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.
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.
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.
Captain America: Civil War is nearly upon us, and as I expected last time we indulged in this exercise, some of you are no doubt wondering why Cap and Iron Man are trading blows with each other. The easiest and most cynical answer would be that they are fighting because they fought in Marvel’s Civil War crossover eventfrom 2006 and 2007, and since that is routinely among the ranks of Marvel’s highest selling trade paperbacks then it makes sense to make an adaptation out of something fans really dig. Coincidentally, Batman v Superman did pretty much the exact same thing, with much of its plot being informed by The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman butI’d really rather not talk about that right now and at any rate, we need to discuss Marvel business this week.
So what exactly happens in the Civil War comic to bring about conflict between the two biggest Avengers? In the inciting incident of CW , a young and relatively inexperienced superhero team called the New Warriors try to take down a villain called Nitro, who uses his explosive powers to destroy an elementary school and a couple of city blocks, resulting in the deaths of most of the New Warriors and more than 600 people. Public sentiment starts to turn against heroes, so the government proposes the Superhero Registration Act, which would require all superheroes to register with the federal government for oversight purposes. Tony Stark/Iron Man takes up the reigns of the pro-registration side after initially opposing the SRA, while Steve Rodgers/Captain America becomes the self appointed leader of the anti-registration side. Things quickly got out of hand…
After a not bad start, CW rapidly flew off the rails. The breaking point was when Iron Man and Mr Fantastic starting dumping captured ani-reg heroes into a prison in the extra dimensional Negative Zone without any semblance of due process, culminating in Cap and his gang staging a massive prison break that spills into the streets of Manhattan and culminates in massive collateral damage. The story ends with a sobbing Steve Rodgers unmasking and turning himself in to the authorities after witnessing first-hand the destruction caused by the brawling heroes.
I do not have any great fondness for this story and I was more than a little apprehensive when Marvel announced it would be the basis of the next Cap movie.
From what I’ve seen of the trailers and promo material, Captain America: Civil War is working off that same basic framework. The movie’s Sokovia Accords appears to more or less be the same thing as the comic’s SRA, except its scale is global rather than national. Part of my initial skepticism of a straight adaptation of CW is that despite being around for nearly eight years and spanning 12 films, two TV series and two (so far) Netflix series, there still aren’t really that many superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hence, a CW movie wouldn’t have the advantage of taking place 60 plus years into the existence of a Marvel Universe already inhabited by hundreds of characters. Since the CW movie we are getting is baffling still (at least technically speaking) a Cap feature and not an Avengers sequel, the smaller stakes could actually work to its advantage. At most, this titular civil war appears to be a six-on-six affair; I’m okay with that.
CW was almost a decade ago, so I’m really hoping all of those years of hindsight will allow directors Joe and Anthony Russo (who directed Winter Soldier and will also helm the next two Avengers) to avoid some of its mistakes, particularly the business where Iron Man turns into a fascistic prick and starts tossing his friends in jail (that building at the 54 second mark in the above trailer looks like a prison, so maybe we are getting that version of Iron Man). Granted, the early reviews have been positively rapturous and it can’t possibly be worse than the slog that was BvS. I’m cautiously optimistic.
So what’s the deal with Spider-Man? In the comics he initially joined the pro-reg side of the Civil War and even followed Tony Stark’s example by publicly outing himself as Peter Parker. As the story went on, he became disillusioned with Stark’s increasingly Draconian measures against rogue superheroes and jumped ship to Cap’s team. As for him being in the movie (where he’s played by Tom Holland), Sony Pictures and Marvel studios now share “joint custody” of Spidey’s film rights on account of Sony scuttling their initial plans after the dreadful Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperfomed at the box office. I’m pretty sure this Spider-Man (who already has his own solo feature in the works) won’t be revealing his secret identity to the public, but the business with him getting a conscience attack and switching sides? I’m absolutely positive that will go down in the movie.
