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19 February 2019

PUBG Mobile and Resident Evil 2 Launch "Zombie: Survive Till Dawn" Gameplay Mode

PUBG Mobile and Resident Evil 2 Launch "Zombie: Survive Till Dawn" Gameplay Mode - First Resident Evil Crossover With Mobile Game Launching Around The World
PUBG Mobile and Resident Evil 2 Launch "Zombie: Survive Till Dawn" Gameplay Mode - First Resident Evil Crossover With Mobile Game Launching Around The World
Tencent Games and PUBG Corporation (PUBG Corp.) announced today the launch of a new gameplay mode called "Zombie: Survive till Dawn", a crossover collaboration between PUBG Mobile and Resident Evil 2. 

In late 2018 PUBG Mobile announced the cross-branding partnership with Capcom's game Resident Evil 2 at the PUBG MOBILE STAR CHALLENGE 2018 Global Finals. The announcement generated significant interest and culminated in the launch of this new gameplay mode.
The gameplay will feature three days and two nights in one 30-minute round that features 60 players within the usual PUBG Mobile game structure. Players will encounter multiple types of zombies from the Resident Evil series such as Police, Licker and G1 as well as other zombies created by the PUBG Mobile team.
As Survive till Dawn turns from day through dusk and into night time, the zombies become considerably more aggressive and will pose a significant challenge for PUBG Mobile players. 
  • During the day players can defeat zombies from long range and conduct farming. 
  • Dusk preps the players for fighting as zombies become more dangerous and visibility drops.
  • Night time sees the zombies become enraged and players will have limited PvP engagements due to very low visibility. 
  • The legendary Resident Evil 2 characters G (Stage 1) and Tyrant will also appear through random spawning during night time. 
  • Also, players can win Leon and Claire skin sets, and Ada and Marvin costumes in-game, which are all popular characters in Resident Evil 2.
"Our Resident Evil 2 partnership announcement generated a lot of buzz in the media and among both games' rabid fan bases," said Vincent Wang, General Manager of Global Publishing Center, Tencent. "We're thrilled to launch Survive till Dawn, a new gameplay mode that offers the very best of our two game platforms. The Resident Evil series is iconic among gamers and we anticipate incredible support for this gameplay that pushes players to survive a night of terror."

PUBG Mobile has enjoyed unprecedented success since its launch, exceeding 30 million daily active users and 200 million downloads in just eight months. In 2018, PUBG Mobile took home multiple awards and nominations, just eight months after the game's release. 

The game earned three awards at the Google Play Awards last month, including "Best Game." It also won the "Mobile Game of the Year" award at the 2018 Golden Joysticks and received nominations from The Game Awards and the App Store.

About Resident Evil:

The Resident Evil franchise features survival horror games in which players utilize a variety of weapons and other items to escape terrifying situations. 

Cumulative sales of the games in the series now total 88 million units* since the first title debuted in 1996. More than 20 years later, support from the passionate fan base across the globe even today makes it Capcom's flagship game series. 

Originally released in 1998, Resident Evil 2 went on to achieve cumulative sales of 4.96 million units, making it the fourth best-selling game in the Resident Evil franchise. 

The new Resident Evil 2 has shipped 3 million units* globally since it was released in January. 

*As of January 28, 2019

  • Title: Resident Evil 2
  • Genre: Survival horror
  • Platforms: PlayStation4 system, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: January 25, 2019
  • Official Site:

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18 February 2019

America's First Jewish Escape Room - OneBefore, Launches in Brooklyn

The OneBefore Escape Room - Trying to Escape
The OneBefore Escape Room - Trying to Escape
Gamliel Beyderman, the Russian-born, Orthodox Jewish data scientist on a wild journey to launch America's first Jewish Escape Room finally opened the doors of his venue to the customers right before Chanukah even though their site has been discussing the concept for months!

The Brooklyn location is in Midwood, a predominantly Orthodox neighborhood, even though the venue caters to anyone (Jewish or not) interested in all things Jewish. 

  • No background in Jewish studies is necessary to complete the room. 
  • The facility welcomes school trips and features a 35-person event space that doubles as a fine art gallery focused on the themes explored in the escape room.
After witnessing his teenage son's fascination with escape rooms to the point of building one on the basement of their home, Beyderman realized this medium can be a powerful educational tool to explain complex ideas - through play.

