film

What if Martin Scorsese made a Marvel Movie?

Everyone knows Martin Scorsese isn’t the biggest Marvel Movie fan. He sees the cinematic universe more as a theme park ride than as cinema. While I do agree with him to some degree on that factor (hey I’ll be here for that roller coaster all day long if I’m being honest), I do think that putting someone with as powerful a vision and sense of individualism as Scorsese at the helm would help to elevate whichever material he signed on to film. Now, obviously, this will not happen. Never in a million years, he’s got his opinion and that’s 100% okay, the man has earned it. However, it did get me thinking. If there was even the smallest of opportunities to get Martin Scorsese behind the camera of a Marvel Movie, what would it take? Which character/s would inspire or creatively ignite his passion for filmmaking most? For clues as to which Marvel character, team, or comic storyline, that would (or could) gel with the auteur, I re-read the opinion article that he penned for the New York Times after the initial “hubbub” had died down after his comments had stirred the nerd and film critic worlds ablaze. There was a small passage in that article that made me immediately dial in on what might work for him, “For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves” (full article linked below). A few things clicked into place for me right away. I cannot think of a Marvel character with a more contradictory and paradoxical nature than Matt Murdock, AKA The Daredevil.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Matt Murdock is an Irish Catholic Blind Lawyer who fights crime in, and outside of, the courtroom. He even has a background in Boxing! If Scorsese wanted to tackle a morally complex character who’s actually concerned with his spirituality, there’s not many other mainstream Marvel characters that even acknowledge Religion and its repercussions. Matt Murdock is also a character that works against himself despite his better judgements all the time. If you wanted to twist the knife with Murdock, you’d only get a better story out of it in my experience with the character and his supporting cast. Scorsese could play around with the Foggy Nelson and Karen Page characters as Murdock’s family. He could use Foggy as an excellent sounding board and morality check for Murdock, and Page is a firebrand journalist that just doesn’t quit. Murdock is consistently caught in-between love interests as well, he’s not always the most moral character- he certainly tries to be, but his failures keep him one of the most “human” superheroes out there. A more realism-centric film would probably line up with Scorsese’s talents and interests. For example, I’d keep the villains of the film centered around the Mob, or the organized crime portion of Daredevil’s rogues gallery.

The Netflix show, with it’s storylines and actors, must be considered in my opinion. I would keep at least four, maybe five, of the leading actors from the Netflix series. Obviously, Charlie Cox should be kept as Murdock, because that’s the best casting since Tom Holland’s Spider-Man or Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, it’s just excellent and incredibly true to the character. Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson should also be retained as Karen Page and Foggy Nelson- their work in the series should be supported and fleshed out, they had some of the best character work of the series as a whole- plus they’re just so darn likeable. There’s also no denying the inescapable fact that Vincent D’Onofrio is the best damn Kingpin we’re going to get, full stop. He has to be at the core of the strings being pulled. That character always gets out of whatever cell he’s thrown into. He just has that much power and pull in the criminal underworld. I know the third season of Daredevil went through this kind of story-arc already, but I’m betting there’s a way to incorporate Wilson Fisk into the story, hell, make him the Mayor of New York City- that could have beautiful repercussions for Holland’s Spider-Man anyways. I’d also consider keeping Wilson Bethel as “Dex” AKA Bullseye. He’s not entirely necessary, but having a real threat as one of the inciting incidents in the film could be fun and a nice nod to the Netflix series’ continuity.

Besides the core cast, it would be interesting to see if Scorsese could get any of his “usual” actors involved. Even if Robert DeNiro was just the Judge in one of the court case scenes, maybe one that Murdock loses in the opening of the film? That would be delightful. Having Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the heads of one of the New York Crime Families within the MCU, called “The Maggia”, also has the potential to be sublime. In fact, I’d lean heavily into the idea of the Kingpin, as Mayor, striking out at “The Maggia”. A full blow gang war with all of the different families could be enough to keep Daredevil on his toes at all times. We also have to acknowledge that Scorsese’s lack of interest with these films is the lack of risk. We need a real sense of mystery, we need ‘genuine emotional danger‘ as he said in his opinion piece. I would highly encourage him to take liberties with the characters and the material. Sure Daredevil may not die in the script, but what if Foggy did? I don’t necessarily want that- but if it’s handled with care and gives us some real stakes, some true desperation for Murdock and company? Then fine, I’m in. Scorsese’s said before that at one point he considered taking on “The Joker”, but that he just didn’t have the time for it. If he could see the potential in that film, then maybe he could see something to do with Daredevil? In reality, I know this will not come to pass, but it’s certainly fun to consider! I just hope now that Marvel Studios has the rights back to Daredevil, that the actors from the series are considered when thinking about the big leagues- they earned it.

