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Zola | Sundance Film Festival London 2021 Review

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“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense”. These were the words at the beginning of an 148 tweet long thread on Twitter from @_zolarmoon on October 27th 2015. The incredibly long thread went viral shortly after being posted and not long later, Rolling Stone published an article interviewing some of the people involved. And now in 2021, after premiering at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, Zola, a film based on the twitter thread and the Rolling Stone article is being released.

Aziah “Zola” King was definitely right that it is a long story but it’s certainly full of suspense. The film sees Zola (Taylour Paige) working as a waitress when she meets Stefani (played by Riley Keough), a stripper who invites Zola on a trip to Florida with her boyfriend and mysterious roommate to make a lot of money dancing at high-end clubs in Tampa. What follows is a crazy, chaotic ride as Zola gets into all sorts of situations involving guns, prostitution and pimps as things start going wrong as she realises that she’s got in way over her head.

Janicza Bravo does a great job of bringing Zola’s Twitter thread to the big screen whilst still retaining some sense of it being told as if it were on Twitter and the original voice of the thread. Throughout the film there are constant sounds of notifications coming in, messages being sent, Tweets being tweeted- in fact every single time the film includes a direct quote or moment from the original thread we hear a tweet sound effect and it really helps give Zola its own unique style and to bring this crazy story to the big screen. Add in Zola’s narration throughout and the film has a really unique voice, much like the real Zola in the original Twitter thread.

After seeing the film, I immediately went and read the original 148 tweet long Twitter thread and unlike how I normally prefer to read a book before seeing the film adaptation I think with Zola it works much better to go in blind and then read the tweets because you’ll come out of seeing it and be so keen to read it in its original form and be taken aback by the wild story all over again.

Zola blends a few different genres with it being so darkly funny at times and incredibly suspenseful at others. The creepy and eerie atmosphere that the film creates keeps rising and getting stronger as the film goes on, resulting in a climax that is full of tension and has you on the edge of your seat.

There are a few moments where the mix of comedy and seriousness doesn’t quite land and you’re not quite sure if you should be laughing or not. But overall Zola is a really entertaining film. However, the highlight of the film is definitely the performances. Paige and Keough are both fantastic and help to carry the entire film. Watching them act and bounce off each other truly is incredible. Colman Domingo is also fantastic as ‘X’, Stefani’s pimp as he changes between American and Nigerian accents whenever trying to intimidate someone.

Zola is a wild journey, anchored by fantastic performances. The film manages to bring the chaos and unpredictability of the Twitter thread to the big screen in a really distinctive way, opening up a door of endless possibilities of what can be made into a film. If a Twitter thread can be turned into a film, anything can.

★★★★☆

Zola is released in UK cinemas on August 6th.

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Entertainment

Throwback to Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

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Jacques van Zyl at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre

The annual Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 was a blast! Come join on me, Jacques van Zyl on a throwback to a very marvelous event!

Guests at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

The local South African movie guests included Aidan Scott, Albert Pretorius, Alexander Maniatis, Arno Greef, Bianca Oosthuizen, Brett Williams, Celeste Loots, Chioma Umeala, Grant Ross, Langley Kirkwood, Leroy Siyafa and Theo Le Ray.

International stars who made a turn were Lesley-Ann Brand, Sean Gunn and Veronica Taylor.

Lesley-Ann Brandt is famous for her role as Mazikeen on Lucifer. Sean Gunn portrays the role of Kraglin in the Guardians of the Galaxy. Veronica Taylor does the voice of Ash Ketchum in Pokemon.

Lesley-Ann Brandt as Mazikeen in Lucifer (IMDb)
Sean Gunn as Kraglin Obfonteri (Marvel)
Veronica Taylor (IMDb)

Overview of Programme

The annual Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 ran from 27 April 2024 to 1 May 2024. Here follows a brief overview of activities that caught my eye during the convention.

