film

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Gino Santos

Philippines native Gino M. Santos only attended New York Film Academy (NYFA) for one week, at the Digital Filmmaking workshop in Kyoto, Japan in the summer of 2010, but his short time at the Academy has left a lasting impression.

Since graduating the 1-Week workshop, Santos has returned to the Philippines and built a successful career as a professional filmmaker, working on numerous commercials and feature films. New York Film Academy spoke with Gino M. Santos soon after he attended an alumni reunion in Manila.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Gino M. Santos (GS): My name is Gino Santos and I’m a filmmaker here in the Philippines. I’ve been in the industry for almost eight years now, directing mainstream films and TV commercials. 

I first found out about NYFA through my college friends who were planning a trip to Kyoto to take the 2-Week workshop—we were all film majors in our sophomore year at that time. I told my folks about it and they asked me, “Aren’t you going?” I was surprised! So I packed my bags end embarked on a fun learning adventure with my friends in Kyoto, Japan.

NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking?

GS: As a kid I’ve always been a moviegoer, and when I was growing up I used to play with my dad’s video camera and cameraphones, while making my brothers act for me. I didn’t know I was already directing. When I was 15, my mom introduced me to a local basic film workshop which sparked my interest and soon made it my college course and my NYFA adventure.

NYFA: What has been the most challenging film you’ve worked on so far, and why?

GS: I did a movie for Star Cinema, the biggest film studio in the Philippines, called Love Me Tomorrow. It was about a DJ in his 30s who fell in love with a woman turning 50. It was a coming-of-age love story filled with club scenes and music festivals. I had to recreate and make my own outdoor music festival, including hundreds of background talents. It wad pretty epic! Until now, I look back at it and wonder how I was able to get everyone grooving in the shot. We shot that scene for three days.

Gino M. Santos

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

GS: I’m doing an international project with Black Sheep and ABS-CBN this January. I cannot disclose the details yet, but it will be a period piece focused on the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on filmmaking, or your work in general?

GS: When I went to NYFA, it was a different kind of learning for me, which was the standard Hollywood knowledge elevating my prior knowledge from here. I got used to the particular film terms from foreign production houses and agencies. Also the learning process of working with your peers and friends. 

Until today, I still work on projects with the same people I went to NYFA with.

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

GS: Maybe more to the parents who are scared of sending their kids to another country for a workshop, I say just do it! My time at NYFA was one of the most memorable moments of my life—I got to meet people who are just like me, and passionate about film from all parts of the world. We all learned together and experienced new things in the classroom and in a foreign country. It was worth every penny.

New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Gino M. Santos for taking the time to speak with us and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!

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, Gina Carano, 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.

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking Alum Ilya Rozhkov, Director of the Groundbreaking VR Film ‘Agent Emerson’

 Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

NYFA BFA Alum & Filmmaker Ilya Rozhkov

New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking alum Ilya Rozhkov moved to Los Angeles from Russia to follow his passion. He always knew he wanted to direct films, and he’s always been hungry to learn and expand his horizons, but it wasn’t until he experienced VR for the first time at a convention in Las Vegas that he realized the amazing potential virtual reality holds for the future of storytelling.

Rozhkov is putting that lesson to action, literally, with his new groundbreaking VR film, Agent Emerson. New York Film Academy spoke with Ilya Rozhkov about his film, the vast possibilities of virtual reality and VR filmmaking, and about how his studies at NYFA gave him the tools to evolve into a whole new kind of filmmaker:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy? 

Ilya Rozhkov (IR): I was born and raised in Moscow and all my life I wanted to direct films. In 2014 I was honored to be inducted into the Directors Guild of Russia as one of its youngest members. In 2013, after extensive research, I was excited to go and become a part of New York Film Academy in Los Angeles because of its intensive, practice-driven approach to studying film. LA has been my home since. 

While at NYFA I shot three short films (We Are Enemies, Dying to Live, and Sabre Dance, starring Greg Louganis as ‘Salvador Dalí’) which have been distributed worldwide, featured on NBC, and screened at over 50+ festivals winning numerous awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. 

I was also very fortunate to have met a lot of my collaborators at NYFA. I have been working with amazing alums—producers Radhika Womack and Jane Kapriss, and colorist Roy Sun—since my first short films. 

I have had the honor of being selected to participate in the coveted Oculus Launch Pad VR Bootcamp at Facebook headquarters and be a recurrent guest panelist at Digital Hollywood. 

In 2016, I set out to make on my first VR Film, Agent Emerson, and partnered with Academy Award-nominated veteran production studio CTB, along with The Rogue Initiative—a leading entertainment and technology studio driven by multi-award winning industry veterans.

Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

Lyndsy Fonseca & Ben Aycrigg filming ‘Agent Emerson’
Photo Credit: Billy Bennight

NYFA: Your background is in traditional filmmaking. Why have you decided to focus on virtual reality?

