Movies

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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On the surface, Captain Marvel, the 21st film the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the first to feature a female superhero as the central character, 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…)

Despite the occasional outlier (Byzantium), Neil Jordan, a one-time, A-list, world-class filmmaker with credits that include Mona Lisa, The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game, and Interview With A Vampire (among others), continues the long, inexorable slide towards irrelevancy with his latest feature-length film, Greta. Relying on a sub-par screenplay co-written with remake specialist Ray Wright (The Crazies, Case 39, and Pulse), clichéd genre elements grafted on fairy tale elements, and dueling performances from Chloë Grace Moretz (Suspiria, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Fifth Wave) and Isabelle Huppert (8 Women, The Piano Teacher, La Cérémonie), Jordan delivers the kind of a film that might get a passing grade from an ambitious, if talent- and resource-limited, first-time director trying to make a name for themselves, but a failing one for a director with more than four decades behind the camera. And that’s actually being extremely kind to a filmmaker who embraces genre clichés but refuses to also fully embrace the camp potential of those same genre clichés.  (more…)

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.

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…)