Star Wars Trailers! Star Wars Trailers! Star Wars Trailers!

The problem I have with Star Wars movies is basically the exact opposite of the problem I have with upcoming DC films: I tend to get so excited for them I have to actively fight off impossibly high expectations. And with Star Wars Celebration in full swing (Why am I not there?! Agghhhh!), the hype machine is in overdrive and so is my fanboyism. There’s all sorts of Star Wars news breaking at the moment, but below I’ve outlined my big three takeaways from Celebration so far. Let’s get cracking:

My enthusiasm for gaming tends to go through extremely dramatic and unpredictable ebbs and flows so I have no idea how interested I’m still going to be by the time Star Wars Battlefront II (curiously, it’s the second such game to be called that) is available to play on Nov. 17. But for the time being, this looks cool as hell. It’s supposed to be the first Star Wars game in the new continuity to explore a post Return of the Jedi setting and it appears to also set up the rise of the First Order. I’m a bit iffy on video game stories being made into franchise canon (good riddance, Force Unleashed), but Battlefront II gets the benefit of the doubt for now.

I was totally wrong about Star Wars Rebels concluding with its third season despite appearances to the contrary, but I wasn’t off by much. It’s been officially announced that it will end with the upcoming season four. Truthfully, I didn’t expect this show to last; in addition to the fact that cartoons for kids don’t usually have deep runs, the five years before A New Hope time frame didn’t give its storytellers tons of wiggle room. Nonetheless, the pieces of an emotionally satisfying conclusion are in place, especially since Hera’s somber narration doesn’t imply a happy ending. We know from that Easter Egg in Rogue One that she’ll probably be okay. My credits are on Kanan buying the moisture farm, since I don’t think Disney is about to kill off any 15-year-olds. I’m pretty sure Thrawn will go down too, which would take him “off the board” during the events of the OT. At any rate, I’m glad Rebels will get to end on its own terms, rather than get abruptly yanked off the air like Clone Wars did.

And that wolf! I don’t know what it is, but I love it already!

I’ve saved the best for last: the first trailer (it’s April; there’s going to be several more) for The Last Jedi. I’m super bummed that the elderly versions of Luke, Han and Leia won’t get to share the screen but it’s nice to have Luke back even though the last 10 or so years haven’t been kind to him. Luke took on a mentor role in some of the later post Saga books in the now defunct EU and getting to see that version of him onscreen is going to be treat, especially since Mark Hamill is really selling it with that magnificent beard. The only major plot point we can cull from this is that a despondent Luke, haunted by his failure with Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, will be ending the Jedi Order. Everyone – me included – thinks this means Star Wars is trying to move past the Light side/Dark side dichotomy (Luke’s “It’s so much bigger” line is lending that theory major credence). The idea that the Force has more than just two paths was touched upon in the previous season of Rebels via the Bendu character and hopefully it will get explored further in TLJ. I stand by what I said about Star Wars needing to take creative risks and this feels like a step in the right direction.

The Last Jedi comes out on Dec. 15.

An Obligatory Report on the Justice League Trailer

Somewhere in the space-time continuum, there is a parallel Earth in which I’m excited for the upcoming Justice League movie.

The titanic turds Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were strikes one and two; time will only tell if Wonder Woman will be the third or if it will break the mold and be the first good DC movie since at least 2012 by my reckoning. At some point, I’m going to have to stop giving Warner Bros the benefit of the doubt, but I just can’t help myself. The DC films thus far have been train wrecks I just can’t look away from. I’ll be as helpless as everyone else once Nov. 17 rolls around.

Anyhow the above trailer dropped yesterday and under literally any other circumstances the sight of Batman riding a horse through the Arctic would be an immensely positive sign but alas, not in the DC Universe as envisioned by Mr. Zack Snyder and his enablers at WB. We are talking about a man whose idea of fun is having Jimmy Olsen get shot in the face because nothing says “I have immense respect for these iconic characters and their legacies” quite like Superman’s pal getting his brain stem split in half with a bullet to the dome.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.

It would take immense mental effort that would be better invested elsewhere to even pretend to think maybe Justice League will be cool. The Parademons (and make no mistake, those are Parademons) don’t look completely horrible but the prospect of Snyder visualizing the New Gods is something I don’t want to think about. The suppressed optimist in me wants to say that Darkseid and friends couldn’t possibly look worse than Cyborg and Flash, who are both over-designed atrocities. J.K. Simmons is playing Commissioner Gordon, which means that there will probably be a couple of funny lines in this mess and if we’re really lucky, Jason Momoa’s hard-drinking, hard-rocking Aquaman will be one of those things that’s so stupid it borders on brilliant.

