Tuesday, March 29, 2016

March Madness: Heroes vs. Villains II: (ROUND THREE RESULTS)

There are just two representatives left in each respective bracket. It has been a long, hard battle and through it all, some have persevered for a second year in a row, while some have fallen by the way side. "Batman vs. Superman" may not have been a popular movie for critics and some fans, but the character Batman has not wavered from popularity. Batman easily defeated Legolas Greenleaf in the third round voting. He will up against John McClane, who just narrowly skated by John Rambo. Meanwhile, Jack Bauer falls from grace, as he is eliminated by Spock in a close vote. Spock will take on Mulder and Scully, who eliminated Michonne. Whoever wins this round of voting will be our two hero representatives in the Final Four!

Meanwhile, on the evil side of things. Darth Vader once again proves his popularity as he slays the Xenomorph Queen from the competition. He will face Tony Montana who took Keyser Soze out of the competition. Walter White easily bested Slade Wilson this week. The only person standing in Walter White's second time making it to the Final Four is Don Draper, who took Cersei Lannister out of the competition.

Voting for the Fourth Round begins now. You will have until April 1st to vote. Then the Final Four will be decided!

MOVIE HEROES (TOP LEFT BRACKET)

Batman (1)

vs.

John McClane (2)

TV HEROES (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)
Spock (5)

vs.

Agent Mulder & Agent Scully (7)

MOVIE VILLAINS (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)
Darth Vader (1)

vs.

Tony Montana (3)

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)
Walter White (1)

vs.

Don Draper (2)

Voting starts now and goes until April 1st.

How To Vote?
Make a list of all the characters you'd like to see advance to the second round. Put that list in the comment section below, send the list in an email to me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or you can even Facebook message your list to me. You may vote once a day. I am also going to start working on some ways to make voting easier for you guys this year, so this page will be updating alot within the next few days. Please bare with the changes and remain patient as I don't do this for a living. All first round votes must be in by March 28th. Fourth Round voting begins promptly on March 29th. Happy Voting!

Voting Results

Movie Heroes (TOP LEFT BRACKET)

Batman (78% of vote) vs. Legolas Greenleaf (22% of vote) 
John Rambo (49% of vote) vs. John McClane (51% o vote)

TV Heroes (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)

Jack Bauer (48% of vote) vs. Mr. Spock (52% of vote)
Michonne (5% of vote) vs. Mulder & Scully (95% of vote)

Movie Villains (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)

Darth Vader (92% of vote) vs. Xenomorph Queen (8% of vote)
Tony Montana (70% of vote) vs. Keyser Soze (30% of vote) 

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)

 Walter White (84% of vote) vs. Slade Wilson (16% of vote)
 Cersei Lannister (45% of vote) vs. Don Draper (55% of vote) 

TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Episode 14, Season 3)

TV REVIEW

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

EPISODE 14, SEASON 3- "WATCHDOGS"
This week, we take a break from all the HYDRA action and focused on S.H.I.E.L.D. taking on The Watchdogs. The Watchdogs are a militant terrorist group that plans to rid the world of Inhumans, and they have a host of high-tech weaponry at their disposal. Worse yet, The Watchdogs are run by a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Yep, Titus Welliver returns to the show as Felix Blake, and this time he isn't on the good side of the fence. In the comics, The Watchdogs were a radical right-wing terrorist group and they best way to describe them would be extremist Donald Trump supporters. They were primary enemies of Captain America. In the MCU, they are a quasi-inspiration of the Friends of Humanity or The Purifiers who targeted mutants in the comics. But since mutants are not available to the MCU at the moment, it seems the MCU is using Inhumans to fill that void.

This was a pretty action packed episode, and it fleshed out Mack as a character. We meet Mack's younger brother and because of Mack's occupation as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, he barely gets to see his brother. On a weekend that was supposed to be for themselves, Coulson pulls Mack in order to get the jump on The Watchdogs. This brings in a family drama dynamic, but it was fresh to see them make Mack a bigger part of the show. Which I hoped would happen in the absence of Lance Hunter and Bobbi Morse.

I really liked Titus Welliver as Felix Blake in the one-shot "Item 47" and on his episodes of this show. But I really can't stand that he's a bad guy. And after it was revealed that he is working as a pawn for Gideon Malick, it seems safe to assume that he won't make out of this season alive. That's too bad, Welliver is an incredibly talented actor that I feel could have added to the richness of this show. But he does have a lead starring role for a show on Amazon, so perhaps he is too tied to that. Its good to have some closure on whether or not he survived his encounter with Deathlok from season one. I just wish he was a hero and not a villain. Even if he does get a change of heart by the end of the season, I am willing to bet he bites it.

