Robert Pattinson is Batman!

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Yesterday’s CW Batwoman trailer declared very definitively, in a cringey opening monologue, that “The Bat’s not coming back” – well, that might be true enough for the CW network, which ignores DCEU continuity. In their alternate universe, Batman has left Gotham City and is thought to be dead.

But guess what? The DCEU ignores CW continuity (and sometimes their own continuity) too, so yesterday they revealed that, no, the Bat actually is coming back. And he’ll be played by Robert Pattinson.

The DCEU has always had a problem with having to recast many of their lead actors every so often – their latest Superman, Henry Cavill, is out, and their last Batman, Ben Affleck, is also gone: Affleck’s Batman didn’t even get to have a solo film before he was unceremoniously ousted. Personally, I was not a fan of the “Batfleck”, as his character was dubbed by social media. His performance in Justice League (which, granted, was a bad movie to begin with) was stiff and monotone, and his suit didn’t even fit him properly – seriously, the Bat-suit has to fit. The Dark Knight was reduced to a badly-costumed parody.

But with director Matt Reeves at the helm, DC’s upcoming The Batman is expected to go dark and gritty, with a take on the iconic character closer to that of Christopher Nolan’s sensational Dark Knight trilogy.

Apparently, the Robert Pattinson casting hasn’t been locked down yet, with Nicholas Hoult (star of the recent biopic Tolkien) also on Warner Brothers’ shortlist. But it seems obvious to me that Pattinson is the better choice, and could actually bring some interesting stuff to the table, if he were chosen for the role of the Caped Crusader. Reeves’ Batman movie will follow a young Bruce Wayne in the 1990’s, possibly as a follow-up to The Joker, which will open this fall – with that movie already being tossed around as a potential Oscars contender, it seems likely that The Batman will also have a dramatic and artistic approach to the comic-book source material. This has been Pattinson’s own interest, of late, as the former Twilight actor has branched out into the indie and art film genres – even set to star in a film directed by Christopher Nolan himself. Yet the mainstream DCEU is still conflicted between going dark and serious or light-hearted and ridiculous, with both paths looking fortuitous – the successes of the very dissimilar The Dark Knight Rises and Aquaman exemplify this.

But with Batman, there really should be no doubt in anyone’s mind: gritty is the way to go. You can’t have a Gotham City that isn’t shadowy and hostile, and you certainly can’t explore Batman’s impressive and classic roster of villains without going deep into the darker parts of the human psyche. Bruce Wayne himself is a hugely interesting character with plenty of emotional depth that could be explored in detail by a professional actor – rather than just making Batman yet another superhero with high-tech gadgets. If the script is top-notch and the DCEU isn’t afraid to possibly alienate an audience that would prefer more family-friendly, humorous fare, then I think The Batman could even prove itself a worthy Oscars competitor – superhero films have never really been Academy darlings, and the actors in them least of all: except Heath Ledger, who was given a Best Supporting Actor award for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Maybe – just maybe – Pattinson can build on his experiences in the indie genre to elevate Batman to the same status.

And maybe, though it’s unlikely, his take on the character might be successful enough that we could see another (better) Justice League movie. The romance that was built up between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman might finally make sense – considering that Pattinson is much closer to Gadot’s own age than Affleck was. Of course, it all relies on The Joker and The Batman being good movies. I am definitely jumping a bit far ahead of myself.

The Bat is back. And hopefully this time he’s here to stay.

MTV Awards Nominees!

Well, my votes have been cast – or, my first round of votes has: MTV has a strange system whereby voters are allowed to vote more than once, thus allowing rabid internet fans to make their voices very clearly heard. This is both wonderful (who doesn’t love voting more than once?), and infuriating (voting more than once is…well, cheating?).

But let’s talk about what we’re even voting for! The 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees have been announced, and the polls are open in all sixteen categories. Here’s some of the nominees, and, of course, the candidates who got my vote.

For Best Movie, the top contender is obviously Avengers: Endgame, the superhero mega-hit that has crushed the box office and dominated the public conscious for months. While I voted for Endgame, I have to admit there were several other worthy challengers: BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s dramatic adaptation of the story of a black man who infiltrated the KKK; Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse, an animated film with huge appeal to a mainly teen and young-adult fanbase (and those teens are MTV’s target audience); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, a critically-appraised Netflix film about teen romance; and Us, Jordan Peele’s latest horror-drama about doppelgangers who terrorize an African-American family.

