Interlude – Five Films With Commonly-Mistaken Directors

It’s a common occurrence.  And it’s a frustrating one for a film lover.  You’re sitting there, trying to have an intelligent discussion with someone about a newly-released film and they say something like, “No, I refuse to see that.  I hate [insert certain director’s name]’s movies,” only for them to namedrop a director who didn’t even direct the film that’s being discussed.  Or maybe they make fun of a film solely based on the idea that it was directed by someone who, again, didn’t even direct it.  When someone tries to bash a film based solely on the director – and even attempts to find the director’s supposed trademarks within said film – and that director didn’t even direct the film, said self-professed movie critic immediately loses any credibility they may have been feebly clinging to, to begin with.

Here are some films that are widely believed to be directed by someone who, in fact, did not direct them (and in actuality usually – if not always – produced them).

 

10 Cloverfield Lane

"Wait, IMDb says WHO directed this?"
“Wait, IMDb says WHO directed this?”

When J.J. Abrams’s name flashes across the screen in a trailer or TV spot, many viewers stop paying attention and just get excited.  I get it.  I get excited, too.  But keep paying attention.  Abrams has his own production company, Bad Robot Productions, and he will serve as a producer on virtually every film that comes from Bad Robot (maybe every single one of them.  Not sure about the legalities, there, but that’s my guess.).  Producers have various roles to fill, but one of those roles is not directing.

No, 10 Cloverfield Lane was directed by Dan Trachtenberg.  This was his first feature film and he knocked it out of the park.  Look for lots more from him in the future.  And if you see his name in a trailer?  Get excited.

Howard the Duck

I'd still have been cooler than Jar Jar.
“I’d still have been cooler than Jar Jar.”
Sorry, Lucas haters; George didn’t direct Howard the Duck.  Once again, this common misconception comes from the fact that George Lucas executively produced the film.  But Howard was directed (and co-written) by Willard Huyck.  Don’t remember Mr. Huyck?  That’s because this was his last directing job.  He directed three films before this, and then this one ended it all for him.  Honestly, it wasn’t the directing that killed it; it was the writing.  They should have gotten Steve Gerber in on it and allowed him to have script duties.  Despite this severe misstep, Howard is a great character and I would love to see him get another chance.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

"I have a confession, Jack. Tim Burton is not my father. I . . . I don't come from money."
“I have a confession, Jack. Tim Burton is not my father. I . . . I don’t come from money.”
This one is probably the biggest directing misconception of them all.  Tim Burton did not direct The Nightmare Before Christmas.  I realize that, for some people, this is the film equivalent of discovering that there is no Santa Claus.  (Whoops!  Sorry, kids!  While I’m at it, though, free will doesn’t exist, either.  Now, go discuss with your parents.)  Burton (say it with me) produced and came up with the story and characters.  Directing duties were then passed on to Henry Selick, who also directed James and the Giant Peach and Coraline.  Rest easy, though.  Tim Burton did direct Frankenweenie.

 

El Orfanato/The Orphanage

"I misidentified my own director. I can never show my face, again.
“I misidentified my own director. I can never show my face, again.”
Yet again, an executive producer is mistaken as a director.  This time, it was widely believed that this horror gem (see it!  It’s amazing!) from 2007 was directed by Guillermo del Toro.  Not so, my friends!  This one was actually directed by J.A. Bayona.  Since then, he went on to direct 2012’s fantastic The Impossible and is rumored to be in line for the upcoming Jurassic World sequel.  He hasn’t directed much, but he’s already shown that he has talent and a unique voice.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Finally! An excuse to include a picture of Megan Fox!
Finally! An excuse to include a picture of Megan Fox!
The 2014 reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise took a lot of flak before it was even released.  Some of it was due to the character designs.  Some of it was due to the casting of Megan Fox (who isn’t Elizabeth Olsen, but she’s not as bad as people want her to be, either.  I loved her on New Girl.).  Some of it was due to the seemingly campy tone.  Most of it was because Michael Bay was directing.  Just one shot after another was lobbied at TMNT because it was going to be another lame Michael Bay film.  After it came out, people said it sucked because it was, in fact, another lame Michael Bay film.  Oh, how knowledgeable they all are because they know they’re supposed to hate all Michael Bay films!  The only problem is that Michael Bay didn’t direct it.  Jonathan Liebsman did.  Liebsman also directed Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans.  Maybe not the best pedigree, but he deserved a shot.  Fox’s presence should have been a clue that Bay didn’t direct it.  By the time the second Transformers film was done, Bay and Fox hated each other and Bay swore he’d never direct her, again.

Anyway, despite all of the hatred spewed at the movie, it (much like Batman v Superman is doing) went on to make a bunch of money, anyway, and the sequel (which admittedly looks like a lot of fun) is coming out this summer.  So, despite what the entitled members of the audience believe, movies can (and do) succeed without them.

Okay, so next time you want to discuss the merits of a film, do your homework!  Or, ask questions, rather than faking knowledge.  Either one.  But don’t blame or credit someone for someone else’s work.  They wouldn’t do that to you!  If they knew who you were.

 

Interlude – Five Films With Commonly-Mistaken Directors

18. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m going to say this with pride: I loved Man of Steel.  It was exciting (those fight scenes . . . THOSE FIGHT SCENES!!!), intelligent, emotional, memorable and resonant.  People are still talking about it.  And they’re talking about it for reasons other than the fact that it leads directly into Batman v Superman.  They’re talking about it because it gave them something to talk about.

