Tuesday, October 9, 2018

James Gunn reportedly writing and directing "Suicide Squad 2"

James Gunn has been a subject of interest in Hollywood since summer. He was abruptly fired from Disney and Marvel over ten year old Tweets which centered around rape and pedophilia. Before you get outraged all over again, let me tell you that these Tweets were brought up before "Guardians of the Galaxy" starting shooting in 2014. He apologized for them. He recognized that the Tweets were in bad taste and that he's matured in ten years, as do most people. Still, pressure from Conservatives led to his release from Marvel.

Bad move, Marvel. Bad move. Now we know why, DC has scooped up Gunn. At first, it was said he would direct and write. It has since been confirmed that he will definitely write "Suicide Squad 2." Which honestly seems like a perfect fit for Gunn. It also looks like we will be getting a pretty decent "Suicide Squad" movie, especially if Gunn ends up directing this thing.

I ain't gonna make this a political screed, because that just isn't my style. But man, Marvel. BAD MOVE. I can't wait to see what Gunn brings to this table. I hope and pray that DC realizes who they have and they allow Gunn the freedom to tell the story he wants to tell. DC has been putting shackles on many of their filmmakers, which has lead to bad word-of-mouth and modest (at best) box office returns. Allow Gunn to hit this one in the face!

I can't wait to buy this soundtrack!

Oh and if Dave Bautista gets cast in this, please let him play King Shark!


Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: We are "Venom?" I guess. Sorta.

Venom Review
As a movie lover and a comics lover, there can be a tremendous amount of inner conflict and inner turmoil when Hollywood decides to make these books a reality. I feel like I am constantly reminding myself to disconnect as a comic book fan for these movies. I don't think its particularly fair, even though I have been guilty in the past, to base my entire movie review around "oh, in the comics this character is this, or this character did that." Not everybody who buys a ticket to see a movie has read the comics. I see comic book fans all up in arms constantly, declaring that this superhero movie or that superhero movie is "the worst movie ever made," simply because the X-Men line-up isn't the original, or one character didn't get their powers like that, or they don't look right, or they leave too much out. Comic fans can't wrap their heads around that every move a filmmaker makes is to make a movie that appeals to the mass audience, not just the niche comic audience. Superheroes wouldn't be the big business they are right now if filmmakers only appealed to a small fraction of the movie going public.

With that said, I have learned to live in world where I am getting a "Venom" movie that is totally disconnected to Spider-Man. They reimaged Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) as a character, they've partially reimaged how he comes about getting attached to a symbiote, an organic, alien parasite that attaches to a host and controls them. This is not the hundredth percent Venom from the comics, but I don't care. I find it weird how I hold on to certain comic continuity but not to others. I guess because Hollywood can go so far to the extreme that its not the character at all, just read up on what J.J. Abrams planned to do with Superman back in 2002. I wouldn't say that the "Venom" movie playing in theaters right now is so stray that it doesn't feel like the same character. This is certainly Venom all right, so that is at least a good thing.

I went in with the lowest of low expectations. On the other side, I feel "Venom" is a mixed bag. I like Tom Hardy, but I feel if he were given a better script, he could have been great. I like Jenny Slate, but she was barely given enough to do here. I like the special effects and the crazy headgame going on with Eddie Brock internally once his body is infected with a symbiote alien, I just wish it served a better movie. For long stretches of the film, the movie is kind of a mess. It's tonally stunted. It tries hard to be funny, but usually comes up short. It tries to be light-hearted, even though Venom is the absolute worst light-hearted character. There are stretches of the film that are just, well, boring. No matter what I think of the character, Venom is a terrible, terrible PG-13 character. How can a character that leaves dead bodies everywhere and spouts on about tearing people's heads off be stuck in a PG-13 movie?

Like I said, I like Tom Hardy. I think he could have been a classic Venom. But as I said, he needed a better script. I have discovered that Tom Hardy can't do everything. Eddie Brock is a reporter with lots of fans, and he takes on a story about the Life Foundation, that may be doing some shady shit in the name of science. Brock is trying really hard to expose them, but it gets him fired. Still, a scientist of Life Foundation Dora Skirth (Slate) gets Brock secretly into the facility to report on the Foundation. A piece of an alien symbiote latches onto Brock, and he becomes Venom. Eddie Brock is a somewhat timid and not-so-tough character, two qualities that Tom Hardy lacks. When he tries to talk in a scared, high-pitched voice, it just comes off unnatural.

The Life Foundation is run by Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed. I discovered Ahmed on HBO's "The Night Of," where he plays a young guy who gets in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also plays a rebel in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," and he plays a bright, energetic man who believes in the rebellion. There are things that Ahmed can't do either. He can't play a villain. He's got too sweet of a face for a villain. He can't carry the range to come off dangerous or even snobby. He's supposed to be this sometimes intimidated, vile figure. Ahmed never comes close to making the audience feel that way.

