more adams, more perez

Two comics creators offer more of what super hero movies need

It’s been a rough few weeks for comic book lovers with the passing first of Neal Adams and then, just this past weekend, of George Perez. Both were artists whose work for both DC and Marvel Comics ranks among the best the comics industry has offered in the last 50 years and came to define how those characters were seen by the public.

Which makes it surprising that those interpretations have been so lacking in the shows, series and films featuring those characters.

Consider these covers below, some of the most iconic from the two artists.

Warner Bros. keeps thinking Batman needs to be darker and darker, more traumatized and more isolated from the world at large. But the Batman story told by Adams (and of course writer Dennis O’Neill) in many of their comics weren’t grim and bereft of hope or connection. They were big, bold super hero stories that had the Caped Crusader going up against a gleefully pranksterish Joker, getting into sword fights with R’as al Ghul and so on. Batman operated in public and was a hero.

Similar problems plague other heroes, notably Superman and Wonder Woman. On film recently both characters have become known more for wringing their hands over the moral implications of using their powers than actually using their powers. Filmmakers keep wanting to “reinvent” them for modern audiences, which means loading them down with all kinds of constraints, making them feel bad every time they do anything and spending more time debating among themselves than being heroic.

Contrast that with the kinds of stories Adams, Perez and their contemporaries were telling, stories that had them punching aliens threatening the Earth, fighting against mech-suited human villains and more, all while fully embracing their powers. These were bright, colorful comics featuring some of the greatest art in the industry’s history.

But on screen, we keep getting desaturated colors, blotchy digital lighting and 20 minute interludes featuring messianic symbolism.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The push to make Batman increasingly damaged and serious is an extension of DC’s attempt to reclaim the character from the camp portrayal seen in the “Batman” TV series of the 1960s. That makes some sense, but the over-correction since The Dark Knight Returns now makes Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman seem bright and optimistic compared to Zack Snyder’s Batman, who was ready to unquestioningly destroy Superman because of the potential threat he posed. And someone seems to have decided that making Superman and Wonder Woman – a nearly all-powerful alien and Amazon demigod, respectively – more human was the key to making them popular with modern audiences.

Interestingly, while WB’s heroes continue to largely operate in the shadows and fall victim to all-too-human conditions, Marvel’s big screen heroes are more of the big, public pantheon of god-like beings DC’s comic characters have historically been presented as on the page.

Part of this may be a desire to set the DC films apart from Marvel’s stylistically. But it’s gone too far, and the celebrations of the work for Adams and Perez should be a call to WB to go in a new direction.

Make a super hero movie where the characters are proud of their powers and use them to help the less fortunate.

Have Batman fight a Joker who’s not a deranged incel terrorist but one who unleashes a bunch of mutated fish on Gotham City because he’s an insane clown.

Have Wonder Woman fight Giganta as she rampages through the city, inspiring little girls and using a consistent and non-confusing set of powers.

Have Superman go into space to fight a mech-suited Lex Luthor in Mongul’s battle arena, breaking kryptonite chains and embracing his assumed role as humanity’s protector.

In short: Make movies like the comics everyone remembers as among the best ever produced.

life lessons from: kids on the hall: brain candy

There are a number of great things about the trailer for the new season of “Kids in the Hall” coming to Amazon Prime Video May 13th. Lots of familiar characters are seen, with new twists that bring them up to date for 2022.

The best thing, though, may be that it uses Don Roritor (Mark McKinney) and his corporate toady Marv (Dave Foley) from the hilarious 1996 comedy Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy as the framing device through which to discuss the Kids’ return to sketch comedy and highlight what’s new.

If you’re not familiar with Brain Candy, you’re likely not alone. It grossed a paltry $2.6 million at the U.S. box office and was not well-received by critics at the time. In part that’s the result of a production marred by the fact the troupe was already well into its dissolution at the time and wasn’t on the same page creatively.

Despite that, Brain Candy serves as a worthy cap on Kids in the Hall’s run and has not only some very funny bits but also a pretty good science fiction story with, as we’ll see here, a number of important lessons for you to apply to your everyday business and personal lives.

