Features

Few filmmakers have crashed and burned – then resurrected themselves via a found-footage knock-off – like M. Night Shyamalan. After two lightly regarded, little remembered films (Praying With Anger, Wide Awake), Shyamalan wrote and directed The Sixth Sense. Shyamalan received Oscar nominations for Best Directing and Best Screenplay (he didn’t win), glowing magazine articles comparing him to Steven Spielberg, and the virtual blank check from Disney to make whatever he wanted next. That next film, Unbreakable, a semi-subversive, spandex-free, grounded take on superheroes and superhero mythology, underwhelmed commercially, but eventually became a cult hit with discerning critics and audiences. As Shyamalan moved on to the second biggest hit of his career, Signs, and a slow, but steady decline in audience interest and critical goodwill (The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening), an Unbreakable sequel didn’t seem like it’d ever happen, at least not in our lifetime.

The one-two combo of The Last Airbender and After Earth all-but-ended Shyamalan’s career as a big-budget filmmaker, but Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions backed Shyamalan’s last (in all senses of the word) attempt at a career comeback, The Visit. Career resurrected, Shyamalan created a long-delayed backdoor sequel to Unbreakable with Split, a horror-thriller centered a killer with multiple personalities, including a super-powerful persona, the Beast, set in the same universe. Based on the evidence of Glass, the third film in an unlikely trilogy, Shyamalan should have stopped there. Calling Glass a “disappointment” would be a gross understatement. It’s that and so much worse. Glass is Shyamalan, once again letting his outsized ego, invulnerability to criticism, and disrespect for audience, get the better of him. It’s not the badly handled, repetitive exposition dumps. It’s not the stagnant, flaccid, turgid middle section that seemingly goes on forever. It’s not the cringe-inducing dialogue (a Shyamalan specialty at this point). It’s all that and another “twist” ending that treats his characters, especially David Dunn (Bruce Willis), Unbreakable’s hero-protagonist, with an incredible amount of contempt, all to service a “twist” ending straight out of Marvel Comics X-Men.

Glass doesn’t so much center on the title character, Elijah Price / Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), the superhero-obsessed, megalomaniacal mass murderer, than on Glass, Dunn, and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), Split’s damaged, broke villain. When Dunn and his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), track down Crumb and his 24 personalities, including the Beast, to an abandoned factory in one of Philadelphia’s disused industrial parks, a superhero-supervillain fight breaks out. But before Shyamalan can spend his modest budget on Marvel-styled fight, a state-sanctioned psychiatrist, and Philly’s SWAT-equipped finest, capture them. Staple ships Dunn and Crumb to the nearby Raven Home Memorial Hospital. Before long, they’re in a salmon-colored room with a heavily drugged, drooling Price, listening to Staple as she lectures them about not about the superhero/supervillain thing, but about their “delusions of (superhero) grandeur.” Apparently, she’s become an expert in mental patients who think they’re superheroes/supervillains (raising a whole host of questions Glass doesn’t bother to answer until the few minutes).

Glass promptly stagnates, barely recovering in the final twenty minutes. Staple repeats her lecture several times, Crumb goes through his personality changes multiple times (McAvoy gives his all again, to diminishing returns), Dunn sulks in a room lined with high-pressure water pipes, and Glass languishes in a semi-comatose state. Until he (Glass) doesn’t, of course, otherwise Glass would never end (it already feels like that). While Dunn and Crumb basically share the same superpower (super-strength, semi-invulnerability), Glass’ claim to supervillain status involves his big brain, a brain turned bitter due to his life-long disability (brittle bones) and a deeply unhealthy obsession with comic books (which Glass sees as Greek myth-turned-into-modern-mythology). Eventually, Glass being Glass (a self-styled mastermind and at times, a painfully obvious stand-in for Shyamalan and his divisive relationship with critics and uncomprehending audiences), he sets a master plan in motion that involves Dunn, Crumb, and a media event that will reveal their existence to the entire world. [Insert multiple yawns here.]

Besides bringing back Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph, Dunn’s son, Shyamalan also brings back Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the lone survivor of Wendell’s rampage in the previous film, and Charlayne Woodard as Price’s mother. Turning Joseph into the elder Dunn’s guy-in-a-chair makes sense on one level, especially given Dunn’s Batman-inspired, vigilante heroics. Likewise Woodard’s role as Mr. Glass’ long-suffering mother, but Casey’s involvement makes little to no sense (another Shyamalan sadly). Why Casey, the lone survivor of an incredibly traumatic event that left two other young women dead would first have any sympathy or empathy for her captor isn’t a question Shyamalan bothers to ask, let alone answer. Why she agrees to get pulled into Crumb’s treatment by Staple also remains a mystery, though it’s obvious Shyamalan wanted to use the “power of love” as theme and plot device. But that’s nothing compared both to how little Dunn appears in the film and what Shyamalan does with Dunn in the final few minutes – and that’s before an interminable wrap-up that doesn’t carry or convey the emotional weight Shyamalan thinks it does.

 

Netflix is killing it with comic book adaptations. Their latest endeavor is The Umbrella Academy. Packed with fan-favorite familiar faces, can it capture the feel of the comics? Created by Gerard Way, co-founder of My Chemical Romance and DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint, The Umbrella Academy’s teaser trailer gets fans hyped up for a comic book adventure like none other. If Watchmen had a love child with The Brady Bunch, they would likely name it The Umbrella Academy. Where does the Netflix adaptation differ from the comic and will it change too much of the story? Watch the teaser trailer and get excited to join The Umbrella Academy.

