie that was released three years ago as fans all over the world awaited for the second coming of the film they so desperately wanted. During the panel, Snyder took fan questions from around the world that were asked by most of the Justice League cast members through pre recorded videos before releasing the trailer to the world that gave a glimpse into what his vision for the film was supposed to be. 

At one point, when asked about Ray Fisher’s character Cyborg, he noted that his role will be one of the most expanded parts of the film as he is “the heart of the movie.” The film will be released as a 4 part series broken up into hour long episodes on HBO’s Max service, however no release date was given. 

Wonder Woman 1984
Directed by Patty Jenkins

Another exciting release was a more in depth trailer for the follow up to Patty Jenkins 2017 blockbuster Wonder Woman. The cast and crew spent time talking about the making of the film, the fans, and the relationships between the cast’s characters before revealing the trailer. 

Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (Directed by Patty Jenkins)

In the trailer we got to see Kristen Wiig’s Barbara who seems to be the film antagonist, “The Cheetah,” after undertaking a transformation. In the bits we’ve seen from Wiig, it will be exciting to see what she brings to arguably the biggest role of her life which is at the same time a departure from her usual comedic roles. Chris Pine will reprise his role as Steve Trevor while Pedro Pascal plays Max Lord. The film was slated for release on June 5, 2020, however due to the Coronavirus pandemic it was then delayed to August 15, 2020, which has now been pushed back to October 2, 2020.

It is clear that DC is capable of adapting to an ever changing landscape in film while battling their direct competitors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well the COVID-109 global pandemic. While they have had some great products in Aquaman, Wonder Woman and the many Batman Franchises, they have sorely lacked in many other areas on all fronts whether it’d be the big screen or the little screen, and even in their source medium, the comic book industry. This event, however, the first of its kind, really has given us a recalibration, or a “righting the ship,” of the many issues facing the DC house and all of its properties over the last few years. It has shown us that when DC can take the time to be “united” that they can become an unstoppable force in cinema once again. 

Other panels appearing during the FanDome event:

  • Warner Bros. Games Montreal Announcement Gotham Knights
  • The Sandman Universe: Enter The Dreaming
  • Multiverse 101 panel
  • Introducing the Flash
  • Beyond Batman
  • The Suicide Squad
  • BAWSE Females of Color Within the DC Universe
  • Legacy of the Bat
  • Chris Daughtry Performance
  • The Joker: Put on a Happy Face
  • Jim Lee Portfolio Review
  • I’m Batman: The Voices Behind the Cowl
  • The Flash TV 
  • Black Adam
  • CNN Heroes: Real-Life Heroes in the Age of Coronavirus
  • Titans TV
  • Aquaman
  • “Ask Harley Quinn”
  • Wonder Woman 80th Celebration
  • SHAZAM!
  • Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Game 

'All Rise' Season Finale Taps Ingenuity and Creativity For Its Final Episode

The whole world is on pause. Your local coffee shops. Recreational activities. Anything deemed non-essential has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic including film production.

Well. Maybe not all major film production. 

For the freshman CBS drama All Rise, putting their season finale on the back burner could have been the safest route for a show that has already gained many critical accolades despite being forced to cut production short due to the mandated lockdown of most of the country. Sure, at the time, they had not received a second season order, but all things pointed towards a guaranteed order for a new set of episodes. Kudos to showrunners Greg Spottiswood and Dee Harris-Lawrence for not taking the easy way out and giving fans an ending that reflects the struggles many face having to traverse life in quarantine.

The finale episode titled “Dancing at Los Angeles,” directed by Michael M. Robin, who also serves as executive producer, was a technical feat to bring together the cast to film their homes using production equipment that was sanitized and safely delivered. The cast members had to quickly ramp up their knowledge of behind the scenes camera work, gaffing, lighting, and even hair and make up, to do the job of an entire crew by themselves aside from learning and rehearsing their lines; and they only had 6 days to do it.

Script supervisor Elizabeth Ludwick-Bax (Patricia Rae/Ruth Ann Miles/CBS)

The episode was shot primarily using conference services such as Zoom and WebEx, with private networks being created for cast and crew to connect and have their video feeds isolated. CGI and other VFX were used to recreate backgrounds such as jail cells and a singular images of a barren Los Angeles county backdrop, shot by a single cinematographer, to give weight to the current state of the world. Lead actress in the series, Simone Missick (Judge Lola Carmichael), described the production as “shooting a very high-budget indie film with a skeleton crew of one.”

