Sunday, August 25, 2019

A solo Sony Spider-Man might be a good direction

Everyone is talking about the Disney (Marvel) / Sony feud right now.

It's a complicated situation, especially since we don't really know what the tone of all the discussions is like. There are some conflicting reports.

Based on what I've seen, Sony and Disney made a deal. Spider-Man was successful in the MCU, so Disney wanted to renegotiate so that they had better terms in the deal.

I don't blame Sony for saying 'Hold up' because legally they've been doing everything right.

But the MCU is where all the action is, so of course fans want Spider-Man there.

That being said, I think now may be the best time for Spidey to go solo with Sony. Both of Spider-Man's movies so far benefitted from having Nick Fury, Happy Hogan and Iron Man (or at least references to him in the second movie). Spider-Man got a huge rub from Fury and Iron Man.

It's time to take that and move on and do his own thing.

The crowded, crossover-filled MCU:

It's honestly kind of irritating that every single Disney / Marvel movie these days has to feature a whole host of other MCU characters. It's not just Thor anymore. It's Thor featuring Hulk. Or Dr. Strange featuring Scarlet Witch. Or Guardians of the Galaxy + Thor. Or Captain America 3, starring The Avengers.

What Marvel and Disney did so well in the initial MCU films was build characters. Avengers is where the fun came in. They built the characters in the solo films and then the Avengers movies is where they got to interact with each other. It was a great formula.

It was a lot of fun to see them all interact with each other in a way that you can't see anywhere else. It's not as though we ever get to see James Bond interact with Ethan Hunt. Marvel gives us Hulk and Iron Man (plus dozens of other characters) on the same screen at the same time.

Ever since Captain America 3, however, it seems like you have a hard time getting a solo superhero movie. That's a shame because as much fun as the interactions are, it also doesn't mean as much when you see them in every movie.

I understand the mindset on the team-ups and the interactions. They are profitable.

Disney's Marvel is moving onto a new phase without Captain America or Iron Man or Black Widow so I imagine the team-ups may continue because those were established names that drew at the box office and Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel and Black Panther aren't as established.

I don't think people (outside of hardcore comic book fans) are excited for the Eternals or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. That's why they need a heavyweight like Thor and a Black Widow prequel.

This may change. People may fall in love with the new set of characters we'll be presented with. Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy were gambles because they weren't the more well-known characters and both have done very well in the MCU and in their own films.

But the MCU may have peaked with Avengers: Endgame. Once you've established great characters and then teamed them up in an epic conclusion to a 22-movie build, it's hard to top. It'll be especially hard if they don't focus on these characters solo before throwing them into cameos and crossovers.

In all fairness, it's also not as though there's an endless amount of time to create these movies with fun interactions. Actors have different projects, contract disputes happen, actors age, actors get pregnant and actors get tired of playing the same characters. So you have to strike while the iron is hot. Still, a little more focus on the individual characters first (before team-ups and crossovers and cameos) is my preferred method of building to something meaningful.

A Sony Spider-Man:

Back to Spider-Man, though. How are Sony Spider-Man movies a good thing? Because Spider-Man will be the focus of his movies. It won't be Iron Man Jr. in a Spider-Man costume. It won't be Nick Fury's lackey. It'll be Spider-Man.

He's got a whole host of villains he could interact with, too. I'm looking forward to Tom Hardy's Venom and Tom Holland's Spider-Man coming face-to-face at some point.

 Sure, we had Venom and Spider-Man face off once before in Spider-Man 3, but that was so long ago and there's much more that could be done with these two Toms.

Now, if they build it right, their interaction will be a big crossover movie itself. That's good strategy right there. Build them up separately and then pair them together for a blockbuster.

That was Marvel and Disney's very first formula with phase one and it worked like a charm. DC tried to do it with Justice League, but were too quick to jump on that ship. Wonder Woman and Superman were the only two with solo movies before that movie.

 They should've waited until Aquaman and The Flash had solo movies before doing the big Justice League team-up. It didn't mean nearly as much to see them all together because Justice League was introducing us to a lot of those characters for the first time.

I'm excited to see what a solo Spider-Man can do in Sony's realm instead of trying to outrun an Iron Man shadow in the MCU.

Sure, the Fury and Iron Man relationships helped Spider-Man's character and helped the movie perform at the box office, but Spider-Man is ready to graduate from the MCU and soar with his own webbing.

