Movies

Huge news for fans of the anime Cowboy Bebop. Casting for a live-action Netflix version of Cowboy Bebop has been announced. Unlike a lot of American produced anime live-action adaptations, Netflix is going with a much more diverse cast, leaning away from the typical whitewashing you see from Hollywood. If fan reaction is any indication, they’re doing something right. Who are the stars of the much-beloved anime? What well-known faces could be seen? Actors from Star Trek, Luke Cage, Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom, and The Miniaturist come together to bring Cowboy Bebop to life in what is sure to be the next big Netflix hit.

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James Gunn has got to be riding high, with his newest movie Brightburn releasing and being reinstated as director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3. But let’s not forget that he’s also helming Suicide Squad 2. Lots of rumors surround the movie. Is It a reboot or a sequel? What characters will be in it? How short will Harley Quinn’s shorts be? With the departure of Will Smith, other actors have spoken up about their roles in the movie. And it begs the question – if you have returning actors playing returning characters, can it really be a reboot?

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DC Comics came into WonderCon Anaheim strong, throwing out many updates for DC Universe. The streaming app had some disappointments for fans as far as the peripheral features went. Fans were excited by the list of TV shows, animated movies, and films that were accessible, but felt the comics section was lacking. The original content line-up was worthy of a side-eye. Even the staunchest DC fan has reservations as to how strong the content on the streaming service would be. Months after release, the DC Universe proves just how strong it bring it, and announces updates that will worthy of a title like DC ‘Universe’.

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Not every blockbuster or franchise starter/wannabe can – or should – be seen through a superhero prism, but Dumbo, Tim Burton’s (Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Edward Scissorhands) misguided remake of the 1941 Disney animated classic, certainly can be. The superhero in question can’t speak or even control his own destiny (for that, he depends on the kindness of strangers), but he can communicate except through overlarge, blue eyes, giant, floppy ears, and expressive body language. And like every superhero, he has a tragic backstory (forcible separation from his mother) that unfolds in reel time, and a unique superpower (flight) that once used purely for good and not entertainment, will help free them both from the chains of captivity. He’s also an outcast, a pariah among his own kind, the deliberate subject of ridicule, humiliation, and shame. In short, the all-CGI title character is a misfit-outsider after Burton’s own, not-yet-curdled, middle-aged heart.

Unfortunately for Burton and his audience (i.e., us), doubling the original’s thankfully brief 64-minute running time effectively means opening up Dumbo, shifting the focus from Dumbo and his plight to a circus family also beset by tragedy (the symmetrical loss of a mother and a visibly wounded war veteran) and the larger circus itself, beset less by tragedy than a sputtering post-war economy that has little room or space for their kind of old-school entertainment. Not that there’s anything wrong per se in the non-Dumbo circus characters, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), the aforementioned war veteran, a one-time trick horseman and circus mainstay pre-war injury, or his two children, Milly (Nico Parker), a wannabe scientist in early 20th-century America, and her younger brother, Joe (Finley Hobbins). They make for an endearing, if remarkably well scrubbed, trio. It’s just that their individual and collective story often distracts from Dumbo’s journey from sideshow outcast to world-class entertainer and beyond. (Props for Dumbo’s surprising, surprisingly welcome pro-conservation, anti-animals-in-circuses-or-zoos message.)

And when Dumbo isn’t focused on the Farriers and their intra-personal jousts, conflicts, and reconciliations, it’s focused on the circus proper, specifically owner-ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito), a kind-hearted, well-meaning impresario who treats circus workers less as employees than an extended family. Burton and his screenwriter, Ehren Kruger, use broad strokes to introduce the circus performers, most of whom leave little if any mark. To Burton, however, the circus represents a near-socialist utopia of equals or near-equals, with only one or two mean-spirited workers who represent both the worst humanity has to offer (i.e., cruelty to animals) and function as a plot device (one callously instigates the incident that separates Dumbo from his mother, Jumbo). The real villain, V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), a Trump-like venal, morally and ethically bankrupt showman, doesn’t appear until the bloated, overlong, and over-indulgent second half. He’s as bland, dull, and uninteresting a villain as any found in Disney’s animation library.

Once Dumbo switches from the shabby, worn-out environs of the picture-book circus to Vandevere’s static amusement/theme park, Dreamland, Dumbo practically stalls out. Besides Vandevere and his machinations to permanently separate Dumbo from the circus, Dumbo introduces another characters, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), an aerialist who proves crucial to the evolution of Dumbo’s high-flying act and – no surprise here – a potential surrogate mother and significant other to the Farrier children and their wounded father, respectively. She has a semi-tragic history too (because of course, everyone who’s not a villain in Dumbo does). In exchange for a career and financial stability, Colette has handed over control of her life to Vandevere. A minor-league, bald henchman, Neils Skellig (Joseph Gatt), in thrall to Vandevere for no discernible reason other than the usual villain’s need for gofers and day-to-day evildoing, and J. Griffin Remington (Alan Arkin), a crotchety, curmudgeonly banker who holds the financial keys to Vandevere’s future, round out the non-circus performers.

As a director, Burton’s recent career has floundered more than it has soared (to deliberately mix metaphors). His attempt to start an X-Men-inspired franchise in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children failed to generate much interest from audiences while his attempt at spectacle-free drama, Big Eyes, came and went with little fanfare despite another winning turn from Amy Adams. And while his biggest successes over the last twenty years, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, generously filled  the coffers of their respective producers/studios, they did little to discourage the argument that Burton’s best days as a filmmaker with something to say, with the equivalent of a vision beyond CGI-driven, heavily production designed filmmaking, were and will remain behind him. With the occasional moment or scene in Dumbo, all but one or two tied to the Dumbo character and his plight (Burton spends close to half of Dumbo’s running time in close-ups of Dumbo’s large, expressive eyes), he does little to convince naysayers that they’re wrong.

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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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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