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Eight Life Lessons ‘Hocus Pocus’ Taught Us

Eight Life Lessons ‘Hocus Pocus’ Taught Us

Say what you like about this campy film that features a talking cat, catchy musical numbers and extortionate levels of cringe, but we think Hocus Pocus is a masterpiece.

This Halloween, the iconic cult-classic that is Hocus Pocus is 25 years old. With the film out-performing other family-friendly Halloween movies in a survey by Redbox, it’s not just the nostalgia of secretly watching this as a child, even though our parents said it would give us nightmares, that makes this movie worthy of its dedicated 90s-kid following.

The story of the Sanderson sisters inaugurates a hanging, a resurrection and a mission to suck the souls out of the children of Salem, Massachusetts. Brilliantly played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker, the witches are just a few of the strong characters that helped this movie shape a generation of millennials. Child murdering aside, here are eight powerful life lessons that can be learned during 96 minutes of pure magic.

 Women are awesome

Sure, the Sanderson sisters may kill children, but you’d probably be lying if you said you didn’t want to be a part of their coven when you were growing up. These hilarious witches are quick-witted, powerful and know how to confidently take charge to get the dirty work done.

Sisterhood is definitely, and literally, the word here—each sister has her own unique talents that serve to compliment those of her siblings’. The sisters are the only ones who understand how to calm each other down and, even though they don’t always see eye-to-eye, they unite on their quest to take on modern society. We’re including Allison (Vinessa Shaw) and Dani (Thora Birch)—the brave girls who scheme against these witches—in this, too.

Another great thing about Hocus Pocus is how sexually aware the female characters are. Sarah Sanderson may be borderline inappropriate, but she’s definitely not afraid to express her desires. She flirts, plays with and kisses a variety of men throughout the film for her own sexual pleasure, a trait that screams modern feminist. Also refreshing is the scene in which Max (Omri Katz) lights the black-flame candle that summons the witches back from the grave. Instead of the sweet, virginal girl trope that often dominates horror films, a virginal boy proves that he should have listened to his sister—sorry Max.

Always be yourself

Salem society clearly has its qualms about the Sanderson sisters, and the hair and makeup team were obviously out to get them too. Frankly, the witches couldn’t care less. By embracing their weirdness, they turn being different into something powerful and intimidating. As it turns out, eternal beauty is overrated when you’re faced with the imminent problem of being reduced to dust. The lesson: Always be yourself, unless you can be a badass witch and survive until morning.

Squads stick together

Max, Allison, Dani and Thackery (Sean Murray) vs. Winifred, Mary and Sarah. By sticking together, both sides are able to put up a good fight. Whether it’s providing back-up vocals when a member of the group launches into unexpected song, or drinking a youth-sucking potion so that your little sister doesn’t have to, having each other’s backs is everything.

Reading is magical

Clearly, books hold all the answers; just don’t steal them if you want to avoid child-murdering witches. On the other hand, perhaps if the Sanderson sister’s had made the effort to memorize a few spells, they’d have been more successful. We’ll take knowledge over youthful looks any day.

Tomorrow is a new day 

At the end of the day, you can rest assured knowing that no matter how traumatized you may have become; the day’s problems will be reduced to stardust before dawn arrives. Hopefully, if you don’t die first, or get turned into a cat.

Being young is powerful, and so is being old

The Sanderson sister’s are obsessed with youth, reminding us that being young is desirable and we should probably make the most of it. In fact, whether your duty is to rid society of evil witches or speak out on social media, young people definitely have the power to change the world.

That being said, it is clear that society has burdened adults with the impossible task of reversing nature’s clock. Instead of spending your entire paycheck on anti-aging products and dermal fillers, steal the life essence of a child or refer to the above point: “Always be yourself”. 

Family is the best

If your big brother has ever given up his future with a pretty girl to drink a deadly potion and save your life, then you can undoubtedly relate to this one. Really, Hocus Pocus is about family. Thackery Binx spends 300 years plagued by the fact that he couldn’t save his sister; the Sanderson sisters literally support each other through life and death; and Max eventually realizes that his annoying little sister has been there for him all along and sacrifices everything for her.

This family-film was also the first to teach us how to give our parents a break. Mom and Dad have their own lives and personalities in this movie and even occasionally enjoy dressing up as Madonna for Halloween.

Yabbos means breasts

“What do you call them again, Max? Yabbos?”

