Navalny: Calling Up Your Would Be Murderers

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This documentary follows Alexei Navalny in the aftermath of the attempt on his life by the Russian Government as he tries to find out who the assassins were and continues his fight against the Russian regime.

I thought this was a hugely eye opening documentary, not in that it revealed anything that I didn’t already know, but because it highlighted to me the impunity with which the Russian government is able to influence things abroad and the complete control they have at home. With the current war in Ukraine this feels especially relevant and chilling.

I thought the tone of the documentary was a nice mix of happiness and sadness, obviously a lot of the events depicted are manically depressing, but there are some moments of levity peppered throughout, such as the scenes with the pony which I particularly enjoyed. Moreover, on the pacing front I liked that this documentary didn’t spend very long at all explaining who Navalny was and assumed that its audience already had a degree of knowledge on the subject. It is nice for media to have that faith in the audience.

Overall, I think this documentary is a must watch, especially with the current geo-political situation being what it is.

Pros.

It is very informative

It is inspirational

It maintains a good tone and pace

The pony scenes

Cons.

Some of the scenes feel a little disjointed and out of place

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Sideworld Haunted Forests Of England: Viewing Material Before Your Next Trip To The Woods

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

3 of England’s most haunted forests are explored with their myths and folklore brought to life.

I can’t believe George Popov has done it again, he has forged yet another masterpiece after his previous work The Droving. I think this film spoke to me so much personally because I am a huge folklore fan, I love going to new locations and learning about their strange and mysterious pasts, my book shelf is filled with tomes about mysteries and ghost stories and so this film was right up my alley.

I enjoyed how the film was set out, I thought by exploring 3 different forests and by extension 3 different types of folklore the film allowed itself a lot of room to stay fresh and also produce so really strong scares. I was surprised at how many times this film unsettled me, moreover it not only unsettled me but it also stayed with me after watching, I found myself still creeped out hours later.

I also think another strength of this film that is no less important is the fact that it teaches you more about England, and for those of us that live in Britain that means we learn more about our island and possibly have new places to visit next Halloween. I always enjoy films that can teach me something I didn’t know before and this definitely does that.

Overall, a deeply engaging, creepy affair and definitely one to check out.

Pros.

It teaches you a lot

It is scares

The folklore is fascinating

The pacing is superb

It stay with you

Cons.

None.

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The Decline Of Netflix: Is Netflix The New Blockbuster?

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the apparent fall of Netflix that many outlets are talking about: stemming from the fact that Netflix seems on course to lose 2 million subscribers this quarter and has a plunging stock price.

Do I think Netflix is dying? No not a chance, all of this would have been predicted. Do I think Netflix will remain the king of streaming? Well that I think is where things get interesting.

My short version of what I think are the ills currently facing Netflix boils down to 3 things, firstly they are extortionately expensive, secondly either due to complacency or maybe covid they have a serious lack of good new original content and are filling the service with cheap reality shows, and finally a lot of people cared about the Defenders show and now they have moved to Disney + the audience has gone with them.

Some people are angry that Netflix cancels a lot of their shows after just one or two seasons, however, I don’t think that is as big an issue for them as others think it is. A lot of other streaming services and networks do the same thing and people still watch them, this is not a new issue to Netflix.

I think the most egregious issue with Netflix is that they are no longer consumer friendly, they have lost the trust of the average viewer. They did this by jacking up the price to obscene levels apparently in order to make new programming, though a lot of those shows have yet to materialise, moreover they are trying to crack down on people password sharing and watching through VPNs. This crackdown is not in Netflix’s best interest at all, they need to do what they can to help people out during this period of financial insecurity, not trying to track down who is using whose Netflix account so they can make a few extra bucks, that leaves a bad taste. Moreover, the crackdown on VPNs doesn’t even effect their profit margin so it makes no sense to go after them unless its for legal reasons around copyright.