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Old School Review: “Ed Wood” (1994)

Written by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, and directed by Tim Burton, “Ed Wood” is a comedic biopic about the famed cult film director who infamously made the worst film of all time in “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. This film is partly adapted from the book “Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr.” by Rudolph Grey. Admittedly, this is a film that I hadn’t heard of until I caught an episode of “re:View” on the youtube channel Red Letter Media in which they thoroughly discussed the Tim Burton adaption and the filmmaker Ed Wood himself. This might be my favorite film from Tim Burton, I’ve enjoyed his work before- but since the middling 2000’s Burton has seemed a bit passionless with most of his work, slowly trending towards parody with films like “Dark Shadows” and I wasn’t particularly impressed with his two “Alice in Wonderland” movies if I’m being honest. Here, you can tell that he had a fondness for the atomic-era Z-list filmmaker, and he treated the subject with great care and respect as a fellow filmmaker.

Now, Ed Wood was a very unique character to say the least. Not only did he put out a series of films (unsuccessful as they may have been), he surrounded himself with Hollywood’s rejects, weirdos, and the forgotten to craft together whatever kinds of ramshackle films that he could. He also had a very strange relationship with angora sweaters, only finding comfort and confidence while wearing them and other such women’s clothing. In fact the whole first quarter of the film rests on this strange fetish- but the film never struck me as mockery or slander, but rather towards a more truthful reveal of who Ed Wood was. Granted, this film dances between a heightened and glamorized tone when it comes to some of the performances, most notably with Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the eternally optimistic Ed Wood. However the film also lets dark real world issues creep into it’s plot over the course of the film, especially after Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) enters the picture. Once Ed scrambles together his small theatrical crew and morphs it into one that can tackle his first feature “Glen or Glenda”, the movie kicks up the pace. Even through every scrap and white lie needed to get in the door, Ed Wood’s journey is an inspiring and relatable one, especially if you have any experience trying to get a movie made. He never gave up- even when all common sense suggests that might have been for the better.

After Ed’s been around the block with a couple small features he ends up crossing paths with veteran monster movie actor Bela Lugosi. Ed Wood’s relationship with the former Count Dracula actor is the emotional crux of the film, and its an excellent pairing between the pre and post war remnants of Hollywood. Lugosi’s an aging and out of work actor when Ed meets him, starstruck, Ed can’t believe that the original Vampire himself isn’t being signed onto multiple pictures- so he takes every and any opportunity to get Lugosi involved in his movies. After befriending him when the world had forgotten him, Lugosi accepts the adoration from Ed and agrees to work with him on several films. It’s slyly mentioned early on that Lugosi’s a washed up actor, and it isn’t until he’s on set when the make-up artist silently notices the track marks on his arms representing decades of drug abuse. Lugosi only makes eye contact with the make-up artist momentarily, and knowingly, and then they move on without mentioning the obvious.

This film may have been a financial loss for the studio, but it was well received by critics and it won two Oscars; Best Supporting Actor for Landau and Best Makeup for Rick Baker. The cast was excellent, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Wood meshed 1950’s caricature with genuine earnestness and the film was all the better for it. You also don’t have to twist my arm to get me to watch a movie shot in black and white- but the film’s cinematography was exquisite, there’s a lot of really beautiful compositions throughout the film. “Ed Wood” is a love letter to even the lowliest of filmmakers and it suggests that an unflappable and passionate love of the craft can get you places in life- just maybe not the places you expected.

