Black History Month Profile | Black Manta

That’s right. A villain. A bad guy. And one that most people forgot existed before a certain powerhouse movie from DC and Warner Bros.

What Yahya Abdul-Mateen II did for this character was take it out the murky waters of obscurity and into the limelight where he shines. Some comic fans thought he was Black Manta because of his suit or his villainous trade. No, it all started with who he is. Yahya knew that. James Wan knew that. And DC Comics knew it.

Now, thanks to global domination of Aquaman in theaters–currently at $1.1 billion–we all know it. Here’s today’s Black History Month comic profile:

Black Manta

black manta comicName: David Hyde

Creators: Bob Haney (writer), Nick Cardy (artist), DC Comics (comic)

1st Appearance: Aquaman #35 (1967)

Backstory: Did you know it took 26 years to give Black Manta an origin? It was until #6 of the 1993 Aquaman series that we learned about David Hyde. He was bullied on the docks of Baltimore, Maryland where he grew up. He was kidnapped and forced to work as slave labor on a ship. That’s where he tried to reach Aquaman and his dolphin friends for rescue–only, the King of Atlantis didn’t get the memo and a rivalry was born.

Powers:  Atlantean power and technology, skilled martial artist

Medium: Twenty six years it took for us to learn about David Hyde. Another 25 years to see him realized as the true scourge of the Seven Seas he was created to become.  Discovering Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was a revelation because while he was only on screen a handful of minutes, he commanded every second he was on screen because that was his goal.

Yahya was interviewed by Nerdist discussing his connection with the character and how Wan wanted the role to be rooted in something “real.”

Like the scene with his father, his connection to him, that loss and the way that we set it up in the movie really gave me all that I needed as an actor to make sure that this would be a character who could resonate with the fans.

Impact: Did his story resonate? Black Manta has experienced a couple of origins actually. From Baltimore to being raised in Arkham Asylum, he had it all. The master swimmer and treasure bounty hunter became what he was supposed to be, only we learned his rage is rooted from the loss of self. James Wan’s take on his backstory shows something many young black men can understand even more–the loss of a father. 

Regretfully, this is something millions of young black men have experienced, maybe not in a hijacked submarine, but that loss prevails. The fight back we see proves one salient point. That struggle really is real.

Culture: So, how can a villain inspire children? Black Manta’s force is more metaphorical. Think about it: He’s a source of power and strength in a world where he has no place. He has a job to do, which becomes his vision, although from the periphery, we all believe he will eventually get waxed.

There is a hidden truth in this fantastical fiction. No loss, no obstacle, no thing should ever get in your way. We all have to fight our demons, fish-scaled or not. David Hyde is fighting his daily and won’t stop until he is done. In an odd way, we can all hope to have that kind of determination against our own.

Review by: SPW

Review | ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Characters Done Right

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the most recent film to come out about everyone’s favorite web-slinger. Only this time, more than one person wears the mask. Spider-Verse is a story with a message, one that anyone can be Spider-Man and that everyone is special in their own way.

While this was not the first movie to star Spider-Man, nor will it be the last, it is my opinion this is the best one that we have ever received. This movie got many things right, but there is one thing where I believe it excelled–characters.

The first thing any good story needs is likable characters, and Spider-Verse is crawling with them. Each character has a distinctive personality and some even vary in art styles. 

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The main character of the movie is Miles Morales, a half-black, half-Hispanic kid bitten by a radioactive spider while spray painting with his uncle. He is different from the comic book Miles who was very similar to Peter Parker, being interested in science. The Spider-Verse Miles loves music and art. 

Throughout the story, Miles learns how to use his special powers while also learning that he has to do it his own way because there is no right or wrong way to be Spider-Man.

The movie is diverse in many ways. Peni Parker seems to come straight out of an anime while Spider-Noir looks like he came out of a black and white detective film. And who can forget the Spectacular Spider-Ham who appears to have just left a Looney Tunes cartoon? (Admittedly, I am a bit of a Spider-Ham nut, so you can expect to read that name a lot.)

Each spider shows a different side of Spider-Man. From the overly gloomy Peter Parker Noir, to the overly cheery Peter Porker, there are all sorts of Spider-People, but the spiders aren’t the only strong characters this movie portrays.

Miles’ relationship with his family was also handled really well, especially with his father and uncle. Aaron Davis is Miles’ uncle who is also secretly the ‘Prowler.’ Miles spends a lot of time with his uncle Aaron, which kind of bothers his father, Jefferson Davis.

There is a scene near the end that shows how well these relationships work. That scene is the one where Jefferson tries to talk to Miles about Aaron’s passing. Miles didn’t even need to say anything and the scene was extremely emotional. Jefferson spoke from the heart, even calling back to an earlier scene when he says “I love you, Miles. You don’t have to say it back.”

That is how well developed the characters are.

spider verse

I cannot talk about the characters in this movie without going over my favorite character. Peter Porker was an average spider.

One day, his life changed forever when he was bitten by a radioactive pig. His inclusion in this movie was the thing I was most looking forward to when this movie was announced. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.

John Mulaney voiced the character perfectly. His voice perfectly matched the body of a cartoon pig. And the animation they used blended perfectly with the rest of the style, while also standing out. He was a two-dimensional being in a three-dimensional world, and it never looked off-putting. I could go on about Spider-Ham all day, but I would like to move on to my final point.

spider-ham

Characters are an essential part of any movie, obviously. Characters have the potential to make or break a film. If the characters aren’t likeable, what reason would we have for rooting for them? Spider-Verse does a good job with balancing many characters and having them all feel different, while still being likable.

