Postmodern Media, Post Modern Analysis, Share, & Repeat

Showing posts with label comics-and-capes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comics-and-capes. Show all posts

Monday, March 8, 2021

Lava (2021)

In Lava, "Deborah, a lonely tattoo artist, endeavors to save herself and her town from an alien invasion. The aliens come in the form of large cats, cackling witches, and never-ending snakes; what's more, these dangerous invaders have harnessed the media as a means to hypnotize humanity into submission. Deborah must learn to resist their control and convince others to do the same" (Rock Salt Releasing). The movie is directed by Ayar Blasco, it is co-written by Ayar Blasco and Nicolas Britos, and it stars, among others, Janeane Garofalo and Cedric Williams. It is based on a comic by Salvador Sanz.

So, I had to dig a little into Lava to review it, which is something I try not to do. It's just one of those ones where it's hard to pull much out of it apart from the art style. So, let's start there. It's a very flat and simple style. The animation can be a little stiff, but movement is far from lifeless. Little touches, like the secondary motion of hair moving/reacting, give the feeling that as much care as possible was put into the animation and world, it just had to be allocated as best as possible. I really appreciated how this shined through in the background environments, and a few other places. A full-body blush of embarrassment isn't something you see in cartoons these days, so it's sweet to see something like that brought into contemporary adult animation. Along with some funny logos and titles, like Gain of Clones, that reminded me of the comic Sex Criminals, there were also WinRAR and VLC logos on a character's computer. The people who made this movie know and live the culture they are talking about, Generation X-ish geeks/nerds who are in their 20s-30s. Overall, they're very-well portrayed, but that really just comes out when the when the movie occasionally picks up steam. We'll get to that in a minute. 

Lava makes me less scared to get a tattoo, and that's an accomplishment. The sound design is a big part of that, and just shows that a lot of thought went into crafting a lot of what's on-screen, although the "why" of everything is something we'll get to.

Lava

Lucy Daughter of the Devil
The art style that Lava (Above) reminds me of is Lucy, Daughter of the Devil's (Below) | Above is Property of Warner Media. Below is Property of Rock Salt Releasing.

The look also is similar to a lot of classic flash videos. Where Lava falls short of even them though is in the lip syncing, but that's probably because it was re-dubbed in English. It just looks a little too exaggerated when lines don't match up, but that also positively lends itself to the ridiculous feel of the film.

At under 75 minutes, this should feel like a quick watch, but it wasn't. Lava, unfortunately, flows about as slowly as the real thing typically does. There seems to be two big problems with Lava. First, character interactions and relationships rarely have a lot of weight to them. Second, the film's editing is incredibly dry and static. The best scene in the movie is one where all cards are on the table and we know where Deborah (Garofalo), her roommate Nadia, and Samuel, who's into Deborah, are in relation to each other, as far as who is/isn't interested in whom. I think it stood out because it was more drawn out than most of the quick chats in the movie. It leads to something great later in the movie, where Deborah and Nadia's relationship grows. The movie has a solid LGTB+ moment, but how people react to them explicitly highlighting the moment may annoy some people. Lava's editing in between sequences is to cut to black and just stop for a second. Once or twice music bridged the gap, but it just felt so lacking that it had to be brought up. That's, apparently, a very tricky cut to pull off right. Luckily, there are some things about the movie that are nailed incredibly.

With that solid grasp of, as mentioned, "Generation X-ish geeks/nerds who are in their 20s-30s" comes a solid grasp of the crap they put up with. The takes some solid jabs at the business side of the entertainment industry, and it's through more than a tattoo of Mickey Deborah does for a client. Employee burnout is shown and how various types of studios and production studios can wreck someone's creativity is shown too. Knowing when to walk away from that kind of environment is a rough analogy, or metaphor(?),  that can be pulled out of Lava, but it's rough because it's also walking away from a probable apocalypse. It doesn't work when trying to apply the message to something like current politics, but the relatively small-scale of Lava doesn't make that a lasting issue. All-in-all, it's incredibly rough, but with it's choice moments. For every silent cut to black, there's an interesting tattoo scene or blink-or-you'll-miss-it reference. 

3.25/5

It's certainly not for everyone, but people who love this style, or at least grew up around it, will find something to enjoy. That's actually a similar conclusion I arrived to with a movie called Unicorn Store, but its feel was more 2000s to mid 2010s quirky/indie. Just wanted to throw that comparion out there because the return to simplicity, in any and all aspects right now, is a welcome one. It's a knock against the Lava to say try to view it in chunks, but it may warm a few extra people up to it. And try the comic, too. I haven't yet, but this really feels like it plays a lot better as a book. 

A screener of this movie was provided to me by TriCoast and Rock Salt Releasing. Original reports of Rock Salt picking up the movie come from Variety. I was not compensated for this review. 

Lava Promo Poster
Promotional Poster | Property of Rock Salt Releasing 
Rock Salt Releasing will release Lava onto various digital streaming platforms for pre-sale on 2/22 and on 3/15/2021 (Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, Google Play, DirecTV, AT&T, Vimeo on Demand, FANDANGO) in both English & Spanish.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Iron Man 3 | Mambo No 5 TV Spot (Fan Made)


Original start to this post: Similar to re-doing Hitman: Agent 47, this is just a bit of fun editing practice.  I'm not going to go into how the Mandarin was handled because it's been done to death, from both viewpoints. What I can say now, that I couldn't in my initial review, is that Kingsley's accent did seem slightly off in that first trailer. Clearly, it was intentional, and his performance was excellent from every angle. 

And the tone, post-Avengers, is perfect and drew us in, but I wanted to try something more in-line with the director. Shane Black's movies are silly, and he reminds me of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, so that's definitely something to play with. 

Another great trailer without the big ticket villain is by Split Second Media. It's in the style of Logan, and that is super fitting.

New start: The FanTrailer subreddit had a Spot Contest in February. Hearing Mambo No. 5 in Iron Man 3 created a backup plan. It became the best option because the movie isn't as comedy heavy as Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp (reviewed here), and Thor Ragnarok. A solid fifteen seconds of jokes, and plot without mentioning Mandarin, was either non-existent, or I would've had to really squeeze material out of the movie. 

So, I went humorless and plotless. The first idea was to do Tony getting into a new suit with each name, but there was a surprising lack of moments like that. So, lone suits being used and incorporating Tony's friend's into the Iron Legion became the way to go. Tony himself kinda bookends things. Hopefully, it runs smooth moment-to-moment.