For Best Show, the choice was incredibly easy. Game of Thrones has my vote, no matter how bad the final season may be – and it’s bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still building off of very good material, and, hey, there’s one more episode left! There’s still time to turn the sinking ship around…even if, by that time, it will be too late. But seriously, I’m a fantasy fan, and Riverdale simply does not appeal to me. Now, if The Umbrella Academy were on this list, the choice would have been even easier, but sadly MTV has decided to ignore this cinematic masterpiece.

Interestingly, MTV does not have separate categories for Best Actor and Best Actress, which makes the competition for Best Performance In A Movie that much harder: Amandla Stenberg for The Hate U Give; Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody; Sandra Bullock for Netflix’s Bird Box; Lupita Nyong’o for Us; and Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born. I voted for Lupita because she deserves way more recognition than she gets. Malek is worthy competition, but he did just win an Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury. It’s far more likely, though, that Lady Gaga will finally get an award, even though it’s probably too late to console her for her Oscar snub.

Naturally, for Best Performance In A Show, I’m backing Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones – yes, her character has just recently inspired backlash and division among the fans (and you never want to divide the fans), but she’s still a great actress, just burdened with bad writing.

None of the categories were as difficult as Best Hero, which pits Captain Marvel and Iron Man of the MCU against Shazam from DC, Game of Thrones‘ Arya Stark and BlacKkKlansman‘s Ron Stallworth. This one was hard: Captain Marvel has a special place in my heart because of all of the trials that she (and actress Brie Larson) has struggled through on her way to a billion-dollar box-office sensation, facing internet trolls and haters along the way; but Iron Man’s heroism in Avengers: Endgame cannot be emphasized enough – Robert Downey Jr. is the man who started the MCU and has now honorably closed its third phase as well. But then you’ve got Arya Stark, the girl being lauded as the true hero of Game of Thrones after the show has increasingly begun honing in its focus on her, the traumatized assassin and fierce warrior who said “Not today” in the face of death. Ultimately, Captain Marvel won my vote – the negativity that has surrounded her solo film was vanquished by Larson’s own bravery, as the actress refused to back down from the fight. It is worth noting, however, that Shazam‘s very own Zachary Levi will be hosting the MTV Awards ceremony – I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up winning.

MTV has its own peculiar categories: Best Kiss, for instance. I voted for Jason Momoa and Amber Heard’s kiss in Aquaman simply because, if it’s passionate enough to get the film censored in certain countries, that’s got to count for something.

Another fun one is Best Comedic Performance – with some indecision on my part, I finally chose Marsai Martin of Little, even over Zachary Levi’s performance as Shazam.

Best Villain…Thanos, obviously. Is there any doubt that Josh Brolin’s motion-capture creation should take home this award after snapping half the universe out of existence? I don’t think so.

I’m confused as to how Captain Marvel vs Minn-Erva is seriously one of the nominees for Best Fight – I mean, seriously, that is possibly the weakest fight-scene in the entire Captain Marvel movie. I would have chosen her ten-second combat with Yon-Rogg over that scene. Even with Captain America vs Thanos and Ruth Bader Ginsburg vs Inequality also up for consideration (though, really, does that latter even make sense?) I felt compelled to vote for Arya Stark vs The White Walkers in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3. That is an intensely exciting fight, even if it suffers from being darkly lit in an episode that was already notorious for being darkly lit.

I didn’t forget Ruth Bader Ginsburg though, when she came up again as one of the nominees for Best Real Life Hero. How could I not vote for the woman who has dedicated her life to the fight for equality? She’s up against Serena Williams, though, so expect the competition there to be tight.

So what do you think? You can vote here, and share your thoughts about the nominees in the comments below! (But if you don’t vote for Arya Stark, are you really even entitled to an opinion?)

New Details About “Loki”!

Disney’s upcoming streaming platform/Netflix competitor Disney Plus is set to debut in November, with a whole bunch of old and original content: a Lady & The Tramp remake with music by Janelle Monáe, a Toy Story spinoff based on the adventures of Little Bo Peep, a Frozen 2 documentary, and a National Geographic show hosted by Jeff Goldblum (which actually sounds really interesting). Of course, a treasure-trove of original Marvel content is expected to premiere on Disney Plus as well, including three six-episode miniseries: starring Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Wanda Maximoff and Vision, and Loki – and quite inventively titled Falcon & The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki, respectively. These three shows will likely be joined by an as yet unconfirmed Hawkeye show.

While filming for WandaVision is set to begin in the fall, plot details about these shows have been scarce: aside from some “plot leaks” that may or may not be true. Today, however, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo revealed something about the Loki show that might give us a clearer idea of what to expect.

Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead!

