Wednesday, 22 May 2019
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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....
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. 😉
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 counterprogramming 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.
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 left'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 thousand 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?
Wednesday, 1 May 2019
We always knew that fans of Game of Thrones were in for a real treat this past weekend, with the long-awaited third episode of the final season of the series airing on Sunday. I mean, this was supposed to be the episode that was finally going to feature the battle between the army of the living and the forces of the Night King and his undead army, the Battle of Winterfell as we'd been calling it.
The showrunners had of course made sure that we also knew just how epic the battle was going to be, edging out the Battle of Helm's Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers as the longest consecutive battle sequence ever put to film. So how did the whole thing stack up at the end of the day? You can find out below or over at SoundCloud where Prince from The Drunk Pen and I take a stab at the battle that was, and its defining moments.
Friday, 26 April 2019
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) launched with Iron Man back in 2008, no one could have predicted the grand scope and ambition of its 22-movie narrative, a story arc that has recently come to be known as the Infinity Saga. Over the years, we've had several great movies that fed into that overall narrative, movies like Black Panther, Captain America: Civil War, and Doctor Strange. Avengers: Endgame is a celebration of all those movies, and a stunning reminder of just how unprecedented an achievement the whole endeavor has turned out to be.
In case you've been living under a rock for the past one year, Earth's mightiest heroes suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, a defeat that resulted in the loss of exactly one half of all the people in the world and universe at large. I think we are well past the point of considering that fact a spoiler, and if for whatever reason you hadn't seen or heard about Infinity War's ending prior to now, then I have to ask, "Why are you even here?"
Avengers: Endgame therefore serves as the aftermath of the Decimation, the official term for the universe-spanning disappearance of half of all life. But to talk about any aspect of that aftermath would be to ruin its impact when you do get to see it for yourself, so I won't be divulging any specific plot details in this review. I mean, chances are you've already made up your mind to see the movie. And if you haven't, this is me saying that you have to, simply because no other film has come close to realizing what the Russo Brothers have been able to with this one.
I'd ended my Avengers: Infinity War review by saying, "we may never get to experience this level of anticipation and excitement again (at least until the second part comes out next year)." Well, it turns out I was right, because not only does Endgame match the level of anticipation that surrounded the arrival of Infinity War, it shattered our level of excitement as well. I'd never heard a crowd scream so loud and for so long during a movie, and I highly doubt if I ever would, ever again. It's hard to imagine any other film delivering on such a visceral and emotional level like Avengers: Endgame manages to do. It was fan service at its finest, and a firm reminder of why we'd all invested all the time we had with these characters over the past 11 years.
I've seen every MCU movie since Avengers: Age of Ultron at the cinema, and Avengers: Endgame is the first one that I actually feel compelled to go back and watch multiple times. It deserves to be experienced in all available formats. I'd settled for a standard 2D midnight screening, but I can totally see myself going back to see this in IMAX, 3D and even 4DX. But whatever format you eventually decide to settle upon doesn't change the fact that this is a must-see movie, so go out and see it you must.
Wednesday, 24 April 2019
The highly-anticipated Battle of Winterfell is almost upon us, and I am once again joined by Prince from The Drunk Pen as we discuss the highs and lows of what was essentially another episode of buildup to next week's epic confrontation. You can listen to our thoughts on the episode and the battle to come below, or head over to SoundCloud where you can also join in on the conservation by leaving a comment in the comments section.
Friday, 19 April 2019
Game of Thrones is arguably the biggest TV show in the history of television, and it returned to TV screens and streaming devices all over the world earlier this week for its eighth and final season. The anticipation leading up to this season was huge, so it comes as no surprise that the first episode would break records. I mean, it's been close to two years since the last season and winter is finally here.
As fate would have it, I'd been thinking of starting a podcast for quite some time now, but never really felt I had everything I needed to make sure it was produced at the level where I felt it needed to be. But I've thrown all caution to the wind, and channeled my love for Game of Thrones to bring that dream to fruition.
Below is a link to the first episode of our as-yet-untitled film and TV discussion podcast, where we hope to share our thoughts on the latest films and TV shows.
For this episode, I'd sat down with Prince from The Drunk Pen; you should totally check out his review of the Season 8 premiere as it offers a nice recap of the entire episode. The current plan is for us to have a new episode of our Game of Thrones discussions uploaded to SoundCloud every week, sometime after the new episode airs. And this will continue until the series finale comes along. Thereafter? Who knows. But watch this space all the same.
