Granny’s Peach Tea: The DCEU Revisited – Man of Steel (2013)

In 2013, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel, the much-anticipated reboot of the Superman franchise. While not confirmed until later, it ended up as the start of the DC Extended Universe. To say that DC and Warner Bros. have experienced a few bumps along the way would be an understatement. DC’s attempt to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a disaster, stumbling over critical and financial roadblocks. In light of the recently released Justice League, I’ve decided to go back and re-watch them, to answer the question of whether or not the films of the DCEU are really as bad as we’ve all come to accept. Are they all jars of piss, or are some of them actually granny’s peach tea? Let’s take a look.

Man of Steel (2013)

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The DCEU has become something of a joke in the film community. Between the messiness of the films themselves, the critical reaction, and the fan reaction to said critical reaction, the films of the DCEU have become the targets of much ire, some deserved, and some not. It seems as if we’ve been mocking these movies for ages, but the DCEU is actually a fairly recent development. In 2013, the DCEU was nothing but a dream in the minds of DC fans everywhere. It wasn’t until July of 2013 that we knew that Man of Steel was the start of something larger, and while it was not without its detractors, it was far from the mess that we’ve come to expect from DCEU films.

There’s a lot to like in Man of Steel. I honestly think that it’s a decent movie; it may even be a good one. The film looks fantastic, the effects hold up, and the cinematography is kinetic. Henry Cavill is actually a pretty damn good Clark Kent and the rest of the cast is equally superb. Michael Shannon plays Zod with conviction, and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a better female character than you’ll find in most Marvel films. The action is great and the soundtrack is fantastic. So what’s the problem? As I said, I honestly think that Man of Steel is a decent movie; it may even be a good one, but what it’s not is a good Superman movie.

When people ask me what my problem with Man of Steel is, I can direct them to one scene – the scene in which Clark Kent stands by and watches his father get consumed and killed by a tornado. The film’s reasoning is this: Pa Kent feels that the world isn’t ready for the existence of Superman. He believes that humanity can’t handle it and that if Clark reveals himself, people won’t accept him. He does this out of love, because he wants to protect his adopted son. I get it. I can almost understand where that character is coming from. What I can’t understand is why Clark Kent would stand by and watch his father die, even knowing that his father wouldn’t want him to save him. That’s not the Superman that I’m familiar with. The scene drives me insane every time I watch it. Pa Kent runs into the storm to save a dog, and as he limps away and Clark goes to react, he shakes his head. Clark obeys, and he stands there and watches as his father is swept away. Putting aside the fact that Clark could use his speed to get in and out without anybody seeing him, I still don’t accept it. It’s his FATHER. How many of you respect your parents enough that if their life was in danger and you could easily save them, you’d let them die simply because they told you to do so? Even if you think you WOULD do that, the fact remains that you’re not Superman. Superman should be better. Superman should save his father. Superman WOULD save his father. The problem is that this isn’t Superman.

That’s not the only point in the movie in which it’s clear that this isn’t the Superman we all know, but it’s the one that stands out to me the most. Yeah, Superman kills Zod, and destroys Smallville and Metropolis, but it’s his FATHER! I just can’t suspend my disbelief over that plot point. I’ve seen a lot of defenses written of the DCEU, the most common being that the story being told in these films is the story of a world which isn’t ready for heroes. That’s the main idea that Pa Kent’s sacrifice was meant to illustrate. Humanity is flawed, and therefore so are its heroes. That’s all well and good. I think that there is merit to that story. The problem is that that isn’t the story that anybody wanted. When Man of Steel was announced, we thought we were getting a Superman movie. What we got instead, was an extension of the themes Zack Snyder worked with in his Watchmen adaptation. Maybe if we had known this fact going in, people would have been more receptive to Man of Steel – as things stand, I think what people wanted was something that more closely resembled a classic Superman story. We already got a Watchmen movie; we didn’t need “Superman through the lens of Watchmen”. Unfortunately, that’s what we got – a movie in which an alien from another planet crash lands on Earth and is raised by someone who believes that he should hide who he is, even if it means the deaths of others. It’s the story of a super-powered individual who doesn’t know how to be a hero yet, as illustrated by the swathe of destruction he carves throughout the entire movie. If that’s the story you’re going to tell, then be up front about it. Come out and say “Hey, this isn’t the Superman story that you’re expecting”. In that situation, I’m probably fine with the movie we received in Man of Steel – I’m all about alternative takes on superheroes. The mistake here was in using this take on Superman to launch the DCEU – they started a superhero universe with a movie in which heroes don’t seem to exist.

Verdict: 60% Granny’s Peach Tea/40% Jar of Piss

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Movie Review: Justice League

I didn’t hate it.

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That may seem like an odd way to begin a review, so let’s back up for a second. I have long been what you might call a “DCEU hater”. I openly mock most of the films and constantly question the decision-making going on behind the scenes. I’ll admit, it’s fun to pile on, especially with the way DCEU fans react every time a new DC film gets bad reviews. Most of the time I’m just trolling, but I’m also legitimately frustrated with the state of DC’s cinematic universe.

