Features

Yes, that’s in French.

Now that Disney owns Fox, properties formerly outside the umbrella are finally back where they belong. Fantastic Four and X-Men, primarily. And it’s only a matter of time before the MCU welcome their lost children back to the big screen. And fans have already been throwing out their casting choice. One Redditor gave a suggestion that’s gotten over 20k upvotes or fake internet points. But will you approve? Every Nerd has an opinion on who would be the best Doctor Doom. And even if they don’t have a suggestion, they have an opinion on other’s casting of Marvel’s First Family. But this is a solid list of proven actors that could easily embody these characters and usher the MCU into a bright new phase.

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There’s a new and last season of this TV show starting soon. You may have heard of it. Game of Thrones. Sound familiar? Well, in case you haven’t heard of this little show with little more than a cult following, HBO has some promotional events to help with might be moderate hype. #ForTheThrone features three ways to get hyped for Season 8, and the biggest of three could get you a crown of your own. Would you quest, bleed, or create for the throne? HBO hopes so. Creating a website and posting to YouTube and Facebook, HBO and the GoT actors are giving hints at the location of hidden Iron Thrones throughout the world. And the first of six has already been found!

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. So many of us grew up with the uber-macho He-Man and his alter ego, Prince Adam. He-Man had unfortunately named teammates like Fisto and Ram-Man. He fought Skeletor for the safety of Greyskull. And what little boy or girl in the 80s didn’t yell ‘I HAVE… THE POWAAAAAH!” at least once a day? He-Man spawned the spin-off She-Ra, his long lost sister who had her own power sword and alter ego. But just as She-Ra has gotten a heavy reboot, it seems its time for He-Man’s. But how true to the source material will it stay? Or the more important question may be ‘How much fanboy rage will spill out onto keyboards and out into the internet’? With the lead casting announcement, the answer is probably “a lot”.

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Moments after crimson-red clad doppelgangers invade an upper-middle-class home in Us, writer-director Jordan Peele’s fbrilliantly provocative follow-up to the Oscar-winning black comedy/social satire Get Out, they win a brief, futile struggle for control, taking a terrified nuclear family of four hostage. One of the children, frightened, shocked, and disoriented, flatly states, “They’re us.” Part of the genius of Peele’s follow-up to Get Out lies in that single word, in the doppelgangers, led by Red (Lupita Nyong’o), both looking exactly like their upper-middle-class counterparts, but sounding and acting nothing like them. They might share the same faces and forms, but there the resemblance ends. Their life experiences, material comfort, emotional support, and sunlight for Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) and her family, material deprivation, emotional absence, and the cold, unblinking lights of a literal subterranean existence for Red and her makeshift family, raise multiple specters in American cultural, political, and social life starkly defined by vast income inequality, white supremacy/racism, and a hollowed-out American Dream.

Before, however, we get to that pivotal home-invasion scene, Peele, an exceptionally gifted filmmaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture (especially horror, including Funny Games, The Strangers, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers) deliberately seeds Us with a steady stream of clues as to the underlying meaning – or more accurately, multiple, maybe even contradictory meanings – of his second feature-length film. An old-school, cathode-ray TV plays out a long-forgotten, feel-good, ultimately empty publicity stunt, “Hands Across America,” while nearby, a VHS copy of C.H.U.D., a mid-‘80s, low-budget horror shocker thematically tuned to Us’ socio-political commentary. A young girl, Adelaide (Madison Curry) pays little attention to the TV as her parents prepare for an evening at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. There, her father’s negligence, combined with her natural curiosity, leads her to a funhouse/hall of mirrors that proclaims visitors can “Find yourself.” Adelaide does, both literally and figuratively when she comes face-to-face with her silent double. When Adelaide returns – or rather found – she’s been so heavily traumatized that she can barely speak or interact with anyone.

That childhood trauma carries over into the adult Adelaide. Wary of returning to Santa Cruz or the boardwalk, she reluctantly agrees, in large part to go along to get along with her genial, even-tempered husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), her tween daughter, Zora Wilson (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and her introspective, preteen son, Jason (Evan Alex). But where she sees signs and portents of her past fears and anxieties, her family blissfully sees nothing. When Jason disappears, wandering, like his mother more than thirty years earlier, away from his family and towards the funhouse, Adelaide panics. But again and again, she allows her family and the safety and security that her family represents, to calm her mind and ease her fears, an error Adelaide and her family pay for repeatedly when Red and her clan of grunting, animalistic proto-killers make their expected appearance.

