It’s been four months since the kinda disappointing Game of Thrones finale, but HBO is trying to make it up to us with new shows set in the same universe. Filming on a pilot starring Naomi Watts has already wrapped, and now the network appears close to ordering another.
The as-yet-untitled series would take place 300 years before Thrones and focus on the origins of House Targaryen, that of the Mad King, the Mother of Dragons, and — outdated spoiler alert — Jon Snow himself.
The concept for the show was created by writer and producer Ryan Condal and George RR Martin. It’s based on Fire Blood, a series Martin created as a spin-off to the A Song of Ice and Fire and reportedly represents a new take on one of the five prequel scripts HBO commissioned in 2017.
The tagline of Fire Blood is “when dragons ruled Westeros,” which means instead of Daenerys’s three miracle dragons the spin-off should feature way more winged beasts and, we can only presume, a healthy dose of aerial combat.
To date, only the first volume of Martin’s series has been published, which makes us wonder if Martin could be in another situation where a TV series of his lurches ahead of the books it’s ostensibly based on.
Three hundred years is a long time in anyone’s family history, so don’t be surprised if there’s some complicated family tree math to be done connecting the characters in this show to those we meet in Game of Thrones, drawings not unlike those you’d find in the front of one of Martin’s books or on your mail-in DNA test results page.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
James Bond isn’t quite as deadly on the screen as he was when we all played him on Nintendo 64’s legendary Goldeneye 007 video game, but he still made short work of any number of psychotic evildoer in the name of Her Majesty the Queen. As a matter of fact, the world’s most non-secret secret agent has killed so many people over the years it would take 38 minutes to see them all.
Luckily, someone compiled all those kills for us.
While they didn’t include a count of clever puns, we can be reasonably sure the numbers mirror one another. But there is one other thing the video didn’t break down: who was the deadliest Bond? Unless George Lazenby went on a murder rampage in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, my guess is it was probably one of the other five.
Here they are, the deadliest Bond by average kills per movie.
1. Timothy Dalton
Timothy Dalton takes a hard fall at number five here, with only two movies and 20 kills, giving him an average of 10. But Dalton does get two of the most interesting kills, one for killing someone by sealing them in a maggot-filled coffin and another kill where the murder weapon is a bust of the Duke of Wellington.
2. Sean Connery
Connery had two runs as the dashing secret agent hero, with a total of seven Bond films and an average kill count of 12.5. If Connery’s Bond is in some way riding in a motor vehicle, look out: chances are good that someone is going to meet their maker very soon.
3. Daniel Craig
While Craig may not be the deadliest Bond, he is definitely the drunkest, averaging at least five drinks per movie.
Film and Television.
4. Roger Moore
Roger Moore’s Bond is long-known to be both the quippiest and at times creepiest Bond, but he’s also the second deadliest. The Bond films with the least number of kills, The Man With The Golden Gun, and the most number of kills, Octopussy, are both Roger Moore films. Still, it wasn’t enough because even if you take out the one-kill outlier, it’s not enough to catch up with…
5. Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was Murder, Incorporated, far outpacing the kill rate of his nearest competitor (including one of Sean Bean’s onscreen deaths). Keep this man away from any kind of explosives or firearms, almost every time he touches one, someone in the movie goes to walk with god.
Writers Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have made a very, very smart decision.
By the looks of things, they’re giving the belovéd Ghostbusters universe a complete makeover by honing in on supernatural mystery while still maintaining the comedic levity of the original film. After the underwhelming 2016 reboot (ahhhh there was so much potential there and yet…so much disappointment), it looks like Juno’s Reitman (who will also direct) just might strike the perfect chord for this franchise.
Hop in your Ectomobile (because the kids in this film sure do) and let’s go for a ride:
Opening on a sleepy rural town plagued by unexplainable earthquakes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a true sequel to the original films, including references to the supernatural activity of the 80s.
Single mother Carrie Coon (who is fantastic in everything she does — did you see Gone Girl? Why isn’t everyone talking about her at every moment?) and her kids (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Haunting of Hill House’s Mckenna Grace, who is also a killer talent) inherit a family farmhouse that’s definitely definitely haunted.
With the help of Paul Rudd, they learn that they are descended from an OG Ghostbuster, which explains the ghost traps and Ectomobile on the property.
I’d watch him do anything. Honestly, anything. He’s perfect.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Sony Pictures
The trailer hints at a great Stranger Things-like vibe, which is very sexy right now, mixed with just the right amount of nostalgia and humor. And if that’s not enough to tingle your Twinkie then I’ll remind you that the film is rumored to include cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife will open in theaters July 2020.
When he meets the love of his life, a hot nurse, she’ll take some of Desmond’s blood but fails to use the proper angle when inserting the needle.
At this angle, she would have poked right through the vein at the AC space (antecubital) and into his muscle — what little Andrew Garfield has.