Captain America: Civil War opens this Friday. Good movies being made from bad source material isn’t unheard of and maybe that will be the case here. I’m a huge fan of the Captain America movies and they’re largely the reason why he’s my favorite Marvel hero. As much as I don’t like stories where superheroes fight each other, I’m Team Cap all the way on this one.
I hope you aren’t sick of Star Wars yet, because Disney is offering us another serving before Episode VIII arrives next year. Behold Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Clunky subtitle aside (it could be so much worse) I’m pretty excited for this. Granted, I’m a Star Wars guy, so I’m always down. But a part of me has always wanted to see a Star Wars story that was an actual war story. I think that a comic or TV series that is basically Band of Brothers but set in the Galactic Civil War would be the greatest thing ever and Rogue One appears to be the closest I’m going to get to that for the time being. This movie is concerned with the theft of the plans to the original Death Star (that’s the briefing room from the Yavin IV base you see in the trailer) so there will probably be plenty of espionage action in addition to battle scenes.
Since it leads right into A New Hope, Rogue One likely won’t take any storytelling risks nor pitch any curve balls at us – hence, no Jedi. I only hope that the Emperor’s guards (who are present in this trailer) actually get to do something this time, since they did nothing but stand in the background in Return of the Jedi. It would be a huge missed opportunity if Donnie Yen’s staff-wielding martial artist didn’t get a fight scene with them. And goddamn, it feels good to see AT-ATs again.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comes out on Dec 16. It stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk and is directed by Gareth Edwards.
Oh, and if you’re one of those people who are pissed about there being another female protagonist in a Star Wars moviejust…stop. For the love of God, please stop.
I’ve already been asked the above question at least 10 times by family members and a couple of friends and I expect I’ll be asked it many more times before Batman v Superman: Dawn of the R-rated DVD Cut gets released on March 25. For the sake of preemptively answering any lingering queries you may have about the oncoming slug fest, I will spend the entirety of this article telling you everything I know about the most popular superhero-on-superhero battle in all of comicdom.
Within the context of the film itself, why Batman and Superman are fighting is pretty easy to answer. The trailers and the marketing materials have made it pretty clear that the world and Batfleck in particular feel threatened by Superman after that his fight with Zod reduced Metropolis to ruins at the end of Man of Steel. Honestly, I can’t really blame them for feeling that way; Superman was punching Zod into skyscrapers that were presumably full of people. For his part, Clark Kent/Superman doesn’t approve of Batman’s vigilante tactics and I also can’t quite fault him for feeling that way, since Batfleck is in full-on psycho-thug Batman mode and is straight up breaking bones and branding badguys with the bat symbol.
So, yeah…we’re kind of at an impasse.
Lex Luthor will be stirring up the pot to try and get them to destroy each other, because that’s what super villains do. I suspect that Wonder Woman’s role will be to try to get them to drop the macho bullshit and make friends with each other. Doomsday will be a last ditch gamble on Luthor’s part to destroy all three heroes once he realizes his initial scheme has fallen through. Doomsday will most certainly be made from Zod’s DNA. Then, once the dust has settled, the trio will recruit more super friends to make a team in case stuff like that happens again and that’s how we will end up with the Justice League.
That’s my big, not-risky-at-all BvS prediction, because having superheroes stepping on each others toes before uniting against a common enemy is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Hell, we already saw versions of that scenario in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. At this point, I’m in awe that movie goers aren’t as sick of this cliché as comics readers.
For those who don’t know, BvS did not invent the great Batman/Superman fight. These two have tussled more times than I can count in the comics and the occasional cartoon for decades. It has been the center of many spirited debates in the geek community for a long ass time and it has been fought over so much that pretty much all of the fun has been thoroughly drained from it. I think I got sick of the debate before I was legally old enough to drink. Speaking of drinking, I’m legitimately terrified that BvS will blow so much that it will turn me into an alcoholic. The stakes are high on this one.
