Ghost in the Shell Review: The connection to this beautiful network is a bit slow

If I knew how to write the sound of a dial-up modem, I would make a slow connection joke here, but alas I don’t think it would translate as well in text as it does in an audio format. Oddly enough, this issue of translation may be one of the key factor’s that Ghost in the Shell falls short of its animated companion, however before that let’s do a quick dive into the elephant in the room that has been surrounding this movie from the start, just so we can get it out-of-the-way.

Whitewashing; To some, the epitome of evil, to others an annoying conversation they see online every time they open Twitter or Facebook. When it was announced the Scarlett Johansson was going to be playing Major Motoko Kusanagi, there was significant vocal backlash over a white actor playing what many considered to be a Japanese character. Couple this with other movies being called out, such as Dr. Strange for the Ancient one, and the ‘white guys in sand’ movie Gods of Egypt, it’s clear to see that there are some who take umbrage with not casting actors and actresses of their respective nationality in these roles. While I personally agree with these concerns, I cannot overlook the fact that the Major is a cyborg character, and cyborgs CAN be a mismatch of parts, or in this case ethnicity. The director of the original GitS, Mamoru Oshii, made a similar case as well saying “What issue could there possibly be with casting her? The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.” Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.” So while I personally would have liked to see an Japanese actress play the character, I believe this is one of the cases where a dialogue about the ethnicity of the character can be had.

GHOST IN THE SHELL

With that out-of-the-way, let’s charge headlong into the movie itself. Right out of the gate, you are hit with a breathtaking view of the city it’s set in, which for the life of me I cannot remember what they called it. As we sail over the city, the cyberpunk aesthetics really show how foreign this world is and lays some of the ground work for the visual buffet we receive in this roughly two-hour movie. It also shows us the attention to detail that the film makers took when paying homage to its animated, and by proxy manga source material.

It is this homage however which might be the movie’s actual undoing. There is no doubt that showing love to your source material is a smart move, especially when it comes to properties from anime, video games and comic books, yet when your focus is primarily on showcasing said love over creating a true adaptation, you start to muddle your over all message and story. I think this is the trap that GitS fell into, as for each scene lifted directly from the animated movie, it misses the deeper meaning and context that these scenes are trying to address.

For example Chin Han’s Togusa is straight up human, no augments what so ever, yet his humanity in this movie is passed over so very quickly, essentially a joke to be played off of another character, Lasarus Ratuere’s Ishikawa, who is an enhancement junkie as he got a new modification so he could drink more. In the anime these theme’s are much more of a focal point to these characters, and give each team member a more flushed out personality. I will say however out of all of the characters in this movie, Batou, played by Pilou Asbæk, is handled with the most respect in comparison to their animated counterpart.

Putting focus on the Major for a moment, I want to talk about her as our vehicle or point of view throughout the movie.  Her development, not only from a character within the movie, but as an analog to themes such as what individualism is in such an over saturated world of technology is, for the most part, done fairly well. She takes many of the traits from the anime and blends them into a decently believable character. However much like the lack of depth found within the movie plot and theme mentioned earlier, Mrs Johansson’s direction and depth are also very surface level. For every great nod to Motoko animated/manga origins we get over simplification of her surroundings or feelings which makes it seem like the movie doesn’t trust its audience enough to understand a more complex story or the more ambiguous character development from its source material.

GitS boss

This might be most apparent in the villain/not villain the film decides to use for the majority of its run time. Kuze is an amalgamation of different antagonists within the Ghost in the Shell universe. A hacker, a cyborg, a victim and a villain all rolled into one, and instead of focusing on one of these aspect’s individually, or straight up lifting a single villain from the movies/series GitS tries to, in an oddly funny way, create a new life out of remains of old ones. In hind sight, this may be actually a very clever nod to the premise of the movie, but it still doesn’t give the audience a character they can become invested in, especially when you take away that character’s agency and threat by hard cutting to the films other antagonist, the Hanka CEO Cutter. Confused yet? don’t worry there are many who are. As a shady CEO, Cutter has been trying to create a new breed of soldier that has all of the benefits befitting a cyborg who has human emotions, yet is completely obedient.