Further reading: The 12 Best Netflix Movies to Watch This Halloween

A Prayer Before Dawn

Joe Cole on A Prayer Before Dawn

As soon as Joe Cole and I are connected for this interview, it’s as though I am greeted by an old friend; he is relaxed, chirpy and prepared for a good old natter. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was talking to a colleague, a peer, but the British actor is more than that. His rising star within the cinematic landscape began modestly with secondary roles in UK procedural soaps but his career soon catapulted, making his face a familiar screen-favorite among the leading actors of our generation—and I suspect we will be seeing much more of him in the future, too. Cole has made appearances in Green Room (2015), Eye on Juliet (2017), and, perhaps most notably, in the critically acclaimed British period drama, Peaky Blinders (2013-present), as the razor-sharp John Shelby.

But fans should focus their attentions to the 29-year-old’s latest major role as Billy Moore in A Prayer Before Dawn. This gritty, primal boxing drama is based on the true memoirs of Billy Moore, a UK boxer who moved to Thailand and found himself incarcerated in two of Thailand’s most notorious prisons after dabbling in drugs and crime. While inside, Moore takes up Muay Thai boxing in an effort to—quite literally—fight his way out of prison. The film, which received Official Selection at 2017’s Cannes Film Festival, was released July 20 2018, and has lauded much critical acclaim since. (“It seems like people are enjoying the movie,” Cole says, humbly.)

Getting into character

Getting into the mindset of a true-to-life character—who is still alive—is unlike anything the actor has ever experienced before. “I actually met him [Billy Moore] when I was doing Peaky Blinders,” says Cole. “He’s a super charismatic, interesting guy with incredible anecdotes and life experience and he’s a joy to have around…So I got to know him really well and he opened up to me more and more in the build-up to shooting the movie. It was kind of amazing—he really gave himself to me, more than what’s in the book.”

I ask the actor how did this role come to him and what did he have to do to prepare for such a versatile character? “I actually share an agent with the director,” he explains. The film’s director, Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, made his stamp directing hard-hitting cult movies including Johnny Mad Dog (2008) and A Dios (2001). For his arguably bravest venture yet, the French director had his eyes firmly set on Cole to play his latest leading man after seeing his performance in prior films. “I trained a lot. I got to Thailand and was put in these real gritty Thai boxing camps where you wash with a bucket of water and kind of just really get stuck in and have these Thai guys beat you up for 10 hours a day [laughs],” Cole says. “That’s essentially what I did; and I ate Pad Thai.”

 “I remember at one point I got a massage off of three murderers at the same time—getting a massage from three guys who’ve killed three people!”—Joe Cole

A new experience

What makes this award-nominated film so interesting and special is that, besides Cole himself and Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm, the characters we see on screen are non-actors. Ex-convicts, boxers still incarcerated and locals found in bars were anointed with these exceptional starring roles, where a glaring sense of truth underpins the entire narrative.

“It’s an all-encompassing life experience,” Cole says. “It was a real experience, you know, working with ex-cons, prisoner boxers, a trans girl who we found in a club in Thailand and just all these people who hadn’t acted before and shooting in a real prison and what comes with that. It was just pretty amazing.” To my utter disbelief, the 29-year-old actor tells me, “I remember at one point, I got a massage off of three murderers at the same time—getting a massage from three guys who’ve killed three people!”

Cole fondly recalls non-professional members of the film’s crew who helped bring a deft authenticity to the narrative as a whole. “I remember a guy teaching me how to smoke Ya ba [a drug containing caffeine and methamphetamines], which is one of the drugs Billy [Moore] smokes in prison. He was the assistant props guy. He’d spent a few years in prison and was addicted to Ya ba. So he showed me how to make this Ya ba pipe and he’s actually done it for real, you know?

“Jean [is] a real advocate of getting the ‘truth’ in there. I’ve worked on films where directors have just said, ‘That’s fine, it looks good,’ whereas Jean is all about truth and authenticity ad he wants to listen to the real people. He doesn’t want to listen to the people who think they know, he wants to listen to the people who do know and they worked in front of and behind the camera. We spent a lot of time listening to those guys.”

Cole explains to me that all of the sparring that occurs during the film’s fight scenes is completely real. “We had to actually be physical with each other, and when you’re doing that 18 hours a day, it takes its toll. I remember I nearly got knocked out by a Southeast Asian boxing champion who also spent seven years in the prison in which we filmed. He showed me his bed where he slept, which was just a bit of floor space, and we actually shot in that cell a bit. And he actually nearly knocked me out [laughs],”—by accident, he adds hastily.

