Sunday, July 24, 2022

Shazam 2 trailer and a new Black Adam scene

Warner Brothers/New Line Cinema have released the first official trailer for Shazam Fury of the Gods and a new teaser for Black Adam. As with the previous Black Adam trailer, this one seems very basic and superhero generic. The Shazam 2 trailer gives us more of what made the first movie unbearable. More "New 52", more of the World's Mightiest Mortal acting like the World's Most Obnoxious Brat, and more campy, lowest common denominator "comedy". Having an Eminem song polluting the whole thing does it no favors either. Neither of these trailers have changed my mind. I won't waste my money to go see either of these movies in the theater. I'll either wait until they air on TV... or I may not bother seeing them at all. I hope there is a Captain Marvel reboot soon, and maybe Baz Luhrmann should direct it.  He showed far more respect and reverence to the source material in Elvis than either of these missteps.

Monday, July 11, 2022

review: THOR LOVE AND THUNDER

Thor Love and Thunder is a lot like Shazam!  Schizophrenic and disjointed. It can't decide if it wants to be a Schumacher-esque superhero comedy like its predecessor, Thor Ragnarok, or a romance melodrama, or a sci-fi adventure, or a Guns N' Roses tribute film, or if it wants to make an anti-religion statement or a pro-religion statement or no statement at all.  All these different aspects don't blend together to make a cohesive whole. Instead it looks like scenes from different movies patched together. Curious is how the first Thor movie went out of its way to re-imagine Asgardians as Kryptonian like aliens rather than pagan gods. In contrast, this fourth movie embraces pagan mythology fully.  

The plot deals with Gorr wanting to kill all pagan gods, and ends up kidnapping all the children in New Asgard.  It's up to Thor, Valkyrie, Korg, and Jane Foster to rescue them.  Jane now has powers as she has stage 4 cancer, but an enchantment Thor unwittingly put on his uru hammer to protect Jane causes the hammer, which was smashed by Hela in the previous movie, to reassemble and give Jane super powers for as long as he holds it.  But a complication is that the hammer also weakens her human strength making her less receptive to cancer treatment. When Thor rescues the children, there is a Shazam like moment where he shares his power with all of them to help in battle.

Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor, perhaps the last survivor of the MCU's first phase, and still does well in the role in spite of the disjointed script. Natalie Portman, after missing Ragnorok, returns as Jane Foster and gives the film some gravitas. Tessa Thompson returns as Valkyrie but unlike her star turn in Ragnarock, in Love and Thunder she is just sort of there. Christian Bale as the villain Gorr seems to clash as his style of acting is fundamentally different than every one else in this movie. Although the trailers made it look like the Guardians of the Galaxy were co-stars of the movie, they only appear in the first 10 or 15 minutes. A highlight of the film is the ending where Thor and the little girl (played by Hemsworth's real life daughter) settle into a family situation. This movie has a few fun moments, but it's a far cry from what made Ragnarok feel like a fresh and new relaunch.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Review: Batman '89 #6

The final issue, once again published late, opens with Batman confronting Dent, picking up from the end of the previous issue. Dent sets off a bomb, knocking Batman out, as well as ripping half his mask off. With the half mask, Dent not only recognizes Bruce as Batman, but takes a photo of him just as Catwoman and Drake arrive to take Bruce to safety in the Batcave.  After Bruce regains consciousness, he has a heart to heart talk with Selina.  Drake hears on the news James Gordon's body has been found.  Meanwhile, Dent has a meeting with the corrupted politicians and Carmine Falcone. Dent kills Falcone. He also gets a visit from his old friend Jerome who threatens to turn Dent in. Dent kills him and Drake comes in.  Dent pays off Drake for saving his life earlier. Drake threatens to pulverize Dent for what he did, but as they fight into the street, Dent accuses Drake of being the one who killed Jerome.  A crowd holds Drake.  Dent then asks for a meeting with Bruce.  In the Batcave, the former allies meet where Dent tells Bruce he's working for him now or he goes public with the photo exposing his identity. Bruce offers a different deal: Harvey admits to working uncover for Batman to entrap the mob and dirty politicians, then gets surgery to fix his face and goes through psychiatric therapy, while Batman finishes taking out the remaining bad guys.  Once Dent resumes his position as D.A., Batman will retire.  Bruce tells Dent to let the coin decide which way it should go. But as Dent flips the coin, the giant penny in the Batcave comes loose (pushed by Selina), and knocks Dent over a pit, where he holds on as the wheelchair bound Bruce and Selina try to help him.  As they pull Dent up, he seems to get a sense of clarity, and lets go, dropping to his death. Bruce rages at Selina for interfering like this, as he switched Dent's coin with a two-sided clean one, so once he flipped, he would have picked the right thing to do.  They separate realizing they are too different. Bruce clears Drake of the charges by turning in Dent's gun. Drake also decides to go his own way, taking the code name "the Avenging Eagle".  Meanwhile Barbara Gordon gets a package Dent sent her, revealing the evidence Bruce is Batman, and Selina reaches out to her to form... the Birds of Prey?  And Bruce himself now uses Dent's coin to decide whether he should go out as Batman each night.

