By Dan Skip Allen
In the last couple of decades, some mergers and acquisitions have been going on. Some of them are from Disney. They acquired Marvel, Pixar and just last year they made a huge move by buying 20th Century for 86 billion dollars. They got their entire library of films, Fox Searchlight, all the Marvel properties they owed, and their cable tv stations. Those were just the tip of the iceberg on all the mergers and acquisitions that have been made in recent years. The landscape of film and entertainment is always changing. With streaming becoming a huge media outlet, things will continue to change as long as people want to keep digesting it.
A few years ago, the telecommunications giant AT&T acquired Warner Media which included HBO, Warner Brothers Studios, and DC Comics, amongst others. This would help make AT&T one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world. It didn't last long. The COVID-19 pandemic caused some problems for AT&T and its plan to be a major player in the world of entertainment. They couldn't put their movies out in theaters. Which meant they could make the money back that they spent on making them. So as a stop-gap measure they decided to put their films on their streaming service, HBO Max. If you had this service, it would seem like a good idea. In the overall scheme of things, it's not a great business move. AT&T wasn't getting much money back by putting their films on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time. They were losing money. Also, people balked at this decision, especially some of their biggest talents such as Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. And James Gunn said he would never work with them again. This all led to the decision last week to spin off Warner Media from AT&T. Discovery Media is to merge with Warner Media, which includes HBO/HBO Max, Warner Bros. Studios, and DC Comics for 43 billion dollars. Discovery is in the entertainment industry. They are a better fit for Warner Media.
On the heels of the AT&T spin-off of Warner Media, last week came the merger of Amazon and MGM. Amazon acquired MGM for 8 billion dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand. With this acquisition also came some of the big IPs, namely 4,000 plus films including the James Bond franchise, co-owned by Eon/The Broccoli Family, the Rocky franchise, Robocop, Stargate, the Silence of the Lambs franchise, the Pink Panther franchise, and the Legally Blonde franchise. Amazon also acquired the 17,000 tv shows that MGM has created in its past. All this would help strengthen Amazon Prime which is the streaming service of Amazon. They are looking to use some of these IPs to create new shows and movies down the road. The acquisition would help strengthen Amazon in the entertainment industry which is continuing to move more and more toward streaming services. This may have been a great deal for Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
With these major sales and acquisitions comes the inevitable question. What is going to happen to physical media involving these companies? With both Discovery and Amazon focusing on streaming services and theatrical releases, does physical media still have a chance with these power moves? Amazon already has a deal in place with Warner Media to sell their discs on their service Amazon Prime. The Warner Archive store is now on Amazon Prime. MGM has a huge library of shows and movies. This may lend itself to create exclusives for Amazon Prime so they get all the money, leaving Best Buy and Target out of the loop on these properties. The 4K format could really benefit from exclusive boxed sets for some of the James Bond films, Rocky, Robocop, and the others. Currently, MGM has deals in place with Criterion and Arrow Video that release physical media, but this could change with this acquisition. It may benefit everybody in the end, including Discovery who is merging with Warner Media. It would all come full circle for these companies
By Adam Donato
If one was to say that Dreamworks is just Disney counterprogramming, they wouldn’t be wrong. Their movies lack the whimsy, musical numbers, and maturity that makes Disney and Pixar the annual winners of the Best Animated Feature Award. Shrek is the only Dreamworks movie to truly stand out and cement a place for itself in film history. The sequel, Shrek 2, is considered by many as the best-animated sequel of all time, which is fair. The popular choice isn’t always the right one as Shrek 2 isn’t even the best-animated sequel made by Dreamworks. The correct answer is Kung Fu Panda 2 and a decade after its release, it’s time everyone recognizes it.