At the end of the day, Ghost in the Shell is a love letter to fans of the anime and manga. It’s stunning visuals bring you into a world that is full of wonder, but that wonder sit’s on such a flat surface it drains much of that vibrant colour, not only from said world, but from the characters who are inhabiting it, in favour of a safe story that doesn’t challenge you, the audience member, in any real intellectual way. This lack of intellectual honesty mean it suffers from what many video game movies have trouble with; Not fully embracing the source material in a proper way.

As with all of my reviews I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -3.5

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Venom, Black Cat and the Silver Sable: The potentially R rated universe we aren’t sure we want

Currently there is a triple threat match taking place in the world of superhero movies. Marvel is our titular hero, with its high flying moves to wow the crowd and the years of experience it has behind it to land these tried and tested crowd pleasers. Their opponents are veteran of the pen & paper ring making their relative debut to live action in DCEU, and a fighter of fluctuating skill in Fox. But wait! What’s this! A new challenger in the Cinematic universe fight of the century; SONY!

To be fair, all of these companies have been in the superhero business for a while now, but it is only in the past five years when we are seeing the cinematic universe race pick up its pace, and Sony, the focus today, does not want to be left behind. Currently they are in conjunction with Marvel over the use of Spider-man in the MCU, and while Sony still owns the rights to the character, Marvel is directing the ship anytime Spider-man appears in their universe. So the obvious choice is for Sony to start their own cinematic universe without this Spidey AND kick off their universe with a Venom character right. . . . right?

Snark aside, Venom seems to be front and center in this new Sony Cinematic universe and for better or worse it looks like they are going for an R rating, making the Symbiote a starkly different character compared to their other properties. Couple this with the announcement of both a Black Cat and a Silver Sable film, or a Black Cat/Silver Sable, as it is not very clear at the moment, Sony is looking to build this universe from the ground up on secondary and tertiary characters, many of which are obscure to even some comic book fans. I will talk about the ladies in a moment, but first let’s focus on the main aspect of these announcement’s; Venom, and what/how he could be brought to the big screen.

wallup.net

I have been seeing three big story idea’s being thrown around for the Venom movie, all of them with some, in my opinion, serious merit. They are the Horror angle, as the image above suggests, a new Spider-man separate from Tom Hollands character in the MCU and an Agent Venom story line, where Flash Thompson receives the symbiote after losing his legs in war.  Out of the three, the Agent Venom potential story arc intrigues me the most but let’s break down what each of these could actually turn into.

With the Horror genre really getting its groove back over the past couple of years, it makes a lot of sense to take a character who can be creepy as hell and put him in that genre. Not only does the symbiote take over a person, so sit’s comfortably in a body horror skin, pun intended, but is also stands in the shadow of movies like Alien as a creature that can hunt it’s enemies. Think of how Spider-man cannot ‘spidey sense’ Venom, and apply that to a group of military personal who are trying to capture the symbiote. Having to use tech like motion sensors, sonic weapons and fire to battle a horrific creature could be a really compelling movie. This is also where I think the R rating stands at its strongest. Horror almost always benefits from this rating as it allows the film makers to explore the harder hitting nature of violence, mature subject matter, and gore.

The second option seems to revolve around a new Spider-man within the Sony universe. Many put forth that Miles Morales would make a great addition to their roster, not only as he is a great character, but also gives us another multi-cultural character to enjoy. Whether or not you care about that personally, it is a big issue in the movie world, and as we have seen with movies like Ghost in the Shell, people want to see more diverse characters in their movies, and not always default to “the white person”. While I don’t know much about Morales personally, as I don’t follow Spider-man much, I do know he is a beloved character, so any of his story arc’s would make a great backdrop to spin Venom into, but I imagine they would take a hard look at adapting the ‘Venom Wars’ story arc.

