It isn’t enough for Ang Lee to just make movies. Not anymore. At this point in his career, he apparently feels he has to push the boundaries of everything the moving picture format can do and be. The Taiwanese director’s 2012 film Life of Pi heralded the arrival of a new era for him, a period of big-budget experimentation that’s yielded as many bafflements as wonders. His adaptation of the book club favorite went well enough, winning four Oscars for its spectacular menagerie of CGI beasties. His big gamble with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 2016 didn’t pay the same dividends, though. Lee’s foray into 120 frames-per-second shooting, combined with depth-of-field-obliterating 3D cinematography, made for a perfect storm of visual disorientation. It was the kind of ride that makes viewers clutch at their armrests, desperate to escape.
Lee claims to have worked out the kinks in the process for Gemini Man, his latest attempt to blow open the walls of cinematic hyperreality. This time around, he’s having another go at 120fps, and the 3D projection has had three years to play technological catch-up with Lee’s futuristic vision. But the most e-ink has been spilled over his successful cloning of Will Smith. Smith stars in the film opposite his early-twenties self, de-aged to his Fresh Prince years with the help of cutting-edge motion-capture technology.
Of Lee’s many gambits in Gemini Man, the digital character-doubling works the best. Smith the Younger emotes with an organically recognizable humanity from under his weird digital mask, and Smith pitches his voice up a few semitones to play his younger self, which takes viewers over the age of 18 right back to his West Philadelphia days. Smith has chemistry with himself, particularly in the scenes of hand-to-hand combat. (They’re a welcome reminder that nearly 20 years ago, Lee gave us the world-class wuxia epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.)
The same praise can’t be heaped on the eyeball-searing camerawork, which suggests an unholy cross between a white-knuckle telenovela and high-octane VR porno. In theory, running more images at a faster rate should make for more fluid images, rendering the gap between the movie and actual vision so small as to be negligible. In practice, it feels like watching TV on your parents’ new flat-screen that came with auto-activated motion smoothing. (Which is still bad.) The judder of good ol’ 24fps may be a “flaw” in the most rigid sense of the concept, but that imperfection has been integrated into the moviegoing public’s innate understanding of the medium. Lee’s quixotic efforts to drag multiplexes into the next dimension have forged an off-putting visual artifice that makes it nearly impossible to get lost in a film — or even just get into it.
Some of the film’s issues, though, might be owed to a thick-headed script that clashes with the forward-thinking industry intellect applied to its production. Audiences at theaters other than the dozen or so featuring 120fps projection will have a slightly easier time sifting for the story buried in here somewhere, a thin science-fiction-inflected potboiler pitting an assassin against his own genetic duplicate.
Smith gives off an “I’m getting too old for this shit“ vibe as Henry Brogan, an expert operative for a shadowy government agency. He’s ready to hang up his sniper scope, but a hit squad shows up just after he announces his retirement, and they’re soon followed by the Ghost of Flat-Tops Past. Henry gets the sense that his former handlers aren’t just trying to stiff him out of a pension, but the film primes viewers for a revelation that never really comes. Its meaningful progression isn’t in Henry’s secrets, but in the development of his relationship with his doppelgänger, “Junior.”
While Junior’s controller, Clay (Clive Owen) pushes to keep his mission on track, Henry and Junior gradually, reluctantly take up a father-son dynamic that vacillates between absurd (particularly in the incongruously mushy final act) and poignant (as the older Smith muses on regret and chances not taken). For a film fine-tuned in pursuit of audiovisual perfection, this thing is full of narrative glitches, story elements that half work and half don’t.
Henry’s primary operative partner Dani (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), for instance, feels like a romantic interest stripped of the romance during the latest rewrite of this 20-year-old script, due to the glaring age disparity between the stars. Benedict Wong shows up as comic relief, delightful in a film that has no use for him beyond his purely functionary capacity as tension-breaker. Every moment staged as a big reveal either turns out to be something the audience already knew, or had most likely intuited.
But an effects showcase like this is supposed to come alive in the kinetic sequences, and for 10-second stretches at a time, Lee’s mad dream of an evolved cinema appears to be within his reach. Applied sparingly, 120fps’ complete lack of motion blur can have an exhilarating artistic effect. One impressive tracking shot slides frictionlessly through a tight alley with the full-body lurch of Star Wars’ jump into hyperspace. It’s easy to see why the promotion foregrounded the first confrontation between Henry and his double. It’s a bravura face-off with no-holds-barred fight choreography that culminates with Smith somehow firing a motorcycle at his older self.
It’s enough to make viewers long for the days when Lee knew better than to put the technical cart before the creative horse. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon let the director pursue his wildest gravity-defying whims, without using the screenplay solely as scaffolding for his fancy gadgetry. Lee sometimes gives the impression of a virtuoso guitarist, needlessly gussying up his act with double-necked axes and pyrotechnics. When a filmmaker has skills like Lee’s, all the bells and whistles just seem to get in the way. God willing, his acoustic days aren’t totally behind him.
Titanic Superstar, Leonardo DiCaprio Fights To Protect Ghana’s Atewa Forest.
Oscar award-winning actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, has added his voice to calls for the protection of the Atewa Forest as Ghana prepares to commence the first phase of the Sinohydro deal.
The deal will see Ghana’s bauxite reserves in the Atewa Forest mined and traded in a ‘barter’ deal for $2 billion from China, meant to be invested in various developmental projects across the country, particularly roads.