A new frontier

Acting is a notoriously difficult industry in which to succeed, so I thought it only pertinent to dig into how the Kingston-born-and-raised star did it himself. “I suppose it was the thing I was best at, at school,” Cole confesses. But it may surprise you, reader, that this actor is self-made in a way that makes you think that anyone can do this. “I didn’t know any actors, I didn’t have family [in the industry], obviously my little brother now [Finn Cole, Peaky Blinders]. But I didn’t know anybody in the industry. I never saw it as a logistical career path.” Cole tells me that his moment of career clarity came at a point when he had failed his A Levels at school and had been dealing with a bad breakup, all while watching his peers go off to university. “I just thought, you know what? This sucks. I need to pull my finger out.” After taking a drama course at the National Youth Theatre in London, Cole confesses that acting took over his life. “It is all I thought about. It was kind of weird. I was very passionate and obsessed almost. I was writing a lot; I wrote a television show that helped me get a better agent, and I was more interested in writing my television show than I was going out clubbing, for example. It was almost a necessity.” Cole’s advice for aspiring actors is not to simply ‘dream big’ or ‘aim for the stars’; it’s more rational than that. “I say this often to young aspiring actors: You’ve got to really want it; you’ve got to really, really want it.” He explains that to get to where is he now, he focused on what actors just one echelon above him in terms of career were doing. “When I hadn’t done any television work, I was looking at those actors who had done bits and pieces on television and trying to copy what they were doing. And then after that, I was looking at the next level of actor and seeing what they were doing and trying to replicate that.”

“I say this often to young aspiring actors: You’ve got to really want it; you’ve got to really, really want it”—Joe Cole

Looking forward

Cole’s mission to depict interesting and diverse characters and tell culturally taboo stories doesn’t stop here; in fact, this actor is just getting started. “I’ve just finished a show on Channel 4 [viewers can access this channel online] called Pure,” he tells me. “[Pure is] a true story based on this woman’s memoirs [Rose Bretécher]. She had a condition called Pure OCD which is a form of OCD where you have very vivid and intrusive thoughts constantly. In her case, it’s sexual thoughts. I play a guy with a porn addiction, who the main character meets, and we try to help each other with our problems.”

If this conversation wasn’t inspiring, then I don’t know what is; A Prayer Before Dawn will be available to buy on DVD from September 24 2018.

This feature was originally published in College News magazine, Fall Edition 2018.

The 12 Best Netflix Movies to Watch This Halloween

The 12 Best Netflix Movies to Watch This Halloween

A recent survey by Redbox.com found that, after 45 years, The Exorcist (1973) is still the scariest movie that members have ever seen. Hocus Pocus (1993) is also celebrating a milestone anniversary this year, and it’s no surprise to hear that the iconic, 25-year-old classic out-performed all other family-friendly Halloween movies.

Whether you prefer fun or frightening, staying in with Netflix beats trick or treating—just ask the survey. We’re giving you 12 spooky movie options that you can stream for the best October ever.

The survey also showed that 72 percent of responders prefer popcorn to candy, so you should probably watch Children Of The Corn (1984) too. Happy Halloween!

  1. Scooby-Doo (2002)

Anyone who says this isn’t the best film ever made is lying—or just isn’t that nostalgic. The live-action re-imagining of the classic cartoon involves cults, spirits, brainwashing and meddling kids.

  1. It Follows (2014)

This horror film seems to be about an STD—except it takes the form of an evil spirit that sets out to murder its victim. Pass it on to survive.

  1. The Sixth Sense (1999)

This classic psychological thriller follows Bruce Willis as his character tries to help a young boy who is visited by ghosts. If you haven’t already been spoiled on the ending, your Halloween just got 100 times better.

  1. Coraline (2009)

Coraline is based on Neil Gaiman’s slightly disturbing children’s book. It follows a young girl who discovers an exciting parallel universe. Once you get over how creepy the character’s button-eyes are, this movie is awesome.

  1. The Babadook (2014)

On the surface, this monster movie seems like a terrifying horror film. Deep down, it is a terrifying horror film that cleverly explores the stresses of being a single parent and the manifestation of grief and depression.

  1. The Conjuring (2013) 

The Conjuring is inspired by a true story, and it’s petrifying. The movie follows paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, as they attempt to help a family who are being terrorized by a malevolent spirit.

  1. The Boy (2016)

Creepy doll movies are perfect for Halloween, and this one is no exception. When a young nanny breaks the list of rules for looking after a life-size doll, it becomes clear why the parents treat it like a real boy.

  1. Hotel Transylvania (2012)

If you need a break from the horrors, Hotel Transylvania’s monsters-meet-humans adventure is charming and fun. It was also voted as the fifth family-friendly favourite in the Redbox survey.

  1. Would You Rather (2013)

We dare you to tear your eyes away from this gruesome horror. The intense movie follows a group of unfortunate characters at a dinner party. In a merciless twist, the host forces them to play a sadistic game or pay the price.