Miles Morales is likeable. Jefferson Davis is likable. Spider-Ham is likable. These characters work very well off each other, and the movie left me wanting to see more of every one of them, especially the pig. Not only are the characters great, but so is the animation, acting, and everything about this movie.

It is a definite must-watch.

Black History Month Profile | Luke Cage

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am still butthurt that Netflix (and Disney) canceled Luke Cage. So there’s that.

Season 2 delivered more than an in-depth character, more than one amazing villain in Bushmaster, more than a cliffhanger ending that made you salivate for more. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker learned from his mistakes and made the show better. Look at this quote to highlight the passion and the purpose from Coker in this must-read article in Vulture on Black Hollywood and Power Man’s place in it:

“Maybe it comes from being a critic, because I’ve criticized before, so I understand critics, for better or for worse. The conventional wisdom was the show fell off after episode seven in which Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth is killed off. And one of the most critical voices, in a great way, was from Angelica Jade Bastién at Vulture. She wrote these episodic recaps, and some of them were scathing, but they were so beautifully written.”

One of the things she wrote about was, ‘I wish they had spent more time trying to imagine who Cage is as a man, instead of just as a superhero.’

The second season was better, stronger, and more complex than could be imagined because it started with the brain behind the brawn. And now it’s dead. Hopefully, Disney and Marvel will do what’s right and continue telling this important story.

Before Coker brought Mike Colter to the screen, he was largely a TV actor with some repeat roles in The Following (FOX), The Good Wife (CBS), and Agent X (TNT). When Coker cast him, it took some digesting. Could this guy carry that role? Could he tell the story important for kids and adults alike? Could he really be Luke Cage?

Yes, he can. 

And now, look at him in anything else and you expect him to be bulletproof. Colter personified the man and the myth of Power Man. He–and Coker–deserved better. Nothing is sacred or permanent in Hollywood. We know that, but Luke Cage’s place is permanent in the impact he has created for black superheroes and even villains.

Today’s BHM profile follows:

Luke Cage

LC Comic

Name: Carl Lucas

Creators: Archie Goodwin, Roy Thomas, John Romita Sr. (writers), George Tuska (artist), Marvel (comic)

1st Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972)

Backstory: Growing up in Harlem around the wrong people, he ends up on the wrong side of the law for something he didn’t do. At Seagate prison, he becomes the subject of some questionable lab experiment leaving him for dead. A good person at heart, Lucas becomes a hero for hire and meets some interesting friends along the way.

Powers: Bulletproof skin, Superhuman strength

Medium: Netflix did the right thing listening to Cheo Hodari Coker. Luke Cage could have been a good movie, but the story is so much better than two hours of CGI and fisticuffs could have unfolded. The story of Carl Lucas was a multifaceted one of family–his, a Godfather-type hubbub with Cottonmouth and his ne’er-do-well politically inclined cousin, and a Jamaican generational connection that gave us easily one of the best villains of 2018. This proved to be a story to tell, people to meet, and a hero to discover. Thank you, Netflix. (And now, suck it Netflix for taking it away.)

Impact: Before the aforementioned and ineptly cancelled TV series hit the airwaves, Luke Cage and Power Man were relatively inconspicuous in the grand scheme of Marvel’s global takeover. And then Daredevil and Steven DeKnight took over the nerdverse by storm. Rumors began floating about The Defenders. Then came Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, followed later by The Punisher. Luke Cage had an opening. Cheo Hodari Coker had a muse. And we all had a hero for hire. Finally. It was beholden to canon and we loved him–and Mike Colter–for it.

Culture: During the height of Blaxploitation, Luke Cage became the first black superhero featured as both the good guy and lead of a comic book. (Not for nothing but Black Panther first appeared with the Fantastic Four in 1966.) Although movies like Sweet Sweetback Baadasssss Song (and yes, I had to count all those letters) were chock full of stereotypes, they were also full of one other thing the public wasn’t accustomed to seeing in film — leading black people.

A few brave souls at Marvel stood up and spoke up by putting Power Man in print. Because of that effort, other people may have felt empowered to put their efforts in other places, like a busy bus station, a restroom without a label, or even a school known for being homogenized. You think the “bulletproof skin” was meant to be only metaphorical? Sweet Christmas.

Review by: SPW

A-List | 5 Actors to Replace Batfleck

Well, we finally have confirmation of what everyone knew all along… Batfleck is no more.

That’s right, Ben Affleck has officially stepped away from the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. After Affleck gave what a lot of fans would consider the best portrayal of ‘The Dark Knight,’ people will be sad to see him go.

There’s no sense in dwelling on the past!

Matt Reeves at the helm of the new Batman film is reason enough for fans to be optimistic for the future of the Caped Crusader. Reeves has made it clear he wants to go younger with his version of Bruce and really wants to explore more of his detective side.

Who could replace Affleck? Who is up to the task of filling the shoes (or boots) that he left? Let’s take a look!

Nicholas Hoult

MAIN-Nicholas-Hoult

Most well-known for playing Hank McCoy, aka Beast, in multiple X-Men films, Hoult is no stranger to comic book movies. Hoult’s talent is evident and his performances in films like the X-Men franchise and Mad Max: Fury Road showcase he is more than capable of anchoring a film as the lead.

With the fate of Fox’s X-Men franchise already decided, Hoult will be free to jump from Marvel right on over to DC to don that famous cape and cowl. He has the talent, the experience, and the screen presence to pull off a younger Bruce Wayne. It’s time to give this man his shot at leading a franchise on his own.

