Ability Is Great, but Confidence Is Key #DCEU #MCU

If you enjoy this post, please retweet.

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
— Mark Twain

Yesterday, I wrote about my re-watch of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. As soon as I finished, I re-watched Justice League because of course I did. My favorite scene from Justice League was the fight between Superman and the others, and within that scene, I loved where the Flash entered the speed force (his element), Superman was ready for it, Superman cast off the other members with ease, and then beat up the Flash before the other three even hit the ground. Once and for all, it established Superman as a badass. A badass with the exploitable weakness of his concern for others, but nevertheless a badass.

What struck me about that scene within the scene is that Superman won on Flash’s home turf. He shouldn’t have, but yet he did. Superman won because he was confident, and the Flash was an insecure kid who had never been in a fight before he teamed up with Batman, et al. (which didn’t go so well for him). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a superhero movie address this theme.

Also, within Justice League, Victor Stone had to take control back from the machine that infected him, and he couldn’t do that while it still intimidated him. There are quite a few examples. On the flip side, Arthur Curry was far too arrogant when he agreed to face his half-brother, King Orm, in the Combat of the Kings (Aquaman). Arrogance can be just as damaging as meekness. You need to strike a balance between the two to realize your full potential, but the point is that attitude certainly matters and always will.

I hope Flash won the race from the mid-credit scene, but he probably spent too much time looking at Superman to see who was currently winning, which always slows you down. Meekness. 😦

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)

Good Watch: White Lines @laurajhaddock @martamilans @TomRhysHarries @DanielMays9 @netflix #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

White Lines is the story of a search for answers. As the characters find their answers, it opens old wounds and creates new ones.

Twenty years prior, the older brother of Zoe Collins (Laura J. Haddock) was murdered and dumped in deserted land, and now she’s ensnared in a web of drugs, assaults, and other assorted crimes. The first episode was uneven, but once you’ve got the basic premise explained, it picks up. At times, I was squirming in my seat. Episode 8 is a killer in that regard.

White Lines also stars Marta Milans of whom I’ve become a fan of late, Nuno Lopes, a perfectly-cast Daniel Mays (Tivik!), and Tom Rhys Harries as the long-deceased Axel Collins. The only thing I don’t like about the show is that characters often speak in Spanish (it takes place in Spain), so I can’t take my eyes off the screen for a second (at those times). However, I blame myself for having never learned Spanish. I’d say I deserve that pain in the ass.

Season 1 is on Netflix. As always, YMMV.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)
Follow Laura J. Haddock @laurajhaddock
Follow Marta Milans @martamilans
Follow Daniel Mays @DanielMays9
Follow Tom Rhys Harries @TomRhysHarries
Follow Netflix @netflix

Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part IV @ZacharyLevi @ponysmasher @martamilans @smugorange @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #movie #Shazam #Aquaman

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Aquaman

Having seen all of these movies again, the intro to DC movies is beginning to annoy me. It shows all of these heroes, but we haven’t seen most of them, and we haven’t seen the reboot for others. Get moving, DC.

Why would Atlanta choke on water? On another note, it’s a good thing they didn’t name her Detroit. That’d be weird.

I’m not surprised that Atlanta could kick Jango Fett’s ass.

The second it’s clear that Arthur could speak to fish and his eyes turned yellow, the FBI would be called.

Kill those Ruskies! No, wait. They’re not the bad guys.

All my knowledge of Aquaman comes from the cheesy, 70s Super Friends cartoon. I never thought of him as bulletproof. Not that it’s a high bar, but I like this interpretation better.

Well what do you know? Aquaman kills too.

If you let the water fill up, it’ll be easier to lift the bar off of him. I thought you were a pirate.

Sharks or seahorses? Sharks or seahorses? Who the hell would pick seahorses? These sea dudes seem to be able to swim faster than their mounts anyway, so the only reason to have a mount is because it looks badass.

Now we know why Ivan Drago could punch so hard. Steroids had nothing to do with it.

I thought they made a good choice with the special effects. The director was considering bubbles coming out of their mouths as they spoke. That would have looked dumb. This is much better.

I’ve already written about the bar scene.

“We already have an Atlantean living among us, and his name is Aquaman.” That’s such a good point that I find it hard to believe anyone doesn’t already believe in Atlantis.

Technology aside, Arthur got his ass kicked in a fist fight. That was disappointing to see.

“King Orm Marius v. Half Breed.” Love that.

King Orm choked on water too. What’s up with that? Do salamanders choke when they come out of the water?

“I think I’m gonna need a bigger helmet.” Hmmmm. That sounds familiar.

“Look, Fight Club.” I doubt she gets the reference.

“. . . she’s a mystery to me . . . .” Great choice of music.

Pinocchio? That’s a hell of a coincidence.

It would have sucked if that fragile bottle had somehow been damaged.

He certainly got a bigger helmet.

During the chase of Mera, the music sounded like something out of Super Mario Bros.

Okay, so his head’s in a toilet. How long will that work? Eventually, he’s going to have to find a more permanent solution.

I’m glad Black Manta survived. I’m not sure how he survived, but I’m glad he did. He’s a good villain, but he wasn’t the primary villain of this movie. He needs a little more than one fight as Black Manta before he’s toast, probably as a member of the teased Legion of Doom. He did look like a bug, though. I hate bugs.