Michelle Williams plays the typical love interest, and that's too bad that this was the only avenue they chose to take with her character. Sure, she's instrumental near the end of the movie, but she's pretty much just a love interest. There is some really good special effects in the movie. But the ending will possibly frustrate some viewers who are getting sick of two people with similar powers having a big fight at the climax of the movie. The film accumulates to a CGI symbiote monster fighting another CGI symbiote monster. If they make more of these movies, its just going to be CGI symbiote monsters fighting other CGI symbiote monsters. I am not sure what traction this can get as a franchise and I think it has a good chance of getting stale really quick.

Early reports stated that the film was 2005 "Catwoman" bad, I am not sure its on that level. But it is for sure a very ho-hum, dragging experience. It's got some pretty good to mediocre performances and some stellar special effects work. The action scenes never live up to the promise the movie makes. I think the movie could have benefited from a better script, somebody who really loves the character. When two slippery liquid monsters are beating each other up with abnormally long tongues, and its the most boring fight in comic book movies, that's a problem. "Venom" is a PG-13 rated movie that wanted very badly to be an R-rated movie, and it shows. We are living in a comic book adaptation golden age, so making movies this mediocre shouldn't be happening at this point. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Spiderman: Enter The Spider-Verse trailer

Our friendly neighborhood Spiderman may have had an undesirable fate in "Avengers: Infinity War," but anybody who knows comics knows that we will see Spidey again. Plus, the next year or so is going to be a big for the webhead. He will appear in "Avengers 4" then following that film next year, we will get his sequel "Spider-Man: Far From Home." If any of you have a PS4, I hope you've been enjoying the video game. This holiday season though, Spider-Man is going to the animated world.

I am really excited for this movie. It will be exciting to see how they handle all these Spider characters. In the comics, Spiderman went on adventures with other Spider-men (and Spider-Women) from all over the multiverse. I hope they can do a good job with it, because its looks awesome.

Plus, Spider-Ham!

Review: "White Boy Rick" prevails with great performances, using a mediocre script

White Boy Rick Review
The story of Richard Wershe Jr. is surely an interesting one. He's a Detroit boy who evidently did crime with his father. To say he grew up hard would be a large understatement. At the age of 14, he became the youngest FBI informant ever. He sold drugs for the FBI in order to get closer to the users and other criminals of the city at the time. He was eventually abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to prison.

I've seen dozens and dozens of crime movies. I've seen the rise and fall of men who thought they were kings. I've seen several crime movies based on a true story. I love the genre, its always been one of my favorites. With that said, it seems like all of these movies are constructed the exact same. We see an early crime spree. We see a criminal go down. We see their way out through police or a law enforcement organization. We see them go in deep undercover, of sorts. We see suspicion with their friends and family. We see them get in too deep and over their heads. We then see how it all crumbles, or sometimes how it simply resolves. "White Boy Rick" heads to this formula, and it never waivers. Even if you don't know the story of Richard Wershe Jr. (and I will admit that I had never heard of this guy) you've seen this movie. That is the most disappointing thing about it. Even in 2018, we haven't figured out a way to approach the crime genre in a more creative, suspenseful way.

"White Boy Rick" hits homerun after homerun in the acting department. Richie Merritt plays Wershe and he's literally a revelation. Merritt makes you believe in the story being told. He sounds like he's from Detroit. He looks like he grew up hard. He's got a demeanor that doesn't compare to anybody else. He's got the goods to carry the movie on his shoulders and he's a young kid too. I hope this movie might peak high enough for Oscar buzz, because Merritt deserves the merit (pun totally intended). Matthew McConaughey plays his father, and its McConaughey. He's great all the time, and he's great here. The rest of the central cast includes Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane, Brian Tyree Henry, RJ Cyler and Jonathon Majors, all of whom are excellent.

I just wish that they had a script that wasn't so straightforward. There are couple gem moments and couple times where I laughed out loud. But those moments are few and far between. The movie plays out just as you'd expect it to. Because its so straightforward, it ends up being fairly boring and routine. Not what I was hoping for. But some decent performances may make me think about this more than usual.


Review: "Three Identical Strangers" is an emotionally-draining, eye-opening experience

Three Identical Strangers Review
Being the movie fan that I am, I will give anything a chance. That includes documentaries. I'm talking about theatrical documentaries, a good documentary can allow the audience to travel to some of the strangest parts of our world and discover stories we would never believe are non-fiction. It's amazing just rich our world really is, and the stories each and every one of us have. It blows my mind even further that there are seven billion of us sharing this planet as we speak, and learning everyone's story and their interests would be a dizzying roller coaster. Every once and awhile though, documentaries take us to corners of the world we wished we didn't see, and just as we can have a fun surreal experience, we can have a cold and cruel experience as well.