The escape room dramatizes the genealogical discoveries made by Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull in his quest to illuminate his family's lost connection to noble past. Paull captured his experiences in a volume called "A Noble Heritage." The stranger-than-fiction, but true plot weaves genealogy, Jewish history, loving kindness, sacrifices and miracles.

In Beyderman's own words: "I was amazed that [Paull] restored every single ancestral link connecting himself to the Shpoler Zeide, Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer, Rashi, and ultimately King David. As Jews, we are surrounded and comforted by the stories of their mighty deeds, their Torah - every day. My idea was to take the visitors of our escape room right into those stories through the escape room puzzles.

The visit continues in the Shpoler Zeide Gallery where each artwork is a story and a portal for meditation about the visitors' experience.

A second escape room at the same location is currently under construction. It promises to take the visitor on a journey to meet the legendary 18th century mystic, Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer. 

The room is an attempt to recreate a trip through the 20 generations of the Shapiro Rabbinic dynasty to find the greatest treasure of the Jewish people. The themes range from saving the manuscripts of Rabbi Pinchas from the flames of the Holocaust to the Jewish mystical numerology (gematria), to the heart-warming story of Rashi, the greatest Bible commentator of all time.
The OneBefore Escape Room - "Happening Place"
 The OneBefore Escape Room - "Happening Place"
OneBefore Escape is a part of the global escape room phenomenon, as well as an immersive museum of how technology allows us to trace our roots to the most illustrious leaders of the Jewish people. It is in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, near the numerous kosher restaurants, shops and steps from the subway.
SOURCE: OneBefore Escape

16 February 2019

National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures Launch Global Search for Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics

Registration for the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is now open...
National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures have launched a global search for innovative solutions to help tackle the world's single-use plastic problem.

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a one-year competition, will focus on three strategic ways to address the growing issue of plastic pollution: designing alternatives to single-use plastics, identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains, and communicating the breadth of the issue through data visualization. 

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a key component of National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures' partnership to reduce plastic waste.
  • Teams or individuals interested in the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge must submit their solutions by June 11, 2019, for review by an expert judging panel. 
  • Selected teams will compete for a share of $1.5 million in awards and investment. Winners will be announced in December 2019.
Commenting on the launch of the challenge, Frederic Michel, group director of impact and Sky Ocean Ventures, said: "In the last 60 seconds, another rubbish truck of plastic litter will have been dumped into our oceans, destroying the environment and killing wildlife. Sky and National Geographic have the very unique opportunity and resources to help reverse the damage that is being done and help accelerate and scale up ideas. By seeking out and supporting the innovators creating alternative and impactful solutions, we can champion the people who can potentially make a difference, beyond an equity investment. We will bring them into our unique ecosystem and provide them with support across critical areas for their very early growth."
"The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a tremendous opportunity to create a global community of problem solvers — innovators, scientists, researchers, storytellers and other creative minds — who are passionate about bringing their ideas to life in order to stem the tide of plastic pollution," said Dr. Jonathan Baillie, National Geographic Society executive vice president and chief scientist. "National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures are excited to work with competition winners to help create new technologies, business models and other solutions that will bring us one step closer to achieving a planet in balance."
The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a key component of National Geographic's Planet or Plastic? initiative, a global effort to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean by raising awareness, elevating science and education, advancing innovation and inspiring action.

"Food wrappers and beverage containers are ubiquitous, lightweight, and disposable, and many are nonrecyclable. Beverage container lids and caps become detached, and due to their size, are likely to become litter or escape from waste management systems, eventually ending up in marine environments..." (via National Geographic Society)
Sky Ocean Ventures was launched in March 2018 with a £25 million cornerstone commitment from Sky and the objective of seeking out investment opportunities in start-up innovation businesses that can help solve the ocean plastic waste crisis.

To register, and for more information about the challenge, please visit

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15 February 2019

Miami Vice Original Filming Boat Goes Up for Sale

Miami Vice Original Filming Boat: "a Picasso of boats"
Miami Vice Original Filming Boat: "a Picasso of boats"
An eye for design runs in the family. The late fashion designer Larry Martino created and designed clothes for Hollywood stars but his son, cut from the same cloth, David Martino, 41, of Iconic Premier, has applied that artful eye to collectible vehicles. 