  1. Curse of Chucky (2012) 

What screams Halloween more than Chucky? Another sequel. This installment is actually one of the most atmospheric and scary Chucky films, and follows a grieving daughter whose niece has a creepy doll.

  1. Van Helsing (2004)

This monster hunter saga is mainly here because it has Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale in, but it’s also a thrilling roller-coaster ride of entertainment.

  1. Raw (2016) 

This one is best viewed on an empty stomach, so put the popcorn down. At school, a vegetarian girl is convinced to eat raw meat for the first time and develops a craving for flesh. This movie is famous for causing audience members to faint at the Toronto International Film Festival. Go on, we dare you.

Further reading: Why Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is A Loser Is Problematic

Why Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is A Loser Is Problematic

Why Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is A Loser Is Problematic

2018 is becoming the year of the hit or miss Netflix rom-com. The streaming sensation’s most recent success, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, is a charming and mature exploration of identity, family and young love. With emerging teenage heartthrob, Noah Centineo, also appearing as a new love interest in Sierra Burgess Is A Loser just a few weeks later, it’s hard to see how Netflix got this film so wrong.

Netflix’s Stranger Things star, Shannon Purser has been promoted from sidekick to leading lady in Sierra Burgess—what should have been a heartwarming move towards body positivity. With a respectable, talented cast and undeniably positive themes of friendship, it’s a shame that pretty much the rest of the Sierra Burgess plot makes us feel uncomfortable. Indeed, for a film that was supposed to subvert the stereotypes of teenage rom-coms, every joke served to insult its own integrity.

Sierra Burgess is loosely based on the 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac, and follows an intelligent misfit who accepts her unpopularity at school with the help of family, friendship and integrity. Sounds good so far, right?

When stereotypical it-girl, Veronica (Kristine Froseth), gives Sierra’s phone number to Jamey (Noah Centineo) as a joke, and he texts the number thinking he’s messaging Veronica, Sierra just goes along with it. Perhaps if Sierra had any incentive to do so—perhaps if she had ever actually met Jamey—we’d sympathize with her character or see this moment as comedic. As it goes, we see Sierra cat fishing Jamey throughout the film by pretending to be Veronica, without her permission.

Luckily for Sierra, Veronica doesn’t seem to mind this, and goes on to help Sierra to continue to deceive Jamey in exchange for tutoring. Notably, the tutoring stems from a guy calling Veronica “dumb” and serves as an attempt—not to prove him wrong—but to impress him. Veronica even allows Sierra to coerce her into face timing Jamey and, at one point, actually goes on a date with him. We’ll forgive you for being such a dreamboat, but come on Jamey; she has a completely different voice!

As this scene comes to a head, Netflix also throws in a huge consent fail. Jamey asks to kiss Veronica, at which point she promptly puts her hands over his eyes and switches places with Sierra, who has been eavesdropping on the date from underneath Jamey’s car. Cringingly similar to ‘The Houdini’ manoeuvre, this PG-13 version is still ringing all of the alarm bells.

Bizarre, cat-fishing scenes aside, this message does not promote body positivity or self-acceptance to its young viewers. Instead, it seems that the only way Sierra can get a guy to kiss her is through force, and by pretending to be someone she’s not—a thin, blonde socialite. Even as Sierra and Veronica become unsuspecting best friends, a scene where Veronica plucks Sierra’s eyebrows reminds us that grooming is still considered a way to fit in to gendered society.

In a more positive light, another casting success for the film was the role of Jamey’s deaf little brother, who is played by the deaf actor, Cochise Zornoza. Unfortunately, a scene where Sierra bumps into Jamey in real life and pretends to be deaf so that he won’t recognise her voice, does not help its cause. Prominent deaf activist and male model, Nyle DiMarco, was one of the first to point out why.

“So one of my close friends’ deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess”, he tweeted.

“When I learned, I was elated. Finally more deaf actors/representation & ASL inclusion in films

“… Only to find out the deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke.

“PS- pretending to be deaf is NOT ok.”

Viewers have also been quick to point out that the slut shaming in Sierra Burgess, as well as a number of LGBT and mental illness jokes, is totally not okay. For a movie with the slogan “Just Be You”, it really just romanticizes cat fishing and manipulation. In a somewhat undeserving resolution, Jamey tells Sierra that “even though she isn’t everyone’s type,” she’s perfect for him—charming.

Whilst I think that the idea of teenage love bringing out unexplored insecurities is relatable—and I did relate to Sierra on a few different levels—this film was just far too problematic to work for me. I’m also definitely on team Veronica—sorry Barb.

