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How will Joss Whedon’s Batgirl fim influence the DCEU?

Batgirl-Evolution-featuredEverybody saw it. We all had to hit ourselves to see if we weren’t dreaming. Joss Whedon, the powerhouse that gave us The Avengers, has switched sides to DC to make a standalone Batgirl film. Why is this such a big deal? Because the man built the foundation that every studio is trying to emulate: he brought characters from box-office smashing films together into two mega films. He left Marvel on a bad-note with audiences understanding that he wasn’t able to bring his vision of The Avengers to life. Now the man has total control over a female-led superhero film. He can focus on creating a small, character-driven picture with a female superhero. The man has a knack for making funny, strong feminist characters to screen and Batgirl is a character that emulates all of that. Why else is that important?

The DCEU is still in Marvel’s shadow. Their films have been dark and brooding and have brought in much smaller box-office numbers. So what does Warner Bros. decide to do? They steal one of Marvel’s biggest names and give him full creative control to develop a character from the Bat-Family. Joss Whedon’s film will surely give a brighter light to the DC universe in the form of a female hero. Marvel are still behind in giving women and characters of minorities a lead in their films with Wonder Woman leading on that front. Batgirl could be another knockout blow on that front.

In addition? Nightwing and Batgirl are two properties DC have announced with names attached to their projects. Despite that The Flash, Cyborg and Man of Steel 2 films were announced long ago, they still don’t have names attached to direct. This leads me to believe that Warner Bros. are looking towards the Bat-Family to bring them critical and commercial success. Having Batgirl and Joss Whedon together is a formula for victory and I have no doubt that this character has the potential to be the new face of the DCEU just as Iron Man was for Marvel.

My only fear is that this project may not see the light of day. Joss Whedon hasn’t been officially announced and if Wonder Woman tanks I wonder if they’ll be confident enough to continue moving forward with this female-led superhero film. Regardless, I hope that this project moves forward soon. Let’s all cross our fingers!

Quick feature: X-Force characters don’t deserve Deadpool 2

caFor those unaware, there’s a rumor floating around that Fox are looking to cast X-Force characters Sunspot, Feral and Shatterstar for Deadpool 2. This is on top of Cable and Domino who’ve already been cast, as well as returning characters like Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Does this remind you of another movie?

Remember when we were all excited for a Man of Steel 2, after the fairly good predecessor? Then it was announced that the film would be called Batman v Superman. Great! We get to see the new incarnation of Batman after Bale’s fantastic trilogy. Then it was announced that the film would have the subtitle Dawn of Justice… Okay, okay. Might not be too bad. Wonder Woman will be a character alongside cameos of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. Then Lex Luthor was cast, and Doomsday was revealed. Now the movie is the embodiment of how NOT to do a comicbook film. For example, I’m discussing that RIGHT NOW.

The studio was simply too eager to set up a cinematic universe that would establish a bunch of heroes for new franchises. Now, we see Fox are trying to do the same. As I discusses in a previous post, Fox are doing superhero films right with fantastic single storylines that can tell great stories. Now, they’re looking to turn their sleeper hit franchise into a money-making machine that’ll spend too much screen time introducing characters we don’t need to meet yet.

If you really want X-Force to be a success, spend this movie solely with the likes of Cable, Domino and Deadpool. When fans see them in X-Force, people will pay to see the film when they’ve watched two fantastic films with Deadpool and one with Domino and Cable.

Understanding the controversy of Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’

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The original Ghost in the Shell film is one of my favorite films of all time, and certainly my favorite anime. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to hear that the film would be adapted in live-action. When I learned that a Caucasian woman would be playing the lead role? I didn’t really have a reaction, which says a lot about how this culture of whitewashing in Hollywood has become the norm and how it has become ingrained in my head. In the meantime, I’ve read a lot on the topic of sociology and watched as the world has changed and understood the value of representation in media. Regardless of the lore in the series, with AI and artificial bodies, I am extremely disheartened that this role has been passed to a white woman. But I understand why, and I think you all should too.