And, fittingly, people are already talking about Batman v Superman, as well.  It’s become clear over recent years (and I’ve discussed this before), that audiences have taken on an air of entitlement.  In many of the reviews I’ve seen for Batman v Superman, this entitlement makes itself known.  Everyone is declaring that this movie “has to be” this or “has to be” that or “shouldn’t” do this or “shouldn’t” do that.  Closed-mindedness is the truest sign of audience entitlement.  And I’ve been seeing it everywhere.

So, I went in (wearing a Superman shirt.  #TeamSuperman!) very open-minded, as I always do.  I love these characters and I always hope for the best when I sit down for one of these movies.  But I also don’t lie to myself about why I’m there.  I want fights.  I want special effects.  I want to see things I never thought I’d see in live-action.  Anything else on top of that is extra.  I find it amusing when people see a comic book film and complain about things like character development or subtext.  I like those things, too.  And I like when comic book movies have those things.  But when Batman v Superman was announced almost three years ago, I didn’t see or hear one single person celebrate by saying, “Yes!  I can’t wait to hear all of the introspective dialogue!”  So, let’s stop pretending, people, okay?  As long as these films stay true to the basic themes of the characters and have sweet fight scenes, special effects, and just take me away for a couple of hours, then I’m good.  If they have all of the other good stuff on top of that, then it becomes something special.  But, in my heart, I want excitement.  I want thrills.  I want wish fulfillment.  I’m not looking for Memento, here.  In fact, I’d be disappointed if that was what I got.

So, where does Batman v Superman fall on that spectrum?  One of the things the entitled declare is that the film is “too serious”.  That’s not a legitimate criticism.  That’s a personal preference.  Being based on a comic book doesn’t necessitate any particular tone.  And being serious doesn’t automatically preclude a film from being fun.  Even if the story is “serious”, it’s still a movie about a rich guy with toys fighting a super-powered alien.  That’s fun no matter what else goes down.  But the film is allowed to make statements and contain gravitas.  Warner Brothers is trying to distinguish its cadre of characters from that of Marvel, which is a great idea.  The tone is one way of doing that (though handcuffing themselves and becoming a slave to said tone can be a problem, down the line).  So, what of Batman v Superman‘s tone?

Well, it’s serious, just like they said.  But, again, that doesn’t keep it from being fun.  What’s evident after seeing both this film and Man of Steel is that Zack Snyder has a particular story structure that he’s very comfortable with for these films.  There’s a lot of set-up, set-up, set-up, and then a final hour that just goes gangbusters with some of the craziest comic book action and ideas that you’ve ever seen on film.  And that’s fine.  Who’s to say that a film can’t be structured that way?  At the end of this movie, I felt exhilarated and my adrenaline was truly pumping.  That’s a success in my book.

That’s not to say that the movie is perfect.  In fact, some of the criticisms that the professionals have are, in fact, accurate.  The first half is somewhat unfocused.  Warner Brothers and DC are playing catchup to Marvel and trying to follow in their footsteps by crafting their own universe into a sprawling film franchise.  But, rather than adapt Marvel’s approach of establishing the characters in individual films and then bringing them together, WB is bringing them together, first, and then branching them off into their own films.

As a result, whereas Snyder’s Man of Steel was very intent on establishing Superman and his supporting cast, Batman v Superman isn’t able to take the time to do the same for the new characters.  And, yes, that includes Batman.  As strange as it sounds for a character who has penetrated the zeitgeist to the extent that Batman has, we could have used a separate Batman film with the new Affleck version in order to see who, exactly,  this new Batman is before we got to this film.  What are his motivations and goals?  What is his motus operandi?  His history?  Since we don’t get that, he absolutely comes off as an unreasonable villain for nearly the entire film.  He essentially wants to keep all aliens off of the planet, whether they’re a threat to us or not.  And if he can’t keep them off, then he wants to kill them.  Yes, that’s right – for the majority of the runtime, Batman is Donald Trump.

Snyder could also stand to learn that there’s a difference between laying foundation for future stories and forcing scenes into a movie that shout into the audience’s faces that more stuff is coming.  There are a couple of scenes that do just that and it’s frankly disorienting.  Not confusing.  Not by the end, at least.  Just jarring.

And is it wise to launch a universe with an aging Batman?  If he’s “already too old to die young”, as Alfred says, how much longer can he realistically be doing this within this continuity?

Also,for all the complaining that the film is too serious, the attempts at humor (and there are some) generally fall flat.  I wouldn’t call them groan-worthy.  Just obvious and unoriginal.  So, perhaps it’s better that they leave the humor to the folks over at Marvel.  Perry White gets a good line or two, though.

Also, I think that I’m going to hate . . . H-A-T-E . . . Ezra Miller as the Flash.  Of all of the recent casting related to the DC Cinematic Universe, his was the only one that furrowed my eyebrows.  And I cringed at the small glimpse we got of him in this.  Not optimistic about that one.

So, those are my criticisms and concerns.  Now for what I liked . . ..

