Monday, April 29, 2019

A Deep Dive Into The Spoilers of "Avengers: Endgame"

So yesterday was pretty fun. Especially since I finally got to see "Avengers: Endgame." The spoiler free review I wrote was nice, but I felt like I barely talked about the film itself. "Avengers: Endgame" is one of those movies where you really need to discuss the text in order to really appreciate its achievements and lament its failures. So let's take a deep dive into spoilers, huh?

The Plot
I felt yesterday that I could barely talk about the plot of the movie without giving away some major twists of the film. Also because it feels like there are two movies at play here. Like I said yesterday, the first half could be described as a comic book episode of "The Leftovers." The heroes are trying to figure out how to find Thanos. While investigating, they find energy waves similar to those found on Earth after Thanos' snap on another planet. So Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Banner, Rocket, War Machine, Nebula and Captain Marvel (who just got to Earth after bring Tony Stark and Nebula home) pay Thanos a visit. Stark is still recovering from his weak state from space, so he doesn't come along. When the find Thanos, he admits to destroying the stones, an act that nearly killed him. There is absolutely no way to revert his snap. In Thor's anger, he kills Thanos. Not a bad twenty-minute movie, huh? Time to go home?

Except the movie picks back up five years later. Stark and Pepper are finally married, and have a daughter named Morgan. Thor has brought the remaining Asgardians home (all of whom apparently escaped Thor's original encounter with Thanos) and are living in a fishing community in Norway. Among the survivors were Valkyrie, Korg and Miek! We finally catch up with Hawkeye, who lost his family to the snap, and has become a ruthless vigilante, basically punishing criminals for not turning to dust, while so many innocent, decent people did. The rest of the Avengers are just trying to cope, something that's been hard five years later.

Did you see "Ant-Man and The Wasp?" Good. Remember during the mid-credit scene when Hank Pym, Janet Pym and Hope send him into the quantum realm and then get dusted by Thanos' snap so they can't bring him back? Well, Ant-Man finally escapes the quantum realm. While he's been gone for five hours, he quickly notices that Earth has passed five years. He realizes through his time in the quantum realm that time travel is possible and that they can travel back, retrieve the stones and reverse Thanos' snap that way. It takes some convincing to Stark, the best mind who can actually create a time machine, onboard. But he does join his old team.

The next half of the movie feels like a Marvel Cinematic Universe greatest hits CD. The Avengers split into teams and go around time collecting the stones. We relive scenes from the first "Avengers" movie from 2012, "Thor: The Dark World" from 2013 and "Guardians of the Galaxy" from 2014. We also see stuff in a much different light. Its also a fairly shameless character walkway, as we see various characters from the MCU popping up here and there. The plot device that referred to in my review yesterday was in fact time travel. Time traveling seems to work differently in the MCU and while everything is well-explained, it basically says that the current timeline will change or be tampered with as long as The Avengers return all the stones after they done using them. Even though the Avengers fail here and there to get the stones. It's a very, very, very convenient explanation to the use of time travel without any of its affects we've seen throughout pop culture, a defining "take your cake and eat it too" explanation. But "Avengers: Endgame" was so ambitious and so relentlessly entertaining that I can shake off the messy time travel explanation. I've been a diehard fan of this series, and perhaps that's why I am able to meet this movie halfway with its few flaws. Not only was this a true culmination of the first twenty-two films of the MCU, its a celebration of the franchise.

Blink and you'll miss them
Would it really be that big of a spoiler to tell you that the good guys DO collect all the stones? This is a superhero movie, "Infinity War" was "Empire Strikes Back" so obviously "Endgame" works like "Return of the Jedi." The Avengers are successful eventually in getting the stones. Stark makes his own gauntlet and they agree to have Hulk try to snap all the dead back, since he's strongest and the stones are powered by a type of gamma radiation. Hulk nearly dies, but he pulls it off. Not before 2014 Nebula takes the place of present-day Nebula and uses the Avenger time machine to get Thanos and a massive army to attack Earth. Thanos, armed with a giant sword, brings his Black Order (remember, they are from 2014, so they weren't dead yet) as well as the Chitauri (who the Avengers fought in the first Avengers film), The Outriders (who they fought in Wakanda in Infinity War), The Sakaarans (who were enemies in Guardians of the Galaxy) to Earth to get the stones.

When all hope seems lost, we see all too familiar golden circles appearing behind Captain America. Not only is Doctor Strange bringing in all the heroes who got dusted in Infinity War (Star-Lord, Mantis, Drax, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Falcon, Bucky, Groot, Scarlet Witch and Wasp) but Wong brings many of his fellow sorcerers to the battle. Black Panther brings Okoye, Shuri, M'Baku and a massive Wakandan army. Valkyrie brings an army of Asgardian soldiers, along with Korg and Miek. Also the Ravagers come to help fight. Oh and Pepper Potts finally suits up as Rescue, a Mack suit Stark made for her. If you thought certain heroes meeting for the first time and the giant battles in Infinity War were awesome, just wait until you see nearly every hero and secondary character the MCU has to offer all in one scene, fighting a massive battle.

I can't explain the scene to save my life. In fact, I want to see the movie again just so I can really focus on the scene. The movie throws so much at you in its final twenty minutes that it literally is mind-boggling. I will say that the scene is so cool that I wish we got more people in. Where's Stakar Ogord and his Ravagers team? Where's Nakia? In the comics, Nick Fury enters big battles with a gun bigger than he is, where was that? Hell, I would have even taken Sharon Carter. There will definitely be a conversation had with Marvel fantics about what would have been even more badass to see, regarding this big battle scene.

He is worthy
There's that great scene in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," after Stark throws a big party. All the Avengers are sitting around Thor's original hammer, the Mjolnir. They all take turns trying to pick it up, see if they are worthy. They all fail miserably. Captain America, however, nudges the hammer. But he doesn't lift it. Many people have said that Cap isn't worthy. This is something I've been arguing against for years now. You are either worthy of the power of Thor, or you are not. There is no middle ground. Cap wouldn't be able to nudge it if he wasn't worthy. But he knows deep down what this power means to Thor, and how seriously he takes the responsibility. He'd never want to show-up one of his friends, so Cap has been pretending not to be worthy this whole time.  That is precisely why he's Captain Freaking America, because he makes decisions like that. Captain America was worthy of the hammer in the comics, he's used it many times in the books. I knew it was only a matter of time before movie Cap finally picked it up. In "Avengers: Endgame," Thor and Rocket travel back to "Thor: The Dark World" to collect the reality stone. While there, Thor gets his mjolnir back. At the end of the movie when Thanos attacks, Iron Man, Cap and Thor fight Thanos before all the other characters show up. In this three-on-one fight, Cap FINALLY PICKS UP MJOLNIR. Thor happily blurts out "I knew it!"

So did we, Thor. So did we. Finally after years and movies waiting for it. We finally got it.

It really is all connected
Since 2013, many networks have worked on television shows that take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We have got "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC. "Agent Carter" ran for two seasons also on ABC. Netflix had shows about Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and The Punisher. Hulu currently still has "The Runaways" going. Finally, Freeform still has seasons of "Cloak and Dagger" running. All of them taking place in the greater universe with the movies.

That interlocking continuity never felt like a two-way street though. In the shows, sometimes a minor character from the movies would guest-star, or a name from the movies would get dropped. Or certain things from the movies would affect aspects of a show. But he shows never seemed to affect the movies. For the longest time, many fans thought they had been duped. Maybe these shows don't really take place in the greater MCU.

