CASTING CALL: PART 3 - THE VILLAINS & THE DIRECTOR

Art by EW 

Jill and I wanted to really think the villains out a bit because as we all know a hero can only be as great as his/her villain. And other than some showstopper visuals these Thundercat villains are in need of a massive makeover. 

MUMM-RA:  Mumm-Ra is complicated for sure. He’s got to be a damn good actor, with an element of weird cause his name is Mumm-Ra, as he transforms from a sickly looking little mummy to a great big jacked one.  Garrett Dilahunt has made a career out of playing warped individuals with an air for the theatrics from Deadwood to Justified this guy plays a range of interesting people. And need I mention Javier Bardem who I think would capture the creepiness of Mumm-Ra and allow for some intriguing character development. He has also played his share of menace in big budget faire like No Country For Old Men, Skyfall and the latest Pirates of the Caribbean. And he would certainly chew the scenery well.  I put three on the list but I’m thinking that Jackman may be the best choice over all. In his pre-transformation you could CGI his body like Marvel did with Chris Evans in the first Captain America. Make him look weak and frail and wrapped in cloth. Then when he transforms we see Hugh Jackman in all his muscled glory. Paint him blue and call it a day. Of course you all saw him as Wolverine in X-Men Days of Future Past, I don't think I need to say more.  I really think he would bring some dimensions to Mumm-Ra as he is only a stock evil villain most of the time on the show. Let’s give him some motivation; why is he like this and what does he want? On the show he wants the Eye of Thundera (Lion-O’s sword) but later he’s just interested in killing them. Kind of boring. So let's stick with his desire for more power and The Eye of Thundera. He is already immortal thanks to the Ancient Spirits of Evil, but they also rot out his body as time goes by except when he calls forth all of their power to transform to Mumm-Ra, the ever living. The Eye of Thundera continues to give Mumm-Ra life but also restores his body. Perhaps he’s also lonely and an extreme racist and is looking to wipe out the Thundercats so he can build Third-Earth in his image, with shocker - Earth-like humans!  That would be an interesting twist.

Art by blackzig

Art by blackzig

VULTUREMAN: He’s the brains behind the Mutants. He is a chemist creating potions to use to his advantage. He is also a mechanic and builds gadgets and vehicles for his team. And most importantly he is the least loyal of the Mutants as he constantly betrays his cohorts for his own gain. He’s lanky and thin and has that giant beak as well as the giant wings.  Zeljko Ivanek would be a somewhat older incarnation, but this guy embodies smart and creepy and something about Vultureman demands to be creepy. Whether his misogynist creep in Big Love to his creepy ass Magister on True Blood or his whack job in the Bourne Legacy. Ivanek would bring something terrifying to screen. Clifton Collins would bring a more affable kind of edge to Vultureman. He was great in Westworld as a smart ass smuggler/bandit type. He’s a solid, oftentimes colorful character actor, who’s played everything under the sun in movies and tv like Westworld, Alias, The Blacklist and Star Trek. However I like cocky Travis Fimmel from Vikings as the best choice for the clever Vultureman. He’s got charisma and he can sell the smarts and talk his way out of things which Vultureman seems to have to constantly do.

JACKALMAN: Jackalman is the jokester of the group and considered to be the thinnest and less warrior like. He is often called a coward mostly by Slithe who seems to disdain him. Jackalman also has a habit of switching loyalties whenever it suits him but not nearly to the extent of Vultureman. Domhnall Gleason has the right build and would make a very sadistic Jackalman due to his past villain playing in Star Wars Force Awakens, and clearly he’s no slouch to the big blockbuster.  Leto would also be able to bring some humor, albeit the sadistic kind, due to his run as the Joker in Suicide Squad. It's easy to see him creating some warped version of Jackalman. However, given his studious devotion to his craft he’d probably complain about screen time for his performance, which would be a fair point given that Jackalman is very much a bit player. Jay Baruchel would obviously make Jackalman more of the comic relief which could be a good thing as he would also look hilarious dressed up in Jackal fur and face. Baruchel would be the best choice honestly, he's a good actor but he can be funny. Check out Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and This is the End for references if you need them. Also he works even better in smaller roles than lead ones. 

MONKIAN: Monkian is the dimbulb of the Mutants but ironically he’s also their best guy at collecting information. He’s also physically imposing and he has a network of spies all over Third-Earth. He too can be humorous but it’s not meant to be intentional due to his massive stupidity.  He’s also violent and dangerous. Someone imposing would be best for him. Now all three of these guys are physically imposing. John Cena has found a niche with comic timing from the WWE and perfected in various films like Trainwreck and Daddy’s Home, and he’s now the voice of Ferdinand in the animated movie. Bautista also has the build but he’s even funnier with his take on Drax from Guardians 1 and 2, and steals the show. In fact the more I think about it, he’s probably the best choice here as he would bring something more to the role than just a dumb Monkey Man henchman. It would be intriguing to see him as more of a smooth operator who is brilliant at fighting and a master at building a network of spies. The guy would have his hands on every piece of information imaginable except he’s not smart enough to know what to do with it himself. The guy just can’t play chess.

Art by BeastboyJoe

SLITHE: Slithe, of all the mutants, is the least humanoid and more than likely will have to be a blend of CG and prosthetic. Slithe is the leader of the mutants.  He has a sarcastic personality and he enjoys shitting on his fellow mutants, especially Jackalman whom he calls a coward. He’s sadistic and extremely arrogant which gets him in trouble but he is also clever as he is usually the one devising the plan to kill the Thundercats. I think Slithe should be jealous of the Thundercats’ wealth and prestige and he covets it, and really is only interested in humiliating them and taking it. He’s kind of like Fredo  from the Godfather but with more smarts and a lot more darkness. Jackie Earle Haley is a character actor that makes slimy assholes and creeps interesting; from his fantastic turns in Little Children to Rorschach in Watchman, and his nasty heartless scrooge-like businessman character Quincannon on Preacher. However the big winner in my thinking is Andy Serkis he has made a career out of his motion capture characters from Gollum in Lord of the Rings to King Kong, and recently to Caesar from the Planet of the Apes movies. It may be too close to his Gollum character but I think he would be a fantastic choice for Slithe.

GRUNE THE DESTROYER: Grune is a Thundercat from the line of Kings like Lion-O but he tried to commit a Coup and Jaga had to bring him down. He sealed him away in a pod like Kirk did to Khan on Star Trek and blasted him into space. Only problem is Grune’s pod found it’s way to Third-Earth and created some problems for the Thundercats. So in our story, I think Mumm-Ra having his difficulties defeating the Thundercats on his own, decides to use his secret weapon and the one person who has been informing him about the Thundercats, Thundera and the Eye of Thundera - Grune. Mumm-Ra found the pod years before and now that the Thundercats are here and causing him trouble he uses the mind and body of Grune to do his dirty work. So the impression I’m getting from Grune is that he’s fucking crazy. He’s a mad despot that hates Jaga for locking him away in his pod and wants to exact his revenge on Lion-O since he can’t on Jaga anymore given that he’s dead. Grune might try to infiltrate the Thundercats at first, get them to turn on each other and create problems that way. Grune would have to be fairly unique and let’s not forget balls out crazy. Lance Reddick has always been a weird looking dude, he’s all mystery and he’s got that unique voice I could totally see him manipulating Lion-O and the Thundercats and then turning the fury on them when they least expect it. He played mystery man on Lost and his Broyles on Fringe was always strange and fascinating. He played another seemingly small role in John Wick as the hotel attendant but you wanted to know more about him. I’m really leaning more and more towards him for this role - He's not an imposing guy or a big guy but it would be different for sure. He would be a reverse bad guy Panthro, without the bulging pecs. Now Kristopher Hivju would be a different version than Reddick’s as he might embody more of the character from the show. He’s big and loud and doesn’t give a fuck about anybody and will lay waste to everything if he felt like it. Hivju played a similar role to perfection on Game of Thrones as Tormund Giantsbane. There is no mystery to this guy as he is pure beserker rage. But he’s intriguing and if you balance him out a bit he could be a bit more complex than just some angry jacked up Thundercat out for revenge. But my money is on Lance Reddick. 

ANCIENT SPIRITS OF EVIL: Ok this one could be considered a stretch but after extensive research in the lore of Thundercats the Ancients Spirits is actually a sentient entity separate from Mumm-Ra. I had no idea this was so. Therefore it may be a good idea to put a voice to the evil spirits that embody this decayed form to roid out into Mumm-Ra the EVER LIVING! Personally I think Keith David would kill this in his sleep. The actor is supreme in his live action roles already but that distinctive voice has given depth to animated and live action roles alike. Most recently his turn as the voice of Solivar on the Flash was distinctive, his bit roles on Justice League and various Spider-Man animated shows are always welcomed. Of course his biggest and best voice over was HBO’s Spawn which is precisely why if you are going to have the Ancient Spirits of Evil speak, it’s gotta be Keith David and no one else.

Art by Wyattx

Art by Wyattx

LUNA, LEADER OF THE LUNATAKS: Ok so I’m going to go a different route with Luna as she is diminutive and looks sort of like an Orc with horns. I think we can keep the sadistic authoritarian personality but put her in a different body. Or we can say that she is using that fabulous magic belt of her Grandmother’s to make her bigger in stature and more alluring. She’s interesting as she is not really a fan of working with Mumm-Ra and in some ways she’s just as devious or more. She’s kind of like a female version of the Joker. Unpredictable and out to get what she wants for her fellow Lunataks. I chose two solid actresses for this and they both would bring different things to the role. Rooney Mara can play up the psychotic I believe. From her roles in Girl With a Dragon Tattoo to her dual identity role in Side Effects, she could really generate some crazy needed for this role. Natalie Dormer is beautiful and she can play master schemer just as well as anyone from her role in Game of Thrones. I really like her for this. Especially if you let her go crazy with it.