Peele lingers on the small, everyday details of Adelaide and her family’s life, sketching out their divergent personalities in necessarily broad strokes, but also avoiding turning them into stereotypes or caricatures before Red and her clan invades their home. Post-home invasion, Adelaide and her family split and reform (they’re always stronger together), letting moviegoers see and how they’ll react to the life-or-death situations embodied by Red and her clan. For Adelaide, it’s her own personal apocalypse, but Peele, a bold, audacious, and ambitious filmmaker, isn’t content with spinning out another variation of the home-invasion thriller, with or without subtext. He’s just as willing to take a bigger, broader view, both expanding Adelaide and her family’s experience and the film’s objectives as well. The red crimson overalls Red and her clan wear are intentional, not institutional. They represent more than uniformity or conformity. They represent the blood they expect to shed, but also to subconsciously associate Red and her clan with rebellion and revolt. When Red, speaking in a choked, hoarse whisper, says, “We’re Americans,” she’s not wrong. What she fails to add is that Red and her clan represents the forgotten, the invisible, and the repressed (their revolt represents “the return of the repressed”).

There’s more too, of course. More story, more thematic material, more subtext, though early on Peele, a keen observer and commentator on the African-American experience, hints at the doppelgangers representing something else, the “imposter syndrome” many people of color experience when they, like Adelaide and her family, either escape the economic deprivation of their respective biological families, embracing the privilege that comes with middle-class and upper-middle-class status: They feel like the lives they live, the lives they’ve earned, aren’t really theirs. They belong to someone else, someone better, someone who deserves all of the objects and signifiers of material and social success. A key, second half plot turn, however, suggests that Peele might have something else entirely in mind – or something in addition to the “imposter syndrome” idea – for Us and it falls along the nature-nurture divide.

It’s obvious from their second encounter as adults that Red and Adelaide if body switched, would each lead the other’s life or an approximation. Biology isn’t destiny, but environment can be. Peele also suggests, however, that environments and the circumstances they represent, can be broken and shattered, but only through violent means, violent revolt. That we initially, subsequently, and repeatedly root for Adelaide and her family to escape Red’s clutches alive says something about narrative form and our implicit biases. We’ll root for the characters a story tells us to root for, the higher the class, the better the social standing and we won’t think twice about who to root for and how hard we root for them. By the end of Us, as the smoke clears on what, at best, can be seen as a partial victory, Peele wants moviegoers to closely question our loyalties and our allegiances. We just might not like the answers.

Unpopular Opinion: Batmen Ranked Edition

 

Everyone has their own favorite Batman. Every Nerd worth their salt has an opinion on who was the best Batman, who was the best Bruce Wayne, and who was the best at both. And every Nerd’s ranked list differs just a little from the Nerd standing next to them. So here’s our favorite Batmen, ranked best to worst. But this time, we want to hear from YOU. Which Batman was the best? Who didn’t cut it, in your not-so-humble opinion? How wrong were we? Post in the comment below and let us know which Batman stands where in your list. If this post does well and you opinionated (nerd)bastards comment like hell, there could be some Bat-related prizes for future posts…

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It feels good to see a wrong righted. It happens far too often in the world. And rarely is it so public. Everyone saw our article on James Gunn’s departure from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise last year, right? Disney reinstated James Gunn as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Gunn said indefensible comments, meant as jokes, that were the outlandish remarks of someone trying way too hard to be funny and missing the mark by a mile. But Gunn never justified his actions, in fact, he apologizes numerous times. He never blamed Disney, always taking responsibility for his actions, condemning his words and not trying to cover them up. James Gunn did everything right in handling the situation. Fans, family, friends, all sent outpouring support for the writer/director. And in the end, it paid off.

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It was bound to happen. When Captain Marvel released, fans and trolls alike were going to compare the movie, the hero, and the actress, to it’s DC counterpart, Wonder Woman. Who could beat who in a fight? Who had the better film? The first two female-led superhero movies of both the MCU and the DCU were going to cause some comparing and contrasting. That’s nerdom. That’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done since the beginning of time. We pit heroes against each other in faux-battles with arbitrary conditions when we all know that if said heroes ever met, they’d fight for a minute, realize they were on the same side, and then team up. Just like they always do. There would be no “winner” unless it was the both ladies against whatever villain was handy. 95% of the time, it’s all in good fun. But the other 5%? When it becomes toxic, misogynistic, unconstructive, belittling, bad-mouthing bullying? What steps need to be taken to check ourselves and what can we as nerds, as human beings, do to make our fandoms happier places?

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We all have that one nerd that’s hard to buy for. You never know what to get them, what they have or don’t have, or what might be that perfect gift. Or maybe you’re looking to splurge for yourself, spoil your inner nerd, ‘treat yo self!’ a little. What better way to complete any of these missions than by a subscription? Some come in boxes while others are services. You could gift by the year or by the month. Here are some of the best subscriptions for that unique nerd in your life! Even if that nerd is you.

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On the surface, Captain Marvel, the 21st entry in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the first female-led superhero film, and the first MCU film to be directed or co-directed by a woman, seemed to have it all: A newly burnished Oscar winner, Brie Larson, in the title role, a literal tale of superpowered empowerment, a co-lead role for Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the onetime, future director of S.H.I.EL.D., well-respected co-writing, co-directing indie auteurs, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck ((Mississippi Grind, Sugar, Half-Nelson), and a hyped connection – and a key, maybe universe-changing role –for the title character to the MCU redefining, Phase 3-ending Avengers: Endgame in just two short months.Showbox app But unfortunately what Captain Marvel doesn’t have is a central character worthy of the title “Marvel,” the obvious fault of a screenplay-by-committee and the heavy hand of uber-producer/Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige.

