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  • Latest Posts

    • Rare dropped a preview video today outlining new features coming to their co-op pirate simulator later this week. Sea of Thieves now offers that most primal of pirate fantasies: burying your own treasure, complete with an auto-generated map to find it. The system ties in handily with multiplayer, letting you share your treasure maps via a quest board. When other players dig up and cash in on your treasure, you both reap the reward. It reminds me of other asymmetric multiplayer systems like Death Stranding's shared cargo hauls or Dark Souls' messages. Rare has also added cannon-strapped rowboats to Sea of Thieves, offering new strategic opportunities in ship-to-ship combat and boarding. Get up close to an enemy ship with a hard-to-hit boarding vessel that's 40% gun. As for smaller changes, a new whisper function will let you humorously speak through the wrong end of your makeshift megaphone to address close comrades (useful in a game with proximity-based voice chat.) Your tired pirates will also receive the ability to sit down and even take a nap, infractions carrying a minimum penalty of swabbing the poop deck. Most interesting of these minor changes to me is the addition of shipboard rats who will flee to the upper decks as lower ones fill with water during combat, a creative little detail that can also serve as an early warning sign of a hull that needs repairs. The addition of a handy "take all" option for storage crates will be a welcome quality of life change, and the video ends with the announcement of a fun and immersive addition: characters' mouths will now move in sync with players' voice chat input. These all seem like neat little changes to round out Sea of Thieves' lighthearted multiplayer, and we'll be able to see for ourselves how they alter the experience later this week on Thursday, December 2.
    • During CD Projekt Red's latest quarterly investor report, President and joint-CEO Adam Kiciński confirmed the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S versions of Cyberpunk 2077 will launch sometime in the first quarter of 2022. The new-gen versions of the sci-fi RPG were originally on track for a late 2021 rollout. However, in October, CD Projekt Red delayed the Cyberpunk 2077 upgrades to 2022. The Witcher 3's upgrades similarly received a push, with the studio tentatively attaching a Q2 2022 launch window to the news. Following its disastrous release across all platforms in December 2020, Cyberpunk 2077 went on to receive a slew of post-launch updates meant to tackle performance issues, crashing bugs, and a series of other game-breaking and immersion-breaking glitches. The title is currently in a much better state overall, though many would argue it still has a long road ahead before meeting previously set expectations. CDPR thinks the experience will one day hit the mark, according to Adam Kiciński's statement in a recent interview wherein he expressed the studio's belief that Cyberpunk 2077 will be perceived positively. In CD Projekt Red's Q3 2021 financial results, Kiciński divulged the company's ongoing commitment to the "next-gen version of Cyberpunk 2077." He additionally reiterated past talking points about the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S iterations, namely that they remain on schedule for the first quarter of next year. If CDPR is able to hold to this promise, then, owners of the current-gen hardware should be able to dive into a native version of the Night City-set adventure by no later than March 31, 2022. Kiciński additionally reconfirmed The Witcher 3's new-gen update will go live on an unspecified date next year. Kiciński's statement seems to suggest the studio is confident in its ability to deliver the Cyberpunk 2077 upgrade on time. That does not remove the possibility of another delay, however. For now, players would do well to temper expectations for the time being. An ambitious take on Mike Pondsmith's Cyberpunk tabletop RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 drops players in Night City where corporations effectively control much of the city's inner workings. The studio plans to further build upon the experience in free DLC and paid story expansions, but such content releases were put on hold while developers focused their efforts on improving the core game. At the very least, the free DLC and other updates are slated to launch in 2022. Cyberpunk 2077 is available now across Google Stadia, PC, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms; new-gen upgrades for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S should arrive in early 2022.
    • George R.R. Martin wanted Game of Thrones to be 10 seasons long and begged HBO’s former CEO for a longer run. The immensely popular drama-fantasy series ended in 2019 after eight seasons and a total of 73 episodes, the story of which centred on bloody wars, shocking betrayals and the unlikely alliances of nine noble families in the fictional continent of Westeros. Game of Thrones gained a huge following, with many of its stars, like Emilia Clarke, Richard Madden and Kit Harington, going on to become household names. Game of Thrones is based on Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the first instalment of which, A Game of Thrones, was first published in 1996. Since then, a further four books have been released, with plans by Martin to write a total of seven altogether. During Game of Thrones' TV run, the author served as a co-executive producer and wrote one episode for each of seasons 1 to 4. He also provided series showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss with the plot outlines for the still-unreleased sequels, as the TV show started to outpace the source material already provided by Martin by Game of Thrones season 5. Recently, it was revealed that the author was "worried" about where the show's story was heading after season 5, and wasn't convinced that Benioff and Weiss were sticking to Martin's "template" as they created their own narrative outside of his novels. Now, more has been revealed about what happened behind the scenes of Game of Thrones in a new book titled "Tinderbox: HBO's Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers" by bestselling journalist, James Andrew Miller (via Insider). In it, Miller provides an oral history of the broadcaster using over 700 interviews, from everyone to Martin himself to HBO's former CEO, Richard Plepler. Paul Haas, Martin's agent, explained how the fantasy author would meet directly with Plepler and "beg him" to make Game of Thrones a 10-season series with 10 episodes each, believing there was even enough material to go up to 13 seasons. After all, Game of Thrones' success didn't come without criticisms. Season 7 consisted of seven episodes, while the final season 8 had just six episodes, contrary to the 10 that had been a staple of Game of Thrones seasons 1-6. This caused some fans to accuse the showrunners of rushing the finale and, by extension, poorly concluding the arcs of many of the show's most important characters. The most controversial of these was Daenerys Targaryen's (Clarke) storyline, which ended with a divisive descent into tyranny. Many viewers were unhappy when the Mother of Dragons decided to mercilessly kill innocents without reason during the penultimate episode of season 8. Some saw this shift from hero to villain as too sudden to be palatable and believable, while others were quick to defend the writers by pointing out that House Targaryen, one of Westeros' nine noble houses, were burdened with a family history of madness and bloodlust. It could well be that more episodes per season, and more seasons per series, would have given the showrunners more room to prolong and justify Daenerys' troubled ending, lessening the apparent handbrake turn in character psychology that she took at the end of Game of Thrones season 8. However, with a storyline that would inevitably outpace Martin's original source material, it's no surprise that some fans were left disappointed. The show had achieved critical success until its final season, but it's not uncommon for finales to fall flat. What Game of Thrones fans can rejoice in, however, is knowing that Martin still has two books left in his series to release, and can look forward to reading an ending that may satisfy where the TV show couldn't.
    • Star of James Wan's latest horror film, Malignant, Annabelle Wallis, has shared details about Wan's ideas for a highly awaited sequel to the 2021 flick. The film was released on September 10 and, alongside Wallis, also featured Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, and Jake Abel. Upon release, it was met with generally mixed to highly positive reviews, with some labeling the film as "average" and others "a masterpiece." Directed by Wan and written by Akela Cooper, Malignant follows Wallis' character, Madison Lake Mitchell, who suffers from disturbing visions of strangers being brutally murdered. As the film goes on, she ultimately decides to save the victims from their gruesome fates and makes shocking realizations as she works through each nightmare. The film itself was noted for its extreme surrealism and psychodramatic storytelling style, adding another stand-out film to Wan's filmography. In an exclusive interview with *** for her upcoming horror-comedy film, Silent Night, Wallis shared details of conversations she had previously had with Wan about a potential sequel to the film. While she did not share any details on specific discussions, she did confirm that they were happening, solidifying the possibility of a future movie. Ever since the highly publicized release of the first film, the possible development of a second film has been reported by both audiences and critics alike. In previous interviews on the film, Wan had revealed that he was not against turning the movie into a franchise within the horror genre but enforced that it was not his original intention with the first film. Linking back to his infamous 2004 film, Saw, Wan explained that he had only intended that to be a single film before it did exceptionally well in theatres, spawning off a multi-layered franchise, enforcing that the same could happen with Malignant. Fans of the first film have already been hoping for a continuation of the story. With the confirmation of official discussions between the director and star, that possibility is closer than ever before. Furthermore, with the positive reviews for the film being firmly in its favor, a sequel would only further make sense to executives. As audiences wait for further announcements on the potential Malignant sequel, the first film is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime and soon released on Blu-Ray.
