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Spotify and Nudges

An article I wrote for my old economics classmate’s new site!

Music Economics

There are over 2,000,000 apps on the App Store with each one clamouring and competing for your attention. Even the big ones have to fight for it, with Instagram and Snapchat copying each other with every pace just for a few seconds of your time. They’ll copy each other with ‘Stories’ and filters just so you don’t waste another minute with their competition. These are billion dollar companies that make their dimes from your views and clicks. They’ll use every strategy in the book to get you to look down at your phone and their app. One concept every app maker is trying to manipulate? Nudges, with those nudges coming in the form of push notifications.

A ‘nudge’ is a term used in behavioural economics to describe a psychological bias that influences people to make decisions that are against their best interest. Think of a recent visit to a…

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Why is Teen Titans yet another television show?

abbThe Teen Titans are without doubt my favorite group of heroes in all of comics. Despite that everybody loves them, with them essentially saving the company in the 80’s, it’s a property that DC have never truly utilized. In fact, DC viewed the property as ‘toxic’ until WB Animation successfully introduced them to legions of millennials after the turn of the century. It seemed like, however, that might change.

With an influx of the same kind of superheroes jumping onto the big screen, why not have a bunch of sidekicks juggling relatable teenage issues with superheroics? We saw Superman being posed as a god in Batman vs Superman. Imagine getting to watch a naive kid like Superboy trying to live up to that reflection while juggling pubescent crushes and a social life. It could easily be heartfelt and funny while maintaining the epic action we’d expect from a DC film. Again, with this reflection of Superman, we could see the humanity and character-driven plots that Batman vs Superman didn’t come close to. And we almost had it.

A Cyborg film was announced. Moreover, a Nightwing film has been announced WITH a director attached. Deathstroke is set to appear in The Batman. With some of the groundwork set, why have we been robbed of the glory if seeing these characters on the big screen?

Simple: Warner Bros. have lost faith in the characters of the DCEU and don’t want to take more risk. They think their money is better spent in backing the Batfamily and would rather leave ‘riskier’ characters like The Flash and the Teen Titans to television. Fair enough, having a teen-centric team on a network supported by The CW (who love teenage romance triangles) is a sure-fire hit. But Warner Bros. must have counted their risky-venture Suicide Squad a loss as there’s been no sequel announcement (likely due to it not making as much money as Marvel’s projects). Maybe if they didn’t let a trailer company edit the film, gave more time to let it be written and didn’t give it such a high-budget then they might have been happier with it. This has undoubtedly had ripple effects. Warner Bros. won’t take another risk. We still have not heard of a director for Cyborg or The Flash so I do not see those ‘risks’ being taken. Therefore, they likely ditched their plans for a Titans film franchise too. I’d have more faith but two Batfamily characters have had film adaptations just announced back-to-back WITH directors attached . The Flash was announced years ago and all we’ve heard are two directors dropping from the project followed by a long, ever-lasting silence.

In conclusion? Warner Bros. are doubling down on the guaranteed box-office successes of the Batfamily and have pushed Teen Titans to television. Maybe if they had a Feige-like producer with a grand vision we might see more fruitful film risks. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the CWverse. But now I’ll have to settle for cheap SFX, corny dialogue and cheesy love triangles and my beloved group of heroes will never see grandeur. I wish the best for the show.

 

How will Joss Whedon’s Batgirl fim influence the DCEU?

Batgirl-Evolution-featuredEverybody saw it. We all had to hit ourselves to see if we weren’t dreaming. Joss Whedon, the powerhouse that gave us The Avengers, has switched sides to DC to make a standalone Batgirl film. Why is this such a big deal? Because the man built the foundation that every studio is trying to emulate: he brought characters from box-office smashing films together into two mega films. He left Marvel on a bad-note with audiences understanding that he wasn’t able to bring his vision of The Avengers to life. Now the man has total control over a female-led superhero film. He can focus on creating a small, character-driven picture with a female superhero. The man has a knack for making funny, strong feminist characters to screen and Batgirl is a character that emulates all of that. Why else is that important?

