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'Space Ninjas'... 'The Breakfast Club' meets 'Alien', 'A Quiet Place' and 'Power Rangers', sorta.

Space Ninjas is a "comedy slash horror slash sci-fi B movie" from writer-director Scott McQuaid. Set in a confidential location in Asia, during detention at a high school, a group of teens discover they're trapped in a school with space ninja assassins. This goofy low budget movie starring Yi Jane and Damien Zachary follows a ragtag crew of teens as they get picked off one-by-one. Playing off stereotypes and relying on intentionally cheesy dialogue, the blend of goofy comedy and horror action blends into a mix of entertainment that pokes fun at itself.

You could describe the b-movie as a blend of Alien, The Breakfast Club, A Quiet Place and Power Rangers. Featuring The A-Team legend Dirk Benedict, as Jack Strange, the host of the 'Stranger Than Fiction' show that bookends the film... this just sets the tone for the zany film that shifts from character-building one-liners to self-referencing the film-making process itself. While it has many clever ideas and toys with genre, it's all a little underwhelming and alienating. The cast are game and try to find rhythm in the nuttiness of the story, but the irreverent mix of genres and fourth wall breaking routine distance the cast as much as the audience.

There are plenty of wink-wink moments and you get the impression the film-makers have a vast array of film influences coming through. Unfortunately, the screenplay is superficial, the performances are generally impervious and the visual effects don't have enough clout to take on the shortfall. While it's admittedly aiming for b-movie cult status, it's not in the so-bad-it's-good category and doesn't have enough magic to warrant cult status.

Space Ninjas is made by people who love film and you get the impression that they had a great deal of fun bringing their nutty teen slasher to life, embracing their influences and making some good use of the film location. Space Ninjas isn't aggressively bad, demonstrating the film-makers do have the chops to put a movie together. It just struggles to establish a real connection. Perhaps redressing the film by seeing it through the lens of memories, imagination as well as external sources would be more inspired, help anchor the drama and serve the characters better.

As a lightweight yarn, you could do a lot worse. The cast are cute and sassy, although the snarky remarks and flat delivery of lines keeps everything in a bubble, insincere and out of reach. Watching a movie called Space Ninjas, you should already have your expectations in check, but it's just disappointing that they weren't able to make more of the film's The Faculty aspirations.

Will Hollywood Tire of Endless Reboots and Sequels?

Think of a movie, any popular movie made in the last 30-40 years and there is a reasonable chance that a reboot has been mooted. That doesn't mean that it will necessarily hit the cinemas anytime soon, but that some Hollywood executive has sent out an exploratory team to start looking at the feasibility of a remake or sequel.

Here is but a flavour of the movies currently being mooted for a reboot: Big Trouble in Little China, Ace Ventura, Charlie's Angels (again), Clueless, The Crow, Flash Gordon, The Green Lantern, The Fugitive, Highlander, Gremlins, The Matrix, Masters of the Universe, The Naked Gun, Scarface and Short Circuit.

The list above is only a small selection of the reboots on the way. We also have several films that aren't exactly sequels in a traditional sense, but that aren’t really sequels either: Gladiator 2 is in the pre-production stage with events set to take place 25 years after the original. Top Gun: Maverick is another sequel set many years after the original movie's action, as is Coming to America 2 (titled Coming 2 America).

Screenwriters rebooting the movies of their childhood

There is a lot of speculation as to why Hollywood is making so many sequels and reboots. Of course, we know on one hand that they are doing it because it makes financial sense. It's ready-made marketing as people already know those films. Yet, it still begs the question of why there is such an appetite on the audience side? Why do people get excited for a remake of something like Ace Ventura?

It's difficult to answer those questions with any certainty. There is much speculation that many of the films were created in the 1980s and 1990s, popular during the childhoods of many screenwriters, producers and directors who are in their 30s and 40s now. But the average cinemagoer is still likely to be a teenager, so they wouldn’t have exactly grown up with these films.

Ready-made branding helps promotions

However, many of those films remain relevant in the popular consciousness. For example, Gladiator, Top Gun, The Matrix, Ace Ventura and Jumanji are hugely popular branded online slot games. You can find those games right here: www.casino.com/za/slots. Of course, they don’t have the same merchandising pull as something in the Star Wars or Marvel universe, but there are lots of ways they have stayed within the boundaries of cultural relevance.

Looming above everything else, though, is the question if we will soon tire of being fed reboots, rehashes and remakes, instead of fresh material. However, we could also argue that there is enough fresh material coming through the medium of streaming services. Artistically, long drawn-out television series have become the holy grail for screenwriters, directors and even actors. Hollywood has perhaps concentrated on reboots because there is enough fresh material elsewhere.

In a way, we can't really criticise the reboot frenzy. It's not as if we are compelled to watch the latest Ghostbusters or Jurassic Park remake. And, the important thing to remember is that there are many alternatives out there. Netflix and the rest of the streaming services have offered that alternative, so there isn't the same artistic pressure on Hollywood to come up with something new. If you have had enough of reboots, then simply turn on something fresh like Mindhunter or Fleabag.