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If you recall, when the Avengers went back in time to the Battle of New York in an attempt to capture the Mind, Space and Time Stones, they almost succeeded, but not quite. Captain America was able to wrest the Mind Stone from…Captain America, and Bruce Banner convinced the Ancient One to give up the Time Stone under the condition that the Stones would be returned to their proper timelines after the Avengers had used them – but Iron Man and Ant-Man had a lot more difficulty on their end.

Their mission was to intercept the past versions of Iron Man and Thor as the two Avengers victoriously escorted their prisoner Loki and the Space Stone into S.H.I.E.L.D custody – unfortunately for the present versions of Iron Man and Ant-Man, their attempt to send past Iron Man into cardiac arrest, causing a distraction, failed massively: the Incredible Hulk smashed into present Iron Man accidentally, sending Tony and the Space Stone flying across the room – and the Space Stone came to rest right at Loki’s feet. The trickster god being the trickster god, he wasted no time grabbing the Stone and teleporting himself away from his current predicament – and that is where his story in Avengers: Endgame ends, but apparently it’s just the beginning for Loki.

At the end of Endgame, Captain America is the hero who decides to go back in time once more in order to return all the Infinity Stones to their correct timelines: how he does this is not explained, but we know that Cap did his job and then decided to take some extra time off so he could spend an entire lifetime with Peggy Carter, the woman he loved in the 1940’s. This raises a whole bunch of timeline-questions and conundrums, but none of them are relevant to the topic of Loki.

According to the Russo Brothers, Peggy Carter wasn’t the only thing that distracted Cap from his mission: apparently he also felt it was his responsibility to track down the escaped Loki in that alternate timeline and follow him across the vast expanses of space – the timeline-questions and conundrums that this raises are most definitely relevant.

For instance, does this mean Loki and a younger version of Cap are still out there somewhere? We know from the Spider-man: Far From Home trailers that holes can open in between dimensions, allowing people from one reality to enter another: so could Loki and Cap abruptly appear out of nowhere in the present day MCU? If not, then what is the point of a Loki show if we know from the outset that Loki will be captured by Cap and all the things he does in the show will simply be undone? If alternate Loki shows up in the present timeline, would he still have the Space Stone? – it wouldn’t be surprising: the Space Stone, or Tesseract, has always been a key element in MCU movies, including Captain America: The First Avenger. Cap is no stranger to the Space Stone’s powers – maybe in order to track down Loki, he has to go back to his 1945 duel with the Red Skull, to take the Space Stone from him…but then where does Red Skull go, and what ramifications could that have for the events of Vormir, and the death of Black Widow? You see, time travel and reality-hopping are pretty complex ideas, and in a six-episode miniseries how much can you really do to explain them?

Does this also mean that the earlier rumors that Loki would depict the god traveling through time, influencing historical events, are untrue? As far as we know, the Space Stone does not have the ability to send the user through time. Which is kind of disappointing, because those rumors sounded awesome. Loki on the run from Captain America does sounds pretty intriguing, especially if it opens the door for Loki eventually returning to the MCU – considering how lame his Infinity War death was, for such a cunning character. It might give us a glimpse at planets and galaxies on the far side of the universe, and it just might explain once and for all why the Space Stone is so vitally important. The Russos did not say whether Tom Hiddleston and Chris Evans would reprise the roles of Loki and Captain America, but it seems likely at this point.

“Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” Trailer!

Angelina Jolie is back in business as the horned witch Maleficent in the first full-length trailer for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (great title, by the way), looking just as demonic as ever. Coming hard on the heels of the announcement that Jolie will be joining the Marvel Studios team in next year’s The Eternals, it looks like the actress is going to enjoy our undivided attention – as we try to figure out which Marvel role she’s taking, and how she’ll match her performance in the first Maleficent, which was lauded as pretty much the only good thing about the movie.

Jolie is going up against Michelle Pfeiffer in the Maleficent sequel, which looks to be an interesting conflict – villainous female characters have always been relatively rare in Disney movies, so it’s cool to get not one, but two, here. If great acting is the best thing going for the Maleficent franchise, then Pfeiffer is probably a good choice – but her character, Queen Ingrith, doesn’t have much to do in the trailer: which is very upsetting, considering that Pfeiffer was already cheated of a cool action-heroine role in Ant-Man And The Wasp last year, even when she was armed with a wicked-looking javelin. Hopefully we’ll see her in a more active role here. The official synopsis says that Maleficent and Princess Aurora will be joining forces to protect the magical creatures of their homeland from “new adversaries” – i.e. probably Queen Ingrith. I have hope that Ingrith will be an active magical-beast-hunter, rather than someone who just sits around in a castle all day, exchanging witty quips with Maleficent.

