Netflix’s international juggernaut Money Heist is returning for one last season. The upcoming fifth season will be its last, and production will begin Monday in Denmark before filming in Spain and Portugal.
When we last saw them, The Professor’s (Álvaro Morte) team was declaring war on the authorities during their job at the Bank of Spain as he was discovered by Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri), the inspector who’s been chasing him.
A heist began to save Rio (Miguel Herrán), but it cost them beloved team member Nairobi (Alba Flores). The show will be entering uncharted territory when it returns, going beyond the heist to avenge her death.
“We are moving from a chess game – a mere intellectual strategy – to a war strategy: attack and contention,” series creator Alex Pina tells EW of the gang avenging their fallen comrade. This new goal raises the stakes while keeping the story fresh and maintaining the adrenaline that has always run through Money Heist. The war they’ve been pushed to start results in “the most epic part of all the parts we’ve shot,” according to Pina.
The Professor and his team’s world will have some new faces in it next season. Actors Miguel Ángel Silvestre (above), known for playing Sense8’s Lito, and Patrick Criado (below) are joining the ensemble cast. While Pina didn’t reveal full details about the new faces and how they’ll fit into the story, he did tease what they’ll bring to the final season. “We always try that our opponents be charismatic, intelligent, shiny,” he explains. “In this case, in pure war film genre, we also look for characters whose intelligence can measure up against The Professor’s.”
Pina also says audiences will get to know Denver’s childhood friend Manila (Belén Cuesta) much better over the final 10 episodes, and teases a standoff between Sierra and The Professor.
“Adrenaline is within Money Heist’s DNA. Every thirty seconds things take place and disrupt the characters, a turn of the screw to the action. The adrenaline mixed with feelings arising from absolutely complex, magnetic, unforeseeable characters will continue until the end of the heist to the Bank of Spain,” Pina says. “However, the gang will now be pushed into irreversible situations, into a wild war: it is the most epic part of all the parts we’ve shot.”
Watching The Professor’s intricate plan come to life has grabbed the attention of tens of millions of Netflix subscribers. Not only is Money Heist one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time, but it is also the most popular non-English series from the streamer; part 4 of the crime drama, which premiered in April 2020, was watched by 65 million accounts in the first four weeks of release — that’s a million more than Tiger King, which premiered a month earlier, and just two million less than Stranger Things 3, which debuted in summer 2019.
Pina points to the show’s constant movement between action and emotion, as well as its underlying messages, to its global appeal. From heists to standoffs, the series has always centered the gang and their stories. “It is action and feeling, it is black comedy and drama, romance and pathos,” he shares. As for the themes of the show, Pina says viewers relate to the political and socioeconomic stance of The Professor’s team. What makes the citizens on the show rally behind the gang has also worked in getting audiences on their side.
Money Heist Parts 1-4 are available to stream on Netflix.
Spike Lee has shown up with an insurgent filmic uproar to match the uproar in the world. Da 5 Bloods is a paintball gun loaded with real bullets: a blast of satire and emotional agony about race and the American empire, the evergreen wound of Vietnam, African-American sacrifices on the field of battle, and the fact that black deaths matter.
It’s an outrageous action painting of a film, splattering moods, genres, ideas and archive clips all over the screen – with many a Brechtian-vaudeville alienation. It feels sometimes like an old-style war movie such as The Dirty Dozen but maybe Godard’s Le Petit Soldat, with playful riffs on Hollywood Vietnam standards and even John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The movie tricks you into thinking that it’s going to be a gentle, bittersweet picture about middle-aged guys with giant guts and prostates sadly coming to terms with their past, and the importance of letting go … and then it detonates a shock of fear and greed, which itself is always verging on action-movie melodrama and farce. It’s all so inventively bizarre that you could treat it simply as a black comedy, but in the final 15 minutes there is an amazing crescendo of emotion.
The bloods of the title are Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr) and Eddie (Norm Lewis), four ageing Vietnam veterans who have returned to south-east Asia on what appears to be a luxury vacation trip down memory lane. All four are haunted by the memory of their squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman), who died in action before their eyes and whose memory they have romanticised.
Lee creates flashback combat sequences for the five men, but without Irishman-type youthification for the four survivors. They appear in the past the way they are now, as sweaty, out-of-condition and very scared old guys in the jungle, surreally led by the impossibly handsome young Boseman who has grown not old as those that are left grew old. He was and is their leader; Lee shows us that he now looks like their son. And this is especially powerful when they hear about Martin Luther King’s assassination from the communist Radio Hanoi announcer (Van Veronica Ngo), and Norman angrily tells his men to ignore her recommendation to mutiny because they owe their racist commanders nothing.
Yet the four guys’ reappearance in Vietnam now is even more complicated: they are convinced they can recover a secret cache of US gold bullion intended to pay South Vietnamese troops, which they found in a burnt-out plane and had to abandon. And Paul, a recent Trump convert in a Maga cap, finds nothing therapeutic in their journey into the past. He gets more and more disturbed.
Lee has taken the battle-scarred old movie trope of Vietnam and found something relevant and intersectionally complex: black people, because they largely didn’t have the contacts or resources to avoid the draft, or to finesse the avoidance of dangerous frontline duty, found themselves engaging the enemy and being a major though under-reported part of the Vietnam story. Paradoxically, it meant taking on oppressed people with whom they had no quarrel – that is, those people that Mohammed Ali famously said had never tainted him with the N-word – but also feeling ambiguous and conflicted about warfare, patriotism and America itself. They had fought, sacrificed and felt proud.
All of these ideas and feelings swirl around in Da 5 Bloods, knockabout rhetoric mixed in with grandstanding sentimentality and action, right up to the old-school “curtain-call” credits, like something from The Great Escape. There are some uproarious war-movie-type flourishes, including a graphic shot of what happens to a snake when you shoot at it hysterically with your M-16 assault rifle. Lee mixes up the tone and mood, and, with the knowing cinematic references and consciously contrived scenarios, it’s possible to feel detached or amused or bemused. But all that paves the way for the final 10 minutes, in which Lee brings in an outpouring of sadness and grief and determination that is almost overwhelming. For all its craziness, Da 5 Bloods finds an operatic anguish and yearning.
Daniel Craig has taken us to some brave new places during his time as James Bond. We’ve seen him destroy his ancestral home. We’ve watched the death of one of his quasi-parental figures. We’ve seen him get his knackers smashed up with some rope. However, if reports are to be believed, then No Time to Die is going to push 007 into his most terrifying predicament yet: parenthood.
Thanks to some call sheets that have inexplicably been put up for sale on eBay, we know that one scene shot in Italy last year features a five-year-old girl named Mathilde. The film is set five years after Spectre, and opens with Bond in retirement with Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann. Put that all together and the facts become plain – James Bond will have a five-year-old daughter in No Time to Die.
And now suddenly everything makes sense. Of course, James Bond doesn’t have any time to die. He has a five-year-old. He hasn’t got time for anything any more. I am also the father of a five-year-old, so I can confidently state that the film could have just as easily been called No Time to Sleep or No Time to Shower or No Time to Eat Breakfast Sitting Down or No Time to Watch Anything Good on TV Because Every Waking Moment is Now Soundtracked by Godawful Fan-Made Sonic the Hedgehog Videos on YouTube.
Everything is so clear now. Of course, James Bond wears a sweater on the poster. He’s not going to risk wearing a nice suit any more, not now he knows that it’ll end up covered in little tiny Nutella handprints the instant he puts it on. Seriously, it’s a wonder that he even found the time to coordinate his jumper so nicely. I guarantee that somewhere there is a poster draft where 007 stands around barefoot in some baggy dungarees, offset with an old band T-shirt he bought at a concert back when concerts were a fun thing he could attend and not a nightmarish palaver of screamingly expensive logistics that have to be arranged a full month in advance.
So far, in the entire history of 007, we have only ever seen a very small number of scenes set in his home. In Spectre we saw a bare apartment, with piles of books and pictures yet to be hung. At the time it looked like the glum abode of a man whose entire identity was wrapped up in his work. Now, though, it looks like an absolute wonderland. Because now the floor is bound to be scattered with stray Lego bricks, and toys that were picked up for a millisecond and then discarded, and juice stains, and Nutella smears, and cups of tea that were made in the insane hope that they might actually be drunk before they go cold, and half-finished drawings of Sonic the Hedgehog.
And, perhaps most importantly, it goes without saying that James Bond is a crap spy now. He was never particularly good, given his alcoholism and capacity for sexual violence, but now he’s awful. He can’t drive any tricked-out cars any more, because every button he presses just somehow makes the Twirlywoos theme tune blare out of his speakers at full volume. He can’t travel to far-flung destinations any more, because Madeleine Swann also has a job and sometimes it’s just impossible to line up their schedules. He can’t womanise, because all his deepest fantasies now involve him checking into a hotel and immediately enjoying a full night of unbroken sleep. He doesn’t drink any more, because he knows that his daughter will wake him up at 5.30 regardless of the state of his hangover. And he can’t put himself in any sort of physical jeopardy, because he keeps imagining all the horrible ways that his premature death will affect the future of his child.
What I’m saying is this – No Time to Die is going to be a film about a very tired man filling in paperwork and then rushing back for bedtime. It’s going to be brilliant. Unrelated: I really can’t wait until the schools open again.
While staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic isn’t something we’d ordinarily want to do, a lot of us have found creative ways to curb the boredom by creating routines and finding joys in the little things that ordinarily brought us joy before now. So whether it’s trying out new recipes on that YouTube channel or baking banana bread, all of these are valid reasons to stay busy until we’re expected to go out.
For us, one of the things that have kept us sane over time is streaming giant – Netflix. Over the past couple of months, we’ve spent time watching shows and catching up on exciting films on the platform. Before the coronavirus, Netflix had made a move to launch officially in Nigeria. According to most pundits, this move is expected to translate to the onboarding of more Nigerian content on the platform. All of this is strategic, seeing as Netflix recently rolled out two African original series – Queen Sono and Blood and Water, both set in South Africa.
Since 2015 when Kunle Afolayan’s October 1st was onboarded to Netflix, more and more Nigerian films have made their way to the platform after cinema runs, and this has become more frequent in recent months.
So we binge-watched all of the Nollywood films on Netflix and ranked the top ten:
10. The Figurine (2009)
In Kunle Afolayan’s film, two friends find a mystical sculpture that bestows good luck for seven years but has dark consequences in the years that follow. This film is refreshing and offers a breath-taking feel of a very traditional story from a more modern lens. It features the likes of Ramsey Noauh, Omoni Oboli and Funlola Aofiyebi.
9. October 1st (2014)
Again, Kunle Afolayan’s October 1st has been called many things, including a “masterstroke for Nollywood” by Pulse Nigeria and indeed, there’s an element of truth in it. The film, set in 1960, tells the story of a Nigerian police detective dispatched to investigate the murders of women in a small community. It stars veteran actor Sadiq Daba alongside Kehinde Bankole and a host of other stars.
8. Lionheart (2018)
Lionheart crossed off a few firsts in the Nollywood industry – it was the first original Nigerian film by Netflix, the first film to ever be submitted for an Academy Award and the first time that the ‘Julia Roberts of Nollywood’, Genevieve Nnaji, was behind the scenes as a director. Like Genevieve, Adaeze, the film’s lead, is looking to prove her worth and steps up to the task when met with not-so-pleasant scenarios.
7. The Wedding Party (2016)
It is not a reach to say that the Wedding Party ushered a new audience of Nigerian cinemagoers. Till today, the film holds the record for the highest-grossing film of all-time. Directed by Kemi Adetiba, this film gives you a look into everything that is the typical Nigerian wedding, offering you humour and colourful scenes to go.
6. Phone Swap (2012)
Kunle Afolayan’s 2012 film that was originally meant to be an advertising concept is definitely on this list. This film tells the tale of two people from different walks of life who accidentally switch phones and tread in each other’s shoes. Phone Swap is fresh and exciting.
5. King of Boys (2018)
Eniola Salami, a businesswoman and philanthropist with a checkered past is drawn into a power struggle that threatens everything she holds dear. She has to fight and prove herself to be the king of boys in a Kemi Adetiba classic that lasts for about three hours. King of Boys features Sola Sobowale and Adesua-Etomi Wellington, reuniting off their Wedding Party chemistry, as well as stars like Toni Tones, Jide Kosoko and Reminisce.
4. 93 Days (2016)
When the deadliest infectious disease, Ebola, known to man arrives in Lagos, 21 million people are put on the edge. 93 Days chronicles the events surrounding the importation and defeat of the virus, and, in a way, pays tribute to Dr Stella Adadevoh. The film was directed by Steve Gukas and features Bimbo Akintola, Somkele Iyamah and Bimbo Manuel.
3. Isoken (2017)
Isoken | Image: screenshot
Jadesola Osiberu’s debut is a typical story of most Nigerian women – has a good life but her family is worried because she is unmarried. For this project, Jadesola enlists some of the finest actors to bring her concept to life. There is Dakore Egbuson, Joseph Benjamin, Funke Akindele and Damilola Adegbite all making this film a favourite any day.
2. Kasala (2018)
In Kasala, four young men try to find a solution to a problem within 5 hours by exploring every avenue known to them. The best thing about this film is the progression of the storytelling and dare I say, it should be what a host of Nigerian films aim to be.
1. Living In Bondage: Breaking Free (2019)
After about twenty-five years, Living In Bondage: Breaking Free is the perfect sequel to the 90s blockbuster of the same name. It is bigger, and even more flamboyant and Ramsey Nouah’s first time directing.
Other Worthy Mentions Mokalik The Delivery Boy Moms At War Fifty The Set-Up The Arbitration
NdaniTV has released the official trailer for the second season of Phases, an original series that follows the life of Sunkanmi, a young man trying to find the balance between love and friendship while starting out as a tech entrepreneur.
The new episodes will premiere with new casts, including Shalewa Ashafa as ‘Wande’, and Joshua Richard as ‘Preye’. Casts from the last season will be returning in the new season, including, featuring: Tosin Ibitoye as Sunkanmi, Tomike Alayande as Tunde, Tobi Bakre as Jeje, Adebukola Oladipupo as Ini, Asa’ah Samuel as Gbugbemi, Elma Mbadiwe as Naomi.
The second season of Phases was written by Lani Aisida, with Michael Akinrogunde as director. The season will also feature some of the best music from underground artistes across Nigeria.
Phases is an original NdaniTV production and is powered by GTBank.
I first met Irrfan Khan 21 years ago in a cheap beach hotel in Mumbai. I was 28 and casting my debut film, The Warrior, about a conflicted enforcer in feudal India. None of the actors I’d seen were right. I’d tell them I wanted to make a western, a mix of Robert Bresson and Sergio Leone, and their eyes would glaze.
They weren’t interested in doing a movie without songs or romance or much dialogue, filmed far away in Rajasthan and the Himalayas. A film which wasn’t typically British and was shot in Hindi, but wasn’t totally Indian, either.
Irrfan walked in the room and in that moment I knew he was right. He had this incredible presence and beautiful face and unusual puffy eyes. He loved world cinema, got the tone and references and liked the challenge of telling a story without words.
Afterwards I said to my friend Amit, with whom I was casting: “He looks like someone who’s killed a lot of people, but feels really bad about it.” The only problem was that he seemed such a wonderful, warm guy we had to toughen him up a bit. That was part of the fun. He was 34 then and got better-looking and more in shape as he aged.Advertisement
We went to the desert and the mountains for the shoot and he saw snow for the first time. It was very low-budget and pre-digital, so there was no playback or wriggle-room. You just watched him do a take, then went: “That was amazing! OK … moving on!”
Before that, Irrfan had been thinking about quitting acting because he was getting bored. He hadn’t been offered a role that allowed him to demonstrate his great gift, which was to say so much with just a glance. He elevated simple lines to brilliant cinematic moments, could make you feel something very complex and emotional by doing very little. He was a real movie star.
Over the years, The Warrior cast and crew stayed in touch and had reunions, which is quite unusual in this business. There was a real connection, and Irrfan – soulful, tall, elegant, slightly otherworldly – was our spiritual leader.
Even before he was famous, he had immense dignity and charisma. Some actors can be quite ordinary when they’re not done up. He didn’t have to be in costume. Even when people didn’t know who he was – in a shop, or walking down the street – they would stop and stare. Once we were on a flight together, in economy, and every five minutes stewardesses came up to ask if he needed anything.
The Warrior won Baftas and the Sutherland award for best first film at the London film festival; the next day we went to my mum’s house in Hackney for lunch. Miramax bought the US rights but Harvey Weinstein put the film on a shelf for years which killed it. And it was disqualified from the foreign-language category of the Oscars – that upset Irrfan, too; he wasn’t without ambition.
But we both got noticed and he went on to make movies with Danny Boyle, Michael Winterbottom, Wes Anderson and Ang Lee. I worked with David Fincher recently and asked him how he’d come across me. He said: “Oh, my best friend came over with a DVD and told me I had to watch it.” That turned out to be Brad Pitt, and the DVD was Senna. I think Pitt had been told to watch it by Irrfan, when they worked together on A Mighty Heart.
No matter what the movie, I always felt Irrfan was the best and most believable thing in it, because he was so honest – everything he did had soul and truth. As his career took off, he remained the same. He’d always been outward-looking and international, which is why he could so seamlessly work across so many genres and countries.