2. A below-the-knee tourniquet
Quentin Tarantino may be a genius at writing great character dialogue, but his medical knowledge of how to treat a gunshot wound needs a little work.
The female on the table has a tourniquet in place below her knee to help stop any arterial bleeding. A typical piece of cloth wouldn’t help a GSW too much.
Fun Fact: Your tibia and fibula are located in below the knee and the artery runs in between the two bones to provide it protection. A tourniquet placed below the knee would have no effect in stopping a massive bleed.
3. Robbed the armory?
Veterans give military movies a lot of crap, especially the 2nd and 3rd acts of “Full Metal Jacket.” But this time we’re calling out how could Gomer Pyle managed to snag a rifle and ammo while in boot camp from the armory (where they would have been stored).
Let’s face it, Pyle’s character wasn’t a genius and doubtfully would be able to pull off a single rifle heist.
4. Shoot the rear tank?
In “Fury” we got an opportunity to experience the dangers of being a tanker during WWII. In the film, David Ayer chose to make the Germans shoot and destroy the last American tank in a ranger file — even though he knew that would not be an accurate military tactic.
That would have been great if the real Germans used such ineffective tactics during the war — it would have been over way sooner. (Source: Sony/Screenshot)
In real life, they should have hit the tank in front, forcing the rest to halt and stopping the line. But if they had destroyed the front tank (War Daddy’s), the credits would roll because the movie would now be over.
Okay, Tropic Thunder isn’t technically a war movie, but it did win Tugg Speedman the fictional Oscar for best actor for “Tropic Blunder,” the true story behind the making of the most expensive fake true war story ever.
But in this helicopter insertion scene, there’s no way the men could hear the director’s instructions in a loud helicopter cargo bay (with the doors open) without proper headsets.
If any movie producers and directors out there need help on military consulting, feel free to contact us.
Yet another patriotic war movie has taken Russia by storm.
T-34, a high-octane tribute to the Soviet tank that played a key role on the Eastern Front of World War II, is the latest in a series of big-budget history flicks sponsored by the Culture Ministry and lavished with round-the-clock coverage on Russian state TV.
Spanning the years 1941-45, the film tells the story of Red Army Lieutenant Nikolai Ivushkin’s unlikely attempt to escape a German prisoner-of-war camp in a T-34 tank that he and three other men are tasked with repairing by their Nazi overseers. The fugitives are cornered in a German village near the Czechoslovak border, where an epic tank battle culminates the movie.
The slow-motion projectiles and video-game graphics give the movie a modern feel, and its simple storyline is thin on nuance. According to director Aleksei Sidorov, the aim of the film was to “tell the story of war in a way that appeals to the youth but doesn’t prove controversial among those who still keep the Great Patriotic War [World War II] in their memory,” the Culture Ministry quoted himas saying in a press release.
T-34 | Official HD Trailer (2018) | WORLD WAR II DRAMA | Film Threat Trailers
This time, a formula used in dozens of similar films appears to have finally struck gold. T-34 is the third Russian film devoted to World War II-era tanks since 2012 — but unlike its predecessors, 2012’s White Tiger and 2018’s Tanks, it’s proving a major hit with Russian audiences.
Since its nationwide release on Jan. 1, 2019, the movie has raked in more than a billion rubles, securing the top spot at the Russian box office. More than 4 million theatergoers have seen the film so far, according to stats from the Russian Cinema Fund.
Powerful backing played a role. The producer of T-34 is Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire businessman with Kremlin ties. “For me, T-34 is more than a perfectly conceived adventure flick,” Blavatnik told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017, where the film’s budget was estimated at 600 million rubles (currently million). “My grandfather was a World War II veteran, and that great victory is part of our family lore.”
The war cost the lives of more than 26 million Soviet civilians and military personnel, and is held up as a point of national pride. The memory of the heroic Soviet campaign to oust the German invaders has often been used as fodder in propaganda, a fact noted by film critic Anton Dolin. But in a review for the independent news site Meduza, Dolin argues that T-34 avoids the primitive methods on display in other war movies sponsored by the Russian government.
“I thank the authors for creating a high-budget war blockbuster almost clear of propagandistic and ideological motives,” Dolin writes. “Even the word ‘Stalin’ is mentioned here only once, and in a facetious context. That’s a rarity in our times.”
White Tiger Official Trailer (2014) – Russian World War 2 Tank Movie HD
But T-34 is not completely free of references to contemporary geopolitics, it seems. In the tank battle that opens the movie, a cowardly Ukrainian soldier who gets mouthy with Ivushkin dies, while the tough Belarusian who obeys the lieutenant’s orders remains by the Russian’s side till the happy ending.
