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Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” capped off Labor Day weekend at the box office with a bang. The superhero action adventure, starring Canadian actor Simu Liu, had an even bigger debut than expected, collecting $94.4 million in its first four days of release and setting a new high watermark for the holiday weekend.

Disney on Sunday had projected that “Shang-Chi” would finish the extended weekend with $90 million from 4,300 theaters, but the film sold more tickets than anticipated on Monday, boosting its overall tally to just shy of the $100 million mark. In normal times, that wouldn’t be much of a feat for an installment in the commercially beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe. But during the pandemic, it’s on track to become one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. 

Since Labor Day is traditionally a slow weekend at the box office, the film’s three day total of $75.5 million blew past previous the record set by 2007’s “Halloween” and its $30.6 million start. Despite concerns the delta variant would keep audiences at home, “Shang-Chi” notched the second-biggest opening weekend of the pandemic, behind only “Black Widow” with $80 million. Impressively, it ranked ahead of Universal’s “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9” ($70 million) and Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” ($48 million), both of which opened earlier in summer at time when COVID-19 looked like it might eventually abate.

At the international box office, “Shang-Chi” amassed $56.2 million in key markets such as France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan. The film doesn’t have a release date in China, which is an important territory for Marvel movies. Globally, “Shang-Chi” has made $146.2 million so far.

“‘Black Widow’ showed what a Marvel movie can do in pandemic conditions, and that release had the additional burden of a streaming option,” says David A. Gross. “For Marvel, ‘Shang-Chi’ is a creative departure, and at a cost of over $150 million, the results are very good.”

Unlike “Black Widow,” which debuted simultaneously on Disney Plus, “Shang-Chi” is playing only in theaters for its first 45 days of release before it lands on-demand. 

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Disney CEO Bob Chapek called its theatrical-only release an “interesting experiment” and indicated its ticket sales would influence plans for future releases, such as “Eternals,” which is scheduled for Nov. 5.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, “Shang-Chi” takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” and centers on a skilled martial artist who is forced to confront his past when he is targeted by the covert Ten Rings organization. In a landmark moment for representation, it’s the first installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the biggest film franchise, to feature an Asian star and predominately Asian cast. Moviegoers and critics were impressed with the final product; it has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A” CinemaScore from audiences.

Last weekend’s champ, Universal’s thriller “Candyman,” slid to second place, collecting $10.5 million over the weekend and an impressive $13 million through Monday. The horror film, which is playing only in theaters, has made $41 million to date, a strong result given its $25 million production budget. 

In third place, Disney and 20th Century’s sci-fi comedy “Free Guy” finished Monday with $11.2 million (including $8.7 million from Friday to Sunday), bringing ticket sales to $94.3 million.

Paramount’s animated adventure “PAW Patrol” and Disney’s family friendly film “Jungle Cruise” tied the No. 4 spot with each taking in $4 million over the three-day weekend and $5.2 million through Monday. “PAW Patrol,” based on the popular children’s TV program, has generated $31 million to date, while “Jungle Cruise” recently crossed $100 million at the domestic box office, with its tally currently at $106.8 million.

 

Article by Rebecca Rubin for Variety

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NETFLIX SETS 'TUDUM' GLOBAL FAN EVENT

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If you don’t know what “Tudum” is, allow Regina King, Álvaro Morte, Idris Elba, Chris Hemsworth, Millie Bobby Brown and dozens more of Netflix’s biggest stars to tell you.

“Tudum… or not Tudum?” that is the question “Sex Education” star Ncuti Gatwa asks (as Kedar Williams-Stirling cracks up beside him) in a comedic teaser, which explains that “tudum” is the way to spell out the sound you hear when you press play on Netflix.

And now, Tudum is also the name of the streamer’s first ever global fan event.

Netflix announced today that the inaugural Tudum celebration will be held on Sept. 25, with more than 70 of the streamer’s properties represented during a three-hour virtual show, where talent from fan-favorite Netflix series, films and specials will reveal exclusive news and unveil first-look trailers and clips. 

The fan event will also feature interactive panels and conversations with the creators and stars, including some of the Netflix’s most popular returning shows like “Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton,” “The Witcher,” “The Crown,” “Emily in Paris,” “La Casa De Papel” and “Cobra Kai.” Also on the list are highly-anticipated new offerings, like “Cowboy Bebop.”

On the film side, Tudum will salute Netflix’s recent blockbusters including Hemsworth’s “Extraction” and the Charlize Theron-starrer “The Old Guard,” while teasing new details about highly-anticipated movies including, “The Harder They Fall,” starring Jonathan Majors, Elba and King; “Don’t Look Up,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence; and “Red Notice,” starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, plus Halle Berry’s “Bruised” and Zack Snyder’s “Army of Thieves.”

The virtual livestream begins at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. GMT / 1 a.m. JST and KST, and will be broadcast across Netflix’s YouTube channels, plus Twitter and Twitch. Fans are also encouraged to co-stream and react to the event in real time on their Facebook, Twitch or YouTube channels.

There will also be special pre-shows spotlighting Korean and Indian series and films, along with exciting anime content, that will kick-off on specific channels at 5 a.m. PT / 8 a.m. ET / 12 p.m. GMT / 9 p.m. JST and KST.