(Clockwise from top left) Ruthie Ann Miles as Sherri Kansky, Simone Missick as Lola Carmichael, Lindsay Mendez as Sara Castillo, Wilson Bethel as Mark Callan and Jessica Camacho as Emily Lopez

All of this amounted to a wonderfully crafted episode that still played with the fast paced nature of each character and the plot development, featuring all of the relevant challenges people are currently facing in these present times. Not just for the majority of the public, of which some are able to work from home while others are forced to make ends meet however they can, but for the many out of work individuals in the film industry with projects on hold and to those who are used to the conventional means of production. If anything, this is one of the best examples of how the industry can expand the role of visual effects artists and cinematographers, so long as they think outside the box and have fun with some creativity, to find new and inventive ways to tell meaningful stories. 

The finale episode debuted on May 4, 2020 on CBS and, two days later, on May 6, a second season was ordered. Hats off to them. We should “All Rise” and applaud their achievement.

The History of ‘Star Wars’ on TV

Star Wars has become one of the most iconic cinematic franchises of all time, spawning three hit trilogies to date, as well as two big-budget side adventures. But Star Wars has long since become more than just a movie franchise—it has spawned countless books, comics, toys, merchandise, and more. 

But perhaps closest to the film universe of Star Wars is its presence on television, including numerous shows that are now canon. Most of these series were or are animated, however with the dawn of Disney+, live action shows set in the galaxy far, far away will be coming very soon, with budgets and special effects that look like they’d fit just as well on the big screen.

With the first of these shows, the hotly-anticipated bounty hunter series The Mandalorian, about to arrive, New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a look at the history of Star Wars on TV:

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

The Star Wars Holiday Special has cult status among Star Wars fans—it came right on the heels of the massive success of the first film, included cast members and sets from the film, and was notoriously awful, so bad that it was never released and only exists in bootleg form. Rather than a Christmas special, the television movie is a series of vignettes based around the Wookie holiday Life Day and the family of Chewbacca, and features appearances from cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and James Earl Jones, as well as non-Star Wars stars Bea Arthur, Richard Pryor, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman, and classic rock group Jefferson Starship. While the special is regarded as a silly flop, it did introduce two very important elements to the Star Wars canon—the Wookie planet Kashyyyk and the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

 


The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour (1985)

The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour is mostly held in little regard by Star Wars fans, perhaps because the series revolves around some of the series most controversial characters—but it was the first in a long line of animated series for the franchise. The show was actually two separate prequel series, one based around C-3PO and R2-D2 and one based around the teddy bear like creatures from Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

A series of short animated films that fleshed out the massive Clone Wars event that first began in Episode II on the big screen later begot a serialized animated series with the same name. The latter focused on Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, but also gave a ton of time to world building and showing the various Clone Wars battles across the galaxy. Also included was the return of Darth Maul and deep dives into the Mandalorian culture, the Galactic Senate, droids, Count Dooku and the Trade Federation, the Jedi council and Jedi culture, and the Clone troopers themselves, some of whom become fully fleshed-out characters despite being identical copies of the same person–not to mention some of the greatest lightsaber duels in the entire canon.

 


Star Wars: Rebels (2014)

The follow-up series to The Clone Wars was more focused, centering around a single ship and its crew, that included a former Jedi and his apprentice, years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and only shortly before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. The series managed to expand the mythology of the Jedi and the Force, and also served as a direct sequel to The Clone Wars, bringing back fan favorite characters like Ahsoka Tano, Darth Maul, and Clone trooper Rex. The series also introduced expanded universe villain Grand Admiral Thrawn into the proper canon, which delighted Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: Resistance (2018)

The next animated series switched up its style and shifted towards more anime and cel-shading visuals, and was also the first series to take place after the original trilogy (but before the events of The Force Awakens.) Oscar Isaac reprised his role from the new trilogy as Poe Dameron, and the series, aimed towards younger audiences, follows a young boy named Kazuda Xiono, who finds himself involved in the early days of the Resistance as General Hux and Captain Phasma bring the nefarious First Order closer to the events of Episode VII.

