MoCould Wonder Woman be the Savior of the DCEU?

wonderwoman-trailer-shell-205296Three things are certain when it comes to the Superhero Movie genre:

1) Marvel is the King of the Hill in live action movies and the Superhero Cinematic Universe.  Fox would be pretty close if it weren’t for half of their X-men movies, a reboot without a reboot thanks to an altered timeline, and the atrocity that is the Deadpool character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine….can we even call that thing Deadpool?

2) DC and Warner Brothers have taken the animated movie base by storm

3)Sony should just stay out of it. Give up and give all character rights back to Marvel…I’m looking at you too Universal.

OK, so let’s start with the first point(which by the way, we’re only going to look at the first two…number 3 is pretty self-explanatory).  When it comes to the live action superhero movies, it’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) has had unlimited success at the box office, and has received acclamation from movie critics and fans alike.                  It’s counterpart however, the Digital Comics Extended Universe(DCEU) has not only received very limited success, but it seems that instead of chasing Marvel as the King of the Movie-verse, they are chasing their own tails instead. Though DC has pushed many more movies prior to the establishment of the DCEU, many of them have suffered similar (sometimes worse) criticism as these movies.

One of the most disappointing facts with the DCEU movies, is that despite the movie trailers, which are some of the best of any production based movie-verse(Fox included), these movies always fail to live up to their hype.  Starting with Man of Steel in 2011, there were many people thinking that Superman would finally get the reboot that he deserves and bring stiff competition to the MCU.  While it wasn’t terrible, it definitely didn’t excite us as much as we hoped it wood. Three years later, Warner Bros. and DC brought to us Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie in which very early teaser trailers brought us to think that these were the only two heroes we would see in this movie as it takes place just after the events of Man of Steel.  As the movie came closer to its release date, we find out that not only do we get to see Superman, and an older Batman, but we will also see the first glimpse of the First Lady of DC, Wonder Woman herself.  Once again, while this movie was not terrible, it didn’t blow us away.  One of the biggest surprises of the movie, however, was how well Ben Affleck was at personifying not only Bruce Wayne, but separating Bruce Wayne from Batman.  Despite all this, at least in my opinion, is that in every scene she was in, Wonder Woman became the dark horse and seemed to steal the spotlight from our super-duo.  Suicide Squad then became “the movie to steer DC in the right direction”.  If we were basing this just off of the movie trailers and Margot Robbie’s stellar performance as Harley Quinn, I would agree with that, but we’re not.  Yes, I understand that SS won an Oscar this year, but it was for costume design and makeup, not best acting, best picture, or anything that played significance to more than just the aesthetics of the movie, and rightfully so.

 

Now let’s move on to the second point. DC and the animated movies. There MIGHT be one bad DC animated Superhero movie, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet.  Even the Green Lantern animated movie, which basically followed the same plot as the CG disaster Ryan Reynolds starred in, was amazing.  Last week though, I watched Wonder Woman for the second time, and I’m still amazed by its quality.  From the animation to the modernized origin of Wonder Woman herself, this movie hit the nail on every account. While the comic books have set the origin for Wonder Woman in the World War II era, which by the way, the live action Wonder Woman featuring Gal Gadot as the titular character seems to be following that timeline loyally, the animated version features Diana in the modern world, secluded away from any man whatsoever with the rest of the Amazons on Themyscura, an island created by the gods specifically for the Amazons to shield them from the terrors of man and war.  Also on this island is the god of war himself Ares, a prisoner with shackles on his wrists that keep him from gaining power because of war, shackles of which only a god can remove, a punishment from Zeus for him starting a war with the Amazons. It isn’t until a US fighter pilot finds himself wrecked on this island that Diana and the rest of the Amazons see a need to interact with the rest of the outside world. Competing against her mother’s will to see who will take the pilot back to his home safely, Diana finally gets what she wants…a chance to encounter other humans, and bridge the gap between man and Amazon.  However, with the help of a traitor, Ares breaks free and unleashes Hell on earth and its up to Wonder Woman to stop him.