Among them is the most recognizable, iconic pop culture boat in the world, a Wellcraft Scarab 38 KV driven by Don Johnson throughout the 1980s international hit TV series Miami Vice

Calling it artwork in motion, Wellcraft told Martino that Don Johnson himself helped design the boat's finishes and choose the color; there are more than 130 hues in the paint scheme. 

With its beautiful lines and a graceful arch mounted on the boat, the Scarab has a very distinguished look and style making it a perfect museum piece. 

This famous boat holds an illustrious place in television history.
"Owning the original Miami Vice boat has been a lifelong dream and it's an honor to own such a powerful international status symbol," Martino said. "But it is time for the original Miami Vice boat to go to a new home, maybe to a studio such as HGTV, Universal Studios, Vin Diesel, an art museum, casino, sports figure, even a fortune 500 company that will greatly benefit from the 30 years plus of branding or someone who just is a die-hard fan of Miami Vice."
But the worth of such a legendary, beautiful vessel is a mystery. Unlike collectible cars of which there are hundreds, the only boat that comes to mind is the original Miami Vice filming boat, by far the most recognizable boat in the world.
"It is hard to put a value on such an iconic collector's piece," Martino said. "I view this as priceless and irreplaceable. It's unique, and highly collectible, a true masterpiece. It's definitely a Picasso of boats, so we've priced it at $20 million on eBay." All offers will be welcomed.
International Superstar David Martino Cruising with his pal the "Legend"

Martino will give away the very last Miami Vice Daytona built by renown car builder Carl Roberts.
"That would be a fun two-for-one, wouldn't it?" Martino said. "I'd be willing to do that; if someone bought the boat, I'd throw the Daytona in free. They really need to stay together."
"We all remember Don Johnson playing Detective Sonny Crockett on the show," Martino said. "Some lucky person will carry the Miami Vice legacy with pride of ownership. There's 30 years of branding behind the original Miami Vice filming boat, which became a household name and a character in the movie."
Don Johnson playing Detective Sonny Crockett
Miami Vice: Don Johnson as Detective Sonny Crockett
The Miami Vice boat can be viewed at along with Martino's other Hollywood collectibles including the Original Bandit Trans Am, the car that stared The Smokey and the Bandit phenomena.

SOURCE: Iconic Premier

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14 February 2019

History in Motion: Iconic Cars from Hollywood will Parade Around Los Angeles on President's Day led by a Presidential Limo with a Special Guest

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton
President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton
Celebrating Los Angeles' love of both the automobile and Hollywood, the Petersen Automotive Museum will host a parade on President's Day, February 18, 2019. Featuring iconic Hollywood cars, the parade will be a fun "thank you" to the people of Los Angeles for their unwavering support over the past quarter century.
Beginning at 10 a.m. in Playa Vista, the parade route will pass several of the city's landmarks including The Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

During the route, there will be one planned 20-minute stop at Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, where viewers can take pictures with the parade cars. 

After the parade, the cars will return to the Petersen at around 1 p.m. and be displayed on the third floor of the museum parking garage.

Viewers positioned around the designated parade route will see the 1951 Chrysler Camera Car once owned by billionaire movie mogul Howard Hughes; the Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus from the 2006 American comedy-drama "Little Miss Sunshine;" the 1998 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible from the second installment of the Austin Powers franchise "The Spy Who Shagged Me;" the 2002 Jaguar XK-R Stunt Car that was the anti-hero car in the 2002 James Bond flick "Die Another Day;" the Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton, which belonged to President Dwight D. Eisenhower; the Honda S2000 from "2 Fast 2 Furious;" and other iconic Hollywood vehicles.
"The Petersen would not be what it is today without the steadfast support of the Los Angeles community," said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. "For 25 years, we have strived as an organization to captivate the hearts of Angelenos, igniting within them a passion for the automobile. Because Hollywood is such an important aspect of our community, the parade will serve as a fun tribute to the industry on which Los Angeles was built upon."

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13 February 2019

DreamWorks Animation And iFLY Bring How To Train Your Dragon Fans Closer To The Hidden World

How to Train Your Dragon Virtual Reality Experience, Now Available at Participating iFLY Locations
How to Train Your Dragon Virtual Reality Experience, Now Available at Participating iFLY Locations
iFLY is partnering with DreamWorks Animation on one of the most anticipated movies of 2019, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (in theaters February 22, 2019), to create a unique How to Train Your Dragon Virtual Reality Experience exclusively for iFLY. 
The experience is now available in participating iFLY locations nationwide.

