Monday, 18 November 2019

Ford v Ferrari (Movie Review)

While I've never had any kind of affinity towards sports in general, I've always had a soft spot for sports dramas. This is mainly due to how they (read: the good ones) are anchored upon larger-than-life personalities, which helps them go beyond the viewer's enjoyment of the particular sport in question. Ford v Ferrari is no different, except it also boasts some truly exhilarating race sequences and several laugh-out-loud moments that had me on the edge of my seat for the better part of its lengthy runtime.

Set in the mid 1960s, the film depicts the rivalry between the two car manufacturers, Ford and Ferrari. The rivalry is sparked into being after the former attempts to buy the latter but the deal falls through due to their inability to reach an agreement on which of the two companies would have final say in matters concerning their racing division. This prompts Ford to build a race car within 90 days that would be fast enough to compete in the Ferrari-dominated Le Mans, a grueling 24-hour race in France.

To accomplish this feat, they hire the former racecar driver and engineer, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), who in turn must put together a dream team of drivers and engineers that would make this happen. Except things don't sit well between Shelby and Ford after he hires the hot-headed and very eccentric British driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale). But Shelby is convinced that Ken is one of the only men skilled enough to handle whatever contraption they manage to build before the race, so much so that he is willing to stake everything he has worked for to prove it.

Ford v Ferrari is one of those rare movies that manages to tick all the required boxes without feeling over-produced or soulless. It is beautifully shot and tightly edited to the point where you can actually feel every lurch of the cars on the race track, as though you were sitting there in the cockpit. It is also beautifully acted, with both Matt Damon and Christian Bale giving Oscar-worthy performances.

But I think the highest praise should be reserved for director James Mangold, who somehow manages to keep the two-and-a-half movie moving at a good and steady pace, doling out the laughs and thrills without glossing over any of the human drama at its center.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Charlie's Angels (Movie Review)

The fall movie season is already proving to be almost as packed with blockbusters as summer, with what seems to be big release after big release enticing moviegoers to visit the multiplexes. I am of course referring to the likes of Joker and It Chapter Two, even though we've also had a few misses amongst the bunch, with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Gemini Man and Terminator: Dark Fate all failing to find an audience. Charlie's Angels is primed to take a stab at the box office this weekend, but of all the aforementioned films, it is the one that has surprised me the most.

Rather than make this iteration of the classic franchise a reboot or reimagining, the filmmakers have opted to make it a continuation. The basic premise is that the classic trio of angels has grown to include multiple teams of women from all walks of like, each one being directed by a handler holding the rank of Bosley, all of whom report to the eponymous disembodied voice of Charlie. These angels have been trained in the art of espionage, and they put those skills to good use working for the Townsend Agency.

When the oldest of the Bosleys (Patrick Stewark) retires, one of the older angels (Elizabeth Banks) is promoted to take his place. But her leadership abilities are immediately put to the test after she and the angels are drawn into a conspiracy involving an energy company with a revolutionary technology that could be weaponized if it falls into the wrong hands. The cast includes Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott, as well as newcomer Ella Balinska, and Mrs. Banks pulls double duty as star and director.

I'll admit, I wasn't particular keen on seeing this movie. Sure it looked like it could offer a fun night at the movies, but all its preceding trailers and promotional material had felt shallow, making the movie itself feel like another unnecessary cash grab. Well, not only was I wrong about this but I was also pleasantly surprised. The film is helped by the great chemistry between its three leads. It also boasts some fun action, smart stroytelling and a collection of catchy tunes on its original soundtrack.

I felt it took a while for things to click, but by the halfway mark, I was invested enough in its storyline to be genuinely engaged by its twists and turns. Ultimately, I feel it is another fun addition to the franchise, even though it lacks a lot of the over-the-top action and overall campiness that made the last two movies memorable. Still, it is a hopeful indicator of what can be done with the franchise going forward, should the movie prove successful enough to warrant a sequel.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate (Movie Review)

Remember all those times Arnold Schwarzenegger had told us "I'll back back?" Well, the aging action star was not kidding as he returns yet again as one of the titular terminators in Terminator: Dark Fate. Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool), the films serves as a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement Day, ignoring all of the events that took place in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation and Terminator: Genisys, for better or worse.

Not long after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) had managed to prevent Judgement Day, a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from the future manages to carry out Skynet's mission to kill the human resistance leader, John Conner. And right off the bat, the film showcases some incredible use of CGI to recreate the likenesses of the three actors from 1991's Terminator 2: Judgement Day. But the focus quickly shifts after a time jump to 2020, when much like the previous films, two time travellers arrive from the future.

The first one is a woman named Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a cybernetically-enhanced soldier from 2042 who has been sent to protect Dani (Natalie Reyes), a girl being hunted by the second time traveller, a Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna) with the ability to split itself into two. The basic premise here is that a new AI called Legion had risen after Skynet's defeat, so while Sarah had prevented Judgement Day, she still couldn't alter humanity's fate. Now she must help Grace and Dani while joining forces with an unlikely ally as they try to prevent the end of humanity once again.

The best thing about Terminator: Dark Fate is the return of the franchise's two leads, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both actors bring a certain level of charm and chemistry that was sorely missing in the other sequels. The film also boasts some truly "special" special effects as previously mentioned. But it never quite manages to shake that "been there, done that" feeling it leaves you with by retreading much of same story beats from the first two movies.

That said, Terminator: Dark Fate can still be considered a success as it succeeds at bringing the story arch from the first two movies to a somewhat satisfying close, while also leaving the door open to a new chapter in the franchise. Let's just wait and see if it succeeds where it truly counts, at the box office.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Gemini Man (Movie Review)

Not many films end up spending 20 years in development hell. But that is precisely what had happened with Gemini Man, a technothriller that was originally conceptualized way back in 1997. The main reason for this delay was the fact that it has taken that long for the technology required to bring the story to life to come into its own. I am of course referring to the film's main elevator pitch of an actor being pitted against a younger version of himself, a feat only made possible through recent advancements in CGI rendering. So how does the finished product stack up you ask? Well, not so good, but definitely not as bad as I had feared.

Directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the film stars Will Smith as an aging assassin called Henry Brogan. After barely managing to kill his latest mark without incurring some collateral damage, Henry decides to retire from life as a marksman for a government agency. His decision is met with some aversion from his superiors though, which prompts them to send one of their agents, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), undercover in order to keep an eye on him. But after Henry learns that his last target had been an innocent man, they decide to take more drastic measures to contain the situation.

This culminates in the villanious Clayton Varis (Clive Owen), director of the eponymous GEMINI, sending in his ultimate weapon, a cloned version of Henry dubbed Junior (also played by Will Smith). Having raised and trained Junior as his adopted son, Clayton tasks him with killing Henry. But when both assassins butt heads, it quickly becomes apparent that they were equally matched. And after Henry learns the true nature of his latest foe, he takes it upon himself to set things right as he tries to save his younger self from following in his footsteps.

Much of the hype surrounding the release of Gemini Man is about its use of 3D and a high-frame rate, neither of which I was able to experience as I'd seen the film on a regular 2D screen. But even in that standard format, it was still possible to tell just how ambitious Ang Lee's vision was. The action scenes were impeccably shot and choreographed, giving it a lifelike quality that was nothing short of captivating. It is just a shame that those setpieces felt like they deserved to be in a better movie, one with a less generic plot and a villain that wasn't so laughably bad.