"Three Identical Strangers" is a documentary about the true story of David Kellman, Robert Shafran and Eddy Galland. The movie begins with Shafran recounting his first day moving into a Community college in New York. He feels weird because everyone is really nice to him, and just about everybody he comes in contact with refers to him as Eddy. He eventually connects with someone who tells him that he looks like Eddy Galland, a student who transferred to a different college at the end of last year. When Shafran discovers that he shares a birthday with Galland, they had to meet. They soon find out that they were born on the same day and adopted out of the same agency. They are identical twins. Their story makes headlines, and soon enough they are contacted by a David Kellman. Kellman also shares the same birthday, born at the same time and adopted out of the same agency as the other boys. It's evident, the boys are identical triplets.

For a long stretch of the movie, the focus is on this massive discovery for these three young men, and it changes their lives forever. They go on several talk shows together. Their story hits several newspapers. They cameo in a Madonna music video. Not only does their bizarre story attract attention, but the boys themselves grow close. They party together, they chase women together, they begin to share an apartment. You can't help but to laugh and relish in the crazy coincidence that landed on these boys and in the early moments, the movie really racks up the charm and the goofiness of the situation.

Its when the boys decide to find their birth mother where the story takes a hard left turn. Suddenly, the movie becomes not very funny at all.

I don't know how many times I have mentioned this on my blog, but I was adopted. It is kind of obvious if you've ever seen my family pictures. My older brother is adopted too and its clear. He's well over six foot with thin hair and I'm roughly 5'9 with thick hair. My brother and I both got the best case scenario with our adoption. We have parents that have shown us everyday how loved and valued we are as people. Our adoptions were closed adoptions and we don't know a whole lot about our families at all. Our parents have always been open about our adoptions and they've been willing to disclose any information they could if we asked for it. In "Three Identical Strangers," imagining my family purposely not getting key information about my adoption or my brother's adoption sent a chill down my spine. And knowing the reason why such information was classified hit me hard with a terror more sinister than any horror movie in recent memory.

I'm going to be coy here, explaining what happened once the boys and their families started digging into the agency that got them adopted. Because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Tim Wardle has carefully constructed a fairly massive story and has done so with real tension and heartbreak. He does a really good job with the story's tonal shifts. Like I said above, there is a silly energy to the first half of the film, then things downshift ever so slightly once the boys get comfortable together and remember that they have separate lives from one another. How difficult it can be to share your life with other family is investigated. Then, once the film really descends into the adoption agency and their birth mother, complete horror. You won't be able to fathom just how dark our world really is and just how shitty some people are.

 I think because I am adopted myself, this movie pushed a button in me that effected my emotional center. But I don't want that to sound like this movie is only for one audience. I think anybody anywhere can get something out of this. It's a harrowing discussion on the nature vs. nurture debate and it will have many discussing just how far we should go in any direction in the name of science. I also think audiences are not going to be able to believe this incredible true story, especially as it gets crazier and darker as the movie wears on. "Three Identical Strangers" is a hard-hitting and draining experience, and also one of the year's best films.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Trailer for Dark Phoenix

As the Fox Marvel characters edge closer to under the Disney banner, it was announced earlier this month that Kevin Feige will soon be taking over the X-Men franchise. The merger between Fox and Disney finally brings every single Marvel character under the same banner, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will feel complete. I thought it would feel bittersweet. Honestly, I've liked the "X-Men" franchise, by and large. I know some people may not agree with that, and that's okay. But I've genuinely loved what Fox did with "X-Men."

I feel like that love may be wavering a bit these days though. The more I think about "X-Men: Apocalypse," the more it frustrates me. Now, this trailer for "Dark Phoenix," (seemingly, no longer X-Men: Dark Phoenix) has me underwhelmed. I am not digging at all that it looks like Jean Grey has no Phoenix Force, which is the whole point of the fucking story. I also can't wrap my head around that this feels exactly like what was already covered in "X3." Remember, "X3" was mostly unpopular in the movie world, so why you'd want to re-do it without some major changes seems silly.

I really like the young cast that has been assembled for this new chapter in the franchise. It seems with the Disney merger, this new chapter will be cut short. Heck, the entire book will be cut short. I just wish it ends on a high note. I am not sure it will end on a high not though, everything is point to somewhere else.

Review: The Netflix arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe evolves with the second season of "Iron Fist"



If you have time to do some research, you'll find that the only Netflix Marvel show I didn't review on my website was the first season of "Iron Fist." The reason being I never finished it.

