Best Movies to Binge Watch on Disney Plus Hotstar (July 2021)
If you’re looking to get lost in the classic Disney movies, Disney Plus Hotstar has them all, and we’ve chosen the freshest for you as a fast track into what you want to watch right now!
In support of those working from home, and to help your social distancing go as entertainingly as possible, here’s a list of gripping movies to binge watch from magnificent action flicks to cool choices which you can currently find on Disney Plus. Check them out here.
10 Movies Perfect to Binge While Working at Home
Lady and the tramp (1955)
Disney’s beloved classic “Lady and the tramp”, a 1955 American animated romance film. Experience the marvelous adventures of Lady, a lovingly pampered cocker spaniel, and Tramp, a freewheeling mutt with a heart of gold. This heartwarming tale now charms a new generation of families with its exquisite animation, unforgettable songs and one of the greatest love stories of all time. This is the night to share a special bella notte with your family and introduce them to this timeless classic.
The Black Hole (1979)
“The Black Hole”, a 1979 American science fiction film, about a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape. A space mission to a black hole finds that another ship has arrived earlier: The Cygnus, which disappeared 20 years earlier.
The Princess Bride (1987)
“The Princess Bride,” a 1987 American fantasy adventure comedy film, a fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. A Combination of a basic storyline of love and adventure this movie transcends the usual weekend fair with wit and unmitigated charm.
The Avengers Movies
Marvel’s The Avengers, also known as “The Avengers”, an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team. If you want to see the Marvel and Avengers movies in order as they happened, we’ve listed all 27 MCU movies in chronological order.
25. Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney Plus series)
26. Loki (Disney Plus series)
27. Black Widow (2021)
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
“Jennifer’s Body”, a 2009 American comedy horror film, a newly possessed cheerleader (Megan Fox) turns into a killer who specializes in offing her male classmates, has become a cult classic and widely renowned as a great LGBTQ+ representation today.
“Avatar”, an American epic science fiction film, takes audiences to a spectacular world beyond imagination. The amazing world of Pandora, where a man embarks on an epic adventure, ultimately fighting to save both the people he learns to love and the place he now calls home.
The Favourite (2018)
“The Favourite”, a 2018 period black comedy film, only sort of based on real historical events and laced with plenty of creative fabrications, the film certainly indulges in the sensational a period drama about two clever and ambitious ladies feuding over the affections and favor of the long suffering and mercurial Queen Anne.
“Soul”, a 2020 American computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama film, a jazz pianist who has a near-death experience and is stuck in a mediocre job, finally gets his big break. However, when a wrong step takes him to the Great Before, he tries to help an infant soul in order to return to reality.
“Cruella”, a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, a second Disney live-action adaptation to feature the perspective of the villain, after 2014’s Maleficent.
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
“Raya and the Last Dragon”, a 2021 American computer-animated fantasy action-adventure film, follows Raya, a warrior princess who must find the fabled last dragon in order to save her divided homeworld from a ravenous plague.
The original Bugs Bunny voice was his idol. Now he plays the character in the Space Jam sequel.
When opportunity knocks, sometimes it pays to answer with a funny voice. Just look at where it got Jeff Bergman.
The actor lends his elastic larynx to a trove of animated characters in the new sequel “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” most notably Bugs Bunny in his stream of street-wise riffing opposite LeBron James – who follows in the Nike footsteps of Michael Jordan from the original 1996 hit.
For the veteran voice artist, it all began 40 years ago when Mel Blanc was passing through Pittsburgh on a lecture tour. The legendary actor had originated and cultivated the sounds of Bugs and other Looney Tunes characters, and worked on such Hanna-Barbera shows as “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.” Bergman, then a 20-year-old theater student at the University of Pittsburgh, discovered where Blanc was staying on campus and worked up the nerve to meet the man.
“Something compelled me to do it without hesitation,” Bergman says of his 10 p.m. cold call. “I knocked on that door and when I heard a voice that sounded kind of like Barney Rubble saying, ‘Just a jiffy,’ I just shuddered.”
The dapper Blanc, then in his 70s, opened the door clad in a vibrant Cordovan-colored robe, and the conversation soon flowed. “We sat on those two little, single uncomfortable beds and faced each other like father and son,” Bergman recounts, “and he could not have been more warmhearted and sweet.”
Bergman did some of his impressions for Blanc, including George Burns and Jack Benny. The elder actor advised Bergman to stay in school and keep developing his talents. The visit lasted about 45 minutes.
“That was the watershed moment for me,” Bergman says. Maybe he could actually build a career doing “silly voices.” For the next several months, “I was just like a madman in my room, working on television and film characters. I was able to get 100 to 150 voices over that summer.”
Also in 1981, Bergman says, he tried a stunt worthy of a Bugs cartoon: He dressed up as a delivery person to get an audition tape into the hands of decision-makers at the William Morris Agency. Within a few months, he had an agent and his first booking.
The actor worked steadily until a big break came at the end of the decade. Executive producer Steven Spielberg and his team hired Bergman for the show “Tiny Toon Adventures,” to voice such disparate-sounding characters as Bugs, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Tweety and Sylvester.
Blanc, known as “the man of a thousand voices,” had reprised some of those roles in 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” but he died on July 10, 1989 – Bergman’s 29th birthday.
Bergman was not involved with the first “Space Jam” film – he left Hollywood and stayed on the East Coast while raising his family – but in his late 40s, he moved West and returned to the Looney fold.
“Never did I think they would do ‘Space Jam’ again,” Bergman says of the family comedy that combines animation and live action. “They talked about it for years.”
Then in 2019 came what he calls the “never-ending” casting process. Finally in March of 2020, just before the lockdown in California, Bergman learned he would voice Bugs, in addition to Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Fred Flintstone and Yogi Bear, whom he also voices on the show “Jellystone.” (His castmate from the series, Eric Bauza, also voices several “Space Jam 2” characters, including Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig.)
Given the coronavirus pandemic, Bergman would now have to record these characters from his home studio. He brought aboard recording engineer Matt Kulewicz from Showtime’s “Our Cartoon President,” on which Bergman has voiced Donald Trump.
