“Dolittle” Trailer Review!

We’ve grown so accustomed to Robert Downey Jr. being a movie-star, it’s hard to imagine him ever losing that status. But Dolittle seems intent on sending Downey back to obscurity, with a lonely January release date, and a poorly executed trailer that showcases bad CGI, and a badly exaggerated British accent from Downey, who is clearly much more comfortable in a suit of iron armor: and can we really blame him? The role of Iron Man was tailor-made for the actor – whereas that of Dr. Dolittle is perhaps better suited to someone like comedian Michael Sheen, who will actually have a prominent voice role in Dolittle.

There is charm in this newly released trailer, and a sense of wonderment that is appropriate for the material: too often, these days, even the smallest, most intimate stories get turned into big-budget CGI spectacles – the first look at The Secret Garden is a good example of a low-stakes children’s classic rudely transformed into a mindless mess of visual effects wizardry. So in that regard, perhaps it’s encouraging that Dolittle is going in a different direction, with shots pulled straight from the pages of a fairytale – specifically, I’m thinking of the adventures of Sinbad, since Dolittle also has a sea-faring journey at its heart, as well as a faux-Indian setting (along with all its traditional, if rather stereotypical accouterments, such as hungry tigers, golden palaces, lavish banquets, and a malicious prince with dark eyeliner played by a non-Indian actor).

Now, it’s worth noting that this trailer, despite being two minutes long, mostly consists of large animals hurrying about without rhyme or reason. It seems that Dolittle will be called upon by the Queen of England to find a cure for a mysterious illness by traveling the seven seas with his menagerie of talking animals, but absolutely none of that is even hinted at in the trailer. Instead, we listen to a rendition of “What A Wonderful World” (a great song, but overused), while Dolittle himself mumbles almost incoherently about how it’s okay to be scared (meanwhile, his sailing ship is literally being torn to pieces by enemy warships, and he’s just crashed out on the deck in a clumsy 19th Century diving-suit: personally, if I were in such a situation, I think I’d be trying to get away as fast as possible, rather than just sitting about, but whatever; you do you, Dolittle).

I mean, one thing to look forward to is the all-star cast: but almost all of them are voice roles, and does Emma Thompson even count? She’s in literally everything these days: it’s almost like we take for granted that “obviously, Emma Thompson’s in this movie too”.

So what do you think? Is RDJ a good fit for the role of Dolittle? Is this movie going to be a hit or miss with modern audiences? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 4/10

Robert Downey Jr. Passes On Oscar Opportunity!

As the 2020 Oscars race heats up, and more and more actors throw their hats into the ring for a chance to take home the gold, we can be assured of one thing: Robert Downey Jr., the star of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame, won’t be among the contenders at next year’s ceremony.

RDJ has been one of the most talked-about and hyped-up candidates for the Best Actor award, but despite the anger and outrage of fans, despite all the petitions in the world, the veteran actor has made it clear that he is not going to make a move for the prize: in a recent interview with Howard Stern, Downey rather vaguely suggested that he didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. “There was some talk about [an Oscar campaign], and I said, “let’s not”.”

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Downey didn’t give any specific reasoning for his choice, and it seems particularly surprising given how hotly anticipated his campaign already was in the media: Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo, along with Iron Man director Jon Favreau, had both publicly given Downey their support in the race, and millions of Marvel fans were completely behind the idea. Whether or not the Academy Awards would have recognized Downey’s position as the figurehead of one of Hollywood’s biggest and most fortunate film studios for the past decade is a question we now have no way of answering: but why? What could have inspired Downey to back away from the finish line when it seemed so close?

Well, obviously, his choice could be entirely personal. It’s possible he has better things to do with his time than try to win a shiny gold trophy. But it’s also possible that Downey recognizes an unfortunate trend in modern Hollywood, and has made his choice to avoid courting controversy and stirring up trouble: what I’m trying to say is that the Academy Awards simply might not want to give such a prestigious award to the star of a superhero movie.

The discussion we are having now has been the subject of a great number of essays, articles and opinion pieces in the past few days: it started a long time ago actually, but acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s recent comments have made everyone sit up and take notice yet again. While promoting his new film The Irishman, Scorsese claimed that, despite having never watched a Marvel movie (he “tried”, to be fair), he believes that the films are “not cinema”, adding that “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” Scorsese’s controversial comments quickly riled up the internet – Marvel directors and actors responded in various different ways, from James Gunn being “saddened” to Samuel L. Jackson bluntly pointing out that “Everybody doesn’t like his stuff either”. As for Downey himself, he was cool about the whole subject, saying that, while Scorsese’s insult “makes no sense”, he still respects and appreciates the director’s opinion. But he’s also not going to intentionally upset the other filmmakers and Academy members who agree with Scorsese, by campaigning for an Oscar. Because there are others: many others, in fact. And The Hollywood Reporter has turned a spotlight on them in a fascinating new article published just today.