My family and a few friends looked this one over for me. Also Drw.17, Onomatopoeic Pictures, and  Joshnitt, all from the community (on Reddit and Discord), helped out tremendously, too. They suggested, among a couple other things,  ducking the music volume as needed to bring out the sound effects more, adding studio logos to the beginning, and adding extra dialogue, to break things up a little toward the end. 

Additionally, I'd like to give a special shoutout to Ntenis Kapanidis. He was very hands-on with assisting me. He gave me tips on spot making in general, and he recently found and shared a podcast all about teasers and trailers. It's called Trailer Geeks and Teaser Gods, it appears to be on all major podcast platforms, and I look forward to listening to it.

As always, please check out the community, and if anything you see sparks an idea, run with it and put together your own videos. Tons of free resources are available, like Blender 3D's video editor, GIMP (free Photoshop), and other tools you may need. 

It's not the most complex edit, but just getting back into the MCU and watching Robert Downey Jr. work his magic were just wonderful by themselves. Speaking of getting back into it, WandaVision is pitch-perfect. And I'm proud to say that J.A.R.V.I.S is in this spot!

This video, and others are collected, on-site, here.

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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Harley Quinn: Season 2 (2020)

One complaint I had about the first season of Harley Quinn is that "some episode endings seemed a little rushed so that they could save pieces of an arc for the rest of the season." With the show established that's no longer an issue, and it's able to go into the second season expanding on what it does best. Story arcs are written tighter, many characters from the year before are given additional depth, some new ones are given fantastic introductions, and the jokes just keep coming. Unfortunately, some characters feel sidelined at best, and at worst others are just painfully underwritten. The action and animation is still largely the same and feels like it's on the lower-end, but that's not a real problem. It's a mixed bag, if you dig through it too much, but odds are you're going to really like what you see. 

This season is cleanly divided into a couple neat stories. There's Harley (Kayley Cuoco) taking control of a divided Gotham, one villain-controlled territory at a time, and then there's the fallout from the volatile shifts in power. The first part is pretty clear roadmap to get people back into the swing of things, as each villain takedown gets an episode. Personally, I really needed this since binging shows can leave the details of the previous season a little fuzzy. A season recap, even as a bonus extra on the show page, would've been even better, but we're all just counting our blessings this year.

Harley Quinn Season 2 Promo Image
Harley's Progress (Season 2 Promo Image) | Copyright 2020 Warner Media

Old characters are fleshed out, new ones get proper intros, and the show is able to experiment even more with just about everyone. It's not everyday that Nora Fries (Rachel Dratch) is given the opportunity to have character outside of her husband (Alfred Molina), let alone...move or talk. In fact, the "additional story," in Arkham Knight may be the only other example. Other great examples include Christopher Meloni's Jim Gordon. As much as I loved him last season "flipping the Bat Signal on-and-off [for emotional support]," seeing him actually get some of that support through his daughter (Brianna Cuoco, Kayley's sister) was even better. He even cleans himself up, albeit too quickly, "in a montage where we skip past the hard parts of beating an alcohol addiction." Taking a little more time with Jim's journey would've been great, but still, it honestly was unexpected either way, since characters outside of the main ensemble are not treated seriously all that much in the first place. It may be growth from the creators, and it holds a lot of promise of things to come. I still believe this particular Gordon and Batman (Diedrich Bader) should have more time to shine, but Harley Quinn isn't the place for it. Some characters have a long way to go, in this regard. This version of Two Face (Andy Daly) is a serious letdown, thanks to shallow characterization in a mostly filler episode. 

This is my main black mark on the season. "All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues" is midway through the season, and it's about Harley's time in Arkham as a psychiatrist, and it does something I had a problem with in Solo: A Star Wars Story. "Some of these references unnecessarily setup the original trilogy, or foreshadow it in a way that's more like fortune-telling." And with characters many know very well already from other media, it just doesn't feel like it's doing anything really new with them. All these interpretations may have just backed the writers into a corner, and that's understandable, but in that case a less-is-more approach would've done the trick. Joker, who is very well-crafted by Alan Tudyk, asks "You wanna know how I got these emotional scars?" It'll make people either chuckle or groan, but at least it's just one line. This unscarred Harvey Dent constantly refers to the citizens of Gotham as voters, and it gets old quick. Making him one dimensional is one thing, but at least give him some kind of creativity to go along with it. It's like that acid also kicked the vocabulary section of his brain into action, too. On the bright side, Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) revealing why she thinks so little of humanity does a lot for her as a character and propels her, Harley, and the show to a fantastic rest of the season. 

The action and animation could still use a touchup, and that might've actually happened in the last couple episodes. Starting out though, there's just stupid little errors I noticed, like someone drinking something, but then the same amount is in the glass in the next shot. Toward the end though, there are some fun arena-type fights. The GCPD taking on Darkseid's (Michael Ironside) parademons, for this show, is a matchup made in heaven. The highlight, however, has to be Batman getting his own version of Tony Stark's Extremis armor, complete with his own J.A.R.V.I. S-like companion. First, it gives Alfred (Tom Hollander...so, so close) a much-needed break from Bruce's shenanigans. Second, it leads to a fight with Bane (James Adomian) and some thugs that includes flight and lightning punches, and those are always great things. Still, even if that flash was throughout the season, it wouldn't compete with the show's humor. 

Harley and Ivy looking like regular people
Remember, they both had to put a ton of makeup on to achieve this look. It's a great detail | Copyright 2020 Warner Media

For last season, I said "the jokes had a certain South Park quality to them, and that's not just due to the MA rating of the series. It's in the little things, too." That actually might just be strong sitcom humor in general, since I ran across Josh Weinstein's study of Simpsons jokes, recently. Whatever the case, for me, that off-the-cuff clean humor feels like Harley's secret weapon. Stuff like Bane going for one of the open cushy office chairs, now that other villains are incapacitated, and then being shut down for "honorary purposes" and forced to sit on a crappy folding chair. Last time, I said it was just a good way to break up the more mature material. This time, with that joke sowing the seeds of Bane's rivalry with other villains, I'm calling it character-building. This quickly found its identity. With it knowing exactly what it is, and a confirmation of a third season, it feels like it can run straight ahead into what's next. There's just some tiny bumps along the way to smooth out. 

So, there's a lot that's not being covered in this review for plot reasons. Look forward to the shakeups that'll be explored further in the future.  Instead of that, and because the basic circumstances leading to this review. There's just a couple little things to add as a wrap-up. This character, and her associates, was one of the major pieces of fiction I kept coming back to during this horrible fucking year. There's three other posts here (1, also linked above) (2) (3), plus a little something just two paragraphs down. Maybe it's because of the (almost) guaranteed humor, because Birds of Prey might've been the last thing I saw in an (indoor) theatre, or because that movie helped me grow as a hobbyist video editor? It could be a combo of these things, but whatever the case, she and her cronies helped a lot. Knowing that this review is how I may have wanted to cap off 2020 was something to hold onto through quarantine and recovering from fucking heart surgery (valve replacement in March). 

