Wonder Woman has been banned in Lebanon

(Note: This article is correct at time of writing- 31/05/17)

Wonder Woman has been subject to some of the most pathetic ‘controversies’ I’ve ever had the misfortune to glare at over my morning cornflakes. They include the ‘expected’ controversy over whether or not her costume is too sexy (which according to the director it isn’t.)

To an actual controversy about whether or not the Amazons would have shaved their armpits or not (I told you the ‘controversies’ were pathetic.)

Then the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater received some negative responses for announcing a series of women’s only screenings of the film now, they are taking place after the premier of the film and for charity but I still have mixed feelings on the subject.

But the award for most astonishing and in some ways most pathetic controversy belongs to the country of Lebanon. Which has banned the film completely. Not for moral or ethical reasons or because their still scarred from Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn. It’s not even really for religious reasons.

Rather it’s because Gal Gadot is an Israeli.
Lebanon, which has been officially at war with Israel for decades, has a law that encourages boycotts of Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis.

And this has been a seriously last minute ban- allegedly coming into effect a mere 2 hours before projectors started rolling.

The ban was prompted by a group called Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel – Lebanon, which pressured the government in Beirut to block the movie. On its Facebook page, the group said it is advocating a ban because Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli army, and has expressed support for Israel’s military policies against the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory run by the militant Hamas group.

In a widely shared posting on her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the Gaza-Israel 2014 war, sending prayers to Israeli soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”

Even though Lebanon enjoys a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.

Ironcially, the same council that decided to ban Wonder Woman failed to get Batman v Superman: Dawn of Migraines banned in the country. And other Gadot films (like the Fast & Furious installments she starred in and Tom Cruise vehicle Knight & Day) were also shown in the country.

And despite the ban in Lebanon, Wonder Woman is set to open as scheduled during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan across theatres in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It is scheduled for release June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain. Although this may change at any time.

Interestingly, In 2013, the Lebanese government heeded a call by the Arab League to ban Lebanese-born filmmaker Ziad Doueiri’s “The Attack” because it was shot in Israel. As a result, the film was “massively pirated across Lebanon where the DVD was prominently showcased and sold in all major pirate DVD stores there,” says the film’s Middle East distributor Gianluca Chakra, head of Dubai-based Front Row Entertainment.

“Did they actually stop people from watching the film? Absolutely not,” he said.

And I figure the same will happen here.

Alien Covenant Review

“I’m really excited, I love the Alien franchise as much as you love Mad Max Fury Road & Dredd.” Wittered my scriptgremlin from underneath his rock. And, as I looked at him, his little face full of hope and expectation, I wondered what exactly he was basing this delusion on.

Because lets face facts, the last good Alien film was released in 1986. That’s 31 years ago! Since then we’ve had to deal with Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien Vs Predator, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem  and Prometheus. I seriously hope he wasn’t talking about Aliens: Colonial Marines. But maybe he was talking about the creatures numerous appearances in graphical novels? I mean wow has the xenomorphs gotten around in its life. As well as taking on the Predator, The Alien has taken on Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Tarzan, Buffy, Archie, Star Trek: The Next Generation AND of course, my own beloved Judge Dredd.

None of these are regarded as classics and almost non of them are regarded as cannon within their own universes.

But hey, every 111 million dollar film directed by man who gave us 2010’s Robin Hood deserves to be looked at as it’s own entity. It’s own, mediocre, unsure of what it want’s to be so it winds up being a hybrid of Alien and Aliens.

I mean it, you’ve got your people answering a distress call and winding up dealing with the Xenomorph on a planet which is hopefully the birthplace of wherever the always superb Michael Fassbenders accent calls home, and then finish up the film back on board their spaceship which i’m pretty sure the people from Space 1999 would like back at some point.

And as this is an Alien film, allow me to introduce out not-Ripley for the evening- the mono-named Daniel’s, portrayed by Fantastic Beasts star Katherine Waterston who for me seemed less like a woman finding her inner steel so that she could defeat one of the most deadly animals in the universe, than  a head girl trying to decide whether or not to tell the head teacher that someone keeps disliking her Instagram posts.