For when you know what your product is and won’t have anyone weighing in with their useless opinions.

This is a drug… for the world… to give worms to ex-girlfriends.

For when the latte with 12 customizations you ordered at Starbucks turns out just perfectly, giving you exactly the emotional boost you were hoping for.

This urine is great!

Kids In The Hall Brain Candy GIF by MOODMAN - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when you refuse to be criticized by those who are clearly your intellectual inferiors.

It was only a couple of flipper-babies!

For when you just can’t muster up the emotional energy for small talk.

So I hear dad’s dead. Hey, is that egg nog?

For when other people just aren’t doing their jobs and you make it clear things need to happen or there will be consequences.

Are we ever going to get the big table in here or do I have cut down the F*#*ING tree myself?

who are the pentaverate?

There’s something missing here…

Yesterday Netflix released the first teaser trailer for “The Pentaverate” an upcoming series created by Mike Myers in which he also plays eight of the characters.

The official description of the series reads thusly:

What if a secret society of five men has been working to influence world events for the greater good since the Black Plague of 1347? As this new series begins, one unlikely Canadian journalist finds himself embroiled in a mission to uncover the truth and just possibly save the world himself. Remember, the Pentaverate must never be exposed!

That description, and most of the press surrounding the trailer’s release, made sure to note how many characters Myers was playing (something he’s done frequently) but few called out that this is an expansion of the So I Married An Axe Murderer Cinematic Universe. Specifically this scene where the idea of The Pentaverate, a secret Illuminati-esque organization that runs everything in the world…*including* the newspapers.

(Personal note: This is a scene I quote frequently and which few people around me understand or recognize.)

It’s unclear whether or not the series will indeed tie into the movie in any real way or if Charlie MacKenzie, the character Myers played in the film, will make an appearance.

If not, it’s a missed opportunity to remind people that SIMAAM is quite funny, even if Myers has a reputation for being difficult to work with.

Even better, we should catch up with Charlie’s brother William, otherwise known as “Heed.”

top obi-wan movie moments (obi-wan kenobi series trailer)

In honor of the original grumpy old Jedi

For those of us who grew up with *only* the Original Star Wars Trilogy, no character more epitomized the Jedi Order that was then Obi-Wan Kenobi as played by Sir Alec Guiness. He was nearly the sole connective thread between the era of Luke Skywalker and the Clone Wars, offering a handful of tantalizing hints about what happened before the rise of the Galactic Empire.

All of that was expanded in the Prequel Trilogy, when Ewan McGregor took on the role of a much younger Obi-Wan who evolves over the three films from confident but still obedient Padawan to seasoned Jedi Master.

Now, in honor of the release of the trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” that takes place between Episodes III and IV, here are some of my personal favorite Kenobi moments from the movies. (For the purpose of conciseness, I’m not delving into the “Clone Wars” series, but it has a great number of outstanding Obi-Wan moments.)

It’s also worth noting that Guiness was 63 when Star Wars came out, and McGregor is currently 50. “Kenobi” takes place ~12 years before the events of A New Hope so…the timing kind of works out.

Ben’s Not Telling Us Something

From: Star Wars

Guinness leaning back and stroking his beard in the middle of telling Luke about his father and the Clone Wars hints at there being a *lot* that’s on his mind but which he’s choosing to omit from the story. But why?

Pondering Episode 4 GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

Sassy Obi-Wan is Sassy

From: Revenge of the Sith

There are a number of moments, particularly from RotS, that could have fit in this category, but this is one of the first in the movie and sets the tone for how the character has grown more comfortable with himself and his partner Anakin over the course of the Clone Wars.

This Is Going To Be Easy Revenge Of The Sith GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

Amused at the Subterfuge

From: Phantom Menace

First let’s stipulate that the most amusing part of TPM is tracking which shots were part of principle photography and which were pickups based on McGregor’s hair. That being said, the look he gives after Padme reveals herself is fantastic, a counter to the continued stoicism of Qui-Gon Jinn, who doesn’t do much more than raise an eyebrow.