Directors for Thundercats: After all this wonderful casting for the Thundercats and the Mutants this whole thing won’t amount to a hill a beans if you don’t have a competent director who can balance the weird with the mainstream, the comedy with the drama, and make an effective sci-fi action fantasy film that would put all others to shame. Now to chose a few names here and I think they are all worthy in their own way but as they say in Highlander, “there can be only one!”  First up is Duncan Jones, the son of the late David Bowie. He has still a ways to go to build his portfolio but he’s got some solid hits in there. Source Code is one of my favorites. It keeps the intrigue going throughout as it feels like a darker version of Groundhog’s Day. He got good performances from his leads Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. He’s also got a fun little movie starring Sam Rockwell called Moon. His one wrinkle in all of this is Warcraft. Now I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment directly on it but it certainly tanked at the BO and probably put a dent in his rise. He may have some difficulties when the budget gets high which would prove difficult for a film like Thundercats, but he has an unswerving ability to get solid actors in weird situations where they shine. Up next is Peter Jackson, Mr. Lord of the Rings himself. What can I say, the guy would probably make the most realistic cat people on the planet with method actors in those roles. Buuut he did do those Hobbit movies which were not as good and he tends to make things overly long and overly serious. Could miss some of the fun. However we would need Freightners and Dead Alive Peter Jackson to inject some good old fashioned fun to it. Another solid get would be Patty Jenkins, who does fall into the Duncan Jones territory as she does not have a catalog of films to reference but she did just kick the summer’s ass with Wonder Woman. This proves she can handle character, story and a big budget in the heart of Summer and be successful which is honestly more than can be said about Duncan Jones. Now Matthew Vaughn, this guy is a stud, he hasn’t directed a bad movie in my book yet which is pretty stunning. Seriously from his first awesome film Layer Cake to Kingsman I’ve truly enjoyed all of his films. He can go hard R in Kingsman and Kick-Ass or he could make a solid actioner with the ability to world build in X-Men: First Class or a bit of romance and humor in Stardust. Seriously don’t knock the Stardust. Of anyone, he would probably be the most commercial, but he would also be able to knock out of the park the difficulties we discussed earlier. I’m going with Vaughn.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming Gross Analysis

The Summer Box Office is finally starting to heat up after a somewhat lackluster late Winter-Spring. There were a lot of duds in there from Life to Alien: Covenant and Baywatch, as well as King Arthur, Ghost in the Shell, The Great Wall and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It’s clear that people want quality over quantity. Which is why Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Get Out and Guardians 2 all scored big at the box office. Which brings us to this week’s release, Spider-Man: Homecoming. I had a chance to see the movie a bit earlier, and I’m not parsing my words here when I say - BEST SPIDER-MAN MOVIE - so far. And when I say BEST I mean, in my humble opinion, it rivals the best of Tobey McGuire’s Spidey. If you’re a Spidey fan through and through you probably agree that Tom Holland balances the best parts of Peter Parker and Spider-Man into the complete package. Now I promise to delve in on another post about the specifics about the movie, but today I want to take a crack at guessing the opening box office for Spider-Man and what I think it might make all in.

Let’s start with the tracking. In film distribution every film that gets released appears on tracking reports about two to three weeks before its release. Spider-Man, for instance, came on tracking at around a 15 or so and is hovering around a 24 currently, the week of the release. The tricky part about tracking is that it represents polling for first choice by the consumer. If you have a lot of movies in the field either already on screen or coming out in a week or two it can potentially take away points from any film. Because of high numbers for Wonder Woman and Despicable Me, and now War of the Planet of the Apes, it’s possible that the tracking doesn’t reflect for this week the true first choice. So it’s possible that Spider-Man very well could be under-inflated and actually be higher. It’s all kind of a gamble. Early predictions have Spider-Man opening to right around 100 million for the weekend. Not too bad, and if you were to solely base it on tracking it’s a fairly conservative number. But I don’t think that’s where this film is. I’m going to take it a bit higher. I think because the film is currently fresh at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and is garnering much early love from fans that I think it’s going to reach about 125-130 for the weekend. Which would be an improvement from Amazing Spider-Man 2 back in 2014 which opened to 91.6 million.

Now it is possible that some of the wind in Spidey’s sails has dwindled as this is the third incarnation of the superhero in as many years. But I would say Captain America: Civil War, which introduced this new Spidey last year is proof that Spider-Man is still a major draw. Spider-Man was considered one of the best parts of Civil War and I think, for fans, showed that Spidey would make a huge impression in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe.) This is also the perfect timing for a film of this type, a giant blockbuster, in the heart of summer after two very equally successful and well done Super Hero blockbusters in Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I think it helps Spidey that other closer big budgeted flicks like Transformers and The Mummy underperformed. With strong dramas like Apes and Dunkirk soon to follow it could also keep Spidey afloat as those two films seem fantastic, but also very bleak. Apes should be a big grosser but I think with the dark tone it will have a much more limited audience than Spidey. The same might be said about Dunkirk as well as it has already garnered mixed reviews. War movies are always tough especially in the summer but what makes this one even more difficult, at least in the states, is the very British narrative. These types of films usually do very minimal in the U.S., so it will be a testament to director Chris Nolan if Dunkirk makes Inception or Interstellar money. So to sum up, I feel confident that Spidey will have the proper legs to get it to a strong 325-340 million all in.

CASTING CALL: PART 2 - THE THUNDERCATS

In our last post we talked about how we might bring Thundercats to the big screen, some of the hurdles and what kick ass stuff we'd like to see in a live action version. Obviously the script is one of the most important parts of any movie. But for a movie like Thundercats where, obviously, they will require live action cat people. You're going to need to pull out all the stops to legitimize it properly. Which is why I want to go over the Thundercats themselves, who we think would be best to cast and why. 

LION-O: Lion-O is the leader of the Thundercats. His role is complicated as he is a kid trapped in a man’s body.  Lion-O is impatient and quick to attack, and at times extremely naive but he also has great empathy and strength and learns from his mistakes. It would be a mistake to just put a pretty face there and call it a day. To make this character truly come alive they would have to balance all of these things well.  So Jill and I broke down three actors we think would effectively bring Lion-O to the big screen: Sam Heughan, Chris Wood and Richard Madden.  Chris Wood has been making his bones on Supergirl and he has been one of the best parts of the sophomore season as Mon-El. He's a big guy and could look the part of Lion-O and he's just a big kid, or at least he convincingly plays on on tv, which is the perfect mindset for Lion-O. Sam Heughan from Outlander is another solid contender.  He's tall, has great hair, and muscles for days! His character on the show is incredibly strong and tough, yet sensitive, loving, and very protective of those he loves. Outside of the show he's very active on social media and he's just an all around big kid! Super goofy at times, and very funny and playful. He's got a good mix and we feel he can portray Lion-O as strong, yet kid-like!  And did I mention the muscles?  He's also a very talented actor who is extremely versatile. In the end I think our standout is Richard Madden. He was fantastic as Rob Stark on Game of Thrones. He had to play a kid who was forced to grow up to fast. He brings the youthful energy, he was already the King of the North I think he could handle the throne of Thundera. He also gets extra points for his sophisticated and crafty turn as Cosomo Medici on the Netflix show of the same name.  To top it off he's no stranger to a blockbuster movie, namely Disney's Cinderella. Frankly the guy has it where it counts and I think he can bring real meat to the role of the leader of the Thundercats. 

PANTHRO: is really the defacto leader of the Thundercats because of Lion-O’s immaturity. He wears many hats. Not only is he the resident techie of the group he’s also their greatest warrior and he’s gotta be huge. He also has severe anger management issues so it’s gotta be someone who can play up the rage. We're looking at Boris Kadjoe, the "Rock" Dwayne Johnson and Jamie Foxx.  Now I know for years people have tried to plant Vin Diesel here and yeah I can see why but the guy can only play one type of role. He'd be Dominic Torretto with Panthro face. So we're nixing that right now. Boris Kadjoe is a solid actor who hasn't really had a big enough break yet. He's been on some solid TV shows like Last Man on Earth and I liked him on Undercovers for two seasons playing a debonair spy. I think he could sell the look and personality of Panthro pretty well. Of course if I had my pick today, I’d prefer the Rock at least for personality and of course the look. I just always pictured Panthro as jacked and the Rock fits that bill. However Jamie Foxx brings the cool and Panthro was pretty damn cool. It's kind of a toss up for me but I'd probably lean toward the Rock on this one.  Panthro is fucking smart he’s the tactician of the group and the scientist and he’s got to look like a bad ass when he throws down. All must be a requirement when casting this guy.

Snarf.jpg

SNARF: We would need a voice actor for this role as Snarf will probably be a CGI character.  At the moment I'm looking at Jim Gaffigan, Louis C.K. and Kevin Hart. I know, these are all over the place but Snarf is a fucking annoying character yet so vital to the Thundercats. He’s kind of the C-3PO of the group. He takes care of Lion-O and tries to guide him but whines like nobodies business. The three comics I chose are the best in their field at whining while remaining hilarious and not annoying. I think this casting is what is going to make Thundercats different, a little weird but awesome. I think Jim Gaffigan could play it closest to the cartoon without wanting to tear your hair out plus I'm really dying to hear him just say - "Snarf, Snarf" a bunch of times when he's scared. Louis C.K. would be funny but probably more subdued and ironic Snarf - low energy rather than high pitched. Could work but it would depend on the actors he has to bounce off with. Honestly the most bankable out of this group is Kevin Hart he'd be out of left field but it'd be damn funny. Get him in full on complain mode and let him do his thing. Also I would love to get that interaction with Kevin Hart's Snarf and Dwayne Johnson's Panthro. Box Office Gold I tell you. 

JAGA: I think for Jaga we need to class it up a lot so that would mean these guys -  Idris Elba , Bryan Cranston, Gary Oldman and Ken Watanabe. Jaga of course is the Obi Wan Kenobi who is important as he comes back as a force ghost to instruct Lion-O at times. He’s also got to sell the opening origin story as he is the principle. He is noble and wise and is a bad ass warrior. He is the keeper of the secrets of Thundera and is crucial to making the history of the Thundercats believable and interesting. These actors above will be capable of doing all of that while bringing their own styles to the role. This one is going to be tough because Jaga is crucial to the movie but he's only going to be in it a short time even if he's brought back from time to time as a force ghost (see he really is Obi Wan Kenobi). I think all of the guys we chose would do the character proud. Idris would kill it and he's no stranger to obscure sci-fi movies. Gary Oldman would be great too but maybe too intense and distracting. Bryan Cranston is larger than life and would bring that crusty wise Jaga to the fore in a really cool way. But I keep coming back to Ken Watanabe. The guy is all nobility and he's a great actor and has a strong presence from his roles in Inception to Last Samurai. I think I like him best of all for this one. 

TYGRA:  Tygra always came across as bland on the show so I was finding it difficult to get someone good for him. Tygra is a scientist and an architect as well as a kick ass warrior. (aren’t they all?) He has a strong mind and Lion-O trusts him even over Pathro and has mentioned from time to time that if he were to fall it would be Tygra who would take command. He also has some form of mind powers. It is also suggested that he may be a relative of Lion-O and in the newest animated cartoon he’s his brother. I like Garrett Hedlund from Tron: Legacy and he was really funny and intense as Dime in Billy Lynn's Half Time Walk. Although he does tend to go wooden at times in most of his films or annoyingly over the top in movies like Pan. Which, in my mind, hurt his chances.  Zac Efron definitely has the chops and the build and even though he's been doing dumb comedies of late like Baywatch and Dirty Grandpa he could be a scene stealer in a role like this. But in the end I'm leaning more toward Scott Eastwood, I mean look at this guy he's a dead ringer for his daddy Clint and he's a pretty solid actor in his own right. He's had small roles up to this point in big flicks like Suicide Squad and Fury and held his own with the likes of Jared Leto and Brad Pitt. While taking lead roles in straight to video flicks like Diablo. He's paid his dues I think. The guy seems to have the right amount of toughness and pathos to pull off the character.  