The DCEU is still in Marvel’s shadow. Their films have been dark and brooding and have brought in much smaller box-office numbers. So what does Warner Bros. decide to do? They steal one of Marvel’s biggest names and give him full creative control to develop a character from the Bat-Family. Joss Whedon’s film will surely give a brighter light to the DC universe in the form of a female hero. Marvel are still behind in giving women and characters of minorities a lead in their films with Wonder Woman leading on that front. Batgirl could be another knockout blow on that front.

In addition? Nightwing and Batgirl are two properties DC have announced with names attached to their projects. Despite that The Flash, Cyborg and Man of Steel 2 films were announced long ago, they still don’t have names attached to direct. This leads me to believe that Warner Bros. are looking towards the Bat-Family to bring them critical and commercial success. Having Batgirl and Joss Whedon together is a formula for victory and I have no doubt that this character has the potential to be the new face of the DCEU just as Iron Man was for Marvel.

My only fear is that this project may not see the light of day. Joss Whedon hasn’t been officially announced and if Wonder Woman tanks I wonder if they’ll be confident enough to continue moving forward with this female-led superhero film. Regardless, I hope that this project moves forward soon. Let’s all cross our fingers!

Three things that need to happen in Marvel’s Spider-Man adaptation

This will be the third time in a decade that the rich material of Spider-Man comics is adapted into film. While some might roll their eyes at that, comic book fans will have no qualms as we know that there’s still a lot of quality storytelling that has yet to be brought to film. Here are six things that need to happen in Spidey’s new film to make this adaptation the best yet:

Skip the origin story: Everyone, even your grandmother, can probably tell you Batman’s origin story. His parents are killed, he vows to avenge their murder and protect the city of Gotham, yada yada yada. The same goes with Spider-Man. Do we really need a large part of the movie dedicated to watching Peter Parker get bitten by a spider and watch his uncle get shot? If you don’t know Spider-Man’s origin story, you’re a minority of the audience and should let it slide. Let the extra time in the film aid what Marvel’s films have been lacking: a better, more interesting antagonist. Even better, give us more character development with any of the film’s supporting characters. Studios want sequels and spin-offs, and we all want to see Miles Morales. Hint, hint.

More character, less spectacle: That leads me to my next point – Amazing Spider-Man 2 had some incredible action sequences that were beautiful to watch. That, however, ended up giving us shallow villains like Electro and Green Goblin. While I love seeing classic villains come to life on screen, I’d rather see them as more than one or two-dimensional characters. Norman Osborn, one of the greatest villains in comic book history, was just a prick that died too early. Rhino was too disappointing to even look at. Devote less time to these great looking action scenes and give that time to building character. A poor fight scene between Spidey and a more charismatic villain would be much more spectacular than that big fight at the end of Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Electro. Simply, because Electro was not very fleshed out. Nevertheless, while villains are important, characters like Aunt May and Spidey’s love interest should also be given some light.

Remain grounded in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: With the knowledge that Spider-Man will join the Avengers against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, perhaps Spidey’s place isn’t best in going toe-to-toe against the Mad Titan. Spider-Man is best, in my opinion, when he’s balancing his identities of super hero and geeky teenager who loves his aunt and infatuated with a girl he could only dream of. Would we really believe it if he managed to survive the power of an alien war-monger with a gauntlet of infinite power, then struggle to fight a guy like Mysterio? I don’t think so. I think it would be best if he were more grounded. Maybe he could fight alongside the Defenders, bring Kingpin in as an antagonist in one of his films or even, at most, fight with the Avengers but stray from world-wide epidemics like Ultron’s army or galaxy-spanning epidemics like the fight against Thanos.