Ghost in the Shell isn’t a romcom, or some crime film set in New York. It is a story involving robots and artificial intelligence set in Japan in a dystopian future. It asks philosophical questions with themes including gender identity and sexuality. Even in our day where superhero films with Norse gods and raccoons make the most bank, Ghost in the Shell is still a hard-sell to film studios. Especially when the lead character is a woman. If you were a film producer with this film pitched to you, how willing would you be to splash out a ton of money to make a CGI-laden film based on a cult-film that can’t even sell toys to kids (a massive revenue stream for the likes of Disney-Marvel)?

So, thankfully, somebody said yes, and production was set to begin. Now, and this is where the trouble arises, casting begins. Again, stepping into the shoes of a producer, I want to stay faithful to the material by casting an Asian woman that will be able to sell this hard concept. Unfortunately, there is none. In fact, there are so few women in Hollywood who can sell a film anymore. Remember when Kill Bill came out? Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu, two of the biggest stars of the day battling it out on the big screen in a big action double-feature. Those were the days. Uma Thurman’s recent appearance in film, in ‘Burnt’, severely under-performed, even with Bradley Cooper starring. There’s maybe one woman who can sell an action movie and that’s Scarlett Johannson, with her recent film ‘Lucy’ doing very well at the box office.

You can argue that minorities could become A-list celebs that can sell movies if people actually took the chance to put them in leading roles. But studios don’t want to take that chance, especially with an expensive property like Ghost in the Shell. So now, maybe you want to argue that the fact that the producers wanted to use CGI to make Scarlett look Asian in the film. Well, you know what? It might sound insulting, but at least they tried. At least they tried to make the lead character look Asian to be faithful to the comics and pleasing to the fans.

I’m extremely disappointed that this is the way Hollywood has become (or, to some extent, always has been). I want to see women and all minorities represented on film. I want diverse stories to be told. Now, this year we have Ghost in the Shell and Wonder Woman leading the charge in 2017 with female-led stories. As for Ghost in the Shell? It didn’t do well at the box office at all. Maybe because movie-goers aren’t familiar with the film, or because of all the controversy surrounding the film. But if people actually went out to see the film, and gave them their cash, then maybe we’d see more female-led action films and even movies with minorities in them. But nobody wanted to take the chance with this film. Now, we’ll have to see how June’s Wonder Woman performs to guess how Hollywood wants to move forward.

Quick feature: Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 review

gotg2Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is pretty much what you expected. Poppy music, funny jokes and superb spectacle.

Unfortunately, it just isn’t as good as it’s predecessor. I felt like the film was trying to hit a check-list of everything the first film did right. In my view? The film should have done what the first film did, only in a different way – it should have taken risks. The first film featured a cast that wasn’t very bankable with characters only fanboys knew, set far away from The Avengers with a tone that was even more distant. Volume 2 threw so many jokes at you that not all of them could stick. In addition, too much screen time was given to Baby Groot who, we all know, was there just so Disney could sell more toys. The film certainly mirrored the first film, but the reflection just wasn’t as pretty.

However, the film did get a lot right though. Yondu was absolutely the stand-out character of the film, if not Nebula, who was underserved in the first film. Both performances emulated characters who were hard as nails, with a soft core inside. Kurt Russell’s performance as Ego was fantastic too. Ego is definitely one of the best Marvel villains in the cinematic universe, though that’s not saying much. Unfortunately, his story arc came to a disappointing and generic conclusion. Finally, while not all the jokes landed, a lot of them were very funny.

Overall, it definitely deserves a place among the top 5 Marvel films. It’s just disappointing because it had such opportunity to be better.

‘Suicide Squad’ fails its biggest star Harley Quinn

Written January 25th, 2016

Making a film based on the Suicide Squad as a foundation for a massive franchise carries a lot of risk; the film can draw viewers to see the wacky, more dangerous side of this superhero universe but it could detract moviegoers who aren’t familiar with these B and C-lister villains. That’s why I find this film so interesting: it’s not a superhero movie but rather a supervillain team-up starring characters who’s motives and agendas aren’t to save the world. Enter: Harley Quinn.

