DARK PHOENIX – NOT FOR COMIC BOOK FANS

If you are a fan of the real Dark Phoenix Saga that took place in Uncanny X-Men comics #129 – 138 in 1980 then this movie will disappoint you. If you are a fan of the X-Men books today or have been a fan in the past, this movie will disappoint you. If you are a fan of the X-Men movies that FOX Studios have been putting out since 2000 then you may or may not like this movie I didn’t like this movie. The box office for this movie was so bad I don’t think anyone wanted to see another Dark Phoenix movie because the first time it wasn’t that good, so we are doing this review with spoilers. Not that it matters.

At this point with these FOX Studio X-Men franchise movie, I must start off honestly. Except for Ryan Reynolds two Deadpool movies the whole thing has been a mockery of the comics. It’s not totally the actors faults in most cases. We got an awesome Wolverine from Hugh Jackman. Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy played great Professor X’s in different time periods. The same can be said for Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender about their roles as Magneto. Even though Hallie Berry and Anna Paquin weren’t the best Storm and Rogue we deserved for the beginning of the franchise.

The real trouble with the X-Men franchise has always been the writing and the scripts that were put into the film. There was never any good rhyme or reason and the flagrant use of the timeline was absurd. I’m still not sure that anyone at FOX Studios outside of Ryan Reynold’s team even read an X-Men comic. Often, the characters were not written how they were created. There were a lot of out of character moments and out of character power use. Let’s not even talk about the use of Kitty Pride’s powers to make Logan travel in time. Where did that come from?

That being said, Dark Phoenix was no different of a disappointment. Good actors being led by a poor plot and even worse script. Like all the other X-Men movies made by FOX studios, there is no connectivity to the characters. When the main character dies in a franchise you are supposed to feel it. I felt nothing. This wasn’t Avengers Endgame or even Avengers Infinity War where you felt the losses. You were connected to those characters through a good writing arch. This X-Men franchise never made that connection with its audience. Going in you must realize that this story does a weak interpretation of the comic book story.

The Dark Phoenix story follows the rise and fall of the X-Men’s Jean Grey. In the Uncanny X-Men comic book, she does go through a solar flare in space which is really the Phoenix Force. With this force in her, her powers are heightened, and she puts controls on them which are taken down with the help of the Hellfire Club and Mastermind. Once she loses control and the Phoenix force consumes her, she destroys a planet. Because of this, the Shi’ar Empire come for justice in which the X-Men must fight off a challenge. The battle ends with Jean once again controlling the Phoenix force and sacrificing herself to destroy the force before it does more wrong.

So obviously that is too much to put into a 2-hour movie, so the story needed to be condensed. Re-introducing the Hellfire Club and introducing Mastermind along with the alien Shi’ar race would not fit in that time frame. Plus, you already have an ensemble cast of X-Men that you must focus on. So, in this condensed version you still get the solar flare during a space mission. An alien race was brought in called the D’Bari which apparently didn’t need much explanation except this force inside Jean destroyed their home planet and they want to possess it to get their world back.

Magneto pulled in due to the death of Mystique and bringing with him two unknown unnamed mutants that at first give the X-Men a good fight. The movie starts with an explanation of Jean’s powers and background. It is thought that she accidentally kills her parents and Charles Xavier takes her in. Once her powers are amplified by the force than all that is taken away and the lie that she was told is revealed. Her father survived the accident but couldn’t handle taking care of her. So, the lie was that he would give her to Xavier. Her going back to confront her father is what starts the real trouble because she hurts police and kills Mystique.

In that instant, the mutants get downgraded from world heroes to the most hated people in the world. That’s one of the troubling things about this movie: such nonsensical easy plot points. One act and they go from national heroes to hunted villains. An alien race out of nowhere to explain this force with no name that they want to use to take over the Earth. The rip-offs and wasted material were frustrating to watch. I loved the appearance of Dazzler but the waste of not using the character more and in a battle scene was just disappointing. Cyclops telling Jean that the kids are calling her Phoenix and not properly naming the solar flare as the Phoenix Force made the movie seem even more worthless.

Not actually calling Magneto’s island Genosha and not using known mutant villains to accompany him was another wasted opportunity. Still trying to understand how you can justify getting rid of your resident speedster for the remainder of the movie by just tripping his speed. There was no real reason for Jean to sacrifice herself. She had already won the battle. It was pointless from the start. There were some redeeming qualities. The oldfashioned Dazzler costume and light show, while she was singing, was all you got but nostalgic. The proper use and voice for the Storm character.

No offense to Halle Berry but Alexandra Shipp was a much better Storm. There was also a scene where Nightcrawler loses it and runs through the alien enemy like a man possessed which was a good show of his powers. With a typical wrapped up ending like a 22-minute sitcom from the 70s, I’m glad this is the last that we will see of this franchise now that Disney has brought the FOX Studio property back to Marvel Studios. This will hopefully be the last bit of torture of our favorite comic book mutants that we should have to endure. I just wish a lot of these actors in this franchise had a chance to do the same thing with Marvel Studios where their talents would have been given better material and direction.

I realize my review was harsh and I’m unapologetic about that but let us know what you thought of Dark Phoenix. Comment below and let us know what you expect to improve now that the X-Men will back in the hands of Marvel Studios.