Finn Wittrock

finn whitrockAmerican Horror Story fans will know this name as Wittrock was somewhat of a mainstay on the hit anthology series. DC fans should know his name as well since his name popped up numerous times in regards to DC’s Nightwing movie that was announced all those months back.

Since it would appear production on that movie has stalled, why not Wittrock for a younger Bruce Wayne instead? AHS fans know about the incredible range Wittrock possesses, but for those that don’t, go watch some of his stuff and tell me this guy wouldn’t crush the role of a young Bruce Wayne!

Ben Barnes

ben barnesBen Ben Barnes is another actor who is no stranger to the comic book genre after portraying Billy Russo/Jigsaw for the first two seasons of Marvel’s The Punisher (streaming on Netflix now). Barnes could make the jump from charming, charismatic villain to charming, charismatic hero.

He’s definitely got a swagger about him in his acting, a sense of confidence, which would be crucial to the wealthy, socialite side of Bruce Wayne. However, after seeing his performance in Season 2 of The Punisher, Barnes is an extremely versatile actor as he played Russo with a real sense of raw emotion. You really felt just how broken his character was. Barnes would bring a fresh take to the Caped Crusader–broken, raw emotion and all.

Ricky Whittle

ricky whittleWhittle is another name that should sound familiar to DC fans as his name has popped up often in casting rumors for popular Green Lantern, John Stewart. Whittle’s credentials include a lot of smaller roles on television, but he may have finally found his breakout role as Shadow Moon on Starz’s American Gods.

For those that haven’t seen it…go watch it! Whittle is terrific as the leading man, and his performance really anchors the show, especially his chemistry with co-star Ian McShane. Whittle has undeniable talent, leading man looks, and the physical stature to give us a very imposing and intimidating Bruce Wayne.

Alden Ehrenreich

Alden Han SoloFor the Solo critics who cried like babies from the rooftops about Ehrenreich’s casting as Han Solo, I’d just like to take this moment to say…HA!

Although the film didn’t perform up to Star Wars standards, Ehrenreich gave us a damn good portrayal of Han Solo. Enough so to convince me that he’d make a damn good Bruce Wayne as well. As we saw in Solo, Ehrenreich can play the confident, cocky type with relative ease.

He has a ton of charisma and is no slouch in the action department either. I, like a lot of people that saw Solo, considered his performance as Han as a breakout role for Ehrenreich. What better way to keep that momentum going than stepping into Bruce Wayne’s Gucci loafers and becoming Gotham’s Dark Knight?!

New Series: Black History Month Comic Profiles

It’s February and while people are rummaging for loose change underneath the couch cushions to get their significant other some pajamagram, day-old chocolates, or daisies, there are other things happening this month.

Most importantly among them: Black History Month. 

If you want, we can go into Carter G. Woodson‘s bold and brave vision behind the need, importance, and dedication for this month. (And trust, we could go there.) That said, we are going to use this month–and next month for Women’s History, if this goes well–to highlight black history in nerd.

Or, as we have now called it: Blerd. 

The mission, should we choose to accept it, is to highlight a character in comics that have a place among the Pantheon of black history. Some have been in movies. Others are known for TV shows. And then, there are a few that shamelessly haven’t been considered for broadcasts.

The one thing they all have in common is they share a piece of fabric. A thread in the woven tapestry of our culture. They connect us–geeks, nerds, cinephiles one and all. We love the adventure, the fantasy, the imagination it takes to come up with these characters of comic lore.

Some of them mean more than others for different reasons. During this month, we will explore what some of the most underrated characters mean to millions during Black History Month.

We will start with the O.G. of cinematic black CBM heroes…

Blade

Name: Eric BrooksBlade

Creators: Marv Wolfman (writer), Gene Colan (artist), Marvel (comic)

1st AppearanceThe Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973)

Backstory: Born in a SOHO whorehouse outside of London, Eric’s mom was victimized by her “doctor” — a vampire named Deacon Frost who masked himself as a physician. During her pregnancy, he feasted on her neck, she died, but not before Eric was born. This was also the birth of his powers to defend others against vampires.

Powers: Quasi-vampiric. Sense supernatural, prolonged lifespan, mastery expert in knives/swords (Bushido) and hand-to-hand combat.

Medium: Following comics with Doctor Strange, Nightstalkers, Spider-Man (where he used to run with and later fought Morbius), Blade was introduced as the first-ever black superhero in film. In 1999, the Blade trilogy began, starring Wesley Snipes.

blade

There is an entire generation of CBM fans who see movies, watch the extended universes evolve, and even blog about the movies seen in theaters. These people, these aware and woke people, swear until they are blue in the face that Chadwick Boseman–aka Black Panther–is the standard bearer for all black superheroes in modern film.

Yeah, no. That is Wesley Snipes.

At the time, he was the action star. He was versatile in drama, action, and comedy. He is a legitimate badass with a 5th dan (degree) black in Shotokan karate and a 2nd dan in Hapkido. He is smart (when he pays his taxes), excellent at what he does, and was the perfect selection to play Blade.

Impact: You enjoy Black Panther? Do you appreciate Black Lightning? Were you one of the people who signed the ‘Bring back Luke Cage‘ petition? Say thank you to Blade. Whether it’s in your heart or tweeting @WesleySnipes, say thank you. Twenty years before Marvel thought about the Avengers or DC considered copying that with a league of their own, there was Wesley believing he could do something different. It’s different from his previous drama. Different from the laughs he got. This was a bold decision he knew it would outlast him. It did.