    • The Matrix Resurrections star Jessica Henwick teases the interesting role that Trinity will be playing in the upcoming sequel. It's been 18 years since the characters of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus introduced the world to the Matrix. Now in the upcoming fourth sequel to 1999's The Matrix, Carrie Ann Moss returns as Trinity and Keanu Reeves returns to play Neo, who is living a seemingly normal life as Thomas Anderson in what appears to be another more powerful simulation of the matrix system. Set nearly 20 years after the events of 2003's The Matrix Revolutions, Director Lana Wachowski returns to bring the fourth installment of the series to the big screen. Reeves as Thomas Anderson/Neo is lost in a normal life until he reunites with Moss' Trinity, but the two do not recognize one another. The film brings together Reeves and Moss alongside Wachowski and a host of new stars to the franchise. Some of the new stars include Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus (previously played by Laurence Fishbourne), Neil Patrick Harris as the Analyst, Jessica Henwick as Bug, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in unnamed role. Now Henwick, who starred as Colleen Wing in Marvel's Iron Fist and The Defenders on Netflix opens up about what The Matrix Resurrections has in store for one of the original characters. In a recent interview with Collider, Henwick reveals that Moss' Trinity will have an interesting role to play in the upcoming film. Reeves' return to his iconic role as Neo as been a source of much excitement, but it will also be interesting to see Moss reprise Trinity in The Matrix Resurrections. Details about the character's role in the movie are slim, with the trailer only suggesting Neo and Trinity possibly recognize each other, but aren't entirely sure about their shared history. With that in mind, it will be fascinating to see how Trinity's story plays out in the film. Some have theorized Trinity is fake and part of the Matrix program, while others believe Trinity (not Neo) is The One this time around. Whatever Wachowski has in store, it sounds like Moss has a meaty part to explore. Little is still known about how specifically Moss' role as Trinity will effect Neo in The Matrix Resurrections. With the first three films focusing on Neo being "The One," Trinity's love for Neo was crucial to his apparent sacrifice in The Matrix Revolutions. While audiences will have to wait a little longer to see how Trinity and Neo reconnect exactly, if the two are in another machine built simulation, a lack of recognition of one another could be a ploy to keep Neo and Trinity apart. The Matrix Resurrections releases in theaters and HBO Max December 22, 2021. The Matrix Resurrections (2021) Release Date: Dec 22, 2021
    • With Tom Holland reportedly set to return for a new MCU Spider-Man trilogy after Spider-Man: No Way Home, his web-slinging franchise will break an MCU record. Tom Holland's MCU future has long been subject of much speculation and doubt, as Sony and Marvel's Spider-Man deal broke down in 2019, before then being saved to bring him back for one more solo movie. Beyond that, it's again been unclear whether or not Holland would continue in the MCU, or if he'd be transferred over to Sony's Spider-Man Universe, although given his popularity in the role it was at least somewhat expected that Marvel and Sony would find a way to make it work once again. That appears to be the case. Holland himself may have played coy and been uncharacteristically secretive with regards to his future, but producer Amy Pascal has confirmed in an interview that there will be Spider-Man 4, 5, and 6 in the MCU following on from No Way Home, which closes out the current trilogy that started back in 2017 with Spider-Man: Homecoming. While it remains to be seen when the new Spider-Man movies will happen and whether or not Sony and Marvel keep the pace of releasing one every two years, it should at least solidify Holland's future in the MCU for the short and medium term. Appearing in a trio of new Spider-Man movies can give Holland's Peter Parker a new MCU record: the most solo movies in any one franchise. With Spider-Man 4, 5, and 6 reportedly planned, then that would take the Spider-Man movies far beyond the other MCU solo characters. As it stands, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor all have three each, with Odinson set to be the first MCU character to get four solo movies with the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in 2022 (and Captain America 4 is also in development at Marvel, though it's focused on Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson rather than Chris Evans' Steve Rogers). Whether those characters then get a fifth installment is unclear, but even if they do Spider-Man's six movies would outstrip them both for the MCU record. Looking beyond just solo outings, Spider-Man 4, 5, and 6 happening would also push past the Avengers too, which currently has four movies (although The Avengers 5 at some point, in some form, seems inevitable). This would set a record for Spider-Man movies in general too: not only would Holland be the first to get a Spider-Man 4, after Sam Raimi's own plans fell through, but it would mean he has more solo Spider-Man movies than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield combined (excluding their potential appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home, of course). The next Spider-Man trilogy breaking an MCU record shows just how important both Peter Parker and Tom Holland have become to Marvel's plans. Holland is already an incredibly popular movie star, and that's only likely to keep on rising. Likewise, Spider-Man is historically Marvel's biggest character, and this should ensure he remains at the very heart of the MCU, which is where he belongs. There are plenty more directions the MCU can go in with Holland's take on Spider-Man, while perhaps introducing other versions of the character, which the next Spider-Man trilogy can explore.
    • Tickets for the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home are being sold for $25K on Ebay. Spider-Man: No Way Home is the most highly anticipated release of the MCU’s Phase Four so far, and is scheduled to hit theaters December 17. The film is a sequel to 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, in which Tom Holland’s Peter Parker fought against Mysterio while on a school trip to Europe. Marketing for the film has revealed that, through multiverse mechanics, villains from previous non-MCU Spider-Man films will be appearing in No Way Home. The villains include Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro from the earlier Tobey Maguire- and Andrew Garfield-led series. Their revival has led fans to speculate on whether Maguire and Garfield's versions of the Web-slinger will also be in the film, but the recent trailer didn’t show any sign of the superheroes. Now, as tickets for Spider-Man: No Way Home become available for pre-sale, a post from Twitter user @Earth_96283 shows they are being re-sold on Ebay for as much as $25,000. The immense demand for pre-sale tickets has caused ticketing websites to crash due to the surge in activity. Many fans were left disappointed as they were unable to purchase them due to the unanticipated crashes, which could have caused the most desperate to check for Ebay postings such as this one. The eagerness of fans to get their hands on tickets, even at this re-sale price, shows that Spider-Man: No Way Home could be one of the MCU’s biggest non-Avengers releases ever. It will be expected that the film surpass the box-office results for the lesser-known Eternals and Shang-Chi, and it could bring in the best financial return of any release since the start of the pandemic. A large amount of the anticipation for the film is linked to the speculation regarding the return of Maguire and Garfield, as the new film looks to draw in fans from each modern Spider-Man franchise. With the second, and possibly final, trailer for the film now released, fans will have to wait until the film hits theatres to see whether the old series’ heroes will be there to help Holland's Spidey take down their villains. Rumoured leaks and set photos have shown the two actors suited up as the superhero, but they’ve been dismissed by Garfield himself, as well as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige. Fans who did manage to get their hands on coveted tickets for Spider-Man: No Way Home will likely be the first to know whether the superheroes do make a return - and the first to be disappointed if they don't. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Release Date: Dec 17, 2021
    • Early 2022 will see the debut of a new comic book publisher, Zestworld, which will focus on creator-owned books, with a business model that will aim to fairly compensate creators for their work—regardless of what media they are adapted to. Zestworld will use a subscription-based model, similar to Substack, to release its books. Among the talent assembled for the company’s first wave include Phil Jimenez, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. The comic book industry does not have the best track record when it comes to fairly compensating creators. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, sold the character’s rights to DC Comics for just $130—and he would go on to make the company billions. Siegel and Shuster took DC to court and were only able to get due credit after years of lengthy legal battles. Other creators such as Jack Kirby were in a similar position. One attempt to address this inequity was the founding of Image Comics in 1992; the company’s business model allowed creators greater freedom over their work. While publishers have since increased royalties and other forms of compensation, there is still a lot of work to be done. Subscription-based services have emerged as another alternative to the current model. Zestworld was announced Monday in The New York Times. Zestworld will be a subscription-based service, and all creators will be stockholders in the company. Chris Giliberti, the company’s CEO and founder acknowledges that the comics industry is “broken” all around for creators in publishing, TV, film and collectibles. Zestworld creators retain all rights to their creations, and the company’s business model ensures they will be compensated for all work, especially if it is adapted into other media.   This creative freedom is what attracted the first wave of creators to Zestworld, including Jimmy Palmiotti, who praised the publisher, saying Zestworld “put their money where their mouth is.” Palmiotti will have two books coming from Zestworld: Booty Powpow with artist Amanda Conner, and Found, with art by Juan Santacruz. Other creators in Zestworld’s first wave include Peter Tomasi, Alex Segura, Eric Canete and Phil Jimenez. Comic book professionals across the board agree that the current model for compensating creators is not fair, even after decades of tireless work by advocates such as Neal Adams, Frank Miller and others. This is particularly true when it comes to movies, TV and merchandising. Numerous creators whose stories have been adapted have reported paltry compensation for their ideas, especially when these ideas are generating billions of dollars for Marvel and DC. New publishers such as Zestworld want to fix this problem, allowing creators not only complete control over their books, but also ensuring that they receive what they are due from merchandising and adaptations.
