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My favorite films of 2017

Say what you will about 2017 as a whole, but the films released this last year were a good harvest of cinematic entertainment. I’ll refrain from any sort of top ten lists of the best or worst variety and simply talk about the movies that I saw and enjoyed. Below are the films that evoked the most powerful responses from me, be it slow and meditative science fiction, excellently choreographed action and fight sequences, or simply the films that gave me the largest laughs and the most to dwell on afterwards. As most years there are almost as many, or more, films that I missed due to one reason or another and will likely catch up on later. So if you see a popular film missing I either didn’t think it did enough to merit being on the list, or I didn’t see it. Here’s to hoping that 2018 continues this trend and gives us more quality films to soak up and revel in.

 

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Blade Runner 2049

While this was a good year at the theater, for myself there was no film that surpassed the cinematic glory that was Blade Runner 2049. A sequel releasing thirty-five years after the original film might seem like a detractor for most films, but not here. Director Denis Villeneuve and Cinematographer Roger Deakins (along with cast and crew) have spun a transfixing web of powerful and immense sights and sounds across this science fiction epic. Harrison Ford returns to his lesser known sci-fi icon Rick Deckard and gives us one of his best performances in the last ten to twenty years. Meanwhile Ryan Gosling’s K, the new Blade Runner of 2049, sets out to track down the crimes and mysteries left behind in Deckard’s wake. This film is a slow burning science fiction epic that rapidly escalates the scale apart from the first film’s relatively smaller set of events in the best ways possible. I cannot recommend this film enough, though I know it won’t be every audience’s favorite flavor.

 

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John Wick Chapter 2

Forced back into the world of cordial killers that he left behind ages ago, this sequel brings back Keanu Reeves’ latest hit character John Wick and throws him into a gauntlet of violence and feigned civility. Rarely giving the audience time to soak into Wick’s brooding life after his successful revenge in the first flick, Chapter 2 quickly forces Wick’s hand into fulfilling a blood oath after blowing up his house a few scenes in. This film is a continuation of the surprise success of the first film by allowing what worked there to be thoughtfully expanded upon here. The legend of John Wick hinted at in the first film is realized here by having Wick operate in Italy for his mission, thereby having many people quickly recognizing, and fearing, him. This film cracks open the doors to his old community of killers that was merely peeked at before and it’s a joy to watch Wick do what he does best. If you’re looking for near relentless and creative gunplay in a refined atmosphere then you can do no better than John Wick Chapter 2.

 

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Kong: Skull Island

As a fan of the giant monster movie sub-genre, I always look forward to new and evolving versions of old favorites, and this interpretation of cinema’s most well known giant ape may well be my favorite. The largest Kong yet towers above the rivers and peaks of Skull Island set during the waning days of the Vietnam war in which a few madcap scientists talk their way into a military escort onto the isolated and volatile isle of legend. Once they arrive their suspicions of the giant ape are confirmed as Kong is quick to prove who is King in this untamed land. I love the adoration this film has for it’s monstrous locales and unique creations-this is a film that knows it is first a foremost a creature feature. It doesn’t hurt that the cast involved knew how to embrace the tone, some particularly fun additions were John Goodman as the conspiratorial lead scientist, Samuel L. Jackson’s cynical and bombastic Major Packard leading the military support, and John C. Reilly’s wary but good-hearted WW2 fighter pilot who crash-landed on the island when an aerial dogfight went awry. It’s also worth mentioning that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts maintained his sense of style and kept his cinematic voice intact in a major studio release, that’s no small feat and deserves some recognition.

 

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Get Out

As someone who isn’t all that in love with horror movies, this year gave us two absolutely stellar additions to the genre. The first of which was the outstanding directorial debut of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. What makes this film so magnetic is the way it plays on the real world anxieties that still thread through American racial relationships to this day. Peele slowly settles the audience into unease with his clever use of pacing and throwbacks to some of his most adored film inspirations from the likes of Guess who’s coming to dinner?, The Stepford Wives, and The Shining. This is my preferred style of horror, it never relies on jump-scares or cheap thrills, instead the film unnerves you with each passing minute until the spellbinding hypnosis scenes begin-then the film accelerates the madness only hinted at before. This psychological thriller will likely be among many favorites lists for years to come, and Peele has earned every second of adoration for it.

 

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IT Chapter 1

The other surprise horror hit last year was IT Chapter 1. This latest rendition of a Stephen King classic rose to legendary horror movie heights as the highest grossing R rated movie of all time earning close to 700 million worldwide on a budget of only 35 million. With only another lackluster Saw comeback to challenge it’s box office reign roughly a month after it’s release, the film about a killer clown dominated the silver screen for weeks on end. What really made the film stand out from the crowd though wasn’t the scares-which were plentiful and effective, but rather the chemistry of the Losers Club and how they not only interacted with each other, but how they dealt with the overwhelming presence of Pennywise the evil shape-shifting clown. The film was funny, charming, creepy, and intense. If you (somehow) missed this one at the theater, then check out the video release-it’s definitely worth your time!

