77th Golden Globes Ceremony Review!

Appropriately, it was Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, a movie which celebrates a bygone era of film-making, that won big at the 77th annual Golden Globes awards last night, taking home three Globes in major categories. In many ways, the ghost of Hollywood Past was haunting the tired, slow-paced ceremony, which saw a mostly white and male ensemble of winners take the stage, during an event that felt unfocused and uninspired, barely held together by comedian Ricky Gervais, who looked bored to be hosting one of the most important events in the entertainment industry, and whose attempts to keep the audience’s attention off world politics felt sadly misguided.

Thankfully, his plea for political neutrality was steadfastly ignored by the majority of winners, many of whom took the stage to deliver impassioned speeches addressing a number of notable issues: from Best Actress In A Mini-Series Michelle Williams calling upon women to exercise their right to choose, Best Supporting Actress In A Series Patricia Arquette using her brief time onstage to demand that viewers vote in the 2020 U.S. elections, Best Actor In A Drama Motion Picture and animal-rights activist Joaquin Phoenix thanking the Golden Globes for serving an entirely plant-based dinner to the audience (a decision that was apparently met with mixed reactions), Australians Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett bringing attention to the deadly bush-fires currently raging across the country, and Best Actress In A Musical/Comedy Series Phoebe Waller-Bridge invoking the name of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who just recently included Waller-Bridge’s hit comedy Fleabag on his annual Presidential Favorites list. LGBTQ+ issues were at the forefront during Kate McKinnon and Ellen DeGeneres’ speech to honor the latter’s acceptance of the special Carol Burnett Award.

But in between these brief highlights, the ceremony still appeared outdated and backwards-thinking: outside of female-exclusive categories, women were handed a bare minimum of awards, with Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir being the exception to the rule, becoming the first solo woman to accept the award. People of color were also suspiciously absent from the proceedings, except as presenters – the exception in this case being Ramy star Ramy Youssef, and comedian Awkwafina, who became the first woman of Asian descent to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress In A Musical/Comedy. Small moments like these help to give the impression that progress is being made in Hollywood, but don’t make up for a list of nominees that is overwhelmingly representative of a long-gone period in Hollywood history – one of Gervais’ few on-point jokes was his callout of the all-male lineup of directing nominees, and his satirical suggestion that soon, Hollywood would go back to simply never hiring women directors: “problem solved”.

Anti-Disney and anti-Netflix sentiment ran strong at the ceremony, which witnessed an embarrassing turn of events for frontrunners Frozen II, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes. Disney suffered their biggest loss of the night in the Best Animated Feature Film category, where they had not one, not two, but three nominees – all of which lost out to underdog Missing Link, a clay-mation movie from Laika Studios, in a move so shocking it even startled the Missing Link directors into near-speechlessness. Later, in the Best Original Song category, Disney was once again stunned by the surprise victory of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who won for their work on “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” for Rocketman, beating out two Disney contenders, “Into The Unknown” and “Spirit” (both, admittedly, weak contestants). But Netflix’s film division was the biggest loser of the evening: going into the event, the main competition in both the Best Director For A Motion Picture and Best Drama Motion Picture fields had been The Irishman‘s Martin Scorsese versus Todd Phillips for Joker – but in both categories, it was neither man who took home the coveted prize, as Sam Mendes and war-drama 1917 won both times. That wouldn’t have been so humiliating if Netflix had been able to claim Best Supporting Actor In A Motion Picture (which they lost to Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), Actor In A Musical/Comedy Motion Picture (which they lost to Taron Egerton for Rocketman), Actress In A Drama Motion Picture (which they lost to Renée Zellweger for Judy, despite strong competition from Scarlett Johansson), Actor In A Drama Motion Picture (which Joker star Joaquin Phoenix easily won, beating out Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce), or Screenplay Of A Motion Picture (an award that clearly belonged to either The Irishman or Marriage Story, but went instead to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood). Ultimately, only Laura Dern was able to carve out a small victory for the streaming service, winning the award for Best Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture for her fan-favorite role as a sassy, no-nonsense divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. A small win, but a win nonetheless, and one that Netflix Film desperately needed as they continue to fight against Hollywood bias.

The event should have been high-stakes, especially with the amount of surprises, snubs and gasp-out-loud upsets that occurred, but low-energy humor from the host and presenters, coupled with slow, largely repetitive victories (winners often had to walk absurdly long distances to the stage, and a few nearly got lost weaving through the crowd, making the ceremony move even slower) made the 77th Golden Globes an unmemorable footnote in awards season history. Here’s hoping that the Oscars will repeat last year’s surprisingly effective no-host format, and give us a more rousing, entertaining, and relevant ceremony than the Globes was able to offer.