Well, that can be officially put to bed now. Stark and Cap time travel to a S.H.I.E.L.D. base in 1970 to gather the Space Stone. While there, Stark has a run in with his dad, Howard Stark, before he was born. Its an oddly beautiful scene. But the geekiest part was that the actor who plays Edwin Jarvis, the Stark family loyal butler, is the same actor who played the character on "Agent Carter" for two seasons. (James D'arcy is the actor's name) For the first time in these movies, a TV character and actor have crossed over from TV show to movie. It is finally a two-way street. I can only hope that there will be a greater connection between the shows and the movies going forward! It really is all connected, and not for marketing reasons!

Life, Death and The End
The film's epic final battle finally comes to an end when Stark uses the stones to make Thanos and his army disappear. He is successful and Thanos finally dies, with all life he took throughout the universe restored. The rub though, and this is when things got really emotional, is that using the stones mortally wounded Stark and while Spider-Man and Pepper all have final moments with Stark and as his fellow Avengers look on in dismay, Stark dies. The scene, as well as the funeral scene afterward, had many people in my theater (including me) tearing up and crying. I've read about crying in may auditoriums all over the place. Robert Downey Jr was the face of this franchise for many years. It rebooted his career, he got the MCU off and running. Not only that though, but he set the tone for the style of the MCU as a whole. This entire franchise owes so much to Robert Downey Jr and the great work he did bringing Iron Man to life. Believe me, everyone was feeling it in the theater.

Before the battle, Hawkeye and Black Widow go to retrieve the Soul Stone from Red Skull. If you remember from Infinity War, you must sacrifice a soul for a soul. That is why Thanos brought Gamora to get it, he had to kill her in order to get the Soul Stone. We know how close Hawkeye and Black Widow are to each other. No, their relationship was never romantic, but they were such tight friends, they were practically siblings. But Red Skull makes it clear that they won't get the Soul Stone unless one of them dies. Hawkeye and Black Widow fight to jump off the legendary cliff. Ultimately, its BLACK WIDOW who makes it all the way down. (I guess it makes more sense now that her solo movie coming soon is going to be a prequel.) I have to say, Scarlet Johansson grew on me over the years. I actually dreaded her casting in 2009 when it was announced she'd play the character. I never cared for her much as an actress, and I vastly preferred Emily Blunt for the character. I think as ScarJo has played her, she has grown as an actress. Now, I can't imagine anybody else in the role. She did magnificent work, and I even got teary eyed as Hawkeye mourned her death.

After the battle and Stark's funeral, all seems to be going back to normal. Captain America agrees to take the stones and Thor's hammer back in time to before they took them, so that nothing damages their timeline. The thing is...Cap never comes back. Falcon and Winter Soldier spot an old man sitting near where they are. They see that its an ELDERLY CAPTAIN AMERICA. Now, some people thought this plot point didn't make sense, that its out of character for Cap, that it contradicts "Agent Carter" as a show. But Cap does indeed go back in time to have a life with Peggy Carter. The life he never got. He finally went and got that dance. It seems they married.

Now, Cap doesn't do this because he's "selfish" or any of the other names he's been called on the internet. The death of Stark struck a cord with him, and he says he decided to take his advice. He goes back for the only girl he ever loved. We also don't know what date he got back to her, SO it may not have contradicted anything we saw on the show, we will never know since it got cancelled.

"But wait, Shawn, will Cap really just sit around and watch HYDRA infiltrate SHIELD?" Well, telling from how time travel works in this movie, it seems since its future Captain America, going back, technically he beat HYDRA, helped save the world countless times and ALSO went back and got the girl he always wanted. Like I said above, "take your cake and eat it too." This scene clearly isn't working for everyone. Yes, this ending is a little rough around the edges. But you know what. Captain America has been a man out of time. He served in World War II and fell in love with a girl. He had to fly a plain into ice in order to save the world. He didn't get to be with that girl he fell in love with. He woke up 70 years in the future. He was a man out of time. He never quite fit in. Then he found out his best friend was manipulated by terrorists, that his country's defense apparatus was compromised. He's made decisions that nearly left him friendless. All while never finding true love. After all of that, Cap deserved a happy ending more than just about any other character. So even though its a flawed ending for Cap, I am so glad it was a happy one.

Also, this is happening in the future...
Yep. He passed his shield to Falcon!

There was no mid-credit scene to this film and not much set up to other movies. I mean sure, Falcon will be the next Captain. Thor appointed Valkyrie as Queen of the Asgardians and has joined The Guardians of the Galaxy in space (imagine how awesome "Guardians of the Galaxy 3" is going to be knowing this information) but that's basically it. This really felt like absolute completion to a story starting eleven years ago.

As the last few scenes play out, it is clear that the time travel stuff will make your head hurt if you think about it too much. It was weird watching Peter Parker go back to high school, catching up with Ned like nothing happened. All the while Ant-Man's daughter Cassie is five years older. It's weird that Nebula killed her past self with no consequence. We also do see Loki escape 2012 New York with the Space Stone, which prompts Stark and Cap to go back further in time. But you know what? Perhaps these are set ups for other stories. Perhaps these points will be examined in the future, we just don't know it yet. We don't know what Spider-Man will be up to once he returns this summer in "Far From Home." So for now, I am going to relax and see if anything really does come of this. If nothing does, well, superheroes have been time traveling, bending time and reality for decades. With little to no consequence. So you know what, I give the movie a little leeway. Ultimately, this is massively entertaining movie. The characters still feel perfect. The movie is ambitious, and it took some risks. I give credit for that. It is still a great blend of humor and drama and only the Russo brothers can uniquely create. I left the theater satisfied. There is no perfect movie, even the classics have some flaws or things I feel I'd do differently. So for me, I can't get too caught up in something as abysmal as how time travel works. Maybe if somebody finally gets around to inventing a time machine, maybe I'll feel differently. Point being, this was a great season finale to this first giant chunk of MCU storytelling and I look forward to the future. No matter what it looks like!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Review: A SPOILER-FREE look at "Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame Review

October 2014. A month and year that has taken up major bandwidth inside the confines of my brain. That was the month and year Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announced the Phase Three slate of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. We saw that we'd getting sequels to Captain America, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. We heard we'd be getting introductions to new characters like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and The Inhumans. No doubt the big announcement was we'd be getting a one-two punch of "Avengers: Infinity War." Part One was to come out in 2018 and Part Two was to be released in 2019. It made perfect sense at the time. We got a glimpse of Thanos during the mid-credits of "The Avengers" in 2012. Then the Infinity Stones got mentioned in "Thor: The Dark World" in 2013. Comic fans no doubt put two and two together, figuring out what we'd eventually be in for.

I would dream about the next five years and how this story would play out. The films of Phase Three creating an outline of detail leading up to Thanos challenging Earth's Mightest Heroes. Sure, the Phase changed a bit. We got an unexpected sequel to "Ant-Man." Once Sony began sharing rights to Spider-Man, he got a movie. Then the Inhumans movie turned into a TV show I'd rather not remember. It also seemed the quality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe only got better. All of this leading up to a point where Thanos collected all the Infinity Stones, snapped his fingers, and just like that half of life in the universe got turned to dust. That was 2018, and the in the year that followed, long time fans could only theorize how this story would end. Eventually the Part II got dropped and "Avengers: Endgame" became the title, a reference to a line Doctor Strange says in "Infinity War." There was a great marketing campaign for "Avengers: Endgame" where only very little of the three hour runtime got used in the commercials. Theories, rumors and "leaks" were abundant on the internet. Everybody curious as hell to see how this would end.