 

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Wonder Woman

Ladies and gentlemen, they did it! DC films finally made a great superhero movie. Wonder Woman did what neither Batman, Superman, or Will Smith could accomplish- a truly wonderful superhero story. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins deserve a hell of a lot of credit for infusing some heart and empathy into this dour and sour universe of grisly and uninspiring superheroes. Gadot and Chris Pine shared an excellent onscreen chemistry on their journey through worn torn Europe, they evolved as characters and weren’t used for glamour shots or crude humor. Wonder Woman is the shining light of the DC film universe and I can’t wait to see how Jenkins and crew return to the character in her untitled sequel, best of all though, we can rest assured that she’s in good hands until then!

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

I wasn’t sure how the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy would fare for me, the first was a surprise hit and became an instant pop culture icon. How would James Gunn handle these characters’ evolution and what kind of madcap adventures would they tumble into next? They may not have been chasing a macguffin stone this time around, but we did get a compelling story that dug into some deeper character work for a few of the characters on the team, and they had a far more interesting villain this time around in Ego the Living Planet, who just so happens to be Star Lord’s father.. Kurt Russell, because of course he is. Everything about this film was amped up from the last installment and the world building for the greater cosmic side of the Marvel universe was stepped up in scale as well. This was a visual feast of colors and special effects and the comedy (a detractor for some this time around) worked for me just as much if not more this time around. This was an excellent addition to not only the Guardians story but the greater web of MCU storylines as well!

 

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

This was my favorite superhero movie of the year, and that’s saying something because this year had some of the best offerings from Marvel and DC yet! Even the Justice League was an improvement overall (though it’s not on this list as it didn’t quite reach the mark for me). Introduced in Captain America Civil War this newest incarnation of the web slinger may be my favorite version yet! Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is the youngest web-head thus far and he’s got an innate natural sense of the big-eyed wonder that a younger Parker would have, especially since he’s the rookie in a world of Avengers now. Placing Spider-Man into the MCU allows him to be positioned into storylines and arcs that would have been impossible before now, a feat realized through the perfect use of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark as the guiding hero and moral compass (Something Stark could only accomplish after years of being Iron Man). This was a wonderfully small scale super hero movie and I loved it all the more for keeping things grounded, lighthearted, and funny. There’s also the great benefit of having Michael Keaton playing the Vulture, a C-class villain from the comics that he made all his own resulting in one of the best villains of the MCU since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. I can’t wait to see how this latest version of the Wallcrawler’s story evolves after this!

 

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Thor Ragnarok

Taika Waititi threw out the rulebook with his Thor film and it was all the better for it! I was incredibly excited for this movie since hearing the rumors surrounding the creative team involved and the stories that they were going to adapt with Thor’s third MCU film. Soaked in neon colors, a synthy score crafted by Mark Mothersbaugh harkening back to his Devo days, and paired up with Mark Ruffalo’s Incredible Hulk, with a cameo from Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange-this film had a lot going for it, and everything worked beautifully! Plus, Jeff Goldblum! My ticket was sold to this film the moment I saw that first trailer (Although truthfully I would have seen it without the extra hype anyways). Waititi combined elements of the Planet Hulk storyline with Asgard’s apocalyptic Ragnarok event, all while serving up jokes and surprising character development from our recognizable favorites. This might be Marvel Studios’ strongest year yet, these three entries were the hat-trick of risky features and each of them paid off marvelously!

 

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Baby Driver

As a fan of every film that Edgar Wright has directed I was ecstatic about his next release after his fallout with Marvel Studios over creative differences on the Ant-Man film. This choice ended up being beneficial for everyone involved anyways. The Ant-Man film we got was a small (pun intended) and charming heist film with lovable characters introduced into the constantly growing Marvel movie machine. However, while Edgar Wright’s next project would also be a heist film, that’s where the similarities end. Baby Driver is a fast paced crime flick with music in it’s soul, but more than that the film is intelligently written and Wright’s whiplash editing is as fresh as ever and particularly important to this film. Each scene is dictated by the music that Baby’s listening to at that time resulting in eclectic shootouts set to everything from Run the Jewels to Brighton Rock by Queen. Full of blink-and-you-miss-it easter eggs and populated by an excellent cast firing on all cylinders, Baby Driver stole the summer for me.

 

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War for the Planet of the Apes

The final installment in the prequel trilogy of The Planet of the Apes franchise follows our main ape Caesar as he leads his clan of apes towards finding a peaceful territory all their own. However the ghost of Koba still haunts Caesar as the remainders of Koba’s faction work for the remnants of the humans’ military forces. This is my favorite of the Apes newest series of movies, the film showcases the most impressive visual effects I have ever seen onscreen with the performance capture of the apes- who we spend a majority of our time with this time around. The story simmers in a sense of ever present dread and tension as the apes must strive against the paranoid and ramshackle remains of humanity. This story depicts more of the brutality of war than an all out assault, though in a delightful turn of events this film accomplishes more in its quietest moments than most blockbusters ever do throughout their run-times. This completes an incredibly strong trilogy that every cinephile should watch at some point, especially if you have a fondness for thought provoking science fiction.