As with the last issue, this one has a lot more plot than the earlier issues, where nothing happens other than establishing characters and doing a lot of woke virtue signalling.  So much more plot in issue 6, that the panels for this issue are smaller, with more on a page than any of the previous issues.  And lots of exposition dialogue. Perhaps Sam Hamm could have better paced the story.  Overall, this issue, like issue 5, is better than the other four issues. However there are still a lot of WTF moments, like, not only killing off Jim Gordon, but establishing his age as only 58. Then there is the ending, where Bruce now uses the coin to decide if he is going to go on patrol as Batman.  This issue earns a B-.

In regards to Sam Hamm, there is definitely a mystery that needs to be solved.  This is the best he could come up with for a Batman story after all these years?  And it's not like he is overloaded with other writing projects or assignments. It seems like Hamm will go down in history as the screenplay writing equivalent of a "one hit wonder".  Batman '89 as a whole, earns a lackluster C, and serves as a cautionary tale: be careful what you wish for, because you might not only just get it, but it will probably be a disappointment. I can only hope Michael Keaton's return to Batman in The Flash turns out much better than this.

Friday, June 24, 2022

review: ELVIS

After countless TV projects attempting to tell the life story of Elvis Presley, ranging from good (the Kurt Russell TV movie directed by John Carpenter and the short lived Elvis TV series starring Michael St. Gerard) to the decent (the Sun Records miniseries) to the awful (just about everything else), director Baz Luhrmann gives us the first big budget theatrical movie to depict the story of Elvis. Luhrmann gives us a stylized visual epic, that borrows from superhero movies as well as musicals.  

Narrated by Col. Tom Parker on his deathbed, the script streamlines and simplifies Elvis' life in a dizzying pace matched by Luhrmann's fast paced direction. Austin Butler does an excellent job as the title character.  Although visually he looks more like John Travolta than Elvis, he does capture Elvis' mannerisms perfectly.  Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker is another story.  Covered in prosthetic make up and sporting a vague Dutch accent, which the real Parker did not have, at least to the outlandish extend Hanks uses it, he turns in a cartoonish performance. Of special note is Olivia DeJonge who plays Priscilla, and nearly steals the show in all of her scenes. 

Elvis being a Captain Marvel Jr fan is well represented in this movie, with lots of references to the Rock of Eternity, and in some ways, this movie is closer to a Captain Marvel movie I would have loved to see as opposed to the New52 Shazam dreck that we got. Plus, we finally get the name "Captain Marvel" spoken and shown in a Warner Brothers movie.

Of course there are some inaccuracies in the movie, such as Elvis performing Trouble about a year and a half too early, and over emphasizing Elvis' love for the blues while seemingly downplaying his love for Country music, and completely ignoring his love for crooners like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, and the fact by the 1970s his musical tastes in both listening and performing had switched to adult contemporary.  Parker was not discovered to be an illegal immigrant until after Elvis died, again making Hanks' choice to use such a hammy accent more questionable.  But none of this affects the enjoyment of the film.  