Harley Quinn is far and away one of the most interesting characters in the medium, and is one of the film’s leading characters. She is strong, brash and complex, not least because of her infatuation with The Joker. She is broken from her childhood abuse yet manages to rise from it to become a college graduate. However, the real reason she is so interesting is because she acts on her own agenda.

Harley Quinn’s origin is one of my favorites. While so many supervillains begin as small-time crooks, Harley Quinn instead was a brilliant and successful woman. She completed a doctorate degree in criminal psychology and managed to find work in the most prestigious hospital in Gotham. However, her  own definition of insanity and intense interest in order and chaos pushed her to work in the ultimate madhouse: Arkham Asylum. This is where she meets The Joker, and her life of crime begins.

Harley felt sympathy and compassion for The Joker, and began a fierce and violent relationship with him. She fell under his spell as The Joker said everything that Harley wanted to hear, manipulating the mental strain from her terrible childhood. Together, with her giant mallet in hand, they began sprees of crime across the city, leaving Batman and his Bat-family to stop them. This is why she is such a beloved character: she didn’t fall into this life of crime, she willingly walked toward it. She copied The Joker’s quirks and aesthetic because she loves him, and wants to join him because of her fascination with chaos and this man who embodies it. Even when she’s not going back and forth into The Joker’s arms, she’s kicking ass with Poison Ivy or leading the charge with the Suicide Squad.

And in one small clip found in the new ‘Suicide Squad’ trailer, all of that is lost. She’s still a badass and she still manages to stand out in this eclectic mix of uncanny characters and talented actors, but her agency is lost by The Joker. Instead of choosing this life of crime, she’s led into it. As seen in the trailer, The Joker is holding Harley as she lies in the vat of acid that The Joker surely fell into earlier in the film’s timeline. Her agency, her choices, were taken out of her hands and into The Joker’s. With that, she becomes less of her own character and more of another victim of this vicious Clown Prince of Crime.

I don’t mean to say I’m disappointed with this adaptation of the character. I think Margot Robbie is the greatest actress to portray her. I think that was impeccable casting. I still think she’ll steal the film. I’m just disappointed that she has to be another fantastic, incredible, amazing character that has to be some byproduct or invention of a male character. Additionally, though I’ll leave this short, I hate that she has to be sexualized for the male audience. She’s a feminine yet assertive woman, not sexy meat. Give it a fucking break.

What X-Men:Dark Phoenix needs to get right

darkAs I posted about previously, Fox is the studio that is pumping out the most high-quality productions with Deadpool, Logan and Legion. While that’s all well and good, with Deadpool staying well in sight with a sequel and his leading role in X-Force, we all want to see the primary team succeeding too. The stage is set for a great X-Men film with the core X-Men (Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm etc) ready to lead the film while we’re likely to see the conclusion of Xavier and Magneto’s story arc. What’s more, we’re about to see a real adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s classic storyline. With that said, there are a few things that need to be changed to ensure that this film can meet the quality of Logan and Deadpool.