The 8 Best International Documentaries on Showmax Now...

Documentaries have entered an unprecedented golden age, one that is only going to get better,” wrote leading film trade Deadline in February 2019.

It’s not just that cameras have become better, cheaper, smaller and less invasive, or that people’s lives are more documented than ever before thanks to social media, it’s also that streaming has made documentaries more accessible to audiences - and studios are now paying record amounts for them.

Not long ago, South African documentary lovers needed to wait for Encounters or Durban International Film Festival to get their annual fix, but now some of the world’s best documentaries are available to stream from the comfort of your couch, anytime.

Luckily for anyone who’s missed out on documentaries crossing over into the mainstream, Showmax has put together a helpful guide to their eight best documentaries of the year so far, which are all available to stream now:


First screened on M-Net in South Africa, Leaving Neverland follows the separate but parallel experiences of two young boys, 10-year-old James Safechuck, and seven-year-old Wade Robson, who were befriended by Michael Jackson. Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck, now 40, and Robson, now 36, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, the film crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, exploring the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after each had young sons of their own.

Claim to fame: The two-part documentary has five 2019 Emmy nominations, including Best Documentary and Best Documentary Director (Dan Reed). This is Dan Reed’s first Emmy nomination, although he’s already won four BAFTAs. Leaving Neverland is currently the top ranked documentary on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best TV series of 2019 so far, sitting at number 13 with a 98% critics rating. As Rotten Tomatoes’ critics consensus says, “Crucial and careful, Leaving Neverland gives empathetic breadth and depth to the complicated afterlife of child sexual abuse as experienced by adult survivors.”


In July 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy committed suicide in his truck at a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts; police later discovered a series of text messages in which his girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter, seemed to encourage him to kill himself. This sparked a controversial case that had the potential to redefine accountability in the digital age. The two-part documentary was first screened on Showmax in South Africa in July 2019, just months after its world premiere at SXSW.

Claim to fame: I Love You, Now Die is currently the second highest ranked documentary on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best TV series of 2019 so far, sitting at number 25 with a 96% critics rating. As Rotten Tomatoes’ critics consensus says, “Director Erin Lee Carr expertly blends journalistic edge and empathy in I Love You, Now Die to create a concise, compelling, and refreshingly exploitation-free exploration of a complicated crime.”


Celebrated as one of the greatest R&B singers of all time, R. Kelly’s genre-defining career has been riddled with rumours of abuse, predatory behaviour, and paedophilia. In Surviving R Kelly, for the first time ever, survivors and people from his inner circle come forward with new allegations about sexual, psychological, and physical abuse. First screened on M-Net in South Africa, the bombshell documentary series features over 50 interviews, including conversations with civil rights activist Tarana Burke, musicians John Legend and Sparkle, talk-show host and former DJ Wendy Williams, ex-wife Andrea Kelly, ex-girlfriend Kitti Jones, brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly, and many others.

Claim to fame: Surviving R. Kelly is a 2019 Emmy nominee for Outstanding Informational Series or Special and is currently the third highest ranked documentary on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best TV series of 2019 so far, sitting at number 29 with a 95% critics rating. The six-part series was also named Best Documentary Series or Special at both the Black Reel Awards and the Critics’ Choice Real TV Awards this year.


In 2004, Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford at 19 to start a company that was going to revolutionise healthcare. In 2014, Theranos was valued at $9 billion, making Holmes the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world, touted as ‘the next Steve Jobs’. Just two years later, Theranos was labelled a ‘massive fraud’ by The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and her company was worthless. Directed by Oscar and Emmy winner Alex Gibney (Taxi To The Dark Side, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief), this HBO documentary reveals what happened and explores the psychology of deception behind Silicon Valley’s ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset. The Inventor was simultaneously released on both M-Net and Showmax in May 2019, just months after its world premiere at Sundance 2019.

Claim to fame: The Inventor is a 2019 Emmy nominee for Best Documentary and is currently at number 11 on the list of the best TV movies of 2019 so far on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus is that The Inventor is “a comprehensive overview of the scandal that allows viewers to mull over its implications towards the broader Silicon Valley.”


For a year, acclaimed British filmmaker Jeanie Finlay was embedded on the set of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, chronicling the creation of the show’s final season and delving deep into the mud and blood to reveal the tears and triumphs of bringing the fantasy world of Westeros to life in the very real studios, fields and car-parks of Northern Ireland. Made with unprecedented access, Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch is an up-close and personal report from the trenches of production, following the crew and the cast as they contend with extreme weather, punishing deadlines and an ever-excited fandom hungry for spoilers. Game of Thrones – The Last Watch was simultaneously released on both M-Net and Showmax in May 2019, just after the Season 8 finale.

