Wednesday, August 28, 2019

New Joker trailer & some thoughts on the toxicity of FilmGeekDom

This was originally going to be a review of the latest "Joker" trailer and we'll still talk about that. But something else today came to my attention that I think is important. So much so that I feel like I need to vent it out on my blog here.

Times have certainly changed since I was just a mere adolescent into adulthood. There was a time when being a "geek" or a "nerd" were words of insult. Where liking certain things in abundance was seen as something negative. I know growing up, I never let anybody know just how much I was into superheroes or how long I actually played with action figures because I was too scared to get made fun of. People were Trekkies, fans of geeky and nerdy genre stuff, they all had certain stereotypes. They were said to be overweight, have bad neck-beards, have no fashion sense or sense of hygiene, they were virgins and they all lived with their parents way past an acceptable age. To be in line with them was to be given a death sentence.

Then in the last decade or so, something happened. The nerds won and they took over the world. Now comic books, anime, Star Wars and Star Trek is all omnipresent in our daily lives. "Godzilla: King of Monsters" is no longer a movie designed for a niche audience. It doesn't necessarily turn a girl off to have a Batman poster in your room. When a 40-year-old man asked in a Marvel Facebook group I belong to if it was acceptable to have a Marvel themed birthday party at his age, he was greeted with hundreds and hundreds of optimistic comments, including one from me. When I attended the Chicago Comic Convention in 2014, it drew a very diverse group of people, and it was such a wonderful thing to see.

There comes a price to all of this though, and it seems like our culture has downgraded into what I call franchise wars. Hey, its 2019, everything is a cultural war these days, yes? That apparently also includes our pop culture. Earlier today, I had made comments somewhere about how I personally wasn't too excited for the upcoming "Joker" movie and how the new trailer did nothing. For me. PERSONALLY.

Boy oh boy, did I get heat for that.

I didn't even know that there were such things as "Marveltards" but apparently I am one of them.

I saw even at a early age how our culture slowly began to break up into camps revolving around franchises and things from our pop culture. That coupled with the devolution of communication in this country has lead to some nasty habits. Today, its not enough to simply like or love something, now everybody has to be in love with the same things your in love with. If they aren't, then it isn't just another opinion, those people are worst people in the world. And we have to let the "others" know just how wrong they are. Not only that, but we have to absolutely justify our opinions in the most wacky of means. "Oh, the tomato-meter is low on this particular it must be a conspiracy." "Oh, you didn't like how the Danereys storyline ended in Game of are just too tied to your fan theories." "The latest DC movie got bad reviews...Marvel paid off all the film critics." I read this stuff, and I can't believe that functioning human beings are actually saying these things. I can't just not look forward to the new Joker movie, I have to worship it, or I am just a biased Marveltard and that means my opinion doesn't matter.

It's weird that our entertainment consumption has come to this but hey, everybody acts like little Man-Children these days about everything. Everything is some kind of conspiracy theory. Everything we don't agree with has to be fake news. Because its only real if I deem it real, right? The freedom of speech is a very wonderful, brilliant and luxurious right to have, but we have plenty of sins to answer for. The birth of the internet has only made matters worse. Today, we can hide behind anonymity while we mercilessly bicker with people. Today, we can tell somebody off over this and that, then simply block or mute them on social media, instantly feeling like we "won" the argument afterward.

It's no secret that I am a Marvel fan. I'll even go as far to say that I prefer Marvel over DC. I just love that world and I love those characters and they appeal deeply to me. Does that automatically mean I want DC to fail? No. There's plenty of DC content I like. When I sit down to watch any movie, whether its superhero or not, whether its studio or independent or whether its foreign or domestic, I want to love the movie. I think people would be surprised how few biases I bring into the theater with me. I am also always happy to be wrong about a movie too. But no matter what my reaction is, its always honest. I am not some paid shill, I do all this blogging for free. I am not trying to sell you an agenda or break somebody down. I am just here to tell my reactions to things, good or bad. You are always more than welcome to disagree with me. Just understand that my words are never meant as a personal attack and that the things you love aren't less just because little old me doesn't care for them.

The best conversations I've ever had about film or other geeky things is with people who don't agree with me. Sometimes talking things out can lead to somebody else to unlock other ideas or catch things you didn't quite get the first time. I may never end up liking that same something, but I can at least respect the decision made. Maybe. You can have conversations like this without having the need to convert somebody. We don't all need to like the same things, if something doesn't appeal to somebody else, just move on. It's not a conspiracy, most people aren't trying to look a certain way. We have to understand that movies, music, books, comics, podcasts, all hits people in different ways. We are all different people emotionally, therefore we all react to different things, and we all need different things emotionally. Don't act like somebody killed your baby simply because they don't like the same things you do.