There was an interesting subplot involving Lincoln and Coulson. Lincoln really wants to be considered a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but Coulson doesn't believe he's ready for that yet. He proved a few episodes ago that he is not willing to always listen to orders, as he nearly killed Absorbing Man. He is starting to prove now that he can be valuable as a teammate and that he really can listen well. The show is playing with the Spider-Man complex, of responsibility of power. Its an interesting dynamic.

Oh, and that shotgun axe? Awesome!

What did everyone else think?

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Lego Batman Movie Trailer(s)

I was a pretty big fan of "The Lego Movie" and I continue to be. It was a prime example of the celebration of filmmaking and a great example of when a crew comes together over material they are passionate about. I loved all the jokes and humor, I liked the songs, I liked just about everything about it.

Before The Dark Knight gets really mad at me, yes I liked Batman. I loved the direction they took the character, I loved how they molded him for a kids movie. I loved the incredible voice work done by Will Arnett.

Now, I am very happy to see that we are going to get a Lego movie that revolves around him. This could quite possibly be the best Batman movie of the entire decade. The tone of the two new trailers is big and fun. This Batman laughs at himself, embraces both sides of his personality, I loved the little jokes revolving around the greater history of Batman on film and I liked the style of the cinematography.








I love that this movie looks to be embracing everything that makes Batman the character he is, and then completely turning it upside down. I think we have another winner on our hands and this bizarre yet brilliant LEGO franchise has just become one of the most exciting in recent years!

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

10 Cloverfield Lane Review
If you are expecting a direct sequel to "Cloverfield" with "10 Cloverfield Lane," then you've probably been disappointed already if you've seen "10 Cloverfield Lane" or you will be. But when producer J.J. .Abrams talked about the movie being a "spiritual successor" or a "blood relative," that is what got me thinking the most. Yes, this is a different story. Yes, its with different characters and different monsters and no connection to the characters from "Cloverfield." I have already noticed that has driven some people nuts, but I am actually drawn to what J.J. Abrams and director Dan Trachtenberg have concocted. If you pay close attention, you will see subtle parallels between "Cloverfield" and "10 Cloverfield Lane," just nothing directly connected. Yes, you maybe letdown, but that is the run of it that I got after a first viewing.

I got to say though, most of the rest of the movie is pretty good. When Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) picks up her stuff and leaves in the middle of an edgy relationship with a boyfriend (we hear the voice of Bradley Cooper in a cell phone message), Michelle suddenly finds herself the victim of a car accident. When she wakes up, she is handcuffed to a bed and living in an underground bunker with a man named Howard (John Goodman). Howard is trying to help her recuperate from her wounds of the car crash and he tells her that there was some kind of nuclear or chemical attack that has left the rest of the world's population dead or dying. Michelle is reluctant to trust Howard. But when she sees first-hand a woman die from an illness and she listens to the stories of another survivor named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), then she gives into their stories. Even when she believes what she sees, nothing is what it seems.

Most of the movie works as a much better version of "The Divide" from 2011. Much like "10 Cloverfield Lane," "The Divide" was a thriller about people surviving in an underground bunker and how not everybody was how they seem. The problem with "The Divide" was that it was a dark story just for the sake of being dark and it was painted in such broad strokes that it came off kind of ridiculous. In "10 Cloverfield Lane," a magnificent build of tension grows within the whole movie. I also have to give the movie credit for making believable characters, which always seem absent in thrillers like these. From the moment Michelle wakes up from the accident, she is proactive about keeping herself alive and trying to create an escape plan. She isn't some kind of damsel in distress or someone discouraged or distraught. She has a good mind and she is always thinking. I loved that about her character.

The work done by Winstead, Goodman and Gallagher Jr. is all quite impressive. When you are working with a cast that is as small as this one is, the performances need to be top-notch across the board. Make no mistake, the performances are top-notch across the board. We have seen similar work from Goodman in the past, but every time he plays a hard-headed, stubborn, creepy son-of-a-bitch, he always seem to bring something new to the table and that's true here. Winstead has taken on quite a variety of roles and I like that she plays such a strong character here, and sells every bit of what she's doing.

Then there is that crazy ending. Honestly, I liked it and I wish that  the movie was about twenty to thirty minutes longer so we could spend more time with the twist. I am sure some people will bash what happens because its such a major departure from the rest of the film. But this is a movie with the word Cloverfield in the title. Of course some big science-fiction fun was awaiting us. Once again, its not the same stuff we saw in the first "Cloverfield" movie, and I know that has bugged people. But I am rather curious to see where this franchise goes from here. I am curious to see if the Cloverfield movies will be a theatrical "Twilight Zone" with each new movie dealing with the same science fiction based storytelling, but a different story and with different characters every time. But maybe J.J. Abrams has a bigger game involved and a way to connect all the movies in some form is on the horizon. All I know is that I am actually excited to see what happens here.