The film Tanks, which was released in 2018 and directed by Kim Druzhinin, can be seen as a prequel of sorts to T-34. It tells the story of two T-34 prototypes making their way from Kharkov to Moscow as the Nazi leadership looks for ways to destroy them and preempt the havoc they would soon wreak. The first audience for Tanks, according to Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was servicemen at the Russian-run Khmeimim air base in Syria.
But while Tanks was widely panned by critics and proved a flop at the box office, T-34 has rolled over its competition. Perhaps it’s the lazy January holidays that bring Russians en masse before the screens.
“What could be merrier,” Dolin writes, than “crushing the fascist toad, and then chasing the victory down with mandarins and champagne?”
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker | D23 Special Look
Of course, the most buzz-worthy scene is “Dark Rey” wielding a duel-bladed — and red — lightsaber. I don’t want to fansplain to you or anything, but red blades are of course associated with the Sith, who often preferred synthetic crystals energized by the dark side of the force.
Rey’s blade could mean a number of things. Maybe she nicked it? Maybe she turned to the dark side? Or probably maybe it’s just a vision. Rey hasn’t had a character flaw yet, but who knows? Maybe J.J. Abrams wants to throw us a curve ball.
(PS: Has anyone else noticed how dangerous these fancy lightsabers are? Like, how does Kylo Ren not chop his leg off any time he ignites his crossguard lightsaber?? The Force can only do so much…)
I just want to know that he attended his safety brief.
Anyway, back to Rey.
Twitter user Alan Johnson has a different theory about Dark Rey:
I still think Rey is a clone and the Sith version from the new The Rise of Skywalker trailer is a clone that has been activated and possessed by Emperor Palpatine. The vision she had in The Last Jedi screamed “clone” to me at the time.pic.twitter.com/ztoM5sqJmZ
Now that would be interesting to me. And I’m going full nerd to tell you why.
A brief history on clones in the Star Wars universe: they were bred to fight as soldiers under their Jedi commanders during the time of the Republic (think prequels). Under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, the clone troopers fought the droid army of the Separatists during the Clone Wars.
But there was a hidden trigger implanted into every clone, and Palpatine (who of course we know was a Sith), issued Order 66, which named the Jedi Knights enemies of the Republic and called for their eradication. The clone militants purged the galaxy of the Jedi and gave Palpatine unchecked control of the Republic, allowing him to become the true antagonist of the original trilogy.
Emperor Palpatine was thrown into a deep shaft by Darth Vader during the Battle of Endor —presumably dead — and yet promo materials for the Rise of Skywalker have been teasing his return.
Could Palpatine have survived his fall? I’d say yes — any trained Force-user can levitate so it’s far-fetched for them to fall to their death. Theoretically he could have also hidden himself for all these years.
If he is alive, and Rey is a clone, that could pose many questions. Is Dark Rey also a clone? Could Palpatine “Order 66” her? Are there more versions of her? (I mean, I wouldn’t be unhappy with an Orphan Black situation…)
As a fan, it’s fun to consider the possibilities, which makes The Rise of Skywalker even more fun to look forward to.
Microsoft’s Xbox One is losing to Sony’s PlayStation 4 — badly.
With nearly 80 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the wild, Microsoft’s Xbox One is getting trounced. Estimates put Xbox sales number somewhere in the range of 30 to 50 million — Microsoft stopped reporting hardware sales numbers some time ago.
But don’t count Xbox out just yet.
Between its Netflix-like Game Pass service, the company’s game streaming ambitions, several new studio acquisitions, and the brilliant decision to add backwards compatibility, Microsoft is building a strong foundation for the future.
Here’s a look into the future of Xbox, straight from Microsoft’s Xbox leader Phil Spencer:
1. Creating the Netflix of gaming with Game Pass.
For $10/month, Xbox Game Pass offers access to over 100 games. That includes every first-party game that Microsoft makes, loads of indies, and — as of very recently — some heavy-hitters from third-party publishers like Bethesda Softworks.
Instead of streaming the games, a la Netflix, you download each game to your Xbox console. As long as you’re paying for Game Pass, you keep all the games you download.
Best of all, any new Xbox One games that come out from Microsoft are included with Game Pass.
When “Forza Horizon 4” arrives this fall, you could drop $10 on a Game Pass subscription to download and play the game — a whopping $50 savings over the normal $60 price of a new game. Microsoft’s betting that you’ll like the arrangement so much that you’ll keep paying for the service every month, like Netflix.
“We’re finding people in Game Pass actually play more games,” Xbox leader Phil Spencer told me in an interview in June 2018, at E3, the annual video game trade show in Los Angeles. “And they’re trying some franchises where, if they had to buy the franchise — even if they’re $30, $60, whatever the amount might be — it’s way easier for them to be invested at $10/month.”
In the long term, Spencer said the goal for Game Pass is offer a safe platform for potentially risky, creative games.