This is all new for us like I said, so feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section below or over at SoundCloud. And of course, if you happen to dig it, do not hesitate to give us a like and share with your friends.
Saturday, 6 April 2019
The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) continues its ongoing winning streak with Shazam!, the seventh film in its shared universe of movies based on DC Comics superheroes. Directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation), the movie serves as further proof that comic book adaptations do not always need to attempt to be anything more than standard popcorn fare, as it sheds all traces of the dark and somber tone that plagued earlier DCEU entries.
Separated from his mother at a young age, 15-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has spent most of his childhood bouncing from one foster home to another. He is eventually taken in by the Vasquezs, a couple that is already raising a family of 5 foster kids. This includes Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), a paraplegic boy who tries to befriend Billy. Except Billy isn't ready to accept the new family as his own, holding on to the belief that he might still be reunited with his real mother someday.
Billy is forced to stand up for Freddie one day, fighting off a pair of bullies before being pursued by them into a nearby subway. He manages to escape via one of its trains, but he is transported to a magical underground chamber called the Rock of Eternity, where he meets the wizard, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). The wizard informs him that he has been chosen as champion due to the purity of his heart, and subsequently grants him superpowers which transform him to an adult version of himself (Zachery Levi).
Following his transformation into the titular superhero, Billy and Freddie do what any pair of teenage boys would do in that situation: they go to a supermarket and buy some booze. And it is from this point onward that the movie truly excels, as the boys proceed to test and document the full extent of Billy's powers, to increasingly comical results. But the boys soon find out that it isn't all fun and games when Billy is challenged by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a man that was also granted superpowers by magical forces and now wants Billy's for himself.
Watching Shazam!, it is almost hard to believe that the movie exists in the same shared universe as Batman v. Superman. But unlike those earlier movies in the DCEU, the film is not burdened by the task of building a shared universe for these characters to inhabit, and presenting that universe through the lens of a singular vision. This allows it to fully embrace what made comic books such great fodder for kids and geeks in the first place. It serves up the laughs and playful spectacle in equal measure, resulting in what is hands down the DCEU's most fun movie till date.
Saturday, 30 March 2019
Jordan Peele returns to the directors chair with his sophomore effort, Us, a horror film that was released stateside last week but only just made its way to Nigerian shores. The very fact that it is being shown over here is a welcome change, considering the fact that horror movies are rarely ever shown or given top billing at our local cinemas. So it was with equal parts dread and excitement that I had approached the movie, and I am happy to report that it delivered the scares, thrills and twists fans have come to expect.
The movie centers upon Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), a woman who has spent the better part of her life living in fear and anxiety following an experience she had in a funhouse as a child. She is forced to face her demons, so to speak, when she goes on vacation to her deceased parent's beach house, where the trauma began. She is accompanied by her wise-cracking husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and their two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex).
At first, everything appears to be going according to plan, with the family trying its best to make the most of their vacation in spite of Adelaide's growing discomfort. Gabe even rents a beat-up motorboat, in a failed effort to oneup his friend and rival, Josh (Tim Heidecker), who is also there vacationing with his wife, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and their twin daughters. But things take a dark turn one night when the power goes out and they discover a family of doppelgängers standing in their driveway.
It is almost impossible to talk about Us and the full extent of its brilliance without threading into spoiler territory, but I'll try. The film is anchored by Lupita Nyong'o in the dual roles of Adelaide and Red (her doppelgänger), who gives what is arguably her best performance since her Academy Award winning turn in 12 Years a Slave. It also makes effective use of licensed music, with the Luniz classic, I Got 5 on It, in particular taking on an ominous tone as it is worked into the film's overall score.
The movie is also impeccably shot by Mike Gioulakis, who had also worked on the equally creepy and brilliant horror film, It Follows. And I guess that is the best way to describe Us as a whole, creepy but brilliantly so. It also boasts a twist ending that puts the likes of Glass to shame, one that seems so mind-boggling at first but fits perfectly into the overall narrative once you've given it a fair amount of thought. And it is all these things that come together to make it one of the best movies that has graced cinemas this year and every bit a worthy follow-up to Get Out.
Saturday, 16 March 2019
For those of you wondering why I am only just posting this review, this is due to the fact that the release of Captain Marvel in Nigeria was delayed by a week because of last week's gubernatorial elections. An annoying development for sure, considering that we'd all been waiting for it since that post-credits scene in Avengers: Infinity War last year. Thankfully, the excitement surrounding the movie had not been dampened by the delay, with the movie itself proving to be worth the extra wait.
