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Celebrate Diversity: Zendaya as MJ in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

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Since the news landed, comic book fans have buzzed about the reported casting of 20-year-old actress Zendaya as Mary Jane “MJ” Watson in the new Spider-Man adaptation, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

The film will highlight the life of teenage Peter Parker (Tom Holland), as he navigates life in high school as the undercover superhero known as Spider-Man. Naturally, it’s assumed that MJ is Peter’s love interest in “Homecoming.”

While some fans were optimistic about the casting decision, others were outraged. However, it seemed the outrage only stemmed from Zendaya’s race: MJ is white in the comics, while Zendaya is mixed. It wouldn’t matter if Zendaya was the greatest actress in Hollywood – some diehard fans would still have an issue with her ethnicity and hair color, simply because it’s not how they envisioned movie MJ in their heads.

Differing from the “originals” has become an issue within fanbases and movie/television adaptations; attempts from filmmakers to increase diversity have been declined by fans because they’re too concerned about the appearance of a character, rather than character’s traits and how they develop the plot. When you ask these fans “Why does it matter what this actor looks like or what race they are?” you’ll hear a response like “that’s not how it was in the original.” Anyone with a computer can cause a ruckus on social media, without realizing how they can impact the actors themselves, as well as other people of the same race.

However, when characters of color are played by white actors, you won’t hear a peep from these fans. Many claim “it’s not about race,” but clearly, it is.

In 2015’s “Aloha,” Emma Stone plays a woman of native Hawaiian descent, even though the public knows Stone is clearly Caucasian. This caused a clash between Stone’s fans and others who weren’t afraid to call filmmaker Cameron Crowe out on his blatant whitewashing in the film.

Another memorable whitewashing moment was the casting directors of “Pan” (2015) choosing white actress Rooney Mara for the role of Tiger Lily (classically Native American) in the Peter Pan adaptation.

At least we’ve moved past blackface, but Hollywood casting directors must improve their decisions and consider the consequences of excluding racial and ethnic minorities from their casting.

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Some filmmakers are taking it into their own hands to encourage diversity and casting actors of color as traditionally white characters. The difference here is that it honestly doesn’t matter if the original character was white – MJ’s character development had nothing to do with her race! On the other hand, in films like “Aloha” where the character’s plotline does consider their race or cultural background, that’s when it’s inappropriate to change the race of a character, especially to white.

You may think that if using actors of color for white roles is okay, then using white actors to play characters of color should be too. However, people and actors of color have faced an incredible amount of racism and prejudice in Hollywood and the film industry, and when there’s a chance for some diversity, filmmakers have to take it. Truthfully, there are enough movies with all white casts and maybe a token black character here and there.

Additionally, changing “traditionally white” characters gives actors of color more opportunities for work. Just look at the film industry: most actors in many films are white, so that leaves talented actors of colors to fight for the remaining roles of non-white characters. By widening the opportunities, actors of color have more options to make a living.

The point is, Zendaya is perfectly capable to play MJ, and we are incredibly excited to see her shine! Zendaya has received critical acclaim for her roles in Disney Channel shows such as “Shake It Up” and “K.C. Undercover,” and though this would be her first big role in a blockbuster film, Zendaya has already made a name for herself in Hollywood and shown she can handle a serious role.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is scheduled for release on July 7, 2017.

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5 Biggest Box Office Flops of the Summer

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Ghostbusters

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“Ghostbusters” simply went out and dug its own grave. The producers took a beloved franchise, stripped off everything that was actually working before, and tried to shove it down the fans’ throats. The fans, many who were already angry with the all-female cast, didn’t know whether to be happy that they predicted the disaster, or to be sad that the producers had now successfully ruined their treasured childhood memories. Personally, I had high hopes for the all-female cast, but they didn’t really deliver.  The movie’s plot, characterization, directing, and bad humor were widely criticized all summer.