So, with all that said, I'm giving this season a 4/5.

Similar to last time, HBO Max may still be doing some kind of free trial or starting discount to help promote Wonder Woman 1984. So if you can watch the season, and Zendaya's show Euphoria because I just want to throw that out there, without a major financial commitment, definitely go for it. Finally, there's one last thing. Doing a full write up on it is a little tough because I have trouble smoothly jumping back and forth between all these interpretations of the characters sometimes, and reconciling them with each other, but if you love the character in general, please check out the graphic novel Harleen by Stjepan Sejic. This is a version of Dr. Quinzel, emphasis on doctor, and the clown you've probably never seen before, and the slow burn approach to Harley's transformation builds upon the wonderful introduction from character creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Hearing Harley in your head without the resonance of Cuoco, Strong, Sorkin, or Robbie may not sound "right," but I promise you the voice Sejic gives her is a long time in coming, and it doesn't take away from those wonderful portrayals in the slightest.

Harleen Graphic Novel
Harleen Cover | Copyright 2019-2020 Warner Media

And give Sejic's other work a shot too, but just keep in mind it's usually made with a mature audience in mind, and discretion is advised. 

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Sunday, December 13, 2020

Agent 47: The Silent Assassin | Fan trailer for the 2015 Hitman movie

Last post, I said "I'm definitely taking a break from videos after this. I need to get back to basics" and reviews. And then...


If Hollywood can crank out remakes, why can't we? For reference, please go here to watch my fan trailer for the 2007 Hitman movie. And reviews for both movies are here (2007) and here (2015). If you'd like to know more about this rehash, and the personal value I felt in putting it together, please keep reading. 

In all honesty, I'm out of fresh trailer ideas for the time being. What I figured instead was that I could give Hitman: Agent 47 the same treatment I gave the original movie, but with some technical and visual upgrades thanks to switching from Blender to Final Cut Pro and additional editing experience since the summer. However, that also made me a bit conflicted, as someone who always says that everyone should at least try free and open-source software first, and not shell out money unless it's absolutely necessary. So, Blender was used for the text, that Fox logo is someone else's (beautiful) Blender model, and that scramble effect is not something I would've figured out in Final Cut. Quick sidenote, unless it wasn't allowed for some reason, I'm really surprised 20th Century didn't do something special with the searchlights in the movie's actual opening. It felt like a missed opportunity. 

For a ridiculous concept, as far as copying something I did earlier in the year, I ended up going all out and getting good editing practice in with this project. I did a lot more sound work than usual, and I have my main process/pipeline pretty much down at this point. As someone who's mostly self-taught and regularly flailing through these, feeling like I was successfully following some kind of checklist for this one flattened the uphill battle of getting this movie to pretend it's faithful to its source material. (One day stealth will be its own tv and film genre...but today, unfortunately, is not that day.) My first complete draft of a trailer is usually much rougher, but what I initially showed people really felt like 80 or 90% there. So, I'm getting better at this, and it's a nice thing to celebrate. Still, I'm really glad they got a first glance at the video before it went public. 

Like I always say, these wouldn't come out as well as they do without the screen tests with the FanTrailer community. TheMarvelStark and Will Wallberg gave me some great notes on finishing touches. Sound design was improved further under their direction, and they found an area where one more mechanic of the games could be shown, disguises! Please check out their wonderful work and other projects that people are doing, too.

This video, and others are collected, on-site, here.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Emancipation of Harley Quinn | Birds of Prey Horror Style Trailer

Update: Winners of the Halloween/Horror contest can be seen here. Sadly, I didn't place, but there's always next time. These guys, really all of us, did fantastic work. The whole community, on and off reddit, always does. 


I'm definitely taking a break from videos after this. I need to get back to basics. 

At the end of my Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) review, I said there was "a depth given to Harley Quinn that hasn't been seen since her beginnings on Batman The Animated Series." What made me think of that was her abuse by The Joker and the fear that a breakup in this movie would lead her to replacing him with Roman Sionis. It's definitely a viable option for the character and film, and the filmmakers demonstrate that it could literally be triggered by a slap. At least, that's where my mind immediately went in the theatre. Please read more for a bit more info on how this was cut together and a "Thank You" section.

Thanks, once again, to the FanTrailer community, I got to explore that for their Halloween/Horror contest. And thanks to the Blender community on reddit and their contests, 3d models I made of Harley's weapons were thrown in for good measure. Animation was added just for this though. If you're curious about Blender or 3d art, please leave a comment or message if you'd like help getting started. Same goes with editing, of course, especially since Blender is one of many free editors out there...although this was done with Final Cut Pro. 

Speaking of the theatre, I'm so glad this was one of the last ones I got to see before all hell broke loose. If Hollywood immediately halted all production and releases in March, this would probably be in the Top 5 of 2020.

While it worked for me, the movie and actual marketing for it were both a bit all over the place. So, besides creating this "romantic" abusive relationship between Harley and Roman, I also wanted to try to re-focus everything a bit. The diamond weirdly wasn't mentioned in the official trailers, so it became a trailer plot point, and this largely replaced the focus on The Birds of Prey. That's why the title change happened, too. Probably not the right move for WB to make, but that's why this community exists, to play with fun ideas. 

Joining in for the fun this time are Harrison and, once again, TheMarvelStark. Harrison made sure the music, which I really just put down and didn't edit to this time (thank goodness) had a huge impact on the overall video. Based on his work, incorporating music well appears to be his specialty. TheMarvelStark gave me a full workup of technical improvements and suggestions. They're both great editors, please check out their channels!

This video, and others are collected, on-site, here.
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Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Addams Family (2019)

When I reviewed Storks I said, "No one gets society like Warner Brothers Animation." To add to that, almost no one gets joke-a-second animation like MGM. Sony's Pictures Animation would be one of the other studios that gets this, since it animated Storks for WB, and they do the Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies from start to finish. While the stretchiness and exaggerated expressions of those characters aren't in this, the spirit of the jokes, and movie as a whole, is a mix of 90s Addams Family and cartoons like Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood.