The Mandalorian (2019)

With a pilot directed by NYFA guest speaker Jon Favreau, and a cast boasting the talents of Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Espositio, Werner Herzog, and Nick Nolte, The Mandalorian has a lot to prove as the first serialized live-action Star Wars series. The show will also dive into the state of the galaxy between the original and latest cinematic trilogies as well as shed light on the criminal underworld of the universe, something typically only fleshed out in expanded universe books outside of Han Solo’s storyline.

 


Untitled Cassian Andor series (upcoming)

Rogue One star Diego Luna will reprise his role as Rebel spy Cassian Andor in this prequel series, one that will show the famous original trilogy’s Rebellion from a different angle—its darker, spy side. Alan Tudyk will also be reprising his role as fan-favorite droid, K-2SO. The show is expected to debut in 2020.

Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series (upcoming)

A Star Wars story film featuring Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi has been rumored for years, but now that Disney and Lucasfilm are shifting from the big screen to the smaller screen, it looks like Obi-Wan’s story will be told on television instead. One of the most famous and important Star Wars characters ever, little is known about what Obi-Wan was up to in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope—this series will fill some of that in. Presumably, Obi-Wan is dealing with the aftermath of the Jedi’s extinction, as well as his new life as a hermit on the desert planet Tatooine, where he is keeping a close watch on the baby Luke Skywalker. While nearly nothing is known about the series, other than McGregor’s involvement, many fans hope and expect Darth Maul to return for a final showdown with Kenobi, now that Solo has confirmed the Sith warrior is still alive and well.

It’s a Good Time To Be a Comics Fan

These days, comic books are synonymous with summer blockbusters, with box office records constantly being broken and high-profile names in the film industry vying for a chance to be a part of major cinematic universes and perhaps cementing a legacy akin to Tony Stark, aka Robert Downey Jr.

That’s right. RDJ’s performance as billionaire playboy with a heart, Tony Stark, has merged with the actor and for the public eye become a single persona of the larger-than-life hero that he plays. He’s not the only one–comic book fans around the world now see these actors embodied by the characters they portray and it is simply because they were able to bring to life the stories that they have grown up with. 

The different incarnatoions of Hulk

Stories have molded many a reader from the shy, unpopular kid who can relate to Peter Parker and Spider-Man to the person who feels out of place in society because of their appearance or sexual orientation who empathize with the trials of discrimination in the pages of X-Men. 

Many comic books represent the most important topics affecting contemporary society. It wasn’t always this way though. Comics started as a way for struggling writers and artists like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to make a living by coming up with characters with funny names and weird backstories and placing them in the most ridiculous outfits they can think of. A perfect example would be the original costume for Batman, who first started out wearing red tights with black underwear and bat-like wings. It wasn’t until his revolutionary creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, decided to take these stories and make them mean something more. 

Today you can look to Captain America for moral high ground, Batman for discipline and dedication, or the many female characters leading the charge for all young women seeking equality, recognition, and empowerment–including Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Supergirl, and She Hulk, to name a few. 

Gal Gadot

The recent renaissance big-budget comic book adaptations and the performances of perfectly cast actors, paired with years of character development in the pages of comic books are now truly amazing cinema audiences. 

Take the upcoming film, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck,is a failed comedian spiraling into insanity, who eventually becomes the titular homicidal clown. The film generating so much buzz before its release that it is already an Oscar contender, and broke October box-office records in its first weekend of wide release.

No longer are comic books regarded as silly pulp magazines for kids to entertain themselves with. They now represent the individual reading them, they connect emotionally, and inspire generations of people who strive to tell the stories that can impact people and change their lives. Together, comic books and the film industry has become a juggernaut–with no slowing down in sight. 

It truly is a good time to be a fan of comics.

 

Written by Gabriel Marte

7 Great Live Action & School Shows TV Series  

It’s been said most television sitcoms can fall into three categories–shows about friends, shows about a family, or shows about a workplace. Many dramas typically fall under one of these categories as well. One location that’s seen it’s fair share of television series is the school, which can be a mixture of all three.

Here are some of the classic live action television series about school:

Community

Dan Harmon’s show about a group of misanthropes who form a study group at a community college quickly became a cult favorite, and lasted five seasons on NBC before getting cancelled and renewed for a sixth season by Yahoo! Screen. The show, which revelled in both referencing and subverting all things pop culture, launched and boosted several careers, including comedy veteran Chevy Chase, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino.