The CGI used to create the character of Junior also needs to be commended, even though it did start to create an uncanny valley effect by the end of the movie, especially in those scenes where both characters were shown side-by-side under direct sunlight. Movies like Rogue One have already shown us what is possible with fully CGI characters, but Gemini Man somehow manages to move the needle even closer towards photorealism, thanks to some great performance capture from Will Smith in conjunction with the magic of the visual effects team.

Overall, the movie is not the unwatchable mess I'd feared it would be when I'd first caught wind of its impending release, even though its story does fall short of the high standards of its director's previous efforts.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Joker (Movie Review)

I can still remember my initial skepticism when I'd learnt that Joaquin Phoenix would be playing the title role in a standalone Joker movie. And I guess you could say that this was understandable; after all, the late Heath Ledger had already given us a nigh-on-perfect performance as the Clown Prince of Crime in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. But in retrospect, I was mainly concerned that the movie would be nothing more than a villain-centric cash grab in the same vein as last year's Venom. Well, it turns out I was wrong, and I couldn't be happier as a result.

What sets Joker apart then? Is it the film's mature take on a character whose origin is often glossed over or left to mystery in other film adaptations? Or Joaquin Phoenix's nuanced portrayal of that character in what is sure to get him a Best Actor nod at next year's Academy Awards at the very least? Or perhaps it is the fact that director Todd Phillips attempts to take comic book adaptations into previously unexplored territory and succeeds? I think it is a mix of all three factors, and much more.

Set in 1981, the film depicts a version of Gotham City on the verge of collapse. The people are increasingly unhappy with an ineffective government. An ongoing worker's union strikes means that the city streets are practically overflowing with garbage. And in the midst of all that filth and unrest lives Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), an aspiring stand-up comedian who just can't seem to catch a break. He is routinely bullied and made fun of for a medical condition that sends him into uncontrollable bouts of laughter.

He is forced to work as a clown-for-hire just to make barely enough money to continue caring for his ailing mother (Frances Conroy). But in spite of all that, he still dreams of one day appearing on a late night talk show hosted by Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), an aging comedian he views as a father figure and the pinnacle of his aspirations. But when Arthur is attacked by a group of drunk businessmen one night after losing his job, he finally reaches breaking point and decides to fight back, an action that sets in motion a chain of events that would shake the entire city to its very core.

There is quite a lot to unpack in Joker, from its cautionary tale of how society is oftentimes responsible for giving birth to our most fearsome villains, to the way it manages to make the viewer feel actual empathy towards such people. I won't even attempt to get into such discussions here though. I would instead just state how utterly mind blowing the experience of seeing the events of this movie play out was.

Joker is another shining example of what can be done with comic book material when placed in capable hands. It is a character study that is not only thought-provoking, but also beautiful to look at. Every single scene is meticulously shot and scored to mirror the emotional rollercoaster its title character is on. And what a wild ride it was as well. Unburdened from all the overarching world-building that the typical connected universe movie has to do, Todd Phillips has crafted an origin story that would go down in history as one of the very best in filmmaking.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Rambo: Last Blood (Movie Review)

The 80s were ripe with several genre-defining movies, but as far as B-grade action movies were concerned, First Blood was easily one of the most memorable. Released in 1982, the film introduced moviegoers to the character of John Rambo, a veteran from the Vietnam War struggling with PTSD who is forced to put his wartime skills to use when he is caught in a fight for survival against the police in a small town. The film was so successful that it spawned an entire franchise. Rambo: Last Blood is the fifth and potentially final installment in the series.

In Rambo: Last Blood, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has since left his days of bloodshed behind, and taken up residence in an old family horse ranch he'd inherited from his late father. He lives there with an old friend called Maria (Adriana Barraza), who helps him care for the aging property. They also care for Maria's granddaughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), whose mother had died while she was very young. With the help of her friend, Jezel (Fenessa Pineda), Gabrielle is able to track down her estranged father, Miguel (Marco de la O), who now lives in Mexico.

Gabrielle expresses her desire to visit and reconnect with her father, a desire that both John and Maria warn her against. She proceeds to do so anyway, but while in Mexico, she is abducted by members of a Mexican cartel, who run a sex trafficking ring that is led by the two Martinez brothers, Hugo (Sergio Peris-Menchata) and Victor (Óscar Jaenada). John learns about her disappearance and goes to Mexico to find her. Except what he finds there instead is enough to make him become unhinged once again, and he finds himself in the middle of a full-on war with the Mexican cartel.

There is very little to love about Rambo: Last Blood, from its cookie-cutter, revenge-driven storyline, to its over reliance on excessive, gratuitous amounts of blood and gore. The fact that the whole film takes a fair amount of time to kick into gear, despite its relatively short runtime, doesn't exactly help matters. You get the sense that somewhere between the jumbled mess of an uneven pacing and over-the-top violence the filmmakers were actually trying to make something thought provoking, which only serves to highlight the movie's shortcomings even more.

The best thing about Rambo: Last Blood was the montage of past films that plays over the end credits, a section that effectively charts the title character's journey from lonely Vietnam War veteran to full-blown, B-grade action hero. And that says a lot about the overall quality of a movie, when the best part is watching the end credits roll. Still, if you happen to like B-movies or like me, you grew up watching the series, then this latest (and as the title suggests, final) installment is worth checking out on the strength of its nostalgia alone.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Parasite (Movie Review)

Anyone who's been following my annual Year in Review series of posts long enough might remember that I had named Snowpiercer my favorite movie for 2014. There was just so much to love about that movie, from its mind-bending tale of the last surviving remnants of the human race being confined to an unstoppable train encircling the globe, to the way the inhabitants of the titular train were segregated according to class. It was a visually-striking action movie that proved that South Korean director Bong Joon-ho was nothing short of a visionary. And that vision is once again on full display in Parasite, a dark comedy he'd also co-written.

The film explores classism, a recurring theme in several of his works. But this time around, he does so through the lenses of two families living on opposite sides of the great economic divide in South Korea: the first are the Kims, a family of four living in a basement apartment in a rundown neighborhood, and the second are the Parks, another family of four living in a lavish mansion. The lives of both families intersect when the Kims' son, Ki-woo, gets a job as an English tutor for the Parks' daughter, Da-hye, after he is recommended by his good friend and former tutor, Min-hyuk.

Discovering that the Parks were also in search of an art tutor for their son, Da-song, Ki-woo manages to convince (read: con) the extremely gullible Mrs. Park into hiring his sister, Ki-jeong. And using similar underhanded tactics, the Kim children also secure jobs for both their parents with the wealthy family, to the detriment of the people formerly holding those jobs (like the titular Parasite). While the Parks are on a camping trip with their son, the Kims use the opportunity to take up full residence in their house. But things change one rainy night when they receive an unexpected guest who reveals a very dark secret about the Parks' luxury home.

Parasite is currently my favorite film for 2019. I know it might be too early to call it, with movies like Ad Astra, Joker and The Rise of Skywalker still on the horizon. But it is hard to imagine any of the aforementioned films managing to outshine this one. At the very least it is the current movie to beat. The movie grips you from the very beginning, with its quirky sense of humor, before taking you on a full-blown journey into the dark recesses of the director's mind. And all the while, it treats you to some truly breathtaking cinematography that effectively captures the plights of the two families at its core.