“Wonder Woman 1984” Trailer Review!

Yes, this is really happening. Diana Prince, the world’s one and only Wonder Woman, has officially returned in the first trailer for her long-awaited sequel movie, Wonder Woman 1984.

The trailer finds Diana living her best life in the 1980’s, far removed from the horrors of warfare that she braved and defied in her origin movie: elegant and mature, she’s now a wine-sipping, evening gown-wearing celebrity with a fancy apartment in Washington D.C., and easy access to the flashy, vibrant world of the rich and famous. She’s got new friends, including the quirky, clumsy Barbara Ann Minerva, and new enemies, like Pedro Pascal as a charming but suspicious businessman and motivational speaker named Maxwell Lord (more on both these characters in a moment). And of course, she’s joined once again by the love of her life, Steve Trevor, who appears as if by magic to dance with her at a party – there’s no explanation yet for how he’s miraculously returned from the dead, but I think the trailer gives us plenty of clues.

But first: the 80’s. There’s been a lot of tension in the DC fandom recently about whether or not it’s a mistake to take the normally serious and epic character of Wonder Woman and place her in a time period so often associated with…well, shoulder pads and bangles. But Diana fits perfectly in this era – not only when she’s living it up in the big city, but also when she’s going full 80’s action hero: lassoing bad guys in the White House, swinging from lightning bolts (she is the daughter of Zeus, after all), and blowing up an entire caravan of heavily-armored military trucks. So everybody who was worried that a 1984 setting meant cheesy comedy and nauseatingly bright colors can cool it – this movie has the best of both worlds. Incredible action and techno music.

And who will she be fighting? Surprisingly, we still don’t have any idea what Barbara Ann Minerva will look like as the anthropomorphic super-villain Cheetah (though she does sport a lavish cheetah-print outfit at one point: a far cry from her other appearance in the trailer, which has her wearing giant round glasses and a rather bizarre hairstyle). But we do get a long look at Maxwell Lord, who also has a wide range of stylistic choices in these two minutes: he’s a dapper, sickly sweet collector of ancient artifacts, who has the power to make dreams come true – rumor has it that he will grant Barbara Ann’s wish to be a superhuman, and Diana’s personal, unspoken wish to be reunited with Steve Trevor.

As for Steve and Diana, their romance is still just as strong as ever, and they have a couple of cute moments – riding in Diana’s invisible jet and visiting museums together (Steve Trevor not being able to tell modern art apart from garbage cans is very relatable). But the focus is all on the woman herself, and her new, impressive suit of golden armor, which comes with unfolding wings. She doesn’t even need a Godkiller sword at this point, because she just is the weapon. Diana’s really out here about to rock this world to its core, and I don’t know if we as a society are ready for that.

Scratch that – I am. June 5th can’t come soon enough.

So what do you think of the trailer? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 9.5/10

“The Flash” Has New Directors (Surprise, Surprise)…

Not long ago, I reported that Ezra Miller, star of Justice League and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, was still set to play the speedy superhero, The Flash, in an upcoming Flash solo movie. Months ago, Miller’s future in the franchise had been put in jeopardy when he broke ranks with his directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, in order to write a new, edgier script for the movie, which he thought was too light-hearted.

Now, Warner Brothers have decided to place their bets on Miller, kicking Daley and Goldstein unceremoniously off the project. On the other hand, they’ve already decided not to move forward with Miller’s script either, but have instead chosen to start over from scratch (again), enlisting Christina Hodson, writer of Bumblebee and Birds of Prey, to redo the movie. Miller will still play the Flash, but he’s not calling the shots anymore. This whole situation is so confusing.

It gets weirder when we consider that Warner Brothers is (maybe?) still going for a darker take on the story, such as Miller was advocating, since they’ve hired horror directors Andy and Barbara Muschietti to take the reins from Daley and Goldstein. Then again, maybe not, since James Wan also came from the horror genre, but made Aquaman into one hilarious, family-friendly comedy, and the same occurred with David Sandberg, who switched gears from horror to humor, directing the DC’s most recent film, Shazam: and then we’ve got Jaume Collet-Serra, another horror director, coming over to the DC to direct Black Adam. It’s almost like the DCEU, or more specifically, DC president Walter Hamada, producer of multiple horror films, has a bias. At this point, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has to score a big hit with her upcoming sequel to the 2017 hit, or she’s going to be replaced by another of Hamada’s own friends.

Anyway, I’m not trying to be a downer or anything…but, seriously, how many directors is this movie going to go through before it gets to be too much? How many scripts are going to be written? How does Ezra Miller somehow escape each of these purges by the skin of his teeth? What is going on behind the scenes? Filming dates have also changed, with cameras expected to start rolling on The Flash in January of next year…which, um, is going to conflict with Miller’s filming for Fantastic Beasts 3, if I’m not mistaken? Or does this mean Fantastic Beasts 3 is getting pushed back again?