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks, a period drama about high school outcasts in 1980, also launched multiple careers, including Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, producer Judd Apatow, and creator Paul Feig. No wonder the one-season wonder picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Casting in a Comedy. The show had the hallmarks of Apatow’s and Feig’s future work–pop culture-referencing humor with a ton of heart.

Glee

The memorable pilot for Glee launched a new wave of musicals on television, including Smash, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and live performances of famous musicals. The show worked with high school stereotypes like jocks, cheerleaders, and nerds, but over six seasons it shaded its characters with a ton of depth. Glee covered nearly every social issue a high schooler might encounter, as well as covered hundreds of famous pop, rock, and musical numbers. The show, which included NYFA alumni Chord Overstreet and Naya Rivera–the latter as the deviously talented Santana Lopez–also wore its progressive heart on its sleeve, and was praised for its three-dimensional LGBTQIA+ and other diverse characters.

Friday Night Lights

Adapted from the 2004 film by Peter Berg, itself adapted from the nonfiction book by H.G.Bissinger, this NBC drama ran for five seasons, earning critical acclaim throughout its run. Like its source material, the show was based around a Texas town’s obsession with high school football, but quickly transcended that material to become a grounded, fully-realized portrayal of working class families. The show, and its characters, wasn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, and from time to time punctuated its character drama with breathtaking football action and laugh-out-loud comedic beats.

Saved by the Bell

Originally a workplace vehicle for Hayley Mills about middle school called Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the show was renamed Saved by the Bell in season two and re-tooled to be about the students, now in high school, led by the charismatic Zack Morris. The show became both a syndication and Saturday morning staple for an entire generation, and has persisted in pop culture through TV movies and spin-offs like The College Years and The New Class.

My So-Called Life

In 1994, ABC aired this teen drama that lasted for only a season but dealt with several major issues for teens in the 90s in its short time, from drug use to alcoholism to school violence. The show launched the careers of Jared Leto and Claire Danes; the latter winning a Golden Globe for her lead role. 

Veronica Mars

The first season of Veronica Mars was a murder mystery whodunnit with a clever gimmick–what if the hard-boiled private eye was a teenage girl? Suspects and witnesses came from every clique in high school as the title character navigated a murder investigation with her homework and dating life. Kristen Bell’s winning performance as well the show’s shocking twists and clever, snappy dialogue, made the show a cult hit. It lasted another two seasons before being cancelled, but was brought back to life as a feature film and most recently with another season of TV.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

9 Great Pirates Movies That Beat Walking the Plank

Pirate films aren’t as ubiquitous as westerns, but they’ve been a key part of Hollywood adventure films for just as long. Between the high seas action and swashbuckling anti-heros, audiences can’t resist a good pirate movie. 

Whether you’re celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day or just looking for a fun popcorn adventure, here are some of the best pirate films Hollywood has to offer:

Muppet Treasure Island

When Robert Louis Stevenson published his novel Treasure Island in 1883, he practically invented the entire pirate genre, including such staples as treasure maps, buried treasure, peglegs, parrots, and “X marks the spot.” The novel has been adapted countless times and in nearly every medium, so it was natural for Jim Henson’s Muppets to tell the story in their own charming way. Brian Henson, Jim’s son, directed this musical adventure comedy, which featured live-action stars Jennifer Saunders, Billy Connolly, and Tim Curry as Long John Silver.


Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney executives weren’t sure what to make of Johnny Depp’s one-of-a-kind performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in a movie adapted from a theme park ride, but once the original Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl became a monster hit in 2003, what they thought didn’t really matter. Depp’s performance instantly minted a new iconic character, and earned him an Academy Award nomination. The film and its four sequels set a high standard for incredible special effects and epic filmmaking, and have earned several Oscar nominations in addition to Depp’s.

The Pirate

If you’re looking for a romance from Hollywood’s Golden era, this is the pirate film you want. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly teamed up for Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical romance, which tells the tale of a woman who dreams about the legendary pirate Macoco. A traveling singer falls in love with her and poses as the pirate to win her heart.