About The Experience:

  • This fully immersive, highly exhilarating experience takes flyers inside the mythical Viking world of Berk from the movie How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
  • Flyers of all ages can choose their favorite character (Hiccup or Astrid) and soar like a dragon in virtual reality alongside the beloved Night Fury dragon, Toothless.
  • iFLY instructors physically guide flyers through sharp turns and breathtaking descents to enhance the virtual reality experience.

About How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
From DreamWorks Animation comes a surprising tale about growing up, finding the courage to face the unknown … and how nothing can ever train you to let go. 

What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic adventure spanning their lives.
Welcome to the most astonishing chapter of one of the most beloved animated franchises in film history: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
Now chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid (America Ferrera), Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has created a gloriously chaotic dragon utopia. When the sudden appearance of a female Light Fury coincides with the darkest threat their village has ever faced, Hiccup and Toothless must leave the only home they've known and journey to a hidden world thought only to exist in myth. As their true destinies are revealed, dragon and rider will fight together—to the very ends of the Earth—to protect everything they've grown to treasure.

For How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, series director Dean DeBlois returns alongside the all-star cast. The film is produced by Brad Lewis (Ratatouille, ANTZ) and Bonnie Arnold (Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon, How to Train Your Dragon 2).


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#ArmMeWithGames: Leading Game Designers & Educators Come Together to Recommend 20 Empathy Games For Young People Growing Up In The Shadow Of School Shootings

Literary Safari Media's #ArmMeWithGames list features 20 empathy and social emotional learning game recommendations for young people growing up in the shadow of lockdown drills and school shootings
Literary Safari Media's #ArmMeWithGames list features 20 empathy and social emotional learning game recommendations for young people growing up in the shadow of lockdown drills and school shootings. It is a companion resource to the #ArmMeWithBooks list which features reading recommendations from over 50 award-winning children's authors and librarians.
In remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the New York City-based studio Literary Safari Media has released an #ArmMeWithGames list of 20 award-winning games that can build empathy and social-emotional learning

At a time when video games are blamed for violence and even, mass school shootings, the #ArmMeWithGames list invites parents and educators to take a more nuanced view toward the role of games in the lives of young people. 

The list features letters to parents and teachers from Joel Levin, technology educator and founder of MinecraftEdu, and Dr. Karen Schrier, author of Knowledge Games: How Playing Games Can Solve Problems, Create Insight, and Make Change, along with game recommendations from leading game designers, researchers, and educators such as Barry Joseph, head of Digital at Girl Scouts USA, Asi Burak, author of Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World, and Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change. 

Featured games include Never Alone (E-Line Media), Sign, and Zoo-U.
"This list curates some of the best and most innovative game experiences that can help foster social emotional learning in children," says Matthew Farber, a professor of technology at the University of Northern Colorado and author of Game-Based Learning in Action.
Also releasing in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the Parkland tragedy is a free, downloadable adaptation of Literary Safari's graphic novella William H.G. Butler Middle School
Also releasing in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the Parkland tragedy is a free, downloadable adaptation of Literary Safari's graphic novella William H.G. Butler Middle School, which was created on Instagram, and a new discussion guide for students, parents, and teachers that was written by a middle school Language Arts teacher. " "The format of the narrative feels very connected to our techno-cultural moment," says Josh Neufeld, Eisner Award nominated comics journalist.
⏩ The #ArmMeWithGames list is a companion resource to Literary Safari's #ArmMeWithBooks list of book recommendations from award-winning children's authors which was released in December 2018 on the 6th anniversary of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In creating these resources, the studio was inspired by the viral teacher-driven #ArmMeWith social media campaign that emerged in response to politicians' suggestion that teachers be armed with guns to prevent further school shootings.
"While gun reform legislation and school safety take center stage amongst legislators and in the media, what I see as being less discussed is the very real impact of lockdown drills and school shootings on the emotional lives of young people, educators, and families," said Sandhya Nankani, founder of Literary Safari and a mother herself. "This week, we are also releasing a downloadable PDF version of our Instagram-style graphic novella, William H.G. Butler Middle School, which inspired our #ArmMeWith campaign. The graphic novella comes with a discussion guide written by a middle school teacher. It is our hope that the story and the companion questions can be used as a tool to foster dialogue among and between students, parents, and educators."