Silver Sable

The last option many people are talking about, and one that I am personally the most excited for, is the Agent Venom angle. This puts Flash Thompson, a character from Peter Parker’s Spider-man past, in the role of our anti-hero. After losing his legs in the Iraq war, he is bonded the symbiote so he can continue to serve in the military. The bond between man and monster can only be short-lived, as Venom looks to take over his human host and wreak destruction once he has control. I like this idea for two major reasons. The first is the fact that a action-horror military movie could be really awesome as the supernatural elements, in terms of strength speed and resilience of Venom vs regular military personal, would create a cool dynamic as they have to control not only the creature, but the message about how it is being used.  The other aspect is that you could tie Silver Sable into this movie as an introduction to the character and the general movie going public before her solo outing.  She is another military style character, so her expertise could be used to either try to contain the symbiote fueled Flash, or as the hunt squad needed to bring it back under control.

The other two movies Sony has touched on are the aforementioned Silver Sable, and Black Cat. I will fully admit I don’t know much about these characters, as Silver Sable has never seen a huge arc come to fruition in the comics and Black Cat, as well as Catwoman from DC, have never interested me much due to their character design and, in my opinion, lack of interesting story lines. It might also be my age, but I am really tired of “My super power is a low-cut costume and flexibility”, but that is a different story all together.

Silver Sable, as I mentioned above could fit very nicely into an Agent Venom story, to then spin-off into her own movie. Her outfit, the Wild Pack, is a mercenary group who hunts war criminals and while one of her main rivals, Doctor Doom, is out of the picture at the moment due to rights issues, there are a ton of smaller characters that can be drawn upon for her and her group to battle against. This would give Sony a, if done correctly, strong female lead who has the team dynamics of say a Cyclops or Storm, with the grit and guns of a Punisher, Deadpool or Grifter, minus the healing factor or other mutant abilities of the latter two. If Sony and Marvel could make another trade of minor characters, we could potentially see a Baroness Zemo as a Villainess to Sables hero in her own standalone.

wallup.net

As to Black Cat, I think my bias to this character comes out to strong, much like my dislike of Catwoman. I think there is potential if you are doing something like a heist movie, in a similar vein to Ant-Man. I also think her movie would be ripe for cameo’s from other hero’s in the universe, in a sort of backdoor announcement, much like Luke Cage was in Jessica Jones. However I am truly at a loss for what would make this character stand out enough to warrant their own movie. If you guys have an idea let me know.

As the months roll on, I am sure we will hear more about these movies, their potential franchises and other characters Sony wan’t to add into their universe. Do we hear about the Sinister Six, the Green/Hob Goblin’s, or any myriad of other characters Sony can pull from to be the fourth pillar in this Superhero cinematic universe showdown.

Justice League Trailer: Atlantian muscle & Batman cracking jokes to review and react.

Over the weekend dropped one of the most anticipated trailers of the year in the form of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Giving us a longer and more detailed look at the main cast of the movie, along with a bit of the action pace, world settings and overall tone the JL trailer came out of the gate swinging with super strength.

It’s prudent to talk about the positive nature of this trailer, not only because it is a well done trailer, but for the potential easter eggs and hints at plot threads being spun throughout the movie itself.  Firstly though, let’s break down the character sections, as it serves as a reminder to who we are seeing, and let’s us see them in their element.

Aquaman is our first look at the team, and putting my man-crush on Jason Momoa side, the man is a giant. The way they portray his size and height make him feel like such a foreign character compared to the rest of the team as they are all, in comparison, small to average size people. This size difference, in my mind, speaks to the ‘silhouette’ nature many comic book characters have. If you put most Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Cyborg behind a sheet and lit it up so only their shadows came through, you could pick each character out clearly due to their unique profile. Fast forward to this movie, and I think that still holds true not only because of their body types, but also their respective armour/suits which add the respective visual flair we want.

