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With ‘Striking Vipers’, ‘Black Mirror’ Embraces The Complexity Of Human Relationships.

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Black Mirror is not a show we turn to for optimism, victory, or sex positivity, but Season 5’s “Striking Vipers” somehow has all three. An episode that could have been stigmatizing or even homophobic instead leaves us to unpack a rich friendship and open our minds to new relationships and how to make them work.

“Striking Vipers” starts with college sweethearts Danny (Anthony Mackie) and Theo (Nicole Beharie), and their roommate Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Years later, Danny and Theo are married, and Karl makes a sporadic reappearance in their lives to gift his old bestie the video game Striking Vipers for his birthday.

That night, the old friends enter into Vipers’ simulated reality together (still unclear what the controllers are for), intending to beat the shit out of each other’s avatars – Roxette and Lance (Pom Klementieff and Ludi Lin) – but instead find themselves sharing a passionate kiss within the game.

They play it off as a fluke, which is easy to do since they themselves did nothing. But when they re-enter the game, there’s no time wasted: Their avatars smash faces immediately and have wild, passionate sex. And so begins a virtual affair in which neither man is physically cheating on his significant other, but his mind wanders off to what turns out to be the best sex he’s ever had.

This is where “Vipers” deconstructs and challenges the very language we have to describe what’s going on with Danny and Karl. Is it an affair if you haven’t physically touched anyone? They are quite literally friends with benefits, and have achieved the impossible goal of keeping those benefits entirely separate from their “real” lives. None of the messages they exchange in the real world are sexual; they read exactly like two buddies scheduling video game night, and what happens in the game stays in the game.

And of course, the ultimate question, which Black Mirror gladly turns on its head: “Fellas, is it gay if…” Is it gay if you have crazy intense sex in a simulated reality video game with your bro’s avatar? Is it gay if the avatars have heterosexual sex? Is the whole thing just next-level phone sex – creating physical sensations with virtual scenarios?

Danny and Karl ask themselves these questions and communicate up front. They quickly dismiss any qualms about their sexuality, but doubts resurface as game nights continue, as they grow distracted and pull away from their real-life partners, thinking about nights in the game with Roxette and Lance. This is the most Black Mirror aspect of the entire episode, the notion of technology creating distance between relationships in the physical world, even if Danny and Karl’s friendship grows stronger.

In its greatest twist of all, “Striking Vipers” does not end in devastation.

Danny ceases all physical intimacy with Theo, and only over their heartbreaking anniversary dinner does he realize how precarious his situation has become. There is no one else, he tells her, but he cannot bring himself to say that he still wants her physically. The hidden world of Vipers, which he thought he had compartmentalized, is proving to be his detriment.

The men finally conclude, in a display of surprising emotional maturity (and after an impulsive “I love you” from Karl via Roxette), that they should kiss in real life to see if their chemistry exists outside of Vipers. If they do feel an emotional connection, they’ll reassess their sexualities and relationship. If not, they have to face these unusual circumstances head-on.

The kiss builds up with believable confusion and nerves from both men, and in the end it yields nothing. It’s not, as Danny suggests, “an us thing,” at least not an “us” that doesn’t also include Lance and Roxette. While Danny is ready and willing to reset their friendship, Karl can’t let go of the game. “It’s burrowed right in here,” he says, jabbing at his temple, and then his best friend decides to beat that burrowed thought right out of him.

The brief fight is difficult to watch, harkening to the bullying and physical fights we’ve seen fictional characters and real people suffer due to sexualities that society doesn’t accept or understand. Even the poster for “Striking Vipers” directly recalls Moonlight, in which a young black man hides and ignores his sexuality before quietly accepting it.

In its greatest twist of all, “Striking Vipers” does not end in the devastation of two relationships, but in their successful integration. Once a year, Danny gets to join Karl in Striking Vipers, and Theo gets a night off from married life to explore the desires she admitted to cutting herself off from in order to prioritize their family. The arrangement carries shades of polyamory and open relationships, but with rules and time limits that work – at least for now.