Firstly, there was clearly forethought in the construction of Man of Steel and bridging from that movie to this one.  There were lots of whiners about the climax of that film as if the audience was a step ahead of the filmmakers and catching things that Snyder and company weren’t.  Not true.  In fact, it’s never true.  Filmmakers always know their films better than you.  Snyder is aware of everything I mentioned above.  He just made the choice to forge ahead, anyway, and risk that those issues wouldn’t do much (if any) damage and would even pay off later.  We’ll see.  I hope so, as I’m pulling for them.

And where Batman is Donald Trump, Superman is Jesus.  This is nothing new, of course, as Superman has been portrayed as a Christ-like figure for many years.  Batman v Superman doesn’t even attempt to be subtle about it, however, and I have no problem with that.  It’s an easy comparison to make and plays heavily into the underlying theme regarding the muddied separation of man from god.

Superman is perfection, as he was in Man of Steel.  There has been a great pedigree of actors to play the character but I think Henry Cavill is my favorite.  He has a strong vulnerability that’s unique to him, while also coasting through the everyman persona.  And I believe in him.  I believe he wants to do good and I believe he can and he will.  Frankly, due to the contrasting portrayals of Superman and Batman in this film, if you’re still for Batman by the time the fight begins, you might be kind of a dick.

Ben Affleck, as expected, did just fine as Batman.  I’m not sure where he falls on my list of favorite Batmans, but I have no complaints.  The Affleck hate is silly and childish.  When I ask people why they hate him, they never have a good answer.  Let’s all grow up a little and learn about objectivity, shall we?

Amy Adams, as always, owns her role.  I was glad to see her have more to do as Lois than I expected in a film this crowded.  Jeremy Irons is fine as Alfred but, again, we know nothing about him.  Really could have used that solo Batman movie as a lead-in.  Laurence Fishburne doesn’t get much, but he makes the most of his screen time.  Jesse Eisenberg was fine.  I expected to hate him.  I didn’t hate him.  I didn’t love him, but I didn’t hate him.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was absolutely breathtaking.  And I mean that in every way I could possibly mean that.  When she first showed up in full costume, I actually got chills and the audience applauded.  After she was cast, I rolled my eyes at the people who complained that she was “too skinny” to play Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman’s strength comes from her heritage, not her physique, and she’s been drawn in many different ways by many different artists throughout her long, long history, and not always with muscles on top of muscles.  I would think that such “experts” would know all of that.

But she was absolutely captivating and it was obvious that she was having a blast.  And by “she”, I mean both Gadot and Wonder Woman.  They were practically one and the same.  She radiates power in both the external and internal senses and I just want to see more, more, MORE!

Finally the last hour is just wall-to-wall action and is everything I go to these movies to experience.  And it was just that – an experience.  These characters do the things you have always wanted to see them do.  It’s beautiful.  I could have sat there and continued watching the finale until I died of old age.  So, when people say this film has no aspect of fun, I say that they’re just putting on a sour face to maintain a semblance of their self-perceived reputation.  Because that last hour is pure joy.

So, here’s what it comes down to.  It’s not a perfect movie.  It does a lot right.  But it also gets ahead of itself on many occasions.  The question is whether or not something like that really bothers you.  I noticed it.  It bothered me, to an extent.  Are you bothered by unconventional film structuring?  I’m not, so much.  Real life stories play out at different paces and in different ways, so I don’t see why fictional stories can’t, too.  But, without question, I got more good out of this movie than bad.  By a long shot.

Comparisons to Marvel Studios are going to persist, though.  That’s unavoidable.  And Marvel far outperforms WB in terms of creating a connection between its characters and its audience.  And that’s largely because they were patient and took their time in building their universe and rolling the characters out to the audience one-at-a-time.  And it’s also partially because they’re getting better behind-the-scenes talent who understand what works for general audiences.  Because in order for these films to succeed, they need the general audience.  I was a little concerned that the Suicide Squad trailer got virtually no response, tonight, and that was from a converted crowd.  Harley Quinn got a little bit of a reaction but even she didn’t get all that much.  If the diehards aren’t reacting, I can’t help but wonder if casual moviegoers are going to show up.  I hope it’s great and I hope it does well.  We’ll know in August.

Bottom line: the first two acts are a mixed bag with plenty of good but plenty of distractions as well.  The final act is why you’re really there.  And it’s completely worth the wait.  As a whole, the film isn’t among the very best comic book films.  But you can’t miss it and keep your geek cred.  So, stop pretending you aren’t going to see it and just go, already.  And don’t even try to tell me you didn’t enjoy that climax, you dirty, dirty liar.

18. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

16. The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Divergent-Allegiant-Poster1

I actually didn’t see the first two films in the Divergent series in the theater.  I had a mild interest, but not enough to compel me to go out and catch them.  I ended up seeing them during two separate free HBO weekends.  And they were fine.  I thought they were enough fun to stick with it.  Especially once Naomi Watts was brought into the fold, as she’s easily one of my favorites.

I have to say, though, I was a fan of Shailene Woodley, as well. before she landed the role of Tris.  I loved The Descendants with a passion and she was fantastic in that.  Good enough to garner a Golden Globe nomination.  I was also excited when she got cast as Mary Jane in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  She ended up being cut from that movie and her part was pushed back to The Amazing Spider-Man 3.  And that movie ended up not happening after ASM2 underperformed at the box office (by Spider-Man standards) and Sony realized that they needed Marvel to get back on track.  But, she’s done well for herself in this role, increasing her profile and setting up what should be a nice career for herself.