 

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand planets

Despite having a vague science fiction subtitle and lacking some chemistry between the two leads, Valerian and the city of a thousand planets is a colorful and fast paced sci-fi flick that dazzles with spectacle. Directed by Luc Besson, of The Fifth Element and Leon The Professional fame, Valerian (and Laureline) stumble upon a conspiratorial plot aboard the infamous space station “Alpha” and have to traverse it’s many layers, regions, and sectors to find the answers they seek. While this film may be no Star Wars or Star Trek it is a unique enough offering to engage and entertain with its effective world building and absurdly fun technologies in play. If you’re looking for some science fiction fun but don’t want to go see The Last Jedi another time, Valerian should be able to sate your sci-fi needs this winter.

 

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A Ghost Story

This one caught me off-guard. Nearly devoid of dialogue and cosmically melancholy, A Ghost Story is about a young couple in love when tragedy suddenly strikes the man and he dies. We spend the rest of the film with the departed musician as he wanders the earth incomplete in the, literal, sheets of his ghostly form. The film’s aspect ratio, a squared 1.33 Academy ratio with curved corners, add to the nostalgic and intimate nature of the film as the ghost experiences time and space becoming slippery and unrecognizable. This is the shortest film on the list and if you have the patience for it’s slower parts I would highly recommend giving this unique film a chance.

 

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Fast and Furious 8

The Fate of the Furious is on this list because of the pure enjoyment I had with this movie. At this point, I know what I’m getting with this series- cars, explosions, heists, one-liners, punching, and a set-piece that’s slightly more ridiculous than the last installment in the series. It’s a long running series of Saturday morning cartoons for adults, and I’m okay with that. I had a theory with these movies that every other one was going to be not quite as good as the one that preceded it. For example: the first film was (and probably still is the best of the bunch as far as films go) pretty good entertainment, the second I enjoyed but it wasn’t quite as good. Tokyo Drift was excellent- but I wasn’t as impressed with Fast 4 the reboot of the series, while Fast Five was my personal favorite of the series. The sixth was a let down for me while the seventh was pretty good dumb fun. However, this eighth movie in the franchise was another solid entry for me-the curse of the even numbered Fast and Furious films was broken! I quite enjoyed the prison escape sequence between Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, the spy stuff with Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood as the newbie was jovial, and the twist with Vin Diesel being the villain this time around wasn’t as cheesy as I expected. I don’t know if each new episode will stay as fresh or exciting as the best of the series, but hey, I never expected perfection from my guilty pleasures before-why start now?

 

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Logan

Finally unleashing Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine for his final performance, Logan was a different kind of superhero movie. I’ll admit, while I did enjoy this film, it never quite reached the heights for me as it did for so many audience members out there, though the opening and closing scenes were near perfection in execution. Years in the future an old and battered Logan strives to make money as a chauffeur for young rich assholes as he secretly cares for an increasingly unstable Professor X. Things go awry once Laura, his biological daughter created in a lab, comes into the picture. The performances were solid and the action was grisly and entertaining, although personally there were a few too many adamantium claws lodged into people’s faces for my liking. It was a solid film, an ode to Westerns and the Wolverine alike, and a good finale to one of the longest running character performances from comic book adaptions.

 

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

This was the last film I saw in 2017 and it was surprisingly good! This film is a sequel to the Robin Williams led original film from 1995 and I enjoyed the fact that this film didn’t bulldoze over the original but took cues and inspiration from it while crafting a new adventure to enjoy. This time around it is four teenagers that all end up in detention with each other a la The Breakfast Club but instead of talking through their problems together they get sucked into the game reassembled as a cartridge based video game from the mid 1990’s. Each character is put into the body of their chosen avatars, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. Each has three lives and they must solve riddles and best challenges in the jungle to win the game. It was a joy to watch Johnson and Black play against their type while Gillan and Hart were solid in their roles they didn’t have personas quite as large as the other two, though there is some great character work between Hart as the former football quarterback quarreling with the studious nerd within the hulking body of Johnson. This was a welcome surprise and a fun way to end the year at the theaters.

Listed below are the films that I wanted to catch at the theater, but never got around to:

Disaster Artist, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, The Big Sick, Dunkirk, It comes at Night, The Florida Project, Colossal, Good Time, Logan Lucky, Detroit, Lucky, Phantom Thread, The Post, Dave made a Maze, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Call me by your name, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, & Wind River

P.S. Yes, I too saw Star Wars Episode 8 The Last Jedi, but I felt that this wasn’t the proper place to pile onto that film as it was/is one of the most talked about films of the year. This post is more about the year as a whole and Star Wars gets most of the limelight when it is released anyways. If you want to know my thoughts on that film I have posted a review on the blog as well. Enjoy!