In a generally toothless season, “Vipers” at least provides comfort in its ending. It’s one of Black Mirror’s most hopeful episodes, placing faith in our capacity as humans to adapt to technology mutating relationships. We may already live in a world where the best, most “transcendent” sex a person experiences is alone or involves a screen of some sort, and “Vipers” suggests that this can coexist with established practices like monogamy and marriage. It’s a wild ride that gives us plenty to think about, and a new reference point for unique relationships the world might finally be ready to accept.

Source: Mashable.

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Spider Man: Jackson disappointed in Promoters.

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African-American actor and film producer, Samuel Leroy Jackson has expressed displeasure in the producers and promoters of the Spider-Man: Far From Home movie, as the newest marketing materials was marred with some series of errors.

The Marvel star reprises his role as former S.H.I.E.L.D. boss and flerken friend Nick Fury in the upcoming Spider-Man movie (in theaters July 2). Posters and trailers for the film have teased the first major meeting between Fury and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, but as Jackson pointed out on Instagram, at least one poster portrays Fury with a major mistake

Jackson shared a side-by-side comparison of two Spider-Man posters, each with Fury’s signature eyepatch on a different eye. (For the record, as Jackson reiterates, Fury’s eyepatch belongs on his left eye, as that was the one he lost in a not-so-savage battle with Captain Marvel’s cat/flerken, Goose.)

© Instagram Samuel L. Jackson calls out Spider-Man: Far From Home poster that flips Fury's eyepatch

Far From Home marks Jackson’s 11th onscreen appearance as the super-spy, and the film follows him as he introduces Spider-Man to a new ally, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio. “It was great to have [Jackson] on set intimidating everyone,” director Jon Watts previously told EW, laughing. “It was just like Nick Fury was actually there, keeping everyone on their toes.”

And, according to film producers Naomi Ellen Watts, Far From Home also finds Fury struggling to pick up the pieces after the events of Avengers: Endgame.

“He’s been gone for five years, too,” Watts said. “He’s the guy who’s always known everything about everything. He’s the guy who created the Avengers, and now here he is, returning after five years and seeing a very, very different world. So that’s a situation we’ve never seen him in before. The guy who’s always been in control not having the same level of control is interesting.”

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‘Men in Black: International’ Heads for Disappointing $24 Million Launch

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Sony’s “Men in Black: International” is heading for a disappointing $24 million opening weekend in the top spot at a mild North American box office, early estimates showed Friday.

The fourth iteration of the sci-fi comedy franchise is performing well under modest expectations, which had been in the $30 million range at 4,224 locations. “Men in Black: International” stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, replacing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the black-suited agents dealing with a baffling series of alien attacks against Earth.

New Line’s launch of its “Shaft” reboot is also showing little traction at multiplexes with Friday estimates coming in around $8 million at 2,952 sites, far below forecasts in the $16 million to $24 million range for the weekend. And Amazon’s widened release of its Mindy Kaling-Emma Thompson comedy “Late Night” was also falling flat at about $4 million at 2,218 venues.

The sole bright spots for the weekend appear to be Universal’s second weekend of “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” declining about 53% to around $22 million, and Disney’s fourth frame of “Aladdin” with about $17 million. The live-action reboot of “Aladdin” should finish the weekend with approximately $262 million domestically.

“Men in Black: International” takes place in the same universe as the previous trilogy, with Emma Thompson reprising her role as Agent O. Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall and twins Laurent and Larry Bourgeois also star. The film, set in the London bureau of the top-secret Men in Black organization, is directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, based on the Malibu comic by Lowell Cunningham. The budget for “Men in Black: International” is $110 million, co-financed by Hemisphere and Tencent.