Kenny Walker Jr

GODZILLA: A MONSTER GOOSE CHASE

Godzilla, one of the most famous monsters worldwide for more than 50 years. From Asia to America, fans fill the box office to see the next iteration of Godzilla. However, this version of the King of Monsters would best be suited filling the couch of your living room. The opening scene gives the audience a brief refresher from the ending of the previous Godzilla movie. From there it seemed more like a monster version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego than an epic monster movie.

This is a great cast, but combined their performances were lackluster. The dialogue felt empty for most of the film and forced in the rest of the scenes. Millie Bobbie Brown is the main reason I went to see the movie, as I am borderline obsessed with Stranger Things. So, the audience knows she has a wide emotional range in her acting repertoire, which was on display, yet felt flat when combined with the surrounding cast.

The monsters seemed to all have the same gray, scaly skin. Whether due to CGI budgeting or lack of creativity, it pulled away from the unique traits each monster is supposed to have. Except for Mothra, the Queen of the Monsters. The Queen of Monsters illuminated the dark theatre with a beautiful glow, or at least you knew it was supposed to be Mothra, even if the monster was no longer discernable with the lighting.

The visual effects were not a complete loss, Mothra’s introduction was a powerful scene, Godzilla’s introduction set up a few plot points and underlying movie themes, and Monster Zero stole the scene with Godzilla. After the first glimpse of each monster, they lose their aesthetic appeal.

The story lacked intrigue and was dull at each stage of the film. This dragged its claws at every point, which ruined what could have been a big twist. But even this twist lacked the punch when it was revealed, much like the first battle scene between Godzilla and Monster Zero.

As a movie fan, I tend to keep to the common courtesy of not talking or look at my phone during flicks, yet I found myself checking the time in between conversations during this Monster Goose Chase. Perhaps the final battle would have been the visual aesthetics and edge of your seat fight sequence I was hoping to see during the film, but I did not make it that far. Unless the humans revealed themselves to David Icke’s lizard people, the ending could not have saved this monster story flop.

Mike Hoff

Avengers Endgame Review: Was It Epic?

Avengers Endgame was the most anticipated movie of 2019.

This movie was in such high demand that when tickets went on sale it crashed various sites. Crashed. I went online that Tuesday, April 2nd and got kicked out trying to get seats at my local AMC theater. I was given a message that I was on a waiting list that was over an hour. I’ve never seen anything like this before. As of the writing of this article, Endgame has grossed over $400 million in domestic and over $1 billion in foreign. Beating out nearly every movie ever. Ever.

The big challenge of Endgame, however, was that if you were not lucky enough to catch an advance screening or see it when it opened on Thursday night, you had to stay away from spoilers. I know a lot of people who stayed away from social media since Thursday until they saw it over the weekend. I know people who haven’t had a chance to go yet and are still staying away from social media. All in all, most fans are not being jerks and are not giving away spoilers. But there are those people out there who just have to spoil it for those that haven’t seen it yet so be careful.

I had a co-worker who came to me and told me that someone had the nerve to walk up to him on Friday morning and totally spoil the end of the movie. To me, that would have been grounds for a fight and possibly losing my job because beating the crap out of a jerk who spoiled Endgame would be frowned upon by management. Even though most people were considerate enough not to give spoilers on social media, the one comment that stuck out in my mind was “epic”. Fans considerate enough not to give out spoilers would post on social media how they saw Endgame and didn’t want to give away spoilers but just wanted to state that the movie was epic.

Every fanboy and girl I knew on my social media hyped Endgame up as the most epic movie they have ever seen. My son called me on Saturday afternoon because he had already seen Endgame. His words to me were “Dad if Marvel said that after this they are not making another movie ever I would be ok with that …. that’s how good it was”. He stated how he, his wife and their friend that had gone with them spent the first 15 minutes after the movie in silence until his wife had asked him “are you alright?”. He said he still was trying to process. He was waiting for me to see it because he needed to talk. My son was emotional about this and I was on the other end of the phone thinking “when I go to this movie what am I going to see?”.

My anticipation grew and I started to regret the fact that I had bought a ticket for Sunday because that’s when I usually go see movies. With my schedule that’s usually the only time I have. My daughter texted me later that afternoon because she and her boyfriend were going into the 4pm show. I asked her to text me when she was done to tell me how she liked it but not give any spoilers. She did not text me until the next day when I was in the theater myself to see it. Although none of my Facebook friends who had seen it before me were inconsiderate enough to give spoilers (I have cool nerd friends on Facebook), one friend did mention that the movie made him cry.

Even though he didn’t give any details, I considered this a little bit of a spoiler. Once again, I was wondering what would I be getting into with this movie. Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning whenever I was brave enough to peep onto social media I saw the same thing: Endgame was epic. My anticipation grew even more. Sunday afternoon comes and I have my Avengers shirt on that I bought for the movie and I’m ready to go. Knowing it’s a 3-hour movie and I was told I wouldn’t want to miss a thing, I took my seat without a soda or popcorn or Twislers, which is my usual movie staple. I did not want a reason to have to go to the bathroom so much I even stopped eating an hour before I left.

As far as I was told, Endgame was epic and I didn’t want to get up and miss anything. I got to my seat just as the movie was actually starting. With a 3-hour movie, I had no need to sit through 20 minutes of commercials and trailers and being told not to text and talk during a movie. I was in a let’s get to the chase mindset. There I was. Watching Avengers: Endgame. Finding out what happens after the snap. Because, ultimately, that’s what Endgame is about: what happens after the snap. I was in my seat waiting for epic to happen.