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12 February 2019

Marvel Studios' "Captain Marvel" to be Released in ScreenX

Captain Marvel in ScreenX
Captain Marvel in ScreenX 
CJ 4DPLEX has announced today that Marvel Studios' "Captain Marvel," is coming to theaters in the ScreenX format on March 8, 2018.

"Captain Marvel" will be the third movie from Marvel to be converted into ScreenX, and the latest collaboration between The Walt Disney Studios and CJ 4DPLEX, following the globally successful ScreenX release of "Black Panther" and "Ant-Man and The Wasp". 

"Captain Marvel" stars Brie Larson in the title role and is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
ScreenX is the world's first multi-projection theatre technology that allows a 270-degree panoramic movie watching experience. ScreenX allows the audience to go beyond the frame of the traditional movie screen, utilizing a proprietary system to expand the center screen image to the side walls, surrounding audiences with imagery and providing a sense of being inside the movie.
"'Captain Marvel' is another great movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that continues to showcase the full potential of the ScreenX format by taking us on an otherworldly heroic journey," said JongRyul Kim, CEO of CJ 4DPLEX. "We are thrilled to team with The Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios to bring this inspiring new heroine to audiences in our newest cinematic experience."
Brie Larson as Captain Marvel
Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

About "Captain Marvel":

Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios' "Captain Marvel" is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the maelstrom.

The film stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Rune Temte, Algenis Perez Soto, Mckenna Grace, with Annette Bening, with Clark Gregg, and Jude Law.

Marvel Studios' "Captain Marvel" is produced by Kevin Feige and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Patricia Whitcher and Stan Lee are the executive producers. 

The story is by Nicole Perlman & Meg LeFauve and Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and the screenplay is by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet. 
"Captain Marvel" opens on March 8, 2019 in U.S. theaters.

The Trailer:

Nerdist and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Present "The Science of Mortal Kombat" Series, Premiering Feb. 18

The Science of Mortal Kombat
The Science of Mortal Kombat - Premieres February 18th
Nerdist's hit series Because Science has collaborated with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to explore the science of Fatalities and iconic moves featured in the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11 videogame.

The original limited series, The Science of Mortal Kombat, premieres Feb. 18, guest starring reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier, and marks Nerdist's largest production ever, highlighting the creatively brutal and visually stunning gameplay which the best-selling Mortal Kombat franchise is known for.

The Science of Mortal Kombat will feature host Kyle Hill, professional Science Communicator and host of Nerdist's hit show Because Science, as he breaks down the science behind iconic Mortal Kombat 11 Fatalities, Scorpion's deadly spear attack, and powerful Krushing Blows with the help of special guests – Cormier and former WWE Champion, CM Punk.

Kyle and YouTuber and Mythbuster Allen Pan will utilize special super slow-motion cameras allowing for enhanced visuals to analyze and break down each iconic fight move in Mortal Kombat 11, such as the pressure and strength needed to break bones, the scientific analysis of a character's superhuman abilities, and much more.

The Trailer:

The six-episode series of high-intensity fight re-enactments and behind-the-scenes footage will begin airing weekly via and on Feb. 18. and can be watched on Nerdist and Because Science channels any time after each Monday airing.
Mortal Kombat 11 is the latest installment in the critically-acclaimed franchise, developed by award-winning NetherRealm Studios, and is scheduled for release beginning April 23 for PlayStation4 computer entertainment system, PlayStation4 Pro computer entertainment system, the Xbox One family of devices including the Xbox One X, Nintendo Switch system and PC. 

To learn more about Mortal Kombat 11, please visit 

About Nerdist:

Nerdist is a multi-platform media and entertainment network for fans of genre and pop culture content. With flagship content including Nerdist News hosted by Jessica Chobot, weekly shows Because Science and The Dan Cave, and daily in-depth editorial coverage, Nerdist reaches millions of people every day on and on leading platforms including the premium streaming service Alpha, YouTube, and Facebook. 

Nerdist is owned by Legendary Entertainment and is part of Legendary Digital Networks, which also includes Geek & Sundry and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls.