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This movie does a fantastic job at not only encouraging women to embrace both their strength and their beauty, but avoiding the trap of generalizing men in the process; something I hope that the live action Wonder Woman will avoid doing as well.  To be honest, I did not really know that much about Wonder Woman, as I used to see her as a lame character, wielding nothing more than a shield and a lasso, but after watching the movie, and looking into the origins, I won’t be making that same mistake again.  Now I understand that I have already mentioned DCEU movies failing to live up to the excitement that the teaser trailers create, and I am fully aware that this movie could fall victim to the same curse. However, I am a comic book fan, not Marvel, not DC, just comics in general, so I truly enjoy both, and because of that, I am cautiously optimistic that with this movie, they may have gotten it right this time, especially considering the fact that Zac Snyder is no longer running the helm.  With the new Wonder Woman set to come out early summer, this movie could not only set a new pace for DC, but possibly save it from falling apart altogether.  If you have not yet watched the Wonder Woman animated feature, I highly recommend that you check it out, and prepare yourself this summer for what could be DC’s best live action movie yet.

Get Out

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out went wide on February 24th, 2017 in the categories of Comedy, Horror, with a little Mystery & Suspense. In my noble opinion I would scale down the Horror category and narrow it to a Mystery and Suspense with some comedy. Granted the plot thickens to a moderate horrific crescendo but it was not scary to me or anyone else I went with since it was tamed with comedic overtones, which by the way was done very well.

Get Out begins with an opening scene where a black man is abducted by someone during the night on some neighborhood street. Led by Daniel Kaluuya who if you remember played Reggie in Sicario, plays the role of Chris Washington, the black boyfriend, and Allison Willams as Rose Armitage, the white girlfriend. Together for several months they decided to take the next steps that elevate their relationship to another level which would be nothing more than to meet the girlfriends parents of course. Allison is portrayed as an understanding person and just downright cool, so why wouldn’t Chris go and meet her parents. She is pretty, witty, fun, and understanding so off he goes. Surprise, that ends up not being the case as the weekend progressively compiles some quirky clues and events which lead to a situation he never could have imagined. As they arrive at Allison’s parents house, Chris notices that they have black servants on the grounds who appear to act a little odd or not as “themselves”. Allison’s parents, Bradley Whitford as Dean and Catherine Keener as Missy greet both of them warmly but later appear to be overly accommodating. Chris feels their awkward attempts to be inviting and friendly toward him are mistaken and actually reactions to the fact that their daughter is in an interracial relationship with him. Well why would that be you ask, that’s because he finds out that Allison never told her parents that he was black.

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Later Jeremy arrives for dinner played by Caleb Landry Jones, who is the off-kilter’d brother of Allison. Dusk settles and Chris unveils the fact his mother had died when he was young and this is where we find out Missy is a psychiatrist who then offers to help him quit his smoking habit through hypnosis, of which Chris politely declines. That night Chris observes those wacky servants where we now see where the latest “Get Out Challenge” is derived. After those awkward encounters Chris heads back inside where Missy awaits to convince him of trying hypnosis which sends Chris into a void called the sunken place. Let the Mystery and Suspense begin here as Chris convinces himself that it was a nightmare but that could be further from the truth. However, Chris awakens the next morning with a disgust for smoking!

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Allison’s parents remind her that it is their “annual get-together” of which Allison surprisingly acknowledges, “is that this weekend”? Well why not, Chris is here and let’s get this party started! Insert creepiness and comedy here. With guests arriving and taking a liking to Chris, he runs into a black guest that reminds him of someone so he calls his friend back home who just so happens to be a fantastic TSA officer, Rod Williams, played by LilRel Howery. I must say that Rod really makes the comedic presence known in this movie and without this character I might have been less intrigued as to the nature of Chris’ character development. His meeting with LaKeith Stanfield as Logan King, the black guest, winds up with Chris trying to get a picture of him to send to Rod. The flash goes off and its as if Logan awakens from something, turning to Chris he yells “Get Out”! Allison’s father Dean tries to cover up Logan’s outburst as if he had some sort of seizure from the flash of Chris’ camera phone but he does not buy it.