Orange and green isn’t a good look, but I’m glad they stuck with it. Let’s just hope that they use more subdued shades going forward.

I always love me a big, climactic battle.

I still don’t like when leaders are chosen by birthright or combat. I’m not sure a magical trident is a better method.

Well, Atlanta hasn’t aged a day. Can’t say the same for Thomas Curry.

Shazam!

This is my favorite DC movie and certainly in my top five for comic book movies. And I love comic book movies.

As I’ve written, Shazam! occupies the same space in the DCEU as Guardians of the Galaxy occupies in the MCU (especially GotG2), but not just because they place the greatest emphasize on humor within their respective cinematic universes. They both deal with a dynamic not often addressed: the foster family. That is, not a family by blood or choice, but one that’s forced upon you by the system or circumstance. Sure, there’s some choice involved, but not nearly as much. Moreover, both Billy Batson and Peter Quill have an idealized view of what family is, and neither becomes whole until they have that naive view painfully shattered. I wasn’t raised in a foster home, but in a significant way, I can relate. This is clearly why I love these particular movies.

I don’t think that was a fair test. How would this kid know that he wasn’t supposed to grab the eye? How does he know which ones are good? He’s a bit young to make that decision on the fly. In hindsight, we know that Sivana was a bad guy because the script says so, but the scene didn’t do a good job of showing that.

Those are some dumb cops.

You can’t just walk away from a kid because he gets lost. The law will find you, especially if you don’t bother to move out of the city.

I love Victor and Rosa, but I talked about that here. Rosa is played by Marta Milans, who’s in White Lines on Netflix. If you like her here, you can watch more of her there. I just started it. Also on Netflix is the AMC series, Halt and Catch Fire. That’s a great show in which Cooper Andrews (Victor) can be seen in a supporting role.

I loved Mark Strong’s villain in Green Lantern, and I love him here.

Everyone has bad stuff in their upbringings, but not everyone goes bad. This movie had me revisiting the question of where the line is drawn between “he couldn’t help it” and “stop whining and behave yourself.”

Freddy didn’t eat any of his lunch. He just threw out the entire tray. Not wasting food is an obsession with me. It’s not a good thing — makes weight loss tough — but it seems selfish.

Hitting the disabled with your car could get you arrested. Beating them up after the fact won’t make things better.

I never understood the icing up of the windows when a potential champion was summoned, but it was a cool effect. (I’m aware that there doesn’t have to be a reason.)

Shazam is settling for Billy. He really doesn’t have a choice but couldn’t properly test him even if he did. He got lucky with Billy.

I love the set up for Black Adam. We really need to see that movie.

Zachary Levi did an incredible job of portraying a kid suddenly placed in an adult’s body, starting with hitting his head on the way out of the subway car. He’s delightfully awkward.

“Stupid adult hands!”
“Superpowers? Dude, I don’t even know how to pee in this thing.”

Um, considering the first statement, it’s a good thing the second statement is true.

The failed mugging gives us our first glimpse into how flawed the characters are. They literally stole $73 from the mugging “victim.”

Shazam’s outfit is gaudy, but those shoes are ridiculous.

Bullets don’t just drop to the ground. They ricochet. Not very smart.

Again, acting like a kid. They can’t stand the taste of beer. I relate to this as well.

The major theme of the movie, care of Cooper Andrews: “It’s not home until you call it home. It’s something you choose.”

Some criticized the scene in the boardroom for being too brutal, but it had to be. The movie swung the pendulum towards comedy, but it’s still an action-oriented comic book movie. We occasionally needed to be reminded of the stakes. This scene did that for us, and as a result, none of the subsequent scenes had to be this rough.

I wish he had said, “Dude, where’s my car?”

Another example of how flawed they are: They stole hundreds from an ATM. Then after the Realtor scene, Freddy shows how selfish he is. He understands the rules of being a superhero, and he breaks them just to look cool. All of this is normal for kids, but it’s still problematic within the script (he could get his foster family killed), and good in the real world. We don’t get to see these characters grow unless they need to.

Eye of the Tiger is the perfect choice for the “lightning from my hands” scene. It takes place on the “Rocky steps.”

So Billy places the bus in danger, but we can still say does a good thing saving the passengers. After doing so, his first thought is, “Look what I did!” That’s not heroic.

A little physics lesson for you. It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the bottom. Catching the bus would still cause everyone almost exactly as much harm as letting it hit the ground. I know these movies have to defy science, but this one is an easy fix.

In the first fight with Sivana, we see another example of Billy’s childishness. We know from the script that Billy’s more powerful than Sivana, yet he’s still gets his ass kicked. On average, kids by far lack the confidence of adults. That’s why he loses. Good writing and acting.

The reference to Big is awesome.

Victor and Rosa (the stepparents) do a great job of “good cop, bad cop” when taking care of Billy.

She really is a good sister. 🙂

I wish I had learned at 14 what Billy learned in his reunion with his biological mother.

Billy transforming into Captain Marvel while jumping off the building is probably the best shot in the movie.

“If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a superhero.” Yep, that’s the catch phrase, and it also shows the Billy is finally emotionally whole. Giving the scared girl the tiger doll was a nice callback to his first scene.