If the worst comes to worst, I could always just dust off my Justice League/Justice League Unlimited DVD box set. I’m overdue for a re-watch.

Carrie Fisher: 1956-2016

Goddamnit, this one hurts on a profoundly shitty level.

After cutting down Alan Rickman all the way back in January, this ugly ass year once again robbed me and countless others of an actor integral to a franchise I love. 2016 can get fucked forever. Carrie Fisher’s passing has made it clear to me more than ever the appeal of the “fuck 2016” meme: every time we think we’re getting tired of this schtick, another death or some intolerable bullshit (*cough* Trump) will come along and put us in need of some serious coping.

As a guy who has been in love with all things Star Wars since at least the age of seven, any member of the trio passing away was obviously going to hurt like hell. The youngest of them, Fisher was just 60. Even taking her health problems into account, I thought we had more time with her. Fisher was, of course monumentally awesome as Princess Leia. She was the strong female character I never knew I needed; the one I took for granted for far too long.

There was way more to this gal than just Star Wars. She was a highly prolific and sought after script doctor throughout the ’90s, authored eight books, survived drug addiction and became an advocate for mental health after going public with her struggles with bipolar disorder. Fisher was a remarkable woman; I’m currently trying to comfort myself with the notion that she was simply too good for this world.

Rest in power, princess.

Grading the Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is an exploding meth lab of a movie, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with it. Therefore, I must ask: which supervillains would you want to recruit for Task Force X (the titular Suicide Squad)? Using a highly scientific, 100% objective grading system, I have assigned scores to each of Amanda Waller’s recruits. Surely you or I could have done better than this motley crew? Let’s see how they stack up (spoilers to follow).

Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Will Smith): This guy is the most obvious choice for a black ops team. Who wouldn’t want to have a super humanly accurate hitman on the government’s payroll? In spite of his aloofness, he forms a begrudging bromance with team leader Rick Flag, which is a nice bonus. Plus, he looks great in that hat. Grade: A

Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie): She’s a clown girl who’s good at hitting things with a bat. Even by DC Comics standards, that doesn’t exactly scream black ops material. Also, having her around practically guarantees that the Joker will show up to throw a couple of wrenches in the plan. That Waller (Viola Davis, somehow holding onto her dignity) wanted this grossly under-qualified person with extra crazy baggage on the squad should have raised a couple of red flags with the rest of A.R.G.U.S. That’s a huge risk to take for the sake of making sure Task Force X has some knee-slapping comic relief. Grade: D+

Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman): All-American super patriot and Special Forces veteran Flag is a solid choice to lead the squad…on paper. The fact that he is sleeping with the woman whose body is being possessed by the most powerful and unstable member of the team doesn’t seem to concern anyone. Has Waller never heard of the phrase “conflict of interest?” Grade: B-

Digger Harkness/Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney): On second thought, I may have been too harsh on Harley Quinn because all this guy can do is throw boomerangs. At one point, he throws a remote control drone boomerang with a camera on it, which feels like a desperate gamble on writer/director David Ayer’s part to make the captain useful. Coincidentally, this was the scene that broke the whole movie for me. Grade: D-

Chanto Santana/El Diablo (Jay Hernandez): This dude is pyrokinetic, so he’s a go-to guy for demolition jobs. El Diablo can also transform into a giant fire demon thing, making him ideal for fighting other giant demon things. This is the DC Universe, so that’s a contingency you need to prepare for. Chanto loses some points due to his newfound pacifistic outlook, which makes him very reluctant to do the kinds of dirty work Task Force X was created to handle. On the other hand, he grows to love the team and considers them his surrogate family after unwillingly spending fewer than 12 hours with them and he even gave his life for the mission. He was a team player until the very end. Grade: B+

Waylon Jones/Killer Croc (Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje): Killer Croc is an enormous crocodile man whose contribution to the mission consisted solely of planting a bomb underwater. He was rewarded for this by getting a TV in his cell that seemingly only plays BET. Grade: C-