  1. A new vision: I’m happy to hear that Bryan Singer will not be involved with this film. While he was the man who really brought box office success to superhero films I think his time has come. We need someone with a fresh perspective on the team and someone who can change these big X-Men films into something different than the typical superhero-fare, something different from a big baddie and a generic end-of-film fight-sequence (X-Men: Apocalypse). Personally, I’d like to see something with more pop-and-zing akin to Claremont and Byrne’s Uncanny X-Men run, or like the 90’s X-Men show. So far, the movies have been very grounded. For example, I want to see the Shi’ar Empire in the film without the acknowledgment of aliens existing becoming a big deal. Again, like the comics and show, I want the presence of aliens and places like the Astral Plane and The Savage Land being common-place. Go cosmic and grand without slowing the film down by helping the audience get accustomed to it. We’ve seen it happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Guardians of The Galaxy and The Avengers, along with the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. Don’t baby us about it.
  2. Focus – on characters, on a concise story: The best stories of any genre focus on characters, not on different plots. Logan was an essay on characters, relationships and character development and it might be the best X-Men related film ever made. It was smaller, far less epic in scale and only had a few main characters and it succeeded for it. Compare that to X-Men: Last Stand and it becomes ever clearer why Logan succeeded and why the X-Men films were rebooted. With a single storyline we will have more time to enjoy the plot and fall in love with the characters than we would if there were multiple plots thrown at us without enough time to digest them or see them to their conclusion. For example, X-Men: Last Stand juggled a Dark Phoenix story, a mutant ‘cure’, the issue of mutant rights among other plots. We didn’t even have enough time to properly mourn Xavier and Cyclops (then again, nobody was going to miss that Cyclops). If this is to be another reboot of the films, let it be the definitive and final one by giving us characters that we can’t wait to see again.
  3. Give us real stakes: A big flaw in Disney’s Marvel films are that there aren’t any real stakes. It’s hard to care about these characters when they’re saving the world if we know that their lives aren’t in any real danger. While we might see a death of a major character in Avengers: Infinity War, that’ll be after ten years since the birth of the film universe. While I’m not asking for this film to kill off a character that we were only just introduced to in X:Men Apocalypse, I’d like for some kind of scene that will make the Dark Phoenix  a true threat to the X-Men that will increase the gravity and magnitude of this cosmic and personal threat. This leads me to my next point that we’ll get to soon. Perhaps if we didn’t see any deaths, we should see Dark Phoenix do something horrific that Jean Grey will have to live and suffer with as she is no longer with the Phoenix Force.
  4. Give us a real threat past Magneto: Both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender have fantastically portrayed one of the most menacing and realest characters in any comicbook film. Magneto has always been a staple of the X-Men films, and for good reason – he might be a villain to the X-Men but he’s a character the audiences care for, and might even sometimes root for. He hurts people but we know that’s a causation of his troubled past in concentration camps and violence from people who hate mutants. He’s seen his wife and daughter killed before his eyes, and our hearts dropped for him. He fights the X-Men on a constant basis but he shows true compassion and respect for their leader. However, it’s time we moved on from him. Unfortunately, when we have, it’s been done but to an unsuccessful standard. While Deadpool and Logan are undoubtedly the best X-Men films their villains were sub-par. Even Days of Future Past’s villain, portrayed by the incredible actor Peter Dinklage, just wasn’t up to snuff. It’s time now for Fox to show off the X-Men’s incredible rogues gallery for what it is. This could be done really well in this new film. The Phoenix Force is a cosmic entity that possesses Jean Grey, Xavier’s star-pupil and Cyclops’ love interest. Together they become Dark Phoenix. This is a villain that can easily tug on the heart-strings of the X-Men as they adapt to fighting an incredibly formidable foe in the body of their team-mate and best friend. In addition, it could cause the team to band-together as they slowly become the team we’re used to in the comics and original trilogy.

In conclusion, I think it’s best if we shifted the tone of these films. Focusing on characters while giving us a more zany film might help to ensure that this film stands tall with Deadpool and Legion and might help audiences to fall in love with the X-Men again. This more pop-sci-fi approach might help us to forgive this timeline confusion. Furthermore, if we get accustomed to this new tone we could accept any ridiculous sci-fi method of having these X-characters meet the ones from other franchises (New Mutants, Deadpool & Cable) from other decades or timelines. Finally, and this is the most important part: this would make audiences accept the colorful and ridiculous costumes we’re so used to in the comics that the studio is so afraid to give us. We want them, we need them.

Quality and success, defined by Fox’s X-Men

xmenDisney’s Marvel films own the box-office. When they announce a date for a new film, studios flee by moving their pictures up or delaying their release. Who would want to compete with a film that could make a billion in box office receipts? Even Warner Bros. pushed Batman vs Superman so that it wouldn’t compete with Captain America: Civil War. But wait! Now we learn that Warner Bros. have stolen the father of their cinematic universe, Joss Whedon, to make a film for a member of the Batfamily that will guarantee them financial success. Disney and Warner Bros. are dominating our Twitter feeds with new trailers and TV spots so that they can take the money you’d rather spend on the competition’s products. But why should we care when the sleeping giant has finally woke up?