Many people think that I’m just a Marvel fanboy. I’ve been a Marvel fan my entire life and I legitimately see the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one of the most impressive cinematic achievements of all time. They’ve created a 17-film universe (with 7 more on the way) while managing to maintain a consistent level of quality. Furthermore, the universe has spread onto the small screen, with 200 episodes of related television (and much more on the horizon). Questions of quality aside, that’s pretty damn impressive – unprecedented, even. Marvel has set the standard for what it means to have a shared universe, and while it’s true that I prefer them, I also love DC and their characters. The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I’m a big fan of what the CW has been doing with their DC shows. Comics-wise, DC has been kicking Marvel’s ass ever since their “DC Rebirth” initiative last year. All-in-all, I like DC only slightly less than I like Marvel, which is where the frustration comes in. I would love to see an amazing DC Extended Universe. If at times it seems like I’m rooting for these movies to fail, it’s only because I want them to get better. While Justice League makes some improvements on the formula of past DCEU films, it’s not the “better” that I’ve been hoping for.

Like all of the DCEU films before it, there are things to like in Justice League. The characters are, for the most part, very well done. Batman and Wonder Woman, who both shone in Batman v Superman, are dependably good here, although they’re not quite as compelling as they’ve been in the past. This time, it’s the newcomers who really shine. Ezra Miller’s Flash and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman serve as the film’s comedic relief, although they fulfill this role in completely different ways. Miller’s Flash is the awestruck, excitable team member who’s constantly putting himself in awkward situations, while Momoa’s Aquaman is, for lack of a better term, an aloof “bro” who openly mocks the other team members. Both of these character’s sound kind of awful on paper, but it works surprisingly well in the movie. If nothing else, I can say that I’m excited to see where both of these characters go in each of their upcoming films. Superman also makes a strong showing, as he’s finally allowed to become the hero we’ve always wanted him to be. The real surprise, however, is Cyborg. If you’re anything like me, you saw Ray Fisher in those trailers and thought “yuck”. While his CG armor still looks pretty bad, Ray Fisher infuses the character with a ton of humanity, and in many ways he becomes the beating heart at the center of the film. You may or may not know that Cyborg was originally a member of the Teen Titans, and it wasn’t until DC’s “New 52” reboot in 2012 that he became a founding member of the Justice League. I agree with what I’ve seen some others say: this film is the first time in which it has felt like Cyborg actually BELONGS on the Justice League. I wish that supporting characters like J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon and Amber Heard’s Mera had bigger roles to play, but I suppose it’s only fitting that the focus was put on the Justice League itself. They are by far the best part of the movie. It’s too bad they couldn’t have faced a more fitting villain.

If the Justice League are the best part of the film, then their adversary, Steppenwolf, is the worst. If you have no idea who Steppenwolf is, you’re not alone. I’ve been reading comics my entire life and I barely have a clue who Steppenwolf is, and after seeing Justice League, I’m still unsure. He’s your shallow, run-of-the-mill CGI villain whose sole role is to be strong enough and menacing enough that these strangers have to team up to defeat him – in other words, he’s a glorified punching bag. It’s truly a shame that they didn’t launch this team with a stronger villain – DC’s Avengers could have really used a Loki. Say what you will about Michael Shannon’s Zod, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, and Jared Leto’s Joker, but at least they tried for something less generic. Steppenwolf is just lifeless. He’s so bad that Joss Whedon (who directed a significant portion of this film, but we’ll get to that) favorited a tweet asserting that Steppenwolf is the worst comic book movie villain of all time. When the co-director of the movie thinks your villain is bad, you’ve got a problem.

By now you’re probably wondering, “Okay, so the characters are good and the villain is bad. You just described most Marvel films. What makes this one worse?” Well, that’s a very good question, and the answer is kind of hard to explain. The DCEU, with the exception of Wonder Woman, has been a complete mess up until this point. I’ve seen all those movies numerous times, and while watching, I’m constantly trying to figure out what exactly DC was going for. My current “theory”, which is backed up by, well, other people’s theories, is that Zack Snyder attempted to tell a story about super heroes in a world that wasn’t ready for them. They weren’t trying to copy Marvel, they were going for a more grounded, cynical approach. It was the story of powerful, flawed men learning to become heroes in a world that didn’t want their help. I don’t know why we expected anything different from the “visionary” mind behind the Watchmen adaptation.

While Snyder’s approach had its proponents, critics and general audiences vastly favored Marvel’s fun, colorful, humorous universe. Additionally, while the films of the DCEU were ambitious, two of them were a complete mess; neither Batman v Superman nor Suicide Squad felt cohesive. They’re shattered fragments of a whole that have been stitched together by the studio into something vaguely resembling a film. Snyder and Ayer both faced an enormous amount of studio meddling and neither was able to see their vision fully realized on the screen (although I’m sure the Extended Cut of Batman v Superman comes close). Warner Bros. heard the cries of audiences that wanted shorter, funnier, and lighter films, but they were unable to rework their directors’ visions into something that resembled a Marvel film. With Justice League, they’ve come closer than they ever have before, but all of the backdoor meddling has lead to a film with a debilitating identity crisis.

