Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Casting black actors in white comic book roles

Something that's been happening in recent years is casting black actors in the roles of comic book characters who were typically white.

Of course, it's something that goes back to timing and culture and society. When comic books were published several decades ago, it was during a time when race was still a very sensitive subject.

Race may be a sensitive topic these days too, but in the 1940's and 1950's, black people still didn't have the rights they do today. I wasn't alive at the time, but I'd imagine it was even more tense than in today's current climate.

It creates an interesting dilemma for Marvel and DC movie and TV-makers.

 Do they change the race of beloved characters? Do they create new superheroes who are black (and Asian and LGBT, etc, etc?) to satisfy their diverse readers?

 Do they elevate their lesser-known black characters to more prominent roles (like Luke Cage and Black Panther)?

 Or do they stick to the original portrayals and ethnicities of their characters?

Personally, I'm not a fan of changing the race of certain characters just to change the race of them --- just to add diversity to the show.

I'd much rather the show creators develop a new character with an original story.

Superman will always look like Superman.  He's never going to be a blonde-haired white man and he'll never be a bald black man.  He'll never be a redheaded woman either.

He'll always be a dark haired white man who wears glasses when he's not flying around in a red cape.

I'd much rather see a new character developed rather than trying to change Superman so he's 'diverse.'

Same thing goes for black characters.

Storm, from the X-Men, will never and should never be a white woman with brown hair.  She's a black woman from Egypt and her hair is white.  That's just how it is.

I'm not a fan of Marvel making the new Thor a female.

Why do they need a new Thor?  Why not give her a different name?

Create her own identity.

Have her take over the duties of defending Asgard, but give her different costuming, let her keep her name, etc.  Piggybacking on the Thor popularity won't work.  It's not Thor.  It's a female Thor.  That's not the character fans came to enjoy.

I have the same feeling with remakes of shows -- like MacGyver and Hawaii 5.0.  Instead of trying to recreate what once was, why not come up with a new concept?

Those in charge of the comic book movies and the TV shows tried several options a few different times in the past few years when it comes to creating a diverse cast and it's clear that there isn't one right answer.

Here are some of their decisions that worked and some that didn't.

Idris Elba as Heimdall

This casting choice worked. It seems odd, I suppose, that a black man would be the gatekeeper for a land of Nordic Gods, but I didn't even think twice about it when I saw the first two Thor movies. It wasn't until I read a little more about the history of Thor (after the first two movies were released) that I realized it may not have made the most sense.

Still, Idris Elba just makes it work. The movie version of Asgard seems to have diversity in it, so it makes sense there. This was a good casting decision.

Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch

This was one of the more controversial casting choices in the past few years. Michael B. Jordan was cast as The Fantastic Four's Human Torch and people kind of scratched their heads, wondering what the backstory was.

Then the movie came out and didn't really offer a backstory.  It seems as though he and sister Sue Storm were adopted brother and sister, but in this day and age, there are mixed marriages between white and black people, so there are people with all kinds of racial backgrounds -- mixtures of all kinds.

That's not really unusual.  I don't think anyone really had a problem with updating the script.  What was odd about 2015's Fantastic Four is that it offered zero explanation as to what that backstory was.

The cast was very sensitive about it (too sensitive, in my opinion) when they were doing interviews, too.  In one instance, there was an awkward interview with a couple of radio hosts and the cast seemed defensive about the topic (probably because they were asked about it several times).

If Michael B. Jordan were The Thing or Mr. Fantastic, I think this would've worked out fine.  Or even casting Sue Storm as black.  Or keeping Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara in the roles they were cast in -- but explaining their relationship better.  That all would've been fine -- and may have resulted in a more successful movie.

I think this one was a miss.  Bad casting decision here.

Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen

This casting decision seems to work.  Candice Patton isn't the best actress of all time (though, after making it through season 2, I'm wondering if the content just doesn't have enough substance for her abilities).

She and Grant Gustin have a nice chemistry that is evidenced in the pilot.  There was no real need to explain any reason for the casting change since there was no brother-sister relationship.  However, The Flash still gives a backstory.  Iris and Barry grow up together in this version (after Barry's mom gets killed and his dad goes to jail).  Yet their Barry and Iris' relationship doesn't seem unnatural or unusual at all.