Fame never changed him. We’d try to meet up whenever I was in India or he in London. We’d talk movies and go to the British Museum and Primrose Hill and our kids would play football together. When he was having treatment here I’d visit him in hospital and we’d head to the local park or cafe, or he’d come to our home. He talked about his illness in a way I’ve never before heard anyone discuss cancer. He was extremely inquisitive and wanted to understand exactly what was going on.
In 2018, I invited Irrfan and his eldest son to an early cut of my Diego Maradona documentary. “Why did you make this film?” he asked in the edit suite a few days later. “What does this film say about you?” His notes were really tough! He wanted me to make the film more personal; as much about me as about Maradona. They were good notes. Irrfan knew me well enough to say he didn’t like that cut – but he didn’t want to tell me in front of 50 people.
He returned to India and we’d message from time to time. Sometimes he’d reply and sometimes his wife, Sutapa. It’s difficult when a friend lives on the other side of the world. The other week I found some pictures from that first casting session in the dodgy hotel from 1999 and I sent them to him. Sutapa wrote back saying: “Oh, he’s wearing his lucky black shirt.”
In the spring Irrfan sent me a photo of his new calf. He was always telling me to come and visit his farm outside Mumbai; I never got there. You always think there’s time and then you run out of it. He and I were so in sync for a while, partly I think because the film we made was slightly out of step with the rest of the world. It didn’t neatly fit in, and neither did we.
It’s like losing a brother. He used to ring me up at 2am and I’d be worried something bad had happened. “Oh no,” he’d say, “I just missed you and wanted to chat.”
Sadly, this has nothing to do with dentistry. Extraction is a made-for-Netflix action thriller from veterans of the Marvel Comic Universe – screenwriter Joe Russo, stunt-specialist-turned-director Sam Hargrave and star Chris Hemsworth. It’s based on the graphic novel Ciudad (which Russo co-authored), transferring the action from the Paraguayan city of Ciudad Del Este to Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Extraction is a little bit hokey and absurd, and the very end has an exasperating cop-out – but it has to be admitted that, in terms of pure action octane, Russo and Hargrave bring the noise, and there are quite a few long-distance “sniper” scenes in which people get taken out from miles away as the bullet travels through their skulls with a resonant thoonk.
Hemsworth is the improbably named Tyler Rake, a super-tough mercenary soldier and legendary warrior, secretly sad and lonely. When the school-age son of Mumbai crime lord Ovi Mahajan (Pankaj Tripathi) is kidnapped by rival Bangladeshi mobster Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), Tyler is hired for a staggering sum of money to go in to Dhaka – all guns blazing and combat knives stabbing – to get the kid back. Extract him, in fact. But when he does, Tyler realises that he is being double-crossed all over the shop and he finds that the only human being he quite likes is Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the terrified boy now under his protection.
So the odd quasi-father-son couple go on the run in the teeming, chaotic streets, and there is some impressive stunt work and fantastically steroidal action sequences. Golshifteh Farahani plays Tyler’s handler Nik, whose job it is to make earpiece contact with him, in the now accepted Mission: Impossible style, although there isn’t much here for her to do. A few earsplitting bangs for your buck, anyway.
Netflix has increased its investment in Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood. The dominant streaming company announced its presence via its newly created Twitter handle, NetflixNaija, while also detailing plans to commission original content by partnering with local creatives and investing in the space. The streamer has ordered an as-yet-untitled six-part series that will be directed by local directors Akin Omotoso, Daniel Oriahi and CJ Obasi.
This is a welcome development for the industry. Apart from the visibility and increased viewership, Netflix also gives Nigerian filmmakers a strategy to combat the adverse impact of piracy in Nigeria. It’s not the first attempt at this. An indigenous streaming platform, IrokoTV, established in 2011, has been using streaming to distribute Nollywood content while staying out of the reach of pirates.
Nollywood is the second largest employer after agriculture in Nigeria. In 2014, Nollywood was worth $5.1 billion and made up 5% of Nigeria’s GDP. Although the first Nigerian films were made in the 1960s it wasn’t until the 1990s and 2000s that the industry blossomed as filmmakers took advantage of digital technology and internet distribution. Nollywood filmmakers have largely run an independent model for over three decades, producing about 50 movies a week.
Lax copyright laws and enforcement allow piracy to continue, though. For years, pirates have stolen Nigerian filmmakers’ profits at the end of the distribution chain by replicating and distributing films within days of VCD/DVD release. These losses lock up the industry’s full potential, as filmmakers experience difficulty in attracting funding for ambitious projects.
Creative freedom? Not yet
Netflix investment is great, but maximising the new resources depends on certain legal fundamentals. Are Nollywood filmmakers and stakeholders conversant with the ownership rights regime in the evolving digital copyright era? Will Nollywood get value for its rich creative resources when negotiating across licensing and other transactional platforms? How well would the Nigerian intellectual property laws – particularly its copyright laws – protect Nollywood creators in dealings with Netflix and other sophisticated partners?
Nollywood is disadvantaged at present, but there is hope.
Licensing is defined as the process of obtaining permission from the owner of a TV show or movie for various purposes, and online streaming is no different. A licensing agreement is established under the terms of a legally binding contract between the content owners and Netflix, and each agreement varies. Some licences will last into perpetuity, while others are limited for a time. This is why Netflix is constantly updating consumers on what will be available, and also what will soon disappear.
Netflix licenses out content that does not belong to it from the entity that owns that content. This vastly oversimplifies the process, but Netflix gets written permission from rights holders to show their movies. That permission comes in the form of a licence (a contract) that allows the use of copyrighted creations, contingent upon various limitations and fees.
For original content, the company gets into specialised agreements with production houses. These agreements are made within the copyright regimes of the United States. Sound knowledge of these licence contracts and how they are structured is crucial for Nollywood’s growth.
Nigeria lags behind on copyright
Nigeria’s copyright law was first governed by the English Copyright Act 1911, which was made applicable to Nigeria by the colonial powers of Great Britain. Nigeria applied the 1911 Act until it was replaced with the Copyright Act of 1970. This act was considered inadequate because it failed to combat and punish the increasing rate of piracy and other copyright infringements. Hence the birth of the 1988 Act, later amended and recodified.
In 2012, the Nigerian Copyright Commission led the drafting of a new copyright bill, published in 2015. But the country’s National Assembly hasn’t passed it into law.
From the late 1990s, the global intellectual property regime encountered disruptive changes because of the influence of digital technology. The World Intellectual Property Organisation led the charge to change intellectual property laws to respond to digital creations and protect creativity. The outcome is the current global digitalised intellectual property regimes.
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Nigeria, with its archaic copyright regime, still lags behind. The country’s copyright laws and others which may complement copyright – including torts, contract and e-commerce laws – have not been updated since 1999. How can Nigerian creatives thrive globally if the minimum threshold for protecting their content isn’t modernised?
Nollywood’s creative handicap
Being the most successful video streaming platform, Netflix possesses the resources to protect its legal and business interest. Some commentators believe that it might become a monopoly in the streaming industry. This scenario will adversely affect Nollywood by limiting the bargaining space for alternatives. Local player IrokoTV needs to devise new strategies to compete.
In my earlier research between 2016 and 2018, I had discussions and interviews with some Nollywood stakeholders who raised their concerns about the inadequacy of digital copyright regimes in Nigeria to protect their creative interest.
If these concerns aren’t properly addressed, Nollywood creators may be operating in an unequal legal and economic environment which favours the video-on-demand partners. Nigeria’s copyright laws are outdated and in need of reform to adapt to current digitalised intellectual property regimes and productive methods.
How Nigeria can fix it
For Nollywood to fully compete at the global level, it should adopt a smart, proactive approach. Nigerian creators and policymakers need collaboration to achieve progress. Most importantly, it is time for the proposed amended Nigerian Copyright Act to become law. The amended law will help protect Nollywood in the digital market place.
Nigerian copyright management organisations and performer rights organisations have to educate themselves and plan programmes to enforce the rights of their members. With digital platforms, the formation of contracts entails different legal regimes. Nigerian creatives need a reformed and recognised idea submission agency based on a deliberate policy and legal framework.
Nollywood should also focus on the economics of creativity. The industry needs metrics to track and measure skills and output of performances. A collaborative partnership with experts in economics, analytics, statistics and adjacent fields will help. Nigerian universities should revamp their curricula to train existing and emerging lawyers to master the intricacies of digital licensing so they can advise Nollywood’s creative industry.
This barely feature-length spin-off from the TV cartoon takes our gang to the racetrack and sends them skidding into tedium.
They sure do churn em out. Here’s another episode of Nickelodeon’s animated TV show about a team of rescue dogs, jazzed up and padded out into a 48-minute cinema package. As a parent of a toddler, I’m not immune to Paw Patrol pester power. But I find the cinema outings soulless and depressing: three-year-olds disappearing into gawping trances, parents into the glow of their phones.
The new film feels like a cut-price knockoff of Pixar’s Cars, with a dull plot about a rally tournament where the star driver is a flashy but nice kid called the Whoosh (voiced by Joseph Motiki) and the Paw Patrol gang’s job is to crew the pitstop during the race. The villain is mega-sneaky racing driver Cheetah (Addison Holley), who introduces yet another irritatingly repetitive Paw Patrol catchphrase: “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em!” When the Whoosh crashes out after being nobbled by Cheetah, firefighter pup Marshall (Lukas Engel) must take his place behind the wheel.
Can Marshall dodge Cheetah’s dirty tricks and overcome his lack of confidence to take first place? All the usual believe-in-yourself, hard-work-wins messages apply, alongside some screechy tyre-burning action. But there’s zero here for adults: Paw Patrol is action with stabilisers, training little kids up for big kid bangs. It’s so aggressively targeted at pre-schoolers that in no sense can you call it a family movie. And parents who’ve forked out for a flashing Paw Patrol toothbrush may blow a piston at the running gag about the Whoosh being a walking product placement, constantly mugging for the camera in his own branded merch.
Paw Patrol: Ready, Race, Rescue! is released in the UK on 24 January.
The result is a startlingly vivid account of the civil war and a direct assault on British neocolonialism. I just wish Ellams had been less faithful to Chekhov. Structurally, the play stays close to the template. It is set in a village in Owerri, where three sisters think back longingly to Lagos. One of them, Lolo, is a hard-working teacher; the married middle sister, Nne Chukwu, has an affair with a military commander; the youngest, Udo, sees her dreams of happiness shattered.
All of this is true to Chekhov. But we also see the brutal consequences of civil war, including death and starvation, and at the end we witness Biafra’s doomed attempt to create a separate republic.
Ellams brilliantly uses the context to sharpen specific relationships. The hostility of the sisters to their brother’s wife, which in the original seems like snobbery, is explained by the fact that they belong to the dominant Igbo ethnic group, while she is a Yorùbá. The reason for the failure of Nne Chukwu’s marriage also becomes clear when you realise it was arranged when she was 12. Above all, the play offers a searing attack on British responsibility for the war dating to the time when they created Nigeria out of 250 ethnic groups and languages.
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While the play offers an eye-opening account of the civil war, Chekhov sometimes gets in the way. The point of the original is that, in the course of three years, nothing essentially changes. Here, however, we see a brave vision of Biafran independence being fatally shattered. Although Nne Chukwu attacks Udo for worrying about private problems during a period of public upheaval, her own affair with the commander also loses some of its dramatic significance as the country is being torn apart.
For all my cavils about Ellams grafting a new play on to an old model, Nadia Fall’s visually impressive production contains a host of fine performances. Sarah Niles makes Lolo a politically vigorous figure who vehemently attacks both British colonialism and Igbo tribalism. Natalie Simpson movingly conveys Nne Chukwu’s lifelong resentment at an enforced marriage and Racheal Ofori shows Udo’s transition from naive optimism to acceptance of tragic reality.
But there is strength in depth throughout the company. Ken Nwosu hints at the vanity behind the commander’s philosophising, Tobi Bamtefa disintegrates memorably as the sisters’ once high-flying brother and Jude Akuwudike is all growing disillusion as the brigade doctor. Ronke Adekoluejo also has the right brashness as the brother’s Yoruba bride, whose own clandestine affair actually ensures the family is fed, and Anni Domingo as an elderly retainer embodies the bolshy outspokenness of age.
The production and the performances are first-rate, and the house rose spontaneously at the end of a long evening. Yet I still wish Ellams had been even more ruthlessly radical in rewriting Chekhov.
Ivory poaching is a practice no one could possibly approve of: To further endanger the elephant species by killing individual animals is immoral. Some will tell you this isn’t just conventional wisdom; it’s a bedrock truth. Maddeningly, the ivory trade exists nevertheless.
So the documentarian Jon Kasbe gave himself a particularly daunting challenge when he set out to make “When Lambs Become Lions,” a picture about ivory poaching told largely from the perspective of those who do it.
In the economic wasteland of Kenya, an ivory dealer here called X plays the slick outlaw. “God has given me a sweet tongue and a sharp brain,” he says, adding, “I have no fear in my heart.” He’s easy to dislike, but he’s a desperate character who was born into the practice. He speaks of how he never kills elephants himself. That’s up to his comrade Lukas, who shoots the great beasts with poison arrows.
X has a cousin, Asan, who works as a ranger in a patrol assigned to stamp out poaching. His outfit hasn’t been paid in months. So he’s tempted to abet X and Lukas on an expedition. “The devil will burn you,” Asan’s young son yells at him.
Kasbe spent years among these people, and his movie is an intense 74-minute distillation of his dedication. It doesn’t go into the origins of the trade or how pressures from Western countries feed it. Rather, it’s a striking, human portrait of men in trouble, looking for escape and possibly redemption.
When Lambs Become Lions
Not rated. In Swahili, with subtitles, and English. Running time: 1 hour 14 minutes.
A fight broke out at a cinema screening this vital new film representing the black British experience. To ban it demonstrates exactly why people need to see it.
I saw Blue Story on Saturday night in south London. The cinema was packed – mostly with young black teenagers – and the atmosphere was lively. The film tells the tragically familiar story of two childhood friends who get caught up in gangs from rival postcodes at war on the streets of London. We were very invested in the movie; it spoke to everyone in the room. The shared anguish at the sense of impending tragedy whenever someone was asked that fateful question “Where you from?” was palpable, as was the abandon with which we laughed in its lighter moments.
Afterwards, my friend and I said how elated we were at this level of representation on the big screen. The characters’ school could have been the one I went to; the kids could have been my classmates; the male protagonists could be my younger brother and his friends. It was a powerful experience, feeling a film landing with an audience that clearly wanted to see it – to see these stories go mainstream.
Since its release last Friday, the film has been caught up in controversy after a mass brawl involving teenagers erupted in Birmingham, with footage showing the teenagers fighting inside a cinema foyer. In response, Vue and Showcase cinemas have withdrawn the film.
My first thought when I heard this was: “I’m tired.” The film never suggests that being in a gang is a good idea. In its tragic depiction of the loss of innocence and the trauma inflicted on communities, Blue Story is told with an energy and clarity that spring from the personal experience of the director, Andrew Onwubolu – AKA Rapman. Banning it is at best an overreaction and at worst a dismissal of one of its core messages: that good kids can lose their way and fall into a cycle of violence and retaliation.
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As police investigate the awful incident in Birmingham, I can only echo Rapman’s measured reaction in hoping that blame is ultimately placed with the individuals. At the time of writing, West Midlands police have not established any connection with the film, nor did they recommend a ban, details woefully glossed over in much of the media coverage. Four out of the five people so far arrested (now bailed) are too young to have got into a 15-rated film, and it remains unclear how and why the fight broke out and what they were there to watch.
It therefore makes little sense that Vue decided there was a causal link to Blue Story. It needs to seriously ask why it was quick to make one. More than anything, I’m also gutted for the creators. It is hard to overstate how important a moment this is for black British film-making.
The film’s release should have been a celebration. It is a shame that this incident not only cut opening box office figures, but is now dominating the narrative.
There has long been a dearth of homegrown representation on the big screen to help us make sense of our violent times. That this unfortunate incident coincided with Blue Story’s opening weekend demonstrates, in the most compelling way possible (albeit with distressing irony), precisely why people need to see it.
Fugard’s profound examination of a South African family ripped apart by a workplace accident is devastatingly brilliant.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Hello. Goodbye. These two small, unassuming words bookend Athol Fugard’s fleeting reunion of an estranged brother and sister. Like the play itself, these mundane utterances conceal a hidden well of emotion and meaning. What looks like a slight domestic drama digs, gradually, into dark and profound territory.
Hester has returned to her hated childhood home in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. When she departed 12 years ago, her younger brother Johnnie was left behind to care for their father – a stern, religious man who was robbed of his living and one of his legs in a workplace accident. Now, Hester is back to confront the past and claim her share of the compensation.
There’s something Beckettian about Hello and Goodbye’s existential despair and loneliness – particularly in the long, jagged monologues. John R Wilkinson’s gloomy production strengthens this association, situating Fugard’s drama in a blasted memoryscape.
In Laura Ann Price’s haunting design, the walls of the house are torn and the floor is littered with rubble. It’s as though the explosion that injured Hester and Johnnie’s domineering father has also ripped through the family home, leaving it – and the two siblings – irreparably damaged.
