‘Mission: Impossible’ Retrospective: Part 1

Written by Sam Comrie

The year is 2003. Action figures and the weekly catch up of Jackie Chan Adventures are the fuel to my young imagination. However, the biggest contributor to fuelling my playground adventures and hours in the garden: Movies. Cut to the summer of ’03 and my brother suggests watching something to help deal with the sweltering heat outside.

Then it happened. As if the orange hue of the cover was radiating from the other side of the living room. The slick black shades protecting a hero engulfed in glowing flames. “Let’s watch Mission: Impossible II” my brother declares.

Cut to present day and Mission: Impossible is still one of my favourite franchises. With the impending release of Fallout looming, I thought it was time to look back at the franchise and its evolution since its 1996 debut.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Viewed by many as alternative to the long established James Bond franchise, the thrills and splendour of Mission: Impossible offer a taste of pure blockbuster spectacle that is arguably unmatched in the current climate of popcorn cinema. That’s not even a detriment to the franchise, as these films have recognised there is nothing wrong with offering the audience a high octane popcorn experience. Where Mission: Impossible succeeds since finding its feet, is balancing those explosions with a tightly woven plot that gives you prime cuts with the trimmings cut off. However, the future wasn’t always so clear for Cruise’s beloved adventures.

Adapting a popular TV show from the 1960’s is one thing. Bringing in renown Hitchcock enthusiast and auteur Brian De Palma to helm a Cruise vehicle is another. A director applauded for his unique sense of  lust, obsession and voyeuristic looks into questionable acts maybe isn’t the first person that comes to mind when thinking of a Tom Cruise actioner. In retrospective, it was the perfect start.

Containing the first 50 minutes almost exclusively to a soirée and an apartment rigged for intrusion, De Palma focuses his lens on a team that is literally dying in the cold. Now that the blood is washed on Cruise’s hands, its time to get even.

It would be a crime if I didn’t mention THAT iconic sequence. Yes, the CIA heist is an all timer sequence that showed us the first inklings of how this franchise could offer tension mission from mainstream blockbusters. Every time Jean Reno drops his knife from that laser sealed vent, my heart will still skip a beat without fail.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

With a new franchise coming out of the rough, it’s not a surprise that a ropey journey behind the scenes was reported. Entering the production with barely anything on a page, it was up in the air whether De Palma’s foray into star vehicles would work. The original TV show cast lauded the movie for it’s treatment of their characters, especially Jim Phelps (portrayed by Jon Voight). The script was ripped apart and some of the cast reportedly walked out of their private screening.

All the chips were down leading up to release day.

Mission: Impossible was released in May of 1996, to considerably mixed reviews, aimed mostly at its convoluted plot. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop them dead in their tracks. Going on to spawn $457.7 million in it’s box office run, it was clear that there was audience interest in the clandestine panorama of espionage that was Mission: Impossible.

There was room to improve, to refine and tweak what Mission: Impossible could aspire to be as the growing ideal of what mainstream action cinema should be.

Back to the slick sunglasses. De Palma passed on the opportunity to return and Tom Cruise knew exactly where he wanted to find his next director. He found that director in heroic bloodshed legend and pioneer, John Woo (Hard Boiled, The Killer, A Better Tomorrow)

Woo had left his mark on the Hong Kong action scene and had made his move into the Hollywood market with freedom with his 1997 cult classic, Face/Off. Cruise was clearly impressed with Woo’s CV and approached Paramount to get Mission: Impossible II off the ground. Before the cameras even began rolling, there was already a spy making waves once more in cinemas. Pierce Brosnan was riding high on the success of his James Bond entries in 1995 and 1997, releasing another in 1999 (a whole year before Mission: Impossible II was released into the world).

When Goldeneye impressed Bond fans and audiences alike in 1995 before the first M:I exploded onto screens, it was clear that a new era of Bond was in motion to ward off competitors. Woo and the production combo of Cruise / Wagner were determined to show audiences that Ethan Hunt was here to stay. Production began in April of 1999 and concluded in December of the same year. It was rumoured that Woo’s initial cut was around three and a half hours; way over the studio mandate.

With this cut trimmed down to just over two hours, Mission: Impossible II was John Woo’s action sandbox, with Cruise as his player one. Doves included. This was also the instalment to light the fuse on Cruise’s desire to risk his life onscreen for our entertainment. As it has become clear over the years, Cruise is now a versatile jack of all trades when it comes stunt work.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Originally the vertigo inducing reintroduction of Ethan was supposed to be handled by qualified professionals; but Cruise picked up the required skillsets to handle the sequence himself with minimal stunt double insert shots. This was all Paramount needed to push the marketing campaign. Ethan Hunt wasn’t just coming back; he was literally ascending back into frame.

Looking back on Mission: Impossible II all these years later, it really does appear to me as the estranged entry. Trading a paranoid undercover operative for a suave playboy spy is an almost startling concept transitioning into the second film. Cruise discards most shreds of humanity for a persona of wit, brawn and machoism. It’s evident that the success of a new Bond was looming over the production and its influence was bleeding into the celluloid.

I would go as far to say that Mission: Impossible II is much more of an embodiment of a “standalone” entry, that a continuation of the themes or ideas presented prior. Even with Bond’s shadow over the production, that isn’t to say that Woo didn’t present audiences with a blockbuster devoid of any identity. Mission: Impossible II is first and foremost a JOHN WOO production. Every Woo-ism you’ve come to expect is on show, with an extra dose of slow motion to drink it all down with.

The second half is where Woo really gets to shine. Gorgeous wide shots decorate grin inducing action sequences, while Hans Zimmer’s score soars over the bullets. Crash zooms make an appearance, most notably in the excellent compound sabotage sequence in the third act, as flames reflect terror in Dougray Scott’s iris.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Unfortunately, Woo’s stylistic prowess wasn’t enough to overcome Paramount’s trimming to make a more commercially viable summer package. Upon its release in July of 2000, again amongst varied responses, audiences made it clear that Cruise’s espionage escapades were making an impression on them.

Bringing back $565,400,000 and claiming the “highest grossing film of 2000” top spot, the doors were open for Ethan Hunt’s next mission.

Fast forward six years and an absence of Ethan Hunt. Cruise would go to star in Michael Mann’s thriller Collateral, two Spielberg productions and another Cameron Crowe experiment in the time before another Mission film was on the table. Various directors would come on board to helm the third entry, including David Fincher and cast members Scarlett Johansson, Carrie-Anne Moss and Kenneth Branagh in the mix. After Joe Carnahan left in July of 2004, the directors seat was up in the air once more. Johansson, Moss and Branagh would leave due to the continuing production delays. Cruise would happen to come across a saving grace in his spare time.