I don't think I can recommend watching Parasite highly enough. It is every bit as mind-bending as Snowpiercer, despite being anchored in a contemporary setting while exploring identical themes. It is definitely a shoe-in for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Academy Awards, and depending on how well it performs at the US box office when it releases next month, might even score Best Picture and Best Director nods. It truly deserves the highest honors it can get, and should stand as a masterclass of film-making for many years to come.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

It Chapter Two (Movie Review)

It is very rare to see a horror film play like a Hollywood blockbuster, but that was precisely what happened with It Chapter One in 2017. The Stephen King adaptation was fueled by the love of fans of the source material, a strong sense of nostalgia for Tim Curry's portrayal of the eponymous clown in the 1990 miniseries, great reviews and good word-of-mouth, all of which would come together to propel it to become the highest grossing horror film of all time, with more than $700 million made worldwide. But that was just half of the story of what is effectively another two-part adaptation.

Set 27 years after the events of the first movie, It Chapter Two finds the seven members of the Losers' Club all grown up and living out their adult lives. Bill (James McAvoy) is a successful writer that struggles to write good endings to his stories. Ritchie (Bill Hader) is a successful standup comedian. Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk assessor with an overprotective wife. Ben (Jay Ryan) is an architect and has since shed all of his boyhood fat. Stanley (Andy Bean) is an accountant. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a fashion designer caught in an abusive relationship with her husband.

Of the seven members, only Mike (Isiah Mustafa) had stayed behind in their hometown of Derry, Maine, after their initial defeat of Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård), where he serves as the town librarian. But when the eponymous shape-shifting entity returns to terrorize the children of the town in another one of its 27-year feeding cycles, he is forced to reach out to the others, whose memories of their first encounter with Pennywise has been dulled by time and their distance away from the town, asking them to honor the blood oath they'd made as children, by returning to kill It once and for all.

It Chapter Two succeeds as an adequate followup to Chapter One, but doesn't aspire to do much else. It is helped along by some truly stellar performances by its adult cast, with Bill Hader being the obvious standout. But something about their on-screen chemistry doesn't quite gel as well as that of the child actors from the first film. Thankfully, there were quite a few flashback sequences where we got to see the kids again, which helped flesh out the narrative from the first film.

There is no denying the fact that It Chapter Two is the weaker half of director Andy Muschietti's two-part adaptation. It lacks much of the heart that made the first movie so special and tries to compensate for that with an over reliance on jump scares and spectacle. The fact that it stretches to almost three hours in length doesn't exactly help as well. Perhaps these are problems inherited from its source material. But since I never did manage to finish reading the novel, I can't really speak about how faithfully its overall narrative has been adapted here.

There are rumors of a supercut of both movies being considered for release with a narrative structure that more closely mirrors that of the book, with the action jumping back and forth between the kid and adult versions of the Losers' Club. I imagine this would run into well over 5 hours in length, but it is something I'd be interested in checking out. That said, I still believe that It Chapter Two, in its present form, is definitely worth the watch, especially if you're a fan of Stephen King and his works

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Good Boys (Movie Review)

It might come as a bit of a surprise, but till today, Superbad remains one of my favorite movies of all time. There was just something timeless about the unabashedly comical antics of its two leads. Most of that comedy gold can be attributed to the writing duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of course, the two of whom would go on to work on the equally raunchy Pineapple Express, This is the End, and Sausage Party. So from the moment I'd heard that they were producers on Good Boys, I was sold.

The film centers on the misadventures of three sixth graders who have been friends since kindergarten, Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon). Max has been harboring a crush on a classmate named Brixlee (Millie Davis), so when he is invited to his first ever "kissing party" by popular kid, Soren (Izaac Wang), he sees it as an opportunity to finally make his move. But first, he needs to learn, with some help from his friends, precisely how to kiss a girl.

His friends have got problems of their own though, with Lucas just learning that his parents are about to get a divorce, and Thor struggling to get the acceptance of the cool kids in their grade. But they put all that aside to come to Max's aid, and they of course turn to the first place anyone their age would go to for answers about the opposite sex: porn. Except this proves too much for the young boys, and they instead resort to spying on the teenage girl that lives next door with Max's dad's prized drone.

Things do not go according to plan of course, and the drone is captured by the girl, Hannah (Molly Gordon), and her good friend, Lily (Midori Francis). And when the girls refuse to return the captured drone, the boys are forced to steal one of their bags as leverage. Unbeknownst to them, the bag contains some ecstasy, and they soon find themselves being pursued by the two girls, skipping school to meet with a presumed pedophile, and more, all in a bid to set things right before the kissing party.

Good Boys is easily the funniest movie I have seen all year. Its crude humor might tether on the very edge of being overbearing, but what saves it from going that route is its powerful themes centered around friendship; the movie depicts how even long-time friendships might change and evolve over time, and how that is not only inevitable but also a welcome part of this journey we call life. The fact that it manages to do that in its relatively short runtime is also worthy of praise.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of the film would depend on how much tolerance you have for watching a group of potty-mouthed middle-schoolers thrust into increasingly inappropriate situations. But the fun comes from watching how these boys choose to navigate those situations, with their boyish naivety and overall good intentions still managing to shine through at the end of the day.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood (Movie Review)

Quentin Tarantino is easily one of the greatest directors of contemporary times, with a distinct voice and vision that has produced instant classics like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and one of my all-time faves, Inglourious Basterds. That vision was in turn shaped by a love of movies from his childhood, the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns that inspired his last few efforts being a prime example. Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood serves as his love letter to that era of filmmaking.

The movie tells the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an aging actor who, along with his close friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), struggles to come to terms with his fading acting career. His luck seems to change when the famous director, Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha), moves into the house next to his, along with his wife and rising movie star, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Rick longs to one day meet the power couple, with hopes of landing a role in one of their movies.

Meanwhile, a large group of hippies have also taken up residence at Spahn Ranch, the location where Rick and Cliff used to shoot a TV western called Bounty Law. The group is led by Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), a man that has a grudge with the former residents of the Polanski's new home. Anyone familiar with the true-life events around which this movie are based would know that name of course, and the heinous acts for which he rose to fame, so the real thrill of the movie comes from watching events unfold as the group crosses paths with the two leads.

In true Quentin Tarantino style, the movie takes its sweet time before truly kicking into gear. But even as you wait for all the narrative beats to fall into place, you'll be hard pressed to look away, not when every single scene is so masterfully shot and put together like this. The director builds up so much tension and conflict within its almost three hour runtime, before letting all hell break loose in its gory climax.

It's a formula that Quentin Tarantino fans are already familiar with by now, so it should come as no surprise that it is expertly executed here. He is clearly a director at the top of his game, and we as fans are merely here along for the ride. But oh boy, was this one ever a wild one, with so many great character moments, excellent performances across the board and so much attention to detail, all of which come together to show his undeniable mastery and love for the craft.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Movie Review)

As far as movie titles go, I don't believe they can get more silly than Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the first official spin-off in the ever-popular series about fast cars and the people who like racing them. And silly is a word that can be used to describe this movie (and the entire series as a whole), as it embraces the comedic firepower of its two leads, while also fully veering into the realm of science fiction with its outlandish plot and action sequences.

That plot involves a rogue MI6 agent called Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who is tasked by a terrorist organization (Eteon) to retrieve a weaponized virus (Snowflake). But Lore is no mere rogue agent, having had his body augmented by cybernetic implants that allow him to perform superhuman feats like punching through walls and generally being badass. To prevent him from getting the virus, a female MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby) injects the virus into her own body. But she is framed for the theft of the virus and the murder of her entire team, forcing her to go on the run.