I saw "Avengers: Endgame" today. Now that I've seen the movie, I am having trouble putting words together to describe my experience. It was the movie I thought I'd see, but also not at all the movie I thought I would get in equal measure. It was a movie I didn't realize I needed, but a movie I am glad that I got. That probably doesn't make any sense, but like I said, words fail me at the moment. What I can say is that I didn't anything this good could have come from this idea. I figured the end result of this whole Infinity Saga wouldn't work both commercially and creatively. But somehow it has. The Russo Brothers, directors of both Infinity War and Endgame, stuck the landing. They were able to find story, character, theme and development in a gigantic superhero story, a story which in someone else's hands would have been a bunch of noise and chaos. They deserve big kudos for making this out with something respectable made. "Endgame" is a movie that is a tad rough around the edges, but the pros overwhelming outweigh the cons. "Endgame" is a movie that breaks it back to please the audience, but it never sacrifices story and character in the process. The audience is the winner, no doubt, and as I read people are going to the theater for seconds, this should be a nice box office take for Marvel and Disney.

Specifics on plot have been scarce at best. But essentially, merely weeks after Thanos snaps his fingers. The remaining heroes are trying to find a way to find Thanos (Josh Brolin) and get some revenge. I remember writing my original review of "Infinity War," and I had mentioned that it felt like a superhero episode of "Game of Thrones." Much of the first half of "Endgame" feels like a superhero episode of "The Leftovers," there is plenty of focus on the fallout that Thanos created. I liked that the movie paid a little attention to the world was affected by the snap.

But if you think "Endgame" is just some kind of psychological drama and character study, fear not. There is plenty of spectacle in "Endgame." I am not going to get into spoiler territory here, but the movie shifts quite a bit in its second half. I plan to write a more spoiler-heavy article tomorrow. But if you haven't seen the movie yet by chance, just know that the movie delivers on every possible comic book level. There are moments I've been dreaming of seeing forever, and I finally saw them today, and that's awesome. I will say that the movie is a little rough around the edges as it concludes. There is a plot device used in the second half of the movie that is tricky. No matter how you use it, its tricky to pull off in storytelling. Whether in movies, books, TV shows, what have you. But I believe the movie did what it could with the device.

It seems redundant to mention the talent in the movie and go over each character and how well the actors portray these characters. I've spent eleven years with these characters and these actors. They have forever imprinted on these characters. There won't be a single conversation regarding these characters in the future without bringing up these actors. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillen all continue to throw themselves at these roles. Josh Brolin continued to be satisfying villain, one of the best of the series by far. These actors deserve all the credit for believing in this world and making the most of their time onscreen.

After eleven years and twenty-two movies, I am happy that Marvel Studios and the casts and crews bringing this epic journey together have stuck the landing. Special congratulations goes to everyone that could make this happen, and for this franchise to still have so much steam left to give is a miracle. The only other franchise I can think of with 20+ movies is the James Bond series and as much as I love that series, not all of the Bond movies work. Whether these MCU movies are good or great, they all work. Most franchises fizzle out at movie three or four. So again, I am impressed how much has been accomplished here. Like I said, it may not all add up at the end, but I don't want to sound nitpicky and I can only hope superhero filmmaking will be as ambitious as this in the future.

It's been a wonderful 11 years, now let's make it 11 more.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Gemini Man trailer

Well, even though "Avengers: Endgame" had its world premiere last night, and there have been spoiler-free reviews beginning to pop up online, something else seems to be grabbing hold of people's conversations today.

"Gemini Man" definitely looks interesting. A clone of some type of assassin is hired to kill the person he was cloned from. At least I think its a clone. Maybe not. One version of the character is younger than their counterpart. Which is the most absorbing reason to watch the trailer. It literally looks like you are looking at young Will Smith and older Will Smith who both somehow ended up in a movie together. It is a trippy, trippy trailer to look at. When the Marvel movies use CGI to de-age actors, I can see the trickery, slightly of course. When the Star Wars movies brought entire actors back to life, I could easily see the trickery. I can't see the trickery in the special effects I am looking at here. I don't see a single shred of movie magic. That is bracing to me.

I do have a little pause though. The movie is being made by Ang Lee, a director who sadly hasn't blown me away ever. The movie is also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and I've been wonder where the hell he's been for the last decade or so. The movie has a few ups, it's not a sequel, its not based on a piece of random nostalgia. It looks like something that is brand new on all fronts, and that perks my interest at least. I will definitely be curious to see this in a theater, just to get lost in the special effects. I really hope the movie is good too.

Review: A look at the year's most controversial film, "Leaving Neverland"

Leaving Neverland Review
I firmly believe that "Leaving Neverland" will be the year's most controversial film. In fact, its left me stranded and devastated. This is going to probably be a shorter review because of it.

Before we really dig in, let's get something straight. This isn't a film about Michael Jackson. This is a movie about Wade Robson and James Safechuck. These two men were once dancers for Michael Jackson when they were young boys. They performed at his concerts. They sometimes went on world tours with him. Both boys became very close to Jackson throughout their formative years. Michael Jackson treated the boys like family, treated their families like family. They would even stay in the same room as Michael Jackson on his tours. They would spend the night has his Neverland Ranch. According to the men, Jackson would sexually assault the boys when they were alone. Before and after his early 90's trials of sexual assault from Jordy Chandler. While Robson and Safechuck never came forth with these allegations, they seemed to have put a damper on their lives, putting it in the most obvious of terms.

I am going to tread as carefully as I can in this review. As always, there is bile being spewed on all sides of the fence. There are dancers that have removed Michael Jackson music from their routines because of this documentary. Both Robson and Safechuck have received death threats due to this documentary. The last few years have been a whirlwind, it feels like every man even vaguely connected to show business has been accused of sexual assault or harassment and its divided our nation. It has sprouted two extremes; blindly believing the victim or blindly believing the accused. When in reality, there should be a balance to that. We should gather evidence, listen to everyone, keep an open mind, lose any sort of bias, make sure evidence and discussion make sense. Then reach a conclusion. Yes, I know the justice system isn't perfect. Jurors are human beings and sometimes they make mistakes. But there is no other way to deal with these things. It seems like "Leaving Neverland" is the ultimate representation of this back-and-forth.

The movie is essentially four hours of these men, and their families talking about their experiences with Michael Jackson. The focus is on Robson and Safechuck in particular. They get into rather graphic detail of spending the night at Jackson's house, spending time alone with Jackson in their hotel rooms. Both Robson and Safechuck aren't shy about admitting that they had extremely graphic sexual relationships with Jackson, and Jackson himself seemingly manipulated these young boys into thinking this was normal. The parents were, as they usually are in these crime documentaries, oblivious to what was happening. Their children were spending time with Michael Jackson, charity working, King of Pop, there is no way he'd be a creep right? 