A deal could still (and will likely) be reached:

Let's not forget that a deal could still be reached. Regardless of whether a deal is reached, I want more of a focus on Spider-Man going forward.

No more Skrulls. No more Happy Hogan. Just Spider-Man and his foes, his family and his friends.

If a deal is reached, rumors are it could include Venom. So we'll see what happens there.

In the end it may be a win-win for everyone.

Sure, it may take a while before everything is finalized and sorted out, but the result could be good for everyone.  Let's say a deal isn't reached right away.  There's still potential that a deal could be reached to allow Spider-Man to appear in another big Avengers movie, but for him to primarily remain solo with Sony.  That could work, too.

One thing is for certain: Spider-Man has to perform after all this media attention. Nobody can argue that fans don't care about Spider-Man, that's for sure. But it has to translate at the box office.

 After being featured in the MCU, I have a feeling Tom Holland's Spider-Man will be fine on his own.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

X-Men: Dark Phoenix - reviewed.

I like to stay pretty out of the loop these days when it comes to superhero movies.

I don't want to know who is playing what characters will be in the movie or who is expected to live and die or who makes a cameo.

The superhero movies have improved so much that I have enough faith it will be good without having to go to the spoilers.

I went into Dark Phoenix the same way. I knew it wasn't going to be a gigantic blockbuster, based on the preview I'd seen, but I was hoping for the best.

Let me say right out: this movie was awful! It's the only movie I can remember seeing in the theater where I sat there and thought 'Is this movie over yet??'

It was that bad.

I'm not even sure where to start. I was excited about seeing the Dark Phoenix saga told well -- even if it was crammed into one movie.

Instead, we got a strange half-reboot of X3 (because that worked so well the first time) and poor man's Captain Marvel.

I've read some reports about the movie being changed due to similarities to Captain Marvel (leaving the Dark Phoenix script worse for wear), but I don't think it would've mattered. That's not what the Dark Phoenix saga is about. It's not Captain Marvel. So if it was basically Captain Marvel before the script changes, then they still weren't on the right track.

I noticed some changes in filming. It seemed like they cut the budget because Storm's lightning looked like crap and the train scene at the end of the movie had a lot of blatantly obvious green screen aspects to it.

They must've cut back on the makeup budget as well. Mystique's blue tint was not up to part. Beast looked more cartoonish than ever -- and not in a good one.

I know it's a movie called 'Dark Phoenix' but once again it was too much Jean Grey in this movie. It was too similar to X3, where every other character took a back seat.

Jean Grey and Mystique didn't have a relationship that built movie upon movie so when the big, dramatic scene occurred with the two of them (I won't spoil exactly what happened ... in case anyone wants to watch this train wreck), it felt antic-climactic.

I think Jennifer Lawrence must have known that this movie wasn't as good as the others because she mailed in the performance here.

The fight scene in New York City was lackluster.

Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Xavier (James McAvoy) delivered when it comes to acting, but the writing didn't leave them much to work with.  Beast (Nicholas Hoult) was just kind of there.

Storm looked awesome, but she didn't even have a line (that I can remember anyway).  That character needs a solo movie now that X-Men are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I'd love to see them introduce maybe a solo Storm, solo Wolverine and solo Professor X / Magneto movies before they all unite.  Then, when they all team up, it'd be like the first Avengers movie --- seeing these awesome characters together for the first time on the big screen.

But enough about the potential that lies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Back to this dud.

Nightcrawler would've been cool but his makeup wasn't as good as in the past either.  Speaking of makeup and special effects, how about Jean Grey?  Her skin was basically crackling throughout the entire movie --- as though the Phoenix was going to burst out of her.

Believe it or not, the Phoenix was never really explained throughout the entire movie.  Where did it come from?  What purpose does it serve?  Why did it choose Jean?  Those are really basic questions, but none of them were answered.

That kind of thing leaves a moviegoer exiting the theater feeling unhappy instead of raving about how good the movie was.

Oh, and Jessica Chastain's character?  Completely pointless.  Completely!  Shouldn't have even been in the movie in the first place.  There wasn't much of a backstory there either, but I didn't care because I just wanted that character to disappear.

I left the theater and immediately logged onto Twitter, thinking there had to be someone out there who thought this movie was the snore fest that I thought it was.  Sure enough, tweet after tweet about the disappointing end of the X-Men movie franchise under 20th Century Fox's umbrella.