“Billy!” 🙂

And now we have a bunch of kids put into adult bodies. I still love Darla trying to convince the fake Santa that she’s been really good this year. But again, it’s not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the bottom.

Everyone’s cheering except the girl with the tiger doll. She’s still a little concerned.

“What’s a lair?”

The ending scene in the cafeteria is great. I wish Cavil could have done it.

Did I mention that I love this movie?

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)
Follow Zachary Levi @ZacharyLevi
Follow Asher Angel @asherangel
Follow Jack Dylan Grazer @Jgrazerofficial
Follow David Sandberg @ponysmasher
Follow Marta Milans @martamilans
Follow Cooper Andrews @smugorange
Follow Amber Heard @realamberheard
Follow the DC Universe @thedcuniverse

Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part III @GalGadot @modernwest @HarryJLennix @BenAffleck @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #BirdsOfPrey #JusticeLeague #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Birds of Prey

I had to rent this movie to stream it. Worth it.

That’s not quite the saying, but close enough.

Hyenas are cute. From a distance.

There isn’t a single major character in this movie that isn’t seriously damaged.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to eat that breakfast sandwich.

That’s a bold enough fashion statement even without being involved in a chase.

As always, physics takes a back seat to drama, but this movie doesn’t even bother to justify it with magic, or alien metal, or anything that makes it easy for me to ignore.

The back and forth through the timeline can be hard to follow, but this movie pulled it off.

“Other pocket.” 🙂

Baseball bats and knees don’t go well together. Nor do beards and lighters.

I saw this in the theater with my friend, Erik, and we were the only two in there. At the moment Harley looks into the camera, Erik and I both spontaneously laughed out loud. Sorry, Deadpool, but that’s how you break the fourth wall. Once. Voice overs are fine, but make the break count so it has an impact.

 

Go to 0:40.

Hyenas are feliforms. She should have fed Bruce cat food. 🙂

I love when popular songs are reimagined; in this case, Hit Me with Your Best Shot. And sometimes, using the original works really well too.

A fitting death for Black Mask. Not just in the sense that he deserved it, but also because it was sufficiently hideous considering the tone of the movie.

I enjoyed this movie, but only as a comedy, and I liked the directing. As an action movie, though, it was substandard, and sometimes the characters overacted. Basically, it wasn’t as good as I remembered it, which means — as always — I’m probably overthinking things. This isn’t the kind of movie where you should do that.

Justice League

Believe it or not, this isn’t a guilty pleasure. The audience score is 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re one of the squeaky wheels that didn’t like this movie, you’re with the critics. That’s not necessarily a bad place to be.

Based on the explosion, that bomb wouldn’t have blown up 4 city blocks.

I can think of several reasons to be pissed at being turned into a cyborg, but the ability to fly isn’t one of them. Nor is the ability to access whatever information I want.

I really didn’t think an arrow would stop Steppenwolf. Why did they? Well, I know the answer. It made for a great fight scene.

“Keep it moving!” Where to? You’re on an island and on horseback. He can go anywhere you can.

I want more Green Lantern. I hope he’s in the Snyder Cut.

“I need . . . friends.” Yet, the Flash is the only member of the Justice League that isn’t constantly brooding.

Bug spray. I hate bugs, too.

Wasn’t Superman in a suit? Where’d his shirt and shoes go? And why hasn’t anyone cleaned up the rubble from the monument yet?

CGI mustache-free lip aside, the fight scene between Superman and the Justice League was great. It established Superman as a bad ass. I especially loved that he threw everyone off, and before they could hit the ground, beat the Flash at his own game. The look on the Flash’s face when he realizes what’s going to happen is priceless.

The cop pointing a gun at Superman is a dipshit.

Again, Diane Lane is the best Martha Kent.

 

Once again, the physics of comics make no sense. If Superman were holding an apartment building like that, he’d produce a tremendous amount of pressure at a single point that would cause the building to split. I know, I know; I thought it was a cool visual and good joke too.

The only reason to keep the main villain alive at the end of a movie is so that he can be a threat in a sequel. My understanding is that Justice League 2 was supposed to start with Darkseid killing Steppenwolf because of his failure. That makes keeping Steppenwolf alive even dumber. There should have been resolution . . . and a threat of what was to come.

As an attorney that was working with REO properties (think foreclosure) at the time I saw this movie, I thought, “Why would Bruce Wayne buy the bank. Just buy Martha Kent’s house at auction (or by simple contract if it was currently REO). My friend, Erik, pointed out, “Because buying his way out of trouble is Bruce Wayne’s solution to everything. It’s just what he does.” Good point.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)
Follow Gal Gadot on Twitter @GalGadot
Follow Kevin Costner and Modern West @modernwest
Follow Harry J. Lennix @HarryJLennix
Follow Ben Affleck @BenAffleck
Follow Amber Heard @realamberheard
Follow the DC Universe @thedcuniverse

Good Watch: The Jay and Silent Bob Reboot @ThatKevinSmith @JayMewes @ComicBook @RussBurlingame #QuarantineWatchParty #JayAndSilentBob #GoodWatch

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

This past Monday was the Jay and Silent Bob double feature, quarantine watch party hosted by Russ Burlingame of ComicBook.com. We watched both Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back (which I’ve seen a handful of times) and the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (which I had never seen). Because of how I write, I have to keep my posts short for them to remain coherent to nonlawyers, but this movie has so much good in it, I don’t know how to handle it.