Idris Elba James Bond

Idris Elba Pegged as the Next James Bond

Despite quashing rumors two years ago, gossips are twittering that Idris Elba has been pegged as the next James Bond once again.

Back in 2016, Elba said “I think I’m too old for that man, running around in cars and ladies and martinis, who wants to do that?”, yet people are still unconvinced.

After the producer of the film franchise, Barbara Broccoli, recently stated that “it is time” for a non-white hero to take play the suave British spy, fans have gone into frenzy.

The Luther (2010-2018) star further fanned the flames of suspicion when he published a rather playful tweet saying “The Name’s Elba. Idris Elba”. Was he simply teasing or was this an early announcement?    

Daniel Craig is said to be giving his fifth and final performance in Bond’s next installment. He played the fascinating character for more than 10 years, his first performance being in Casino Royale (2006). Danny Boyle was originally lined up to direct the forthcoming the 25th film in the series. However, recent reports say that Boyle has withdrawn himself from captaining the next chapter due to “artistic differences”. This drama surrounding the franchise has only added to the anticipation of the famous fictional character’s fate.

Elba has been a favorite to replace Craig since 2014 when the digital hack of Sony revealed documents with Amy Pascal, co-chair of the company, putting the actor forward for the role. Since then, he has been top of the public’s list. Elba is also the top choice amongst “bookies”, who are hastily taking bets on the subject.

A poll held by cinema chain ODEON rendered these results with regards to favourite actors to fill the role. Fans were asked to name their favourite choices for 007 and, unsurprisingly, Elba came out on top:

  • Idris Elba: 26 percent
  • Tom Hardy: 22 percent
  • Tom Hiddleston: 11 percent
  • Aidan Turner: 5percent
  • James Norton: 5 percent

Film 25 won’t hit the silver screen until October 2019, but until then, we can imagine, rumours on the next James Bond actor will continue to circulate.

What do you think about Idris Elba being pegged as the next James Bond—is it likely? Which actor do you want to see in the role?

Further reading: The Relevancy of BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman

The Relevancy of BlacKkKlansman

The Spike Lee-directed, Jordan Peele-produced summer movie BlacKkKlansman was everything you can imagine from the title. A story based on real events has hit the movie world to surprising success. Making over $10 million dollars in sales on its opening weekend, it also received countless standing ovations at festivals, including the theater I saw the movie in. The in-depth story of the first black officer in Colorado Springs quickly transitions into a sting operation, where the same officer successfully infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. Set in the 70s, the story is littered with racial bias and nuances of the time period. Strong racial language made the story a bit heavy at times but to see a glimpse of the neo-Nazi ideology unfold will serve as a beacon for truth for many years. Let me explain why.

BlacKkKlansman is not some righteous portrayal of a cop doing good for his people but simply an accidental operation that turned out to land on the morally right side of history. It is more of a detailed manifestation of the undertones of white nationalism and white supremacy. It is distinct and precise in its approach to gain access into the world of the “Organization” better known as the KKK.

Spike Lee showcases his directorial genius by creating a film that almost reminds you of a self-serving KKK documentary than a counter-operative mission against them. He slowly takes the audience through the underworking of hatred and how it is derived through the use of “white nationalism” and “white supremacy,” while displaying the glaring differences between “white power” and “black power”. The movie starred John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, and Adam Driver as Flip, who becomes the white version of Ron Stallworth when the KKK asks to meet him in person. The interesting dynamic is that Flip is a Jewish man who has never acknowledged his heritage. The film is a peculiar depiction of a black man, Stallworth, discovering himself alongside a Jewish man, Flip, who is discovering his own religious and political ideology as he fights through the racial discomfort in the presence of neo-Nazi’s, who believe the Holocaust was a hoax.

This film was not made for black folks to stand and clap at the end. This movie was made for white Americans who seem to align themselves with hateful rhetoric, purposely or not. This movie is more about the group of white cops who allowed this black man to infiltrate and thwart the radical ways of the KKK chapter in Colorado Springs. Spike Lee uses smart and seemingly clear-cut references that make you feel as if the story could happen at this very moment in time. This was displayed most effectively in a scene with storied activist/philanthropist Harry Belafonte sitting in the famous bamboo chair that Huey Newton of the Black Panthers sat in, telling a story to the Black Student Union. In this scene, Belafonte recounts a story about Jesse Washington, a black man who was lynched in 1916. This story sets a tone for the climax of the film and offers some insight on how black America has dealt with oppression and violence throughout the century.

Why is BlacKkKlansman so relevant?