I’m not particularly well-versed in old comics, but one of the earliest Batman/Superman fights I could find is from 1966, within the the pages of World’s Finest Comics #163, in which an evil alien forces the two heroes into gladiatorial combat against each other via hypnotic suggestion. That issue sadly isn’t available on Comixology, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Batman and Superman threw off the hypnosis and took down the villain at the end.
It wasn’t until the 1980s, the beginning of comics’ dark modern age, that the rivalry between DC’s two biggest heroes became deadly serious business. Frank Miller’s landmark 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns ends with Superman (now working for the US government in DKR’s dystopian future setting) brawling with an elderly, armored-up Batman (a vigilante fugitive) in Crime Alley. Batman wins the fight in the most ridiculous and appropriately Batman-esque manner possible: by plugging his suit into Gotham’s power generator and using the power of the entire city to deliver a knockout blow followed by the most brutal head stomp in all of comics. Superman survives, and Batman fakes his death so he can train a new generation of Batmen to take his place. I first read DKR when I was 17 (for an English class, of all things) and I thought that fight was pretty badass. Looking back now, I begrudgingly acknowledge that it’s still awesome, though it’s far from my favorite comics moment for either character.
Granted, DKR was made by an all-time great writer/artist who was at the top of his game; of course it’s awesome. And like pretty much all awesome works of art, it inspired a legion of inferior imitators. Aside from the grim dark aesthetic, the Batman/Superman fight – or rather, the notion that they don’t get along and are often at odds with each other – is one of the biggest impacts DKR had on DC as a whole. It completely restructured the relationship of these two characters in a way that persists so strongly today that we’re now getting a very expensive movie about it.
There have been a bunch more Batman/Superman fights since DKR, notably in Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush storyline (Superman was under the influence of Poison Ivy’s mind control pheromones for that one) and also in the “Origin” arc of Justice League when DC relaunched everything with the New 52 initiative in 2011. That particular fight also involved the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern, just in case it wasn’t boring enough. I can’t remember for the life of me how it started, though I do recall it was another one of those “let’s make the heroes fight and then kiss and make up in time to face the real villain” affairs. Miller himself even revisited the famous battle in his twice as ridiculous and half as good follow-up to DKR, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, published from 2001 to 2002. In the rematch, Batman beats the crap out of Superman using a pair of Kryptonite boxing gloves, and frankly, it wasn’t even the most bizarre scene in DKSA.
Lest I give the impression that I’m completely against any sort of Batman/Superman conflict, there is one instance where it was executed so well that I pretty much consider it the gold standard of that worn out storyline. Curiously, it didn’t happen in any comics; it was in the two part “World’s Finest” episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. Save for Batman somehow throwing Superman across the room in the video I embedded at the top of this article, the two don’t actually fight at all, but they start off not liking each other. They are forced to team-up when Lex Luthor hires the Joker to kill Superman and over the course of 42 glorious minutes, Batman and Superman are forced to put aside their differences and find out that, hey, they actually have a lot in common. Their relationship continued to develop over the course of a couple more crossovers and well into the Justice League cartoon, which functioned as a successor to their respective animated series.
To be uncharacteristically optimistic, maybe Snyder is shooting for something similar to “World’s Finest,” but just blown up to the bombastic proportions suitable for the guy who directed 300. After all, BvS, is supposed to lead into a proper Justice League film, which Snyder is also directing. But from what I’ve seen, it all just looks like a bazillion dollar version of those last few pages of DKR, to the point where Batfleck is basically Miller Batman (Brick shithouse proportions, graying hair, dark colors, short bat ears, oversized logo, the power armor, etc) come to life. It looks great and all, but I really don’t need a live action DKR. Part of what made the fight in that story so memorable was that it felt like the culmination of the relationship between those two heroes, spiraling downward into a violent end decades in the making.