There was no audience applause in this movie either.  Unlike the last superhero movie I saw (Avengers: Endgame), where there were several moments of laughter and applause, this movie was almost like sitting in church or at a funeral.

I felt guilty every time I rustled through my popcorn bag because, other than the movie itself playing, there was silence throughout the theater.

I liked the actors and the concept of a Dark Phoenix movie, but it was done all wrong here.  The actors didn't have enough good material to work with, the plot was awful and the execution of computer graphics and makeup was sad to see.

Worst superhero movie of the year so far.  If you are going to watch it because you're a huge fan of X-Men and superhero movies (like me), save your money and wait for the Redbox.

I'd like to say that my 2-star rating was an exaggeration, but it feels fair to me.

The only thing I can say is that maybe it seemed worse than it was because Avengers: Endgame was so good.

In 2000, this may have been a fun movie.  But not in 2019.

That's the price you pay when you put out a movie in the era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Step up to the plate and hit a home run or have yourself a seat.

Related Content:
Avengers: Endgame - reviewed.
Captain Marvel - reviewed.
Bumblebee - reviewed.
Aquaman - reviewed.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Avengers: Endgame - reviewed. (the spoiler-free version)

Wow! Wow!! On so many levels.

Unlike some Star Wars movies, unlike The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, Avengers: Endgame is not disappointing in any way. There are maybe two very minor things I could pick at, but that's it. Maybe two minor things in an entire 3 hour movie.

Without giving spoilers, the most important thing I'd say is that nobody will be disappointed in this movie. You can't be disappointed if you liked any of the other Marvel movies ... at all.

Some characters got more screen time than others, so fans of one particular character may not be happy about that, but the movie made sense for every character that so there's just no legitimate complaining about it.

That's probably the most impressive thing about the movie: the writing.

Sure, visuals were great (though I think I was more impressed by Aquaman in that aspect). Sure, the fight scenes (one in particular) was amazing. Yeah, the music was spot on --- taking you on a rollercoaster ride throughout. The music leaves you feeling happy when you're supposed to feel happy, excited when you need to be excited and makes you dab your eyes a bit in certain parts (who knew that a superhero movie would tug at your emotions a bit?).

The best thing about it all was the writing though. Marvel spent over 10 years successfully developing two dozen characters who fans care about, relate to and cheer for.

There are so many small moments in Endgame that show such incredible attention to detail. Each character had a moment or moments to shine, to evolve or to give a nod to the incredible history that Marvel has created in the past 10 years.

At the same time, they definitely set up some characters for the future of Marvel movies. I think I can safely write that without spoiling anything. Nobody expected Marvel movies to end after Endgame, right? The future is in good hands.

It's not just the writing that was detailed either! Sometimes it was just a facial expression, a glance between characters or body language.

Black Widow and Captain America feel comfortable around each other because they've been teammates for the past half a dozen years. Hawkeye and Widow's friendship is continued. Captain America and Iron Man have some closure after the events in Civil War.

There were some moments that visually echoed other scenes in previous Avengers movies. Other times there were verbal references.

Marvel paid homage to several moments in Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, they recall storylines from Age of Ultron and gave us closure to storylines from Captain America, Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok.

Avengers was the first time we'd seen such a big team-up movie. Civil War took it to another level. Infinity War said 'hold my beer' and took it even higher.

Some people have said that Endgame should win an Oscar (or Oscars). While that may be true, I'm not concerned with that. In a way, I'd prefer it doesn't. It seems a bit odd that a movie with a talking raccoon and a big, purple, evil alien would be an Oscar contender.

Why not just let this be the pop culture phenomenon, box office juggernaut and epic superhero movie that it is?

As for a star rating? Five stars, easily.

Related Content:
Captain Marvel - reviewed.
Bumblebee - reviewed.
Aquaman - reviewed.
The Avengers: Infinity War - reviewed.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Captain Marvel - reviewed.

All the controversy about Captain Marvel. Who knew?

If you've been paying attention to Twitter and other forms of social media, you probably did know about it.

I heard bits and pieces a couple of weeks ago, but didn't bother to give it much research.

I did take a look at the reports. I guess actress Brie Larson said while she was on a press tour promoting the movie that she wanted more diversity (specifically women) in the reviewers who get to see movies early.

