Plot Pitch: 5 Things That Need To Be In David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!

Warner Bros. recently announced that David F. Sandberg, of Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation fame, would be directing a Shazam! movie for DC Films as part of their Extended Universe. It was also announced that it would be the next DC film going into production and that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would not be playing Black Adam in the movie as previously expected. So with that in mind, what elements need to be in the film? Here are five things that Warner Bros. needs to get right in order to make a successful Shazam feature.

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1. Magic Kingdom

The character of Shazam has always been tied to magic one way or another. By keeping the magical aspects of the character in the film, there is a lot of opportunity for Sandberg and co. to do some major world building that will help differentiate Shazam! from other films in the DCEU.

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2. No Crossovers

One thing that made Wonder Woman so much better than Batman v. Superman was that it didn’t worry about trying to fit in so many characters from the DC Universe. It was able to stand on its own as its own superhero movie without having to be confined to a certain continuity or a certain tone. It was able to define itself as its own film without needing to adhere to the same tone as Man of Steel and BvS. If Shazam! follows Wonder Woman’s lead, it can define itself as its own great film and break out of the box of the DCEU.

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3. Large Cast of Characters

One thing that the Shazam mythos relies on is the many allies and friends that Shazam has. Introducing these characters into the film would allow for some added drama in the film, and would also make for some interesting stories for any feature films. What works so well in the comic book source material is the occasional tension between Shazam’s supporting characters that provides some drama beyond just the hero fighting a handful of villains. That said…

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4. Don’t Worry About the Villains

Although Shazam has always had a fairly large rogues gallery, his villains have never been the focus of the comics the film will be based on. If Warner’s doesn’t shoehorn a bunch of villains into the movie, they can give the story of Billy Batson some room to breathe. Which brings us to…

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5. Pure Imagination

The greatest part of the Shazam story is the story of Billy Batson. At the beginning of his story, Billy is an orphan in the foster care system who just wants to turn 18 so that he never has to live in a foster home again. He hates bullies; he wants to stand up for the little guy; he wants to find his real family; but he’s not particularly nice to the people trying to help him, especially his new foster family. Then, one day, he gets to fulfill the dream that every child imagines: he gets magic powers and becomes a superhero. He is finally able to stand up for the little guy; he is finally able to fight the bullies he so deeply hates. And over the course of his adventures, he discovers the true meaning of family: family is what it can be, not what it should be. These elements of Shazam are essential to the movie. Without the heart and hope and wish fulfillment aspects of Shazam, the movie just wouldn’t be the same.

Those are our top 5 things that need to be in the Shazam movie. Did we miss anything? If you’ve got your own item you want to add, feel free to add your own comment to this post.

Slanted Review: Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan is out to reinvigorate the war movie genre with his latest cinematic outing, Dunkirk.

Anyone who has seen any Christopher Nolan film knows that he is never a straightforward director, and Dunkirk is no exception. While it is certainly more grounded in reality than something like Interstellar (since it is based on the true events that happened at Dunkirk in the second World War), that doesn’t mean that the film is less masterful. On the contrary, Dunkirk is truly a one of a kind film, and it stands out against other films in Christopher Nolan’s filmography just because of one thing: the action.

Similar to Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes, which came out a few weeks ago, Dunkirk does not rely on dialogue to drive the story forward.  But while Planet of the Apes used emotional beats in the story to drive the plot, Dunkirk instead relies heavily on the action. Whereas other movies in the “war” genre are more traditional movies, using mostly dialogue to propel the story, Dunkirk smartly uses the battles and tragedies on screen to tell its story. What really sets Dunkirk apart from other war movies is that it uses slower pacing and minimal dialogue to capture the feeling of a true war. Without much dialogue, things often feel out of control and chaotic onscreen, and there is a true sense of unpredictability that Nolan captures extremely well.

