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Matrix comes to VIDI

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VIDI, the South African on-demand entertainment service, has announced that the Matrix trilogy will join its lineup of movies-on-demand from June 11.

The Matrix remains one of the top-ten all time science fiction movies among critics and cinema-goers.  Keanu Reeves stars as a computer hacker who learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.  Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss also star.  All three actors reprise their roles in the two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

Says Taryn Uhlmann, VIDI’s GM Marketing, “Even if you have seen all three movies before, a Matrix binge-watch is one of the best ways to spend six hours!”

From June 1, all three movies in The Mummy trilogy will also be available for viewing.  This includes The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.  In the original film, Brendan Fraser stars as an American serving in the French Foreign Legion who, while on an archaeological dig in Egypt accidentally awakens a Mummy.  The film also stars Rachel Weisz and South African Arnold Vosloo in the title role.  All three go on to reprise their roles in the sequel while Fraser teams up with Jet Li for the third instalment.

Other movies that will be added to VIDI’s library in June include:

• Speed Racer – from the Wachowski brothers who brought you the aforementioned Matrix movies, comes this action-packed film starring Emile Hirsch as a young driver, who aspires to be champion of the racing world with the help of his family and his high-tech Mach 5 automobile. Susan Sarandon co-stars. (from June 11)

• Fracture – a tense, gripping film about an attorney who, intent on climbing the career ladder toward success, finds an unlikely opponent in a manipulative criminal he is trying to prosecute. An all star cast including Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, Rosamund Pike and South Africa’s Embeth Davidtz.  Not to be missed! (from June 27)

• For the kids there is Jim Carrey in Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas as well as the fantasy adventure Peter Pan, in which the Darling family children receive a visit from Peter Pan, who takes them to Never Never Land where an ongoing war with the evil Pirate Captain Hook is taking place. (Both films from June 1)

VIDI’s made-for-television offerings starting in June include:

Considered by many to be the best ever television comedy series, season one of Fawlty Towers, starts on VIDI on June 15.  Monty Python’s John Cleese stars as hotel owner Basil Fawlty whose incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away. Prunella Scales plays his long-suffering wife and Andrew Sachs as the dim-witted waiter Manuel.

Alias – in this brilliant action adventure series, Jennifer Garner stars as Sydney Bristow, a young, athletic, college graduate who was recruited her freshman year as a secret agent for SD-6, a top-secret branch of the CIA. After a few years – after Sydney confides her lifestyle to her boyfriend, the evil head of SD-6 – Arvin Sloan has him killed. Sydney learns that SD-6 is part of a rogue international agency called the Alliance of 12, out to rule the world. So she becomes a double agent, working with the real CIA to bring down SD-6 with the assistance of her handler and her estranged father who also happens to be a double agent. Along the way, Sydney fights various rival agents, rival terrorist groups, and traitors all the while keeping her cloak-and-dagger lifestyle a secret from her friends. This series is from JJ Abrams (Lost, the Star Trek movie reboots, Mission Impossible movies and producer of the new Star Wars movie).  It also features a fresh Bradley Cooper who plays Sydney’s murdered boyfriend.

Here’s a little known fact.  When the makers of Doctor Who started working on a new series, they were stumped when it came to a title for the show.  So they played around with the letters from Doctor Who and came up with the anagram Torchwood.  John Barrowman, currently starring in the hit TV series Arrow, plays Captain Jack Harkness, a former Time Agent and con man from the 51st century who travels to early 21st century Cardiff, Wales. There, he becomes a member of a renegade criminal investigation group which battles hostile extraterrestrials and supernatural threats. (Season 1 from June 24)

Finally, also launching on VIDI in June are seasons three of Downton Abbey, In Plain Sight and Call the Midwife as well as season two of Whitechapel

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

Arts and Entertainment

Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Arts and Entertainment

Showmax shoots its first local drama

Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.

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The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.

As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service,  Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.

Showmax is available in 70 countries.

Photographer: Patrick Toselli

“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”

At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.

But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.

The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…

Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.

Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.

Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.

The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.

Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.

“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”

All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.

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