    • The events of Hawkeye show that Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) can ruin Clint Barton's (Jeremy Renner) life without killing him. In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios announced that Hawkeye would star in his own Disney+ series. Fans were treated to an unexpected piece of setup for Hawkeye's story in Black Widow's post-credits scene. Through this scene, Marvel teased Yelena's return as she was given a mission to get revenge on the person responsible for Natasha Romanoff's death: Clint Barton. Yelena's mission came from Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). It was Phase 4's mysterious new character who showed Yelena a picture of Clint in his Ronin suit and said that he was to blame for the recent loss of her "sister." Black Widow's post-credits scene clearly puts Yelena on a mission for revenge against Clint Barton, and this has created a lot of speculation that she could kill the MCU archer. Since Hawkeye also introduces Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), fans have wondered if his solo series is where his story could ultimately end. However, the first two episodes of Hawkeye indicate that Yelena could ruin Hawkeye's life without killing him. Clint Barton isn't Ronin anymore when Hawkeye takes place, but the suit and its legacy play a major role. Kate Bishop came to acquire it and brought trouble into her life for the enemies Clint made when he wore the suit. It is through this storyline that Hawkeye reveals a new piece of information: no one knows that Clint Barton was Ronin. The show repeatedly mentions that the identity of Ronin is a mystery even though the suit was found in the wreckage of Avengers Compound. While Avengers: Endgame made it clear that the Avengers knew Clint was Ronin, Hawkeye indicates that not even Clint's kids know about this dark part of his past. This could be important in the context of Yelena Belova's role, as Black Widow confirms that she and Val also know that Clint was Ronin. Thanks to Hawkeye, Yelena could now be in a position to use this information to benefit herself and ruin Clint's life. The photo of Clint Barton unmasked in the Ronin suit from Black Widow's post-credits could now prove to be a vital part of Hawkeye's story. It is difficult to imagine Clint putting the suit back on during the Disney+ show in the present day due to how much the time as Ronin still haunts him. While the series could show more of Clint's time as Ronin through flashbacks, Yelena and Val are now known to be two of the few individuals who know about Hawkeye's past. Depending on what Yelena wants to do to Clint to get revenge, she could release this image to the public or just to Ronin's enemies. In either case, Yelena could ruin Clint's entire life by revealing that he was Ronin. Not only would such a reveal damage Hawkeye's public perception (possibly resulting in him getting pulled from Rogers: The Musical), but Clint's time as Ronin could put him and his family in danger. It's no secret that Ronin crossed paths with some powerful criminals in New York and around the world, including Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, potentially. Those left could attack Clint's family if they learn he was the man under the black and yellow ninja suit. At the very least, this could ruin Clint's chance for a quiet life with his family, while it might also mean sacrificing his life to save them. All of this is possible since Yelena Belova knows he was Ronin before Hawkeye and gives her a lot of power ahead of her return.
    • Tim Burton revolutionized comic book movies with Batman 1989, but the film underwent a hectic production and Kim Basinger might have saved the blockbuster’s story. Despite the controversial (at the time) casting of Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight, Batman 1989 was a huge critical and financial success. Burton’s dark and twisted vision for Gotham resulted in a monstrous city that later live-action films have yet to rival, while Keaton’s beloved vigilante will return to screens in 2022’s The Flash. Kim Basinger played Vicki Vale in Batman 1989, a photojournalist who arrives in Gotham to cover the mysterious Batman. She finds herself romantically entangled with Bruce Wayne and begins to suspect he is hiding something. Meanwhile, Jack Nicholson’s Joker becomes obsessed with Vale, particularly enamored by her war photos from Corto Maltese. Batman’s climax involves Joker capturing Vale, leading to a showdown in Gotham cathedral’s belfry. Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale is a significant character who eventually discovers Bruce’s secret, and the billionaire even wants to reveal his double life so they can pursue a relationship. However, in an interview with Movieline (via Lebeauleblog.com), Basinger claimed both the role and overall script were missing something: it needed a love story. According to the actress, there were many production problems – “If you knew the truth about Batman you would faint” – and she took it upon herself to rewrite her Batman 1989 character. One memorable confrontation between Batman and Joker may never have happened without Basinger’s input. Several comic book movies have endured tumultuous productions, but the issues burdening Batman 1989 have rarely come to light. Basinger noted the “magnitude” of the film, emphasizing the pressure the cast and crew were under, especially director Tim Burton. Everyone was focused on their respective roles, with Keaton exhausted from previous shoots and Nicholson simply wanting to perform. Per Basinger, “I’d go home at night and write over the weekend … I saw the reconstruction work that should be done.” Her solution of developing the love story is particularly interesting, considering how strongly this drives the characters in the story, especially Bruce. Basinger’s comments imply Vicki Vale was more of a casual love interest, or even plot device, rather than the photojournalist whose investigation results in a love triangle between hero and villain. These problems were evident to original Vale actor Sean Young (Blade Runner). Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Robert Wuhl - who played reporter Knox - understood Young’s dissatisfaction: “She was disappearing from the page.” Basinger worked well with Burton, with this article revealing they collaborated on the waltz scene with Vale and Joker in Batman’s 1989 third act. Basinger said of Joker, “He’s been trying to seduce me the whole film, so I felt like I needed to flip it and seduce him to take his focus from Batman.” Vale distracting Joker by kissing his jacket shows she isn’t simply a damsel in distress and lends emotional stakes to a climax that didn’t originally involve Vale. This wasn’t Basinger’s only contribution that improved Batman and Joker’s dynamic either. In Vanity Fair, producer Jon Peters commended Basinger’s “crucial” role in crafting a “confrontation scene between Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton which didn’t exist originally”. He was most likely referring to the moment where Joker appears at her apartment, just as Bruce plans to reveal his secret identity to Vale. This amplifies the love story and motivates the hero on an emotional level, as well as provides some iconic dialogue. Without this scene, Bruce and Joker wouldn’t properly interact until the climax, illustrating Vicki Vale’s importance in bringing these characters into each other’s orbit. The love story adds much-needed suspense that would be lacking had Batman 1989 just stuck to fight scenes. Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale brought the heart that helped save Batman from an otherwise oppressively dark, cruel world.