WILY KAT & WILY KIT:  Jacob Tremblay, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobbie Brown, Mackenzie Foy.  So these kids are a few years younger than Lion-O and are orphan Nobles who left Thundera with the rest of the Thundercats. Since Lion-O’s body has aged and theirs hasn’t it brings some context to their problem and reminding everyone that even though Lion-O doesn’t look it he’s only a year or so older than them. Wily Kat, the male, is a bit cautious while Wily Kit, female, is wild and somewhat rebellious.  I think you would have to up the cute factor a bit but these kids aren't just a bit of fluff from the show. They are the future of Thundera. There is no more of their kind after the destruction of their world so keeping them alive is a huge part of the struggle in the film I would think. So I threw out a couple kids that could work but honestly this needs to go to Jacob Tremblay, the kid from Room. I think that speaks for itself. Hadn't seen a performance like his since Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense. For Wily Kit I'd go with Millie Bobbie Brown, she's talented and tough and she's adorable. She killed it on Stranger Things by owning her role as eleven. Also I can see her doing crazy gymnastics flying through the air throwing those multi-colored bomb things they have. 

CHEETARA:   Cheetara is a highly skilled warrior with lightning fast speed and agility. She was trained by Jaga and acts as Lion-O’s bodyguard. She’s the most accomplished fighter of the group and she’s got that bad ass bow she fights with. She’s a smart tactician and relentless. She’s empathetic and extremely reliable. We've scoured the field and narrowed it down to these kick ass women: Keira Knightley, Rebecca Ferguson, Eiza Gonzalez and Emily Blunt. These actresses can handle the physical and emotional quotient to bring Cheetara to life. But there can be only one. Keira Knightley is solid as an actress and is a veteran of blockbusters from Pirates of The Caribbean to Love Actually and the Queen of art in Atonement and Begin Again. I always had a tough time believing her in action roles like Domino and even sometimes in Pirates, however - that would be true if she were playing a bruiser. Cheetara is lean, fast and agile. So that makes some sense for her. Emily Blunt and Rebecca Ferguson have proven their action cred in two films starring opposite Tom Cruise. Blunt for Edge of Tomorrow where she played a tough as nails warrior who takes no prisoners. Ferguson played a double agent in the last Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Both are extremely capable and would own the role. But again I think I'm going to go with a relative newcomer, Eiza Gonzalez. She's stunningly beautiful but after watching her recently in Baby Driver I love the attitude that she would bring to Cheetara. She can certainly handle the action and I think she would definitely be a show stopper if chosen.   

In our next post we'll tackle the Villains of Thundercats. As we all know every great hero has to have a fantastic complex villain to foil. 

CASTING CALL: THUNDERCATS

Nothing screamed 80’s Saturday Morning Cartoons more than the Thundercats. With that insanely detailed open - the Sword of Omens brilliant light - Lion-O bouncing around like a bad ass. Panthro, Tygra and of course Cheetara running and spinning her bo like a pro. Between Thundercats and Silverhawks the 80’s kids cartoons was all about “sleek running” and “dramatic jumping.” Created by Tobin “Ted” Wolf, written by Leonard Starr, produced by Rankin Bass and directed by Katsuhito Akiyama. Thundercats went for four seasons and passed through three major production studios in that time. From Rankin Bass, which became Lorimar Productions into Warner Brothers. But that didn’t kill the mighty cats from Thundera as they enjoyed multiple stints in comics from Marvel to Wildstorm, which is really an imprint of DC Comics, owned by Warner Brothers. So if a Thundercats movie were to get a green light it would be at the WB, home of DC’s greatest heroes. Not to get too divergent but what an amazing combined universe that would make. Warner Brothers did attempt to reboot the series in 2011 by making an updated version - it lasted a season. Timing is everything I guess. I have heard many times over the years about a possible Thundercats live-action movie and it always dies out. It’s been sitting in Development Hell for decades. The problem with a live action Thundercats is two-fold: The Thundercats themselves, their design would have to be amazing given they aren’t really human but cat people, done poorly it’ll look goofy or weird real quick. But I think films like Avatar prove you can have non-human characters that look legit without being distracting. Also the plot to Thundercats, since it was a kids cartoon, was fairly simple and yet at times convoluted with some generic heroes and villains. I think J. Solo and I could come up with a coherent and intriguing idea to make Thundercats relevant again with a solid story, exciting action and of course a cast to be envied. So in this first installment, we’ll discuss the plot for our hypothetical adaptation of Thundercats and how we draw our ideas from the source material while creating some new threads. 

 So let’s start with the origin of the Thundercats, as we think we can keep most if not all of that securely in place. Thundera is in deep shit. Much like Superman’s homeworld of Krypton, Thundera suffered some form of planetary disaster that wiped the planet all together. The evil Mutants from Plun-Darr attack the fleeing Thundercats who are trying to start a new life on Third Earth causing some issues for them along the way. I think that would be a good idea to establish off the bat that the Mutants of Plun-Darr are evil a-holes who should not be trifled with. On the show they were a bit goofy and extremely non-threatening. I think our first changes here should be the war with the Mutants have decimated Thundera to the point that it is no longer habitable. The remaining Thundercats escape under fire in order to reach their new home on Third-Earth. The Mutants destroy the entire fleet and attempt to board the flagship containing the heir of Thundera, the child Lion-O and his family legacy the Sword of Omens.

 The Sword is very powerful as it contains the heart and soul of the planet Thundera within the ruby eye at its hilt. This is the source of the Thundercats power. The Mutants led by Slithe, a reptilian creature, hates the Thundarans and covets the Sword of Omens. He and his Mutants destroy every ship in the fleet save the flagship. The Flagship gets away just in time. Unbeknownst to the Thundercats, Slithe had, during the battle, planted a few of his Mutants on board the Flagship where they promptly disable the ship from the inside. The Thundercats appear to be helpless as they have taken to their hibernation pods, all but one. The elder Jaga. He fights the Mutants killing them, but not before they damage Lion-O’s pod forcing Jaga to move Lion-O to his pod and sacrificing himself in the process. Because Jaga’s pod is programmed for him it is later discovered that it has slowed allowing Lion-O to grow to adult size while still retaining the mind of a child. Jaga pilots the ship to Third-Earth but dies of old age once they arrive. Lion-O and his Thundercats explore Third-Earth and all of its strange inhabitants like the Warrior Maidens, The Robot Bears, The Fishmen, the Brute Men, and of course it’s most dangerous inhabitant, the evil Mumm-Ra. The evil one learns of the Sword of Omens from the Slithe and his Mutants, who have been pursuing the Thundercats all this time. They join forces in order to take the sword and conquer Third-Earth. I think you can really explore some interesting ideas with Lion-O, a child trapped in a man’s body, kind of like Big in a much more perilous surrounding.

In our next installment we'll discuss the characters and the actors we think would be best for the roles, as well as a kick ass director that can set the Thundercats loose!

DuckTales: Then & Now

"D-D-D-Danger, watch behind you!  There's a stranger, out to find you! What to do just grab on to some DuckTales, ouh oooh."

Nostalgia to the max!  I used to love this song so much (ok, so maybe I still do...it's quite catchy!), and to hear they're re-making this 80's cartoon classic?  Yes, please! I have such fond memories of this show.  My childhood self is freaking out. Ok, so my adult self is squee'ing as well.  When it first premiered back in 1987, I remember watching as a kid and being mesmerized by it. It was so much fun and so very colorful. And I loved how Huey, Dewey and Louie all wore diff colored shirts and hats so you could tell them apart. And they each had their own personality.  One of my favorite parts was when Scrooge McDuck did his big dive into a pile of coins. I wanted to do that! True story.  I mean, it looked like fun, didn't it?  Swimming in money is pretty sweet!  *Sigh* if only.  It's so nice to relive your childhood, especially with a cartoon that you really enjoyed. The reboot will premiere this summer on Disney XD. And from what I see, Webbigail "Webby" Vanderquack, Scrooge's niece-by-affection, will have a much larger role in this reboot. From what I've been reading, she will have a "stronger and more unique voice than she ever had before." I love everything about that line!   
I think I'll have to check out the series premiere this August, and see what shenanigans these three nephews get themselves into, along with Webby! - J. Solo

Wonder Woman - Thoughts on how she makes the DCU and Superman Better

Last week Wonder Woman effectively put the DCU on a much better footing as it over-performed at the box office and thrilled fans and critics alike. I was one of those fans and I instantly got excited for the new path forward for this universe and how Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have put their unique stamp within the DCU. They have also smartly built a blueprint for a successful comic book dynasty, that if followed, could indeed rival the Mouse House and Marvel. If you saw the movie you are probably giving me a bit of a blank stare and saying did we watch the same movie--other than the beginning and end there was literally no real connection to the DC Universe. And you would be correct. What it did do is create a well rounded protagonist that can and will set the tone for future installments that will hopefully tie into the rest of the Justice League going forward. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman brought her earnest sense of right and wrong without appearing hokey and a righteousness and a naivete that was understandable and relatable. In fact she is by far the closest representation of what Superman should have been since Christopher Reeve last donned the tights.  

 The first real superhero movie that encapsulated everything that makes a comic book special: an incredible origin story, an iconic costume, an iconic soundtrack and a smart but dastardly villain who you can’t help but love. The hope and optimism of an entire generation is poured into every frame. It’s what started all of this - Superman: The Motion Picture.   The film is a bit dated at times, it was after all made in 1978, but the themes and characters still remain relevant today. In fact it holds up so well that Wonder Woman cleverly made noticeable nods to Richard Donner’s original. The prime example was the fantastic alley way scene that mirrored the stick up scene from Superman in many respects. It was a great call back. Director Patty Jenkins went even further, with her love of Superman, in her pitch to Warner Brothers for the film as she aspired to make a film full of love, humor and emotion just like Donner’s. After seeing the movie I can happily say this was a masterful success.