“I want it to be a place where creators feel like they can take risks in things that they wanna do, and know that they have an audience of people who are already invested in the service, such that the marginal cost for them to click on the next icon and give it a try is very, very low.”
The comparison to Netflix becomes apt once more. Netflix funds lots of creative, bizarre stuff because it can afford to fail — with millions of paying subscribers, Netflix has a sturdy financial foundation from which to experiment. It also has a large platform to surface content that otherwise might get lost in a digital storefront.
2. Building a platform to let people play games anywhere, whether you own a game console or not.
On a stage in the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on June 10, 2018, Xbox leader Phil Spencer offered the clearest picture yet into Microsoft’s vision for the future of the Xbox brand.
“Our cloud engineers are building a game streaming network to unlock console-quality gaming on any device,” Spencer said. “Not only that — we are dedicated to perfecting your experience everywhere you want to play. On your Xbox, your PC, or your phone.”
It’s an echo of sentiments he’s expressed previously, but it’s the most definitive testament to Microsoft’s plans for the future of gaming.
“There are 2 billion people who play video games on the planet today. We’re not gonna sell 2 billion consoles,” Spencer told me in an interview following his stage presentation. “Many of those people don’t own a television, many have never owned a PC. For many people on the planet, the phone is their compute device,” he said. “It’s really about reaching a customer wherever they are, on the devices that they have.”
That said, logic dictates that the ability to stream “console-quality gaming on any device” depends on some pretty major upgrades to internet speeds around the world. It also faces hurdles like the uncertain future of net-neutrality laws and consumer internet data caps.
In the meantime, Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform offers an infrastructure that few other companies have. “Fifty data centers in different parts of the planet? Billions of dollars of investment in building that out? It allows us to accelerate our growth in this space,” Spencer told me.
3. Building the next Xbox.
In a surprise move, Spencer outright announced Microsoft’s work on the successor to the Xbox One.
You read that correctly: Microsoft has already announced the next Xbox, after the Xbox One.
“The same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles,” he said on stage on June 10, 2018. “Where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming.”
Of note, Spencer said “consoles” — as in Microsoft is apparently working on more than one future console. Perhaps a smaller, less expensive, streaming-focused Xbox, in addition to a more traditional, larger, $300 to $400 Xbox?
Spencer didn’t specify, but did offer more information on the announcement during an interview with Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann in June 2018. “Everybody knows what’s happening,” Spencer said in reference to Sony and Microsoft making new consoles. “It’s this kind of unsaid thing, of, like, ‘Well, they shipped Xbox One X. They didn’t lay off their whole hardware team. What do you think they’re doing?'”
He said the announcement was a means of easing potential concerns of longtime console buyers: “It’s not tomorrow, but I didn’t want people to think that we’re walking away from that part of the brand and the business, because it’s really important to us.”
In terms of what that console (or consoles) will actually be, Spencer isn’t offering any major details just yet. From the sound of things, we’re still a few years away from new consoles.
4. Buying several game studios to build new franchises.
If there’s one thing Microsoft is lacking, it’s major first-party game franchises. Even if such franchises existed, Microsoft only owns so many studios capable of producing blockbuster games.
“Halo” and “Forza” and “Gears of War” are all important franchises — to say nothing of “Minecraft,” still one of the biggest games on the planet. With the exception of “Minecraft,” many of these franchises are suffering from franchise fatigue.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s Switch, meanwhile, are getting huge first-party games — games that can only be played on their respective consoles — like “God of War” and “Super Mario Odyssey” that re-invented staid franchises.
And that’s why Microsoft just announced the acquisition of five studios. “We know that we want to create new franchises,” Spencer told me. “We really thought we needed five or six new teams, and products that we really believed in.”
“We are committed to building an industry-leading first-party studios organization,” Spencer said on stage. “And we are making one of our greatest single year investments in teams by adding five new creative studios.”
Why not buy one big publisher, like EA or Activision, with a bunch of major game franchises? It’s complicated, but here’s Spencer’s answer: “I couldn’t find a collection out there in one entity to do it.”
5. Multiplayer gaming that crosses Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, PC, and mobile platforms.
Microsoft’s been banging the drum for interoperability between competing game consoles for awhile now. Ever since announcing the “Better Together” update for “Minecraft,” which allowed players on all “Minecraft” platforms to play the game together, the entire game industry has begun moving toward cross-platform multiplayer.
It makes a lot of logical sense if you think about it: Games like “Call of Duty,” “Overwatch,” and “Minecraft” are functionally identical across platforms. Why shouldn’t I be able to play “Overwatch” on Xbox One with my friend on PlayStation 4?
The reason, of course, is business.
Sony’s in the lead by a large margin, and has no real incentive — financially — to work with Microsoft on getting cross-platform play working between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That’s become a less defensible position for Sony to take as more and more huge games offer cross-platform play, such as “Fortnite” and “Rocket League.”