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Casting “Justice League Dark”

Now that we know Doug Liman will be directing DC’s ‘Justice League Dark’ after Guillermo Del Toro departed from the production we can have some fun with casting the team. Also credit due to the popular youtube channnel ScreenJunkies for inspiring my own interpretation of this movie’s cast. Justice League Dark is a particularly fun comic dealing with, as the title implies, the darker side of the DCEU with the inclusion of possesion, demons, and the occasional trip to heaven and/or hell. This is the down and dirty side of DC that Batman, Superman, and Flash may dip their toes in from time to time, but are usually too busy defending the earth from galactic sized problems to deal with. Sometimes you just need a rag tag group of rejects that happen to be well versed in the dark arts.

Ryan Gosling as John Constantine

Okay, hear me out. Ryan Gosling has done an impeccable job removing himself from any rom/com stigma he may have had lingering around within the last five years and made quite the household name for himself. His range in acting ability is pretty incredible and since he seems so darn likeable in most pieces I believe Constantine would provide him with a unique acting challenge as the character is usually steeped in snarky cynical quips, self loathing tirades, or generally being disliked for his arrogant and selfish antihero antics.

Jackie Earle Haley as Boston Brand/Deadman

Not since Rorschach has there been a character more fitting for Jackie Earle Haley. Deadman is a ghost or spirit having the ability to possess others’ bodies amongst other tricks such as intangibility, invisibility, and flight. In his human life he was affluence and sin personified, he didn’t learn how to live until he died. Given these ghostly abilites by a hindu god named ‘Rama Kushna’ Brand had to solve his own murder and then went out to help mortals avoid the same mistakes he made in life. Stoic expressionism and the ability to express dry humor are both talents that Haley has in the bag and I believe he’d bring a unique edge to a character that still wants to hold onto the belief that he remains part of humanity.

Mahershala Ali as Dr. Alec Holland/Swamp Thing

With Netflix’s own ‘House of Cards’ and the upcoming ‘Luke Cage’ series Ali has shown great skill and flexibility in character work. I believe he could bring a compelling performance to the human nature of Swamp Thing because while Swamp Thing is nature bound, there is a human within the green figure that has to be pulled from. Swamp Thing is quite the compelling character in his own right and should receive an actor ready to take on the challenge that this character brings, Ali can do that and more.

Viggo Mortensen as Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon

Jason Blood was originally a knight in King Arthur’s camelot that gets wrapped up in the supernatural as he becomes bound to Etrigan, a demon from hell that was summoned by Merlin. After Merlin, who by the way is half brothers with Etrigan, summons this demon and finds he cannot pull secrets from him the wizard binds him to the knight, making Jason Blood immortal. Years later Blood resurfaces as a demonologist in Gotham. Blood attempts to utilize his infernal power for good as Etrigan’s power is impressive for DC’s standards. Mortensen would likely have no interest in the part, but with the character’s background as a knight plagued by a demon’s transformative power, it would be fun seeing Viggo in chainmail again in flashbacks. That and this guy really gets into his character motivation and knows how to make this sort of character memorable.

Aubrey Plaza as Zatanna

Genetically gifted as a master sorceress by her father Zatanna is one of DC’s most powerful magic users who moonlights as an illusionist, just as her father did. Zatanna has a lot to give as a member of the occult oriented team and Aubrey Plaza has the wit and charm necessary for this role, I’d love to see what she could do with the material. She’s more than simply a romantic interest for the other characters (although she did have several romantic outings with both Constantine and Jason Blood throughout the comics continuity), Zatanna is incredibly powerful. Here’s a list of her abilities: pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, electrokinesis, hyrdokinesis, geokinesis, aerokinesis, photokinesis, umbrakinesis, telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, dimensional travel, reality alteration, antipathy, deflection, chronokinesis, weather manipulation, eldritch blast, energy construct creation, energy transference, flight, force field, healing, phasing, size alteration, transformation, prestidigitation, hypnosis, advanced hand to hand combat, occultism, and multilingualism… whew, yeah, this should be a fun character with lots of potential!

So there you have it, sometimes the JLD has a different looking roster from time to time, occasionally including Frankenstein (yes the Frankenstein), but this is the current cast of characters that are believed to be in the movie. Lets all hope Warner Bros. and DC figure out what not to do since ‘Suicide Squad’ already acomplished that for most audiences, because this team up has the potential to do something special. I hope this all works out in the end, nobody enjoys talking about DCEU movies in a negative light, well, at least I don’t, I want these movies to be great! Agree with my choices? Have your own roster of actors for this movie? Comment below and let me know! Thanks for reading!

 

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Marvel’s Civil War: Should we be worried?

 Spoilers for Batman V Superman follow

In the wake of Warner Brothers’ box office hit ‘Batman V Superman’ the next big comic book movie showdown is between Marvel Studios’ most bankable sons, Steve Rogers AKA Captain America and Tony Stark’s Iron Man. However with all of the hype and excitement preceding DC’s showdown between gods with capes and the subsequent critical downpour from movie reviewers across the board the question worth asking is, will Marvel befall the same blunders and windfall of dollars that Warner’s prized combatants did? And more importantly, if the fans embrace it does it matter what the general audience, or critics, think?