Ewan Mcgregor GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ooo…Burn, Ben

From: A New Hope

“These guys are idiots.”

Also, even with his hood down he still out-acts everyone else who appeared in any movie that year.

Episode 4 Jedi GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

One With the Force

From: Revenge of the Sith

This moment perfectly epitomizes how skilled Obi-Wan has become as he leaps into a situation with impossible odds stacked against him, fully knowing he has the abilities to win the day.

Revenge Of The Sith Hello GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

There are more, of course, but these are the ones that jump out as being representative of just what kind of character Obi-Wan is and how, over the course of six movies, he both grows and remains the same.

random thoughts on: “hawkeye”

I’ve got some things to say about The Avenging Archer’s streaming series.

As has likely been previously stated on multiple occasions, I’m a long-standing old-school fan of Hawkeye, having made my comic-collecting bones with the original West Coast Avengers series.

So, despite never really loving Jeremy Renner’s take on the character in the MCU (outside of a handful of small moments), I was still excited when Marvel Studios announced Hawkeye would get a streaming series on Disney+. And I was even more excited when it came out Hailee Steinfeld would play Kate Bishop, who in the comics adopted the Hawkeye name when Clint Barton was killed during the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline.

As such I have a number of thoughts now that the series finale has aired. Spoilers after the all-time great cover art.

Still with me? OK, let’s dive in.

It’s a very enjoyable show. I still have my issues with Renner’s performance, especially since he spends half the show apologizing to someone, largely for things that were outside of his control. But Steinfeld’s exuberance, Florence Pugh’s return as Yelena Belova and more make up for it in a lot of ways. It’s a nice mash-up of elements from the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye comics series that essentially rebooted the character as well as the previous MCU films. There are plenty of surprises, lots of action and some great dialogue. And hey, we get to see Pizza Dog on screen, so it can’t be all bad.

Golden Retriever Pizza GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

My main issue with the show is that it is premised around Avengers: Endgame existing, which isn’t a great place to start.

Renner finally has someone to play off, which improves things dramatically. In the movies to date he’s usually relegated to group scenes, which means he gets lost in the clutter because he’s not as dynamic a personality as some of his costars. If the show had doubled down on putting Clint and Kate into something even more Running Scared-esque it would have been even better.

Hailee Steinfeld Hawkeye GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

On the topic of some supporting characters:

  • Knowing the comics history, I’m surprised we didn’t get a bigger payoff for Tony Dalton’s Jack Duquesne. As the series went on I imagined two or three different ways that could go but it just kind of fizzled out.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, thank the maker Linda Cardellini’s Laura Barton finally got some backstory and character development. The underuse of Cardellini to date has been criminally negligent, and if she is who I (and many others online) think she is, I couldn’t be happier.

Florence Pugh for the win in all of her scenes. Give me a six-part series of her and Steinfeld just talking about places to visit in New York City.

Excited Mac And Cheese GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

We still haven’t seen Clint’s MCU origin story. Every other Avenger has had one, often in their own standalone movie. Even Natasha’s beginnings have been shown via flashback in a handful of movies. But we still don’t know how Clint got to the point where we meet him in Thor or The Avengers.

Now you can say that watching someone learn how to shoot an arrow really well isn’t that interesting, but in the comics his story is much more complex than that (and involves a character from the show). And without it we don’t know what his motivations are. Why did he join SHIELD? Where did he hone his skills?

The lack of backstory is one of the reasons I’ve never been fully on board with MCU Clint Barton. Comics Clint is not only a bit of a hothead but also kind of a flim-flam man, scamming himself out of as many situations as he shoots himself out of.