For me, epic did not happen.

I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for that and called a hater but before you understand me too fast, I want you to know something. Avengers Endgame was the best Marvel movie I had ever seen. It was done perfectly. It was a great movie. However, it was not epic. It had epic scenes. But it was not epic. Now my point of view might be solely my fault. Between my kids and my friends on social media, I had anticipated an epic movie. I believe my expectations were maybe set a little too high. When the people who were telling me epic said epic I was expecting epic. Don’t get me wrong this was an extremely good movie with epic scenes but epic scenes do not make an epic movie.

As a friend told me today, had I seen this movie Thursday or Friday when it first came out and not Sunday then it might have been epic for me. Had I seen it before I got the epic reviews from my family and peers then it might have been epic for me. But I had seen Endgame on a Sunday after most die-hards saw it on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, and that might have tainted my view. The build-up was so much that I didn’t see epic. Avenger Endgame was a very good movie. It was an excellent movie. Avengers Endgame answered that yearlong question of what happens after Thanos’ snap. The answer did not disappoint.

After the snap in Infinity War, we wanted to know what the Avengers would do next and Endgame was the answer. It may not be the initial answer you wanted but it was an answer. Each character had a story. The focus was on who had survived the snap and how they handled being survivors. What do you do when half the population just up and disappears? The thing about Endgame was that it wasn’t just a big battle scene where you saw the survivors head on with Thanos for 3 hours. You saw an initial retaliation and vengeance for a loss that could not be imagined. You saw a grieving process when all hope was lost. You saw what happens when the hero loses. You saw the heroes pick themselves up from the ashes of defeat and dare to try again.

You saw an epic battle with the hopes that justice would prevail. But an epic battle or a few epic scenes do not make a movie epic. Endgame answered a lot of questions and perfectly tied together 22 films from over 11 years. The Russo brothers had not lost their magic for putting together an Avengers story. This was a movie well worth the year-long wait. But, as much as I loved it, I could not get myself to call it epic. The one drawback from the movie is that after all is said and done, you are still left with a few questions on the how and why. My one suggestion is to sit back and enjoy the ride and not overthink what you are seeing. Not everything is an easy explanation. Not every plot point has to be sussed out for the moviegoer to be totally satisfied.

After investing 11 years and 22 movies you have to accept the closure you get. There was no mistake in the fact that the last Avengers left were mainly the first Avengers you saw way back in that movie. You get a look at how these original Avengers deal with loss and how they are given the strength to fight back. Comic relief and action are mixed in a perfect blend to help tell the story of how our heroes came to be in the situation they are in. Great movie and a perfect ending to an 11-year saga. But not epic.

Go see Endgame or if you have seen it let us know what you think.

Kenny Walker Jr

SHAZAM: The Surprise Hit

I like surprises and I like proving people wrong. With SHAZAM! I got both a surprise and I proved people were wrong. Whenever I talked about movies I wanted to see in 2019, I always got the side eye when I mentioned I wanted to see Shazam. I would get comments like “You’re on your own”, “I’m not seeing that”, and “that looks stupid”. It seemed that no one I knew wanted to see this movie except for me. Everyone was trashing it. I even started to doubt whether I should go see it. Lucky for me I don’t mind riding alone and I saw Shazam. There were a few reasons that no one wanted to see Shazam. First, the trailers had turned a lot of people off to the movie.

The trailer showed the jokes and the light-hearted side of Shazam. A lot of the trailers showed kids joking around or Zachary Levi dressed as the hero in funny scenes. Nothing looked serious about this movie in a time where people are serious about their comic book movies. Then there is the fact that this is a DC Universe movie. Wonder Woman was moderately good and Aquaman was awesome but Warner Bros. is not known for producing good superhero movies based on comics. They tend to have a take on the characters that does not include using too much source material and making things their own. They have often missed the mark in their depictions of these characters.

This time they got it right.

The reason the trailers showed a light-hearted superhero movie, has a lot to do with the fact that Shazam is a light-hearted hero. Shazam is not gritty and dark. Shazam is light and fun. One of his nicknames that Dr Sivan calls him in the comics is The Big Red Cheese because he’s cheesy. Shazam is the story of a 15-year-old orphan, Billy Batson, who has bestowed the power of Shazam from the old wizard Shazam. When Billy speaks the wizards name, he becomes the hero Shazam and the form of Shazam is no longer a 15-year-old kid but of a grown man. However, even with the body of a grown man Shaam still has the mind of a 15-year-old boy.

So, you see where there is levity and humor in the story of Shazam. This premise of the story asks the question of what a kid would do if he had the ability to become an adult. The answers in this movie were quite hilarious. Zachary Levi totally pulls off the what if the movie Big was about a superhero. There is even a scene in the movie that pays homage to Big. When the transitions are made from Asher Angels Billy Batson to Zachary Levi’s Shazam they are done with believable ease. There is no awkward time in the movie where you would think that you had two separate actors. They truly came together to form one character and it was brilliant.

Shazam also told a story of family. It was about a boy who was orphaned and was in constant search for his real mother. He went from foster home to foster home always running away to find his real mother. The perception in his mind is that they would find each other and live happily ever after. Shazam is a coming of age story. This is a story on how the boy becomes a hero. Given great power and instant adulthood can be intoxicating to a young man and this is a story that shows a kid dealing with this to learn an important lesson. As he starts to understand more of the gift given to him with his new best friend at his side, he slowly starts to open his heart and let people in.