The recording conditions ensured that Bergman and LeBron James would never meet during production. But the voice actor says the Zoom meetings with the filmmakers, including director Malcolm D. Lee, fostered an attentive intimacy that supported his leading performance as Bugs.
Bergman’s secret to voicing Bugs Bunny, by the way? The Philadelphia-born actor says he conveys “an inherent ethnicity” to the character, noting that Blanc himself was partly inspired by East Coast accents and Yiddish.
On Monday, Bergman attended the film’s red-carpet premiere in Los Angeles. The 5-foot-10 actor still had not met his 6-foot-9 co-star. But once again, Bergman employed a funny voice when opportunity knocked.
After the premiere, LeBron James was surrounded by layers of fans. What could Bergman do to get the NBA star’s attention despite the distance and din? “I yelled out from about 20 feet away and said in Bugs Bunny’s voice, ‘Hey, Doc, we really are family,’ ” Bergman says. “He heard and saw me.” Bergman was ushered through the throng to greet him.
“He was holding his daughter and we embraced and thanked each other,” Bergman says. Even amid the crowd, it felt like “a very private congratulatory moment.”
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s return to the croisette made another history as he wins Jury Prize from his ninth feature film ‘Memoria’.
Despite some questions from the industry that the event can actually happen, Cannes Film Festival 2021 takes place successfully as the celebration of the revival of global film industry after the pandemic has destroyed much of it.
In the evening night of July 17, the jury members which veteran American filmmaker Spike Lee is the head has given Palme d’Or to ‘Titane’, second feature film of female director Julia Ducournau, whose 2016 film ‘Raw’ premiered in the International Critics’ Week. ‘Titane’ is the first time Ducournau has film in main competition in Cannes, which turns Julia into the second female filmmaker after Jane Campion to win the prestigious Palme d’Or. Renowned Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won Grand Prix from ‘A Hero’, which he shares the award with Finnish director Juho Kousmanen’s ‘Compartment No. 6’. French auteur Leos Carax wins Best Director from Cannes for the first time from his latest film ‘Annette’.
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has made another history when his latest film ‘Memoria’ won Jury Prize, which he shares the prize with Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid who win the prize for his latest film ‘Ahed’s Knee’. After his winning of the Palme d’Or in 2010 from ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’, Apichatpong wins award from Cannes again in 2021 from his ninth feature film, which back in 2004, ‘Tropical Malady’ won Jury Prize from Cannes.
“Thank you the juries members and Festival de Cannes very much much for this recognition. Thank you so much to my dearest producer for your belief and your support for over the years, especially Simon Field and Diana Bustamante. You are the world to me. Dear our team in Colombia, Mexico, and Thailand, I wish we were here together.”, says Apichatpong in his acceptance speech.
“Tilda, I remember we talked about this many times and here we are. You are one of the most incredible humans I encountered. Thank you so much for igniting this fireworks.”, Apichatpong mentioned about Tilda Swinton, who was the jury in Cannes Film Festival 2004 that gave the Jury Prize to Apichatpong’s ‘Tropical Malady’, and Apichatpong has been talking with her for many years about working together.
A co-production between Colombia, Thailand, United Kingdom, Mexico and France, ‘Memoria’ is the first time that Apichatpong directs a feature film in another country. The film which is the long-awaited collaboration between Apichatpong and Tilda Swinton was shot entirely in Colombia in Spanish and English. Tilda Swinton plays character of Jessica, a woman who is unable to sleep because she keeps hearing a strange bang noise inside her head. Jessica goes to Bogota to visit her sister and gets to know with Agnes (Jeanne Balibar), an archeologist. While trying to find out what is the mysterious sound she always hears, Jessica goes to the dreamlike countryside of Colombia and meets with Hernan (Elkin Diaz), the fish scaler who she shares memory with by the river.
“I am lucky to be standing here, while many of my countrymen cannot travel. Many of them suffer greatly from the pandemic, with the mismanagement of resources, healthcare, and vaccine accessibility. I want to call out for the Thai and Colombian governments, and the governments of countries in a similar situation, to please wake up, and work for your people, now.”, The pandemic has caused sufferings to so many people in many countries including the two main production countries of Memoria, which Apichatpong calls out to the government of Thailand and Colombia to work for their people.
After the winning in Cannes, Apichatpong will continue his journey to FID Marseille, where he will receive the Grand prix d’honneur. ‘Memoria’ will start its journey in film festivals around the world, and will be released in Thailand by the end of this year.
Published : July 18, 2021
By : Special to Nationthailand by Donsaron Kovitvanitcha
Loki just gave us Marvel best Disney Plus finale yet
When it comes to final episodes of Marvel Studios shows on Disney Plus, theres “Loki,” and then theres everything else. Those are the new rules.
“WandaVision” may have blown your mind, and yes, Captain America is a Black man now, but Kang the Conqueror? He’s here? Now? That’s Marvel Studios using their Disney Plus format to take things to the next level.
Jonathan Majors made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as the character in the “Loki” Season 1 finale, which began streaming Wednesday. A gasping OMG moment? Absolutely. Totally surprising? No. Not when you consider how much Kang’s Marvel comic book existence has to do with time as power and the fragility of time being the central element of the Disney Plus show.
But why does Majors making his first appearance as Kang feel like such a moment? Two reasons. One: our “WandaVision” hangover. Remember all of those Mephisto rumors? So many of us were so sure Marvel’s top devil was the bad guy pulling the strings. After each episode, the show sent us into YouTube deep-dive madness, so we could search for clues as to how things would end. And everyone was preaching the church of Mephisto, especially after Paul Bettany trolled everyone by saying he worked with someone he always wanted to work with in the final episode (he was talking about himself). But the “WandaVision” finale gave us only a bridge to the “Doctor Strange” sequel in which Elizabeth Olsen is set to co-star and a very cool-looking West Coast Avengers-style white Vision.
Secondly, ever since it was confirmed that Kang was the next big-time MCU foe – one who would maybe even be the antagonist for a new generation of Avengers if they are reassembled on-screen – it was assumed that he would do so in theaters, not on Disney Plus.