Waterworld

Waterworld, the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release in 1995, takes place in a dystopian future when the ice caps have melted and all of Earth is covered in ocean. The villains of Kevin Costner’s action epic are a mix between classic pirates and apocalyptic oil-slicked Mad Max villains, raiding what little remains of civilization from weaponized jet skis and the Exxon Valdez to pirate and plunder food, gas, and fresh water. Hopper relishes his role as a futuristic pirate, giving maximum intensity in his performance and even sporting an eyepatch.


Captain Blood

Errol Flynn is the definitive Robin Hood for many cinephiles, but for many he’s also the definitive pirate. In fact, Captain Blood, directed by Michael Curtiz, was Flynn’s first Hollywood role. Captain Blood is one of several adaptations of the 1922 novel of the same name, and tells the story of an enslaved doctor and his fellow prisoners who escape imprisonment and become pirates in the West Indies. The 1935 film made stars of Flynn and his then-unknown romantic lead, Olivia de Havilland, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The Goonies

Produced and based on a story by Steven Spielberg; director/producer Richard Donner and screenwriter Chris Columbus paired for this family adventure comedy, now a modern classic and launching pad for familiar faces like Josh Brolin, Sean Astin, and Martha Plimpton. The story focuses on poor kids from Oregon who attempt to save their homes from foreclosure with an old treasure map that takes them on an adventure to unearth the long-lost fortune of One-Eyed Willy, a legendary 17th-century pirate.

Hook

Master director Steven Spielberg was also able to indulge in the pirate genre through the meta sequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Hook’s plot concerns a middle-aged Pan (Robin Williams), who is forced back to Neverland to rescue his two children from the clutches of stereotypical pirates led by Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. Bob Hoskins makes a memorable impression as Hook’s first mate, Smee, and the film includes numerous high-profile cameos, including Glenn Close as the bearded pirate, Gutless. Everyone delights in chewing as much scenery as possible, which made the pirate antics all the more fun.

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is most certainly not a popcorn movie, but rather the harrowing true story of real-life pirates who, to this day, prey on tankers containing millions of dollars of cargo. Paul Greengrass directs Tom Hanks as the captain of the Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage for days along with his crew. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Barkhad Abdi, who in his first role ever, improvised the now-infamous line, “I’m the Captain, now.”

Treasure Island (1934)

Since this list began with a Treasure Island adaptation, it might as well end with one, and a great one at that. The black-and-white film was directed by Oscar-winner Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz) and starred Jackie Cooper, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore. While the special effects aren’t quite as sharp as today’s CGI, you’ll still find all the thrills that come along with a solid pirate adventures.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

Phase 4: What’s Next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

[warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home]


This summer saw the end of an epic run of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), that began in 2008 with Iron Man, and finished with the epic crossover Avengers: Endgame and its follow-up, Spider-Man: Far From Home. The 22 MCU films ended with a goodbye to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, coming full circle.

But of course, like any good comic book storyline, the end is never really the end. While for the first time in a very long time Disney’s Marvel Studios currently doesn’t have another movie in the can and ready to go, it does have multiple projects in pre-production. It won’t be long before Phase 4 and Marvel dominate the box office once again, with both brand new characters as well as some familiar faces…

Black Widow

The long-rumored solo film for Scarlett Johansson’s original Avenger, Black Widow, is finally coming to pass. A key difference between Phase 4 and the first three MCU phases (besides a lack of Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans) will be the clear push to bring more diversity to a franchise that saw 20 out of 22 (that’s 91%) of its films helmed by and starring white men. Black Widow was one of the major casualties of the war against Thanos in Endgame, but it’s presumed this film, co-starring David Harbour (Stranger Things), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite), and Florence Pugh (Midsommar), will be a prequel about how Black Widow was originally trained as a Russian spy and first earned all that red in her ledger. The film will be one of the first for Phase 4, expected to release sometime next year and continue a streak the MCU hasn’t broken since 2009.

Eternals

Another of Phase 4’s earliest projects is Eternals, which is based on one of Marvel’s more obscure cosmic, space-based properties. The last time the MCU announced they were making a big budget adaptation of weird space creatures no one ever heard of, many assumed it would end in dismal failure—however Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be one of Disney’s greatest hits. This film may prove the same, and fills the star power vacuum left by Robert Downey, Jr. by putting Angelina Jolie front and center. Jolie will be joined in the cast by Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, and Kumail Nanjiani. The lineup isn’t just racially diverse and full of women—rumor has it the film will also feature the MCU’s first openly gay superhero.