    • The title for Magic Mike 3 has been revealed, implying there won't be a Magic Mike 4. Channing Tatum starred in the first two films, Magic Mike, released in 2012, and Magic Mike XXL, released in 2015, which grossed more than $300 million worldwide. The movie inspired the live show adaptation, Magic Mike Live, which launched in Vegas and has since traveled worldwide, continuing in 2022. Magic Mike centers on Tatum's Mike Lane, a male stripper who struggles to find his career path while mentoring a young dancer and trying to get his own love life in order. The series plays to the drama, romance, dance numbers, and eye candy that define it, with co-stars including Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Nash, and Adam Rodriguez. Steven Soderbergh directed the first film, while Gregory Jacobs directed the second, with Reid Carolin writing both. Now, the crew is about to retake the stage with a third film, aptly titled Magic Mike's Last Dance, which implies this would be the last film in the series. The HBO Max original will stream sometime in 2022, with Tatum is back as "Magic Mike" and the creative team of Soderbergh, Jacobs, and Carolin back for another round. Soderbergh says that the response to the live show and what choreographers were able to bring to it inspired him to want to make another film in the series, saying, "Mike Lane's dream of connecting people through dance must be realized!" In addition to the new film, HBO Max is also releasing a new competition show based on the film, called Finding Magic Mike, which debuts on December 16th, 2021. The reality show centers on ten male competitors who have "lost their magic" as they "bare their souls and learn to perform dance routines." The competition winner will be awarded a cash prize and allowed to perform in the Magic Mike Live show in Vegas. Tatum has been decidedly low key in his big-screen appearances since 2017, where he starred in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Logan Lucky. Since that time, he did some voice work for animated films, including The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part and Smallfoot. He recently appeared in a small role for Ryan Reynolds' Free Guy and dropped the trailer for his first directing effort, Dog. The actor has taken a different approach to his career, focusing on being more involved at the ground level of each film he's involved in, giving him more creative control and freedom. With Magic Mike 3, aka Magic Mike's Last Dance, Tatum is returning to a well that's helped make him a household name, so it's understandable he'd be game to take the stage once more for the franchise.
    • Tom Burke has joined the Mad Max spinoff Furiosa, replacing Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in George Miller’s upcoming action film. Miller first launched the Mad Max franchise in 1979, with Mel Gibson starring as a vengeful police officer in a not-too-distant dystopian future. Mad Max 2 was released in 1981, followed by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. Miller resurrected the franchise in 2015 with Mad Max: Fury Road, recasting the part of Max with Tom Hardy and introducing audiences to the headstrong war captain Imperator Furiosa. Miller will explore the origins of the renegade character in Furiosa. Initial casting announcements were made in October 2020, when Warner Bros. tapped Anya Taylor-Joy to play the young Furiosa. Chris Hemsworth and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II were also set to co-star. Abdul-Mateen’s casting announcement marked another substantial role for the in-demand actor, who starred as the iconic villain Black Manta in James Wan’s Aquaman, appeared in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Candyman, and won an Emmy for his performance on HBO’s Watchmen. He’ll appear next as Morpheus in The Matrix Resurrections. Now Warner Bros. has announced that Abdul-Mateen will no longer be joining Furiosa, Deadline reports. He is replaced by English film and stage actor Tom Burke, though there’s no word yet on the character that Burke is now set to play. Abdul-Mateen reportedly left the project to pursue a secret passion project whose production schedule conflicted with Furiosa. Furiosa marks the first major studio film for Burke, who has made a name for himself in various literary adaptations, stage productions, and critically acclaimed indies. He’s known for playing the eponymous character Cormoran Strike in the 2017 BBC series Strike, as well as his performance in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir. In 2020 Burke played Orson Welles in David Fincher’s Mank. Abdul-Mateen’s absence is perhaps owing to Furiosa’s own shifting production schedule. The spinoff prequel was originally slated to debut on June 6, 2023, but Warner Bros. announced that the film will now bow on May 24, 2024, pushing Furiosa back almost a full year. The delay isn’t too much of a shock, given Hollywood’s continuing headache of pandemic-related scheduling changes. Moreover, Miller’s stunt-heavy, desert-set films are particularly demanding to film. The production delay will hopefully give the Furiosa cast and crew the adequate time to make the film safely and up to par with Fury Road. If Burke is hoping to prove his star-making chops, there is perhaps no better film to churn out stardom than Furiosa.
    • A recent study found how movie theaters can attract audiences and increase ticket sales. Thanksgiving weekend saw many return to the theaters to see the likes of Encanto, House of Gucci, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. This was good news for a theater industry that was forced to shut down operations in 2020 and has been recovering over the past year with hits like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Halloween Kills, while offsetting some of the box office disappointments from The Last Duel and King Richard. Yet, while multiple ticket selling sites crashed due to the high demand for Spider-Man: No Way Home, this has been the exception rather than the rule. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, despite films' profits increasing due to the likes of Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, overall ticket sales and audience attendance had been dropping. Ever since the pandemic began, while some films have found some success, others have struggled to climb to the former box office glory of before 2020, and there have been a number of factors at play. According to Variety, a recent report by Quorum, a film research company, Cultique, a brand consulting firm; and Fanthropology, a fan engagement company, found that many filmgoers' hesitancy to return to the theater comes down to safety and theater prices. They surveyed more than 2,500 pre-pandemic moviegoers and discovered that nearly half of respondents, some 49% of those polled, who once went to cinemas, no longer do so. Many felt they would feel safer if theaters required filmgoers to show proof of vaccination. However, the biggest sticking point for many appears to be the price for both tickets and concessions, as they would be more willing to go if moviegoing was less expensive. The also expressed the desire for improved concessions and healthier options. One reason concessions cost so much money is because it is where most theaters make their profit, as the ticket sales are split with the studios, and sometimes the theaters get less than half the money from tickets. Theaters have tried to incentivize audiences with membership programs like the AMC A-List where they get 12 movies a month for a flat rate, hoping they will spend more money they would have on a ticket for concessions. Yet, the report found that many filmgoers either don't know about the programs or find them hard to use. While theaters have done much in recent years to compete with streaming and home media options, like more focus on IMAX and 3D, as well as offering assigned seating and reclining seat options, it appears the key to making movies more appealing is to make them more affordable. Unlike plays or even concert venues, movies have been the entertainment of the masses and one that many have been able to afford during hard economic times. With more strict COVID-19 restrictions and cheaper ticket sales, more audiences may be willing to give a movie like The French Dispatch or Belfast a chance instead of worrying they have to save up all their money for one night out to go see Spider-Man: No Way Home.