Majors appearing as Kang in the “Loki” finale is like Luke Skywalker showing up in “The Mandalorian” with a red lightsaber instead of a green one. This is not only a big moment, it’s one of certification. It shows Marvel Studios and its Disney Plus series aren’t just chapters in between the films, they are moments that will directly affect the next decade of the MCU in theaters, as well.
Another factor setting this season of “Loki” apart from its Disney Plus predecessors “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is that there will be a Season 2.
Six episodes was never going to be enough for all of that time-bending, and an announcement of Season 2 was revealed in a finale post-credit scene. We now know multiple seasons are possible for other future MCU/Disney Plus shows, whether that be “Hawkeye,” “Ms. Marvel,” “She-Hulk” or “Ironheart.”
For now, we are left with this “Loki” finale that serves as a master class in what villainy looms in the future of the MCU.
Majors’s performance, in comic-book-appropriate purple, was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he will bring to his many upcoming performances as Kang, whose origins were revealed as being in the 31st century of the MCU. He warned both Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (the female Loki, played by Sophia Di Martino) that the easy thing to do would be for them to take over managing the sacred timeline. Any other option could lead to more chaos. The key element to “Loki” all season has been variants. Different versions of one’s self in a multiverse of possibilities. Kang’s variants, he says, are to be feared. They scare even him.
Sylvie, determined to destroy the person responsible for her being on the run through time her whole life, doesn’t care. She banishes Loki and kills Kang in front of her. Kang, knowing a much more dangerous variant of himself is now coming after his pending death, has one thing left to say.
“I’ll see you soon,” he says.
It’s a parting shot that signals the next great evil coming, while giving a preview of what is likely to be the next great MCU performance.
K-pop – mainstream pop music from South Korea – has a distinct recipe for creating global hits.
The main ingredient – a catchy hook song – gets paired with a signature dance move and is wrapped up in a flashy video. The entire package is optimized for social media, where a devoted fan base gives the song a life of its own.
This method, which relies on pop music tropes, Internet culture and intense training, helped make K-pop an international phenomenon.
Many K-pop songs follow a classic song-writing style: an intro and a verse with hooks in the chorus. These “hook songs” emphasize catchiness through devices like repetition, said Dal Yong Jin, a professor at Simon Fraser University.
Put more simply: “There’s always like this catchy part,” fan Jason Nguyen said. “You just can’t get it out of your head.”
One song that exemplifies this pattern is “Tell Me” by the group Wonder Girls, which topped Korean music charts when it was released in 2007. The repetitive lyrics and upbeat tempo make for an incredibly catchy hook.
“The hook song has become one of the most popular types in K-pop,” Jin said, adding that K-pop stars, or idols, have focused on this type of music because it’s easy to memorize and easy to dance to.
Another popular song, “Sorry, Sorry” by Super Junior from 2009, similarly repeats both English and Korean phrases, making it easy to sing along to, even if you don’t know the language.
Music videos on YouTube also helped K-pop appeal to fans globally. Nguyen was only 8 when he first saw the music video for “Gee” and he was instantly hooked. Memes weren’t a concept yet, but the video is full of them – it sets Girls’ Generation’s infectious bubble-gum pop against a fantasy story line of mannequins coming to life.
Nguyen, who now co-directs a K-pop dance troupe at the University of Washington, said the video’s synchronized dancing, colorful outfits and intricate sets pulled him in. “You don’t really see that with American pop music.”
The visual appeal of K-pop videos is universal. Choreography in particular can transcend cultural barriers, which is why most K-pop videos contain a signature dance move. Like the crab dance in “Gee” or the “Up & Down” dance from EXID, these moves – called point dances – are intentionally easy to imitate.
Lia Kim, a choreographer who has worked with groups like Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls, said labels will specifically request choreography that is memorable and easy to follow.
The universal nature of point dances also makes them easy for fans to share as dance challenges on social media. Their explosion on Twitter and TikTok, and even in the game “Fortnite,” has helped further expand K-pop’s global reach. In fact, the preview video for BTS’s newest single, “Permission to Dance,” was framed as a dance challenge with sign language for “dance.”
“Trendy dances are what makes K-pop, K-pop,” said choreographer Sienna Lalau, who has worked with BTS, Jennifer Lopez and Missy Elliott, “because it reminds us that in some ways, the movement is as important as the music in today’s ‘content is king’ era.”
K-pop labels have found innovative ways to promote their content globally. One of their marketing strategies is to give up copyrights and release songs and albums to stream on YouTube at the same time they become available for purchase, Jin said.
Of the 10 music videos with the most views in their first 24 hours, nine are songs by the K-pop groups Blackpink and BTS, as of July 13. The only non-K-pop song is Taylor Swift’s “ME!” at No. 8.
Other Asian pop styles, such as Japanese pop, have tried to cross over into global markets, but as Jin pointed out, K-pop succeeded because of its timing with technology. Today, roughly 90 percent of views for K-pop videos on YouTube come from outside of South Korea.
“(K-pop is) very savvy at using social media,” said Sun Lee, YouTube’s head of music partnerships in Korea and greater China.
One of the first K-pop songs to break through in the United States was Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012. Musically, it followed a similar formula as earlier songs with its catchy lyrics, signature dance moves and delightfully ridiculous video. But its success included one other key ingredient: social media.
“That video that was just this kind of early look at like how to create a virality on YouTube,” said YouTube music trends manager Kevin Meenan, who described the video as “snowballing” through the platform.
“Gangnam Style” became the first video to surpass 1 billion views on YouTube and is still the fifth most-viewed music video on the platform. Offline, the song hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Psy the second K-pop artist to rank (Wonder Girls was the first at No. 76 in 2008). Psy even became part of the American cultural zeitgeist by performing in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Gangnam Style’s success was fueled in part by celebrities like T-Pain and Britney Spears sharing the YouTube video on Twitter, which generated thousands of retweets each.
“The 2012 global popularity of ‘Gangnam Style’ was triggered by exposure through two large platforms: YouTube and Twitter,” said YeonJeong Kim, the head of global K-pop and Korean content partnerships at Twitter. “Before Psy … it was a very difficult process for K-pop artists to enter the U.S.”