The article has nothing to do with Robert Downey Jr., or even Scorsese: instead, it’s about another comic book movie making headlines right now – that being Joker. A gritty, realistic approach to the genre (and unabashedly inspired by the works of Martin Scorsese, in fact), the supervillain origin story has generated plenty of Oscar buzz already, with critics praising Joaquin Phoenix’s intense performance. But today, Academy Award voters were asked to anonymously contribute their opinions on the film, and on the genre as a whole: and their responses confirm that Scorsese is not alone in his beliefs. Several stated that comic book movies hold zero interest for them, with some even pointedly referencing Scorsese’s comments in their rebuttals of the film – and as for the one who said that we live in an age of “sanitized, shrink-wrapped cinema”, well, I don’t know if he was referring specifically to comic book movies, but I can’t imagine his opinion of those is good. Some of them didn’t even have plans to see the film at all, or were reluctant to see it for a variety of reasons; some logical (security concerns), or illogical (comic book movies suck).

And these are Academy voters: the men and women who will decide who takes home the biggest awards in the entertainment industry. Are they biased? Yes, some of them are undoubtedly biased. A large number of them might be voting against movies that they haven’t even watched. Are they right in their condemnations of modern cinema – do superhero movies deserve to be called cinema at all, or are they nothing more than flashy merchandising ploys? That’s for you to decide. But imagine if Robert Downey Jr. were to step into this arena and even try to launch a campaign for Best Actor. There’s a strong chance he wouldn’t win, and his efforts would most likely be laughed at behind his back – the fact that Joker is still considered by many to be an Oscar darling, even after the reactions from those voters, just goes to show how badly superhero movies are usually treated by the industry. As frustrating as it is, the Academy’s electoral process is not fair; not by a long shot. Downey is probably better off steering far clear of all these shenanigans, and instead focusing on the things that matter to him – such as his plan to help clean up the environment using high-tech robotics.

So that’s that: Downey has made his choice. The Academy will probably end up nominating Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor in his stead, but it’s not a sure bet that he’ll win either. Avengers: Endgame, which is up for several other awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) is also an underdog going into this highly competitive fight to the death. And so we have to consider whether or not Black Panther, which won a considerable number of Oscars at this year’s ceremony, really was a fluke after all: did it signal a change, as we all thought at the time, or was it merely a cheap publicity stunt?

I leave the question for you to answer: how biased is the entertainment industry against comic book movies? Could RDJ have won an Oscar, if he had run? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” Plot Twist?

With the release of Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has settled into a deceptively calm lull – a quiet before the storm. Many expect the upcoming Spider-man: Far From Home to deal with the huge aftermath of Endgame, specifically the world-changing effects of Thanos’ Snap, and the…

Oh, hold on a moment. SPOILER WARNING! If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, look away, stay back, get you gone.

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Still here? Good, let’s talk about Tony Stark’s tragic sacrifice, which saved the world but robbed the young and impressionable Peter Parker of his father-figure, mentor and friend. Tony was one of the key elements of Peter’s first MCU outing, Spider-man: Homecoming, and is expected to play just as important a role in Far From Home, even if he is…you know, dead. The trailers have shown Peter mourning Tony’s death, even as the rest of the world is busy painting murals of Stark on walls and dedicating shrines to him. Peter’s life seems to have taken a downhill turn, as we see him sleepless and bleary-eyed, putting away the Stark-tech suit he proudly wore in Avengers: Infinity War, trying to live a normal life: when he’s approached by Nick Fury to help with a supernatural threat, we even see him trying to push his responsibilities onto other heroes – who, conveniently, happen to be off-world. (But, no, seriously, all the other heroes are busy? What about Ant-Man and the Wasp? They’re not doing anything).

But Peter Parker isn’t in the clear yet, and a new reveal from actor Tom Holland suggests that the storm might be about to break in epic fashion, shaking things up in Peter’s life, and at the same time initiating the fourth phase of the MCU.

Holland said “There’s a scene in this film where audiences will feel like they were punched in the face….it’s very tense, and it sorts of rips the rug from underneath your feet. It’s pretty awesome.”

“Awesome” certainly is one way to put it. Far From Home director Jon Watts apparently believes that the scene in question will be controversial, and that some fans will “hate it”. This keeps getting better and better. The big question now, of course, is what could possibly be so shocking, so unexpected, that it could potentially divide the fanbase and leave us dumbfounded?

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of possibilities. Let’s discuss.