Set in the mid-90s, the movie stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, the US Air Force pilot that would become what is being billed as Earth's mightiest avenger. When the film opens, she is part of the Starforce, an elite squad of soldiers fighting for the Kree Empire in their war against the Skrulls, a rival alien race. She has no memory of her Earth origin, or the origin of her special abilities, but she is trained to control them by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). During a mission to rescue a Kree spy on a Skrull base, she is captured by the Skrulls and taken aboard one of their spaceships.
Her memories are probed by the Skrull leader, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who is hoping to find information about the whereabouts of a device called the light-speed engine. She manages to break free of her refrains during his probing, and she uses an escape pod that crash lands on Earth, where she meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). She struggles to bring both men up to speed on the war between the Kree and the Skrulls, but it doesn't take long before they are all swept up in the throes of that war.
Going into Captain Marvel, there were three main questions I felt the movie needed to address: who is Captain Marvel? Where has she been through all the global threats the Avengers have been fighting over the years? And is she powerful enough to stop Thanos? The movie doesn't only give satisfactory answers to all three questions, it also poses several questions of its own, some of which can only be answered in a post-Avengers: Endgame sequel. As a standalone movie, it delivers all the action, spectacle and laughs that fans have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), even though it never quite reaches the heights of some of its finer offerings, or even attempts to, which is okay.
It was always going to be tricky introducing another superhero origin story this late into the overall Infinity Gauntlet story arc, but Captain Marvel fits so nicely into the already-established MCU that it is little wonder why her movie hadn't been released sooner, alongside Phase One origin stories like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. The film even has a simple style and tone more in line with the films of that phase. But what it lacks in comparison to some of the more stylized movies of later phases it more than makes up for in the sheer promise of her forthcoming appearance in Avengers: Endgame next month.
Saturday, 16 February 2019
As readers of this blog might have already gleaned, I have a really strong affinity for works of science fiction, being a writer of such works myself. And Battle Angel Alita, or Gunnm as it is known in Japan, was a cyberpunk manga series that came to my attention when a review of one of my books had pointed out similarities between the two. I was immediately intrigued by its existence, but never managed to get my hands on it to see for myself, until now. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel is a film adaptation of the comic book series.
Set in a far future following an interplanetary war known as The Fall, it tells the story of a cyborg (Rosa Salazar) whose working remains are found in a scrapyard by a scientist named Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). She is rebuilt and wakes up with no memory of her past life, not even a name. Dubbed Alita by Dr. Ido, she approaches everything in her new home of Iron City with a childlike wonder. But traces of her mysterious past start to show when she and the doctor are attacked one night, discovering she is trained in an ancient form of martial arts called Panzer Kunst.
Deducing that such encounters might help trigger memories of her past, Alita seeks to become a Hunter-Warrior, a registered bounty hunter that hunts down wanted cyborgs for the government. She also takes an interest in the gladiatorial Motorball, against Dr. Ido's wishes, after she is introduced to the sport by Hugo (Keenan Johnson), a boy she befriends and develops feelings for. But it doesn't take long before her activities are brought to the attention of Vector (Mahershala Ali), a shady businessman who trades in cyborg parts, and his mysterious benefactor, a scientist named Nova (Edward Norton).
The first aspect of Alita: Battle Angel that strikes you is how gorgeous the visuals look. For a movie that seemed to be stuck in development hell for close to two decades, the finished product is remarkable indeed. The film was written and produced by James Cameron, who was originally slated to direct but had to pass directing duties over to Robert Rodriguez due to his work on Avatar and its long-awaited sequels. Neither man is a stranger when it comes to making visually-striking movies, so its beautiful blend of live-action and CGI should come as no surprise.
Much like last year's Ready Player One, the movie also boasts of some excellent world-building, although I guess we have the source material to thank for that. I haven't read any of the comics, or seen its anime adaptations, so I can't comment on how well it has been translated to the big screen. But what has made it over into the movie is very much intriguing stuff, even though it sometimes felt like the movie was barely scratching the surface of all its source material has to offer.
Thankfully, the movie also serves as setup for potential sequels (for better or worse) should it prove successful enough to warrant making one. So here's hoping that it doesn't go the way of Mortal Engines and that it finds a large enough audience.