Cyborg

Cyborg is next, and while I realize that his CGI is still being worked on, it is a bit disappointing to see HOW unpolished it looks still. Whether or not this is just old footage they have been holding onto for this particular trailer doesn’t take away the fact that he has a lot of great scene’s though. Shoulder tackling a flaming Humvee or going full Ironman mode with a mask to cover his face and head while flying, the mechanical nature of Cyborg has me excited to see the crazy pyrotechnics he will bring to the table. Not to mention the Boom tubes, which I will touch on later.

Lastly, we get to see the Flash doing flashy things, pun intended, as his ‘ride the lightening’ routine look visually amazing in this trailer. It will be interesting to see how Barry Allen’s powers are going to work from a visual standpoint. Is it always lightening streaks everywhere as he moves? Or maybe its only that way when viewing the scene from  his perspective, as he is so fast that to everyone else he just appears in the spots he chooses to. I also have to take this opportunity to eat a little crow here as I was not big on Ezra Miller’s flash on initial reveal and his bit spot in Batman V Superman left a bad taste in my mouth. However seeing how his powers are going to be visually conveyed and the somewhat playful nature he still has even in a fight takes many of the concerns I had and calms them a fair bit.

We obviously cannot forget about the two founding members, as they also get their time to shine in this trailer. Bruce Wayne/Batman are in the running to steal the show, only rivaled by Aquaman’s on point one liners and physical acting. Unlike the first couple of teaser trailers, the Flash is put to the side for the teams humour minus a brief physical gag that harks back to the Justice League TV animated series. What is interesting about how Batman is portrayed in this trailer is not only does he crack jokes; when asked by Barry what his super power was again, Ben Affleck turns and says “I’m Rich” which made me laugh out loud, as I was thinking it just as he said it, but he also has levity in his interaction with Commissioner Gordon, which by the way is fucking awesome!, and it shows the dry-wit that many iterations of Batman have had over the years. Wonder Woman also get’s some action scene’s to flex her physical acting muscles, and while I personally dislike the “slow mo” action scene’s that seem to proliferate her screen time, I think she still looks amazing as Wonder Woman. I am also incredibly happy that in many instance she is AT LEAST on par with her male companions, but in many cases in a leadership or front-line fighter role. While this may not make much sense to some, Wonder Woman, when written well, is an aggressor in combat and does not shy away from leading the charge or tackling the biggest enemies, so the brief shots you see of her in these types of scene’s personally makes me very happy.

If I had to point out any negative aspects of the trailer, I would say it is still incredibly dark and feels like perpetual night is going to be the main backdrop for the movie. While the beginning shows us a brief period of daylight, we get smothered by that inky, metallic darkness which suffocated much of BvS. To play devil’s advocate however, we do see that our hero’s are on a different world due to the terrain, many assume it to be Apokolips, so that could be the design of the planet. I am just personally wanting to see a bit more variation in the movies overall visual theme. I am also not 100% sold on Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. While she definitely looks the part, and the brief moments of her in BvS as WW were fantastic, her dialogue was very limited in that movie, and extremely short in this trailer. I may be nitpicking here, but her accent from BvS, to Wonder Woman trailers, to this are all different, with varying inflections of her natural Israeli accent, mixed some sort of Celtic or Norse inflections to make the Themysciran dialect unique. Either way, it’s her acting ability when it comes to talking that concerns me, as she seems to have the action aspect down pretty well. I will admit, I would have prefered her to pack on another ten to twelve pounds of muscle, just so she would have a physically imposing presence to go along with the attitude, however I understand that most don’t want that and that for her, as a model turned actress, packing on that kind of muscle would be very hard for her, and add nothing to the movies overall.

Three things I want to leave you with as questions to a trailer I really enjoyed as I think DC and Warner Brother’s are finally getting savvy enough in their trailer making to get people talking about the possibilities of future projects while clamoring for their current ones.

1) Do you think the shot (below) of the thick icy glacier is a nod, or possible actual shot of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude

Superman Fortress of Solitude

2) We see both Mera with a couple/ Atlantian guards, and a huge army of Themysciran warriors for the briefest of moment’s in this trailer, so how much time do you think the respective races have in the movie? I am thinking a small amount of time for Mera, maybe five to eight minutes, while the Amazon’s will get roughly twenty to twenty-five minutes throughout the movie, as they show them mobilizing and as part of the final battle.