In summary, this is a movie that didn’t need to be made except to repay the fans. There’s no respect given to the fourth wall, and the cameos from both the nerd and Kevin Smith movie universe were overwhelming. There was a point where Kevin Smith (for what seemed like the 100th time) broke the 4th wall and noted how he had successfully brought us to the third act with all of the characters exactly where they needed to be. I don’t know the science of filmmaking, but I doubt this movie was so we’ll structured. How could it be? It was less a movie and more of a series of “meta” fan service moments loosely strung together. Don’t misunderstand me, though. It absolutely worked for anyone who’s seen Kevin Smith’s movies and/or is a nerd in general.

My one complaint: I don’t remember seeing any references to Star Trek.

Unless you count this.

Shatner
The Shatner joins the ComicBook.com quarantine watch party, only to delete the tweet a few hours later.

But I get sole credit for that.

Still, I must admit that there were certainly good filmmaking moments in the movie. For example, I kept yelling at the Twitterverse that I wanted Jay to give his daughter a hug . . .

. . . and the movie delivered it at precisely the right moment.

But mainly I was yelling that I wanted to see this actor or that actor show up. Again, Mr. Smith delivered. One of many examples. . . .

In fact, there were several times that I unwittingly predicted the jokes that were coming, which I think speaks less to my deductive reasoning and more to how much Mr. Smith knows what we wanted from him.

I could go into far more detail (spoilers aren’t really a concern), but no one wins when I do that, so I’ll wrap it up.

If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith, comics, or anything nerdy, this will have to bring a smile to your face.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)
Follow Kevin Smith @ThatKevinSmith
Follow Jason Mewes @JayMewes
Follow ComicBook.com @ComicBook
Follow Russ Burlingame @RussBurlingame

Why Captain America: The Winter Soldier Is My Favorite #MCU Movie @MarvelStudios #CaptainAmerica

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

As you know, I love the MCU. Marvel Studios could have relied on the action and fantasy elements inherent to the source material to make a ton of money on crappy movies, but they didn’t. They spent a ton of money on special effects, but also on hiring highly talented writers, directors, and actors (some with Oscars under their belts) so that the movies had substance as well. No movie exemplifies that more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Like many MCU movies, it had the theme of establishing deep friendships that represented more than just coworkers or bar buddies. No, these friends were so close as to represent an adoptive family, replacing the biological families that Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanov, and Nick Fury lost, never knew, or never had. As wonderfully as it was executed, all of that is actually par for the course in the MCU. The Winter Soldier goes a step further.

Winter Soldier dealt with a political issue that is both timely and important: How do we strike the balance between security and liberty? Both are important. If we lax our security, we won’t have liberty for long, because nefarious forces from within and/or without will steal it. However, if security replaces liberty, then what kind of an existence are we actually fighting for? That’s why, when push comes to shove, liberty must win. In Winter Soldier, all of the good guys either fought for liberty or joined the fight after eventually realizing that they should have been all along. This decision shouldn’t be made naively, but those characters didn’t do that.

Okay, they sometimes did. The commitment to liberty was excessively idealistic, but this is a movie. Filmmakers must deal with extremes or risk losing the crowd. Many moviegoers aren’t observant enough to pick up key points being made unless they’re hit with it over the head, and a major theme is certainly a “key point.” This is why horrible characters that deserve the most serious punishment under the law can be forgiven and exalted by an audience simply because they’ve learned how to love a sibling. The movie world is different from the real world, and I’m sure you understand that. If not, movies must seem utterly ridiculous to you.

With that in mind, Winter Soldier dealt with an important and timely issue, came down on the right side of it (liberty) without being (too) naïve, and somehow managed to do that without pissing off members of any political party.

As a lawyer, how can I not get into that?

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)
Follow Marvel Studios @MarvelStudios

No Small Parts: The Biker in #Aquaman #DCEU #NoSmallParts @DCComics

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

The DCEU is dark. In Man of Steel, Superman lost his mother and father before he knew them, and then lost his adoptive father just after reminding him he wasn’t his real father. Bruce Wayne famously lost both his parents, and that loss created the Batman. Wonder Woman couldn’t move forward without turning her back on her family, and by the end of the movie, she lost her one true love. The DCEU likes to kill heroes’ families.

The DCEU has taken some heat for how dark its tone is. The argument I’ve heard the most is that Marvel has always been upbeat, and Marvel is a success, so that must be the path to success. I think that’s a strange line of thought. First, there can be more than one path to success, and plenty of dark movies have enjoyed success. Second, the DCEU had to take its own path. If it had mimicked Marvel, it would have inspired just as many detractors who would have criticized a lack of originality. (My suspicion is that many of those detractors would have been the same people, but we’ll never know.) Whether you agree or disagree, my bottom line is that I’m glad it forged its own path, and I’ve enjoyed all the DCEU movies.