If only I knew.

“The Flash” Is Still Happening!

Ezra Miller’s promising career has kind of run up against a brick wall this year – his two biggest upcoming projects, in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World and the DC Extended Universe, have both been stuck in some sort of…well, we can’t even call it “development hell” because neither has even made it into development yet! The Fantastic Beasts franchise is busy sending out S.O.S signals and frantically rearranging its schedule, with the release date for the series’ third entry having been pushed back to November of 2021. Miller’s DC solo movie, Flashpoint (or just The Flash, it doesn’t technically have a title yet) has been slowly drifting off into hazy forgetfulness for years, with random outbursts of news popping up every now and again to remind us that, maybe, someday, this movie might have a slim chance of possibly happening.

Earlier this year, there was huge breaking news that Ezra Miller was not only still making that movie, but had taken it upon himself to rewrite the entire script with the help of comic-book author Grant Morrison. The rumor, which began circulating on March 15th, suggested that Miller’s new script could be submitted to Warner Brothers Studios, and I quote, “as early as next week”.

And, uh, yeah…that apparently never happened.

What makes it even weirder is that, after the deafening silence from Miller, DC, and Warner Brothers the week after that report surfaced, there continued to be precisely no news about the film in the months since. Miller’s contract with DC was said to expire in May, at which point the actor would either have to renegotiate his deal or part ways with the role of the Flash – not something that seemed likely, considering that Miller claimed to be deeply committed to making sure the movie happened. Well, May came and went, and there was still no word about what Miller was up to: had he submitted his script, against the wishes of his own directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein? Had they persuaded him to abandon his idea and end his partnership with Morrison? Did Miller’s expire? Is he still playing the Flash? Is the Flash even still happening?

The story is still very patchy and incomplete, and there’s obviously a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes: because now, according to one vague sentence in a brief piece on Miller’s gender-fluidity by Variety, Miller “will get his DC Universe stand alone film as soon as he wraps up his work on the “Harry Potter” spinoff series “Fantastic Beasts”.

So…um, I guess he’s still onboard?

What’s not clear is whether Miller’s script – a darker take on the source material than that being used by his directors – has been adopted for the film, or whether the actor has been forced back in line. It would seem that he’s renegotiated his deal, at the very least. And it looks like The Flash is still happening? Unfortunately, it’s clearly not happening anytime soon: Miller’s responsibility to the Fantastic Beasts franchise will probably keep him occupied through most of early 2020, as he shoots Fantastic Beasts 3.

The article, though, doesn’t say Fantastic Beasts 3 – it refers to the entire Fantastic Beasts franchise, which gives me some reason to worry. Now, it could mean one of three things: (a) the article is simply worded oddly: Variety is usually reliable, but they did also reference an upcoming Justice League sequel in an article not too long ago about Ben Affleck – needless to say, there is no upcoming Justice League sequel and never has been. (b) the article is being literal, and implies that Miller will have to finish filming the last three Fantastic Beasts movies before he can move on to playing the Flash, in which case we’re going to have to wait a very long time for that movie, or (c), the most dreadful possibility, the article is being literal, and Fantastic Beasts 3 is indeed the end of the franchise: unfortunately, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, with the way that the second film in the series, The Crimes of Grindelwald, drastically underperformed at the box-office, and failed to resonate with critics or audiences.

I’m really hoping that it means nothing, and just boils down to a faulty editor or a careless writer.

But whatever it means for the Wizarding World, it looks like Miller’s future with the DCEU is…safe, I guess? He hasn’t been publicly let go, at least. Whatever is going on with the script behind the scenes, it looks like the Flash is still making his way…slowly…to the big screen.

Dwayne Johnson Joining The DCEU!

There have long been rumors that DC Comics antihero Black Adam would one day get his own solo movie, after studio executives decided the character was too important to be introduced as a supporting character in the Shazam movie. Well, now Shazam is out and has run its course, raking in a decent profit at the global box-office, and paving the way for Black Adam to finally reach the big screen by himself. The character is not a traditional hero: he first appeared in the comics as a villain, and still has a somewhat troubled and morally gray personality there, to this day. We’ve known for some time that one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is set to play him – when he appears on the big screen, he’ll probably be one of the crown jewels of the DC’s roster of actors, which at the moment doesn’t feature too many household names in starring roles, apart from maybe Jason Momoa (Aquaman). And maybe that’s the reason that Black Adam is suddenly moving into production: there’s been some chatter recently about Johnson wanting to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and DC probably doesn’t like the sound of that.