Culture: That movie was more than bold because of the story matter, it was brave because of the subject matter. Hollywood wasn’t sure about taking a chance on a black superhero. They did and Hollywood has been thanking Wesley Snipes ever since. Maybe not verbally, but there is no way they film TV and movie February or any other month without the influence Snipes provided, with or without his blade.

Review by: SPW

Peter Jackson is Taking a ‘Long and Winding Road’ for a Beatles Doc

The ingenue behind Tolkien’s tale of Middle Earth has an itching that only the premiere minds of film making can scratch — he’s been in the mood to make documentaries.

In fact, Peter Jackson has confirmed (via The New York Times) that he will take on an archival documentary of the most influential band in music history: The Beatles.

In an astonishing Ken Burns-esque approach, Jackson plans on forensically dissecting 55 hours of never-before-seen footage of the band’s 1969 studio sessions that led to their 12th and final album, “Let It Be.”

“This movie will be the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about,” Jackson said in a statement. “It’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.”

Audiophiles to music historians, disc jockeys to iTunes subscribers. Regardless of where you fall in your own musical genre of taste, it’s very likely the musical tree where your fave takes root came to us because of what four bowl-headed guys from Manchester, UK brought to the United States.

And now, Peter Jackson may create the most definitive point of view we’ve ever seen on the Fab Four.

While there has been no release date set for the untitled documentary, it seems likely to be released in 2020 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the film release of Let It Be.

Not for nothing, but the guy has that magical elven touch when it comes to these films too. Have you seen the trailer for his first foray as a documentarian, They Shall Not Grow Old? The film features actual (but magically restored) and technicolorized footage from World War I, to use Jackson’s words, “as the soldiers themselves saw each other.”

Yes, my precious. Yes, please. They Shall Not Grow Old will be in theaters this weekend. Do yourself a solid — go!

As Ben Affleck Confirms He’s Done, Matt Reeves Confirms He’s Just Beginning

The Bat is Dead! Long Live the Bat!

Among the many ballyhooed topics in nerd circles, there is one paramount piece of chatter for DC Comics lovers and haters: “Will Batfleck be back?”

Thanks to a pretty obvious tweet from Ben himself, the answer is a resounding “No.” 

You may now stop holding your breath.

Perhaps it’s the long wait until May 2021 as we have now heard will be the release date, and maybe dude has some things to do, like make The Accountant 2: Taxing Changes in Beantown. Whatever the reason, Batfleck is over.

He made three movies and is arguably one of the most enigmatic and commanding presences of the cape and the cowl we’ve ever been offered. There was hope out there Matt Reeves could use Affleck, although he was considering getting younger at that position.

It seems that form of hope is no more.

There have been two solid years for the rumor mill to practically spin off its axle on who could replace Ben should he not decide to star or screenwrite or co-produce or just get his thumb out of batass and make up his mind.

Be careful what you wish for, nerds. 

On the bright side, whatever Reeves is creating (now sans Affleck) could be the quintessential ‘Batman’ film. Like, overall.

Matt Reeves has shared (with THR) a few revealing and hair-raising details to make DC fans smile through this misery about what has to be longest gestation for a CBM in the history of ever.

You can’t have Batman without a villain…There will be a rogues gallery.

I’m sorry, what?! Multiple villains for a Batflick? Oh joy! And this couples with a fairly cryptic tweet on the subject from good friend of Reeves, potential penguin, and part-time snowman, Josh Gad.

(Reeves’ son goes to school with Gad’s daughter, so there’s that.)

And wait, there’s more. Something else from Reeves personally.

Bruce Wayne is the paragon of detectives–better than Dick Tracy, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, or even Veronica Mars. At least, that is Reeves’ standpoint and something we will soon witness the full realization of that vision.

It’s very much a point-of-view-driven, noir Batman tale…It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional. It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films.

In February 2017, we got the mastermind behind two of the Planet of the Apes and Cloverfield movies to become the helm of the next era of the franchise. (And, did you know he also wrote Under Siege 2: Dark Territory? Sorry, that was just for me.) In May 2021, we will get the end of rumors and the culmination of a 5.5-year process.

The morale of the story? Good things come to those who wait.

Troll and tease all you want. Scoop with misleading headlines or stunt the growth of other critics. Nothing really matters because when it comes down to it, we are pundits talking shop while guys like Matt Reeves and Geoff Johns in DC Nation are making shop.

Speaking solely for one side of the comic tracks at the moment, has DC and WB earned our unfettered trust? Not really. Should we give them a chance to get it back? Most definitely. Look at the future.

It’ll take a while, but that glimmer you see in the distance? It may not be light at the end of the tunnel. It may just be hope after all.

Zack Snyder and the Zombies are Coming…to Netflix

Ever since Zack Snyder teleported out of public consciousness and onto Vero, fans (and trolls) have been clamoring about his next project. Shoot, his next appearance would be nice.

We’ve heard rumors. We’ve seen pictures. And now, we have a destination — Netflix?! 

Yeah, no one saw that coming. Then, we hear what he’s doing for the streaming juggernaut. Both he and his wife, Deborah (owners of Stone Quarry Productions), have signed on to bring us all Army of the Deada zombie-horror-thriller.

Three words that give most nerds more natural, clammy chills than a prom date watching The Notebook.

The movie was originally home at Warner Bros. in 2007, but–as fate would have it–the film is no longer in the hands full of thumbs because it was purchased by Netflix. So, huzzah, we get Zack back.

As we are told by THR, the story is a Snyder original and will be set in Las Vegas, when all of the sudden a zombie outbreak hits. We will be treated to a man who a gaggle of mercenaries to go into the quarantined zone for “the greatest heist ever attempted.”