This prompts the authorities to bring in their greatest assets for just such a situation, the titular heroes Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). And almost immediately, both men find themselves at loggerheads with one another, even as they are forced to put aside their differences in a race against time to find the virus and its carrier before the bad guys do. Or worse, before it goes airborne and threatens to wipe out the entire human race.

I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of the Fast & Furious films, even though I absolutely adored the first one as a kid for the mere fact that it starred my two favorite action movie stars at the time, Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez. Both actors are missing from this installment but the on-screen chemistry of its two leads make up for that, with their constant bantering and one-upmanship. Some of the jokes are hit or miss, but the dynamic between the two is always a joy to behold.

As for the action sequences and stunts themselves (because let's face it, that is the only reason why most people would be considering seeing this movie), they more than live up to the franchise's name, with their complete lack of respect for the basic laws of physics. Especially egregious in this one was a particular scene towards the end involving a helicopter and a number of cars and trucks hooked up to it. Not only was the action logic-defying, but the scene manages to shift from night time, to day time, to full-blown thunderstorm, all within the span of a few minutes!

There's a certain B-movie appeal to movies like Hobbs & Shaw, with their leave-your-brain-at-the-door sensibilities and the reckless abandon with which they present their events. So if you happen to subscribe to such, then sure, you'll get your money's worth from watching this one. But if you never liked the Fast & Furious franchise or you're hoping this one might be the one to win you over, then prepare to be somewhat disappointed because this is as cheesy as they come.

Friday, 19 July 2019

The Lion King (Movie Review)

The Lion King was without a doubt the best animated film produced during the Disney renaissance and it remains one of the greatest animated films of all time till this day. This was not only due to its powerful story with themes of redemption and accepting ones destiny, but the realization of that story through some beautiful, hand-drawn animation, memorable dialogue (brought to life by amazing voice acting), and some truly awesome music. Simply put, it was always going to be tricky, remaking such a beloved classic.

But Disney had already proven that they could pull this off with their 2016 remake of The Jungle Book, a movie that not only updated its classic tale for a modern audience, but even managed to improve upon it in several ways. So when it was announced that that movie's director (Jon Favreau) would be tackling a classic as timeless as The Lion King next, we accepted the news with high hopes and a measured dash of skepticism. Unfortunately, his latest effort lacks much of what made his other remake so great, even though (or perhaps because) it follows its source material so faithfully.

The 2019 version of The Lion King sticks to its forebear so closely that it is almost pointless for me to recap its plot for this review. I mean, this is a movie we all saw back in its day as kids (or kids at heart). And even if you haven't revisited the original since then like I did before seeing the movie, chances are you would still be able to recite much of its dialogue or sing along to its memorable songs. So I'll focus instead on what I did happen to like about this version, and what I think went wrong with the remake.

First off, this new Lion King looks absolutely stunning and it should rightfully stand as a benchmark and indicator of just how far computer-generated imagery (CGI) has come over the years, much like The Jungle Book remake before it. The movie looked almost photo-realistic and was filled with so many breathtaking details that it often felt like I was watching a live-action recording of animals in the wild. But in their pursuit of realism, the animators have lost much of what made the original film so magical: the expressiveness of its animated cast of characters.

A prime example of this would be the character of Scar, who is ably voiced in this version of the movie by Chiwetel Ejiofor. In the original, Jeremy Irons' voice-over was perfectly matched by the animation, with exaggerated gestures like the arching of his eyebrow or the curling of his lips in a sneer helping to bring the performance to life. Here, the integration of the voice-overs felt like it came in after the fact, like the voices were simply overlaid over the too-real-for-its-own-good animation.

I really don't understand why it had to come across that way though, especially after The Jungle Book remake had already proven you could populate a movie with photo-realistic animals and still have them convey the full gamut of human emotions. Perhaps it was because that movie was anchored by an actual live-action performance (namely Neel Sethi as Mowgli), or maybe the animators simply had more time to put in details like subtle ear twitches or furrowed brows, which really goes a long way to make the performances that much more expressive. Or maybe lions are simply not as expressive as wolves, tigers and bears. Who knows at this point.

In terms of the actual vocal performances, the new cast does an admirable job while putting their own spin on the beloved characters. This includes Donald Glover as Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and to a lesser extent, Beyonce as Nala. James Earl Jones also returns as Mufasa, even though one has to wonder why they simply did not pull his recordings from the previous version, since he was effectively reading the same lines. The obvious standouts here are Billy Eichner as Timon and Seth Rogen as Pumba, whose comedy dynamic help elevate the movie during its latter half. Their rendition of Hakuna Matata in particular is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The 2019 version of The Lion King should serve as an example for why newer does not necessarily equate to better. But the fact that it can't hold a candle to the 1994 version does not take away from the mammoth achievement the filmmakers have made in bringing the movie to life. It is impossible to improve on what is already effectively perfect in any case. But as a modern refresh, the movie falls way short of its full potential. That said, it is still effectively the same story we all fell in love with back in the day. And sometimes, a faithful retelling is the best we can hope for.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Yesterday (Movie Review)

It should come as no surprise that I think The Beatles are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. I mean, no other band has left the world with such a huge collection of great songs, ranging from the instantly catchy (I Feel Fine, I Want to Hold Your Hand) to masterpieces layered with meaning (Hey Jude, The Long and Winding Road). So when I'd heard that Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Love Actually) would be making a film that would serve as a tribute of sorts to those songs, I was instantly sold.

The premise of the movie is simple and interesting enough: following an accident that takes place amidst a global blackout, a struggling musician named Jack (Himesh Patel) wakes up to find that he is the only man left in the world with any memory of The Beatles and their music. He eventually decides to capitalize on this strange development by passing off some of their music as compositions of his own.

The film proceeds to chart his meteoric rise to superstardom, a rise that forces him to leave his current manager/love interest, Ellie (Lily James), in favor of Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), a cold, calculating woman who manages the likes of Ed Sheeran and sees her clients as nothing more than products to be packaged and sold to the masses. He is joined by childhood friend and roadie, Rocky (Joel Fry). But as Jack would soon find out, there are some things in life more important than money and fame.

Yesterday is a fun romantic comedy with enough reverence for the music of The Beatles to satisfy most of their fans. But anyone expecting anything deeper than that might come out of it feeling sorely disappointed. My main gripe with the movie is the fact that it doesn't even try to explain the reason behind its (almost) sci-fi premise. But I was too busy tapping my feet and singing along to the music on display to care too much about that, which I guess was the point of the whole endeavor.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home (Movie Review)

Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) comes to an end with Spider-Man: Far From Home, and what a wild ride it has been. It has proven to be the longest of all the phases thus far, with eleven films in total, but also the one with the most consistently great output of films. We were first introduced to the MCU's version of the webslinger in Captain America: Civil War at the start of the phase, where he stole the show with his fanboyish naivety and overall charm, so it sort of makes sense that he would close out the entire chapter in this film.

Serving as both a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and follow-up to the amazing Avengers: Endgame, the movie finds the self-proclaimed "friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man" (Tom Holland) stepping outside his comfort zone and embracing his newly-appointed role as one of Earth's mightiest heroes. It's been eight months since the Avengers defeated Thanos, undoing much of the mad titan's work from five years prior. But it was a victory that came at a great cost, and Spider-Man: Far From Home wastes no time in addressing the effects of that loss.