 Despite the bleak look through most of the film, the themes Jenkins expressed in her pitch were present throughout and allowed Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman to actually grow and become the Wonder Woman that we saw in Batman v. Superman. Her chemistry with Chris Pine was probably one of the best pairings since Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the last Spider-Man movies. It all seems so simple - write good characters, let them grow. This is unfortunately what was missing from Batman v Superman and Man of Steel. It’s not that Man of Steel was bad,  Henry Cavill is a great Superman, it’s just the massive misunderstanding of the character of Superman. For me it started with the Kent family. For both of those films Superman’s foster parents Martha and Jonathan, at every turn, would tell Clark to be fearful don’t use your powers or you might be discovered. Jonathan tells a young Clark that maybe he should have let a bus full of kids die to protect his secret. In one of the worst parts for me in that movie where Jonathan waves off Clark from saving his own life during a Tornado - and he lets him die. I guess that’s honoring your Father’s wishes but it’s pretty fucked up. In Batman v Superman Martha tells Clark that he can save people or not he doesn’t owe anybody anything. That’s kind of terrible, frankly and the fact that both of them espouse this thinking it’s no wonder he went nuclear on Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel. I understood in the beginning of Man of Steel why Clark felt the need to use his powers as little as possible for fear of doing more damage. But again by the end of the film he’s going full throttle against Zod cratering Metropolis. I know it became a plot point later in the sequel Batman v Superman. But to me it felt like the spectacle over the story by Snyder and it sacrifices the character of Superman as a result, to be honest.  Snyder was just looking for eye popping action scenes of destruction but not really thinking about character motivations. Which brings us to Wonder Woman in Themyscira where her mother, Hippolyta, embodies a bit of both Ma and Pa Kent but through a much better script and with stronger character development is shown why Diana must take the risk and use her powers to save others. This is championed by the wonderful Robin Wright who plays Diana’s bad ass warrior aunt. It worked so seamlessly and to watch Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman discover man’s world with its sexism, cruelty, deception and lies. To see her struggle through this but retain the inherent goodness she represents and embody the strength of love and empathy that encapsulates Wonder Woman makes my thoughts on this matter clear. Also she kicked ass with the lasso and the bulletproof bracelets. In conclusion not only should Patty Jenkins make the sequel to Wonder Woman but she needs to be given the reigns to Superman as well STAT.

Wonder Woman - Making HERstory

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I, like many others (many millions of others!) went to see Wonder Woman on opening weekend.  I could not wait.  I remember seeing re-runs of the tv show with Lynda Carter way back in the day when I was a kid and thinking...wow, a girl who is taking charge, running around and jumping in front of cars and kicking ass and saving the day!  Wonder Woman is such a positive role model for young girls, and girls of all ages actually. After seeing Batman v Superman in the theatre and then the introduction of Wonder Woman, I was spellbound by her.  A fierce, independent, confident, go-getter, no holds barred, feminine yet strong character?  SIGN ME UP.  There are not that many, if at all, female superheroes to really look up to, and this one takes the cake on all levels.  Gal Gadot gave, in my opinion, a perfectly honest and real portrayal.  So wonderfully cast.  She was so badass and it was amazing.

A few months ago I ran my 2nd ever 5k, and the theme was...dress as your favorite female movie character, and I chose her.  I actually felt fearless running that race, and that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to!  And that was to run the entire way and finish with a strong pace.  That I did :).

As I was watching the movie I couldn't help but feel so giddy and proud at seeing this type of character on the big screen.  You usually see the men fighting and saving the day and the females as the damsel in distress needing to be saved.  She didn't need to be saved.  She was doing the saving.  Throughout the entire film she was fighting for what she believed was right, and even when faced with a firm no, she did not waiver in her beliefs.  How refreshing.  When she was running thru that battlefield to save the town and the people under fire who were defending it....that was almost otherworldly!  I think my jaw was agape throughout that entire scene. The men were the ones waiting in the wings not wanting to initially push forward.  She led, they followed. Even when she was told by her American Pilot (soon to be love) Steve Trevor, "we can't save everyone," she believed she could, and she tried her damndest to make that happen.  And for little girls who are seeing this character on any type of screen for the first time...what an amazing role model to make them feel brave, confident, and fearless and believe anything is possible. So, as you can see, I loved it!  I mean, that came across, right? :).  As a whole I really loved the film.  Great acting, story, effects, character development, and Gal Gadot and Chris Pine had tremendous chemistry. Not to mention I loved the humor element throughout.  It was such a fun ride!

It truly was so exciting and inspiring watching this character take charge and do so without regret.  My fists were pumping and I was cheering her on the entire way....albeit quietly because I was in a movie theatre filled with people.  Ok, so I did make some audible gasps and oohhs and aahhs.  And yet, she still had that soft side to her that is also so relatable...as in the end she states..."It's about what you believe. And I believe in love."  - J. Solo

Ghost in the Shell - Whitewashed

Well let me start off by saying I was way way off of the number GITS actually ended up with last weekend for its opener. Yikes! so I thought it might open to 37 million and end up at 80 million but that is completely not in the cards for this movie. In my previous post about this I speculated about the whitewashing controversy with the film and that Scar-Jo was playing with fire by taking the role from an Asian actress. There may be something to this as of the three films (Dr. Strange and Great Wall) that were mentioned this one was considered the most grievous. Mostly because it’s an adaptation of an Japanese anime film and it takes place in Tokyo and according to the film hardly anyone lives there that is actually Japanese. In fact the spoiler apparently makes the case of whitewashing even more plain. But as this is not a review don’t worry I won’t reveal that here. It is possible that audiences had no appetite for sci-fi. Sony’s Life, a sci-fi horror movie fared equally badly. Perhaps it will make it back in the international arena where it is already at 92.8 million. I would imagine that’s still a pretty weak number as it looks like most of the major countries are accounted for here. So for a movie that cost over 100 million to finance it looks like Paramount will take a pretty costly hit for this one. The website Independent claims Paramount admits this is probably going to happen to the tune of at least 60 million. Ouch!!

For last weekend the Boss Baby with Alec Baldwin kicked everyone’s ass including Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell, Kong: Skull Island and Logan. The Baby made 50 million dollars for number 1 and it put March over a Billion; $1,148,058,562 which puts this year as 53 million more than last year at this time. Man March is starting to look a lot like summer these days.   

The Flash - Music to my ears - Alternate review

So I finally watched the musical episode of The Flash, and I do differ slightly from Jeff.  I mean, even though he's a professional tap dancer and singer, he was a bit harsh on this one.  Ha. Ok, so he's not really.  Where was I?  Oh right, my review of the ep.  Was it cheesy? Yes. But I kinda feel like it was meant to be.  I actually enjoyed it, cheesy and all.  But then again I love musicals and singing and dancing and Broadway.  I was a big fan of the tv show SMASH, and also GLEE.  And with some of these actors coming from GLEE, it was pretty cool to see them together again!  I personally loved all their voices, and the dancing number between Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist was super cute.  I also liked the old timey dialogue and “accents.”  It was cheeky for sure, but a very cute episode for what it’s worth.   I think it was supposed to be a bit out there, because for a superhero show to suddenly pull a musical out, you kind of have to not take it too seriously.  Which I definitely did not.  I admit there really wasn’t a point to the show per se, and it didn’t even move the plot along, other than have a crossover with Supergirl, but I do love when they have crossover episodes.  The casts play well together and have some fun chemistry.  Was it amazing? No. Was it enjoyable and fun to watch?  For the most part, yes; in my opinion.  And of course that last scene where Barry sang to Iris and then proposed? Yes, it brought a tear to my eye.  I mean, c’mon, how cute and sweet was that!  - J. Solo

Flash -ep. 17 Duet - Musical thoughts

Ok, I know what you might be thinking. The Flash is on hiatus until April 25th and that musical episode was two weeks ago, so what gives? This is more about how this season is starting to run off the rails, and I worry that with failing ratings and inconsistent storylines it could happen faster than we might expect.  First and foremost, I’m a big fan of the Flash; Grant Gustin is fantastic, his supporting cast is funny and effusive, especially Cisco, as they bring a steady dose of character and heart to each episode. Unfortunately as Flash has progressed each season they have grown increasingly plotty, repetitious, predictable and at times overly schmaltzy. I get that it’s the CW and they have to, for whatever reason, contain varying degrees of smolder and teen drama for that phantom teen audience that ritualistically watches all of their shows, but this season they have taken it to new heights. The episode before the highly anticipated MUSICAL EPISODE featured Barry having to go get Kid Flash (Wally West) from his prison in the Speed Force, which he accomplishes after varying degrees of tests and the convenient arrival of the Flash from Earth 3, Jay Garrick, who willingly sacrifices himself to stay in order to free Wally. All of this was fine, great episode until the end when Barry decides to put his relationship with Iris on hold because he has to focus on…defeating Savitar? What? That whole conversation seemed really contrived and the whole reason Iris was mad at him from a previous episode was she learned that Barry only proposed to her because he was trying to change the future in which Savitar kills her, but he clearly still wants to marry her. So what is this all about? I’ve been confused by the manufactured anger from Iris on that one. Then I realized that this was just a giant set-up for the next episode 17, "Duet", a team-up with Supergirl who is, no surprise also having relationship issues. In my mind this was already off to a bad start. 

The show’s producer, Greg Berlanti, has been talking publicly about making this wonderful musical episode as far back as September of last year. Honestly though I had been hearing rumors about it even earlier than that. A good number of the cast have strong musical backgrounds especially Jesse L. Martin (Joe West), who has the most experience from his Broadway singing days on Rent and the Winter’s Tale (more recent), so I sort of get why this came up. But here’s the problem, I’ve heard more than one reference to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Once More With Feeling,” which is a tall order to live up to. That episode was written by Joss Whedon (Avengers, Buffy, Dr. Horrible) who not only wrote all of the songs which were then choreographed. The most important part of this accomplishment is that Whedon made a solid episode which addressed many of the over-arching plots of the season and put them out there for everyone to see but, you know, in song. He laid his cast’s hearts out on their sleeves and it worked. I will admit I don’t like musicals much but "Once More With Feeling" was a great episode that complimented the show by furthering the story and also brought a little light to a fairly dour and dark season 6. Flash’s episode "Duet" did none of those things.

For starters it is always a joy to watch Grant Gustin (Flash) and Melissa Benoit (Kara/Supergirl) ham it up on screen they clearly have a wonderful chemistry and I do want more of it, but I would prefer without song. So Music Meister (Darren Criss), a being from another universe, crashes the episode of Supergirl and traps her mind in a musical world forcing Kara’s boyfriend Mon-El and J’onn to bring her whammied body to Barry’s world for help.  Music Meister follows and then he does the same thing to Barry. MM then proceeds to leech their respective powers and go tramping about Central City. Um, ok? So Barry and Kara are now forced to sing their way through this musical world in order to get out of it. This is where I started to check out, somewhere between a pretty cool rendition of Moon River by Benoist and a mind-numbingly obnoxious song called Super-Friend. In the end it felt like a trivial push to get the heroes’ significant others to figure out it was them all along that could save them and they do, happy endings all around. Yay! Oh, and one more terrible song at the end of the episode when Barry proposes to Iris for real, again? I don’t know. This kind of shit drives me crazy it’s derivative and pointless and it sucks out any joy you can derive from it because it was so sloppy in its execution. So please Mr. Berlanti if you are listening if you want to make musicals, make them, but keep them away from my superheroes, unless you get Joss Whedon to write it. Then we’ll talk.        