By contrast, Batfleck takes it upon himself to take out Superman because he torn up a city, broke a dude’s neck and then cried about it. And while those are valid concerns, there’s no prior relationship between them; these aren’t former friends or allies turned against one another by circumstance. Pretty much the only reason for Batfleck being in this movie looking the way he does is to conjure up memories of Batman and Superman’s most well-known brawl and to bring it to life, probably in 3D. But no amount of CGI wizardry can make up for the context that made the DKR fight so great; it’s just going to be two dudes who feel threatened by each other getting into brawl, except one can break a city. I already feel bored.
And again this is just idle speculation on my part. Maybe Snyder has more than a superficial recreation of the DKR version of the Batman/Superman fight in mind. Maybe the finished product will blow my mind and be incredible and maybe I’ll like it so much that I’ll check out the R-rated DVD release; or maybe not and we’ll end up with another out of touch, alienating, too dark for its own good fiasco like Man of Steel.
Anyhow, I hope this column was helpful to the “Why are these guys fighting?!” crowd. I have a feeling that I’ll be writing a spiritual sequel of sorts when Captain America: Civil War comes around on May 6.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image courtesy of Wookieepedia.
The Force Awakens is knocking down box office records and Star Wars is perceived as cool again. Disney has charted a loose course for the near future and has deviated slightly by bumping Episode VIII from May 2017 to December of that same year. We are still going to be getting a movie a year from now until at least 2019, which will include the next installments of the new trilogy as well as standalone spinoff films (one of which is slated for release this December). In the meantime, we can help ourselves to a proverbial buffet of secondary Star Wars media: the Rebels animated series, the various Marvel comics series, the occasional new novel or two and of course, Legos.
But for many people, these are all trivial distractions from what’s really on their minds: Episode VIII. It has a director in Rian Johnson, who I only know from the fantastic Looper. Nonetheless he’s exactly the sort of filmmaker that I hoped The Force Awakens would get, but we had to settle for the poor man’s Spielberg that is JJ Abrams. While Abrams did an alright enough job, I’m eager to get this franchise into someone else’s hands.
For what it’s worth, Episode IX also has a director picked: Colin Trevorrow, which I’m not enthused about at all. His Jurassic World was a broken mess so contemptible that I’ve sworn off Chris Pratt until the next Guardians of the Galaxy. I sincerely hope Trevorrow either drops out or takes an online film school course between now and IX’s tentative release date.
Anyhow, a great many folks have pointed out many similarities between TFA and A New Hope, mainly that they are almost the same movie. I was willing to overlook this because A) TFA did not suck, B) the new characters made up for it and C) being the first Star Wars film in a decade, taking the safe road is forgivable, especially considering what happened last time we got a new trilogy. But now that Star Wars is back in everyone’s good will, I feel like I have to put this out there: Episode VIII needs to be different.
I really don’t want an VIII that is essentially an Empire Strikes Back knockoff. TFA following ANH is one easily brushed aside thing, but VIII following Empire just as closely? Then I’ll get mad. And that’s just it; Empire is universally considered the best film in the OT. Even I, the most ardent defender/apologist of Return of the Jedi you will ever meet, would not dispute that fact. I mean, that’s just crazy talk. With that in mind, can you envision a scenario where there isn’t overwhelming studio and/or fan pressure to make VIII into an Empire clone? If you are one of the suits at Disney, why wouldn’t you take another trip down memory lane to the tune of another billion dollar global box office take?
There is this one negative side effect from the prequels that no one ever talks about: it made Star Wars fans deeply afraid of change. Everything about TFA was tailor-made to address those fears: the return of the original cast members, the mostly practical effects, the rehashed plot, the near identical aesthetic and the presence of JJ Abrams, the aforementioned poor man’s Spielberg. All deeply comforting to a fan base that has a hard time letting things go.