This was a good casting decision.

Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin

Michael Clarke Duncan is a big dude.  He's bald.  He's got a physical presence to him.  Only difference between him and the comic book / animated version of Spider-Man and Daredevil's Kingpin is that he's black (and not quite as large as Kingpin is depicted sometimes).

I'm one of the select few people who liked the Daredevil movie, I know.  I hope I'm not one of the select people who think casting MCD as Kingpin was a great choice.  He did a great job as the character.  But, mostly, he was one of the few options around at the time.

There weren't big-name, musclebound guys who could take a role like that at the time.  The studios could've gone with an unknown actor, but even today ... there's not many actors who would make a good Kingpin.  Netflix's decision in going with Vincent D'Onofrio was genius.  He's amazing at the role as well.

But back in 2003?  I couldn't name an actor who would've done as good of a job.

Laurence Fishburne as Perry White

No.  I'll get this out of the way right away: this was a bad casting decision.  Number one, he's an awful Perry White.  Laurence Fishburne isn't a name that added to the movie.  He didn't do a stellar acting job.  In my opinion, it was the opposite.  He didn't seem to have a good grasp of the Perry White character.

I saw this as a 'Oh, shoot, we need a black guy in this movie' decision because surely they could've found a better actor with better energy and screen presence than him.

I know a lot of people weren't thrilled when Fishburne came onto C.S.I. to somewhat replace Gil Grissom, but I thought he was okay.  In the end, he didn't really help or hurt that show.  He was just there.  Fishburne was great in Akeelah and The Bee, but Perry White just isn't the character for him.

I'd rather keep him as Perry White throughout DC's upcoming movies -- but I hope he doesn't have a large part in any of them.  He doesn't add anything to the role or the movies.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo

The casting decision of the Dr. Strange movie that got everyone talking was Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One.  There were claims of Hollywood whitewashing the movie.  Yet the casting decision nobody talked about was Chiwetel Ejiofor being cast as Mordo.

Mordo was a white man of European descent, yet in the movie he was a black man with a sword.  I didn't have a problem with this decision since I wasn't an avid Dr. Strange fan and I didn't know most of the characters outside of Dr. Strange, himself.

Chiwetel was great in Salt and, once again, did a good job in Dr. Strange.  I'd classify this as a good casting decision.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

It's hard to categorize this as a bad decision given how immensely successful the Marvel movies have been.  Then again, is that due to Samuel L. Jackson or Robert Downey Jr.?

I don't think Samuel L. Jackson was a bad Nick Fury.  It worked.  He did well in the role.  So let's chalk it up to a good casting decision.

I just think Jackson is very overrated as an actor.  He's kind of like Adam Sandler or Pauly Shore.  Same delivery and facial expressions, no matter what role he's in.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Which women should compete in WWE's women's tournament?

It was a huge Wrestlemania weekend just over a month ago.

Between dozens of wrestling events in Orlando, the WWE Hall of Fame, NXT TakeOver, Wrestlemania 33 (the retirement of The Undertaker!) and, of course, the Raw after 'Mania.

One of the bits of news that came out over the weekend was the announcement of a 32 woman WWE tournament.  Details aren't completely clear yet on this tournament.  Will it involve women from the independents?  Will it strictly be women from the independents?

Will it be women who are currently in WWE?  Nobody is really sure at this point because WWE didn't release all of those details.

I've got to think that it will be similar to the Cruiserweight tournament and the UK tournament.  In both of those situations, almost all of the participants were from the independents and not signed to contracts.  Sure, you had Tajiri (a familiar face from his previous WWE run), but most of the guys were indy darlings -- not having worked in WWE before.

If WWE structures this tournament the same, I've got 15 suggestions for them.  These are some of the participants I'd like to see:

1. Melina

First and foremost.  She had a run in WWE before, but it's been about 5 years since she was last on TV with them.  She took some time off and split from John Morrison, but now she's back to accepting independent bookings and she's got a new look.

I blogged a couple of months ago about the reasons I'd like to see Melina return, so I won't take up much cyberspace here explaining it.

She's still got a lot in her.  Actually, I think she's probably got more to offer because if she is back for a second run, she won't be stuck fighting against WWE while trying to put on a good match.  WWE is all about the women's revolution these days.