The previous three “Men in Black” films combined for more than $1.6 billion in worldwide box office. All three scored North American debut weekends of more than $50 million. “Men in Black: International” is also launching in most international markets. Reviews were dismal with a 25% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Shaft,” the fifth film in the franchise, stars Jessie Usher playing John “JJ” Shaft Jr., an FBI agent and a cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT. Samuel L. Jackson plays his estranged father and Richard Roundtree plays his grandfather, the original Shaft, as he did in the first three “Shaft” movies in the early 1970s. Critics were unimpressed, resulting in a 35% Rotten Tomatoes score.

“Late Night” had generated forecasts in the $5 million to $9 million range. The film was acquired by Amazon following its Sundance premiere for a record $13 million and launched in four locations last weekend with a solid $246,035. It benefits from more positive reviews, sitting at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Focus is seeing moderate returns on its launch of Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” with around $3 million at 613 locations. The zombie comedy, starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver, was the opening night film at the Cannes Film Festival last month. Reviews have been mixed with a 51% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Year-to-date domestic box office as of June 12 has hit $4.93 billion, down 6% from the same point last year, according to Comscore. “Avengers: Endgame,” which has topped $826 million in seven weeks, and “Aladdin” had helped narrow the gap — which should widen again this weekend, thanks to overall business falling short of last year’s $182 million opening for “Incredibles 2.”

Disney’s “Toy Story 4” should rescue the box office next weekend. Early tracking had placed the animated comedy with a debut in the $150 million range.

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Janet Mock Signs History-Making Deal With Netflix

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Last year, Janet Mock made her directorial debut with the popular FX series Pose. Now, she's making history as the first trans woman of color to sign an overall deal with Netflix, where she'll direct and produce a slate of projects for the streaming giant.

"This deal is so bonkers,” she announced in a video posted to Netflix's Strong Black Lead vertical. “I, of course, will be writing and directing and developing a few hush hush projects that I can’t really talk about, but one of them is a half-hour drama and another is a college series. So I’m really excited for that.”

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According to Variety, Mock has signed a three year multimillion-dollar, which will give the streaming giant rights to her television series and first-look option on feature films. Mock will also executive produce and direct Ryan Murphy's upcoming series Hollywood, which Murphy previously described as "a love letter to the Golden Age of Tinseltown." Even though she's heading over to Netflix, Mock will continue to direct and write on Pose.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMRUe5BllB/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

“This is the first kind of deal of its kind for a trans person, no less a trans woman of color,” she continued in the video. "You know 84% of Americans say that they don’t know and or work with a trans person, and so there’s potential now with Netflix’s worldwide audience to introduce millions, hundreds of millions of viewers to trans people and showing people who may not understand us that we can tell our own stories.”

Source: ELLE

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Gina Rodriguez Had To Stop Filming ‘Jane the Virgin’ For Her Mental Health.

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Gina Rodriguez has been open about having anxiety, and with the final season of Jane the Virgin wrapping up this summer, Gina got candid about how she had to stop filming the show for her mental health.

During a discussion on mental health at The Kennedy Forum with NBC's Kate Snow, Gina said she can typically work through her anxiety and keep acting but wasn't able to this season. She explained:

"There was a point where I couldn’t…push through every single time anymore, and I’m one of those human beings…where they're just like, I’ll handle it later. I’ll deal with it later. I’ll figure it out later. I just have to do this now. All the while you’re dealing with your silent little dragon in your head. And it came to a point, and this last season was the first season where I had to stop production. I had a really tumultuous season, and I was unafraid for the first time to be like, ‘I can’t.’”


After hearing Kate's husband, Chris Bro, open up about depression and experiencing suicidal thoughts, Gina explained that she can relate.

Gina said she remembers having depression starting at age 16 and that it could be linked to her Hashimoto's disease, which is an autoimmune thyroid disorder.

https://twitter.com/TODAYshow/status/1140599621204566016

Thankfully, Gina said that once she started talking to other people about her mental health, "it just opened up a pathway that allowed me to talk about it freely, to seek help, to be unafraid."

Later, she explained that she wants to continue talking about mental health awareness because so many people look up to her. She said, "It has to be a part of the conversations I have with these young girls. I can’t just tell them to go out and make their dreams come true and then to ignore everything else.”

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