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Coming Soon: 'Shepherds and Butchers' (28 Oct)

Shepherds and Butchers directed by Oliver Schmitz and produced by Anant Singh, will open nationwide on the South African theatrical circuit on Friday, October 28th through Times Media Films.

Award-winning filmmaker, Oliver Schmitz (Life, Above All) directs the screen adaptation penned by Brian Cox. The gripping courtroom human drama is based upon the acclaimed South African novel of the same name by Chris Marnewick, a former advocate for the Durban bar, who based on the book on meticulously researched factual information amassed from his years as a defense attorney.

Academy Award® nominee, Steve Coogan (Philomena) heads up the cast in the role of defense advocate, Johan Webber, who is up against Prosecutor Kathleen Murray, played by Andrea Riseborough (Shadow Dancer), in an intense courtroom battle to save a 19-year-old warden (Garion Dowds) working on death row from his death sentence for murdering seven men.

Shepherds and Butchers 2016

Singh, known for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Sarafina!, commented that he is pleased that Times Media Films is giving the film such a wide release throughout the country. “We believe that Shepherds and Butchers is an important film for South African audiences as it has particular resonance of the damage done to an entire generation of South Africans, both Black and White, who, respectively, were forced to endure and perform horrific acts against their will in the draconian system of punishment of the apartheid regime. The film sets a platform for critical debate, on a global scale, on the issue of capital punishment.”

Follow @SplingMovies on Twitter or Like /SplingMovies on Facebook to keep up-to-speed in the build-up to this important film's release.

Review: VU - MTN's Premium Entertainment Network

It seems that South Africa has suddenly been inundated with movie and television network services. MTN's VU, DStv's Box Office, Netflix, ShowMax and Google Play have entered the market with an ever-widening bouquet of entertainment choices, broadcasting capabilities and viewing options. With piracy, torrents and illegal downloads, it seems there's a ready-and-waiting market of untapped South African consumers, who have forgone the traditional bricks-and-mortar video store and cineplex experience for home entertainment on-the-fly.

The big idea (and primary defence) is that most downloaders are willing to pay for quality entertainment, but it needs to be accessible, inexpensive and watchable according to their viewing habits. Naturally, many have followed in the Netflix wake, offering a complete entertainment solution for those happy to pay a subscription for unlimited access to world-class entertainment.

VU - Premium Entertainment Network

One such network, MTN's VU (formerly known as FrontRow), a premium entertainment network in South Africa, has taken this offering to the next level. VU currently offers a full-range of quality movies, TV series, documentaries and music content with free streaming for MTN subscribers. The cellphone network have opened the service across the board and made the idea of switching over to their network even more attractive by allowing subscribers to stream via LTE at no additional cost. The prohibitive costs of working an uncapped data package into the mix, make their flat R99 per month offer a major draw card for first-time users.


Free Content Streaming at 99 Bucks a Month!

It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. The free streaming service and competitive R99 per month positioning may not continue indefinitely, but right now it's enough for people to get onto MTN's network, even if just to take advantage of this deal. VU is still in its infancy as a brand, but the technology behind the service is up-to-scratch and reliable enough to make this home entertainment package popular and extremely viable for users with smart phones, tablets and laptops - you can register up to 5 devices to your account.

Portable Viewing

VU takes entertainment beyond the home to wherever you are. Logging into the VU app allows you to access content on the bus or while waiting in a queue. The app bookmarks where you left off with your latest episode or movie, allowing you to catch a few minutes whenever you feel the urge. Although it would be nice to be able to edit your play list by deleting half-watched episodes without having to finish them.

The pause during play doesn't really let you pause more than 5 seconds before forcing you to return to the playlist, but a few taps of the screen and you're watching again. The playback is seamless when you're receiving a strong LTE signal and still watchable when you're only getting one bar... although expect to see the buffering logo pop-up on your cellphone or experience reduced quality streaming on your laptop. It's bearable on-the-go, but you'll want to make sure you live in an area with a strong signal for the best results at home.

On-Demand Viewing

What's great is that VU offers a wide selection of TV series, films and new releases and keep up-to-date with series like Starz's Black Sails, which gets added a day after airing in the States. The MaxVU subscription enables you to access their current TV series and older movie selection, while the PremiereVU gives you the option of renting a newer film for R15 or a latest release for R27 using your airtime or credit card. VU even have an as-and-when weekend access option for R39 if you want to steamroll through a TV series or become one with your couch.

VU - Premium Entertainment Network

Entertainment Selection

VU's selection is not comprehensive, but there are enough films, popular TV shows, documentaries and music videos to keep you going, fill in the gaps or try something new and you get to watch them at your own pace. Browsing titles is quite straightforward as categories are subdivided, the details give you series breakdowns and synopses and you've got the option to search the collection too.