Dr June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne): Did you forget that Suicide Squad‘s big bad was actually a member of the team? Yeah, that’s what happens when you think you can control super powerful, 7,000-year-old witches, a mistake Waller makes that drives the plot of the whole movie. Enchantress gets a failing grade for being both too powerful and too easy to defeat. Flag takes her down for good by destroying her (external) heart, which he simply squeezed to death with his bare hands. Had Waller simply thought to do that at the end of the first act, we would have been spared this awful movie. On an unrelated note: isn’t it funny that both Marvel and DC have green witch characters called Enchantress? Grade: F

Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana (Karen Fukuhara): Katana wields a sword that captures the souls of those it slays. The movie tells us this twice but does not ever show any soul stealing in action. Despite lame implementation, the Rule of Cool still applies here; Katana passes. However, she does appear to only speak Japanese, which can potentially hamper communications in the field. Grade: A-

Christopher Weiss/Slipknot (Adam Beach): Slipknot’s (no, not that Slipknot) ludicrously narrow degree of situational usefulness makes Captain Boomerang look like MacGyver. “This guy can climb anything,” is how one character describes Weiss’ skill set. He’d make an excellent teammate on an Everest expedition but he’s a baffling choice for black ops. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t even make it an hour into the mission; Slipknot dies via micro-bomb implanted into his neck (to insure the squad’s loyalty) while trying to escape from the team by rappelling away at a comically slow place. Grade: F-

You Need to Watch ‘Turbo Kid’

This Netflix recommendation comes courtesy of my cousin Jake, because I give credit where it’s due.

If the fantastic Stranger Things has not sated your appetite for all things ‘80s genre flicks and sythwave, then you need to give Turbo Kid a shot. This delightful 95 minute action/comedy/parody/homage romp is the massively positive force you need in your life right now. It’s a joint Canadian-New Zealand production that was shown at Sundance and SXSW in 2015 and it got a super limited release last August. This thing needs to be in your queue right the hell now.

Set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 1997 (no, really) it follows the adventures of a kid who idolizes the fictional comic book hero Turbo Man and rides around on a bicycle (the primary means of transportation in this wasteland) salvaging junk and doing his best to be like his hero. Along the way he meets a delightfully whacky robot girl named Apple, teams up with a foul-mouthed, arm-wrestling cowboy with an Australian accent named Frederic (Aaron Jeffery) and does battle with the warlord Zeus (Michael Ironside, the only recognizable actor in this), who seeks to control the wasteland’s limited water supply.

The whole affair is aggressively cheeky and self-aware but balanced out with some gloriously over the top violence that is always hilarious. More than anything else though, you’ll be watching it for all the callbacks and references. The most obvious inspiration for Turbo Kid is George Miller’s Mad Max films, but just about every other ‘80s action/adventure and sci-fi flick you can think of gets a send-up: Indiana Jones, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Starfighter and The Terminator were just some of the few I spotted and there’s no doubt many more I missed.

Turbo Kid is has the budget equivalent to a YouTube fan film, but the cheap production value is highly endearing, especially since it makes the retro effects work and props seem even more authentic. To give you some idea on how committed this film is to its retro-ism: it opens on the Epic Pictures (its US distributor) logo, which includes the line “#1 leader in laser disc sales.” Damn, that’s good.

Cheeky self-awareness can be fun and all, but it can get a bit trite and obnoxious after awhile. The brilliant thing that co-writing/co-directing team of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell do is know when to be sincere. The titular Turbo Kid’s (Munro Chambers) adoration and emulation of his hero is treated with utmost seriousness and his relationship with Apple (Laurence Leboeuf; manic and brilliant) is genuinely sweet in spite of everything else in the movie. The scenes where they play tag in the wasteland will bring a non-ironic smile to your face.

Look, I don’t even know why I’m still talking about this. Michael Ironside is in full ham mode! It’s silly Mad Max on bicycles! A dude gets speared with a freaking umbrella! Go watch this thing. You won’t regret it.

‘The Killing Joke’ is a Shit Show

I was warned by Ryan, the night shift manager of Century Regency and part-time cashier at Blue Moon Comics, about Batman: The Killing Joke a mere minute before the movie started.

It’s 90 minutes of my life I’m never getting back,” he lamented while I was in the popcorn line.

When the movie got out just a little before nine, I felt the same way.