Ghost in the Shell - Gross Analysis

Art by Alex Yi

Art by Alex Yi

I forgot something in my 2017 list of comic book movies and thankfully I caught it right now. A few weeks ago I did a preview of the comic book titles that are coming out for the year and I realize that I left out a couple; namely Ghost in the Shell which opens on Friday and Smurfs: The Lost Village which opens next week. So I thought I would do a quick analysis of Ghost in the Shell and the re-cap next week where we will discuss Smurfs. So to all of you Shell-heads I apologize for completely missing the fact that not only was Ghost in the Shell a popular Anime graphic novel by Masamune Shirow in 1989  it was also a popular Anime movie in 1995. Anime, I’ll admit, has never been my bag but I remember reading parts of the GITS and I’ve definitely seen the first animated film and I remember enjoying the story. It was interesting and at the time different from my typical superhero fare, about government corruption and identity theft that was compelling. So before I start putting my estimates out there I gotta address the white-washing controversy building with the film. The Asian-American community has been very vocal about a number of movies and TV shows lately and this is one that has rightfully gotten people up in arms. As with Doctor Strange, The Great Wall and Iron Fist it’s hard to tell whether or not the controversy will affect the bottom line. Iron Fist, from Netflix, was met with harsh criticism from reviewers and audiences but according to Netflix was highly viewed and I’m sure it hasn’t helped that star Finn Jones and other cast members have consistently dug the hole deeper for themselves. (I’ll have more thoughts on Iron Fist in another post). Great Wall suffered under complaints a stiff script and diminishing returns in the U.S. opening at a measly 18.4 million. It was clear this movie didn’t translate to audiences. With Dr. Strange there were complaints about Tilda Swinton playing the Ancient One as a Celtic mystic rather than a Tibetan one. Strange opened to 85 million and went on to gross over 232 million. So will Scarlett Johannson suffer the same fate as Matt Damon or will it become a hit like Dr. Strange? Let’s review.

Art by Alex Yi

As I’ve said in earlier posts this March has been a beast this year amassing over $842.4 million in total. Not quite hitting the heights of last year but there have been a lot of massive hits this month. Ghost in the Shell has quite a bit to tackle in new animated flick Boss Baby, the third weekend of Beauty and the Beast, the second week of Power Rangers, the fourth week of Kong: Skull Island and let’s not forget Logan which is still hanging around in there.  It’s going to be hard for Ghost in the Shell to take the number one spot from Beauty as it made 174.7 million it’s opening weekend and a very minimal drop in its second week to 90.4 million. Clearly Beast is going to be top dog this weekend. Power Rangers opened to 40 million but I think is going to have a big drop so it’s going to be I think Shell and Baby are fighting for number 2. I think Shell will take it at 37 million to open, by a nose. I think Baby is going to be right there behind it. Overall I think Shell, despite it is PG-13 and is getting decent reviews, will probably drop a bit more due to the weird sci-fi element in it’s sophomore week. I think it clocks out at 80 million.      

Day in the life of an Outlander Fan - Outlander at ECCC - by J. Solo

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I had such an incredible experience at my first ever Comicon that I thought I should write a bit about it!  Let’s see how this goes.  I absolutely LOVE the tv show Outlander, and the two main stars, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan were scheduled to be there.  So naturally, a badge was quickly purchased, as well as a flight to Seattle!  I met up with 7 amazing girlfriends, and the fun began.  On verra little sleep (how can we sleep when we were gonna see Sam and Cait the next morning!!), we arrived at the convention center at 7:15am. We mayyyy have gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before, and that’s being generous!  The doors were going to open around 10am, and we just HAD to get up close and personal at that panel.  We arrived so early we were super close to the front of the line.  It wasn’t so much a line as a….smush together and stand for 3.5 hours…  But heck, for them it was worth it, sore bodies and all.  They didn’t let us in until 10:30, so needless to say our legs were about to fall off.  When the time came to herd us thru, the organizers said…“no running”…. ummm…yeah good luck with that.  So we “walked super fast” and tried to get pretty close, but our squad of 8 kinda broke up in the shuffle and some of us grabbed seats in row 5, and the other girls a few rows behind.  Still great vantage points!  Cait came out first looking absolutely adorable.  And in that leather jacket she wears soooo well.  She looked beautiful in all black!  Then Sam came out IN A KILT!  Hallelujah!! It’s been so long, I was like…are my eyes deceiving me?? They were not.  And then he killed us with a wee kilt twirl.  Cait laughed!  They seriously make each other laugh, oh…about every 5 seconds. And they were both wearing black leather jackets.  The panel was great! They’re just SO giggly and adorable and happy together, you can’t help but feel the same!  I love how much Cait teases him. It’s the cutest thing ever to witness in person! They truly are just such bright lights and so engaging and caring and they love their fans so much.  It’s so evident when you watch them together.  There were tons of Q&A questions, and one of my girls asked one too!!  It was perfect.  Of course, after the fact, I now have tons of questions I’ll ask next time! The panel was about an hour or so, and after taking tons of pictures (most came out blurry….damn those low lights in the event room!), alas, the panel was over. 

We all had autograph tickets for Sam and/or Cait for that day after the panel but the room was already full so we were told we can go back for the 2nd shift around 4pm. So instead, we grabbed lunch and then headed to the hotel where they were doing the group photos! Omg, soon enough I would get my samcait sandwich!!! Kind of a dream! Long lines were completely fine bc it gave us time to catch our breath. Although, the nerves were definitely rampant! I mean, these two beautiful humans would be NEXT TO US in a matter of minutes. Never having a con experience before I didn’t know what to expect regarding the photos . People around us who had already taken their solo pic with Sam said it’s super quick and u barely have enough time to say hi! I wore my Unusual Lady tshirt (purchased for Cait's charity), and under it I had my MPC shirt (relating to Sam's charity and fitness and health program). Yes, my plan was to flash Sam the MPC shirt after Cait saw my Unusual Lady shirt. I also recently got into knitting so I knitted them both hats! Granted they’ll be in 80 degree temps in South Africa, but eventually they’ll be back in cold Scotland!  Hearing that the photos would be super fast, I had no clue how I would say hi (or ramble incoherently), give them their hats, flash Sam (uhh the MPC shirt, that is), AND take a pic w them in the minimal time allotted!  I was on line to take my pic, and after dropping off my jacket and bags on the nearby table, I heard NEXT! I saw them standing there and omg are they tall and gorgeous, and as I walked up to them I THINK I held out my arms and said Hiiiiii! I heard Cait scream and point to my shirt and smile! My unusual lady shirt!! I quickly pulled up my shirt to show Sam the MPC one underneath. And omg thank goodness I held down the shirt so there was no actual flashing .. and he pointed and smiled and said that’s great! I then mumbled…I knitted you both hats!  Mind u, as I walked up, someone literally snatched my bag with the hats from me and put them into a box with other gifts. So after I said I knitted u two hats, I remember Sam saying oh great! In the blink of an eye I was between the two of them, and both of their arms were around me, and mine around them. Hello out of body experience.

Oh wait…let’s back up slightly. So the day of the Con, I said to the girls..ok so I want to show Sam my MPC shirt after Cait sees the unusual lady shirt , and I said my fear is that I’ll forget to pull my shirt down for the pic. Well, lo and behold half of my shirt was up for the pic.   As I was flashing Sam, I heard the organizer go MOVE. Umm gee, thanks for the time. So I ran between them for the pic and I remember pulling my shirt down, but I guess not all the way! When the pic was printed I was like oh nooooo .  But heck, it gives the pic more of a pop of color, and to be honest, no one is even looking at me when those two stunning humans are in that pic!  Ok so back to being in between them… they both really squeeze tight and I remember that feeling so well! The photographer said.. READYYYY … and then there was the FLASH. Then he yelled NEXT !  I said thanks and ran off. Problem was I ran the wrong way bc I was so flustered and then I hear someone say..wrong way! And I ran back to the correct exit side like a chicken with my head cut off. Thankfully there was no video of this! I tried to wait for my friends bc I was the first to go, but we had to move it along. After we were all done, there was a lot of screaming and squee'ing!! It really felt so rushed and I wish they gave us more time, but omg it was still so amazing taking a pic w them! They really are so tall in person! And so gorgeous and so kind!! Sam’s leather jacket was so soft! And I remember putting my arm around Cait and it ended up on her arm! And Sam’s hand ended up on my side and his fingers were pressed down. *faints*.  So after we picked up our hard copy pics, we had a little time before the autographs. We composed ourselves. Ok, who am I kidding, there was zero composure as we all rehashed our picture experience with one another! We were freaking out!

 Next stop…the autographs! We lined up rather early but neither Sam nor Cait were in the room as of yet. It was so intimate! Didn’t realize the room would be so small and cozy. They each had their own table next to one another but they were somewhat on opposite ends. After about 10min or so, Sam came in!  So he walked in to all of us hootin and hollerin. I can’t believe I just used the phrase hootin & hollerin. Does anyone say that anymore? Anyway…. when he walked in he did his cute schoolboy smile and wave. Granted I was just next to him for a photo but he was so close again! Cait was gonna be another few minutes bc she was still taking individual photos with fans.  Because of this, they allowed the people who only had Sam autographs to move up in line while the others (I only had Cait bc Sam was already sold out) waited on Cait.  I actually thought that half of the room would start to move up in the line, but it was only maybe 10 people or so.  The others had both Sam and Cait, or just Cait.  After a few min Cait arrived to a raucous applause. Not to mention a banging on the table by Sam when she walked in, and his big smile at her as she sat down. Such an adorable goober! Ok where was I… so we were waiting for the line to move and all of a sudden the lights went out! Then u hear Cait go… ladies, this is not the way to get to Sam!   To which everyone laughed.

When the lights came back up, both Sam and Cait were leaning back in their chair looking at each other and smiling. They continue to kill us.  Sam was just sitting there alone, cause at the time no one was lined up at his table.  So he made a funny comment like, where is everyone? I was standing so close and decided to talk to him.  Cause I mean…why not, right?  So I said yeah what’s the deal.  I said something like I’ll keep you company.  So he looks at me and goes (with a hand waving gesture) come on over.  And then he winked.  And then I died.  I of course wasn’t allowed to hop over the rope (darn), but that wink and smile was everything.  A few minutes later Sam walked over to Cait, put his arm around her and scrunched down to her, whispered something, and then stood up and hand gestured that she talks too much, basically saying that’s why he has no one in his line. Haha!  He’s the cutest, and he can never stay away from her!  She laughed.  We all swooned. So I had brought with me the main promo card picture of Jamie and Claire from S1. I had the creator of the show sign it while ago and thought it would be great for Cait to sign it too. I was so sad I wasn’t able to buy Sam’s autograph ticket bc he was sold out. Cait is seriously so stunning. She just radiates joy. She is so genuine and so warm and friendly. You could truly tell she was having such a great time! She needs to go to cons more often! She’s just so real,  you can’t help but smile in her presence. I was so thrilled to see how much love she was getting at this con. I mean…we all love Sam, that goes without saying! But Cait never attends these events, so to see all the attention and admiration from the fans, it was really a sight to behold.  Both she and Sam are legit mesmerizing in person! They are just so beautiful, with such beautiful hearts.