Justice League, in many ways, feels like a soft reboot of the DC Extended Universe. It’s a far cry from Snyder’s first two films: the color palette is lighter, the characters crack jokes, and the heroes are finally allowed to behave like heroes. I believe this is due, in large part, to the involvement of Avengers director Joss Whedon. As the story goes, Snyder was dissatisfied with the first cut of Justice League, so he brought Joss Whedon in to help punch up the script for reshoots. During this process, Snyder and his wife Deborah, herself a producer on the film, suffered a horrific tragedy: on March 20th, 2017, their daughter Autumn died by suicide. The Snyder’s attempted to return to work on the film before making the decision to step away completely in order to process their grief. At this point, the completion of Justice League became Whedon’s responsibility.

There are a lot of thoughts and conspiracies out there regarding Whedon’s involvement, none of which are verifiable. One commonly held belief is that after Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. was dissatisfied with Snyder’s handling of their properties and had been looking for a reason (or excuse) to separate him from the DCEU. It makes sense – Batman v Superman made money, but it didn’t make the kind of money that a film featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman together for the first time should have made. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has taken off while DC’s is still floundering and a large amount of that blame has been placed squarely on Snyder’s shoulders. It is, after all, his vision that audiences don’t seem to be connecting with. I don’t know if it’s a matter of misplaced expectations or unfair comparisons, but Snyder’s ambitious, unconventional approach has never been met with widespread acceptance. It seemed as if Justice League was Snyder’s last shot to win audiences over, and it was widely reported that the film was going to be lighter and more optimistic than his previous films. Whether or not that was true, we may never know, because the Justice League that has been released in theaters is not Snyder’s film.

Regardless of whether or not you believe that WB was secretly relieved to have Snyder off the film, one thing can’t be denied – Justice League is as much Whedon’s film as it is Snyder’s. While most blockbusters undergo planned reshoots, Justice League’s were more extensive than usual. A reported $25 million was spent on two months of reshoots, all of which had been written (or rewritten) by Whedon. If this post from someone claiming to have worked on the film is to be believed, Whedon was more involved than anybody initially suspected. His fingerprints are all over this film, for better or worse. Justice League LOOKS like a Zack Snyder film, but it doesn’t feel like one – it’s a fractured whole, the product of two very different visions. It often feels at odds with itself, and what results is a sometimes surprising, often underwhelming film. It’s both bad, without being awful, and good, without being great. For all of its triumphs and failures, it’s mostly just… there, and that’s kind of incredible in a sad sort of way. Also incredible in a sad sort of way are Justice League’s box office prospects.

It’s looking like Justice League will finish its opening weekend with a gross of $96 million, which is a pretty dire amount. It sounds like a big number, but within a certain context, it’s not. Check out the opening weekend totals of the five other comic book movies that have released this year while keeping in mind that Justice League reportedly cost $300 million to make (everything else on this list cost between $100-200 million):

$146,510,104 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

$122,744,989 – Thor: Ragnarok

$117,027,503 – Spider-Man: Homecoming

$103,251,471 – Wonder Woman

$88,411,916 – Logan

Justice League will be coming in above only the R-rated Logan. Justice League, the film debut of DC’s premiere superhero team, starring three of the most popular, long-lasting characters in history, will have a lower debut than movies starring a talking raccoon, a sentient tree, and a Kiwi rock-man. Justice will be opening below Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Justice League’s opening weekend would rank 10th when compared to the opening weekends of films in the MCU. Make no mistake – a $96 million opening weekend is nothing short of disastrous. This movie should be DC’s Avengers, which holds the record for the 3rd highest domestic opening weekend of all time with $207,438,708 – Justice League isn’t even going to make half that amount.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m piling on the film because enough people are already doing that. I just wrote 2000 words on the film and I didn’t even mention Superman’s fake upper lip (Cavill was filming Mission: Impossible 6 during reshoots and Paramount wouldn’t let him shave off his mustache, so almost all of his scenes needed to have his mustache digitally removed, resulting in a stunningly odd effect). I don’t think Justice League is awful; I had fun while sitting in the theater. It’s just that the whole thing feels like an incredible missed opportunity. This was WB’s chance to usher their biggest franchise into a new golden era – it should have been a victorious film that left people excited for the future of the DCEU. Instead, you’ll leave the film feeling mildly unsatisfied. You can tell that something didn’t quite work, but you’re not entirely sure what. You’ve laughed and had fun, but it feels somehow hollow. It feels too short, too anticlimactic almost. I can’t tell you if Snyder’s original vision would have been better or if WB should have simply turned to Joss Whedon in the first place. All I know is that while not an unqualified disaster, this is not the Justice League film we’ve all been waiting for. It feels like a placeholder, but for what, I don’t know. As I look to the future of the DCEU, I’m genuinely not sure what to think. Justice League definitely changed things; I’m just not sure they’ll be the changes that we, or WB, were hoping for.

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PS. The first post-credits stinger is really good, but the second post-credits stinger is even better. It’s been a long time since I’ve been surprised by something that I saw at the end of the credits, so kudos to DC for beating Marvel at their own game

Opinionado!!! (03.26.17 – 04.08.17 Part 1)

I’ve got a lot of opinions. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter or in real life knows this. I constantly want to talk about things that are going on in the world of entertainment, but I need an outlet. That’s what this is for. Every week, I’ll give you my thoughts and impressions on the biggest pieces of entertainment news, from trailers, to promotional images, to breaking news stories. I’ll even provide short reviews or impressions of the things I’m watching, reading, playing, and listening to every week. So sit back, relax, and get swept up in the swirling vortex that is… Opinionado!