The Light in the Darkness

Moving to Aquaman, Jason Momoa played a brooding, reluctant hero who avoided connection at all costs due to his half-breed status and the loss of his mother. This is right in line with the darkness that I’ve enjoyed. That said, too much of even a good thing can be bad. We needed a break, and not just a scene or two. We needed hope, and not just an alien letter on a shirt. We needed to see Aquaman connect in a big way, and reuniting with his long, lost mother was just that. But that could have felt forced if not for the hints we had that deep down inside he sought that connection. Besides his scenes with his father, that started with the bar scene.

Go to 2:02 for the bar scene.

Granted, the build up within that scene was a bit overacted (which appears to be solely the script’s fault), but it redeemed itself by quickly shifting to comedy and lightheartedness. The actor portraying “Biker” is Luke Owen. Finding his information has proven difficult, so I can’t point to anything else he’s done or even copy him on this post. But as I’ve stated in my first and second “No Small Parts” posts, the scene and Mr. Owen’s part were important. They started the build up to the much-needed light in the darkness of the DCEU.

I leave you with a great song from the soundtrack.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc (please retweet!)
Follow DC Comics @DCComics

 

 

#Shazam v. Guardians of the Galaxy @ponysmasher @martamilans @smugorange @russburlingame @comicbook @BrandonDavisBD @janellwheeler @tylacinee @SunSoar25 @ZacharyLevi @karengillan #GotG #mcu #decu

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

On April Fool’s Day, I enjoyed yet another quarantine watch party. This one was for Shazam, which I love. We were joined by the director, David Sandberg, and the actors that played Billy’s foster parents, Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews. The party was hosted by Brandon Davis of Comicbook.com, and Russ Burlingame joined in as well. We may have been joined by some other people involved in the film, but I wouldn’t know. I was clearly confused. For a moment I though Russ was the producer or something. Awkward.

Anyway, comic book movies are well-loved, but it seems most people love them solely for their action and fantasy elements. I feel that they don’t get the respect they deserve for the acting and screenwriting, which at times is top notch. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) and DC Extended Universe (“DCEU”) have a few former Oscar winners in them. There are several themes that came up in our collective commentary that I wanted to discuss, some of which are shared with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Shazam occupies the same space in the DCEU as GotG. When I initially made that observation, my thoughts were narrow. I was referring to the fact that both were expected to lighten the mood of their respective cinematic universes by focusing a lot more on comedy than the others. All these movies have some comedic one-liners, and both Shazam and GotG were still very much action-oriented, but we all can see that the balance between those two genres were tipped a little further comedy for Shazam and GotG. But there were other reasons to make this connection that I didn’t initially appreciate.

Everyone Was Pretty Selfish

As with most stories, the primary characters in these films were flawed; to-wit: their motivations selfish. In GotG, Peter was a thief, Gamora was an assassin, Rocket and Groot were mercenaries, and Drax was motivated solely by hatred and loss. Each of those attitudes led to risks not only to their own well-beings, but to the well-beings of the entire galaxy. The same selfishness was common among the main characters in Shazam, and not just the villain. These flaws were normal for children their ages, and thus the stakes were initially lower, but when these kids were forced to deal with fantastic circumstances that don’t exist in the real world, they had no choice but to grow up quickly. It didn’t go so well. Billy stole from Freddy, and when they worked together, they willingly took $73 from the mugging “victim” knowing full well that Shazam was scaring her into handing over the money. They stole far more money from an ATM.

Eventually, Billy started to play the role of a hero, but only because his reckless behavior created the danger in the first place. Though he saved the day … well …

Billy’s still all about himself. Freddy had his own problems. He “understood this whole superhero thing” better than anyone, but he quickly broke his own rules.

Family Takes Many Forms

That second tweet isn’t strictly correct. The Vasquez family wasn’t an “adoptive” family; they were a foster family. That’s a slightly different dynamic. I’m not familiar with the details of the process, but in an adoptive family, at least the parents get to choose the children they adopt. In a foster family, that choice is made by the foster care system. Foster familes are forced on one another, and in GotG, that’s true as well. The Guardians were forced on one another by circumstance. This isn’t to say that freewill didn’t play any part; the Vasquez family chose to be a foster family to someone, and the Guardians could have split up as soon as they escaped prison (or at any other time). I’m just saying that there were far more severe limits placed on their respective choices, and that makes their coming together as a family more impressive.

And those families worked. By working together, the characters in desperate need of personal growth became better. They focused on more than just themselves. On the extreme end of the spectrum, Nebula’s realized relationship with Gamora, and then the other Guardians, led to her rhetoric shifting from “I’m killing Thanos because I hate him” to “I’m killing Thanos because he’s going to kill half the universe.” In a similar way, despite all the superpowers he had, Billy was still just a dopey kid who’s sense of family was an unattainable ideal, and like Starlord, that caused him initially to miss the family that was right in front of his face. Billy didn’t really evolve until he accepted his new family, and then he learned not only their importance, but everyone’s importance. The sense of family led to a sense of community.

The Stakes Were Still High

These are still action movies. The Guardians saved a planet from a villain who would eventually become a threat to the entire galaxy. That threat needed to be extreme in order to keep the movie from getting too lighthearted. Shazam was written to be even far more family-friendly, yet the boardroom scene was so dark that it received quite a bit of criticism. I don’t think that’s fair. A movie so lighthearted can cause the viewer to lose sight of the stakes. Doctor Sivana murdered several people, including his brother and father. Sound familiar, Ego? What about you, Thanos?