What kills me is that the internet and other sources play into this bickering on a high level. When somebody who works really close to Warner Brothers says "Joker is so good that it will win Oscars!" I grown out loud. That is such a wildly hyperbolic thing to say and it has no sincerity or urgency to it. How many times has an actor, director, writer, producer, whathaveyou ever mentioned a movie being bad pre-release? It literally never happens, they are supposed to say that kind of stuff. Those types of comments don't make something true simply because somebody close to production says them. Also when a website words an article a certain to draw "debate" to their comment section to drive traffic...yeah that stuff bothers me very much too.

My heart and eyes are much clearer than before on this subject. Simply put, I've been there. I've been the keyboard warrior before. I've been the asshole on the internet. I've been the troll under the bridge. I used to get carried away with the 21st Century Franchise Wars. I've said some pretty rude things to people, both accidentally and purposely, regarding pop culture. I have deemed people enemies for not thinking like me. It makes me sick, and I am genuinely sorry I have done that. From this day forward, I am quitting. I am sick of the franchise wars. I am just going to see the things I want to see and continue to like the things I like.

If you are looking forward to the "Joker" movie. Good. Go see it. Me? I am on the fence. I think Joaquin Phoenix looks good. They've got a great cast. There are some unbelievable shots in the new trailer. But it looks like they borrowed from "The King of Comedy" and "Taxi Driver" too closely. I am personally tired of sympathizing with bad guys in their prequel movies, especially somebody as vile as The Joker. The Joker was always been mysterious and to simply explain him away robs him of his power. Especially giving him such an ordinary upbrining. The whole "society is the real bad guy" motif would have been cool if I was a teenager, but it does nothing for me today. It doesn't even look like a comic book movie, it just looks like a movie about a psycho and DC is just cashing in on an iconic villain.

But, hey, that's just me. Go see it if you want to. Love it for all I care. Just know that I am going to see it too. If I like it, I will tell you. If I detest it, I will tell you. My expectations may be low now, but I am not bringing baggage to the theater. Remember I am reacting to a trailer, and when the movie comes out, the trailers will no longer matter. I am not trying to shit on anyone's feelings, this page has always been talking and celebrating film, and discussing the good and the bad and why we feel this way. I am not being paid by studios to think a certain way, and I don't let my biases rule my feelings. So don't take it as a personal attack if we end up not agreeing.

The nerds rule the world, that should be celebrated

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Review: "Blinded By The Light" is a charming celebration of Springsteen's work, and much more

Blinded By The Light Review
There are two movies playing in 2019 about an Asian man learning life lessons through the music of a legendary rocker. While I thought "Yesterday" was sincere, but ultimately too cute and didn't embrace the fun of its premise. "Blinded By The Light" is a much more grounded tale, and I think it works better in that way as well.

The movie revolves around Javed (Viveik Kalra) a Pakistani teenager living with his immigrant family in smalltown England in 1987. At the height of racial strife in the country, Javed wants so much to be a writer, which greatly upsets his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir). He writes poems and lyrics for a good friend of his, but the friend complains that his words are too depressing. Javed moves into a new school and feels awkward in it. He is only one of two Asian students, but he does quickly befriend the other Roops. Roops is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and when Javed listens to a little Springsteen, he is inspired by what he hears. 

What's especially remarkable about "Blinded By The Light" is how it highlights how art inspires us. Sometimes its a song you hear on the radio, or a movie you watch in the theater, or a book you read at home. All of this has the power to bring something out of all of us that we didn't realize we had in us. Art can always be so much more than entertainment, art is a reflection of us, it possesses things that we can all relate to. How we choose to handle those relations is up to us. Of course we all need and want different things from our pop culture, but that's why different things inspire different people. I personally don't care from "Twilight," but if that series inspires a young girl to write a classic series of our time, then that is truly amazing.

It seems like Javed has floodgates that open deep inside of him, and he quickly becomes a star writer at his school. He is pushed by his English teacher Mrs. Clay (Hayley Atwell), and Springsteen's music not only pushes Javed to be a better writer, but brings him the confidence to ask out his crush, to stand up to racist bigots, and to be a better person. That's another thing about music, it can bring out the best in all of us. That's what this movie is really about. Finding the confidence we have in all of us. Eventually Javed confronts his father about the kind of man he really wants to be, and that's one of the conflicts that drives the film. It may sound cliche, a young man with great ambitions being tied down by the traditions and needs of the parents. But its handled with realism and care in this movie. 

Some people think that this might only appeal to Bruce Springsteen fans. That's not exactly true, not to me at least. As much as "Yesterday" was the greatest hits of the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen being the center of this universe is actually irrelevant. Springsteen is just the artist used to bring forth the true ideas of the movie (although it is based on a true story). I think the movie gets its ideas across very well and you don't need to be a Springsteen fan in order to really like this movie.

The film is brought to life by a terrific ensemble. Kalra is a revelation here, and he plays Javed as a real person. He's got all the quirks and ticks of a teenage boy, but never comes off one-note or not grounded. Its a great performance. Aaron Phagura is very funny as Roops, the friend that gets Javed into Springsteen. Nell Williams plays Eliza, the eventual love interest of Javed. Their romance isn't cringy or cheesy, it feels very real.

