News Reel & Blog

Written by Flora Kimberley on 24th April 2019

It’s official! The Breaking Bad movie has been confirmed with Aaron Paul reprising his role as recovering addict Jessie Pinkman. This is shortly after the series prequel Better Call Saul announced it would conclude after its sixth season. Better Call Saul has become very successful as a stand-alone series, rather than being just another prequel. It is written with its own voice without losing the essence of the original. However, this is not a common thing with spin-offs. Yet,  they can often be really high grossing films with some even growing into franchises.

Sequels are often unworthy, prequels often handled poorly, and with reboots becoming excessive, spin-offs have become a new trend within cinema. Particularly in the fantasy genre, spin-offs allow us a more detailed look into a world, fleshing them out and become more real to us.

The final Star Wars film (within the Skywalker franchise) The Rise of Skywalker has just been given its release date and with Disney+ being released at the end of the year; we should expect to see a lot more Star Wars series. The original Star Wars story already had prequels produced, yet the juggernaut that is Disney came up with a new breed of ‘prequels’ in the Star Wars empire.  The first spin-off from the beloved franchise was Rogue One which depicts a bunch of rebels on a mission to discover the Death Star’s blueprints. The film was very well received as it placed itself within Lucas’ fictitious history.  Yet, the same cannot be said for the second prequel Solo which was slated with the lead actor Alden Ehrenreich having to receive acting coaching on set. The misdemeanour of Solo hasn’t slowed Disney down. For their new streaming channel, they have already commissioned multiple spin-off series surrounding the Lucas universe. This will include Pedro Pascal (who has previously been in Game of Thrones) in a series based on a clan of bounty hunters with Boba Fett, as well as a spy thriller starring Diego Luna’s character Cassian Andor from Rogue One.

Similarly, the nostalgia-filled Harry Potter franchise has also had a fair few spin-offs. First, it was The Cursed Child written by Jack Thorne which became a smash hit on the West End and Broadway. Then Warner Brothers commissioned five new prequel films based on the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. These focus on the Grindelwald era in Harry Potter history. This means that they have a historic setting ranging from the 1920s until 1945. They have the potential to bring in many new narratives from multiple different settings (New York and Paris thus far) to really explore the world in which the story exists. These new films have also had scattering success with a major high and a low. There are even talks of a television show being put in production to learn about the Aurors.

Even TV shows are getting the spin-off treatment with Stranger Things writers (Ross and Matt Duffer) releasing a prequel novel discussing the life of Jim Hopper. Stranger Things has become a phenomenon being one of the most streamed shows in history. Equally, Game of Thrones creator G R.R. Martin has already commissioned five separate spin-off series before the show has even completed its final series. The untitled prequel has been commissioned by HBO and it is said to take place five thousand years before the events of the current series. It is already a star-studded affair with names such as Naomi Watts, John Simm, Miranda Richardson and Jamie Campbell-Bower confirmed to be series regulars. It will supposedly reveal the origins of the White Walkers, the mysteries surrounding the east and explain some of the legends about the Starks.

The prominence of the spin-off has become one of the biggest trends in SVOD, television and cinema. As Jay Roach says “sequels should be earned” and all the franchises have earned their  places in film history.

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 16th April 2019

Ten years ago Disney bought the rights for a failing Marvel brand (owned by Sony) without most of its core characters such as Spiderman, X-men and the Fantastic Four. Fast forward to now; where the Marvel cinematic universe has become the most bankable film franchise in the world. Disney has created an interlocking universe of characters and narratives based on the superhero formula. They used key marketing ploys such as embedding exclusive scenes within the credits to create an immediate buzz about the next film. The success of Marvel under Disney’s leadership has meant that Disney now has made deals to have access to all Marvel character rights including the essential characters that were originally left out the deal.

The mastermind behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Kevin Feige who decided (on the advice on David Maisel) to sell the universe rather than just individual characters. For most audiences, the characters of the Marvel universe are much less recognisable than the DC characters such as Batman and Superman. Feige decided to build towards the Avengers film by first introducing us to each hero separately. The first films released were Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, who have all now become essential to the plot of the universe. From these original introduction films, we were then coaxed into them becoming the Avengers. This meant that we grew a relationship to each character individually and the relationships they have with each other becomes more captivating.