Perhaps the bigger flaws are how many things are, understandably due to time constraints, left out or just hinted at in a short-handed way, such as reducing his whole movie career to a 3 minute montage. Or omitting how he worked with producer Chet Atkins in his earliest RCA sessions or really having anything representing Elvis working in the recording studio outside of the iconic first Sun session.  Or completely leaving out the Ed Sullivan Show and the infamous "filmed from the waste up", or the fact that Jackie Gleason gave Elvis his first national exposure by booking him on Stage Show, a program Gleason produced and was the lead-in to The Honeymooners. Or that Elvis was a dog lover, and from the mid-50s on, always had at least one dog. Most of the scenes at Graceland or in his Vegas apartment should have had a dog at Elvis' side. But the main focus of this movie is Elvis and the Colonel, so a lot of other aspects go by the wayside. And although it seems to be a Luhrmann trademark, the melding of rap music throughout the film did nothing for me.  But overall, this was an excellent and enjoyable film, and I can almost see, had Elvis lived long enough, this is exactly the style of film making he would have endorsed for his own bio-pic.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Black Adam trailer

After years... decades... of waiting, the Black Adam trailer is finally here.

My thoughts? It's basic.  As basic as basic can be. It's Dwayne Johnson cosplaying as Black Adam. I am so glad I no longer care about New Line's botched Captain Marvel franchise, because this trailer is very underwhelming, and I would have been disappointed.  But now, I'll just wait for a proper reboot of the Captain Marvel franchise.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Review: Batman '89 #5

Just when you thought DC was giving the All Star Batman and Robin treatment to Batman '89 ... you know, something so unbearably awful, they abandon it in the middle of the run... along comes issue 5.  

It opens on Harvey Dent, now decked out in his Two-Face costume, negotiating with a certain Mr. Karp to take over the so-called "Joker gang" that has been running rampant in Gotham.  Commissioner Gordon questions his daughter if she knows where Harvey is.  She says she doesn't, but she has a note from him asking her to meet him at Gotham Park.  Jim mentions he's put in his resignation.  Batman and Drake in the Batmobile lead a police car on a seemingly needless and pointless chase, only to have the police car abandon the chase to go after something more serious.  Four subway tunnels collapse and there is a gas leak all near Police HQ. Police Captain Ramirez is shot on live TV during a new interview. The Joker gang invades the streets.  It's all a diversion so Dent can get inside the evidence room at Police HQ.  Gordon gets to the roof to light the Bat-Signal.  Batman arrives in time to save Gordon from a couple Joker gang goons, and they get down to the evidence room where Gordon says 31 Million Dollars from the Lincoln Savings Job is being held.  As they get there, they encounter Dent, who shoots Bullock, and evades Batman while kidnapping Gordon.  Dent gives out the money to the poor and needy.  Dent then meets up with Barbara at the park.  She arrests Dent but he tells her he has her father.  Catwoman jumps from the shadows, knocking Barbara unconscious and tells Dent to run.  Catwoman then orders Drake to follow Dent.  Dent gets back to his hideout, and Gordon goads Dent into shooting him.  Batman arrives.

The extra time it took to put out this issue may have been worth it, as it is the best issue of the run.  But then again, that's not saying much.  Never the less, this issue has better pacing, plot points, and some suspense.  A clear improvement in script quality by Sam Hamm.  Joe Quinones' art is excellent this issue, with the likenesses to the actors more definitive than previous issues.  This issue earns a B.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

review: THE BATMAN

Matt Reeves' The Batman, in many ways, is a bookend to Todd Phillip's Joker.  Both have a similar tone, style, and presentation.  Both films take a germ of the source material from the comics, and build their own mythologies, sometimes in complete opposition to the source comics. And although to date, nothing has been made official, I can certainly see both films part of the same universe. But The Batman, despite all this, is not quite the film Joker was. At nearly three hours, the film is somewhat bloated, and a tighter edit cutting out about half an hour would have made the movie better.  Something else lacking in the movie is anything colorful or fun from the comics.  Much like the Christopher Nolan trilogy, this movie takes itself a little too seriously. There are really only two major action scenes- the Batmobile car chase with the Penguin, and the finale when the Riddler's bombs explode.  There are a lot of great fight scenes, but very little actual action sequences.  Also sorely missing is Batman escaping from a typical death trap.  But on the positive side, this film probably has the best detective aspect of any previous Batman movie even if there are a few times Batman gets things seemingly wrong. I mean come on, the clue is a "rat with wings", and Batman deduces stool pigeon instead of a bat??  Also, this is the first time since the Adam West TV franchise that Batman is on screen in full costume for nearly the entire time, with very few Bruce Wayne scenes.