The stories by Robson and Safechuck are so harrowing that its very easy to want to believe them. The thing is, the documentary is ONLY their accounts. Its hard to really get to the bottom of a case like this when the perpetrator is dead and already beat a case similar earlier in their life. So all we have are these accounts. There is really no other evidence to back the claims of these men. These men are definitely convincing, as are their families. But at the end of the day, the naysayers will keep on naysaying because this whole documentary is four hours of stories without a shred of evidence. It's a typical documentary designed to tug at your heart strings in order for you to get reaction.

But despite the design of the documentary, that doesn't automatically mean that Robson and Safechuck's claims are wrong. Which is why this documentary is such a great snapshot of what's going on in our country right now. We want to believe victims, even if their cases supply no evidence. We want to protect the innocent, even if their stories don't add up. How you feel about "Leaving Neverland" will depend solely on what you believe from it, which is kind of frustrating. If documentarian Dan Reed really wants me to completely believe that Micheal Jackson sexually assault these men in their formative years, I need more than just a harrowing, graphic story. It would have been much stronger overall had their been more evidence to back these claims.

Or did the documentary supply more evidence? Only in a subtle way? There are videos of Michael Jackson walking and being photographed holding hands with different children, including young Robson and Safechuck, which is strange behavior from a grown man. There were also the other allegations that got public attention. Alas, do these little tidbits prove anything? Again, it depends on what you believe and what you get from the material. I wish Dan Reed just gave us more to chew on, more to absorb. No two ways about it though, I think it is safe to say that Michael Jackson was a manipulative asshole to these kids. Sexual allegations aside, he made these young boys feel important, like he was their best friend. They didn't need a thing in the world except Michael. The thing is, he made new "best friends" every few months and it seemed like Robson and Safechuck were all cast aside, and never called unless Michael needed them. So on that level, Michael Jackson treated some boys like shit at ages when they were remarkably vulnerable. But is that a crime exactly? 

Like I said, I wish we got more to judge here. I wish we had more to look over. I would never try to say that these guys are wrong, or they lied. Because there's just not enough evidence here for that either. That's the problem on all accounts, there just isn't enough of anything here.


Monday, April 22, 2019

A look at the "Child's Play" remake

First of all, I got to say, that is a great, old-school poster.

The trailer for the movie itself? Well, there is definitely some good and bad stuff. I really don't understand the continued need to remake everything that was scary from yesteryear. Although its a trend that has been going on since I was in high school, its a trend nonetheless and something that has had mixed results at best. This remake has a fun cast, including Aubry Plaza, Tim Matheson and Brian Tyree Henry. Not to mention I am sure Mark Hamill will have a blast voicing Chucky. It looks like they have come up with some creative ways to kill people. Connecting the doll to an app just seems like a real lazy way to throw an update into the movie and doesn't really portray the character in any kind of new light, but I guess, what else could they really do?

The original Child's Play really creeped me out, we'll see how this remake does.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Let's talk about those five minutes of Endgame


I am self-aware enough to know that I am completely impatient when it comes to movies. I am a greedy Augustus Gloop, a bitchy Veruca Salt who can't keep her hands to herself. That is both a pleasure and a curse. Because there have been times when I've spoiled entire movies and entire TV shows for myself. 

In recent memory, I can't think of another movie so heavily guarded as "Avengers: Endgame." We know the movie is going to be three hours long, and we also know that Disney is only pulling footage from the first twenty minutes for ALL of its marketing and trailers. This is why we've only seen the same few scenes in all the commercials. That's been driving some fans up a wall, but after how Infinity War ended, are we really surprised? There is some big stuff that is going to take place in "Endgame" and while the franchise will continue, it is going to look different after this movie. The internet has been a funny place to be the last year, because there is always some anonymous person on some website who knows some person close to production, and they give away "leaks," which are really just fan theories in disguise. They are funny to read, funny that anybody honestly believes them. Its also funny that some people have threatened to take bets with those who don't believe them. Nothing spells a commitment to lies like taking bets on some fan fiction, eh?

This past week though, something legitimate hit the internet. I know that its legit because it was taken down almost immediately. I had to scour the internet for days, and when I finally found this footage, it was taken down with hours of me watching it. That's how you know its legit. For a couple of days, somehow five minutes of "Avengers: Endgame" leaked on the internet. Its tough to watch, it looks like a bootleg of a bootleg of a bootleg. The audio tracking is way off. But its clearly footage from the upcoming movie. The only reason I watched it is because I found out that no major deaths are spoiled in this five minutes. Its literally just five minutes of fucking awesome shit. I love fucking awesome shit. So why not take a peak at some fucking awesome shit?

The footage is way too hard to find at this point, so if want to know what I saw, I am going to post it below. In my own words. If you don't want to know, stop scrolling now. This is only for people who meddle in spoilers. So if you read below that is on you.

We are getting into spoiler territory now. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ THAT, DON'T SCROLL DOWN.

I'm serious, its time to talk about the leaked five minutes!






There were rumors of what would happen in "Avengers: Endgame," still referred to as Avengers 4, the weekend after Infinity War came out. What the rumors dispersed was that the surviving Avengers would try to find a way to reverse Thanos' snap. Tony Stark will make it back to Earth, and once he gets back, he begins to design his own Infinity Gauntlet. So that he can use the stones to reverse the snap himself. This will require the remaining heroes to go back in time to various other points from other movies to get the stones. The stones would eventually disappear from Thanos' gauntlet and he'd go after the heroes. Also in these rumors, Banner and Hulk would "merge" creating Professor Hulk, which is essentially a Hulk monster with Banner's intelligence still intact.

Well, according to the five minutes that leaked online, those rumors are on the money. The first thing we see is a Hulk in a full purple costume (an image that leaked online a year ago) also sporting reading glasses. This Hulk is speaking, full sentences, not that broken English Hulk usually uses. He's having a fun time with Thor (who has grown long hair and A LONG beard) and Rocket. Also in this scene, I am 100%  sure I saw Korg, the blue rock alien we met in "Thor: Ragnarok" no sign of his best friend Miek though. How Korg got to Earth and Avengers HQ remains to be scene. In these early moments of the footage, it looks like the heroes are working on ships and those matching outfits we've seen in the trailers.

The next big scene shows them in the battle of New York from the very first Avengers movie. It was really hard to tell what they were saying, but Captain America, Professor Hulk, Iron Man and Ant-Man were formulating some kind of plan. The scene after this showed post-Infinity War Captain America fighting the 2012 Avengers Captain America. I'm sure 2012 Avengers Captain America probably thinks that post-Infinity War Captain America is some illusion from Loki, so it will be interesting to see how that unfolds.

The next scene shows Hulk putting on an Infinity Gauntlet, with what looked like all the stones. You can tell its a Stark gauntlet too, because its got that signature crimson on it. Toys have already spoiled a "Stark Gauntlet" already, so this scene didn't really surprise me. But it looks like even the mighty Hulk is having trouble containing the power of the Infinity Stones. This Stark gauntlet seems to be hurting him.

The next scene was the last bit of footage, and man its a doozy. We see Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America fighting Thanos on a distant planet. Thanos is fighting with a big ass sword! Thor has his Stormbreaker. But here's the craziest part....CAPTAIN AMERICA IS WIELDING THE MJOLNIR! I'm guessing Thor got his old hammer back through time travel and sure enough, we finally see that Steve Rogers is in fact worthy. This is something I've been arguing with people for the last four years. In "Age of Ultron" Rogers nudged the hammer. But he didn't lift it. That point I knew he'd lift it eventually. He did in the comic books and you aren't just a little worthy. You are either worthy to lift Thor's hammer or you're not, there is no middle ground. I knew that nudging would pay-off in a movie in the future, and now it finally has. Captain America is shown single-handedly kicking Thanos' ass. He's armed with both the Mjolnir and his shield. 