Importantly, Marvel made brilliant casting choices for the universe. They got actors with serious clout to take part. For example, Nick Fury (who is a prominent feature across most of the films) is played by Samuel L Jackson. They also stayed away from stereotypical casting choices such as Tom Cruise (who was the original choice for Iron Man) but rather took a risk on a rehab prone Robert Downey JR. These risks also translated into who Directed the films. Marvel took a risk of staying away from the Blockbuster big hitters, instead of using less know artistic directors such as Kenneth Branagh (Thor) and Joss Whedon (Avengers). Even though both have gravitas, they are not the A-typical Hollywood Blockbuster types. The risks even continue through the films they decided to produce. The space opera Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t even popular as a comic. Yet, it became one of the highest grossing films within the Marvel franchise.

With Avengers: End Game coming out the 26th of April, it is set to be one of the biggest releases in the last decade. The film has already smashed box office pre-sale records with an additional estimated $300 million home box office in its opening weekend. The film is expected to help with the recent slump in the box office and break the billion glass ceiling in a matter of weeks. Cinemas are already struggling with the demand from the presales adding as many additional show times as possible. When End Game hits the cinemas it will mark the end of phase three within the Marvel Cinematic Universe which all paved the way to this final showdown with Thanos. With a run time of three hours and two minutes it is longest, most action-packed Marvel film to date.

Overall, the anticipation of End Game shows how Marvel has grown into a merchandising juggernaut. With Spiderman: far from home starting off phase four of the Marvel universe the pace does not seem to be slowing down. Clearly, in the words of Nick Fury we “still all believe in heroes”.

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 10th April 2019

The world’s media industry have migrated to Cannes for the week as MIP started yesterday. Major content and distribution houses come together for a conference dedicated to all genres of television and film. MIP sets the precedent of television production for the year showing distributors what type of shows will be successful in the coming year. From screenings of new content to expert panels, this is what trends we can expect from the MIP conference.

Since the success of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, the audience is hungry for more multi-language drama. Deutschland 83, My Brilliant Friend and Narcos proved that non-English language dramas can capture audiences with universal stories and engaging scripts. Therefore, many production houses have started creating scripted content in a multitude of different languages to increase its accessibility for audiences. There are many shows already in the works with this at the forefront, such as Stefano Sollima’s Zero Zero Zero, which is an Italian English drama created by Sky Italia.

Another trend we can expect to see in the coming year is more one-off dramas, anthologies and interactive storytelling. Ever since Black Mirror’s hit one off drama Bandersnatch came out at Christmas, it has caused a stir within the industry. Charlie Brooker (writer and creator of Black Mirror) created a story where the viewer can participate in the narrative of the show which inevitably changes the outcome of the plot. This means you could watch the episode over various times and finish with a different ending depending on your choices throughout. Black Mirror has also convinced content creators that an episodic anthology could be the next step in television content. The episodic structure can help secure A-list talent without strain on their busy schedules. Amazon has enlisted this strategy recently to secure big names such as Dev Patel (Lion) and Anne Hathaway (Modern Love).

It is expected that in the world of reality television and game shows there will be a rise in Asian format innovation. Asia has a great track record of creating appealing formats and content on a global scale. For example Hole in the Wall, Dragons Den, Masked Face and Better Late then Never all originated in Asia (mainly in Japan or Korea). The premises of these shows have been sold on a global scale and have millions of viewers. It is suspected that in the coming year much more Asian inspired television content will appear across all platforms.

Supposedly, factual commissioning for online SVOD services will become more mainstream as the year develops. The blue-chip documentary will broaden across all platforms. This year has already seen a major influx of high-quality documentary programmes from Netflix’s Fyre through to Channel 4’s Leaving Neverland. Factual content has become more popular than ever with audiences selecting thought-provoking real-life stories. This year there will be an incursion of space-themed documentaries due to it being the 50th anniversary of the original Apollo moon landings. Multiple broadcasters such as BBC, ITV, SKY and Channel 4 have already started production of the moon landing documentaries. Facebook has also started to create its own documentary content through its SVOD Facebook Watch. They have recently commissioned a documentary depicting the lives of Mormon teens in Utah.