Under Sara Burns’ dim, subtly shifting lighting, Hester and Johnnie wrestle with the remnants of their shared past, which pile up on the stage around them. As Hester, Jo Mousley enters with disdainful poise, only to become more and more undone.
Meanwhile, Emilio Iannucci’s Johnnie quivers with uncertainty, forever on the precipice of mental breakdown. Their struggle is played out with intense, devastating brilliance. It’s not an easy watch, but it works its way under the skin.
There’s intermittent fun to be had in this throwaway relaunch of the female secret agent franchise but the party is cut short by incoherent action and a clunky script.
Back in 2000, the glossy relaunch of Charlie’s Angels felt like a genuine pop culture event. The central casting of Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, all at the height of their fame, was an impressively inspired get. The accompanying lead single from Destiny’s Child was not only a smash hit but a deserved one.
The gaudy aesthetic and post-Matrix bullet time action were laughable but also undeniably of the moment. It was the most 2000 film released in 2000, and at the time it was impossible to avoid – a slick, pre-packaged blockbuster received with as much enthusiasm as it was made. Almost 20 years, one sequel and one failed TV series later, the franchise is back, but all that buzz has been replaced with something else: deafening silence.
The sub-par marketing campaign and sub-sub-par lead track from Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey haven’t landed with much of an impact, while the new trio (one recognisable star and two question marks) don’t bring with them the same curiosity factor as their noughties foremothers. Tracking for an opening of less than $15m, compared with the 2000 iteration’s $40m without inflation, there seems to be a sense of apathy, or even worse, unawareness from audiences for the latest refresh, easily dismissed as an inevitable rather than necessary product. It might sound like faint praise to say Charlie’s Angels 2019 is slightly better than expected, but in another year of ill-conceived reboots, it’s a depressingly low bar.
What’s striking, and refreshing, about the latest version is that it’s written and directed by a woman, an attempted course correct for a franchise that’s typically been associated with a rather leery male gaze. It’s the first screenplay and second film as director for Elizabeth Banks, a predominantly comic actor who’s edged her way deeper into Hollywood by moving further behind the scenes.
It also boasts a story credit from the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright David Auburn, proof of which I would dare anyone to recognise, given how scrappy the narrative feels, thrashing around carelessly from country to country, set piece to set piece.
The plot brings together three new angels, two of whom are already embedded within the Townsend agency and one of whom is an unlikely recruit. There’s Sabina (Kristen Stewart), whose quippy nature irks the more serious-minded Jane (British newcomer Ella Balinska), and both are protecting whistleblower Elena (Aladdin’s Naomi Scott), who fears for the dangers attached to a new power source her company is developing. After a meeting goes sour, the three are on the run along with their Bosley (Banks), or in this universe one of many Bosleys (who also include Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and, er, Michael Strahan, because … sure) and they must work together to find a way to save the world … in style.
It’s an initial relief to find that Banks hasn’t decided to go the way of so many reboots and bring us a grounded, gritty take on featherlight material, and it’s her awareness of the inherent silliness of the franchise that proves to be one of the film’s saving graces. It’s never taken too seriously, and thus is hard to dislike, a disposable film aware of its own disposability. But there’s enough that proves to be entertaining to make one wish it was just that bit better. Key to the film’s formula is a balancing act between action and comedy, as in previous incarnations, and somehow Banks manages to fall short on both. The script is a polish or two away from really flying, with so many one-liners tanking, and the dynamic between the three women never truly sparks in the way one would hope. The action is similarly underwhelming and often incoherently edited, whether it’s a fight scene or a car chase, and when the laughs and stunts are paired, there’s a shortage of fizz, like a glass of champagne that’s been left out too long.
The actors are game, though, and while post-Twilight Stewart has often struggled to juggle bigger roles with her mostly exceptional work on the indie outskirts (she made for a dry, disengaged Snow White), she’s more comfortable here, having fun as the comedy support, trying her darnedest to add humour to a script that’s sorely lacking. Her character is allegedly queer, although all we get is a brief look to confirm it, another much-hyped yet rather damp attempt to provide multiplex visibility for the LGBT community. Newcomer Balinska and Scott are solid enough, bringing energy to less fleshed-out characters, while Stewart has some fun chewing scenery around them.
There are mixed attempts from Banks to try to modernise the gender politics. While a sharper awareness of how men underestimate the skills and physical competency of women is nicely heightened and the trio are made to be sexy without being turned into sex objects, there are other flourishes that don’t work as well. After the cold open, Banks inserts a clumsy, cheap-looking montage of random girls and young women before the film’s title, which feels more like a deodorant ad than the start of a mainstream movie, while the sisterhood and intense bond between the three angels feels baseless and lacking in texture. It makes the decision to almost entirely eradicate love interests in place of female friendship better conceptually than on screen.
It’s forgettable on reflection, but pacey in the moment, proving to be far less wretched a watch than so many other creatively bankrupt IP resurrections of late. It’s better than it could have been while also not being quite good enough to warrant any further instalments.
Charlie’s Angels is released in the US on 15 November and in the UK on 29 November
The digital de-ageing gimmick adds little sprightliness to Ang Lee’s humourless thriller about a government agent on the run.
Digital youthification and deepfakery is the new frontier in studio movies, taking regular live-action films into a deeper uncanny valley. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman features a young-looking Robert De Niro and now comes this very odd, dodgily acted, semi-intentionally bizarre action-thriller directed by Ang Lee and written by David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke. It stars Will Smith as Brogan, a special-forces assassin who discovers his corrupt government paymasters are harbouring a secret and subsequently finds there is a new and worryingly familiar-looking young assassin in town. It’s a youngster who has, to coin a phrase, started making trouble in the neighbourhood.
This eerily recognisable young dude with the jarhead hair and lovable jug ears has been sent to take Brogan out – it’s himself, aged 23, a digitally rejuvenated Will Smith. This cloned version of Brogan was secretly created by his creepy boss Varris (Clive Owen) as part of Varris’s ethically suspect “Gemini project”, a boys-from-Brazil-type plan to create biotech copies of the very best warriors.
Joining forces with tough agent Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and plucky pal Baron (Benedict Wong), Brogan hits back against this techno-Freudian nightmare, travelling to Georgia, Colombia and Hungary – because Baron has somehow been able to borrow a Gulfstream jet to fly them everywhere. But worrying about the plausibility of that jet is beside the point when you’ve got Young Will Smith™️ running around the place.
The digitally de-wrinkled Smith isn’t great news for the career of Jaden Smith (the real-world son of Will) because this pseudo-young Will Smith is pretty realistic, in fact sort of on a par with the real thing – and the older Smith meets the digital youngster half way by being a bit more wooden than usual. So we could be in for Will Smith action movies for the next thousand years.
The technical effect of the film is strange. As with his last film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ang Lee is shooting in high frame-rate, which creates a new pin-sharp clarity but at the expense of making the film look like video – or like a celluloid movie on a plasma TV when you haven’t de-activated motion smoothing. It’s not a taste I want to acquire.
Some of the fight scenes are great, and there’s a rousing confrontation between Smiths young and old, involving some nifty leaping from roof to roof that reminded me of Lee’s cracking early film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The juxtaposition of the real and digital faces gives the initial motorbike action scenes an interesting Grand Theft Auto effect. But the rest of the film is a very hard slog, with Smith in permanent danger of being upstaged by a handful of pixels, and Winstead and Wong sporting the slightly bemused-neutral expression of people having to react to a green screen – or perhaps that is the response Smith naturally elicits from his co-stars these days. And this solemn film never really cottons on to something that could have made it fly: the comic possibilities.
The digital novelty is striking for the first 10 minutes, silly for the next 10 minutes, and by the end of the movie you’re pining for the analogue values of script and direction. A wittier, smarter riff on everything could have saved this and Smith can play lighter material. Gemini Man has been born under an unfortunate sign.
Gemini Man is out in the UK and Australia on 10 October, and in the US on 11 October.
The Last Jedi director lets loose with a wickedly entertaining Agatha Christie homage featuring a star-packed cast.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Taking a brief well-earned break from the creative restrictions of the Star Wars universe, Rian Johnson has treated us to a wonderfully devious Agatha Christie homage, a freeing exercise that shows just how much he can achieve without Lucasfilm breathing down his neck. The Last Jedi director (and soon to be creator of an all-new Star Wars trilogy) is a self-confessed fan of the mystery author and has managed to concoct a contemporary whodunnit that both respects and revises the subgenre. In other words, with Knives Out, he’s killed it.
The setup is one we all know: the gothic house in the middle of the countryside, the rich family with a pile of bitter grudges and, most importantly, the dead patriarch with a fortune to leave behind. But Johnson knows that we know this all too well and knows we know he knows this too so knows he has to work that much harder to outfox us by knowing more than we think we might know. His film is a delicious challenge to well-trained armchair detectives and there’s a dizzying joy in watching him and his cast play with the rules, leaving us in the dark to figure out where it’s all going. It’s unexpected in ways that it would be cruel for me to spoil so I’ll keep things intentionally vague.
The body is that of Harlan Thrombrey (Christopher Plummer), a wildly successful mystery writer whose 85th birthday party proves to be his last. His throat has been slashed in what authorities are deeming a suicide because as a murder it would be an impossible crime. The evidence doesn’t support the idea of foul play but private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has been hired by an unknown figure to investigate this very possibility. He conducts a string of interviews with the dysfunctional Thrombrey clan to figure out who might have a motive but quickly discovers it would be easier to figure out who doesn’t.
As is standard with the Christie adaptations that inspired him, Knives Out is stacked with stars but rather than aiming for the biggest names, regardless of fit, Johnson has opted for recognisable yet incisive casting, each actor perfectly matched to their role. There’s Jamie Lee Curtis as the vaingloriously “self-made” daughter with a penchant for a vicious one-liner, Don Johnson as her doltish husband, Chris Evans as her spoilt son, Michael Shannon as her bookish brother and Toni Collette as her Instafamous sister-in-law. Johnson also finds room for Blade Runner 2049’s Ana de Armas as Harlan’s loyal nurse, It’s Jaeden Martell as a Trump-supporting grandson, 13 Reason Why’s Katherine Langford as a Trump-loathing granddaughter and Lakeith Stanfield as the cop working with Craig to figure all of this out. Everyone in the cast is having a ball and it’s especially fun to see actors such as Lee Curtis, Craig, Collette and Evans show off their comic prowess, given their mostly dramatic roles of late. There’s also striking work from rising star de Armas who isn’t allowed quite the same amount of fun as her flashier co-stars but leaves a lasting impression nonetheless.
Working from his own original script, Johnson has much fun pulling the strings as well as the rug from underneath us time and time again. There are reveals that tip the standard structure on its head in ways that prove wickedly disorienting and while there’s meta commentary, he avoids smugness. It’s not the empty, slavish homage it could have been as Johnson knows that simply regurgitating the rules with a wink wouldn’t be enough. There’s genuinely thrilling ingenuity here and while some of his attempts to give the film a contemporary, Trump’s America spin are a little too clunky, other similar touches work so well that you’re willing to forget them.
It’s such a rare pleasure to see a director so in love with a genre without slipping into Tarantinoesque fanboy indulgence, remembering his audience is bigger than himself and also that his film requires both head and heart. He’s next set to return to a galaxy far far away but after watching Knives Out, I wish he’d stay with us for a bit longer.
Knives Out is showing at the Toronto film festival and will be released in the US on 27 November and in the UK on 29 November
The most violent – and most frustrating – episode ever. Why are the creators destroying the world they once carefully depicted?
Spoiler alert: this recap is published after Game of Thrones airs on HBO in the US on Sunday night and on Foxtel in Australia on Monday. Do not read unless you have watched episode five of season eight, which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 2am and 9pm, and is repeated in Australia on Showcase on Monday at 7.30pm AEST.
‘They say every time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath’
I don’t think I have ever been more frustrated by an episode of Game of Thrones.
There was so much that could have worked here, so many emotional pay-offs and beautifully shot scenes – and it was all let down by how little work was put into earning those moments.
In part I’d argue that this is not entirely the fault of this series. Indeed, I have enjoyed many of the individual episodes while hoping that they would somehow coalesce into a coherent whole. Instead, the seeds of destruction were sown in series seven, a meandering mess in which too much time was spent circling various plot points. This in turn created a pacing issue that has ensured that now, with the end in sight, everything feels breathless and rushed.
That was certainly the case with The Bells, which was largely (though not entirely) a triumph of spectacle over depth. Dany embraced her dark side, took note of the Targaryen motto ‘Fire and blood’ and razed King’s Landing to the ground even as the bells for surrender rang out. As a series of images it was undeniably powerful, without ever ringing entirely true.
There are many things about Dany’s transformation into the Queen of Ashes that I can buy: that she’s lost and out of her depth in Westeros, that she’s grieving and desperate and alone without the counsel of those she trusted most, that the razing of one city could be seen as a small price to pay to end the tyranny she so abhors.
The problem is that the writing has given us none of this. Instead, a series of men (Tyrion, Varys, even Jon) have pontificated about whether or not Dany is as mad as her father while the Dragon Queen herself remains silent. It’s as though coming to Westeros has stripped Dany of both agency and character development, just at the time she (and we) needed it most.
Would it have killed the writers, David Benioff and DB Weiss, to give us one scene where the girl raised on the stories of her noble older brother and mad father, who saw in the shape of her younger brother Viserys how ambition could curdle and who has faced down slave owners and raised dragons from a funeral pyre, actually considered what her raw grief and desire for destruction might give birth to?Advertisement
I don’t object to the idea that Dany – who has always had something of a messianic streak – could be more tyrant than saviour. But if that is your endpoint you have to sell it more than one small scene in which the future destroyer of a city offers her loyal general the one thing the love of his life owned, only for him to throw it in the fire.
‘Look at me … do you want to be like me?’
Game of Thrones has always prided itself on the brutal reality of its war scenes and, whatever the issues with this episode – and increasingly it felt as though Benioff and Weiss were doing little more than gleefully destroying the world they once carefully depicted – there’s no denying it worked as a visceral display.
From the early incineration of Varys to the final haunting shot of a dust-covered and bleeding Arya riding out through the charred remnants of what was once the finest city in Westeros, this episode was steeped in blood, guts and gore and determined to remind us that all the ice zombies in the world are nothing next to man’s inhumanity to man.
Yet while that was a powerful point (I particularly loved that the Golden Company turned out to be an irrelevance) there were still problems. A long time ago, Jorah told Dany that the Unsullied were incapable of behaving like the brutal men she so despised. Yet Grey Worm broke the fragile truce between the city watch, murdering a man who had surrendered, and by the end Jon’s Northern army, the Dothraki and the Unsullied were all complicit in the murder and rape that accompanied the sacking of King’s Landing.
Again, it is possible that this is part of a wider point the show’s creators are trying to make – how there is no such thing as a noble cause, how war brutalises all and how a ‘liberating’ army might commit the very atrocities it claims to hate. The trouble is it doesn’t feel as though the recent writing has earned so devastating a moment.
‘Nothing else matters, only us’
Just when I was about to despair entirely, we were treated to a scene of true power as Jaime and Cersei reconciled even as the Red Keep fell around them.
Again, the writing that got them to this point hasn’t been without issue – the decision to have Jaime and Brienne sleep together last week smacks of the worst kind of fan service, in addition to suggesting that Benioff and Weiss have no concept of the notion that men and women might be friends – but the final scene between the Lannister twins was a small masterpiece, tightly scripted and beautifully acted.
And while I might not agree with the idea that Jaime would throw his hard-earned redemption away for a woman who ordered his death, his statement that “nothing else matters, only us” rang bitterly true as did Cersei’s desperate plea to her brother to save both her and their unborn child.
It also reiterated one of the major themes of this final series: the importance of families, those you make yourself and those you are born with.
Thus Jon’s greatest strength has come from the Stark pack, even if he is seemingly doomed to become the last Targaryen, while Tyrion’s greatest weakness is the love he still bears for his – a love that means he can never walk away no matter how much he should.
Meanwhile, Arya was saved by the father/daughter bond she forged with The Hound, a bond that meant not only could he offer her a way out but that, crucially, she would listen, while Dany was undone by the destruction of her own makeshift family, the deaths of Jorah and Missandei leaving her finally, fatally unmoored.
I never tire of watching Jon Snow’s patented ‘War is hell and why am I caught up in it?’ face of great astonishment.
• Those who have yearned for Cleganebowl got their wish. I’m not one of them, but I did like Sandor’s ‘just die’ line as well as his sardonic aside about “That’s you, that’s what you’ve always been.”
• Interesting choice to double down on the ‘incest equals true love’ subplot. Not only were Jaime and Cersei positioned as the show’s great romance but it was also suggested that if only Jon had overcome his Northern queasiness and ignored the whole ‘she’s my aunt’ thing then Dany wouldn’t have had to immolate an entire city. Women eh? One minute you’re denying them a kiss, the next they’re instigating the end of the world.
• Nice to have confirmation that some of the Dothraki survived their Charge of the Light Brigade moment.
• In case anyone doubted it, The Bells gave us the proof: even one dragon is too much of an advantage if you’re prepared to wield it without remorse.
• I hope the military tacticians were pleased that the whole ‘Scorpions can’t turn around’ issue was addressed. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that makes last week’s ambush anything more than another piece of plot manipulation.