It’s like The Expendables meets The Walking Dead. Whatevs. We’re all in. Why? This…

There are no handcuffs on me at all with this one.

Shots fired Warner Bros. and DC Comics! Snyder continues about how this project will become somewhat of a catharsis after the family tragedy he experienced midway through Justice League. 

I thought this was a good palate cleanser to really dig in with both hands and make something fun and epic and crazy and bonkers in the best possible way.

scott stuber zack snyder
LOS ANGELES – MARCH 10: (US TABS AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT) Universal Pictures Scott Stuber (L) and director Zack Snyder at Beverly Theatres in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Turns out the keys to the proverbial Netflix kingdom was given to Snyder by a friend. Scott Stuber was recently hired to focus on Netflix’s feature films empire.

See that picture? That’s Stuber and Snyder chillin’ at the after party of Zack’s big screen debut. Ready for the irony?

Dawn of the Dead. 

That’s the thing — Zack seems to make movies about his passions. This reoccurring one is about zombies. And it’s his. All $90 million of the budget is his.

“I love to honor canon and the works of art,” [Snyder] says of his adaptations, “but this is the opportunity to find a purely joyful way to express myself though a genre. It will be the most kick-ass, self-aware — but not in a wink-to-the-camera way — balls-to-the-wall zombie freakshow that anyone has ever seen. No one’s ever let me completely loose [like this].”

Again, shots fired. Sounds like Zack is feeling himself.  Good for us indeed. Welcome back!

 

 

 

Henry Cavill’s ‘The Witcher’ is Casting Spells for Adults Only

Back in September, shortly after DC Comics and Warner Bros. lost their collective ess for brains allowing Superman to allegedly fly back to Krypton, we discovered that Henry Cavill signed on to become ‘The Witcher’ in a made-for-TV Netflix series.

The book series about acclaimed monster hunter Geralt of Rivia gained significant awareness as a video game trilogy, which may be what got the attention of Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, who wrote the script for Netflix. If her name sounds familiar, it should. She also worked Steven DeKnight, among others, to co-executive produce Daredevil and The Defenders for Netflix.

Good thing this happened. She didn’t even have to clean out her desk. For several months, The Witcher has been filming in Hungary. Recently, she came in from the cold to give us all this fire!

Uh, kids? This ain’t for you.

Got to love that warning! Wonder if there are some mysterious blue pills in all those potions he drinks.

And now, there’s an obscure casting call near Budapest with the creative team searching for “people to play little people, individuals with missing limbs, and blacksmiths.”

Should be interesting to watch. In case you missed the tease from last Halloween, here’s what Supes looks like in a black suit. (What? Too soon?)

Alongside Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher stars Freya Allan as Ciri, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer, Jodhi May as Queen Calanthe, Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson as Eist, Adam Levy as Mousesack, MyAnna Buring as Aretuza, and Millie Brady as Princess Renfri, with Mimi Ndiweni and Therica Wilson-Read as novice sorcerers.

Alik Sakharov, Alex Garcia Lopez and Charlotte Brändström are on board as directors for the eight-episode first season.

A-LIST | The 12 Best Video Game Movies Ever

Gamers. Cinephiles.

Outliers often clumps these two fringe groups together maybe because they love their craft with vigor and arguing what is best with vitriol. Also, maybe because they do what they do in the privacy of a basement or some other secluded nerd trance-like state.

Whatever the reason, they’re right. Most gamers adore hitting the road–sometimes like herds of cattle, other times like the cow that knows it is “stock show” time–to enjoy a movie.

Then, the makers of game had an epiphany: “Why not combine the two?”

super_mario_bros._(film)Unfortunately, that idea culminated with Super Mario Bros.: The MovieThe tagline even had its faults. “This ain’t no game” could have been catchy but it set the stage for a permanent trip down the sewage pipe.

Of course, video game movies have come a long way. Well, some of them. Let’s discuss the Top 12 Video Game Movies of all time.

12. Street Fighter (1994)

street fighter movie

This movie was everything gamers thought it would be — a game featuring people in cosplay that fight. Script didn’t matter. Only the kicks, which is why Jean-Claude Van Damme was called in to lead the film as Ken.

Even with Van Damme, the fights were forgettable. Some of the other street fighters from ‘Street Fighter II’ didn’t make to fisticuffs as Chun-Li was a reporter because why not. The script was teeming with campy one liners, even from Bison, who incidentally was portrayed by Raul Julia in his last on-screen role. (Not a way to go out, just saying.)

11. Need for Speed (2014)

need-for-speed_704

Fresh from Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul drove this movie into theaters hoping gearheads everywhere would show up. The Fast & Furious franchise was already into its sixth iteration, so this would certainly bring people in. We have cars, fighting, more cars, and even Michael Keaton. (Also, a nubile Rami Malek.)

What could go wrong? For starters, the director lost his watch batteries. This was close to two hours long and it just didn’t hold up, much less our interest. Think of watching this movie as an engine test — it’s ready to take off, revving its engine loudly, only that poor thing was coughing more than a smoking Russian lady with emphysema.

10. Hitman (2007)

hitman

This film had a ton of promise. Deadly spying. Choreographed fighting. Bullets flying.  And Timothy Olyphant stoically staring. The genetically engineered Agent 47 could not give two turds about the people he killed and that is certainly communicated to the rest of us–only in action. Not so much in voice.

This script had more holes in it than a pack of Swiss cheese. He’s supposed to be bred for this role in life; yet, that UPC code in the back of his head is scanning memories like milk on sale. Video game movies should not have to work this hard to be good. This one should have worked just a skosh harder.