Now, the movie . . ..

It’s comparable to the others.  The cast does their thing, as expected (it’s a really strong cast.  I could’ve used more Zoe Kravitz, myself, though.).  Jeff Daniels, in particular, was a stand-out.  He does all of the little things right.

The story continues to be a pretty direct lift of The Hunger Games (which, itself, was famously a lift of Battle Royale before going its own way in the later installments) and keeps all of the clichés that go along with that idea: young female messiah figure (with a silly, futuristic name that would never be used in the future.  And, yes, I know that “Tris” is short for the very real name “Beatrice”.  I don’t care.  It’s silly.), oppressive adult rulers, splitting the population up in an effort to fracture them ideologically, a small group of rebels dealing with mistrust and tension, and so on.  It even pulls a little from Harry Potter and, believe it or not, Resident Evil.  But, they say there are no truly original ideas left and while I’m not entirely sure that I agree with that, I’m not entirely sure that I don’t, either.  If nothing else, Divergent takes these borrowed ideas and makes them its own.  There’s a pretty fun action sequence near the beginning that I found enjoyable and it’s also shot really well.  Not completely original, but like a really solid cover of a classic hit song.  When it comes down to it, I’m okay with that.

What I feel the Divergent series has done better than The Hunger Games is create a real sense of consequence.  Characters – major, important characters – will die.  They’ll die suddenly and surprisingly.  That really needs to continue.  Without that, it’s just a cash-in living in the shadow of a bigger, more popular franchise.

This isn’t a must-see, if you haven’t gotten into the series, yet.  But it’s not something to avoid, either.  It’s fun with some good performances and some interesting ideas that, much like Zootopia, finds itself a little more relevant due to the modern political climate than the filmmakers likely expected.

If you’re into the series, however, head on out to the theater and enjoy.  I think you’ll get more of what you’ve enjoyed, thus far, from the previous films.

Notable Audience Members:

There were three people sitting a few rows in front of me.  About two-thirds of the way through the movie, two of them got up and went to get snacks.  When they came back, they said something to the other person, and then they all got up and moved seats.  Same row.  Just the other end.  It was bizarre.  And distracting.  And freaking bizarre.  Seriously, what?

Okay, that’s it from me, this time.  Season two of Daredevil awaits!

16. The Divergent Series: Allegiant

17. The Other Side of the Door

the-other-side-of-the-door-poster-1-600x887

The cast of The Walking Dead – as amazing as they are – have mostly struggled in making the transition to  steady feature film careers.  Interestingly enough, starring Sarah Wayne Callies, The Other Side of the Door is already the second horror film of the year featuring either a current or a former Walking Dead cast member (The Boy, starring Lauren Cohan, being the other).  It’s a logical and natural progression, of course.  The timing just struck me as odd.

Regardless, even though Callies lives up to her abilities here and delivers in her performance as Maria, I had problems with her character almost from the very onset of the film.

After surviving a traumatic, terrible accident that presents her with a no-win, impossible choice, Maria has trouble coping.  I found her extremely sympathetic during the inciting event and it’s entirely understandable that she would have some major issues to work out in the aftermath.  But the choices she makes in doing so remove any compassion the audience has for the character as she makes selfish decision after selfish decision with absolutely no thought put towards how her actions affect the people she is supposed to love.

This took me out of the film.  Horror films often feature unlikeable supporting characters so that they can be killed off without bumming the audience out.  But the main protagonist needs to be relatable and endearing or there are no stakes and the audience will be actively rooting for the killer or malevolent spirit or whatever it is that’s trying to kill them.  That’s how I felt.  Maria was entirely responsible for everything after the accident despite being forewarned by more level heads to make responsible choices as she forges ahead.  Therefore, I didn’t care what happened to her.  Conversely, I felt awful for the poor supporting characters who got saddled with this woman in their lives.  This is backwards and not how one should connect to a horror film.

Otherwise, the movie is fine.  Maybe a little slow to get going for some people.  And it definitely borrows ideas from other horror films – including a number of cliches.  But there are also some genuinely frightening moments and images in the back half as well as some unique elements due the film being set in India.  It embraces that culture and works it into the story, making it feel a little different.

I also liked the ending.  I feel like I should have seen it coming (maybe I was distracted my by loathing of Maria), but I didn’t.  And it stopped . . . just . . . short . . . of ruining itself on a couple of levels (much like the film ending of Pet Sematary), so I was glad that it quit while it was ahead.

But none of those things mattered as much because Maria was just such an awful person to spend 100 minutes with.  It’s not as though the film got everything wrong; it didn’t, at all.  And it’s fine to feature believably flawed characters.  But there needs to be a reconciliation between those characters and the potential audience investment.  And The Other Side of the Door featured no such reconciliation.

I’ll see you late on Thursday night for one of the biggest released of the year!  More Daredevil awaits!

17. The Other Side of the Door

Interlude – Eight Marvel Cinematic Universe Films That I (And You) Want To See

marvel-studios-logo

With all of the recent excitement surrounding the newest Captain America: Civil War trailer, I thought now would be a fun time to post a column I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  I’ve been reading comics – Marvel, in particular – since I was two years old.  (Yes, I was reading at two.)  I never looked back.  I have thousands upon thousands of comics and that’s where most of my extra money goes.  I go to as many conventions as I can, buy original art and commissions, and just immerse myself in that world in every way I can manage.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a mixture of my two favorite hobbies – Marvel and movies.  And I can’t get enough.  What Marvel Studios has accomplished goes far beyond anything that any other movie studio has ever achieved and they just keep getting braver, bolder, smarter, and better (including their TV programming.  Jessica Jones was better than any film I saw in 2015 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to be the best comic book show on traditional TV, by a wide margin.).