Hey, speaking of not being able to let go of stuff, what the hell is up with the continuing presence of Darth Maul in secondary Star Wars media? Have you seen that dense, spoiler-filled trailer for the second half of the current Star Wars Rebels season? Guess which spike-headed, full-body tattoo enthusiast with cyborg legs is STILL kicking around a mere five years before ANH? Seriously, fanboys, what is the deal with your obsession with Maul? I get that he was the only cool and edgy thing (in strictly visual terms; film Maul had as much personality as a sock drawer) in a movie that was overflowing with pandering little kid crap but your drawn out attachment to this vastly overrated character is getting insane. Let. Go.
Okay, rant over. Let’s get back to business.
I guarantee that it’s only a matter of time before Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams (who will stick around as an executive producer) or one of the cast members will drop the “we’re going to make this one our Empire Strikes Back” line during an interview and the fans will eat it up. And maybe they’ll just be pulling our legs and will yank the rug out from under us in VIII by disregarding the OT formula entirely. That would be just dandy, but they could also just build a loose facsimile of Empire and most of us still won’t give a shit and will just go along with it like last time because it’s Star Wars. I have faith in Johnson, but I tend to be cautious with my optimism.
No one at Disney or Lucasfilm will ever see this column, but if I could give whoever is in charge of Star Wars just one bit of advice, it would be this: take a risk. Don’t stray down the path of familiarity and nostalgia and don’t try to give the fans what they think they want. Forget about the OT; this is a new saga. Make the most of it and please, for the love of the Force, don’t put a Starkiller Base II in Episode IX.
My first encounter with Alan Rickman was in a movie theater at the age of nine when my parents took me to see Galaxy Quest. Granted, it was many more years before I came to fully appreciate the intricacies of that particular film; both as a parody/homage of all things Star Trek and also as a pretty good action-adventure/comedy feature in its own right. But even at that young of age, Rickman stood out as Alexander Dane, a formerly respected, Shakespearean-trained British actor who loathes his typecast-inducing role as Dr. Lazarus on Galaxy Quest’s namesake TV series and how his career now consists entirely of convention appearances. Why, it was not unlike the way a certain Severus Snape loathed that Harry Potter kid in these books I was reading around that time…
I don’t quite love the Harry Potter films as much as I used to. I still like them a great deal and I still drop whatever it is I’m doing to sit down for one of those all too frequent ABC Family Potter marathons like any self-respecting Millennial but they always fell short of true greatness. That being said, Rickman was one of a handful of Potter actors who were so perfect that “perfect” feels inadequate. Along with Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonnagall, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid and Richard Harris as the superior Albus Dumbledore 1.0, Rickman’s Snape was the closest any literary character has come to stepping right off the page and coming to life onscreen. It can’t be overstated how much these actors, and Rickman in particular, elevated the Potter flicks.
And of course, there’s that other huge role of his. I first watched Die Hard when I was 12-years-old (the perfect age for a first time viewing of that movie) and when Hans Gruber first appeared on screen, the first words out of my mouth were “Hey mom, Snape is in Die Hard!”
Speaking of Snape, I don’t think I can put into words how huge Rickman’s impact has been on the HP generation. During rereads of the series, it is impossible to not hear his iconic, cutting delivery whenever Snape speaks. I don’t mean to brush aside Rickman’s near 40 years of film, TV and theater roles but that is a hell of an achievement. I’ve never been a member of the Team Snape sub-fandom in the HP community (some of those “always” tributes are already making me cringe) and I likely never will be. But I can also say that I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, any discouraging words to say about Rickman’s masterful performance as the divisive potions master. The guy was too damn great to dismiss.
Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, may you sit on a beach earning 20 percent while bottling fame, brewing glory and putting a stopper on death.
