Doctor Strange Casts All the Right Spells at the Box Office

Doctor Strange is the latest film and already a blockbuster hit under the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Casting All the Right Spells

Since Doctor Strange premiered last Friday, November 4th, it just about broke even after just one day hitting $165-plus million in global ticket sales at the box office. Over the weekend it’s moved that haul to $325 million (Box Office Mojo). The slightly unconventional superhero blockbuster is yet another hit for Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios (photos from London World Premiere)!

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The story follows Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), an extraordinary neurosurgeon who ends up getting into a life-changing car accident that renders his gifted hands useless. His quest to Kathmandu (Nepal) to find a way to restore his steady hands with eastern medicine leads him on a journey of self-discovery and an immersion into a world of the mystic arts…spells, multi-universe, sorcerers, gods, and time…bending (not time travel). What he’s yet to find out is that this new journey involves being on the front line and facing unseen dark forces aimed at destroying the world that we know.

It Feels Like Looking Through a Kaleidoscope

The film is visually stunning and is reminiscent of CGI (computer-generated imageryyou would’ve seen if you watched The Matrix trilogy (1999 & 2003) and most recently Inception (2010). Mind-bending images of buildings that twist and turn at will (the Ancient One); mirror dimensions (parallel dimension) that allows the user to practice using their magical abilities and fight their enemies without the public’s knowledge.

A Little Humour Adds “Dimension”

Doctor Strange manages to weave comedic wit into the script, with each actor delivering their one-liners perfectly. It’s refreshing and something we’ve come to expect from the MCU since the first Iron Man film (2oo8). The film is fast-paced and wastes no time showing us the transformation of Stephen Strange from mere mortal to truly gifted sorcerer. It’s action-packed with elements of martial arts throughout the fighting styles of good versus evil.

It’s fantastic to see Marvel expand the storytelling to include other superheroes within the MCU outside of just The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy was the initial introduction to the other realities (across space) that were out there and now we get a glimpse into the mystical world and of battles yet to come.

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Diversity Brings Intensity and Authenticity

The film brings together a stellar diverse ensemble cast that features (in addition to Cumberbatch): Chiwetel Ejiofor (Karl Mordo), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Rachel McAdams (Dr. Christine Palmer), and Mads Mikkelsen (Kaecilius). Each actor/actress plays their role perfectly and the overall performances are authentic and believable as we watch them feed off each other’s energy. Director Scott Derrickson known for horror films like Sinister (2012) and Deliver Us From Evil (2014), brings the story to life with his attention to detail and immersive storytelling technique.

That aside, I’m surprised they didn’t cast an Asian actress for the role of the Ancient One. Somebody like Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) would’ve been perfect.

Scale of 1 to 10

It’s an entertaining film that will leave you questioning what you’ve seen, but keep in mind it’s all fictional. You’ll be in awe of all its vibrant visuals. Marvel Studios manages to balance light and darkness just like the universe. I give the film 8.5 out of 10, just a little under Rotten Tomatoes’ score of 90% (Certified Fresh).

If you have the option, see it in 3D. It’s worth every penny. And if you’ve seen enough Marvel films, you’ll know you should always stay ’til the end credits. Doctor Strange is no different. So grab a large popcorn and enjoy every bit of this “strange” ( I couldn’t resist!) two-hour blockbuster.

Nollywood’s Lagos Brings ‘The Wedding Party’ to the 6ix’s TIFF

You’re invited to the wedding of the year! Lagos’s filmmakers brought fun, laughter, energy (A LOT), vibrant colours, music, dancing, and love with them to the opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival (www.tiff.net) with the world premiere of ‘The Wedding Party’. It also didn’t hurt to get some help from Selma’s David Oyelowo (pronounced – “oh-yellow-oh”) who got the audience pumped up! Whether you were standing in line that wrapped around buildings [as I did] or walking the red carpet, the energy, the experience, and the atmosphere was nonetheless equally intoxicating.

This year’s TIFF will showcase 296 features and 101 shorts played across 28 screens with over 32,320 minutes of film from 80-plus countries (including Nigeria). [Phew!]

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Kemi Adetiba (at podium), known more for her work in music videos and shorts, makes her directorial debut at TIFF | Image credit: Phil Rodriques

The cinema of Nigeria, more popularly called Nollywood, has an impressive legacy in film that goes as far back as the late 19 century and has gone through four eras including the Golden Age. Let’s fast-forward to the present in the era dubbed the New Nigerian Cinema that kicked off in the 2000s, emerging as a force to be reckoned with government support valued at over US$220 million. Nollywood has since become the third most valuable film industry in the world (just behind Hollywood and Bollywood) and in 2014 was worth US$5.1 billion.