Final Score: 2 Vampires, 1 wrestler, and 1 motivational speech from Orson Welles

*Check out the re:View that youtube channel Red Letter Media did on Ed Wood for further fun and analysis:

**And, just for fun, check out this episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast where he talks with legendary special effects master and prosthetic make-up artist, Rick Baker:

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Review: DeathWish (2018)

Written by Joe Carnahan and directed by Eli Roth, “Death Wish” is the 2018 remake of the Charles Bronson led 1974 crime/revenge movie. It’s also a heaping pile of poorly timed garbage. Have you ever seen a revenge movie? Generally speaking, the hero usually loses his family or loved ones-or is simply wronged in some form, and he then pursues vigilante justice after the legal system fails him. That’s this whole movie. Which, I could forgive if the film was either, A) comically over-the-top with it’s violence and tone, B) had something important to say- at all, or C) if the film wasn’t as rote, banal, and as bland as it turned out to be.

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To be fair, going into this showing I had zero expectations. In fact the whole point of going to see this film with friends was to ‘go see a bad movie’ together. Whew, well by that metric, the film was a success. Which is a shame in all honesty, Bruce Willis used to be a Movie Star-with a capital M! Now he’s relegated to shoehorned and forced ‘action titles’ that rank among this film’s quality. The last ‘Die Hard’ was a travesty and the man’s been sleeping-walking through bad films ever since. The only hope I had going into this film was that Eli Roth, as a well known horror director, could bring a sort of tongue in cheek levity to the film’s untimely subject matter and make it comedically palatable. I was quite wrong with that hope.

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If it had been tackled with any sort of imagination instead of the tired ‘been there, done that!’ filmmaking tactics that gave way to this film, there could have been something worthwhile there. In my opinion the most significant problem with the film was it’s lack of confidence. It felt as if there was a tug-of-war between wanting to craft a shoot ’em up gore fest grindhouse flick, and a serious gritty crime film with a glaze of nostalgia for those left wanting after the finale of ‘Breaking Bad’. Speaking of which, Dean Norris and Vincent D’Onofrio both make attempts within the margins of this script to elevate the films status- even if only for a moment- but they too fail in this effort. The material is weak, the direction was left wanting, the script was mind numbing, and Bruce Willis was dead-eyed from the opening scenes to the credits roll. Trust me, you can skip this one. In fact, if you’re looking for some so bad it’s good content I’ll leave a link below to an episode of ‘Best of the Worst’ from Red Letter Media on YouTube. In this particular episode they discuss the third ‘Death Wish’ with Charles Bronson, among other equally bad movies, which is far more entertaining than the current remake in theaters.

Final Score: 1 Wish… FOR DEATH(!)

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Review: The Magnificent Seven or “Welcome back Cowboy”

This autumn’s western “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 title of the same name, which just so happens to be a reimagining of Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” in 1954. Whew, that’s a lot to live up to. So, does our modern reimagining of this story live up to the lofty heights of its predecessors? Not quite, but it is a damn fun western movie in a time when the genre is receding out of the collective memory.

This film has an overall basic plot that allows the style choices of the creative team, and the actors, to shine through. Antoine Fuqua knew this and wisely focused on the characters and action sequences in play. Don’t get me wrong, this film won’t be an award winner by any means, but that doesn’t matter here, what matters in my opinion is that the film is competently made and good escapist fun. The movie succeeds in those merits in spades. We don’t get an even amount of focus on all of the seven titular characters, but this is expected in a one off title with such a large main cast. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt get the most screentime, with Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio capturing enough character moments spread throughout while Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier get introductions and solid action sequences, but the least amount of character development, but enough is done with them to earn them merit within the gunslinger tale.

The story is that of a small valley town out west overtaken by a mining mogul with violent tendencies. After the town is met with an ultimatum with grisly implications from Bartholomew Bogue one freshly widowed woman, Haley Bennett’s Emma Cullen, rounds up a gang of skilled fighters to help defend the town from the mogul’s wrath. From there the film follows the gathering of the seven titular warriors and the build up to the final showdown between Bogue’s army and the seven, with help from the townsfolk and freed miners. The final showdown is worth the buildup with excellently directed and shot cinematography that gives you the action satisfaction, and justice, that the film initiates for the audience from the beginning. As a plus the film’s score does a lot to encourage the emotions required of the story throughtout, truly great stuff as this was the final score partially created by Oscar Winner James Horner. If you want great escapist fun at the movie theater, you’ll find it within The Magnificent Seven.

Final Score: 3.5/5