The movie's plot is as standard as it gets, but it was used to deliver some great humor, so let's get into it. Summarized by IMDB, "The eccentrically macabre family moves to a bland suburb where Wednesday Addams' (Chloë Grace Moretz) friendship with the [normal] daughter (Elsie Fisher) of a hostile and conformist [HGTV-like personality (Allison Janney)] exacerbates conflict between [Wednesday and her mother Morticia (Charlize Theron)." Also, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) is preparing Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) for his rite of passage ceremony, The Mazurka, which will be attended by their extended family. So, of course, it's parents letting kids be themselves and kids compromising. It's basic stuff. This plot, luckily, is elevated by a screenplay from Matt Lieberman, and Sausage Party directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, who plays Lurch as well. 

Speaking of Sausage Party, their animation team at Nitrogen Studios was notably exploited. Nitrogen was acquired by Cinesite, and Cinesite's the credited animation studio on this project, so hopefully, the acquisition led to a change in corporate culture and better working conditions. What is clear is that the animation in The Addams Family is a lot more polished, even if there's a step backward in some design choices. The final shots in Sausage Party didn't look final but more like lighting and rendering were still being tested. It's not bad by any means, but there's certain student film feel to it that is just off the mark from the Pixar aesthetic they wanted. 

The Addams Family is brighter and prettier for the most part, but also that "bland suburb" lives up to its name and The Mazurka doesn't look as much fun as The Mamushka of the 90s. So, the townspeople look like stock characters from an Illumination movie. No actual offense intended toward Illumination's visuals, they're okay. It's just that creepiness and kookiness that Cinesite developed for the main characters, by very faithfully capturing how they've looked in comic strips, should've extended to the background characters a little bit. It would've made up for the suburbia plot being something of a rehash of the first Hotel Transylvania. A lot of effort did go into these visuals, but that $24m budget possibly stopped them from going all the way with it. Another possible example of this limitation is with the Mazurka itself. It has a spotlight lighting style like the big circus number in Madagascar 3, but it's not nearly as big as that, partly for story reasons, and it feels like a mismatch. Seeing more of the spectators throughout the whole thing may have helped. Mazurka to Mamushka, by the way, is going to be the only real point of direct comparison because it is the one place where this update should have been superior. 

Speaking of direct comparisons, all characters are brought to life well by the cast, but there's a surprising few who are worth mentioning: Pugsley, Grandmama (Bette Midler), Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), and Fester (Nick Kroll). Short and sweet, Pugsley and Grandmama are given a lot of personality that I haven't seen before in past interpretations, and it really gave the movie a reason to...well...exist. Janney has played a character like Needler before, as the kangaroo in Horton Hears a Who, but she's a lot less insufferable this time around. So, that's an improvement. I expected the worst from Kroll's Fester because Kroll has, with exceptions, a disgusting and crass filmography, but he was pretty restrained in this and the character had some great jokes. Gomez, Morticia, and Wednesday are as perfectly cast and played as expected, of course.

Finally, to wrap things up, I'm just going to pick out a couple of jokes that I liked. The opposite day dialogue and stuff that's been part of Addams Family can be confusing and hit-or-miss, and it is in this movie too, but the delight of newlywed Gomez and Morticia saying "we hit something" after crashing into Lurch with their car set a solid tone for the remaining eighty-ish minutes of movie left. Most of the humor won't be dated, except for the It joke in the trailer, and those that are still may bring a chuckle, like a devil character lighting his head on fire before proclaiming that the Mazurka is "gonna be lit." The Mazurka wasn't as lit as I wanted it to be, but the entire movie was more fun than I thought it would be. 

3.5/5 

By default, that makes the 90s version and the sequel at least 4/5

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Superman vs The Elite (2012)

Note: Thank you to Russell Hartman for previewing this review for accuracy.
 

The classic version of Superman is hard to come by, especially on-screen. Now, my stance on the DCEU is that Snyder was going on a journey to the blend of Clark and Kal-El that we’re familiar with and love, and his cut of the Justice League should prove that. If I’m wrong about that though, or you feel the damage has already been done with the snapping of Zod’s neck, then I recommend Superman vs The Elite.


Superman vs The Elite pits Superman (Justice League's George Newbern) against a team of vigilantes intent on acting as judge, jury, and executioner. What makes this a challenge isn’t just that they’re at times more than evenly matched for The Man of Steel, but their methods quickly become not just accepted but popular with the public. Even as understandable as that may be for some, seeing it through Clark’s eyes is scary and depressing. The Elite’s championing of chaos and anarchy comes at the expense not just of due process, but humanity. This movie is directed by Michael Chang, adapted by Joe Kelly, and based on his Action Comics #775 issue "What So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way.”

 

So, what sticks out about this movie immediately, especially during the first viewing is the art style. It’s pretty cartoony-looking, especially for a DC animated movie. It’s similar to the original comic but pushed a little more. Once you get used to it, it’s great. It makes Superman look older than he probably is, like in his 40s or 50s, and that’s very fitting for a story where he feels a bit out of place with the rest of the world. Zack Snyder makes him feel out of place by making him more of an alien, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but Chang does it by making him feel more human. The style, by the way, allows for fluid animation, and great fight scenes (describe some fights), on top of some already interesting visuals. 

 

Superman's full strength and range of powers are taken advantage of in ways that are a bit unexpected, like a sonic scream, but it's one of the Elite members, who steals that show. Menagerie (Melissa Disney) is a mixed bag of a character. Her hitting on Superman comes across as overly off-putting, since this version of Clark is so wholesome and has a great relationship with Lois (Pauley Perrette), but her powers help make up for that. She has these Medusa-like snakes, or eels or leeches, that she can shoot out of her body, but she also uses them as hearing aids and binoculars. She felt like a more powerful and creative version of Poison Ivy. While that's probably not true if they faced off, the movie makes a good case in the moment. 


Superman and Lois
Superman, Lois Lane, and the Strong, Stan Smith-ish, Jawline of Justice | Warner Brothers, 2012


Besides Menagerie's forwardness, the only other problem with the movie is just how fast the Elite are applauded for their actions. People who watch these direct-to-video movies regularly are probably used to the fast-pace needed to cram everything into about ninety minutes, but the movie actually has a good buildup scene that just plays a moment too late. To give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, the swept-up nature of how people treat The Elite is necessary to bring out the film's themes. So, how do those play out?

 

While this came out well after September 11th, and issue #775 came out six months before, the response to terrorism is central to the story. What tips Superman over the edge is when The Elite kill the leaders of two warring nations during, albeit highly likely to break down, peace talks.