3) Lastly, the question everyone is asking, when do you think we will see Superman. I have heard some say half way through the movie, while others say the last ten minutes. Myself, I am putting my money on fifteen to twenty minutes in total, some of it just flashback/indirect discussion about him then his resurrection near the end of the movie to go toe to toe with Steppenwolf.

Hopefully some of these questions will be answered over the coming months in news releases and future trailers, until then stay super friends.

The Forge: Putting up something Fantastic as we look at the possibilities for Marvel’s phase 4

Every fan of the comic book genre has their particular hero or heroine that they cheer for or want to see make the jump to the silver screen. For me I have Thor, who is one of my favourite characters in all of the Marvel comics, right beside Wolverine. Over in DC I am a huge fan of Wonder Woman and Big Barda due to their warrior nature, much like that of Thor. Alas, for each of these characters I get to enjoy on-screen, minus Barda obviously, there are five I personally want to see on the big screen in the upcoming phase four of Marvel’s cinematic universe. We will also take a quick look at some potential TV shows that, in my mind, would make for excellent stories to spread out over eight to thirteen hours.

Before jumping into what we want, lets first look at what we have, because it is a lot. Marvel has been steadily ramping up their production and we are getting three movies this year, next year, and potentially three movies for the foreseeable future. Add to this fact that phase three looks to be the first phase that gives us more than six movies, as the first and second rounds of the MCU were both six films apiece. With this in mind, lets look at what I believe will be the line up for this stage of Marvel’s world domination. Some of these are at the end of 2019, which I think will fall into phase four, and add them to my speculation section.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Spider-man: Homecoming
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Black Panther
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Ant-man and the Wasp
  • Captain Marvel
  • Untitled Avengers Movie*

Eight movies over the next two and a half years is quite the tall order. We have the potential for universe ending devastation in Guardians, Ragnarok AND both Avengers films, not to mention any potential inter-planetary conflicts from Captain Marvel. We also have smaller scale conflicts in Black Panther with potential war in Wakanda along with the big, or small depending on how you look at it, hi-jinks that Ant-man and the Wasp get into. Oh, and Peter might lose his homework while swinging across the city to school, but that’s a low-key problem. Those of you who know the current announced line up might notice that I have not included Spider-man: Homecoming 2, and that’s because I think it is going to be the start of phase four, and the start of the fallout from the Untitled avengers movie. That being said, with all of these great films to look forward to already, what six movies could possibly be waiting for us in the waning light of 2019? **Potential spoilers for infinity war as my knowledge of the comic’s will come into play a bit here**

Spider-man: Homecoming 2

Spiderman Homecoming 2

To me, this just makes perfect sense, as we are coming off the hard-fought victory over Thanos, spoiler alert the MCU doesn’t end in 2019, and now the repercussions of that fight, any potential deaths, or changes to reality due to the infinity gauntlet’s power and the person/persons who wield it. Bringing the universe point of view back down to a very personal level with Peter Parker also allows the rest of the movies in phase four to get the reset they need. It’s hard to care when the world/universe is always the macguffin to save.

The other reason I think this is likely is that we get to see Peter either in his final year of highschool, or his first year of college, which adds a whole new dynamic to the character, as his greater work load will affect his superhero life and vice versa. I also personally hope the story line they go with is the Kraven the Hunter arc: Kraven’s Last Hunt.

Fantastic Four

fantastic four logo

Yes I am one of those people. While it may be a long shot, especially with the rumours of a second one being developed by Fox, I still have faith that the lack of interest in their studio’s attempts will make them give up any plans they might have, and allow the rights to revert back to Marvel. Fox’s repeated mishandling of the First Family has been nothing short of disastrous, and if they could get back into the hands of the MCU I see great things able to happen.