The film collection isn't obvious, giving you an array of films you probably haven't had access to in the past, including classics like: The Jerk, The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, Rear Window and Bad Santa to more contemporary popular titles like Smokin' Aces, Spider-Man, Serenity and the Scream Trilogy. The TV series collection doesn't have every season of every show, but includes a considerable selection of classic sitcoms like: The Office and Scrubs to more contemporary dramas like Black Sails, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock, Luther, House and Breaking Bad.


One of the main drawbacks is that VU isn't compatible with Chromecast or similar miracasting devices yet. This won't bother you if primarily watch content on your portable deivces, but it will restrict you to watching on your devices if you're used to watching on your HD flat screen. It's probably only a matter of time, before they update their app to allow this, but it's worth noting.

The Bottom Line

While VU isn't perfect, it's an incredibly attractive entertainment solution for people who want entertainment at their fingertips. You can expect the odd playback issue relating to signal, buffering, or an intermittent time out - but it's generally stable enough to keep you glued to your screen. The Chromecast compatibility thing is an inconvenience, but with several other viewing options available, you can easily overlook this and get used to watching on another screen until this becomes a possibility. The monthly subscription pricing is very competitive, the entertainment selection is broad and varied, the portability factor will revolutionise the way you do TV and movies, while free streaming for MTN users is a massive competitive advantage! Subscribe here

Top 5 Superhero Movies

Spling picks his top 5 superhero movies... not an easy undertaking when you consider the glut of solid superhero movies out there!

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins redefined the superhero genre by redressing the comic book icon as a person of great innovation, determination and wealth with a bent for vigilantism. The new direction was fresh, gritty and helped set in motion a superhero genesis for DC and Marvel, whose superheroes have been graduating to the big screen ever since. However, it was Nolan's The Dark Knight that really immersed us in the world of Gotham, where supervillains and superheroes exist, a dark city full of organized crime and political muscling. The film's sense of grandeur and gravity gave it an immense and clinical feeling, bringing a system of order to the madness of a psychotic Joker in Heath Ledger and a conflicted Batman in Christian Bale.


Iron Man


Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. was not an obvious choice to play Tony Stark and Jon Favreau was not an obvious choice to direct Iron Man. Yet, these would-be underdogs managed to turn a Wednesday superhero into a self-professed and lovable "genuis, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist", who also happens to be a part-time defender of freedom as Iron Man. The mixture of explosive action, dazzling visual effects, Downey Jr's unpredictable egotistical manner and AC/DC's rock out music set this superhero film on fire and made it a surprising blockbuster for Marvel, who have continued to leverage Downey Jr's magnetism and unofficial leadership in The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Incredibles

The Incredibles

Brad Bird is a bit of a perfectionist and his animation work is testament to his craft, having directed The Iron Giant and Ratatouille, although it's his superhero action adventure family comedy that stands tallest. The Incredibles is a Pixar all-rounder, appealing to just about everyone and delivering entertainment value in full force. By immersing us in a world where superheroes are commonplace, this smart animated adventure gets to grips with the flipside of fitting in and getting along as our ragtag team of family superheroes band together to take down a nerdy supervillain wannabe. It truly is incredible... and it doesn't hurt that it's also hilarious, feel good fun for the whole family!

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Primed as the "Space Avengers", this intergalactic superhero action comedy adventure is full of surprises. Our intrepid and brash Starlord, played by Chris Pratt, oversees the unification of the Guardians of the Galaxy as the underdog criminals become universal heroes. This action-packed movie feels like a mash-up of The A-Team, Robotech and Star Wars as the team of unlikely superheroes form, storm and norm. While it starts off slow, the action and comedy mature as this action extravaganza ramps up to the tune of a classic mix tape. It may seem like Tarantino in space, but this Marvel cult classic is the handywork of James Gunn. Marvel's universe even extends to online video games.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer's X-Men legacy lives on. Entrusted to direct the first and second films, Singer took a break with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class before picking up the franchise again. His latest effort combines the old guard with the new generation as the two ages unite with Wolverine as their common denominator. It's a time travel action-adventure that seamlessly blends both the past and the future as Hugh Jackman slices his way through time, as origin stories are revealed and a cataclysmic story with multiple repercussions unfolds in an entertaining, imaginative, vivid and breathtaking fashion.

Triggerfish Story Lab announce Top Stories

Triggerfish Story Lab Winner - Nnedi OkoraforTriggerfish Animation Studios has selected four features and four TV series for development from the inaugural Triggerfish Story Lab, established with the support of The Department of Trade and Industry and The Walt Disney Company. Initially, Triggerfish had planned to select three projects for film and TV respectively, but increased this to four for each due to the quality of the projects.