But even without the science fiction ending, "10 Cloverfield Lane" is still a claustrophobic, suspenseful little thriller. It is brought to life by a small group of good actors. Plus, its got a fun ending, so there isn't much to go wrong here. Just don't be too disappointed if you take the "Cloverfield" in the title a little too literally.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review
Well, we have arrived at it at last. The big dukeroo. The main event to end all main events. The two most iconic superheroes ever created are meeting each other for the first time in a live action motion picture. Not only that, but DC is going to take their stab at a shared universe and we are going to see some competition against Marvel in the superhero movie genre. "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" had so much riding on it, so much potential and so much hype spiraling around it. I am sure no matter what, the monetary profit DC will be taking in within the next few months will be enormous. They really are the two most iconic superheroes ever, this is a big deal. I thought it was a big deal. 

Now, on the other end of the field, I have seen the movie. I'll be honest, I am little deflated and a bit underwhelmed. I don't think its the horrible movie that critics have been clamoring about, but its definitely a wildly uneven movie. I think Warner Brothers rush to get going with their shared universe and compete with Disney may have been their undoing. But even if you push that to the side, "Batman vs. Superman" is still a baffling ordeal. There's a lot to like here, but there is just as much that is flabbergasting and frustrating.

One point of frustration comes from the main characters themselves. Back in 2013, its safe to say I lost my mind for "Man of Steel." That was the movie that got  this ball rolling on the DC shared universe franchise and launched Henry Cavill as Superman. I remember that I was in the minority that year, as many people dismissed "Man of Steel," and calling Cavill's Superman "not heroic." I wholeheartedly disagreed and I have argued with anyone who would argue since then. Zack Snyder may have directed both "Man of Steel" and "Batman vs. Superman," but make no mistake, the latter feels like it was made by someone else. It feels like it was made by a person who either A) does not understand the characters or B) hates the characters. Superman in this movie is more mopey than in "Man of Steel," and in "Batman vs. Superman" its more blatantly obvious. We see several scenes of Superman saving people and doing good things for humanity, but he never inspires the hope and courage he's suppose to. He has a look on his face like saving the planet is somehow annoying or beneath him. If that gets your goat, then wait until you meet Ben Affleck's Batman. Batman is a weird, warped version of The Punisher who both kills his enemies and uses guns. Look, I understand Batman is a flexible character, and Snyder was reaching for more of a Frank Miller version of the character for inspiration. But this is taken the extreme, and its completely out of character. Who do we root for when they go to fight if neither of them are very heroic?

Then there is the circumstance of why Batman and Superman brawl in the first place. "Batman vs. Superman" opens with one of its best moments, Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis the day General Zod (Michael Shannon) unleashed his World Machine to destroy Earth and restore Krypton. The battle that ensued left most of Metropolis in rubble, and one of those buildings destroyed was a regional office of Wayne Enterprises. Bruce Wayne sees first-hand how powerful and dangerous Kryptonians are, and his distrust stems from what he witnesses in Metropolis that day. Most of "Batman vs. Superman" deals in the world reacting to the presence of Superman and there is an incident early in the movie involving Lois Lane (Amy Adams) that only heightens the world opinions of the superhero. Not only did Bruce witness a tragedy in Metropolis, but he has these weird dreams seeing Superman as a threat. The dream sequences in the movie are very weird, and sometimes a little confusing to whether or not they are dreams. 

I was kind of hoping that the movie would be a battle of philosophies that goes from a simmer to a boil over the course of the movie between the two heroes. But sadly its mostly a movie about people wondering if Superman can be trusted or not. There is also a ticking clock ending tacked on to build the tension I feel the movie should have earned. We get two hours of set-up for a eight minute fight. Yes, its true. The fight between these two heroes is over pretty much before it begins. It also ends with one of the stupidest endings a fight could have in a superhero movie. I know Snyder was reaching for an emotional crescendo between the two heroes, but its so laughably bad and it makes zero sense in terms of the movie. Basically, the two heroes become quick friends because the script needed them to, instead of any emotional or character development. Trust me on that eight minute fight too, if you've seen all the trailers and TV spots for the movie, I assure you have seen the entire fight between Batman and Superman. Disappointing, huh?