    • An actual NASA mission, akin to that seen in 1998's Armageddon, got the film trending, with director Michael Bay now saying the movie predicted the new mission. Bay helmed Armageddon, fresh off the success of Bad Boys and The Rock. Armageddon also featured a stellar team of writers, including JJ Abrams, Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, and Shane Salerno. In addition, the cast was stacked with veterans and newcomers alike, featuring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, and Owen Wilson. The plot of Armageddon sees a massive asteroid on a collision course with Earth. To stop the Asteroid, NASA recruits a team of deep-core oil drillers sent into space where they land on the hurling rock to place nuclear bombs, hoping to destroy it. Last week, NASA launched a 1200 lbs SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to start a test mission called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). The rocket is intended to fly around the sun before making contact with Dimorphos, a small asteroid posing no threat, sometime next year. With the rocket's impact, NASA hopes to see if they can knock it from its trajectory, giving humanity hope if an asteroid ever poses a threat to Earth. Armageddon began to trend after the launch as many pointed out the similarities between the film and NASA's DART mission. Now, Bay is adding his own two cents on the comparison. While speaking with The Wrap about NASA's mission and Armageddon, Bay acknowledged that NASA wasn't sending oil drillers before saying, "but our plan was not far off where they send a craft to nudge it, either with a nuke or whatever, they just have to nudge it." Bay added, "They had a bunch of stuff we mentioned in the movie that were real plans that are on the table." Bay even discussed his time prepping for Armageddon, talking about when he met an official from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory whose job was to find and track potential "global killers." While Bay's comments point toward Armageddon predicting NASA's mission, Bay is just happy NASA is taking preemptive action, saying, "Thank God they're doing something because these things (asteroids), they're lethal. They come in 24,000 miles an hour if I remember correctly — it's an airburst to the ground."   While Armageddon's core concept, knocking an asteroid from its trajectory, is part of NASA's DART mission, Armageddon likely didn't inspire the plan. As Bay mentioned, things used in the film "were real plans," meaning NASA was more likely the inspiration behind the film's story. While Bay may seem like he's patting himself on the back, he's elated that NASA is taking action, saying, "It just makes the world aware that there is a big effin' problem that we might have one day, so it's better to get our asses in gear now and practice for what can be a very serious situation." There is a bit of irony running through the situation, as NASA has previously used Armageddon in its management training program where they asked recruits to point out as many inaccuracies in the film as they can. It's been stated that there are at least 168 impossibilities in the movie, which further elucidates how Armageddon was unlikely to inspire NASA's DART mission. Whether the DART mission is successful or not will be unknown until some time next year, though Bay seems happy that Armageddon may have inspired real-world NASA plans.
    • Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, Licorice Pizza, shattered a pandemic box-office record in its limited opening weekend. While Thanksgiving weekend saw the release of high profile films like Disney's latest animated film, Encanto, and Ridley Scott's House of Gucci, the latest film from Anderson saw a limited release playing in four theaters across the United States, two in Los Angeles and two in New York. Licorice Pizza was given a platform release, with a wide release set for Christmas 2021. Licorice Pizza is a coming-of-age story starring Cooper Hoffman (son of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Alana Haim, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, Nick Nolte, Maya Rudolph, and Tom Waits. The film has received glowing reviews from critics, with a current rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 79 reviews. Licorice Pizza is Anderson's first film in four years since the 2017 release of Phantom Thread, and anticipation among many, including director James Gunn, is high as Anderson is as much a draw as names like Christopher Nolan or Wes Anderson. According to Variety, Licorice Pizza brought in $335,000 in total over its first three days and $83,852 per location, more than any other specialty film in nearly two years. That beats the record previously set by A24's C’mon C’mon, which scored $135,447 on five screens — averaging to $26,889 per location. Licorice Pizza proved very successful with younger audiences as 72% of the audience was between the ages of 18 and 34 with 66% being male. While older audiences have been the least likely to return to the theaters, the younger-skewing audience for Licorice Pizza could work out in the film's favor as a potential box office hit when it opens wider during December. Currently, Anderson's highest-grossing film is There Will Be Blood, which grossed $40 million domestically, and given the positive word of mouth and broad appealing subject matter, Licorice Pizza could perform just as well. The record that Licorice Pizza broke was also previously held by Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch, which currently has grossed $33 million worldwide. Licorice Pizza has jumped towards the pack as a potential Academy Award frontrunner which is likely to help boost its box office in the coming months. With strong word of mouth from critics and audiences likely to build, and the film receiving a wide release close to the end of the year, it could become an early Oscars frontrunner. Five of Anderson's previous films have been nominated for Academy Awards (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice, Phantom Thread) while both There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread scored Best Picture nominations. Licorice Pizza's box office record may just be the beginning of the story.
    • Actor Bradley Cooper shares a harrowing story about being held at knifepoint in New York City in 2019. Ever since his breakout role in the hit 2009 comedy The Hangover, Cooper has been showcasing his talent and versatility across various genres. His Academy Award-nominated performances include a recent divorcee suffering from bipolar disorder in Silver Linings Playbook, an FBI agent in American Hustle, the deadliest marksman in US military history in American Sniper, and a musician struggling with addiction in A Star Is Born. Cooper is also well known for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a role which he will be reprising for 2022's Thor: Love and Thunder and 2023's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The actor also has a few intriguing roles lined up in Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley and Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza. Del Toro's follow-up to his Best Picture-winning film, The Shape of Water, centers on an ambitious carny (Cooper) who crosses paths with a corrupt psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) even more dangerous than himself. In Anderson's latest film, Cooper portrays a real-life film producer named Jon Peters. While Cooper usually garners attention for his work as a film actor and producer, he is now making headlines for an unfortunate encounter he had with a knife-wielding assailant in 2019. The actor shared the story during a recent appearance on the Armchair Expert Podcast (via E! News) promoting his two upcoming films, detailing the harrowing experience from the moment he was held at knifepoint to his intense getaway. Thankfully, Cooper nor anyone else was seriously harmed as a result of the incident, and he was able to safely pick up his 4-year-old daughter, Lea, from her lessons. Though the actor didn't reveal what eventually happened to the culprit, Cooper was able to take a few photographs of him and show them to police officers that he flagged down in the street. As of now, 2 years after the incident occurred, it's unclear if the assailant was ever caught. Cooper's frightening experience is just the latest an example of the danger that celebrities face when in public. Though the actor admits his "guard was down" when the attempted attack occurred, recognizable movie stars do face increased risk when in public, which often forces them to wear sunglasses and hat in an attempt to disguise themselves, like Cooper did, or employ the services of a bodyguard. Luckily, everyone got out of this incident unscathed.
    • Microsoft has announced yet more games coming to the Xbox Game Pass subscription service throughout October 2021. The latest list of Xbox Game Pass additions includes day one releases and beloved hits ranging from indie to AAA, offering plenty for subscribers to get stuck into throughout the spookiest month of the year. Xbox Game Pass has quickly become a must-have service for both Xbox and PC gamers. By paying a monthly fee, players are able to access a wide range of games for as long as their subscription remains active. Some of the biggest Xbox games of 2021 are set to be included in the service later this year, with both Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 available through Xbox Game Pass from launch. Halo Infinite fans on console can pre-download the game right now ahead of its December release date. The next games coming to Xbox Game Pass have been confirmed by Xbox Wire, with eight titles headed to the platform in the coming weeks. Just in time for Halloween is Back 4 Blood, the spiritual successor of Left 4 Dead, available through Game Pass beginning October 12. The latest game from Deadly Premonition director Swery, The Good Life, is also a day one Xbox Game Pass release, available from October 15. For PC players, one of the biggest new offerings is Destiny 2: Beyond Light, available from October 12 for PC only. The full list of October games and dates is as follows:   Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (Cloud, Console, and PC) - October 5 The Procession to Calvary (Cloud, Console, and PC) – October 7 Visage (Cloud, Console, and PC) – October 7 Back 4 Blood (Cloud, Console, and PC) – October 12 Destiny 2: Beyond Light (PC) – October 12 Ring of Pain (Cloud, Console, and PC) – October 14 The Riftbreaker (Cloud, PC, and Xbox Series X|S) – October 14 The Good Life (Cloud, Console, and PC) – October 15 The latest Xbox Game Pass games are set to please all different types of players thanks to their varied stories, themes, and genres. Back 4 Blood is a co-op horror shooter, while wobbly physics-based sim Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is set to bring some laughs. Ring of Pain, a roguelike card crawler, should please fans of strategy games, and Destiny 2: Beyond Light is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Those looking to prepare for Halloween in style will likely be happy to see first-person psychological horror game Visage on the list, while The Good Life offers a nice change of pace as players solve a murder in an idyllic British town. Xbox Game Pass subscribers can expect even more additions to the service in the coming weeks. The eight latest games only account for half of October's offerings, with another set of releases expected to be revealed soon. While Game Pass still has lots of surprise announcements expected throughout the rest of the year, some of the future games coming to the service have already been confirmed. Halo Infinite will be available on Xbox Game Pass on December 8, while Forza Horizon 5 zooms onto Xbox Game Pass on November 5.