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As more events unfold it leads Chris to realize something is very wrong here so he states he wants to leave, reluctant at first, Allison agrees to go with him. Later Rod gets back to Chris about the picture he sent him. It turns out that it was an old acquaintance of theirs that went missing a while back. This flips the switch for Chris and he now has to Get Out! Worried and trying to pack his stuff we find Allison in agreement but she can’t find her keys and they are heading downstairs! Oh how convenient! Chris keeps encouraging Allison to hurry up and find her keys but no luck. Missy and Dean are waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs along with the screw loose brother Jeremy. Horrific crescendo is met here as Chris navigates his way by whatever means necessary to Get Out. Struck by Missy’s key control through hypnosis, Chris is triggered by a clink of Missy’s spoon to the vintage coffee cup of his demise.

I will leave the rest alone but Chris and his hilarious friend Rod manage to succeed but the plot that is revealed once Chris tries to leave the house is really creepy and worth a watch. So Get Out and enjoy this comedy thriller mystery suspense…

Before Kong: Skull Island

GZ-FP-010rIn preparation for Kong: Skull Island, I decided to rewatch Godzilla. You know, the American re-remake. I remember watching the teaser trailer for the first time. A group of soldiers jumped out of plane with red smoke trailing behind them as they freefell pass the massive lizard. You could not see much, but you saw enough to get excited. I thought, “Oh My God!”and I nearly shat myself. Not really, but I was a huge fan of the Godzilla movies, especially the Japanese classic. I grew up watching Godzilla, a man in a rubber suit, fighting various giant monsters. Mothra, Mechagodzilla, Rhodan, Ghidorah, etc. I loved it, despite how cheesy it was. Even the 1998 Godzilla, where the giant lizard attacked New York was decent fun for little 10-year-old me.

Flash forward 16 years, my wife and I saw the new Godzilla on opening weekend. Once the ending credits rolled, I found myself greatly disappointed. Sure I had huge expectations. It’s freaking Godzilla! And Bryan Cranston was in it, how much better could it have been? Then… *Spoiler Alert!* come to find out, they killed him off early in the movie. Thus giving us a bunch of other human characters that nobody really cares about. We just want to see the big greenish lizard, which took nearly an hour and half to get to? Did Gareth Edwards take a lesson from Peter Jackson’s King Kong? The whole Godzilla movie, we kept getting teasers of the Lizard fighting MUTOs but never actually seeing them fight until about an hour and 45 minutes into the movie. Then we get a pretty sweet but very short battle between the 2 huge monsters. For a movie about Godzilla, they only gave him 8 minutes of screen time in a 2 hour-long movie. Absolutely, the final climatic battle was amazing. When Godzilla’s spikes glowed blue, I geeked out. However, I still left the theater with a great deal of disappointment.

Upon the release of Godzilla in 2014, it was announced that Godzilla was part of a “shared universe”(think Marvel), where he will square off with non other than King Kong. First Kong will get his own movie then we will get a Godzilla vs Kong. Flash forward to almost 3 years where Kong: Skull Island will be released in theaters in just 3 days. The trailers look very promising and the reviews from critics who were able to see an early screening remain pretty positive. Two main things that I have gathered from the trailers; one, rather than rehash the same old 1930s America discovering a mysterious island, it looks we are brought to the 70s. The look has a very strong Apocalypse Now feel to it. Two, Kong has been given ample screen time.

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The stakes are pretty high for Kong. We’ll see how well he fares in his new film this weekend. Starring Nick Fury, Loki, the future Captain Marvel, and Corpsman Dey.

Wrapping up 2016

It’s funny, I started writing this out talking about box office numbers, and how this has actually been a good year despite all the other crappy things that has happened. Then I went on making cases about how the box office numbers don’t really matter because a movie can have a horrible turnout and still be considered one of the all time greats, like Shawshank Redemption.