• I would quite like it if next week’s episode simply consisted of the Iron Bank of Braavos turning up to collect their debt. There must be a killing to be made in fire insurance claims.
• If anything sums up the later seasons of Game of Thrones it’s the failure to develop Euron properly. Not even his gleefully delivered final line could redeem him.
• I loved Arya’s failure to save the little girl – it was a small moment but a clever one.
• Unless they pull something very special out of the bag next week, the failure to show the scene between Arya, Sansa, Jon and Bran when they discussed Jon’s true parentage feels a huge misstep.
• We said goodbye to many old friends this week, from Qyburn and Sandor to (almost certainly) Jaime and Cersei. However it’s Varys the Spider I’ll miss most of all. Sadly underused in these last seasons, Conleth Hill’s delivery meant that even his briefest scenes were a delight.
Arguably the most violent episode of Game of Thrones yet saw the execution of Varys, the burning of an entire city to the ground including the brutal deaths of several thousand innocent citizens, the destruction of the Iron Fleet, the Golden Company and what remained of Cersei’s army, Qyburn’s casual dispatch by the Mountain who subsequently plunged to his doom with Sandor, the gory death of Euron and the probable ends of Jaime and Cersei, reunited once more at the end of the world.
Random Brit of the week
You might think that the penultimate episode of a long-running series wouldn’t be the time to introduce new characters but hello to Laura Elphinstone aka Line of Duty’s corner-cutting DI Brandyce, who popped up to give a human face to the devastation around.
So what do you think? Did you buy Dany’s transformation from breaker of chains to mad queen? How many times can Jon refuse the Iron Throne before they crown him anyway? And with one episode left, how do you think it will end? As always, all speculation and no spoilers welcome below …
Using a fat person as a punchline is cheap and lazy. So why was everyone in the cinema audience laughing except me?
WARNING: contains spoilers!
At 30 years of age I really should be used seeing how fat bodies are depicted in the media. I should be used to fat bodies being the easy go-to for depicting sad, angry characters. I should be used to the introduction of a fat body to provide some comedic relief. But here I am, the morning after seeing Avengers: Endgame, and I am still shocked, angry and hurt. I am an avid Marvel nerd and while the movie itself was brilliant in many ways, I had seriously conflicted emotions about the physical appearance of Thor.
When we see Thor at the beginning of the film he is his svelte Asgardian god self on the outside but is clearly battling some pretty heavy stuff on the inside. This is a man who has been to war. He is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his brother, to comprehend his inability to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and is losing the battle to conquer his demons. Thor has seen war, death and destruction and as a result he has PTSD. I applaud Marvel for highlighting mental illness, particularly as it relates to veterans, but it could have been treated more sensitively.
My issue lies not with Thor’s alcohol consumption or his turning to food for comfort – both are common coping mechanisms; my issue lies with his physical appearance. I thought we were finally past the days of the fat suit. I had hoped that we were past the point in history where we are allowed to poke fun at fat people. I was wrong. Because here we are in Avengers: Endgame and Thor is 30kg heavier and it seems as though everyone in the audience is laughing except me.
While you might laugh, others are sitting around you feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut
I wouldn’t be upset if he had put on weight as a result of his trauma and this was taken more seriously. Fluctuations in weight are normal, particularly when you aren’t taking care of yourself. My problem with Thor’s appearance is that he was clearly a strategic joke placed by Marvel to provide some comedic relief from the overall seriousness of the film.
Thor’s first appearance as a fat person sees him walking into the room shirtless with an extreme focus on his belly and everyone laughs. Look! Thor is fat! Fat, but still jolly, because how could a fat person not be jolly? Sitting in that movie theatre, watching the fatphobic jokes roll through at the expense of a veteran with mental health issues and listening to the subsequent laughter broke my heart.
The jokes made at the expense of the fat person were lazy stereotypes and cheap laughs that really weren’t necessary and while you might sit there and think they’re funny punchlines, others are sitting around you feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut.
The one redeeming quality is that there is no workout montage that shows Thor getting his life back together. The audience goes on a journey with Thor as he battles his inner demons and comes through the other side and I greatly appreciate the fact that this does not include him losing his weight, shaving off his beard and cutting his hair. Thor sits in his misery, grows, works through the darkest depths of his mind and comes out the other end a changed man. He is not the Prince of Asgard that we were originally introduced to, which is only right. One cannot stare death in the face, lose everyone that you love and suddenly bounce back to being the sprightly Adonis that you once were. For this I am grateful.
While I have many issues with the way Thor’s struggles were depicted, he was struggling nonetheless and this needs to be acknowledged. Avengers: Endgame highlights the emotional toll and psychological effects of war, which can be seen in all of the characters not only the one in the fat suit. So while I fully support people going to see Avengers: Endgame, I feel it’s necessary to make a trigger warning: strong themes of fat shaming and PTSD as it relates to war. So make sure to check in with each other and remember to be kind to yourself.
Lacey-Jade Christie is a freelance writer and host of the Australian body positivity podcast The Fat Collective
The actor’s latest role is in The Little Stranger, a film that twitches with tension about class – which resonates with his own upbringing.
No one needs to teach Will Poulter anything about checking his privilege. The career choices of this 25-year-old show an actor drawn to films with a social conscience. In scarcely more than a decade, he has left behind CGI blockbusters (one Narnia and two Maze Runners) and broad comedy (We’re the Millers, in which he snogged Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts, and briefly sported a swollen prosthetic testicle). Instead, he has moved on to more serious, searching projects: the below-the-breadline chamber-piece Glassland, Kathryn Bigelow’s race riots drama Detroit and now The Little Stranger, a ghost story that twitches with class tension.
In person, too, Poulter is constantly checking, unpicking, interrogating and rechecking himself. Five times during the course of our two conversations – first in a Dublin hotel bar a few hours before the premiere of The Little Stranger, then the following day on the phone – he describes himself with an air of contrition as a “white, straight, middle-class male”, careful to the point of fastidiousness that nothing should be omitted or misunderstood.
So cards on the table: he was a pupil at the Harrodian School in west London (current fees: upwards of £6,000 per term), whose alumni also include Robert Pattinson, Jack Whitehall, Tom Sturridge and George Mackay. “What my privilege has meant is that I haven’t experienced the same levels of exclusion and inaccessibility that might come with being working class,” says Poulter, who is tall and trim, with a serious expression, narrowed eyes and a courteous, meet-the-parents air.
“I’ve certainly felt guilty about that. But guilt for those less privileged and those who experience the prejudice from which I’m protected isn’t enough. Acknowledgement is the first step in hopefully using your privilege to realise a more equitable society. I’m trying to find ways to deconstruct that hierarchy as opposed to just enjoying the privilege and acknowledging the guilt.”
Such as? “I’m keen to develop as an activist and involve myself in charities and organisations. And with my acting, it’s important that the projects I do have a sociopolitical impact. I try to be conscious about the message. As a white, straight, middle-class male, I’m aware of things I take for granted.”
I wonder how it felt to hear Daniel Mays observe, in 2016, that the industry was “awash” with privately educated actors, or to read the Sutton report’s findings that the same group takes a disproportionately high share of awards (42% of British Bafta winners and 67% of British Oscar winners). Is it like being under attack? “No, no. Not at all. I’ve undoubtedly benefited from my middle-class environment. I hold my hands up to that. And I know that unless we try to make pathways into the industry more open and accessible, then we can’t expect it to reflect society.”
This is all pertinent to The Little Stranger, in which a doctor (played by Domhnall Gleeson) in late-1940s Warwickshire is summoned to the country pile he has coveted since childhood. There he finds Roderick, played by Poulter, who suffered severe burns to his face and leg during the war and has grown old prematurely.
“He’s this boy whose youth has been cut short by his injuries so that he’s almost jumped forward in time to become an old man. He’s confined to the house, he’s hitting the bottle, living with all these regrets. There’s this emotional decay, which is a strange reflection of what’s happening to the house. He feels intrinsically tied to the state of the home and he is trying, like a lot of the landed gentry, to take pride in its status, just as he does in his own. But there are these parallels of degradation.”
Poulter’s distinctive facial features serve the part well. Though he is clearly young, there’s an agelessness to him, an ability to seem both juvenile and jaded. Partly it’s those windscreen-wiper eyebrows, which sit at a permanent 30-degree angle and are capable of lending devious or calculating inflections to his soft face. In Detroit, where he played the ringleader of a group of racist cops torturing and murdering African Americans with impunity, it was disturbing to see so much savagery emanating from someone barely out of the playpen. His was a performance in the tradition of cinema’s great baby-faced monsters: Richard Attenborough in Brighton Rock, David Bennent in The Tin Drum, Cagney in everything.
Small wonder he was first choice to play Pennywise the Clown in It before that project lost its original director, Cary Fukunaga. Or that in his mid-teens, he was the standout star of the Edinburgh fringe hit School of Comedy, later adapted into an E4 series, in which child performers delivered blatantly adult material dressed as grownups. It was a kind of Bugsy Malone of sketch shows. Poulter’s most memorable character was a cocky white van man hollering incomprehensible remarks at passing women.
By that point he had already made his film debut at the age of 13 – as a soft-centred hard-nut in Son of Rambow, the coming-of-age comedy about a pair of schoolboys who make their own camcorder version of First Blood. “That was mad, man,” he says. “I don’t know if I would be so in love with what I do if I hadn’t had such an amazing first experience.”
He was already passionate about acting, which provided an alternative to the sort of academic demands made difficult by his dyslexia and dyspraxia, as well as a reprieve from some unkindness among his peers. “I had experiences of bullying. I used drama as an antidote to some of the less enjoyable aspects of social life at school.”
Garth Jennings, the writer and director of Son of Rambow, remembers Poulter as a precocious talent. “I never did more than a couple of takes for anything,” he says. “It wasn’t just that Will got it – he also understood what the rhythm of the line was, and that it would be funnier if you paused first. His instincts were ridiculously good. I spent most of my days shaking my head in disbelief, just going, ‘Yep. That was it, sunshine. That was it.’”
Poulter’s career since then has not been without its taxing moments. Was it true, as rumour has it, that eight months playing a trapper on The Revenantnearly broke him? He gives a rueful laugh. “Um. I’m always hesitant to complain too much as an actor, but I’ll say it was physically and emotionally probably the hardest thing I’ll ever do. I just can’t imagine a tougher shoot. The conditions were so inhospitable. We were up the side of a mountain in temperatures I didn’t know existed. I find acting enough of a challenge at room temperature.”
Jennings met up with Poulter when the actor was on a break from that movie. “Will was staying in the accent so he didn’t lose it when he went back. He was really locked in. Watching him in the film, you think, ‘Oh yeah, there you go – DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will.’ He just fits right in.”
Lenny Abrahamson, the director of The Little Stranger, thinks Poulter has even bigger things ahead. “He’s viewed in the industry as this incredibly exciting talent,” he says. “You look at him and think, ‘Is there a Bond in Will at some point? Maybe in 10 years?’ I could see that. I could imagine him being a very dark Bond indeed.”
• The Little Stranger is out now.
Cover photo: Privileged background … Will Poulter. Photograph: Michael Buckner/Deadline/Rex/Shutterstock
A black Bond? It’s an apparently unproblematic and straightforward question, right? Well, not quite. When suggested quite quizzically by a colleague, it sparked a series of reactionary positions in the staff room, especially from the 007 traditionalists.
In fact, whispers that the very suave – and yet indisputably black – actor Idris Elba could potentially play Bond have ignited social commentaries about race, filmic representation and literary integrity around the world.
The issue was shaken and stirred (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) by a recent report in the Daily Star, in which director Antoine Fuqua recalled a discussion with Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who allegedly said “it is time” for a black actor to star as 007 and that she is confident “it will happen eventually”.
Interestingly, this little nugget sat at the top of a story about Fuqua launching his latest business venture – an app that allows people to listen to movies online with surround sound. But reporters know how to sell stories to their editors and so the headline, main picture and the first half dozen paragraphs were devoted to Elba’s Bond prospects.
Despite the fact that Fuqua’s management subsequently insisted that the conversation was “made-up stuff”, the question of Elba as the new Bond dominated the comments below the story, which included one reader asking: “What would be the outcry if Martin Luther King was played by a white bloke?” What indeed?
Elba’s no mug. He knows how to fan the flames of speculation. And I’m unashamedly going to fall into his trap. So is it time for a black James Bond? What the heck – why not?
Tall, dark and handsome
Is it beyond fictionalisation – or the limitations of our individual and cultural imagination – to comprehend a reality in which there’s a devilishly handsome and sophisticated black Englishman with an MI6-approved licence to kill. It gives new – or should I say restores (in my humble opinion) the original – meaning to “tall, dark and handsome”, right? Everything that Bond is supposed to be.
Wouldn’t it be more surprising, and perhaps unsettling, if such an imagining, even in fiction, couldn’t withstand the assumed fragility of our liberal mindedness? Especially when we are supposed to live in a post-racial society where – ironically – inequalities, discrimination and oppression are nonexistent. If they are nonexistent in the material world, it seems they are alive and well in the figments of our imagination.
Cast your mind back to the media’s preoccupation with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s “racially progressive” interracial union, or France’s international posturing as a bastion of ethno-racial equality, with its “colourblind” government prohibition on referencing the race and ethnicity of its citizens. Is that enough to convince you that we live in a multicoloured land of bliss where all is possible?
Rallying against this romanticism are traditionalists – or Bond literalists – who, in all their intransigent preoccupation with conserving the historically white purity and scriptural heritage of the Bond franchise, are irked at a blackened prospect. They offer a plethora of counter arguments, not least that in 1953 Casino Royale, the first in Ian Fleming’s 12-book Bond series, the secret agent is described as a white Englishman of part Scottish and Swiss heritage who was educated at Fettes College.
To which I submit: we aren’t in the 1950s. The films are no longer time-warped in black-and-white – they have changed and adapted to reflect the cultural zeitgeist of cinematic and contemporary public consciousness.
It’s interesting to note that these purists are not all white – disproportionally so, yes – but not all. Some non-white Bond enthusiastshave also put in their own two cents’ worth, asking producers to “stick to the script” and insisting that being white is integral to Bond’s character. But can we racialise character?
Others, meanwhile, have called for their own black, Walther PPK-wielding agent, in the manner of 007, to not only tell their own new or complimentary stories but also avoid falling prey to potential accusations of tokenism in film.
Meanwhile, JK Rowling decried critics of the casting of black actress Noma Dumezweni as the fictional Harry Potter character Hermione Granger, as “a bunch of racists” and that “white skin was never specified”, challenging normative assumptions that fictional characters are white, by default.
Supporters of Bond’s racial metamorphosis urge for better ethnic minority filmic representation in the spy genre and stress that fiction is not exempt from transformation even in the context of race. It’s a sentiment I share.
I realise that my openmindedness unlatches a Pandora’s Box of “Whatabout-me-isms”. What about a polyamorous, gender-nonconforming, effeminate, anti-misogynist Gujarati Indian as Othello? Or, can I, as a Liverpudlian-accented, shaven-headed, transgendered lesbian, play Sherlock Holmes? Then again, what about a white Shaft? But wait wouldn’t that be “Whitesploitation”? Let’s not go there.
Would Elba make a fine Bond? Absolutely. Having seen 007 in all his white iterations, I’m all for a representational shift towards a salt-and-peppered Afro-textured, mahoganied urbanite. Too far fetched? Surely not.
Cover photo: Said to playing a mentor to Arthur, someone not unlike Merlin the magician. Photo: moviehole.net
A publishing saga, captured in Potter ephemera — letters, sketches, mementos and more — that has been transfigured into treasure.
Before there was a movie franchise, and a collection of theme parks, and a Broadway play (two actually); before you could spot wand-wielding children sporting long black robes and know just what they were up to; there was Joanne Rowling’s manuscript, famously rumored to have been partly written on disposable napkins, about an orphaned boy who did not know he was a wizard.
It was rejected by several British publishers, and then accepted by one, Bloomsbury, which published it as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” with Rowling’s name defeminized into “J.K.” A year later — on Sept. 1, 1998 — it arrived in American bookstores as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” with a new cover designed by Mary GrandPré. There was another publisher, Scholastic, tasked with introducing the book and the wizarding world to American children, and soon enough, across the country there were young readers, and more than a few older ones, clamoring for more.
A patch commemorating the Potter books’ 20th anniversary. Photo: The New York Times
A Tiffany & Company souvenir.CreditThe New York Times
The first Potter tattoo. Photo: The New York Times
The first Potter sticker. Photo: The New York Times
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With the news of Danny Boyle’s departure as director of the next 007 instalment, we rank the big-screen outings of Britain’s finest, from 1962’s Dr No to 2015’s Spectre.
26. Casino Royale (1967)
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Even a cameo from Orson Welles couldn’t lend lustre to this pointless and unfunny spoof, a dire tongue-in-cheeker that slipped past the franchise control of the producers, Eon. David Niven saunters unsexily as the retired “Sir James Bond” in this chaotic film.
25. Die Another Day (2002)
Oh lawdy. The Bond franchise was looking lost in the grim and joyless new “war on terror”-era, and this movie featured the worst gadget in the history of 007: an invisible car. What on earth is the point of that? You can almost see the P45 being pressed into Brosnan’s hand.