Claim to fame: The Last Watch is a 2019 Emmy nominee for Best Music Composition: Documentary and has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Mashable went so far as to claim The Last Watch was “a better ending than the Game Of Thrones finale… substantially more emotional and satisfying… A really, really good documentary…”


From Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?), Who Killed Garrett Phillips? examines the 2011 murder of 12-year-old Garrett Phillips and subsequent trial of Clarkson University soccer coach Oral ‘Nick’ Hillary, a black man living in the mostly-white town of Potsdam, New York, who was charged with second-degree murder. The engrossing two-part documentary chronicles the five years following the murder, as Garrett’s family and community relentlessly seek justice for Garrett, while Nick, who maintains his innocence, fights to clear his name and take back control of his life while raising five children. Who Killed Garrett Phillips? takes on issues of racial fairness in law enforcement, while trying to uncover the truth behind a young boy’s horrific murder and the vilification of a black man swept up in a dogged quest for justice. Who Killed Garrett Phillips? was released first on Showmax in South Africa in August 2019.

Claim to fame: Who Killed Garrett Phillips? has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Daily Beast called it “a stunning and enraging examination of race and the U.S. criminal justice system.”


Directed by Black Reel winner Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali tells the boxing great’s story in his own voice, painting a vivid picture of the man Sports Illustrated declared the greatest athlete of the 20th Century. All Ali’s fights are here, from The Thrilla In Manilla against Joe Frazier to The Rumble In The Jungle against George Foreman - the world’s most-watched live television broadcast at the time - to his fight as a 38-year-old against his former sparring partner Larry Holmes, who wept after beating his idol on a technical knockout. But as thrilling as watching Ali float like a butterfly and sting like a bee is, the real joy of the documentary is listening to him talk: What’s My Name should be written up as not just a great sports documentary, but also a great comedy, with even more quick-witted verbal sparring contests than knockout punches. HBO’s two-part documentary on the three-time heavyweight champion of the world was released first on Showmax in June 2019, just a month after its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival.

Claim to fame: What’s My Name has a 94% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.5/10 rating on IMDB. As critic Richard Roeper wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, “The greatness of What’s My Name is that if you’re young and you know very little of Muhammad Ali, this would be the perfect place to start learning about him — but if you remember Ali in his prime and you’re well-versed in his history, it’s still a must-see television event.”


Produced and narrated by Oscar-winner Leonardo di Caprio, Ice On Fire is an eye-opening documentary focusing on solutions to our escalating environmental crisis. The documentary recommends an immediate, two-pronged response to climate change: both reducing carbon emissions and implementing “drawdown” measures to reduce CO2, like direct air capture, sea farms, urban farms, biochar, marine snow, and bionic leaves. Directed by Leila Conners (The 11th Hour), Ice On Fire was released first on Showmax in South Africa in August 2019, just months after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Claim to fame: Ice On Fire was nominated for the Golden Eye award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and has a 90% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As Screen International put it, Ice On Fire “should be essential viewing for anyone who plans to carry on living on the planet...”

Watch Virtual Reality Documentaries 'Tree' and 'Le Lac'

Virtual reality is opening a new dimension to entertainment, enabling video gamers and moviegoers an opportunity to enjoy a much more immersive storytelling experience. Multi-million dollar industries, it's easy to see how the interest in exploiting this technology will soon ensure that it becomes mainstream. While there are some challenges relating to the art of telling a story where the viewer has complete range of sight and more control over their environment, we are already seeing short form narrative productions underway. It's still quite early and experimental at this stage, but the demand will serve as a catalyst to turning this niche industry into much more than just a gimmick.

Another opportunity for virtual reality is in documentary film-making, a medium which has traditionally been more attuned to reality by virtue of its traditionally journalistic and low-budget cornerstones. This is the case with Tree and Le Lac, two VR documentaries that will be screened at the American Corner Cape Town at the Central Library, 1 Parade Street, Cape Town on 7 and 9 September 2019.

Tree is a multi-sensory VR project that transforms you into a rain forest tree, where your arms are its branches and your body its trunk. From the tree's growth into its fullest form, you will experience its fate firsthand. Le Lac is a short documentary that employs virtual reality to represent the plight of the oasis of Sahel, Lake Chad. Having lost 90% of her water, the region is now under threat. Farming, livestock, vegetation, fishing and basic human needs, climate change has shrunk the lake and brought about much insecurity. Having millions who depend on the oasis, the immersive documentary focuses on the lives of a pastoralist and fishermen.

Narrated by Saba Elbasha whose voice that could very well be the lady of the lake, Le Lac has a poetic and reflective quality. As the voice comes to personify the lake, which has now been reduced to ponds, the social documentary features a sequence of landscape scenarios depicting the crisis has relates to all that depend on her. "This is life, bad things can happen to anyone" is the attitude of the people whose futures remain uncertain.

Their livelihood has been directly impacted by a lack of natural resources and the area, which is home to a multitude of refugees, is more vulnerable to Boko Harem insurgents. This short documentary truly takes you there, adopting a subtle approach when it comes to representing the gravity of the situation. Director and writer Nyasha Kadandara opts to fully immerse her audience in an African dreamscape.

Winner of the best digital narrative at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019, this is an important social and nature documentary, which opts for a much more poetic approach before closing with some dream-shattering factoids and observations. The VR exhibition is in partnership with the US Consulate General Cape Town , Central Library and the American Corner Cape Town.

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