While to some, it might make sense for F4 to be the first movie of phase four, I think it actually makes more sense for them to come second, as they can expand upon the multiverse nature of the MCU, and gives them a brand new foothold to branch off from. Whether it’s knowing the characters in a different light, or simply meeting heroes who were never in their version of earth leaves open a lot of story options. Frankly if this does happen, I put money on the Hulk being their nemesis for the first movie, to mirror the times in the comics where they have fought.

Nova/Nova Corp

Nova

This might seem like an odd choice, as many don’t know who this character is and the Nova Corp only played a small role in the initial Guardian’s movie. As a intergalactic police force, they serve as a great backdrop to any of the Marvel movies which take place in space, and the character of Nova in particular can be portrayed, and often was, as a “John McClane in space” kinda guy. His power set, and the exotic nature of foreign planets and species allows for a huge host of villains to fight.

My bet would be a story loosely based on the Annihlation story arc, which has a ton of characters in it, many of which Marvel can’t use one being the actual main villain, Annihilus. However a minor change to your antagonist, or if Marvel does get the rights back to this character it would make an incredible visual spectacle along the lines of the best parts of Guardians, and the incredible nature of Guardians 2.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Guardians of the Galaxy

This is a no brainer in my opinion. Not only has James Gunn said that Guardians 3 is on the docket, the likelihood of Guardians 2 being bad is about as likely the sun exploding by Christmas. With a growing cast of characters, GotG 3 will likely be another smash hit simply due to the cast’s excellent chemistry and the bombastic and fun nature that these movies portray.

I couldn’t even guess at what stories they would go forward with, as I don’t know the Guardians from the comic’s all that well, though if my speculations hold true, there could be a significant chance that Nova plays an integral part in their movie.

Black Widow

Black Widow

This is another movie which I think is a no brainer in phase four. As, currently, the biggest female hero within the Marvel universe Black Widow has been dying for a movie as she is a kick ass character who has so many stories to tell, not only from her past, but from any point throughout the latter two Captain America movies.

Personally, I would love to see her solo, but I would also be jazzed for her and Hawkeye as both actors have fantastic chemistry on-screen, and in my mind the back and forth they had when they were assassin’s seems like the best story to tell, as it finish’s with them both in S.H.I.E.L.D.

Namor the Submariner 

Namor-Sub-Mariner

This is my ‘long shot’ prediction, and I swing for those underwater fences because Namor is a FANTASTIC asshole character. Smug, narcissistic, and has little patience for idiots, Namor to me is a character that needs to be made. This also gives Marvel their analog to DC’s Aquaman, which is a character that is seeing a revival in popularity.

The problem with this, however is no one seems to know where the rights to Namor lay. It seems to be in limbo with Universal, Lionsgate and Marvel all somehow holding a piece of him. I will admit, I have no idea how this will get resolved, however when you’re wishlisting for a movie to get made, you try not to worry about these things.

Talking TV

While the movies are great, and any or all of my speculated movies being added to the slate would be fantastic, there is another place where we can get our Marvel fix. That comes in the form of MTVU or Marvel TV Universe and the Netflix universe. While Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. is hit or miss, I personally like it, it is not the biggest market for our TV heroes. Netflix is where we see the biggest market with two seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. While Iron Fist was the first real stumble, we still have the Defenders coming as well as the highly anticipated Punisher series. Two other series, which I am not actually sure who is publishing, is the Cloak and Dagger series, and the Inhumans series. I believe Inhumans is ABC, but C&D is a series “cloaked” in mystery. Haha, terrible jokes are terrible. That said, Here are two series I would love to see, both preferably on Netflix or HBO simply because that affords them the budget and ability to show more mature subject matter.

Moon Knight

Netflix-Moon-Knight

While the allusions to Batman are very strong, Moon Knight is a brilliant character to bring to the small screen. Whether it sticks strictly with the origin of Moon Knight, or blends some of his later story arcs where his mental instability has started to come through. Unlike Deadpool, Marc Spector, the characters real name, is much more troubled which adds such complexity and depth to his character. In my mind The Bottom arc should be the material taken from.