I know I had some harsh words for both "The Defenders" mini-series and the first season of "The Punisher," but I guess it should say something that I finished both of those shows. To this day, I have never watched "Iron Fist" all the way through. Why didn't I finish it? Well, for starters, it feels like a shameless rip-off of "Arrow" for anybody who doesn't know comic books. The show didn't even try to differentiate itself in a creative way. For some reason Finn Jones, who was so good on "Game of Thrones," was sleepwalking through the entire series. Tom Pelphrey was migraine-inducing to watch, and I was convinced he was the worst actor I had ever seen up to that point. "Iron Fist" also featured the worst example of what has plagued all the Marvel shows, they take a two hour story and stretch it across thirteen hours. I couldn't finish the first season because it was so bleeding boring to watch. The show couldn't even produce cool fight scenes, which is a shame for a show whose upbringing is within martial arts.

I guess its just because I am die-hard Marvel fan that I decided to dive into the second season of "Iron Fist." Despite not finishing season one and not digging "The Defenders." I guess also that 2018 seems to be a year of Netflix Marvel change. "Luke Cage" season two was really good, "Jessica Jones" season two was pretty good. So I guess that means that "Iron Fist" would be the next to improve, right? The thing is, it feels like somebody is starting to listen to some of the major flaws fans and TV critics are pointing out, because it seems like they are proactive about making better television shows. The second season of "Iron Fist" is only ten episodes, three hours shorter than the first season. They make the most of those ten hours we do get putting together a story that both further develops the characters and story we learned in the first season, but also expands the universe of Iron Fist and presents him with a new challenge. Never does the show feel like its dragging or pandering for no reason, the show keeps moving, which has always been the biggest weakness to these shows.

In the post-Defenders world of Iron Fist, Danny Rand is laying low from recent events. He's dating Colleen Wing and they are living together. Joy Meachum is trying to move away from Rand Industries and start her own company, to the dismay of her brother Ward. Davos returns from season one, and we see more of the past him and Danny shared while at K'un L'un, and Davos has a plan for New York City, that involves Danny in a sinister fashion. Plus, Alice Eve joins the main cast as Mary Walker, a mysterious girl from the midwest who has an agenda of her own. Alice Eve is fine addition as Mary, and creates a nice foil for Iron Fist. Tom Pelphrey as Ward is much better this season, and he's got a redemption arc that I found endearing. There is a moment in the middle of the season where Ward has a heart-to-heart with Danny that really brought the characters to a head. I liked Jessica Soup in "The Following," but when she turns evil in this season, I just don't buy it. I don't think she has the range to be a snooty businesswoman, but hey she sure tries. Sacha Dhawan steps up as Davos, and he does really well here. I think fans of the first season will be surprised by how this one concludes.

I wish we actually got Danny Rand in his iconic costume. Other than Daredevil, I don't get why these Netflix shows are so afraid of costumes. I bring that up only because I think what makes this season better is that Netflix is getting better embracing the comic book side of things. I thought in earlier seasons of all of their shows, they tried to keep things a little too real. Nevermind that they chose to make shows revolving around a man with enhanced senses, a bullet-proof man, a woman with super strength, and a man who can create an indestructible fist that shines when he focuses hard enough. There is no reason to try to play things too realistic and too grounded. In fact, these shows have been hurt because of that. There is a lot of crazy stuff that happens in this season and I like that they've found the perfect balance between comic book fun and real life situations. It's something I wished we got more of in "The Defenders" and now Netflix may be making up for it.

People wondering how this all connects to the bigger picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be disappointed. I've already read online quite a bit that many fans have deduced that the movie side of the franchise is no longer connected to the TV side of the franchise, if they ever were connected in the first place. As the years wear on, it seems the shows are less and less connected to the continuity of the movies. Kevin Feige keeps teasing that paths will cross eventually, but he's been saying that for years. How long is eventually? Jeph Loeb, producer of the Netflix shows, has confirmed that the Netflix stories take place a few years before the current timeline of the movies. So people expecting to see New Yorkers disappearing into dust at the end of this season will be disappointed. It also gives clarity to the timeline of the shows. This is a bigger question to ponder, and I am planning to write a bigger piece about this very subject soon. I will say that Sokovia is dropped a few times in this season. Since Sokovia wasn't a place in the Marvel world until it was introduced in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," then these shows have to be in the greater MCU, right?

The bottom line is that the Marvel Netflix shows are slowly learning from their mistakes. And now any season that doesn't have a single episode that feels like its lagging the season is a good one in my book. I can only hope that this means "Daredevil" later in October is going to blow our minds.