No good superhero movie is worth its ticket prices without a good villain. Dr Sivana is Shazam’s oldest backstory and an understanding of why he is the way he is. Mark Strong does an excellent job of playing this obsessed villain who wants to rule the world with magic. His reasoning is justified and you might even cheer for him at some point then you remember: this is the bad guy. One of the surprises in Shazam was the heartlessness of the villain. This is where the trailers were a little misleading. Dr Sivana was cruel and ruthless and this was not something that was portrayed in the trailer because you didn’t see too much of Mark Strong’s character in the trailers.

The villainy of Dr Sivana evened out the light parts of the movie and gave a legitimate fear for the hero. Just like any superhero, Shazam also had a sidekick through most of the movie. Billy Batson had been assigned a new foster home and met Freddie Freeman played by Jack Dylan Grazer. The Freddie character was a crippled foster kid who befriends Billy and helps him figure out this hero thing. Freddie serves as both comic relief and moral compass. Because of Freddie’s tenacity, Billy eventually lets his walls down to Freddie and the rest of his new foster family to accept them into his heart’

The only problem with this movie is that it is predictable. I’m not sure if that’s because I have been reading the source material on Shazam since I was 10 years old or because the script was transparent. However, in this case, predictable wasn’t a bad thing. You saw where this movie was going but the ride to get there was worth it. After I checked this movie out, I went back to all the naysayers and told them how good Shazam was. They all said that they had heard nothing but good things about it and will go see it. I couldn’t help but say I told you so.

So here is my review of a good movie which pleasantly surprised me and proved that I was right.

I’m good until the next one.

Kenny Walker Jr

“Us”…the atypical family movie

As a moviegoer, there are times when I truly desire the arrival of an upcoming film. Recently, despite being a die-hard Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, I bypassed Captain Marvel and patiently awaited the arrival of Us. Us is the sophomore film from writer, director, and producer Jordan Peele. The film, starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, and Elizabeth Moss, concerns a family who must fight against their doppelgangers in order to survive the latter’s nefarious intentions.

In many ways, the film asks, through its title and story, “who, and what, are we really.” Though there was a mild complaint (discussed later), I enjoyed the movie and its overall premise and execution. The characters are not “over the top” as in they are relatable. The two primary parents, Nyong’o and Duke, try to understand each other while balancing trying to understand their children, Joseph and Alex, with an additional backstory concerning a key incident in Nyong’o’s character’s childhood.

The aforementioned incident is a central factor throughout the movie and is an important factor in the film’s climax. This in concert with the flow of the story and how Peele presents each growing aspect of the situation allows the story to transition from a personal fight to an implied global scale as the film progresses. In the end, the audience is left with a “holy sh*t” effect that carries to the story’s conclusion.

Additionally, there is the “family forced survival” trope present seen previously in films such as Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes where in the members of the family must revert to their more primal methods in order to survive the ordeal. However, Peele, perhaps through his comical background, takes a lighter tone in how the family deals with their more violent actions.

As stated before, my ONLY personal complaint (mild spoiler) is explaining the origins of the doppelgangers. Not much, if any, room is given into explaining how they came to be or the circumstances in which they come to exist. From my personal view, there are two schools of thought. The first involves a goof in writing. There have been several films, especially in horror, where the ABSOLUTE answer is never given. Often in retrospect, one can attribute this to a misstep in executing the story.

In terms, if Us and Peele’s storytelling ability, one can argue that he either wants to leave the audience in limbo or wishes for the audience to come up with their own conclusion, which leads to the second school of thought, the unknown terror. The unknown terror is simply, if it cannot be explained, then its much scarier than to understand it. The best previous film example is Halloween in that you know Michael Myers is killing and you know he can’t be stopped; however, you do not know the why’s and how’s of how he came to this point. I personally went with the second school as it intensified the fear of the scenario. However, still, a hole that could sink the proverbial ship.

In all, Us was a thoroughly enjoyable film. Some complaints about the movie, apart from mine, have revolved around the anticipation of the audience wishing to see another Get Out type of film. The fact that Us is not like its sister film shows, in my opinion, the progression of Jordan Peele as a writer and director. No writer or director, worth their salt, will make a carbon copy of a prior film. If they do it can show the director distaste for possibly being forced or restricted when trying to create a new story (a la John Carpenter with Escape from LA). Us is Peele’s progression as a storyteller, and honestly, I expect newer and similarly good films from him in the future…and let’s face it, they’re letting him do The Twilight Zone so he’s going somewhere. Thus, get out, no pun intended, and go see Us because it’s definitely worth it.

James Hales

Captain Marvel: The First Marvel Studios Female Lead

Spoiler Alerts for Captain Marvel

We finally have a female lead superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Awesome. I realize that we normally do spoiler-free reviews but, in this case, it was hard to do without giving this movie a fair review and letting you know what I thought. There is too much going on and its relation to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m going to start with the elephant in the room. You want to know whether I liked it or not. Yes, I liked it. Truth be told it wasn’t’ the best Marvel movie but it was good. It did what it was supposed to do. But let’s break this down a little bit

Watching Captain Marvel reminded me of watching the movie Solo from the Star Wars franchise. It’s a prequel to the franchise that must tell a story yet fit into what was already done. Like Solo, this was a good movie however it was weighed down by obligations it had to make to the whole franchise story that has already been told and still needs to be told. We’ll do a Star Wars story in the future but now we are talking about Captain Marvel. So, this story takes place after Captain America: First Avenger but before Iron Man and after Peter Quill got kidnapped to space. The year is 1995.