The next big doozy comes next. We see Cap starring down a massive army lead by Thanos. Cap appears to be alone when we hear "on your left." Fans of "Captain America: Winter Soldier" will know what that means. We suddenly see a portal behind Cap. (looking very similar to a Dr. Strange portal) and out of the portal comes Black Panther, his sister Shuri and Wakandan fan-favorite Okoye. After a dramatic beat, Falcon comes flying out of the portal too. So we do learn that eventually the heroes will collect all the stones and reverse Thanos' snap. The next scene is very quick, but we see every character you can think of lining up behind Cap. The footage is blurry, and the scene is dark, so I couldn't make out everyone. But I definitely saw Drax, Star-Lord, Thor, Iron Man, Teen Groot, possibly Wasp, Wanda, Spidey. That's just for heroes. Captain America, after 20+ movies, finally says "AVENGERS ASSEMBLE" and the army of heroes charges. We see lots more than just heroes though, it looks like a huge army of Wakandans (perhaps the Wakandan troops that got dusted?) all charge towards Thanos and his army. We see a pegasus fly by, and I don't mean some fancy spaceship, I mean a literal, mythological pegasus fly by. With a person riding it. That has to mean Valkyre. We see a bunch of people in suits fly by. Could be Iron Man and War Machine. But there seemed to be more than two. Gwyneth Paltrow confirmed on her Twitter that she's suiting up as Rescue in this movie, so perhaps one of them is her. And maybe Iron Man has called on his Iron Legion to help in the battle. After we see those suits fly by, we see Scott Lang as Giant Man running towards the army. We also see a bunch of spaceships flying toward's Thanos' forces, who is flying these ships remains to be seen. 

Thanos has a pretty crazy army himself. Full of Chitauri, possibly more Outriders. Also his Black Order seems to be alive somehow. So whatever this battle is, its going to be FUCKING INSANE!

The next scene shows Iron Man and Spider-Man embracing and having some sort of heart-to-heart. Soon after we see Captain Marvel, taking down Thanos' personal ship all by herself. We see her floating with her signature pixie cut hair. 

End footage.

So I think its pretty safe to say that this movie is going to throw the kitchen sink at us. This is going to be large on every aspect imaginable. We are only a few more days away. I can't wait to see these moments and more, on a great big screen with perfect audio!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review: New Hellboy will make you miss the days of Del Toro

Hellboy Review

Guillermo del Toro got the ball rolling with Hellboy on screen in 2004. I really like that movie. But "Hellboy: The Golden Army," that is a movie that is the prime definition of a movie that was much better than it needed to be. It is easily one of my very favorite sequels. The summer of 2008 and was a money fest. So it was easily for less recognizable titles getting lost in the shuffle, but that is too bad, because that is a great, great sequel. It was weird, because del Toro set up a crazy story for a potential third movie. He also, roughly a year ago, put a Twitter poll allowing people to vote whether or not they wanted to see his third movie. Weird, because after his poll came back overwhelmingly in his favor, it was decided the whole series would be rebooted.

We got David Harbour stepping in for Ron Perlman. We got Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane and Sasha Lane. It certainly feels like a Hellboy movie. It has a dark sense of humor. It is shockingly violent in some parts, and eerily dark in others. I think there was potential to make an interesting Hellboy movie with this cast. But this new film commits the cardinal foul. It all feels like a big fat, "been there, done that."

It was the same problem I had when Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 4" was halted at Sony and they rebooted the franchise with Marc Webb at the helm. Re-watch Raimi's film closely, and then watch the two films Webb made. Sam Raimi had a unique vision for his Spider-Man stories, and it looked like Webb was trying way too hard to imitate what had come before, even though his story was a reboot. If you watch all those movies in a row, it feels like the same universe, except the leads are different. That and well, "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies have a much worse quality to them.

That's how I feel when I watched Neill Marshall's "reboot" of "Hellboy." David Harbour looks way too much like Ron Perlman. I don't know if that was intentional. It couldn't be, this is a redo, so how could it be intentional? What's also weird is that Harbour seems to be trying too hard to channel Ron Perlman in his performance. He never takes the steps to make the character his own. Something that actually disappointed me, because Harbour is a great actor. The ritual that brought Hellboy to earth looks so similar to how it does in the first movie, that there is barely a difference. I am also convinced that the B.P.R.D. building from del Toro's franchise was reused in this franchise.

We've seen three different versions of Batman on film so far. In Michael Keaton's movies, Christian Bale's movies, and Ben Affleck's movie, even though the origin of Batman is the same, they all feel different. There is very little that separates this new Hellboy from the old, so why even reboot? Its like they don't even want to try. I wish this wasn't my only complaint though. The special effects on display are rancid, just terrible. Milla Jovovich is a beautiful woman, and she's given some memorable performances, but sometimes she can lose it. This is a time when she lost it, and I never thought she was a very convincing villain. Then there's the plot. My god, my god the plot. It tries to play so closely to what we saw in the 2004 film while also trying to do something different, and it ends up like a messy painting. There is such a tug-of-war going on that I can't believe this even got greenlit.

There was a big opportunity that was missed here, and it makes me sad. You'd think coming off an Oscar win, del Toro would have had the muscle to do what he wanted, to finish his "Hellboy" story. But I guess, sometimes those things don't work out. We are all poorer for it. This new "Hellboy" will not become a cult classic, del Toro's movies will. This will hit the bargain bin at Wal-Mart the second its released on bluray.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

First Look at Disney+ The Mandalorian

Star Wars Celebration came and passed and I think the most exciting thing that was announced was "The Mandalorian." This is the first live-action Star Wars television series. It is being show run by "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau. There was a first look at the series at the Celebration and somebody successfully bootlegged a little trailer/behind-the-scenes clip of the show. This show will premiere on Disney+ at some point during the first year of the launch, and is just another good reason why the Disney streaming service probably won't fail. I love that Pedro Pascal is the lead, he will be playing a brand new character, and I can't wait to meet him.

Oh and Taika Waititi is directing one of the episodes? Holy shit, I can't wait!

Review: Netflix continues to rip off "A Quiet Place" with "The Silence"

The Silence Review

Netflix released "Bird Box" at the tail-end of last year, and while it certainly made some kind of mark on popular culture at the time, it has certainly faded. I remember it being a kind of rip-off of the much superior "A Quiet Place." Instead of a world where you can't talk, "Bird Box" was about a world where you can't open your eyes. Oooh! Now in 2019, Netflix has made their own world without sound. It is called "The Silence." Oooh! Real original. I don't know what John Krasinski thought would happen when he made "A Quiet Place," but I bet he would have never guessed that Netflix would be ripping him off left and right.

"The Silence" begins with a bunch of scientist types walking through an old tomb. Of course, in movies like this, scientists are never as smart as they are in real life. Sometimes that can lead to some dumb fun. Other times it can lead to some mind-numbing atrocity. I'll let you decide as you read this review where "The Silence" lies. As these scientist types continue to search through the tomb, they release a species of bat-like creatures thought to be extinct. They viciously kill the people then fly into the night. Then we get an oh-so-familiar opening title sequence, feeling like every other Netflix Original.