The Acting Was Solid

I won’t beat the dead horse any more than I must, but here’s a quick summary of my feelings on the actors of GotG. The actors in GotG represented the best acting ensemble in the MCU, and Karen Gillan’s performance was so good in the MCU and elsewhere (for example, no spoilers and spoilers) that I’m convinced that there’s an Oscar in her future if she’s given the right script. Similarly, the cast of Shazam! is probably my favorite ensemble from the DCEU. All the themes above required solid acting to pull off.

Zachary Levi did a fantastic job playing a kid in a man’s body. He had the same insecurities as any kid and tried to hide them by acting as a kid would assume an adult would act. Billy’s lack of a father figure added to the awkwardness, which Levi captured well. A lot of that is scriptwriting, but someone must act it out.

One thing that stood out to me was that Billy never showed a fear of the dark as Tom Hanks’s character in Big did.

This made sense because he had superpowers, but when he met Dr. Sivana, he had that moment of fear. Once he experienced Sivana’s superpowers and intimidating personality, that childish fear rose to the surface. He assumed (inaccurately) that his powers were no match for Sivana’s.

Later in the movie, Meagan Good had a similar but funny moment.

For context, she was an adult actress acting giddy around a guy playing Santa.

Marta and Cooper did a great job as foster parents, which was critical to advancing the main theme of the movie.

Perhaps they showed a little too much patience for Billy’s antics than they should in the real world, but this is a movie, so the script did what it had to do. The point is that foster parents should be patient, and that’s something to which I can relate. When push came to shove, they mixed the right amount of good cop/bad cop in how they dealt with Billy. That gave Billy the push he needed, leading to his catchphrase, “If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a hero.”

The child actors did a really good job as well. I don’t have much to say about them because they were kids playing kids, so nothing floored me there. However, having a script that takes advantage of a bunch of cute kids is always going to make some people happy.

Conclusion

I’ve never really read comics. I don’t know how faithful this movie was to the comics, and I understand that’s important to some of you, but I just don’t care. I’m taking this movie at face value, and I was impressed with both the acting and script. It was a lot of fun and may be my favorite DCEU film to date (though I really liked Wonder Woman too).

Postscript

There are some people included on my cc: that weren’t involved in the film and (to my knowledge) aren’t professional journalists. They were people that I “met” for the first time through this quarantine watch party, and they’re as important to it as the celebrities. It was a lot of fun. You may want to join us sometime.

Follow me @gsllc (and please retweet!)
Follow Zachary Levi @ZacharyLevi
Follow David Sandberg @ponysmasher
Follow Marta Milans @martamilans
Follow Cooper Andrews @smugorange
Follow Russ Burlingame @russburlingame
Follow Comicbook.com @comicbook
Follow Brandon Davis @BrandonDavisBD
Follow Janell Wheeler @janellwheeler
Follow brooklyn @tylacinee
Follow Lauren Stoolfire @SunSoar25
Follow Karen Gillan @karengillan

Good Watch: All Creatures Here Below @karengillan @Dastmalchian @jenmorrisonlive @DavidKoechner #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

Based on my obsession with the MCU, I’ve become a fan of several of the actors that had never been on my radar scope before. I discovered All Creatures Here Below starring two of them: Karen Gillan and David Dastmalchian. I had never heard of Gillan before the MCU (I have a weird thing against Dr. Who), and had seen Dastmalchian in only a couple of small parts. This is nothing like an MCU movie, of course. It has that indie-movie feel to it. The two play a couple of non-loveable screw ups that can’t seem to make any good decisions and almost constantly piss me off. Gillan’s Ruby doesn’t seem to understand that her actions are evil or stupid (they’re often both), whereas Dastmalchian’s Gensan doesn’t seem to care about anyone else (other than Ruby), so he ignores the consequences to others. Ruby also doesn’t seem to understand the long-term consequences of her actions.

Jennifer Morrison and David Koechner are also in it, though their parts are small, so they aren’t given a chance to shine. That’s a shame because they’re both quite good.

It’s a depressing tale, but once it got started, I was eager to see how it turned out. Then I got hit with a twist in the diner scene, which really made me rethink the entire movie. The world is screwed up, and things can be more complicated than they appear (for better or worse). It’s frustrating, brutal, and the ending was downright painful (perhaps too painful for some), but it was well worth the 90 minutes and $3.99. I enjoyed both the acting and the writing, and I greatly appreciate the talent it takes to do either.

A- (but I’m a generous grader)

EDIT: I’m upgrading this movie to a solid A+ after thinking about it all day. I really didn’t expect a movie like this to make me think so hard, and I appreciate that.

For a spoiler-laden discussion, click here for my other post on this movie.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

Follow me @gsllc
Follow Karen Gillan @karengillan
Follow David Dastmalchian @Dastmalchian
Follow Jennifer Morrison @jenmorrisonlive
Follow David Koechner @DavidKoechner

Travelling through the #MCU: Phase 2 @GeorgesStPierre @realmichaelpena @kesseljunkie #IronMan #Thor #WinterSoldier #GotG #Avengers #AntMan

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3

In an earlier post, I pointed out a few things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) that I really enjoyed. Since that post, I’ve started to watch the entire MCU in movie-chronological order: Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, etc., and will continue through the entire MCU that’s on Disney+ or otherwise available to me. This probably excludes the Spider Man movies and the Incredible Hulk.