Captain Marvel told a story of how Air Force pilot Carol Danvers received her powers and became Captain Marvel. It was a coming of age story of a woman who was deceived and commanded control of her life from her oppressors who had lied to her about who she was for over 6 years. It’s a classic and somewhat predictable story of deceit and lies. You know where this movie is going while watching but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. It was good for what it needed to do. This movie’s sole purpose was to introduce Captain Marvel and give her a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to fill in some gaps for the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself. For that purpose, this movie did exactly that.

In the MCU, Carol Danvers had a best friend in the Air Force named Maria Rambeau who, because they were women in the ’90s was not allowed to do anything but test airplanes for the service. During this time, Carol befriended an Air Force scientist named Wendy Lawson who was developing a new plane for the Air Force. So, Carol thought. Lawson was a Kree scientist named Mar-Vel who came to Earth to help Skrull refugees. The Kree and the Skrulls were alien races at war. After a test flight went bad in an experimental plane made by Lawson the two crashed because the Kree attacked looking for Mar-Vel.

When the plane explodes, Danvers gets powers from the energies that made the plane special and the Kree took her unconscious body and implanted false memories. This was to get her to fight for them. Then 6 years later a Kree mission goes wrong and Carol is kidnapped by the Skrulls and interrogated and eventually escapes and ends up back on Earth. She meets Nick Fury, gets her memory back and fights against the Kree who are really the bad guys in this story. She gains her freedom from the Kree, helps the Skrulls and becomes Captain Marvel. Simple story but theres more. So much more.

This story needs to tie in with the rest of the MCU to serve as a prequel to the next Avengers movie, Endgame. To do this the writers go to the one thing that has been a constant on Earth since Captain America: First Avenger: the tesseract. The tesseract is the glue that holds all the MCU stories together. The tesseract is what was harnessed to power the ship that Lawson and Danvers flew during their fateful crash. The energy from the engine of that device is what gave Carol Danvers powers. This is the same tesseract that was in Captain America: First Avenger and Marvel’s Avengers. This movie shows what happened to the tesseract between those two movies and how because of the tesseract and Captain Marvel, Nick Fury came up with the Avengers Initiative.

The Good

One of the good parts of Captain Marvel is the buddy cop movie that you didn’t really see coming, Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel had chemistry that carried this movie much further than it should have. In Captain Marvel, we get a much younger Nick Fury with two eyes. He’s not top cop but on his way. This younger Nick Fury is not so jaded and secretive as the one we are used to seeing. This Nick Fury has more levity. This levity does not take away from the effectiveness of the character. He is still formidable in combat and is every bit the hero at times where Captain Marvel is busy elsewhere.

Another good is the display of the powers of Captain Marvel. One of my concerns was being able to show such a powerful being and relate her to the big screen. At first, her powers were hampered by a Kree device but once she was able to fight back against that she was able to realize her full potential. In comics Captain Marvel is one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy and this was clearly shown. The special effects were well worth the wait. Another good was the relationship with Carol Danvers best friend, Marie Rambeau played by Lashana Lynch.

Once again, the chemistry between the actresses sold the story. You believed that these were the best of friends. Added with Akira Akbar who played Marie’s daughter who called Carol her Aunt, this became a solid back story. But Monica Rambeau was not just a character thrown in for cuteness. In a possible future of the MCU, this little girl will grow to be the next wave of superheroes. In comics, this character is the first woman to take the mantle of Captain Marvel debuting in Amazing Spiderman Annual #16 in 1982. Hopefully, we see a grown-up Monica become the hero she was destined to be

The Not So Good

As an old school comic fan, I was looking for the wink. You see, in comics before Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel, she had other identities. In comics, she did get her powers from an explosion however she first called herself Ms. Marvel. She had a specific custom that I thought deserved a wink. I could understand where the Ms. Marvel thing might confuse some because there is a new younger hero calling herself Ms. Marvel in comics. However, her costume isn’t the same and nod would not have killed the movie. I was disappointed in the Stan Lee cameo. Marvel did an awesome job of dedicating the Marvel opening montage a tribute to Stan Lee that was extremely cool and I can’t see a fan not liking that opening. But then came the much-awaited cameo.

Since Lee passed away in 2018, it had been public knowledge that he had filmed some of his fan-favorite cameos for at least Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame but this cameo, compared to others of the past was weak. There was barely a speaking part for Stan the Man, just a smile at our heroine. This was cleared up for me by watching a YouTube video by Kevin Smith. The director and actor who had close ties to Lee was told ahead of the movie release by producer Kevin Feige about the cameo. Feige had told Smith that this cameo was centered around Mallrats, a film made by Smith in 1995 in which Lee appeared.