Independence Day: Resurgence

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When you reach a peak, there is only one way you can go – downhill. We left Independence Day at this peak 20 years ago. The acting, the casting, the story, and even the dog that survives the alien’s massive attack by jumping over cars into an alley were all perfect. Let’s face it: if the likes of “Iron Man 3,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” and “Speed 2: Cruise Control” have taught us anything, it is that sequels are a great way to make huge money, but very hard to perfect them. So, we knew there was only one direction in which “Independence Day: Resurgence” could go from there. Any sign of hope that we had mustered from the exciting trailer quickly vanished long before the interval came. Its box office earnings were less than half of what Batman vs Superman earned.

Warcrafts

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World of Warcraft was an amazing game, but it didn’t succeed as a film. A lot of games have been ported to movies in the recent years, and none have tasted the success they desired. Warcraft was made with a budget of $160 million, and managed to gross over $430 million worldwide in box office earnings. However, a huge part of the gross revenues go toward marketing, distribution, sales, and other costs. Also, interestingly enough, roughly $280 million of that $430 million came from overseas. In many of those international markets, the profit percentage for Hollywood movies is as low as 20%. So, after you take into account all the expenses, Warcraft barely managed to make what it had put in. In other words, it was a flop, despite high expectations.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always attracted a niche audience: not everyone liked them, where it was in comics, TV shows, or movies. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” the second installment in the rebooted series, was arguably better than the first (but still terrible), only because its prequel was even worse. However, the slight improvement was too little and too late. Anyone who had watched the first movie understandably didn’t want to subject themselves to the same torture, and skipped the sequel. The movie earned as little as $82 million in the domestic market, including Canada.

Suicide Squad

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Severe criticism against the “dark nature” of Batman vs Superman left DC and Warner Bros. worried about Suicide Squad. To prevent that from happening to Suicide Squad, the producers reshot many scenes, and tried to make them less dark/more fun. Well, it still didn’t work. Some people argue that it’s worth a watch, but most just wonder why DC cannot produce good movies. This puts serious questions on the future of the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe movies. Sure, the movie has already made $580 million in worldwide sales, but only $267.3 million of that is from the domestic box office. The rest is international box office revenue, where, as previously mentioned, profit percentages take a steep dive. Considering that the movie cost $175 million to make, not including marketing and other costs, the movie barely broke even. Even superhero movies need a good story, direction, and script to click.

As we wrap up the summer of 2016, we can firmly put the seal of “worst summer movies ever” on it. Okay, maybe not THE worst… that top spot still belongs to the summer of 2009, which gave us “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” However, there’s no denying that this summer was a huge disappointment for the film industry. When Batman vs Superman did not live up to fans’ expectations, a lot of us just chalked it up to unrealistic expectations. Then movie fanatics were continually disappointed by flicks that had so much potential, like Suicide Squad. Granted, there were some notable hits like Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory, but the ratio of bad movies to good ones was pretty extraordinary.

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What to Expect from Marvel’s “Luke Cage”

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Netflix will release Marvel’s “Luke Cage” this month, adding to their extensive collection of original shows adapted from Marvel comic books. Netflix and Marvel have been tightlipped on this one, and they aren’t giving many hints about the upcoming series. However, as the premiere date of September 30 approaches quickly, more details about the show are trickling out and it seems like an exciting story. But before diving into what to expect from the show, let’s provide a brief introduction on this rather lesser known Marvel character.

Luke Cage is not new to the Marvel Universe: in fact, the protagonist’s first comic book debuted in 1972. Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, was the story of a regular man who was sent to jail for a crime that he did not commit. The creators strived to make commentary on neo-blaxploitation with Luke’s imprisonment. In prison, he was made a subject of different jail experiments, which went horribly wrong. In the process, they lent him “superskin,” which cannot be cut or burnt. After his prison sentence, he could not find an employer ready to give an ex-felon a job. So, he hires himself out to anyone who may need him, creating the title of Hero for Hire. Luke’s character has changed a lot over the years in the comics to be in sync with the sensibilities of the audiences, but he has never been portrayed as a “good boy.”

The Luke Cage comics did not do very well on the stands, and after 50 issues, it was merged with another comic, Power Man and Iron Fist. Unfortunately, this hybrid comic was not a successful title either, but Power Man and Iron Fist were again brought together this year for a new comic series. So, if Danny Rand aka Iron Fist does not appear on the show, it would be a complete shock to audiences. Both of them form a neat team and it would be interesting to see them reunite.