With his experience primarily in the TV circuit from Alias and the beginnings of Lost making an impression, J.J Abrams was recruited personally by Cruise to make feature film debut with Mission: Impossible III. June 8th of 2005 saw Paramount Pictures green light the production with a fresh cast on board. It was time to light the fuse once more. Just a month later and cameras would start rolling on July 12th.

Mission: Impossible III would be the first instalment to add a globetrotting element to the franchise, with locations such as Shanghai, Berlin and Rome displaying a renewed sense of exploration in Ethan Hunt’s race against the clock. Gone were the affectations of Bond and a new adrenaline filled formula was injected directly into the heart of the action. Sharper cuts and spiralling Steadicam shots made sure we were packed tightly into the frame, avoiding the aftermath of spies doing what they do best. Dan Mindel makes the frame pop with vibrancy and texture.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

With the advent of Jason Bourne in the market and a new dawn of how action was been perceived, it’s clear that the team on M:I III were already retrofitting new trends for their own gain. Out of all the instalments, M:I III is a whirlwind when its come to set pieces. From the head daze of the Berlin extraction or the militant precision of the bridge battle, these set pieces were paving the way for this franchise to realize its true potential. It wasn’t just the spectacle that was getting a makeover either.

What happens when a spy goes home? Do they even have a home to go back to? Abrams decided to explore just that, as we finally get to know what makes Ethan tick behind all the rubber masks. While the stakes maybe aren’t as potent as the film has aged, the risk of taking time to slow it down to mundane aspects of normal life are commendable for a franchise that was still assuming an identity.

Thankfully, an identity is exactly what was gained. Mission: Impossible finally knew what it could be = succinct espionage beats and awe inspiring set pieces. No facades of Bond or any other IP in the mix. What is a hero’s journey without a villain though?

While Jon Voight was serviceable and Dougray Scott was somewhat more impressionable (probably down to his method of nail clipping), the M:I films were still waiting for a villain to leave a mark. Enter the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Leaving someone else’s mouth, the dialog for Owen Davian would have fell flat without a doubt. When that cold open introduces us to an unfamiliar scenario of Ethan in peril and Hoffman’s cold gaze dominating the frame, you know it’s time to buckle in.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

The pieces were in place to solidify a turning point where Ethan Hunt was ready to be a household name in the spy business.

Mission: Impossible III dropped into cinemas in May of 2006, becoming another commercial success. Despite making less than its predecessor ($397.8 million), the new era of M: I was a critical success that garnered much more favourable reviews than what had come before. Cruise and co. weren’t out of matches yet.

‘Mission: Impossible’ Retrospective: Part 2

Coming Soon! 

Advertisements

“We treat virtuosity like it’s mundane, we expect it” – Blindspotting’s Rafael Casal on Oakland, theatre, language, masculinity and more…

Interviewed by Fiona Underhill 

For the first six months of 2018, the most exciting and contemporary filmed art being produced seemed to be from the music industry. The music videos and films that accompanied Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, Childish Gambino’s This is America and The Carters’ Apesh*t and Family Feud all feel as if they have something to say about the state of America right now, with their commentary on the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, among many other themes. Now that July has arrived, we have two films that have been released (just in the US so far), both set in the same city, that have this same fresh voice and risk-taking approach – Sorry to Bother You (written and directed by Boots Riley) and Blindspotting (directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and written by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs). It is perhaps no coincidence that the filmmakers behind both of these movies have come from a music (specifically hip-hop) background themselves. The writers of both films are from Oakland (where the films are also set), a city with a rich cultural and huge artistic seam running through it, a history of protest and activism (the Black Panther Party originated there), but now changing rapidly and potentially beyond all recognition.


 

I was lucky enough to speak to the co-writer and star of BlindspottingRAFAEL CASAL – and I asked him about the points he was trying to make about Oakland in the film.

I think what we were hoping to do was show a side of the Bay Area that’s the less popularised side. The way we want to showcase Oakland is very much in the film, I would do no justice describing it now. I think it took us the 94 minutes to even give a fraction, so I want to encourage everyone to go see it. I think stories that are often told about areas that are getting a new influx of a population that’s not originally from there is mostly about real estate and about new businesses and then periodically any controversy that salts the new reputation of the place. That’s how you get these BBQ Becky memes about a white woman calling the police on people who have been barbecuing there for twenty years. Then you get another article about how expensive San Francisco is compared to the rest of the country – those are the big narratives.

The people from there have such a different love and appreciation for the subtle nuance of a place where they’ve existed for their entire lives; food, community, culture. The relationship between elders and children, the way that the school system has worked, the way that the street culture has worked, the way that the music and slang and the virtuosic nature of the people. It’s so unbelievably vibrant, that the biggest challenge that came for us was figuring out how to capture it on film. More importantly, those elements are so infrequently broadcast that we really wanted to ‘time capsule’ them for a moment, because they’re disappearing due to an influx of people that aren’t aware of those things and moving in somewhat on top of them. For us, it was important to capture that place on film before it disappears.

 

I also spoke with the production designer of Blindspotting, Tom Hammock and asked him about the location-scouting process and the choice to showcase so many different sides of the city. The two main characters, Miles (Casal) and Collin (Diggs) play removal men, which means that the diverse neighbourhoods are seen as they drive through them in their mover’s truck. Miles and Collin go to a party at a hipster’s house which was a real location – a modern building in a row of Victorian houses. Like so much of the film and the wider conversation about gentrification, this story is not as simple as it seems. Hammock told me that the original house had burned down (not been knocked down) and a local architect was employed to create the new design. Their job as movers also means that you see historic houses being emptied and pulled down, robbing them of their contents and erasing the city’s culture. Hammock explained that these wooden houses had been built by ship’s carpenters, meaning that many featured port-holes. He also told me that the apartment that was used for Miles and Ashley was an Air B&B which is ironic, given the film’s focus on gentrification and Miles’ feelings about it, in particular. I mentioned this to Casal:

We came about that apartment because the people who lived there were moving out and it was being Air B&B’d so that it could be either rented or sold to a new resident, who I would imagine would also experience a hike in rent. It’s amazing how many moments in filming that the subject matter met us face-to-face and reminded us why the film was so important to make. And that was one of a thousand moments, like, wow – we couldn’t even write that. There is a movie [that could be made] about the movie being made and about a town that is being taken over by different industries and subsequently a population of people. There are so many clashes that are worth writing about, that evolved this experience and that was one of the first ones.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Casal has a background in theatre and Diggs was in the original cast of a little-known Broadway musical called Hamilton. Director Estrada brought the same virtuosity, ambition and problem-solving as he had to shooting music videos with Diggs and when filming Casal’s students’ theatrical performance in New York. He brought in split-screens, tracking shots and shot the climatic scene with two cameras in a 9-minute single-take. The dream sequences are shot like music videos, complete with flashing colours, choreography, dollying cameras and employing theatre tech to time everything perfectly. The influence of the filmmakers’ background is clear in the theatrical style and also the heightened language in the film. I asked Casal about the influence of theatre on the film.