Oh, and I almost forgot Jesse Eisenberg. But he's pretty easy to forget. I figured Eisenberg might be one of the low points of the movie, and I just received confirmation from the movie. Eisenberg is a horrible, horrible Lex Luthor. He's worse than Gene Hackman and he's worse than Kevin Spacey. It seems the screenwriters didn't even know how to write the character. He's cold and calculating at some points, then he's full of weird ticks and mannerisms in other points. He's a character that feels like it was written by a schizophrenic person. I have personally never been a huge Eisenberg fan, but I did like him in "Zombieland" and "The Social Network." He's capable of good work, but he's totally wrong for Lex Luthor and it shows tremendously. A good Lex Luthor intimidates Superman, even though he's merely a man. The Lex Luthor in this movie is just an odd, whiny creep.

One of the high points of this movie is Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot totally nails it, and the audience I saw the movie with cheered when they saw her. She has a mysterious agenda in the movie, and it was the one point of intrigue I had while watching the movie. Gadot does a good job keeping us interested in her character and as I said, she nails it. There is a moment in the film where Wonder Woman gets punched and goes flying across a landscape. Before she gets up, she smiles gleefully before jumping back into action. Its my favorite character beat in the entire movie. The only thing wrong with Wonder Woman is she could have been edited out entirely. She only serves two purposes in this movie. Giving Batman and Superman help in the big fight with that cave troll-looking thing, and setting up her movie. She's basically a human commercial for her own movie. I half expected her to look at the camera and say "Come back to this cinema for Wonder Woman in July 2017." Because its that obvious that she's just a tease for her movie and nothing else.

That's another problem with the movie as a whole. It suffers from the exact same problems that "Iron Man 2," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," and the "Amazing Spiderman" movies suffered from. There is so much lip service put toward setting up the rest of their DC Extended Universe franchise. No, they are not Easter Eggs. The movie literally stops so we can get all the footnotes needed for "Justice League" in the next few years. Wonder Woman only serves to set up future films. The final discussion between Luthor and Batman that ends the movie is only in the movie because its setting up future films. We get a movie called "Batman vs. Superman" with very little Batman and very little Superman and quick, quick fight because Warner Brothers is ready to unleash their own shared universe. It becomes a problem because this doesn't feel like "Batman vs. Superman," it feels like a massive commercial for everything Warner Brothers has planned for the future. Its also so cryptically explained and analyzed that I wonder why its even in the movie at all. My mother (who isn't a comic reader by any means) said herself that she didn't understand a lot of what happened in the films ending, and that's when these shared universe franchises become a problem. Hollywood isn't making these movies for just comic book fans, they are making them for everyone. The general audience shouldn't have to do homework before going to see these superhero movies, but since last year, it almost feels like a requirement. 

There is also a story thread that feels shoehorned into the ending of  the movie, and all I thought while it played out was "why?" Why is this in the movie? Warner Brothers has already released their big slate of DC superhero films for the next four or five years. We know that what happens in the ending will just get reversed in a year or two. So why blow one of the most compelling DC stories in a few short minutes when most of the audience knows it will just be undone? Its just another pitfall when Hollywood plans first, then makes the movies they want to make.

I know I have been very careful with my wording, because I didn't want to expose too many spoilers yet. I will be back in April and I plan to write my second Further Inspection piece on this movie. I will get more in-depth with my frustrations over the movie and we can talk about the big spoilers regarding the ending and the characters then. For right now, just know that "Batman vs. Superman" wasn't worth the hype of its title. Its a movie that has many good moments, but those moments don't seem to add up. The actors do good work here, but the script never adds up. It feels like a movie that had several hands on it, and that created an unbalanced mess. Its an interesting mess, but its still a mess.

See you in April to really dig into the spoilers.

FINAL GRADE: C

Thursday, March 24, 2016

RIP Garry Shandling

RIP GARRY SHANDLING

Whispering "Hail Hydra" in people's ears will never be the same again.



Actor and comedian Garry Shandling has passed away today. I never heard a single bit of his comedic routines. I know he had a television show that lasted from 1986 to 1990. I never once caught the show. I vaguely remember Shandling from "Dr. Doolittle" and "Over The Hedge." Sadly, I feel bad for saying this, but the biggest thing I know Shandling from was his work for Marvel.

When I was first introduced to Shandling, I was sitting in a theater in 2010 watching "Iron Man 2." Yes, that probably says something about me and my age. But as I sat in the theater, I was drawn to Shandling's Senator Stern. Shandling came off as a guy who could play an asshole just right. He also had a dry wit to him that I found memorable. He was only in two quick scenes in that movie, but he certainly stuck out in the movie. I was not surprised at all when I got home and found out that he was a comedian for a long time and lots of comedy work to his name. When I heard that Senator Stern was returning for "Captain America: Winter Soldier." I was interested right away. This guy had a very quick couple of scenes in "Iron Man 2," but perhaps he will play somebody that is against superheroes, since was such a thorn in Stark's side. Little did I know, right? Once again, Shandling's appearance was brief in "Winter Soldier," but his one scene lead to one of the most imitated lines to come out of that movie. That has to count for something.