The 2010s marked the beginning of mutual growth for K-pop and Twitter. Today, the #KpopTwitter fan community is the largest shared-interest group on the platform.
In 2020 alone, there were nearly 6.7 billion K-pop-related tweets globally. To put that in perspective, in the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic, there were 28 percent more tweets about K-pop than covid-19.
And the interest is growing. This year, Twitter users posted an additional 1.4 billion tweets about K-pop, an increase of 23 percent over 2020.
“Twitter has been called the ‘holy place of K-pop,’ ” Kim said, not only because of the way artists engage with their fans, but also the way fans interact with each other.
BTS, the first K-pop act to be nominated for a Grammy, has had a huge impact on K-pop’s growth on Twitter, Kim said. The group started tweeting before their official debut and used the platform to have close conversations with fans. This approach was groundbreaking in 2012 but has now become a formula for success for new idols.
“Artists like The Boyz, Stray Kids, Ateez, Tomorrow x Together … are advancing to the global stages faster than the previous generations,” Kim said, adding that digital platforms like Twitter play a significant role in growing new fandoms.
As fans use social media to glimpse into the personal lives of K-pop stars, they feel more connected – and loyal – to these artists, which further drives engagement.
Fans will coordinate the use of specific hashtags – a tactic called a “total attack” – to support artists and spread fandom culture. Through these “attacks,” they publicize information about everything from streaming a video on YouTube to voting participation and award celebrations.
“K-pop fans are one of the biggest, most organized, fastest groups on the internet,” said David Kim, who runs a YouTube channel analyzing K-pop’s influence. “When they have a common goal to achieve … they concentrate their firepower until they reach the goal.”
In May, fans used this firepower to promote BTS’s latest hit, “Butter.” The single got more than 108 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours, driven in large part by conversation about it on Twitter. According to YeonJeong Kim at Twitter, fans tweeted about the single more than 31 million times on launch day.
The song, which is entirely in English, quickly climbed to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Global 200 charts, marking BTS’s fourth No. 1 hit in nine months and establishing the septet on the same international plane as artists like the Beatles, Jackson 5 and Justin Timberlake.
But the power of K-pop fans now extends beyond the music industry, as many use their vast network to support digital activism.
After George Floyd’s murder, various fandoms came together to help. Blackpink fans, for example, organized to promote #BlackLivesMatter instead of #SourCandy, the group’s new release with Lady Gaga.
Around the same time, BTS’s fandom – known as ARMY – raised more than $1 million for organizations like Black Lives Matter and the NAACP. Fans coordinated this effort using the hashtag #MatchAMillion, with the aim of matching the money that BTS themselves donated to the cause.
“ARMY had immediately mobilized like many people around the world,” said Erika Overton, from the BTS fan collective that coordinated the campaign. “It has become a fandom culture to participate in charity because we’re aware that we have the potential to make an impact.”
Lady Gaga may have her Little Monsters, Justin Bieber his Beliebers and Megan Thee Stallion her Hotties, but K-pop fans are in another league.
“The fans for K-pop are unlike anything I’ve seen in my life,” said K-pop choreographer Kyle Hanagami, who has also worked with artists like Justin Beiber, NSYNC and Britney Spears. “They find each other from across the globe.”
Most groups’ fandoms have physical identifiers – colors, names, glowsticks and chants – and an incredible amount of influence and buying power.
In elementary school, Areum Jeong’s very first concert was Seo Taiji and Boys, the group that arguably started the K-pop fandom phenomenon after fans protested the censorship of their 1996 song “Regret of the Times.”
As she got older, Jeong was part of Yellowkies, the fandom for the group Sechskies, which was part of the first generation of K-pop in the 1990s. Jeong, who is now an assistant professor at the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute, has been collecting the group’s merchandise and attending shows for more than two decades.
Early K-pop fandoms had a top-down relationship, Jeong said, with K-pop labels facilitating interactions by running fan clubs and events. But over time, fandoms have evolved to become more horizontal and reciprocal, with fans coordinating their own clubs and promotions.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to discuss K-pop in isolation from its fandom,” she added, “because an idol cannot become popular without fans’ labor.”
Fans of the first generation of K-pop stars laid the groundwork for organizing together and utilized search engines to create individual fan pages.
By the 2000s, fans of second-generation groups like Super Junior, Big Bang and Girls’ Generation developed “support culture” centered around online fan communities and official fan cafes with artists.
Third-generation fans of groups like EXO, Red Velvet, BTS and Blackpink are actively involved with how the groups are portrayed in the digital space, going so far as to reorganize search keywords and keep track of negative comments. Fancams, or fan videos of live concerts or their favorite groups, are also used to create community online.
This evolution has led to powerful K-pop fandoms that transcend the music industry.
“The power you have on social media is basically power in the real world,” said YouTuber David Kim, “which is why K-pop fandoms definitely have the ability to access buying and political power.”
There is no better example of this than BTS fans. Industry insiders say they will buy everything the group touches, from cars and makeup to Barbie dolls and fast food.
The group’s recent chicken nugget collaboration with McDonald’s was so popular that some used paper bags with the BTS logo are selling for thousands, with one bid as high as $20,000, on eBay.
“BTS is … the definition of a global phenomenon,” said Jennifer Healan, vice president of U.S. marketing, brand content and engagement for McDonald’s. “They have a hugely passionate and loyal fan base – many of whom are our customers and crew.”
While K-pop’s success is driven by a variety of factors, Twitter’s YeonJeong Kim says it’s the fans that set the genre apart. “(K-pop has a) dedicated, organized and smart fandom culture that is particularly difficult to find in other types of content,” she said.
For many fans, it’s not just about the music, but the sense of community. Jackie Alvarez, the chief financial officer of the US BTS ARMY, agrees.
“It feels like one ginormous family,” said Alvarez about the BTS fandom. “We can … give back to them what they’re giving back to us.”
Published : July 15, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Marian Liu, Youjin Shin, Shelly Tan
Black Widow sets pandemic record in hopeful sign for theaters
Walt Disney Co.s “Black Widow” scored the highest-grossing debut for a film since the onset of the pandemic, with revenue supercharged by a significant number of downloads from viewers at home.