Yeah – Daveed and I both have backgrounds in theatre. The stage is where we built our careers, separately and together. My time on the stage started out as a writer/performer in the performance poetry scene in the Bay Area. So very much, I would describe that as a gateway drug. It’s an art-form that has all of the attributes and skill sets that you need to eventually work in long-form, especially in heightened language in long-form. It is a performative monologue essentially, it is communicating the personal to the universal. We are using heightened language to condense information and you do have to connect with an audience in real time, right? That transition into long-form theatre was very easy and obvious for me, so when I got into my late teens, Daveed and I wrote a few plays together. Then I went onto teach Creative Writing and Theatre at UW Madison, while Daveed was pursuing music and teaching middle school after-school programmes back in the Bay Area. And then we ran a theatre programme at the Public Theater [in New York] called #BARS which is a theatre and verse programme, under the mentorship of Oskar Eustis, building a theatre programme very much based on that curriculum that I was developing at UW Madison.

So much about our approach to the stage and to story-telling is about the inter-personal relationships between characters, the dynamic and the momentum of a dynamic that takes place when you just let a scene happen and experience the power of actors fully immersed in the moment. And Carlos, our director also comes from a theatre background, even though his forte is in cinema, so much of our philosophies were aligned and the script was so-written to cater to the kind of performances that work both on stage and on film. So in the filming of it, we would just do these long, sprawling takes and let Daveed and I just sort of off-the-leash and play for the moment as much as possible. I think we were all the better for it. I think in terms of approaching our next project, I’ll probably continue to go back to the same conventions because I think that the dynamic that you get from theatre while also being verse performers [is that the] the camera is just allowed to roll to try to pick up the full duration of a scene, you get so much more subtlety and so much more inherent chemistry than all this start-and-stop.

 

As well as theatre, Casal started out using spoken-word and verse in performance poetry and hip-hop. He was featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, toured college campuses with his spoken-word performances and has a large presence on YouTube. This also feeds into the film, along with the use of the Bay Area slang that Casal and Diggs have grown up with. This innovative use of a unique style of dialogue is one of the most refreshing aspects of the film, so of course I had to ask Casal about it. It was producer Jess Calder who discovered Casal on the internet and approached him about writing a film using verse (she particularly traces the film back to one of Casal’s poems – Monster, a piece about growing numb to his friends dying violent deaths at a young age).

They had found my YouTube popular poetry videos and music videos where heightened language was being used to tell stories directly at the camera. So that was the prompt, that producer Jess [Calder] saw the potential to write a film where heightened language is the way in which the characters communicate in some of the most tense or important moments. So it’s always been a part of the DNA of the idea; even that final scene with Daveed – I wrote the bulk of that nine years ago and it just stayed in the script and we always just thought me and Daveed would re-write it to accommodate the film, but so much of the film is reverse-engineered from that climatic moment, so we just kept the bulk of it there. I think Daveed added two or three lines a few days before we shot, to fit it into his mouth the way that he wanted it to, but it’s been essentially the same the entire time.

So I think what was most exciting for me was this was the challenge of verse that both independently and collectively, Daveed and I have always thought about and wanted to crack the rhythm of how to introduce heightened language into film in the way that we’ve been exposed to it. The Bay Area is so ingrained in the idea of the beauty of language to articulate yourself, that your individuality is very much expressed through the way in which you speak and the words you use. We treat virtuosity like it’s mundane, we expect it. So, it felt essential that it be a spine of the piece. The element about Miles that we loved so much is that Miles is a salesman. The way in which Miles sells himself and uses language is also the tool that he is teaching Collin to wield in order to vocalise and articulate what he needs to let out of his soul, in order to survive and get his sanity back. In the whole film, Collin is trying to express himself through improvisational verse, but the “make it sound pretty”, the salesmanship, the selling of an idea is the gift that Miles is unknowingly giving Collin through the duration of their friendship and most importantly, the duration of these last four days.

 

As well as confronting race, the film also shows different aspects of masculinity. In a separate interview (on BUILD series – it’s amazing and on YouTube, watch it!), Casal talks about

“men who do not have a well-tuned capacity for intimate conversation, men’s most acceptable modes are anger and humour and everything in between is a stumbling walk through trying to articulate yourself. These two men are very much a part of toxic masculinity to a degree, they have a survivalist mentality, claiming their space, whether through violence or through humour.”

I asked Casal about the theme of toxic masculinity, particularly in relation to how the character of Miles is trying to raise his son. He was understandably protective of the character he’d created.

I think we steered heavily away from the idea of trying to impose themes into the story. I think we were trying to represent the characters honestly and ask ourselves what we felt like they would do or how they would act or how they would raise their kids based on the people we based those characters on. Miles is a minority among minorities, that has been his reality the entirety of his life and the way in which he has had to defend his position and his space has probably been more violent than Collin, not because he is pursuing violence but because he’s getting picked on and messed with, he’s been questioned and been getting his credibility challenged, he’s had his space encroached upon more than anyone else around him, he sticks out like a sore thumb, and the idea of a white dude in a black and brown neighbourhood is really questionable. So he has been fighting physically and had to fight physically so much more than Collin. So his way of surviving as a male in violent neighbourhoods, in dangerous spaces, his way of imparting some wisdom on his son is to make sure that his son is tough enough to handle the neighbourhood that they live in. And I don’t know that that is inherently problematic, I think what that leads to is potentially very problematic.

I’m more critical of systemic poverty and the violence that that encourages because of the way that we starve and shrink the physical space of poor people than I am of critical of Miles and how he survives within that problematic system. I just want to make that point. It’s really easy to demonise Miles’ reaction to a fucked-up situation but the problem is the situation and Miles’ reaction to it is also problematic, but it is secondary to the circumstance. That family is trying to raise a son within a problematic, dangerous  and violent circumstance and Miles as a father (and we’ve alluded to the fact that he had no father of his own) is trying to teach his son to survive the best way that he knows how and God bless him for it, even if you have a problem with it. He’s trying to be a positive role-model with his son.