 

Their leader, Manchester Black's (Robin Atkins Downes) philosophy is "The only logical thing to do is slot the whole McGill and start over." In some ways, it's the Adrian Veidt/Utilitarian approach from Watchmen, but this movie makes that less of an abstract concept. The Elite aren't monsters, but they still did this in an up-close and personal manner, as opposed to Veidt's method of flipping a switch half a world away. Adding violence, pain, and suffering, at least as much as possible in a movie aimed at teens and pre-teens, the consequences become more real. The need for more than just the No-Kill rule, but a standard of humanity even when faced against the worst of it, becomes more real. That's what this Superman embodies. That's why some still look at a punishing Batman, even with that rule firmly in place, with a raised eyebrow.

 

So, that's why this is one of the best Superman movies out there. The way to make someone as overpowered and genuinely good at heart as Superman interesting is to find a way to challenge that, and Superman vs The Elite may provide a clear answer for the hero's situation, but that doesn't make it an easy one. I honestly believe that's what Zack Snyder was going for in that aforementioned pivotal scene of Man of Steel, but something got lost in translation, and that version of the character hasn't fully recovered, despite Henry Cavill showing incredible range as the character in the cape and in "Kansas Plaid." 

 

Back to Elite, it's an incredibly human story. That’s most clear in the moments between Clark and Lois, and him and his dad (Paul Elding). He’s able to be his most (Kryptonite-free) vulnerable, doubting, and scared version of himself. It's in some ways like back to when he was a kid and still figuring everything out. I hope DC's animated branch continues to give us more films like this, especially from Clark...although not necessarily this Clark. If you haven't read or heard of Superman: Secret Identity, I highly encourage everyone to check it out.

 

I plan to return to this movie at some point soon because the original plan was to compare it to Captain America: Winter Soldier. While the extreme of Elite is anarchy, the extreme of Winter Soldier is national security, but with both characters championing similar ideals, so there's definitely more to say on the topic.

 

Anyway, I'd love to hear what others think of this movie and other pieces of Superman, or superhero, media. So, if you have something to say, leave a comment, or better yet, write or film your own review/essay and put it up on your own platform.


4.5/5

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Polar (2019)

We're in the age of the John Wick clones now, with movies like it, PolarExtraction, and Atomic Blonde seemingly popping up left and right on Netflix. I haven't seen John Wick yet, but I've seen those other three, and I'm a Tarantino fan. I'll explain where he fits into this in a minute.

From IMDB, "A retiring assassin, Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) suddenly finds himself on the receiving end of a hit, contracted by none other than his own employer, Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas), seeking to cash in on the pensions of aging employees." It is directed by Jonas Åkerlund, written by Jason Rothwell, and based on a graphic novel by Victor Santos

So, let's start with the Tarantino thing. When Leonardo DiCaprio's character in Django Unchained, Calvin Candie,  is introduced, he's mugging for the camera. It's clearly directed and intended by Tarantino, and he probably gave DiCaprio some idea how a fast zoom in and sweeping sound effect would be used in the finished film. It feels like what Åkerlund was doing on set, which is good work, and what he was doing in the editing room, which is also good work, are from pretty different movies. The editing, from the cuts, to the coloring, to the title cards, can be very stylized at times. This can be really fun, engaging, and is a great tool for character development because it can show what's in their head without telling us through clunky dialogue. I think for it to work well, the characters have to match that stylized tone, or at least a character does, and they don't in this. They're not toneless, though.

Polar has a very morbid sense of humor. Gunshots and kills, especially early on, are played like a punchline. The movie opens with one of Mr. Blut's employees (Johnny Knoxville) being assassinated after taking a little blue pill and enjoying the day with someone who's actually part of Blut's crew. The scene feels a little too gross to enjoy. Still, Knoxville needing one of those pills feels like a reference to his painful career, and that's pretty funny. The cruelty doesn't end there, as he's just the first on a long list of kills, but what makes many of the other ones worse is they're usually collateral damage. It's a little better when Mikkelsen is the one pulling the trigger though.

The movie has a lot of character and a lot going on in the little things. One of those things being Mikkelsen's performance and the people he interacts with. Besides the action, which is usually less about speed and more precision-based, he's asked a lot. Most notably would be torture similar to what his character put Daniel Craig's Bond through years ago. However, this movie's R-rating means Mikkelsen had to give a little more to the performance and be covered in fake blood and makeup to help pull it off. He takes some warming up to, but he's the best part of the movie.

As for those people he interacts with, it might just be stuff that clicked for me. After a doctor's appointment, the doctor goes to the microwave near the exam table, pulls out a dessert, and they casually talk about his physical results. It's definitely because of quarantine and the rise of phone/webcam appointments right now, but it just stuck out as this nice moment. On the subject, the fact that this whole plot revolves around some basic accounting, which is explicitly brought up (killing his retiring employees lowers Blut's company's liabilities), also got my ears earring. 

Mr. Blut himself was actually another bright spot. Matt Lucas is much more entertaining to watch when he's eccentric than when he's just creepy. It's a shame that his character is an idiot and highlights the worst of the script. 

That torture scene mentioned earlier takes place over four days. Vizla's suffering is drawn out because "this is personal." Vizla, while he's very competent, gets lucky throughout the movie because a gun isn't drawn on him the second he's seen. Aside from the "personal" reason, there usually isn't a good explanation. The mix-and-match style of the movie's writing and tone don't really have an explanation either. 

Polar is inconsistent in a really bad way. I can handle tone shifts like when Hancock went from comedy to drama, but that's because every element of the movie shifted. Polar, instead, clashes with itself in some of the same moments. Still, I enjoyed Mikkelsen and the bright spots the movie offered. So, if you're already subscribed to Netflix and running out of other shows and movies, give it a try.

3/5
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Friday, May 22, 2020

Hitman: Silent Assassin | Fan trailer for the 2007 movie


Update: To see similar treatment of the remake, Hitman: Agent 47, please go here.

First, I want to thank the editing/fan trailer communities on Reddit and Discord, and my friends for early feedback.

A couple of years I reviewed the original Hitman movie and the remake, and I cut together my first fan-made trailer. This one should've gone up shortly after those reviews. In fact, those typing parts had been done for a while, but the rest of the video wasn't coming together well. Besides technical difficulties (my own ineptitude), I was going back to school, or work, or both, and it was easy to justify the procrastination.

Recently turning this blog into something a little more helped a lot though because I hope to encourage others to try doing this too. So, where's the best place to start with that...

It's really going to vary for everybody, depending on what they like to watch and play. As far as narrative for one of these videos, I still don't know how to come up with that from scratch. The Spider-Man one used the same style of a different trailer, and this one used the game's Silent Assassin ranking system for missions. There are a lot of books and tutorials on editing, but I got lucky and learned the basics in school, so I'm not sure where to actually start with those other resources. 