In sort, it makes Sony look like the bad guy for not offering players a choice that the competition is championing.
“I just get stuck in who this is helping,” Spencer told me. “It doesn’t help the developer — the developer just wants more people to play their game. It doesn’t help the player — the players just want to play with their friends who also play games on console.”
It’s hard to argue with his logic, even if it is easier for him to say from second place.
In the final episodes of the Mandalorian Season 2, the writer dives deep into the inner conflict Din Djarin “The Mandalorian” feels when he is confronted by meeting Mandalorians outside of his sect, who don’t follow the extreme code of rules that he has been taught from a very early age. While we see these interactions early in the series, this exchange is perfectly illustrated through the rest of the season, as the Mandalorian tries to rescue baby Grogu from the hands of Moff Gideon.
In Episode 15: The Believer, as the Mandalorian and Mayfield make their way to the Imperial base, Mayfield points out how he and the Mandalorian are alike.
“Seems to me like your rules start to change when you get desperate. I mean, look at ya. You said you couldn’t take your helmet off, and now you got a stormtrooper one on, so what’s the rule? Is it, you can’t take off your Mando helmet or you can’t show your face? ‘Cause, there is a difference. Look I’m just sayin’, we are all the same. Everybody’s got their line they don’t cross until things get messy. As far as I’m concerned, if you can make it through your day and still sleep at night, you’re doing better than most.”
As a veteran who has gone to war, this line in particular, stuck out. So much of who I was and what I believed about the world changed during my deployment overseas. In a way, I was lucky on my deployment: I saw a small amount of combat and come home with everyone who arrived in Afghanistan with me.
But the dynamics inside the wire (on the base) were not so calm. Why physically I wasn’t hurt, emotionally my shift toward being part of a team and trusting others was shattered. It was a weird circumstance because at the same time the lies and distrust were happening on the base. I then had to leave the base and go on missions off base while relying on the same people who were working hard to manipulate and undermine who I was.
It isn’t something we talk about enough as veterans. So many people believe the only danger of going to war is when you leave the base and go and fight. But besides the incoming rockets that make living on base not safe, so many of us have had to deal with the hurt and pain that happened to us by our fellow soldiers: the people who are supposed to protect us.
As I transitioned out of the military, three years after coming home from my deployment, I was part of the Transition Assistant Program and we took part in mock interviews. In my interview, the interviewee asked me if I liked to work alone or in a team. I said alone. When he dug into why, I said I didn’t trust people. His initial reaction was to explain to the people in the room with me how that answer could lead to being destroyed in an interview. But when he followed up with questions and began to understand what happened to me during my deployment, his tone changed. And after the interview session was over and we were dismissed, he came up to me and apologized for how I was treated on my deployment … and gave me personal advice on how to answer questions he had asked in a civilian interview I may face in the future.
He was a veteran and understood the deep betrayal that can happen when you are in a situation where your life could end. It is something that we need to talk about more. But even as a writer it is a topic I steer away from — just putting the words on paper makes me pause to re-read, and then stop again to ensure the deep hurt is ready to be shared with the world.
I even wonder how this truly relates to The Mandalorian. How did those final episodes bring up something in me that reminded me of the pain I have kept hidden? I think it is the inner conflict and struggle that was portrayed so well.
What do you do in life when everything you have been led to believe is questioned or unhinged? What do you do when your training fails you? And you learn that even when you follow the rules and are in a “safe” place, you are still at risk for everything falling apart.
This is one of the questions I believe so many veterans face, along with others like, Why did I live and my friend die? Why didn’t I go on the mission where everything went wrong? Why did I decide to leave the office right before a rocket destroyed it?
Deep inner conflict. Often hidden from the discussion. And things we live with inside of us wondering how this can be. How do I move forward now?
I think to move forward we have to be brave and tell our stories in a safe place. I found healing through a 12-step program where I could talk openly about the deep pain and not be expected to provide answers of how this made me feel. Instead, bringing the pain inside of me to light helped it not trap me in the pain I had hidden in the darkness for so long. Speaking it out loud allowed me to move forward. To find hope and to be able to start trusting people again.
There is healing and hope after struggling through the pain of war. But we first have to be brave and bring that pain out of the darkness and into the light.
No big Friday night plans? Look no further than your own family room, but be sure to sit on the couch because “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” That’s right, Lionsgate Live! A Night at the Movies is having a special viewing this evening of Dirty Dancing with an excellent line up for the next few weeks.
What is Lionsgate Live! you ask? The four week program, which launched last week with The Hunger Games, allows viewers to enjoy a classic Lionsgate film every Friday evening through May 8th for free on Fandango Movieclips and Lionsgate’s YouTube page. May 1 will feature La La Land and May 8 will feature John Wick (age restriction required).