What also makes Dunkirk so unique is the way that the story is structured. Dunkirk does not tell the story of just one man or one group of men during the Battle of Dunkirk; it tells three separate stories of multiple different people during the events before and after the battle instead. This makes the film feel more real, adding to the unpredictability of the story. In this sense it is almost like 2001: A Space Odyssey: No one specific character advances the story, and the story is not so much a coherent plot as it is a series of events leading to one big climax. This only enhances the movie and makes Dunkirk feel extremely fresh, something that audiences seem to be yearning for nowadays.

Dunkirk is in theaters now and is rated PG-13.

Slanted Rating:

9/10- See it in theaters NOW. 

Slanted Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes (directed by Matt Reeves) is the third installment in the current Planet of the Apes series, and is without a doubt the one of the best Planet of the Apes movies to date.

What War for the Planet of the Apes does very well is propelling the story forward while using very minimal dialogue. With a few minor exceptions, the only main characters that actually speak are Caesar (played by the amazing Andy Serkis), the Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson), and Bad Ape (played by Steve Zahn). The movie feels interesting to watch because the viewer doesn’t spend so much time focusing on dialogue, they are mostly watching the action and excitement on screen. That said, what sets this Apes movie apart from all the other films in the series is not the action; it’s the heart.

While other Apes movies mostly rely on the action happening on screen, what War does is examine the emotions behind the actions on screen. When the actual war begins in the third act of the film, you feel the strong emotions behind Caesar’s actions and his motives. You feel almost empathy for the Colonel, and despite him being the “big bad” of the movie, you strongly feel the emotional reasoning behind his actions. There are many emotional scenes involving Nova, the little girl the Apes find early in the story, and Reeves does a fantastic job of using the camera to enhance the emotions captured on screen. Reeves obviously knows how to work the camera to produce interesting, beautiful looking shots that capture what’s happening in a way that is superior to other filmmakers.

What War for the Planet of the Apes truly excels at is playing high on the audience’s emotions, and using those emotions coupled with minimal dialogue to propel the story forward.

War for the Planet of the Apes is in theaters now and is rated PG-13.

Slanted Rating:

9/10- See it in theaters NOW!

Slanted Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (Spoilers!)

Spider-Man: Homecoming opened this past Friday and marks Sony’s sixth Spider-Man solo film and third attempt at a Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man has had a bit of a sketchy history when it comes to big screen adaptations of the character, so where did this latest crack at the story of Peter Parker rank among the rest? Well, it may be far from perfect, but the film winds up being the best and most faithful adaptation of the Spider-Man mythos to date.

[WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW]

Continue reading “Slanted Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (Spoilers!)”

How my unexpected Wonder Woman experience made the movie that much better 

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The first time I went to see Wonder Woman was about three weeks ago. I sat in the theater with my jaw dropped almost the entirety of the movie. I could not believe that a comic book property was being taken so seriously, being treated with such respect and made so well. Then, just as the breathtaking finale was about to start, as Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor made the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the world, disaster struck in the theater: the sound went out.

Of course, I was a bit disappointed, but not a whole lot. After all, I had still been able to see and hear nearly the entire film, and had still been able to see the action of Diana’s final, climactic battle with Ares. I knew I would see it again in one way or another, and figured that really, all I missed was some CGI punching and exploding. Boy was I wrong.

Naturally I went back to see it again in theaters a couple weeks later. After all, I thought it was a great film, and was excited to see it again. Catching the dialogue from the last 20 minutes would just be an added bonus. I sat, again, through the first couple hours of the film, loving it as much the second time around as I did the first. Then came the scene where the sound had gone out the first time I had seen the film. I have to admit, my heart started racing in the few seconds leading up to that particular moment, but I still didn’t think that anything particularly interesting would happen during that fight sequence. I’d seen dozens of cinematic superhero fights before. This one wouldn’t be all that different. Again, I was wrong.

What before was only Wonder Woman holding a tank over Isabel Maru was now a beautiful example of Diana’s compassion toward mankind. What once were random soldiers picking the wounded out of the rubble were now reflections of the goodness that lies within man. And what once was a simple shot of Diana walking out of the fire was now her short, simple, yet beautiful creed: “I believe in love.” This experience made a movie I already loved ten times better. It was, simply put, wonderful (pun intended).