Since Marvel has shown a willingness to let their freak flag fly and embrace the pure craziness of their universe, there are unlimited possibilities.  Marvel truly trusts their characters as well as their audience and it pays off for all involved, time and time and again.  Being aware of that, these are the MCU films that I most want to see, listed alphabetically.  (When I have casting ideas, I’ll include those, too.  But, honestly, without being there for auditions, it’s mostly impossible for anyone to say who would really be a good fit for certain roles.  Most are just suggestions that I think would be worth a look.)

And these should ALL be PG-13, with one noted exception.

howard-the-duck-omnibus-104078

ADVENTURE INTO FEAR WITH MAN-THING AND HOWARD THE DUCK

Both Man-Thing and Howard the Duck have been featured in their own films and neither of the films were particularly well-received or are well-regarded, today.  Howard’s film was actually the first theatrical feature-length film ever based on a Marvel character.  But, despite a good effort by those involved, it failed to treat its audience or characters with respect and came off as silly.  Man-Thing’s film was slated to be released theatrically but the release was cancelled and it was instead aired on what was then the Sci-Fi network.  It had its strengths, but the majority of the cast was awful and, again, the material wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been.

Nonetheless, both of these characters are loved by fans and it wasn’t their fault that their movies didn’t live up to their potential.  Howard got a resurgence in popularity due to his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy and most fans aren’t even aware that Man-Thing had a movie so he doesn’t really need to overcome that failure.  Putting them together (as Howard first appeared in Adventure Into Fear #19 – Man-Thing’s first series) would allow for a unique combination of horror and humor.  It would stand out from the typical blockbuster and really wouldn’t even need to cost that much, relatively speaking.  The story could go anywhere and the tone could probably be a mix of the tones of GOTG, the Lord of the Rings series, and House of Wax.  Seeing as how the late, great Steve Gerber was a primary writer for the early days of both, just borrow from his stories and make this thing happen!  (Catch up on those classic Man-Thing and Howard the Duck adventures!)

Cast:
Howard the Duck – Seth Green
Ted Sallis – Jon Hamm
Beverly Switzler – Amanda Righetti
Jennifer Kale – Britt Robertson
Ellen Brandt – Emma Roberts

Avengers_Academy_Vol_1_1

AVENGERS ACADEMY

Avengers Academy was a series created and launched by writer Christos Gage and artist Mike McKone that focused on a new group of younger characters who were being trained by experienced heroes to hopefully one day reach their potential and become Avengers.  It’s simply one of my favorite series in comic book history.  Unpredictable twists and turns punctuate layered, meaningful stories and complex, realistic characters.  Humor, drama, action . . . it’s all there in Avengers Academy.  A film would introduce a new group of characters (which the MCU will need, sooner or later) while not abandoning the old guard.  It would also give younger fans some characters to better relate to and provide a fresh, younger perspective on the world that the MCU has been absent of, so far (though with the acquisition of Spider-Man, that will change, soon).  Replace Hank Pym as an instructor with Scott Lang and we’re off and running!  (Start your Avengers Academy addiction, now!)

Cast:
Scott Lang – Paul Rudd
Tigra – Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Reptil – Diego Boneta
Veil – Chloe Grace Moretz
Finesse – Alicia Vikander
Striker – Glen Powell
Hazmat – ???
Mettle – John Boyega
White Tiger – Christian Serratos

Ka-Zar

Ka-Zar and Shanna

Quick question: What’s the MCU truly missing?  DINOSAURS!  Ka-Zar is a modern-day King of the Jungle who lives with his wife Shanna, the She-Devil, and his best friend Zabu (a saber-toothed tiger) in the Savage Land.  The Savage Land is a hidden prehistoric pocket of Antarctica that exists in modern day.  So, this would be a badass movie with dinosaurs (Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy is my suggestion), mastodons, volcanos, and beautiful people barely dressed in animal skins that still takes place in the here and now.  So, the film could still have direct ties to the rest of the MCU while feeling completely different from anything we’ve seen before.  I think of any of the films starring new movie characters on this list, this one would have the greatest potential for huge financial success.  (Book your flight to the Savage Land here!)

Cast:
Ka-Zar – Charlie Hunnam
Shanna – Ashley Benson
High Evolutionary – Daniel Day Lewis

Planet Hulk

Planet Hulk

I’m hardly the first one to suggest this idea and I won’t be the last.  And that’s because it’s a great idea.  We’ve heard excuses as to why it would be hard to do.  We’ve heard that it would be tough because, throughout this entire epic, Hulk only reverts back to Banner once, and only for a few minutes.  Solution: uhhhhh, change it?  Now, we’re also hearing that the distribution rights for solo Hulk movies are still somehow entangled with Universal Pictures, making it a complicated issue.  So, work it out.  If Marvel can do it with Sony to be able to use Spider-Man, they can do it with Universal.  It’s not as if their relationship with Universal is as contentious as their relationship with Fox (that we know of).  But this is basically Gladiator starring the Hulk, but about 6,000 times more awesome.  At some point, this really needs to happen.  (It can happen for you by clicking here!)

