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Forest Whitaker to people of color: Our most profound stories remain untold

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In an essay for Variety Magazine, actor Forest Whitaker wrote about the opportunities available in showbiz for people of colour today.

By Justina Terhember

Forest Whitaker is an actor, producer, and director. He’s also the co-founder of Significant Productions along with Nina Yang Bongiovi. In 2007, he became the fourth African-American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, following in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. He wrote an essay for Variety magazine, in which he acknowledged being fortunate for the opportunities that have come his way as an artist during his 40 years in Hollywood.

“On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught.”

Whitaker wrote: “On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught. As a result, some of our most instructive, profound, and emotional stories remain untold, which means that audiences’ perspectives on our collective existence remain tragically limited. This was the endemic reality that my producing partner Nina Yang Bongiovi and I sought to extinguish when we formed our company, Significant Productions, over a decade ago. Our mission statement is simple: Provide opportunity.”

Whitaker wrote further that when he and Bongiovi teamed up with first-time filmmaker Rebecca Hall on a long-overdue adaptation of Nella Larsen’s landmark 1929 novel ‘Passing’, they saw nothing but opportunity: “For world-class actresses like Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga to craft complex, multidimensional roles too rarely afforded to performers of color; for an accomplished actress to bring a deeply personal story, 13 years in the making, to the screen; and for a Black female author’s essential storytelling to reach the kind of vast audience that would have been thought impossible 100 years ago.”

Whitaker also added that when they backed Ryan Coogler’s deeply personal directorial debut ‘Fruitvale Station’, it wasn’t an obvious calculation for many. “To take a risk on an unproven talent fresh out of film school with such a specific story to tell was anathema, but to us, it was clear that this is how we build the future. Nina and I felt that we needed Ryan’s voice in the world, a voice with the power and potential to shift the culture in Hollywood. His impact since speaks for itself, through the scope and global impact of films like ‘Creed’ and ‘Black Panther’ — films that have taken their own mighty swings at breaking through the plaque.”

Whitaker also wrote: “As hard-fought and at times harrowing I’ve found it to be for these kinds of stories to gain purpose out in the world, I’m as optimistic as I have ever been that they will continue to be told. The will is there. The talent is there. It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the opportunity is there.”

Read the full essay HERE.

MOVIES

First trailer for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel drops

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After 13 years and numerous delays, 20th Century Studios has finally released a glimpse into James Cameron’s ‘Avatar 2’, due Dec. 16. This marks the long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time. The sequel’s official title is ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’. See video below:

After being re-released last year in China, the first ‘Avatar’ overtook ‘Avengers: Endgame’ as the most lucrative film of all time (according to ticket sales) when its revenue surpassed $2.8 billion globally. Its original run in the United States was unprecedented, with the film thriving in theaters for over 10 months.

The second ‘Avatar’ is set to star many of the original film’s cast members, including Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, Sigourney Weaver in a new role and Sam Worthington as Jake Sully. Joining the cast are Kate Winslet as Ronal, Michelle Yeoh as Dr. Karina Mogue and Oona Chaplin as Varang, among others. The new film picks up where the last left off, with Sully and Neytiri building their family on the planet of Pandora and fighting new threats to its burgeoning civilization.

‘Avatar 2’ is scheduled for release on Dec. 16. Cameron initially said he was aiming for a 2014 release, which was pushed back seven times until its current date later this year. Shooting for the film wrapped back in 2020 in tandem with ‘Avatar 3’, which is set for a 2024 release. Cameron said he combined the filming process for the first two sequels, plus “a little bit of ‘4.’”

“We mixed the schedules for ‘2’ and ‘3’ together, based on the types of scenes and the environments,” Cameron said. “I said, let’s just treat it like it’s a six-hour miniseries and we’re only going to go to Frankfurt once. We’re going to shoot all the scenes from ‘2’ and ‘3’ at the same time. That was more or less the motif.”

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REVIEW: Doctor Strange sequel proves to be a crazy romp in ‘Multiverse of Madness’

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With hints of horror in its DNA and pure superhero craziness, the return of Benedict Cumberbatch and co. – new characters in tow – is weirdly fun and cumbersome at the same time. But mostly fun, as our reviewer opines.

By Abdukareem Baba Aminu

It’s stating the obvious that ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ has a lot resting on its shoulders. After all, it is coming after the highly successful ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, the last Marvel movie wherein the titular sorcerer had a major role. That movie, starring Tom Holland and Zendaya, went on to gross well over $1.8 billion, becoming the sixth-highest grossing movie of all time. Set in several universes at once – and regularly ricocheting into deeper and more spiraling dimensions of alternate realities – the plot for Dr. Stephen Strange’s second solo film begins with fully-formed chaos.

It opens with America Chavez and an alternate version of Dr. Stephen Strange fleeing through the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti to stop a demon chasing them. Strange is killed, and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that sucks them all in. Meanwhile, on our Earth, Strange is at the wedding of his ex-fiancé, where a tentacle monster wreaks havoc chasing Chavez, but Strange saves Chavez and kills the demon with help from Sorcerer Supreme Wong. Chavez explains that the demons are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the Multiverse, and it is at that exact point it becomes clear that this will be a crazy romp of a movie.

There is a lot at stake in the film, and at the same time, there isn’t much, as it’s leaning heavily into the whole Multiverse shtick, which makes long-lasting consequences spare and far between.