    • The Epic Games Store is becoming something of a PC gaming meta-platform, having recently started making discrete gaming platforms available to download from its own storefront. Earlier this year, Itch.io came to Epic Games Store, and now it also plays host to cloud gaming platform Antstream Arcade, which lets you play over 1200 retro games for free on your PC. Antstream has a huge games library, focusing mostly on games from the 80s and early 90s. While I'm of the unhip opinion that games from the Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 era are a little too archaic to keep you glued to your screen for more than a few minutes of nostalgic novelty, there are some bona fide 16-bit classics from later eras in there too. Double Dragon, Gauntlet and Metal Slug are excellent co-op options to bash and blast your way through, the Amiga version of Barbarian is a deceptively realistic distant ancestor of the promising Hellish Quart, and Sensible World of Soccer takes me back to a time when both football and its videogames were more innocent. I also can't help but be drawn in by the campy hand-painted box art of games like Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja and Burning Fight, an SNK beat-em-up starring a couple of "Butch New York detectives Duke and Billy who travel to Japan to fight a Japanese crime syndicate." A Japanese crime syndicate in Japan? Who'd have guessed?!? The free tier is ad-supported, but still gives you access to all the games, while the premium ad-free version costs £10 a month. One of the 'free games' on Epic this week is actually a Welcome Pack for AntStream, which gives you 1090 gems that you can spend to participate in tournaments, unlock new in-game challenges and play turn-based PvP against other players. Sadly, the platform is yet to offer simultaneous online multiplayer. Remember that this is a cloud gaming platform, so a strong internet connection is a must. If you're intrigued by AntStream but can't handle the stark user experience of Epic Games Store, you can also find AntStream Arcade on Steam, where it's been available for several months now and is yet to receive a review. Hopefully its stint as the Epic freebie this week will give it some much-needed exposure.
    • Amy Pascal confirms Tom Holland will continue as Peter Parker after Spider-Man: No Way Home. With less than three weeks to go before the latest Sony and Marvel Studios' collaboration project premieres in theaters, fans can already expect to see more of the wall-crawler in the MCU. Despite previous rumors, Spider-Man: No Way Home will not end Holland's stint as the superhero as there are already plans for his future films in the franchise. On the heels of The Amazing Spider-Man 2's failure, Kevin Feige was able to convince Sony to share Spider-Man with Marvel Studios in 2015. This started the companies' partnership and by 2016, Holland joined the MCU through Captain America: Civil War. Since then, he has played the role four more times — two of which were in his solo flicks, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. The other two instances were in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Now, Holland's Peter Parker is set to star in his third standalone journey which is hyped up to be his biggest personal adventure yet. Beyond Spider-Man: No Way Home, however, not much has been known about the character's fate — until now. In a new interview with Fandango, Pascal confirms that they are already planning new films with Marvel Studios with the intention of keeping the wall-crawler in the MCU for the foreseeable future. According to her, they are developing at least another trilogy. The historic collaboration between Marvel Studios and Sony almost ended prematurely in 2019, leaving Spider-Man's cinematic fate was in limbo. Fortunately, both parties were able to find a middle ground, drafting a new deal that would keep the character in the MCU. While the terms of the renegotiations have been mostly kept a secret, they decided that Marvel Studios will produce at least two more films with Holland's Spider-Man — one of which is Spider-Man: No Way Home, while the other is a currently untitled project, that's mostly an ensemble flick. Sony maintains ownership of the character, with the possibility of him appearing in its own Spider-Man universe. It's unclear how this new planned Spider-Man trilogy affects the existing deal, but at least now fans can be assured that the wall-crawler isn't going anywhere. In any case, continuing Marvel Studios and Sony's partnership is a win-win for both camps. Given their films' successes thus far, this makes sense from a business standpoint, especially for Sony considering that their struggles sustaining a long-running Spider-Man franchise. Marvel Studios' gain, on the other hand, is mostly creative-based. Holland's Spider-Man is becoming one of the new faces of the MCU after the Infinity Saga. Given the character's age, the franchise can continue to develop his arc. Fortunately, Spider-Man has no scarcity of great stories from the comics that they can pull from after Spider-Man: No Way Home.
    • Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer has revealed that Christopher Nolan's reaction to him scoring Dune over Tenet was "not great." Zimmer had turned down the offer to write the music for Tenet to instead take on Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel. Tenet was eventually scored by Ludwig Goransson, who won an Oscar in 2018 for his Black Panther score. Zimmer and Nolan have collaborated many times before, most notably on Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy, as well as Inception, Interstellar, and his WW2 epic Dunkirk. Zimmer had also previously worked with Villeneuve, composing the music for the director's sci-fi sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Some of Zimmer's other credits include his Oscar-winning score for The Lion King, as well as Gladiator, Hidden Figures, and the most recent James Bond franchise entry, No Time To Die. In an interview with ReelBlend, the podcast of CinemaBlend, Zimmer talked about how Nolan's reaction to turning down Tenet was "not great." Zimmer has built a more recent career out of live performances, including an appearance at Coachella in 2017, lessening his time in film scoring. The composer made it clear that taking on Dune was his way back into movie scoring, inspiring him the way the original Dune novel book did after having read it as a child. Zimmer is known for his use of electronically produced music integrated with live orchestral arrangements. This has allowed his music to convey a wide variety of moods and tones over multiple genres, having composed for over 150 films, including the upcoming Top Gun sequel Top Gun: Maverick. Zimmer's other accolades include four Grammys, two Golden Globes, and three Classical BRIT Awards. With Zimmer confirmed to write the music for Dune: Part Two, it's clear the collaboration between him and Villeneuve is far from over. With Zimmer otherwise spoken for once again, Nolan is continuing his collaboration with Goransson for his next film, Oppenheimer, about the architect of the nuclear bomb, to be played by Cillian Murphy. Though Nolan and Zimmer's collaborations are on ice for now, the door remains open if the two should want to work together again. Their pairing has marked the creation of iconic scores in some of Nolan's best-known works, with the director recently saying he made Interstellar after being inspired by Zimmer's music. Scoring is one of the most under-appreciated professions in the film industry, but also one of the most crucial. The music of a movie subconsciously tells audiences how to feel; when they should be overjoyed or excited, and when they should cry. Music runs through movies seamlessly and, without it, the audience can be left feeling detached and unsure. Zimmer has shown through his Dune score that something as strange as an alien desert planet can feel intriguing, stirring and familiar just through music alone, and no doubt he would have had an equally impressive affect on Tenet.
    • Hi guys, Hope you all are doing well. Do you guys think that stem education is important? Stem stands for Science, Tech, Engineering, and Maths. STEM education emphasizes technology and integrates subjects in ways that connect disciplines and relate them to each other. What do you think is it good for schools to focus on stem education? I know this topic is out of context but still worth discussing.