And that’s how we’ve ended up here, today, with Jaume Collet-Serra being brought on to direct Johnson in the upcoming Black Adam movie, expected to start filming sometime next year. Collet-Serra recently finished working with Johnson on Disney’s Jungle Cruise movie, and seems to have a good relationship with the actor. One little wrench in the plan, of course, is that the story of Black Adam may rely on his heroic arch-nemesis Shazam – and the Shazam movie, while it received glowing praise from critics, wasn’t exactly a box-office sensation in the domestic market. It didn’t do badly, but it was somewhat drowned out due to its unfortunate release date in between Marvel’s Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, both of which hit the billion-dollar mark: its domestic total of 139 million is still less than what Captain Marvel made just in its opening weekend. For more information on the film’s box-office, see here. Regardless of that, DC is apparently moving on with the franchise, with a sequel already in the works.

With Johnson starring (and producing), the Black Adam movie will likely get off the ground and make its way to theaters soon enough. Shazam 2 will probably follow. But the real question is: will audiences care, even if they do? Even the epic battle between Batman and Superman in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to inspire much interest – and that also featured the highly-anticipated arrival of heroes like Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which marketed epic battles between fan-favorite monsters such as Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, and of course, Godzilla himself, has only managed to muster 67 million domestically. And these are characters with fanbases and followings. Shazam and Black Adam, meanwhile, are little-known characters, and Shazam‘s box-office returns suggest only moderate interest in the hero – and it  succeeded in part due to its appeal to younger audiences and families: a battle crossover event would likely be darker and grittier, and less of a kid-friendly film. But then again, Dwayne Johnson is one of only a few movie-stars who can draw all sorts of audiences to theaters like flies to honey: his DC debut could generate substantial publicity for the fledgling franchise.

What are your thoughts on the Black Adam movie? How do you think Dwayne Johnson’s involvement will help or hurt the film? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Robert Pattinson is Batman!

Robert Pattinson is Batman! 1
nbcnews.com

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.

“Fantastic Beasts 3” Release Date Announced!

"Fantastic Beasts 3" Release Date Announced! 2
theverge.com

It’s long been suspected that the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise wouldn’t be coming to the big screen for quite some time: not only was the previous Beasts film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, ravaged by critics and met with only a middling reaction at the box-office, but there was also debate about whether or not the franchise’ star Johnny Depp was fit to remain in his role as the Wizarding World’s greatest villain after his domestic abuse scandal began to heat up again. Ezra Miller had some scheduling troubles with his upcoming Flash movie. Meanwhile, the sci-fi epic Dune nabbed the November 2020 release date that had previously been rumored to belong to Fantastic Beasts 3, leading some to believe we would see the third film in early 2021.

Alas, it is not to be. Today, Warner Brothers released a statement confirming that, while they are “proud to be the cinematic home of the Wizarding World”, they’ve made the decision to push back the third film’s release date to November 12, 2021. Considering the epic cliffhanger that the previous film left off with, this is a hard blow to those of us who actually enjoyed Crimes of Grindelwald and are excited to see where this franchise could go. Author J.K Rowling has the script apparently ready to go, and filming will begin in the spring of 2020. Previously, actor Dan Fogler had reported that the third film would be bigger than the first two Beasts movies combined – probably an overstatement, but perhaps not impossible at this point: the official reason given for delaying Fantastic Beasts 3 is that it will “give the filmmakers time and space to allow their artistry to truly flourish”, which sounds pretty good, all things considered. Crimes of Grindelwald was rushed through its production and, as much as I loved the film, it certainly had major flaws: the characters felt only half-baked compared to how vibrant and unique they were in Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them; multiple plots and subplots branched out without solid resolutions; and, worst of all for Wizarding World fans, there were a number of peculiar and nagging retcons or continuity errors, none more infamous (or notorious) than the appearance of Professor Minerva McGonagall years before her established birthdate in the Harry Potter canon. More time to work on the film could have made it a worthier sequel to the first Fantastic Beasts installment, and might have made it more of a critical darling – or a box-office hit. As it was neither, it’s no surprise that the studio is taking steps to insure the franchise gets back on a smoother track: according to Rowling, there will be five films when all is said and done. If Fantastic Beasts 3 winds up in the same unfavorable position as its predecessor, we might never see 4 and 5.

Hopefully, having more time to perfect the script and edit out unnecessary filler material (did we really need to see Yusuf Kama’s eye-surgery, or Newt Scamander’s escapade with a Kelpie in Crimes of Grindelwald?), or unnecessary fan-services (looking at you, McGonagall, and you, Nicolas Flamel), will only benefit the final film. Even though we now have a much longer wait ahead of us, we can rest assured that what we get in the end could be that much better.

“Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” Final Trailer!