The newest Marvel picture generated $80 million in U.S. and Canadian theater ticket sales in its debut weekend, the company said Sunday. Disney, for a first time reporting such numbers, said the film also produced more than $60 million in revenue from fans paying $30 to watch “Black Widow” at home, suggesting that the combination of at-home and theatrical release can produce sizable revenue for Hollywood studios.
An additional $78 million was generated from overseas markets.
The movie bested “F9: The Fast Saga,” which held the previous record for biggest movie premiere since covid-19. “F9,” the newest installment in the “Fast & Furious” series, generated $70 million in domestic ticket sales in its debut three weeks ago.
“Black Widow,” which stars Scarlett Johansson as a former KGB assassin, suggests the appetite for moviegoing wasn’t killed off by the combination of the pandemic and the rising popularity of streaming. That’s good news for theaters, along with studios that plan to release other potential blockbusters later this year, including a new James Bond film and a fourth Matrix movie.
While the movie’s performance is strong for pandemic times, it fell below the $93 million opening that the research site Boxoffice Pro had projected.
The numbers also pale in comparison to major films that came out prior to the covid-19 crisis. It is one of the worst domestic openings for a Marvel movie ever. Of the 23 films the franchise has produced since 2008, “Black Widow’s” performance is below the average domestic opening of $135 million, according to data from Box Office Mojo.
The film is seen as a crucial test of a new release strategy, where movies become available for home viewing much sooner than they have been in the past. Studios have been trying different models, releasing them immediately to subscribers of their streaming services or putting them online for rental just a few weeks after their theatrical debuts. In the case of “Black Widow,” Disney allowed customers of its Disney+ streaming service to watch it starting on Friday for the additional $30 fee.
Some of the largest moviegoing markets, such as Australia, have seen spikes in covid cases, meaning theaters are closed or in-person gathering is heavily limited. Normally Marvel films make most of their money abroad, but the international outlook for “Black Widow” is hazy. On Wednesday and Thursday the movie made $22.4 million abroad, a figure that trails “F9” in some places.
Published : July 12, 2021
By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Kelly Gilblom, Christopher Palmeri
Japanese animation has long been popular, but recent years have seen a proliferation of anime on major streaming platforms. Viewership of the genre doubled on Netflix last year amid increased consumption of non-English titles by U.S. viewers, according to the streamer.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of TV series that you can stream right now. Like the genre, which ranges from tales of vampire hunters to detective sagas, we’ve included a little something for everyone.
– “Cowboy Bebop” (1998)
This beloved series – part noir, part space Western – follows a team of intergalactic bounty hunters. “Cowboy Bebop” was the first anime to ever air on Adult Swim back in 2001, and it’s a great series to watch if you’re unfamiliar with the genre. It’s also highly regarded for its sardonic sense of humor and jazz-infused soundtrack (which features one of the best theme songs in television).
Netflix is set to release a live-action version starring John Cho as protagonist Spike Spiegel later this year. (Streams on Hulu)
Also consider: “Trigun,” a 1998 series that doubles down on the space Western theme. (Streams on Hulu)
– “Yasuke” (2021)
Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield voices the lead character of this series, which is based on historical accounts of an African man who lived in 16th century Japan. It’s got a lot of other stuff going on, which – as more than a few reviews noted – doesn’t always serve the story well. But it’s visually stunning and features an expansive electronic score by DJ Flying Lotus, who is also an executive producer on the show alongside Stanfield and series creator LeSean Thomas, a Tokyo-based animator (and New York native) whose previous credits include “The Boondocks” and “The Legend of Korra.” (Streams on Netflix)
Also consider: “Afro Samurai,” the 2007 miniseries influenced by hip-hop culture and featuring music by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame, along with the unmistakable voice of Samuel L. Jackson. (Streams on Hulu)
– “Claymore” (2007)
Based on a manga by Norihiro Yagi, this dark fantasy series follows warriors who are half human, half demon and charged with killing their fully demon counterparts, the most powerful of which can shape-shift into humans. Got that? Most of the action takes place from the perspective of the show’s wounded protagonist, Clare, who is driven by her painful past. (Streams on Hulu)
Also consider: “Inuyasha,” the 2000 series based on a manga by Rumiko Takahashi, in which a teenage girl is transported to feudal Japan, where she finds herself on a mission with the titular Inuyasha: half man, half dog demon. (Streams on Netflix and HBO Max)
– “Case Closed” (1996)
An astute high school detective crosses paths with a group of criminals and ends up in the body of a young boy in this series, known as “Detective Conan” outside of the United States. The long-running show earned the (faux) ire of Conan O’Brien after the late-night host discovered the child protagonist outranked him on Google in Japan. It’s so popular, O’Brien discovered, that there is actually a town named after the fictional character – and, of course, Team Coco visited it. (Streams on Crunchyroll)
Also consider: “Lupin III,” the franchise that began in 1971, which follows the grandson of the same gentleman burglar who inspired the popular French-language series. (Streams on Crunchyroll)
– “Castlevania” (2017)
Technically anime-inspired since it was produced outside of Japan, “Castlevania’s” English-speaking cast includes Richard Armitage (“The Stranger”) and Lance Reddick (“The Wire”). In this Netflix original, which is based on the popular Nintendo franchise of the same name, a vampire hunter resolves to protect his city from Dracula’s deadly rage. It’s dark, gory and bold in a way that now-adult fans of the “Castlevania” video games will appreciate. It also offers a unique take on the classic Dracula story across four seasons, the last of which debuted in May. (Streams on Netflix)
Also consider: “Hellsing,” the 2001 series that revolves around the storied Van Helsing family and their servant Alucard (that’s for all you anagram lovers). (Streams on Hulu)
– “Dr. Stone” (2019)
A teenage scientific genius awakens to a world in which nearly all human life has been petrified. Senku, aided by friends who eventually join him in an awakened state, sets off to uncover what happened – and how to undo it. “Dr. Stone” is serious about its science as Senku attempts to advance the world from a Stone Age to modern civilization. (Streams on HBO Max and Crunchyroll)
Also consider: “Fullmetal Alchemist,” a 2003 classic with more fantastical scientific leanings. (Streams on Netflix)
– “Naruto” (2002)
This kid-friendly franchise begins with the tale of a young, orphaned ninja who longs to be accepted by the village he hopes to lead one day. Subsequent installments further explore Naruto’s destiny, along with those of his closest friends. (Streams on Netflix and Hulu)
Also consider: “One Piece,” an ongoing series that began its run in 1999, which similarly revolves around a young boy with big ambitions. (Streams on Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll)
– “Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!” (2020)
This bubbly series follows three driven high school girls who create an anime club – though not without opposition – and embark on creating their own animated universe. It’s a fun, creatively told story that’s particularly illuminating when it comes to the animation process. The New York Times named “Eizouken” one of the best TV shows of 2020. (Streams on HBO Max and Crunchyroll)
Also consider: “My Hero Academia” from 2016, which puts a clever spin on the high school setting. (Streams on Hulu and Crunchyroll)
– “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995)
Fans of this classic anime rejoiced when it arrived on Netflix in 2019, after years of being virtually impossible to find in the United States. But the celebration was couched in caution because “Evangelion” is emotionally heavy stuff.