I feel bad that I don't know more about Shandling, but his brief moments in these big pop culture films is reason enough to salute the guy. I feel motivated to track his other stuff down now and see if I like it. I will be open to recommendations. 

Hail Hydra, Mr. Shandling, I hope you are making all the angels in heaven laugh.



March Madness: Heroes vs. Villains II (Second Round Results)

Its been another intense session of voting, and the second round results are in. 

Our Caped Crusader has been consistent in his second chance of winning the whole thing. But I will say, this second round came down to the last bitter vote. Batman and Han Solo is huge, and in the end Batman took the final by a mere handful of votes. Legolas whipped Black Widow out of the competition, Rambo rocked Trinity and McClane took out Rocket Raccoon. As far at TV heroes go, Bauer once again remains the surpeme leader of the television heroes as he took another easy victory over Tyrion. Once again, "24" and "Game of Thrones" are huge shows, and Bauer didn't beat Tyrion without a fight. It was a close, close competition. Spock easily advanced over Jim Gordon. The Flash wasn't fast enough for Michonne, and the badass lady with a samurai sword overtook the Scarlet Speedster. Agents Mulder and Skully took Melinda May out of the running as well.

On the villain side of things, Vader is once again a dominating force this year, and he sent Jason Voorhees packing back to Camp Crystal Lake. The Xenomorph Queen took Kahn Noonien Singh out of the competition by a hair inch. Tony Montana took all of Magneto's metal and Magneto is out. Keyser Soze proved just how evil he truly is and got our dear Godfather out of the competition as well. For TV villains, Ward won't be hailing any Hydra now that Heisenberg is done with him. Deathstroke slams Skeletor, and Cersei knocks Kingpin out of the competition. Draper also advanced over Mike Milligan.

First there were 64, then there were 32 and now we have dwindled the competition down to 16. For our third round, here is how events will shake out.

MOVIE HEROES (TOP LEFT BRACKET)

Batman (1)

vs.

Legolas Greenleaf (12)

John Rambo (3)

vs.

John McClane (2)

TV HEROES: (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)

Jack Bauer (1)

vs.

Spock (5)

Michonne (6)

vs.

Agent Mulder and Agent Scully (7)

MOVIE VILLAINS (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)

Darth Vader (1)

vs.

Xenomorph Queen (12)

Tony Montana (3)

vs.

Keyser Soze (7)

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)

Walter White (1)

vs.

Slade Wilson (13)

Cersei Lannister (3)

vs.

Don Draper (2)

How To Vote?
Make a list of all the characters you'd like to see advance to the second round. Put that list in the comment section below, send the list in an email to me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or you can even Facebook message your list to me. You may vote once a day. I am also going to start working on some ways to make voting easier for you guys this year, so this page will be updating alot within the next few days. Please bare with the changes and remain patient as I don't do this for a living. All first round votes must be in by March 28th. Fourth Round voting begins promptly on March 29th. Happy Voting!

Voting Results

Movie Heroes (TOP LEFT BRACKET)

Batman (51% of vote) vs. Han Solo (49% of vote) 
 Legolas Greenleaf (65% of vote) vs. Black Widow (35% of vote) 
Trinity (25% of vote) vs. John Rambo (75% of vote)
Rocket Raccoon (40% of vote) vs. John McClane (60% o vote)

TV Heroes (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)

Jack Bauer (58% of vote) vs. Tyrion Lannister (32% vote)
Mr. Spock (91% of vote) vs. vs. Jim Gordon (9% ofvote)
Michonne (89% of vote) vs. The Flash (11% of vote)
Mulder & Scully (75% of vote)  vs. Melinda May (25% of vote)

Movie Villains (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)

Darth Vader (98% of vote) vs. Jason Voorhees (11% of vote)
 Xenomorph Queen (52% of vote) vs. Kahn Noonen Seeghi (48% of vote)
Magneto (40% of vote) vs. Tony Montana (60% of vote) 
Keyser Soze (85% of vote) vs. Vito Corleone (15% of vote) 

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)

 Walter White (64% of vote) vs. Grant Ward (36% of vote)
Skeletor (20% of vote) vs. Slade Wilson (80% of vote)
Wilson Fisk (25% of vote) vs. Cersei Lannister (75% of vote) 
Mike Milligan (13% of vote) vs. Don Draper (87% of vote) 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pee-Wee's Big Holiday Review

Pee-Wee's Big Holiday Review
Before we begin, let me say that the most I have ever seen of anything related to Pee-Wee Herman was a parody I saw on Family Guy many seasons ago and a dance he did in some movie or show on YouTube in college. I certainly know Paul Reubens and I certainly know Pee-Wee Herman, but I am not an encyclopedia on the character. I haven't had the pleasure of getting in on the rest of what makes Pee-Wee the characters he is. I was drawn to this by sheer curiosity and I am kind of drawn to the way Netflix is changing how we get our movies right now. So I thought I'd give this a try. But I was as cold turkey as cold turkey could get.

