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Mads Mikkelsen Open Up About Polar, Gymnastics and Playing the Bad Guy

Mads Mikkelsen has starred in everything from Hannibal to Casino Royale, The Hunt and Doctor Strange, and he’s here to talk to College News about his latest movie on Netflix: Polar.

One of Denmark’s biggest actors, Mads Mikkelsen commands the screen as Duncan Vizla, a recently retired assassin better known to his colleagues as Black Kaiser. It’s graphic, it’s intense and it’s a journey about grief, friendship and redemption.

COLLEGE NEWS: First things first, can you tell our readers a bit about your upcoming film, Polar?

MADS MIKKELSEN: Polar is based on a graphic novel—it’s about a hit man who is supposed to retire and, in his effort of doing so, he tries to go out into the real world and see if he fits in there. But he’s quite socially awkward and bumps into another person who’s equally socially awkward, and it becomes a funny little meeting between these two characters. On the other side, we have a simultaneously running story where a high-paced film is taking place—crazy action characters who are chasing and hunting down this character. So these two different entities will eventually collide in the film and that’s part of the journey.

CN: How did you first become involved with the project and its director?

MM: The graphic novel came my way a few years ago and I loved every thing about it. Then it came again with Jonas [Åkerlund] attached to it and then we started discussing and coming up with ideas and polished the script more and more together with writers. Jonas was just a fantastic match, he’s a completely insane person, and I think that really was a good match for this film.

CN: So, you’re playing a retired assassin who shows younger killers a thing or two–how would you say your approach towards acting has developed as you’ve grown older?

MM: I don’t know really. I mean, it’s one of those questions that’s really difficult to answer as an actor. I think if you asked someone who’s 90—what are their techniques, what have they learned—they would always say “can you just wait one year, I don’t know.” One of the things I have learned, years ago, is that the better everyone is in a scene, the better the scene is, the better you are. If anyone feels uncomfortable in a scene, it’s everybody’s job to make this person not uncomfortable and to do their best. So we need each other to make a good scene.

CN: Do you have any favourite or most challenging scenes to shoot from Polar?

MM: Well the most difficult ones were obviously some of the long stunt sequences which, in the nature of themselves, are quite difficult. It doesn’t make it easier that I’m not wearing any clothes and it’s taking place in a concrete hallway, you know.

And it’s very cold, so that was by far the most difficult. Some of my favorites were the ones I had with Vanessa [Hudgens]. These two awkward people who are trying to have a normal conversation and it turns out to be quite awkward… and I love those scenes—they’re sweet and comedic in a subtle way.

CN: Can you tell our readers about how you first got into acting?

MM: It was kind of strange; there were some detours in my life. I was a gymnast. After that I discovered dancing, because I wanted to do some flips in the background of a musical. And then the choreographer of that musical asked me if I wanted to learn that craft and that was a Billy Elliot kinda thing.

I was a working class kid learning how to dance. So, I did that for ten years and through the dancing thing I discovered acting. I was very pleased about that; I thought I might have been a little more in love with the drama of dancing than the aesthetics of dance, so I applied for a drama school and I went in and then from there on I’ve been an actor and so far, I love it.

CN: What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

MM: There are obvious highlights that people would point out, and of course, you would have to mention winning at Cannes with The Hunt. Being part of the Bond franchise was a highlight. But there are many highlights in the sense of personal highlights, you know? Certain things you discover, certain things you’re very proud of, and I try to make my next project the highlight every time. I just try to make this the most important thing, so it doesn’t become a stepping-stone in my career but it becomes the most important thing. I think that’s the best approach I can have.

CN: What does your future career look like at the moment?

MM: I’ve got a couple of months off. Then I will hopefully start up something this coming year with Thomas Vinterberg that I’m looking very much forward to.

See also: Everything There is to Know About Psalm West

Our Favourite Films Directed by Women This Year

Highlights-from-the-2019-Oscars-

Highlights from the 2019 Oscars

On Sunday February 24, everyone who is anyone in Hollywood attended the entertainment industry’s biggest and most dazzling night of the year: The Oscars.

For some, the dream of winning an iconic golden Academy Awards statuette came true. For everyone else, the 2019 Oscars would surely be remembered as a night of powerful speeches, captivating performances, overdue breakthroughs and multiple backlashes (we’re looking at you Kevin Hart).

Here are the night’s highlights.

The talk of the town

If you’re not familiar with Hollywood’s latest imaginary love triangle, it involves the undeniably compatible stars Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

Are the pair just friendship goals? Did Gaga leave fiancé Christian Carino because she’s secretly in love with Cooper? Why did Cooper’s girlfriend, model Irina Shayk, sit in-between the two at the awards ceremony? And, most importantly, did you see that steamy performance of Shallow?

Whatever fan-fic A Star Is Born enthusiasts are living, we’ve been team Gaga since her Just Dance days and we’re thrilled that she won Best Original Song on Sunday. 

Tweeted about by the President

 Spike Lee leapt into the arms of Samuel L Jackson as he was finally presented with his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman. But it wasn’t the endearing bromance or the fact that Lee’s outfit paid tribute to his friend Prince that got viewers, and the President, talking.

“Do not turn the motherfucking clock on,” Lee said about the organizer’s 90-second time limit before using his acceptance speech to talk about how it is 400 years since “our ancestors were stolen from Mother Africa and bought to Jamestown, Virginia, enslaved”.

“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there,” he urged.

On Monday, President Trump struck back at the film director, accusing him of delivering a “racist hit” on Twitter.

“Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts, etc.) than almost any other Pres!” Trump wrote.