“Yes, it was another show about teenagers in big humanoid robots saving the world,” The Washington Post’s Gene Park wrote. “But it was also an audacious, brutal mosaic of depressed kids and adults with severe abandonment issues and debilitating existential crises. For myself and many young viewers in the ’90s, it awakened awareness of our depression and childhood trauma.” (Streams on Netflix)
Also consider: “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” the 2009 series which similarly pairs its action with exploration of pain and grief. (Streams on Hulu and HBO Max)
– “The Seven Deadly Sins” (2014)
This fantasy series revolves around a band of powerful knights charged with restoring order to an ancient kingdom from which they were once expelled. The show – one part of a franchise that includes films, video games and, of course, manga – is currently on its fifth installment; “The Seven Deadly Sins: Dragon’s Judgment” was released last month. (Streams on Netflix)
Also consider: “Dragon Ball” from 1986, the first anime in a pioneering and wildly popular franchise geared toward a similar demographic. (Streams on Hulu)
Comparing “Monster Hunter Stories” to Pokémon may seem lazy and obvious, but its also the easiest way to frame the experience for anyone whos curious.
Adjust your expectations if you play Nintendo’s “Pokémon” series purely for the hundreds of cute designs for fictional creatures. The name of Capcom’s series doesn’t lie: It’s all about hunting ferocious monsters, many of whom are ugly as sin. But the “Stories” spin off tales that deepen the game’s lore while maintaining its famously playful charm.
“Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin” is a sequel to Capcom’s first attempt to capture an audience that may want to try something besides Pokémon. The first game sold only 300,000 copies, a far cry from the global success of the root series. “Wings of Ruin” seems to be a second, earnest shot at the same idea, just on modern platforms. Whether this idea is worthwhile really depends on which factors of the “monster-catching and training” genre you love.
If you love the idea of catching and hunting different creatures, “Wings of Ruin” proposes a different solution than wandering the wilds and throwing balls. Instead, each monster “rider” is tasked to find unhatched eggs in various monster lairs strewn across several large maps. Fighting through each monster lair lands you one of 128 possible monsters that could join your team. You’re going to raise and nurture these monsters as if they’re your own. This is a far more streamlined way to find monsters, but it also removes a lot of the surprise that comes with finding that rare “shiny” Pokémon in the wild. It also means a lot of fighting your way through these funneled “dungeons” to find the egg at the end.
Fortunately, the fighting is where “Monster Hunter” has always shined, and “Wings of Ruin” is no exception. Unlike “Pokémon,” you fight alongside one of your monsters, and other characters in the story will fight alongside you with their own predatory pals. Every attack follows a simple rock, papers, scissors system in which speed attacks beat power types, power beats technical types, and so on. Sometimes these attacks can clash, triggering exciting animations that throw button-mashing prompts to keep you paying attention.
While you don’t have direct control over your monsters (lovingly called “Monsties” in this series), each one has a set of specialties you can easily predict. The game also tells you what kind of attack your monsters will unleash next, so you can plan your own attack. Sometimes the two attacks can link up for more damage and prompt special animations that liven up the hunts. Every attack builds up a “kinship” meter, and when it fills you can ride one of your Monsties for more zesty anime-inspired scenes to punctuate your decisions. There’s even another layer on top of that if your other rider party members also attained kinship, meaning all the creatures and riders form up for a singular devastating attack.
There’s also a story, and it’s a solid one. “Wings of Ruin” has winning character design and inspired art direction, especially when it comes to exploring the cultures of the Wyverians, the mysterious race of elflike beings seen in the main Hunter titles. But while there’s far more dialogue and character detailing in “Stories,” don’t expect any elevation of role-playing storytelling. “Wings of Ruin” stays very much in its lane of kid-friendly tales about friendship and believing in yourself. It’s serviceable stuff, but it’s only a small cut above what we get with Pikachu and gang.
It’s here where I have to admit to myself that the much of the Pokémon appeal for me has been exploring its world and the creatures designed for it. The main Monstie of “Wings of Ruin” is a Rathalos, the banner creature for the series in recent years. While fighting a Rathalos in “Monster Hunter Rise” is a genuine and challenging thrill, raising one in “Wings of Ruin” is a much taller ask of me. It doesn’t help that a fire-breathing dragon like Rathalos can’t compete for charm against even a less-popular Pokémon like a Bidoof, the adorable genetic hybrid of a beaver and a doofus.
I started to appreciate “Wings of Ruin” when I started to view it through the lens of Capcom’s long-forgotten role-playing series Breath of Fire. That story also involved dragons and clean, colorful designs for a diverse cast of travelers. When I eventually stopped the inevitable comparisons to Pokémon, “Wings of Ruin” started to sing as a gorgeous and updated evocation of the simpler days of 16-bit tales.
Capcom believes in this concept, and it’s hard to blame them. After all, the game maker has seen the kind of fandom furor Monster Hunter can raise. Why not extend that to children who could grow up to love the root series? When it comes to “Wings of Ruin,” you just really have to ask yourself whether you’re in it for the furry friends or the fantastical fighting. If it’s the former, the scale-clad titans of “Wings of Ruin” may not hit. But it’s going to be a fascinating time if you’ve always wondered what the formula might play like if it evolved just a bit more.