It'd be nice to see Melina get the pay off for all of the work she put in so many years ago -- just trying to get the chance to perform at the level the women are performing at today.

Bottom line is: I think Melina could still offer WWE some great matches and this tournament would be the perfect way to re-introduce her to the fans.

2. Kelly Klein

I don't know what Kelly's status is with Ring of Honor, but she'd be a great fit for the WWE's upcoming tournament.

She's still a little green, but she's got a good look.  She's muscular and athletic.  She's kind of like a more streamlined and younger Beth Phoenix.

WWE could easily work with her and make her into something impressive.

Like I said, I'm not sure what her contractual status is with Ring of Honor, but if there's any way to have her involved in their tournament, WWE should make it happen.

3. Mia Yim (a.k.a. Jade)

This former Knockouts champion spent years on the independent scene before finally making it to a televised wrestling company and eventually winning the title.

Now, she's back where she started: on the indy scene.

It's too bad because she's got a bunch of athleticism.  She's got a very unique look.  I mean, she looks like she's right out of a Mortal Combat video game.

WWE would be wise to sign her as they don't have any women of Asian descent on their roster.  It'd be nice to see her get a chance in the big time.

She has two areas she could work on improving: her mic skills and not holding back.  Mia is one of those ladies who is loaded with talent, but is afraid to go stiff with people and therefore sometimes ends up looking worse than she is.

4. Aerial Monroe

This girl only had one match on Raw -- a squash match against Nia Jax.  However, in that one match, she showed a lot of potential.  She had a certain ring presence about her that a lot of Nia's jobbers lack.

Additionally, Aerial has a great look that some of the other female superstars don't have.  The short, dyed hair isn't something that's typical of WWE's female talent.  I guess there is Ruby Riot, now -- offering an alternative to the norm.  But Aerial has a different look than Ruby, too.  Aerial has somewhat of a Rihanna look to her.

Perhaps a little-known fact is that Aerial is also Cedric Alexander's fiancĂ© and the two of them have a child together.  It never hurts to have an inside connection.

Hopefully having that Cedric connection will clear the way for Aerial to be involved in this tournament.

5. Candice LaRae

I first remember hearing about Candice LaRae back in 2008.  I figured she'd be signed in no time, yet she finds herself still without a WWE contract.

I'm not exactly sure why.  She's proved that she has staying power.  She's also proved that she can wrestle a variety of styles, from hardcore inter gender tag matches to comedy matches with Joey Ryan.

Yet WWE still hasn't scooped her up.

I'm hoping that changes this year since she is married to NXT's Johnny Gargano.  Hopefully he can use his pull to get her a spot in this tournament, if not a NXT deal.

6. Tessa Blanchard

Tully Blanchard's daughter has been making a name for herself pretty quickly in this business. She's only been around for a few years (and she's still very young ... only 23 or something like that?), but she's doing very well already.

I don't know if she has the talent that some of the other women on this list have, but she could be molded with the great trainers at NXT.

She's made a few NXT appearances already, but her most recent work involved playing a stunt double for the role of 'Paige' in The Rock and WWE's movie about Paige's life and family.  The Rock recently praised her on his Instagram page, which had to be a big boost of confidence for this young rookie.

I figured Tessa would've been given a contract by now, if for no other reason than to be Charlotte's sidekick -- playing off of Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard being in 4 Horsemen together.  2 daughters of the 4 Horsemen working together in WWE (and then an eventual babyface turn by Tessa)?

It seems like something they'd run with.  Maybe this women's tournament will be the start of that possibility.

7. Hyan

I'll be honest about this one: I don't know much about her.  Hyan was a jobber in a squash match with Nia Jax on Raw last summer/fall.  However, she looked hot.  She kind of reminds me of a mix between Melina and Sarah Stock (Sarita).

As for her athletic ability, she took the bumps well.  She didn't get much offense in (none of Nia's jobbers do), but she did her minimal part correctly.

Upon a quick Google search, I found her Twitter page.  I also found a couple of her matches on YouTube.

She did well in each of her matches.  She could, of course, use some development in NXT, but she's young, is attractive and could be a draw for WWE down the road.