Film:

Justice League (Trailer 1)

Whoo boy. Starting off with a doozy, huh? This was probably the most anticipated trailer on the planet. Even before Batman v Superman’s release, fans and critics alike have been wondering “What the hell is that Justice League movie going to look like?” Turns out, the answer is “Like a Zack Snyder film”. It’s got the incoherent action, the muted colors, overall grimy texture, and the copious amounts of slow-mo. The only thing this doesn’t have is Malick-like shots of wonder and Christ imagery. I’ve watched this thing a few times now and tonally it’s just all over the place. The film LOOKS exactly like a sequel to BvS would be expected to look, but they’ve sprinkled in a bunch of “light-hearted” attempts at humor (some of which works and some of which doesn’t) and layered the whole thing in a cheesy, rock-version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” because apparently Beastie Boys’ “Unite” would have been too on the nose. Look, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of how Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have handled the DC Extended Universe. I want them to succeed, because I actually like DC Comics and their characters and storylines, but I also want them to fail so that they can just start the whole thing over from scratch and do it the right way. I have no idea if Wonder Woman will be good (although the skeptic in me says to not get your hopes up), but I’m almost positive that Justice League will not be a good film. I hope I’m wrong – I actually like what they’ve done with Aquaman and the Flash, and I think Cavill, Affleck, and Gadot are actually a great central trinity – but man, some parts of this trailer look really bad! Cyborg is just awful on every level (is his costume still rendering?) and the set pieces in this thing just look so dreary. It’s like someone took Return of the King and turned down the saturation. And really, “Come Together”? Damn.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Trailer 2)

“If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” CHILLS. Man, I am so ready for a good Spider-Man movie, and I really hope that’s what this is. It’s not the Marvel film I’m most excited about this year (that honour goes to Thor: Ragnarok), but I’m cautiously optimistic. I think that Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker, and I’m geeking out that Spider-Man will get to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, could anyone else sell that “Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” line the way that Robert Downey Jr. sells it? I don’t think so. I love the whole “John Hughes with superpowers” thing, especially since I just saw the same thing done quite effectively in Power Rangers. We haven’t see much from the extended cast yet (remember that Donald Glover, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Kenneth Choi, Tony Revolori, and Logan-Marshall-Green are all in this movie and I think we’ve seen glimpses of maybe2 of them in the two trailers released thus far), but I love the chemistry between Holland’s Peter and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. I’m even excited for the Vulture, and I don’t like the Vulture as a villain. I haven’t been a big fan of any of his iterations, be it revenge-seeking engineer, youth-sucking vampire, acid-spitting mutant or whatever, but I think this works. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Michael “Birdman” Keaton himself, and they’ve actually designed a Vulture suit that looks appropriately badass, especially when paired with that vintage military flight jacket. I’m excited to see where they take this whole thing.

A Ghost Story (Trailer 1)

Every now and then, there are movies that I hear enough good things about that I decide to abstain from watching their trailers. I did this for Arrival, I did it for Split (after seeing the initial trailer), I’m doing it for Colossal, and now I’m going to do it for A Ghost Story. So no, I haven’t watched this trailer yet, but I’m been assured that it’s a good one. Watch it, or don’t. Your choice.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Trailer 2)

Man, I have no idea what to make of this movie, but I think I love it? It’s like Terry Gilliam, Baz Luhrmann, and Guillermo Del Toro got together to direct a pastiche of Star Wars, Jupiter Ascending, Moulin Rouge, Guardians of the Galaxy, John Carter, The Fifth Element, and Doctor Who. It’s so wacky and colorful and fun. I have absolutely no familiarity with the source material, but even if it fails completely on a plot and/or characters front, I need to see it on the biggest screen possible on opening night.

A Dark Song (Trailer 1)

I don’t have much to say about this one other than, uh, creepy. This looks to be right up my alley. I believe we’re going through a bit of a horror renaissance right now, and this looks like a strong contender to join the ranks of It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Get Out, and the rest.

It (Trailer 1)

Nope nope nope nope nope nope NOPE. That was my initial reaction to this trailer. Actually, I think my initial reaction was “holy shit”. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this looks absolutely terrifying. I’m haunted by the image I saw as a child of a clown in a sewer grate, and this brings that right back to the surface. I get chills watching this thing. I know people are upset that Cary Fukunaga walked away from this project because they wouldn’t let him make the movie he wanted to make, but that doesn’t necessarily damn the movie. We were all upset about Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, but that movie turned out great. I’m not saying that Fukunaga’s It wouldn’t have been better, but that doesn’t mean that this one will be bad. Pennywise looks insanely creepy and the movie looks like it has been very well shot. I even kind of want to read the book now, which is insane, because I’m pretty sure it’s like, 8000 pages long.

Tomb Raider (Promo)

I mean, she looks great. That’s my opinion on this. She looks good. That’s really all we know, but it’s a good sign, right?