Nintendo announced an updated model of its hybrid mobile console Tuesday, the Nintendo Switch OLED, highlighting the devices better mobile screen, as well as a handful of new external features. The company did not detail any updates to the systems hardware; based on the information available now, games wont play any better, nor will they look better on a TV screen. Instead, the form factor updates – a new OLED screen and 0.8 additional inches of real estate – will merely make games look clearer in handheld mode. The bigger screen also means thinner bezels around the image, which gives the system a more modern look.
The form factor and docking station, unique to the hybrid console, are also getting some mild updates. The dock will now include an Ethernet port, while the console and screen itself will sport an improved and far more stable kickstand for tabletop play. And instead of 32 gigabytes of internal memory included, you’ll be getting 64 GB.
Outside of these modest adjustments, the OLED version is basically the same system as the original Nintendo Switch. So who is this for? And is it for you?
– For standard Switch model owners
The Nintedo Switch OLED probably isn’t for you. If you’ve followed gaming conversations across popular sites online, you may have heard rumors and excitement about more powerful Switch hardware, dubbed by fans as either a “Switch Pro” or “Super Nintendo Switch.” Both of these concepts still live in the realm of daydreams and wishful thinking. This new Switch OLED model will likely not offer any meaningful improvements to your play experience.
There are some exceptions. Do you play mostly in handheld mode? Is the screen feeling a bit dim, or do you wish the mobile screen had thinner bezels? The OLED displays should achieve much better black levels than the standard Switch model, which uses an LCD panel.
The OLED model will also come with two features that should have been included with the Switch back in 2017: a stable, wide kickstand and a built-in Ethernet port. Until now, every Switch console could only connect to the internet wirelessly. You’d need to buy an Ethernet adapter to hard wire it in, which typically cost about $30.
The lack of certain features is sure to disappoint some. It’s baffling and silly that the Switch still doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth support. And while it’s nice that the OLED device has an increased internal memory storage of 64 GB compared to the original 32 GB, it’s still relatively small. Smartphones often offer more.
An OLED screen may be new for Nintendo, but it’s old news in the consumer tech world. OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, has been the standard screen for Apple since the iPhone X in 2017. OLED panels have become a standard display option in recent years thanks to decreasing costs, and it’s obvious Nintendo is taking advantage of the reduced prices now. But I can only imagine owners of a regular Switch wanting this if they really value a better screen experience in handheld mode.
– For Switch Lite owners
If you purchased a Switch Lite but regret not being able to play on a TV, this should be an easier decision for you.
You probably only own a Switch Lite because you prefer to play games in a mobile format, or the limitation doesn’t bother you as much because the Lite was cheaper at $199. But now there’s going to be a newer model with an even bigger and bolder screen. Playing with a Switch that can be docked to a TV setup gives you a better playground for local multiplayer.
Certain games also sometimes see slight improvements in graphics when the Switch is docked. This isn’t a pronounced feature, but it happens across a few titles, and eagle-eyed players will spot the differences in detail, like in the recent “Monster Hunter Rise.”
But if you bought a Switch Lite because you love the size and form factor, and aren’t interested in a brighter screen, this should be an easy pass for you.
– For those who don’t own a Switch
You are the target audience for this new machine.
The Nintendo Switch has been the best-selling video game console in the U.S. in the last 30 consecutive months, over the newer, far more powerful PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series machines. With more than 84 million sold worldwide and on its fourth year, it’s already surpassed the lifetime sales of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which was in production for 11 years. The Switch is on track to become the most successful home console ever released by Nintendo.
Given that reality, Nintendo is relying on its age-old strategy of releasing refreshed units of the same system to saturate the market as much as possible before moving on to its next platform. It followed this strategy to wild success with the Nintendo DS family, which ultimately sold 154 million units and is barely behind the PlayStation 2 as the best-selling system ever. Nintendo hopes that these modest improvements will bring in the holdouts.
If you haven’t bought a Switch by now and you’re a lapsed Nintendo fan, this is the perfect reentry point. If you’re not a Nintendo fan but wondering why the company’s first-party titles are so critically and commercially successful, this one’s for you too. If you haven’t been interested in the Switch and Nintendo games, however, this new console probably won’t change your mind.
– For Nintendo collectors
Everyone knows you’re going to buy this. You’ve already tweeted to your followers that you’re going to get it. You probably already have two or more Switch units. You are Nintendo’s ideal customer. Congratulations, the company just gave you another reason to spend money. You love it.
A Taiwanese horror game that angered Chinese players returns. Can it move past its unintended politics?
When Taiwanese horror game “Devotion” first published in 2019, the conversation revolved around Chinese president Xi Jinping and a meme comparing him to Winnie-the-Pooh. The Disney character had no role in the game, but still a poster invoking the Chinese president and Poohs name led to “Devotions” removal from multiple digital storefronts and generated a online furor that trapped its makers at Red Candle Games in the middle of decades-long political tensions between Taiwan and mainland China.
Three days after its release, a player spotted and reported a poster in the game of a cursed talisman that read “Xi Jinping Winnie-the-Pooh moron.” It was a reference to a common meme mocking Xi by suggesting his resemblance to the cartoon. The developers said the art had been added as a placeholder by a team member working on the game who then forgot to replace it before the game’s release. Red Candle’s developers said they took down the image within an hour of the report, but the damage had been done.
When the poster came to the attention of Chinese players, they left thousands of scathing reviews for the game on the PC games store Steam. Red Candle would remove it from Steam in February of 2019, saying it needed to do a thorough quality assurance check to delete all “irrelevant content” from the game. CD Projekt Red’s digital store, GOG, announced in December of 2020 it would carry the game on its platform, only to walk back its statement hours later, citing negative messages from gamers.
The game was nowhere to be found. Until now.
Fast forward to 2021, and “Devotion” has returned. On March 15, Red Candle began distributing the game on the developer’s own website, with the controversial image removed. But can the game move on from the reputation it gained in 2019 for being politically subversive to Chinese gamers?