8. Thea Trinidad

Austin Aries' girlfriend seems like a logical choice to be in this tournament.  Not only is she Aries' girlfriend, but she's involved in The Rock's movie about Paige's life.  Thea plays A.J. Lee in that upcoming movie.

That's where this photo of her with the Diva's Title comes from.

Besides having those connections, Thea is a very talented worker.  She's quick, she's got technical ability and she's got a good look.

You may remember her from her days as Rosita in TNA.

Which reminds me.  She has another connection.  She tagged with Sarita (who is now a coach at WWE's Performance Center).

I'd be shocked if Thea was not involved in this tournament.

9. Jillian Hall

Another former name I'd like to see return.  Jillian Hall recently did a podcast with Vince Russo, explaining that she's trying to find herself and make a bit of a comeback after a few years of personal problems.

An appearance in this tournament would be great to see.  Jillian was always a great character, but unfortunately -- despite having a lot of talent on the roster -- WWE didn't give her many opportunities to showcase her wrestling ability.  They booked her in short, 3 minute matches (along with all the other women at the time) and, due to her character, Jillian was often times the comedic aspect of the match.

She often did the job, helping make Kelly Kelly or Ashley Massaro or Michelle McCool (or whatever other 'project' WWE was focused on at the time) look good.

I wouldn't propose Jillian going that far in this tournament or even coming back full-time, but it would be nice to see her return for a one-off appearance.

10. Rachael Ellering

While Paul Ellering continues to manage the Authors of Pain on NXT, his daughter is making a name for herself as a wrestler.

She's very good considering she's a relative newcomer.  I believe I read that she's only got about a year or two of experience, which means she would've broken into the business in 2015.

She's definitely got some honing of her skill to do and toning of her body, but Rachael could be a very good signing down the road.

I don't know how her mic skills are.  Maybe she's lacking there.  Or maybe she's stellar in that aspect.  I don't think she's really cut any promos so far.

I'd be very surprised if she wasn't signed to a developmental deal by the end of 2017 or mid-2018.

11. Deonna Purrazzo

Is there anywhere that Deonna Purrazzo has not worked in the past year?  This relative newcomer has had matches with NXT, on Smackdown, on Impact and with Ring of Honor.  Talk about building an impressive resume!

I think she was maybe even on Impact this past week (or the week before).

If you look at her Twitter page, you'll notice a retweet with an inspiring comment from Madusa, who mentioned that Deonna has a good future.

Right now she's just an indy wrestler (working all over the place), but I think there's probably a character in there somewhere.

I'm not sure if it's as a heel or a face, but WWE could likely get her a good gimmick and direction and let her loose.

12. Blue Pants (a.k.a. Leva Bates)

We haven't seen Blue Pants on NXT in a couple of years now.  There were rumors (that she brushed off) of Leva having heat with some of the NXT crew.

I don't know how true they were, but she hasn't been back since.  I don't think that's a coincidence.

Hopefully that heat isn't enough to keep her out of this tournament.  Leva is a great character wrestler.  While she lacks a little bit of intensity when performing her offense, she would be a fun addition to this event.

Like I said with Jillian already, it'd be nice to see her make an appearance in a tournament like this.  Not a full contract, but an appearance.  A familiar face and automatic babyface wouldn't be bad to have on hand for this tournament.

13. Kharma

I don't think we'll ever see Kharma in WWE again, which is unfortunate because there hasn't been a better monster heel in women's wrestling since Chyna in the late '90s or Bull Nakano in the mid-90's.

Sure, there was Beth Phoenix, but she had a different build than Kharma.

Tamina is OK.  Nia Jax is around.  Havok was in TNA.  So was Lei'D Tapa.  But none of them hold a candle to Kharma when she's 100%.  Kharma (or Awesome Kong) was awesome in her original feud with TNA.

Her ring work was lacking during her second run in TNA, but I believe that was due to injuries.  If she's 100%, she'd be a great one to get involved in this tournament.

Like I said, though, I don't anticipate her making an appearance.  After her issue with Bubba The Love Sponge and then her issue with Reby Sky (in addition to getting pregnant right before her WWE push), I don't think WWE management has much faith in her.