While I’m aware of the fact that there is an extensive mythos surrounding the “MonsterVerse”, as Warner Brothers likes to call it, I myself am not very well-versed in the lore. Thankfully, then, this trailer does a very good job of reaching out to people – such as me – who don’t really know much about creatures like Ghidorah, Rodan or Mothra (well, actually, I know a little bit about Mothra). These monsters might seem outdated and even silly to some, but this movie is clearly doing its best to sell them to mainstream audiences, and – in my opinion – they’ve succeeded with this latest trailer.

So the general premise is that these monsters – or Titans – are waking from slumber to threaten the earth, and the only way to stop them and their three-headed dragon leader Ghidorah is to team up with one of the other Titans: Godzilla himself. Sounds pretty interesting already, right? It gets better when you throw in all the other great monsters – especially, in my opinion, Mothra, who looks incredible, particularly in one shot of the trailer, at 0:13, as her wings unfold across the sky in a dazzling, neon blue display. Rodan is, to me, the least interesting of the group – though he certainly has an impressive wingspan, best demonstrated at 0:19 as he rises from a volcano. The monsters look epic and terrifying, but also somewhat beautiful, in a weird way – which is a more effective approach than previous iterations of the creatures.

Their beauty is not lost on the human characters in the film, especially fourteen-year-old Madison Russell, played by Millie Bobby Brown: Russell has a connection to Mothra, as we can see when she and her mother are face-to-face with the enormous monster. Personally, I would be a bit more terrified if I were that close to something that big, but Brown does a good job of conveying naive wonder and excitement at the sight.

However, the monsters aren’t here just to look impressive: they’re “hunting”, apparently. We’re treated to glimpses of the destruction that they cause across the world: Rodan’s wings leveling a city within a few seconds; storms and volcanic eruptions; and, in one of my favorite shots, Ghidorah rising behind the silhouette of a cross, wings outstretched in full Satanic glory, like an Antichrist come to destroy the planet and all of human civilization. The music in this trailer could so easily be loud and brash, designed to make us bloodthirsty, to fill our ears with calamitous noises and discord – but, in a genius move, all of these scenes of devastation play out to the tune of “Over The Rainbow”.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a monster movie without calamity and discord – there’s plenty of that. Once Godzilla shows up, things go crazy: you’ve got your puny humans going up against the majesty of monsters – jet-fighters, bombs, and even lightly-armed soldiers doing their best to join in the fight. The big fight between Godzilla and Ghidorah will obviously be the crown jewel of this movie’s action sequences, but the fight scenes with Mothra and Rodan look to be pretty monumental as well, even if they are entirely CGI.

In a clever play on a Lord of the Rings quote, the movie’s slogan is “One King To Rule Them All”. Personally, I’m not so sure about that: Ghidorah looks to be a huge and terrifying enemy, and even if Godzilla does win the fight, will there be anything left of the earth to rule? Does that even matter in a monster movie like this? Probably not, considering that the trailer shows us cities being wiped out in a few moments. And Godzilla, despite apparently being on our side, isn’t too worried about crushing a few skyscrapers as he charges towards Ghidorah at high speeds.

Well, whether or not the movie turns out to be just a hollow action movie with impressive special effects, their trailer certainly won me over.

Trailer Rating: 9/10

“The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King” Throwback

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, the best time of year to go out and read up on the works of the great J.R.R Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, if you don’t have access to the books, why not take three hours out of your day to watch one of The Lord of the Rings movies? And since this day is intrinsically linked to things that happened in The Return of the King, Part 3 of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we’re going to be talking about that film.

Spoilers Ahead!

So let’s start our discussion with a reminder that I am one of those people who read the books first, before seeing the films – but, I am not a book “purist”, someone who believes that everything in the text could have been adapted word-for-word onto the big screen, without any need for changes, additions, omissions, etc.

Now, having watched the film about six-thousand times, I have noticed a number of flaws – little things, for the most part, but we’ll discuss them here: I say “we” because I’m going to be writing this post in Gollum/Sméagol fashion, as an argument between my purist self and my revisionist self. We’ll also discuss a number of scenes that capture perfectly the spirit of the book, and even manage to almost elevate the material (which is so good to begin with).

But, we’ll also talk about the movie in its own right, because it’s just such a good movie. Even if you go into these films never having heard of The Lord of the Rings, or J.R.R Tolkien, you’ll still be swept up into this magical world, and, assuming you’re anything like me, you’ll never leave it again as long as you live. The joy and wonder is still there, every time I open the book or watch one of the movies.

Well, now we’re off at last!