Which brings us back to ‘The Wedding Party’ and as the name suggests is a romantic comedy (romcom) film centered on an elaborate Nigerian wedding between Dunni, an art gallery owner and her fiancé Dozie, the son of a magnate. We get a sense of each character as the film has some a good opening couple of scenes, which setups the story and gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. The opening shot of the film takes you on a ride through picturesque Lagos, Nigeria that looked and felt a lot to me like my own country (Jamaica). I was already at ease by the sights and sounds and sank further into the red comfy theatre seats. It’s a party onscreen and it’s a party in the theatre!

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A scene from the wedding reception | Source: TIFF

Everyone’s enjoying themselves and the moviegoers, especially the Nigerians are cheering for almost everything like the montage captures traditional food being served at the wedding reception. The film wastes no time escalating into pure Lagosian chaos thanks to it’s a talented ensemble cast. They’re some of  the biggest names and raising stars in Nigeria’s cinema and under the direction of the film’s first-time feature film director Kemi Adetiba, display great chemistry, depth, range, and comedic timing (as-needed) in their delivery.

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The Wedding Party stars Banky Wellington (Dozie/Groom) and Adesua Etomi (Dunni/Bride) | Source: The Wedding Party

I was lucky enough to be among those viewers seeing the film (The Wedding Party) for the very first time anywhere in the world. I even got tickets for reserved seating (pretty exciting) thanks to my friend, Meg Sethi (President | Founder) and her Team EPR (Evolution Public Relations), who was the publicist for the movie and red carpet event. Not only was I seated about 10 rows from the screen, but the cast and director of the film were seated three rows behind me. My first thought was, “I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them to be seeing themselves onscreen in this project.” This was quickly answered by their cheers and laughter as the film quickly got underway.

There’s dancing. Lots and lots of dancing and throughout the film the infectious rhythms will leave your feet enthusiastically choreographing their own moves. Although, the entire film takes place in one day, we get tremendous glimpses and insight into the relationship shared between Dozie and Dunni from their best friends and family. As we watch their dynamic play out before us, there’s an authentic chemistry between both actor and actress, particularly when Dunni is bombarded with a few embarrassing moments, some involving Dozie’s ex-girlfriend.

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The cast, director, and executive producer of The Wedding Party take questions during a Q&A session | Image Credit: Phil Rodriques

The Wedding Party is jam-packed with funny one-liners, uninvited guests, that ONE friend we wish we didn’t have, and touching moments that combine to make one thrilling roller coaster ride.  It’s brightly coloured sets and costumes and rip-roaring pace make it all worth it at the end. The film runs for all of 110 minutes, but when you’re immersed into the film, you’ll barely notice. You’re left satisfied to have taken part in such a spectacular culture. I give the movie a solid 8 out of 10.

The Wedding Party stars Banky Wellington (Dozie/Groom) and Adesua Etomi (Dunni/Bride) who play the lead characters with their supporting cast that include Richard Mofe-Damijo (Felix Onwuka), Iretiola Doyle (Obianuju Onwuka), Atunyota Akpobome (Bamidele Coker), Sola Sobowale (Tunuade Coker), Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, and Olusola Abiodun Sobowale with Executive Producer Mo Abudu and Cinematographer Akpevbe Ododoru.

Festival tickets are on sale now for today’s showing (Friday, September 9th) with a third showing slated for Sunday, September 18th at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto. It’s rated 14A, suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age or older. Bring some friends and family or go as a date night. I promise you, it’s the most fun you’ll have at TIFF!

Also, be sure to check of the film fest’s cinematic smorgasbord ranging from action and adventure to experimental and the avant-garde.

Immerse Yourself into the DC Universe with the Official Final Trailer for Batman V Superman

It’s the moment we’ve all been patiently waiting for…or at least the moment I’ve patiently waited for. The final official trailer is here and it looks EPIC!

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Brace yourself for the IMAX experience

After a year worth of insane marketing (not as good as the marketing of Deadpool movie), we get a taste of what’s to come in the showdown between the fabled Dark Knight and the Man of Steel!

Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman/Clark Kent and Ben Affleck as everybody’s favourite billionaire and detective, Batman/Bruce Wayne with and Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman). The film is directed by Zack Snyder and in  the official synopsis we get a really good sense of what’s to come. Without further yimmer-yammering, I present to you, the final trailer…enjoy.