[Miles’ girlfriend] Ashley (played by Jasmine Cephas Jones) is in a different mind-state, she suddenly has a black son and that son is becoming an age when he’s not someone that she’s holding onto physically at all times, that is out in the world increasingly more independently. So the fear of the police is something that is weighing on her heavily in the film and the two of them (who we always sort of imagined as high school sweethearts) have a new negotiation to have. We always imagined that Ashley – she knows who she’s with, she knows that he’s someone who defends space very aggressively and I’m sure to a certain degree, she likes that – it’s partly what she was attracted to. But now that violence can have a slightly different consequence, that can take a potentially larger toll if it gets out of hand. So the gun threat is really a rallying point in which the two of them have to talk about the fear that Ashley has about the safety of her son and that the way in which Miles is approaching parenting, while noble and while loving, is scary to her, which turns out to be such a beautiful conversation between an interracial couple from the same place. So often we tend to see interracial couples where they live in completely different realities and one is always educating the other on the harshness of the world and that’s not what this conversation is. It’s about two people who really understand the complexities of their reality and are in those trenches together. But their relationship to violence and the fear of violence is different and they have to negotiate that in raising a brown son.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

The film had a long (almost 10 year) gestation period and had to be updated along the way. Depressingly, they cut protests to police violence from the film because they noticed that there were less protests as police shot more black people (it was becoming more commonplace and therefore being met with more apathy and silence). Ultimately, there came a ‘now or never moment’ where Daveed Diggs had a tiny window in his schedule and they seized their chance. I asked Casal about the sense of urgency created from shooting in 22 days.

Yeah the urgency of filming in 22 days was because they were the only 22 days that Daveed had open in his schedule. I had to essentially do the physical writing of it on my own, so I moved to LA and rewrote the script and Daveed participated in that via phone and big-picture conversations between he and I in the middle of the night. You know we’d gain this momentum and excitement and there was a opportunity in our window to shoot it and we were racing against the Sundance deadline. Really, to make an independent film, so many variables have to line up – the right people, the right place, the right time, the right funding, the right enthusiasm, the right script for the right moment because we don’t have this massive budget and machine behind us. So I think when it came around again, when I very fortuitously sent a drunk text to our producers after the Oscars last year and said “I wish we had made that movie” and they responded “so make it” – that snowballed in a way that I felt needed to be capitalised on. Everybody was a little hesitant, Diggs was very hesitant, Carlos didn’t even know about the script the day before and the producers were excited but unsure if we could pull it off in that window. But I am often known in my artistic circle as the instigator, as the rallier, as the one who tells everyone “we can definitely do it, if we all get on board.” I feel like we willed it into existence with love and enthusiasm and excitement around bringing this story to the communities that we feel like really need it and really that’s to say: the whole country. We feel like the country is in a place where conversations like these, the conversations that this film seem to be provoking when people are walking out are exactly the kinds of conversations that I’m excited to have. Every question that you ask, I’m excited to answer and that doesn’t always happen with the art that we make. So with every question, every conversation, I’m just more and more excited that we did it.


 

It was a pleasure and a privilege to discuss this stunning film with Mr Casal and I cannot wait to disect it with more people. Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting have genuinely made me excited about cinema again – as a vital and urgent art-form confronting contemporary themes and provoking conversation. They are both a snapshot of a city in flux and people who are struggling to cope with new realities. They both do so with artistry which pushes boundaries, take risks, are innovative and unique. How exciting and how lucky we are that we get to experience these films NOW. I urge you to check them out as soon as you are able to.

Blindspotting is on limited release from July 20th and wide release from July 27th.

I also urge you to subscribe Rafael Casal’s YouTube channel

(Some of Mr Casal’s comments may have been edited for clarity)

JUMPCUT Is Now On Ko-fi!

JUMPCUT ONLINE was created back in 2015 by two friends with an intense passion for film. Now, our team currently consists of around 20 incredibly talented writers who volunteer their time and energy to create amazing content for us; including reviews, news articles, think pieces and box office reports. But this is just the start of the JUMPCUT journey!

We’ve made the decision to create a Ko-fi in the hopes of raising a small amount of funds to help improve our website and services to provide an even better platform for our writers, readers, and followers. We’d also really love to actually buy our team a coffee sometime too!

The hard work the whole team puts in to JUMPCUT always makes us feel incredibly lucky, and we’d really love to be able to reward our writers in some way, as a small token of our appreciation for what they bring to JUMPCUT. And, more importantly, we aspire to offer our audience fresh and exciting content, through exploring new mediums and services.

Your donations can go a long way to helping JUMPCUT ONLINE do great things. If you do support us with a donation then we can’t thank you enough, but be sure to leave your Twitter handle in your message of support so we can give you a shout-out for being so awesome.

Our Ko-fi Profile

Ko-fi_Icon_Blue.png

Filmmaking For The Digital Age: Meet The Producer On A Mission To Make Films With A Conscience

From the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns to the Black Lives Matter movement, in today’s world social issues are never far from the spotlight. One film-maker is determined to use his platform to enter the conversation, creating feature films and TV series which are sure to inspire debate long after the final credits roll.

Meet Bizhan Tong: the director/producer behind Phoenix Waters Productions. The company have just finished shooting their first feature-length film, ‘The Escort‘, which debuts at several international film festivals this summer.

Told in real time, ‘The Escort’ follows a man (Kevin Leslie, The Rise of the Krays) who pays for sixty minutes with an escort with a view to convincing her to leave her line of work. What follows is a lively verbal battle exploring sexual politics, and what intimacy means in a ‘swipe-right’ world. The film is the first in a series of social commentary pieces, made as the result of extensive conversations with both former and current sex workers.

After ‘The Escort’, Phoenix Waters Productions is starting production work on ‘Night Ride’, a tense hitch-hiker thriller which explores the shortcomings of the American Dream, and the price to pay for human success. This promises to be a further exploration into themes of social justice at the forefront of national consciousness today.

Bizhan has been writing screenplays from a young age, launching his first business aged 14 selling DVDs to raise funds for his filmmaking equipment. It was while studying Maths at the University of Manchester that he produced and directed his first short film: ‘Ticket’, exploring themes of toxic masculinity, which starred fellow student Rory Girvan (Stella, Sky One).

Following this, Bizhan earned his first producing credit aged 20 working on feature film ‘Fix’, starring Olivia Wilde (Tron, The Lazarus Effect), before founding Phoenix Waters Productions in 2015.