The stereotype in film criticism when talking about good sequels is to say “It’s The Empire Strikes Back of the series.” This refers to a sequel that rises above a solid foundation made in the first installment. A follow-up that expands on the characters, story, and themes of the first. It’s a darker movie with more of everything and providing depth where the audience didn’t even think there was any. Kung Fu Panda 2 does all of this. Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, this sequel has the ability to stand on its own. It’s enhanced by the first movie but tells a complete story.
In the first movie, Po learns Kung Fu. In the sequel, Po learns inner peace. Little background is given about Po in the original, besides him making noodles with his dad and playing with Furious 5 action figures. Here, we get to explore why he is where he is and why he is like no other. Not unlike Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, this animated sequel explores why there is only one of the species of the main character. Po is the only panda due to the implied genocide of all pandas, including his parents. This flash from the past is induced by a red fire emblem prominently on the shoulder of some metal bandit wolves. The audience knows the truth about the genocide, but Po is unaware and his insatiable need to find out about his past gets in the way of their attempts to save China.
The villain threatening China is Shen, the former heir to the throne of China, voiced by Gary Oldman. This peacock is one musical number away from being the greatest animated villain of all time. While he is no slouch when it comes to combat, his real strength is his wit and of course his fireworks. It’s foretold that Shen will be defeated by a Panda, hence why he ordered the genocide of the panda race. This personal connection between Po and Shen is the driving force of the movie. Shen’s ego shines as he has little respect for the dragon warrior. His overconfidence and lack of inner peace result in his downfall, which perfectly contrasts with Po’s underdog mentality and his journey to become at peace with himself. Shen is accompanied by Soothsayer, a fortune-telling goat voiced by Michelle Yeoh, who allows the movie to show Shen being vulnerable about his goals while also being one of the funnier dynamics in the movie.
Po needs to find out what happened to his parents because all he knows is that Shen was there because Po recognizes the red fire emblem on his feathers. Po masters Kung Fu in the original, but when Shen has a weapon that defeats Kung Fu, then Po has to master himself. He has to overcome his past and his pain. We get to see how his tragedy affects his friends and family. Po leaves his family and later goes rogue from his friends. His punishment for this is near death as he finally accepts his past thanks to the help of the Soothsayer. After the flashback of his life’s journey accompanied by the film’s beautiful score, it is a triumph to watch Po evade the fireworks and save the day. It’s equally as tragic to watch Shen be the architect of his own downfall at the end when he is unable to let go of his tragic past. The movie teaches us to rise above bad circumstances and that we always have a choice of who we want to be.
The ancillary characters are also handled well in the sequel. While Master Shifu was a central character in the original, he takes a backseat here, which is refreshing as lesser sequels would recycle his arc from the first movie here. That time is more so dedicated to Shen, which is what helps make the antagonist work so well. The relationship between Po and Tigress is developed as they have a couple of one-on-ones that really support Po’s arc. Speaking of Po’s arc, the side character who steals the movie is Mr. Ping. While it’s funny to see Po’s surprise in the fact that he was adopted, it’s heartbreaking to see Mr. Ping fear losing his son. Kung Fu Panda 2 can make you cry with only one-word “Noodles” and that’s impressive.
Enough about all the character and story stuff, the movie is a whole lot of fun. The action sequences are visually beautiful. There are some awesome hero shots of Po fighting with all of his friends. The fights are range fast-paced and light to emotionally tense and almost scary. The humor doesn’t falter because of the darker tone. Yes, there are still jokes about Po and his arch-enemy, stairs, which is still funny. It really is a testament to Jack Black and the rest of the voice cast for giving each of their characters their own comedic personality.
Shrek 2 and the Toy Story sequels are all great, but when talking about great animation franchises, Kung Fu Panda isn’t even given How To Train Your Dragon level of respect. This action-comedy lands both of those genres seamlessly, while also giving legitimate character depth and solid themes that pave the way for some truly emotional moments. It’s edge of your seat action that will make you laugh and cry. The entire experience is everything that the original was and more. Some may disregard this trilogy as the “fat panda” movies, but they are certainly missing out on what is surprisingly one of the most masterfully done sequels in all of animation.