Furthermore, and perhaps most troubling of all a lot of the solutions it is rumoured that Netflix is considering will make the experience worse for everyone and certainly won’t help gain them any new fans. Firstly, there is the cheaper ad supported tier, which many look at with derision as it would be better for them to roll back the price of their memberships at least in the short term but no instead they are bringing in ads. The move to ads doesn’t look consumer friendly again it looks like Netflix is trying to fleece people. Secondly there are rumours that Netflix are considering doing away with bingeable releases and are instead considering going weekly, I think this will cost them as then they will just be like everybody else, they will lose any kind of originality. Additionally then a question has to be asked is it even Netflix anymore, because ads and weekly releases sounds an awful lot like standard cable TV.

What should Netflix do then? I hear you ask, well if I were them I would eat the loss and roll back prices for the next year or two to get people back in the door, then I would bring back popular but niche series for specials or shorter closing seasons to get the fans back and to give them closure, which will then generate interest and good word of mouth. I would make less content overall to save on cost as Netflix’s issue all along has been quantity over quality, and finally I would leave password sharing well enough alone.

Oh and I would ditch the gaming division that was always a terrible decision, stop spreading yourself thin and focus on making good shows and movies.

Ultimately, Netflix isn’t dying, or dead, or going away likely for a long time, but it is hurting. I think this is a result of hubris, of Netflix thinking they can take the consumer for a ride and that the consumer would go along with it because Netflix is the king of streaming, and years ago this might have made sense but now people have options and Netflix needs to get with the program and listen to viewers.  

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The Digital Future: What Is Really Killing Cinema?

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the decline of Hollywood and how I believe the way we perceive and think about celebrities and the films industry in general is on course to rapidly change over the next few decades.

To break this down into two distinct sections, it will be changes to cinema as a whole first and then celebrities and stardom.

There is nothing I can say about the changing nature of the industry that hasn’t already been said. People, thanks to streaming and the pandemic, have become more and more accustomed to watching films at home, not just that but also having access to big screen releases immediately after they have come out in cinemas on VOD services. This won’t change, if anything the current 30- 45 days release window will likely shrink further, and though studios will still bring out big films in cinemas they can see the writing on the wall hence why they have all, except Sony, gone in on streaming services. There will always be big filmmakers who will work out different agreements with studios to get their films in cinemas but even then it won’t be for as long as it was in the past. You can give me all the piracy figures or say how this is killing cinema, but frankly piracy will always happen and is accounted for and these changes in release are not killing cinema just changing it in a more consumer friendly direction.

If you want to know what is actually killing cinema it is the bloated chains that think they can get away with charging close to 20 pounds for a single ticket, and that don’t care a lick about the cinema going experience.

As of the day of writing this the news is that Netflix is losing subscribers, and cinema purists are lording this as a win, it is not. Netflix’s loss of subscribers will have been accounted for, they knew people were angry at the price hikes and the cracking down on sharing passwords, they also knew that big series like Daredevil were leaving. This is not the loss for them that some people think it is, more shows will be cut and the infamous policy of greenlighting everything will most likely end.

Now onto celebrities, the old guard of movie stars are on their way out and those who are replacing them in the public eye aren’t really the same as classic movie stars, more often than not they are either influencers or activists. The latter of those two types is another reason I think that cinema has not bounced back to pre-covid levels, people are tired of millionaire actors telling them how to live their lives, or how to think. People want to be entertained by the films they watch not be lectured to. The reason why Marvel films and more broadly superhero films are able to keep cinema afloat, and make no mistake that is the case, is because for the most part they are apolitical. I know this won’t be a new take but many films now are more focused on delivering a social message and virtue signalling then they are on telling a story or actually being good- this is being picked up by audiences. Moreover, films that preach on American specific politics always lose interest with the rest of the world because though Americans think they are the centre of the world they really aren’t, and a lot of people turn off for a film that spends its time bashing either side of the American political spectrum.

I think due to this disillusionment towards the attitudes and statements of some celebrities more and more people are looking elsewhere for entertainment, this can be to classic shows on streaming services or to YouTube, Twitch or more widely social media, as such I don’t think Hollywood will ever bounce back to the pre-covid days.

This is a new era and like it or not there is no going back.    

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The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Trial: The Criminal Neglect Of Male Victims Of Domestic Abuse

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the ongoing legal battles between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, I am fully aware that any day my views could be entirely changed if there was a smoking gun piece of evidence, and that not everyone will agree with what I am going to say but hey this is my take and it might later change.