I am of course referring to the death of Tony Stark, who you'd remember was both a mentor and father figure to Peter Parker in the preceding films, albeit a reluctant one. It was both touching and funny to see how the kids from Peter's high school are coping with the loss and its aftermath, as they struggle to deal with the sudden reappearance of half of the world's population, an event that they have since dubbed the Blip.

Peter is hit the hardest by all of this though, who aside from mourning Tony's death must also contend with his growing affections for MJ (Zendaya). He eventually decides to tell her how he feels about her during a two-week European field trip with the rest of his class, and the help of best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), except things don't go according to plan when the Italian city of Venice, which they had been visiting at the time, is attacked by a giant water-based monster.

The attack is eventually quelled by a figure dubbed Mysterio, who is actually a man named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllehaal) working with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop a global threat. Both men try to recruit Peter in their fight against the Elementals, but Peter is conflicted between stepping into the giant shoes left behind by Tony Stark and just being the regular teenage boy he desperately wants to be.

If Avengers: Endgame was a celebration of all the awesome movies we've had so far in the MCU, then Spider-Man: Far From Home is our first glimpse at its shining future. The movie further traces Peter's journey towards becoming the Spider-Man fans all know and love, which is bolstered by tremendous performances from its talented ensemble, with Tom Holland and Jake Gyllehaal being the immediate standouts. The story also had enough twists and turns to keep casual moviegoers on their toes, even though veteran comicbook fans would've seen most of those twists coming a mile ahead.

The greatest compliment I can pay the movie though is the fact that it works as a teen/romantic comedy as much as it does a full-fledged superhero film, and I found myself laughing more times than I could control during its runtime. It is also one of the MCU's most technically accomplished offerings till date; I caught the movie in 3D/4DX, so the visuals and experience were that much more impressive and immersive. We really felt like we were up there with Spider-Man, swinging through buildings and generally trying not to take too much of a beating.

As a huge Spider-Man fan, I am still trying to decide if Far From Home is better than Homecoming, or even my all-time favorite, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2. I don't quite have a definitive answer to that yet. There were definitely aspects in this movie that were better handled, and aspects in the last one that I absolutely adored. Perhaps a second viewing would lend more clarity to the debate, but for now, the movie is definitely up there with the aforementioned films.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Toy Story 4 (Movie Review)

I was concerned from the very moment I'd heard that a fourth Toy Story movie was in development. I mean, the third movie had already been sold as the last one in the series upon its release, and it had ended so beautifully that it was always going to be impossible to match or surpass it. Well, leave it to the masterminds at Disney and Pixar to prove us wrong, as they've not only managed to craft a worthy successor, but one that also stands as a beautiful conclusion to the entire series in its own right.

Set two years after the events of the previous film, the movie finds Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the other toys from Andy's room already settled into life in Bonnie's room, the little girl who had taken ownership of them as Andy went off to college at the end of that film. It also opens by shedding some light on the circumstances surrounding Bo Beep (Annie Potts) and her departure from the group.

At the start of the movie, Bonnie is just about to start kindergarten and is struggling to deal with first-day jitters. This is not helped by the fact that she wasn't allowed to bring any of her toys with her. To cope with this, she creates a new toy in class, fashioned out of a disposable spork, some sticks and gum, and immediately grows to love and cherish this new toy, Forky (Tony Hale), above all others. But the toy itself struggles to deal with its newfound role, believing its place is inside the nearest available trashcan.

During a family road trip, Forky ceases the opportunity to act upon his suicidal tendencies, jumping out of their moving RV, and thus leaving Woody with no choice but to go after him. This leads them on an adventure where they come across an assortment of "lost" toys that include the imaginative duo Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), the sweet but sinister doll, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendrix), the stunt-crazed biker, Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a certain old flame whose reappearance has Woody reconsidering his place as one of Bonnie's often forgotten toys.

If Toy Story 3 was about accepting the inevitability of growing up and moving on from childish ways, then 4 is about rediscovering your inner child while embracing life and living it to its fullest potential.This is exemplified by its two main leads, Woody and Forky, and the fact that they have so much to learn from one another, despite being at different points in their respective lives. The ending of the movie didn't quite destroy me as much as the preceding one had, but the journey it took to get there was filled with more than enough heart, laughs and visual splendor to please children and adults alike.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Movie Review)

Every other summer, there seems to be that one movie that manages to stay under the radar until just before it releases to rave reviews and strong word-of-mouth, and by so doing becomes a must-see movie event. In 2015, that was Mad Max: Fury Road. Last year, it was Mission: Impossible - Fallout.  For some reason, I really thought Godzilla: King of the Monsters would be that movie for 2019. Sadly, it is not. What we have instead is what is sure to be one of its biggest guilty pleasures.

The movie takes place 5 years after the events of the 2014 reboot to the franchise, in which the titular Titan from prehistoric times proved its place as mankind's greatest defender against others of its kind (but not before leveling both Las Vegas and San Francisco of course). It also pulls double duty by planting the first true seeds for next year's crossover with King Kong from Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla vs. Kong. But don't expect any kind of a strong connection to that movie in this one, other than a few oblique references here and there.

In the aftermath of both films, Monarch, the top-secret organization dedicated to tracking and studying Titans, has managed to develop a device called the Orca, which emits sound frequencies that can be used to control the giant monsters. It doesn't take long into the movie before that device falls into the hands of an eco-terrorist (Charles Dance) who plans on using it to control King Ghidorah, a three-headed dragon-like Titan who would in turn awaken all the other Titans and bring about a much-needed cleanse of the human race from the world.

In order to stop that from happening, Monarch recruits the help of Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), co-creator of the Orca, whose ex-wife, Emma (Vera Farmiga), and daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), have been kidnapped by the eco-terrorists. He'd lost his son during the attack on San Francisco during the events of the previous movie. But now he must put aside his aversion for the Titans and work together with Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) to find Godzilla, who is once again mankind's only hope and defense against the incoming Titan threat.

If none of that sounds like it makes much sense, then don't sweat it. The story is more or less an excuse to have skyscraper-sized monsters have a go at one another while wrecking everything in their path. And on those very grounds, the movie succeeds, delivering enough jaw-dropping spectacle to satisfy even the most jaded moviegoers. The problem though is that we've already gotten movies like Pacific Rim that prove that spectacle doesn't have to come at the expense of a good story.

Also lacking are the underdeveloped characters, whose motivations remain unclear or improperly realized for the most part. But it is obvious that the true stars of this movie are the giant monsters themselves, and the fact that each one looks so stunning and has been imbued with its own sense of personality needs to be applauded. I was especially wowed by Rodan, the birdlike Titan whose mere flight overhead is strong enough to cause shockwaves capable of leveling buildings.

Overall, I'd rate 2014's Godzilla higher than this sequel, despite the criticisms leveled against it for spending too much time teasing the fights between its Titans. This is simply because it gave us human characters you could actually invest in, as well as did a better job of balancing their plight with the conflict between the Titans. That said, Godzilla: King of the Monsters did feel like a logical progression from that movie, and one I might come to appreciate even more with a second viewing.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Aladdin (Movie Review)

Of all the movies released during the decade-long Disney Renaissance, the 1992 animated film, Aladdin, was arguably my favorite one. The movie had captured my imagination with its beautiful visuals and unforgettable cast of characters, not to mention its awesome soundtrack. So you can imagine my skepticism when it was announced that Disney would be adapting a live-action remake in their current bid to introduce their classics to a whole new generation. Thankfully, my worries have turned out to be unfounded, at least for the most part.