Disney’s The Jungle Book Remake Looks Really Dark

The teaser trailer for Disney’s “The Jungle Book” is out. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Walt Disney Studios’ latest film production strategy seems to be dusting off old animated films such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast and transforming them into live-action/CGI films. 

Does the name “Baloo”, “King Louie”, or “Mowgli” ring any bells? How about a little track called “The Bare Necessities“? If none of the above is helping, you can just look at this picture below.

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The new live-action remake is a musical (Thank goodness! Phew!) adventure-fantasy film. It’s laden with CGI, but that was anticipated. I mean heck, there’s no such thing as a singing bear and you couldn’t have expected them to train animals to do that, now could you. It’s unethical.

The upcoming film is inspired by the animated film released in 1967 and the book written by Rudyard Kipling of the same name and is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2). From the teaser trailer, all the characters are present and accounted for. The cast includes the voice talents of some Hollywood notable actors and actresses:

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This looks like a slightly darker and more haunting film, much closer to Kipling’s original book when compared to the Walt Disney’s 1960s animated family film aforementioned. Over the last few years we’ve seen The Walt Disney Studios release similar films like Alice in Wonderland (2010), Into The Woods (2014) and Maleficent (2014) with each film getting a rating of 51%, 71% and 49% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes. Not the best of films based on the mixed reviews, but collectively they generated Disney approximately $2 billion worldwide at the box office. These days it’s quantity over quality with filmmaking quickly evolving into a numbers game than a sustained visual art form.

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After talking to some friends, their initial reactions are mixed with some disliking the trailer and others thinking it’s just a reflection of society; a case of art imitating life (or vice versa), perhaps?

It’s set to be quite the 3D extravaganza! Could you detect the sarcasm? I mean it ought to be, when they’ve listed all this – Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D. You can see Disney’s The Jungle Book in theatres April 15, 2016. Here’s to hoping it’ll be “wildly” successful. Anyway, watch for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

Fin!

Phresh Interviews Jamaica’s Film Commissioner Carole Beckford

When you first meet Carole Beckford, you’re in complete awe of just how animated she is. On the second meeting you realise her personality is 100% genuine; what you see, is what you get. It’s no wonder she’s such an incredible connector in her industry. She knows exactly how to leverage her network for either an ambitious goal or a noteworthy cause. Her latest professional adventure has taken her to the “Jamaica Film Commission”, where there’s no business like show business. I spoke with Carole to learn more about her role as film commissioner, the Jamaican film industry, and the upcoming inaugural film festival.

A Snapshot Profile of Carole Beckford

Carole Beckford is highly considered as a strategist for marketing, communications and public relations campaigns at the development and implementation stages. Carole’s work has stretched across a number of industries to include sport, entertainment and news. She was also the publicist for Track and Field Superstar Usain Bolt for four years.

Organisations founded: The Business of Sport

Books published: Keeping Jamaica’s Sport on Track (2007) and Jamaica is in – Sports and Tourism (upcoming)

Actor Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter (left), Film Commissioner Carole Beckford (center), and Film Director Robert Townsend (right) at Los Angeles launch for the inaugural Jamaica Film Festival in March 2015
Actor Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter (left), Film Commissioner Carole Beckford (center), and Film Director Robert Townsend (right) at Los Angeles launch for the inaugural Jamaica Film Festival in March 2015 | Source: Carole Beckford

The Phresh Interview

Phil Rodriques (PR): What’s your favourite quote/mantra?
Carole Beckford (CB): You get as much as you are prepared to give.

PR: What sparked your interest in Jamaica’s film industry?
CB: Sport has been a favourite of mine, so entertainment/film was easy. Those industries have the same blessings and the same curse and they both involve creative minds. It challenges me to participate and to see how I can add value.

PR: Who inspires you the most in international film industry? Anyone who stands out?
CB: I learnt Television as a producer and as a result inspired by live shows producers. I like living on the edge I guess, what better way.

PR: What’s your favorite part about being a film commissioner?
CB:The idea of helping to make the connections necessary to unite the industry. Jamaica’s efforts are best served united.

Not only were many of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels written in Jamaica, but these two film adaptations were shot on the island as well
Not only were many of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels written in Jamaica, but these two film adaptations were shot on the island as well

PR: What’s your favorite film shot on location in Jamaica?
CB: Can’t have a favourite; that would be telling too much. My job is to get more films, commercials, and photo sessions done here. The [film] industry needs the employment and those who want to grow much further, need the credits.