Saturday, 27 April 2024

Veronica Taylor, Lesley-Ann Brandt and Sean Gunn was available for photos and autographs. The cast from the One Piece television series on Netflix had a discussion panel and a spotlight session was held on the latest Boy Kills World movie.

Boy Kills World Official Trailer (RoadsideFlix)

The following question for discussion was posed to our fellow comic book artists, “Is traditional comic book art dead?” A panel was held on the concept of investing in comic books versus buying just to collect.

Games, games everywhere at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

The day ended with an amazing after-dark event, the Pokemon quiz.

Sunday, 29 April 2024

Gavin Thomson, a South African cartoonist shared some insight on how to bring life to cartoons and a panel of comic book writers came to share valuable insights on writing comics. A workshop was hosting on helping you deal with stage fright.

Monday, 29 April 2024

Horror Monday delivered a good scare with cosplayers dressing up as some of their favorite horror character. I came in early on the day to help with horror decorations at the main entrances. A discussion was held on how to write horror. One of the attendees who presented on this topic was Paul Blom who coordinates the annual South African HorrorFest.

Jacques posing with Paul Andre Blom

A quiz was held on the Conjuring Universe and a tutorial was offered on how to do your make-up for cosplaying as a horror character. The art of toy photography was one of the topics of the day. Sean Gunn and Veronica Taylor was around for more photos and autographs. The one discussion that caught my eye was on how artists can overcome artificial intelligence since most jobs are phasing in the use of artificial intelligence as a tool.

A movie screening was held on the movie Fried Barry.

Fried Barry Official Trailer (Shudder)
Some horror decorations
More horror

Tuesday, 30 April 2024

This day was called Pajama Tuesday and visitors could grab their favorite sleepwear for the day. A Harry Potter quiz was held to test the knowledge of fellow muggles and wizards and a disco party brought much needed entertainment. Veronica Taylor was back for more photos and autographs. A session was held to guide new and upcoming writers on the approach to follow when writing for different genres.

Wednesday, 1 May 2024

Paul Roos Orchestra came to open the day with amazing music.

Paul Roos Orchestra at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

The One Piece cast and Veronica Taylor made a last turn for the day. A Disney quiz was hosted to test everyone’s knowledge about our favorite Disney movies and characters. Brandon Reynolds came to share insights on how to do a comic book strip at and helpful advice was shared on becoming either a scriptwriter for movies or a stunt professional. The concept of artificial intelligence was touched on since it is a tool that is also used for creating content.

Tabletop games, dungeons and dragon sessions, Pokemon card games, Yu-Gi-Oh and Star Wars Unlimited session took place everyday at the Tabletop Game area. Video games were also on offer throughout the week from racing to fighting games.

A mobile application was developed to help guide fellow comic-con fans throughout the journey. Maps were provided at the reception area as well which made the journey easy throughout the convention.

Cosplayers Galore!!!

I had the chance to catch a few photos with some of the cosplayers at the comic convention. Many of the cosplayers went to the next level with their outfits.

To me, my X-Men

Here I am posing with cosplayers who dressed up as X-Men. As a huge Marvel, and X-Men fan in particular, I couldn’t pass an opportunity for a photo.

X-Men Cosplayers at Comic-Con (Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, Jacques, Wolverine, Cyclops)
Jacques and Rogue.
Wolverine and Jacques

DC

There weren’t as many cosplayers dressing up as our favorite DC heroes and villains. As usual Batman put crime-fighting aside for a week to surprise us at Comic-Con.

Batman (DC) and Jacques
Scarecrow (DC) and Jacques

Horror Monday

Lunchtime I disappeared into the crowd as Ghostface from Scream to take a few photos with some of the cosplayers embracing their favorite horror character. Many cosplayers decided to do Pyramid Head from Silent Hill and we saw Freddy and Jason also run around at the convention.