I can see why that may make some people upset. But then she clarified and said that she's not asking to take anyone's seat away from the table --- just asking for more to be added.

I don't see an issue with that. That's a good way to put it.

Then people tried to bomb the movie on Rotten Tomatoes, which caused the website to make some changes.

Ehh, it is what it is.

Let's get to the movie (no spoilers in this review).

First, I really liked the way the movie handled the flashback scenes. Most of the movie took place in current time (well ... it was set in the 90s, but 'current time' for the movie).

The flashbacks were intertwined very nicely.

Unlike Aquaman (which also handled flashbacks very well), this movie showed bits and pieces and quick flashes --- not really full-on flashback scenes.

Eventually there was a twist when we finally saw the full flashback. It was almost like a thriller with a twist (but not as intense).

The flashbacks helped distinguish between Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and her human identity of Carol Danvers.

Second, I liked seeing Agent Coulson and Fury (with both eyes) again. While Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Captain Marvel's buddy cop routine felt a little bit forced, their chemistry worked well enough.

Captain Marvel is odd. She's not your typical hero (male or female). She's almost like Thor was in the first Thor --- new to Earth. She's advanced enough, in many ways, to figure out technology, but she walks around in her space suit like it's no big deal.

 It's kind of a fish-out-of-water story with an almost robotic-like Captain Marvel wandering around Earth, looking for her shapeshifting foes.

It does provide for some humorous moments.

The cat -- Goose -- also added some levity to several scenes.

While there was humor in this movie, I don't think I laughed out loud once. I hadn't thought of that until just now. That's not to say that it's bad --- just not as funny as an Aquaman or Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy.

There was also drama in this movie. Carol's best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) brought out the emotions on a couple of scenes.

She seemed genuine in her tears and really made a regular moment in the movie stand out as being impactful.

On the opposite side of the coin, some of Marvel's interactions with Maria and her daughter Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar) were cringeworthy to say the least.

Fury had a few cringeworthy moments as well.

The characters just didn't react the way a normal person would in a situation that involves aliens and space battles.

Maria correctly assesses that she should probably sit the space battle out so that she's there to take care of her young daughter.

Her daughter, Monica, says 'Mom, you're not being a very good role model for me' --- implying that she should go be brave and show her daughter that she can do anything.

I'm all for women's empowerment, but that's just stupid. Since when do you take your adulting cues from your 12-year-old?

You're the child's only parent. She has grandparents, so that's good. I'm not sure what the situation is with the father, but he's not part of her life.

So going into space to battle a group of aliens with possibly no way to return is good parenting? Inspiring, is it?

It wasn't inspiring. It was a little too cheesy.

There were Stargate SG-1 levels of hokey in some other scenes (like the dishwashing scene with Fury and Marvel).

I don't know that it was agenda-pushing, but it did feel a little 'try too hard' between the strong female hero, the release on International Women's Day and the attempted inspirational 'you can do anything' dialogue.

It felt a little forced, which is too bad because Captain Marvel is definitely an interesting character.

It's always interesting to see serious actors and actresses like Annette Bening in superhero movies.  Bening played Dr. Wendy Lawson.  She did a good job.

It still catches me off guard sometimes though.  I'm used to Masters of the Universe and Beast Master and Teenage Mutant Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze.  You didn't get a cast with big acting chops in those movies.

It shows how far we've come in the superhero genre when you can have Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Julie Andrews, Russell Crowe and other Oscar winners as regular parts of the cast.

Jude Law was also in this movie, playing Captain Marvel's Kree instructor: Yon-Rogg.

Visually, this movie was good. I accidentally purchased a 3D ticket, so it wasn't my usual viewing experience.

There weren't any moments where I thought 'that looks like too many computer graphics.'

The Skrull costuming could've been a little more realistic, I guess, but I can't complain about that too much.

I'm not sure that their characters will really stand out in the big picture, but they served their purpose for this particular movie.

I don't remember any of their names despite the fact that they were in the movie from almost the beginning all the way to the end, so the individual character development could've been a little bit better.

As a whole, the Skrulls were developed however.

Two fight scenes that stand out to me are when Marvel is captured on a Skrull ship near the beginning of the movie and a battle on Earth (on an above-ground train).

The final fight scene was a little bit anticlimactic for me.

Marvel utilizes her awesome powers, but I would've appreciated more struggle honestly. I don't think Thor or Thanos or Hulk have won battles with such ease.