Whether you like Springsteen or not or if you've even heard of him, that doesn't matter. This is a charming little movie that everyone will be able to relate to. It might get a little long near the end and it features some familiar cliches. But overall, this is a gracious, elegant movie. It will make you laugh and it will tug on your heart strings. But it will also lift you up, just like your favorite song.


Monday, August 26, 2019

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker second trailer

Man, it would really shake things up if after "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" that the big twist in the trilogy was Rey turns dark and Kylo redeems himself, kills Rey and saves the galaxy. Hence, Rise of Skywalker. But let's be honest, if Rey really was turning dark in this new outing, we wouldn't be seeing it in a trailer. They would keep that underwraps. This is all smoke and mirrors. J.J. Abrams is back in the director chair after all, so of course expect all sorts of obfuscation going on before release. It is the Abrams way.

Plus, let's be honest, Disney doesn't have the balls to turn Rey evil. Seriously, I'd love it if it happened. But it won't.

But "Force Awakens" felt like "A New Hope" and they put elements of "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" in "The Last Jedi." So, I am hoping that "Rise of Skywalker" is something original.

As for Rey, its probably a force vision or a bad dream. If you honestly think she's turning evil, your nuts.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Review: Has The Fast & Furious universe grown too weird with "Hobbs & Shaw?"

Hobbs & Shaw Review

You know, sometimes it makes me laugh, thinking about how much the "Fast & Furious" franchise has changed over the years. I remember when the first movie came out, the days of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. "The Fast and the Furious" was a gritty movie about underground street racing, it had an ultra realistic tone. I wouldn't call "The Fast and the Furious" an action movie, its a crime film. There are small bursts of action in that movie, nothing on the level of what we see in this franchise now. I would never guessed that somebody would drive a car through a building in order to get through a neighboring building in this franchise. Ever. Yet, that and crazier things have happened already.

With "Hobbs and Shaw," the first spin-off of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, there is a supervillain in the movie. I refused to just call the guy the film's villain, because he has implants in his eyes that lets him know when enemy's are going to punch him. When Idris Elba calls himself Black Superman in this movie, its played for laughs. But a part of me asks the other part of me if this series has finally jumped the shark. Literally, has the franchise JUMPED the shark? "Hobbs and Shaw" pushes the franchise so far to the deep end that I'm not sure what to really think of it.

As the "Fast and Furious" movies have grown in number, the car chases have grown crazier and wackier. In "Hobbs & Shaw" There is one giant set piece where several cars are all hooked together with a helicopter for a tail in the air. All while the heroes are being chased by a bad guy who is literally a cyborg. While there are plenty of people who go to movies like this to be wowed by the action and the set pieces and the effects, I can't help but focus on how weird this world has grown and if this at all fits into the greater universe being built.

The basic lowdown on "Hobbs and Shaw" is this, Shaw's sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is an MI-6 agent in charge of a horrible virus. This virus is stolen by Idris Elba's Bixton Lore, a cyber-genetically enhanced terrorist working for a shadowy evil organization called Eteon. He steals the virus and frames Hattie as a traitor. Both Shaw and Hobbs are recruited to retrieve the virus from Bixton. Of course because they are enemies, they are initially annoyed, but of course they'll become buddies as the movie wears on. I'm a little offended that I have to now cheer for Han's killer but whatever.

The premises in this franchise are fairly easy to follow, so that we can make room for several scenes of car chases, unbelievable stunts and plenty of red shirt henchmen getting their faces pummeled. This time though, everything is cranked up so much that it may feel a bit numbing at times. Of course, I stopped taking these movies seriously several episodes ago, but the more they try to make these unbelievable, the more they rewrite the rules of this universe, the more awkward it is to sit through these movies.

Its a good thing The Rock and Statham are both charisma machines because they make it very easy to buy into the movie's absurdities. They make it easy for the audience to cheer for them. It's also nice Idris Elba brings as much humility he possibly can to a purposely cartoonish bad guy. They make this rather dumb movie at least somewhat fun. They committed to these characters to the point where I actually cared that Hobbs and Shaw won the day. Which I think is the most you can ask for with a film like this. I also hope you guys enjoy the cameos by Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart. I hope you also listened real close for Keanu Reeves voice cameo.

There was a wild rumor that somebody somewhere wants to put "Fast and Furious" in space, and I don't know if I want to throw my hands up and say "too much" or I want to continue to just enjoy the ride, but I guess we'll see. This continues to be a moneymaker so I guess people don't care how crazy things get. There's a difference between trying something new and forgetting what you are, I hope this mistake isn't made.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Anybody excited for The Matrix 4

I love the whole Matrix trilogy.

There I said it.

"The Matrix" is revered as one of the finest motion pictures of the 90's. The two sequels from 2003 came with mixed results at best. But you know what, I like all of them. I recently watched the two sequels back in winter and I found myself still enjoying them. It's a fun trilogy, original in creation and huge in scale.