    • The Publishers Association, Elsevier and Springer Nature have obtained permission to expand their anti-piracy campaigns in the UK. Major ISPs are now required to block even more domains that help to facilitate piracy, including those that assist people to access the infamous Sci-Hub and Libgen, platforms that are already subjected to intensive blocking. Page BlockedBooks and scientific papers are considered some of the most valuable sources of knowledge on the planet. Millions rely on them for education and insight but while information wants to be free, this content comes with a price tag. Publishers are therefore desperate to prevent people from accessing their premium content from pirate sites. A key weapon of choice to achieve this in the UK is the site-blocking injunction. Obtainable from the High Court, these court orders require internet service providers to prevent their users from accessing specific domains and over the years dozens have been granted. The Publishers Association In 2015, The Publishers Association, an organization supporting members producing digital and print books, research journals and educational resources, broke new ground by becoming the first publishing entity to use Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to obtain blocking measures. This campaign has continued for years and now encompasses not only pirate site domains, but also proxy and mirror domains that have the purpose of circumventing earlier orders. This September the list was expanded and a month later, expanded again. The usual targets of The Publishers Association include domains that facilitate access to the popular Libgen library and eBook portals eBookee and FreeBookSpot. The trend was maintained this week when ISP TalkTalk revealed that more domains had been blocked in the UK. The new additions are as follows: ebookee.unblockit.kim, ebookee.123unblock.world, ebookee.mrunblock.bar, ebookee.nocensor.biz, ebookee.unbl4you.cyou, ebookee.unbl0ck.icu, ebookee.unblockproject.top, ebookee.proxybit.sbs, freebookspot.unblockit.kim, libgen.unblockit.kim, libgen.123unblock.world, libgen.mrunblock.bar, libgen.nocensor.biz, libgen.unbl4you.cyou,, libgen.unbl0ck.icu, libgen.unblockproject.top, libgen.proxybit.sbs The Publishers Association is not the only group of its type utilizing blocking orders in the UK. Other key players are major publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature who, over the years, have turned notorious academic papers platform Sci-Hub into their nemesis. New Blocks Target Sci-Hub Along with publisher Wiley, Elsevier and Springer Nature have engaged in numerous legal battles against Sci-Hub and founder Alexandra Elbakyan (1,2,3,4) but to date, little has prevented Sci-Hub from operating. As a result, the publishers have resorted to site-blocking injunctions. They obtained one in the UK back in February and then expanded on that with new blocks in September. This week they added two more domains – sci-hub.ru and scihub.unblockit.kim. All of the major UK ISPs will have to prevent their customers from accessing them but whether that will have any serious or long-term effect is harder to gauge. At least for now, we have to presume that the publishers believe the strategy works but it seems counterintuitive that people who want to seek out knowledge in complex scientific papers are incapable of spending five minutes on Google to find out just how easily these blocks are circumvented.
    • After breaking 26 million concurrents in April, Steam has now set a new record, with 27,384,959 accounts logging onto Valve's launcher all at once, as counted by SteamDB. Of those, 7.8 million were in-game at the time, which is under the record 8.1 million from March of 2020, but still rather a lot of people playing CS:GO. Thanksgiving weekend certainly helps perk the numbers up, as Americans doing seasonal tech support for their family turn on computers that have sat idle in someone's den or whatever for months while Steam logs on automatically. So do the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, and all of those people buying Cyberpunk 2077 while it's half-price and then leaving 'very positive' user reviews. (It's still the top global seller on Steam, and has received 22,579 recent reviews, 84% of which are positive.) Today's top games by peak player count were CS:GO (915,791 players), Dota 2 (677,744), and PUBG (344,841). Halo Infinite managed a respectable 146,212 players, and however many of those were cheaters driving Xbox players to demand they be allowed to opt-out of crossplay, it was too many.
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    • The Publishers Association, Elsevier and Springer Nature have obtained permission to expand their anti-piracy campaigns in the UK. Major ISPs are now required to block even more domains that help to facilitate piracy, including those that assist people to access the infamous Sci-Hub and Libgen, platforms that are already subjected to intensive blocking. Page BlockedBooks and scientific papers are considered some of the most valuable sources of knowledge on the planet. Millions rely on them for education and insight but while information wants to be free, this content comes with a price tag. Publishers are therefore desperate to prevent people from accessing their premium content from pirate sites. A key weapon of choice to achieve this in the UK is the site-blocking injunction. Obtainable from the High Court, these court orders require internet service providers to prevent their users from accessing specific domains and over the years dozens have been granted. The Publishers Association In 2015, The Publishers Association, an organization supporting members producing digital and print books, research journals and educational resources, broke new ground by becoming the first publishing entity to use Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to obtain blocking measures. This campaign has continued for years and now encompasses not only pirate site domains, but also proxy and mirror domains that have the purpose of circumventing earlier orders. This September the list was expanded and a month later, expanded again. The usual targets of The Publishers Association include domains that facilitate access to the popular Libgen library and eBook portals eBookee and FreeBookSpot. The trend was maintained this week when ISP TalkTalk revealed that more domains had been blocked in the UK. The new additions are as follows: ebookee.unblockit.kim, ebookee.123unblock.world, ebookee.mrunblock.bar, ebookee.nocensor.biz, ebookee.unbl4you.cyou, ebookee.unbl0ck.icu, ebookee.unblockproject.top, ebookee.proxybit.sbs, freebookspot.unblockit.kim, libgen.unblockit.kim, libgen.123unblock.world, libgen.mrunblock.bar, libgen.nocensor.biz, libgen.unbl4you.cyou,, libgen.unbl0ck.icu, libgen.unblockproject.top, libgen.proxybit.sbs The Publishers Association is not the only group of its type utilizing blocking orders in the UK. Other key players are major publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature who, over the years, have turned notorious academic papers platform Sci-Hub into their nemesis. New Blocks Target Sci-Hub Along with publisher Wiley, Elsevier and Springer Nature have engaged in numerous legal battles against Sci-Hub and founder Alexandra Elbakyan (1,2,3,4) but to date, little has prevented Sci-Hub from operating. As a result, the publishers have resorted to site-blocking injunctions. They obtained one in the UK back in February and then expanded on that with new blocks in September. This week they added two more domains – sci-hub.ru and scihub.unblockit.kim. All of the major UK ISPs will have to prevent their customers from accessing them but whether that will have any serious or long-term effect is harder to gauge. At least for now, we have to presume that the publishers believe the strategy works but it seems counterintuitive that people who want to seek out knowledge in complex scientific papers are incapable of spending five minutes on Google to find out just how easily these blocks are circumvented.