These are three things that I find most necessary in Marvel’s Spider-Man adaptation. What do you think? Write me a comment below!

Daredevil season one review

Marvel’s Daredevil is the Holy Grail in a genre that has become stale and boring.

After watching Age of Ultron, I became disillusioned with the superhero film genre. I was exhausted of these films that consisted of colourful heroes rising to a new threat, overcoming that threat with a conclusion that teased a new threat. I saw this Daredevil television show, the first in a planned series of shows that would culminate in a big “event” mini-series, as a cheap money-grab to reel in viewers at home. Oh, how I was wrong. After only one season, Daredevil not only stands tall among the best shows on television but wipes away the monotony that Marvel has brought to the big screen.

Marvel’s Daredevil stars Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer by day and masked vigilante by night who uses his heightened senses and combat training to rid Hell’s Kitchen of crime. By his side is Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Matt’s best friend in college and partner in their new law firm. Their first case is to clear the name of the enigmatic Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), a woman framed for a murder she didn’t commit. As these three discover the criminal activities that Karen’s employer muddled in, they become involved in a much greater scheme led by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). Matt Murdock must use the law and break it as both lawyer and masked vigilante to save his city.

I’ve often heard that if a scene doesn’t develop its character or advance the plot then it is worthless. The showrunners surely heard this too because there is not a single minute of this show that constitutes as ‘filler’. Each character has their own interesting story to tell and not a single episode has been watched without making me gasp. For a studio that often seems to forget giving substance to its female characters, Karen Page has some of the most interesting sub-plots in any show of late. To say this show has one of the best cast of supporting characters is an understatement. However, I believe Wilson Fisk deserves a special mention. Portrayed as the yin to Matt Murdock’s yang, Wilson Fisk is a deadly brute who demands your attention anytime he comes on screen. The fact that they managed to make this kingpin so intimidating despite displaying his very-human vulnerabilities makes him the greatest supervillain that Marvel has ever brought to screen. Vincent D’Onofrio was superb in differentiating the character first brought to life by Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 Daredevil film.

Marvel’s Daredevil cannot be discussed at any length without mentioning the fantastic fight choreography. I expect great stunts from a big-budget blockbuster film but this television show has the best choreography I’ve seen in a very long time. Never have I been so thrilled by a fight scene that I punched several combinations in the air out of sheer excitement, but Marvel’s Daredevil made me do it. I had never thought that fight choreography could aid the development of a character but Matt Murdock’s uncanny fighting style tells as much of his upbringing as it asks.

A lot of things just don’t get me excited like they used to. Comic books have become too serialized, video games are too tedious and the top films of today are sequels to yesterday’s films. Marvel’s Daredevil has given me that giddy feeling of joy and jolt of excitement that I haven’t felt in years. I eagerly await season 2.

Nicki Minaj and the glorification of Nazism

Nazism as an aesthetic is pretty much guaranteed to put your piece of work in a negative spotlight. But as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad press, and that is the best excuse to be given for Nicki Minaj’s latest lyric video for her single ‘Only’.

The animated lyric video features an abundance of outlandish and even nonsensical imagery ranging from gas masks and the Lincoln Memorial to Drake dressed as a bishop. However, what has caught everyone’s attention is its extreme use of Nazi propaganda. Flags and armbands resembling those used by the Nazis – albeit, with the swastika replaced with the symbol of Minaj’s record label YMCMB – adorn the music video, complementing the weapons of warfare seen in the video.

Needless to say, this is a tasteless attempt at a stylish lyric video. The theme of the song seems to be that Minaj has bodacious features. How, in any sense, that this matches with the Third Reich is beyond me. It’s almost as tasteless as the pornographic film sub-genre titled “Naziploitation” where American actors with horrible German actors portrayed Nazis in these Grindhouse films. While, bizarrely, these films helped people to cope with the overwhelming horror of Nazism, Minaj’s video has no redeeming quality.