As those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I have been team Depp for quite a while now, I think with the things Heard has done and said there is a lot of troublesome things that don’t quite add up. Moreover, I think there is a large amount of evidence to support her also being violent, if Johnny was, I remain mixed on that, and also having lied to police and various other legal professionals within the various trails after this all became public.

I do admit that I have been a fan of Depp since I was very young and this might all just be influenced by a hope that he isn’t the monster he is being made out to be as that would be hard to come to terms with. Maybe I am wrong and he is a vile abuser, it would upset me a lot but it is a possibility. However, I think regardless of that there is enough to suggest that Heard is not as innocent as she claims.

Moreover, I think it is very telling how a lot of the media are covering this story, despite numerous shady things done by Heard the focus is always on Depp as being the monster. This is done to propagate the harmful and frankly toxic view that men can’t be abused physically by women, and that in these situations it always has to be a male abuser, which is not only untrue but is frankly quite an outdated view. This can also be seen reflected by the fact that Depp lost most offers of work yet Heard gets to keep her role in the DCEU, this looks set to keep happening even if both of them are shown to be abusive towards one another- highlighting a double standard. If Depp is to lose all work so should Heard.

As I write this piece for you all the latest liable trial is still ongoing and it looks unlikely that this situation will change anytime soon, but all we can hope is that justice is served and that in terms of broader society male victims of domestic abuse are treated with more care and less sexist contempt.  

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The Rings Of Power: The Question Of 21st Century Fantasy

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Several old faces from Carly’s past return in an effort to end her web show.

My, my how do you go from a first episode that by all accounts was very good and pushed the show as a whole forward to this? Quite frankly, this second episode might be one of the worst of the revival.

The most egregious thing is just how badly this episode wants to milk nostalgia, bringing back all of these old familiar faces to try and sue Carly, played by Miranda Cosgrove, thereby forcing in member berries in a way that couldn’t be more blatant. The court trial simply serves as a means to be like oh remember this person from this episode? Remember?

Moreover, this is only added to by the worst ending of an episode of iCarly possibly ever, whereby when it looks like Carly might have to face some consequences for her past misdeeds Spencer, played by Jerry Trainor, just buys her way out. The reason why this sucks is because it could have been an actual emotional moment which could have led to some character development for Carly or at the very least a shift in perspective, but no.

Additionally, this episode forces in a Harper, played by Laci Mosley, and Millicent, played by Jaidyn Triplett, side-plot that is the definition of time wasting. It goes nowhere and undoes a lot of the great Harper work the first episode does, reducing her back into the loud, obnoxious stereotype.

Overall, a sorry state of an episode made worse by the fact it followed such a good one.

Pros.

A few funny jokes

It is watchable

Cons.

The nostalgia baiting

The terrible ending and message of it

Reducing Harper back into a stereotype

Seemingly doing it best to stop any kind of character development

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Why Me: In Search Of Answers

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Actor Pietro Sermonti goes in search of answers regarding how much our DNA predetermines our life.

I thought this documentary was quite informative and posed questions I had never really thought about before, I can say that I feel smarter for watching it.

Moreover, I thought the cast of talking heads the film brought together were a nice mix, I found them to be both knowledge able, but also from enough different areas and backgrounds that it never felt one sided in it’s exploration of the subject area.

Overall, interesting for about three quarters of the run time, sadly that other quarter really drags.

Pros.

It is interesting, for the most part

A good selection of talking heads

It is informative and I felt like I learnt something from it

Cons.

Pacing issues

Some sections went on for too long and approached boredom

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Hollywood’s China Problem

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about what I see as one of the biggest issues facing cinema today, the growing malicious influence of China in Hollywood, wherein the tyrannical state is using the latest blockbusters to either push its propaganda or to try and soften its image. Most studios are guilty of this and don’t show signs of changing any time soon, it is from this lens that Disney can release a film which thanks a Chinese concentration camp and it is just par for the course.