Strange finds traces of witchcraft on the demon and alternate-reality Strange’s corpse, and he consults Wanda Maximoff, finding out secrets that send the story spiraling into the dark story it becomes. There is a lot at stake in the film, and at the same time, there isn’t much, as it’s leaning heavily into the whole Multiverse shtick, which makes long-lasting consequences spare and far between. Like when a major character is in danger and you know somehow that the whole alternate reality situation will ensure he or she comes out unscathed. But if that sounds like a complaint, forgive me, it’s not: Because that’s where some of the biggest, sweetest goodies in this film lurk.

After a ton of magical battles pitting sorcery against witchcraft and giving us some really heartfelt performances from a notable Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda, we (and Strange) end up in the courtyard of this reality’s version of the Illuminati, which in the comics is a collective of some of the most powerful and brilliant characters in the Marvel universe. The theatre I watched the movie in exploded in cheers at this point, as member after member of the shadowy super-group was introduced. It goes without saying that some of the surprise appearances are truly jaw-dropping.

This movie is probably the most important one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to hardcore fans) since ‘Avengers: Endgame’, continuing the shared continuity’s foray into an exploration of parallel universes. Theoretically, this should make it even more compelling and fun, but I found myself exhausted at the end, even when what’s played out is saying I should be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a very engrossing movie, but one which presents the irony of being interesting and at the same time feeling like a walk through 10-inch snowfall. Or mud, depending on where your geographical idioms rest.

(Continued after break/poster)

It’s a very engrossing movie, but one which presents the irony of being interesting and at the same time feeling like a walk through 10-inch snowfall. Or mud, depending on where your geographical idioms rest.

Of course, there will be stellar performances galore, led by the perfectly-cast and always on-point Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong as stoic Sorcerer Supreme Wong, and brilliantly precocious Multiverse-hopping teen America Chavez played by equally brilliant Xochitl Gomez. Elizabeth Olsen, too, shines as she does in all her MCU appearances, giving layers and nuance to the tragically heartbroken (or just broken) character of Wanda Maximoff, whose spiral into all shades of darkness needs to be seen. After all, she’s had enough revving time in the absolutely perfect Disney+ series ‘WandaVision’.

We are, as the movie title posits, treated to a variety of alternate universes, some of which will have you cheering. But by the end of the film, all two hours-plus of it, you will find yourself wanting more. Almost like wanting a whole meal for a snack after a full dinner. But I forgive director Sam Raimi since he is making his first movie in nine years. Only he could cook up a gloriously inventive fight scene fought with literal musical notes. And yet I couldn’t help but feel there’s an ‘anything-goes-ness’ to all of it, similar to his over-the-top campy offerings of the past like the ‘Evil Dead’ films, or ‘Drag Me to Hell’.

But I forgive director Sam Raimi since he is making his first movie in nine years. Only he could cook up a gloriously inventive fight scene fought with literal musical notes.

With all its contradictions, however, ‘Multiverse of Madness’ proves itself a continuation of MCU tradition, that which satisfies long-waiting fans with a strangely satisfying ending, prompts multiple viewings and inspires speculation about the future direction of the franchise. This is more so, after the Illuminati encounter, and at the end of the movie in a mid-credits scene, when a major character in the Dr. Strange comics makes her debut, played by a surprising actress. It was a genuine surprise, really, as much as it was a pleasant one that holds strong promise. So strong that it warrants repeated viewings to take it all in. Nothing strange about that.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is showing now in cinemas.

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Keanu Reeves slays enemies in first ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ footage

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Keanu Reeves is back to crushing skulls and making movie theater owners scream with adoration, as the star closed CinemaCon with a first look at ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’. Appearing during the Lionsgate presentation at the annual exhibition trade show, Reeves was greeted with lusty applause and chants of “You’re the man!” from attendees.

The next installment once again teams Reeves with stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski. Lionsgate has high hopes for ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’, considering each chapter in the franchise has outgrossed its predecessor. The original ‘John Wick’ grossed $86 million worldwide in 2014 followed by $171.5 million for ‘John Wick: Chapter ‘ in 2017 and $327 million for ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ in 2019.

In the footage screened, Wick is on his perpetual revenge tour — this time taking on a decidedly lone ninja vibe — seen punching a wooden post to the point of his knuckles bleeding as co-star Laurence Fishburne acts as his hype man.

“I want you to find peace, John,” an off-screen voice booms as a montage of Reeves slaying his enemies plays, “but the only path this leads to is death.”

In the heart-pounding final moments of the trailer, Reeves takes on two baddies in the lobby of an art gallery — brutalizing them with nunchucks in a relentless, face-busting, merry-go-round motion.

Joining Reeves in ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ are Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada, Scott Adkins and Clancy Brown. Franchise mainstay Ian McShane is back as Winston, the manager of the Continental Hotel. One person not returning to the franchise is Halle Berry, who debuted as Sofia in “Chapter 3.”

“Sofia’s not in the next ‘John Wick’ movie,” Berry told IGN earlier this year, although the character might be getting her own spinoff film. “There could possibly be a Sofia … her own movie. So she might not be in ‘John Wick,’ but she might be doing her own thingy-thingy.”

Stahelski revealed before he started filming ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ that he was anxious about how to top the insane stunts of “Chapter 3,” which included one action set piece featuring samurais on horseback.

“There’s been a couple days where I’ve decided to do number four and I’ve woken up in a cold sweat going, ‘Horses! How do I beat horses?’ I have no fucking idea to tell you the truth,” Stahelski told Collider. “I have a lot of really cool ideas for the next one that I think are different and shocking and fun and unique. How to do them, I have no fuckin’ idea right now. I’m still figuring it out.”

‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ hits theaters on May 23, 2023.

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