Sorry, got distracted there for a minute…ok, so it was finally time to walk up to Cait. I had my season 1 promo pic for her to sign, as well as a gorgeous pic of Cait that a couple of my friends & I had printed out to surprise one of our girls who couldn’t be here.  You really do lose all sense of speech when looking right at her!  She signed both pictures and then i rambled.  Earlier on, when I took my pic with her and Sam, I had brought them hats that I knitted, but someone snagged them from me so fast and put them into a box, so I asked Cait about it! *burrows head in sand*.   I was like…hi!  Question for you!  So when we took our pic, someone took these hats I had knitted for you and Sam, and I was was wondering if you’ll get them?  So she goes, oh yes, they put everything in a big box for us and we’ll definitely get it!  She thanked me!  Then she looked at my unusual lady shirt and said, with a big smile, thank you so much for supporting.  I said oh of course, I’m so happy to.  It’s such a great charity and you do amazing work.  She thanked me again, and I floated away.  So, as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have a Sam autograph, but after leaving Cait’s table you end up walking right past Sam to head out of the room.  No one was in front of him at the time, so I verrrrry slowly walked by, while holding my picture that Cait just signed.  His handler (not sure if that’s the correct name) holds out his hand (to take my autograph ticket), but I said…I don’t have one *sad face*, he was sold out.  He felt so bad that he handed me (also with a sad face), one of Sam’s headshots that was sitting there, unsigned.  So I said thank you and then Sam looked up at me.  He also held his hand out for my pictures, and I said….you were sold out, so you won’t be able to sign my picture.  I still had my sad face on, which was valid! He looked sad too and said oh noooo.  He then put out his hand and goes..I’ll sign it!  Then he takes the picture from me. His handler lady says, did u buy an autograph? I was lost in the moment & I didn’t say anything, so she gives Sam a dirty look, he looks at her, continues to sign and goes…I’ll pay for this one.  DEATH. DEAD. GONE.  He’s the sweetest person in the world!! I cannot believe he did that!  Then I proceeded to say thank you and blurted out…I’M A PEAKER TOO! I DID A 5K LAST WEEKEND.  Yes, I blurted! He goes oh that’s great! So good, way to do it. 

Then I left….walked into the hallway, and screamed with my girl Katie, because she was standing there next to me basically the entire time while waiting to have him sign her picture.  So yeah…that moment was kind of everything. Sam and Cait are just incredibly generous and genuine. Such good people. The OL fans at this con were so respectful and gracious and I enjoyed meeting other twitter and tumblr fans, as well!  It was just the thrill of a lifetime seeing Sam and Cait together at the con.  And what made it even better was getting to spend it with 7 of the best girlfriends, and going thru this experience together. Fingers crossed they go back again next year, because we’re all currently saving up money for ECCC2018 :).  It was such a whirlwind we didn't get a chance to walk around the Con too much to see what else was happening, but there was lots of cosplay, which was cool to see! Maybe next time we'll do some more exploring and check out the main floor.  Such an amazing first experience, and hope to attend more in the future!  Ok well, that’s about all!  Thanks for reading my ramblings!  - J. Solo

Logan's Run - Opening Gross Analysis

March is off to an incredible start for box office in 2017. To get an idea of what we are looking at it’s only March 12th. So far the overall gross for the month, according to the wonderful Box Office Mojo, is $259,396,912 million and the biggest movie of the month hasn’t even opened yet in Beauty and the Beast.  Now to get a little context the final tally for the month of March in 2016 was an insane 1 billion and change, which included huge titles like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zootopia. So there is still plenty of room to grow but I think it’s very possible that this year could overtake that billion dollar gross once it’s all said and done. This week Logan has to square off with the biggest baddest ape of all Kong which at this writing has apparently grossed over 61 million and taken the top spot at number 1 this weekend.  So where does that leave our old bedraggled X-Man?

Pencils by Alex Yi

Logan got dropped to 2nd place with an estimated 37 million dollar take. Not too shabby given the competition.  It dropped about 60% or so which is within the parameters for superhero movies. It’s hovering at about $152 million at the moment. Honestly this kind of release schedule ends up hurting both studios in many ways. If Warner Brothers had some distance from Logan who the hell knows how much further north those estimates would actually be. And for Logan I think their second week would have most certainly been stronger without the giant gorilla in the room. The critics have been gushing about the movie declaring it the greatest superhero movie ever. I saw it last weekend myself but I’ll put some of my thoughts about the movie later this week. Today is about box office and the question is, how close did I get to calling it? 

I gave an estimate between 80 and 90 million for the weekend. The actual opening box office was 88.4 million. Not bad I must say, totally within the margins. The question is how much does the Rated R status affect Logan? If this were a comedy with similar critical praise it could have made more. Look at Deadpool as the example which cleared over 132 million. While Logan has serious critical praise I have heard some rumblings, small they may be, that Logan was a bit too slow compared to most superhero fare.  I’m always inclined to believe it minimizes the base of younger kids that would love to see this movie but can’t due to the R. It’s hard to prove in either case, it’s more of a hunch. Time will tell if Logan reaches my lifetime goal around 225 million. I have a feeling that despite the drop it still has legs and audiences will keep it floating for at least a little bit longer.

Next up on the docket is Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 on May 5th. Things are going to get interesting as I will also be looking at whether or not Superhero fatigue is a real thing or is it something  haters come up with because they don’t happen to like this genre. I’m inclined toward the latter but let’s revisit in a couple of months.  

Logan - Gross Analysis

Team Weapon X - Drawn by Alex Yi 

This week’s comic book release is Logan, distributed by 20th Century Fox and it is the third, and last, film in the Wolverine series or at least to star Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Last time we took a crack at Lego Batman where I was over about 13 to 18 millon. Not too shabby, but I underestimated the kinky sex movie Fifty Shades 2. Sex still sells and clearly there was a ton of it in that movie. Go figure.

So going into this week, March 3rd, you have four movies entering the field: Logan, The Shack, Before I Fall and Table 19. None of these movies are expected to or will directly compete with Logan. It’s going to be number one without question. Internal tracking for the film, or first choice, is in the 20s. According to Fandango pre-sale ticket prices for Logan it has already surpassed early sales for all previous X-Men ensemble films, not including Deadpool. That’s an impressive start. Like Deadpool Logan is Rated R, which will be the first X-Men related franchise to put up that hard R. It worked for Deadpool because they brought the raunch the laughs and the bloody action. Logan however is much more serious. It will be interesting to see if it can put up similar numbers. On Valentine’s Day weekend last year Deadpool pulled in an insane $132 million on it’s opening weekend. For some comparison the last movie with Jackman as the lead in the Wolverine in July of 2013 grossed only $53 million and topping off at $132 million domestic. Wow for its lifetime Wolverine made almost the exact number of Deadpool’s opening weekend. The trailers for Logan have been fantastic, and this film will be incredible but I just don't see it beating Deadpool's opening number. The dark and broody tone could keep it from reaching that kind of goal. But records were made to be broken.

I’m going to put my estimate of Logan between 80-90 million opening weekend. X-Men: Age of Apocalypse grossed only $65.7 million opening weekend and topped off at $155 million. So if Logan is a solid film and the clamoring for Wolverine to go Berserker in bloody Rated R is a legit thing for audiences then I could be seriously underestimating this opening number. Whatever it is they are going to need it too cause it’s probably all downhill no matter the fantastic 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes. You got Kong: Skull Island next week and the Behemoth Beauty and the Beast the week after that. All in I’m thinking $200-225 million all in. Snikt-Snikt!

Lego Batman - Opening Gross

Last week I did a little gross prediction of the new Lego Batman movie. It was going up against Fifty Shades Darker and John Wick 2. All three were highly anticipated so something would have to give. The total box office for last weekend for all movies was $188,579,473. Compared to last year at this time, which was the weekend of Feb 12 - 15th, the gross was  $89,904,854 lower. Doesn't quite get to Deadpool levels but still a strong weekend. I put Lego Movie taking the number one spot between 65-70 million. It actually ended up at number one with a very solid 53 million. Fifty Shades ended with 46.6 million and John Wick 2 at 30.4 million. I was a little surprised that Batman didn't surpass Lego Movie in opening box office. But there is some evidence in sequels or even side-way sequels that Box office doesn't always translate the same. Despicable Me 2 grosses 83 million on it's opening weekend in 2013 and ended up at 368 million all in. It's side sequel Minions in 2015 opened to a whopping 115.7 million but couldn't quite top D2 at 336 million all in. I was looking at this film as my barometer for Lego Batman's possible success but still came up short.  Lego Batman will still make out like a bandit and it looks like Lego Batman will again be the number one at the box office this President's Day weekend after kicking Matt Damon and Ice Cube's asses. For some reason I was convinced that adults would want to see this movie as much as Lego movie because it's Batman and I don't know if that was a correct assumption. The film got good reviews and nerd and geek of all ages seemed ecstatic about it but it came up short of Lego Movie's opening tally.  I think that Lego Batman has a strong hold for a while, you have an animated film, Rock Dog coming out next week which will take a bit of that gross but I don't think it will be much. My final tally on Lego Movie is 225 - 250 million all in. 

Next week we'll take a look at Logan, which comes out on March 3rd, and based on early reviews this one could be the best X-Men story ever put on screen.  

 

Lego Batman - Gross Potential

Last week I posted about the 2017 upcoming comic book movies and this week I wanted to take it a little bit further. I work for a distribution company by day and one of the things I try to do is work out the viability of the film and what happens when you throw other movies into the mix. What does the movie gross in Winter versus Spring or Summer. What I'd like to do is take a look at these movies and do some basic market analysis and then once the films come out I'll do another post on how close to the actual number I got. So since Lego Batman comes out this week I want to go over the analysis for that film this week and what I think it might do over the weekend.

I know it's going to sound funny as I say it but, Lego Batman is this year's Deadpool. That's right you heard me, of course it's not a Rated R stabfest of blood but it's capitalizing on the same weekend with a superhero property and not just any superhero property it's Batman and also it's Lego. To give you an idea how big Lego actually is right now, in 2015 Lego had a shortage in product because demand was so damn high they couldn't keep up crafting the sets. When you think about how massive Lego is and that they had this problem less than two years ago. It's not hard to imagine how insane people get over those little blocks. My son included.

Deadpool opened on Feb. 12th last year and opened to 132 million dollars. Which is a crazy number to imagine not in summer and with a Rated R movie, which would have a much more limited audience. Of course Deadpool is in no way comparable to a kid friendly Lego movie with Batman, but it establishes the potential for the weekend. If people are motivated they could spend big on this weekend. The movie we want to look at that is comparable is Lego Movie which also came out in February. Feb. 7, 2014. It opened to 69 million.  So my estimation based on the crowded marketplace. You've got 50 Shades Darker and John Wick. That starts to shrink that Deadpool pie. All three movies are counter programming so that's good for their respective audiences but as I said I think it shrinks the market share. So based on these factors I peg Lego Batman banking about 65 - 70 million for the number 1 spot. So we'll see next week if I'm right or way off the mark. 