On founding Phoenix Waters Productions, Bizhan says:

“The aim is to develop high concept, high quality storytelling for Film and TV to both entertain audiences across the globe and shed light on the marginalised and promote key issues to enact positive social change.

I have always has a passion for film, and I am involved in various social causes, working with children’s charities and striving for gender equality within the financial services space. I have always believed that art has the power to enact meaningful change, so the opportunity to fuse my two passions felt like the natural next step. I hope to inspire and prompt audiences into action through the visual medium, just as movies like ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘El Salvador’, and ‘Children of Men’ inspired and shaped me.”

Bizhan now lives in London with his six cats, after the stray he adopted turned out to be pregnant!

Check out the trailer and poster for ‘The Escort’ below, and keep an eye on their social media for updates!

The Escort Poster Split.png

It’s Not Your Star Wars…

Written by Dan Massey

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… People used to behave in a decent respectable way towards each other.

There has been a tonne of furore of late regarding ‘Star Wars’; the films and the fandom. More specifically, the treatment of talented actors, directors, producers and crew behind the latest installments in the ‘Star Wars’ legacy since it’s sale to Disney. Particularly post ‘The Last Jedi’, and pre the release of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, the atmosphere has reached toxic levels. The treatment of Rian Johnson, Kelly Marie Tran & Daisy Ridley, amongst others (but who I see targeted the most) is nothing short of disgusting and shameful. The idea to boycott a ‘Star Wars’ movie to prove a point and hurt the company and talent producing it is sad, especially from so called ‘fans’, who in truth are only doing themselves out of seeing a fun ‘Star Wars’ film on the big screen.

The reality breaks down like this; it’s absolutely fine to dislike a film, to criticise a story, character or a performance. It’s not ok to harass, bully and abuse hard working people who worked on those films.

Untitled-1

Yet all this got me thinking, what really are the issues the fandom has with the Disney iterations of ‘Star Wars’? The answers are complex and varied. A common criticism of ‘The Force Awakens’ was that it was a rehash of ‘A New Hope’. One of the most common criticisms of ‘The Last Jedi’ was that it was too different, a total disregard for the structure and lore of ‘Star Wars’. Another common theme amongst those who dislike everything Star Wars has done since TFA, is that “diversity and ‘social justice warrior-ism’ is being forced down our throats”.

A female protagonist? A black protagonist? An apparently sexually-ambiguous character? A female stormtrooper captain? A feminist, equal-rights focused droid? Asian and Mexican characters?

Well, that’s crazy, unrealistic and only included to force diversity upon us, let’s go back to the original films where all was good, men dominated the screen time and the Admiral of the resistance army was a fucking fish. Seriously, it’s a movie containing all kinds of Alien races, so let’s not get caught up on the race, gender and sexuality of the characters being unrealistic. It’s tiring, and while you aren’t racist or misogynistic if you dislike these films, you probably are if your reason for disliking these films is because of the inclusion of POC and female actors getting bigger, more important roles.

The most disappointing thing about all this, in my opinion, is that ‘Star Wars’ has always had deep-rooted messages and themes about society, politics, inclusion, failure, redemption, balance and inner conflict. It always had an overriding message of hope. The newer films take these themes and crank them up further than their predecessors. That’s a good thing; and reflects that society today is more open-minded, inclusive and accepting. George Lucas’ original vision was to create something that could provide moral guidance, a sense of spirituality that could transcend religion;

I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct […] I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people”

Obviously, mentioning George Lucas brings up an important point in the discussion, ownership. Now, as fans, we’re all important. As people, all of our opinions matter. None of that gives you ownership of ‘Star Wars’. IT’S NOT YOUR STAR WARS. ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t exist to be what you want it to be, it exists to be what the creators wanted to be. ‘Star Wars’ owes you nothing, so boo-hoo if the story hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to in your own mind.

Untitled-1

Now, I was born after the OT, saw them and fell in love with them as a kid. I’m old enough to remember ‘The Phantom Menace’ being released in cinemas, the line going all the way down the road, everyone in costumes, a full 16 years after the release of ‘Return of the Jedi’. 16 years. And it actually wasn’t very good. None of the prequel trilogy was actually great, and that was George Lucas telling the story George Lucas wanted to tell. 16 years! So spare me the talk of Disney ruining SW with its story direction and release schedule. We’re getting great ‘Star Wars’ movies almost every year. It’s a huge galaxy, there’s a million stories to tell, as long as the films are good and fun, there should be no issue. Who cares who makes them, so long as they’re good. George Lucas gave us three amazing films, followed by 3 average films and Jar Jar Binks.

So let’s look at the aforementioned issues; TFA being too similar to past ‘Star Wars’ stories. Lucas himself said that the stories always repeat, because that’s human nature. That was his vision for the expanded ‘Star Wars’ galaxy over time; and they do. Luke, a poor boy from nowhere, had incredible Force powers, and rose up to become the galaxies great hope against the evil of the Empire. In the prequel trilogy, Anakin, a poor orphan boy from nowhere, had incredible Force powers and rose up to become the galaxies greatest hope before succumbing to the Dark Side and becoming the greatest evil in the galaxy. TFA, Rey, a poor orphan girl has incredible Force powers, rises up to become the next great hope against the evil of the First Order. You could even make a prequel trilogy about Ben Solo’s rise and fall into Kylo Ren. That’s how in-sync the stories are. AND IT’S EXACTLY AS GEORGE LUCAS INTENDED IT.

Yet, it’s different. The themes of balance are much more present. Internal conflict, not only in force-sensitive people, but in a stormtrooper? The mindless soldiers of the Empire/First Order. That alone raised so many exciting new questions and possibilities, the exploration of the moral compass and conscience of Finn has been fantastic and fresh. Kylo Ren explores the inner conflict and pull of the light and dark more than any other character in previous ‘Star Wars’ films. It’s different because it’s more in touch with modern world views. It’s different because it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been or what you’re past is.

“Let the past die, kill it if you must”.

That line, apply it to the original films. The Skywalkers? The last of that bloodline is now Kylo Ren. Rey? A nobody. Snoke, unimportant, didn’t matter. Bold new steps in the way we tell ‘Star Wars’ stories, yet in line with how we tell Star Wars stories. It completely drives the saga in new directions while being faithful to the original ideals. Good vs bad, balance, inner conflict and redemption.