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Luke was introduced in the first season of “Jessica Jones,” which premiered on Netflix last year. We aren’t entirely sure yet if “Luke Cage” will be a prequel to “Jessica Jones” or recount the events after it. Luke and Jessica were involved in a romantic relationship in the series, so to keep the plots consistent, it’s only reasonable that Luke Cage’s story will pick up where “Jessica Jones” left off unless they go the prequel route. We can assume the story will be interconnected in some way.

Another area where there is not much clarity is what Luke Cage will actually be doing in the series, but with Cheo Hodari Coker calling the shots, we can expect good things. The showrunner has quite a resume to back him up, and crime procedurals happen to be his specialty: he has worked on shows like “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Southland,” “Almost Human,” and Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” The other directors on the show have some episodes of the “Sherlock” series and the movie “Lucky Number Slevin” to their credit. All in all, you can expect intriguing episodes filled with action from the directors of this caliber.

Cage is not really your typical superhero. He is not very keen on fighting the bad guys and he would rather have his quiet time by the bar. However, this time, the threat has come home: Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, a nightclub owner, has become a danger to a rather peaceful life that Cage has built for himself.

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Mike Colter has already proven that he fits the bill when it comes to the casting of Luke Cage himself. Apart from his expectedly stellar performance, there are many other exciting characters to look out for in this series. The villains, especially, will be played by veterans that will make you tune into the show. The role of Luke Cage’s arch enemy, Cottonmouth, is played by the Mahershala Ali, whom you will recognize from “The Hunger Games” and “House of Cards.” You will also see the popular actress, Alfre Woodard, in the show. Though there is not much info available regarding her role in the show, the rumor mills have been abuzz with news that she will play the powerful Black Mariah. Theo Rossi from “Sons of Anarchy” fame will also be seen donning the role of ‘Shades’ Alvarez.

Misty Knight is another highly anticipated character in the series, played by Simone Cook. Will she be sporting the bionic arm that Tony Stark made for her in the comics?

All in all, there is a great deal of curiosity surrounding the series and more news will hit the surface as the premiere date closes in. As of now, the show looks loaded with a good storyline, talented actors, and directors. It remains to be seen whether all of this will be able to live up to the hype, but we’ll definitely wait and see.

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Best Films of 2016 So Far

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Cinemagoers have been treated to a variety of movies thus far in 2016. As usual, this year has brought us a good number of action flicks, love stories, superhero reboots, and comedies.

Captain America: Civil War

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This was one of the most anticipated superhero movies of the year. It was indeed an ambitious project with a huge cast of Marvel heroes. However, brothers Joe and Anthony Russo were able to pull it off. They took some favorite heroes and pitted them against each other, and still managed to keep the movie enjoyable for all. Before the movie was released, one fear from critics was that so many superheroes might spoil the broth, but the producers pulled it off seamlessly.

Zootopia

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This Walt Disney animated movie expected success long before it hit the theaters, but the kind of performance it delivered at the box office was totally unexpected. The story revolves around a bunny cop, who patrols the city of Zootopia – the plot addresses the challenges of this rabbit trying to fit in this new world and how difficult she finds her new job. Zootopia also touches on many different topics like rigid societal roles, friendship, family, and parenting. It’s definitely a children’s film, but adults can also take a page or two from it.

Deadpool

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The cast and production teams behind the movie deserve props for making an outstanding picture out of a rather childish superhero. Deadpool fans waited decades for this, and Ryan Reynolds delivers a fantastic rendition of the sarcastic, troubled hero. Even if you aren’t a consistent Marvel fan, the movie is still hilarious and enjoyable too. It contains a lot of dark humor, puns, a great love story, and lots of action.

The Hateful Eight

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Quentin Tarantino is back. The Hateful Eight is set in the post-Civil War era, and revolves of a bunch of unordinary travelers who are stuck in a blizzard and forced to take refuge at a pit stop. All of them are headed to Red Rock with different agendas, but two of them are bounty hunters. However, they soon learn they may not make it out after all. The movie is everything you would want out of a Tarantino movie: interesting conversations, embedded comedy, and, of course, his signature blood splatters.