We’ve already known for some time that the Multiverse is actually a thing – the Far From Home trailers have revealed that there are alternate realities running parallel to the main MCU timeline, some of which were apparently fractured by Thanos’ Snap, releasing creatures from other dimensions into our world. Quentin Beck, a.k.a “Mysterio”, is seen teaming up with Peter Parker to hunt down these intruders and herd them back into their own reality. Fans have basically just taken for granted that, since Mysterio is a villain in the Spider-man comics, he might not have the most noble intentions in the MCU: he could be playing on Peter’s emotions; he might be lying about the Multiverse, using it as a cover for something else; with his powers of deception and illusion, he might have trapped Peter in an alternate reality of his own. Any of those could be twists, but they would be small ones – probably resolved by the end of the movie, without any major ramifications. It’s just that almost everybody has already guessed that Mysterio isn’t what he claims to be, so this would hardly be a satisfying shocker.

Mysterio might have something to do with the twist, though. According to producer Eric Carroll, the maybe-villain/maybe-hero will star in many more Marvel films to come, which means we might not see him die in Far From Home, even if he does turn out to be evil. He might slink back into the Multiverse whence he came, and wait for another, better opportunity to conquer the world. Or, you know, he might be good. I mean, that possibility is still technically on the table. It would probably be a bigger twist if he turned out to be good, than if he turned out to be the villain – but then again, Captain Marvel just did the same thing by revealing that the alien Skrulls were actually good guys.

It’s also very possible the twist is aiming for our heartstrings, and that it might have something to do with the recently-deceased Tony Stark. Maybe Mysterio conjures up an illusion of Stark, and uses it to deceive and manipulate Peter? AI Tony is something that Marvel fans have been eagerly raving about since he died, and it would be cruel and heartless to introduce the concept – only to then reveal it as a sham, and rip it away. Or what if Mysterio is AI Tony?

What if Peter Parker cracks under the strain of having to live in Tony Stark’s footsteps and ends up joining Mysterio, becoming a villain? A scene like this, at the end of the movie, could be similarly horrific as the infamous Snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, where many beloved heroes (including Spider-man) turned to dust and crumbled away before our very eyes. I’ve also seen speculation that Mysterio is actually Peter Parker himself, but an alternate, evil version – one who turned down a path of darkness and villainy after Tony Stark died in his universe. That could illustrate some of the larger themes of the movie, about coping with grief and honoring the legacies of lost loved ones.

Maybe Nick Fury, the man who started the Avengers Initiative, will be one of the victims of Mysterio’s brutality, and his death will officially close the Infinity Saga that he began? Others have suggested that Fury or his co-worker Maria Hill could be another classic Spider-man villain, the Chameleon, in disguise: the appearance of Chameleon has been the subject of many rumors recently. Fury’s death, or a reveal such as this, would definitely anger fans. Maybe (just throwing out the possibility) Peter’s Aunt May is actually the Chameleon? Or even Happy Hogan? Ned? What if Peter Parker is the Chameleon…wait, that doesn’t make sense.

With Mysterio and the Multiverse both confirmed to be large parts of the Far From Home plot, it’s likely that one or both of these things has to do with the twist. Unfortunately, there’s so many possibilities, it’s really difficult to nail down just one. I can’t wait to hear your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

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?)

“Avengers: Endgame” Spoilers! Who Died?

Obviously, massive spoilers lie ahead, so turn away now if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame. Like, right now, because we’re going to start with the most unexpected – and thus the most shocking – death of the entire movie.

That’s right, Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, is the first Avenger to bite the dust in Endgame, in a heart-wrenching scene that sees her and her former partner Clint Barton (Hawkeye) travel to the cold and desolate planet Vormir, looking for the Soul Stone. Marvel fans will already know that the Soul Stone requires a sacrifice in order to be won: it stole Gamora, the fiercest woman in the galaxy, from us in Avengers: Infinity War, and now it’s taken Black Widow as well. Both Clint and Natasha try desperately to commit suicide and prevent the other from dying, but in the end Natasha is the one dangling precariously off the edge of a cliff, while Clint grips her hand, telling her he won’t sacrifice her. Natasha, however, reminds him that he has a family, while she has nothing to live for and no family to go home to – though, interestingly, Natasha gets an interesting hint about her own parents here on Vormir, when the Soul Stone’s guardian Red Skull names her “daughter of Ivan”. More on that in a moment.

Clint lets go, Natasha falls to her death, and the Soul Stone is won. But the question remains: was it worth it? Natasha’s entire character arc has been about her loneliness – she doesn’t have a family, and called herself a “monster” for being unable to have children. She believes she’s nothing but a cold-blooded killer, incapable of love. And, sadly, she dies like this too, sacrificing herself because she has nothing left. Rather than having a triumphant character arc, Black Widow dies in tragic fashion, far from her home, so that Hawkeye can get the Soul Stone. Yes, the Stone helps to save the day in the end, but Natasha’s sacrifice feels like a crushing blow, not just to the other Avengers, and to the audience, but to her own character: Natasha’s death is sad, but it’s also infuriating. She died without ever realizing that she was valuable in her own right. She died without ever truly fulfilling her arc.