Aladdin tells the story of a skilled thief (Mena Massoud) that befriends a young woman (Naomi Scott) after rescuing her from a botched attempt to steal some food at the marketplace. Unbeknownst to him, she is actually Princess Jasmine, the daughter of the Sultan (Navid Negahban) of the desert kingdom, Agrabah; having grown weary of her place as nothing more but a price to be sought after by royal suitors, she'd desired to understand the plight of the commoners and help the less fortunate.

Believing that she is nothing more than a handmaiden, Aladdin pays her a visit at the royal palace one night. But he is spotted vaulting the rooftops by Jafar (Marwan Kenrazi), the Vizier and chief advisor to the Sultan, who has also grown weary of being "second place." Impressed by his climbing skills, Jafar captures Aladdin and takes him to the mouth of the Cave of Wonders, where he tells him about the princess' true identity before tasking him with helping him retrieve a sole lamp from its vast vault of many treasures, in exchange for what he'd need to win her affection.

Things don't go according to plan of course, and Aladdin ends up trapped in the cave with nothing but the lamp, his pet monkey, Abu, and a sentient magic carpet they'd found there. He soon discovers that the lamp is actually home to a powerful genie (Will Smith), who grants him three wishes as a reward for finding the lamp. And with the help of the genie, Aladdin begins his attempt to woo the princess by becoming a prince. But not without having to contend with Jafar and his equally villainous parrot, Iago.

Aladdin is one of those timeless tales that never ceases to amaze in whatever form it is being told in, and I think it is fair to say that Disney has done an admirable job with this 2019 live-action update. The cast in particular needs to be applauded for turning in such good performances, the obvious standouts being the two leads. Even Will Smith's take on Genie wasn't half bad, or at least as bad as we thought it would be after that second teaser trailer. The musical numbers as well were pretty stellar, with some of the most memorable ones feeling like what you would find in a full-blown Bollywood production.

And therein lies my biggest criticism for the movie, the fact that it doesn't lean into its Middle Eastern origin more heavily, with the two leads adopting American accents that felt out of place within its colorful and culturally-rich backdrop. But even that small nitpick couldn't dampen what was otherwise a remarkable if somewhat flawed experience. Overall, it didn't quite reach the same emotional and storytelling heights as The Jungle Book, but I guess we have The Lion King to look forward to for just that.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 6 (Spoilercast)

The final episode of Game of Thrones has come and gone, and once again, it has proven to be quite divisive among critics and fans alike. People have taken issue with the fact that too many subplots have proven to be inconsequential, and with the by-the-numbers approach the showrunners had used with the final two seasons of the show in general. In all fairness though, they had clearly stated that the ending was going to be bittersweet, and the final outcome was precisely that, even if it didn't quite "go out with a bang" like many of us had hoped it would.

Listen to myself, Prince and Comfort (our special guest for the week) share our thoughts on the episode below or over at SoundCloud. You can also listen on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn, so don't hesitate to give us a sub, like, rating or comment wherever you choose to listen. We also look back at the series as whole, and reveal some of our best episodes and defining moments. Regarding the future of this podcast, now that Game of Thrones is over, we are already looking into providing future content by doing spoilercasts for movies and such, so continue to watch this space you must.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (Movie Review)

The boogey man is back for another round of over-the-top action in John Wick: Chapter 3, the third film in the fast-growing franchise about the eponymous hitman who's been forced out of retirement. And as the subtitle, Parabellum, suggests, he is fully prepared to bring all-out war to all those that would oppose him or otherwise stand in his way. And all through the ensuing carnage, he remains glorious to watch as the movie manages not to feel stale in the same way that similar franchises like The Equalizer or The Transporter started to over the years.

The movie opens right where the previous one left off, with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run after he is declared excommunicado for killing a member of the criminal underground's High Table on Continental grounds. And with a $14 million bounty on his head, it doesn't take long before all the shady assassins come out of the woodwork and attempt to claim said bounty. Emphasis on the word attempt though, because John Wick is still as deadly as they come, turning even the most mundane objects like a book from a library or a nearby horse into instruments of death.

But in order to put an end to the endless barrage of assassins after him, John Wick seeks out some owed help from the Director (Anjelica Huston), a member of the High Table, as well as Sofia (Halle Berry), a fellow assassin and dog lover whose twin German shepherds are almost as deadly as she is. With their help, he hopes to find the Elder (Said Taghmaoui), a senior member of the High Table powerful enough to end it all, a mission that takes him all the way to the deserts of Casablanca.

The High Table itself has already started making moves of its own though, sending out its Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillion) to mete out justice to both Winston (Ian McShane) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) for helping John, with both men being given seven days to step down from their positions of power or face the consequences of their actions. She also recruits Zero (Mark Dacascos) to hunt down John Wick, a deadly assassin whose skills are only matched by his adoration for John's.

John Wick: Chapter 3 is a more than worthy follow up to the two movies that preceded it. It takes everything that fans love about the first two films, and cranks its up several notches. It deepens the lore behind the rules under which the criminal underground operates, while also shedding more light on John's past life as an assassin in service of that underground. And while the movie delivers enough thrills to be considered satisfactory on its own terms, it still somehow manages to leave you amped up for more of the same and what comes next by the time the credits roll.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 5 (Spoilercast)

The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones has aired and not everyone was happy with its outcome apparently. Color me surprised, but isn't that what Game of Thrones is known for? Subverting our expectations and spitting in our faces at every given opportunity? Regardless of how you felt about the episode, there is no denying the fact that it was an even greater technical achievement than The Long Night, with it graphic depiction of war and its consequences.

Listen to myself and Prince share our thoughts on the episode below or over at SoundCloud.You can also listen on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn, so don't hesitate to give us a sub, like, rating or comment wherever you choose to listen. We also give our predictions for the very last episode of Game of Thrones. It's feels weird saying that, the last episode. Here's hoping that it turns out just as bittersweet as the showrunners have promised it would.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Detective Pikachu (Movie Review)

Video game adaptations haven't exactly had the best track record with critics and fans alike, with beloved franchises like Super Mario Bros, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil all managing to fall short of their source material's full potential after making the transition to the big screen. This is what immediately makes Detective Pikachu appealing, because of all the video game-based movies we've had so far, it looked like it had the greatest potential of delivering the goods. But how exactly does the finished product fare? Not bad I'd venture, not bad at all.

The movie is set in a fictional world where humans coexist with Pokemon (a portmanteau for Pocket Monsters), creatures with special abilities which can be caught, tamed and even trained to battle other Pokemon. Most people in this world eventually form a bond with their Pokemon, but not Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man who despite growing up in awe and adoration of the often cute but nonetheless powerful creatures, has come to have a measured level of indifference and aversion to their various species.

All that changes of course when Tim is forced to team up with Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a wise-cracking Pokemon with a caffeine addiction. Unlike other humans and their chosen Pokemon, Tim is able to understand and communicate with Detective Pikachu, which sets the stage for the buddy-cop dynamic at the heart of their relationship. Tim's father was a Detective himself, but had gone missing while on the trail of a case, so it is up to the unlikely pair to get to the bottom of the mystery behind his disappearance, with Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy rounding out the cast.