24. The Living Daylights (1987)
This was the turn of straight actor and RSC stalwart Timothy Dalton. He was supposedly there to give Bond a hard and gritty new seriousness, but always just looked a bit humourless. This was during the Aids era of sexual restraint, too, so Bond only cops off a couple of times.
23. Licence to Kill (1989)
Bond goes rogue, and Dalton stays dull. This one is notable for the young Benicio del Toro as a humble henchman. After this, legal copyright rows caused a six-year production hiatus during which Dalton quit.
22. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
You can hear a whistling and a crackling in the air as Roger Moore begins to tune out. The stunts hold up, but Moore is on the exit ramp and his flaccid relationship with 24-year-old Carole Bouquet is a deathly embarrassment.
21. Never Say Never Again (1983)
The title is what Connery’s agent should have shouted at him when he was offered the comeback: (“Never”! Say “Never”! Again!) Connery lumbers back for the remake of Thunderball that no one wanted or needed. He was never a six-pack guy at the best of times, but he’s out of condition here. One to forget.
20. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Much mocked at the time, this film wasn’t as bad as that – despite the silliest title in the series’ history. Craig is always watchable and Mathieu Amalric is a very eccentric oddball villain.
19. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Not bad, but some of the fizz has gone. In this film, the distinction between villain and henchman seems to collapse with three bad guys: Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane and, erm, Goldie, who was very big in those days.
18. GoldenEye (1995)
Was it a Bondaissance? A Brosnanaissance? Whatever. Stylish yet assertive smoothie Pierce Brosnan had already made an impression in the TV caper Remington Steele. He took to Bond like a duck to water: virile, cool, nice suits. Judi Dench made her debut as M. Bond was back!
17. A View to a Kill (1985)
Quite unexpectedly, Moore pulled it back a bit for his last hurrah. (It was also, sadly, the last hurrah for Lois Maxwell’s Miss Moneypenny.) Christopher Walken was always destined to play a Bond villain and it came to pass in this film, as the evil electronics mogul Max Zorin. A good note for Moore to bow out on.
16. Moonraker (1979)
A whopping, megabudget Bond in its day, clearly influenced by the Star Wars-led sci-fi revival. It is all about the theft of a space shuttle, but this excursion into space can’t conceal the fact that Moore is looking a bit jaded.
15. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
George Lazenby’s sole appearance wasn’t a bad Bond. Had he done more, Lazenby might have become a favourite. Diana Rigg played the woman who shows 007 is no commitmentphobe. They marry, before gunfire poignantly restores Bond’s eternal singledom.
14. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Uh-oh. Connery was tempted back to the role with a big pay packet, now looking craggier and toupeed. Ernst Blofeld, boringly played by Charles Gray, wants to use diamonds to focus his space laser. Bond girl Tiffany Case was played by Jill St John, whose real-life boyfriend, Henry Kissinger, would have been better as the villain.
13. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
It took a spanking from Titanic at the box office, but this is a good, underrated Bond: one of the very few films (or plays or books) to satirise Rupert Murdoch and his Chinese expansionist plans – a rather taboo subject in 90s media. Jonathan Pryce has great fun with the role of the villainous mogul.
12. Octopussy (1983)
Outrageously daft, but silly and fun. Roger Moore wears a gorilla costume.
11. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
This has a well-loved Bond song, Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better. It also introduced us to the exotic henchman Jaws. The action opens with that staggering skiing-off-a-cliff stunt, just after Moore is seen supposedly skiing in front of an obvious back projection.
10. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
Despite iffy reviews at the time, this has one of the very best villains, wonderfully played by Christopher Lee: Scaramanga, he of the creepy third nipple. It is a preposterous 70s fuel-crisis drama about a solar energy device. There’s some funky martial arts, too.
9. Skyfall (2012)
An excellent, intelligent Bond which shrewdly expanded the role of Judi Dench’s M, developed her relationship with 007 and created a plausible, sympathetic backstory for him. Javier Bardem got his teeth into the villain role.
8. Live and Let Die (1973)
And so began the reign of Roger Moore, tacitly conceding the campness that many saw as unavoidable for Bond. Moore was witty, sprightly and a mature 46 when he took over (Connery had started at 32.) This movie has a great song from Paul McCartney and Wings.
7. Thunderball (1965)
The evil organisation Spectre had its first appearance in Fleming’s Thunderball novel, but we were used to it by now, this being the fourth outing for 007 on the big screen. Good stuff here, but the franchise faltered a bit, with long underwater sequences.
6. Spectre (2015)
Boom! Craig and director Sam Mendes bring off an absolutely storming 007 extravaganza, kicking off with a head-banging action sequence in Mexico City. Léa Seydoux has a Veronica Lake-type sultriness and Ben Whishaw almost steals the show as the geeky Q.
5. Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig had to face a lot of internet bickering when he was cast, but he blew everyone away with a performance that was just right: cool, cruel, ruthless, yet sardonic. It was great at the time and looks even better now. One of the best Bonds.
4. Dr No (1962)
Sean Connery’s first outing in the Bond role. It gave us the gun-barrel titles and the Monty Norman theme. There was Ursula Andress in the bikini and the exotic Johnny Foreigner villain with an outrageous island lair.
3. From Russia With Love (1963)
Weirdly ungadgety and downbeat. Connery searches his hotel room for bugs for what seems like 10 minutes, with the theme music playing deafeningly. There’s a great train fight with Robert Shaw’s Red Grant.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
“You eckshpect me to talk?” “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to DIE!” This introduced us to Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 and the weird spectacle of Shirley Eaton suffocating in gold. It established the convention whereby the villain leaves 007 time to escape some elaborate automated death.
1. You Only Live Twice (1967)
This great action movie put Connery’s Bond right back on top and introduced us to the Nehru-suit-wearing, cat-stroking master criminal Spectre chief, Blofeld, played by Donald Pleasence. Connery announced his intention to quit after this. Perhaps he knew it could never be this good again?
Cover photo: Daniel Craig as Bond, with his Aston Martin DB5, in Skyfall. Photo: Allstar/United Artists
“Michael G Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25,” it read.
It had been confirmed in May, after months of rumors, that Boyle would both write and direct the follow-up to 2015’s Spectre, the second Bond film from Sam Mendes. “We’ve got an idea,” he said at the time. “John Hodge, the screenwriter, and I have got this idea, and John is writing it at the moment. And it all depends on how it turns out. It would be foolish of me to give any of it away.”
A script for Bond 25 had originally been completed by franchise veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade but it was reportedly put aside after Boyle and his Trainspotting co-writer came onboard. In July, a leaked call sheetsuggested that the story would include a “charismatic, powerful, innovative, cosmopolitan, bright, cold and vindictive” Russian villain. It’s unclear what script will now be used.
While Spectre received mixed reviews, it was a global hit, making $880m worldwide, although it fell short of Skyfall’s franchise-best $1.1bn haul. The next chapter, set to be released in 2019, was also due to be Daniel Craig’s last outing as the secret agent. “I just want to go out on a high note, and I can’t wait,” Craig said to Stephen Colbert in 2017.
Craig had previously said he would “slash his wrists” rather than play the role again but has since explained himself. “Look, there’s no point in making excuses about it, but it was two days after I’d finished shooting the last movie,” he said. “I went straight into an interview and someone said would you do another one and I went ‘No!’”
Boyle had previously worked with Craig in the opening to the 2012 Olympics, including 007 in a brief cameo alongside the Queen.
Recent weeks have seen increased buzz around Idris Elba, long touted as a contender for Bond’s next iteration, after rumors that longtime Bond producer Barbara Broccoli wanted to bring some diversity to the role.
“I keep saying if it were to happen it would be the will of a nation because there haven’t been any talks between me and the studio about any of that,” Elba said in 2016. “Running around in cars and ladies and martinis, who wants to do that? Sounds terrible.”
Boyle’s most recent credit was Trust, a miniseries based around the infamous Getty kidnapping, following on from his long-awaited sequel to Trainspotting. He also recently wrapped a new musical comedy written by Richard Curtis set in a world where only one person can remember music by the Beatles.
Cover photo: Daniel Craig in Spectre. Photo: Allstar/United Artists
Jacques Rivette’s deeply strange 1966 story – soon out on DVD and Blu-Ray – is part erotic memoir, part melodrama.
Jacques Rivette’s 1966 reinterpretation of Denis Diderot’s 18th-century novel La Religieuse, starring the queen of the New Wave herself, Anna Karina, appeared in the Classics strand of last year’s Cannes film festival and now it gets a brief cinema outing in the UK, prior to its DVD and Blu-Ray rerelease. The ordeal of a pure young woman, as Rivette conceives it, has an eerie theatricality and mystery, as it dramatises the nature of freedom. It is part melodrama, part erotic memoir. The Nun was controversial in its day, and Lars von Trier may have studied the bat squeak of black comedy in it for his own provocations, such as Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark.
Karina plays Suzanne Simonin, a young woman who is committed by her family, against her will, into a convent – the reason being that her father is not the man married to her mother. The shame of illegitimacy that she represents means her mother cannot bear to look at her. Suzanne endures this injustice in a state of shock, and her residual faith that God will deliver her from this imprisonment is futile: it is precisely the business of faith that is keeping her locked up and dependent on men outside the convent. Her destiny rests with the caprices or well-meant concern of presiding bishops and a lawyer looking after her interests.
The Mother Superior Madame de Moni (Micheline Presle) is at least kindly, but she dies and is replaced by the cruel Sister Sainte-Christine (Francine Bergé). Suzanne is then transferred to another convent, as she might be to another prison. It is a more liberal establishment, where she instantly becomes the pet of the Mother, Madame de Chelles (Liselotte Pulver), to the petulant jealousy of all the other nuns with whose girlish affections De Chelles had previously been trifling. De Chelles’s sexual infatuation with her tests Suzanne’s faith as never before, and then a very enigmatic coda about her eventual escape appears to show there is no freedom for her anywhere.
The vast majority of the movie is shot indoors, in gloomy cloistered walkways, cells, chapels. (Where, in one rather beguiling scene, a cat strays across the floor while a service is in progress.) The rare exterior locations give this film a look of something pastoral. Perhaps it hasn’t aged quite as well as the rest of Rivette’s work, but it is still a deeply, almost unreadably strange story.
Two online archives of shorts, from biopics to animation, showcase the genre’s potential to innovate and subvert.
Random Acts, Channel 4’s innovative short film programme, is a tricky animal to classify. It’s ostensibly a television series, collating handfuls of disparate short films into weekly half-hour episodes, but cinematic in spirit and scope. However, it’s online, where the films are archived following their TV premiere, that the youth-targeted project has really prospered. Not many people may be watching at midnight when the episodes first hit the airwaves, but the bite-size individual films (none longer than four minutes) are perfectly suited to streaming via social media. That they mostly hinge on stylistic novelty – the emphasis is on creative experimentation rather than standard scripted drama – helps the word of mouth along.
This year’s series started last Tuesday, kicking off on a particularly eye-popping note with German animator Brenda Lien’s Call of Cuteness, a witty, gruesomely imagined subversion of internet cat-video culture that may give the feline-inclined among us nightmares for a week.
Short film tends to get short shrift in this column, so the return of Random Acts reminded me of another online goldmine I’ve been meaning to spotlight. The US-based Short of the Weekis perhaps the biggest, brightest, most easily accessible shorts-oriented website around, living up to its straightforward name with a fresh weekly selection of films in a range of genres, adding to a free-to-view back catalogue of well over a thousand selections.
Slickly designed, it’s a less radical, more all-encompassing showcase for the form, with separate channels for drama, comedy, documentary, animation and sci-fi, with films accompanied by short, thoughtful critical essays. A nifty index allows you to look up films by thematic keyword, festival programming or country of origin (Botswana, for example, has one film compared with 981 from the US).
Selections range from high-profile Oscar winners such as Andrea Arnold’s mini-classic Wasp and François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain’s ingenious, corporation-baiting animation Logorama, to more buried treasure. I was transfixed by a chance discovery in American animator Andy Kennedy’s three-minute Slow Wave, which examines sleeping patterns and disturbances in eerie, abstract, entirely gorgeous fashion.
A section of “classics” (mostly at the modern end of the spectrum) lives up to its title, offering Todd Haynes’s essential, still startling Barbie-doll biopic Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, or Chris Marker’s endlessly referenced, imitated and analysed New Wave time-bender La Jetée.
Among the latest additions, meanwhile, any cinemagoers who recently caught and admired A Ciambra, Jonas Carpignano’s earthy, Roma-focused update of Italian neorealism, may be interested to check out the vivid, keen-eyed 2014 short from which the full film grew. (If anything, the short may be slightly superior.) It’s an example of how canny curation can make shorts and features – too often divided into separate houses – feed fluidly into each other.
New to streaming & DVD this week
Western (Drakes Avenue, 12) Placing deservedly high on many mid-year best lists, German film-maker Valeska Grisebach’s superb study of migrant worker tensions in rural Bulgaria brings something of a John Ford sensibility to modern European politics.
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Second Sight, 15) A good week for German film: this gargantuan, limited-edition box set of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s extraordinary 16-hour Döblin adaptation will be a major object of cinephile salivation.
Mary Magdalene (Universal, 12) Lion director Garth Davies suffers a second-film slump – albeit in very tasteful fashion – with this beautifully mounted, emotionally flat and only notionally feminist revision of the Passion.
Peter Rabbit (Sony, PG) Remember Miss Potter, that suffocatingly twee biopic starring Renée Zellweger as Peter Rabbit’s creator? It is no longer the worst thing Hollywood has done to Beatrix Potter.
Erase and Forget (Mubi, 18) Streaming exclusively on Mubi, Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s strong, insightful documentary profile of Vietnam killing machine Bo Gritz works unexpectedly as a pointed critique of Trump-era politics.
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HBO has been busy developing “four to five” treatments for possible companion series. Each is a prequel of sorts to the main show, with none actually touching directly upon George RR Martin’s parent narrative. The names attached to these scripts are no two-bit hacks: Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, Kingsman), Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential, Legend), Max Borenstein (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island ), Carly Wray (Westworld, Mad Men) and Bryan Cogman (a Game of Thrones old-timer).
In the end, HBO decided to take a punt on Jane Goldman’s idea: a pilot’s been ordered, and if it’s picked up Goldman and George RR Martin will act as co-creators of a whole new series set in the Thrones universe. We’ll likely see it in 2020, and Goldman will be steering the ship as showrunner.
Itches of concern only arise when you start to pore through the details. HBO’s official statement reads:
“Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the east, to the Starks of legend … it’s not the story we think we know.”
The Ringer recently scoured this opaque precis for clues as to where the series might go, and deduced that the “darkest hour” was the fabled Long Night, and the Stark of Legend was most likely Bran the Builder, who is said to have used sorcery to build The Wall, along with basically any other ancient structure in Westeros that wasn’t made of wattle and daub. We’ve seen the origins of the White Walkers already, of course – the Children of the Forest made them, the feckless little idiots – so we may be delving deeper into the forest imps’ war with the human invaders.
You might be thinking, this is all great. That more Thrones can only be a good thing. That Jane Goldman and George RR Martin are so brilliant on their own that together they should probably fight crime or something. That this new series – with its mythic beings, magic walls, faery wars and Night Kings – will surely be epic fantasy on a scale never before seen on TV. And it will be. But that, right there, is the problem.
As the show has grown in scope over the years, so too have its flaws become more numerous. Seasons six and seven, lacking solid, densely plotted George RR Martin source material to draw upon, upped the stakes in terms of spectacle, but at the cost of jettisoning the complex minutiae of political backstabbery that made the first few seasons so helplessly addictive. They were spectacular, yet illogical. Massive, yet weirdly weightless. No multimillion dollar set-piece, from the Battle of the Bastards to the death of Dany’s dragon, has ever come close to replicating the breathless, dizzying rug-pull of The Red Wedding. Or poor Prince Oberyn’s squishy eye-ectomy. Or Tyrion killing Shae. Or Ned Stark having his entire body chopped off. Or any of the gamechanging moments that were born from simple drama.
Game of Thrones was never exactly a quiet, low-key kitchen-sink soap, but the genius of the early seasons lay in the underhand way in which fantasy elements were gradually smuggled in under the radar. Myth and magic were introduced early, yet so subtly that mainstream viewers who would usually balk at dragons and magic were hooked before they even realised they were being hoodwinked. It was, at its beginning and through to its peak, a political drama about the lengths people – fallible, vulnerable, rounded, real people – are willing to go to in the acquisition of power. It was the captivating brutality of the Game of Thrones itself. The action and fantasy were an, admittedly very welcome, bonus.
According to Westerosian scholars (ie George RR Martin and the internet), it’s quite likely that Brandon Stark didn’t even exist – that he was, Ragnar Lothbrok-style, made up of the deeds of several individuals, all rolled into one handy, pocket-sized myth. If so, why don’t we know who these people are? Getting down into the nitty gritty of these unknown heroes’ interactions, and the reasons behind their removal from the history books, would be one fascinating avenue to take. If Brandon is real, watching he and Lann the Clever (who founded House Lannister) squabble and bicker as they form proud dynasties that will still be squabbling and bickering 10,000 years later also promises for some delicious knife-in-back action. This new series will also be set within the era of the first Night’s Watch, and seeing the erstwhile sentries’ embryonic years would also be excellent. And not just to witness the moment someone tried to convince them that celibacy is the best way forward for everyone. We’ll only be on shakier, more BBC1-at-teatime ground if we end up with sillier characters such as The Grey King, who shacked up with a mermaid and lived for a millennium. Or too much of the Children of the Forest. Who, and this can’t be emphasised enough, really are a bunch of little pillocks.