The full list of Netflix series, films and specials represented during the three-hour virtual show includes:

“Aggretsuko”: Season 4 / アグレッシブ烈子
“A Whisker Away” / 泣きたい私は猫をかぶる
“A Través De Mi Ventana”
“Arcane”
“Army of Thieves”
“Black Crab”
“Big Mouth”
“Bridgerton”
“Bright: Samurai Soul” / ブライト: サムライソウル
“Bruised”
“The Chestnut Man”
“Cobra Kai”
“Colin in Black and White”
“Cowboy Bebop”
“The Crown”
“De Volta Aos 15”
“Don’t Look Up”
“Emily in Paris”
“Extraction”
“Finding Anamika”
“Floor is Lava”
“The Harder They Fall”
“Hellbound” / 지옥
“Heeramandi”
“Human Resources”
“Interceptor”
“Inside Job”
“La Casa De Papel”
“The Old Guard”
“Oscuro Deseo”
“Ozark”
“Maldivas”
“My Name” / 마이 네임
“The New World” / 신세계로부터
“Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie” / 劇場版美少女戦士セーラームーンEternal: 前編・後編”
“Rebelde”
“Ritmo Salvaje”
“Red Notice”
“The Sandman”
“Sex Education”
“The Silent Sea” / 고요의 바다
“Soy Georgina”
“Stranger Things”
“Super Crooks” / スーパー・クルックス
“Ultraman: Season 2”
“The Umbrella Academy”
“Vikings: Valhalla”
“The Witcher”
“The Witcher: Blood Origin”
“Young, Famous and African” 

Additional information on the global fan event can be found at TUDUM.com. Watch the announcement teaser below:

 https://youtu.be/H0aoURo_eMI 

 

Article by: Angelique Jackson for Variety

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SFMOMA CUTS FILM

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Some of the most thrilling art experiences I’ve had in the Bay Area have been under the flickering light of a film projector. One was a fog-filled room and Lis Rhodes’ hypnotic, screeching Light Music, two striated beams crossing each other in space. Another involved Morgan Fisher’s Projection Instructions, which bossily issues commands to its projectionists like “throw out of focus” and “turn lamp off.” Even watching Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire-horror-Western Near Dark has become a cherished memory because of the conversations it fueled hours and days later.

So when I heard the news that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art would “sunset” its film program at the end of the fall 2021 season, I was shocked and disappointed, but ultimately unsurprised. To me and other members of the Bay Area arts community, the cut was an unpleasant form of déja vù.

Three years ago, nearby Yerba Buena Center for the Arts also laid off its film and video curatorial staff, and put the 21-year-old program on indefinite hiatus. A planned “reimagining” of the film program at YBCA has yet to take solid shape. 

SFMOMA doesn’t plan to stop with just film. As previously reported, the museum plans to discontinue Open Space, the museum’s experimental publishing platform; the Artists Gallery, a Fort Mason outpost that facilitated the rental and sales of local artists’ work; and Raw Material, a podcast helmed each season by different voices.

In the name of attracting “larger, more diverse audiences,” these cuts eliminate, paradoxically, some of the museum’s most accessible and diverse programming, along with seven staff positions. Loss of any SFMOMA staff is a loss of institutional history and public trust, and the end result is a further fraying of the connective structures that once made the Bay Area arts community a functioning ecosystem. 

In my darkest moments, it feels like the scene’s been whittled down to fit on the head of a pin. ​But others remind me that the region’s most exciting culture has always existed in opposition to (and despite) mainstream, commercial art movements. Nimble, small-scale and decidedly experimental efforts are, in fact, the best parts of the Bay Area’s film scene.

While some already mourn SFMOMA’s film program, others refuse to accept this decision as final. A petition addressed to SFMOMA director Neal Benezra has over 2,700 signatures, and a gathering this Thursday at the museum’s 3rd Street entrance is timed for 6–8pm to coincide with the SFMOMA’s extended hours and free entry for Bay Area residents.

But in this latest institutional letdown, there’s also an opportunity to take stock of what persists, and determine how to best support a film community with a huge history. It’s a community that thrives in artist-run celluloid festivals, microcinemas, resource sharing and a dedication to high-quality presentations of moving-image work. 

Bay Area Alternative Film Starts at SFMOMA 

“Over the past half-century, no American city has become more consistently identified with alternative cinema than San Francisco and its environs,” Scott MacDonald writes in the introduction to his 2006 publication Art in Cinema: Documents Toward a History of the Film Society. A long list follows of famous film and videomakers with Bay Area ties (Bruce Conner, Bruce Baillie, George and Mike Kuchar, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Marlon Riggs, Cauleen Smith), and the institutions that supported them (SFAI, Canyon Cinema, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, SF Cinematheque).

“But before any of these organizations began to make major contributions to independent media,” MacDonald continues, “the Art in Cinema film series ... had demonstrated not only that there was an alternative film history and an audience for it, but that the Bay Area could be one of its nodal points.”

Helmed between 1946 and 1954 by legendary artist and exhibitor Frank Stauffacher, Art in Cinema was one of the first regular film program at an American museum. Today, it seems only natural that film would be part of a contemporary art museum’s programming. “It’s such a complex and fascinating art with its own history, of the moving image, from celluloid to digital,” says Susan Oxtoby, BAMPFA’s director of film and senior film curator. “All of the complexities of the art form of cinema are ones that should be part of a contemporary art museum.”