This movie is relevant because it is eerily relatable to the political climate of today. President Donald Trump’s lack of empathy and disregard for human life has stirred racial feelings similar to the timeframe of this film. It comes on the one-year memorial of the death of Heather Heyer, who was murdered last year at the Unite the Right Neo-Nazi March in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is detailed before the closing credits. This unimaginable hatred still exists in our country and BlacKkKlansman doesn’t shy away from that point at all.

Spike Lee has publically spoken out against the president and he isn’t reluctant in dealing with that in the dialogue of the movie. He was able to drop subtle lines that make you think and at times cringe. Overall, the film is great and full of small details worth exploring on your own. The biggest take away I got from the film is that it was a black man articulating the story of the KKK. In a world full of cultural appropriation, it was a clear-cut thorn to the side of the KKK and as a black man, I appreciated every moment of it. I do want to give a legitimate shoutout to That 70s Show star, Topher Grace, who played a young David Duke, Head Master of the KKK. The cast who played the Neo-Nazi organization was phenomenal and really made the movie as real as they can make it.

What we learned

If we only learn one thing from the film, it’s is that in order to fight hatred and racism we need to work together. It can’t be the hated fighting the hateful while the undecided sit on the sidelines. Those that are not on the side of hate should put their lives and careers on the line as we do to eradicate these hateful ideologies from our American society. BlacKkKlansman will go down as one of Spike Lee’s most important films.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman- 4.5 out 5 stars

Further reading: Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade

Summer Blockbusters

Summer Blockbusters 2018

So far, 2018 has been a stonker of a year for film—read on for the most anticipated upcoming summer blockbusters releases this year.

Major production companies and indie production houses across the board have already presented cinema-goers with an incredible slate of films so far this year. Marvel’s Black Panther alone served to be one of the highest grossing movies of all time, racking up over $1 billion at box office. So, what does summer 2018 have in store?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 

Dinosaur fans rejoice! The second in the Jurassic World franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will hit theaters come June 22. This time around, the story follows Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) on a mission to rescue dinosaurs from Isla Nublar under the false impression that they will be saved from extinction. It’s not until later on that they learn that scientists want to genetically mutate these rare creatures in order to turn them into living weapons.

Hereditary 

Set the be the scariest film of the year, Hereditary first debuted at Sundance festival in January of this year and has received major critical acclaim at advanced screenings ever since. When the grandmother of the troubled Graham family passes away, dark family secrets slowly unravel. Starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne and Alex Wolff, Hereditary is set to hit theaters June 8.

Sorry to Bother You 

Starring Lakieth Stanfield from the wildly successful Get Out (2017), Sorry to Bother You is a comedy that follows telemarketer Cassius Green, who discovers that sounding ‘white’ over the phone is the secret to his success. A film with a stark underlying comment on one of the biggest political discourses in America today, this film is likely to become one of the biggest summer blockbusters to date. See it in cinemas from July 6.

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is comedian Bo Burnham’s first foray into directing, and will hit the big screen from 13 July. This slice-of-life movie follows teenager Kayla (Elsie Fisher) as she tries to survive the last week of an abysmal eighth grade year before finally heading off to high school. Already causing a stir in the movie scene, this highly anticipated film is a wonderfully frank look at the life, anxieties and worries of a 13-year-old in the internet age.

Crazy Rich Asians

Based on a novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians follows economics professor Rachel Chu as she accompanies her partner to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. It is not until she lands in Singapore that she discovers her boyfriend comes from an extremely wealthy family and she is unwittingly thrust into the world of Asia’s rich and finest. This romantic comedy will be released in America August 17.

Further reading: Ocean’s Eight Confirmed for Release This Summer

Ocean's 8

Ocean’s 8 Confirmed for Release This Summer

Five years, eight months and 12 days: that’s the amount of time Debbie Ocean has dedicated to hatching one of the most daring heists ever to be attempted. The number of days the world has waited for a Hollywood flick to accurately and justly represent women: uncountable. Enter Ocean’s 8, which aces the Bechdel test—an indicator for the active presence of women in films—no questions asked.

Ocean’s 8 has been confirmed for release this summer and diehard fans are going nuts. The movie seeks to disrupt the status quo and redefine Hollywood’s generic blockbuster formula—promising to do so in style. It’s not often that a film has eight leading ladies—in some cases you would be hard pushed to find a single one. This begs the question, is Ocean’s 8 laying the foundations for a new era of filmmaking?

With a cast of accomplished female actresses at the helm, we have no doubt that Ocean’s 8, the fourth installment in the renowned series, will be a smash hit at the box office. Director Gary Ross collaborated on writing the script for the film with Olivia Milch. The original trilogy’s director, Steven Soderbergh, is also on board as producer—much to the delight of Ocean’s enthusiasts. Ross had originally conceived the idea for an addition to the franchise five years ago and proceeded to bring his idea to Soderbergh. “If he [Soderbergh] hadn’t been involved, I don’t think I would have done it. It was great working together,” Ross recollects.