The scene is Lee rehearsing his lines when our hero comes across him and suspects that he might be a Skrull. Now if you listen really close you hear Lee repeating lines, he must learn for the movie Mallrats and when he is approached, he just smiles. Apparently, this cameo was filmed a few months before his death and his health was not good enough for his voice to sound strong enough. Feige had called Smith to not only tell him about the cameo in relation to him but to ask if there was any audio of Lee saying the line. Lee doesn’t speak in Captain Marvel, what you are hearing is audio from 1995. In any event, Smith was honored and emotional about this cameo for obvious reasons. Hearing this story also made me rethink that this was a weak cameo.

The cat. I had a problem with the cat. For a plot point to hold a bit of significance you introduce this character out of nowhere and the only thing I could think is “where is the cat now?”. It was established that this was an alien cat so we can’t expect it to have the same life span as an Earth cat. This was a loose plot device kind of like Han Solo’s love interest in Solo. Where has she been all this time? This is one of the things that correlated these movies for me and is the problem when you insert a prequel that takes place between movies. It’s hard to insert plot points that were never seen before that has relevance on the whole storyline.

Overall

Overall, I think this is a good movie which adds further to the MCU. The sometimes weak and transparent plot was saved by the actors and the chemistry they were able to convey. With Captain Marvel you can tell a lot of other stories, one specifically where has she been all this time. This was a great story to lead into the much-anticipated Avengers: Endgame. Necessary because it all points to Captain Marvel being a huge factor in saving the day and defeating Thanos. So, here’s to hoping there is a bigger pay off to this movie in Avengers: Endgame.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think of Captain Marvel.

Kenny Walker Jr

The Supermen did not Reign: An example of reading the book is way better

Not everything translates well from comic books to animation. In a comic book, the writer can write a story and give explanations and backstories. They have monthly issues to plan and detail their story. When you move that same story that developed over an extended period from a book into animation, you would lose a good portion of the integrity of the new adaption. This was the case with Reign of the Supermen.

Following the 2018 animated movie Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen was the second act in the famed 1993 DC Comics story about the death and return of Superman. In the original story, Superman is confronted with the alien Doomsday and during a massive battle both Superman and Doomsday are killed. During Superman’s, “death” for figures appeared to replace him: The Eradicator, the Cyborg Superman, Steel, and Superboy.

Superboy was a clone that was formed from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor and created in the labs of Cadmus. Steel was a brilliant ballistics expert who was once saved by Superman and created his armor to serve as a replacement to the Man of Steel in Metropolis. Eradicator was a weapon created centuries ago on Krypton by an ancestor of Superman that took a human form to replace Superman upon his death.

Cyborg Superman was a scientist-astronaut named Hank Henshaw who along with his crew was poisoned with radiation and ultimately blamed Superman for the accident. Though his body died, Hank Henshaw’s mind molded with alien Kryptonian technology and he became Cyborg Superman and used his identity to get revenge on Superman by taking his name and being the bad guy.

The actual story of the Reign of the Supermen in the comics took months to flush out a lot more backstory than I have provided here. DC had the brilliant idea to try to condense this in a 2-hour animation. Not the best idea. A lot of plot points in the original story were condensed in order to make the ultimate bad guy behind Doomsday killing Superman and Cyborg Superman being the bad guy impersonator be none other than Darkseid.

Watch this movie for the fun of watching a movie if you have nothing else better to watch but please do yourself a favor and get the trades or go digital to read the full complete real story of the Reign of the Supermen. It’s not so much that DC decided to change the story to condense it, it’s the fact that they did not condense it well. In truth, this should have been a trilogy: Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen and Return of Superman.

One of the main plot points that ruins this movie is the last 15 minutes. The lackluster explanation to bring Superman back so that he can save the day. Then have him reunite with Lois and give the world the worse explanation why Clark Kent was missing while Superman was presumed dead was the worse rushed feeling to the end of a movie I ever experienced. Even with the plot change to tie it all together in a new way, giving this whole movie to the replacement Supermen and having Superman come back in another installment would have told a better story.

Another misstep was the voice casting. Tony Todd, who is an exceptional actor and has done great voice work in the past was dreadfully miscast as Darkseid. At no point did Darkseid sound like the God he is but rather just a very angry human crime lord. Similarly, Rainn Wilson did not have the power in his voice to properly portray Lex Luthor. Lex Luthor should sound like the egotistical mega maniac he is not whatever this was. It was too nasal.

It was not all forgettable, there were some highlights. Steel and Superboy were both portrayed very well and made you wish you had more time with their backstory or at least a chance to see them in action without a Justice League to save them. Although it was rushed to fit in the movie, the love between Lois and Clark was shown in the best way. Throughout this movie even presumed dead, Lois’ love for Superman was undeniable.

If there is nothing on your regular cable stations and you’ve watched everything you want on Hulu and you’ve got no one to Netflix and chill with, then, yeah, give this little movie a chance and kill some time. Otherwise, do yourself a better favor and read the source material for this story.

Kenny Walker Jr

Event Horizon, In Space You Can Still Visit Hell

The human desire for space travel is a concept in science fiction as commonplace as dunes of sand in a desert. Writers and filmmakers have taken the idea into multiple areas ranging from semi-fantasy as in Star Wars and Dune franchises to the semi-realistic in the Star Trek universe or Babylon 5. Within these stories are usually the wonderment of discovery and the evolution of social, technological, and even physical humanity. However, while most of us, myself included, embrace the awe and possibilities of this landscape, others have introduced the idea of, “what if this went wrong”, or “what if this was horrifying.”