  • Avengers West Coast Epic Collection: How The West Was Won – Get the original mini-series, the start of the ongoing and more in a collection of stories that are as much about overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome as they are about super heroics. Roger Stern and Steve Engleheart write some fantastic comics here.
  • Avengers: Hawkeye – This edition collects Hawkeye’s first solo series, a mini from 1983, that includes the story of how he met the SHIELD agent known as Mockingbird and how he lost partial hearing, something that’s finally integrated into the on-screen character.
  • West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast – Kelly Thompson’s 2018 WCA series is lots of fun, paying homage to the original while featuring the Kate/Clint dynamic that’s introduced by Fraction/Aja. Speaking of which…
  • Hawkeye by Fraction & Aja: The Saga of Barton and Bishop – This edition collects the whole of that series, which sets up much of what comes later and heavily influenced the style of the show.
  • Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain – You can’t understand Clint Barton without also understanding Bobbi Morse, so pick up Chelsea Cain’s excellent Mockingbird solo book while you’re at it.

Of course if you want to be a completist, don’t miss out on the additional volumes that come after what’s listed below. There are also a number of other great Hawkeye – either Clint or Kate – collections of other mini-series and solo outings, but the list here should give you a good starting point.

random thoughts on: tick…tick…boom!

A few things I thought about after watching the musical biopic on Netflix…

There are a lot of feelings I have about Tick…Tick…BOOM!, on Netflix now. In no particular order:

We need more entries in the “inspirational biopic” genre that aren’t about sports stars or company founders. Those are played out and serve largely to reinforce pursuits that are fine but are already emphasized by parents, teachers, guidance counselors. Let’s see more movies about musical theater lyricists, oddball artists, struggling actors and others with more artistic sensibilities.

Basically, we’re worn out STEM and sports as sources for these stories, so let’s give the arts and humanities – the kind who are bullied and tormented by kids in those other categories – crowd a turn.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched “Sunday” from the movie on YouTube. The piece is incredible in and of itself, a great Sondheim homage, but director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s decision to fill the movie version with some of the great performers of Broadway gives it exactly the emotional heft it deserves. And it’s ridiculous how smoothly Andrew Garfiled glides through the number.

Miranda’s directorial debut is remarkable self-assured, confident of where the camera is placed, where it’s pointing and what it’s capturing. It likely helps that this is in a genre he’s already familiar with, but film and theater are still very different. I’m going to assume his work on In The Heights and other recent movies helped him pick up some pointers and tricks to aid this transition.

Speaking of which, Miranda is really carving out a niche for himself of stories about writers who feel they’re running out of time.

The central tension of the story isn’t anything romantic or professional, it’s that Jonathan Larson knew how his story began and ended but needed to figure out an actual plot reason to get from Point A to Point B and this is the most relatable thing I’ve seen on film in like decades.

There’s a featurette where the cast talk about filming the “Boho Days” sequence where one says Garfield really explored the space and yeah, that’s clear. He moves around like someone who’s been choreography all his life.

On that note, I would have put my money on Tom Holland being the first on-screen Spider-Man to show up in a movie musical, but I’m not mad it was Garfield.

Paramountnetwork GIF by Lip Sync Battle - Find & Share on GIPHY

No wait, I’ve watched this video of Alexandra Shipp and Vanessa Hudgens performing “Come To Your Senses” more than “Sunday.”

random thoughts after rewatching the x-men movie series

[extreme stefon voice] This series has everything… [/extreme stefon voice]

Looking for something pleasant and familiar to watch in the background recently I decided to dive back in to the X-Men film franchise, beginning with the 2000 original and running through 2019’s Dark Phoenix but not including the Deadpool, Wolverine or New Mutants off-shoots.

Some of the movies like X-Men and X2: X-Men United I’d watched a number of times. Others, including The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix, I’d only seen once before. But watching all seven of the core franchise films was a fascinating experience, especially given how the primary narrative around many series these days is how planned and connected everything is.

the movies themselves

First let’s talk about the movies themselves and how they hold up.

X-Men: It’s a little surprising how creaky this movie feels over 20 years after it came out. There’s some good stuff in here, of course, but all the flaws that were apparent in 2000 (Halle Berry being given nothing to do, wooden performances from Paquin and others) are even more so today. Of course the Stewart/McKellan scenes are still great, and Joss Whedon’s script-doctoring saves more than a few scenes.