You can bet Marvel Studios is watching the release of their competition like a hawk. Why wouldn’t they? This is, after all, two of the biggest brand name superheroes of all time engaging in fisticuffs on the silver screen and it just so happens to come right before Marvel is releasing their own Superhero slamfest in May. Below I will list and explain the five reasons why I believe that Marvel Studios will come out of their superhero brawl with less bruises than than DC did. To be fair, I do prefer Marvel’s storytelling style (comics, cartoons, and films) over DC’s, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy DC’s characters. I’m a fan of all the Justice League members and have been known to dig into the Justice League Dark comics and I enjoy a good Constantine comic every now and then as well. I just love good storytelling, but preference is preference and my bias does lean towards Marvel. Nothing has to be black and white though, there can be shades of passion and indifference alike. Here are my reasons I believe Marvel’s Civil War will fair better than Batman V Superman.

1 An established universe

Marvel’s established world has an emotional core that’s been building for twelve movies now. The film ‘Civil War’ will have an easier time threading an emotional story arc for both Iron Man and Captain America than the comic did because this version of the Marvel Universe stands on these two characters shoulders. We were initially introduced to this world through the eyes of Tony Stark, we’ve been with him as he’s grown and advanced as a character and as a hero. While the other perspective of this film comes from Steve Rogers, a character that I believe has the strongest films to date within the MCU.  It’s a battle of idealogies as Rogers represents the classical ideals that comes with American values, while Stark on the other hand reps Modern American ideals, realizing that the way we’ve been doing things isn’t always the right thing. These are two very different personalities that have evolved over time and we’ve witnessed them chart this course from the very beginning. This fact alone allows the filmmakers to connect their characters to the audience with ease.

2 With friends like these..

None of the MCU’s movies have been as divisive as either ‘Man of Steel’ or ‘Batman V Superman’. Sure, there have been a few Marvel misfires (I’m looking at you Iron Man 2 & Thor) that haven’t quite hit the mark, but they were still valuable entertainment and received nowhere near the vitriol from critics and fans alike. Furthermore Marvel has taken virtually unknown comic properties like ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’, or unexpected characters like ‘Ant-Man’, and made them work far better than anyone thought possible. Marvel has done the opposite of the DC film universe so far, forging science fiction morality tales that often have a great deal of focus on the characters in play. DC has incredible characters of Godly ability but instead focus on the weight of that power and all the brooding that, apparently, comes with that.

3 One story, not several

Civil War is being adapted from one comic book arc, not several storylines like ‘Batman V Superman’. The man of steel’s second outing tried to cram many aspects of Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘The Death of Superman’ into this adaption while earning neither’s acomplishments in storytelling because of the narrative context of comics compared to how this film universe has been set up. By that I mean that the comics had the advantage contextually by the very nature of the medium that allows for months of storylines to come together piece by piece, however when taking the two incredibly different timelines that ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘The Death of Superman’ inhabit and try to mesh them together it simply doesn’t hold up thematically. The representation of Superman in both storylines are widely different from each other for one, and ‘The Death of Superman’ was built on decades of lore and had to do more to traverse its goal of actually killing Superman (Which we all now know he was put into a “healing coma”). Marvel’s Civil War, while having to adapt the story to fit their continuity obsessed film universe together, does have an easier time as it’s attempting to adapt one, albiet massive, storyline.

4 Truer to the source material

Marvel Studios is creating a more faithful rendition of their characters than DC. Yes they are putting a more modern spin on their characters and the world they inhabit, but they are doing so in a consistently faithful series of decisions. DC is also attempting to insert their heroes into the world of today, but Marvel seems to be paying attention to the core personalities of their heroes that transcend whatever adaption they may be currently going through. This doesn’t mean that each film has to have every other scene ripped from the pages of ‘Astonishing Tales’ or anything like that, but it is nice to notice the spirit of the characters inhabiting the performances onscreen.

5 High stakes fun

Marvel has a proven track record of setting the stakes of any narrative to a high, or dramatic, degree for an appropriate payout in the end while maintaining a ‘fun’ atmosphere about the project. ‘The Avengers’, ‘Winter Soldier’, and ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’ all excel at this notion while other films don’t always nail this beat, even ‘Ant-Man’ performed well by making Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang a relatable character. At the end of the day, Scott’s just a divorced dad trying to maintain a relationship with his daughter by any means necessary. Civil War in itself will only reiterate this idea by incorporating side characters like Spider-man and Ant-Man into the picture for an unattached perspective allowing for the quips that Stark himself may be too preoccupied for this go around. It seems to me that Marvel knows how to pull those emotive strings in all of us, while not falling into any one tone or mood too heavily.