PR: What drives your work ethic?
CB: I am results-oriented and I like to ensure people meet and connect with the right people. I have had access to some very important decision makers and maintain those relationships. That drives me to ensure others have the same opportunities.

PR: How do you balance creativity with commerce?
CB: Oh that is a hard one, but I measure time so I am always insisting that folks I interact with have the same ethic. Once we honour that commerce becomes easier. Also people like when you deliver.

PR: What are some of the Jamaica Film Commission’s strengths?
CB: Connections to international contacts; ability to create a friendly environment; and history of being in the business for over two decades.

Author/filmmaker/media entrepreneur Paula Madison (left), Film Commissioner Carole Beckford (centre), and Hon. Consul Lorna Johnson (right) at LA launch | Source: Carole Beckford
Author/filmmaker/media entrepreneur Paula Madison (left), Film Commissioner Carole Beckford (centre), and Hon. Consul Lorna Johnson (right) at LA launch | Source: Carole Beckford

PR: Where do you hope to see Jamaica’s film industry in 5 years’ time?
CB: [In five years’ time…]
– TV shows created by Jamaicans shown on local, regional and international television;
– Series on Netflix, etc.;
– One feature a year in cinemas worldwide;
– Lots of filmmakers creating features for other film festivals globally.

PR: What’s the biggest lesson that you have learned since you became film commissioner?
CB: Never underestimate the power of a creative mind. [Carole smiles]

PR: What have been some of the unexpected successes?
CB: Being able to connect international media experts to people in the industry. Horace Madison for example, has made great connections here and is helping people. My association with Jeremy Whittaker, producer/director of [the film] Destiny (2014), which has promoted Jamaica in a really positive light and has been in theatre.

PR: What’s your latest project under the Jamaica Film Commission?
CB: The coordination of the inaugural Jamaica Film Festival; an event which we hope can inspire the local industry to get organised. [July 7 – 11, 2015, Kingston]

Carole, event hosts, and guests at the Kingston leg of the Jamaica Film Festival launch in June 10, 2015 | Source: Carole Beckford
Carole, event hosts, and guests at the Kingston leg of the Jamaica Film Festival launch in June 10, 2015 | Source: Carole Beckford

PR: How has the upcoming festival been received locally and internationally?
CB: [The reception thus far…]
Lots of interest from both markets, we are hoping for a turnaround in a few ways:
– Kingston must be credited as the cultural city of the region;
– Local producers must be inspired to work together.

PR: What aspects of the Jamaica film industry keep you up at night or make you the most paranoid?
CB: You wouldn’t want to know. [Carole smiles]

PR: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers, scriptwriters, and actors?
CB: Be prepared. You never know who you’ll meet on a daily basis. [Bonus tip] “Never leave home without make-up.”

PR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
CB: Film is big business and the time is now to get involved. There are way too many platforms not to produce films for consumption – get involved now!

A montage of films produced, written, directed, and shot on location in Jamaica that represent the industry's past, present and future
A montage of films produced, written, directed, and shot on location in Jamaica that represent the industry’s past, present and future

Fin!

To learn more about the Jamaica Film Festival 2015, visit: http://jamaicafilmfest.com/
Follow Carole Beckford’s blog: https://carolebeckford.wordpress.com/

The New James Bond teaser trailer for SPECTRE is out!

New James Bond trailer is out and it’s looking good!

In this twenty-fourth installment, “a cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.” (See, IMDb)

The film stars Daniel Craig, reprising his role as James Bond, agent 007 with Christoph Waltz playing the villain.

Enjoy!

New Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Trailer Has Arrived!

If you’ve been on some other planet for the last several months, let me bring you up to speed. Marvel’s Avengers suit up and assemble to take on possibly their greatest foe yet, Ultron — an insane rogue sentient robot. You can thank me later!

Avengers: Age of Ultron swoops into theatres (cinemas depending on where you’re from) May 1st! I’ll be there with popcorn and soda in hand.

My Illustration of Rocket Raccoon. A Rambunctious Little Guy From the Marvel Franchise!!

“Ain’t no thing like me, except me!”
“Ain’t no thing like me, except me!”

If you haven’t seen the latest Marvel Studios film, Guardians of the Galaxy then stop wasting time and make sure you get yourself a ticket and a really great seat! It’s one heck of a ride and possibly the most fun I’ve had at the movies in awhile. A lot of laughs. A lot of action. Memorable lines and one “Marvel-lous” movie soundtrack that’s going to transport you back in time while everything onscreen is happening in the future.

Enjoy my illustration of Rocket Raccoon. One of my favourite characters of the movie. Go already!!