X-Men Wolverine GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X2: X-Men United: Still a slick, impressive sequel that improves on almost every aspect of the original. Janssen is a standout for how much more assured her character is, and the addition of Nightcrawler and a couple other characters, especially Brian Cox as William Stryker, helps spread the action a bit and adds some depth to the universe. It also has an all-time great ending that’s completely undermined by the lackluster…

Ian Mckellan Magneto GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: The Last Stand: It’s the worst of the original trilogy but, upon further review, not the worst of the overall series. That being said, it is simply bad in just about every respect, from Brett Ratner’s directing to Hugh Jackman being openly bored to how it abjectly fumbles the Phoenix storyline. Ratner is borderline amateurish and isn’t helped by a script that is a perfect example of how to jump from plot point to plot point without earning or validating each step. I mean…if you cut Kelsey Grammer reciting the St. Crispin’s Day speech while wearing blue fur and makeup, what kind of filmmaker even are you?

X-Men: First Class: The tightest of the seven movies by a fair margin, thanks in part to director Matthew Vaughn’s knack for pacing while also sprinkling in solid character moments. Yes, there’s a bit of fluff here and there and I still can’t tell you what the names of half the characters are because they’re so incidental, but it all keeps moving and it doesn’t matter. Where the previous movies had Stewart and McKellan the easy professionalism, this one has McAvoy and Fassbender offering more kinetic performances as Xavier and Magneto, setting the tone for the whole film.

First Class Students GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: Days of Future Past: What even is the point of this movie? Upon rewatch I have to say it’s the worst of the series because of how convoluted and messy it is. Nothing makes any sense, none of the performances are coherent or mean anything. This all despite it introducing Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in one of the best sequences of the entire series. It’s particularly marked by Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence both already looking like they regret the contracts they signed.

GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: Apocalypse: For whatever reason this entry held up slightly better than it has in the past, but it’s still all over the place and, for as long as it is, doesn’t amount to much. Aside from the fact it’s hard to take Apocalypse seriously when you see his leather pants wrinkle and stretch, the worst thing you can say about it is that it’s forgettable. Also, the very cool reveal of the X team in something akin to their classic uniforms at the end goes absolutely nowhere because the story then jumps another 10 years and they’re in their New X-Men costumes by the time you get to…

Olivia Munn Apocalypse GIF by X-Men Movies - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Better on second viewing than it was initially but still there’s so much going on that defies belief or explanation:

  • It’s remarkable that, given the opportunity to not make the same mistake twice, writer Simon Kinberg does just that. I’m talking specifically about having the story involve Xavier intentionally putting a mental block in Jean Grey’s mind to keep her from accessing her full power. It was more than a little problematic in 2005’s Last Stand and it’s even more so in 2019.
  • Because of that, the storyline plays very much like “men are afraid of powerful women because as soon as they’re no longer under men’s control they will destroy the world.” Which was not the point of the original Dark Phoenix story. Even the animated series did a better job.
  • Jennifer Lawrence is so checked out it looks like she’s wearing a Party City Mystique costume. And that’s before she dies in the first act.

Dark Phoenix Ok GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

other random observations

It’s honestly remarkable that they made seven X-Men movies, three Wolverine movies, two Deadpool movies and one New Mutants movie and never once actually addressed the issue of civil rights, prejudice, racism or any of the other themes that were the whole damn point of the comic books.

The series really offers the full range of potential performance types, including but not limited to:

  • Casual Elegant (Stewart, McKellan)
  • Trying So Hard (Rose Byrne)
  • Bored Bored Bored (Hugh Jackman in Last Stand)
  • Totally Not Paying Attention (Evan Peters)
  • Scenery Chewing (Brian Cox in X2)
  • Mugging For the Camera Because You Die Offscreen (James Marsden, Last Stand)
  • Actively Plotting Your Agent’s Demise (Fassbender in Apocalypse)
  • Owning It (Kevin Bacon, First Class)

It’s even more the polar opposite of the MCU in so many ways than the DC films. In the MCU the characters are almost always in motion. By comparison in the X-Men movies characters spend large chunks of each movie standing stock still and engaging in mid-tempo dialogue.