Despite thinking that "Revolutions" was about as good an ending this thing could conjure, we are getting a fourth Matrix film. So far, Carrie Ann-Moss is returning as Trinity and Keanu Reeves is returning as Neo. Hey, The Oracle said we'd probably see him again some day. It's science fiction, nobody ever really dies in science fiction. Lana Wachowski wrote, produced and directed the three Matrix movies with her sister Lily. Lana is attached to the fourth film in some regard, no word on Lily yet.

That's all the information we got so far, other than Warner Brothers is apparently beyond happy to jump back into the franchise. For now, I am anxiously waiting for a sequel and more details. This is small time right now, as pre-production as pre-production can be. So let's just wait and see where they go from here.

Tom Rothman is a Supervillain

Tom Rothman is a Supervillain.

As you may have already heard, the shared deal between Sony and Disney to allow Spider-Man to be featured in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise has ended. The deal was to allow Spidey to show up in the Disney/Marvel Studios film while Sony hot a percentage of sales revenue. Spidey's package included three Marvel appearances (Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame) and then a trilogy. It was to be expected that any type of negotiations or renewing of a deal would have taken place after the third proposed "Spider-Man" movie. But I guess those negotiations took place sooner and Sony bowed out of the deal. Disney simply wanted a little more money for their work, and Rothman got Sony to say no.

Yes, I have already heard people talking that Disney got greedy. There is certainly a little truth to that. But think about it. Businesses usually go into business deals to get something out of them. Sony came to Disney because they had no idea how to manage Spider-Man properly as a property. Disney put the character into their franchise, fostered him creatively, and made two solo movies that made tons of cash for the box office, making Sony very rich. If you are in a business deal with somebody and you doing most of the work for little of the profits, would you not at least try to negotiate for better?

Tom Rothman is a head executive producer over at Sony, and before he worked at Sony, he worked for 20th Century Fox. Would any of you find it interesting that Rothman didn't believe in "X-Men" when was being made for the year 2000? Do you know that Rothman cut the budget for "X-Men" and moved up the release date on Bryan Singer? There are several more stories about how Rothman tried to fuck up "X-Men." It was a property he thought was going to fail. The rub is, it didn't fail, and thankfully Singer was given a bit more freedom to make "X2" even better. You can tell that Rothman's ego was nearly demolished, because there was a massive slowdown on production for "X3" afterward, despite the big money the film brought in. He tried to take over a year to negotiate a deal for Bryan Singer's treatment for "X3," he wanted to tell the Phoenix Saga and he wanted shoot "X3" and "X4" back to back. But Rothman stalled on a deal with Singer as well as a release date for "X3."

So you know what happened? Bryan Singer got hired to make "Superman Returns" instead. Rothman then proceeded to speed up production on "X3," going through several directors who eventually bailed on the project before Brett Ratner was set in stone. The whole point of all of this was because Rothman was determined to beat Singer's Superman to the big screen. Whether you like "X3" or whether you don't, there is no denying that if Rothman had just set Singer and his production team in place for "X3" the week after "X2" crushed it at the box office, we would have probably got a vastly superior "X3" than the one we eventually got.

Rothman has done things like this his whole career. Remember "Independence Day?" 1996? Big alien spaceships? Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman? Yeah? It was one of the highest grossing pictures of that year. It sold the audience and a very clever marketing scheme, in fact, I'd call it the best marketed movie of the whole 1990's (maybe disputing the marketing on "Blair Witch Project," honestly that's a tough call). The movie was wildly popular upon release. So you know what Rothman did? He rushed the team behind "Independence Day" off Fox because he wanted to pay them half what he paid them for the first film for a sequel. Seriously, greenlighting a sequel to "Independence Day" a month after it came out should have been a no-brainer. "Independence Day" could have been a major franchise today, instead when a sequel finally came out twenty years later, nobody cared. All because Rothman is a shrewd business man.

Over the course of Rothman's tenure at Fox, several major blockbuster filmmakers stopped making their movies over there. Rothman is a man more obsessed with release dates and fiscal quarters instead of making movies people are going to like. I don't know, maybe he's possessed by Satan too, and Satan just wants to make people like this type of stuff suffer. Rothman is a ruiner of fun, and he needs to be stopped.

I don't know if anything resembling a miracle is going to come out of this. The weird thing is Tom Holland is still attached to play Spider-Man. How is Sony going to explain in a Tom Holland Spider-Man movie that all the MCU related connections are just gone? How do you make a Holland movie without referring to his past that is already established? You can't, so Sony's best bet would be reboot the franchise...for a third fucking time. The way Sony handles reboots...well...I guess get ready to watch Uncle Ben die for a third time. Sure, Sony got things right with "Enter The Spider-Verse" that doesn't mean they get to be ruiner of fun.

The MCU moving forward is also going to be kind of awkward just dropping Spidey from its continuity. How do you even explain that?

But hey, Venom and Spidey get to team-up now! ....

Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: "Good Boys" is a mini-Superbad

Good Boys Review
When I reflect upon the movies of the 2000's, I remember that it was a rich year for comedy. It was the height of Judd Apatow, the emergence of Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell and Danny McBride. I loved, and continue to love movies like "Anchorman," "Superbad," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Knocked Up," "The Hangover," "The 40 Year Old Virigin," "Tropic Thunder," "The Pineapple Express," "Talladega Nights," "Step Brothers," "Role Models" and "Wet Hot American Summer." That's not including British comedies and the offbeat stuff like Wes Anderson's run or something like "Napoleon Dynamite. That's also not including "The Room," which apparently wasn't a comedy in the first place but became one by default.

The 2010's didn't really have that same surge of raunchy, rowdy, R-rated comedy that the 2000's did. Sure, we get a "Get Him To The Greek" or a "Sausage Party" every once in a good while, but we are not getting the output we got last decade. It seems lots of the big guns of comedy moved to the small screen, and I definitely laughed way more in the comfort of my home instead at the movie theater this decade. I was really starting to think that those off-the-way R-rated comedies were put on hold for the decade.

Then something like "Good Boys" comes out, and shows me just what I needed.

Seth Rogen was behind this one and you could easily write off "Good Boys" as a mini-Superbad, and by and large, you'd kind of be right. Its about three friends who do some really bad things in order to get to a party they feel they NEED to get to. Sounds exactly like "Superbad" right? We aren't dealing with high school kids this time though, we are dealing with 6th graders. The world of grade school is not the same world as high school. But its still an environment ripe for big laughs. Seth Rogen scores everyone.

We meet Max (Jacob Trembley), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams). These boys have been best friends for a really long time and now they are about to face middle school together. They are going through budding puberty, discovering they like girls, and hoping to have a first kiss soon. Thor is a kid with a great singing voice, but he doesn't want anyone to know about it. He is often made fun of because he chickened out on drinking beer. Lucas is a good-hearted, boy scout type being rocked by his parents' impending divorce. Max didn't chicken out on drinking beer with the other boys though and he gets invited to Soren's house (Izac Wang), the most popular boy in school. Max's crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) is going to be there, and Max wants to make her his.

Max is able to convince Soren to let him bring Thor and Lucas to the party. The boys spend their afternoon after school trying to find kissing videos, which they accidentally only find porn. Max decides to use his dad's drone to spy on his older next door neighbor, a high school girl named Hannah (Molly Gordon) only to get the drone stolen. Thor steals Hannah's drugs she got for a concert she's attending. Knowing he'll get in trouble if he loses his fathers drone and really needing to go to Soren's party, Max can't get grounded. So he convinces Thor and Lucas to skip school with him so they can obtain a new drone and still get to the party that night.

That's the movie. Instead of  three high school students trying to get alcohol for an entire party so they can get laid. Three middle school friends are trying to get a drone so they can get to a party for their first kiss. Again, if you merely write-off "Good Boys" simply because it follows a familiar template, you are missing out. There is a sincerity and a sweetness to the comedy, because the boys are so young. Sure, these 12-year-olds know every bad word in the book. But the comedy boils down to much more than just "LOOK, THAT LITTLE BOY IS SAYING FUCK!" Consider a scene where the boys are selling a rare playing card for a popular Magic The Gathering style game. They are home alone and feel the need to find weapons in case the buyer is a kidnapper or a pedophile. Their "weapons" of choice are a bunch of sex toys belonging to Thor's parents. They don't know that though, they are merely 12-year-olds.

The movie is also engaging because the three boys are such good actors. We've been seeing Tremblay in many things now, and I have a feeling he's going to be one of the best actors of his generation. Noon and Williams are both exceptional young actors as well. This trio bounces off of each other pretty well. They play it believable. Sure, these are kids that know lots of curse words. But you know what? So did I, and I don't mind admitting that. These kids are playing movie characters, they are playing kids. Kids at twelve years of age. When they all have a big fight in the middle of the movie ,they all go their separate ways crying. They feel their age, not something that isn't real.

This isn't a movie that is trying to be cool. This isn't a movie that tries to make these characters look anything more than young teenagers. This is why the movie works. It feels real. This cast gave it their all, and the writing remains bold. "Good Boys" may look similar given the material, but in the hands of this cast and these situations, its something much different.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Is the Age of Nostalgia really working for you?

This was originally going to be a write-up on "Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling," the new short film on Netflix, and the first time Rocko has been on any type of syndication in a long time.

But, that won't be happening.

Sure, I watched the short. I enjoyed it. I was a fan of the animated show growing up. It had some funny moments of Rocko tackling modern life, and threw in some good puns here and there. But one thing kept nagging at me in the back of head. That nagging translated out to the following: did somebody somewhere really ask for this? I know fandoms create petitions and GoFundMe's all the time for revivals like this, with some arguably successful results, but was anybody's life really incomplete without Rocko in it anymore?

As we round out another decade of entertainment, it feels like we are living in the least creative time for screened media that I can name. Maybe I'm just missing something and when TV and film historians look back on this time many years later, maybe they'll have some bigger positives then I do. But I can't help it, we have become obsessed with what I can only describe as an Age of Nostalgia. Television has revamped several television shows. Disney keeps making live action movies of old animated classics. Things that haven't been popular in years are being talked as movies or shows. Just today I read about a new "G.I. Joe" spin-off series in the works, and I wonder, for how unpopular the first two movies were, why even bother?