George RR Martin’s hands-on attitude with this new series is encouraging, as is Jane Goldman’s pedigree as a screenwriter. If they sit down together and agree that one good, believable, flawed character is worth a thousand dead CGI dragons, then we could be on to something very special. HBO will surely be hurling tens of millions of dollars at them. The very best thing they could do is resist the urge to spend them all.
Goldman and Martin should, instead, get back to Thrones basics. Throw in some action, sure, but not to the detriment of the very same human drama that made Game of Thrones the phenomenon it became. Don’t let the tail wag the dragon, as it were. Give us murder and intrigue and betrayal and knotty, devious skulduggery in dark rooms. Oh, and if you can think of some way of getting The Hound in it too, then please also do that. Thanks.
The latest instalment in the genetically modified franchise could use some new ideas.
With Spanish horror director JA Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls) at the helm, I’d hoped for more creative intervention in this chapter of the Jurassic Park – sorry, World – franchise. Yet though there are some interesting genre flourishes, and a set piece involving a gorgeous, shadowy gothic mansion, this overlong instalment is merely serviceable.
The volcanic, dinosaur-inhabited island of Isla Nublar is about to erupt, and so Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing (in combat boots rather than heels this time) and animal behavioural expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) have been flown in by Benjamin Lockwood’s estate to help transport the dinosaurs to safety, helped along by a sweaty, jittering coder named Franklin (The Get Down’s Justice Smith, playing the underdog with tongue-in-cheek relish) and a tough-talking palaeoveterinarian named Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Predictably, some people in on the plan have other designs for the dinos and so the rescue mission becomes a collection of increasingly tense, video game-like scenarios.
The film ends up being a bludgeoning political satire that queries the ethical implications and economic advantages of poaching genetically engineered animals, be it for biopharmaceutical weaponry, corporate seed money or to keep as collector’s items. There’s also an embarrassing coda about how we’re “causing our own extinction by way of avarice and political megalomania”. It shouldn’t be a bad thing that Claire, Zia and Maisie, Lockwood’s spunky granddaughter (Isabella Sermon), are signposted as the bravest characters with the most agency, yet the film’s overt girl-power politics date it. A close-up of Claire’s high heels, followed by one of her combat boots and a scene that sees Zia called a “nasty woman”, grasp at cultural relevance but end up too on the nose. The foreign villains – a Chinese geneticist and a Russian oligarch – are further causes for eye-rolling.
Solo: A Star Wars Story box office results are a crossroads moment for the space saga. Here is what Disney must do to move the franchise forward.
When the dust finally settles on Solo: A Star Wars Story, long-term acolytes of George Lucas’s space saga may be reasonably content with it. Although this latest episode may have finally emerged, as AO Scott of the New York Times memorably put it, as “a curiously low-stakes blockbuster, in effect a filmed Wikipedia page”, its muted nature is unlikely to affect audiences for future Star Wars films. Nor will it send Alden Ehrenreich’s chances of retaining the role of Han Solo spinning into the nearest asteroid field.
As a shallow exercise in establishing Solo’s backstory, it ticks all the relevant boxes – even if it does so in workmanlike fashion. It is off screen, in areas that rarely find their way into critical reviews or fan verdicts (but that matter so much to industry watchers), that there is reason for concern.
But in years to come they may recall that the movie’s debut in cinemas marked a turning point in Disney’s fortunes – the sliding doors moment that led to the studio finally beginning to get Star Wars right. For the Mouse House has now had six years in charge of Star Wars, a period that has hopefully taught it something about how to steward the saga going forward. With luck, Disney can now put its foolhardy apprenticeship behind it and begin to learn the true ways of the Force.
The studio has called it right on a number of occasions. It correctly surmised that the kid-friendly, CGI-heavy approach of Lucas’s prequel trilogy was the work of a man oblivious to the reasons fans enjoyed his creation in the first place. The Force Awakens reintroduced audiences to the concept of a rollicking space yarn. Rogue One gave us the Blake’s 7 of the saga, a gorgeously doom-laden narrative of self-sacrifice that featured one of the series’ finest space battles.
Last year’s The Last Jedi, for all its faults, suggested that Rian Johnson is the right director to take Star Wars into new territory. Johnson’s antics with Luke Skywalker may have upset superfans, but he proved himself willing to subvert tropes and imagine new themes for the saga. His proposed new trilogy, free from the diminishing returns of the Skywalker family narrative, is a tantalising prospect.
However, as a cinematic universe, Star Wars’ does not yet boast the easy flow between pictures that Marvel enjoys. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has so far failed to assemble a team of film-makers capable of delivering original visions and keeping the narrative moving onwards and ever forwards. From time to time, the saga is still stuck in pre-hyperspace purgatory, the powers that be shaking their heads at the departure of yet another film-maker who seemed so promising, and muttering under their breath: “It’s not my fault.”
If it has any hope of hitting light speed any time soon, Disney needs to balance appointing the exciting up-and-coming writers and directors who will surely be the future of Star Wars and retaining the services of established directors such as Howard and Tony Gilroy (who was parachuted in to rescue Rogue One two years ago). The studio also has to strike the right balance between reconfiguring Star Wars in the mode of Marvel, as an endlessly episodic saga that’s built for laughs, and re-establishing the sense of cosmic wonder that permeated the original trilogy. It may well find it impossible to achieve both goals, at least if the audience reaction to The Last Jedi’s more irreverent moments is anything to go by.It needs a firm, confident hand on the Millennium Falcon, rather than the nervous, capricious pilot that appears to have been in place since 2012. Only then will the stars up ahead zoom into peripheral vision, as our heroes escape from the Dark Side of the Force all over again.
Arusha — The Tanzania Film Board intends to clamp down on local shacks charging people for watching movies and TV broadcasts. The street public film rooms have recently been suspected of screening lewd programmes.
The Executive Secretary of Tanzania Film Board, Joyce Fissoo said the people who screen films in local booths will also be subjected to register their businesses, acquire licences and ensure that all films shown there are genuine copies with official trademarks from the releasing companies.
She was speaking during a training workshop that the board had organised for actors, producers and retailers of local films, and held in Arusha, with focus to improve the sector in Arusha, Manyara and surrounding regions.
The booths, according to the TFB officials, will also be required to censor their contents before airing, to ensure that much of the programmes screened there are of local Tanzanian producers and those that are foreign should adhere to laws and regulations of the country.
“Tanzanians do not have the culture of attending film screening in large theatres, because majority of the people can be seen watching movies in local booths located within residential areas, and if we can improve the contents and setup of these ventures, they can very much help to boost the film industry and promote local contents,” said Fissoo.
On her part, the Culture Officer for Arusha Region, Irene Ngao reminded the local film producers to submit their scripts to the district and regional film boards for reviews before starting shooting as per regulations.
“Some local film makers usually by-pass district and regional boards, instead they go straight to national boards, where they are referred back to us with their stories. They should make use of local offices to make their work and process easier,” she said.
One of the local film actors, Lucy Mushi Kweka said locations for filming remain a major challenge; “we keep begging for private houses or schools for shooting, and sometimes the owners change their mind in the middle of shooting, forcing us to shift places, which makes the films choppy and unrealistic.”
Guillermo del Toro’s magical movie, a cold war thriller, is underpinned by a superb cast and knowing nods to Hollywood classics.
In my opinion, the 21st century has produced no finer movie than Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 masterpiece, which acts as a sister picture to his 2001 Spanish civil war ghost story, The Devil’s Backbone. Like Del Toro’s first feature, Cronos (1993), these Spanish-language gems possessed a unique cinematic voice, the distant echo of which could still be heard even amid the thunderous roar of 2013’s Pacific Rim. Now, with his awards-garlanded latest (co-scripted by Game of Thrones graduate Vanessa Taylor), Del Toro has conjured a boundary-crossing hybrid that is as adventurously personal as it is universal, a swooning romantic melodrama that reshapes the mythical themes of Beauty and the Beast with deliciously bestial bite.
An opening voiceover establishes the fable-like tone, setting the story “a long time ago” in “a small city near the coast, but far from everything else”. This is the US in the early-60s, with the cold war and the space race providing the backdrop for “a tale of love and loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all”.
Sally Hawkins is sublime as the orphaned Elisa Esposito, voiceless since the day she was found “by the river, in the water”, the scars on her neck suggesting the key to her silence. Elisa lives above the Orpheum cinema, an old-school dream palace where The Story of Ruth and Mardi Gras play to a slow trickle of patrons. Her neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins), is an artist who has lost both his hair and his job and spends his days watching Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Betty Grable on TV reruns, dreaming of the waiter behind the counter in the local Dixie Doug’s pie emporium.
Elisa works as a cleaner at the Occam aerospace research facility where she mops floors with the loquacious Zelda (Octavia Spencer). When Occam takes possession of an amphibious creature from the Amazon, Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants to learn from this strange beast, once revered by local tribes as a god. Vindictive government agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) disagrees, seeing only “an affront” that he dragged here from South America to be tortured and destroyed. Yet Elisa, whose expansive and erotic dreams are fuelled by water, hears music in the creature’s plaintive cry; a haunting refrain interweaving with the waltzing melody that accompanies her own floating steps.
What follows is a weird and wondrous romantic thriller that casts its inspirational web wide: from 50s monster movies such as Creature From the Black Lagoon to Ron Howard’s 80s mermaid rom-com Splash, via the 12th-century writings of Persian poet Hakim Sanai. Del Toro calls it “a fairytale for troubled times”, citing Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli as touchstones, alongside Mexican film-maker Ismael Rodríguez. There are strong undercurrents, too, of the silent pathos of Keaton and Chaplin, interspersed with bouts of musical fantasy, including an audacious Fred and Ginger-style routine that mirrors the monochrome dance designs of Follow the Fleet.
It sounds ridiculous, yet through some magical alchemy it works – magnificently so. Part of its success is the superb ensemble cast: Shannon seething as the scripture-quoting patriot whose world starts rotting from the inside out; Spencer radiating resilience as Zelda, tirelessly tending to the needs of others; Stuhlbarg underplaying nicely as the scientist with lofty aspirations and fluid affiliations. As for Doug Jones (who has been breathing life into Del Toro’s beautiful monsters for decades), his shimmering amphibian man is a sinewy symphony of movement, the perfect partner for Hawkins’s heroine, swimming through the dreamy pools of her endlessly expressive eyes.
Luis Sequeira’s costumes and Paul D Austerberry’s production designs make this blue-green fantasy world real, while Dan Laustsen’s cameras flow like water around the drama, their movement providing the cue for Alexandre Desplat’s lovely score, which juxtaposes jaunty accordions with breathy flutes – musical dialogue for wordless characters.
“You’ll never know just how much I care,” runs the tune, sung by Alice Faye in Hello, Frisco, Hello, which echoes nostalgically through The Shape of Water. The genius of Del Toro’s creation is that we know exactly how much Elisa cares for her soulmate and how he makes silent sense of her fish-out-of-water feelings. Watching them dance around each other, I became aware of the shape of my own tears, swept along by the emotional waves of Del Toro’s sparkling drama, succumbing to its seductively melancholy song of the sea.
To say that Marvel’s Black Panther is one of this year’s most anticipated films would be an understatement.
Following the star-studded premiere and the first thoughts of the film making headlines in recent weeks, fans are sure to be flocking to cinemas worldwide on Friday.
But before you settle into the cinema seats with your popcorn and drink, there are some facts and figures you may want to know.
HERE ARE 12 FUN FACTS ABOUT BLACK PANTHER:
1. First appearance
Marvel’s Black Panther character made his debut in the comic book world in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 Issue 52, published in 1966.
2. Strong fierce women
An important part of the Black Panther lore incorporated into the film is the Dora Milaje, the cadre of strong fierce women who serve as the personal security force to the King and royal family. These tall, statuesque, bald warrior women, who move as one, command attention wherever they go.
3. A pool of actresses, stunt women and Broadway dancers
Led by Danai Gurira’s character, Okoye, the Dora Milaje security force features an international contingent of women from all over the world, including Florence Kasumba who returns to play Ayo, a character that first appeared in Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War. The Dora Milaje were cast from a pool of actresses, stunt women and Broadway dancers so that each individual Dora could have specialised skills that they brought to the table.
4. The official language of Wakanda
It was decided early on that Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa, would be the language of Wakanda. A precedent had been set in Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War, when celebrated South African actor John Kani, who portrayed King T’Chaka, used his native accent. Chadwick Boseman, who plays T’Challa/Black Panther, picked it up from him as well.
5. Using African drums
The cast and stunt team practiced with African drums played by musician Jabari Exum so that their movements would have a musical quality found in many African-based martial arts.
6. Learning to ride a rhino
Actor Daniel Kaluuya learned how to ride a horse as practice to simulate riding W’Kabi’s armored rhino in the film.
7. South African father and son acting duo
South African actor Atandwa Kani plays the character of Young T’Chaka to his father and celebrated South African actor John Kani’s King T’Chaka.
8. Stunt work
The cast did the bulk of the fight work that will be seen on film. Chadwick Boseman, whose skill set includes a comprehensive martial arts background, knew what he was in for when he and all the other actors had to attend a “boot camp” to prepare them for the physical aspects of their roles.
9. Creating Killmonger’s scars
Michael B. Jordan, who plays Erik Killmonger, spent about two and a half hours in the special effects makeup chair every day, while makeup designer Joel Harlow and three other makeup artists applied close to 90 individually sculpted silicone moulds to his upper body. This “scarification” application process entails transferring each mould and then blending and painting them to match Jordan’s skin tone. Each of Killmonger’s scars represents a “notch” of his kills over the years.
10. Building the set
The majority of the Wakanda sets were constructed on sound stages at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, including the Tribal Council; the Wakandan Design Group, Shuri’s hive of research and development of the vibranium rich country; the ancient subterranean Hall of Kings; and most notably Warrior Falls, the ceremonial heart of Wakanda’s revered traditions.
11. Matching the rocks of Oribi Gorge in South Africa
Over 25 000 cubic feet of foam was used in the Warrior Falls set, which was sculpted to match the rocks in Oribi Gorge in South Africa.
12. The perfect action sequence
Director Ryan Coogler wanted the South Korea action sequence to be seamless, so he had an editor on set cutting footage in real time. This is not often done during production, but Coogler felt it was the best way to capture all the action, stunts and special effects in frame on time.
An American resident, Chaz Gormley, has created a petition on change.org requesting that the “Walt Disney” company donate 25% of the profits to communities.
“Surely, more than just black people will be heading to the movies on February 16th to indulge in another piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, Marvel Studios hasn’t pulled out all the stops to get everyone else to come to the theaters – they’ve blatantly targeted the black community, because they want the one thing the black community has to offer in abundance – black dollars”.
“You have the ability to not only be entertained, but to leave the theater in February knowing that a portion of your money will be coming back into your community. To not only go see a film about a fictitious country in Africa with advanced technology, but the opportunity to invest in programs which focus on the fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – that make such advancements possible, in real life”.
As at the time of writing, 2,600 people have signed the petition.
Months after Marvel’s Defenders which featured a combined cast from Netflix’s Marvel series namely: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist; Jessica Jones is back for a second season.
The Netflix/Marvel TV universe began with the first season of Daredevil and has since given birth to other series–some of which are named above– including Marvel’s The Punisher which was released in November last year.
The latest big-screen superhero story is a subversive and uproarious action-adventure, in which African stereotypes are upended and history is rewritten.
Director Ryan Coogler and co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole tackle the superheroes of colour question with this surreal and uproarious movie version of Marvel’s Black Panther legend, in which the sheer enjoyment of everyone involved pumps the movie with fun. It’s an action-adventure origin myth which plays less like a conventional superhero film and more like a radical Brigadoon or a delirious adventure by Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs. Those were the colonial-era mythmakers whose exoticism must surely have influenced Stan Lee and Jack Kirby when they devised the comic books in the 1960s, supplying the Afro- in the steely afrofuturism of Black Panther that generations of fans have treasured and reclaimed as an alternative to the pop culture of white America. But it’s the –futurism that gives Black Panther his distinctive power.
Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, a prince with a sensitive, handsome, boyish face and something introspective, vulnerable and self-questioning in his style. After the death of his father (shown in Captain America: Civil War, from 2016), T’Challa succeeds to the throne of the fictional African state of Wakanda, which lies west of Lake Victoria, on territory that is occupied in the real world by Uganda, Rwanda and northern Tanzania.
Wakanda is, on the face of it, dirt-poor as well as mountainous, jungly and inaccessible. But the point is that the Wakandans have deliberately cultivated the west’s condescending stereotypes of Africa as camouflage, to prevent outside interference. For beneath the foliage, Wakanda is a secret city state with more flying cars and suspended monorails than you can shake a stick at. It’s a hidden world of supermodernity – though it is nonetheless the land that democracy forgot. And all powered by the hidden element known as vibranium, which supplies limitless energy, and is harnessed by T’Challa in the armoured bodysuit he wears as Black Panther.