Minaj has since made a (poor) apology for the video, stating that she’s sorry “if it has offended anyone”. The word “if” is apology poison and is a tell-tale sign in somebody’s apology if whether or not they truly mean it. Minaj really shouldn’t be surprised that the video offended anybody seeing as it just so happened to coincide with the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht or “The Night of Broken Glass” when thousands of Jews were brought to concentration camp with over 1000 synagogues being burned and Jewish homes, schools and hospitals being demolished with sledgehammers.

Minaj actually states that the inspiration from the music video wasn’t inspired by fascist propaganda but rather that the film’s director Jeffrey Osborne was inspired by “a cartoon on Cartoon Network called “Metapocalypse” and & Sin City.” This is in direct contradiction with the words of Osborne who not only refused to give an apology but admitted that while there were certainly symbols of Nazism in his video, the actual point of it was to “remind younger generations of atrocities that occurred in the past as a way to prevent them from happening in the future.” I sympathise with Osborne for this reason but is a Nicki Minaj lyric video really the way to go to get your point across? Even then, putting Minaj as a latex-bound dictator of an army doesn’t really say “Nazis are bad” as much as it screams “Nazism is sexy.”

Regardless of the theme of the video, it seems to be yet another shock-tactic to gain hype for a pop-star’s work. Minaj certainly got the attention with little to no consequence.

‘Let’s Be Cops’ review

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Let’s Be Cops is not worth your time.

But as a fan of Damon Wayans Jr. from the preposterously cancelled sitcom Happy Endings, I had to go and see it.

The shallow premise pitches Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson) as two no-name losers impersonating cops in LA where their egos are massively boosted by fawning women and the power of making actions with no consequences. Soon they find themselves in trouble with Russian gangsters and that’s when it hits you – you’ve heard this story before. But as the box office numbers of 22 Jump Street and Ride Along have taught us, buddy-cop comedies are in and Fox jumped on that bandwagon.

That’s not to say Let’s Be Cops is a particularly bad film. While Wayans takes the majority of the physical-comedy action with scenes like stripping on top of an eager birthday girl and intercepting a naked intruder who lands his testicles in Miller’s face, both leading actors share on-screen chemistry. This is where the film is best; watching Miller and O’Malley abuse the power of being treated like real cops leads the film into its funniest scenes. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long as they (inevitably) start to face the repercussions of getting in the way of gangster Mossi Kisac (James D’Arcy).

This is where the film takes a turn for the worst. The funny escapades of Miller and O’Malley diminish as we are reminded that not only are they in mortal danger but the film doesn’t want to try something new; Miller and O’Malley are obligated to catch this criminal and save Miller’s love interest Josie (Nina Dobrev) by the end of the movie. This plotline is just too familiar and has been done better by the countless films that have come before it. I didn’t expect the film to be groundbreaking but it would have been more enjoyable if we had additional silly cop scenes and fewer scenes emphasising the stakes at cost.

Additionally, there are supporting actors in the film that are brutally underused. This is particularly in the case of Jon Lajoie who makes his big-screen debut as Miller’s boss. His place in the film was solely to make Miller look even more like a loser. Don’t expect any laughs like those you might find when he’s rapping as E=MC Vagina. There’s also Rob Riggle whose talents are restrained as he plays a straight-faced cop who meets the two leading characters as they try to catch two perpetrators intruding a supermarket. We can see how funny he is in 21 Jump Street so why did he have to be so grounded in this comedy?

Nevertheless, there are great supporting roles found in Keegan-Michael Key as a criminal-turned-informant and Natasha Leggero who delivers a bizarre yet humorous seduction attempt on O’Malley. While these roles were fine, they certainly didn’t have the potential that Lajoie and Riggle’s roles had to round up an overall fantastic supporting cast.

Let’s Be Cops is a lot of what I expected. Superb chemistry between its leading actors in a film that delivered a thin storyline and cheap laughs to cash in on the genre.