Tonight’s livestream will feature special appearances by Dirty Dancing‘s own Jennifer Grey and choreographer Kenny Ortega, along with an exclusive look at some of the film’s prized memorabilia as well as time-jumping behind-the-scenes footage!
Each livestream will directly benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, dedicated to helping people who work in the motion picture industry and currently providing financial assistance to theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.
So come dance the night away tonight at 6:00pm PT / 9:00pm ET for some Dirty Dancing – all in honor of good cause. Instead of previews, enjoy Fandango’s Movieclips, offering a special playlist featuring some of the best scenes from the film – enjoy!
Don’t get me wrong. Cherry was a very well-done film that authentically portrays the cluster f*** of the military. And it should — the screenplay was based on a semi-autobiographical novel written by Nico Walker, who served as an Army medic in Iraq from 2005-2006. After over 250 combat missions, Walker suffered from undiagnosed PTSD, became addicted to heroin, robbed banks to get money for his addiction before he was arrested and sentenced to eleven years in prison for his crimes.
While in jail, he wrote his novel, Cherry; both it and the film portray the horrors of war and addiction. Most veterans I’ve spoken to don’t love watching war films, which can be very triggering. A friend of mine was killed in her humvee during an IED attack, making caravan attack scenes extremely painful for me to watch. I can’t imagine what those scenes are like for the men and women who have lived through caravan attacks.
And Cherry doesn’t pull any punches.
The film does not glamorize or romanticize the military experience, which is refreshing. From duck walks at MEPS to boot camp shenanigans to the absolute carelessness afforded to service members overseas to the violence of war and the inevitability of addiction and depression as a result of untreated trauma, Cherry gets it right.
I’m just not sure who wants to watch it. Maybe veterans who need to see themselves and their pain reflected in art, but I’d argue it’s more important for our government leaders to confront the reality of the wars they engage in. Maybe teens interested in enlisting should watch before they sign up to be a hero.
No one I know feels like a hero. Superbly directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Endgame), written by Angela Russo-Otstot (The Shield, V) and Jessica Goldberg (The Path), and starring Tom Holland (currently playing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Cherry was released in theaters on Feb. 26, 2021 and premiered digitally on Apple TV+ on March 12, 2021.
Jeremy Lee MacKenzie is an artist & filmmaker whose career began after being incarcerated as a teenager. His artwork, “Hidden Blueprints,” is a collection of wood-scrollwork cut from blueprints that were hidden in the prison system. He discovered the blueprints while serving sentences that totaled eight years, for bank robbery & drug trafficking.
He was inspired to become a filmmaker while working as a prison movie projectionist where he studied screenwriting and was released with scholarships to Champlain College. In 2015, he was awarded a screenwriting fellowship to Stowe Story Labs and that same year, won gold in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in LA.
In 2017, MacKenzie completed his film “Hidden Blueprints: The Story of Mikey,” and received the James Goldstone Emerging Filmmaker Award. In 2018, he was chosen for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Award and was then admitted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to pursue his MFA on a George Lucas Scholarship.
Annenberg Media: Tell me about where you are from and your life growing up?
MacKenzie: I’m from Burlington, VT and my childhood was complicated. I had a lot of challenging things happen while growing up and I ended up in adult prison at the age of 17 for bank robbery. Looking back, it feels like it was 100 years ago, like I’ve lived in quantum time where every year contained the events of five years.
Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory you have of your mother and father?
MacKenzie: A positive memory I have of my mother is how she always encouraged me to be an artist and be creative. She was always very honest and encouraging if she thought I was good at something. My father encouraged storytelling and read me a lot of books growing up. He tested me on the stories to see if I was listening. He would reread me the same story and then change certain plot lines to see if I was paying attention. I would stop him and tell him, “no dad, the storyline goes like this…”
Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
MacKenzie: My parents separated after my younger sister passed away. I lived with my mother most of the time and my father during summers. When I was really young, I did well in school. At a certain point in my childhood we moved into a trailer park where we were living in poverty. A lot of the people living in that trailer park did not care much about school and were into drugs. Those became really tough years since I valued education but was now being punished for valuing academics.
At first I had to fight kids often when getting off the school bus because I was into focusing on school. My parents always tried focus my attention on education. I was very young and got sick of fighting and being an outsider, so I ended up joining the crowd. I got into drugs to succeed in that world. I often wondered if people around me who chose the drug path, went through those same bad experiences as I did.
At the age of 12 or 13, I transitioned into selling drugs and became a drug dealer. I wanted to excel in a world I was way behind in. By 14-years-old, my parents had lost full control. I had an 18-year-old stripper girlfriend living with me. I was deep into the world of drug dealing: at age 14, it was cocaine, 15, it was opiates, at 16, I was arrested for dealing heroin and at 17, I was locked up for bank robbery.