T’Challa’s brilliant sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is his Q figure, a scientist who designs equipment and weaponry. Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a Wakandan intelligence agent for whom T’Challa may very well have feelings. Angela Bassett is T’Challa’s widowed mother Ramonda; Forest Whitaker is elder statesman Zuri – basically, the Merlin of T’Challa’s court – and Daniel Kaluuya (from Get Out) plays border tribe chief W’Kabi, a man of uncertain loyalties.
But there are problems in Wakanda, not all stemming from the film’s few white characters: CIA man Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) blunders into Wakandan power politics, and white South African career criminal Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) plots to steal their vibranium. The Wakandan exile Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) wants to take over T’Challa’s throne and overturn his quietist approach, take advantage of Wakanda’s technological superiority, stand up for racially oppressed African Americans and black people everywhere, and establish a new Wakandan empire of righteousness on which the sun will never set. Our first view of Erik is when he is visiting an exhibition of looted African artefacts in the “Museum of Great Britain” in London.
This setup teases us with its resemblances to Thor and Asgard, as well as its inversions and theme-variants on the Lion King myth, yet it is very much not about a wicked uncle killing a noble king. The vibranium is vitally important; absurd, of course, but very much aligned with all those other natural resources that somehow only enrich people outside Africa: gold, diamonds, rubber and the coltan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that we need for our smartphones. Deadpan, the film allows us to register the difference between T’Challa and Erik as an African and an African American – Erik being burdened by the traumas and injustices of American history in a way T’Challa is not. It used to be remarked that Barack Obama, born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father, was freed of that burden; his successor, under the impression that there is somewhere in Africa called “Nambia”, is not burdened by any great interest in Africa, but perhaps Nambia is his own creative concept neighbouring Wakanda.
And where do we go after this? Does Black Panther get to be another subordinate bit-part player in future Marvel ensemble movies? I hope not: I want stories where Black Panther takes on people outside Wakanda and I hope that Nakia gets a movie of her own. The intriguing thing about Black Panther is that it doesn’t look like a superhero film – more a wide-eyed fantasy romance: exciting, subversive and funny.
THE film-maker behind the Oscar-nominated documentary Last Men in Aleppohas been targeted by a smear campaign that seeks to paint him as a terrorist sympathiser in the run up to the Academy Awards.
Feras Fayyad spent a year following a handful of volunteer rescue workers in the besieged Syrian city as they rushed towards bombed buildings to try and find people in the rubble. The resulting documentary has earned widespread critical praise and won awards including the Sundance grand jury prize.
However, the international recognition has been accompanied by an organized attempt to tarnish the film-maker’s reputation, following a playbook of Russia-backed disinformation and manipulation.
“It is like Russia wants to hack the Oscars like they hacked the US election,” he told the Guardian.
Since the Oscar nominations were announced, Fayyad, a Syrian national, has become the subject of several articles by Russia state news agency Sputnik News and “alternative news” sites to discredit his work, describing it as a “propaganda piece funded by western governments” and an “Al-Qaida promotional film”. Others have trawled through his social media accounts and published pictures of his family and friends. Syrian state media has followed suit. On Twitter and Facebook, dozens of accounts have accused Fayyad of being a liar and terrorist sympathiser.
Other Oscar-nominated film-makers and Academy members say the campaign could affect Fayyad’s chances of winning the award.
Chris Hegedus, who made Oscar-nominated documentary The War Room, described the articles as “outrageous” and said that they “made us see how Russia and others are meddling beyond social media and political elections”.
“It can definitely influence voters and make them question the legitimacy of a film to have false reports circulating and rumours that a film’s integrity is questioned,” she said.
Producer Amy Ziering agreed, mentioning other “white noise disinformation campaigns” including one that targeted her campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground and another that took aim at An Inconvenient Truth.
“It can very much damage an Oscar campaign’s success, but even more importantly it can damage the ability for important and necessary truths to be told,” she said.
Fayyad is baffled by the attacks on his reputation, particularly as he feels that the theme of his documentary is not the White Helmets as an organisation but an intimate look at the lives of a handful of people struggling to get by in a civil war.
“The film is coming from the side of the human being. It’s about a Syrian who is torn between his responsibility to his community and to his family,” he said, speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where his film was screened.
It’s a dilemma that Fayyad has experienced in his quest to make documentaries about people in Syria. In pursuing his work on the ground he attracted the attention of Syria’s intelligence service, and spent many months being tortured in prison on suspicion of being a spy.
After being arrested at the airport and bundled into a vehicle with his T-shirt pulled over his head as a makeshift hood, Fayyad recalls peeping down from his blindfold at the knock-off Adidas shoes of one of his torturers. For months he passed between beatings, starvation and periods in isolation, stepping over dead bodies left in corridors and bathrooms. The Syrian regime insisted he was a spy working for the US or Europe.
Those months behind bars flash into Fayyad’s mind when faced with the unfounded criticism of his work. To be accused of being a spy or propagandist is a terrifying prospect.
“In the community in the Middle East this is shameful and it would make people not trust me if they think I’m collecting information for the FBI,” he said.
He is daunted by the prospect of winning, believing it could exacerbate the harassment. “I feel scared about what we might go through,” he said.
The pushback against an attempt to lower the superhero movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes has shown that the culture war’s latest battleground is still raging.
You come at the king, you best not miss. Last week, an attempt to maliciously derail the record-setting rollout of Black Panther – Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster spotlighting the lithe warrior-monarch T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) – was itself promptly derailed. A scurrilous Facebook event page, whose stated purpose was to “give Black Panther a rotten audience score on Rotten Tomatoes” purported to be a grassroots protest against Disney and its “treatment of franchises and its fanboys”. Amid garbled claims that the corporation that owns Marvel had somehow paid off critics to trash the recent crop of superhero movies from their longstanding rival DC, the page organisers encouraged the use of hashtags like #DownWithDisney and #DCOverMarvel as social media rallying points.
For some commentators, posting a negative rating was a chance to complain about Star Wars becoming too progressive
Plotting to scuttle a film’s Rotten Tomatoes audience score sight unseen seems, at best, underhanded. But the fact this attack was aimed at the most high-profile movie ever to feature a predominantly black cast felt racist. Facebook quickly deleted the event on the grounds that it “violated the company’s community standards”. Rotten Tomatoes, the longstanding film reviews aggregation site that dishes out “fresh” or “rotten” ratings to new releases, responded in even stronger terms: “While we respect our fans’ diverse opinions, we do not condone hate speech.”
In an era when culture wars are predominantly fought on social media, this sort of down-voting can seem like an effective guerrilla tactic. Clicking on an angry red face or selecting zero stars is even easier than adding your name to an online petition, and such basic actions can often be automated. The pre-emptive thumbs-down pile-on that accompanied the female-led Ghostbusters in 2016 – one of the most high-profile instances of the toxic impulse to prejudge art that doesn’t fit in with some preconceived notion of what a franchise should be – means that it still holds the queasy distinction of being the most disliked film trailer on YouTube.
When YouTube launched in 2005, Rotten Tomatoes had already been operational for seven years. But recently the site has become a more fractious battleground, where the professional critical consensus – a film’s final Tomatometer score is determined by assessing reviews from a pool of vetted critics – meets public opinion in the form of crowdsourced audience reactions.
Perhaps Rotten Tomatoes was so quick to respond to the Black Panther controversy because of the divisive response to another high-profile Disney property. The Last Jedi was officially certified fresh after scoring 91% among critics, a stark contrast to the 48% average score it received from 180,000 audience reactions. For some of these commentators, posting a negative rating was a chance to complain about their favourite franchise becoming too progressive, too feminised or too interested in presenting diversity. (Others just didn’t like the jokes.) The #DownWithDisney agitators suggested they had successfully manipulated The Last Jedi’s audience score using bots, a claim denied by Rotten Tomatoes.
There are examples of similar Rotten Tomatoes score discrepancies with no conspiracy theories swirling around them. The recent PT Barnum musical The Greatest Showman, a big-top passion project from Hugh Jackman, was considered rotten by critics, with a 55% rating on the Tomatometer, while its audience score is a much healthier 91% (from around 18,000 reviews), which would seem to chime with its remarkable ongoing box-office run. There are no claims that a rabid group of diehard Wolverine fans has been artificially inflating The Greatest Showman’s audience score to help their hero.
The Last Jedi has also made bucketloads of cash, so do these Rotten Tomatoes scores really matter? Last year, the site found itself being blamed by Hollywood executives for the failure of would-be blockbusters Baywatch and The Mummy during a particularly lacklustre summer. (Just a few months later, those claims were being discredited.) More recently, clever marketers have worked out ways to weave an impressive Tomatometer showing seamlessly into a marketing campaign. Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale Lady Bird has been nominated for multiple Oscars and one key thread of that successful awards narrative was that it was Rotten Tomatoes’ new top-rated movie, beating Toy Story 2’s record for consecutive positive reviews. (Lady Bird has since been bested by Paddington 2.)
Even if its splodgy icons of plump juicy veg and snot-green splats can seem rather reductive, Rotten Tomatoes has evolved into a valuable platform for dialogue between cultural gatekeepers and impassioned fans. That’s why keeping it clear of hate speech can only be a good thing.
Rita Dominic and Femi Jacobs were paired for the first time in 2013, in Mildred Okwo’s terrific satire, TheMeeting. While they were cast as adversaries with Dominic’s Clara Ikemba acting as the ultimate foil to Jacobs’ mild mannered private citizen, the chemistry between them was significant enough to be excited about a future onscreen pairing. This happened in 2017 with the third rate romantic thriller, TheGuest.
A year after that not-so-terrific outing, Rita Dominic and Femi Jacobs are reunited for TheBlindSpot, an improbable romantic drama with tonal shifts of comedy and traces of the supernatural.
Dominic and Jacobs play Ekemini and Ayomide, a pair of lovebirds headed to the altar. Both actors have been handed lines to speak, hoping that words alone would convince viewers of the legitimacy of their union. Suffice it to say that this plan does not work out as expected. There is very little chemistry between the duo and Jacobs in particular, with his low pitched rumbling, sounds like he is quite reluctant to be part of the process. Who can blame him though? TheBlindSpot is a difficult sell. The writing sucks, so does the acting, especially from the supporting team. The pace is all wrong and the director seems like he is in over his head, juggling multiple genres all at once.
Sometimes the film tries to be funny- doesn’t always succeed- other times it dials up the drama, adding elements of suspense to sweeten the mix. None of it works at all. The writing, credited to Igunwe Alfred Otaniyuwa- who also directs- makes you wonder why anyone bothered with the project.
To be fair, The BlindSpot doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. The first signs of trouble appear early enough when Ekemini and Ayomide are introduced. He is horny (he’s a guy), she is virginal (poor girl). She turns down his sexual advances and proceeds to hand him over to his boys before going on an extended trip, to shop for the upcoming nuptials. She then repeatedly warns him not to have sex, as if she were expecting him to. She must be incredibly naïve. Or the scripting is incredibly bad. Bit of both.
Ayomide does the needful and hooks up with Joy, a stripper/tramp for hire played by Etinosa Idemudia who cannot act her way out of a simple scene. Following a wild night, Ayomide makes her breakfast in bed and she moves in big time, on the recommendation of her pimp, (Buzor Onyekwelu). It is all joy and goodness, not to mention great sex, for a while until the honeymoon is cut short and Ayomide reads her the riot act. His fiancée is expected back in town.
Disappointed, Joy says some very terrible things before packing up her stuff and leaving in a hissy fit. Meanwhile Ayomide and Ekemini continue as planned and take their incredibly boring romance to the altar. To his dismay, on the wedding night, Ayomide finds that he cannot perform his sexual responsibilities to his wife. No matter what he tries, his member never for once rises to the occasion. Ekemini is understanding at first and even patient, but after some time, she grows frustrated with the situation, yelling invectives and making use of uninventive football metaphors to hammer home her point.
It is unclear how such petty needling is supposed to automatically convert Ayomide into a stud but he distances himself from the audience sympathies by a stubborn reluctance to seek medical attention, convinced of the supernatural source of his problem.
In science, the concept of the blind spot is described as the area in the range of vision that cannot be visualized properly without some aid. It turns out there is more than meets the eye regarding Ayomide’s strange affliction. Ekemini’s grandmother (a weak Rachel Oniga) has an interesting tale to tell but would it be enough to save the young marriage?
Should you care about supernatural curses, or about Rita Dominic or Femi Jacobs, then maybe you should consider going out of your way to check TheBlindSpot out. Otherwise it pretty much belongs right where its title suggests.
The rave of the moment, David Adeleke aka Davido, has bagged his second Nollywood role in a film titled, ‘Legend at 60.’
The singer plays the role of a young pilot in the new film, which tells the story of a pilot-turned-business mogul, Idahosa Wells Okunbo.
The film also stars Nollywood stars like Solomon Akiyesi, Maureen Ihua and Charles Awurum.
Davido shared the teaser to celebrate Okubo, who turned 60 recently.
In a preview shared on his social media timeline, on Monday, Davido potrays a highly skilled commercial pilot who has a lot of money to spend. The movie also features veteran reggae artiste, Majek Fashek, whose music career Davido’s character tries to revive.
Meanwhile, contrary to reports making the rounds on the Internet, this is the singer’s second Nollywood role and not his debut outing.
Not many are aware that Davido had his first shot in Nollywood in 2015, in a movie titled John Zerebe.
The 25-year-old singer starred alongside Gloria Young, Ikey Ojeogwu, Emma Blaq and Mimi Orjiekwe. It was produced by his cousin, Ojeogwu, and directed by Odiba Alfred. But it never made it to the cinemas.
The Academy announced the nine films that will compete for the Oscar nomination for the best foreign-language film.
The films on the shortlist, and their country of origin, are:
Chile, A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio, director
Germany, In the Fade, Fatih Akin, director
Hungary, On Body and Soul, Ildikó Enyedi, director
Israel, Foxtrot, Samuel Maoz, director
Lebanon, The Insult, Ziad Doueiri, director
Russia, Loveless, Andrey Zvyagintsev, director
Senegal, Félicité, Alain Gomis, director
South Africa, The Wound, John Trengove, director
Sweden, The Square, Ruben Östlund, director
Félicité’s nomination comes after the first time Senegal sent a film for consideration for the Best Foreign Language film. The film tells a story on how a bar entertainer struggles to get funds after her child is hospitalized.
The Wound deals with the traditional Xhosa initiation into manhood. All actors cast were first language Xhosa speakers with direct experience of the initiation.
The film tells a story on how a bar entertainer struggles to get funds after her child is admitted to hospital.
Game of Thrones is known for its higher than high production value, with expansive budget-breaking scenes that take weeks if not months to create. Like Jon Snow’s fight with the White Walkers beyond the wall, for example—a scene that involved an excursion to Iceland, green screens, fire, and hoards of extras. See?
But um, the thing is, it looks like the Game of Thrones producers forgot to CGI a zombie in, because the dude in the background of this shot is most definitely fighting air. In the words of Taylor Swift, he’s got a blank space, baby.
And in the event that you are like “Hold on! I bet this is secretly from the behind the scenes clip HBO posted on YouTube,” nah. I just re-watched the episode on HBO, and the below GIF is legit. That buddy of Jon Snow’s is simply attacking air, bless his heart.
Just nary a white walker to be found. But hey, sometimes it’s good to have moments like these to pull you out of Game of Thrones’ reality (a place, lest we remind you, that aunts and nephews have sex on boats), and back into real life. This is just a show! And sometimes, they make mistakes!
The hackers who compromised HBO’s network systems in July have threatened to leak the final two episodes of Game of Thrones.
The “Mr Smith group” of hackers told tech site Mashable that it has access to “many HBO platforms” and that HBO should be “ready” for the leak of episode six, which aired on Sunday, and episode seven of its biggest hit immediately ahead of the show’s finale at the end of the week.
The hackers also gave Mashable a list of the usernames and passwords for a number of HBO’s social media accounts, including its primary @HBO Twitter account. Last week the OurMine hacking group took control of HBO’s social media, including the Game of Thrones Twitter account.
Game of Thrones is already one of the most pirated TV shows of all time. Experts have argued that due to the prevalence of TV show piracy, threats of releasing unaired episodes were not enough to coerce payment.
Alex Heid, chief research officer at risk management firm SecurityScorecard said: “Pirated content ends up on Pirate Bay within 24 hours of airing. Any show on HBO, any movie, the moment it’s released, on the first day, you see it on pirated internet streams.”
Analysts agree that HBO was aided by the fact that the hackers only released a few shows and that an entire season wasn’t released in one go, forcing viewers who wanted to watch it as soon as possible to subscribe to the TV network.
More potentially damaging to HBO could be the release of further sensitive information. Previous dumps listing actors’ personal details, scripts, shooting plans and a trove of emails. Up to now the damage caused to HBO by the leaks has paled in comparison to the chaos caused by the hacks on Sony Pictures in 2014.
A person familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to speak publicly, said HBO was proactive in communicating with the Game of Thrones actors ahead of their personal information being released to the public, which may have helped mitigate the impact of confidential data leaks.