‘Captain America three: Civil War’ will undoubtedly make big money at the box office just as ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ did. It stands to prove that the critics voice in all of this means nothing to longtime fans that will watch and rewatch this film. For some simply see the trinity together onscreen is enough, or Darkseid’s emblem emblazoned in Batman’s sweaty paranoia nightmare sequence, the point being that while the film has its flaws it also has a core audience that adores it. Just as with any review or discussion on film in the end it all really comes down to subjectivity. We all like different things, we all enjoy different films, bands or musicians, sports teams,  or political candidates. This is fine, this is good. We need diversity in our entertainment, so it’s great to see both Marvel and DC creating entirely different approaches to the superhero genre, if everything were the same, we’d all forgo it after a few years anyways.

I do, however, believe that Marvel has it in them to deliver a more positively received film than ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ based on the creative crews behind both sets of films and from the world building groundwork that has been done by both studios. Marvel’s done more legwork to get where they are today than DC in terms of their current shared universes, and they have a consistent world they have built and people have a good general idea of what to expect. As Guardians of The Galaxy, and hopefully Doctor Strange in November, proved they can take smaller properties and keep their formula from becoming stagnant in a world of many, many, superhero films coming out over the next few years. So, no, I don’t believe its time to sell all our Marvel Studios stock just yet. In the link below I’ve included a fun supercut of Marvel Studios films leading up to ‘Captain America Three: Civil War’ Enjoy!

Road to Civil War: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cR6Xa6fEAg

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Movie-Pitch Mondays! [Early Bird Special] Marvel Studios “Dark Reign”

Recently Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying that he believes that the Superhero genre will eventually “Go the way of the Western”. There is probably a good deal of truth to that statement. As people tire of the same old song and dance studios will be forced to make more creative, and riskier, filmmaking choices. Personally this excites me even more so than what is currently being produced because it means really niche films within this sub genre will flourish just as some storylines and characters already have begun to do so, such as “The Guardians of The Galaxy”.  Marvel in particular will have to deal with these reprecussions sooner than DC purely because they’ve been doing it longer. In turn as Marvel takes more creative risks DC will have to play ball in order to keep audiences returning in droves to see their particular spectacle over their competitors. The consumer wins yet again.

One of the storylines that I think Marvel would greatly benefit from adapting is that of the “Dark Reign” comic book event that took place in print after the fallout of Captain America and Iron Man’s “Civil War” and the “Secret Invasion” event where the shapeshifting aliens known as the Skrulls were making a move against Earth’s heroes in plain sight. As the movies have taken a slightly, and understandably, different turn with their series of events than their published predeccesors things will obviously have to be different. First and foremost Norman Osborn (The Green Goblin of Spiderman nemesis fame for all you, albiet few, uninnitiated out there) needs to be, at the very least, a presence in the new Spider Man film. He is integral to the storyline as his power play is the source of every involved hero’s problems.

What is key to this “Dark Reign” pitch is that it is not any one hero’s story, it’s just an event that is taking place within their universe. Not everyone is a part of it, but it is widespread enough to include many characters. In the comics it is Norman Osborn who unexpectedly kills the Skrull Queen at the end of the Secret invasion after Deadpool accidentally sends pivotal information to Osborn instead of Nick Fury. Osborn is then thrust into the heroic spotlight afterward as he is seen by the public as their savior, not the superheroes. He uses this public opinion advantage to garner himself power, and lots of it. He even becomes the president of The United States for a while, donning some Iron Man knock off armor to boot. This being the star spangled Iron Patriot armor, to be specific, that we’ve already seen Don Cheadle’s War Machine wear in the movies.

So, yes, as it begins it’s already a bit muddled when comparing the potential, and past, storylines. After this it gets very interesting as the core storyline involves many characters that Marvel Studios either has the rights to, or has recently gotten back from competing studios. There is a rich potential to be mined here. What we need to set this all into motion is a timetable for these movies and what needs to happen, and when, to set up this event. As far as any of us can tell the Skrull invasion probably isn’t going to be an active storyline right away, Kevin Feige has to save something for Phase four anyhow, right? (besides Kang the conqueror) So, we have to replace Osborn’s public redemption event somewhere pivotal. I’m thinking in the second half of the Infinity War movies. It doesn’t have to necessarily be Osborn that hits the kill switch to become the “hero” and save everybody, he just has to at least be seen doing some good, fighting off alien hordes, or something of that ilk. Anything that can be spun in a sensational fashion to get him positive public support. From there it’s all about his cabal of evil.

Norman Osborn starts his takeover by forming the Cabal. An alliance of powerful villains that all have ties to particular heroes, and other organizations. In the comics Osborn’s Cabal consisted of himself, Loki, Doctor Doom, Namor, The Hood, Emma Frost, and Ms. Victoria Hand. In my version, I would have his Cabal enlist the efforts of the Kingpin, Loki, The Hood, The Real Mandarin, and a few other smaller characters of use that were in both versions: namely Justin Hammer of H.A.M.M.E.R. industries and Bullseye, the assassin that never misses. In case you’re curious, yes, the real comic-book character version of the Mandarin does exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just check out the Marvel One Shot that accompanies the Thor 2 home video, “All Hail The King” that focuses on Trevor from Iron Man three in prison being interrogated by what turns out to be a representative of the real Mandarin who is furious at a pretender to the throne using his moniker openly. Fun stuff.