Let’s begin with a breakdown of the plot: the film follows the journeys of a group of Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits as they travel across Middle-earth. Our hobbit protagonist, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), carries with him the deadly but beautiful One Ring, an object of incredible power that contains the very soul of the Dark Lord Sauron. Only by destroying this Ring can Middle-earth be freed from the horrors of war and evil that have been relentlessly assaulting it. The film opens with Frodo and his loyal gardener Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) being led through the dangerous country around the Dark Lord’s realm of Mordor. Their guide? A treacherous and utterly wretched creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis), who once possessed the One Ring and wants it back. Can he be trusted? Can Frodo be trusted? Can anyone be trusted around the Ring? – for the Ring wants to get back to Sauron, and it has the power to corrupt anyone who owns it. By the time we see Frodo here, in The Return of the King, the Ring has betrayed many masters: it was cut from Sauron’s hand long ago but quickly killed its new owner, a man named Isildur – it fell into the River Anduin, and was there picked up by a hobbit named Deagol, who was very soon murdered by his friend Sméagol. Sméagol took the Ring and fled with it into the mountains, and there, dwelling in dark caves and pits, he changed into Gollum – the Ring abandoned him too, though, and was found by another hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), but Bilbo was good enough that he was able to give up the Ring willingly – he gave it to Frodo. But the Ring betrayed one of Frodo’s friends as well, the noble man Boromir (Sean Bean), who tried to kill Frodo in an attempt to steal the Ring.

That is, of course, the main plot: the Ring must be destroyed, but destroying it takes great effort and great willpower. And the only place it can be unmade is in the fiery forges beneath an active volcano named Mount Doom, in the very heart of the realm of Mordor. Sauron dwells here, a giant flaming eye atop a horned tower.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Sauron is not a “giant flaming eye”. He has a physical form, but it is terrible and maimed, because he has been unable to take any shape fair to the eyes of Men ever since he fell into the ruin of Numenor in the Second Age. The Eye is merely a metaphor, in the books, for his piercing knowledge of all things that move on Middle-earth.

Thank you, Inner Purist, for making that clear.

Moving on. Many miles away from Frodo, his other friends are busy fighting Sauron’s vast armies of Orcs, Ringwraiths and Haradrim. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is the reluctant King of Gondor who must rally his people to stand in defiance of the shadow. Gandalf the White (Sir Ian McKellen) is the good wizard entrusted with helping all the Free Folk of Middle-earth. Arwen Evenstar (Liv Tyler) is the Elven princess in love with Aragorn, who must choose between an immortal existence with her family, or a mortal life with the man she loves.

But, the fight for victory will not be easy. Sauron has unleashed all of his forces, and they are heading straight for the greatest city in Middle-earth: Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Will Gandalf be able to keep the city’s defenses firm against such reckless hate? Will Aragorn reach the city in time to save it? Will Arwen choose love over the promise of immortality? The stakes are so high, they’re incredible.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Arwen had already chosen love over immortality, many years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. She and Aragorn had been betrothed on the hill of Cerin Amroth, and they had rejected both the Shadow of Sauron and the Twilight of the West.

Yeah, well, that’s not the case here. Here, we have a cast of incredible characters – played by an extraordinary cast – who collide with each other in the most brilliant ways. When the hobbit Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) meets Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan (Miranda Otto), will they overcome prejudice to fight in the war for Middle-earth? When Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) swears loyalty to the Steward Denethor (John Noble) will this choice come with a terrible responsibility – to watch as the Steward goes mad and tries to burn his own son alive?

Purist’s Note: well, no, apparently not, because in the movies Denethor releases Pippin from his service – whereas, in the books, Pippin remains in allegiance to Gondor.

This purist is getting on my nerves. You know what, Inner Purist, how about that scene where the Riders of Rohan appear over the hills at dawn and ride down to meet the orcs of Mordor in battle on the Pelennor Fields? Hmm, how about that? Was that not exactly as in the books?

Purist’s Note: well…well, I mean, no, because…

And what about the scene where Gandalf and Pippin discuss the prospect of death, using words directly from the book?

Purist’s Note: okay, that was touching, but the scene itself wasn’t in the books…

How about the scene on Mount Doom? Where Frodo finally stands above the consuming fires, unable to throw the Ring to its destruction? How about when Gollum takes the Ring from him in their last desperate struggle, biting off Frodo’s finger to get the corrupting treasure, dancing madly for joy on the brink of the fire – and falling, to his death? How about that terrifying scene where the Ring sits, motionless, on the surface of the lava, unwilling to be destroyed? And Frodo hangs from the cliff far above, staring down at it, contemplating with himself in those final moments whether he should leap into the fires after the Ring, or if he should take Sam’s hand and be carried to safety? How about that scene?

Purist’s Note: ooh, and how about that tortured look that Frodo gives to Sam as he makes his choice – but then, he reaches for Sam’s hand! And Sam pulls him up! And…uh, I mean, yeah, that scene is fine.