About Because Science:

How hot is a lightsaber?
Why does Captain America's shield bounce?
How much energy does it take Thanos to throw a moon?
Nerdist science editor Kyle Hill answers questions about fictional phenomenon using real-world science in vlogs, livestreams, and a weekly show, whose popularity has grown exponentially since its launch in 2018. Kyle created the popular YouTube channel, which rocketed to 100,000 subscribers in just two weeks, and has since grown to over 750,000 subscribers with more than 150 million views. To date, fans have watched nearly one billion minutes of Because Science, or over 1800 years! Kyle's work has appeared in WIRED, Scientific American, and The Boston Globe. He has hosted MythBusters: The Search and appeared as an expert on Bill Nye Saves the World, FOX News, and BBC World Radio.

About NetherRealm Studios:

NetherRealm Studios is a leader in the development of interactive entertainment, and the creator of the billion-dollar Mortal Kombat franchise. Mortal Kombat has spawned two theatrical films, multiple television series, and has sold over 42 million games to date. Located in Chicago, Illinois, the award-winning NetherRealm team has been working and creating games together since 1992. 

Additional information about NetherRealm Studios can be found at

11 February 2019

The Kid Who Would Be King: Why King Arthur Films Are The Perfect Antidote To Epic Brexit Posturing

The Kid Who Would Be King
The Kid Who Would Be King  (20th Century Fox)
King Arthur probably never existed, but from a cinematic point of view, he may as well have done. Few figures, mythical or historical, have reappeared as frequently on the big screen. This winter, less than two years after Guy Ritchie’s 2017 King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, comes a new take on the tales: The Kid Who Would Be King. But what is the appeal of this particular tale? And above all, why now?

The Kid Who Would Be King, like Ritchie’s film, is another take on a familiar trope. Like any legend, the Arthur myth is a cinematic template on which storytellers can impose their own ideas – and these variations can tell us a lot about the times and places that produced them. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), for instance, with its medieval plagues and Marxist peasants, reflects parodically on the construction of national mythologies. Notably, this was at a time when Britain’s imperial and economic influence had dwindled.

The contexts of Brexit, inevitably, provide a backdrop to the more recent films. The Legend of the Sword is a popular retelling in every sense. Ritchie transposes his familiar London “low-life” milieu to the world of the Round Table, with his muscular Arthur a brothel-raised orphan, backed up by a multicultural array of petty thieves and streetfighters. The war here, with his usurping uncle, Vortigern, is more a people’s rebellion. Yet the film still ends with the newly crowned king demanding fealty from the Vikings, while rejecting their demands for British slaves.

Ritchie’s film was greeted in some quarters as a film about Brexit, but it could just as easily be an allegory about the Corbynite “revolution”, if you wanted it to. Yet it does draw on some of the Arthurian fables’ more nationalistic elements. The more dewy aspects of the legends – the Sword and the Stone, the Lady of the lake, Avalon – were recounted by Thomas Malory in 1485 and form the basis of all the most popular Arthurian retellings. Yet these largely obscure the King’s earlier, more militaristic depictions.

The circa 1400 anonymous poem Morte Arthure, for instance, focuses on Arthur’s resistance to paying Roman taxes and his campaign to reassert British dominion in Europe. The poem commemorates national Empire-building, as much as it mocks and scorns “continental” manners and morality. Transposed to our populist era of “hard men” politicians, Ritchie’s brawny Arthur comes with interesting connotations, inadvertently or otherwise.

A very British epic

More to the point, Arthurian films tell us about the cinematic contexts that produced them. Monty Python’s muddy take on the story may take its cues from realist European films such as 1973’s Lancelot du lac – but its cut-price epic style is born of the group having no money to spend: a common issue with British films of the impoverished 1970s. The Holy Grail’s contrast to Hollywood’s widescreen spectacles, such as Knights of the Round Table (1953) or Camelot (1967), is part of its comic point.

Similarly, The Legend of the Sword’s debt is less to contemporary politics and more to the recent traditions of epic film. The film inherits much of its style and narrative tropes from Ridley’s Scott’s Gladiator (2000), the epic that revived the genre, and demonstrated the international appeal of ancient stories.

Made at huge expense by Warner Bros at its Leavesden studios – and with the creative input of Harry Potter producer Lionel Wigram – Ritchie’s movie was itself seen as another global franchise in the making – until it flopped at the box-office. Ironically, then, this fiercely British film is “British” only in a limited sense. Like the Harry Potter films, it exemplifies the globalised nature of cinema: a “local” story financed by multinational capital, shot in a Hollywood-owned British studio and made for worldwide distribution.