Wonder Woman is on its way out of theaters, but is available for pre-order on DVD and digital.

 

Slanted Review: Baby Driver 

Baby Driver marks Edgar Wright’s fifth cinematic outing as a director, and it’s arguably his best feature film to date.

At first glance, and based on what the trailers show you, Baby Driver is a simple film. And, to be fair, it really is. The film follows Baby, a young getaway driver for a crew of unsympathetic thieves and murderers, and his quest to end his career as a driver. But once the film actually begins, you really realize that the brilliance of this movie has been drastically undersold.

Story wise, Wright tells the story of Baby wonderfully. Baby quickly becomes a sympathetic character, and one immediately finds themselves rooting for Baby for the whole movie from start to finish. The characters are witty when they need to be, and not once does a piece of dialogue ever feel out of place. The characters are also extremely complex. The evolution of certain characters, particularly the ones played by Kevin Spacey and John Hamm, from start to finish is a testament to the brilliance of Edgar Wright. That the characters change and grow (or in some instances deteriorate) through the whole film feels surprising at times but never out of place or forced. This shows just how well Wright has crafted these characters and gotten into their psyches to make their behaviors seem exciting but natural at the same time. The plot moves at a constantly exhilarating pace and not once does one find oneself bored in the middle of viewing this film. (This is also due in large part to Wright’s directing, but more on that in a bit.)

The performances from the cast members are, for the most part, phenomenal. Kevin Spacey’s performance as Doc, Baby’s “boss”, is outstandingly dry and nearly emotionless, but he still has a few emotional scenes and, as mentioned before, scenes that really build his character and change it in an exciting but natural way. Jamie Foxx’s performance is almost frightening at times, as he plays Bats: a hardened criminal who feels just as unpredictablely nutty as he does terrifyingly dangerous. Ansel Elgort completely strays away from his previous roles in cinematic adaptations of YA novels but delivers what is perhaps the greatest performance of his career so far. His performance as Baby makes you feel sympathetic for the title character, even when his decisions are not always the right ones. Some of the best scenes in the movie come when Baby is simply alone listening or lip-syncing to his music, and you can tell that Elgort is having massive fun in each of those scenes.  But what is perhaps the greatest performance in Baby Driver is that of Jon Hamm as Buddy. At the start of the film, Buddy is a character who, like the audience, feels almost sympathetic to Baby. At one point he even bonds with Baby over their love for music, only to later completely turn on Baby by the end of the film, and reveal himself to be a nasty, unsympathetic character, almost the complete opposite of Baby. Hamm’s performance as Buddy is not only a testament to how good of a writer/director Wright is, but also to how great of an actor Jon Hamm is.

Though the cast was wonderful and the story was great, what really shines through about Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s direction. Wright is commonly known as being a visionary director, but his work on Baby Driver shines above anything else he’s ever done. As you’ve probably heard by now either from social media or from the film’s marketing campaign, Baby Driver is set entirely to the music that Baby listens to while he drives. But just saying that is a complete understatement. Not only is the film set to his music, but every scene is completely choreographed to the music as well. There are entire fight sequences which feature fights that you would expect from an R-rated heist movie, but are made 10 times better because they are completely choreographed to the song playing in the background. Not once does a character so much as move outside of the beat of the song. At the start of the film also, as Baby is walking down the street with his headphones in, the lyrics of the song he is listening to are graffitied onto parts of the street, light posts and buildings, and Baby walks past each of them perfectly as the lyrics play. Having the actions of the characters match up perfectly with the rhythms and beats of the song turns what would initially feel like a messy fight into an interesting and viscous sequence. This may be the most ambitious thing that Wright has done in a film period, and this films is where his true directorial brilliance is illuminated.

If there are two things that Baby Driver is, it’s ambitious and cohesive. The story is solid; the performances delivered by the cast are each individually interesting; the direction is a true work of genius.

Baby Driver is rated R and is in theaters now.

Slant Rating: 9/10- See it in theaters NOW.