 

Comic Book Movies 2017

I thought I would start off the new year taking a look at some of the new comic book properties coming out in 2017. There are a lot of sequels and re-makes in the bunch I know but there is quite a lot to look forward to from animation to live action, comedy to drama. 2017 is beginning to look like a banner year in Hollywood's continual efforts to make cinema look a hell of a lot like the glossy colored books with letters that you can only get in a comic book store. I know the complaints about these movies continue to grow but I believe strongly that as long as they put the characters and stories first they will never get a complaint from me. No matter if it's Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Sony or Disney. 

The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 20) - As a man in his late 30s I proclaim loud and proud that I still watch and enjoy animated movies and TV. Sometimes the animated medium surpasses the live action versions. Like Batman the Animated Series from the 90's which is by the far the best and most consistent interpretation of Batman on the big or little screen. Now if you've seen the Lego Batman movie trailer I would say it's akin to the 60's Adam West Batman then any current iteration. But that's its intent. Warner Brothers is cashing in on the success of Lego Movie and Batman was one of the fun supporting characters in that movie so naturally it makes sense to make a Lego Batman movie. I'm certainly taking my three kids to see this cause it looks silly and fun and like the Lego movie, probably plays to both young and old audiences simultaneously. I'm always of the mind to get the kids into superheroes and comics early and Lego Batman will help that tremendously. 

Lego Batman trailer: https://youtu.be/rGQUKzSDhrg 

Logan (March 3) It's been a long road for the X-Men franchise and for me the franchise is kind of a mixed bag. My favorites so far, not including Deadpool,  have been in this order: X-Men: First Class, X-Men 2, X-Men, Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, Age of Apocalypse, Wolverine Origins and finally one of the worst comic book movies ever X-Men: Last Stand. When I first saw the trailer for Logan with the haunting voice of Johnny Cash singing a cover of Trent Reznor's Hurt it just changed everything for me. Logan is loosely based on the comic Old Man Logan an 8 part series by writer Miles Millar and artist Steve McNiven which puts Wolverine in an alternate timeline which surmises that Earth's super villains have conquered the Earth and carved it out into territories. The Super Heroes you know like Captain America and Spider-Man are all gone, but of course Wolverine remains. Obviously given the Hulk, Red Skull and Hawkeye are very prominent in the comic version they will have to be cut out of the film due to copyright issues between Disney/Marvel and Fox. Which is for the better, I think, it would be impossible to make a coherent adaptation of Old Man Logan on the big screen which it looks like Director James Mangold did not do. Doesn't mean you shouldn't read it, but some things just aren't filmable and this is one of them. From what I've seen so far it looks amazing and it is definitely one I'm looking forward to. It's finally a worthy redemption story for Logan that feels like it has real stakes. Logan ever the reluctant hero must protect what I assume is X-23. A young girl clone of the rampaging Canuck himself. Along for the ride is a very old and seemingly infirm Professor X. What's really amazing is that this doesn't look or feel like a conventional superhero tale. If I didn't know the character I would have thought it was a dark dystopian drama in the vein of the Road or I Am Legend. I loved everything about the Wolverine except for the end with Silver Samurai and it always felt like studio meddling to me. Hopefully Mangold is able to keep them out of his cut for Logan and if it is as good as the trailers suggest this could be the best of the entire series.

Logan trailer: https://youtu.be/Div0iP65aZo   

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5) Marvel is still clicking on all thrusters with each movie they come out with. The trailer for the second installment of Guardians feels like coming home. Expectations for this one is high and I hope it excels past the first one in quality and scope. The weak link in the first one was probably the villain Ronan the Accuser. He was ably played by Lee Pace but he wasn't given enough character to give him three dimensions I hope they learn from that in the new one. But let's be honest the ensemble cast here is the best part: Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and now baby Groot. The second best thing is the music and the song they picked for the 2nd trailer was perfect in "Fox on the Run" by Sweet. In fact it's so good it hit number 1 on ITunes almost immediately. Also with the added casting of Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone I gotta believe it'll be huge. Honestly I can't wait to see how they depict Ego the Living Planet in a movie. He's a character I would never have expected them to pick given that he is, you know, a living Planet. How the hell does that work? 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer: https://youtu.be/2cv2ueYnKjg

Wonder Woman (June 2) Warner Brothers has not been off to an impressive start with their DC Universe. Man of Steel was good enough but a pattern begin to form throughout that Snyder was not understanding the man in the red and blue tights. It deepened further when Snyder took on the reigns of Batman V Superman and in my opinion cocked it up. Wonder Woman's role, although short and without real purpose, still managed to make me feel excited to explore her character further. Literally Snyder just threw her in the movie with hopes that people would like her. Thankfully it was Gal Gadot and we did. Which is why I got even more excited to see the trailer for Wonder Woman, which was heavy on action and intrigue and most importantly didn't have Zach Snyder's name on it. Director Patty Jenkins is making her mark with the woman with the golden lasso and it looks pretty bad ass. Yes, the first trailer  seemed to strike a semblance to Captain America: The First Avenger given that it is a World War, just the first one this time. But the second trailer put most of that to rest. You got Chris Pine as dashing love interest Steve Trevor. It looks like it has a good sense of itself balancing the action, drama and the humor nicely, at least in the trailer. Wonder Woman looks truly fantastic and I can't wait to see what she can do. 

Wonder Woman trailer: https://youtu.be/T1j7qWUQjog

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) I will admit I have multiple biases with this character. I thought it only fair to put my cards on the table. Firstly Spider-Man is my favorite hero. As far back as I can remember Spider-Man was a part of my life. When I was four I named my first dog, a black lab, Spider. I was obsessed with the nerdy kid with coke bottle glasses that would change into red and blue spandex and climb walls. We were nerds, social outcasts, sensitive. I identified with Peter Parker immediately. I loved him when he did his guest spot on Electric Company with a young Morgan Freeman. I loved the cartoons the comics over the years and my prized Amazing Spidey collection which I threatened my mother not to destroy. She did not. I enjoyed the Raimi/McGuire Spider-Man run with an asterisk on that third one.  The Webb/Garfield duo-logy was not too shabby but I had major issues with that second one. My biggest problem with all of these franchise however was consistency. Tobey McGuire was a great Peter Parker but his Spidey was lacking grit. He was almost too sensitive. I wanted the wisecracking Spidey. Andrew Garfield was fairly decent at both, especially the smart ass part which is essential but he too was lacking except on the Peter Parker side. Tom Holland changed that. Yes, his Spider-Man is younger and a teenager again but in the short time he was on screen in Civil War he nailed both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, wise ass with enough sensitivity and damnit he feels more like a New Yorker even though the actor is British. So that brings us to the Homecoming trailer. It looks so good, I'm almost worried that it might be too good to be true. It feels, as they promised, like John Hughes wrote a Spider-Man movie which in my mind is a wonderful thing. The icing on the cake is Michael Keaton's return to comic book movies as the Vulture and of course RDJ showing up as Tony Stark mentoring Peter and getting a little Iron Man action as well. Sign me up, I admit I'm ready to drink the kool-aid.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: https://youtu.be/oNE0zRNyXuc

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3) We don't have a trailer for this yet although some Comic-Con footage did leak out that show Bruce Banner in the woods under attack by creatures and what looked like two of the Warrior's Three, Fandral and Hogun kicking some ass. According to reports this movie takes place on various worlds with multiple heroes and villains joining Thor. Jeff Goldblum will be playing the Grandmaster who is similar to Mongul of DC fame. Grandmaster likes Gladiatorial style combat and the rumor is he makes Thor fight Hulk in such a battle. Kevin Feige and company at Marvel pretty much admitted it's World War Hulk. Doctor Strange will be making an appearance and if you've seen his movie you'll know his involvement. He is charged by Thor to locate Odin in New York. All of the key heroes from the previous installments will be here as well; Sif, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, Heimdall as well as a new Asgardian, Valkyrie. Plus Loki is returning and Cate Blanchett as the ruler of the Underworld, Hela.  This is hands down shaping up to be the best in the Thor franchise, so stay tuned for that trailer. 

Justice League (Nov 17) I want to believe this is going to be awesome and make up for the terribleness that was Batman V. Superman, but honestly I just don't know. With all the rumors about Ben Affleck now not directing Batman to all the other rumors that Justice League is turning into a massive shit show with director Zach Snyder flailing wildly while attempting to right the ship. I thought the teaser from Comic-Con was solid enough and they had more humor and gravitas in just the first few minutes then in the entirety of BvS. So that is something. I'm keeping expectations low but I'm curious to see how Snyder brings together Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and a resurrected Superman without completely shitting the bed. Could happen. I'm hoping for the best.

Justice League Comic-Con teaser: https://youtu.be/HsCkjNOzalo 

Rogue One - Anthologies on the big screen

I finally got a chance to see Rogue One this week and I had some thoughts about it, the good the bad the indifferent. As usual on Titan Vs. Titan we take any analysis of films or TV through the context of comic books, novels and graphic novels. Rogue One is a curious phenomenon in that it is a further deepening by Disney to merge it's comic book and novelization material with big budget franchises as a connected universe. This, of course, is nothing new Marvel has now been doing this since the first Iron Man film. Even though this is the first spin-off Star Wars movie this is not the first time Lucasfilm and Star Wars has branched off into other Anthologies within the larger Universe. In fact it could be said that the Star Wars craze didn't miss a beat between Return of the Jedi and the Phantom Menace because of all of those ancillary story lines in the form of novels, comics, video games and toys. Think about it The Return of the Jedi debuted on May 25, 1983. The Phantom Menace didn't come out until May 19, 1999. That was a whole sixteen years later. Now I fully understand the power and popularity of Star Wars but I'm sorry there is no way that can sustain itself in a vacuum for sixteen years. Something has to keep the fire lit for all of that time. Even George Lucas acknowledged the power of what is called the "Expanded Universe." For over 20 years, up until the Force Awakens, this was the public future of Star Wars. It has now been relegated to non-canon or what they call "Legend" status so Lucasfilm/Disney can create unencumbered from writers like Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole or Kathy Tyers. One of my favorite stories from that period was Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry that takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi about how our heroes end up where they are at the beginning of Jedi. It is full of political intrigue action and it shows why it took so damn long to get Han Solo back. It is this story that blew up the market place for a time with figures, comics and video games that is a direct example of how the flame has been lit. It was also not an accident it was created, planned, plotted and executed by Lucasfilm and the bearded one himself. No surprise. It is also the same format in storytelling as Rogue One.  I would be surprised if they didn't look to this story and it's marketing to craft what eventually became Rogue One. BE WARNED SPOILERS BELOW......