9. Warcraft (2016)

warcraft

With Peter Jackson lighting up Hollywood with fantasy homers, there’s no doubt someone was looking under any stone for another batch of middle earth, or at least, a remote suburb of Detroit. World of Warcraft gave Duncan Jones every opportunity to do just that, only the Orcs just can’t deliver what the Hobbits did a couple of times.

If you played this game on your PC for any amount of time, you know the movie fell short of the monitor. Imagine that?! Apparently, not that many people played it overseas as the movie made a paltry $47 million here but $386 million internationally. The Orcs look good. (Justice League could have learned a thing about CGI here.)

Man, those underbites. Someone needs to call a mythic dentist for those dudes.

8. Mortal Kombat (1995)

mortal_kombat

While there were no vivid fatalities, this was the quintessential video game movie for many years. The characters were fairly close to the video game. The fights, while bad Kung-Fu film making it was, still captured the imagination. If only the acting and the script kept up. Not like it had an example because the video game had zero story — just fights to the death.

Not the Highlander’s shining moment in film as Lord Raiden (that’s Christopher Lambert to others), but they tried to make him look scary and fully charged. It is a true-to-game adaptation. So, if anyone can figure out what happened to Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, let us know. Better yet, don’t.

7. Assassin’s Creed (2016)

assassins creed movie

Up until this point, video game movies felt like a slot machine pertaining with the producers. Sure, they hire stars and make a real film hoping to get big dollars, but in reality, they drum up pennies and are often forgotten for bigger things.

Assassin’s Creed gave gamers and movie fans alike confidence that video game movies have that big-movie feel. The movie cost $125 million to make, and for the most part, it showed, beginning with a hefty salary for lead Michael Fassbender. Regretfully, not even Magneto could attract a steel-reinforced script (or much of an audience).

But the leaps of faith sure looked cool. So, there’s that.

6. Prince of Persia (2010)

prince-of-persia-the-sands-of-time

Let the great whitewashing of Hollywood rage on, as this movie may be responsible for getting it back in headlines. The game and the movie is supposedly set in “Persia,” yet the lead character is played by Jake Gyllenhaal who can’t help but look like he hails from the Bronx.

That notwithstanding, it came across more like a B-version of something ‘Indiana Jones’ would do rather than an action-oriented video game. The acting saves this from feeling like “just another video game movie.” It worked. The action sequences. The swordplay. And even the parkour. Dastan was impressive here. Even for a white guy.

5. Tomb Raider (2018)

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It took 15 years for this movie to be done correctly, but Alicia Viklander of Ex-Machina fame was convincing as Lara Croft. The story became a page turner this time. It had depth and greatly enhanced action. In this movie, she appears as independent and fearless as she was supposed to be.

The movie was clearly taken from the game with Viklander very comfortable storming the doors of a lost tomb in London. The film was more about sweet delight and action, less about schmaltzy eye candy and trumped-up accents (side eyeing you Jolie). Unlike her titular predecessor, this Lara Croft would be welcomed to get a sequel.

4. Angry Birds (2016)

angry birds

Finally, an animated makes the list (and it’s not the last). Until this point in time, video game movies were all about transporting the viewer through time and behold some war-ridden dystopia. Characters overacting. CGI under-performing. And then comes, the Angry Birds movie. It was fantastic for kids, and not so bad for adults either.

The app experienced a renaissance as interest rekindled and skyrocketed. Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, and even Peter Dinklage were so good voicing these roles. They made this movie in the Pixar mold — a great time for the kids and some scatological stuff for the parents. Yes, enjoyable video games movies? There is an app for that.

3. Silent Hill (2006)

silent-hill-movie

Critics panned it. Fans rather enjoyed it. Gamers loved it. This was a time when horror video games were making it big because they forced people to play their games with lights on in the basement. What’s so scary about a mom looking for a cure for her daughter’s illness? Lots if you jaunt to Silent Hill.

From mysteries in the fog to jump scares that work, Silent Hill made the game proud. And made gamers very happy in the process, if not for any other reason than Pyramid Head yanking skin off people was realistic and brutal. It felt more like a movie than a game. No resets. This movie didn’t even need the game to work.

2. Resident Evil (2002)

resident-evil

From Afterlife to Apocalypse, Retribution to Extinction, this is easily the most successful video game movie franchise in history–and probably will remain that way for quite some time.  There have been eight of them, for those scoring at home. Yes, that may have been four or five too many, but it all begin with a bold step of interpreting what a video game movie can be.

The movie changes its theme more times than Kevin Wendell Crumb changes his feelings in Split. Action to horror to fantasy to…oh man, those zombies! Alice’s memories have us gallivanting across the film with glee because this is an adventure everyone–including the sundry gamer–wants to enjoy. And they have for years.

1. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

final fantasy

Remember the hubbub about computer animated movies? This is why. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within isn’t just good for a video game movie or a computer animated movie. It’s just a good film. The story isn’t that much, but for cinephiles who appreciate the passion of movie making, the skill of creating environments, and the deft hands who can deliver promise through art — this movie delivers.

It really was a landmark film as it was the first feature-length motion picture to use computer-generated imagery of the characters themselves. Yes, The Polar Express took a trip through this alien-ridden, meteor-abashed antiutopia and should thank them for their work. They taught us all how a video game movie should really be — different.

 

Theater Throwback | For John Wick, It was Personal

With the recent news and marketing storm of the new John Wick 3: Parabellum, this week’s throwback review is John Wick (2014). Now, if you haven’t seen the original or just want to catch up later following the third installment in theaters, you may want to turn around.