And, I guess we may as well talk about one SPOILER from the mid-credit scene ... (scroll down for the spoiler)

... keep going ...

... almost there ...

... Captain Marvel wasn't destroyed by Thanos' snap of the fingers and she's joined the Avengers to help battle Thanos in Avengers Endgame (big surprise, huh?)

Overall, it was kind of what I expected. It was a Marvel movie (meaning it looked good, the production was on point, the script was good, the acting wasn't bad and there was a mix of comedy, drama and action).

Will it do well at the box office? It already is. I'm sure it will continue to do well.

I don't know where it will finish at the box office, but I don't think it will have the natural momentum that Aquaman or Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man or Wonder Woman had.

Those were hits because fans loved the movies. This is a movie that will do well because it has all of Disney and Marvel's marketing and money behind it. It's expected to do big numbers.

It'd be a disappointment if it didn't.  I'm not a hater either.

When I went to see Black Panther on the first Saturday it was out, I caught a 9:30 or 9:45 am showing.  The theater was completely full.

I saw Captain Marvel on the first Friday it was out at 4 pm and there were maybe 12 people in the theater.

While this isn't a bad movie, it's not groundbreaking.  The positive and negative media coverage of Captain Marvel before it was even released will probably make it hard to judge the movie's actual success and footprint on the movie landscape (and superhero genre) until the end of the year.

Like I said in my Most Anticipated Movies of 2019 blog, it's not the movie I'm most excited to see this year.

In a year with Spider-Man: Homecoming, Dark Phoenix, Shazam, Avengers Endgame and a Joaquin Phoenix-led Joker, I think this will be a movie that I watched and enjoyed, but wasn't a favorite in the somewhat crowded superhero movie field.

Related Content:
Life of the Party - reviewed.
Bumblebee - reviewed.
Aquaman - reviewed.
The Avengers: Infinity War - reviewed.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What should the qualifications be for a WWE Hall of Fame induction?

WWE's Hall of Fame has become one of the fans' favorite nights of the year.

Why wouldn't it be? You get to see legends and childhood heroes get the respect they deserve and hear some (hopefully) funny road stories.

There are some glaring omissions from WWE's Hall of Fame that hurt its credibility: Owen Hart, Vader, Davey Boy Smith, etc.

There have also been some questionable inductees that also hurt its credibility: Koko B. Ware, The Godfather and Rikishi.

It's understandable that each year, come Hall of Fame time, there will be debate amongst fans. Each group of fans is hoping their favorite gets the nod.

The inductions this year have caused some controversy as well. Chyna, for example, is being inducted. After the way Triple H's comments about Chyna on Stone Cold's podcast went viral a few years ago, seeing her name as a Hall of Fame inductee was a little surprising.

It was also a little shady -- giving Chyna an induction, but not a solo induction (like every other woman before her).

Instead, Chyna's induction is part of a group.

 Is that the only way Chyna is going to end up in the Hall of Fame? Possibly.

I don't know that I believe WWE intended to be shady, but the optics aren't great.

In a way it's actually fitting that Chyna is inducted alongside her fellow members of DX. Triple H is one of the biggest names in the business. The New Age Outlaws are one of the most decorated and celebrated tag teams in the business. And X-Pac is one of the best and most underrated workers there's been (especially for a smaller guy).

Then you have The Honky Tonk Man. He's never put on mat classics like Savage vs. Steamboat, but he is one of the longest reigning Intercontinental Champions of all time. He certainly lasted a long time in the industry. He was a solid mid-card character in the late '80s.

Who has caused the most controversy though? Torrie Wilson. Some of her fans are rightfully happy that she's being inducted. A lot of fans have been vocal about their opposition to this induction. The former 2-time Playboy cover girl is certainly easy on the eyes and was very popular at the time she was in WWE.

That being said, I, too, question her merits.

Does Torrie deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

I started watching wrestling in 1997, so I remember Torrie's debut in WCW and the WWF. She provided some memorable segments over the years, but it was all entertainment / t&a / fluff stuff.

True, she did try to wrestle (and did eventually improve to the point of putting on a passable match), but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

True, she did become a C-list celebrity after leaving WWE (dating Alex Rodriguez and appearing on a reality show competition), but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

True, she was very welcoming to new girls in the locker room (by all accounts) and wasn't problematic, but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

True, she was the poster girl for WWE's Smackdown brand, but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?