Also, the MCU movies are almost all examples of characters over story. The plots are largely the same (especially for the solo origin stories) but that doesn’t matter because the characters are out in front. The X-Men movies are all story and the characters fall to the wayside, given little to do but endlessly explain to each other what the story is.

You do have to respect, though, how so much of the action and stunt work in the movies is done practically instead of through elaborate CGI, as is the cast in almost every other super hero film since 2002.

Frequently reminded of how there was an X-Men Origins: Magneto in development at one point.

How do you not get Emma Frost right? How?

I don’t know who to feel more sorry for, the actress who played Kitty Pryde in the first two movies and then got pushed out for Elliot Page, or Elliot Page who’s given nothing to do in Apocalypse but grunt in Hugh Jackman’s face?

Poor Olivia Munn.

Poor…well…every actor playing a female character because clearly no one involved was interested in the female characters.

By my count, the U.S. government goes back and forth from fear to acceptance to fear of the X-Men like five times and that’s just in the four First Class-era movies.

No, seriously, like 45% of each of the movies is the characters just standing in a line together.

Like everyone else, I’ve tried my best to make the timeline of all seven movies work but it can’t be done. It just can’t.

let’s see these avengers stories come to the mcu

I have some strong opinions on this subject.

With tickets finally going on sale for Black Widow, coming out July 9th, the wait is almost over and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to return to the big screen for the first time in two years. That extended period of time, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, is the longest fans have had to wait since the two years between Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (not counting The Incredible Hulk, which I’m not).

Of course the MCU has not been completely silent, with Disney+ series like “WandaVision”, “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and most recently “Loki” not only trying to quench fan thirst for more stories in this universe but also doing varying amounts of heavy lifting to set up the direction of the MCU’s future.

And that future is about to arrive with a crashing wave, again thanks to consolidated release schedules in part necessitated by pandemic-related delays. Three more movies — Shang-Chi, Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home — will all come out before the end of 2021, with “What If…”, “Ms. Marvel” and “Hawkeye” series also coming to Disney+ in the next six months.

While it seems The Avengers, at least as the team has been traditionally defined, will be less of a priority for the MCU following the conclusion of the last set of films, this coming influx of series and movies has me thinking about a few of my favorite Avengers comics stories that haven’t yet been adapted but really need to be.

Secret War

Not only is this a great spy caper – something that would be welcome in the MCU instead of a constant barrage of bigger, more violent CGI battle sequences – but it uses a solid mix of characters that would bring together a number of elements of the universe. If the movie used the same team as Brian Michael Bendis’ 2004 mini-series, it would provide a great platform through which to bring together some of the disparate elements of Marvel’s multimedia approach prior to the launch of Disney+.

Specifically, the core team from the series could include:

From the Official MCU: Captain America, Black Widow and Spider-Man

Even though Cap is Steve Rogers in the comic, there’s no reason it couldn’t be Sam Wilson. Sony would, of course, have to be open to lending on Spidey one more time. And Widow’s involvement would depend on the setting of the story, unless there’s some big twist coming in her upcoming solo movie.

Also, the comics provided the transition from Nick Fury to Maria Hill as the head of SHIELD, so let’s make that happen.

From the Netflix and ABC Shows: Luke Cage, Daredevil and Quake

We’re still, if I haven’t lost count, in the period where Marvel Studios can’t do anything new with these characters. When that window closes (assuming it hasn’t already) it would be great to bring them back in the same incarnations we saw in the various Marvel Netflix series. The connections between those shows and the MCU was always tenuous to barely existent, but let’s just cut out the dithering and go all-in here.

Similarly, bringing Daisy Johnson/Quake into the fold after being introduced on “Agents of SHIELD” would make a lot of fans happy.

From Fox Properties

What Marvel Studios’ plans for the X-Men after the Disney/Fox merger haven’t been revealed yet, but Wolverine was part of the team in the comic series, so this story would be a good platform for introducing full-on mutants with a fan-favorite character.