Really, it comes down to personal preference. And the last thing I want to be seen is narcissistic about movies. Just passionate. And the art of film, like any medium, is subjective.
This blog post is an end of the year review highlighting some of the best (at least from what I’ve seen) of the year of 2016 at the movies.

Rather than digging at what’s wrong with the movies and spending hours writing giving you guys more than you would probably care to read. I’ve broken down the films of the ones I quite enjoyed this year into lists under their respective genres. Along with my top picks with some favorites of my fellow friends and cinephiles. I did a survey on Facebook asking my fellow peers their favorite films of the year. So when you see an asterisk next to the title, that would be their recommendation. The more asterisks, the more people voted for it.

Action/Adventure/Blockbusters
– Captain America: Civil War **
– Star Wars: Rogue One
– Doctor Strange *( My wife’s favorite)
– Deadpool
– Magnificent Seven
– Star Trek Beyond
– Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them **
– Jungle Book*
– 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
– The Nice Guys
– Central Intelligence
– Passengers*
– Deepwater Horizon*

Horror/Thriller
– 10 Cloverfield Lane
– Don’t Breathe
– The Conjuring 2
– The Shallows

Oscar potentials
– Hell or High Water ***
– La La Land
– Manchester by the Sea
– Arrival *
– Captain Fantastic
– Sully
– Hacksaw Ridge *

Animation
– Kubo and the Two Strings
– Zootopia
– Finding Dory

Comedies (These are movies that literally had me laughing out loud.)
– Masterminds
– Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
– Keanu
– Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
– Swiss Army Man

Movies I need to see
– Silence
– Moana
– Fences
– Nocturnal Animals
– Moonlight
– A Monster Calls
– Allied *
– Midnight Special

My personal top five, and I spent quite a bit wrestling with this because I feel like I’m comparing apples and oranges. Also, it’s in no particular order.

– Hell or High Water
– Doctor Strange
– Manchester by the Sea
– Captain America: Civil War
– Hacksaw Ridge

Part of the movie magic is being swept up in a particular performance. And I mean like, oscar worthy performance. Just emotionally gripping that yanks at the heart-strings and makes you leave the theater somewhat changed. So here are some noteworthy performances from my fellow peers and myself

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (really everyone in that movie)
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge (and probably Silence)
Tom Hanks in Sully
Amy Adams in Arrival
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land
Denzel Washington in Fences
Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
Eddie Murphy in Mr. Church

I was going to put a poster of each movie or maybe a trailer. However, who wants to watch an hour worth of various trailers to movies you probably already seen? So here’s a supercut made by YouTube’s Screen Junkies

Have a happy New Year and keep an eye out for the next blog. I’ll be getting back into reviewing the films as I get a chance to see them. Also coming up Top Anticipated film of 2017 and a review of the Oscars nominees as they are announced in the coming weeks.

Masterminds

I’m not quite sure all the hurdles it took to get this movie to be released to the public. It was scheduled to be released last year and got pushed to early this year and pushed again to just a week ago(as of this writing). Something about distribution and finances, not sure. However, as a fan of Zach Galifianakis, I was definitely looking forward to this.

I’m gonna start out by saying even though the reviews were terrible, I laughed through almost the whole thing. And there were times where I nearly cried because I was laughing so hard.

Galifianakis plays a stranger-than-fiction true story about David Ghannt, a normal everyday man(a bumbling idiot), who gets lured by a flirtatious crush to a robbery and somehow manages to make off with over 17 million dollars in cold hard cash. However true to the actual tale is, which I have absolutely no idea, I just know that I laughed hard.

Playing along with Zach Galifianakis, we have Owen Wilson who is no stranger to oddball comedies even though they are hit and miss. Then we have Saturday Night Live regulars and alumni in Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Jason Sudeikis. The aforementioned ladies all starred together in the summer all female-led reboot, Ghostbusters. Chemistry is key when it comes to comedic movies, and each of the cast in their respective, oddball characters play along really great especially alongside the lead, Zach Galifianakis.