Richard Levick, the head of crisis-management firm Levick, said that being upfront with employees, customers and third parties about cyberattacks is essential. He said: “You can’t sweep it under the rug. You can’t be opaque about it.”
Warning: this blog contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season seven, episode five. Do not read on unless you have watched.
Remember the bad old days of sexposition? All that naked flesh cynically deployed in the background – or even foreground – to sugar the presumably bitter pill of Westeros world-building? Sexposition was the stick used to beat Game of Thrones in the show’s early running, and it always felt like some HBO executive hedging their bets: if we’re going to let these fantasy characters discuss the detailed history, weirdly messed up seasons and absurdly tangled royal lineage of some made-up quasi-medieval continent, best throw in some titillation to stop bored viewers tuning out.
Fast-forward to season seven and it is a very different story. No need for writhing concubines or fluffy handcuffs: we are all locked in. It doesn’t even matter that every character is now sporting leather armour that covers 90% of their body. This breakneck-paced season has offered a different kind of eye candy: blockbuster-beating action, lusty sea battles, crafty castle sackings, terrifying dragons in full vengeful flight. For a large percentage of viewers, though, there’s a comparable thrill to piecing together the breadcrumbs of the show’s deep plotting. To successfully decode the fractured history of Westeros feels like a gateway to foreseeing its ultimate fate, looming just a season away.
Which is why Eastwatch – an episode required to brush away the smouldering remains of the spectacular Loot Train Attack before resetting the board for the season’s climactic double-whammy – arguably had its headline moment overshadowed by a maester’s chickenscratch on a dusty scroll. The much-anticipated return of Gendry (Joe Dempsie) was an open secret. The showrunners, perhaps feeling guilty for making Dempsie a benchwarmer for three seasons, bent over backwards to make his comeback cool. Get ready, they seemed to be saying, because here comes the hot smelter.
It was Davos who waved Gendry off in a rowboat, and it was Davos who located him again in a Fleabottom smithy. With his new badass buzzcut, the doughty blacksmith with royal blood coursing through his muscular arms was shown to be mission-ready, scooping up his Jason Bourne-style go-bag before the grouchy smuggler had even finished his recruitment pitch and expertly donking two King’s Landing watchmen with a customised warhammer. He even got do some manly you’re-a-bastard, I’m-a-bastard bonding with Jon Snow. Everything about Gendry’s return seemed intended to signal that This Guy And His Rad Hammer Are A Big Deal.
And yet. The moments that really got the blood pumping were more subtle. Jon’s ability to fondle Drogon’s muzzle without being turned to charcoal was a scene played without dialogue, perhaps to allow viewers space to squee over this latest confirmation that the King in the North has more than a little dragon-taming Targaryen DNA in him. Then there was dedicated student Gilly who, amid the papyrus graveyard of the Citadel, happened across the equivalent of a footnote in the small ads section of the local paper. Here, suddenly, was a glimmer of proof that Rhaeger, son of the Mad King, had annulled his previous marriage before his son Jon Snow was born, giving him by far the strongest claim to the Iron Throne.
That renegade maester Samwell was too busy seething over the short-sightedness of his elders to clock the importance of this was hardly the point. It was there for the viewer, another breadcrumb to ponder, another piece of evidence to index, another link to add to our personal maester’s chain of how we think it will all end. Instead of loitering in Littlefinger’s bawdy houses, we are walking patiently through our personal mind palaces, obsessing over historical marginalia. Impressively, Game of Thrones has made maesters of us all.
We know the coming of Isoken has given all the guys who low-key hated The Wedding Party (TWP) frenzy, an excuse to finally speak out. We understand. It must have been painful to have been quiet all that time. The tide was too strong. TWP was classic hysteria.
Like we always say, much of film criticism, beneath all the intellectualism and talk of ‘pastiche’ and ‘cornucopia’ comes down to ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like’ and so it’s always proper to have people who don’t enjoy what everyone else does.
But you can say that without setting up a false comparison. Isoken and TWP are both excellent films, for two very different reasons.
Isoken is a deliberate (if at some point, confusing) story with a very specific, dare we say feminist theme – that a woman has the right to be whoever she wants to be, on her own terms. It effectively camouflages as a romantic comedy, but is actually a serious film, dealing serious subjects, in a patriarchal society. It works because of this dominant theme.
TWP was a good film: a celebration of Nigerian partygoing, colour and vibe. And it was very conscious of what it was. TWP was both a movie about a party and a party in itself. It was a communal gathering of Nigerians experiencing in the cinema a slice of life we are intimately familiar with. Accusing it of a lack of a story is deliberately ignoring what it was and what it clearly said it was.
If a film says: I don’t want to have a story, I want to throw a party and you criticise it for not having a story, you’re being pedantic.
Both films are giant strides for Nollywood because they both push the envelope and help the industry attract Nigerians to trust Nigerian movies at the cinemas with their wallets and ATMs. They are excellent movies that achieve completely different things. Let’s stop this unnecessary drama.
“Game of Thrones” returns for its penultimate season Sunday, presaging the end of a saga of sex, violence and political intrigue that has become the world’s most popular TV show.
The R-rated fable of noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne has just 13 episodes left, split across two shortened seasons which will bring the curtain down on a ratings juggernaut that made television history.
One of the darkest and most controversial primetime series ever made, it has been the target of criticism over the years for senseless violence and its repeated use of rape as a dramatic device.
The scriptwriters have brutalised women, killed children, depicted graphic sex and had their characters hacked, stabbed, flayed, poisoned, decapitated, burned alive, eye-gouged and eviscerated — all in glorious, close-up detail.
The adult themes have not deterred fans, however, and the audience has grown in the US to more than 23 million per episode.
“Game of Thrones” has more Emmy Awards than any narrative show in history and airs in 170 countries, with viewership figures shattering records across the world.
Season six was the first to move beyond George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels and carve its own path.
Critics said it marked a return to form, with the narrative allowing female characters to demonstrate complexity and moral agency lacking in some of the earlier seasons.
Viewers saw hero Jon Snow (Kit Harington) resurrected and declared King in the North, while Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) staged a coup in King’s Landing, murdering most of the royal family and her religious opponent, the High Sparrow.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), raped in a controversial off-book episode in season five by Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), fed him to his hounds and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) set sail for Westeros.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss last year announced the shortened run of seven and six episodes for the final two seasons and confirmed the summer return for season seven, a departure from the usual April premieres.
The show has been teasing winter’s arrival since its pilot episode in 2011, and with the season six finale entitled “The Winds of Winter,” the camera crew was forced to wait for colder weather to begin filming season seven.
Few details have been revealed about the new episodes, except that Oscar-winning Jim Broadbent joins the cast and pop sensation Ed Sheeran is to make a cameo appearance.
One theory doing the rounds on social media is that fan favorite Dany may become a villain.
Proponents point out that her father, Mad King Aerys Targaryen, was a brutal killer and that the Mother of Dragons herself appears to be getting colder with each new season.
“I think that would be highly unlikely,” Iain Glen, who plays her ally and fellow exile Jorah Mormont, told the Huffington Post, however.
“I mean, this is Iain speaking and Jorah speaking — we share the same voice — my belief in her is such that I can’t see her going that way myself.”
– Ruling Westeros –
Snow and other major characters are expected to get more screen time during the final episodes despite the shorter seasons, mainly because the minor players keep getting killed off.
“It’s a nice change for me this season, he talks more, he’s more sure of himself,” Harington told Entertainment Weekly (EW) of his character.
“He doesn’t just know what he’s got to do but he’s more sure of what he’s saying, whereas before there was always some fear and doubt. I’ve gotten to enjoy not just grunting.”
A 90-second trailer entitled “Long Walk” showed Cersei, Dany and Jon heading towards their respective throne rooms in King’s Landing, Dragonstone and Winterfell.
Episode 61, entitled “Dragonstone,” premieres on HBO at 9 pm in the US on both coasts, while the network has announced the following two episodes will be called “Stormborn” and “The Queen’s Justice.”
The biggest question of all — which will not answered this summer — remains who will be sitting on the Iron Throne and ruling Westeros when “Game of Thrones” comes to an end.
“I think Sansa should get the Iron Throne, and I think Jon Snow should rule Winterfell,” Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran Stark, said in a video posted by EW.
“Sansa should rule the Iron Throne. Arya should rule Winterfell,” countered Harington, who said he thought Snow should rejoin the Night’s Watch defending the realm against threats from the north.
With top Hollywood movies including Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3 still in high demand at the cinemas, Nigerian movies are not left out as they are also doing well at the moment.
From comedy to psychological thrillers or romantic movies, Nollywood filmmakers are also upping the ante. Are you drawing up your itinerary for the weekend? Then, you may want to check out these Nollywood films at a cinema house near you.
The psychological limits and endurance of a couple are stretched after the wife, Diane, suddenly sees an exact replica of her dead son (five years after his death), walking leisurely home from a different school and living an entirely different life. The emotional ramifications of this experience becomes near damning.
5 – Isoken
Everyone in the Osayande family worries about Isoken. Although she has what appears to have a perfect life – beautiful, successful and surrounded by great family and friends – Isoken is still unmarried at 34 which, in a culture obsessed with marriage, is serious cause for concern. Things come to a head at her youngest sister’s wedding when her overbearing mother thrusts her into an orchestrated matchmaking with the ultimate Edo man, Osaze. Isoken is a romantic drama that explores cultural expectations, racial stereotypes and the bonds that unite families in touching, dramatic and comedic ways.
Stars: Dakore Akande, Joseph Benjamin, Marc Rhys
1 – AJUWAYA- The Haunted Village
Kannywood sweetheart, Rahama Sadau, plays a lead role in ‘Ajuwaya – The Haunted Village’. Produced and directed by Tolu Lord Tanner, the film follows the story of six corps members who were posted to a remote village in Osun State for their youth service and unwittingly woke an age-long evil. Kemi Lala Akindoju, Timini Egbuson, Lanre Hassan, Etinosa Idemudia and many others also star in the film.
2 – SPOUSE’S SECRETS
Ella and Sam, a young and dynamic couple held on to their sheer-secrets at the expense of matrimonial peace and harmony; with a myriad of side attractions and distractions, the revealed secrets result to fruitfulness, openness and love. The movie’s cast includes Sam Uche Anyamele, Nuella Chikere (Njudigbo), Jude Orhorha, Nancy Gabriel and Monique Samuel.
4 . 10 Days in Suncity
Bianca is a campus beauty queen who Akpos has sacrificed his livelihood to make successful. After successfully winning a national beauty pageant, Bianca, ever loyal to Akpos, is now an international celebrity rolling with society’s ‘high and mighty’. Otunba who is also invested in Bianca follows Akpos and Bianca to Sun city; but will Akpos give up his love with all the sweat he has invested or will Otunba win this time with the use of his wit and charm as the ‘old fox’ which he has used to conquer like he has done time and again, in the world of business?
The movie features celebrities such as 2face Idibia, Adesua Etomi, Mercy Johnson, Falz The Bahd Guy, Uti Nwachukwu, Yvonne Jegede, Alexx Ekubo and veteran actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo.
Also featured in the movie were South African comedienne, Thenjiwe Moseley, Amanda Du Pont, Celeste Ntuli and a bit of Hollywood spice, Miguel Nunez Jr.
Shortly after the presidential election, Oskar Eustis, one of New York’s most successful theater executives, knew what he wanted to do. He would direct a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” with the title character a provocative but inexact stand-in for President Trump.
Mr. Eustis was not alone. All over the country, from Oklahoma to Oregon, theaters have been staging “Julius Caesar” this year as a way to chew over politics, power, democracy and authoritarianism at a moment when a populist leader with a fondness for executive power has moved into the White House.
Most of the productions take place without incident, but Mr. Eustis’s, which opened Monday night in New York, has been engulfed in controversy ever since a bootleg video of the assassination of Caesar, who is styled and performed to suggest Mr. Trump, began circulating on the internet last week and some who had seen the performance started to complain.
That prompted Mr. Eustis to devote his opening-night speech to a full-throated defense of the theater’s mission, which he urged audience members at the outdoor Delacorte Theater to record on their cellphones and share. “When we hold the mirror up to nature,” he said, “often what we reveal are disturbing, upsetting, provoking things. Thank God. That’s our job.”
A clash between Trump supporters and an iconic Manhattan arts institution over what kind of art is appropriate was perhaps inevitable in this hyperpartisan age. The proudly iconoclastic Public Theater is the birthplace of “Hair” (the Vietnam-era antiwar musical) and “Hamilton” (the hip-hop musical celebrating immigrants). And Mr. Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, is an unabashedly left-leaning theatermaker who believes in the value of provocative art.
Defenders of the production, including some theater critics, describe the Public’s “Julius Caesar” as nuanced, complex and loyal to Shakespeare’s text — a cautionary tale about the costs of political violence.
But the production is also explicit and graphic, featuring a blond, Trump-like Caesar in a red tie, whose bloody stabbing is seen as offensive and inappropriate to some who have seen it. They, along with Breitbart News and Fox News, have driven a campaign on social media against the Public that has prompted two corporate sponsors — Delta Air Lines and Bank of America — to withdraw their support of the production, and a third, American Express, to distance itself.
“It was appalling,” Laura Sheaffer said in a radio interview. “Shocking.”
Ms. Sheaffer, a sales manager for Salem Media, a conservative-leaning media group, saw a performance on June 3. Three days later she described her dismay over the production in a conversation with the conservative radio host and comedian Joe Piscopo, then voiced her concern again to the media and politics site Mediaite, declaring “I don’t love President Trump, but he’s the president. You can’t assassinate him on a stage.” Mediaite made the most of the story, posting it with the headline “Senators Stab Trump to Death in Central Park Performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.”
The reaction from the artistic community could not have been more different. “It’s an odd reading to say that it incites violence, because the meat of the tragedy of the play is the tragic repercussions of the assassination,” said Bill Rauch, the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is presenting a “Julius Caesar” throughout this year. “The play could not be clearer about the disastrous effects of violence.”
Still, the wheels of conservative media — as well as some other outlets — were already in motion. Breitbart and The Blaze jumped in, citing Ms. Sheaffer, along with Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog. Television’s “Inside Edition” quoted an unidentified audience member on camera saying, “I didn’t like that they made this person who looks like Trump get assassinated.”
On Sunday, “Fox and Friends,” the Trump-friendly morning show on Fox News, gave the outrage its largest platform, running multiple segments on the story. “Notice, nobody has a problem with it on the left,” said Pete Hegseth, a “Fox and Friends” host who appeared with Mr. Trump during his presidential campaign. “Nobody seems to care. It’s only us talking about it.”
That got the attention of one of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., who mused on Twitter: “I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?”
That prompted the National Endowment for the Arts, whose funding had been threatened by the Trump administration, to issue a statement denying any financial connection to the production. By Monday, the N.E.A. website had a pop-up disclaimer reading “No taxpayer dollars support Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Julius Caesar.”
The City of New York, by contrast, is sticking with the Public, which it supports financially.
“Threatening funding for a group based on an artistic decision amounts to censorship,” said Tom Finkelpearl, the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs. “We don’t interfere with the content created by nonprofits that receive public support — period.
The Public has been in a defensive crouch, answering questions only by written statements. Numerous trustees contacted on Monday declined to comment, saying that the theater had asked them not to speak.
The board members play no role in approving the theater’s programming or production choices, but many are on the board because they endorse the artistically risky programming associated with the Public.
On opening night, several prominent artists reiterated their commitment to the theater. Alec Baldwin, the foremost pop culture interpreter of Mr. Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” said that supporters of the Public needed to make up the lost funding. “I called up Eustis and said let’s get a bunch of people together and fill in that hole — get some people who want to raise that gap,” Mr. Baldwin said.
Shakespeare in the Park costs about $3 million a year to run; the Public would not specify where that money comes from, but Bank of America has been the program’s “lead corporate sponsor” for the last 11 years. And runs are limited; the last performance of “Julius Caesar” is scheduled for Sunday.
“We stand completely behind our production of ‘Julius Caesar,’” Mr. Eustis said in an email to the theater’s supporters Monday afternoon, after a day of meetings about the controversy. “We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.”
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Mr. Eustis added: “Our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in no way advocates violence toward anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.”
And, even as some corporations backed away, other key donors, and the artistic community, remained supportive.
“It’s an upsetting play, but if there’s a production of ‘Julius Caesar’ that doesn’t upset you, you’re sitting through a very bad production,” said Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. “It’s clear that the corporate sponsors who pulled out are just being cowardly and caving in to a lot of cranky right-wing people because Breitbart and Fox News told them to.”
Jennifer Goodale, a program director at the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, which gave $250,000 to support the production and was described by the Public as the program’s “lead foundation sponsor,” said that her foundation would continue to back Shakespeare in the Park.
“Theater provokes a discourse, and we accept that — not every theater piece can please everybody,” she said.
The New York Times, which has sponsored Shakespeare in the Park for 20 years, also continues to back the program. “As an institution that believes in free speech for the arts as well as the media,” The Times said in a statement, “we support the right of the Public Theater to stage the production as they choose.”
Ms. Sheaffer, whose impromptu stage review helped kick off the controversy, said on Monday she had no regrets about challenging the Public. “I grieve for the theater, but the reality is there has to be consequences,” she said.