By Dan Skip Allen
In Hollywood, there have some great comedic duos: Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, and Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. But arguably one of the best films that have an iconic teaming is Midnight Run. The teaming of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is one of genius. They are two distinctly different types of actors. One is one of the best dramatic actors of all time and the other is a comedic genius. Martin Breast knew what he had with this teaming of these two complete opposites. This film and its cast turned out to be comedic gold.
Robert De Niro plays tough-nosed bounty, Hunter Jack Walsh. He is hired by Joe Pantoliano's character to find and bring a mob accountant to Los Angeles. What he didn't know on this country-long road trip is that the authorities and the mob themselves are looking for The Duke, what they call Grodin's character. If Walsh can survive this trip across the country he has to deal with the erratic personality of The Duke which is more he bargained for. This was supposed to be a simple midnight run, as the film's title suggests.
Charles Grodin has made a career of playing characters that have neurosis or neurotic personalities in his past. Characters that are put in situations he doesn't want to be in, such as the father in the Beethoven franchise or So I Married an Axe Murderer. These are the types of characters Grodin has been known for. His nervous nature is a perfect way for him to get laughs because people can relate to this kind of character. We all have a little scary cat in us at times. Gordon played into that with a lot of his characters in movies and on television.
Midnight Run is a fun movie because it has a fish out of water story involving Grodin's character. It also puts De Niro in a lot of comedic moments which at this time in his career he wasn't familiar with. He would eventually become very comfortable playing the straight man to some great comedic actors such as Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal. His teaming with Grodin though would be his first of such a nature. These two polar opposites were made for each other. They have great chemistry throughout the film.
Midnight Run takes familiar tropes such as a road trip movie and runs with it. It has some great chase scenes and some first-rate action. Breast mixes in all the action and comedic moments perfectly. The relationship throughout the film between the two leads. This film has transcended its release in 1988 because it's funny, has a lot of action and the road trip aspect of it brings fans of these two legendary actors together for an entertaining and memorable film team-up.
By Sean Boelman
The Hot Docs Film Festival is one of the biggest markets for documentary filmmaking in the world, and this year, there are plenty of great films that appeared in the lineup. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to see some of the films that screened there, and here are our thoughts:
There is no denying that finance is one of the most confusing industries there is, and Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s documentary Bank Job makes that abundantly clear. Following a community who sets out to defeat predatory economic institutions, the film explores how the success of our society is fundamentally tied to the concept of debt. However, there’s something really inspiring about seeing people come together to support their community like this. It’s a really interesting watch, even if it fails to make these principles make any more sense to the average person.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest
One wouldn’t normally think of watching a man stand at an arcade cabinet for hours upon hours as riveting cinema, but Mads Hedegaard’s documentary Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is surprisingly compelling. Following a professional gamer who sets out to play a record-breaking one-hundred-hour session on his favorite game, this is an ode to everyone who has set their eyes on a dream and won’t give up. And in exploring the friendship that exists between the subject and his best friends, the audience will endear the audience to the story with an unexpected authenticity.
The Gig Is Up
In the past decade, the gig economy has been booming significantly, but few people recognize the extent to which we rely on gig workers for many aspects of our lives. Generally, we think of gig workers as the delivery and rideshare drivers or odd job workers from services we commonly utilize, but Shannon Walsh’s documentary The Gig Is Up shows just how much bigger it is. It’s an eye-opening film that explores how both the system and consumers are exploiting this form of labor, with some very emotional interviews that bring home the urgency of this issue.
Playing with Sharks
Acquired by National Geographic out of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Playing with Sharks is the type of documentary that seems destined to have quite the following when it makes its broadcast debut. Telling the story of scuba diver Valerie Taylor, the film offers an interesting examination of the relationship that people have with sharks. It offers a little bit for everyone, with some gorgeous underwater footage for animal lovers and some interesting behind-the-scenes Jaws facts for cinephiles. It’s an all-around crowd-pleaser, and we need more nonfiction films like that.
Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm
Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm is yet another music documentary that promises to offer the untold stories behind some of your favorite songs. And while there is no denying of the importance of Rockfield as an institution, fans will ultimately be familiar with many of these stories. As a result, this is basically a music history lesson for people who are already versed in music history. A few interesting interviews aside, there’s really nothing to make this stand out from all of the other similar documentaries that have come out like this in the past.
Luciana Kaplan’s documentary The Spokeswoman tells the story of an amazing woman whose story needs to be heard. Following the first Indigenous woman to pursue the office of President of Mexico, this isn’t your typical rags-to-riches tale. Instead, it’s about someone who has embarked on a mission of advocacy that is nothing short of extraordinary. Admittedly, the storytelling here is pretty simple, but the film is just so powerful that viewers will be drawn in nevertheless.
The 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival ran virtually April 29 through May 9.
By Dan Skip Allen
The last Golden Globes ceremony was mired in controversy due to an article that came out saying that the HFPA didn't have any black members in its ranks. This led to a statement during the show from some of the members that they need to change that and are going to change that. After the latest article from Variety, an online Hollywood magazine, came out NBC literally canceled the broadcast until change was made.
The Variety article suggested that the HFPA has accepted various gifts in the form of vacations, watches, monetary manipulations due to various fraudulent charities, and so forth. In other words, the money went into charities which then, in turn, went to pay the members of the HFPA themselves. This whole group is just designed to ensure they have access to celebrities, parties, screenings, and high-class studio gatherings for the intent and purpose of gathering favoritism for nominations. As in Emily in Paris, Music, and other unworthy nominees.
This week, celebrities such as Scarlet Johansson and Tom Cruise have waged in on the controversy. Johansson has come out and said in an interview she had with the HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) that they borderline on sexual harassment, she was very uncomfortable in the interview. Tom Cruise has stated that he would return all three of his Globe trophies... This is coming off of Mark Ruffalo saying he was embarrassed to have won a globe at this past globes award ceremony.
The HFPA has since come out with another statement saying they will expand their ranks by twenty new members by August. Is this too little too late? A valid possible candidate was quoted in the Variety article saying they were told they didn't want to expand when they tried to join in recent years. People are saying that they won't believe what the HFPA is saying until they see it for themselves... The proof is in the pudding as they say.
The NBC announcement comes off of two major studios saying they won't campaign their films for completion in the Globes ceremony. Amazon and Netflix are the two studios that are backing out on the Globes until a sweeping change is implemented. This is why NBC has decided to cancel the show next year. Could there be a show on another network? Who knows. An announcement was made in 2008 following the writer's strike but no show was broadcast. Could this be the avenue they go down? Only time will tell. This is a combustible situation, to say the least.
I will say I enjoy the Golden Globes ceremony. They get a host that can be themselves and make me and another laugh. The show itself allows for the actors and celebrities to enjoy themselves as well. The HFPA likes to wine and dines its nominees with a great party of food and drink. This makes for a loose ceremony. The fact remains you can't take them seriously though. They split the major categories into drama and comedy or musical. This doesn't allow for a true idea of who might be the favorite come Oscars time. For instance, Rosamund Pike and Andra Day won the actress awards this year and neither contended for the Oscar in the best actress category, even though Day was nominated.
The fact remains the HFPA has to make sweeping changes. And they need to bring in more diverse members into their ranks. All of this controversy in the end is a good thing because it allows the world to point a finger at the HFPA and say you need to get your act together if you want to see your awards on tv again. NBC still has plans to air the 2023 broadcast if they are happy with the changes the HFPA has made. Here hoping they do. This show and its members need to be more on the up and up in the future. This was the best thing that could happen.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.