I am sure there were several references that went over my head. I am sure there were in-jokes and call backs I simply did not get. But suffice it to say, I actually enjoyed myself. As the film begins, it swan-dives right into the deliriously goofy, but I was having a good time pretty much all throughout the movie. Some parts got a little repetitive, and it certainly stretches the tolerance of the ticking clock device we see a lot in movies. But overall, the good outweighs the bad here, which is what I look for every time I sit down for a movie.  

When we meet Pee-Wee in this movie he is down on his luck. He loves his hometown Fairville very much, but its the same life every day. He loves his job at the diner, but it seems to consume his life. He loves his band that he is apart of, but they break up due to the other members moving on with their lives. Pee-Wee finds himself in a rut and he doesn't know how to get out of it. Then one day when the diner is empty, Joe Manganiello walks in. I would tell you the character he is playing, but he isn't playing one. This is Joe Manganiello playing Joe Manganiello. The two quickly become friends and Manganiello invites Pee-Wee to his birthday party in New York City in five days. Pee-Wee is hesitant to leave, but Manganiello gets him to break his old mold and try something new. He also emphasizes going the open road instead of flying. This leads to adventures with female bandits, Amish people, salesmen, snack museums and a peculiar farmer.

The film goes out of its way to set up the ticking clock device, and I think because of this, the movie has some shaky foundation. Pee-Wee runs into several misadventures that could make him miss his deadline. But if he were to simply fly to New York, we wouldn't have a movie. I understand the need, but the execution is sloppy. But there are enough delightful laughs and funny situations that I think made up for the flimsy set up.

Whatever people liked about Paul Reubens as Pee-Wee I am sure will shine loud and clear here. There is a certain attitude and style that comes with Pee-Wee and I understood that even though I have never seen a previous movie. I think Reubens has done a good job creating that, and it shows in this movie. Many actors spend their entire careers becoming a certain character and Reubens has certainly found his knitch. I don't know if we will see more of these on Netflix, but if we do, I will look into it again.

FINAL GRADE: B

TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Episode 13, Season 3)

TV REVIEW

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

EPISODE 13, SEASON 3- "PARTING SHOT"
Well, tonight's episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." had made me very sad.

There were a several new characters introduced in the second season of the Marvel show and two that I loved the most were Lance Hunter played by Nick Blood and Bobbi Morse played by Adrian Palicki. I have an off again-on again relationship with Palicki's work, but this is without a doubt, the best work of her career. While I would have loved if Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye didn't already have a wife in this universe, and that Palicki could have popped into a movie and had a romance with Hawkeye. Because I would have loved to see the chemistry between Palicki and Renner. Oh well, ABC and Marvel made up for it because they created a great character with Lance Hunter. I can't tell you anything about Nick Blood, but after this show, I want to see more of him. I hope to see more of them. They were two shiny examples of why I tuned in every week.

And now, Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter are gone. Done. Not coming back, apparently.

They didn't die this episode, which I thank my stars for. But at the end of last week's episode, the pair were tracking and following Gideon Malick to Russia. Malick went to go see about the sanctuary Russia is building for Inhumans. When what Malick really wanted to do was take it over for HYDRA purposes, which would result in the murdering of the Russian Prime Minister. S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't let that happen, so the team sprung into action. Two of the most active participants were Bobbi and Lance, and they both get captured by Russian authorities after the mission. Lance and Bobbi did get the Prime Minister to safety, but Russia did not trust the motives or the timing for the United States. Russia believes they are working with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the world still believes that S.H.I.E.L.D. is HYDRA.

The rest of the episode was wrapped around an interrogation of Bobbi and Lance, the Russians were putting on the interrogation pretty deep to get Bobbi and Lance to crack. But they didn't crack. They are S.H.I.E.L.D. tough of course. The President of the United States got involved and was able to convince Russia that they weren't S.H.I.E.L.D. But seeing no other choice for this to go smoothly, Bobbi and Lance had to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. They didn't want to run the risk of escaping, running the risk of the world finding out that S.H.I.E.L.D. is still active. So they left.