Cast:
Hulk/Bruce Banner – Mark Ruffalo
The Red King – Viggo Mortenson
Caiera – Emilia Clarke
Elloe Kaifi – Felicity Jones
Hiroim the Shamed – Iain Glen

Secret Wars

Secret Wars

This might seem a little redundant in the wake of the upcoming Infinity War film(s), but, despite the fact that practically the entire Marvel Universe is involved in both stories, the differences are significant enough to make this worthwhile.  And the story is so simple, too (unlike the 2015 version).  The Beyonder – a being with Cosmic-level powers – transports the major heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe to Battleworld just to force them to fight and see who wins.  How could this go wrong?  It would be helped if Marvel and Disney could get the Fantastic Four rights back from Fox.  And you see those X-Men up there?  None of them could be in it, either, with things as they are.  But none of those issues keep me from wanting this to happen!  (Find yourself some spiffy new duds on Battleworld here!)

Cast:
All of the people they’re currently using

Sensational She-Hulk 1

The Sensational She-Hulk

Most people have no idea who She-Hulk is, as a character.  She has the baseline power of the Hulk (her cousin) but she keeps her intelligence . . . her very high-level intelligence.  She’s a practicing lawyer with her own firm.  She has the wit of Spider-Man and Star-Lord.  And she was breaking the fourth wall (as seen above) years before Deadpool even existed.  She’s also unapologetically female in a time when a woman acting like a woman is considered to be perpetuating a stereotype, rather than retaining her natural agency and just being herself.  Everybody should be free to be who they are and she loves partying, dressing nice, and having sex.  In other words, despite the fact that she can lift 100 tons on the outside, on the inside, she’s a regular person who is completely at home within herself.  More power to her.  She’s also endlessly entertaining and her origin even makes sense.  I suggest this be a mix of the legendary John Byrne run (his was the definitive take – read the first part here) and the recent Charles Soule run (here’s Volume 1).  This would be an electric mix of action and spectacle, humor, character, and unpredictability.  I need this to happen.

Cast:
She-Hulk – Eliza Dushku (The only choice.  The only choice.)
Bruce Banner – Mark Ruffalo
Hellcat – Rachael Taylor
Absorbing Man – Brian Patrick Wade
Titania – Jessica Biel
Angie Huang – Amy Hill

Kraven's_Last_Hunt

Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt

This is my favorite Spider-Man story of all-time.  This is the story of Kraven the Hunter finally achieving his final goal in life: defeating Spider-Man.  What happens to a person when they have nothing left to accomplish?  It’s such a deep, dark story – and it would need to be balanced out with Spider-Man’s (and Marvel’s) trademark humor – but it’s a powerful tale that is completely unlike most comic book stories.  It deserves to be told and audiences deserve to see it.  Marvel gaining access to Spider-Man is the greatest thing to ever happen in the world of movies, in my opinion.  There’s a lot of gold to mine (and let’s leave the Osborns out of it, for now) and this would just be the first nugget.  (Go on the ultimate safari with Kraven here!)

Cast:
Spider-Man – Tom Holland
Kraven – Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Black Cat – Nicola Peltz
Gwen Stacy – AnnaSophia Robb
Mary Jane Watson – Courtney Eaton

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is currently my favorite ongoing comic book.  Every page from writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson is a pure delight and endlessly entertaining.  It’s also funny enough that I find myself literally, actually laughing out loud many times per issue.  This would be a zany comedy, first, and an action movie, second.  And I think it should actually be rated PG.  This should be accessible by and appropriate for anyone of any age.  Squirrel Girl is about as relatable as a comic character can get and she deserves a chance to worm her way into the hearts of the general public.  (Eat nuts and kick butts while reading Volume 1!)

Cast:
Squirrel Girl – Abigail Breslin
Nancy Whitehead – Keke Palmer
Chipmunk Hunk – ???
Koi Boi – ???

I actually had one more I wanted to include, but it’s a little too high concept, I think, so I left it off.  But these are eight movies that I dream might one day become a reality, if we all pray to Marvel’s Kevin Feige REALLY, REALLY HARD!  Have a good one, folks!

Interlude – Eight Marvel Cinematic Universe Films That I (And You) Want To See

Interlude – God’s Not Dead 2 Is This Year’s Fifty Shades Of Grey

God's Not Dead Fifty Shades

While sitting in the theater waiting for Eddie the Eagle to begin, I was hit with a deluge of mostly-awful trailers (before finally seeing the torture end with the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer).  One of these was the trailer for God’s Not Dead 2, starring Melissa Joan Hart.  This is the sequel to 2014’s Kevin Sorbo vehicle, God’s Not Dead, which managed to gross $60 million domestically and is now responsible for this sequel.

Before I get into this, I want to make two things clear.  Firstly, I will only be discussing the trailer(s).  I have not seen the first film.  Nor will I.  I will also not see the second film.  So, there will be no discussion of the full films, themselves.  I can assume that the ideas and stories presented in the trailers are echoed in the films (otherwise, what’s the point?) and that’s all I need to make my point.  Secondly, I’m only writing about the ideas as used by the film(s) and the responsibility the filmmakers have to their craft and to the art of filmmaking.  I’m not speaking out against any particular belief system, although I would wager that the filmmakers involved, here, would try to convince you otherwise.  I’m not particularly religious, myself, but I know a lot of great people who are.