In recent years, under the leadership of Manager of Film Programs Gina Basso, SFMOMA would screen three to six films a month, including the Modern Cinema program, which ran for 10 seasons and focused on critically acclaimed filmmakers like Werner Herzog, Claire Denis and Satyajit Ray, as well as themes within contemporary cinema. (2019’s Haunted! Gothic Tales by Women was a personal favorite.) 

In contrast to other museum departments, where curators may only meet their audience at member events, artist talks or exhibition walk-throughs, Basso or her film program associate was present at every screening, introducing the selection and its context. “It really was a sense of walking in and having someone know my name or I knew the name of a frequent audience member,” she says. Regulars would save each other seats; some with preferred spots would cast sidelong glances if others encroached on their territory.

A crucial element of what makes film events so transcendent is the presence of the audience, that finite time spent together solely focused on one thing. The collective experience of watching a film is immeasurably different from streaming the same film at home. “You miss the essence of the community,” Basso says of home viewings, “which is conversation and people commiserating in the lobby for so long that I actually have to kick them out.”

SFMOMA’s film audiences, Basso says, were diverse and intergenerational. The barrier to entry with film is low—much lower, often, than other museum programming. “Everyone knows how to go see a film,” she says. “It’s really an experience that people understand.” 

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Of course, the Bay Area’s alternative film scene, as MacDonald detailed, is now much more than SFMOMA.

Before the pandemic necessitated a sudden stop to all indoor public gatherings, Artists’ Television Access (ATA), a storefront theater on San Francisco’s Valencia Street, hosted events two to three times a week. McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit space that opened in 2017, purposefully built a dedicated screening room into its gallery floor plan, showing curated programs of short films alongside their art exhibitions. Other Cinema, organized by local filmmaker Craig Baldwin, showcased an eclectic and adventurous program of experimental film, video and performance—many featuring the artists in person—at ATA once a week. March 2020—that fateful month—was meant to usher in the fourth iteration of Light Field’s celluloid film festival at San Francisco’s alternative art space The Lab. 

Across the bay, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive boasted around 500 film events a year. Shapeshifters Cinema, run by Gilbert Guerrero and Kathleen Quillian, was poised to fully open their microcinema and brewery in Oakland’s Jack London Square, building off their once-a-month expanded cinema programming at Temescal Arts Center. Business, as they say, was booming.

Even when their doors closed, programs and spaces pivoted, as so many did, to online screenings and workshops. SF Cinematheque’s director Steve Polta transitioned Crossroads, a festival of experimental and avant-garde film (which previously took place at SFMOMA), into a free online format. Canyon Cinema, a nonprofit film distribution company that started as a backyard cinema in 1961, focused on expanding its digital holdings, and now offers more than 1,000 titles for distribution in digital formats. And in the past two months, the renegade spirit of the Bay Area has reemerged in events like Magic Lantern’s screenings at the North Beach bar Vesuvio, held outside in Kerouac Alley. Curated by Anthony Buchanan and Lapo Guzzini, the series most recently celebrated the origins of DIY culture in San Francisco with a program of punk rock films. 

“There are a lot of things happening, but they’re just not happening under a big spotlight with the imprint and resources of an institution,” says Brett Kashmere, Canyon Cinema’s executive director. “There’s new things popping up all the time.” 

Attend two events at any of the above spaces and you’ll immediately recognize faces. Quillian describes a deeply collaborative and interconnected ecosystem. She and Guerrero met as volunteers at Artists’ Television Access, where Guerrero is now a board member. “I learned about experimental films by hanging out and being at ATA, as well as how to run a nonprofit organization,” Quillian says. “I was an intern at Canyon like a million years ago, that’s when I learned about the big-name experimental filmmakers.” SF Cinematheque is Shapeshifters’ fiscal sponsor. Craig Baldwin often connects artists showing at Other Cinema with Quillian and Guerrero to set up shows in the East Bay.

“The commonality amongst these organizations and projects is that they’re light in infrastructure and adaptable,” Kashmere points out. “And I think that’s something that’s consistent with Bay Area film culture, that sense of self-reliance and collaboration and adaptability, and being light on your feet.”

Even so, smaller organizations and artist-run projects across the Bay Area have historically benefitted from the presence of larger-scale institutions. Earlier this year, SFMOMA and SF Cinematheque co-presented Assembly of Images, an online film program curated by Basso featuring work that explored the representation of African Americans in photography and film. A piece from Canyon Cinema’s holdings, Christopher Harris’ Reckless Eyeballing, was included in the program, and Kashmere says SFMOMA’s screening fee covered roughly half the cost of digitization. 

Guerrero, similarly, describes instances when a larger institution might have the resources to bring an artist to town and install technically complex or difficult-to-show work that’s beyond Shapeshifters’ capacity. “But then these smaller venues get to feed off that and artists can show maybe early works or things they’re experimenting on,” he explains.

Collaboration—even for larger venues like BAMPFA—is a financial necessity. “When we all coordinate,” says Susan Oxtoby, BAMPFA’s director of film and senior film curator, “it allows us to bring interesting filmmakers to the Bay Area and for them to have a show in the city, a show in the East Bay, maybe partnering with the Rafael in Marin County. The audiences are all around the region, and it’s really important to make certain the venues in different parts of the Bay Area are doing the best programming.”

In fact, when the pandemic hit, it was the final days of BAMPFA and SFMOMA’s co-presented retrospective of the French filmmaker Agnès Varda. 