The latter is explored in Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 film Event Horizon starring Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill, among others. The film, set in the year 2047, centers around a rescue crew sent to investigate the return of a lost starship, the Event Horizon, designed for interplanetary space exploration. Upon finding the ship, the crew begins to learn about what happened to the Event Horizon’s crew, have terrifying visions, and discover, much to their dismay, where the ship has been for the time it was lost. All culminating in a situation of absolute fear and horror which guides the flow of the film.

Event Horizon, as a story, is quite possibly one of the truest science fiction horror films ever produced. In the sense of science fiction, the viewer is introduced to the idea that while humanity has advanced significantly in space technology, the “big” elephant in the room comes to how does humankind travel beyond its solar system. Though not constantly harbored on, this element is a central aspect of the story. As science fiction fans we are given star travel plot devices within the majority of popular space operas. Star Trek famously has warp technology which set the pace for humanity to both explore space and served as a unifying measure as it was able to see that, to quote Deanna Troi, “We were not alone in the universe.”

Star Wars simply uses hyperdrives as a method of travel which is as commonplace, and easy to obtain, as a bicycle. In both franchises, the ability to travel through space, at times to different sections of the universe, is often without problem or consequence. Event Horizon takes a different stance in that while humanity is seemingly in a state of peace, it still desires, and desperately needs, to travel to other star systems. In this regard, the Event Horizon’s gravity drive is developed to cut a hole in space-time, via an artificially produced black hole, to instantly travel from one point in space to another. As a part of this want and need, there is a “mild” disregard for the possible ends to these actions which leads to dire consequences.

To loosely quote the character of Smith, played by Sean Pertwee, confronting Neill’s Dr. Weir, “you violate the laws of physics and expect nothing to happen.” This idea is central to the heart of the story, which leads to the horror. The most standout aspect of Event Horizon’s horror lies not with an individual antagonist, such as the xenomorph from Alien, but in another dimension. Throughout the film, the story leads you through hellish, pun intended, obstacles which in the end make you question, “what is this place where the ship came from.” Is it simply another dimensional plane of pure chaos, as stated by Weir, or is it, in actuality, hell. It is even stated during the climax that “hell is but a word, the reality is far worse.”

One is left to judge based on the events, this time no pun intended, that the ship is punishing the crew for their past sins and ultimately torturing and killing them for said transgressions. However, it is both known and unknown what the place is and what the ship has truly become. In one way this echoes John Carpenter’s premise of Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise. While you know Michael is a killer and is virtually unstoppable, you never truly learn the why for both aspects. The same principal element exists in Event Horizon. Additionally, the horror is just as much psychological as it is physical with each being as direct. As previously stated, the ship is a being that knows how and when to torture its prey, then at the right moment physically strike.

Stephen King fans could view this in the same way as Pennywise the Clown creates absolute fear in his victims before killing them. All being said, both the ship and hell are mutual antagonists. In all, Event Horizon is, in my opinion, an intensely good film with an excellent and creative story and a cast that can carry it. In its original release, the movie was nearly panned by critics and even some viewers alike. In being both pure horror and pure science fiction, the film could alienate a viewer wishing to see one or the other. Additionally, the film carries a very hard gothic atmosphere to it. The ships, sets, and visual aspects are very dark and medieval cathedral-like versus the streamlined sci-fi pieces one is generally used to.

Thus, in some ways, this can stray the baseline science fiction buff away. The horror element also gleefully utilizes both gore and shock gore to a degree where one might think they are watching a Hellraiser movie albeit set in space, though there was such a film. In later years, the film would develop a profound cult following which has allowed its popularity to resurface in the past few years. As a die-hard horror and sci-fi lover, the movie is one of the truest bridges between both genres. However, every diamond is not without its coal.

The movie is a little over 90 minutes long, with an original cut being two hours and 10 minutes long. Though Anderson even stated that the original cut was “overly” long, he further acknowledged there were key points to the story within that 40 extra minutes which benefited the film. Paramount, following the film’s success on home release, wanted a director’s cut released. Unfortunately, the cuts were forever lost in a salt mine in Scotland, as the story goes, though a few cut scenes are available for viewing on YouTube. For anyone looking for a true space horror film, apart from Alien, Event Horizon is worth your time.

James Hales

Glass: a superhero movie, but not

In the world of film, great trilogies can be difficult to achieve. For every Star Wars, episodes IV to VI, of course, there is a Godfather, where one leaves you almost thoroughly satisfied and the other says “we should have stopped at part 2.” As a filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan has certainly had his share of greatness mixed with not so great. One would argue that The Sixth Sense was highly masterful as opposed to The Last Airbender which left much to be desired.

This past weekend the director’s newest work, Glass starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodward, and Sarah Paulson was released. The film is the final part of a trilogy which began with Unbreakable in 2000 and Split released in 2016. The trilogy revolves around the existence, and implications, of superheroes and supervillains in the real world.

The characters from the two previous films continue their individual paths of the hero David Dunn, played by Willis, the intellectual villain and titular character Elijah Price or Mr. Glass, portrayed by Jackson, and the “brute” villain with multiple personalities Kevin Wendall Crumb, played by McAvoy.

The story brings all three together after each is confined to a mental institution where their abilities, viewed as baseline mental disorders, are analyzed by psychologist Dr. Ellie Staple who believes their conditions are a form of delusions of grandeur. Through the course of the film, the characters are explored and, in true M. Night fashion, a myriad of plot twists and turns lead to a final conclusion which can launch the viewer in several directions depending on how they embrace the story.