Sony Is Making Their Own Marvel Cinematic Universe (News)

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If you haven’t already heard, this past month, Sony announced plans to release two new comic book movies in 2018 – an R-rated Venom film and a Black Cat/Silver Sable team-up film. If you don’t know who any of these characters are, that’s okay – most people who aren’t Spider-Man fans wouldn’t recognize them, which is why it’s weird that Sony is betting hundreds of millions of dollars that people will flock to the theaters next year to see them. Back when Sony was still producing those decidedly not-amazing Amazing Spider-Man films, they had plans for a grand web of interlocking Spider-Man films – a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, if you will. They were in development on a Sinister Six film, a Venom film, and a female-led Spider-Man film. And then the Sony hack happened, and all of these details leaked out, and Sony began to tank. They ended up teaming with Marvel Studios to produce a new series of Spider-Man films that would tie into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the first of which, Spider-Man: Homecoming, comes out in July. We all assumed that Sony’s dream of a Spider-Man cinematic universe had died, because it just doesn’t really make sense to do that without Spider-Man. Well, you know what they say about assuming, right? As it turns out, Sony is charging full steam ahead of producing a number of Spider-Man spin-off films that will be, in no way, associated with Spider-Man: Homecoming or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s certainly… a choice. This is… this is maybe one of the more misguided decisions I’ve seen a studio make recently. I mean, I think DC is making a ton of mistakes with their cinematic universe, but at least they have access to all of their characters. Venom was designed to be Spider-Man’s foil. Black Cat was introduced as a love interest for Spidey. What are these characters without their shared history with Spider-Man? Imagine if DC made a Catwoman movie that had nothing to do with Bat-what? Oh, they did that already? Well how did it do? Oh. OH. Well… yeah. Then I expect these to do about as well as that did. Good luck Sony. You’ll need it.

Joss Whedon is Directing a Batgirl Movie (News)

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Chances are if you know me, you already know how I feel about this news. My feelings towards the DC Extended Universe can be summed up with one Shania Twain song:

As I’ve said before, I’m torn on the DCEU – on the one hand, I’d love to see good movies based on DC characters, but on the other hand, I don’t want to see future movies saddled with the garbage continuity they’ve established thus far. I want a fresh start. Rebuild it from the ground up. Don’t build your home on a dubious foundation like Batman v Superman. Alas, Suicide Squad made enough money to keep this failed experiment afloat and I’m sure Wonder Woman and Justice League will help matters, regardless of their quality. With each passing day, I’m more and more convinced that we’re stuck with what we’ve got, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything Warner Bros. is doing is misguided. Did you know there are currently 18 DC films in various stages of development? Of those 18, only 6 have dates, and only 3 of those 6 have officially entered production. It’s absolutely bonkers. There is constantly so much drama going on behind the scenes of these things – the rumor mill is constantly churning, and it would be easy to just disregard it all if Warner Bros. didn’t have a history of driving talent away from their DC franchises (I’m looking at you The Flash). I’m not even sure it’s worth formulating an opinion over Whedon’s Batgirl film because the chances of a) it actually happening and b) Whedon being involved are so slim that it feels pointless. Will I watch a Batgirl film directed by Joss Whedon? Absolutely. I’ll watch anything by Joss Whedon. Would I rather he not make a Batgirl film and do something else instead? Absolutely. Will I get my wish? Probably! Who knows? Come see me in a year if Whedon is still attached to this stupid thing.

Review – Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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Look, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this anime adaptation and the whitewashing it contains. I won’t defend it, but I also understand the decisions that lead to this point. I’m not going to say anymore on that here because frankly, I have no authority to do so. I also don’t have the authority to speak on this film as an adaptation. I’m not a big anime guy. I haven’t seen any of the source material. In fact, I skipped out on watching the original film specifically because I wanted to judge Ghost in the Shell on its own merits. So what did I think? I thought it was good! Not great, just good. I enjoyed my time with it. It’s not going to win any awards for plot or characterization – it raises some interesting questions that it never gets around to answering – but it sure looks nice. The production design is just fantastic. The effects, the sets, the cinematography – this is a nice film to look at it. I kind of want to see it again in IMAX for that reason alone. If you’re looking for some entertaining eye candy, you could do a lot worse than Ghost in the Shell. If you’re looking for a deep, philosophical sci-fi film that’s going to blow your mind, look elsewhere.

 

Television:

Black Lightning Gets a Costume (Promo)

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In case you weren’t aware, The CW is getting a fifth (FIFTH!) DC superhero show in Black Lightning. It’s unclear as of now whether or not Black Lightning would exist as a part of The CW’s Arrowverse, as it was initially developed for Fox, who passed on the script. The pilot is currently filming in Atlanta and we now have our first look at Cress Williams in costume as Black Lightning, and it’s… busy. Aesthetically, it actually fits in well with the rest of The CW’s superhero shows. They continue to go in a completely different direction than Marvel Television, who seem intent on downplaying as many costume elements as they can (just check out the leaked set photos from the Inhumans). Many have remarked that this would be a better costume for the Inhumans’ Black Bolt, but… we’ll get to that when we’ve got an official still from that production.