Pinhead (Hellraiser) and Ghostface (Scream)
Jacques and The Nun (Conjuring Universe)
Pyramid Head (Silent Hill) and Jacques
Jacques and Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street)

We had other cosplayers who made a turn during the week. I found the Witcher, but sadly couldn’t toss a coin to him this time. I saw a few Mortal Kombat cosplayers as well. Even Tomb Raider decided to skip treasure hunting day and visit the convention.

The Witcher and Jacques
Round 1: Jacques versus Kitana (Mortal Kombat)
Round 2: Jacques, Raiden and Sonya (Mortal Kombat)
Jacques and Lara Croft / Tomb Raider

Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 was really amazing and I’m definitely looking forward to the next comic convention. The organizers went totally Super Saiyan with the programme and all the planned activities were next level.

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Film Festivals

The Dive (2023) is a Claustrophobic Thriller | FrightFest

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Maximilian Erlenwein’s The Dive stars Billions’ Louisa Krause and Medieval’s Sophie Lowe. It follows two sisters May (Krause) and Drew (Lowe) as they go on their yearly diving trip off a remote coast. However, disaster strikes, and the sisters find themselves underwater when a rock slide occurs. May gets trapped under some of the rocks and must instruct Drew on how to get out of the situation. What follows is Drew needing to find a solution to rescue her sister, while her air is slowly starting to run out.

The Dive brings us a claustrophobic thriller that uses the real-time oxygen supply to keep us on edge. It gets to highlight how remaining calm is the best way to survive. The Dive uses the real-time situation to show the desperate measures Drew must go through to rescue her sister. Along with the obstacles that have now been placed in her way.

The Dive [credit Augenschein Filmproduktion]

The Dive gets to set the pulsing racing and the blood pumping even though the characters remain incredibly calm. This gets to explore the dangers of diving in remote locations without any added safety measures. The movie involves problem-solving and flashbacks to the sister’s childhood getting into the hobby. Louisa Krause brings an unbelievably natural calm to her performance. While Sophie Lowe shows us the inside panic she is dealing with.

Over the recent years, we have seen a lot of movies with somebody trapped in or on the water being hunted by a predator. In this movie, we get to keep the situation down to the accident and the idea of trying to figure out a way out of the situation. This creates an edge-of-your-seat journey that keeps us wanting to see the next challenge they are facing. Think 127 Hours meets 47 Metres Down and you know exactly what you are facing.

The Dive is tense, suspenseful and gets the blood pumping as we join the race to survive.

Rating 4/5

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Dune: Part Two Where Will The Anticipated Premiere Land?

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Dune: Part Two is one of the most hyped movie releases for 2023. The latest announcement from the project, is that it will not premiere at the Venice Film Festival, unlike the first movie. This is due to the Visual Effects (VFX) team needing more time, which has prolonged the initial release date. Originally scheduled for 20th October 2023, “Dune: Part Two” will now be released November 3, 2023.

Dune: Part Two will see the return of Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Charlotte Rampling. In addition to the new cast members Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, Lea Seydoux, Christopher Walken, and Tim Blake Nelson.

The immediate successor to the 2021 film, it will be the second installment of a two-part film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, and will cover approximately the second half of the book and possibly include aspects of Dune Messiah.

Dune 2021, Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya | Warner Bros. [Credit: Alamy Stock Photo]

The sequel will follow Paul Atreides (Chalamet) as he joins forces with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen to exact vengeance on the villains who murdered his family. Faced with a decision between the love of his life and the destiny of the universe, he attempts to avert a dreadful future that only he can predict.

Dune premiered at Venice Film Festival two years ago, followed by Toronto, New York and London Film Festivals. There is a possibility for the film to still premiere at other film festivals such as London Film Festival which will also run from 4th October to 15th October 2023. This also doesn’t mean the cast may not be present at the Venice Film Festival.

While Challengers starring: Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor directed by Luca Guadagnino announced a UK release on 15th September 2023,  the aim is perhaps do an initial premiere at Venice Film Festival. There is also potential of Wonka (2023) premiering at the Venice Film Festival despite the viral online leak of the trailer two weeks ago and announcing its UK release on 15th December 2023.

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