A ‘Stunning Disavowal of its Own History’ 

On its own website, SFMOMA describes a commitment to “exhibiting film as an essential medium of modern and contemporary art.”

And yet, in a July 19 email to staff titled “Connecting People to the Art of Our Time,” Benezra described film as a program that failed to drive attendance at the museum, one that “has historically had low attendance.” The flimsiest of predictions for its preemptive cancellation followed: the program “would inevitably struggle as films are increasingly streamed.”

According to an SFMOMA spokesperson, “While there was no specific goal for attendance at film programs, we have seen a steady decline that preceded the pandemic, from 6,700 in FY17 to 3,800 in FY20, and only 4% of our current membership have attended films.” (FY20 covers July 2019–June 2020, during which the museum was closed for 3.5 months.)

Just because something has existed for a long time does not inherently mean it must continue to exist. SFMOMA’s film program was certainly waxed and waned over its 84 years. But to reduce its past—and present—to “low attendance” versus “streaming” denies the existence of the film program’s very mission, and gives it no chance to flourish in a reopened museum. (The Phyllis Wattis Theater has remained closed since the March 2020 shutdown.)

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Practically, the end of SFMOMA’s film program means the loss of yet another Bay Area curatorial position—Basso’s job ends with the close of her fall 2021 season. It’s unclear how the cuts will affect on-call projectionists and other theater staff, many of whom are artists and filmmakers themselves. With less events, there will certainly be less shifts to fill.

Physically, there’s the question of what SFMOMA will do with its Wattis Theater—according to Kashmere, “maybe the best screening room in all of San Francisco.” An SFMOMA spokesperson side-stepped questions about future uses for the space, citing rising concerns about the spread of the delta variant.

But psychically, having the Bay Area’s largest and best-funded art museum essentially state that film does not belong within its walls is utterly demoralizing. In a fiery response to SFMOMA’s “stunning disavowal of its own history,” Canyon Cinema’s staff and board collectively demanded the museum change its name.

If SFMOMA eliminates film from its institutional purview, the letter argues, the museum ceases to be a “modern art” institution. 

So many of the people I spoke to for this article mentioned the experimental filmmaker Paul Clipson, who worked as a projectionist at SFMOMA and died in 2018. Clipson loaned equipment to Light Field for their second festival in 2017; Basso watched him project his own work in the Wattis Theater during lunch breaks; Polta says after Crossroads found a home at SFMOMA he learned Clipson had been lobbying for the partnership internally.

That one person can have such an impact on the Bay Area’s film scene speaks to Clipson’s talent and generosity, but also to the fact that individual connections are much stronger than institutions. Even in the long-term—especially in the long-term.

“That’s maybe the new world that we’re going to live in,” Guerrero says, “which is ‘fuck the institutions and their money, we’re just going to collaborate with each other to build our own independent ecosystem.’ We’ll pull the money together to get artists out here, and have a circuit they can go through and really collaborate more around programming and supporting artists.”

Light Field co-programmer Patricia Villon shares this sentiment. “I hope that this can be a reflective moment to remember we can build a better future for film in the Bay Area,” Villion wrote via email, “with or without the workings of the museum and despite these cuts.”

Already, the months ahead are packed: partnerships between the Roxie Theater, McEvoy, Canyon Cinema and SF Cinematheque; the Sept. 1 return of indoor screenings at BAMPFA; the Sept. 11–16 livestreaming of Crossroads.


SFMOMA may have launched the Bay Area’s alternative film scene, but its presence may not be necessary for all the thrilling, flickering projections to come. 

 

Article by: Sarah Hotchkiss for KQED

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Sony Pictures announced that the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer has broken the 24-hour all-time record for most global views, previously held by Avengers: Endgame. According to Sony, the trailer has also generated the largest 24-hour global social media conversation volume of all time. If that’s not an Avengers-level achievement, we don’t know what is. 

No Way Home’s trailer came out on August 23, unleashing the Multiverse and shattering Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) reality, which would already be reason enough for the buzz. However, the trailer also gave us the first look of Alfred Molina returning as Doc Ock for the first time since 2004's Spider-Man 2, and a quick look at a Pumpkin bomb makes it seem incredibly likely we could also see the return of Willem Dafoe. With so many returning characters teased, fans have been unraveling every frame of No Way Home’s trailer in hopes of finding another secret hidden in plain sight. So, it’s no wonder that the new trailer got 355.5 million trailer views in 24 hours, beating Avengers: Endgame 289 million views by a large marge. 

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Molina is not the only actor reprising villains from previous iterations of Spider-Man, as Jamie Foxx is also set to return as Electro. A LEGO set from the film also teased the return of the Vulture (Michael Keaton) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), which would mean Sony is only missing a single villain to bring the Sinister Six to the big screen. Considering that Sony recently renamed its cinematic universe to Sony's Spider-Man Universe, it’s possible the hero might cross paths with other villains that Sony is setting up in solo movies, such as Tom Hardy’s Venom or Jared Leto's Morbius.

To open the Multiverse and allow Holland to jump from the MCU to Sony's Spider-Man Universe, Spider-Man: No Way Home will bring back Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong). J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) is also coming back to torment Peter Parker. Mixing faces from Spider-Man’s past and MCU characters, No Way Man is promising to be the most ambitious Marvel crossover since Avengers: Endgame. 