14. Santana Garrett

Santana is probably a familiar face to any wrestling fan.  She has made appearances with NXT and she had a year-long run with TNA as Brittany.

She ended up turning heel and going Mickie James-style psycho after her favorite wrestler (Madison Rayne) didn't live up to her hype.

Santana sometimes bores me.  I hate to say it because she's talented.  But she's just somewhat generic.

Brittany, however, was highly entertaining, especially when she turned heel.  I think she'd be a very good addition to WWE's roster once given a character to portray.  Some wrestlers (take Nikki Cross for example) need a character to get over and make magic in the ring ... even though they always had the athletic ability to do so.  Santana is one of those people.

15. Jazz

Jazz is likely too old at this point (43) to make a full-time return, but she was one of WWE's best in-ring female wrestlers and she never got a good send-off.

After she was released alongside Nidia and Gail Kim in November of 2004, she only made one additional WWE televised appearance.  That appearance was at the USA Network special featuring ECW vs. WWE in 2006 (why isn't that on the WWE Network, by the way??).

She lost to Mickie James, who was then the WWE Women's Champion.  It sounds like a good match on paper, but WWE gave them just a couple of minutes to work this match and never followed up on it.

There were rumors that Jazz and Trinity (of TNA fame) were to feud in ECW (and possibly Beth Phoenix, down the road) but Trinity did a house show moonsault to the ringside floor and injured her knee.  Beth debuted on Raw.  Jazz was quietly released.

I know it's unlikely that Jazz will make an appearance since, last I heard, she was one of the several wrestlers involved in a concussion lawsuit against WWE.  But maybe that will get situated before the tournament happens.

16. Havok

I'm torn on Havok.  She's got a great look!  She's scary looking, but has a comic book vibe to her.  She looks like a great wrestling villain.

She had an OK run in TNA and even has her name in the books as a former TNA Knockouts Champion.  The thing that I don't like about her is that she goes soft in the ring.  I understand that she doesn't want to injure anybody, but she could stand to be a little stiffer.

Nia Jax has that same issue in my opinion.  Kharma had it near the end of her career too (but maybe that was due to her nagging back injury).

I don't know if it's just that bigger girls are afraid to put all their weight into their moves or what.  It ends up not looking very convincing though.

If you're going to be a monster heel, be a freakin' monster heel!

I think that a run in NXT could maybe get some aggressiveness out of Havok though.  A spot in this tournament would make it more interesting than 32 women who are all the same size.

17. Lei'D Tapa

The niece of The Barbarian seems like she'd be a shoe-in for WWE.  She was featured in some content after attending a WWE tryout in February.

I don't know what her status is -- if she was offered a contract or not -- but she could definitely be the monster heel that Nia Jax is kind of failing to be.

Actually, if Nia Jax goes face (as was possibly teased this past week on Raw), Lei'd Tapa could be a great heel opponent for her, providing Nia her greatest challenge.

If not full-time for WWE, at least in this tournament.  She's got some more work to do, but I think she's got some skill there that is hard to teach.  

Lei'D Tapa is often criticized by the Internet Wrestling Community for her run in TNA, but I didn't think it was that bad.  She had a couple of good matches with Ivelisse Velez, of Lucha Underground fame anyway.  I'm sure she could do a good job in a few matches for WWE in this women's tournament.

18. Sarah Stock

I highly doubt this will happen, but it'd be nice to see WWE's current female NXT trainer compete in this tournament.  Sarita never got the chance to show her immense skill in TNA.

Despite being there for several years, she was never Knockout Champion and she never had a good one-on-one feud or even a lengthy singles match.

I don't even remember who was running TNA at the time, but evidently whoever was booking her didn't like her too much.  She could've been so much more than Taylor Wilde's tag team partner and a member of LAX.

Even if it's just putting someone over, it'd be nice to see Sarah get a televised match under the WWE umbrella.

19. Victoria

Maybe it's because she spent so many years in TNA after her 9-year WWE run, but Victoria is the woman I'd be least excited to see make an appearance.  Don't get me wrong: it'd be cool if she had a match in this thing (again, to put over a newer talent).  But, I'd rather see her get a Hall of Fame spot than have more matches in WWE.

Still, it would be fitting to cap off her career with a 'retirement' match, so-to-speak, in this tournament.