I mean, the lack of creativity at the movie theater is already pretty daunting. Just a quick skim of Fandango would tell you that. Ask yourselves what the last movie you saw in a theater was that wasn't part of a franchise, wasn't based upon a comic book or novel, wasn't a spin-off, wasn't a remake, wasn't a prequel or sequel, wasn't some shameless rehash. It's a tough question to answer, isn't it? It's not like the 1990's where indie cinema got a fair shake, if you want something different, a true original voice, you literally have to WORK for it. Hell, genre movies aren't even trying to outdo anything else. Everyone studio is incorrigibly chasing "The Next Star Wars" or "The Next Game of Thrones." Apparently afraid to just make the next Big Thing.

I would also argue that this need to satisfy our nostalgic needs kind of plays into that. We would rather see a relaunch of something from their childhood than see someone try something new or different. I have to ask, is that what we really want. Is this really satisfying everyone? I can say for me personally, the results have been pretty meh. Live action "Lion King" did nothing for me, because its basically animated "Lion King," just with better animation. On the TV side, I only made it through a season and a half of "Fuller House," I only made it through a few episodes of "Roseanne" and the newest "X-Files" seasons were a waste of time.

The thing is, I really enjoyed "Twin Peaks: The Return" and I still hold lots of love for "Mad Max: Fury Road," and I think the reasons those two things clicked with me is that they were updates that still felt apart of their old worlds. They presented real development instead of treading water (which I think the shows above only did.) I may not be crazy about "Static Cling," but it at least had some funny insight of what it would be like now that Rocko is in a modern world, and they milked some good laughs from that concept. We can't just pretend time hasn't gone by, I need updates to be smarter and more clever, not just the same thing over again. Why even do that?

But there needs to be a balance, something that gives people what they want, without completely changing what it is they are making. Take the upcoming animated "Addams Family" trailer. I don't know what that is seriously supposed to be, but that ain't Addams Family...

You can go too far to different that it makes the thing you are trying to make unrecognizable. As with anything, there needs to be a fine line between an update and the same that needs to be struck for it to really be successful.

At the end of the day, I long for things that are new. I like being challenged. I like the potential of seeing something become a new franchise and we are just redoing everything, and making franchise of stuff we liked as kids, it doesn't allow for new creations. That makes me kind of sad.

Am I the only one? Do you honestly think "Top Gun 2" will work literally 33 years later? Are you counting down the days for the "Avatar" sequels? Are you longing day by day for a "Xena: Warrior Princess" reboot? Should I send Hollywood my scripts for "Street Sharks" and "Lost: The Movie" to see if they get made?

It seems the results are mixed at best. The DCEU is completely revamping what they are doing their DC superheroes, not connecting them to a universe. Universal Studios keeps trying to make their old school universal monsters a thing, and they've failed twice now. Nobody came and saw "Independence Day 2" in 2016. So I do wonder if it just depends on what the nostalgia is or if people are really asking for these things.

No matter what though, we are eventually going to run out of rebooting the things we love, then what are we going to do?

I was taught for years in school that each story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The end is part of the story. So I wonder if a story just keeps going on and on and on...does the story become less special?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: "Batman: Hush" is another satisfying DC animation installment

Batman: Hush Review
The general consensus is that "Batman: Hush" is one of the best Batman stories ever told. Originally written by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, it tells the story of how a mysterious new villain called Hush tries to destroy Batman. Hush recruits a whose-who of Batman villains, and the story features many fun twists and turns. It's ripe for a good adaptation, and still to this day, I am blown away we haven't seen Hush show up in the live-action movies yet. But, I have enjoyed, time and time again, the wonderful animated DC movies, and it seemed like a perfect fit.

Is this movie a frame-by-frame direct retelling of the original comic book? No, they made some differences. Honestly, some of the differences make up my list of gripes. In the novel, Hush is revealed to be Thomas Elliot. Elliot is an old friend of Bruce Wayne, they grew up as friends. Elliot has some dark secrets and demons and he blames the Wayne family for them, which explains why he becomes a villain later on. He knows seemingly everything about Bruce Wayne, even that he's Batman. He remains several steps ahead of Batman during his whole plot, always covering his tracks. While he gets other villains involved it is essentially his plan. This movie changes things up a bit, and I don't think I liked the differences here. Without giving anything away, they take away that prowess of Elliot and it rubbed me wrong. 

But hey, Batman gets a pretty fleshed out romance with Catwoman. I mean, it gets really fleshed out. Some really good development takes place here. Its cool to see Catwoman as a believable anti-hero, as she's been an on again, off again villain for awhile. 

The animation is, as to be expected, top notch. It's a harrowing adventure that plays a little rougher, if you are getting tired of all the kid-friendly superhero movies coming out. This is yet another good animated movie to add to the collection.