Thanks for visiting, but SPOILERS AHEAD! 

The movie that blindsided people and exceeded everyone’s expectation–this is the movie that started it all and was the start of an epic trilogy (Keanu’s second). John Wick changed our perception of what we as viewers knew as “hit-man” movies embarking on a new type of spy franchise that will never be forgotten.

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John Wick (2014)

Background

In the wake of his wife’s death, a distraught and retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) received a final gift from his wife to take and love — a dog. It was the last sign of her Wick had.

When a robbery causes John Wick to lose his antique car and find his new puppy killed, he puts his gloves back on (literally, black gloves for murdering) to enact his revenge on those sick people who took away the only hope he had for dealing with his wife’s death.

He will stop at nothing and no one will get in his way from getting payback for what those guys did. Now the legend of John Wick will live again. He is back and ready for action, and it’s personal!

Is This A New Spy Story?

john wick puppy

When you first hear the story and plot — ex-hitman wife dies, ex-hitman comes out of retirement, ex-hitman seeks revenge on those who did wrong.

This sounds like a setup to a cheesy movie of any theme sure to miss the mark and hit every single cliche it can. This is were you were wrong because John Wick is a new fresh idea to the term “hitman.”

John Wick brings things to the table we have never seen before in a trained assassin. Even with very little dialogue spoken, we still are able to connect with John Wick on an emotional level. Unlike other spy/hitman movies just looking for the money or hoping to hook up with the girl, John Wick feels different and fresh.

You still have some of the cliche spy lines and action sequences, but it seems like no one can pull it off better than the one-and-only Keanu Reeves. He was literally born to play this role and can’t imagine anyone else playing John Wick. The action sequences are some of the best action I have ever seen in a movie. Even in 2019, this film’s action sequences still hold up.

The fighting scenes are so intriguing and intense that you just love to see how Wick is going to get the bad guy. Is he going to use his hands? A pencil? A car? A curtain? Each time you see John getting in trouble, you are treated with an amazing fight scene. John Wick takes everything you know about a hitman/spy movie, crumbles it up, and does it two times better.

 

John Wick also works on building a world around the character. Even though there are little hints and nods throughout the movie, it gives the main character (and the other secondary characters) more depth and meaning. Even though Keanu and the ‘world building’ make the film great, the cinematography is the one thing that separates John Wick from everyone else.

This film was so beautifully shot. From the graveyard scene to the pool room scene, these scenes were just so vibrant and so beautiful. In action movies like this, its all VFX and explosions, never great cinematography (except the rare movie, like Skyfall). This is another way John Wick separates itself from the other assassin movies.

The Verdict

john-wick-keanu-reevesJohn Wick is a new type of action movie we have not seen before and completely makes Wick his own character. Keanu Reeves single-handily carries this film, even though he only talks for 15 minutes. He doesn’t need talk and still makes this character pop.

William Dafoe is in the film, and even though he is underused for a man of his talents, he still makes the most of the screen time and adds layers to John Wick’s story. That kind of storytelling makes us think who Wick was before his wife. While the movie does have some goofs, cliche lines, and sequences that we have seen a million times before, this film is executed in a beautiful way.

The shots, the amazing musical score, and the great action sequences. John Wick is revolutionary in its own sense because it doesn’t follow the same rules every other hitman or assassin film does. It hits all the bullet points (no pun intended…kinda) for a great action movie then adds to it to make the film better.

Again, what makes this film is Keanu Reeves. Without him, this film may have not been pulled of to the greatness that we saw. There is a new man in town along with Bond, Bourne, and Hunt, and his name is Wick …. John Wick ! 

Overall 8.5/10

“He once was an associate of ours. They call him “Baba Yaga.”

“The Boogeyman” 

That Was The Day the DCEU Died (Really)

The moment Iron Man hit theaters with AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blaring in surround sound to the post-credit instant when Nick Fury appeared in Tony Stark’s living room with whispers of “the Avengers program,” Marvel had a plan.

And for more than 10 years, they never deterred from it. 

They developed characters with solo projects, even created multiple trilogies. They introduced some lesser-known folk to make them household names. They destroyed box-office projections time-after-time.

Still, they weaved an intergalactic tapestry of cinema that proves what it means to plan first, produce second.

Then came DC and WB…

man of steel

The marketing machine and the hype — oh Lord, the hype — for Man of Steel was through the roof. DC Comics were going to compete for supremacy. Sure, they were a few years late to the party. Yes, they screwed up allowing the Nolanverse to be completely separate from plans.

But, this was going to introduce a brooding character carousel. Man of Steel was a stellar origin movie. Henry Cavill may have been relatively unknown when he came from Krypton but that man became the role.

Of course, DC and WB couldn’t do it just like Marvel, so the “sequel” had to not only stand out from the nerd banter and give them all something to really discuss, but also introduce new characters — Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, and of course, Batfleck.

And, well, two out of three didn’t disappoint. As polarizing as Batman v. Superman became, we still had the making of a DC Extended Universe. Huzzah! Then, DC and WB had the fart-and-fall-down moment of Suicide Squad. 

Sigh.

Even though $746 million is very impressive, a little less than an eighth of those dollars were spent by people who walked out of the theater high-fiving someone. The movie had its faults. Well, many of them.

DC and WB needed a rebound and the doltish duo got one with Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins created a dynamic origin and made an instant leading super lady of Gal Gadot. More origins to come. More movies to fall in line. More box office success.

And here flops the Justice League…

justice-league

Three new characters — the same ones that were teased in Batman v. Superman. They were all here. This had to be good, only it wouldn’t be because of life hurling a gignormous monkey wrench in the middle of production.