Oscar winner Sandra Bullock stars in the leading role as Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister to Danny Ocean (George Clooney), who was the lead character in the original Ocean’s 11 (2001). Playing Ocean’s specialist team are Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter, with Anne Hathaway as their target. Each female is known in her own right and brings a different dimension to the film.

The Ocean’s 8 story unfolds in New York—and was filmed entirely on location—which presents the perfect arena for the high-stakes; flashy and flamboyant plotline. The collective of skilled women plan to steal the Toussaint, Cartier’s one-of-a-kind diamond necklace, valued at $150 million at the illustrious Met Gala.

The crew and cast recall the instant chemistry of the key members and their pride in taking part in such a production. “You can’t underestimate the power of visual representation. To an eight-year-old, we’re not trying to say: ‘Go have a life of crime.’ But we’re saying: ‘Go do what you want. There’s space for you, and there’s space for you to do it with your friends, and there’s room for all of you.’ I think the films that have an ‘everybody in’ mentality and message for people who have historically been excluded, that’s a really good thing,” Hathaway commented.

On the topic of ethnic diversity and authentic female representation in the film, Awkwafina said: “When it comes to representation and diversity, there’s a difference between throwing in people of color and women, and then actually representing them accurately and authentically. The important thing about the characters in this movie—especially the people of color in this movie—is that’s not defining our characters. I am a New Yorker from Queens and Asian-ness has nothing to do with it. That’s representation. That’s where we’re going. I think this movie is going to be a step toward a right direction.”

Cartier was apparently an invaluable partner for the project, creating a specifically modified version of the stunning Toussaint necklace. “The Toussaint is one of the largest necklaces in their collection, sitting in their vault,” says executive producer Diana Alvarez. “The people at Cartier were incredible consultants and their expertise was a huge help to us. They allowed us to shoot at the Cartier Mansion.”

Ocean’s 8 is confirmed for release this summer on June 8, 2018—no doubt the masses will be waiting with baited breath until then.

Further reading: Ready Player One: Spielberg Revisits His Roots

Ready Player One

Ready Player One: Spielberg Revisits His Roots

Spoilers ahead, read at your own risk!

He was the fantastical curator of our childhoods; countless classics of his filled our screens (and our hearts) such as Jaws (1975), Jurassic Park (1993), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). These blockbusters—whose glimmering themes opened up new realms of cinematic possibility—carved him out to be one of the most prolific directors of all time. Steven Spielberg is now back with his new motion picture, Ready Player One (2018) and let’s face it…it’s awesome! This is the sort of rip-roaring adrenaline adventure that gave him his name and, unsurprisingly, audiences are eating it up like candy. 

A treasure trove of pop-culture

Ready Player One is based on Ernest Cline’s science fiction novel of the same name, which has since become a worldwide sensation. The film adaptation is set in 2045 in Columbus, Ohio (a slight variation from the book) where the overpopulated world is on the brink of chaos. Our protagonist, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, X Men), lives within a decaying vertical trailer park: a modern-day shantytown that looks every bit as bleak as it sounds. The downtrodden citizens of Earth are looking for salvation, which they find in the comfort of the OASIS—a virtual reality to plug into. In this vast cyber world, anything and everything is possible. You can be whomever you want. For any filmmaker, this is an unmissable opportunity to get creative. Where will you transport your viewers when the sky’s not even the limit?

In the opening scenes, we discover the true definition of “no boundaries”. The screen erupts in an explosion of action as a race between thousands of cars commences through the streets of New York. During this time, a DeLorean—driven by Watts’ avatar Parzival—outmaneuvers a Tyrannosaurus rex (a not-so-subtle reference to Spielberg’s own work). The scene begins a feature-length-long game of spot the pop-culture reference, with characters and objects bombarding the audience from every angle. Familiar entities like the A-team van, Lara Croft, Mechagodzilla and a thundering King Kong are just the tip of the iceberg in this fandom extravaganza. The OASIS itself is a visual marvel, a feat of technical genius. Although the world has been created using CGI, it doesn’t feel overly gimmicky.

The plotline of the film is relatively straightforward, which, compared to the franticness of the frames, is a relief. We follow Watts/Parzival as he battles against other players to find the elusive “golden Easter egg”, the discovery of which will lead him to inherit the fortune of the game’s creator—James Halliday (Mark Rylance). This geeky gazillionaire—who resembles a mismatch of Steve Jobs, Einstein and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man (1988)—poses as a sort of ghostly mentor to Watts.