It wasn’t until three days before Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens dropped that I became genuinely terrified it was going to suck for reasons that are completely unnecessary to recap. It didn’t help that I wasn’t seeing it until Sunday, making the wait that much more excruciating and my social media browsing that much more risky, lest I happen upon some of those dreaded spoilers. I saw TFA with my mom, my older brother and his wife in a packed theater for a 10:40 matinee to cap off a weekend that had not been kind to me physically or mentally. These two hours and 16 minutes (more like three hours, seeing as we showed up super early to get decent seats) were going to make or break my Sunday.
Here is the brief version: it’s good. In fact it comes pretty close to great and gets better the more I think about it, which might necessitate a second viewing for me. TFA has its fair share of flaws, none of which come close to breaking it and itmore or less gives you everything you want from a new Star Wars movie. The new cast is awesome, the old cast is as awesome as you remember and the story has an appropriate “this is Star Wars” feel to it.
Good as it was, TFA didn’t blow me away; there are at least two scenes that got the whole theater clapping (me included) but otherwise I didn’t come out of it thinking I had seen some spellbinding masterpiece of cinema. The fan service starts to wear thin midway through. There’s at least one dramatic turn that is robbed of its heartbreak factor by how predictable it is. The story itself feels like a broad retelling of A New Hope and that’s before we reach the finale: an X-Wing flies through a trench to take out a planet destroying super weapon, which is protected by an energy shield that another group of characters have to take down, which is all taking place on a snowy, icy planet. Essentially, it’s the three big action set pieces from the original trilogy dropped into a blender.
This is where the cast comes into play, because without them, TFA is nothing special. It’s hard to put into words just how satisfying it is to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher slip back into Han and Leia mode, more so because of how well they mesh with newcomers Daisy Ridley (as new hero Rey), John Boyega (defecting Stormtrooper Finn) and Oscar Isaac (as ace pilot Poe Dameron). But the biggest standout of all is Girls star Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the villain of the piece. It’s impossible to talk much about Ren without revealing some major spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at this: he’s a radical departure from any Star Wars badguy we’ve seen before and I can’t wait to see how his story unfolds.
Weirdly enough, the movie TFA reminds me of most is this years’ Peanuts. They both do just enough things good enough to dance on the cusp of greatness, they both give audiences what they want and they both grow on you to the point where you desperately want to see them again. TFA leaves you hungry for more, which is the best possible feeling to have on this side of the first new Star Wars film in a decade.
Alright then. I guess there is now absolutely no need to go see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I mean, why the hell would you? WB pretty much gave us the gist of the whole movie within a span of three minutes. That and we already got this other movie about superheroes duking it out so I might as well save some wallet space and settle for one serving.
Guys, I’m kidding. It’s freaking Batman and freaking Superman in the same movie as freaking Wonder Woman. Of course I’m going to see this.
I know I shouldn’t say this before I watch the movie, but I despise Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. In fact, I hope Superman breaks his neck too and then throws 10 buildings on top of him just to make sure the job is finished. A franchise without this version of Luthor will totally be worth the legion of fanboys moaning about Superman killing a guy (again) and breaking a city (again).*
Ben Affleck is the highlight here. From the glimpses we get of him as Bruce Wayne, he walks the walk and talks the talk pretty damn well. He fills out the Batsuit comfortably and I like the Bat-voice so far. I’m pretty sure Affleck is the last thing we should worry about. Other positives: flying monster thingies that are probably Parademons (please yes because that means this guy), the Wonder Woman costume looks great and Henry Cavill might get to do something other than pout now that he’s in mild-mannered reporter mode.
As for Doomsday showing up, I could honestly take or leave the guy; I have no strong opinions regarding the rock monster that killed Superman. That reveal of Zod’s corpse (which pre-dates this trailer) meant some sort of mad science-birthed super monster was in the cards, because the trio is going to need a heavy to punch around for the finale once everyone inevitably becomes friends.
I’m still iffy as hell on this and this extended and pretty damn revealing trailer is yet another mixed bag of stuff I like and don’t like. We shall see on March 25.
*Kidding again. Superman should not do either of those things and I’m all for not repeating the mistakes of Man of Steel.