Untitled-1

In terms of Rey being a ‘Mary Sue’, why does nobody ever mention that Luke is the biggest Mary Sue of them all? He’s amazing at everything and quite easily dispels the pull of the Dark Side without a tonne of effort or sacrifice. I love that ‘The Last Jedi’ particularly explores the idea of Luke as a failure, to himself and to Ben, and the wider universe by his self-imposed exile. I love that there’s redemption for Luke, and his death is a sacrifice after finding inner peace and faith in the force again, knowing that Rey will restore balance and be the light vs Kylo’s dark. A large part of why I love that is because it’s such a fresh take on a central ‘Star Wars’ theme, failure. Obi Wan failed Anakin, and ultimately, he paid the price. His death was sacrificial, but willing, as he had found inner peace, and knew Luke would take up the mantle for the light vs the darkness.

Ultimately, ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t owe anyone anything, it’s not your ‘Star Wars’,  and people should be grateful that we get so much good SW content so often these days, whether it matches how it should of been in your head or not. Trust me, its better than waiting a decade and a half for a movie that didn’t match what you expected. But even when the prequel trilogy didn’t hold up in quality compared to the OT, that was fine. Agree to disagree, discuss what you’d have preferred and your critiques by all means. But, above all, be a decent person and resist the dark side of online abuse and bullying.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or discuss with us over on Twitter – @JUMPCUT_ONLINE

 

6 Months Later: A Look At Our 2018 Most Anticipated Films And How They Measured Up

Written by Tom Sheffield

Back in December we asked our team what their most anticipated films of 2018 were, and we compiled a list of our top 10. We are now half way through the year, and eight films that made our top ten have been released – but did they live up to our expectations? Click the film titles to be taken to our official verdicts!

The two films in our list we are still twiddling our thumbs waiting for at Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’, which has now been pushed back to 2019, and the return of the Parr family in ‘Incredibles 2’, which we only have a few more weeks to wait for!

We’ve also just had a fantastic week of trailers for upcoming films to be excited for, so be sure to check them out if you missed any!


FotoJet (10).jpg

#10 – The Irishman

 

FotoJet (10).jpg

#9 – A Wrinkle in Time

“With stunning visual effects and incredible costume, hair and make-up design; this film was a feast for the eyes”

 

FotoJet (10).jpg

#8 – Deadpool 2

“There are problems abound that come with trying to exceed the expectations set by a great first outing, but I honestly feel ‘Deadpool 2′ has more re-watchability than the original because of its attempts to go bigger than the first.”

 

FotoJet (10).jpg

#7 – Incredibles 2

 

FotoJet (10).jpg

#6 – Ready Player One

“Ultimately, one of 2018’s most anticipated productions does not disappoint, nor purge Ernest Cline’s concept of its defining qualities. Instead, Sir Steven — God of euphoric adventure — deserves one thunderous high-five for letting us break free from the mundane and witness a magical journey too colossal for the real world.”

 

FotoJet (10).jpg

#5 – Annihilation

“It’s a miraculous achievement in filmmaking across the board, and it deserves your attention. It’s on Netflix right now. Watch it, experience it, and prepare for it to take over your every thought for some time.”

 

FotoJet (10).jpg

#4 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Is this a Star Wars film we needed in the timeline? Not really, but I’m glad we have it because Ron Howard just whetted my appetite for more of this sort of anthology film away from the ‘Episodes’. And on the basis of a certain cameo towards the end, the timeline just got a whole lot spicier!”

FotoJet (10).jpg

#3 – Isle of Dogs

“‘Isle of Dogs’ stumbles occasionally when the dogs aren’t on screen, but this doesn’t diminish the film as an impressive achievement in animation. Most importantly, ‘Isle of Dogs’ is better than ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’  in my opinion. Yes, I went there.”

FotoJet (10).jpg

#2 – Black Panther

“‘Black Panther’ wasn’t just a Marvel superhero movie, it was a rattling of the cages type film. It spoke a lot of truth that we often sweep under the rug about the world we live in. It raises awareness and then offers the global society an olive branch. ‘Black Panther’ is well-crafted in every sense of the word. “

FotoJet (10).jpg

#1 – Avengers: Infinity War

“‘Avengers Infinity War’ at its best is epic, emotional and very, very shocking. It has impressive set pieces and of course it’s very funny. The few faults it does have are going to be down purely to the viewer. A knowledge of all that has happened before is essential. This is not the film for newbies. “

 

Reel Women: May UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

At the start of each month we will be highlighting the films that will be released in UK cinemas that month, that are written and/or directed by women- a little feature we like to call ‘Reel Women’. As someone who’s taken part in the #52FilmsbyWomen for the past few years, I’ve started paying at least a little attention to who is writing and directing what I watch. It’s an enlightening experience and it’s a good way to watch films that I might not have normally have thought about and discover different filmmakers.

Now it’s time to look at May’s releases that are made by women. This month there are a whole host of genres including comedy, thriller, and documentary.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

4 May

I Feel Pretty
Directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein | Written by: Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein

Renee (Amy Schumer) struggles with insecurities about her body and her abilities, that is until she bangs her head and wakes up believing she’s the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet.

This is both Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein’s feature-length directorial debut but together they’ve written some rom-com classics like ‘Never Been Kissed’ and the romantic drama ‘The Vow’.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi Written by Riko Sakaguchi and Hiromasa Yonebayashi

The first film from new Japanese animation company, Studio Ponoc, ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is about a young girl who discovers a world of magic and danger after she picks a flower that only blooms once every seven years.

Riko Sakaguchi has written multiple television series and the Oscar nominated Studio Ghibli film, ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

11 May

How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell | Written by Philippa Goslett and John Cameron Mitchell

It’s 1977 in London and when Enn (Alex Sharp) and his friends stubble across a weird party they meet alien Zan (Elle Fanning) who becomes fascinated with them, Earth and everything punk. Philippa Goslett has written four feature films including ‘Holy Money’ and ‘Mary Magdalene’.

Life of the Party
Directed by Ben Falcone | Written by Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy

After her husband suddenly asks for a divorce, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) decides to join her teenage daughter (Molly Gordon) at college so she can complete her degree. Melissa McCarthy is a hilarious comedian who’s starred in so many great films like ‘The Heat’, ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Spy’. ‘Life of the Party’ is the third film she’s co-written with husband Ben Falcone after ‘The Boss’ and ‘Tammy’.

Raazi
Directed by Meghna Gulzar | Written by Meghna Gulzar and Bhavani Iyer

A thriller about Sehmat (Aalia Bhatt), a Kashmiri spy who is married to Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal), a Pakistani man during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, as she attempts to balance being a wife, mother and spy.