Your going to spot every twist from a mile away and resent every scene that doesn’t have Fassbender in. I mean everyone else is fine, but there’s no memorable lines or characters in the entire thing. Even my notes only refer to them as ‘redshirt’ ‘redshirt in hat’ and ‘cowardly redhsirt.’

It had some tense moments and some points where I was squirming in my seat and yes, the music was very impressive and unsettling and it did fly past fairly quickly and inoffensively but this could have been a much better film if there had been better and less dialogue, not telegraphed their plot twists in advance, had a lot more Fassbender and a lot less everybody else and realized that the xenomorph is supposed to be a practical effect that you don’t really see allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks and not a CGI creation. Especially not when the budget is running low.

It’s defiantly not the worst film I’m going to see this summer, but it’s certainly not the best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-watch a 31 year old Vietnam metaphor.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

What Went Wrong With Live By Night?

2016 was not a good year for Ben Affleck.

Not only did he feature in both Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad which… i’ll be charitable and say split audiences down the middle whilst neither one made anywhere near the level of money that was expected on them.

And then there’s the ongoing mess of The Batman in which Affleck has not only stepped down as director but there are rumors of script rewrites and even those who are whispering that he may step down as the Dark Knight altogether.

But to my money, the biggest mess for Affleck was Live By Night a passion project that was released in the US on December 13 and over in the UK on the 13th of January.

Up until now, Affleck has been a very solid director.  His directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone (2007) (Budget $19 million Box office $34.6 million, 94% on Rotten Tomatoes) which he also co-wrote, was well received. He then directed, co-wrote, and starred in the crime drama The Town (2010) (Budget $37 million, Box office $154 million 94% on Rotten Tomatoes). For the historically inaccurate political thriller Argo (2012) (Budget $44.5 million, Box office $232.3 million, 96% on Rotten Tomatoes), which he directed and starred in. Affleck won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Director, and the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Academy Award for Best Picture. Becoming the first director to win these awards without a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. Also, Alan Arkin’s nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Argo meant that Affleck’s first three films all secured Academy Award nominations for an actor or actress in a supporting role.

The point i’m trying to make is that when Ben Affleck makes a film, he typically makes money which keeps the executives happy, earns critical praise and awards which keeps the actors happy and praise as a director for himself. And as he’s made films across several genres, all of which have been well received I imagine that it was with little difficulty that he got the green light to adapt Live by Night – a crime novel by Dennis Lehane that was published in 2012. It won even won a 2013 Edgar Award for novel of the year.

And by rights this should have worked. Previously the two had collaborated on Gone Baby Gone which had worked well. And yet… something got lost somehow. I’ve already reviewed this film and found it to be beautiful to look at somehow empty and soulless. A very episodic nature didn’t help either. I figured it would do OK  and I would probably never have to think about it again.

Except then I started to hear some disturbing things about Live by Night. First was the reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the  film a mere 35% with other critics noting that   “Live by Night boasts visual style and an impressive cast, but they’re lost in a would-be crime saga that finds producer, director, and star Ben Affleck revisiting familiar themes to diminishing effect.”

There was the lack of praise for how he used his actors with absolutely no awards buzz in any way shape or form. And then came the big issue. Money.

Live by Night had a budget of 65 million and probably the same again for advertising but it took a mere 20.8 million dollars at the box office making it the first (but by no means last) box office bomb of 2017.  But it gets worse.  Live By Night had the biggest third-week drop in cinema screens since records began, according to Box Office Mojo. The film lost over 94% of movie theatres willing to show the film. In its second week of release the movie was showing on 2822 screens, but a week later just 163 were prepared to have the movie.

The loss of 2,659 screens in a single week tops that of previous record-holder, Eddie Murphy’s ‘Meet Dave’ from 2008, the sci-fi ‘comedy’ in which Murphy played a space craft which looks like Eddie Murphy, piloted by 100 tiny humanoid aliens, one of which was played by Eddie Murphy. (Budget $60 million, Box office $50.7 million, 19% on Rotten Tomatoes)

That movie, as well as losing its shirt at the box office, dropped from 3,011 screens in 488, while last year’s ‘Hardcore Henry’, in third place, dropped from 3,015 to 519. (Budget $2–3 million, Box office $14.3 million, 49% on Rotten Tomatoes)

So what happened? According to Scott Mendelson, a Forbes contributor, the problem is that films these days have to compete with several blockbusters that both children and adults want to see, like “Rogue One” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

“Part of the problem is that so many of the big blockbuster-y movies… are playing to adults as well as kids,” he said. “So the actual adult movies are fighting for a smaller piece of the pie. Since most casual adult moviegoers go to the movies once or twice a month, if that, if they spend that date night checking out ‘Rogue One,’ then the actual adult movies suffer accordingly.”