Review: "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" is a pretty nifty adaptation

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Review
I have been a big horror fan pretty much all my life, and I have hunch as to what lead to that fascination. While I've been a fan of authors like Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Edgar Allen Poe, I think the author that really set me over the edge of horror fandom was Alvin Schwartz. Schwartz wrote three anthologies under the "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" moniker. The stories were aimed at children, and I collected these anthologies when I was in 3rd and 4th grade. The stories were fairly easy to read, and had many humorous moments. But there was stuff that really got under the skin of young readers. Did I mention the artwork in the books? Because damn, it was nightmare-inducing. In fact, as the anthologies got reprinted, the original artwork was taken out as it was deemed too scary for young readers.

For a long time I tried to imagine a screened version of "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark," I didn't care if it would be a movie, a TV series or some kind of mini-series. I wanted to see someone step up to the plate and give it a try. I learned maybe two or so years ago that a movie was being planned. I pretty much jumped for joy when I read that Guillermo del Toro would be involved. As the movie got closer to release, I was bummed that it wasn't going to be a natural anthology.

At the same time, I get it. Anthologies are tough, they are only as good as their best story, and as bad their worst story. So maybe creating an original movie binding the stories, a la "Goosebumps" wasn't all that bad an idea. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the movie that was created here. Do I think it's a perfect movie? Absolutely not. The movie certainly plays the cliche game throughout. I think my dream adaptation would be a Twilight Zone style television series, where each story gets its own spotlight and can get fully explored. But hey, director Andre Ovredal did the best possible job he could to find a unique and cool way to throw in as many stories as possible.

The movie takes place in 1968, and we follow horror fan Stella (Zoe Colletti) and her two friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur). They get together on Halloween night in that year of 1968, and they eventually meet a new friend Ramon as they sneak into his car at a drive-in movie to get away from some bullies. Ramon is played by Michael Garza. Before we get too far into this review, let me point out that all four of these children don't even have Wikipedia pages yet. They are about as unknown as unknown actor gets. I have to say, for child actors, they give 110% to their roles. I think they did their very best and when I care about the fates of characters in a horror movie, that's a good sign. I cared about these guys.

This foursome decide to check out a supposed haunted house. The house originally belonged to the Bellow family, which helped found the town. Inside the haunted house they find a secret room belonging to the family's daughter Sarah. They also find Sarah's book of scary stories, the legend has it that if Sarah told you a story, it was the last story you'd ever hear. Sarah was removed from all family photographs, so even the family was afraid of her. So of course, the group eventually leaves the house with the book. Similar to the "Goosebumps" movie, the famous stories from Schwartz's anthologies begin to appear in the book as if by magic. Sure enough, they begin to come true in the town and terrorize the people of the town. Unlike "Goosebumps" though, this isn't some comedy where a silly version of Alvin Schwartz appears to help our group. The kids are on their own, and the results are sometimes fatal. We see lots of disturbing things happening to young people. Take a scene where a teenager begins to turn into a scarecrow and vomit hay. Much like the original artwork, this is a horror movie that really goes all out on the scares, and I applaud Ovredal for never holding back.

 For this movie, I was scared they'd water down the scares and numb the movie down a bit. But oh no, that's not true at all. I've read on Twitter that parents who took their kids to this were told by their kids that they probably won't sleep that night. I was amazed by the atmosphere created in this movie based on children's stories, and I was similarly amazed by the creepy scenes. I don't know if I'd say they all land, but the mood and atmosphere created for this was totally shocking.

I wish they cooked up a story that wasn't so similar to "Goosebumps." But like I said, they tried. It's not a perfect horror movie. In fact, better ones have already come out this year. But I have to say, that I went in with low expectations, and I ended up liking the result. I hope fans of the old Schwartz stories have a good time in the theater, and get all the nostalgic feels. 


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Review: My SPOILER-FILLED mumbling on my tardy "Spider-Man: Far From Home" Review

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review
People, and Americans seemingly in general, seem to have a hard time giving others credit for things. It seems to tough for many people to ask for help, to look like they need it. We love getting all the credit for our own work, even if we do sometimes work it teams. How do we measure the worth of someone in a team? Also, when and how do people decide that something they've help create is their own? Think back on the Mark Zuckerberg case with the Winklevoss (spelling?) twins. How much of that story to believe is true? We are also living in a time where we have to be the best at what we do, and nobody can do it better than us.

These are thoughts I had in my head as I watched Quentin Beck reveal his plot. Sometimes, it helps having expectations completely get reversed watching a movie. Anybody who has casually picked up a comic book or vaguely remembers the old "Spider-Man" cartoon probably knew that Jake Gyllenhaal's Quentin Beck was secretly a bad guy. I figured it'd be revealed he'd be bad. Sure enough, I was right. Just how far they'd go with his character was a huge, and nice, surprise.