Then we meet Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka) a teenager who recently became deaf from an accident. She has to deal with bullies, but she's trying to make the best of the bad situation. She's got a loving family and a loving boyfriend. Stanley Tucci plays her father, Hugh and Miranda Otto plays her mother, Kelly. The Andrews also care for Kelly's mom, Lynn (Kate Trotter). This family is living out their life in harmony when they are awoken after 3am to news reports. Seems like something awful is attacking major cities all over the United States. They are being told to stay in their homes and stay silent. So of course, the family doesn't stay put. They try to travel to find a safer place with Hugh's best friend, Glenn (John Corbett). Why they decide to leave the comfort of their homes to find somewhere safer is beyond me.

They eventually find a house, a woman lives there. She is nothing but a red shirt though. What's also mind-boggling is as this poor woman is getting killed by the vesps, the bat-like creatures that got released, the Andrews family never steps in to help her. She just ends up dying, then the family defends themselves. There are so many decisions made in this movie that boggled my mind that it took me out of the movie several times.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg for "The Silence." Stanley Tucci is clearly on auto-pilot, its almost like he knows he's in a bad movie. The movie works like a checklist of all the things we are supposed to see in a movie like this, but its just that, a checklist. It doesn't illuminate its cliches in any real way, or hell even in an entertaining way. Its Kiernan Shipka who is the main star here, and she does what she can. She does the deaf moments of her character fine. It's just that she doesn't really have a character to play. She's a type. Like I said, she's fine, this whole thing would have probably been better if these actors had actual characters to play.

There are also some bad guys. Because of course there are. In an apocalyptic future, there is a leader of a religious cult, who have all cut their tongues out to protect them from the vesps. They want the Andrews family to join them, but Hugh doesn't want to. So the leader of this group, played creepily by Brian MacLellan, tries to attack the Andrews family. He talks about the possible fertility of Ally. Because of course he does. It wouldn't be an apocalyptic future movie without a creepy bad guy trying to rape the best-looking young actress in the movie. But thankfully, that doesn't happen. When the best thing about a movie is that nobody got raped, then something has gone terribly wrong.


Friday, April 12, 2019

Star Wars 9 trailer

The Episode 9 trailer is here.

The title has been revealed...

Get ready for "Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker!"

I wish I was making this up, but I am not.

Its a pretty quick teaser. Not many plot details revealed. We get a nice scene of Rey doing some cool Jedi stuff over what I presume is a Luke voiceover. It was nice to see Lando again. There is something about Luke's voiceover though. "Nobody is really gone." So that means Luke Force ghost, yes.

The movie is called Rise of Skywalker, so that means Kylo lied to Rey, right? Shes related to the family somehow right? Or does Kylo redeem himself? Thats a little too familiar.

That laugh at the end? That's Palpatine, yes? So, what are we thinking? Force ghost? Clone?

Look, I will see this just to see how they wrap things up, but "The Last Jedi" has certainly tempered my feelings about this. I don't care how much money these things have made. I don't care what the fanboys say, Disney messed up. They did. This could have been a golden goose for years but they burned it down. The fallout from The Last Jedi made "Solo" a box office disappointment. There is a reason that Disney CEO Bob Iger said that the movies are going on hiatus after episode nine. There is a reason why the anthology movies have stopped altogether. Disney messed this thing up a bit. I can only hope that JJ Abrams can stick some kind of landing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Lion King Trailer

There are plenty of people who don't care about these Disney live action remakes. I get that, it seems pretty shameless to just remake their classics for new generations with no cartooning going on. Disney just isn't trying at this point, they could basically count as a United States mint. But I have to be honest, some these live action movies have worked for me. I love "The Jungle Book" from 2016. Jon Favreau made that and he made this too, which makes me more interested than I probably would be.

This looks absolutely majestic. I know I'm not looking at real animals, but dear god, it LOOKS like I am looking at real animals. I love it, I'll be there!

Review: "Unicorn Store" is a statement by Brie Larson

Unicorn Store Review
"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"

That's a quote my brother says all the time, he's said it a few times throughout life. I never quite felt the sting of that quote until recently. If you asked me a decade ago, where I'd be today, my answer would not look at all like the life I'm living right now. Sure, there are those who have their heart set on goals, and they achieve those goals. But some people have bad luck, or obstacles arise that you didn't see coming, or things just simply change. A combination of those three things kind of happened to me. But you know what? The life I am living right now is much better than I could ever imagine. I have a great wife and I have an adorable little daughter and those things are my main sources of happiness. Sometimes your goals change too, and I have different priorities now, so I am not sure I have failed yet.

Brie Larson plays Kit in "Unicorn Store," a movie she also happened to direct as well. Kit from the moment she was born was seemingly obsessed with unicorns. You know when your child and your imagination runs wild 24 hours a day and seven days a week? When I was five-years-old, I totally thought I could pull off being Batman. Of course my parents laughed, but I was totally serious. Kit obsessions forced her to want to take care of unicorns when she got older. But as she got older and older, that dream never went away. So much so, that now that she's almost 30, she's still obsessed with them. 

When we initially meet Kit, she's trying to make as an artist, but her taste is a little too...shall we say..girly. Because she's such a unicorn fan, they are front and center in all of her creations. She over-indulges with bright colors and glitter and it doesn't work for her in todays art scene. She goes home disappointed. It doesn't help that she has overbearing parents, who want her to get a job and have a normal life. But what is normal? How can we all have a normal. If everybody has different wants and needs, and hell people are just different in general, how do you define normal? But she eventually tries to plant her feet in a "big girl job."

Eventually she gets invited to meet The Salesman. He is played by the always wonderful Samuel L. Jackson. Its a typical out-of-left-field performance by Jackson and of course he nails it. He convinces Kit that he can get her a unicorn to take care of, but she has to complete certain tasks. She has to create a stable for it and a slew of other tasks. She goes for it, this is everything she's ever wanted. So what if it doesn't make sense, she's going to go for it. That's the big meaning of the movie, to follow your dreams. No matter what people say, complete your dreams. Also, be you. No matter what. Let your freak flag fly, who cares what anybody thinks.

The movie plays a fun game of keeping up the "is she really going to get a unicorn game." For a directorial debute, Larson may be up to something here. "Unicorn Store" is definitely more style than substance, but its a charming little film. It's got a solid cast also featuring Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford and Hamish Linklater. It took a few years to finally be picked up by Netflix. I don't know the story, but perhaps there is an underlying metaphor there. Keep your dreams up, even much later, they can still come true.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Addams Family Trailer

"The Addams Family" was a show that was way before my time.

While I have some vague memories of watching re-runs of the old, black-and-white show. My memory is just that, vague. Of course the iconic musical number that opens the show is the biggest thing I remember from it. The theme song was featured on a kid-friendly Halloween CD that I played every October when I was a daycare center teacher. I often found that funny. If was pretty unfamiliar with the show, how will four-year-old's know what it is?

I also have very vague memories of the 1990's movie with Christina Ricci and Anjelica Houstan. I am by no means a Addams Family expert, I admit it. So I guess that's why I am more open-minded about this animated version. They've got a great cast for voices, and it looks fun. What do my Addams Family experts think?

Monday, April 8, 2019

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains All-Stars...The Winner is...

That was a quick few weeks.