Defying fashion norms

While there were certainly some magical outfits at this year’s Oscars, none were as unapologetically magnificent as Billy Porter’s. The Pose star worked the red carpet in a custom creation by designer Christian Siriano, which included a tailored tuxedo jacket overtop a velvet gown.

“This industry masquerades itself as inclusive, but actors are afraid to play, because if they show up as something outside of the status quo, they might be received as feminine, and, as a result, they won’t get that masculine job, that superhero job,” the star told Vogue about his outfit-choice.

Captioning a snap of the ensemble for Instagram, Porter added: “When you come to the Oscars, you must dress up.”

Making history

This year’s Oscars saw African Americans who work behind the scenes picking up awards for the first time in decades.

“Wow, this has been a long time coming,” said Ruth E Carter when she became the first African American woman to win for costume design for Black Panther.

Marvel may have made the first black superhero, but through costume design we turned him into an African king.”

Her colleague, Hannah Beachler also made history as the first African American woman to win for production design.

A film about periods

Period. End of Sentence covers the deep-rooted stigma attached to menstruation in a rural village in India, and it won the award for Best Short Documentary despite an anonymous male member of the Academy recently feeling the need to share his thoughts about the film.

“[I’m not going to vote for] Period. End of Sentence—it’s well done, but it’s about women getting their period, and I don’t think any man is voting for this film because it’s just icky for men,” he wrote in his ballot outlining his selections for the year’s awards ceremony. Boy bye.

The film’s director, Rayka Zehtabchi’s summed up our feelings pretty accurately in her acceptance speech.

“I’m not crying because I’m on my period, or anything. I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” She said.

Olivia Colman keeps it real

While she may not have been the favorite to take home the 2019 Best Actress award, British actress Olivia Colman reminded us all why she deserved the win with her down-to-earth acceptance speech.

“It’s genuinely quite stressful,” The Favourite star began, before adding: “This is hilarious. An Oscar. OK. I’d like to thank a lot of people, but if I forget people I’m going to find you later and give you a massive snog.”

The star told her children watching at home that “this is never going to happen again” before apologizing to fellow nominee Glenn Close.

“You’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be,” she admitted.

Colman, who made her name in TV comedy prior to landing her award-winning role, had begun talking about how she had been a cleaner when she was told to wrap up her speech, leading her to promptly blow a raspberry at The Academy.

Lacking a host 

Without a single host (we’re still looking at you Kevin Hart), plenty of people who had something important to say were allotted time on stage during this year’s ceremony.

Immigration was a recurring theme, with Best Actor winner Rami Malek stating that he was a first-generation American. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón thanked the academy for “recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights. A character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema.

“As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times where we are being encouraged to look away,” he said.

There was also many a Trump reference on Sunday night, with Keegan-Michael Key descending from the ceiling with a Mary Poppins-style umbrella only to discard it in apparent mockery of the President.

Barbra Streisand praised BlacKkKlansman “because it was based on the truth, and truth is especially precious these days” and 79-year-old congressman John Lewis spoke of his experiences in the civil rights movement before introducing the nomination of Green Book for best picture.

Speaking of Streisand, we’ll just leave Richard E Grant’s precious reaction to the legend gracing the stage at the ceremony, here. The actor recently shared his “lifelong fandom” for the star, along with the sweet letter that he had penned for her at the age of 14.

Further reading: Why Beyoncé’s Shout Out to Meghan Matters

See Also:
The Met Gala’s Best and Worst Dressed Highlights 

 

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

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

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

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

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures TV Series in Development

Fans of Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures (2017) rejoice; entertainment news site Variety has reported that a TV series inspired by the film is currently in development.

According to Variety, the TV series, which is currently in the early stages of development, is to appear exclusively on the National Geographic channel in a bid to produce more scripted fare. Producing alongside the major channel will be Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping from Chernin Entertainment. Chernin and Topping were the original executive producers of Hidden Figures.

The film was based on a book by the same name written by author Margot Lee Shetterly. Hidden Figures tells the true story of the black female mathematicians who were crucial to the success of the NASA American space program in its early years—despite the challenges they faced because of the color of their skin.

The slate for the film boasted an all-star cast including Tarahi P.Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as the film’s protagonists.

Hidden Figures was nominated for three Oscars this year including Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

Further reading: ‘Black Panther’ to Break Saudi Arabia’s 35-year Cinema Ban

Black Panther

‘Black Panther’ to Break Saudi Arabia’s 35-year Cinema Ban

 Marvel’s Black Panther (2017) is to break Saudi Arabia’s cinema ban by opening the first cinema in the country for 35 years later this month.

The news comes after a deal was made with the world’s biggest cinema chain, AMC, who have planned to roll over 40 movie theaters throughout the Kingdom throughout the next five years.

Saudi Arabia had cinemas back in the 70s, but its powerful conservative clerics had them shut down for religious reasons.

The move looks to contribute to the Vision 2030 initiative—unveiled by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—to bring entertainment to Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 aims to help expand the Saudi economy by reducing its current reliance on oil, providing more jobs and encouraging Saudis to spend their money in their native country rather than abroad.

Black Panther will have its own gala premier on April 18 in Riyadh, the country’s capital and will show for five days following the event. The 620-seater cinema theater is a converted symphony hall located in the King Abdullah Financial District.

AMC’s chief executive Adam Aron said of the theater venue: “We think it’s going to be the prettiest movie theater in the world. It’s a dramatic building.”

An inside source told Reuters that the cinemas would also not be segregated by gender as is usual protocol in the nation’s public places. This move demonstrates an exciting time for the country as more liberal policies are being unrolled.

Saudi’s culture minister Awwad Alawwad said, “The restoration of cinemas will… help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation.”