It'd be a nice passing-of-the-torch kind of moment to have Victoria make a return, have a long match, put the newer talent over, and get a standing ovation from the Orlando crowd afterward.

It's not exactly the storybook ending that Trish Stratus received, but it would be a better ending to her wrestling career than a TNA match that nobody can remember or losing to Michelle McCool in her final WWE match on a random episode of Smackdown.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Casting the He-Man movie: She-Ra characters

So if the new He-Man movie is anything like some of the Masters of the Universe comics, we may see some She-Ra characters show up (or at least be set up for future appearances in sequels) in Sony's new MOTU movie.

If there are any She-Ra characters who show up, here's who I'd like to see cast:

Michael Cera as Mantenna

It's been a while since Michael Cera was in anything that made pop culture waves, but he's got some decent roles

Vin Diesel as Leech

I am Groot.  That's usually what Vin Diesel says on the big screen these days.  In the Masters of the Universe series, he could be Leech.  I'd like to see a more menacing Leech than in the animated series.

Vin Diesel has the physical attributes to make that happen.

Put some make up and molding on his face.  Throw in some special effects and you've got a perfect candidate for this Horde villain.

Dwayne Johnson as Hordak

The hardest working man in entertainment. Surely he'd sign up for a role in this movie, especially if it means he'd be be the big bad in a future movie or spin-off She-Ra flick.

 The Rock is usually the hero in the movie, but he's got the acting chops to do something a little different.

I think he'd make a pretty good Hordak -- a little more intimidating than the Filmation version, of course.

More in line with what they're doing in some of the comics these days.  Put him in makeup, throw in some special effects and he'll be perfect.

Chris Pine as Bo

Chris Pine is playing Wonder Woman's love interest in the upcoming WW movie.  He could play the main male character of She-Ra's band of rebels.

Based on his work in Star Trek and Jack Ryan, he could easily handle any action scenes thrown his way.  His acting is good.  He looks like Bo.  Just grow a little facial hair and he's set.

If Bo ends up in the Masters of the Universe movie, I really hope they give him more credibility than in the animated She-Ra series.  They could make him more serious and more adult -- like Arrow or Hawkeye from the Avengers movies.  Chris Pine would be perfect for that role.

Jennifer Lawrence as She-Ra

You may remember (though maybe not because it's been so damn long since I did these He-Man blogs), that I also picked Jennifer Lawrence as a possibility to play Evil-lyn. I think that's the role she'd be much better suited for, but she could potentially play the female He-Man.

She's definitely got the star power to bring interest to the role.   She's used to action scenes and big budget movies, so she has experience that would come in handy.

She's not my favorite actress, by any means, but I'd be OK with her getting the role.

Margot Robbie as She-Ra

She played the unhinged sex kitten, Harley Quinn, very well, but could she play a straight-laced heroine just as well? I'm not sure. I haven't seen most of her movies or acting work.

However, I'd give her a shot. She's a rising name in Hollywood. She seems to have her head on straight.

Margot isn't my first choice, but I wouldn't complain one bit if she ended up getting the role of She-Ra.  I'd be interested to see what she did with it.

Adrianne Palicki as She-Ra

Here's my main choice for the role of She-Ra.  She played Lady Jaye in the second G.I. Joe movie and she went on to be Mockingbird in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show.  If any of these actresses on the list have the physical capabilities to play She-Ra, it's Palicki.

She's not exactly an Academy Award winning actress, but she's believable enough in her action roles.  She brought a sense of believability to her role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.

She hasn't had too much mainstream success outside of G.I. Joe 2 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so I'd hope she'd be up for the role.

Nicola Peltz as Adora

Now here's the tricky part.  Do the He-Man movie makers go the route of Superman/Supergirl and just make a few slight changes between the appearance of Adora and She-Ra?

Or do they go the route of Mike Young Productions in 2002 and have Adora (and Adam) as younger actors in their late teens and then transform into powerful superheroes?

If they do have a younger Adora and an older She-Ra, Nicola Peltz would be a good choice.  She was in The Last Airbender and the 4th Transformers movie.  She doesn't have the most extensive resume, but the roles she has landed are some decent ones.

If anyone could be Adora, Peltz could be.

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