On the technical side, Blender is a good editor. So far, it and an editor called Olive are the only free resources I know that mkv files. Blender lacks audio control though, so another program like Audacity is necessary too.

Anyway, I hope people give editing a shot. It's like another form of fan fiction that can spark more and more creative ideas. 

Also, what is your favorite fan trailer and/or editing resource? Please mention it in the comments.

This video, and others are collected, on-site, here.
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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Harley Quinn: Season 1 (2019-2020)

So I don't write show/season reviews because that can be a lot to watch and keep track of. Harley Quinn was doable though because even with the relatively high amount of episodes, the show never really spreads itself too thin, and it's much more consistent than I think most people would expect. This is the easiest kind of show to screw up because the easiest way to do it is for Harley (Kayley Cuoco, in arguably her best role since 8 Simple Rules) and company to never, never change, and just wreak havoc on Gotham with no clear plan week-to-week. Instead, Harley and her team are a real ensemble, characters are depicted with fresh approaches, and the show's humor is varied in a way that reminds me of the best moments of South Park. It's not perfect, but it's another deep breath of fresh air from DC that Marvel and other publishers should keep an eye on.

So first, that ensemble and those characters. The main plot of the season is that Harley has broken up with Joker (Alan Tudyk), so part of making a name for herself involves putting together a crew and pulling off some big scores of her own design. That crew is Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), King Shark (Ron Funches), Dr. Psycho (an unrecognizable Tony Hale), the classically-trained, Shakspearean-style Clayface (Alan Tudyk), and occasionally Ivy's plant Frank (J.B Smoove) and Ivy's landlord Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander). With the title character, Cuoco said "I didn’t want to force an accent or try to be someone I’m not. I’m ‘Kaley as Harley,’ and accepting that early on enabled me to be free and very authentic." That seems to be true of all the actors and characters. It leads to things that possibly have never been attempted before with these icons in any medium.

For instance, Batman (Diedrich Bader) and Gordon's (Christopher Meloni) relationship feels similar to how Batman and Joker's has been on the screen since The Dark Knight. It's explored and parodied at the same time. So, we get Gordon flipping the Bat Signal on-and-off because he needs to talk about his marriage with his closest confidant. To anyone familiar with Meloni's other work, the extra-level of meta-ness is a bonus. If they got their own spin-off, or even their own comic, it would be a lot of fun.


Harley Quinn Season One PromoHarley's Crew (Minus Frank) | Copyright 2019-2020 Warner Media

Even though this isn't their movies, this style fits neatly with the DC's and WB's post-Batman vs Superman and Justice League strategy of not trying to copy Marvel and just letting their creators do their own thing, and that's really the last thing I expected from Harley Quinn. This could've been an animated Deadpool clone that was all off-the-wall humor but no substance. Instead, there's an actual story throughout the season and a long arc that takes like four episodes. And Harley and Ivy's relationship especially shines. They banter well together and look out for each other. Ivy calling Harley out on her crap when it comes to Joker is especially welcome. It's one thing for the new movies to bring up the toxicity, but having a voice of reason spell the consequences of that relationship is a much needed and appreciated extra mile. It's a friendship that makes people with some familiarity with them want to seek out the comics and fan-cast a Pamela Isley that would have great chemistry with Margot Robbie. Also, a small but impactful change for Ivy is she's less of an eco-terrorist. She has a line she doesn't want to cross, and it's incredibly humanizing. That demonstrates real effort on the part of the writers and directors. Speaking of them,' the scripts and dialogue should definitely be addressed a little.

Like I said, the jokes had a certain South Park quality to them, and that's not just due to the MA rating of the series. It's in the little things, too. South Park will have these jokes that could fit in on The Simpsons. One was Emmanuelle Lewis appearing as a "Dictionary Official" when the boys get a word redefined. When he shows up, Stan just says "Oh, it all makes sense now." They're probably just there because it's the funniest line Stone and Parker could come up with, but I think it's also another way to show that there's more beneath the surface, especially early on with a new series. In Harley's case, one such joke is about the young age of a tree monster, as shown by the rings. It's a good laugh, in the middle of a lot of chaos toward the end of the season.

Finally, one problem with the show is that some episode endings seemed a little rushed so that they could save pieces of an arc for the rest of the season, but that's better than dropping storylines entirely. Another is that the animation and action could be better. With a higher budget, it could definitely take inspiration from Birds of Prey's (reviewed here) fight scenes and look as fluid as Spectacular Spider-Man.

So, as mentioned, DC appears to be expanding in ways that Marvel and other publishers aren't yet. On top of other MCU shows that Marvel has planned, there's also a What If series that could be their approach to being something like Harley Quinn. After the perfect stopping point with their movies, I hope it is because this is the best time for them to start something new. The same goes for Image, Valiant, which just had a rocky start with Bloodshot, and other competitors. DC tried to learn from Marvel, copy them, and failed. Now, everyone can learn from DC, experiment, and succeed. 

The series can be viewed with a subscription to DC Universe. The second season is coming out now, so you might want to try waiting until that ends to get the 7-day trial, and then binge the show along with anything else you have time for. The first season is also being sold digitally wherever you regularly buy shows.

4/5
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Monday, February 10, 2020

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

According to
The Mary Sue "Birds of Prey did not meet expectations at the box office, pulling in just under $34 million, according to Rotten Tomatoes...Some are framing the issue as a failure in marketing [as] early trailers failed to really highlight the plot of the movie." The problem is if the ads focused on the plot, a lot of people would've left the theatre frustrated. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is just about Harley (Margot Robbie) rediscovering herself without The Joker (Stand-ins and Archive Footage) and her place in Gotham. That place is on the hit list of basically everybody she's ever come in contact with, including Roman "Black Mask" Sionis (Ewan McGregor), after she happens upon a diamond he really wants. While Harley is reaching her realizations, the audience learns that it's her world, and the rest of her crew is just living in it.

It's a basic plot that's used to fuel a lot of fun, but the issue is that it's told in a roundabout way. To introduce and give backstory to everyone, including the Birds of Prey members, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), long flashbacks and fill-ins are used. It's not too messy, but it's distracting, and people may lose the "Hows" and "Whys" of what's going on around them. Also, it's a way to remind people that this a Suicide Squad sequel/reboot in the DCEU, and how much that frustrates people will vary.

A lot of that fun mentioned before comes from actors but also from the action. Birds of Prey risks being too similar to Deadpool, but the differences shine through. The violence in Birds of Prey is cruel, with bones breaking every which way, but it's not gratuitous without a good reason to be. If things are graphic, it's typically because Sionis is doing it or ordering a lackey to do it. It shows some form of sensitivity and control from the movie's writer (Christina Hodson) and director (Cathy Yan). This is extended even further when talking about Sionis's main lackey, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina).