The final trend expected for 2019 is in children’s television. Tween dramas have become trendy again. Kids television is anticipated to move away from animation and start creating more live action drama series. This is to captivate the older end of the kids' television market and bring back the classic Disney’s golden era. Shows like Hannah Montana, That’s so Raven and The Wizard of Waverly Place hooked tweens from 11-13 for many years with their topically relevant narratives. With the rise of live action becoming a trend, it will be fascinating to see how Disney and Viacom tackle this challenge.

Clearly, this year’s MIP is striding towards many changes within the content world. As the year goes on, it will be great to asses these trends and how they shape television for 2020.

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 2nd April 2019

With Tim Burton’s Dumbo in cinemas now, the live action remakes of old Disney classics are increasing in popularity. Despite Dumbo’s opening weekend being slightly underwhelming compared to the forecast targets, most of Disney’s remakes have been incredible box office successes. The live action remake of Beauty and the Beast was one of 2017 highest grossing films taking over a £1 billion USD. Disney currently has seventeen remakes in the pipeline for the coming years. They include some cult classics such as The Little Mermaid and Mulan.

There is an argument against the remakes. Many believe that live action remakes are just diluting the original classics in a tried and tested format to make money. This opinion is understandable in the case of Dumbo. The original had almost a silent movie style elegance with an incredible score which had a running time of only 64 minutes. However, the recent updated version now runs for almost double at 124 minutes. The remake adds multiple new characters to add to the plot and emotional depth. Yet, does this debunk the nostalgia associated with the classic?

Guy Richie’s Aladdin is set to hit cinema screens on 24th of May. Aladdin became a cult classic after its release in 1992 due to the charismatic performance by Robin Williams (Genie) and an Oscar winning score written by Alan Menken. Disney famously reinvented animation, creating stylised drawings making each film wholly unique. For example, within the original animation the use of colour helps create a sense of wealth through the deep blues and purples, which is particularly poignant through the sharp electric blue of the genie. Despite Will Smith’s charisma, his appearance as the genie has a slightly pantomime tone. He enters shirtless painted bright blue. It is a big enough challenge for an actor to portray the gravitas of a omniscient being, but the way Smith is costumed lowers the tone immediately. It makes the performance hard to take seriously, especially in comparison to the original performance of Robin Williams.

However, the trailer for the live action (reimagined animation) of The Lion King has received a positive reaction. A remake of the 1994 legendary film, it will be released on the 19th of July (twenty five years after the original). Disney have employed Jon Favreau who is familiar with large scale productions. He has contributed to the Marvel franchise directing the original Iron Man in 2008. Disney haven’t kept a lot of elements from the original apart from the reprisal of James Earl Jones in his role as Mufusa, and Hans Zimmer is returning to create a new score. The new score is an exciting prospect with some big names from the music industry attached as lead roles. Everyone’s favourite; Beyoncé has been cast as Nala. It appears that she will produce the soundtrack taking on the role that Elton John played in the original. She is starring alongside fellow musician Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) as Simba. Glover is most well known for his song America which stormed the charts last year with its controversial music video depicting gun violence in America. The song and video received four Grammys including Best song and Best Music Video. His current notoriety will be a pull for the younger audiences. The rest of the cast includes some other big names including Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Seth Rogan (Pumba) and Eric Andre (Azzizi). The Lion King is set to be a huge summer blockbuster with a projected forecast of £1.9 billion.

The Question is: Are the remakes going to become classics like the originals, or fall flat? With Disney creating the Marvel machine it feels as though remakes and reboots are fuelling the film industry. Yet, is that necessarily a negative? Not necessarily. The industry has had some eccentric directors enter the scene in the past couple of years. For example, directors like Jordan Peele and Barry Jenkins are opposing this with fantastic original story lines and dynamic cinematography. They are also achieving good box office figures with Peele’s Us taking in £70 million in its opening weekend.

Disney has always been an innovator in animation and it will be interesting to see how the reinterpret their own narratives for a new generation of children.

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