The Nice Guys

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The Nice Guys is a comedy thriller starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. The movie follows the lives of Holland March, a private investigator, and Jackson Healy, a hired enforcer who intentionally hurts others for a living. When a woman named Amelia goes missing, circumstances force these two to become partners to solve her disappearance. The chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is noticeably excellent, and the movie has a fascinating plot with limitless witty humor.

High Rise

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Director Ben Wheatley is known for creating disturbing and graphic films, and High Rise is no different. High Rise is based on a 1975 novel by J. G. Ballard, and delivers themes of anarchy and class tensions. Residents of a London high-rise building suffer from a simultaneous nervous breakdown caused by the building itself — they are absorbed by this desire to vandalize the building and perpetuate chaos. Tom Hiddleston delivered a remarkable performance as protagonist Dr. Robert Laing. However, be warned: you should watch this movie only if you’re ready for some serious violence.

The Witch

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‘A New England Folktale’ is an aptly chosen subtitle for this movie. The Witch is essentially a bedtime story made up of nightmares — the horror flick completely succeeds in creating that quintessential spooky atmosphere. The plot follows the life of a family that has been banished from a plantation and is forced to shift to a new farm that is also haunted by a witch. The movie does complete justice to its genre and is a must-watch for the fans of the horror genre.

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What to Expect from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

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Star Wars is not just your typical movie franchise or a TV series: it’s a religion. Producers and directors who come anywhere near this franchise make it a point to be extra careful about what they dish out to viewers. When the news came out that the franchise would release a new movie this December, it was clear that Disney and Lucasfilm would not leave any stone unturned to make it a huge deal. Moreover, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not a typical movie in the franchise, so the producers have to work extra hard to make it palatable for the masses.

The producers have been quite guarded regarding any news about this movie; however, a lot of details about the Rogue One were shared by Entertainment Weekly, which also brought a lot of publicity for the movie. Before the EW features, there wasn’t much information released regarding the premise or plot of the movie: Rogue One was a black box. Now, fans have much more knowledge of what to expect from the legendary franchise.

Keeping with the tradition of the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One will have a strong female character: this time, played by Felicity Jones. Jones is currently one of the most talented actresses in Hollywood, and it will be refreshing to see her portray the protagonist, Jyn Erso. Jones completely dominated the film’s first trailer; after watching her in fight sequences, it’s safe to say that she knows a thing or two about action, and she has done an incredible job in delivering those scenes. In fact, Kathleen Kennedy, the President of Lucasfilm, has called Jyn Erso the ‘Joan of Arc’ of Rogue One. Jones’ role will mark a whole new era for females in the Star Wars movies.

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Rogue One has created waves by promising the fans one of the greatest villains of all time, Darth Vader. Of course, you got a glimpse of him toward the end of Revenge of The Sith, but that didn’t do anything for the audiences. Fans can expect the original Darth Vader in all his glory in this movie. James Earl Jones is rumored to make a comeback to offer his voice for this timeless character! At this point, it’s not completely clear how much screen time Darth Vader will receive, but one thing is for sure – Vader will appear in the movie as a Darth Vader like you’ve never seen before. As for how that will be executed is still not very clear yet though.

Another exciting character worth mentioning is Saw Gerrera; fans of Star Wars: Clone Wars know the character and cannot wait to see him in action. He is a hardened warrior and was introduced in the expanded universe. Saw Gererra opens up a large box of opportunities for future movies and speculations are already rife about the bright future the franchise can have if they play it right. He is already an interesting character who will add depth to the movie.

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Star Wars fans can probably expect great things from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The producers have roped in the talented director Gareth Edwards for this first-ever spinoff of Star Wars. He is the man behind the 2014 box office success, Godzilla. The film will divert slightly from its typical charm, and will include elements like spies, espionage, plan thefts, and more. Edward brought a fresh take to the Godzilla franchise and was able to showcase the chaos in the city from the eyes of a man stuck in it. It will be incredibly interesting to see what new perspective he brings to the Star Wars Universe.

From the casting choices to the crew on board, the hype for Rogue One has left the fans in awe. With hype, comes high expectations, and we can only hope fans are pleased once the movie is released this December.

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