McGregor's Black Mask is probably the best gangster villain in a Batman movie. They've had a ton of them in the past, but they were usually side characters to the major villain. A scene that sticks out is one where he's trying to impress some people in his office with collections of art. The casual sexism and racism dripping out his mouth contrasts well with his more manic moments of violence. Harley throws in some psychoanalysis for good measure, but we're really given everything we need without it. Still, it's an extra shot to his over-inflated self-importance. 

Zsasz has a pretty solid history outside of the comics, thanks to the Arkham video games and Batman Begins. He's typically a complete psychopath who believes he's freeing people by murdering them with a knife. This time around, he's more collected and his behavior is less dependent on a mental disorder. Hodson and Yan may be trying to highlight that, according to some recent studies, "less than 3% to 5% of US crimes involve people with mental illness." So, make Zsasz more like your garden-variety criminal, and he actually becomes a much better character. If we're going to get more cinematic stories out of Gotham, and we are thanks to Robert Pattinson and Matt Reeves, it's absolutely a route worth taking. 

From great performances from the cast to a depth given to Harley Quinn that hasn't been seen since her beginnings on Batman The Animated Series, Birds of Prey is a fun trip with a lot to offer, but as an origin story for everyone outside of Harley, it's a longer than expected journey. 

3.5/5
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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Joker (2019) | Spoiler-Free Video Review

So, the written review about Joker was born out of this initial video I shot and then took a little time to cut together. It's my first official video for the Why We Watch channel! While it's a little rough, I am pretty happy with it, and they can only get better from here.

Please check it out, and let me know what you think about the video and the movie itself. Also, I hope you take my closing comments to heart and try to create something like this yourself on your own platform.


This video, and others are collected, on-site, here.



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Monday, October 7, 2019

Joker (2019) | Spoiler-Free

Note: A special thanks to the people in my Entrepreneurship in Arts & Music class for prompting this site redesign and actual brand building. Hopefully, more to come.

Update: Yep! Over a year later, a lot more.

2019’s Joker has a firm grip on the character, and slowly releases him from our fascination, which has been constant since at least 2008. At least, that’s my hope.

I had a lot of mixed emotions seeing this movie. First, I was paranoid of something like Auora Colorado happening here, but that started to go away after the first half-hour. After that it was a lot of conflicting feelings of how you’re supposed to feel about Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck, and then I arrived at a conclusion I could live with. I hate the Joker. Saying that out loud felt really weird for a guy with a Dark Knight poster in his room, who used to recite those scar stories. One of the reasons may be that we're going from a version of the character that cares about nothing, to one that at the end cares only about himself. Regardless of how that selfishness comes about, it's what makes the character's actions more disgusting. I'm glad WB and DC gave director Todd Philips permission to finally make that happen.

Joaquin Phoenix is a lock for at least an Oscar Nomination. He didn’t only transform himself, he made it effortless as well. It’s hard to imagine that this is the same man who left his own stamp on Johnny Cash's music. The small problem with that is just as Heath Ledger overshadowed Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent eleven years ago, Phoenix may have done the same for Frances Conroy, who plays his mother Penny Fleck. The same can be said for some of his other co-stars, but that's more because of lack of screentime. The main character is fully developed, and everyone else is largely sidelined.

This moment happens like a sudden shock back to reality toward the end of the movie, and it allowed me to breathe a heavy sigh of relieve.

Now, as for the actual filmmaking, Todd Phillips has completely crossed over and aged gracefully since finishing The Hangover Trilogy. (Keep in mind I still have to see War Dogs.) He wants to make a mature film, and for the most part he succeeds. Arthur’s transformation is handled with extreme care, and the movie itself just looks fantastic. Phillips and Director of Photography, Lawrence Sher, create a style and Gotham all their own in New York. The city is still disgusting, but filtered through Arthur, its potential to be its best or worst is in focus.

The only problem with Gotham is how Phillips sees some of its citizens. He believes some people who say “Eat the Rich” mean it, and it’s troubling that he’s bringing it up during this very heated time politically. Basically his wires are crossed when it comes to the hot-button issues plaguing the far-left and the actions of the far-right.

What I hope doesn’t is this potential newfound revulsion of a character that we don’t really need to give the spotlight right now. Give this movie the attention it deserves, then turn to something a little brighter. Hopefully WB and DC actually decide to bury the character for a few years, and when they want that "Joker money," they can just use Harley Quinn

I give Joker 4/5 stars, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it, too. Don't just comment about this one, please write your own reviews or even put up your own analysis on YouTube. I may not want Joker to be something we revisit every year, but it does need to be explored as fully as possible.

Finally, I didn’t really get a chance to talk about the whole Incel thing. If you’d like know about that, I recommend checking out a video on YouTube by Contrapoints on what incels are, and another by La'Ron Readus about how that may or may not be related to this movie.
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Men In Black: International (2019)

The last time Chris Hemsworth was in a Sony reboot (Ghostbusters), the studio was too hands-on and micromanaged the project to death. This time, it seems the producers were too hands-off and contributed very little but their names and capital. It's a shame too because what little Men In Black: International has could be the start of a fun reboot. Instead, the movie is completely aimless and only somewhat saved by the cast and location-hopping.

Men In Black: International claims to be an F. Gary Gray film about Agent H (Hemsworth) and new recruit Agent M (Tessa Thompson) hunting a mole in the organization, but it's really a movie led by screenwriters Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, and they wrote something as barebones as it gets.

MIB: International's main plot of finding a mole and saving the world doesn't really kick off until about thirty minutes into the movie. Between M's quick recruitment and then, it's a mess of establishing which extraterrestrials are a threat and why. What's going on is shrouded in mystery, so that it can be paid off later with globetrotting, jokes, and character building.

Some of it works well. Hemsworth and Thompson, naturally, work exceptionally well together. It's a nice twist to have the straight-laced new recruit and a veteran party boy working together. Hemsworth's antics do enough to distance himself from Thor. His overconfidence is much more misplaced, as he survives by luck and a general sense of just squeaking by. The best example of this is probably how he's able to make himself right at home in a nightclub. Thor could drink and dance the night away too but not quite as smoothly as Agent H. Thompson has had much better, more rewarding roles in Dear White People, Sorry to Bother You, and the Creed, but it's great to see her with another role under her belt. M will make a fine agent, if she's allowed to be revisited in the future. Liam Neeson's High T may not be a match for Rip Torn's Zed, but he's not trying to be, and that is one of the most redeeming factors of the movie.