The Killing Joke animated feature film is about as bad as you’ve heard. Of the handful of DC Universe Animated Original Movies that I’ve seen, this one is easily the worst. In addition to retaining all of the problems many people have with its source material (the 1988 graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland) – which it exacerbates tenfold with a ludicrously awful scene in its dragging first act – it is also the most boring Batman movie I’ve ever seen.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the controversial addition to the film: the rooftop sex scene between Batman and Batgirl. Writer Brian Azzarello and executive producer Bruce Timm somehow thought this was a good idea. I watched the YouTube clip (embedded above) of this scene before I saw TKJ and it doesn’t improve within the context of the film. This by itself is enough to mar the movie; Batman hooking up with any of his sidekicks or protégés is going to come across as borderline incest. There’s a reason why Batman’s team of Robins, Batgirls, Spoiler, Nightwing, etc. is referred to as the “Batman Family.” They’re the family Bruce Wayne never got to have. Hell, he even adopted at least two of the Robins, which would legally make him their father as well as figuratively. It’s so damned wrong that it will make you long for that other cringe-inducing rooftop sex scene in the Dark Knight’s history.

Other than that, the first act is utterly unremarkable. It’s dull as hell, features a disposable villain who isn’t the least bit interesting yet he gets tons of screen time and it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie. The idea behind it was to give more agency to Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, all of which gets completely undermined by the Bat Hookup. Her subsequent crippling and implied sexual assault at the hands of the Joker – troubling enough in the original story – now just feels even more like a fridging than it already was.

Whatever the hell Timm and Azrello where trying to accomplish by adding a Batman-Batgirl romance angle into this story, it fails miserably. It doesn’t cause Batman to act any differently toward the Joker after he assaults her and if you were a half hour late and walked into this after the first act, you wouldn’t have the slightest inkling that Batman cares about Barbara in a romantic sense. And given the extreme victimization Babs endures in the story just for the sake of motivating Batman and upping the stakes of his conflict with Joker, the romance angle is just…yikes.

By the time the actual Killing Joke segment of The Killing Joke started, I was already feeling weary. The prospect of seeing the graphic novel’s iconic panels recreated shot-for-shot on screen was undermined by the stiff animation. Batman in particular looks like he’s made of cardboard in most of his scenes. Kevin Conroy (reprising his role from the acclaimed animated series, along with Mark Hamill as the Joker and Tara Strong as Batgirl) sounds frankly bored for the whole damn movie. This perfectly channeled my feelings about The Killing Joke but didn’t make for a compelling performance.

The first and second acts meander through the motions, checking off all of the stuff you’d expect to see in a Killing Joke movie: Barbara Gordon getting shot (which of course happens in slow motion), the flashbacks to the Joker’s past (the only decent scenes; Hamill is really good here) and Commissioner Gordon getting stripped naked and dragged around Joker’s carnival lair by his circus freak henchmen (which, like everything else in this mess, goes on for way too long). It’s almost a relief when the infamous ending, in which Batman may or may not have killed his arch nemesis, finally arrives.

This version of The Killing Joke is a dumpster fire and a waste of time. If you’re one of those people who thought the “MERTHA!” scene in Batman v Superman was the greatest thing ever, you’ll probably love this movie. Otherwise, skip it. Batman: The Killing Joke will be out on Blu-ray and DVD on Aug 2. I suggest you buy literally anything else instead.

All Hail the Millennial Nostalgia Industrial Complex

The Millennial Nostalgia Industrial Complex is real.

It reared its head over the holiday weekend in the form of not one, but two marathons. The Harry Potter marathon on the channel formerly known as ABC Family wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but coupled with the Disney channel airing every single one of their original movies, it created a force of devastating nostalgia overload.

Millennials on the older end of that generational spectrum are no doubt already aware of this, but if you’re in that sweet spot between late ’80s and early ’90s? This might be news to you; you are now just old enough to notice that the “Hey, remember how awesome this old shit you loved as a kid is/was?” marketing apparatus is now being pointed directly at you. We saw the beginning of this with the launch of Pokémon GO, and there is only going to be more of it as we get older.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but seeing as Generation X has had to deal with a deluge of hot donkey shit made from adaptations of stuff they loved, we should absolutely be prepared to deal with it. The new Power Rangers movie could very well be awful enough to generate multiple existential crises. Accepting that possibility now will make coping with it later much easier. In the first grade, I used to sprint home from school (we lived in walking distance) to catch episodes of Power Rangers and sometimes I would practice their fighting moves while I watched. Nothing will take those memories away from me; not even a shitty Power Rangers movie.

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, regardless of what you were doing. If anything, we should feel lucky Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon didn’t decide to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon. That would have been a bloodbath.