“Death and Texas / The Day Death Died”

Let’s be honest and admit that if the MCU has failed in any significant way, it’s in not recognizing that the West Coast Avengers were *actually* the best comics Avengers team. To date, though, that team hasn’t been part of the world-building of the franchise, and we’re the poorer for it.

That being said, the crossover between the west and east coasters in West Coast Avengers Annual #2 and Avengers Annual #16 would make an amazing movie.

The story starts with the two teams playing a softball game, as they began doing in the previous years’ crossover. This time the game is interrupted by The Grandmaster, who forces two Avengers – one from each team – to fight each other. Then they must face off against deceased Avengers, adding even more emotion to the conflict.

Of course to really pull it off, the concept of the West Coast Avengers needs to be introduced, but that should happen anyway. The Grandmaster, as played by Jeff Goldblum, could appear as if he had survived the outcome of Thor: Ragnorak, and it would finally pay off the teasing of “Death herself” from the mid-credits sequence of 2012’s The Avengers.

Avengers Under Siege

Here’s an opportunity to bring some of the villains to the forefront. The story, originally published in 1986, has the Masters of Evil taking over Avengers Mansion, with the heroes dealing with the emotional toil of having their home invaded. It’s not only a very good hero story but also one that explores the idea that the heroes don’t win every time, albeit with lower stakes than something like Endgame.

It’s alright if you want to ignore Dr. Druid, but the rest of the team’s lineup at the time would allow for bringing Monica Rambeau’s Captain Marvel — introduced in the “WandaVision” series — into the fold and having Black Knight make an appearance, adding a fun mystical element to the universe.

(bonus: Both “Under Siege” and the Avengers/WCA crossover mentioned above are included in the Avengers: Under Siege Epic Collection trade, so definitely pick that up.)

Any other suggestions?

an appreciation of the best sequences in: sneakers

My voice is my passport…

A quote attributed to filmmaker Howard Hawks contains the assertion that the secret to a good movie is that it contains “three great scenes and no bad ones.”

By that measure, 1992’s Sneakers is not just a good movie but among the greatest of all time. To prove that point, here are five of the best sequences in the film, written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starring Robert Redford, Mary McConnell, Sidney Portier, Ben Kingsley, David Straitharn, Dan Ackroyd and River Phoenix.

Bishop becomes an honorary blind person

The back and forth between Redford and Straitharn here is remarkable as Bishop, with Whistler’s help, realizes he remembers more details than he originally thought.

Calling Mr. Abbott

It’s the countdown as well as the visuals of the connections being made that adds substantial tension to what in other movies would be a standard scene of the good guys trying to get more information from an unseen character.

Figuring out the black box

It’s not just the giddiness of a bunch of hackers figuring out a new toy, it’s that moment where Whistler’s glasses reflect a sudden flood of data indicating they’ve finally made the right connection.

Posit / Consequence / Result / Conclusion

The reunion of Bishop and Cosmo is the midpoint highlight, the moment the first half of the story has been building toward and it doesn’t disappoint, especially not since it finally gives Redford and Kingsley an opportunity to play off each other.

Breaking into the office

Redford doesn’t get enough credit for being an incredible comedic talent, but he is, and his side of the conversation about how to defeat an electric keypad on an office door proves that definitively.

Of course this is just a partial list. The movie is filled with top-notch 2-3 minute sequences filled with humor, tension and music, the latter composed by James Horner with appearances by Branford Marsalis. It starts with the opening flashback of a young Martin and Cosmo, thankfully made before studios discovered the technology to de-age actors.

You can find the movie on most rental services as well as HBO Max and, I presume, your local library.

Random Thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Let the airing of grievances commence.

Well, it’s here, and it’s been long enough that most people who wanted to have likely already watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the official title for The Film Previously Known As The Snyder Cut.

As such, it’s time to finally share my random thoughts after watching the…film?…just to put it out there for discussion. So, in no particular order:

About the Movie Itself

This is exactly what I would have expected from a movie fans demanded. It plays like a collection of scenes the members of a message board wrote, with no cohesive material making them into a whole.