Masterminds rest solely on the deadpan humor that made Napoleon Dynamite famous, and Zach delivers it gloriously along with the help of his fellow costars. But judging from reading from the reviews of professional critics, which I’m not, it takes a special kind of appreciation for this brand of humor. And not many people have this taste. On top of that, it’s the kind of humor that is worth watching with friends. So whether you are wanting to something to watch at the big screen or waiting for it to come out on Blu-ray or digital download, make sure you see it with people who love to laugh.

Image courtesy of Relativity Media.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

When they released the first epic teaser for Batman v Superman, every geek dna fiber in my body exploded with excitement. Actually, when the news broke out as Ben Affleck being casted as the Bat, the internet exploded, mostly with discontent. I’ll admit, at first i was a little concerned. It’s not that I doubted Affleck’s acting, cause he proved his chops in the past few years with films like Argo and Gone Girl. So, I knew he could show us Bruce Wayne, but Batman? I wasn’t so sure. Then the first picture came and blew up the internet, followed by the teaser trailer. And while each tease got more revealing, I gave Batfleck a benefit of a doubt and believed he could do it. Now, Batman v. Superman has come and I’m blown away. I thought Affleck was phenomenal. And not only did he play the part, he sure as hell looked it too. But i can’t give too much credit to Affleck as I should give them to Zack Snyder, the man behind the entire DC film slate. He is the mastermind at crafting Batman borrowing heavy from Frank Miller’s work The Dark Knight. Henry Cavill definitely looked more comfortable as Superman in his second turnout after Man of Steel. It’s impressive to see a change in tone as we see actors get settled into their roles and make it believable. Cavill has officially become the face of Superman, just like Christopher Reeves was over 30 years ago. Another fantastic and surprisingly very impressive cast is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I can’t iterate how much I loved seeing her smirk after getting knocked down in the climatic fight scene. I understand what Snyder was doing in bringing a somewhat different Lex Luthor than the one we are used to. In the past, we have seen portrayals of Luthor as an older character, like in 40s and on. Someone with years of experience that made him into the billionaire business mogul that is hell-bent on tearing down the image of Superman. Now, in reflection of our society, the mogul can be a young adult like Mark Zuckerberg, a multi billionaire. Having that perspective, it seemed appropriate to cast known fast quirky talker, Jesse Eisenberg, who, incidentally played Zuckerberg in oscar nominated best picture, The Social Network. Though, I’m not sure it works for here. I thought his quirky antics reminded me more of Joker than a business mogul mastermind, I digress. The main issue with BvS is that it has a very sluggish first half. Narratively speaking, the process of getting to the third act was horrendous. It just was. There were moments as to where I had absolutely no idea what was going on. And do we really need to explore Bruce Wayne’s origin again? A few clunky dialogues from time to time from the other characters. Also, some scenes just felt unnecessarily long, like the apocalyptic vision. I get what Snyder was going for, but for sake of fluidity, cut some parts out. I really did enjoy this film, I thought the trinity were spot on, and cant wait to see the additional team members in the future Justice League. Zack Snyder’s DC cinematic version is the best version of Batman to date. We got to see his “world’s greatest detective”, his uses of his bat-gadgets and bat-vehicles with all of its gadget, and more that I can’t think to write. Batman vs Superman is not a perfect film, but it’s definitely worth seeing it on the big screen. I think real fans of the actual comics and not just what they know from the Nolan trilogy will love the new Batman. #cosigned

Zootopia

One thing you can almost always trust Disney to deliver on, is their animated features and Zootopia is proof once again. Perfectly fun for all ages with silly gags to entertain the kids and references for the mature audiences to laugh at. You are my friend if you caught the Breaking Bad reference. There’s also a strong message of tolerance and understanding that is strongly needed today. Leave it to Disney’s storytellers to weave an intricate human story into a simple, fun imaginative story with anthropomorphic animals.