“The words on the poster do not represent the studio’s stance,” said Doy Chiang, co-founder of Red Candle Games and game producer for “Devotion.” “For players who have actually played ‘Devotion’ and finished the game would understand that the game’s theme is about parental love, Taiwanese family in the ’80s, and perhaps religious cults. Possessing political views about China, by any means, has never been the studio’s intention.”
Chinese internet users have been spreading memes comparing Xi to Winnie-the-Pooh for years. But the reference in “Devotion” still rubbed Chinese gamers the wrong way. They wrote in Steam reviews that the talisman felt antagonizing because it felt like Red Candle Games had hidden political views inside a game seemingly about something else, and had tricked Chinese users into playing it. Several users said if Red Candle Games hated mainland China and supported Taiwanese independence, then it shouldn’t have hidden its views in the game to force others to see. They added that they had received full refunds for the game and uninstalled it. Red Candle tried to communicate with Chinese gamers via its microblogging Weibo account, only to soon have its account removed.
Geopolitical tensions between mainland China and Taiwan have brewed since the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949. The Chinese government says that Taiwan is a province of China, but the Taiwanese government maintains its sovereignty. The United States is purposefully ambiguous in its relationship with Taiwan, engaging in trade and diplomacy without officially recognizing the island as its own country.
“We understand that some players have been looking forward to the re-release of ‘Devotion.’ And we feel sorry that the studio failed to deliver that in the past two years,” said Vincent Yang, co-founder of Red Candle Games.
Why did the game take two years to return? After the game was taken down in early 2019, the studio made the decision to hold off on quickly rereleasing the game. After the decision to distribute the game on GOG fell through in 2020, they ultimately decided on the self-publishing route, which took months to prepare, Yang said.
Rather than addressing the political situation between Taiwan and China, developers say “Devotion” draws inspiration from games like “What Remains of Edith Finch,” “Layers of Fear” and “P.T.” with a mixture of horror elements and mysterious puzzles. “Devotion” is set in the 1980s, and includes many nods to Taiwanese culture, religion and music from that era. Red Candle Games noted that Taiwan rarely gets showcased in games, and especially not in psychological, atmospheric horror games. The team spent “countless hours in redesigning our project,” to live up to the inspiration drawn from those iconic titles, said Yang.
“Devotion” is a haunting first-person horror game that plunges players into the story with no tutorial. One moment, the main character is hearing his wife preparing dinner and asking for their daughter, and the next the player is alone and must figure out what happened to the deceased family.
The family’s belongings are strewn across the apartment, and the game depicts a happy couple moving into the home, raising a daughter who is talented at singing, then facing what happens when she grows sicker and sicker. Through art, music and dialogue, “Devotion” references Taiwanese folk culture, religious elements from Taoism and Buddhism and more. It gets very creative at times, showing gameplay through jumping around inside a children’s book and even a hellscape of what looks like the underworld.
“The 1980s Taiwan was a time of economic boom,” Chiang said. “The media often depicted the successful stories of the hardworking, talented, persevering people. But in reality, we saw people strangled by the stress.”
The loving couple who star in “Devotion” are at first extremely successful, with the dad being a script writer and the mom being a famous actress. But their careers dwindle and soon they pin their hopes on their elementary school age daughter, Mei Shin, a budding singer who has successfully performed on televised singing competitions. At first, Mei Shin is happy to oblige, but that sense of pride morphs into disappointment, illness and later, nerve-wracking pressure when her singing fails her.
“In a traditional Taiwanese household, the bonds between members are usually very strong. Some parents may consider their offspring as the extension of their existence, viewing children as part of the family’s possessions rather than independent individuals,” said Chiang. “As for parents who have unfinished dreams, they might put their own expectations on their descendants. From the present perspective, such behaviors are quite unfair to children.”
As Mei Shin grows sicker, a doctor tells her family that the issue is purely psychological. But in the 1980s, mental health issues were highly stigmatized in Taiwan. Instead of allowing the daughter to see a therapist, the family later turns to religion to solve their problems. Soon they become entangled in a cult.
“In the past, patients of mental illness were often stigmatized and associated with negative stereotypes. The general public was afraid of these patients,” Yang said. “That’s also the reason we wanted to include mental health as a part of our game narration. Though it might be a tiny effort, we hope that with our game, we could somewhat help raise the awareness of mental health in our society.”
The psychological burden doesn’t just stem from Mei Shin’s parents, but also herself and her strong sense of duty. Yang noted that none of the family members are able to fully express their emotions and instead each try to sacrifice themselves to show their love.
While the game slowly builds to a climax, it’s also got a good amount of jump scares along the way. For instance, in one part of the game, life-size dolls are used to represent the family. The wife doll is preparing things in the kitchen, at first, but as the player walks away, and then looks back, the wife doll is suddenly beside the player, looking directly at them.
“When players are finally in sync with the rhythm of the game, we would then implement a sudden change in the atmosphere to catch players off their guard,” said Chiang, who added that the jump scares keep players from getting too comfortable.
After the success of cult favorite horror game “Detention” and the mixed reviews of “Devotion,” Red Candle is working on a new, yet-to-be-named game that has been under development for over a year. The developers say it will be an action-packed two-dimensional platformer.
While Chinese gamers in 2019 criticized “Devotion” for what they interpreted to be a covert message in support of Taiwanese independence from mainland China, that theme is nowhere to be found in the game today. Instead “Devotion” feels like a celebration of Taiwanese culture and an examination of societal shortcomings. It does tackle tough subjects like mental health and abusive parenting, but leaves out any thoughts on Taiwan’s fraught relationship with China.
But in some ways, the damage has been done. Since the game’s rerelease on the developer’s website, sales have been insignificant compared to “Devotion’s” previous launch on Steam, likely due to the limited exposure the indie game studio receives. The game is also not allowed in mainland China, due to having to comply with local regulations, according to Red Candle. Local Chinese gaming regulations frown upon gory or particularly violent games and require that all text within a game must be in simplified Chinese (Devotion features traditional Chinese with an option of English captions).
“For Red Candle Games, our goal is to have our works playable for worldwide players,” Yang said. “We will continue developing our future titles. Hopefully one day we can achieve this goal.”