Now I know, there is a spin-off in the works. Bobbi and Lance were supposed to get a spin-off after season 2. That is why Bobbi and Lance are talking about leaving at the end of last season, but somehow pop back up in the show for season three. It was very sloppily handled, if you ask me. Why take away two of the best characters after season two, just to bring them back for season three due to their popularity, to take them off again? It's odd decision-making, and it lead to an odd story-arc for these characters. I really wished that they kept them on. Despite getting a season four confirmed last week, ratings for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." are staggering a bit. Its a bold move to take away two of the most popular characters in the midst of lukewarm ratings.

Malick did bring a Inhuman HYDRA assassin to Russia. One who could use their shadow to fight and absorb matter. I am pretty sure that this is the MCU version of Spot, a comic book villain with similar powers. But nothing has been confirmed yet, and nothing set in stone. But a shadow that could move through walls, travel quick and became pretty much indestructible seems similar. We were also introduced to Malick's unnamed daughter, who seems to  be up to speed on her daddy's business. I wonder if this will be the MCU's Madam Hydra? With Zola and Wolfgang von Strucker introduced in the movies, and Daniel Whitehall and now Hive introduced on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." it would make sense to introduce the next high-ranking representative from the comics. Who knows though.

A very emotional episode for me, I hope "Most Wanted" turns out to be a great show because that's the only thing that can save this decision. What did everyone else think?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Zootopia Review

Zootopia Review
Disney animation has been an epic turnaround over the last couple of years. So much so, that I am anticipating regular Disney animation films every year compared to Pixar films. That is a statement I can't believe I just typed. But alas, it is true in my eyes. They are slowly returning to the place where they started, and showing us why they were the most dominant studio in animated entertainment.

"Zootopia" is one of the very best movies Disney has ever made.

Yes, its amazing from beginning to end. Not because of the animation, which is absolutely breath-taking by the way. Not because it follows a similar pattern of the same Disney template. The lead character wants to be something very badly, and they will display lots of courage and never give up. They will make an unlikely friendship in order to achieve a goal. Even though there are some curve-balls, the character is successful and it goes to show that no matter who or what you are, you can achieve your goals. That has been Disney's memo virtually from the get-go. While this message is loud and clear in "Zootopia," it approaches the message in a much different format than ever before. The film also illuminates something I never would have thought would appear in a Disney movie before.

The main character in "Zootopia" is Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) a rabbit who lives in a world where all animals, predator and prey live together in harmony. The seemingly birthplace of this harmony is Zootopia, a massive and vibrant city. Judy wants to go to Zootopia in hopes of becoming the first rabbit police officer. She learned from a very young age to never back down and to always hold her ground. She is a tough one and she wants to prove it on the police force. She makes it  through the academy, but her Zootopian chief Bogo (Idris Elba) has little faith in her, and only gives her oddjobs to do. When she catches wind of a kidnapping, she is given the job to investigate. She also has a the help of a petty Fox (Jason Bateman) for help.

The mystery that unfolds in the movie feels very much like a classic L.A. mystery, and on that level I very much enjoyed the movie. Over the backdrop of seamless animation, filled with several clever jokes about the animal kingdom sprinkled throughout the movie. I particularly loved the idea that Zootopia's districts are all different living habitats for animals. But what really got me with "Zootopia" is what the movie was trying to say. "Zootopia" is a movie full of surprises. It tells us to challenge the zeitgeist. It puts what is happening in our country and our culture right now and sticks it under a microscope. "Zootopia" is a comment on the social landscape that we live in right now, and that is what surprised me the most. I would have never thought that a Disney animated film would tackle such ideas as racial profiling, governmental foul-play, living in a state of fear due to the media and how we are adjust into the roles we are given since birth. These are big ideas, ideas we never find in kids movies, yet they are so fully realized and so profoundly addressed in "Zootopia" that I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and I doubt you will too. 

It amazes me that years from now, when the next generation tries to make sense of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the various killings, and police brutality and the feelings not fully leaving the past behind us, I think it will shock people that an animated Disney film like "Zootopia" tackled these ideas head-on. Disney usually isn't an in-the-moment type of studio, but I applaud the studio for taking a huge dive into the new and different and creating something that is accessible to all ages, but has something true on its mind. Its also a movie that is at times, funny and charming as the very best of the Disney catalog.

"Zootopia" is a movie that plays by the normal Disney rules, but also tears them down. This is a surprising shift in tone for the studio and I am curious to see if they continue to make movies in this type of vein. This doesn't have to be another fluffy animated movie from Disney that you take your kids to and just zone out after a long week at the office. This is a vibrant movie, full of energy and ideas for you to take with you. It is truly amazing and not what I expected.

FINAL GRADE: A

March Madness: Heroes vs. Villains II (First Round Results)

The first round of Heroes vs. Villains 2 is over. Just like the real March Madness bracket is full of surprises, so has this round of voting. 