Rejuvenating Arthur

By contrast, The Kid Who Would Be King offers a twist to this model. Here, the global genre of the epic is localised and brought down to earth – in this case, by transferring the legend to a modern secondary school, with a cast barely into their teens.

Other recent films have trodden the same ground. Edgar Wright’s 2013 The World’s End (another Working Title production) was a jokey modern take on Arthurian myth, its 12-pint pub crawl – led by fallen leader Gary King – its own legendary Grail quest. It’s also familiar territory for Kid Who Would Be King director Joe Cornish, whose 2011 debut, Attack the Block, banded inner-city youths against an alien invasion, as well as the Metropolitan Police.

This focus on the young in The Kid Who Would Be King is both cinematically welcome and topical in light of the generational schisms and social divisions highlighted and brought about by Brexit – a point highlighted by Cornish himself. By putting Excalibur in the hands of a gawky schoolkid, Cornish’s film offers a lighter-hearted alternative both to epic cinematic follies and delusions of national grandeur.

Joking it may partly be, yet with its allegiances to Britain’s future generation, the film becomes another politically charged return to this most potent national myth.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Neil Archer, Lecturer in Film Studies, Keele University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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9 February 2019

Autocracies That Look Like Democracies Are A Threat Across The Globe

A rally celebrating the second anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, March 18, 2016.
A rally celebrating the second anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, March 18, 2016. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev)
They’re a special kind of autocratic regime that masquerades as a democracy. And what looks like benevolent conduct by these countries can quickly change into aggressive, politically charged behavior.Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election may inspire other countries to do the same.

These other countries don’t look threatening. They look like democracies. But they’re not.
Autocracies, often known as “authoritarian regimes,” maintain power through centralized control over information and resources. Political opposition is either forbidden or strongly curtailed and individual freedom is limited by the state.

Autocracies that look like democracies are different because their leaders permit political opponents to run for election – even though they rarely win.

These countries’ capitalist systems have some of the trappings of liberal democracies in the West. But these regimes use capitalism to further their authoritarian rule.

These so-called “dominant party authoritarian regimes” have surged in number from around 13 percent of all countries before the end of the Cold War to around 33 percent today.

Most are located in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They are also present in Eastern Europe and in the Americas. Russia is one of them; so are Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore and Venezuela.

These regimes often engage in the same kinds of bad behavior as other autocracies. But their behavior is critically different in both the motivations and methods used to further authoritarian ends, as detailed in my new book “Authoritarian Capitalism.”
The Russian military intelligence service building; 12 of its officers hacked into the Clinton presidential campaign.
The Russian military intelligence service building; 12 of its officers hacked into the Clinton presidential campaign. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

Political control

Part of the danger with dominant party authoritarian regimes is that their veneer of democracy permits political opponents to run for election. But when incumbent rulers face a threat to their power, the autocrats often respond by targeting political dissidents and taking aggressive actions toward foreign enemies to bolster popular support.

For example, Russian leader Vladimir Putin faced an unprecedented challenge from citizen protests during the 2012 presidential election. The protests continued into 2013.

Putin punished the protesters. New York Times correspondent Ellen Barry reported in 2013 that “new laws prescribe draconian punishments for acts of dissent. … Mr. Putin … embraced a new, sharply conservative rhetoric, dismissing the urban protesters as traitors and blasphemers, enemies of Russia.”

Shortly afterward, Russia’s foreign activities became even more belligerent than during the Soviet period. This accomplished just what Putin wanted: Following his annexation of Crimea in 2014, his approval ratings skyrocketed.

Another recent example is Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repression of domestic political dissidents following the failed July 2016 coup against him. According to The Guardian, the regime arrested or suspended “more than 110,000 officials, including judges, teachers, police and civil servants.”

Erdogan went after foreign-based dissidents too, allegedly orchestrating a plot to kidnap opposition leader Fetullah Gulen from Pennsylvania.

And while he won the presidential election in June 2018, Erdogan’s foreign-based critics remain concerned about his threats. Enes Kanter, a Turkish NBA star, declined to travel to London in January 2019 out of fear that Turkish spies might kill him.
Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter curtails foreign travel for fear of kidnapping by the Turkish government.
Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter curtails foreign travel for fear of kidnapping by the Turkish government. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Information control

Another distinction that characterizes dominant party authoritarian regimes is how they exploit Western legal and financial systems against Western media outlets critical of the regime.