Directed by Jon Watts, with a script from Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, Spider-Man: No Way Home also stars Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, and Jon Favreau. Spider-Man: No Way Home will bring Multiverse craziness to theaters on December 17. 

 

Article by: Marco Vito Oddo for Collider

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'THE MATRIX RESSURECTIONS' STORY TEASED

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As The Matrix Resurrections’ release date inches closer (or so we hope), we're finally starting to get some information as to what we can expect in terms of story from the new installment of the sci-fi franchise, thanks to the release of new footage. Up to this week, we knew very little about the production, which kept everything but the featured cast under wraps. Now, Warner Bros. has decided to reveal the first tease of the upcoming Matrix sequel at this year's CinemaCon. 

While the clips shown at the event haven’t made it to YouTube or other digital platforms, for now we have to hold on to the teaser’s description. The good news is, the footage described finally sheds some light on what the story of The Matrix Resurrections is about, and it seems that director and screenwriter Lana Wachowski has, once again, a lot to say about the world we live in – especially our use of cell phones.

 In a detailed post about CinemaCon, The Hollywood Reporter described The Matrix Resurrections’ clip scene by scene, revealing what happened to Neo (Keanu Reeves), how Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) comes back, and which characters Neil Patrick Harris and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II will be playing. You can see the full description below: 

The trailer began with Thomas Anderson (Reeves) in therapy, telling his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), “I had dreams that weren’t just dreams. Am I crazy?” He senses something is not quite right with the world, but he has no memory of what The Matrix is. Later, he runs into a woman (Moss) at a coffee shop. They shake hands, and there seems to be something between them, but neither one remembers the other. Meanwhile, Reeves’ Thomas spends his days taking prescription blue pills, and wondering why everyone in his world is glued to their phones — looking around and realizing he’s the only one on a crowded elevator not looking at a device.

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Eventually, Reeves’ Thomas runs into a man (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who is reminiscent of Morpheus, the freedom fighter played by Laurence Fishburne in the original trilogy. This mysterious man hands Anderson a red pill, and soon we see footage of him with powers, seeing The Matrix for the fake reality that it is. The footage followed some similar beats of the original, including Neo (Reeves) fighting the Morpheus-like figure in a dojo, and an image of Anderson in an incubator. There’s also a shot of Neo looking in a mirror and seeing an older version of himself. Neo also seems to have a few new powers from the last time, with the trailer including a shot of what looks like him controlling a missile through telekinesis to prevent it from hitting him. 

The Matrix was a genre-defining action and sci-fi film that premiered in 1999. Its combination of action and philosophy made it an instant classic and spawned two sequels, both of which came out in 2003. The three films have in total grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide. The new installment's announcement sparked wide fan speculation since The Matrix Revolutions had seemingly brought the story to a close. 

In addition to Reeves and Moss, the sequel's returning cast includes Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian, and Daniel Bernhardt as Agent Johnson. New additions for The Matrix Resurrections are Andrew Caldwell, Priyanka Chopra, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Ellen Hoffman, Eréndira Ibarra, Toby Onwumere, Max Reimelt, Christina Ricci, and Brian J. Smith.

 

Article by: Eric Massoto for Collider

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Shang-who? The most obscure Marvel Cinematic Universe character to get his own stand-alone movie to date, the comic book mega-company’s “Master of Kung Fu” may not be a household name (not yet, at least), but you wouldn’t know that from “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a flashy, Asian-led visual effects extravaganza that gives the second-tier hero the same over-the-top treatment that big-timers like Hulk and Thor typically get. The result broadens the brand’s spectrum of representation once again, offering audiences of Asian descent the kind of empowerment for which “Black Panther” paved the way a few years back.

Whether in print or on screen, Marvel has consistently been a step ahead of culture at large, ensuring that women, people of color and even queer characters feature prominently in its properties. As social pressures motivated Hollywood to diversify its roster, Marvel didn’t have to look far to produce superheroes that gave more than just little white boys a chance to see themselves on-screen. Even so, the nearly half-subtitled “Shang-Chi” marks a gamble of an entirely different order: With Henry Golding already committed to “Snake Eyes” and few other bankable early-30s English-speaking actors to consider, the company cast a lesser-known leading man in Simu Liu (of Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience”).

The real star here is Marvel, of course. Good on it for leveraging its popularity to help launch some fresh Asian talent (including indie director Destin Daniel Cretton). To mitigate the risk, Marvel tapped Asian action icons Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung to play Shang-Chi’s aunt and dad, respectively, and paired Liu with bigger name Awkwafina as wisecracking bestie Katy. If the film’s a hit, it’ll send an even louder message to Hollywood than the success of “Crazy Rich Asians” did. And if it flops … well, that would tell us almost nothing, since Disney is releasing the movie exclusively to theaters in the midst of a pandemic.

Stick around for the end credits, and cameos by a few of the Avengers hint at how Shang-Chi fits into the greater MCU. For the two hours prior, however, the movie may as well be spinning its own mythology, reaching back more than a thousand years to ancient China, where Wenwu (Leung) is already in possession of the 10 rings. These powerful, immortality-bestowing bracelets are the movie’s answer to “Star Wars” lightsabers: a new form of weapon that glows blue on Wenwu’s wrists and is controlled by his mind and sweeping arm gestures, resulting in all kinds of fancy tricks.