My first experience with the Pokemon franchise came all the way in 1999, when I'd first played Pokemon Yellow on Nintendo's GameBoy Color (a game that was recently remade for the Nintendo Switch as Pokemon Let's Go). So in a way, Detective Pikachu felt like a nice callback to those childhood days, presenting what was once a world relegated to the confines of a 2.6-inch monochromatic screen in a beautiful blend of live-action and CGI. And therein lies my greatest concern about the movie's crossover prospects, with most of the fun I had with the movie being dependent on my built-in familiarity with the franchise and the lore it has built up over the years.

I'm indeed curious to know what someone who isn't already a Pokemon fan would have to say about Detective Pikachu, which was of course decent enough by its own terms. But one thing that can't be denied is the fact that this is a "far cry" from the Uwe Boll adaptations of old (see what I did there? 😉), so this is a hopeful indicator of what can be done with video game adaptations when placed in capable hands and given the requisite amount of attention to detail they demand.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 4 (Spoilercast)

How do you top the biggest battle ever put to film? By following it up with an episode that serves as build up for an even bigger battle, that's how. At least that was the feeling Game of Thrones fans had at the end of the fourth episode of the final season, "The Last of the Starks." It is clear that the battle for the Iron Throne is going to turn out every bit as exhilarating as last week's Battle of Winterfell.

With just two episodes remaining until the very end, fans are already going crazy with their predictions for how the whole thing would pan out. Listen to myself and Prince's predictions and our overall thoughts on the episode below or over at SoundCloud. Our podcast is now also available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn, so don't hesitate to give us a sub, like, rating or comment wherever you choose to listen.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

10 Reasons Why a Game of Thrones Movie could NEVER make $1 billion in 1 day at the Global Box Office

The title of this blog post says it all really. But just to give you some context, I had an argument a heated discussion with a couple of coworkers the other day, which started after one of them had said something along the lines of, "If Game of Thrones was a movie, it would make $1 billion in 1 day at the global box office." This was right after the long-awaited Season 8 premiere, a time during which all our social media timelines were flooded with posts related to the TV show. So I guess they could be forgiven for basing their argument on the sheer size of its social media buzz at that time.

What I can't forgive though is choosing to ignore the many variables and subtle nuances that go into making box office projections. Things like advance ticket sales, marketing budgets, early twitter reactions, critic reviews and audience demographics; all these things and more are used by box office analysts to come up with and refine their projections. And even with these details at their disposal, their projections still end up missing their mark more often than not, which is why most analysts allow for a margin of error by giving their projections as a range rather than a single number.

The purpose of this post, therefore, is to highlight the inherent flaws in such a projection, as well as detail all the things that would effectively prevent a Game of Thrones movie (or any movie for that matter) from attaining such a high number on its opening day. During our heated discussion, I'd used the then box office opening weekend record champion, Avengers: Infinity War, as a point of reference. (And I was summarily dismissed for being a Marvel fanboy for doing so, as silly as that sounds). But for this post, I'll be using its sequel, Avengers: Endgame, instead, since it just released and has already broken every conceivable opening weekend record there is.

Before I dive into the task at hand, there are a few clarifications I need to make. First off, when reporting box office numbers, domestic refers to its take at the US box office, international refers to its take from other territories, while global refers to the two figures combined, its overall take. Secondly, we are primarily concerned with how quickly the movie rakes up money from the global box office, not how much it is expected to make during its entire theatrical run. In other words, we are looking at it becoming the fastest grossing movie of all time, not the highest grossing.

So, without further ado, here are 10 reasons why I think a Game of Thrones movie could never make $1 billion worldwide on opening day:

1. The Size of its fanbase

I am starting with this point mainly because this is what the opposing party's argument was based upon. Game of Thrones is big. Scratch that, it is huge. The season 8 premiere was shown to a record 17.4 million people when it aired three weeks ago. Aside from that, you don't need to look any further than your nearest social media platform of choice to see just how big of a following it has. For example, on Instagram, the official Game of Thrones account currently boasts 9.5 million followers. That's a lot of followers.

But guess who has even more fans and followers than that? Marvel Studios, makers of Avengers: Endgame and the 21 films that preceded it. Their official Instagram account currently boasts 19.2 million followers, twice that of Game of Thrones. But I guess this is to be expected. I mean, the first Game of Thrones book came out in 1996, and the TV shows didn't start airing until 2011. Marvel on the other hand has been selling comic books and winning fans over since the 1960s, while their Marvel Cinematic Universe brand of movies have been making waves since 2008.

The point I am making though is that if Marvel Studios, which clearly has the bigger following based on the aforementioned numbers, needed 5 days to gross over $1 billion worldwide (a previously unheard of record by the way), then what hope does a Game of Thrones movie have to gross that amount in the span of a single day?

2. There Aren't Enough Cinemas

Going back to Avengers: Endgame as a reference point, it was pretty commonplace for moviegoers who'd gone to the cinema during the movie's opening weekend to find that the movie was sold out. Heck, some theaters had to stay open for 72 straight hours just to meet the demand of people that wanted to see the movie within its first three days of release. Over here in Nigeria, we had some cinemas dedicating most of their screens to showing just this movie, with round-the-clock showtimes every 15 to 30 minutes all through the day.

And yet the movie didn't make $1 billion in 1 day, since there was clearly a bottleneck in the number of patrons cinemas could admit in a single day. This shows that for a Game of Thrones film to manage that feat, we'd first need to have the available infrastructure in place. In other words, more cinemas would need to be built, with enough screens to accommodate enough showtimes to generate $1 billion in ticket sales. Either that, or ticket prices would need to be hiked up significantly, and that is of course assuming that moviegoers would still be willing to see the movie at those hiked-up prices, which brings us to my next point.

3. The Price of Admission

A cursory Google search tells me that the average movie ticket price is around $9. By comparison, a one-month subscription to HBO Now costs $14.99. But we all know that HBO's streaming service is not the only way to actually watch Game of Thrones. The sad truth is that a vast majority of the people who watch the show do so via illegal download and streaming websites, which basically costs them nothing. So here's the question: would the same people that watch the show for free be willing to shell out 9 bucks for a movie ticket? The cynic in me does not think so.

But let's even assume that they were all willing to shell out 9 bucks. All 54 million people who streamed and downloaded the season premiere for free according to the article I linked to above. Add that number to the 17.4 million people that actually paid to watch the show legally and you have 71.4 million rabid fans, just waiting to storm theaters to watch the Game of Thrones movie on its first day of release. Multiply 71.4 million by $9 and what have you? $642,600,000, a number that is $357,400,000 short of the assumed $1 billion our GoT movie is supposed to make.

4. Game of Thrones is not Family Friendly

Aside from the fact that its earlier seasons were renowned for subverting viewer expectations by killing off its main characters, Game of Thrones is also known for its gratuitous depiction of sex and violence. It is a show geared towards adults after all, and its tendency to divulge key plot details in the midst of its many sex scenes helped coin the term, sexposition. But all those naked bodies and beheaded characters could only ever mean one thing for a Game of Thrones movie: it would be slapped with an R-rating faster than it would take Gendry to run to the Wall from the frozen wilds of the North.

So what does getting slapped with an R-rating have to do with the movie making $1 billion you say? Well, everything. Because in the history of cinema, no single R-rated movie has ever grossed over $1 billion during its entire theatrical run. The highest-grossing R-rated movie till date is Deadpool, which had managed an impressive $783 million at the worldwide box office, despite its potty-mouthed hero and his tendency to decapitate his foes. And we are talking lifetime grosses here mind you, not single day grosses. There have in fact only been 39 movies that have managed to gross over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and a vast majority of those were family-centric.