IR: VR is a creative challenge, a whole new way to experience cinematic storytelling. With my knowledge of film and passion for technology I was truly excited to take on this challenge. And this wonderful medium is just beginning to grow—the current state of VR content feels reminiscent of the early 1900s in the history of cinema: so many things yet to be discovered. 

The future is happening today and cinematic entertainment is evolving to be bigger than movies, both artistically and as a segment of the entertainment market. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about Agent Emerson? 

IR: Agent Emerson is an immersive 360 degree first-person POV VR film. It utilizes breakthrough technology—the Identity Capture Camera®—and other proprietary innovations to drop the viewer into a visceral, action-packed 3D cinematic experience unlike anything the medium has yet offered. It is a cinematic experience we are used to seeing in movie theaters, only this time YOU are the action hero.

We follow CIA Operative David Emerson, who awakens to find himself a subject of an experimental program with his body under complete remote control of the imperious General. With the aid of a rogue operative named Alexandra, David has to retake charge of his own actions and fight his way through the top security facility inside the most complex live-action VR film ever made. 

Directed by me, Ilya Rozhkov, and starring Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass, How I Met Your Mother) and Tony Denison (Major Crimes, The Closer), Agent Emerson was shot in Los Angeles and in Louisiana.

 


NYFA:
What inspired you to make Agent Emerson? 

IR: Virtual Reality itself is quite an inspiration. When I studied at NYFA I visited NAB Convention in Las Vegas to explore the latest technology of cinema, and this was where I experienced VR for the first time. My mind was blown with its storytelling potential. The moment I received my first Oculus VR kit, I stepped inside the virtual reality and took off the headset only after exploring all the content available. 

I kept thinking, what makes VR different as a storytelling medium? A theatre performance shot on a film camera does not become a movie. And in exact same way a movie shot on VR camera doesn’t automatically become VR cinema. So what type of storytelling is possible only and exclusively in VR?

Agent Emerson was one of my answers to that question. And finding tools to direct the audience within VR Film was a challenge I was excited to take on. 

NYFA: What are some difficulties of shooting in VR as opposed to traditional filmmaking that you didn’t anticipate? 

IR: It’s hard to anticipate every challenge when talking about a territory as uncharted and unexplored as VR from both creative and technological point of view. Before shooting the film on set with our amazing cast and crew, the majority of the film was shot and tested in a lab. We prepared and primed everything and were ready when unexpected challenges presented themselves. 

The biggest challenges were definitely in post-production. Every aspect of post was affected: CGI, editing, sound, color, and even music. A lot of the techniques and the toolkit used in traditional film were not enough. My team had to think bigger and beyond, creating new solutions which would allow us to make a better film.

To achieve the artistic goals of the film and the highest possible level of quality, many tools and workflows had to be created by us from scratch. It was like creating a painting and inventing a paintbrush at the same time. 

Not only does VR make the complexities of film more challenging, but also it introduces entirely new challenges, some of them from the world of game design. It’s an adventure which makes me thrilled to be a modern filmmaker. 

Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

NYFA BFA Alum & Filmmaker Ilya Rozhkov

NYFA: Did anything surprise you when putting together Agent Emerson? 

IR: From the many discoveries and surprises there is a clear “top three” list:

1. VR can be considerably more intimate than film, especially when it comes to acting.

2. Understanding game engines and software optimization plays a big part, even though it is a film, not a game.

3. There is a saying that sound is 50% of the film. When it comes to VR and making a convincing Virtual World, sound might be even more than that. 

NYFA: What do you see for the future of VR in entertainment? 

IR: The potential of VR in entertainment is enormous and the medium will evolve in many ways we can’t even dream of today. It is the fastest growing segment of the entertainment market. 

We’re dealing with something completely unprecedented—humans as a species have been telling stories on a flat surface since cave paintings. But VR allows us for the first time to tell stories through worlds which are seemingly real. AND this is mass-accessible. 

Think about it—looking at a flat surface with moving images is amazing , it’s a great art form, a fun entertainment, and it is here to stay. But it’s not a natural way to perceive information. In VR we perceive information the same way we do in real life: it’s set in space around us, it is three dimensional, and we can navigate through it. Considering this, I believe VR will become a normal way to consume new forms of entertainment content, both interactive and non-interactive. 

Moreover, I believe that VR and AR are going to affect not only entertainment but a great many things. We might be looking at the new age of computing here. 

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on? Are you looking to stick to VR-only content? 

IR: Under my Serein banner we have several VR titles in the works. My focus in storytelling is modern cinema which incorporates traditional mediums like film and TV, and cutting-edge technology like VR and beyond. 

I believe that to become a market leader one must bring impactful storytelling together with innovative technology. And that is the key to the future of cinematic entertainment. 

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Agent Emerson or your work in general? 