Mendelson said there is only room for a few big hits each season.

“There is usually one or two adult films that can thrive in a given season, ‘Arrival’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ over the holiday; ‘La La Land’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ over the New Year. But otherwise it’s a tough going for most studio programmers.”

And whilst I agree with most of his points, I don’t feel that the film would have done better if it had been released in say May. The critical response would still have been the same, what little word-of-mouth there was would still have been the same. I doubt that the marketing would have been more effective, in fact it would have been less effective had it been released alter in the year when all of the big budget blockbusters were ruling over cinema.

Every director gets to make one disappointment and I guess that this is Afflecks. It certainly won’t hurt anyone’s career and it’s a good bit of trivia to have in the event of a pub quiz.

But what do you guys think? Did you see Live By Night and what film do you think most deserves to bomb this year?

Why Is Jeepers Creepers 3 So Controversial?

Jeepers Creepers was a 2001 horror film/ Terminator knock off featuring a brother and sister being chased by an unstoppable monster that had marked one of them as lunch. It cost 10 million, made 60 broke the record for the highest ever Labor Day opening weekend four-day gross, holding the record until the 2003 release of its sequel, Jeepers Creepers 2. Not bad for a film with a mere 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. I caught it and found it to have an excellent first half before inevitably descending into silliness in the third act.

As stated, it was followed by a sequel, imaginatively titled Jeepers Creepers 2 which had a higher budget of 17 million dollars but made only 63.1 million. It has a mere 22% on Rotten Tomatoes and a generic plot in which a bus full of high school stereotypes are picked off by the same creature. Again, I caught this in cinemas but can’t bring myself to recommend it.

Now, there were rumors of a third installment for years but the film entered development hell and I figured that was where it would stay. The series has some cult following and online presence but the films were made so long ago and  so it was with some surprise that I learned a third film was being shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Although at time of writing I have no idea if this is going to receive a cinematic release or going straight to DVD and I cant find any information on it’s budget, nor can I find anything resembling a release date. I can confirm that Horror Icon Adrienne Barbeau dropped out after allegedly being cast as to play a character named Gaylen Brandon. Posting onto Facebook she stated that “Contrary to what has been reported, I will not be joining the cast of Jeepers Creepers 3. It’s a great script and if you liked the first two, you’ll love this one.”

The film was originally supposed to to begin filming in April 2016 until production was halted when Victor Salva was boycotted from filming in Canada for his criminal past. And here’s where things get awkward.

The director of all three Jeepers Creepers films Victor Salva,  was convicted of sexual misconduct with one of  his directorial debuts underage stars – a 12-year-old boy – including videotaping one of the encounters. Commercial videotapes and magazines containing child pornography were also found at his home. Salva pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct, oral sex with a person under 14, and procuring a child for pornography.He was sentenced to three years in state prison, of which he served 15 months.He completed his parole in 1992.

A point I wish to make very, very clear is that unlike Roman Polanski who fled the United States having committed a similar crime rather than face prison, Salva served his time. Inevitably, there have been a number of online petitions and protests against the sequel happening at all. And the call to cancel the movie has only grown since it went into production. There is some heavily speculation that Barbeau learned of Salva’s sordid past and decided she couldn’t be a part of the movie any longer. This has not been confirmed by anyone directly involved with the movie, and is only speculation at this point. There is a petition at change.org that is catching some fire. It states the following.

Jeepers Creepers 3 is currently in production. The director and creator of this franchise, Victor Salva, used his position to rape a 12 year old boy in 1988 during the filming of the movie Clownhouse. He was convicted and served a measly 15 months in prison. As the three largest movie theater chains in the US, I urge you to not show this movie at your theaters. The profits from Jeepers Creepers 3 line the pockets of a pedophile. Monsters belong on the screen, not behind the camera. I also urge other members of the horror movie community to take a stance. Spread the word and don’t watch this film!”