DiCaprio, who is a staunch environmentalist believes that mining in the Forest would put the millions of people and hundreds of “wildlife species” who depend on it “at risk of extinction”
“Ghana’s #Atewa Forest Reserve provides drinking water to 5 million+ people & harbors 100+ wildlife species at risk of extinction. We must prioritize the protection of these irreplaceable places for a healthy planet,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Having founded an environmental organization – Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – which has been in existence since 1998, it is not surprising that the multiple award-winning actor would take a keen interest in the developments with the Atewa Forest, which has been a raging issue since the deal with China was first announced.
This week, Ghana received the first instalment of the $2 billion deal, initially agreed in 2018 for the country’s bauxite deposits to be leveraged in exchange for the funds.
With the commercial mining of the bauxite set to commence next year, there has been rising agitation from within the country and externally as well, especially from environmental and wildlife conservation groups over the fate of the Atewa Forest, where about 165 million tonnes of bauxite is located.
Back in June, a group of mainly environmental activists marched through the streets of the Ghanaian capital, Accra, eventually presenting a petition to Parliament asking that the deal to mine in the forest be called off.
While the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources at the time, Kweku Asomah Cheremeh promised to “look at the issues they have raised in their petition”, the government still made moves towards implementing the deal as a private firm had been contracted to undertake the confirmatory drilling in the forest.
Several other bodies including A ROCHA Ghana, who have been fierce critics of the Sinohydro deal, the Christian Council of Ghana and the US Forest Service who provided some technical advice have urged the government to consider the potential ramifications of mining in the forest, one of most detrimental being the destruction of the sources of water for about five million people.
The US report stated that: “given the scale, duration, and potential significant and permanent impact of Ghana’s Integrated Bauxite Plan on the Atewa Forest Reserve and water supply of over 5 million people, it is critical to evaluate a range of development and management options (including … alternatives to mining) to protect drinking water and other ecosystem services.”
A group, the Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape, has also threatened to take the matter up to The Hague, adding that turning the location into an “ecotourism attraction” could earn the country much more than the 2 billion being provided by China.
Gerard Butler’s “Has Fallen” Series Could Get Three More Sequels.
The Has Fallen Cinematic Universe is expanding. Yep, the producers of the Gerard Butler-starring franchise have revealed some grand plans for the future, including up to three (!) more feature films and a host of international TV spin-offs…
Against all odds, the film series – which kicked off with Antoine Fuqua's White House-set thriller Olympus Has Fallen back in 2013 – has amassed something of a cult following, with action lovers responding to the unashamedly overblown adventures of Butler's beleaguered secret service agent Mike Banning.
As Deadline reports, series producer Alan Siegel told the American Film Market’s finance conference that the filmmakers are looking at developing a fourth, fifth, and sixth instalment in the series. He also said that they are considering loaning out the franchise rights to international production companies, resulting in a bunch of global TV spin-offs that could feed into the main movie timeline.
“If we do it in India, the star of that could come into…Has Fallen 4," Siegel said. "It could be a symbiotic relationship."
Jeffrey Greenstein, president of Has Fallen production company Millennium Media, also discussed the franchise's move towards a more character-driven story with the franchise's third entry. “We looked at each other on the third one and we thought we couldn’t just blow up another city,” he said, with Siegel reportedly adding: “This time. Maybe next one we will."
The most recent film in the series, the Ric Roman Waugh-directed Angel Has Fallen, was deemed a modest success, taking in $133 million worldwide off a reported $40 million budget and opening at the top of the US box office on its release this summer. The franchise as a whole – including 2016's landmark-destroying London Has Fallen – has amassed over $500 million worldwide. Granted, we're not exactly talking modern blockbuster numbers, but it's still a decent achievement for a franchise of this size.
We'll keep you updated on the Has Fallen-verse as we hear more.
World’s First Porn University Opens In Colombia.
PORN actress Amaranta Hank has just opened the world's first University of Porn. The sex-school offers workshops and conferences which specialise in production, acting and sales of pornographic materials.
The X-rated star originally worked as a journalist, and rose to fame in her home country of Colombia after losing a bet in which she promised to strip naked for a shoot with SOHO magazine if her home football team, Deportivo Cucuta got promoted to the top division.
Following the success from her racy snaps, Hank opted to change careers and hasn't looked back since.
Now she wants to help budding porn producers and actors to develop their careers with her Porn University.
Located in Medellin, Colombia, the first school of the pornographic industry offers 'live practices' with Amaranta professing the best way to learn how to do something is to do it yourself.
A seasoned professional, Amaranta reportedly films racy scenes with up to 12 people in a day and hopes to pass on practical tips in resilience and motivation in her x-rated lectures, as well as show them how to enjoy their work.
Amaranta was inspired after speaking to several people who weren't in the industry about their desire to get a taste of the sexier side of life.
She said, "the idea came after receiving several messages daily from people who confessed to me being tired of their work routine, and their desire to become porn stars or enter the business."
Having come from an established journalism career, Amaranta reportedly struggled with moving into porn originally due to societal pressures and prejudices against sex workers.
Now a champion of self confidence, the Latin actress hopes to instil the same confidence into her students.
“I’ll Love To Feature In A Kumawood Movie. – Actor Yvonne Okoro
Ghanaian Actor, Chinyere Yvonne Okoro has revealed her intentions of featuring in locally produced Ghanaian Akan movie, popularly know as the "Kumawood Movie".
According to 2010 Movie Awards Best Actress winner, though She is willing and ready to play a role in Kumawood movies, Yvonne Okoro wants to be given a good script and good money. She revealed that, no Kumawood producer has invited me to join them.
She also opined Ghanaian actors should be prepared to play roles in different fields and not just limit themselves to English-spoken movies. Kumawood movies are movies dominated by the local dialect and mostly shot in Kumasi.