Oh yeah, Princess Aurora is back, obviously, but she makes no impression on me from her brief appearance in the trailer, so we’ll just skip over her.

And on to…well, not much else, honestly. A few shots of ravens flying. One truly awful freeze-frame at 0:52 (which I just realized is also the trailer thumbnail) where Jolie’s costume looks horrendous – the wings do not work, in any way, shape or form, and the horned hairpiece looks like a cheap Halloween-store prop. The lighting in that shot is pretty bad, to be fair (green isn’t too flattering, in general), but Jolie’s makeup also seems odd.

Overall, pretty decent trailer, without a whole lot to offer. Nice to see Jolie donning the horns again, though (even if they do look ridiculous).

Trailer Rating: 6/10

“Wine Country” Movie Review!

Get ready to clear a space in your itinerary for this brilliantly funny day-in-the-life story. The premise of Wine Country is simple – a group of women come together in Napa Valley for a birthday party, but soon find themselves arguing bitterly and turning on each other, as their frantic schedule of wine-tasting, sightseeing and accidental art shows becomes too much for them to handle. Hysterical mayhem ensues.

The writing is what makes Wine Country so appealing: the dialogue is hilarious, but extremely real. All the subtle movements of conversation, the awkward pauses, the interruptions, the mumbled whispers: they’re all there. The situations in which the women find themselves are always real – whether they’re discovering the meaning of life in the eyes of a raccoon, or a stranger in the house wielding a dead cuttlefish. It was one particular scene, early in the film, when the group goes out to a restaurant, that confirmed to me that the writing was perfect – that scene was identical to many family reunions I’ve attended.

However, it’s not until the tarot-card reader arrives that the movie suddenly…has a plot. Up until that point, the story is episodic and uneventful, we have no clear grasp on the characters, and we don’t even really get the sense that they’re stressed out – well, except Catherine, but we’ll get to her in a moment. But after the cards have been read, leaving them all with a deep sense of dread and impending death, the women are suddenly at each others’ throats, and the plot suddenly jumps into action and doesn’t ever slow down again. This might have been jarring, if the tarot-card scene hadn’t been phenomenal. Lady Sunshine (Cherry Jones), their reader, is one of the standouts in Wine Country, with her deadpan delivery of depressing news and her chipper smile as she announces the price of the reading. This scene is one of the best in the movie, and really jump-starts everything that happens next – as the women inevitably take the message of the cards to heart.

As for the women themselves, they work best when they’re a team, but they’re worth talking about individually because a lot of them really are that good. Obviously, I have to mention Amy Poehler and Tina Fey first, but I’d really rather not. Fey is just fine as Tammy, the rough-and-tough cowgirl who acts as a mentor to the women, and she manages to get some impactful and funny material to work with, but her performance is, for the most part, uninspiring. Poehler is great to begin with, playing Abby, the group leader and party planner who makes it her responsibility to get her team moving frenetically around Napa – but then somewhere in the third act her character just seems to dry up, and Poehler’s acting became forced and cringey: she tries to have an emotional monologue about climate change and first-world-problems, but it sounds unnatural and scripted – a lot of the best acting in the movie is that which feels improvised, and Poehler’s often doesn’t.

Maya Rudolph and Paula Pell, however, have a lot more to offer: Rudolph’s character Naomi is irreverent and relateable – even as she struggles with personal issues. Each character has a moment in the spotlight, and Naomi’s is definitely her drunken birthday-speech where she manages to fall off a piano – or is it her third-act encounter with a poisonous snake? Or perhaps the scene where she confesses how terrified she is of death? She has a lot of great moments. Pell has almost as many, playing the confident, boisterous, and energetic Val, who falls in love with a modern artist and then has to deal with the fall-out.

Catherine and Rebecca, are the best characters on the team, memorably portrayed by Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch, respectively. Gasteyer’s workaholic character is the outcast in the group, constantly leaving to take important calls or trying to convince her friends to do things none of them want to do. Dratch, on the other hand, plays the timid life-coach and birthday girl, whose attempts to keep her friends in check by offering them “feedback” only succeed in making her the target for all their pent-up anger and resentment.

Meanwhile, Emily Spivey portrays Jenny, the final member of the team, who has virtually nothing to do. For what it’s worth, she does a good job with what she’s got, but the role is so underwritten it’s hard to tell.

Wine Country manages to pack a delightfully entertaining punch, even with a few missteps in pacing and character development. Add it to your schedule if you’re looking for a hilarious comedy about friendship, loyalty, and female bonding, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Napa Valley’s rolling hills and vineyards.

Movie Rating: 8.5/10