‘Raazi’ is Meghna Gulzar’s fourth feature film. Her previous film ‘Talvar’, is on Netflix and is well worth a watch. Bhavani Iyer has multiple writing credits to her name including the TV series ‘24: India’, the Indian remake of ‘24′.

Revenge
Directed by Coralie Fargeat | Written by Coralie Fargeat

Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is enjoying a romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend, until his sleazy friends arrive for a hunting trip. When the situation abruptly turns to violence and Jen is left for dead, she prepares to take bloody revenge on them all.

Revenge is Coralie Fargeat’s debut feature film and she also was one of its editors.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

18 May

A Love That Never Dies
Directed by Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris

A documentary following Jimmy and Jane, who lost their son seven years previously, as they take a road trip across the USA to meet other grieving parents and to see how and why different people grieve.

This is Jane Harris’ first film.

Montparnasse Bienvenue
Directed by Léonor Serraille | Written by Clémence Carré, Bastien Daret and Léonor Serraille

Paula Simonian (Laetitia Dosch) is in her early-thirties, is broke and single. She’s spirited yet directionless as she struggles to get by in the lively Parisian metropolis; but if she can make it there, she’ll make it anywhere.

This is Léonor Serraille’s first feature film and it won her the Golden Camera award, which is the award for best first feature film, at Cannes Film Festival last year. ‘Montparnasse Bienvenue’ has won 10 awards and been nominated for 14 more. Clémence Carré has previously worked with Serraille as she edited Serraille’s short film ‘Body’.

Submergence
Directed by Wim Wenders | Written by Erin Dignam

While captured by jihadist fighters, Scotsman James Moore (James McAvoy) remembers meeting scientist Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander) who is preparing to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor. Both in their own confinements, they remember their brief yet intense romance as they struggle with what lies ahead.

Erin Digman’s previous writing credit was ‘The Last Face’ starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem. Digman’s directorial and screenplay debut was ‘Denial’ which was nominated for the Grad Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival in 1990.

Cargo
Directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling | Written by Yolanda Ramke

Stranded in rural Australia after a violent pandemic, Andy (Martin Freeman) is a desperate father trying to find somewhere safe for his infant daughter. ‘Cargo’ is Yolanda Ramke’s first feature film and it is an adaptation of the short film of the same name she and Ben Howling made in 2013.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

25 May

Edie
Directed by Simon Hunter | Written by Elizabeth O’Halloran

After the death of her controlling husband, Edith Moore (Sheila Hancock) decides to attempt a lifelong ambition and climb a mountain in Scotland.

This is Elizabeth O’Halloran’s first screenplay.

The Breadwinner
Directed by Nora Twomey | Written by Anita Doron

After her father is thrown in jail, a young girl (Saara Chaudry) disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family.

‘The Breadwinner’ was nominated for Best Animated Feature at this years Oscars. Nora Twomey co-directed Cartoon Saloon’s first feature film ‘The Secret of Kells’. Anita Doran is a writer and director who has directed five feature films.

The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear
Directed by Amalie Næsby Fick, Jørgen Lerdam and Philip Einstein Lipski | Written by Bo Hr. Hansen

When friends Mitcho (Liva Elvira Magnussen) and Sebastian (Alfred Bjerre Larsen) find a message in a bottle, they go on an adventure inside a giant pear to find the missing mayor of their quaint town.

‘The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear’ is Amalie Næsby Fick’s first feature film.

Zama
Directed by Lucrecia Martel | Written by Lucrecia Martel

Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a Spanish officer of the seventeenth century waits in Paraguay for news of his transfer to Buenos Aires. When he hears a man called Vicuña Porto (Matheus Nachtergaele) is raping women and attacking villages, Zama decides to help those in need.

Lucrecia Martel has won numerous awards including Best Film and Best Director for ‘The Headless Woman’ at the Argentinean Academy Awards, and the Alfred Bauer Award at the Berlin International Film Festival for ‘La Ciénaga. Zama’ is Martel’s fifth feature film.

Ibiza
Directed by Alex Richanback | Written by Lauryn Kahn

Harper (Gillian Jacobs) and her two best friends fly to Spain to find a hot DJ.

Lauryn Kahn has written over a dozen short films and Ibiza is her first feature film. It’s also one of Netflix’s original movies.


Those are the fifteen films that are written and/or directed by women and are being released in the UK this month. Some of these are likely to have smaller releases than others, especially foreign language films like ‘Montparnasse Bienvenue’ and ‘Zama’, but there is a couple of Netflix Originals here too, so you can watch them in the comfort of your own home. By writing this post I have discovered many UK releases I was previously unaware of, and I hope some of these films might have piqued your interest too.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these films you if catch them this month! Be sure to leave us a message in the comments below, or tweet us at @JUMPCUT_ONLINE

JUMPCUT’s ‘Infinity War’ Victims

We are now just under 48 hours away from witnessing Thanos’ arrival in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ – so to help pass some time, the team decided to vote on who they think won’t survive the Mad Titan’s fury.

Remember – we have no clue who bites the dust, and there are no spoilers ahead, just guesswork!

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Oh Vision, we hardly knew ye – but the JUMPCUT team don’t like your chances in ‘Infinity War’ thanks to that Mind stone lodged in your forehead (we guess not for long!). We were introduced to Paul Bettany’s Vision in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and he quickly became a fan favourite. It would be a crying shame to lose Vision in the MCU before seeing him take on a bigger role, but the trailers don’t look promising for Vision as we witness the Black Order retrieving the Mind stone from him for Thanos.

 

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

War Machine came close to death during the third act of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ after Vision accidentally shot him down – but the team think ‘Infinity War’ might finished of Rhodey once and for all. He now relies on Stark technology to help him walk, but does this affect his performance in the War Machine armour? We haven’t seen much of him in the trailers, other than him charging in to the battle in Wakanda with Cap and Black Widow, but who knows!

 

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been a big player in the MCU thus far – going as far as introducing aliens to planet Earth in a bid for power on behalf of the Mad Titan himself. But we feel that Thanos will take his opportunity to get rid of Loki after his invasion of Earth failed in the first ‘Avengers’ film. The trailer did show Loki regained possession of the Tesseract (which we all know holds an infinity stone) before the fall of Asgard in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ – but we don’t think even using that as some sort of bargaining chip will be enough to save him. Sorry, Tom!