There’s been so much ink on these topics that it’s rather pointless to try to leave an impression. These will be short observations of the things that either I liked the most about them or suspect many people didn’t really notice. I’m going to avoid most of my major dislikes. There’s no sense in raining on anyone’s parade (including my own). In case you have the time, I found it fun watching these movies knowing where these characters wound up.

Iron Man 3

This was a weird superhero movie. I remember reading an article stating that Tony was in the Iron Man suit for only 15 (or whatever) out of 120 minutes of movie time. This never bothered me because I didn’t notice. This movie was about Tony Stark’s emotional issues, not Iron Man, and somehow it worked for me. Besides, one of the best action sequences in the MCU was the Mandarin’s attack on Tony’s home (10880 Malibu Pt., Malibu, CA 90625).

According to various sources, Chattanooga gets 2 inches of snow per year. According to Iron Man 3, it all comes on one night, and that happens to be the night Tony arrived. That’s a hell of a coincidence. 🙂

Holy crap! Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie!

Thor: The Dark World

I know this is the bottom of the MCU barrel for many people, but as I’ve stated before, Thor is my favorite MCU character. There’s no way I’m going to hate a half-decent Thor movie. Loki’s stubborn insecurity, Frigga’s death (funeral music!), its impact on Loki, and Sif’s feelings for Thor are reflections of what exists in ourselves. Being able to connect with the characters is the heart of drama. This movie had a few such moments.

The stakes were high, with the entire universe at risk, and that was the opening needed to introduce the third infinity stone to the MCU. It also served as a reminder how powerful Thor is, though he clearly hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

Question #1: How would you like it if your car was sent to another world?
No need to answer.

Question #2: Malikith’s ship. How does that thing stay standing?
I know; I know. Drama.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This is easily my favorite MCU movie. It may have dragged at times, but it’s the only MCU film whose message is both important and relatable: liberty v. security. In my opinion the movie came down on the right side of that argument. Sure, we all want to be secure, but giving too much control to the government is inherently insecure. We all need to accept the fact that there’s only so much security we can have in the modern world. Life will always include risk, with the difference being who’s generating the risk. At some point more liberty becomes the only option.

George St. Pierre. MMA has taken over popular culture whether you realize it or not.

At one point, Nick Fury says, “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” The implication in context was that the loss of the eye sprang directly from that trust. So, is Captain Marvel responsible for his lost eye? I don’t think so. Captain Marvel didn’t know that the cat was really a Flerken, so it’s not as if she could’ve warned him. So, is the Flerken to blame? As far as I can tell, it’s not an intelligent creature, and trust wasn’t a part of the scene in which the Flerken scratched Fury, so that doesn’t work. The MCU is a complicated weave of plotlines and references, so I hardly blame them for messing up. I just wish they had worked trust into that scene, which would have been easy to do. They clearly just forgot.

I always wondered how, in Civil War, Steve knew that the Winter Soldier killed Stark’s parents. I never noticed that he learned that in Winter Soldier. It was a quick shot while the digital Arnim Zola was showing Steve Hydra’s manipulation of world affairs.

“Who’s this guy?”

Ezekiel 25:17.

The one thing I didn’t like: Steve’s list of things to do included an entry for Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Wars was crossed out, but Star Trek wasn’t, which means he watched Star Wars first. Bullshit. Star Trek should be at the top of your list. For anything. He received some bad intel on that one.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1

Funny thing about the scene immediately following the title card. It shows a picture of space, and then you get text that indicates the current year of 26 years later. I did some quick math in my head from when the opening scene took place (1988) and realized we were seeing 2014, but there was a spaceship.  On my first viewing, because I had just seen a realistic opening scene from 1988, for just a moment, my brain farted and thought, “There aren’t spaceships in 2014.” In fairness to me, at the time I was suffering from a severe B12 deficiency.

This movie was the best one to watch looking backwards from Endgame. For example, on Morag, I kept looking for Nebula and War Machine in the background. 🙂

Great soundtrack, which matched the fact that this was a different sort of MCU movie than we’d seen to date.

“They got my dick message!”

A dance off to save the universe. 🙂

Dancing Baby Groot!

I guess I should admit this as well. I was very critical of Marvel for choosing the Guardians of the Galaxy for a movie. I had never heard of them, and movies need to appeal to more than just the base (i.e., comic book readers). I thought there was no way they were going to do well with an obscure and ridiculous group. A talking racoon? A tree that can say only “I am Groot”? But it wasn’t just good. It wasn’t just commercially successful. It was a great idea in the grand scheme of things. As I said, it was a different sort of MCU movie, and it represented a welcome break from all the heavy-handedness of the other movies. Despite being so comedic, it still introduced an infinity stone in the context of a severe threat to the galaxy. Mea culpa, and bravo, Marvel.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

“You expect me to fight this interdimensional creature with a sword?”

[Proceeds to strike the killing blow against the interdimensional creature with a sword.]