Knowing that the one to succeed him and run the OASIS will be charged with a great power, Halliday crafts a number of challenges to decide the victor. Of course, there are evil competitors in the race for the golden Easter egg. After all, the film would lack urgency without them. The villain in Ready Player One comes in the form of the businessman Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who satisfies our palates for a textbook sci-fi bad guy. Watts/Parzival must complete the tasks before Sorrento manages to do so. He’s joined by his fellow avatars Art3mis—Samantha in the real world (Olivia Cooke); Aech—Helen in the real world (Lena Waithe) and the rest of the ‘high five’ gang.

Fandom within the film revolves around the 80s and 90s: when Halliday and the digital universe came of age. Some of the pop-culture references are obvious, while others are clearly designed for hard core fans to study as they skim the film frame-by-frame upon its release on DVD. The cast do an exceptional job at portraying passionate gamers, with Sheridan and Cooke making a charming duo. Rylance provides the definitive performance as Halliday; playing the role of an awkward genius seems to agree with him somehow.

Just a few niggles

There is a huge build-up during the length of the feature that leads to a little bit of an anticlimax. While all loose ends are neatly tied off, there is a distinct lack of resolution. After obtaining the golden Easter egg, Watts and his fellow teammates decide to close the OASIS for two days a week to encourage people to experience the world outside. However, there is no real indication that he intends to use his riches to tackle the supreme poverty around them. While there is a snifter of hope that things may improve, we are also left to ponder the possibility of the world reverting back to how it was. Would it not have been more poignant to scrap the OASIS program entirely, realise that the physical world needs saving and that human interaction is more precious?

Similarly, although the action in the film is pertinent to the storyline, it occasionally comes at the cost of character development. While there are some touching moments between the hero and heroine, these quickly dissipate as a result of a sudden chase or shootout. 

What the critics are saying

Being Spielberg’s first science fiction release since War of the Worlds (2005) and considering his reputation, expectations for the film have been decidedly high. On the whole, the movie has received terrific critical reviews: PostTrak reported that filmgoers gave it an 82 percent overall positive score and a 65 percent “definite recommend”. Jonathan Pile from Empire commented: “Spielberg has seemingly done the impossible: balancing sugar-rush nostalgia with an involving story to create a pure, non-cynical, cinematic ride that recaptures the magic of his early films.”

Recent reports have shown that Ready Player One is now the second biggest movie release of the year in terms of the global box office, with its worldwide total currently residing at $523,718,18. The blockbuster has prospered particularly overseas in China where it has earned $163 million thus far.

Recapturing the magic

Watching Ready Player One is like playing witness to somebody recapturing their youth. There is a distinct sense that the director has tried to evoke the magic of the films in his “golden era”. There are several comparisons that can be made to his earlier work. For instance, Spielberg was known to identify with fatherless boys during the beginning of his career (Finding Neverland (2004), Hook (1991), Catch Me If You Can (2002))—being an orphan, Watts is no exception to this rule. Although there are sinister moments, Ready Player One makes a point of not taking itself too seriously. This ambitious project by Spielberg is pure unabashed nostalgia—although you don’t need to be a pop-culture nut to enjoy it. Never in such a long time has a film felt as though Spielberg was revisiting his roots.

Further reading: Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Cannes Film Festival

Netflix Pulls Out of Cannes Film Festival

Streaming giant Netflix pulls out of Cannes Film Festival this year after a new rule change was made banning films without a theatrical release in France from competing for the main prizes.

In an interview with Hollywood trade publication Variety, Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said that the company will not be changing its release strategy to satisfy the new rule. Commenting on pulling out of the prestigious event, Sarandos said, “It was not our decision to make.” He called the new rule, which was imposed by the festival’s artistic director Thierry Frémaux, “completely contrary to the spirit of any film festival in the world.”

While Netflix will be able to screen films not in the competition, Sarandos maintains that this would be an unlikely route for the company to take. “We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker.

“There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”

Frémaux responded to Netflix’s announcement saying, “Any film in competition should be open to distribution in theaters.”

He continued, “We made offers for two films by Netflix this year, one out of competition and one in competition. Netflix did not wish to release the [competition title] in theaters. According to the rule, this film will not be in the competition. The film could not be in the competition. Films must be open to the possibility of being distributed in cinemas. It’s too bad.”

Cannes Film Festival started life more than 70 years ago as an art house showcase. It has attracted major celebrities and commercial films over the decades, giving it its stellar reputation as one of the most important festivals in the world.

Cannes Film Festival will run from May 8 to May 19 in France.

Further reading: Stranger Things Creators Sued for Plagiarism