From the outset, Cretton embraces the artificiality of CGI, establishing an aesthetic in which spectacle trumps plausibility. (These are comic book movies, after all.) Wenwu parts an army as Moses did the Red Sea in DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” using his magic jewelry to easily breach a walled city. Centuries pass, and the shadow villain expands his reach around the world until, 30 years ago, with “nothing left on Earth to conquer,” he goes looking for a land called Ta Lo, meeting his match in its guardian, Li (Fala Chen), whom he marries. 

In the comics, Shang-Chi’s father was none other than the notorious Fu Manchu, and though that connection has been scrubbed here, the script (for which Cretton shares writing credit with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham) maintains the idea that Shang-Chi was raised by a dastardly figure he must eventually confront: ancient-Greek dramatic tropes imposed upon the Asian martial arts genre. “From sun up to sun down,” we learn, this powermonger-turned-family man taught his son “every possible way to kill a man.” That means of all the Marvel heroes, Shang-Chi has perhaps the most dysfunctional upbringing yet.

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Small wonder then that Shang-Chi ran away to San Francisco, changed his name (but barely, as Awkwafina hilariously points out) and tried to forget it all with a dead-end job as a parking valet — which is how we meet him immediately following the movie’s overlong but action-packed Wenwu prologue. Although ultra-likable Liu appears shirtless and handsome in his first scene, Shang-Chi is all but neutered compared with other studly Marvel heroes (who all get girlfriends). That could be the movie’s progressive, “Frozen”-like way of saying superheroes don’t need love interests, but it plays into a troubling Hollywood tradition of denying Asians their sex appeal — one that Marvel could remedy by making a Namor/Sub-Mariner movie.

Cretton and his co-creators are smart enough to recognize the minefield of stereotypes the movie must navigate, finding clever and amusing tactics to deal with missteps in Marvel’s pulp past (spoiler alert: the company even brings back Ben Kingsley for some self-ribbing comic relief, addressing unresolved problems with the Mandarin character in the process). But in distancing itself from the Fu Manchu trap, the film unwittingly squanders Leung’s involvement. Here, he’s an incredibly evil world terrorist turned softie, who loses his way again after his wife’s death.

Now, beckoned by what he believes to be her voice, Wenwu arranges to steal the amulets that Li had given their two kids, Shang-Chi and his far more successful sister, Xialing (musical theater actor Meng’er Zhang, making her screen debut). After fending off Dad’s goons in a thrilling donnybrook aboard an out-of-control city bus, Shang-Chi drags Katy to Macao, where he finds Xialing running an “underground” fight club a hundred or so stories above street level in a half-constructed skyscraper.

The early action scenes are the best, as Cretton and his second-unit/VFX teams collaborate to make cartoonishly extreme choreography seem acceptable within the movie’s elastic alternate reality. Whereas “Black Panther” invented the Afrofuturist kingdom of Wakanda as a fantasy answer to the Western world’s visions of its own superiority, “Shang-Chi” acknowledges China as the global superpower that it is and merely has to find a way to get its characters back to the mainland. (Marvel has been courting Sino audiences since at least “Iron Man 3,” which added China-set scenes for its Asian release.)

That works just fine for the Macao sequences, although the movie veers in a different direction — trying to incorporate familiar wushu and anime elements — when Wenwu uses the amulets to access Ta Lo, a vaguely Lost World-like parallel dimension inhabited by fantastical creatures. There, an elite brigade of trained fighters (led by Yeoh and backed by a benevolent CG dragon) defend unsuspecting humans from a hellacious soul-sucking beast. Like virtually every stand-alone MCU movie to come before, “Shang-Chi” does a fine job of presenting its hero as a relatable everyman during the first half before spiraling off into bombastic, brain-numbing supernatural mayhem for the final act.

Here, the movie has the added burden of trying to give Awkwafina something to do while giant creatures battle it out in the skies. It’s great to see her in action, but confusing that we’re being asked to view this goofball as Shang-Chi’s equal, rather than a sidekick. More confusing still is why Wenwu’s slacker son, using rings for the first time, should turn out to be more skilled than his father.

In its efforts to be inclusive, Marvel has all but obscured just how powerful its various characters are supposed to be relative to one another. Not that audiences seem to mind. Now that the Avengers’ Infinity War has played out, Marvel must figure out where this lucrative enterprise will go next. By expanding its idea of who can be a hero, the franchise appears egalitarian while bringing all new demographics under its control. 

 

 

Article by: Peter Debruge for Variety

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23 New Features to Film in California

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California’s Film & TV tax credit program has unveiled another 23 new movies — 10 studio movies and 13 indies — to shoot in the state, including top spenders like Jean-Marc Vallée’s untitled John Lennon and Yoko Ono feature (Universal), Zack Snyder’s sci-fi adventure Rebel Moon (Netflix) and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Beverly Hills Cop 4 (Netflix).

Beverly Hills Cop 4, the result of a one-time licensing deal between Netflix and Paramount to produce the reboot of the franchise that began in 1984, is set to generate $78 million in qualified spending in the state (defined as below-the-line wages to California workers and payments to in-state vendors) over the course of 58 filming days in the state, including in San Bernardino. 

“We look forward to welcoming this diverse blend of films and filmmakers to the tax credit program,” California Film Commission executive director Colleen Bell said in a statement. The 23 projects are expected to generate nearly $678 million in qualified spending in California.