I already discussed Nebula’s transformation and how it led to my favorite bit of acting in the entire MCU. That began near the end of this movie, but the movie sure didn’t start that way. (Actually, it begins rather subtly when Quill, Gamora, and Drax are boarding Ego’s ship.) This is why I infer what I do from Nebula’s admission at the end of GotG2.

As I’m watching this, I’m beginning to think that these are the best acted movies of the bunch. Really. Maybe it’s just because I like that it’s more comedic than the others.

I really relate to Drax. I need to learn to lie effectively, but in many cases, the thought of lying doesn’t even occur to me. Worst. Lawyer. Ever. I also really relate to the importance given to the family you choose.

Sovereign.png

“It’s not ripe.”

Rocket gets mad that Quill calls him a raccoon, but that’s so much more accurate than “fox,” “rat,” “rabbit,” or “triangle-faced monkey.” He shouldn’t be so offended.

Thor remains my favorite MCU character, so I’m good with the fact that we’ll see Love and Thunder before Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, but I really want to see them both ASAP. Personally, I prefer movies where there’s a small set of primary characters. This is why I prefer Star Trek’s Original Series to all the others. That said, I think the Guardians series pulled off ensemble movies better than I’ve ever seen, in no small part because the characters believably showed more emotional and moral growth than any other characters in the MCU. That required sold writing and acting, and all parties delivered.

Good lord, the music!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Why would an ordinary human try to fist-fight Thor? Just give up.

Is Sokovia an English-speaking nation? Google says no, so why is the Iron Legion telling everyone to leave in English.

“It was a good talk.”
“No, it wasn’t.”

I love that this was Hawkeye’s movie. The family was a great touch. Also, he had some great lines. For example,

“The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.”

“Nobody would know. Nobody. ‘The last I saw him, Ultron was sitting on him. Uh… yeah, he’ll be missed. That quick little bastard. I miss him already…’”

I loved Vision’s “birth.” He was as confused as Ultron was at his own birth but got over it much faster. And of course, there’s also this.

VisionMjolnir.png

Some foreshadowing. Vision saves Wanda, and by Endgame, they’re romantically coupled. Despite how pissed Hawkeye was with the Scarlet Witch, those two characters formed a minor bond by the end of this movie. One of the final scenes in Endgame was Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye consoling each other. In the penultimate scene, Tony mentions building a farm for Pepper, which is what he does by Endgame. I love the connections. You can’t build such strong connections within the context of a single movie without it seeming rushed (see, e.g., Anakin and Padme’s relationship in Attack of the Clones).

There always must be a death in order to raise the stakes, but I wish Quicksilver had lived to be in other movies. Rumor has it that WandaVision will have Wanda bringing back the Vision. Maybe she’ll bring back Quicksilver as well.

Another favorite moment of mine from the MCU occurs in this movie. “Oh, for God’s sake!” James Spader stole this show.

“But if you put the hammer in an elevator….”
“Elevator’s not worthy.”

Ant-Man

This certainly cleansed the palate. Like both Guardians of the Galaxy volumes, this was the occasional higher-comedy movie that keeps things from getting too heavy-handed. Who better than Paul Rudd to play Scott Lang?

I’ve always loved Garrett Morris. I’m always happy to see him in a movie or TV show, even if it’s just a cameo.

Michael Pena should face a long jail sentence. He stole this movie.

At one point, Hank Pym criticizes the Avengers for “dropping a city out of the sky,” referencing the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is a familiar trope that I absolutely hate: Criticizing the good guys for not saving the world in the most convenient way possible. Anyone with an IQ over 40 knows that Ultron tried to drop a city out of the sky, not the Avengers. Ultron was a fairly competent enemy, so it was able to do a lot of damage before the Avengers could save the world. It makes no sense to blame the Avengers for that. (Maybe just Stark and Banner.)

Side Note

It’s easy to blow off the MCU as just a bunch of action movies or, even worse, superhero movies, but that’s enormously unfair. Marvel has done something remarkable, the likes of which I’ve never seen. It’s probably best to express my current thought by example, so consider Iron Man 2. Taken in isolation, it’s my least favorite Marvel movie. Also, Pepper Potts is my least favorite protagonist. Your mileage may vary; not the point. I nevertheless enjoyed Iron Man 2. It was important in the grand scheme of things, and it’s impossible for me to watch Tony and Pepper’s relationship start without gaining an appreciation for how much was lost near the end of Endgame. It’s all connected in a way that, as I said, I’ve never seen before. Moreover, any one of these films could stand on its own. You absolutely can’t say that with Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit Series, or Star Wars. Only the first Star Wars (A New Hope) could truly stand on its own, but even so, you’re still left wondering what happened to Vader? The bad guy shouldn’t survive unless there’s a sequel, right? Marvel did something incredible with the MCU, and I look forward to what’s next.

And then there’s those moments of acting and story that are remarkable, which makes it even better. I don’t understand Scorsese’s, Coppola’s, or @KesselJunkie’s 🙂 hate. It’s been a lot of fun re-watching these.

What’s Next?

Phase 3 is up (less Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 and Captain Marvel, which have already been discussed).

Follow me @GSLLC (please retweet!)
Follow George St. Pierre @GeorgesStPierre
Follow Michael Pena @realmichaelpena
Follow Kessel Junkie @KesselJunkie