But before we really get to know Quentin Beck, we get back into the life of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his crush MJ (Zendaya) and his rival Flash (Tony Revolori) and how they deal with the fallout of the Snap. Which isn't called The Snap anymore, it is referred to as The Blip. That event from five years ago, where half the universe's population suddenly disappeared. I was hoping that his movie would discuss this in at least some form, and it's the source of some of the film's early laughs. The kids are discussing how weird it is that their class is full of kids who came back to life from Hulk's Infinity snap and kids who grew up five years older. They are also dealing with how bummed they are that they have to redo their previous year of high school from the beginning. After such a turbulent year, they need a vacation, and Peter, Ned, MJ, and Flash go on a school Europe trip during the early days of summer. Peter wants to leave his spider-suit at home, only for his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) to pack it anyway.

It wouldn't have mattered of course. Because Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been tracking Peter all the way to Europe. Peter has known this as well, he's been ignoring calls from Fury for a few weeks. He really wants to enjoy his European vacation, but Fury can't let him. Seems like there are attacks all over the world, that creatures that represent a different element have come from an alternate Earth to destroy Peter's reality. The only survivor of that alternate Earth is Quentin Beck and Fury is pairing him up with Spider-Man to battle the Elementals, since apparently all the surviving heroes from the battle with Thanos are either off-Earth or unavailable, its up to Spider-Man to help.

One of the biggest appeals of Spider-Man is how a hormone-filled teenager balances the turbulent terrain of the high school years, budding adulthood and also committing to be a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. That appeal is front and center in this movie, and Holland continues to be a pitch-perfect Peter Parker. He's got this "cute" plan to ask MJ to be his girlfriend, using the romance of Europe as an aide. But how can he do that when the world is seemingly in peril? Its the relation to those crazy teenage years that drives the drama of the movie, and these actors have done nice work making this feel very real. They look like regular high school kids with their own needs and their own pressures. Adding the fate of the world in Peter's case makes Peter's journey all the more engrossing.

And that's all before Peter discovers Quentin is a fraud and he's been controlling the Elementals the whole time.

Quentin Beck is an ex-Stark Industries employee who helped create some top-of-the-line tech for Tony and got no credit for it and was eventually fired for being too unstable. Man, that's the type of character Gyllenhaal can do in his sleep, no wonder they hired him. Beck leads a disgruntled cabal of ex-Stark Industries employees who are trying to help turn Beck into a hero. Sure, one could say that this feels like the Marvel version of "The Incredibles" but Beck is trying to make sure there's no more special people, he's just ready for people to finally know his name. He wants to finally contribute to society after being ignored by his former employer. He's ready to show the world how great his brain is, and get that fame, that recognition. Even if it means people will die.

Once it is revealed how great an illusionist Beck is, it leads to some of the most unique visuals in a superhero movie yet. The two showdowns between Spidey and Beck are just cool. They're just amazingly cool. Its amazing just watching the challenge that Beck presents to Spider-Man and the special effects work, as expected, is phenomenal.

The film is filled with fun performances. Batalon continues to be a trusty friend to Peter, and I liked that he got a short yet sweet love story of his own in this movie. Zendaya is subtly funny as MJ here. Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove are also funny as the two chaperone teachers who go on the trip with the students. Jake Gyllenhaal, like I said, is really good playing charming unstable, and he definitely makes you feel for his dilemma, even if we disagree with his methods, which are always my favorite type of villains. No doubt, the best surprise was J.K. Simmons showing up in the post-credit scene as J. Jonah Jameson. Yep, the same actor has played the same character in two different universes. Make no mistake, this isn't the same Jameson from the Sam Raimi movies. The MCU version is a Alex Jones clone, essentially. I am very interested in an MCU where superheroes have to be also deal with fake news media and how journalists will begin to manipulate a story for clicks on their websites.

Overall, "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is a great coda to the first 22 movies of the MCU. A sign of a bright future. The reminder that Spider-Man is in magnificent hands over at Marvel Studios and Disney and also sheds light on some wonderful possibilities for future stories. Not only that, the movie has some smart things to say about legacy, how we move on from tragedy, navigating the teenage years, and the hardships of becoming a household name. This wasn't the movie I thought it was going to be, and sometimes that's just what I need.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Haunt trailer

I like a good horror movie just like the next person.

Eli Roth as producer scares me a bit, I think he's kind of a hack.

But the writers of "A Quiet Place" both writing and directing this gives me hope. I am hoping for the best.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Bloodline Trailer

Well, you've never seen Seann William Scott like this before, that is definitely something new. I was just thinking to myself the other day just where the hell this guy went. But rest assured, it doesn't look like anybody will be laughing at him when "Bloodline" is released.

As for the trailer itself, well I can definitely relate to the anxiety of bringing a newborn baby home. Its one of the most uplifting, happy and sometimes terrifying experiences ever. But I can't say I've been so anxiety-ridden that I go into the night and kill people. This looks like "Dexter The Movie." Giving somebody an outlet to kill and we are supposed to not feel guilty rooting for them because they are killing bad people. It seems awfully familiar.

So I am hoping this trailer is a little misleading and hopefully its got something clever under its sleeve. I am easily intrigued by this new Scott.