Bang, that escalated quickly! My parents were baffled at how things changed so rapidly.
Annenberg Media: Where did this lifestyle lead you?
MacKenzie: I served three sentences totaling eight years. During one of those sentences, I earned my high school diploma but was still struggling to separate from the drug world. During the course of one of my sentences, I was sent to a corporate prison in Kentucky. When I got there, I got my first college opportunity. Hazard Community College selected 20 inmates who they gave grants to start college while incarcerated.
Due to overcrowding and the mistreatment of inmates, a lot of violence was going on in the facility. It was a for-profit prison and the administration was not friendly. I had to make a choice between focusing on college or joining an uprising in the prison. A group of inmates were planning a revolt and ended up having a riot at the facility. The riot took over the facility for a night and the administration building was burned which included the education facility. The college opportunity went up in smoke. We were in lockdown for many months while they rebuilt the prison around us. This gained a lot of national media attention.
Annenberg Media: Did you have any creative outlets while incarcerated?
MacKenzie: Isolation can be a powerful tool. After the riot, while in lock down I started designing artwork. I would design blueprints for big pieces of wood-scrollwork. I had learned this wood cutting technique as a teenager from an old clock maker in prison and I taught myself how to design. I was designing on taped-together pieces of paper but we weren’t allowed to have the paper so I had to hide my blueprints until I could bring them home.
Those blueprints came to be my artwork years later. I used them as a tool for storytelling. Many of the blueprints I drew didn’t directly depict prison but told the stories of our experience on the inside through ancient themes. When I was not designing I started getting into TV and movies and I started watching this show called “Medium.” Everybody watched it. It was a way to escape from prison.
MacKenzie: My darkest moment came during my third sentence when I could no longer hide from my darkest truths and my responsibilities. I couldn’t hide the impact my actions had on my friends, family and community; I experienced a paradigm shift. I was in a segregation cell where I had more charges coming. The drug dealers who had been supplying me since I was an adolescent, who I had been protecting my whole life, were not protecting me or anyone else. The whole veil of that world came crashing down.
I realized the effect my life was having on everyone around me and the people I had protected and followed didn’t care about me anymore. I was in the segregation cell and I noticed there was a broken razor blade on the floor. “This is my out,” I thought. This was one of the few moments in my life where I contemplated suicide. But, I looked out the window and thought to myself, “No one could explain this to my dog, she’s never gonna know what happened.” I just wanted to see my dog again. She probably saved my life. Tests find a way of placing themselves in your path, especially at your darkest moments. I needed to let things play out until the end.
Annenberg Media: How was your life impacted after making the decision to stay alive?
MacKenzie: That was a very challenging period of time, but it passed. And I ended up getting a job as a prison movie projectionist. It was a makeshift movie theater with prison walls. We screened everything from the original “Star Wars” to “Casablanca” and “Chinatown.” It was a powerful experience watching “Star Wars” projected onto a prison wall.
While working as a prison movie projectionist, I started writing stories with the women’s prison. The women were relatable and had similar situations to mine. But we weren’t allowed to write to other prisons so I would send the letters to my father and he would re-address them to the women I was writing. I invited them to write a story where the women and I could insert our own characters and set them off on a journey together. I was very grateful to the women for that, as it provided a creative medium that was very valuable. It also provided companionship and helped with loneliness.
Working with the prison movie theater was a crucial time for me. All those earlier years of my father testing me on stories came back to me. I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. I focused on screenwriting and reached out to different colleges to get the books they used in their screenwriting courses. I was no longer in a corporate prison and I made a deal with teachers to recycle prison paperwork. The education offices would print scripts on the back of the recycled paperwork I brought them. Filmmaking was like life or death- in my previous life I was going to die and this new life was the only way out. There were no other choices.
Annenberg Media: Did you plan on getting further education?
MacKenzie: I got a scholarship to go to college when I came home. The scholarship letter came from Bernie Sanders, which I still have. When I came home I realized there was all this time that I had missed. I did a lot of catching up in college.
As soon as I got to undergrad, I won gold in the Page International Screenwriting Awards for a screenplay. The award and screenplay got me connected with Julie Pacino, Al Pacino’s daughter. I began to excel and was pushed more towards directing. Julie ended up producing my film, “Hidden Blueprints.” Things began to happen much more rapidly and I ended up using “Hidden Blueprints” to apply to USC.
Back then, Ben Stiller was making his show “Escape at Dannemora” and his group reached out to have me in the show as an inmate. I have an escape on my record- at one point I tried to run away from prison- so I was not able to get security clearance to enter prison. But, I took a role as an extra on a different part of his show so I could still be apart of the production. I had this really funny moment where I was standing on set with Ben Stiller to my right and I was quietly watching him work. Then, the main actress comes out and I’m suddenly hit with this really familiar feeling: the actress was Patricia Arquette who I watched in the TV show, “Medium” years ago in that destroyed prison in Kentucky. I realize I’m standing in the middle of a show about escaping from prison starring the actress of the show we all used to watch to escape from the prison we were in. It was an interesting and affirming moment.