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The vast majority of us grew up on Sesame Street. Big Bird, Cookie Monster, The Count, Snuffy, Oscar The Grouch, they helped raise us one half-hour a day at a time. So when we see our childhood heroes do things or say things out of character, it can be a bit jarring. Like dropping the F-bomb during an episode. Grover seemingly did just that, and the internet couldn’t believe their ears. Did our beloved, silly, over-the-top Grover finally lose it? Or are we projecting what we want to hear onto our familiar fictional felt-covered fellows?

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The original Hellboy movies hold a strong and passionate fanbase. Ron Perlman cemented himself in fans minds as Hellboy. Admittedly, Perlman is a tough act to follow. But David Harbour (Stranger Things) steps up to give it a shot. The first trailer for the new Hellboy is receiving mixed reviews – some are excited for the continuing of the franchise, while others feel that if it’s not Perlman andb then it’s not worth watching. With heavy hitters like Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim and relative newcomer Sasha Lane, the new Hellboy has a lot of potential. But can it get past the initial fan backlash? What are the fans biggest complaints? Check out the trailer and judge for yourself.

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If the plot of James Wan’s (The Conjuring series, the Insidious series, Saw) big-screen adaptation of DC’s Aquaman – a reluctant hero born of two worlds, one technologically advanced beyond all (or rather some) imagination, forced to set aside his selfishness, ego, and contempt and embrace his heritage, literally fighting for his birthright in trident-to-trident combat in an arena, followed by loss, redemption, and the rest – sounds more than vaguely familiar, it’s because it should. Though likely unintentional, Aquaman’s credited screenwriters, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall (Wan shares a story credit), followed the Black Panther template practically beat for reverse beat, turning a reluctant outsider into a reluctant hero and leader while turning his born-to-be-king brother into a hardcore, ideological warrior eager to bring a world of hurt and pain to those who’ve wronged his underwater-dwelling people (and all marine life too). Basically, it’s superhero template filmmaking, but like Black Panther, it’s the details, it’s what you do within and outside the confines of that template, that dictate whether the result will be genre-elevating commercial or political art like Black Panther or – in the case of Aquaman – purely commercial entertainment. (more…)

It took 11 years, five movies, and the departure of director Michael Bay, but Transformers fans – the fans who grew up on the 1980s animated TV series/Hasbro commercials – finally get the live-action Transformers film, Bumblebee, they’ve always wanted and maybe even needed to help justify their decades-long love of the series. With paired down, grounded visuals, an intimate sense of scale, and an emphasis on the unbreakable bond between a teenaged girl, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), and a fugitive soldier-robot, B-127, from a dying, warring planet of self-aware, transforming machines, plus a nostalgia-heavy ‘80s setting, Bumblebee delivers the first, near great entry in a franchise that had all but dissipated the enormous goodwill of longtime fans with Transformers: The Last Knight two years ago. And it all took was a coherent, compelling script by Christina Hodson (Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Unforgettable) and deceptively competent direction from Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings), making his live-action debut after a career in stop-motion animation. (more…)

NASA is known for being bad-asses who fly spaceships and satellites through space, landing rovers on distant planets, and occasionally being funny as hell on the internet. And after fans cry out for NASA to “Save Tony Stark” in the wake of the Avengers: Endgame trailer. NASA took to Twitter, tagging Marvel and Avengers with advice. Robert Downey Jr. replies and suddenly the trolls and bots on Twitter don’t matter. Few places on the internet can you find such wonderful, fun, entertaining interaction between government entities, entertainment companies, and celebrity actors.

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Fans have been waiting with bated breath for the first trailer for the 4th Avengers movie. Some expected it to drop on Black Friday and were disappointed when there was no sign of the trailer. Now that the trailer is here, people can’t stop talking about it. The trailer brings back people fans missed out on in the last movie in surprising ways and reveals what fans are calling the biggest loss from Infinity War. What could make fans sadder than losing Spider-Man? NerdBastards breaks down the trailer and gives fans not privy to comic book history some clues as to what’s going on the trailer for Avengers: Endgame.

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Iron Fist wasn’t a huge surprise. Luke Cage made fans nervous. Now, with the announcement that Daredevil, arguably Netflix’s most beloved Marvel show, is canceled, fans wonder what fates await the rest of the Marvel shows. Could these characters and their actors return on another streaming service? Or The Mouse scrapping everything to restart on its own? Fans of the canceled shows and remaining shows alike theorize across the internet. Does Marvel give any clues, or do they spark more rumors? Cast members of Daredevil speak on the cancellation, echoing the hearts and minds of fans the world over.

 

Here’s Stan “The Man” Lee. Because Bill Maher doesn’t deserve to have his face on NerdBastards.

On November 17, 2018, Politically Incorrect talk show how host, Bill Maher took to his website to post a blog entry on the death of Stan Lee and the world’s reaction to losing the champion of comic books and imagination. Mr. Maher spent three paragraphs belittling comic book readers, specifically adult readers. He went on in his tirade of insults, reducing Stan Lee’s work and his impact on society as “using our smarts on stupid stuff”.

Does Maher have a point? Does any of his argument hold water? Or is he an out-of-touch, pompous blowhard trying to get some clicks on his website by riding on the coattails of the death of a man far greater than he’ll ever be?

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