It’s easy to see most of what’s new compared to the theatrical version, but at no point is there an answer as to “why” things are different.

The one improvement over the theatrical version is Cyborg’s story actually has some sort of point, but even that is sketchy. Still, it’s better than it was.

It once more needs to be noted, especially since we just watched Wonder Woman 1984, how different the Amazons are clothed in this movie compared to Patty Jenkins’ films. The latter look like warriors, the former like the worst stereotype of female video game characters.

While Henry Cavill’s face in the theatrical cut was certainly disturbing, at least it gave us a Superman that occasionally smiled, something completely missing from Snyder’s previous movies.

The Martian Manhunter bits make zero sense.

The Martian Manhunter ending makes less than zero sense.

The Martian Manhunter bits mean Henry Lennix’s previous appearances as General Swanwick make zero sense. Zero.

Mera: “Your mother would have been responsible for following Steppenwolf to the surface, Arthur, but also let’s sit here and have a leisurely conversation about the burden of parental legacy while you stick your hand in the water like a four year old at a shopping mall fountain.”

Can anyone explain to me what the point of all those random supporting character introductions was? I mean, great, that’s Iris West, but it doesn’t go any further. Same with Mera. And Lois Lane. Oh, hey, I think I’m figuring out a connection.

At one point someone is asking Dr. Stone about an item that has gone missing from a high-security lab with multiple government contracts dealing with items of alien origin. Stone says “Oh yeah, we just kind of lost track of that.” and the investigator shrugs and moves on like this wouldn’t bring the entire operation to an immediate halt.

Steppenwolf and Darkseid are idiots. The former came to Earth, lost the Mother Boxes to a bunch of Atlanteans and Amazons in the Battle of Helm’s Deep and retreated. Then he comes back looking for the Mother Boxes and fights a bunch of Atlanteans and Amazons. When he calls Darkseid he’s like “Hey, I think this is the same place we lost that big battle eons ago…”

On a related note, Darkseid’s inclusion in this cut was a major selling point in the campaign and something folks were super-anxious about. But he’s barely in it, and the one moment that seems as if it might turn into a confrontation with the heroes instead becomes a staring contest.

Does every scene actually require a six-minute establishing shot?

Sure, taking out the Russian family that needs to escape from the battleground is an improvement, it also means there’s no context to the fight, but that’s par for the course.

I’m actually a bit surprised some of the jokes remained, assuming they had been Whedon’s contributions.

How much more objectivist nihilism could you fit into a single movie? None. None more.

The chapter titles are insulting and ludicrous, mostly because they imply the existence of an actual story, which is inaccurate.

Oh, you fridged Lois in the Knightmare epilogue in order to make Superman even more of an angry worldwide terror who apparently is hunting down his former friends and teammates? How original.

Four hours, $70 million dollars and not only are there

  • Scenes in the trailer that didn’t make the final version, including one that seemed to be the main point of one spot in particular, but also
  • Snyder’s already out there complaining about the rules WB put in place regarding what could or couldn’t be included and what additional scenes he shot despite those rules knowing they would be cut. So now there’s even more gristle for conspiracy-minded individuals to chew on.

About the Movement That Birthed It

Of course it took less than a week for “fans” to demand that Snyder now be restored as the captain of the DCEU. Even Neville Chamberlain would have known this appeasement wouldn’t work.

Along those same lines, I’m completely unsurprised by the renewal of the #RestoreTheAyerCut movement, seeking to restore some version of Suicide Squad that might be better than what hit theaters.

A black and white version? Who was asking for that?

If you’re wondering what this means for the future of film, it’s simple: Anything less than exactly what has dominated the fever dreams of angry trolls will not be tolerated. We’ve already seen that in various ways.

“Just let people enjoy things” only seems to be said regarding massive international IP releases and not about movies like Small Axe, Promising Young Woman or others.

It’s remarkable we got through the movie’s entire hype cycle without revisiting Ezra Miller’s filmed assault of a fan from 2020.