 

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

As much as it pains us to admit it, ‘Infinity War’ could well be the final time we see Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Rogers has been through a hell of a lot through his solo trilogy and the ‘Avengers’ films – he’s now S.H.I.E.L.D-less and shieldless and he looks like he’s had a hell of a rough time being on the run following the events of ‘Civil War’. We don’t doubt he won’t go out without a fight, so we’re going to make the most of him whilst we can!

 

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Our journey began 10 years ago with Tony Stark, it would be only fitting for him to exit the MCU during the event that it’s all been leading up to. Tony looks worse for wear in some of the footage in the trailers, despite his fancy new upgrades, which doesn’t bode well for the toll this fight will take on him. We’re damn sure he’s going to give everything he’s got to the fight, and maybe, just maybe, that includes his life.

Those are our guesses – who do you think will suffer at the hands of Thanos?

Oh, and remember – #ThanosDemandsYourSilence! 

Weekend BO Predictions: ‘Rampage’ vs. ‘A Quiet Place’ 2: Electric Booglaoo

Written by Dapo Olowu

Three new films are released wide this weekend in the US, led by Amy Schumer’s feel-good comedy, ‘I Feel Pretty’. Not forgetting, it’s also another Box Office title-fight between ‘Rampage’ and ‘A Quiet Place’, mirroring last week’s close encounter. Will The Rock deliver the knockout again, or will ‘A Quiet Place’ finally prevail?

So, what’s opening this weekend?

Opening in 3,000 cinemas is ‘I Feel Pretty’, the PG-13 comedy that cost a pricey $32m and completes the trilogy of Amy Schumer-led films in recent years. After the success of 2015’s ‘Trainwreck’, and the disappointment of 2017’s ‘Snatched’ (both R-rated), it’s safe to say that STXfilms (of ‘Bad Moms’ fame) will be hoping ‘I Feel Pretty’ continues where ‘Trainwreck’ left off, and lands big.

However, it’s a hard one to predict. Its poor 35% on Rotten Tomatoes won’t allow for the greatest word-of-mouth, and Amy Schumer’s waning popularity means that she isn’t as big of a draw as she was 3 years ago (all-in-all, making for a weak opening). But, on the other hand, being rated PG-13 opens it up to a wider audience and we should never underestimate the allure of original comedic content, especially in the aftermath of ‘Game Night’ and ‘Blockers’. Our prediction? The young, female audience that ‘I Feel Pretty’ is aiming for might have already had their fill in the last couple of weeks, and the critics aren’t pulling their punches with this one, so we’re thinking an opening of $13.5m.

What do you get when you make an R-rated sequel to a 2002 cult classic, that made under $20m domestically, and is opening in only 2,000 cinemas? Well, you get Jay Chandrasekhar’s ‘Super Troopers 2’, the police-comedy that’s even harder to predict than ‘I Feel Pretty’. Seriously, we’ve been left scratching our heads at the comparable obscurity; ‘Zoolander 2’ is too popular, ‘Johnny English: Reborn’ isn’t popular enough. The only thing I was left with, was comparing this to 2016’s unfortunate flop ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’, which opened to $4.7m in early July. The lack of ST2’s summer release is offset by its cult following, so we’re set on roughly the $5m mark in its release.

Finally, this weekend gives us ‘Traffik’, starring Omar Epps and Paula Patton. By opening in only 1,000 cinemas, its gross is severely limited, especially as it doesn’t even have the luxury of being based on a book, like 2014’s ‘Addicted’ that opened with an impressive $7.5m from just 850 cinemas. With ‘Traffik’, I’m using the per-cinema average of another recent small release thriller that heavily featured African-Americans: ‘Til Death To Us Part’ (2017). From 560 cinemas, it made on average $2,700 in its first week, which will give ‘Traffik’ a very respectable (and possibly optimistic) $2.7m in its opening weekend.

What else is on?

It’s round 2 of ‘A Quiet Place’ vs. ‘Rampage’ for the number one spot again – both have been near-identical in their daily grosses since last weekend. While many expect the child-friendly ‘Rampage’ to have made more money over the weekend, when kids aren’t in school, ‘A Quiet Place’ has held its own very well, even against competition from ‘Truth or Dare’. After all considerations, we’re going with ‘A Quiet Place’ to win this contest in a close affair.

After ‘Truth or Dare’ surprised us last weekend, with a brilliant gross of $18.7m, normal service should resume with the horror looking to run similarly to ‘Happy Death Day’ and ‘Unfriended’, giving it a pretty big second-weekend drop of over 60%. These ‘teenage’ horror movies are usually front-loaded, so don’t be surprised if it struggles to even hit a 2x domestic gross/opening weekend multiplier – ‘Happy Death Day’ (2.14x) and ‘Unfriended’ (2.05x) barely did.

Ready Player One’ continues to haemorrhage cinemas and could even lose another 200-400 this week, leading to a potential 50% drop in grossing. Meanwhile, ‘Black Panther’ continues its majestic run and will remain firmly in the top 10 this week, continuing its trend of small weekend drops. The latter can’t be said for ‘Blockers’, which will face big competition for viewers with the release of ‘I Feel Pretty’, and may see an even larger weekend drop than last week’s 48%.

Finally, Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ will look to at least remain stable after a poor showing last week. The number of cinemas it showed in rose by 350%, but its weekend grossing only increased by 20%, a poor number whichever way you look at it. We’re thinking it’ll play more like Fantastic Mr. Fox did in 2009, after its wide release, and will have a pretty substantial drop.

Check out our full predictions below. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know on Twitter by @’ing our handle @JUMPCUT_ONLINE.

Rank Last Week’s Rank Film US Gross so far Budget Jumpcut’s prediction Weekend drop Week no. Deadline’s prediction BoxOfficeMojo’s prediction Variety’s prediction
1 2 A Quiet Place $108m $17m $22.4m -32% 3 $20m-$21m $21m $20m-$25m
2 1 Rampage $43.7m $120m $21.1m -41% 2 $20m-$21m $17m $18m-$20m
3 I Feel Pretty $32m $13.5m 1 $15m $13m-$15m $15m
4 3 Truth or Dare $21.7m $3.5m $7.1m -62% 2 $7.5m
5 4 Ready Player One $117.8m $175m $5.8m -50% 4 $7m
6 5 Blockers $40.4m $21m $5.1m -53% 3 $6.5m
7 Super Troopers 2 $4.4m $5m 1 $6m $6m-$7m $6m
8 6 Black Panther $675.9m $200m $3.9m -33% 10 $3.8m
9 Traffik $2.7m 1 $3m-$4m $3.5m $3m-$4m
10 7 Isle of Dogs $20.5m $2.5m -55% 5 $3.6m