There were similar incidents preceding the first two Jeepers Creepers films but thanks to the internet, this information is now far more available than in previous years. One particular point of concern about Jeepers Creepers 3 came after Salva issued a casting call for the part of a young girl called Addison who flees her abusive grandfather. In its circular to local talent agents, the Union of British Columbia Performers noted Salva’s 1988 conviction for molesting a 12-year-old boy, Nathan Forrest Winters, who had acted in two of his films. Stating:

“It has recently come to our attention that a casting breakdown has gone out for a feature film entitled Jeepers Creepers III, and that the director of the film, Victor Salva, was convicted of sexual misconduct in 1988,” read the circular. “The conviction allegedly resulted from misconduct involving a minor whom Mr Salva was directing at the time. At this time we would like to remind our members and their agents that, under Article A2702 (Safety & Welfare of a Minor) of the BC Master Production Agreement, a performer has the right to refuse work if they believe that the nature of the work is unsafe.”

Deadline reported that the casting notice, published on the Breakdown Services website, called for an 18-year-old actor to play Addison. The site nevertheless removed the message

In 2006 the film-maker made a public plea for forgiveness while promoting the independent film Peaceful Warrior. “I pled guilty to a terrible crime, and I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to make up for it,” he told the LA Times. “For almost 20 years, I’ve been involved with helping others, I’ve been in therapy, and I’ve made movies. But I paid my debt to society and apologised to the young man. And all I can hope is that people will give me a chance to redeem myself.”

Whether he deserves redemption or the right to make films again is not in my hands. According to the law, he has paid the legal penalty for his crimes  and is therefore free to pursue his chosen career as long as he is capable of finding work.

But the question as to whether or not he should be in the directors chair again is a different matter entirely. Salva mostly directs films that he has written but there is no legal imperative for him to be allowed to do so and as I have stated, neither Jeepers Creepers film has done anything particularly unique or inventive. I am still baffled as to why a third is film is being made at all outside of the directors past.

But what do you think? Should Salve still be able to work in Hollywood making films? Should there even be a Jeepers Creeprs 3?

Comment below, let me know.

We Are Your Friends Review

We Are Your Friends (2015) Poster

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Zac Efron Zac Efron
Wes Bentley Wes Bentley
James
Emily Ratajkowski Emily Ratajkowski
Jonny Weston Jonny Weston
Mason
Shiloh Fernandez Shiloh Fernandez
Ollie
Alex Shaffer Alex Shaffer
Squirrel

REVIEW Give me a second

Sorry, I know I should be reviewing We are Your Friends but a) i’m not entirely sure its a film and b) I have no idea what actually happened. Oh, and its also given me a strong desire to become a DJ and enjoy drink, drugs, random sex as these apparently have no negative consequences. I think. I’m not sure. The films not particularly clear on that point.

I do know one thing. Emily Ratajkowski is hotter than any mortal woman has any right to be. She’s not bad as this acting thing either. I think. My critical abilities appear to be on the fritz at the moment..

Perhaps i’m not looking at this correctly. Maybe instead of treating this like a film that’s appallingly shot, acted, edited, paced with an inconstant tone, predictable plot and morality with ‘characters’ I couldn’t give stuff about. Perhaps I should treat this as a training video for future DJ’s.

That makes more sense, after all, great lengths are taken to explain how DJ’s have the ability to take control of peoples bodies to make them dance (not creepy at all…) and teaches you step by step how to create this effect in people. It’s shot like a music video as well so this makes sense. It preaches that you need one sound, one track that you create, that you can make your signature. And that you have to meet the right person at the right time. And that you have to sleep with their girlfriend. Or is that a perk?

It does have quite a cool.. i can’t call it a scene…  Moment? Moment. Where paintings come to life and melt and people come become animated (for the first and only time). It goes without saying that if you don’t like EDM i’d avoid the soundtrack. It would be good for parties though.

Anything else to add before I go for a nice lie down?

Zac Efron is incredibly hot, his friends are holding him back but were meant to sympathize with them, it uses more narration than it needs to and… er… if you were to see this film after some “sugar” it might be a better film.

My score- Poor