Norman Osborn utilizes these people as pawns in his war against the superheroes. He sends the Hood after Frank Castle (The Punisher), orders Bullseye to impersonate Hawkeye and go after Daredevil, and he utilizes a lot of energy trying to kill Spiderman, obviously. The Hood by the way is connected to Doctor Strange’s world of Mysticism, “Created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artists Kyle Hotz and Eric Powell, The Hood first appeared in his own self-titled MAX limited series in 2002, which featured his origin, as a character who possesses a cloak and boots stolen from a Nisanti demon, which grant him invisibility and limited levitation ability, respectively….Since Bendis gained control of the character, he has not appeared with his boots, and the Nisanti demon, a tie-in to Vaughn’s Runaways series, was revealed to be a disguise for the Doctor Strange nemesis, Dormammu.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hood_(comics) ).

The excellently gritty Netflix show “Daredevil” has opened up a world of possibilities to the realm of the MCU that can be greatly utilized here. Not only will the show have evolved to the point to be near where the comics have placed Matt Murdock by this time, but it will also be another pertinent connective tie to all corners of the MCU, plus it will be great to see Charlie Cox on the big screen with everybody else, he already deserves it. Here’s the info on that, “After a group of black-clad ninjas kill a group of crooked cops and lawyers, Osborn turns his attention to the Hand and their new leader, Daredevil. Sending Bullseye out in his old suit along with H.A.M.M.E.R. agents, Bullseye and Daredevil clash. The two duel until they make it to the top of a condemned building that is about to be demolished. Bullseye announces that the building will be destroyed, but the 107 people inside refuse to leave. When Daredevil does not help the people, the building explodes and kills all of the people. Bullseye then retreats and Daredevil is shocked. It turns out later that the ninjas were led by Lady Bullseye and the Kingpin, and were used to set up Daredevil.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Reign_(comics) )

With this beyond excellent cast of villainy there obviously has to be a great counter balance. In the comics Osborn essentially blurs the playing field by confusing all of his separate opponents in tandem by utilizing their weaknesses. Loki uses Osborn’s help to make Thor kill Bor (Odin’s father), and cause Thor’s banishment. The Hood, who has an unholy alliance with Dormammu (a larger-than-life Dr. Strange villain), is made to hunt down Frank Castle and kill him. Kingpin’s resources are used as constant threats to both Spiderman and Daredevil as usual. While in this pitch version I would have the real Mandarin force a retired Tony Stark out of the shadows to face his greatest enemy yet. Black Widow, Black Panther, and Banner could all be utilized in certain scenarios as well, possibly to showcase the extent to which Osborn is willing to take things. The character that really brings it all together in the end is Spiderman/Peter Parker. Eventually he does his journalistic duties and hunts down corroborating evidence against Osborn and reveals him to be the Green Goblin to the public and thus begins Osborn’s unraveling. If Chris Evans’ Captain America is still alive by this point it would be a fitting role pairing the two together in the face of insurmountable adversity, to do the right thing. These two characters (in my opinion) best represent that superhero factor, plus it would just be a wonderful interaction between the two characters. I imagine Daredevil, Punisher, Hawkeye, Iron man to be prominent figures in this storyline as well. It is possible this could be a two-parter movie, but if there is adequate set up in a sprinkling fashion throughout the other movies, and even TV shows, first then it could be a fascinating three hour event that encompasses many of the existing Marvel Studios properties in one form or another. Which is exactly what they will need to do to keep people interested. Especially after the two part Infinity War movies.

At one point I had considered trying to tie in the Red Skull with the Cabal, and he would be an excellent addition, but I feel as though he would just be thrown in for added measure and not be as essential to the storyline. The Mandarin might also fall into this scheme, but ever since Iron Man three I’ve curiously wanted to see this character’s power and presence felt in the MCU if possible, and the studio has already made enough effort to nod and wink knowingly at fans that want the real macoy, so, obviously the character has potential to pop up sometime down the road. I recognize there are a lot of angles you could take with this pitch, but that’s sort of the beauty of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you have clashing characters, but with that comes the world colliding tonal shifts, especially when combining the likes of Spiderman and say, The Punisher. In fact if I was pressed to squeeze this idea under one title character’s name, or banner if you will, then I’d have to go with Spiderman, maybe this could be his sequel of sorts, although it does cover a lot more than just his actions. It ultimately is his villain that focuses most of the attention, and he would be the one to make the biggest move against Osborn that unravels his power scheme. If it did go this way it would have to be similar to what “Captain America 3: Civil War” is shaping up to be. A movie that has that respective main character heavily utilized, but not always being focused on. Giving up a larger role to serve the wider machinations of the story.

So, that’s my movie pitch for this week. Have any questions or comments? Feel free to bring them up in the comments section! Oh and yes, I’d be okay with that rumor of Matthew McConaughey starring as Norman Osborn, I think he’d have fun with the role, and it might challenge him in ways a single film role might not be able to do. Anyways, thanks for reading!