We all know what happened to Zack Snyder’s family. We’ve all heard the tales of woe to come from Snyder leaving and Joss Whedon entering. It’s a point of urban legend of #TheSnyderCut. And now, Zack Snyder has been doing something about it.

How could all that potential be squandered because one guy wanted to create jokes? Were Walter Hamada and his crew of misfit executives never really committed to Snyder’s vision? What caused them to jump ship so easily? Questions like these never stopped. Rumors kept swirling. And hopes kept dashing.

Yet, still, all DC fans are left longing for what could have been only seven movies into the extended…well, black hole since it never really made a universe.

One movie created ripples in the DC / WB pond of dreams that have yet to stop fluttering in the water and drowning every hope that comes in its path. Fortunately, water is precisely where hope has sprung forth.

Well, almost.

Aquaman Chartered a New Course

aquaman money

The King of the Seven Seas gave something to DC and WB they didn’t seem to capture with their first six films — credibility.

You heard it here first: James Wan saved DC.

He did it months before the movie appeared in theaters and earned more than $1 billion at the box office. He did it because the movie had one vision, free of bureaucracy. The movie had a single focus, to tell Arthur Curry’s story and how he returned to Atlantis following the battle against (the CGI-aborted vision of) Steppenwolf.

It happened because the movie was singular — it stood apart from the gossip, the gregarious conjecture. James Wan had an idea, and stuck to it, with a little help and blessing from Zack Snyder. (So suck it, Hamada.)

WB had momentum. And it was starting to show.

Before the movie debuted, we saw a Shazam trailer that was electric! (Yes, that was intentional. Sue me.) We heard stories of other one-off movies (i.e., Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984). It seemed Warner Bros. and DC Comics got its sea legs back.

Then, no more Batfleck. Cavill took his mustache and went elsewhere. Flash and Green Lantern were becoming more forgotten than focal points. But all that money…

That brings us to today and Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich. Following a shiny new Producers Guild of America’s Milestone Award, Emmerich was feeling himself and told THR his thoughts on a new DC Comics’ future and how WB is getting back to movie making, even if it is one-off movie magic.

We all feel like we’ve turned a corner now. We’re playing by the DC playbook, which is very different than the Marvel playbook. We are far less focused on a shared universe. We take it one movie at a time. Each movie is its own equation and own creative entity. If you had to say one thing about us, it’s that it always has to be about the directors.

See, there’s no vision there, only what he can see.

Movies related to a multiverse of any kind hurt the studio. Films that could stand on their own were box-office reckonings. Shazam is no longer having a Supes appearance, so it’s alone. Joker is going way back to determine what caused Arthur Fleck to become the Crown Prince of Crime, so that’s clearly alone. The Batman is getting younger at that position, so we have Bruce Wayne’s formidable years.

Everything is headed in that direction. They have been for a while. When Emmerich took the helm, he noted that while he’s not of the geek variety, he is an executive who is confident in how he can make some coin.

I don’t speak comic,” Emmerich acknowledges in his first sit-down interview [with Variety] since assuming his new role, a week after “Wonder Woman” took the box office by storm. “I do feel like I speak motion pictures. I speak for an audience. I look and ask, ‘How does this work for a general audience?’

The “general audience” is who they are after. Nerds are going to see every Marvel, DC, and indie movie made. That’s about as much of a given as some Hollywood starlet taking a selfie today. In short, WB and Emmerich has never been banking on us. They want to reach the other audience.

That’s where the payday is located (and how they can finally catch up to Marvel). Even Geoff Johns, who is known for his affinity for comic canon, doesn’t care.

“He understands that when we’re talking about the characters, we’re not just talking about what their powers are,” says DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns. “We’re talking about who they are as people.”

So, Who is This Diverse Bunch?

dceu characters

“You can’t begin to learn someone as a person without learning first the people around them.”

No one famous said that. I heard it once in a public relations workshop featuring an HR expert. It makes so much sense, namely when it comes to DC Comics and the perpetual WB experiment.

Who are the people around the people we want to see? What is the diverse collection of experts? If DC and WB has done anything right (which, outside of Wonder Woman and Aquaman hasn’t been much), it’s creating a true multiverse — one that is inclusive and reflective of all the people who need a hero or heroine.

It all began with giving the reins to Patty Jenkins for a movie about one badass chick who has been an emblem of #GirlPower ever since. Then, James Wan was given Aquaman, and you saw how the APAC region rewarded that choice.

Positioned on the slate in the next coming years are:

  • Ava DuVernay is at the helm for New Gods
  • Rick Famuyiwa has been linked to Flashpoint
  • Cathy Yan earned Birds of Prey (another female=led flick)
  • Christina Hodson is now writing Batgirl (buh-bye Joss Whedon)

Considering what greenlighting female-led or directed comic book movies meant in the past (Catwoman, Elektra, we’re talking to you), it was surprising that Patty and Ava were linked to DC so quickly.

Moreover, Jenkins was originally given Thor: The Dark World and DuVernay was asked to direct Black Panther but both left due to creative differences.

In Summary

dceuThe DCEU – Worlds of DC – DC Comics / WB Pictures as we know it is dead.

For the most part, that’s a good thing. They know they will never create a universe to compete with Marvel. That is, yet. 

With the focus on all of these characters — some lesser-known, others noteworthy — there’s seems to be a collective mix of progress stewing for DC. Whatever they choose to call what they are doing now, let’s agree to name it what they needed to get back to doing in the first place…

Movie Making. Nerd Style.