The good thing is, there’s still a chance she’s coming back. Of course, a Black Widow movie is already moving into production and will be released next year, but it is a prequel, set long before Endgame. But there’s more evidence than just that: look here.

At the end of Endgame, Captain America goes back in time to replace all the Infinity Stones to the time and place they were taken from – in other words, the Soul Stone returns to Vormir. (This also means Captain America comes face-to-face with his old nemesis Red Skull, but that’s a story for another time). Anyway, Cap replacing the Soul Stone could negate Black Widow’s sacrifice and bring her back to life. But what’s the purpose of that?, I hear you ask. Why bring back a character who really doesn’t have anything to do in the next phase of the MCU?

Well, she could actually have a crucial part to play in the next phase, and here’s the evidence.

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The Black Widow movie will be the first film of Phase 4, for one thing (this was previously believed to be Spider-man: Far From Home, until Marvel President Kevin Feige revealed that Far From Home would be the final film of Phase 3). Black Widow also could have a newly-revealed connection to an upcoming film in the Marvel roster: The Eternals. In The Eternals, we will see a new character – the villainous space god Druig, who, in the comics, takes the identity of a Russian KGB agent and becomes leader of a Soviet state named Vorozheika. While living in Russia, Druig takes a new name – Ivan Druig.

That’s right. Black Widow could be the daughter of a god, even though she doesn’t know it. If her death is undone, Natasha will come back to life on the planet Vormir, far from her home planet and alone: imagine a scenario in which Druig, her father, comes looking for her. I would suspect a scene like this could occur as a post-credits stinger for Black Widow, which will probably focus on Natasha’s formative years. We’ve grown used to her being a baton-wielding martial-arts fighter, but what if she were to inherit some new powers from her father? This could open the door to many more Black Widow stories, and she could have a chance to live out the rest of her unfulfilled arc.

The next death is one that certainly seems more permanent – and to reverse it would be to negate a great arc that reached a satisfying and poetic conclusion in Endgame. Tony Stark, the Iron Man who started the MCU as we know it and has been Marvel’s figurehead for a decade now, sacrifices himself to wipe out Thanos’ army of killer aliens. He dies surrounded by his friends, survived by his wife and young daughter. It would be a mistake to reverse this death, in my opinion: however, that doesn’t mean we’ll never see Tony Stark again.

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You see, in the comics, Tony Stark has died before – but in one notable case, he was able to create an artificial intelligence hologram of himself before his death: we even saw this teased a little in Endgame, when Stark’s daughter Morgan watches a holographic video that Tony had prerecorded in case everything went wrong. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that Tony created an AI body for himself too, an artificial Tony Stark that could still be played by Robert Downey Jr, and could hang around Avengers HQ and make cameo appearances every now and again, or impart wisdom to the next generation of Marvel heroes. This seems like a fitting way to keep Tony around without reversing his incredibly impactful death.

The only death that I regard as “permanent” is Captain America’s. When Cap goes back in time at the end of Endgame to replace the Infinity Stones to their original timelines, as previously mentioned, he decides not to come back immediately. In fact, he goes all the way back to the 1940’s, and instead lives out a normal life with his old girlfriend Peggy Carter, before returning to the present timeline as an elderly man to pass on the Captain America mantle to his comrade Sam Wilson, also known as Falcon. We last see him sitting on a park bench, staring off across a lake, and it’s implied that his death is not far off, even though we don’t see it onscreen. In my opinion, this death can’t be reversed without a lot of time travel or a deep dive into the alternate realities that have been opened up by the events in Avengers: Endgame. While it seems likely that some of these new realities and timelines will be explored in some fashion, this is not one of them, I think. Any attempt to show Cap’s life with Peggy would be redundant and boring: his arc was concluded, and he can rest in peace now. I, personally, would have preferred a different end for the character, one that doesn’t involve Captain America messing up time and basically ensuring that Peggy and him end up together – whereas in the original timeline, Peggy had moved on with another man and had her own happy ending. It seems to suggest that Cap has some selfish intentions, and that’s not an implication I like (though one theory says that Peggy’s new husband was always Captain America, and that there’s actually two Caps, and always have been, and it’s just a really complicated and complex theory that I don’t have time to explain here).

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So those are the three main deaths of Avengers: Endgame (though not, in fact, the only deaths. A past version of Nebula, Thanos, and possibly a past version of Gamora all get killed off – in Thanos’ case, twice). I regard Black Widow’s death as temporary, Tony’s as permanent-but-with-a-loophole, and Cap’s as permanent. What do you think? Did you feel the character deaths in Endgame were satisfying or not? Share your thoughts in the comments and look out for more Endgame news in the days and weeks ahead.