This series not only deals with mental illness, but violence, hatred and how madness can slowly seep into a person, especially when being pushed to the limits, both mentally and physically, by their villains. The fight scenes in a series like this could be legendary.

The Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider

To me, the Ghost Rider is a must have and the longer they take to get his project off the ground, the more time they spend not making all of the money. While I am a fan of the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, I have been hearing a lot of great things about the new ghost rider, who appeared in Agents of Shield, Roberto “Robbie” Reyes. With a new look, new ride and a fantastic story to kick off on, Robbie could make the Netflix Marvel Universe a much more hellish place for the better. While this may seem trite to mention, it also goes to continuing the diversity of the marvel Netflix cast as a Latino-American actor would be a welcome addition.

What Ghost Rider brings to the table, besides the crazy visuals, is a story of vengeance turned to hatred to an eventual deal, begrudgingly, to work together with the demon inhabiting his body, the promise to kill and sate a thirst for murder, albeit only to kill the those who do evil and punish those who deserve it.

While this is a lot to consider, I think it is pretty safe to have some trust in Marvel, be it the movie arm or the tv arm, as they are both producing quality products more often than not. Some of these choices, like the new Guardians and Spider-man movies are pretty safe bets, but sometimes it’s fun to put your speculative hopes out into the universe, just in case it’s listening. Or it’s the Beyonder and he is shaking his head saying “Sir, you are higher than a Super Skrull on Helium if you think that is happening”. Either way, cannot wait for the present movies and TV, let alone the future.

The Forge: Looking forward at the second phase of the DCEU & what can help shape the universe

“I am sure you’re wondering why I have all gathered you here. As you can see on the monitor, we are experiencing some significant turbulence within this time line, and are looking to the future thanks to Boomtube technology to give us an idea of how to fix this problem”

Fun Justice League scene aside, many fans are always looking to the future, whether it is the next movie for a particular character like the recently announced Man of Steel II, or the latest movie to shed light on the universe as a whole such as the soon to be released Wonder Woman and potential juggernaut in Justice League later this year.

Before we can even get into phase two however, we have to take a look at what is actually announced for phase one, if it is actually going to stay in this phase and if phase one will actually end as new movies seem to be getting announced every week. Currently according to IMDb, which I realize is not the be all and end all of information, has phase one of the DCEU as the following movies.

  • Man of Steel
  • Batman v Superman
  • Suicide Squad
  • Wonder Woman
  • Justice League part 1
  • The Flash
  • Aquaman
  • Shazam
  • Justice League Part 2
  • Cyborg
  • Green Lantern Corp

Automatically we know that The Flash is in major trouble, with multiple director changes and multiple script rewrites. The Shazam movie is at the moment vaporware with the Rock attached to play Black Adam, yet Black Adam is also supposed to have his own movie? Cyborg may get folded into a Teen Titans movie and the Green Lantern Corp may or may not be getting screen time in any of these movies already mentioned. Couple this with talks/announcements of The Batman, Man of Steel II, Bird’s of Prey and the Justice League Dark Universe; a magic and supernatural side of the world; we have to wonder what is actually being made and if they are going to keep it in all in phase one or spread it out. For the purpose of this piece I am going to make some assumptions on the newly announced movies and hedge my bets on them being part of the second round of DCEU shows. Here are the six movies I think are going to be the start of Warner Brothers follow-up to phase one.

The Batman

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I think everyone realizes that this will be the first salvo used in DCEU’s next phase as it’s their primary character and Warner Brothers and DC seem to be unable to have something NOT loosely affiliated with the Dark Knights universe. With Ben Affleck stepping down as writer and director on this movie, it opens up a lot of potential for a new vision, not only for the movie itself, but for the potential direction of their cinematic universe. The interesting aspects of this movie is what story arcs will it take from the comic books, if it does at all.