Now that we've established the type of story that Rogue One is how does it stack up as a stand alone movie and how does it fare within the larger Star Wars universe. As a Star Wars movie I thought it was great. It was a closed loop story. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a rough and tumble fighter who has been stuck between the Rebels and the Empire her whole life. In the film she's forced to make a stand, risk her life and defy the Empire and their Doomsday weapon, created by her father (Mads Mikkelsen), or keep running until there are no more worlds left. She's teamed with a Dirty Dozen rag tag bunch of rebels led by Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a no-nonsense loyal warrior for the Rebellion who will not hesitate to do what is necessary for the cause. For the first time in a Star Wars movie they show the stakes and the cost of fighting. I'm sure it's not an accident they are calling this film the "Dirty Dozen Star Wars edition". It's true that overall there isn't much character development for many if not all of the characters. The two master-less Samurai archtypes Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and his blind bad ass compatriot Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) are interesting, especially their occupation as Jedi Temple protectors. The only thing is there is no real explanation as to why they are doing what they are doing once they come along with the team and it definitely takes away from some of the film. There is also a rogue Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and my favorite of the group a re-programmed Imperial droid named K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). They all have their moments to shine but they are working against the clock as yet another problem with this story is inevitability. If you are familiar with Star Wars especially a New Hope then you know exactly what happens, you just don't know how. As a story it fits perfectly into the canon and ties everything up with a Princess Leia bow at the end. If you are looking for what they advertised as a stand alone Star Wars story that can hold it own, this is not the tale you've been looking for. 

As a Star Wars fan however it does a great job of deepening the meaning and the structural integrity of a New Hope. When you re-watch the film now from the opening crawl you will take much more meaning to the first two paragraphs which say: 

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, The Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

It does suck that all the main protagonists in the film don't make it. It would be interesting to see where they might go from here but that was not the purpose of this film. In a way you can make the complaint that it fits a little too nicely into the Star Wars puzzle but honestly it doesn't try to be anything else so if you were thinking something on a grander scale then clearly you weren't paying attention to the trailers. This was a war movie within the Star Wars universe that gave you a glimpse behind the curtain of the Rebellion and the Empire and the deep political rot in both. It's not as clear as previous Star Wars movies where this is the good guy and this is the bad guy. Yes there are clearly awful people here but some of the white hats are not so clean either. This too was interesting to see in a Star Wars movie.

I did enjoy seeing Peter Cushing come back from the dead for his Tarkin revival even if it was a bit unsettling to watch. The CGI is really good but knowing he's dead I swear I was looking for the flaws and found some of the stiffness of the performance due to the CGI. Princess Leia looked a little off even though it was a quick scene. Perhaps they spent most of the money on Tarkin. You can never go wrong listening to James Earl Jones reprise his Darth Vader, it was quick but sharp and felt in keeping with his previous forays in the role. So if you are listening Lucasfilm I'm down for a Vader solo movie. Overall it was a solid piece of Star Wars filmmaking and I plan on seeing it again and if you are one of the few people who haven't seen it, I suggest you do. You won't be disappointed.   

Doctor Strange

Art by Alex Yi

By the Eye of Agamotto I declare that Dr. Strange was...Fantastic. Big shocker I know but Marvel just continues to do everything right. Whether you love the Marvel Universe or not you cannot deny that they never just phone it in. They are meticulous and they allow the characters to breathe. They start with the fundamental aspect of film-making that makes or breaks a film despite the auteur filmmaker. It's the script stupid.  

I'm going to talk a bit about the movie and there will be some SPOILERS below so be forewarned. I wanted to talk first about the relationship between the comics and the film and how Dr. Strange has evolved. Dr. Strange was created by Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Hulk, Shade: The Changing Man) pretty much on his own. This is one of the major characters that although Stan Lee did write some issues he claims absolutely no ownership of it.  Ditko wrote and did the art for the character in 1963 that debuted in Strange Tales #110. Dr. Strange was never an A list hero but his creator made an art out of this very bizarre and odd form of storytelling . Despite his stories inability to capture mainstream comic fans his beautiful designs and colors stands as a testament to the art of comics and how Dr. Strange became a true reflection of the Warholian pop art community. Which is apropos to the man himself who in 1968 pulled a J.D. Salinger and retreated from Marvel and the mainstream for a small office in the concrete jungle of NYC. (You can read a geat article about his current whereabouts by Abraham Reisman) I really enjoyed the Strange Tales books from the 70's. They are trippy a bit goofy and very weird but in the best way possible.  After Ditko and then Bill Everett as writer/artist (Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, Marvel Classics)  in the late 60s it was artist Frank Brunner (Howard the Duck, Vampirella, Creepy) and writer Steve Engleheart's (Captain America, Avengers, Detective Comics) run that defined the series for most comic fans.

Dr. Strange was an arrogant neurosurgeon who, after a nasty car accident, loses the use of his hands and simultaneously ending his career. He seeks help in all directions but finds no cure until he comes to Kamar-Taj deep in the Himalayas and finds instruction from the Ancient One. He teaches Strange the mystical arts. He uses artifacts like the Eye of Agamotto and the Book of the Vishanti and says crazy things like "By the Hoary of Hosts of Hoggoth!" His main villains over the past 30 years include Baron Mordo, Mephisto, Nightmare, Satannish and the big bad himself Dormaummu. Doctor Strange is currently being written by Jason Aaron (Thor, Ghost Rider, Scalped) and artist Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men, Generation X, Shade: The Changing Man). My all time favorite Dr. Strange in the comics are his guest spots on Spider-Man. If you've been paying attention to the blog you'll notice my connection to many characters in the Marvel Universe is through the webbed wall crawler. That is not an accident as he was my primary reading as a kid. But I always loved how much of a fish out of water Spidey was every time he had dealings with Dr. Strange. Whenever Spider-Man would get sucked into another hellish dimension with Dormammu or accidentally get thrown into the astral plane. His freak outs are legendary and I always thought they were a fun pairing so keep that in mind in the future Kevin Feige. 

Cumberbatch nailed Dr. Strange in all aspects and you got to give the man his props for selling it so convincingly. This is by far one of the more difficult characters to bring to screen and he handled it with charm, deftness and sheer bad assery. The film looked incredible with the various worlds especially the mirror world was most spectacular. Now according to Rotten Tomatoes most of the reviews were positive. But  after looking a little closer I began to notice a theme. Apparently the movie was was too formulaic for their tastes and that Strange was too much of like Iron Man. And to this I say - huh? Yes Dr. Strange is arrogant and incredibly gifted and is charismatic like Tony Stark but that is the only thing that connects them.  He can be a smart ass which is probably why, on the surface, people liked to compare him to Tony Stark. The truth is he's a much more emotional and far less of a narcissist. Yet in some ways he excels at being an asshole, which the film proudly allows him to be. Dr. Strange is confident and understands his exemplary gifts which is why he is a snob to his fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) when asked to lend his talents to the ER. He has nobler aspirations yes,  dickish they may be, but after watching him perform such spectacular surgery it's hard to argue with his logic. There is however a particular trope in most blockbuster films, including this one, that I wish would be addressed and at least tweaked if not removed and that would be the training montage. I understand that no one wants to see Dr. Strange meditating and reading books but at the very least they can acknowledge that things are hard regardless of a photographic memory and that sometimes things take years to learn. For God's sakes you can throw up a 4 years later card or something. We aren't told exactly how long he's been there it may be months or years but it always bugs me so let's try to address that the next time Marvel. 

So what can we expect from Dr. Strange in the future of the Marvel Universe? Well it's clear that he will appear in Avengers: Infinity War given that it is revealed in the film that the Eye of Agamotto is the time stone, one of 5 of the Infinity stones. Up to this moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have seen the Tesseract or Cosmic Cube from the Avengers and Captain America which is the Space Stone. The Mind Stone appeared in Loki's scepter in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron and now resides in the headpiece of the Vision. The Aether from Thor: The Dark World is discovered to be the Reality Stone. The final stone is the power gem from Guardians of the Galaxy.  All of these forces being brought together to combat Thanos who covets the 5 gems in the Infinity Gauntlet which he revealed at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he proclaimed as he took the glove that he will have to now get them by himself. With that being said now that Strange has beat back Dormammu and is on his way to being the Sorcerer's Supreme has he created possibly two new allies for Thanos to get what he wants? The second being Baron Mordo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who started as an ally and a mentor to Strange but by the end of the film felt betrayed by the order and is now a rogue sorcerer doing some really bad things. It sounds like he will certainly be back for the second Dr. Strange film but it would be a great twist to have him return as a heavy in Infinity War.  I appreciate that the film brought the visual style of Ditko and kept the weird while deftly bringing Strange perfectly into the Marvel Universe. Bring on Infinity War.

Alan Moore is Quitting Comics

I'll be honest I was sitting on this one for a while cause I had to fully digest it. Alan Moore is my all time favorite writer of comics, I say it hands down without hesitation. I have other favorites of course, like Geoff Johns, Brian Azzarello, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Straczynski, the list can go on long, but none of them in my mind hold a candle to Moore.  He can evoke so many things in his prose from the elaborate detail of 19th and early 20th Century comics and magazines like Buck Rogers, Tarzan and the Adventures of Tin Tin. He brings complex and nuanced characters to the fore that even after 30 years can still be relevant in any time period. This would include Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V For Vendetta, Miracleman, Swamp Thing, Batman: Killing Joke, Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Constantine and From Hell. When I would open League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I often felt transported back to the late 19th Century after being bombarded with the in-between pages of random ads for talcum powder or short stories and essays of the time period. He was certainly the first comic writer to actually make me feel this way while reading his work and now that time is coming to an end.

I get it, he's been doing comics a long time so I understand that he may be burned out. It seems he's focusing his energy on film and literary work. He says that he was getting too comfortable in the medium and he realizes the work suffers if he gets to the point where he's phoning it in. He's done more than his share for comics and I am the first to applaud him for it. I also know that he's had his issues with the comics industry as a whole from creative control to fair wages Alan Moore has made his stamp on these concerns for years before it was popular to do so. So as you can see after a paragraph and a half I'm building to a but. 

Jack Kirby.jpg

In his conversation with the Guardian newspaper he talks of his love of the Kirby era but that is of a 13 year old boy and now that he is older it is time to put childish things away. This is not a direct quote but it is the sentiment and it reveals the reason why I'm a little unhappy with Alan Moore. If you've been reading this site you will have undoubtedly noticed a theme. I make no excuses that I am a late 30 something lover of comic books. Unabashedly so. I hear from some that it is a medium strictly for children and young adults and that somehow I would and should age out of it. Why? Yes there are some comics that are aimed at children, but the comics that Alan Moore, Brian Azarello, Warren Ellis, Brian K. Vaughn, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller write are not in any way shape or form for younger readers. All of the above writers bring complex stories to the fold that inspire or shape readers minds. I love the visual medium of comics as a unique and special thing. I tell people that comics, in a sense, was the first form of entertainment that humans had to enrich themselves on those dark cavern walls. Art and words combined through storytelling is one of mankind's strongest assets as it is available for all kinds of audiences young or old, male or female. It can entertain through action and adventure or through social issues and the human condition. They are so much more than pretty pictures they are a legacy, a mythology that will live long after our society is dead and buried. Just wanted to remind our dear friend Alan Moore of that, and to tell him good luck in his future endeavors.