IR: Shooting on 16mm and 35mm film at NYFA was a phenomenal experience and, ironically, working with this wonderful and more-then-a-century old technology affected my work with a less-then-a-decade old generation of VR. 

Not only does working with film introduce one to a proper filming discipline, it also taught me that live playback is not a necessity. It gave me the ability to see the shot by seeing the blocking, the camera positioning, the lighting in the scene and knowing the lens specifics. That came in extremely handy when working with virtual reality where we had no technology for a live VR playback. 

Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

Ilya Rozhkov directs stuntman Ben Aycrigg for ‘Agent Emerson’
Photo Credit: Billy Bennight

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA? 

IR: BE CURIOUS. Enjoy learning, because learning doesn’t stop after graduation. Keep reading, follow the directors, producers, and content creators you admire. Always be expanding your knowledge on film industry, technology and beyond. You are as valuable to the industry as what you know and can accomplish. Grow your value all the time. 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPLORE. Film school is the safest possible environment for that and NYFA will be there for you to lean on and learn from. Exploring is the only way to prepare and be ready for everything when it comes to the constantly-evolving landscape of cinematic storytelling. 

NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on? 

IR: With all its challenging complexities and unprecedented potential, I find it mesmerizing that VR is just a certain number of still images creating an illusion of motion. 

New York Film Academy thanks BFA Filmmaking alum Ilya Rozhkov for taking the time to speak with us, and encourages everyone to check out Agent Emerson when it is released on Oculus Rift (Go and Quest), HTC Vive and Cosmos, and PSVR on November 22.

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 Must-See Films of Pedro Almodóvar

Whenever anyone talks about Spanish cinema, it’s impossible to ignore the achievements of Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most internationally successful Spanish filmmakers of all time. Born in 1949, Almodóvar has won countless awards for his work, including two Oscars, five BAFTAs, six European Film Awards, two Golden Globes, nine Goya Awards, and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the French Legion of Honour and the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Recently, he was awarded with an Honorary Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival.

Barely 18 years old, Almodóvar moved from his rural hometown to Madrid to pursue his passion for filmmaking, and worked several jobs to support his art. Interested in experimental film and theatre, Almodóvar became a key figure in La Movida Madrileña (the Madrilenian Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. 

Here is a look at some of the most important films of Almodóvar’s decades-spanning, award-winning, groundbreaking career as a director:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Pepi, Luci, Bom was Almodóvar’s first feature as a director, but it was 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that launched him into the cinematic pantheon. The dark dramedy starred Carmen Maura and was an early breakout role for Antonio Banderas, who has remained a collaborator with Almodóvar to this day. The film, about a woman who is abandoned by her married boyfriend, was nominated for the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won five Goya Awards.

 

All About My Mother (1999)

In the eleven years between Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and 1999’s All About My Mother, Almodóvar continued to make films that were critical and commercial hits, including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), High Heels (1991), and The Flower of My Secret (1993). All About My Mother is his best known film from the 1990s however, and opened the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, where Almodóvar won Best Director. The awards kept coming for the film, which explored themes of sisterhood and family, and earned Almodóvar his first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a Golden Globe, two BAFTAs, and six Goya Awards.

Talk to Her (2002)

Talk to Her received nearly universal critical acclaim when it was released, employing unconventional cinematic techniques for mainstream films like modern dance and silent filmmaking. The film tells the story of two men who bond while taking care of a comatose woman they both love. Almodóvar won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director, cementing his status as not just an internationally respected filmmaker but one of the best in the industry.

Bad Education (2004)

Starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, Bad Education was a drama about child sexual abuse and mixed identities, and employs unconventional storytelling structure in its screenplay. The film opened at the 57th Cannes Film Festival and, among other awards, won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release, in part for its deft portrayal of transsexuality.

 

 

Volver (2006)

Volver was a very personal film for Almodóvar, who used elements from his own childhood to craft a story about three generations of women as they deal with sexual abuse, grief, secrets, and death. The film was anchored by a powerful performance by Penélope Cruz, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the first Spanish actress to do so in that category. 

The Skin I Live In (2011)

The Skin I Live In was Almodóvar’s first foray into psychological horror, and is loosely based on a French novel by Thierry Jonquet. The film stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon haunted by tragedy who is obsessed with creating burn-proof skin, and ends up keeping a prisoner in his mansion to achieve this. The film reunited Banderas with Almodóvar for the first time since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and employs a variety of cinematographic and editing techniques inspired by genre filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and David Cronenberg. 

Pain and Glory (2019)

Almodóvar’s latest film was released earlier this year and debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or. Pain and Glory tells the story of a film director whose career has peaked, and again stars Antonio Banderas, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his work. The film was unsurprisingly a critical hit, and became the highest-grossing Spanish film of the year.

 

What’s your favorite Pedro Almodóvar film? Let us know in the comments or @ us on your favorite social media platform! 

7 Great Live Action “School” 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.

 

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.

 

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?