Another film that I need to address in order to draw my comparison is last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey.  I’ve said many times in my life that any story has a right to be told and any film has a right to exist.  That’s true of the God’s Not Dead series and that’s true of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Even if they’re among the worst films ever made, they have a right to exist and to be seen.  But I’m not here to discuss the quality of these films.  I’m here to discuss their lack of ethical and moral responsibility.

There are many characters in many films, TV shows, books and all other forms of entertainment who are not good people.  They do horrible things.  But, these things are presented as such; they are presented as being bad.  They aren’t portrayed as virtues.  They aren’t endorsed by the filmmakers.  They aren’t glorified.  They’re just part of the story.  Including them is a necessary part of responsible filmmaking.  It always has been.

Then, Fifty Shades of Grey came along.  Whereas Christian Grey should have been fully and unquestionably presented as an abuser and a manipulative victimizer, I started to notice some disturbing things surrounding the audience reception to this movie.  Some women were talking about how “hot” and “attractive” he was.  They were gushing over him.  And some were even seeing the movie multiple times to get more of him.  Forget the fact that people like Christian Grey have used, hurt, and even permanently scarred so many others.  People who will never fully recover.  And I’m not even necessarily talking about the sex; I’m talking about the emotional abuse.  This isn’t a column on that movie, though, so if you need more detail on that, go here.  My point is that the filmmakers preyed on weak-minded and insecure audience members to take their money by exposing them to a harmful world view that they didn’t have the perspective or maturity to take into a proper context.

That leads us to God’s Not Dead 2.  First, I need you to watch the trailer.  I know, I know.  I’m sorry for inflicting this on you, but you need to see it in order to be a part of the conversation.  So, here you go.

Is your head exploding?  If not, it should be.  And here’s why.

Let’s start with the inciting incident in the trailer.  A student asks Hart’s teacher character a Christianity-related question and she gives him a Bible-related answer.  This, in and of itself, should not be a problem.  As presented here, there was nothing wrong with her behavior.  And the trailer stresses that.  No problems, so far.  Then, the student texts . . . something . . . and we’re informed that Hart (which I will refer to her as, since I don’t know her character’s name) is in huge trouble for quoting scripture in the classroom.  From there, the whole world is against her and everyone is just so EEEEEEEEVIL!  Did you see how that judge broke his gavel?  EEEEEEEEVIL!

There are so many problems here that it’s tough to decide where to begin.  I’ll start with the student.  If, as portrayed in the trailer, the student started a smear campaign against the teacher, lying about the context of her quote and the intentions behind it, in order to get her in serious trouble and/or get attention on himself, then that’s the story.  The story is the student.  Because, I can tell you that this is a real-world problem.  Many modern students are often entitled and incapable of feeling empathy and that’s a severely dangerous combination.  When they don’t get what they feel they are deserved (or maybe just in an effort to make themselves look cool to their friends), they will outright lie about a teacher in order to either get their way or attain revenge.  This happens.  A lot.  So, that’s the story.  If that had been the film . . . if it had been about an unfairly accused teacher who leaned on her faith to get through a tough time and came out in the end with a victory against a malicious student, then that would be not only fine, but a responsible and relevant tale in this day and age.  But the story according to the trailer doesn’t stop there.

From there, the entirety of non-Christian society unites against Hart (and her lawyer, portrayed by Jesse Metcalfe) and becomes one giant antagonist, much like the Flood in Halo.  This is where the trailer portrays a film that ceases to be art and becomes propaganda that – much like Fifty Shades of Grey – targets the gullible and weak-minded in order to strip them of their money.  How Christian of them.

The trailer aims to divide society and rile up their target audience.  It reinforces an unfounded belief that all Americans who don’t practice Christianity wish to stop others from doing so.  I don’t practice Christianity.  My closest friends don’t practice it.  I know many others who don’t practice it.  Not a single one of us/them have expressed any urge to stop anyone else from practicing it.  And neither does society at large express that urge.

The true issue at hand, rather than the alleged issue of Christian persecution, is dual in nature: freedom of religion and separation of church and state.  And these issues actually dovetail quite nicely.

The freedom of religion issue is actively working against the film’s message, as the film is ironically justifying persecution of other religions in favor of Christianity.  It complains about Christianity being removed from schools and other public arenas.  What it fails to acknowledge is that it’s only removed in an official capacity in order to keep any one religion from being endorsed by the government.  It’s not an anti-Christianity movement.  It’s a pro-melting-pot movement.  If Christianity is indoctrinated into all public arenas, with formally organized and performed Christian rituals, then other religions are being persecuted and marginalized, thereby diminishing their freedom of religion.  Hence, separation of church and state is necessary in order to follow through on the freedoms and open-arm-promises that the United States has always proudly proclaimed.