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Should George Miller Direct Man of Steel 2, or Justice League Dark?

Hey there movie fans! Sorry for the gap in posts, I was out of state attending a wedding of some very close friends. As time passed however a great many fun conversations among friends spurred the momentum behind the next few posts I’ll be writing over the next week or so.

This post however concerns legendary filmmaker George Miller’s next big budget project through Warner Brothers. Word around the web is that Miller is currently being offered to direct “Man of Steel 2” and/or “Justice League Dark” now that well documented Monster lover Guillermo Del Toro has left the project. Assuming that Miller’s next project isn’t another Mad Max sequel, which should he choose, and why?

The case for Man of Steel 2 

Think back for a second, if you will, to earlier this year when almost out of nowhere this bombastic, full throttle, completely insane car chase movie erupted onto silver screens all across the country! Can you remember the last time you had that much absolute and refined Fun with a capitol F at the theater? Maybe Joss Whedon’s “Avengers”, but that movie had years of anticipation and expectation to live up to. The world had almost forgotten Max Rockastansky, and now everyone knows who the road warrior is again.

Now think back to when you saw Krypton’s last son gracing the silver screen once more. Bleak. Muted colors. Hardly a smile to be seen. Granted, I must admit, I quite enjoyed the film, but it isn’t without it’s faults. Chief among these is the lack of any exuberance and joy. I also believe an argument could be made that Henry Cavill’s Superman isn’t quite the one we all expect and know, nor that he should be. Growth through multiple films is something that Marvel Studios has been experimenting with and I can’t think of any reason why DC’s golden boy can’t experience character moments and plotlines that drive him to eventually become the character we want and need. At the end of Man of Steel I think he is closer to this, but not yet. By the time “Batman VS Superman”s credits roll we will be even closer, hopefully, to that depiction. My point being that beginning in “Man of Steel 2” Clark Kent should be settled into his role and thus be able to tackle the greater challenges that sequels themselves impose.

George Miller’s style and precision should bleed deeply into this property if he so chooses to take it on and I can only foresee greatness coming forth from this pairing. Miller’s visual flair will elevate this iteration into it’s own form. My own particular fascination is with the rumor that the villain will be Brainiac. The potential for such a powerful Superman villain that will only endorse the deep sci-fi undertones established in the first film is overwhelming. “Man of Steel” did well to incorporate this tone and building upon that in the followup will only empower it to transcend the problems of the first while remaining faithful to the core of this new Superman mythos and yet become a tonally different, but critically substantial film. I can’t claim to be able to dream up the perfect Superman sequel to the incredibly divisive origin tale, but I can’t imagine a better director to tackle the misgivings of the first, and become something truly super.

The case for Justice League Dark

Now that monster connoisseur Guillermo Del Toro has left this veritable Monster Squad remake its time to choose who should fill his shoes. With Characters like John Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna, and the Swamp Thing this is a movie that is rich and lush with possibilities. It also something completely and utterly different from Miller’s own “Mad Max” movies, let alone anything else he has made. It might just be the perfect palette cleanser before dropping back into the north African desert to, most assuredly, flip more insanely designed vehicles through the air once more.

What I love about the Justice League Dark comics is that the content is supernatural and mystic in nature, horror themed throughout really, but it never feels like a terrifying tale. The varying abilities of these characters along with their own according sets of sass, charm, and solemnity make these characters mix well because they are so different from each other. This only emboldens dialogue heavy scenes but fear not as the series is constantly mucking through the.. well, muck of the DC universe and it allows for slight cameos to be something of a reminder that Superman, Batman and the Flash also reside in this universe, and that’s a fun advantage to have.

One of the more palpable aspects of this film over Man of Steel’s sequel is that it seems to me that on set locations and practical filmmaking actually benefit this type of film more so than Superman slugging it out with Brainiac. This film needs lived in sets, on location filming, and real practical effects when possible. CGI is important in this day and age, but if you can get the visual feel of the film down without resorting to full blown green screen, then you have earned my money as a filmgoer. Heck I saw The “Avengers 2” twice in theaters, but “Mad Max” had me talking, writing, and generally not shutting up about it ever since I saw it, while Ultron’s musings were entertaining they weren’t as impressive when you know how both films were made. No hard feelings CGI coders, programmers, and math genies, we all appreciate you! George Miller can do “old school” filmmaking and I believe this is needed in this particular film, he can also inject a healthy dose of demon slaying fun right into the vein of this piece.

However, while I cannot think of another director for the Superman sequel, I have to say I would be incredibly intrigued by whatever Sam Raimi could do with this property, the man that made “Evil Dead” surely could have a great time with this. If George Miller chooses Justice League Dark though I will most certainly be checking it out.

So now that the seventy year old madman himself George Miller is back on everyone’s radar I can’t wait to see what he does next! Whether it is Superman’s next solo adventure, a haunted romp with Constantine and pals, or another desert run with the road warrior, I’ll be at the movie theaters, and ecstatic!