What about the final scene, at the Grey Havens, where Frodo goes off with the Elves to sail across the seas into the West? That emotional goodbye to his friends that has me in tears every time I watch it? That smile he gives as he boards the boat, and you know in your heart that he’s finally going to be healed of all his pain and hurt.

Purist’s Note: and when Sam says “well, I’m back” as he returns to his home, just like in the book…

Well, not just like in the book. If it had been just like in the book, he would have gone home to Bag-end, since in the book he inherited it from Frodo. Also, he should have only had one child at that time, but he had, like, five.

Purist’s Note: well, yeah, but, come on, the emotional heart of Tolkien’s work was all there. Director Peter Jackson could easily have gone for a more traditional route and had them all live happily ever after, but he didn’t. He showed the incredible pain that Frodo went through, and how it could never be healed – unless he left Middle-earth.

Yeah, I know, but Peter Jackson got a lot of things incorrect too. Let’s not forget the infamous scene where Frodo tells Sam to “go home”, which goes against everything in the books. That scene is painful to watch, it’s just so annoying.

Purist’s Note: okay, sure, but don’t forget that that scene was shot really early on, before the actors had any clear idea of the emotional journeys their characters were going on – before Andy Serkis had been cast as Gollum, in fact.

Good point. But how do you explain that scene with the skull avalanche in the Paths of the Dead?

Purist’s Note: wait, I thought you liked that!

I do! But…wait, aren’t you the purist? I feel like things got switched around here. I’m not supposed to be grilling you, it should be the other way round!

Purist’s Note: well, this is pretty normal when dealing with the movies. They’re conflicting, but in the end…they are pretty good movies, even when they’re not great adaptations. And, for the most part, they are great adaptations. Except for…a handful of things.

More than a handful. But, you’re right. No matter how many things might be wrong with the movies, I’m always going to love them. I’m always going to cry when Frodo sets sail into the West, or when Annie Lennox’s beautiful song starts playing over the credits…I’m always going to cheer when Sauron is cast down, and the Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam. I’m always going to feel completely heartbroken after the credits roll, when I realize that the story has finally come to its end. It’s the magic of this movie that makes that possible: you can overlook or even ignore every minor change to a character’s appearance, every faulty line of dialogue, every blunder or misstep. Because the magic is still there.

Purist’s Note: you’re going to tell me what the magic is now, aren’t you?

Yes, I am! It’s the magic of Frodo struggling through pain and torture to do the job that needs doing. It’s the magic of Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, even when all seems lost. It’s the magic of Aragorn going to what seems like certain death so that he can buy Frodo just a little time. It’s the magic of Merry and Éowyn standing up against the Witch-King. It’s the magic of Pippin leaping into the flames to rescue Faramir. It’s the-

Purist’s Note: you’ve gone on long enough. I get it. It’s magic.

It is, and it’s the sort of magic that doesn’t go away, even after multiple viewings.

 

So there you have it: my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. No movie quite compares to it, honestly. It is everything I love about cinema, all rolled into one beautiful movie. From the opening sequence to the moment the screen fades to black, I am entranced, brought into another world, a world that I know and love from the books: not everything from those books made it onto the screen, but that’s okay. This sort of magic is rare. Enjoy it as it is.

Movie Rating: 10/10

Ezra Miller’s New “Flash” Script

It’s been common knowledge for months now that Warner Brothers is still working out what to do with the DCEU. They’ve experienced a pretty uneven string of hits, mild successes, and epic fails – from the peak of their creative genius, Wonder Woman, to the disastrous Justice League. But last year’s Aquaman proved to be a billion-dollar hurricane at the box-office, and paved the way for a new take on the DCEU – one that is light-hearted, cheesy, over-the-top, and…well, still completely discombobulated. The emphasis now was on making DC movies stand-alone adventures, without trying to tie them into some bigger universe. Gone was the grim-faced Henry Cavill; gone was the dour Ben Affleck; gone was Geoff Johns, the man behind Justice League: gone was the dark and serious tone of the prior DC movies.

And then, today, we learn that Ezra Miller is making one last effort to try and stop DC from going down this path.

Ezra Miller, the actor who has portrayed The Flash in Justice League and Batman vs Superman, is set to star in an origin movie titled The Flash, which should start production later this year. Just the other day, however, we got news that Miller is taking it upon himself to completely rewrite the script for the movie.

Yes, Miller has enlisted the help of author Grant Morrison, and is going against the wishes of Flash writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who currently have a very light-hearted, funny script written for the film, in keeping with Warner Brothers’ new approach to making DC movies. Miller, on the other hand, is writing a much darker, more serious screenplay, and is actually showing incredible bravery in doing so: the official writers don’t seem to be backing this idea, and Miller’s future in the DCEU could be at stake. His script could be submitted as early as next week, which means we will soon learn if a new Flash is coming onboard, and Ezra Miller will be joining the lengthy list of cast and crew members kicked out from the DC franchise.