A singular aspect one must realize when watching Glass is that it in every way is a superhero movie, but not. The film’s strength, as with the previous entries, is that it thrusts the viewer into a “real world” of superheroes and supervillains. This subtlety of content erases the ultra-fantastic elements of costumed teams of powered individuals fighting cosmic beings while placing the viewer in a possible, relatable, reality where disbelief is less suspended.

However, a soft weakness is, as, with any sequel, one must know the prior films. Glass is not a movie to walk into without watching Unbreakable or Split. There are literally only two new characters in the film with little points of extended explanation of the established characters. Thus, with no knowledge of the original players, the viewer will more than likely not grasp certain elements of the story. The film expects you to jump in and start swimming.

Overall, the film is a masterful conclusion to the series which started with Unbreakable. Truth be told, I have been waiting for this movie since I saw Unbreakable. As a die-hard comic book fan, one might say my appreciation lies solely in the superhuman subject matter. However, this aspect, though very important, is tertiary to the telling of a great story.

Shyamalan wove a tale of absolute fantasy and absolute reality that is impossible to ignore. While some critique the film in the context of high-level known superhero films, it would be best to judge the movie, and its setting, in a class by itself. In comic book terms, there are serials and then there are graphic novels, Glass and its predecessors are the latter. As previously stated, know the two other films and once viewed, one shall certainly enjoy and value Glass.

 James B. Hales

Aquaman Saves the DC Cinematic Universe

When I was a kid, I used to watch the Aquaman cartoon on television. The main reason I liked taking baths was that I could get in the water and pretend to be Aquaman. I would twirl my hands under the water to pretend to make whirlpools. To me, being Aquaman was cool. However, everyone else saw him as the lame fish guy.

With the new release of the movie Aquaman starring Jason Mamoa, Aquaman is no longer just the fish guy. Aquaman has made the title character what he was always meant to be: one of the most powerful and interesting characters in the DC universe. Director James Wan has breathed new life into Warner Bros. DC Comics properties with his take on this classic character.

Wan has made Aquaman one of the best DC Comic films in a very long time taking away the dark brooding elements that have plagued previous DC Universe films. Wan has returned to the hero in superhero showing his main character in the light and giving him a heroic quest to fulfill his destiny. We first got a look at Jason Momoa’s Aquaman in the Batman vs Superman cameo.

Then we got a full range of what this character would be from the Justice League movie. I must admit, I was not impressed. The character did not seem like the Arthur Curry that I had read about in comic books. This Arthur Curry seemed like a brutish bore. This movie proved me wrong. The Aquaman movie gives Arthur Curry background, personality, and depth. Jason Mamoa portrays Aquaman as a brute because in his world he has always been the most powerful person around.

The cast is completed by Amber Heard who plays Mera and acts as a guide as Arthur discovers more about the other world he is from. Heard portrays Mera as the warrior princess who is loyal to Arthur. The undeniable chemistry between Momoa and Heard moves the story along as it is predominately about their quest to set Arthur as the proper King of Atlantis.

Patrick Wilson does a second outing as a DC comic book character (Watchmen) by playing Orm, Arthur’s half-brother. The misconception to those that do not know the comic book world is that they believe there should be an unfair comparison to the half-brother relationship of Orm and Arthur and Marvel’s Thor and Loki. Orm and Loki are two different kinds of characters from two different comic book universes.

Originally, in the comics, Orm started as the human half brother but over time his origin has been rebooted to the Atlantean half-brother. Orm is not a mischievous trouble maker bent on taking a throne that is not his but an Atlantean born and under Atlantean ways. Orm was trained as an undersea ruler and seeks to strengthen his rule and protect his sea. Orm uses deceit to trick the various Atlantean tribes that they need to unite under his rule for their own protection.

Nicole Kidman also does a second outing in a DC comic book movie (Batman Forever) by playing Atlanna, the Queen and Arthur’s mother. Hers is a tragic story of a Romeo and Juliet type of love that she has with Arthur’s father, Tom Curry played by Temuera Morrison. Both Kidman and Morrison sell this love affair with the limited screen time they are given. William Defoe portrays Vulko who serves as a mentor to Arthur teaching him some Atlantean ways and how to use his powers.

Dolph Lundgren portrays King Nereus, Mera’s father, who is the first King to willingly go along with Orm’s plans of conquest and revenge upon the surface world. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II portrayed Black Manta the typical villain out to get revenge on our hero for something he did in the past that the villain blames him for. Although this is a plot point that has been seen countless times, in this case, the villain is right.

It was Aquaman’s fault Black Manta’s, father played by Michael Beach, is dead. The typical scenario was made better by the fact that you got to see a classic villain come to life on the screen. You got a savage Black Manta with laser eyes and all. All in all, Aquaman was definitely worth the ticket price. I originally walked into this expecting a typical bad DC Universe movie that doesn’t hit the spot with its characters and came out thinking this is how Aquaman should be done and this is a direction that DC should keep with their movies.

Yes, there were a few plot fails like how did Orm and Manta meet to partner up in the first place and how did Vulko become Arthur’s teacher when he was a youth. Minor things that could be overlooked for the sake of moving a story. I’m going to take more baths and be a big kid playing in the water as Aquaman.

Kenny Walker Jr