Starting in March, we pit some of the most popular characters from movies and TV, heroes and villains, then have you vote for your favorites. After four years of doing this, I decided to try something different. I brought back a bunch of characters who went far in the passed years, to see who was the ultimate hero or villain. The results are in, and now we can claim a winner...

Batman had some stiff competition. We've had some big names show up over the last few years. From Indiana Jones to John McClane, the voting was pretty fierce throughout Batman's entire journey, there was nothing about this that was easy. Even when Batman faced the TV Hero Champion...Buffy The Vampire never got easier. But Batman remained persistent. Batman has received his fourth MMHvV championship, winning four out of the five competitions.

This year particularly had a great voter turn-out. For that, I want to give you all thanks. Next year, the Final Four return with a new list of challengers to face!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: "Shazam!" could pave the way for a better DCEU!

Shazam! Review
You want to know who the arch-nemesis of DC Movies is? Its the studio itself.

I had a brief conversation about the current legacy of the DCEU and the DC movies in general, and one thing I've noticed over the years is that the studio itself is its own worst enemy. Every time they take a step forward, they are almost destined to take one step backward. Hey, I try not to be biased. I can give you a list of all things I don't think work in the Marvel movies, and it wouldn't be a short list. But Marvel has done a good job slowly building a world onscreen, and they've been particular about what to expect from this world, what the rules are and how things work. It seems DC has been so desperate to catch up with their rival, that they are creating a world that really doesn't make a whole lot of sense onscreen.

I don't want that to sound like DC should just mimic what Marvel is doing, because the DC and Marvel worlds are so different. Sure, they are both superhero worlds, but the tones and ideas displayed make them very different. In their journey to course-correct, DC shouldn't be so eager to take their complaints to the extreme. They don't need to do what Marvel is doing, and they don't need to try as hard as they think they need to. The secret ingredient to any good superhero movie is the same that makes any adaptation great. Hire the people who are passionate about the story and the characters, then stay out of their way. After almost a decade, DC may finally be getting that hint.

I never reviewed it for my site, but I thought "Aquaman" was a fun movie. Certainly not a great movie, and possibly not even a good movie. But it was definitely fun. Its definitely gorgeous to look at. Its absolutely hilarious watching Mamoa throw-down, because he's destined to be a star. There's a ton of crazy freaking action packed in it too. There some missteps, but they almost don't matter. With that said, it feels like everything I've been missing from DC movies was found in "Shazam!" I think its the only DCEU movie to work the most overall. I hope that statement means something, because I actually really like "Wonder Woman" and (believe it or not) "Man of Steel." Is "Shazam!" a perfect movie? No, not quite. But it comes the closest to getting there. I can only hope that DC uses this movie as a template of what they should be doing instead of just throwing things at the wall and seeing what will stick.

You could describe "Shazam!" as "Big" with superpowers. Essentially there is a teenager named Billy Batson, played by Asher Angel. He's a kid who has been bounced around foster home to foster home. Pretty much on the road, running away constantly. He's trying to find his mother, who he lost in the middle of a carnival when he was very young. Billy gets taken into a huge foster family, while Billy's foster siblings Darla (Faithe Herman), Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ian Choi) and Pedro (Jovan Armand) are all accommodating, it's Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) who instantly gravitates towards Billy. Its clear that Billy's new foster parents have (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans) have created a real, loving home.

The underlying message of this movie is family, and that instantly grabbed me even before any superhero shenanigans really start taking place. I've talked about it a few times now during certain reviews. But I was adopted, and thankfully I've got the best example of loving parents you could ask for. I see a lot of my own parents in the foster parents Billy gets here. Easily one of the biggest attributes of Billy's character is how we watch him chase a family he'll never find, when the best possible family is right in front of him. Yes, we get to choose our friends, we don't get to choose our family. Sometimes friends become our family, and sometimes our family is right in front of our eyes. You definitely feel this as you watch the movie. 

Billy is eventually transported to another dimension, and meets a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). The wizard claims Billy as his champion and he plans to give him his magical powers to protect Earth from evil. Now, every time Billy yells Shazam, he transforms into an adult with a huge host of superpowers. This is where the movie really brings in the silly. I've always thought that DC had a weirder world compared to Marvel, and Shazam is definitely one of the strangest superheroes there is anywhere. What I think "Shazam" did that I wish "Justice League" did was it really leaned into its silliness, and because the movie did that it was more emotional and more fun. I'm sorry but its a lot sillier to treat a weapon of mass destruction called a Mother Box seriously than it is to embrace the fun of watching Zachary Levi play a fifteen-year-old stuck in a 38-year-old's body. Zachary Levi is one of those great actors who has just been waiting for the right role, and I hope this is the one that turns him into a star. There is a fine line between "childlike" and "childish" that I think Levy walks that line well, its great starring role for him.

It's equally rewarding to watch Levy bounce off of Grazer. I've seen Grazer in "It" from 2017 and "Beautiful Boy" from last year. After those two movies plus "Shazam!," I'm convinced he'll be one of the best actors of his generation. Grazer's Freddy is a superhero fanatic, and there are long stretches of the movie between Freddy and Billy where they are testing Billy's powers, making YouTube videos. Yes, lots of it goes to Billy's head, he's a teenager. He also happens to be a teenager who has lots going on in his world. So of course he becomes a cocky little shit. Freddy is a good foil to that. He's disabled, he understands the responsibility and watching the eventual clash of ideas is wrenching and well-earned.

The best superhero movies have an equally potent villain, and they did good picking Doctor Sivana. Mark Strong can play great villains in his sleep, so there was no problem there. But what's great is how Sivana's origin mirrors Billy's in some ways, just more distorted and tragic. At the beginning of the movie we see a young Sivana being tested by Shazam, and ultimately not chosen to be Shazam's champion. He spends the rest of his life trying to find the wizard again. He comes from a broken home much like Billy. Between the wizard and his father and his brother, Sivana is constantly told he's never good enough. It sickens him to learn as an adult that some punk teenager was chosen as Shazam's champion but he wasn't. Which leads him to do some not-so-good things. Like I said, Strong runs with it and he's the perfect foil to Levi's Shazam.

Which also leads to one of the film's oddest decisions. Like many DC movies, tone becomes a problem with this movie. "Shazam!" is being heavily advertised as a kid-friendly, fun-loving, lightly-toned superhero movie. For much of its runtime, it certainly is that. But when Doctor Sivana becomes a vessel for demons that represent the seven deadly sins, things become nightmarish quick. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the CGI design of the demons is absolutely scary, and the scenes that involve them can cause nightmares. They went way too dark with certain scenes, and I have read that parents of already been complaining. If you thinking of taking your kids, be warned. There is also some harsh language for a PG-13 rated movie.

Despite these decisions, it was the gracious story arcs and fun nature that eventually won me over. Nothing like Shazam should be gritty, and it was just a fun ride to be on. Its also a movie that has fun with the overall history of the character while also being a contained story. The cameo with D.J. Controna and Adam Brody made me cackle, because if you know DC history, you know back in 2007 D.J. Controna would have played Superman and Brody would have played The Flash in the Justice League movie that almost got made that year. While also being vocal about being in the greater DCEU, it remains a contained story. It isn't connecting the dots like Marvel does. Marvel movies have been very Marvel. In their comics, there are plenty of hero crossovers and grand plans. That's just the nature of the brand. So I really like that "Shazam!" swung in the other direction. Perhaps DC is finding its feet again, and maybe...just maybe, they'll become a real box office challenge for Marvel in the future.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains All-Stars reaches its climax...