The simple, yet complex plot has Batman, in his second year of activity (Batman's narration clearly states that for the viewer), encountering the mysterious Riddler who starts knocking off corrupted political and police figures, and it's up to Batman and Jim Gordon, assisted by Selina Kyle who has her own tangent to the case, to figure out the connection. It leads to a revelation about Thomas and Martha Wayne (again, somewhat dovetailing into the portrayal of Thomas Wayne in Joker). It was this kind of deconstructionist attitude that kind of turned me off to the movie at its reveal about at the half way mark. I'm done with this type of "let's see how we can screw up superheroes the most" agenda, and would love to get back to a more truly heroic presentation.

One thing I really noticed about the movie is how there are so many scenes that are homages or recreations of previous Bat-Film moments.  The first fight between Batman and Selina is just like the scene in Batman Returns. Batman's "flying" escape is similar to scenes from both Batman Returns and Batman Begins. The scene where Batman goes into Penguin's Iceberg Night Club is clearly a homage to the "What A Way To Go Go" scene from the pilot episode of the 1966 TV series.  There's a shot of Batman crashing through a skylight that looks similar to shots from both Batman '89 and Batman Forever. When Batman visits Riddler at Arkham Asylum, it echos Batman's interrogation of the Joker in The Dark Knight. There's a shot of Batman hanging from a structure by one arm that looks like a mirror image of a shot from Batman '89. In that respect, this movie plays almost like a "Batman's Greatest Hits" collection.

Robert Pattinson does an excellent job as Batman, much better than I thought he would. Thankfully, he avoids the ridiculous bullfrog voice used by Christian Bale, or the electronically adjusted voice used by Ben Affleck. Instead he speaks in a harsh whisper along the lines of both Michael Keaton and Kevin Conroy.  And after Affleck's serial killer Batman, it's refreshing to have a Batman with a moral code against killing. The Batman cowl really suits Pattinson's face well.  The rest of the costume, though, while better than Bale's motocross style outfit, isn't as good as the Keaton or Affleck costumes.  One thing I hate about the more recent Batman costumes is that the capes have a regular straight edge on the bottom. Why don't they give the capes the bat-points across the bottom anymore?  It's like with Superman, his capes never have the yellow S shield on the back. Pattinson's cape has a Dracula inspired collar, but no bat-points.  Pattinson's Bruce isn't as good as his Batman, having too much of an Edward Scissorhands quality with a sort of Shemp Howard haircut. But thankfully, his Bruce doesn't get much screen time at all.

Paul Dano's Riddler looks more like Hush from the comics than The Riddler.  His performance is fine, but he really doesn't start to shine until the last act after he is unmasked, at which point he starts to act a little more like a classic Riddler, even mimicking Frank Gorshin's dialogue delivery style of raising the volume and getting higher pitched with certain lines.

Jeffery Wright does an okay job as Jim Gordon, but lacks charisma.  If Gordon were more of a background character this wouldn't be a problem, but Gordon is really the film's 2nd lead, so Wright seems a bit flat.  Speaking of background characters, that's what Andy Serkis' Alfred is.  I think you need to go all the way back to the 1949 serial to get an Alfred with less screen time than Serkis.  Colin Farrell, who I always thought would have been a great choice to play Batman, hams it up as the Penguin, getting the film's only humorous lines.  Despite being covered in prosthetics and make up, he still doesn't look like the Penguin, just a heavy, balding, generic gangster.  His role seems quite similar to the position the character had in the Gotham TV series. Zoe Kravitz, much like Pattinson, defied low expectations, and delivered an excellent performance as Selina Kyle, giving the character great range and good chemistry with Pattinson. 


In relation to other Warner Brothers Batman movies, I'd rank this one in the top four:  Batman '89, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight, The Batman. It's far from perfect, it's certainly not the definitive Batman, but for what it is, it's very well done.