ReBoot Reboot is Official (News)

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As a kid, I adored Reboot. The first computer animated TV series, ReBoot was revolutionary from an industry standpoint, but it was also revolutionary to me from a storytelling standpoint. ReBoot, along with its sister-series Beast Wars (or Beasties, for us Canadians) showed me that kids show didn’t have to be dumbed down. Both series’ featured dark, mature storylines, with character deaths and plot twists. A lot of my storytelling proclivities were formed during this period and they greatly influenced me. So it’s with a heavy heart that I must announce that ReBoot is returning as a CGI/live-action hybrid. Who is this for? People have been clamoring for more ReBoot for years, and every now and then we’ll hear something about an eventual ReBoot reboot, but now it’s officially official and I don’t think it’s what anyone wants. Instead of a straight sequel or a re-imaging, we’re getting some weird thing about teens who play an MMO and get tasked with protecting… cyberspace or something. I don’t know. It sounds really stupid. One of the character’s names is “Goog’z”. GOOG’Z! Apparently the original characters will play some sort of role, but I just don’t really have any interest in seeing human characters. Am I the only one? I hope I’m wrong! But I’m never wrong. My opinions are always right (re: DCEU).

Legion Season 1 (Impressions)

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I recently finished the first season of FX’s Legion, and… y’all should watch Legion. It is such a unique, gem of a show. I don’t want to spoil any of the weird, little things that make it so special, but I will say that the acting, the music, and the production values are all top-notch. It quickly became one of my favorite currently airing programs. Things start off weird and only get weirder, but the payoff is worth it. This is a Noah Hawley (Fargo) show based on the X-Men franchise. I shouldn’t have to convince you to watch it.

Attack on Titan Season 2 Premiere (Impressions)

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It’s time. Time… for anime! I’ve never been a big anime fan, but one of the few shows that I had actually watched was Attack on Titan. I go to anime for weird, crazy things that I can’t get from American films and TV shows, and Attack on Titan fits that bill. It takes place in a world in which humanity has been driven into near-extinction by a race of mindless, titanic, naked men. Yeah, you read that correctly. The remnants of humanity hide behind 3 massive, concentric walls that protect them from these titans, but they’re forced to fight when a colossal titan breaks through the gate. They fight using these aerial maneuvering devices that utilize gas-powered harpoons attached to ropes to swing through cities and forests like Spider-Man. It’s as crazy as it sounds. It’s ridiculous, intense, disturbing, and graphically violent. I love it. After a 3+ year wait, season 2 has finally premiered, and the insanity has continued. There are a couple great twists in the first episode and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

 

Games:

Destiny 2 (Worldwide Reveal Trailer)

I, like many others, have a love/hate relationship with Destiny (both the game and the universal force). Prior to its release, I had it in my mind that we were getting something along the lines of “epic space opera of Mass Effect meets combat of Halo”. What I didn’t expect was “first-person sci-fi Diablo with less story”. It’s a very nice looking game with interesting art design, it’s got a good world with plenty of lore to discover, and the gameplay actually feels great – it’s just that none of that ever coalesced into a really great whole. The pieces are (mostly) there, but they were never arranged properly. The fun was mired by confusing systems and weird restrictions. I think there is a great game lurking somewhere in Destiny (and I’ve certainly sunk enough hours into it), so I’m hopeful that Bungie figures things out with Destiny 2. I think I like this trailer? The tone is a little off though; it feels like it’s trying way too hard to be whatever it thinks people want. I’m holding off judgment until we learn more about what the game actually is and how it differs from the first entry.

 

Music:

Kendrick Lamar – “Humble”

Okay, first of all, the song is straight fire. Second, does anyone else feel like Kendrick watched Beyonce’s Lemonade and thought “I can do that”? Not that this 3-minute video necessarily stands alongside Beyonce’s opus, but it certainly seems to be inspired by it. The video is filled with fascinating imagery and interesting camera shots. I’m not smart enough to begin to understand what any of it means, but it sure looks great, doesn’t it? It inspires hope in me that I’ll actually enjoy Kendrick’s new album after feeling let down by To Pimp A Butterfly. Yeah, that’s right. Come at my haters.

Broken Social Scene – “Halfway Home”

I was a huge Broken Social Scene fan back in high school, and they, along with Arcade Fire, basically shaped my taste in music during the mid-to-late 2000’s. I was a fan of just about anything the Arts & Crafts label released, and at one point I was basically buying all of it (even though I ended up with many CD’s I disliked and would never listen to again). I thought that I had outgrown Broken Social Scene, but it sure brings a smile to my face to see them all performing on stage again. BSS concerts are a special experience, because it’s literally just a group of friends playing music together on stage. There’s a purity and an intimacy to it that you don’t get from big, packaged concerts. I’m not sure I really dig the song all that much, but I’m glad that Broken Social Scene is back regardless. “Friendship ladies and gentlemen, friendship!”