A few short weeks ago, I began an all-star edition of March Madness Heroes vs. Villains. I brought back a bunch of heroes and villains I had used in this event from the last four years to see who was the ultimate of awesome. There have been some big surprises along the way, because it wouldn't be a March Madness anything unless there were some surprises. In the end, we finally have our ultimate hero and our ultimate villain, and its time to crown a winner. For the first ever all-star edition of Heroes vs. Villains, we have Batman representing the heroes. He's a guy who has won four out of the five Heroes vs. Villains championships. Then we have Lord Voldemort, who went pretty far in our first ever event five years ago.

Look out for the polls on my social media outlets!Here's a link to my Twitter account. Here's a link to my Facebook account. You can also vote by emailing me at Or you can simply comment in the comment section below. You have ALL WEEKEND to vote. On Monday morning, we will have a winner.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Review: "Captive State" takes a look at a real world alien invasion

Captive State Review
The alien invasion movie is something that is never going to go away. Maybe the sub-genre will fade slightly, maybe it will take a hiatus then eventually get revived. But it will never just go away. Let's be real, Westerns never really went away, they kind of come and go as they please. I also don't think the superhero genre will really go anywhere. Will they be as popular and box office hot as they are right now fifty years from now? Probably not, but I don't think they will actually go anywhere. There is something about genres that resonate deeply with an audience, and the fear of the unknown and the wonder of whether or not we are alone in the universe keeps us guessing what it looks like on the other side of said universe.

Between "Captive State" and "Annihilation" and "Arrival" we are starting to see some very different types of alien invasion movies. While I think the two later are much better compared to the former, I think "Captive State" is fairly well made little invasion film. It tries to be a little bit smarter and a little bit more ambitious then simply aliens come and us humans pick a fight. Instead, it tells a story about how an alien race was able to successfully take over the entire planet without, seemingly, any shots fired. That seems like complicated to the least. How can some aliens just show up on our doorstep and just take us over. It would be so easy to have these massive battles on Earth against an alien threat. But I give "Captive State" some credit for trying something out of the box.

The alien invaders come to be known as The Legislators" and like I said above, they invade Earth with seemingly little to know fighting. They soon take over every aspect of our lives, controlling everything with genuine ease. Apparently, they can't take our sunlight or our air very well? So they force humans to build underground cities for them to live and only certain government officials are allowed in. Nobody else is though. Of course some humans will get mad about this, and a resistance was formed to combat these aliens.

Do I think the story is very original? Not really, but most of these movies work the same. I think where "Captive State" succeeds is in its execution. This takes a sort of real world approach to an invasion. As real world as these things can possibly get, at least. The movie has a real world feel. It feels realistic, it feels gritty. Its brought together by an excellent ensemble. John Goodman, Vera Farminga, Kevin Dunn, Alan Ruck, and D.B. Sweeney round out the supporting cast. These are guys who usually rarely populate movies in the background. But they've mastered that artistry, and they all do great work here. Ashton Sanders, who did incredible work in "Moonlight" a few years ago, shines bright as our eyes into this new, very dangerous world. He has links the human resistance, and he has to play both sides just keep things flowing. Its another profound performance by Sanders, and I think he's got a great career ahead of him.

Plus, I don't think many rappers who try to be actors fair very well. Sure, Ice Cube is really good and has had a nice career. While Eminem was good in "8 Mile," he was basically playing himself. I have to say after both "The Dirt" and now "Captive State," that Machine Gun Kelly can disappear into a role with some ease and he's going to be someone to watch out for in the future.

The treatment of the aliens is pretty clever. We only get glimpses of them in shadows and fog. They seem to have spikes, but other than that, they aren't that interesting looking. Which may explain why they spent much time in the shadows. But this isn't really about how the aliens look. This is about a new world created after being colonized, and how that would sting to some and feel almost like salvation to others. It's a character study of how we find strength inside ourselves in the most overwhelming situations. "Captive State" may not hit a home run out of the ballpark, but it will be a good holdover until summer gets here.


First trailer for Todd Phillips' "Joker" is interesting

I was getting breakfast with an old friend over the weekend, and we were talking about the future of the DC movies. When I told him that DC Films might take a break from the DCEU for awhile, and make DC movies independent of the shared universe. He got a good laugh from that, and I get it. I can only think this will cause mass confusion for the casual fans. It is causing confusion for me, especially since after "Aquaman" and the good things I am hearing about "Shazam!" it seems the DCEU is finally starting to course-correct.

We've been seeing lots of The Joker recently. From Cameron Monaghan's portrayal on Fox's "Gotham," to Jared Leto's performance in "Suicide Squad" and even watching him show up as a minifig in "The LEGO Batman Movie." The character is becoming this close to being overexposed and just plain incorrigible to see on a regular basis. One of my favorite things about The Joker is that we never know where he came from. Sure, there is "The Killing Joke" comic story which served up an origin story, but you find out right at the end that he might have made that whole story up. In fact, also in the current DC comics, Batman recently asked a super-computer who The Joker truly was. Not only did Batman not get an answer from the super-computer, but he found out that there are actually three Jokers running amuck in Gotham City.

So it still seems odd to me that DC suddenly wants to explain the character away. Although it would be an incredible reversal to watch the whole movie in October then find out at the very end that Joaquin Phoenix's character made this whole movie up. That's truly the twist ending I am pulling for currently.

I will say that the first trailer for the movie is interesting. It doesn't completely grab my attention, but I can't in good faith say it looks totally bad. It is said that this movie will be a character study on how a person goes insane, and that could be interesting. I have to say that I am not totally digging Phoenix's look. The Joker has a very distinct look, whether you like it or not. I get the need to remove yourself from what's come before, but the movie will walk a fine line between a Joker movie and a movie about a crazy guy who wears make-up.

They are definitely playing with some Batman mythology and iconography here, so that's a relief. One thing is also for sure, Joaquin Phoenix is going to throw himself at this role, and it should be worth the price of admission just to see what he does with it. The cinematography and mood of the trailer was better than expected. Like I said, it looks interesting. At this point, interesting is enough.

Monday, April 1, 2019

March Madness Heroes vs Villains All-Stars. The FINAL FOUR

The vote is getting crazy. We are getting closer to the end. Things are heating up. We finally have our final four. No longer will characters be battling between movies and TV. Now, we are going to decide our final hero and our final villain. Then those two left standing will face each other once and for all.

For movies, it was an incredibly close vote between Batman and Indiana Jones. But for the character that has won four previous titles in this vote, its no surprise that Batman ended up on top. The big surprise was Lord Voldemort was able to whiz by Darth Vader, in a vote that was much closer than I would have predicted.

On the TV side of things, it was also a total upset. I would not have guessed that Tony Soprano would have beat Walter White, but he did. Somehow he did. Then in the hero bracket, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was somehow able to beat Daryl Dixon. Didn't see either of those coming, but hey, nobody predicts a perfect bracket. Do they? Has that actually ever happened? I don't know.

It's hero vs hero and villain vs villain now. By April 5th, we will have our two representatives in the darkness and the light. You can vote on the polls I set on my social media. You can email me at or fire off in the comment section below. Find me on Facebook here. Find me on Twitter here.


Batman vs. Buffy


Lord Voldemort vs. Tony Soprano