My feelings are quite conflicted: I do not like this new approach to DC movies, where they all have to be completely stand-alone and ridiculously comical. It works for one or two, like Aquaman, but characters like Wonder Woman would not, in my opinion, benefit from a more humorous approach, and the Flash, even though we’ve only seen him as a funny character, certainly has the capability to be more serious. Ezra Miller has done a great job as the dark and brooding Credence Barebone in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s inspired him to rewrite the script – to complement his own expanding talents as much as to help out the DCEU.

So what will happen? I have an uneasy feeling that Ezra Miller’s script probably won’t ever see the light of day, and the Flash will be recast. But maybe…just maybe…there’s a chance that Miller’s script is too good to pass up on, and the movie will end up being a more serious installment in the DCEU. Maybe Miller can initiate a new tonal style for DC movies, who knows? Despite what Warner Brothers likes to claim, none of their “serious” films were all that serious, except Wonder Woman, so this would be a great opportunity to expand the brand.

We should find out next week.

Shazam Trailer 2!

Finally, is my first reaction when seeing this pop up in my YouTube recommendations. We’ve been waiting for this trailer to drop for what feels like an eternity.

I was, honestly, ever so slightly disappointed: much of the footage in the trailer is stuff we’ve already seen before. There’s not a lot new to talk about – more fun little things, like Shazam trying to leap high buildings in a single bound, only to drastically fail by smashing into the side of a skyscraper. That cracked me up. But other than that, and a scene with Shazam holding up a falling bus, there’s just not that much. Thankfully, though, the trailer doesn’t lower my expectations in any way: I’m still pretty sure that this movie will be a very fun experience, and it’ll probably be a good Christmas movie – frankly, I’m confused as to why they decided to release this obvious holiday movie in early April, which just seems…odd. This trailer does, in fact, seem to be downplaying the strong Christmas element from the first one, though, so perhaps it’ll end up working in its spring release date anyway.

This trailer also gives us one particularly great shot, at 0:25, of Billy Batson transforming into Shazam as he leaps from a building – it’s a great shot, even if we saw it before in a teaser.

I am definitely eager to see this movie: unfortunately, it’s been dragged into the ongoing social media outrage about Captain Marvel, which led to Shazam actor Zachary Levi making a statement on Twitter, where he asked fans not to pit the two films against each other simply because Shazam happened to be called Captain Marvel years ago in the DC Comics. If I wasn’t excited to see Shazam before, I definitely was after that, because Levi proved himself to be a truly good human being with that statement.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Fantastic Beasts 3

Spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, ahead!

 

Following Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, viewers were left with a myriad of unanswered questions. However, most of us took assurance in the fact that we would only have to wait two years for the next installment to figure out things like: how is Credence a Dumbledore? How is Minerva McGonagall alive years before her birth? How is it even humanly possible that Eddie Redmayne continues to get more and more adorable in the role of Newt Scamander?

However, our hopes were rudely shattered by the news, which broke in January, that production of Fantastic Beasts 3 had been pushed back to the fall of this year – it had been expected to start production in the summer. This was followed by the revelation that the release date rumored to be reserved for Fantastic Beasts 3, November 20th, 2020, had been given to the sci-fi epic Dune. Now we’ve been able to glean a few more details about why the production was delayed. In an interview with the LA Times, Warner Brothers chief executive Kevin Tsujihara revealed that he is aware that Crimes of Grindelwald was no critical darling, and that its box-office gross was not what he had hoped for: he suggested that this is being taken into consideration now, and that J.K Rowling is “working hard” on the script for Fantastic Beasts 3, which is interesting, since she finished writing it all the way back in December. Tsujihara also said that the third film will be better even than the first Fantastic Beasts movie, and that Rowling has “an incredible vision” of what the future installments in the series will be like. This is all very promising, especially when combined with Fantastic Beasts actor Dan Fogler’s statement that Fantastic Beasts 3 will be bigger than the first two movie combined. We can only hope that more news is on its way, and that we can get answers to our questions soon. But at the moment, it seems most likely that Fantastic Beasts 3 will be Apparating into theaters in 2021. That, of course, is small comfort for all of us fans who are dying to see what happens next to Newt & Co., but in my opinion the delay will actually be helpful: Crimes of Grindelwald, of course, was torn apart by critics and had only a moderate success at the box-office, so giving the production team more time to craft an excellent movie is not a bad idea, by any means. Continue reading “Fantastic Beasts 3”