Saturday, 9 February 2019
In 2014, The Lego Movie introduced moviegoers to the Master Builders of Bricksburg (not to mention the insanely catchy theme song, Everything is Awesome). Since then, we've had two other movies in the Lego Movie franchise, The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie, both of which were released to varying degrees of success, but neither one quite reaching the high bar set by the first one. The Lego Movie 2 therefore marks an attempt by the filmmakers to serve up more of the eye-catching visuals and side-splitting comedy that made the first movie so great in the first place.
It's been 5 years since Bricksburg was invaded by aliens from the Systar System, turning the once beautiful metropolis into a post-apocalyptic shell of its former self. It's citizen have since adjusted to life in Apocalypseburg as it is now known, except Emmet (Chris Pratt) of course, who is still holding on to the steadfast belief that "everything is awesome." He is forced to come to terms with the harsh times though when his friends and girlfriend, Lucy/Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), are kidnapped and taken to the Systar System by General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz).
Using his Master Builder skills, Emmet builds a spaceship and embarks on a rescue mission. Except he doesn't get too far into his journey before he requires some rescuing of his own, which comes by the hands of Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Chris Pratt), a "galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy and raptor trainer." Meanwhile, Lucy and the other Master Builders are brought before the shape-shifting ruler of the Systar System, Queen Watevra Wa'nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who reveals her plans to unite their two kingdoms, which includes brainwashing them with the aptly-named Catchy Song.
The Lego Movie 2 is everything you'd expect in a sequel to a beloved animated film. It doubles down on the humor and overall silliness of the first film, while also introducing more characters and musical numbers. The animation is also as vibrant and eye-catching as it has ever been, successfully creating the illusion that it was achieved using stop-motion techniques. That said, it was always going to be tough to recapture the same level of fun and childish wonder that made the first film so great, since its sense of novelty is already lost at this point.
Much like the original, events in the sequel are driven by an overarching narrative, which results in even more live-action scenes sprinkled throughout the movie (a decision that had resulted in the first film failing to be considered for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature category). Except here the overarching narrative is not as deep or touching as the one featured in the first film. We do get to see fellow SNL alum Maya Rudolph though, who plays the wife to Will Ferrel's The Man Upstairs.
To summarize, if you happened to love and embrace the wackiness of the first Lego Movie, chances are you'd like this one as well. But if you didn't enjoy the first one or you've locked up your inner child and threw away the key ages ago, then there is nothing new here that would win you over.
Saturday, 2 February 2019
The dragon riders of Berk are back in the third and final installment of the How to Train your Dragon film series, The Hidden World. It's been 9 years since the first movie first graced the big screen in 2010, and as expected, the quality of the visuals have received a massive overhaul since then, breathing new life into the characters and the world they inhabit. But perhaps even more impressive is just how much those characters have grown and evolved over the course of the narrative.
After becoming chief of Berk at the end of the previous movie, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) continues to fight for his vision of a world where humans and dragons can live in harmony. He does this with the aid of his friends by freeing those dragons being held prisoner by trappers, and bringing them back to his village. Except this results in their village becoming overrun by dragons. It also causes the aggrieved trappers to hire the infamous dragon hunter, Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham).
As if the pressures of keeping his overcrowded village in order were not enough, Hiccup must also deal with the expectation that he take his girlfriend, Astrid (America Ferara), as his bride. And he is not the only one being troubled by matters of the heart, as his dragon, Toothless, takes a liking to a female Night Fury. Now it is up to Hiccup to show him how to win her heart, even as he struggles to keep his people safe by seeking out a new home for them in The Hidden World, a dragon utopia his father (Gerald Bulter) had been obsessed with finding.
How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World is an emotional rollercoaster of a movie, even though it never quite reaches the emotional highs of the previous one. I tried not to get teary eyed at the ending, but dear Lord, did I fail. There were so many callbacks to the previous films, which makes you realize just how much these characters have come into their own. This is ultimately a movie about letting go of the things we love, as hard as that might seem, and embracing the uncertainty that such a future might bring.
Now this is how you end a film trilogy, unlike that recent movie whose name I would not be mentioning here. To do that would be an insult to the quality of this one. As such, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World joins the ranks of Toy Story 3 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as one of the most emotionally satisfying conclusions to a trilogy in recent memory.
Monday, 21 January 2019
Few directors have recorded as many hits and misses in the past two decades as M. Night Shyamalan. And of all his successes, Unbreakable remains my favorite one, a unique take on the superhero origin story which came at a time when such movies were not considered mainstream or commercially viable. He'd won over critics and moviegoers alike with its surprise followup, Split, a psychological thriller released 17 years later. The movie was so successful that many considered it a return to form, so of course, we all anticipated the arrival of the final film in the trilogy, Glass.