Thor: Love and Thunder

One of the most beloved films of the first three phases was Thor: Ragnarok, written and directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi. Waititi will return for Thor 4, along with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Natalie Portman, who hasn’t prominently featured in the MCU since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. Portman is rumored to be playing the Jane Foster female version of Thor, wielding Mjölnir in a plotline from the comics. And while, because of confusing rights issues with Universal, there’s still no second solo Hulk film in the works, here’s hoping Mark Ruffalo and Professor Hulk will return to the MCU to re-form The Revengers with his old pals Thor and Valkyrie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

That’s one kooky title but we’ve come expect the unexpected from one of the MCU’s trippiest franchises, Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumerbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme had a great run in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame arguably saving the day by saving Tony and showing him how to beat Thanos, so it’s no surprise Doctor Strange 2 is a priority for Marvel. He won’t be alone either—Elizabeth Olsen will be joining him as the Scarlet Witch, another powerful superhero whose powers defy conventional science. As for the Multiverse in the title? That opens up a lot of possibilities—Mysterio’s claims of a multiverse turned out to be a ruse in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but if parallel universes do exist in the MCU, maybe we’ll even get to see an alternate Earth where Tony Stark still lives and breathes…

What If…?

Speaking of a multiverse… While the Netflix MCU-adjacent shows have all come to an end, you’ll still be able to find Marvel on the small screen when the release of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, comes out later this year. One of these shows will be anthology series What If…?, which will show one-off alternate versions of the MCU. It’s not yet known if the animated series will simply be “what if” fantasies or if they will be actual alternate dimensions that co-exist within the MCU—but with Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) voicing the all-seeing Watcher, the latter is certainly a possibility. So far the series has lined up many familiar names to reprise their roles in alternate versions; the pilot will feature Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter and ask, “What if Peggy had taken the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers?”

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The first MCU series debuting on Disney+ will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, who have become close buddies since the events of Captain America: Civil War. The question is if this show be taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, when—just like in the comics—Steve Rogers retired and gave Sam Wilson, the Falcon, the mantle of Captain America, along with his vibranium shield. One thing we do know is that supervillain Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) will be returning from Civil War in one form or another.

Loki

Another returning character getting his own Disney+ series will be Tom Hiddleston’s fan favorite Loki. The trickster god and brother of Thor has alternated from good to bad several times within his several appearances in the MCU, so it remains to be seen what exactly the series will be about, especially considering Thanos strangled Loki to death in the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. But considering the time travel shenanigans in Endgame led to Loki escaping with the Tesseract Space Stone, there’s a good chance an alternate Loki is still alive, and, if set photos are to be believed, possibly living in the 1970s!

WandaVision

WandaVision is perhaps the most perplexing of the announced Phase 4 titles. We know Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), will be appearing in Doctor Strange 2, but her artificial lifeform lover Vision was one of the major casualties of Avengers: Infinity War, and was never resurrected by the end of Avengers: Endgame. So what will this show about the pair be about? The title, a very weird pun with a 50s style logo, gives nothing away.

Blade

1998’s Blade, starring Wesley Snipes as the half-vampire, half-human swordsman, is considered the first modern superhero movie and which kicked off the Hollywood comic book fascination that is still burning strong today. So it was a big surprise at this year’s Comic Con when Marvel head Kevin Feige announced that a rebooted Blade will be joining the MCU, with Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as the title Daywalker. Ali is no stranger to the MCU—he played the villain Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage. But when you have an actor as good as Ali, you can’t blame Marvel for using him as much as they can.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi is a lesser known Marvel superhero, but that’s about to change. The film will be the first from the MCU to be directed by an Asian American and star a mostly Asian and Asian American cast, including Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Leung. Leung will be playing the Mandarin, a supervillain teased since the very beginning of the MCU when a terrorist with ten rings first imprisoned Tony Stark and inspired him to become Iron Man, and who Ben Kingsley very famously turned out not to be in Iron Man 3.

Hawkeye

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye came back from the brink as the murderous Ronin by the end of Avengers: Endgame, but he may not be the focus of this Disney+ series. Lila Barton, his daughter, became Hawkeye in the comics, and as the MCU pushes to bring in more diverse and female superheroes, she may end up taking the mantle of her father. The very first scene of Avengers: Endgame shows Lila’s amazing archery skills, no doubt inherited from her dad, before she was snapped out of existence for five years by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.