I sent the production staff of the show an email about it. It made me reflect on how far my arc had brought me. Within a matter of days the George Lucas Scholarship came in for USC. It gave me chills. I had projected “Star Wars” movies on a prison wall. Now I was headed to LA.
Aron Meinhardt, J. Lee MacKenzie, and Julie Pacino
Annenberg Media: Why Hollywood and why now?
MacKenzie: This is the epicenter of storytelling. I came here to fully engage in storytelling and USC helped me get here. I knew this was the path. This is the place to begin and branch off. This is a time when people from all different places and backgrounds can tell stories. I felt like I was one of those people that could have a place here.
Annenberg Media: What is it like to be a George Lucas Scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts?
MacKenzie: From where I come from, it has been extremely helpful and it has been an honor to have the opportunities I’ve had. I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people like Riley and Austin Lynch, Julie Pacino, Aron Meinhardt and many others. I got to collaborate with C. Craig Patterson who is a great friend, he is on a George Lucas Scholarship as well. I look forward to seeing who else I get to meet and work with.
Annenberg Media: What are your career and life goals?
MacKenzie: I want to direct movies. I direct films not because I love it, but because I feel compelled to. Telling stories was my only way out and it is the only pathway I see forward. I am going to continue on that path and see where it leads. It took a lot of people helping and believing in me to get this far. It didn’t start out that way. I deeply appreciate the people that helped me along the way. Wherever this path goes, I hope it is fruitful for both myself and for those that helped.
Annenberg Media: How is the coronavirus social distancing affecting you and do you have any recommendations?
MacKenzie: As I said, isolation can be a very powerful thing. I know a lot of people are stuck inside right now, for much longer than they are used to. A lot of movies are not getting made. People are scared and they are experiencing their own moments of darkness. But some of the most creative years of my life began with isolation and darkness like this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the solitude of this pandemic inspires and gives birth to a lovely period of filmmaking in its wake, the likes of which the world has perhaps never seen. I really hope to be a part of that movement and I think we will all feel fortunate when we see it happen.
Featured image shows J. Lee and Isabela Penagos—USC arts students.
It’s all fun and games to speculate about an “Avengers” movie or a “Star Wars” movie months and months before those films hit theaters, but when you’re less than two months away from an actual release, less is certainly more. And now, after the release of the epic final trailer for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” certain new photographs have been circulating around the less-than-scrupulous parts of the internet and they totally spoil a big twist at the end of the film.
I’m just going to give it to you straight: I have seen these photos. I wish I had not. I know now something that is going to happen in the film, which is really f*cking cool, but that I wish I could have experienced in the theater. This is not the same as reading a plot leak on Reddit. I saw two photos that were really amazing, and there’s every reason to believe they are real. YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE THESE PHOTOS. TRUST ME.
So, just like when footage leaked from “Avengers: Endgame,” now is the time to get into Star Wars lockdown mode. Here’s my guide for avoiding this stuff.
Don’t Google “Star Wars spoilers” or “Star Wars Leaks”
Avoid articles that mention “leaked photos” from The Rise of Skywalker.
Stay off Reddit
No really, stay off Reddit
Stay off publications that are less than reputable.
What do I mean about that last one? Well, as someone who has written about Star Wars for a long time, I can tell you that websites like Entertainment Weekly, Inverse, Vulture, and Den of Geek, are not going to post these leaked photos. That’s because, like Fatherly, there are real journalists working there. (Full disclosure, I’ve worked for more than half of those publications.) So, if you’re seeing an article about “The Rise of Skywalker” on some website you’ve never heard of, and it’s promising to tell you all the secrets of the movie, don’t click! Or, you know, click if you want, but be ready to have the movie spoiled for you. Stick to the publications you’ve heard of. They will play by the rules!
Let me tell you a little story to further reinforce why this is important. Back in 2002, I was about to turn 21-years-old, and “Attack of the Clones” was about to hit theaters that May. I was working at a bookstore called Brentano’s (they were briefly part of Waldenbooks, which at that time was part of Borders.) Well, guess what, we got all the “Attack of the Clones” books in early, and that meant, sitting in the stock room of the bookstore, behind closed doors, I was able to 100 percent know that Yoda fought with a lightsaber in the final moments of the movie. This literally ruined one of the biggest surprises of the movie for me. I’m still not over it. Let 21-year-old-me be a lesson to you all.
Because now, as a 38-year-old man, I have clearly not learned my lesson. Don’t make the same mistake. Hardcore spoilers are the path to the Dark Side. Resist!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.