    • The Pirate Bay quietly turned 18 this year. The site survived several shutdown attempts and remains online. Nonetheless, one of the lawyers who fought The Pirate Bay in court says that the lawsuits and raids were worth it. Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde disagrees and believes that the torrent site can't be stopped by rightsholders. pirate bay logoThis year, The Pirate Bay officially reached adulthood, which is quite an achievement considering the immense legal pressure it has faced over the years. The site was launched in 2003 under the wings of the now-disbanded pro-culture organization “Piratbyrån”, which is Swedish for Bureau of Piracy. The group was formed by political activists and hackers in the same year. By then, many of the members had already launched other web projects challenging political, moral, and power structures. The Pirate Bay fitted this category and became a synonym for file-sharing in the following years. The site remains online today but it’s not without scars. Swedish police tried to shut the site down twice, raiding dozens of servers. This ultimate goal failed but local authorities did prosecute the site’s three co-founders, who all served time in prison for their involvement. This week the Swedish news site M3 ran a piece on TPB, bringing together some key players from the Pirate Bay trial. On one side there’s entertainment industry lawyer Monique Wadsted, who represented Hollywood, and Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde chimed in as well. No Regrets The piece doesn’t go deep into detail but it shows that the entertainment industry lawyer doesn’t regret going after the site and its founders, despite the mixed result. When Wadsted was asked whether it was worth the time and money, she replied with “Absolutely!” “Even though it was the American film companies that paid for my work, that work benefited all the authors and copyright holders. This is a very important but often forgotten aspect,” Wadsted told M3. Reading between the lines it’s clear that Wadsted hasn’t developed any sympathy for the pirate movement over the years. While companies such as Spotify and Netflix have publicly admitted that piracy was seen as both competition and inspiration, the lawyer doesn’t believe TPB should get much credit. “It is a cultivated myth that we would not have any streaming services for music, film and TV series if Pirate Bay did not exist. Those who claim it do not understand how technology development works. For example, it was not a pirate movement that forced the development of smartphones,” Wadsted noted. That last comment is a bit confusing as streaming services were around before smartphones. When Spotify and Netflix launched, smartphones were not a thing yet, and the iPhone had yet to launch. That said, The Pirate Bay can’t be credited for all technological revolutions but many people believe that piracy has helped to speed up the development of legal services. Spotify reportedly built its first content library with pirated music, and Napster’s rise motivated the music industry to team up with iTunes. Paving The Way Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde also believes that file-sharing paved the way for legal streaming services. “File-sharing has definitely helped the rise of services like Spotify and Netflix,” Sunde told M3, noting that this wasn’t what the Pirate Bay team envisioned. Instead, they wanted to move the power back from large companies to individual artists. Today, creators arguably have more control, but the entertainment industry is still dominated by major media companies. With the rise of legal options, piracy is less of an issue in the Western world, but it remains very relevant elsewhere. “I constantly meet people all over the world who tell me how important it has been (and is) for them to have access to materials. People who otherwise could not have the profession they have or who have learned the language and culture,” Sunde said. The fight to ‘free’ culture came at a steep price for Pirate Bay’s former spokesman, who distanced himself from the site many years ago. Following the trial, he was sentenced to an 8-month prison sentence of which five were served. Stopping The Pirate Bay? After more than two decades have passed The Pirate Bay still remains the go-to pirate site for many people. This also means that efforts to stop it will continue. Wadsted highlights that a lot of progress has already been made. Site-blocking efforts make the site harder to reach in many countries, and advertising blocklists make it more difficult for the current operators to monetize it. And with a lack of revenue, some site operators will eventually choose to abandon ship. For now, however, The Pirate Bay remains online and Peter Sunde doesn’t expect that the copyright lobby can bring it to its knees. “Pirate Bay has a life of its own and can not be stopped,” he said. Speaking with TorrentFreak Sunde clarifies that the site may eventually go away. He previously argued that shutting it down may be for the best. However, it won’t be outsiders that take it down. “The only way for it to die is if people running it grow tired and try to kill it off. There’s no power from the movie or tech companies that can affect that,” Sunde tells us. It’s impossible to predict The Pirate Bay’s future but history has indeed shown that it’s quite resilient. That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the site is pushed further into the dark web during the years to come
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    • Virgin Media subscribers who responded to letters accusing them of piracy are now getting feedback from movie company lawyers in the UK. While initial feedback suggested that alleged pirates could be on the hook for potentially thousands in damages, it now appears the movie company is taking a broader view of the situation. Whether such claims will hold up in court remains to be seen. Pirate KeyBack in September we broke the news that Voltage Holdings LLC, a company well known for tracking down pirates worldwide, had obtained a High Court order compelling Virgin Media to hand over subscriber data. That resulted in a then-unknown number of Virgin Media customers receiving letters accusing them of pirating the less-than-successful movie ‘Ava’ and warning of a copyright infringement lawsuit, should they choose not to settle the case. In line with previous High Court guidance, the letter did not specify a settlement amount. However, people who have responded to the initial letters are now receiving additional clarification, including a precise demand for damages and interesting justifications for that amount. Why Voltage Lost Money on Ava As reviews on various sites reveal, Ava is not a particularly well-liked movie. From 50K votes on the iMDb portal, the site received an average score of just 5.4/10. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score is 29%, a figure that plummets to 16% on the site’s Tomatometer. Perceptions of quality, however, are not something that Voltage Pictures believes led to the movie’s commercial problems. Instead, a combination of COVID-19 and piracy is cited. “In terms of our client’s loss, our client’s film was originally planned to be released in cinemas in the first quarter of 2020. This was subsequently delayed due to Covid-19,” the letters note. “In August 2020, our client started to receive emails from distributors explaining that the film was available via BitTorrent. Our client explains that since the film had become so easily accessible, distributors in unsold territories became wary of purchasing the film. Their reasoning was that they were unlikely to recoup the cost of advertising the film and renting theatres when the film was available for free online and, therefore, would lose money.” According to Voltage, distributors in the United Kingdom subsequently decided to forego a theatrical release altogether, as well as those in Australia, Canada, China and Turkey. “As a result, our client estimates that it will make a loss of no less than £3 million in the United Kingdom, representing the difference between its now anticipated revenue and the revenue which it would have received between 2020 and 2023 (the term of the license with the UK distributor) but for the infringement.” Loss Recovery: Cost of Film From the copies of letters we’ve seen thus far, Voltage now appears to be prepared to settle cases against Virgin subscribers for a little over £800. The movie company reaches this figure by listing several elements in its claim, starting with the profit lost due to each illegal download. “Had you downloaded a co The two final components of Voltage’s claim, if such a claim is directed at an actual infringer, are more straightforward. The company argues that by intentionally downloading BitTorrent software for the purposes of downloading and distributing infringing copies of its movie, the user acted flagrantly. “The court has discretion to award additional damages for such flagrancy of up to 100%, but for which our client only seeks 20%. This is (£520.71 + £11.19) x 20% or £106.38,” the letters read. Arguments over the validity of the £520.71 amount aside, this offer appears to be reasonable. The legal costs element raises questions though. “To obtain the court order enclosed in our letter of claim, the cost was £50,649.50. When divided between the potential defendants, this gives a figure of £101.30,” it reads. £50,649.50 divided by 314 does not equal £101.30, it’s more like £161.30. Of course, that’s in favor of the letter recipients but what this tends to suggest is that the original claim involved 500 IP addresses of which only 314 were of use or are yet to be tied to a Virgin customer. Either way, Voltage is demanding £101.30 plus a letter-writing fee. Flagrancy and Costs @ £106.38 + £200 Final Demand and Warning In requesting £838.28 in total, Voltage concludes by admitting that its calculations are estimates, albeit ones that have been reviewed by an “independent Queen’s Counsel” who viewed them as “reasonable”. “Should you disagree with the above, we invite you to submit to a judgment on liability, with the court to assess damages,” the letter adds. “For the avoidance of doubt, however, should our client be forced to issue and pursue proceedings, it reserves its right to seek a higher sum by way of damages, on the basis of (i) our client’s lost profits flowing from the lack of theatrical release and related lost profits and (ii) your joint and several liability for the acts of infringement of the entire swarm in which you have participated.” Voltage’s Additional Demands to Identify Infringers Finally, we are aware that bill payers that have denied knowledge of any infringement being carried out on their connections are being pressed by Voltage’s lawyers for additional information. This includes the names and ages of people who live at the address in question. The age element is interesting since the High Court order appears to prevent Voltage from filing claims against alleged infringers of pension age or those aged under 18. In the event that outsiders visited the address and used the internet connection there, Voltage is seeking their names and ages too. Whether letter recipients should give up this information is a matter for them and/or their lawyers, as mentioned in our earlier article. Conclusion While the chances of being held to account in the UK are vanishingly small, downloading and sharing a pirated movie in the UK is illegal and punishable under civil law. Those targeted by Voltage who did carry out this type of infringement have a case to answer but the settlement offer on the table may be open to interpretation. That being said, those who wish to find out what a court would say on the matter will be taking a considerable gamble. The letters and claims we’ve seen thus far are much more aware than those we’ve seen in the past and if a case is taken to court, rest assured the company and its many allies will pick the targets most likely to result in a win. Any win will be taken on the balance of probabilities too, i.e if the court is 51% convinced that Voltage’s claims are correct. These movie companies have the money to take a case all the way and will probably need to do so at some point to show strength, especially if this case concerning Ava is the first of many. This seems more than likely considering the number of companies involved in this operation that are not currently active in court. The last thing they want is a loss at this stage though, so if anyone puts up a particularly determined and well-resourced fight in a case that is not already a lost cause, expect their claim to be withdrawn and the matter forgotten.
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