And then what?

These have all been announced and are all in some form of pre-production or production, but there’s other projects we can safely assume Disney will produce as long as Marvel keeps making them billions and billions of dollars. These include sequels to smash hits Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel. And since Disney recently bought Fox and most of its properties, eventually we may see the Fantastic Four and even a new version of the X-Men join the Franchise That Tony Built.

MCU Phase 4

8 Things We’ll Never Forget From Alien Invasion Blockbuster ‘Independence Day’

independence day
Epic adventure film
Independence Day was a very big deal when it was released in the summer of 1996, with an emphasis on big. The alien invasion film, a modern take on a classic War of the Worlds scenario, featured city-sized spaceships laying waste to famous American landmarks. One of the last mega-sized films before CGI began to dominate Hollywood special effects, the destructive use of exploding miniatures—including the White House and the Empire State Building—were perhaps the epitome of the art form. 

 

 


“Welcome to Earth” Will Smith

Rapper and Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Will Smith had a few film credits under his belt, including a lead role in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, but it was Independence Day that made Smith a household name, putting him at the top of an A-List he still dominates to this day. His charismatic personality was perfected in the quippy, frenetic role as fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The precise moment Smith became a superstar might have been when he greeted one of the invading aliens with a punch to the face and the line, “Welcome to Earth.”

“We will not vanish without a fight!”

Bill Pullman’s young President Whitmore decides to fly along with the last of his fighter pilots in a last-ditch attempt to defeat the aliens before all hope is lost, but not before giving a rousing impromptu speech as dawn breaks. That speech, simple and corny, has since become legend, played frequently by numerous media outlets every Fourth of July. Pullman has even been requested to recite the speech in full on multiple occasions.

The arrival of the ships

The design of the invading spaceships are brilliant—a colossal, ominous, 90s modern stainless steel take on the classic flying saucer UFO. When they first show up over the coastlines of several major cities, they arrive in miles of flame and smoke, violently shaking the ground underneath and resulting in millions of strained necks as innocent bystanders can do nothing but look up in fearful awe. What an entrance.

“Is this glass bulletproof?”

Midway through the film, the surviving heroes visit Area 51, where an escaped alien takes out a group of scientists and reveals the secret plan of his species behind a wall of laboratory glass. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) hears enough and asks his military guard if the glass is bulletproof. Major Mitchell, played by Adam Baldwin, promptly replies “No, sir!” and opens fire on the creature in a hailstorm of bullets and broken glass.

Judd Hirsch

Oscar-nominated Judd Hirsch stole the show as comic relief in a film where nearly every single character provides comic relief. Only a few years off a multi-decade run as a sitcom star, Hirsch was old enough now to play the cranky father to Jeff Goldblum’s neurotic genius David Levinson. Hirsch’s character wasn’t just funny—he was smart, discovering the government’s secret base Area 51. “You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?” 

The canyon chase

After the massive destructive set pieces that saw Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York City laid to waste, the United States strikes back with several fighter jets. The aliens surprisingly have smaller fighting ships themselves, defended by impenetrable shields. The pilots are quickly laid to waste, including Captain Hiller’s best friend played by Harry Connick, Jr. Hiller (Will Smith) is the last man flying, and leads one ship into the desert and a deep canyon where he’s able to out-maneuver and crash the alien ship in one of the most exciting chase sequences of the 1990s.


“Hello boys!”

In a film filled with memorable character actors, Oscar-nominated Randy Quaid (Vacation, Kingpin) makes his mark as a Vietnam vet traumatized by his previous abduction by aliens. In the end, he sacrifices his life to save his family and finally gets his revenge, but not before getting out not one but two quips before he goes. The first, and more crude of the two as he flies up the bottom of the ship to destroy it from the inside, is “Up yours!” (Remember this film came out right in the middle of the 90s.) The second, with a glorious grin on his face is: “Hello boys, I’m baaaaaaaaack.”

Jeff Goldblum

Oh yeah, and Jeff Goldblum stars in this movie right smack in the middle of transitioning from idiosyncratic and mysterious actor Jeff Goldblum to walking self-aware personality “Jeff Goldblum.” It’s glorious. He gives the aliens a cold. Need we say more?