The best thing about MIB: International being underwritten is the nostalgic moments aren't overused, unlike in the reboot of Ghostbusters. The references occasionally pop up throughout, but they're really brought in to showcase how the tech of the organization, and the filmmakers' CGI, have improved over the last seven years. It also lends itself to new jokes. Unfortunately, most of these jokes don't land, another casualty of Marcum and Holloway's work. At least these guys and F Gary Gray know how to pick their locations.

Losing the safety net of easy New York City jokes that were in the other movies ends up being another win for the movie. Paris, Marrakesh, and a couple other choice locations are breaths of excitement in a movie that may have people trying to treat their theatre seat as a nice mattress or couch.

Agents in Marrakesh
If nothing else, Marrakesh is an interesting location to explore | Copyright 2019 Sony

For anyone who does manage to be on the edge of their seat watching this, that's awesome. There are great characters and great action, it's all just way too few and far between in a nearly two-hour movie.

2.5/5

Update: So the day after writing this, two articles came out about how the production was troubled. So, I may be at least a little wrong about putting so much of the blame on Marcum and Holloway. If my criticism really is misplaced, I offer them my apologies. Hopefully, more info is released because it does make things more compelling
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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019) | Short Review

Well, I've seen this movie three times in theatres, which might be a record, so I should probably say something about it. The scariest part about the high expectations for Endgame isn't the first viewing I got in Thursday evening because of fear of spoilers, it was the second and third. How re-watchable is a spectacle that's biggest draw is the surprises? Strip away the callbacks to what came before, and what's left? Thank Christ, tons. Both good and bad.

Avengers: Endgame follows the remaining Avengers as they retaliate against Thanos in the hopes of bringing back the people they lost in Infinity War. Besides wanting to avoid spoilers, this movie has too much ground to cover, so I'm going to talk about a couple that stuck out.

First, there's Thanos (Josh Brolin). With his goals accomplished and his ego a little bit boosted, he becomes a little less relatable in Endgame, and that's a damn shame. He does not become a one-note villain or horribly written, but a new level of cruelty is revealed as he works to maintain the universe he's "saved." As justified as his actions become, his ranking as this century's Darth Vader takes a small hit. Still, Josh Brolin (and the vfx artists at Weta Digital and Digital Domain) gives a perfect performance as the Mad Titan. Between the three, every expression is genuine when it was shot with motion capture, and real when shown on screen. He may not be the best supervillain we've ever had (if you count the shows and outside the MCU), but he's the best larger than life one.

Second, there's the camera work and editing. There's a long take with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) chasing and taking down some thugs (yes, this movie still has some garden-variety crime and is all the better for it). The camera's focus and slow movement is representative of the whole movie. Everything is captured in a way that allows it to sink in, which is necessary when so much is being juggled at once. Marvel movies get some heat because, apart from Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, they look a little bland and flat on the screen. That is a serious problem, but at least the Russos don't try to trick people into thinking they're flashy by using nauseating editing, unlike early DCEU movies. Luckily, the DCEU's gotten better at both.

Finally, it's just a blast, if you know and love these characters. Endgame is honestly a tough sell if you're new to everything (but that hasn't stopped parents from taking their kids into the theatre). Infinity War (or YouTube recaps) can bring people up to speed, but then enjoyment is solely on the actors' shoulders. All that can be promised is that they're giving it their all, and hopefully it resonates.

For some, myself included, this movie will never fail to make them cry | Copyright 2019 Disney

4.5/5
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

"Peter, these are the years when a man changes into the man he's gonna become the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into." The Spider-Man film franchise began in 2002 and has hit the age of identity crisis. It's gone in three separate directions this year, with Avengers: Infinity War, Venom, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but that's how this empire should run. It's leagues better than when one Spider-Man movie tries to do it all, like when Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2, each attempted that.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is directed by Bob Persichetti, Rise of the Guardian's Peter Ramsey (he's finally back), and Rodney Rothman, and written by Rotham and Phil Lord, and they set out to tell the tale "one last time," seven more times...sorta. When The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) opens a wormhole that teleports other Spideys into Mile Morales' (Shameik Moore) dimension, he has to use his new powers to help send them home before the wormhole becomes unstable.

Telling Miles' story could backfire simply for being yet another Spider-Man origin onscreen, for being another superhero origin, so the filmmakers are smart to speed through the familiar cliff notes of getting his powers and giving him some villains to fight within the first ten minutes. A lasting moment from this intro is Miles exchanging "good mornings" and secret handshakes with a crowd of old classmates, on his way to a new prep school. Rotham and Lord knock Miles down a peg with the new school (and the inescapable woes of adolescence), but he's built up well as the more outgoing and adventurous Anti-Puny-Parker.

This is his story through and through, and the other Spider-People partnering up with Miles luckily reinforces that, mostly to the film's benefit. Into the Spider-Verse features a classic, but worn down, schlubbier, and (at last) adult version of Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy, the Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider Noir (Nicolas Cage), from the pulpy 1930s, Peni Parker and her spider-co-piloted robot (Kimiko Glenn), and, finally, Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney), who remarkably doesn't just predate The Simpsons Movie, but the show too. Except for Spider-Woman and Jake Johnson's version of Peter, most of visiting Spiders aren't explored too deeply. They're given more than one-liners, but it's really just a promise of what'll come in the sequels. The one-liners are fantastic though. Cage especially steals his scenes with a put-on New York accent, reference to egg-creams, and a passing mention of the "moral ambiguity of your violent actions." Billy Wilder would be proud.

Finally, the animation in Into the Spider-Verse is a long time in coming for the studio, for the genre, for film. There hasn't been a literal, visual adaptation of a comic in a while (except for Captain Underpants), but now the bar's been raised for other movies that want to try it. While it's not relying on a heavy outline style, probably because that would fill the screen too much, the modern visual storytelling in comics is on full display. 2D animation is utilized throughout the movie, and ranges from re-creating comic panels, to Peni's anime style, to the ludicrous antics of Spider-Ham. Text boxes, onomatopoeias, and speech bubbles also highlight how upside-down Miles's world is about to become, but he'll get used to being upside when getting the drop on villains, so it's all good.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a return to where the franchise began writing-wise, with the (typically forgotten) heart of the second generation of Spidey films. As (pile of garbage) Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker, has mentioned, the Raimi Trilogy featured the same plot structure used in Into the Spider-Verse. The movie doesn't spread itself too thin with unnecessary characters, plot points, or an inflated runtime and budget. But that just means the movie is functional. They also salvaged the message of the Webb films and made it more important than ever. "Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask." Try it on.

4/5
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