Normally, autocrats control information and resources to retain power. But rather than relying on the typical autocrat’s crude hostile attacks or outright censorship, dominant party authoritarian regimes use legal or financial methods regarded as legitimate by the West.
In other words, they sue the media or they buy them.

A slew of foreign news organizations – including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and The Economist – were sued by the Lee family, autocratic rulers of Singapore, for political and financial reporting after the 2008 global financial crisis.

The family maintained the coverage defamed them. As the Wall Street Journal’s editors wrote in 2008, “We know of no foreign publication that has ever won in a Singapore court of law. Virtually every Western publication that circulates in the city-state has faced a lawsuit, or the threat of one.”

Malaysian political authorities deployed similar tactics when their rulers felt threatened.
Following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and in the months leading up to the November 1999 general election, wealthy ruling party supporters in Malaysia filed a flurry of defamation lawsuits against foreign journalists and media organizations, such as the Asian Wall Street 
Journal and Dow Jones.

Russia’s means of pressuring foreign media are slightly different, but they also involve taking advantage of Western legal-financial systems.

Russia has engaged in disinformation campaigns that exploit weaknesses in the West’s freedom of speech protections, as documented by experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and at the Center for the Study of Democracy.

And Russian companies have acquired sufficiently large ownership stakes in foreign media companies to influence their operations.

This has involved both the manipulation of their coverage and a reduction in media freedoms of the country in which they are located.

For example, Delyan Peevski is a controversial member of the Bulgarian Parliament who advocated for pro-Russian policies. Peevski built and sustained a media empire that controls around 40 percent of Bulgaria’s print sector and 80 percent of the newspaper distribution with loans from a partially Russian-owned bank.
Delyan Peevski, right, the Russian-backed Bulgarian media mogul and politician.
Delyan Peevski, right, the Russian-backed Bulgarian media mogul and politician. (REUTERS/Petko Nalbantov/BGNES)

Resource control

In contrast to firms located in other types of autocracies, state-controlled businesses in dominant party authoritarian regimes often comply with international financial regulations. This helps them gain access to Western countries’ corporate and financial systems.

Under cover of legitimate business operations, their autocratic leaders can pursue political objectives with less scrutiny.

Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund, 1MDB, engaged in aggressive investment tactics with corrupt practices – including “abnormally high payback” for investment bankers – that extended across the globe.

The U.S. accuses former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s family friend of masterminding the theft of US$2 billion from the fund. And its capital was also channeled to politicians and projects to help the ruling party win the 2013 elections.

Russia has also used state-linked companies to gain influence over Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria’s crucial energy sectors via purchases of ownership stakes in listed companies.

This granted the Russian state access to other key sectors of these economies, such as finance and telecommunications. Russia then was able to influence government policies.

In one case, the Serbian government chose not to enforce the European Union’s sanctions against Russia. That was a risk for Serbia, because it has wanted to qualify for European Union membership by 2025.

Even bolder actions occurred with Russia’s interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, told the Senate in September 2018 that never before had the Kremlin violated American sovereignty so illegally, aggressively and audaciously – even during the high-stakes rivalry of the Cold War.

It is now common knowledge that Russian-controlled agencies and businesses played a strategically vital role in the election interference.

Resisting influence

Can democracies defend themselves against such aggressive regimes?

The “Kremlin Playbook,” written by Heather A. Conley, James Mina, Ruslan Stefanov and Martin Vladimirov, is an extensive study of Russian influence in Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Serbia. It provides a detailed list of policy recommendations to resist Russian influence that can be applied to other dominant party authoritarian regimes.

They include strengthening intelligence gathering and cooperation between the U.S. and its allies; increasing U.S. and allied governments’ assistance to vulnerable countries; and stronger protections for and enforcement of transparency measures.

But I believe an important addition to this list is the need to monitor the strength of the ruling party’s hold on power. That’s because aggressive, politically charged activities are most likely to occur when incumbent rulers face an elevated threat.

With its attack on the U.S. 2016 election, Russia showed that it’s possible to interfere destructively in the most powerful Western democracy. I expect that other autocracies that look like democracies will follow suit – across the globe.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Richard Carney, Professor, China Europe International Business School

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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