The feature films selected into the Story Lab are:

The Camel Racer (Wanuri Kahiu and Nnedi Okorafor – Kenya/Nigeria)
Dropped (Ian Tucker - SA)
Lights (Kay Carmichael – SA)
The Wild Waste (Naseem Hoosen - SA)

The TV series selected into the Story Lab are:

Bru and Boegie (Mike Scott – SA)
KC’s Super 4 (Malenga Mulendema - Zambia)
Ninja Princess (Marc Dey and Kelly Dillon - SA)
Wormholes (Lucy Heavens - SA)

Head of development at Triggerfish, Anthony Silverston, says “We’re excited by the range of stories, that explore everything from contemporary urban to Afro-futuristic worlds.” The selected storytellers include Nnedi Okorafor (pictured), a Nigerian-American World Fantasy Award winning novelist; multi-award-winning Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu; South African YouTube phenomenon Mike Scott, whose music videos for Goldfish have over 12m views; and Lucy Heavens, one of the writers on the breakout South African animation hit Supa Strikas, which is broadcast in 120 countries around the world.

The shortlist was evaluated by an expert panel that included Peter Lord, the British director of international blockbusters like Chicken Run and The Pirates!; Hollywood writers Kiel Murray (Cars) and Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King); and a panel of development executives and Triggerfish’s development team.

The selected storytellers will start the new year with a two-week immersion trip to Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California, where they will receive mentoring from key studio and television executives.

Top 5 - AFDA Graduate Film Festival (CT)

Here are Spling's Top 5 short films from the 2015 AFDA Graduation Film Festival held in Cape Town at the Labia Theatre... to watch these student short films online, click on the link below each review to be redirected to their official page on AFDA's website and then click on the 'View Production' button towards the bottom right.

The Locket Short FilmTHE LOCKET

The Locket is a World War II drama about a German man, who is separated from his true love only to be conscripted to serve as a Nazi soldier at a concentration camp. While ambitious for a short film project, the film-makers have managed to tame the beast with amazing production values.

While the film feels like an excerpt from a larger work, they've focused the story on a doomed relationship united by a locket. It has an air of authenticity with army vehicles, uniforms and concentration camp politics echoing films like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. While it has a typical World War II drama look-and-feel, telling the story from the German perspective is refreshing and the co-lead performances are heartfelt and honest, unpacking much emotional power and nuance in a short space of time.

Watch The Locket Online

Sons of Crime Short FilmSONS OF CRIME

Sons of Crime is a gripping, timely and suspenseful South African crime drama to the bitter end. We're planted in contemporary Cape Town, where two brothers find themselves at loggerheads. One has chosen a life of crime, the other has tried to make an honest living... yet, when an opportunity arises to make a quick buck, both feel the overwhelming pressure of family and money.

This short film has a multi-generational and epic feel, which is bolstered by multiple locations, a telling flashback, great pacing and a sense of urgency. The cinematography is slick, the visual narrative is strong and the characters are brought to life by two compelling actors. Some of the sound design is a bit inconsistent, but the short film is so tightly-wound you don't have time to notice.

Watch Sons of Crime Online

Nature Short FilmNATURE

Human nature and Mother Nature are central to Nature, a bold and elegant sci-fi thriller. We're introduced to a futuristic world, where nature has become a no-man's land, cut off from the dome of modern society. Tied down to her job, social life and gender role, a young professional woman escapes the humdrum and uncovers a pack of lies when she discovers an old woman living a peaceful, almost pastoral, existence on the outside.

This is a compelling, sleek and thought-provoking short film, which exists in a definite world thanks to solid visual effects. The vivid visuals have weight and so does the tragic Gattaca style story, which makes some stark contrasts with the help of a determined female lead.

Watch Nature Online

What If I Was Wrong? Short FilmWHAT IF I WAS WRONG?

In what could be described as a quirky blend of Psycho and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we follow the deterioration of a relationship and the emotional journey of a pianist still tormented by the trajectory foisted upon him by his overbearing mother. This fantasy drama is a little difficult to follow at times, but delivers a peculiar and vivid tale with great panache and imagination.

Memories are brought to life as our hero tries to reconnect with himself and break through the shackles of his life's work to affirm his love. An excellent day-and-night lead performance, quirky production design and exquisite visual effects power this intricate fantasy drama.

Watch What If I Was Wrong? Online

Kismet Short FilmKISMET

A young girl is missing in Kismet, an atmospheric and heartbreaking mystery drama about keeping hopes up in the face of adversity. We find ourselves in the company of two women living on a farm, both in search of a missing child. The melancholic atmosphere is palpable and the irony is knee deep as one character tries to protect the other blind one from the truth.

Pangs of emotion and a bracing sense of futility underpin this aching, understated and suspenseful mystery drama. Everything's downplayed, aiming for real moments of unspeakable pain and regret. The film-makers give Kismet a fuzzy, retro feel and while young, the actors tap into the prickly tone.

Watch Kismet Online

While they didn't quite make the Top 5, these bold short films deserve a special mention: the off-beat comedy Woody McSomething, the post-apocalyptic The Prancing Gunslinger and cannibal horror The Diening.

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