The film opens with the Unbreakable David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who has since taken to fighting small-time criminals as The Overseer with the aid of his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Having learnt about the actions of The Horde (James McAvoy) at the end of Split, David takes systematic walks through the city streets in the hope of coming in contact with anyone that might lead to finding him. The two superhumans eventually meet, but their showdown is cut short when both are captured by the authorities.
They are subsequently taken to a mental institution, where they meet Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychologist that believes people like them are merely suffering from severe cases of delusion. It is her intention to treat both men, along with long-time psych ward resident, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book collector whose rare bone disorder had earned him the nickname, Mr. Glass. But unbeknownst to her, Elijah has been harboring plans of his own, and it involves her two newest patients.
I tried to go into Glass with an open mind, I really did. But nothing in this world could have saved the film from its head-scratching and very much convoluted finale. In his attempt to blindside audiences with one of his signature plot twists, Mr. Shyamalan has managed to undo much of the groundwork that had been laid by the two previous movies, and their associated brilliance. None of which is helped by the fact that none of it adds up, at least not within the context of the current film.
This is not to say it was anything as bad as Superman uttering the name, Martha, in the middle of a fight. Far from it. But the bait and switch nature of the twist makes it a poor choice, however you choose to look at it. Still, for all of its shortcomings, Glass remains a refreshingly different take on the superhero genre. The movie had its moments, and fans of Unbreakable would appreciate its adherence to that film's style and vision. It's just a shame that it couldn't have ended on a better note.
Sunday, 6 January 2019
Remember that one time I took a trip down the rabbit hole by reviewing a certain much-talked-about Nollywood movie? Well, I figured it was about time I paid Nollywood another visit by tearing apart critiquing another one of its productions. And what better candidate than Lionheart, a movie that made the news when it became the first Nigerian film to be acquired by the online streaming service, Netflix. So of course, I wanted to know what might have prompted the acquisition, plus I was curious to see just how far our productions have come in the past two years.
Lionheart marks the directorial debut of veteran Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji. She also co-writes and stars as the lead, Adaeze, daughter of the CEO of the titular company. Headed by Ernest Obiagu (Pete Edochie), Lionheart Transport is one of the largest transportation companies in Nigeria. But its prospects for the future are put in danger when its CEO suffers a near-fatal heart attack, forcing him to step down. Rather than appoint his more-than-capable daughter as acting CEO, he instead appoints his somewhat-eccentric brother, Chief Godswill (Nkem Owoh).
As if things were not bad enough, Adaeze also learns that her father had left the company with some very substantial debts in his bid to try and secure a very lucrative government contract. She has just 30 days to repay the loans or risk losing everything her father had worked for. Now, she and her uncle must set aside their differences and work together to raise the money, even while the entire company is under threat of acquisition by the CEO of a rival company, Igwe Pascal (Kanayo O. Kanayo).
If Lionheart is representative of the current state of our Nollywood productions, then I have to admit they've been some marked improvements since 2016. At least it was nice to see a Nigerian film that seemed to get the basics right. The production values were definitely there. The editors made sure the story flowed in a fairly logical way. The cinematographers made sure we saw what we needed to see at all times. The sound mixers ensured we could hear what was being said, not what some guy in the sound department felt were the trendiest Nigerian songs, playing several decibels too loud.
For a first time director, Genevieve Nnaji did a somewhat decent job behind the camera, which only goes to show how shoddy a job our other directors have been doing. She was also more than adequate in front of the camera, with her years of acting experience on full display. The acting was generally okay across the board, with Pete Edochie being the obvious standout, although there were more than a few supporting actors that sounded like their lines were being read by a digital assistant.
All that said, my main criticism stems from the way the film had been marketed to audiences. I'd taken one look at the movie's poster and I'd expected it to be a soaring drama. A soaring drama it was not, and what I'd gotten instead was closer to what you'd call a comedy, except it didn't have that many jokes and the few it had were not that funny. Maybe it is just the way that all Nigerian movies are made, forever hanging somewhere between being over dramatic and trying not to take itself too seriously.
Having watched the movie, I confess that I am none the wiser as to why Netflix had decided to add it to their streaming service. Perhaps it was nothing more than a business decision, an attempt to tap into our head-scratchingly lucrative home video market. The film did have a distinctly home video-like quality to it, albeit one with high production values. It was definitely better than some of their more recent acquisitions, including the internet meme generator, Bird Box. But then again, what isn't?