That is all thanks to you guys though. If it weren't for your votes, there would be no sequel to this. I am glad we are having another fun year where anything can happen. And trust me, anything and everything has happened. There have been some big surprises this year, and I can't wait to keep seeing how this continues to shake out. The voting for the Second Round begins tonight and will go until the 24th of March. Here is who is against who now.

MOVIE HEROES (TOP LEFT BRACKET)
Batman (1)

vs.

Han Solo (8)

Legolas Greenleaf (12)

vs.

Black Widow (4)

Trinity (6)

vs. 

John Rambo (3)

Rocket Raccoon (7)

vs.

John McClane (2)

TV HEROES (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)
Jack Bauer (1)

vs.

Tyrion Lannister (8)

Spock (5)

vs.

Jim Gordon (13)

Michonne (6)

vs.

The Flash (14)

Mulder & Skully (7) 

vs.

Melinda May (15)

MOVIE VILLAINS (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)
Darth Vader (1)

vs.

Jason Voorhees (9)

Xenomorph Queen (12)

vs. 

Kahn Noonen Seeghi (13)

Magneto (11)

vs.

Tony Montana (3)

Keyser Soze (7)

vs.

Vito Corleone (2)

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)
Walter White (1)

vs.

Grant Ward (9)

Skeletor (5)

vs.

Slade Wilson (13)

Wilson Fisk (11)

vs.

Cersei Lannister (3)

Mike Milligan (10)

vs.

Don Draper (2)

Surprised by the results? Not surprised? Keep voting! Its not too late to get into the voting. This second round ends March 24th so get going!

How To Vote?
Make a list of all the characters you'd like to see advance to the second round. Put that list in the comment section below, send the list in an email to me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or you can even Facebook message your list to me. You may vote once a day. I am also going to start working on some ways to make voting easier for you guys this year, so this page will be updating alot within the next few days. Please bare with the changes and remain patient as I don't do this for a living. All first round votes must be in by March 20th. Second Round voting begins promptly on March 21st. Happy Voting!

Voting Results

Movie Heroes (TOP LEFT BRACKET)

Batman (92% of vote) vs. Elsa (8% of vote)
Han Solo (89% of vote) vs. Hermoine Granger (11% of vote)
Man With No Name (35% of vote) vs. Legolas Greenleaf (65% of vote)
Black Widow (85% of vote) vs. Sherlock Holmes (15% of vote)
Trinity (60% of vote) vs. T-800 (40% of vote)
John Rambo (75% of vote) vs. Captain Jack Sparrow (25% of vote)
Rocket Raccoon (70% of vote) vs. Optimus Prime (30% of vote)
John McClane (90% o vote) vs. E.T. (10% of vote)

TV Heroes (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)

Jack Bauer (58% of vote) vs. Veronica Mars (42% of vote)
Tyrion Lannister (88% vote) vs. The Hulk (12% of vote)
Mr. Spock (95% of vote) vs. Sterling Archer (5% of vote)
Jaime Sommers (40% of vote) vs. Jim Gordon (60% ofvote)
Michonne (89% of vote) vs. Rustin Cohle (11% of vote)
Walker, Texas Ranger (43% of vote) vs. The Flash (57% of vote)
Mulder & Scully (75% of vote) vs. Rylan Givens (25% of vote)
MacGyver (32% vote) vs. Melinda May (68% of vote)

Movie Villains (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)

Darth Vader (98% of vote) vs. The Creature From The Black Lagoon (2% of vote)
Bellatrix LeStrange (45% of vote) vs. Jason Voorhees (55% of vote)
President Snow (48% of vote) vs. Xenomorph Queen (52% of vote)
Indominus Rex (34% of vote) vs. Kahn Noonen Seeghi (66% of vote)
Immortan Joe (43% of vote) vs. Magneto (57% of vote)
Tony Montana (83% of vote) vs. Azog The Defiler (17% of vote)
Keyser Soze (75% of vote) vs. Maleficent (25% of vote)
Vito Corleone (99% of vote) vs. Senator Raorke (1% of vote)

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)

 Walter White (59% of vote) vs. Newman (41% of vote)
Mr. Burns (44% of vote) vs. Grant Ward (56% of vote)
Skeletor (97% of vote) vs. Rumpelstiltskin (3% of vote)
Rita Repulsa (20% of vote) vs. Slade Wilson (80% of vote)
Boyd Crowder (40% of vote) vs. Wilson Fisk (60% of vote)
Cersei Lannister (86% of vote) vs. Joe Carroll (14% of vote)
Nina Meyers (30% of vote) vs. Mike Milligan (70% of vote)
Don Draper (90% of vote) vs. Sue Sylvester (10% of vote)