Captain Marvel’s (Larson) journey – because every superhero origin story gets a personal, character-revealing one – begins with the title character, currently known as “Vers,” awakening on the Kree homeworld, Hala, after a confusing jumble of images, a sign or rather signs of things to come for Carol Danvers, a onetime Air Force pilot mysteriously turned Kree warrior, fighting the supposedly good fight, protecting the Kree homeworld and Kree’s militaristic, authoritarian civilization, from the presumably evil Skrulls, green-skinned, pointy-eared, and scrotal-chinned shapeshifters who’ve waged a millennia-long war against the Kree (and vice versa). Part of the ultra-elite Starforce led by Danvers’ mentor/paternal figure, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers and her team descend on a desolate, fog-shrouded planet to recover an undercover Kree agent. Almost immediately, the rescue mission goes sideways, leaving a captive Vers in the clutches of the Skrulls and their leader, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).

Through a combination of logic-defying circumstances, Danvers’ frees herself from the Skrulls before promptly crash-landing on Earth in a Blockbuster Video store, the first sign of roughly 357 that Boden and Fleck will exploit Captain Marvel’s mid-‘90s setting for all of the cringe-inducing nostalgia they can cram into a two-hour prequel to Avengers: Endgame, including the grunge, pagers, and flannel, along with over-familiar ‘90s needle drops to underscore practically every action and non-action scene. Just as quickly, Danvers crosses paths with Fury (a de-aged Jackson, sporting a full head of hair and a complement of two, undamaged eyeballs) and all too briefly, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg, also de-aged, though far too smooth-faced to hold up under regular scrutiny). After Coulson gets literally left behind, Danvers, still believing herself a Kree warrior, allies herself with Fury to stop the Talos and his Skrulls from doing whatever evil Skrulls will do (i.e., steal tech, conquer the world and/or galaxy).

Sharing screenplay credit with Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Boden and Fleck (several other writers also receive story credit) settled on Danvers’ amnesia as plot device and story engine. The Vers we meet early on isn’t Captain Marvel’s true, authentic self, but an artificial, manufactured persona (manufactured by whom and for what reason spills into spoiler territory), the likely product of six years of gaslighting. Finding her true, best self involves more than training or fighting; it involves recovering her memories and reconnecting with her past, especially Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), her long-lost best friend and fellow Air Force pilot. The brief, table-setting scenes (literally in one instance) between Danvers and Rambeau give Captain Marvel much-needed emotional heft and depth, but they come in the second hour (i.e., far too late), as does a not unwelcome plot turn that connects the Skrulls and their fates – not to mention their depiction – in a different, more positive light, a light with contemporary political, social, and cultural relevance. The amnesia gimmick, a trite cliché by any definition, leaves Danvers – and by extension a game, but underserved Larson – with the equivalent of wheel spinning before yawn-inducing, ultra-predictable, third-act revelations eventually confirm what we’ve known for the better part of two hours.

While Boden and Fleck fail to dig beneath the surface of Danvers’ personality or psychology – she’s the sum total of what she did and does (pilot, warrior), a montage of men (always men) literally and figuratively knocking her down (a welcome feminist message it should be added), and her ability to emit energy blasts from her fists – they also fail in another, entirely predictable way: They make Captain Marvel far too powerful for the enemies she encounters in her self-titled film. By the time, she alters the colors of her suit from green, black, and silver, to red, blue, and gold, the revelation of a power-set meant to rouse moviegoers from their chairs instead feels perfunctory, an obligatory gesture needed to align Captain Marvel with her predecessors in the MCU. But it feels more like a set-up for Avengers: Endgame and a meeting between Captain Marvel and Thanos that will prove she’s his equal, if not his better. Until then, moviegoers will just have to reconcile themselves with a $150-million placeholder for Avengers: Endgame.

In probably the most famous, well-known speech of his short-lived occupancy of the White House, President John F. Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. He didn’t live to see Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – with an able assist from command module pilot Michael Collins – walk on the moon. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was also out of office, leaving Republican Richard M. Nixon to greet the astronauts when they safely returned to the Earth. And while the country, mired in a deeply unpopular war in Southeast Asia, the Civil Rights Movement and the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy the previous year for eight days, the Apollo 11 mission briefly united the United States. All of which has been well documented in books, TV, documentary, and feature-films (most recently, First Man), but director Todd Douglas Miller, working from hundreds of hours of unused, archived footage, sought to create the go-to, definitive, documentary testament to the Apollo 11 mission. Spoiler alert: Miller succeeds, sometimes spectacularly, in creating an immersive experience unlikely to be equaled in the near or distant future.  (more…)