Jason Bourne: A Review

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Jason Bourne is back again
With a story I didn’t know
It made everything new again
If you want to you should go
Critics threw it out the windows, came along
Extreme views I know effect
And color what you see
I won’t let them color me

Jason Bourne I’ve watched it
It’s got a shaky camera fight
Dark theater I was in
That didn’t have any light
Dirty offices, dirty crowds
Dirty cars coming through
It’s a lot more of the same
Did you ever like it then

I would stand in line for this
There’s always room in life for this

Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
Like it always does, always does

Jason Bourne has premiered
It’s the movie that I sought
I didn’t have much to say
I finally understood the plot
I opened my eyes and closed myself
And closed my world and never opened
Up to any texts
They couldn’t get me to check

I had to close down everything
I had to close down my phone
Too many films to view
Too many that I own
I’ve seen so much in so many places
So many heartaches, so many car chases
So many dirty things
You couldn’t even believe

I would stand in line for this
It’s always good in life for this

Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
Like it always does, always does

EXTREME WAYS out of BACK AGAIN

– A review by Andrew Stewart

Captain America: Civil War – Review

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I think I have a new favorite movie. That probably sounds like hyperbole. Maybe it is. I’m an unabashed Marvel fanboy. I watch the cartoons. I read the comics. I collect the Funko Pops. I build the LEGO. I wear the shirts. I even spend money on the stupid free-to-play iOS games. On the list of my favorite things, Marvel is up there, so maybe you shouldn’t trust my opinion that Captain America: Civil War is the best movie Marvel Studios has ever made. Or maybe it’s the reason you should. Who else is better equipped to tell you that this movie represents Marvel Studios at the very top of their game?

I won’t waste too much time explaining in detail the plot of this movie or introducing any of the numerous characters whose presence is felt in this film. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you already have a good idea who the players are and what they’re fighting for. All you need to know is that in the wake of a number of catastrophic incidents involving the Avengers, the United Nations decides that super-powered individuals can no longer be allowed to operate without oversight. Tony Stark, wracked with guilt over the mistakes he’s made, supports this plan. Steve Rogers, who has reason to be paranoid about large supervisory entities, doesn’t feel that the will of the government always best represents the needs of the people. The comic book storyline this movie takes its name from deals with a different issue, although the overall themes are the same: accountability vs. liberty. Unfortunately, the comic storyline does away with nuance and turns Tony Stark into a villainous figure who’s willing to use crazed lunatics and killers to hunt down is friends. Thankfully, where the comic fails, the movie succeeds. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deftly handle the weighty themes and do a great job of showing the merits of both sides. You’re able to understand why each characters decides the way they do and why it’s so difficult for their friends and teammates to share that same point of view. It’s this understanding that makes it so heartbreaking to watch these friends go after another. That, and their shared history.

Cinematic universes are all the rage these days. Fox has one for the X-Men. Warner Bros. has one for their DC characters. Universal has one for their monsters. Paramount has one for their Hasbro properties. They’re all trying to copy the Marvel model, which has paved the way to unprecedented success. Nobody else has managed to pull it off yet, however, which has led many to believe that this new trend is going to be the downfall of the Hollywood blockbuster. The problem is that in looking to replicate Marvel’s success, nobody wants to truly follow in Marvel’s footsteps. Look at Warner Bros. and their DC films, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in particular. Instead of slowly developing a world and building up an assortment of characters through multiple films, they chose to jump in head first, doing away with any of the character and world-building that made a movie like The Avengers possible. Everyone is so behind the curve on this that they don’t have the patience to do it right. Captain America: Civil War works so well because all of the emotional beats feel earned – no shortcuts were taken to get to this point – there are clearly defined characters arcs flowing throughout all of the Marvel Studios films, all of which seemingly inevitably lead to this point. Within the context of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, the conflict in Civil War makes so much sense; It’s been building for years, this is just the tipping point.  If there is an argument to be made for the value of the cinematic universe as a storytelling concept, Civil War is that argument. This movie, with all its emotional heft, would not be possible without the MCU. You could tell the same story, but it wouldn’t be as natural, streamlined, or as emotionally charged. This movie is a testament to sharply-defined characters and thoughtful world-building. There is this lived-in feeling to the movie that comes from knowing the history of these characters and the world they operate in, a feeling that was almost completely absent from Batman v Superman, outside of the opening scene. I wasn’t planning on comparing this film to DC’s counterpart, but it’s hard not to – Civil War is everything BvS is not – well-paced, funny, emotional, and fun.

What more can I say? Civil War is the longest Marvel movie to date, but the time just flies by. I didn’t want it to end. It’s filled with hilarious one-liners and thrilling action sequences that get a lot of mileage out of everyone’s unique abilities and personalities. Somehow, the Russo brothers, Markus, and McFeely ensure that every character gets their due diligence – everyone has their moment and nobody truly feels underserved. It’s a remarkable accomplishment and it instills hope in me that this team, responsible for two of the MCU’s best films, will be able to juggle all of the characters in the next two Avengers films. On top of all this, the film is bolstered by great performances that truly communicate the gravitas of the situation. It’s a stunning achievement.

Captain America: Civil War is an absolute triumph. I’m sure plenty of people will still hate it, or at the very least find fault with it, but for me, this is as good as movies come. With the Russo brothers steering the ship, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in good hands. Now bring on Doctor Strange.

Furious 7: An Unforgettable Tribute

I wanted to sit down tonight and write a review of Furious 7. That was my intention. I’ve quickly realized that that’s not going to be possible because there’s simply no way for me to look at this movie objectively. I am biased. I am as biased as can be. It doesn’t matter where this movie ranks against the rest of the franchise. It doesn’t matter how this movie rates against other movies. What matters is this movie and what it means.