Other big-budget projects shooting in the state include Zack Snyder’s epic sci-fi fantasy Rebel Moon for Netflix, which will generate $83 million in qualified spending over 117 filming days, and an untitled Jean-Marc Vallee feature from Universal, which will generate $86.7 million in qualified spending, the California Film Commission expects.

Nine of the 13 indie projects have budgets of $10 million or less in qualified spending.

Other studio pics to shoot in California with tax credit incentives include Escape, from Imagine Entertainment; untitled projects by Aziz Ansari, Karyn Kusama, and Kobi Libii; and Kenya Barris’ untitled Jonah Hill project.

The latest movie projects will also hire an estimated 4,088 crew, 873 cast and 40,621 background actors and stand-ins for a combined 953 filming days. And they will generate significant post-production jobs and revenue for California VFX artists, sound editors, sound mixers, musicians and other vendors, the California Film Commission said.

And as the state’s tax credit program looks to spread production jobs and spending beyond Hollywood, 239 or around 25 percent of the planned 953 in-state filming days are set for outside the Los Angeles 30-mile studio zone. 

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Article by: Etan Vlessing for The Hollywood Reporter

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Though Hollywood has served as the film capital of the US for more than a century, the entire Golden State has been a backdrop for countless movies, TV shows and commercials. Lured by the mild climate, diverse landscapes and short drive up from LA, studios have shot a long list of blockbusters in the Bay Area, including Bullitt with Steve McQueen and George Lucas' American Graffiti, as well as Ant-Man and Mrs. Doubtfire. San Francisco-based Industrial Light & Magic, the effects facility Lucas founded in 1975, has also created visual effects for more than 400 feature films.

But in recent years, California's once seemingly unshakeable grasp on the movie industry has been undermined by cities including Atlanta, New Orleans and Vancouver, which boast lower production costs and often higher financial incentives for films and TV shows that shoot there. For California, the stakes are high. Filming is one of the state's biggest and most critical industries, supporting nearly 700,000 jobs and around $70 billion in wages. California has launched its own $330-million-a-year tax credit program to help combat the exodus, but it faces tough competition from other states and countries, where there are also concerted efforts to entice filmmakers. 

"[These places] all started coming up with really strong incentives that would lure productions elsewhere," says Susannah Robbins, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission, which supports productions in the city and provides filming permits. "Bottom line: Producers are most concerned about getting the biggest bang for their buck."

For California, keeping that money in-state is not only a matter of rolling out incentives, but also building up infrastructure in places outside of LA, like the San Francisco Bay Area, so studios have the resources they need to film there.

"I'd love to be able to say, 'Oh yeah, we've got it all right here in the Bay Area,' but unfortunately, we don't right now," says Mark Walter, director of studio development for Cinelease, which has two studios in the Bay Area: Film Mare Island in Vallejo and Film Treasure Island near San Francisco. "A lot of that work is either in Los Angeles or some of these other states that have incentives." 

Luring back productions 

Film incentives, which vary state by state from tax credits and exemptions to cash grants and other perks, began cropping up in states including Louisiana and New Mexico in the early 2000s as a way to combat runaway productions that were fleeing to countries like Canada in the '90s. Toronto has long served as a stand-in for New York and other US cities — even the 2002 big-screen adaptation of the musical Chicago skipped filming in the Windy City for Canada.

A study conducted in 1999 by consulting firm Monitor Company dubbed runaway film and TV productions a "persistent, growing, and very significant issue for the US." In 1998, for instance, 285 of the 1,075 US-developed film and TV productions in the study's scope were filmed outside the country, a 185% jump from 100 productions in 1990. This resulted in $10.3 billion in economic loss for the US that year, and led to more than 20,000 full-time-equivalent jobs being cut, according to the study. Most of those productions were lured by incentives in Canada, while a portion went to the UK and Australia. 

In response, several US states decided to roll out similar programs to help keep the film and TV business at home, but just not in California. Those measures ultimately resulted in major productions shooting in places that are far from Hollywood. Marvel movies like Avengers: Endgame and Black Panther, for instance, shot in Georgia, while award-winning films like Hell or High Water and Independence Day: Resurgence were shot in New Mexico.

Seeing these other states trying to grab a piece of the film wheel, California launched its own film tax credit program in 2009, providing $100 million in credits per year over eight years to chosen feature films and TV projects. In 2014, the state revised the program, increasing the amount of credits to $330 million a year. 

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The third iteration of California's Film and TV Tax Credit Program kicked off last July, and is also funded at $330 million a year through 2025. (A tax credit removes a portion of the income tax a production company owes to the state.)

California's program has had a positive impact on the state so far, officials say. On-location filming in the greater Los Angeles area increased 3% in the third quarter of 2018, according to a report by the city and county's official film office FilmL.A. 

Movies like Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which shot in San Francisco, can bring millions of dollars to the local economy. 

Colleen Bell, executive director of the California Film Commission, says productions approved in the second iteration of the state's tax credit program are on track to generate around $11.2 billion in direct in-state spending, largely offsetting the $1.55 billion they received in tax credits. Twenty-three TV series also relocated to California from other states and countries through the program, she says, including The Flight Attendant (which previously filmed in New York), Chad (which had been filming in Vancouver) and American Horror Story (which had shot in Louisiana).

"We have to improve and maintain our competitiveness," Bell says. "The entertainment industry was born in California, and it's imperative that we continue to provide the most competitive conditions so that we complete productions here and lure them from other jurisdictions."