The X-Men aren’t the hottest topic right now. Marvel are trying to usher them out of their comics, they aren’t selling any toys or producing animate cartoons for kids and their film universe is just as difficult to understand as a Rubik’s cube is hard to solve. They aren’t making anywhere near as much money as the other Marvel properties are. But that’s for Fox to figure out. One thing they have figured out? Letting creators tell their own stories and showering us with gold. The quality of Fox’s X-Men output, regarding their most recent ventures in Deadpool, Logan and Legion far surpass the basic popcorn fun of Suicide Squad and Ant-Man or Civil War. Now, this is where they build their empire, and they know it.

The time for mature-storytelling in superhero films has come, and Fox are doubling-down. Logan and Deadpool are especially evident of this. They used their mature ratings to tell better character-driven stories unlike Warner Bros. who think of mature-storytelling as brooding and dark stories. Fox understood that Deadpool was a comicbook film. Warner Bros. forgot and let Superman become an allegory for Christ, and so their two biggest characters suffered for it. Deadpool and Logan saw fantastic returns and now Fox has seen the future. They’re rebooting (softly) their main X-Men franchise, their making a soft-horror film in New Mutants and are capitalizing on Deadpool’s success by letting him be a key player in X-Force, which will surely draw many viewers to the first film in a new X-franchise. So in 2018, with three new films locked and loaded, audiences will look for refuge from the copy-and-paste superhero films we’re used to.

That’s not even talking about Legion. Marvel just released it’s worst Netflix show Iron Fist and Agents of SHIELD has recently hit the worst ratings ever received for the show. As for Warner Bros., they’re doing fine but I think we all need a release from the basic cable television of their CW shows with unnecessary romance triangles, cheesy dialogue and poor SFX. Legion is a show about a nearly completely unknown character and it’s some of the best television I’ve watched in awhile.

I just hope their wallets are big enough to take all our money. There’s a quote that goes along the lines of ‘you succeed most when all the chips are down’. Just as we thought Fox were out of the game with X-Men: Apocalypse releasing a few years after the failure of a Fantastic Four reboot, here the Valkyries come to save us from the monotonous factory of copy-and-paste hero films. I can’t wait.

Why Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Damn’ outsold Drake’s ‘More Life’

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Kendrick Lamar and Drake are two of the biggest names in the music industry. They’re both battling for the coveted position of the top rapper in the game right now. If you were unaware, just listen to Kendrick’s verse on ‘Control’ or Drakes shots at Kendrick with “They gon’ say your name on them airwaves/They gon’ hit you up right after likes it’s only rap”. While fans will constantly argue over which rapper is the greatest, no Kendrick fan could deny that Drake has sold more albums. Well, until now.

Drake is a man who’s always on the tips of peoples tongues. He’s constantly in the tabloids, has a hot new romance or posts some controversial content on his social media. Kendrick is the opposite of this. So it becomes some big event in popular culture when Drake releases music. Everyone wants to be informed on what’s going on so they’ll feel obliged to listen to Drake’s new music. Of course this will push Drake’s numbers up on the Billboard chart than someone who doesn’t share these qualities. But this time? This time it’s different.

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Damn’ has made more numbers than Drake’s ‘More Life’, both having been released a month apart. But why? As stated previously, he knows how to bend media and the status quo to his ends. He’s worked on and developed his sound so much that the man can make pop gold with a flick of his wrist. Kendrick? His sound is darker and more brooding. Before ‘Damn’ he made a rap album with jazzy beats in ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. We wouldn’t even be comparing the two if he didn’t call Drake out on his ‘Control’ verse. But now things have changed, and Kendrick’s on top. But is there more to it than that?

Absolutely. Kendrick’s release was as straight-forward as it can get. He had a wide release of his album on a Friday. Typical. He even had a music video released before that. Drake on the other-hand? He calls ‘More Life’ a playlist and debuted it live on his radio OVO Sound intending for the music only to be consumed digitally. In addition, he released the playlist on a Saturday which has limited the number of days he can count toward the album’s first week.

This, however, shouldn’t discredit Kendrick’s accomplishments. What should really be discussed is the content of the album and the statements they’re trying to make with each song. That’s what will decide who the better MC is. In my mind Kendrick wins again with ‘Damn’ but what do you think? Comment below and let’s discuss.