In justifying close-minded persecution of any non-Christian-based religions, the film must reinforce harmful falsehoods in order to manipulate its audience into feeling anger and passion about their own perceived persecution.  In reality, this kind of thing would likely never go to trial.  That’s a silly notion.  The teacher may have been told to be careful about her wording, even if the school fully believed her side of the story, just to placate an unreasonable family.  But, even if, by some miracle of stupidity, a trial took place, people would be fair-minded about it.  If she was actively teaching Creationism over evolution then, yes, that’s a problem.  Otherwise, for something trivial like this, it’s not a big deal.  The public wouldn’t be that invested.  It would barely get any media coverage (if it got any at all), unless it got some based on it being an absurd circus and a waste of taxpayer money.  And a judge certainly wouldn’t be shouting and breaking his gavel.  Furthermore, nobody cares if an individual Christian takes it upon themselves to pray in school or a restaurant or a sporting event or wherever.  That’s their right and nobody wishes to take it away.  That’s never even been in the discussion.  This is where it appears that non-Christians have a problem with Christianity that they don’t with other religions.  But the problem isn’t with the religion or its followers – not as a rule.  The problem is with things like God’s Not Dead 2, which expresses a heightened entitlement and double-standard that many practitioners of Christianity possess.  It’s not about what others choose to believe; it’s about how it affects their behavior with those who don’t share the belief.  But that’s not the message that this trailer is delivering.

This is more Fox-News-style fear mongering designed to trick people out of their money.  Yes, it’s insulting that so many people who persecute others look for justification to label themselves as the victims but I’m frankly far more offended as a film lover.

Film is a medium that can and should be used to (other than entertain, which should always be the primary goal) open minds and expand people’s horizons.  Film can highlight new perspectives on ourselves and the world around us.  Film can be beautiful.  But when it’s used to actively encourage thinking that is harmful – to ourselves or the world around us – film stops being art.  Both 50 Shades Of Grey and God’s Not Dead 2 are guilty of this.  But when it’s used to further strengthen a sociopolitical divide, it’s flat-out propaganda.  This is the most damning sin of God’s Not Dead 2 and makes it a far worse offender than Fifty Shades.

If you’re determined to help Make America Hate Again, God’s Not Dead 2 opens on April 1, which is appropriate for such a joke of a film.  If you’re a Christian who wants your religion to be viewed as something to be respected (which, at its heart, it is), and who claims to love film, then avoid this travesty.

My hope is that nobody falls for this drivel and instead opts to see a film aimed at doing good in the world and bringing us all together, rather than driving a larger wedge between us.  Go see Zootopia, instead.  Be part of the change that this world – and this country – so desperately needs.

Interlude – God’s Not Dead 2 Is This Year’s Fifty Shades Of Grey

15. 10 Cloverfield Lane

image

I’m going to brag.  Years ago, there was a soap opera on NBC called Passions.  It was somewhat (though not entirely) different from standard soap opera fare as it invoked the supernatural in much of its storytelling.  There was a witch named Tabitha who had a talking doll named Timmy, for example.  And I’ve always been interested in supernatural stories, so I watched it.

Even then, I was aware that the show was what it was and I wasn’t watching any great work of art.  But, among the entire cast, there was one who continuously caught my eye as having a talent for acting.  The role was small and would sometimes go for what seemed like weeks without even appearing onscreen.  But, when they did, there was an ease to the performance – a comfort level – and I always thought to myself that if anyone on that show would go on to become anything in the acting business, it would be that girl who plays Jessica.

That girl who played Jessica was Mary Elizabeth Winstead and she has gone on to feature in the Final Destination series, be a lead in last year’s good (but short-lived) A&E series The Returned, work with Quentin Frickin’ Tarantino in Death Proof, and now star in the subject of this post, 10 Cloverfield Lane.  The only other Passions star I’ve seen, lately, is Jesse Metcalfe in God’s Not Dead 2.

When I’m right, I’m right.

And that God’s Not Dead 2 editorial is still coming.  And it will feel great to get it out.

But this is about 10 Cloverfield Lane.  The long, storied history of 10 Cloverfield Lane is widely-known and well-documented – both months of it.  That’s right, if you’re unfamiliar with this film’s unusual (in today’s marketplace) marketing strategy, then what you don’t know is about the same as what the rest of didn’t know going in.  Pretty much everyone was clueless.  This movie wasn’t even announced until a trailer dropped and surprised audiences everywhere by not only proclaiming a new film set in the Cloverfield universe but by declaring that it was coming to theaters only two months later!  Since then, other than the fact that this used to be a different movie that was rewritten to fit into said Cloverfield universe, no other details have been revealed (though even this minimalist trailer gave too much away for my liking).  In this day and age of spoilers being released every few minutes to appease the impatient who care nothing about preserving their theatrical experience, this was risky.  But it was a risky breath of fresh air.

I go into every movie I see with as little information as I can manage to get away with.  I love not knowing what’s coming when I sit down.  Some of my best, most memorable movie-watching experiences have come from those situations.  How did it affect my viewing of 10 Cloverfield Lane?

Well, I’m not going to ruin anything for you after you were nice enough to click on my post.  But, in sweeping generalizations, let me say that John Goodman and Winstead both go beyond performance an into the realm of inhabitance.  John Gallagher, Jr., does his part, too, don’t get me wrong.  His role just doesn’t have the meat that Goodman’s and Winstead’s do.  And they both take advantage of the opportunities that they are given and, in doing so, will completely pull you in so that you’re living this story alongside them.  Brilliance from both.

And that’s as detailed as I get.  Sorry!  The fun is in the ride!  And it’s a lot of fun!  I’ll conclude by saying that you should believe the hype and that this was the best time I’ve had at the movies, so far, this year!  Run – RUN – and see it!  Go!

15. 10 Cloverfield Lane