It's not just other US states that are trying to attract productions. Cities like Sydney, London and Budapest also have incentives and large filming studios. Pinewood Studios outside London is the home of the James Bond franchise, and two of the Star Wars prequel films were shot at Fox Studios in Sydney. Australia has also played host to Marvel's Thor movies.

While protecting the US film industry might seem frivolous or insignificant to some (after all, many audiences may not care where something is shot), it can have a significant impact on the economy, as indicated by the Monitor Company report. Sales from intellectual property, which includes software, movies and TV shows, brought in $49 billion in 2017, according to CNN.

"[Film] is one of the largest exports this country has," says Steve Dayan, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399, which represents workers in the movie industry. "Our economy benefits as a result of the good-paying jobs that the film industry ends up creating." 

Beyond LA

Efforts to bring film and TV production back to California are largely focused on the Los Angeles area, but California's Film and TV Tax Credit Program includes an additional 5% tax credit for non-independent projects that shoot outside LA's 30-Mile Studio Zone, an area that extends from the intersection of Beverly and La Cienega boulevards.

San Francisco also launched its own film incentive, called the Scene in San Francisco Rebate Program, in 2006, which offers qualifying productions a refund of up to $600,000 on any fees paid to the city. Robbins says around 26 films have used that program since its inception, including Blue Jasmine, Steve Jobs and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. 

San Francisco also launched its own film incentive, called the Scene in San Francisco Rebate Program, in 2006, which offers qualifying productions a refund of up to $600,000 on any fees paid to the city. Robbins says around 26 films have used that program since its inception, including Blue Jasmine, Steve Jobs and The Last Black Man in San Francisco

A big reason California and other states want to entice studios is, not surprisingly, to make money. Robbins says if a production uses the Scene in San Francisco rebate program and shoots for 23 days, for instance, feeding and housing the cast and crew could put between $3 and $4 million into the local economy. 

She says when the cast and crew of The Matrix 4 shot in San Francisco in early 2020, they stayed for a month and booked around 16,000 hotel nights.

"When we have a blockbuster like Shang-Chi or Matrix [4], they're putting far more than that into our local economy, in a very short period of time. ... Film really does inject a lot of money into the economy."

Keeping projects within California can also be critical to actors and crew members who aren't able to relocate for long periods of time due to 

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family or other obligations. Convincing talent to stay somewhere within driving distance of LA for a TV series is much easier than convincing them to move out of state to a place like Albuquerque, Walter says.  

"I think talent wouldn't mind relocating from LA to the Bay Area," he says. "I did it, and I love it."

Dayan says several members of Teamsters 399 have permanently left California as the film industry expands to other states, driven in part by the lower cost of living in other areas. But he notes that not only has California's tax credit program benefitted people in the film industry by attracting more projects, but it's also helped restaurants, hotels and other tourism-related businesses and their employees.

"When we leave LA and go to Fresno or Bakersfield or San Francisco or San Diego, we're taking a large portion of our crew," Dayan said. "All of those things benefit the state."  

Post-lockdown production boom 

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic forced film and TV production around the world to come to a standstill for many months. In its last two fiscal years, San Francisco issued around half the usual number of film permits (dropping to 361 permits in fiscal year 2019-20 and 263 permits in 2020-21) and saw less than half the number of shoot days, Robbins says. But because the Bay Area acted quickly to instate COVID-19 lockdowns last year and flatten the curve, it had a better handle on the pandemic than many parts of the country. As a result, producers from harder-hit New York and LA began flocking to San Francisco last summer for commercial and still photo production. 

Now with COVID-19 vaccines, film and TV production is back in full swing throughout the state. Robbins says a handful of productions, which she can't yet name, are slated to shoot in the Bay Area this fall and winter, spelling out a busy few months ahead.

Further south, Bell says there's been such high demand for content that stages in LA are at maximum capacity. This has been exacerbated by binging habits during lockdowns, which left audiences eagerly waiting for the next seasons of their favorite shows to hit streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu. Now studios can finally work on creating that backlog of content.

"The studios have platforms to feed," Dayan says. "It's gone from complete shutdown and unemployment to 100% employment."

Fully booked LA stages can also bolster the Bay Area as a filming and production hub as companies look for open studio space, says Walter. Some big titles have recently shot at the company's Film Mare Island and Film Treasure Island studios, including the 2018 sci-fi film Bumblebee and the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. But while a handful of soundstages are scattered throughout the region, Walter says, it's not enough to handle most network TV shows or feature films.

"Historically, folks will use the locations in the Bay Area, but then they'll do the stage work in LA," he says. "It irks me because we should have that infrastructure here."

Robbins says the San Francisco Film Commission is still exploring ways to "make film a more vital part of the city's economic reinvigoration" after the pandemic, which could include creating enough stage space to make it easier for productions to film in the area. But those options are still being discussed.

In the meantime, the area continues to entice filmmakers hoping to capture not only San Francisco landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower, but all corners of the world. Ranahan, the San Francisco location manager, says the versatility of the city's neighborhoods and landscapes attracts a range of projects with stories set in various locations. When HBO drama Hemingway & Gellhorn shot in San Francisco a few years ago, the city and its surrounding areas served as stand-ins for places around the globe including Cuba, Spain and China.

"What brings people here is that we can find a block or two of anywhere in the world," Ranahan says. "As I drive around, I can find it." 

 

Article by: Abrar Al-Heeti for CNET

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