One Last Ride

The Fast & Furious franchise didn’t even register for me prior to Fast Five. The films were a joke; I saw the franchise as trash. I think that I had see the first two films on DVD when I was in high school. I remember people thinking that they were cool, but I didn’t much care for them – some of you probably still feel that way about the series. Cut to eight years later and the release of Fast Five. The trailer looked amazing. They got the Rock. I decided it was time to catch up. I watched the first four films within the context of the pending release of the fifth. The first two are tolerable, serving basically as nothing more than introductions to these characters. The third is an awful throwaway made when the franchise was basically on life support (although a large number of people love it for some reason). The fourth, however, I found legitimately compelling. The original cast appears together again for the first time since The Fast and The Furious and, also for the first time, the ending of one movie leads directly into the next. Fast Five was fantastic. It’s still the best film in the franchise and one of my favorite action/heist films. It’s the film that marks the end of the “cops, drugs, and racing” storylines that run through the first four films. It’s the start of something new, something bigger. From that movie on, the Fast & Furious franchise transformed into one of the foremost action franchises in Hollywood. Over the course of six films, the franchise morphed from a small story about a street-racing criminal and an undercover cop to something more reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible franchise. Over the course of three years, I went from not caring at all about these films to caring about them way too much.

On November 30th, 2013, Paul Walker passed away in a car accident at the age of 40. He left behind his daughter, Meadow. It is impossible to discuss Furious 7 without discussing Paul Walker. He and this movie are inextricably entwined. You cannot separate the two. He had filmed approximately 85% of his scenes before the tragedy and after receiving the blessing of his family, director James Wan and the rest of the cast and crew finished the film with the help of Paul’s brothers, Caleb and Cody Walker, and some CGI. They all considered Walker a friend. Some considered him family. They set out to finish the film for Paul, knowing that it’s what he would have wanted.

Furious 7 isn’t the best film you’ll ever see. It isn’t the best film you’ll see this year. It’s not even the best Fast & Furious film. None of that matters. You have to see this film. I have never seen anything like it and I don’t think that I ever will again. I’m not referring to the non-stop action and the incredible set pieces. Action can always get more intense. Set-pieces, no matter how grand, can always be topped. Don’t get me wrong, this is an absolutely thrilling action movie and it’s a fine addition to the Fast & Furious franchise, but what makes it truly special is Paul Walker. From start to finish, this film feels like his swan song, right down to the themes of the story and the final arc of his character. I don’t know how much the final plot of the film changed after Walker’s passing, but it feels serendipitously set up from the beginning to act as a goodbye to the character of Bryan O’Conner. He’s a married man and a father now and this film sees him struggling with the transition between his old life and this new one. Suffice it to say that the film is a fitting send-off to both Bryan O’Conner and Paul Walker and feels like a natural progression of the path his character has been on ever since the first movie. I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but know that the final shot of the film is literally one of the most perfect, emotionally powerful images I have ever seen on screen. I’m honestly not sure that it will ever be matched in my mind. It’s that good.

Listen – I didn’t know Paul Walker. I never had the privilege of meeting the man. From everything I’ve heard, he was just a stellar human being – kind, gracious, caring, and selfless – the kind of person we all aspire to be. Nobody seems to have a bad thing to say about him. Say what you will about his acting, but Paul Walker was the heart of this franchise. One of the things I appreciate most about the Fast & Furious movies is that none of the main characters really seem to be acting all that much. Maybe they’re completely different in real life, but when Vin, Paul, Ludacris, Tyrese, Michelle, and the rest are sitting around a room joking and ribbing one another, it doesn’t feel like a scripted scene in a film so much as it does a group of friends sitting around shooting the breeze. The idea of family is the most important theme in the franchise and it’s the impetus for basically everything that occurs in these films. As much as these characters are a family on screen, they’re a family in real life. That’s what lends such power to the conclusion of Furious 7. When you see these characters saying goodbye to Bryan O’Conner, you know that they’re really saying goodbye to Paul Walker. I’ve never come closer to sobbing in a movie theater than I did in the final five minutes of Furious 7, and if the sniffling around me was any indication, I wasn’t the only one. It was truly, deeply affecting. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

As I drove home from the theater, I listened to the Furious 7 soundtrack. When “See You Again” —the song by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth that backs the Paul Walker tribute—started playing, my reaction was immediate. The tears started flowing and I couldn’t hold them back. I cried all the way home. That’s the impact this movie had on me. As I write this, I am in tears. There is something so valuable here. There are lessons to be taken to heart. Lessons about what it means to be a good man. Lessons about family, and what that word means. Maybe you’re sitting here reading this and you’re like I used to be – completely dismissive of this franchise. I know that this is probably the last thing you were expecting to read about the summer’s first big action blockbuster, but do me a favour and given it a chance. Whether you decide to watch all seven in sequential order (it goes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, then 3, for your information) or to just see Furious 7 in theaters, do yourself a favor and take a chance. You just might find something of value, like I have.

When James Wan, Vin Diesel, and the rest committed to completing Furious 7 in Paul Walker’s absence, they set out to finish the film for Paul, knowing that it’s what he would have wanted. I think that if Paul Walker were here today, he’d be immensely proud of what they accomplished. Rest in peace Paul. You earned it.