Because let's face it, the movies in mega franchises like the Avengers and Star Wars wouldn't be half as successful as they are if they weren't appealing to and safe to watch by entire families. In other words, for a Game of Thrones movie to have any kind of a fighting chance at making a billion dollars worldwide, it would first need to be severely edited down to at least a PG-13 rating, a decision that I am pretty sure would not sit well with fans, which is a good segue for my next point.

5. China

Once upon a time, the US box office was the be-all-and-end-all when considering a movie's global box office prospects. Not anymore. During the first quarter of 2018, the Chinese box office overtook the US. This was at a time during which Black Panther was raking up cash from American moviegoers mind you. It also explains why a movie like Warcraft, considered a box office failure in the US for making just over $47 million against a $160 million production budget, could still go on to make more than $400 million globally. So long story short, a movie's viability at the Chinese box office is sure to affect its overall box office prospects.

This leads me to the question: how popular is Game of Thrones with Chinese audiences? The reason why I ask is China is infamous for its strict censorship of films, a practice that has been extended to the TV show over the years. So assuming it is just as popular over there as it is elsewhere in the world, we still know that a Game of Thrones movie would never be allowed to see the light of day, unless of course its makers are willing to produce a super-clean cut that would pass its censorship standards. At which point one has to wonder what the point is, since Chinese audiences are also known to favor piracy as a means of getting to see the show in its original, unedited form. Speaking of which....

6. Piracy

Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV show in the history of online piracy. This is yet another measure of its overall popularity, for sure, but as I already discussed under Price of Admission above, its popularity doesn't exactly equate to a general willingness to spend hard-earned cash on it. Heck, it can even be argued that its popularity has been fueled by its availability through piracy. After all, all those people sharing tweets and memes all over social media must have caught the latest episode somehow, and the show is not even legally available everywhere in the world.

So for our billion-dollar-opening Game of Thrones movie to work, online piracy would need to be taken out of the picture completely. And that my friends is where we start to enter into the realm of fantasy. Simply put, there is no way to put an end to online piracy. I mean, just look at how many times the authorities have tried to shutdown popular torrents websites like The Pirate Bay and YTS, yet they still exist today in one form or another. Just don't ask me for links. 😉

7. Counter-programming

As popular as Game of Thrones has become, there are still a lot of people out there that simply can't get into it. And I mean a lot. Some are put off by its medieval, fantasy setting, with its dragons and undead wights preventing them from enjoying the deep family drama and politics at its core. Others simply can't stomach or overlook its graphic depiction of sex and violence. For such people, Game of Thrones is simply not their cup of tea. And rival movie studios are aware of the fact and fully prepared to capitalize on it.

This is where counter-programming comes in, because for every tentpole release like Avengers: Endgame, there are smaller-scale movies like The Intruder and Long Shot that manage to thrive in its shadow by targeting a totally different demographic. And these other movies would of course eat into the available screens theaters have to show the tentpole release (remember that we already don't have enough screens and theaters to begin with). So for our Game of Thrones movie to hit its projected opening day gross, we have to assume that it would be the only movie showing at the cinemas, and that everyone would be willing to go see it on the first day, whether it is their cup of tea or not.

8. Marketing

Game of Thrones has come a long way since its early season 1 days when major battles used to take place off-screen. Over the years, it has left us with episodes full of pure spectacle like Watchers on the Wall, Hardhome, Battle of the Bastards and most recently, The Long Night. It's increased success has meant that HBO could afford to budget $15 million to produce each episode of its final season. That's $90 million total. And that's not even considering what it must have spent on marketing in the lead-up to its final season, because let's face it, if it wasn't for all those ads and endorsement deals it had been throwing in our faces over the months, no one would've remembered to tune in on April 14th when the first episode aired.

But guess who has even more money than HBO to spend on marketing? Disney, owners of Marvel Studios, the 800-lb gorilla in the ring of movie studios. Avengers: Endgame is one of the most expensive movies of all time, with a production cost of over $350 million. And with a further $200+ million spent to market the film, it is hard to see how HBO could ever match or surpass that amount. And once again, it took Avengers: Endgame 5 days to gross $1 billion worldwide, not one day.

9. That Other Game of Thrones Movie

Believe it or not, we've actually gotten a Game of Thrones movie before. Well, it was not technically a movie, but a special screening of the final two episodes of Season 4. It was shown at 205 Imax locations in the US, where it managed to gross $686,000 on its opening day. A far cry from $1 billion dollars, for sure, but we're talking far fewer screens here. That's a per-screen average of roughly $3,350. So indulge me for a minute as we do some wonky math.

A quick trip to Statistica tells me that we had over 182,000 theater screens in 2018. What do you get when you multiply 182,000 by our $3,350 per-screen average? $609,700,000, which is once again shy of our projected $1 billion opening day gross. And this is assuming that every single available theater screen in the world has been dedicated to showing our Game of Thrones movie. But like I said, the math above is wonky at best, but even in its wonky state, it still adequately illustrates just how unattainable a $1 billion opening day gross is.

10. Historical Data

In the history of cinema, no other movie has remotely come close to grossing $1 billion in a single day. Even going beyond movies to entertainment in general, the fastest grossing product in the history of entertainment remains Grand Theft Auto V, a video game developed by Rockstar Games that managed to gross $1 billion in 3 days. And mind you, those 3 days included the several months of pre-orders that preceded the game's release, which resulted in a first day gross of over $800 million. A mammoth achievement, no doubt, but we also have to consider that the game debuted for $60 retail, not $9. And it still wasn't able to gross $1 billion in a single day.

The current fastest opening movie of all time is of course Avengers: Endgame, which made $157 million on its opening day in the US alone, with a further $108 million made from China where it had opened two days earlier. That's $265 million already, off the two largest movie markets in the world. Factor in other opening day grosses from around the world and you have something closer to half a billion dollars. That is huge. Astronomical even. Now times that number by two and just think of all the hurdles our Game of Thrones movie (and the movie industry as a whole) would have to cross to get there.

And once again, we find ourselves in the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking, where the only movie being shown at cinemas is our Game of Thrones movie, and everyone is being forced at gunpoint to go and watch it. If that were the case, then sure, the movie would gross $1 billion in a single day, easily. Heck, why stop there when it can as well gross $10 billion? But wait, aren't there like over 7 billion people in the world today? Imagine if all of them were to turn up for our movie on opening night. 7 billion times $9 is $63 billion. HBO would be swimming in money right now.

And that, my friends, is why box office projections are based on very real facts, like historical data, not assumptions. Records are made to be broken, for sure, but never by the magnitudes being suggested here. By the time you read this post, Avengers: Endgame would've crossed the $2 billion mark, on its way to outgrossing Titanic to become the second highest grossing movie of all time. Will it eventually hit $3 billion and outgross Avatar by so doing? Maybe. Only time would tell at this point. But what I am driving at is this was a record that was set in 2009, and it has taken this long for us to get another movie with a remote chance of breaking it.

There is no denying the fact that a Game of Thrones movie at this point in the TV show's popularity would've been huge, provided it was well-made and marketed. It could very well had been the first ever R-rated movie to cross the $1 billion mark. But to make that same amount in a single day? That's a different type of suspension of disbelief that this film and box office enthusiast is simply incapable of.

But that's just me. What do you think? Could a Game of Thrones movie (or any other movie for that matter) actually make $1 billion in 1 day?