It is not just Mulan which shows how Hollywood’s biggest studios are bending over backwards for the CCP, it can also be seen in films like Abominable and Uncharted wherein the film’s feature maps of the South China Sea which willplease the oppressive state: maps which are internationally and legally false, but Hollywood doesn’t care.

Moreover, a lot of people will criticise big studio fare for not talking about or featuring openly LGBTQ+ characters, or for censoring same sex kisses and romances, but this issue too can see its roots placed firmly in China. Chinas incredibly strict censorship means that any films featuring these sort of progressive messages will be heavily edited for fear of not being allowed a release, this then leads to less representation worldwide as studios find it easier to release one cut of the movie everywhere rather than specific cuts for different regions. In the spirit of fairness I will state that it is not only China that demands LGBTQ+ scenes are edited out of films they grant a release to but also a swath of other countries as well, I simply point to China as they have the most importance towards Hollywood in terms of box office.

What can be done about this? To truly combat this problem people like you dear reader need to begin voting with your wallets, if you see a film that has strong ties to the Chinese regime then give it a miss and make sure you call out the studio on social media and let them know why you won’t be seeing their film, if enough people do that then Hollywood will realise that there is consequences for doing business with despots.

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The Will Smith Smack: The Leading Man’s Reckoning With Toxic Masculinity

Written by Luke Barnes

I am writing this piece in response to the events that took place on Oscars night, regarding Will Smith and Chris Rock so I can better explain my thoughts on the matter. To look ahead, Smith comes across as bad in various different dimensions.

I read somewhere after the fact that the biggest loser at the Oscars was Jada Pickett Smith, now what that article meant was that by getting up there and smacking Chris Rock her husband Will Smith made the whole thing about himself, he took her struggle and her power and made it about his own ego. I think, as I have said to some people, it would have been more effective for Smith to have said nothing and to have picked his moment, such as during his acceptance speech, to talk about his wife and her struggles and how proud he is of her, not only would this have shown him to be the bigger person but it would have also vastly eclipsed Rock’s comments. As it stands all Smith has done for his wife is simply amplify the issue and subjected them both to the Streisand effect, which for those unaware is when one’s actions to get people to stop  talking about a thing in fact make them talk about it more.

Moreover, by physically assaulting Chris Rock Smith has proven himself to be classless, which in turn will effect how not just the industry sees him but also those who go to watch his films. There is a good reason his publicist immediately went to talk to him; he has damaged his image. Now do I think he will lose his Oscar, no, probably not, but I do think in the battle for hearts and minds he has shot himself in the foot. Why? Well, because violence is never the answer, certainly not in this context wherein Smith’s actions upstaged the whole night and stole the limelight away from everyone else-his wife included.  

Lastly, consider this: some look towards celebrities to set an example for how they should behave and in that regard Smith’s actions are especially dangerous. Who is to say next week someone who watched the Oscars won’t go to a comedy set and hear a joke they don’t like and then walk up on stage, or more likely wait around afterwards, to hit the comic just like Smith did. Now in such a case I am not saying Smith would be responsible, but I am saying that as someone with a fanbase and as someone with influence he should think about the example he is setting and not behave in such an unprofessional manner.

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Jackass Forever: It Is Sad Watching Old Men Embarrass Themselves For A Cheap Laugh

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This needs to be the last Jackass movie.

I had heard good word of mouth going into this film so I had moderate to high expectations for it and honestly I was kind of bored by it, there were a few moments of good old fashioned Jackass goodness peppered in here and there but for the most part you can’t escape a sense of desperation.

Said desperation is on ready display across this film as the gang seem to give up on doing anything remotely interesting stunt wise and instead are just keen to do gross out bits wherein they get their dicks out, by the fourth or fifth time someone was showing off their dick I really started to realise that they have just run out of ideas.

Worse yet are the celebrity cameos which feel like they were only included for the trailer of the film, that is how fleeting they are, no doubt they will release another .5 version and show more celebrity footage but as it stands Machine Gun Kelly and Eric André are in the film for such a short amount of time that it makes you question whether the film production could afford their day rates.

Overall, long over the hill.

Pros.

A few entertaining moments

The opening skit is pretty good

Cons.

It feels desperate

It isn’t funny anymore

The celebrity cameos

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