In my mind, I see someone like the Riddler or the Penguin as the main villain as they challenge Batman/Bruce Wayne in a way that the other villains in these past four movies have not. The Riddler brings forth the capacity to have the detective nature of Batman come out. We can have deadly traps and queries meant to push our hero to the limit. On the flip side the Penguin is a strong opponent because you could play him as a rival business man to Bruce Wayne, while his criminal element causes strife for his alter ego.

Man of Steel II

Man of Steel II

This is the other sure-fire movie to be at the start of phase 2 as it has been pretty terrible of Warner Brothers to keep this movie out of the lime light. Man of Steel was the best movie, in my opinion, from the DCEU and their mishandling of their other properties from a critical viewpoint have made pushed this to the forefront of development.

What is exciting about a new Superman movie is we have a ton of places we can take this story. Do we take queues from the Justice League movies and expand from there, or do we introduce new villains like Mongul, Metallo or Cyborg Superman to challenge our hero on a more physical level compared to a mental one. In my opinion it would be to soon to bring in Braniac as his villain due to the fact that both he and Darkseid are similar ‘god tier’ opponents.

Birds of Prey/Gotham City Sirens

Birds of Prey

There has been a lot of talk lately about these movie, partially due to how well Margot Robbie was received as Harley Quinn in the Suicide Squad and partially because any time some notes something positive DC has to rush off and announce it’s in talks for a green light. Snark aside, I think there are a lot of positive aspects to a Birds of Prey or a Gotham City Sirens movie. We get to see Harley again, hopefully some cloths that cover something (didn’t like the look, sue me), and a potential cast of Bat Girl/Oracle, Huntress, Black Canary, Catwoman, Hawkgirl, Posion, Ivy, Wildcat and of course Batman.

The potential issues with this series though is what villains do they use and can they find a script which doesn’t paint these women as catty, or inept, or boring. Each of their personalities are drastically different in the comics and if they don’t capture that diversity of character it could leave a real sour taste in people’s mouths.

Blue Beetle and Booster Gold

Blue Beetle and Booster Gold

This is a personal wish of mine, above and beyond its actual potential to be made. This is the buddy cop movie of the DC universe which will help diversify their roster, and their emotional palette. These two characters together have such great chemistry in the pages of comics, that two action driven comics could be a perfect on-screen. Think 21 Jump Street but in space.

The hard part here is how to introduce these characters, as in the cinematic universe we are nowhere near these characters being revealed and depending on the path WB and DC choose to take for the rest of phase one, we may be a long ways off from getting to them. Still, snarky robots and buddy space cop comedy sounds like an instant hit.

Black Adam

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Black Adam is one of two movies I am suggesting that falls into the ‘Logan’ style of movie. A strong, potentially R rated movie about a character who struggles with who he is, his abilities and the morality of being such a powerhouse character.

My idea is to take the story arc from 52, where Black Adam is actually a hero at first, but has his family killed by the 4th horsemen of Apokolips Famine, and he goes berserk. His turn to anti-hero and eventual villain at the end of the movie then sets him up as the bad guy in a Shazam movie whether that means its a prequel or sets him up for a future movie is moot. You get fantastic character development, and gives The Rock a great surface to flex his acting and physical muscles on.

Hawkman

Hawkman

This is the other anti-hero character I think would fit well into the DCEU universe. He brings a bit more of the fantasy aspects, ala Wonder Woman or Marvel’s Thor to the universe, but also brings a darker, grittier world as Hawkman is much more of a troubled and violent character, when written well, than the rest of the JLA.

Interesting plots could be a twist on the Thanagarian War, which could introduce Hawkgirl into the DCEU. It gives us some great battles, incredible visuals and an interesting story line where the heroes finally know their team’s real identities, besides of course Batman, as he already knows. Another potential multi-movie plot could involve the Rann-Thanagar War, leading into the Death of Hawkman storyline. This doesn’t account for any one of my favourite fights in comics which is Superman & Batman vs Hawkman and Captain Marvel which would make for an epic second-to-third act battle.

 

DCTV

Warner Brothers TV

I have been an off again on again watcher of the DCTV universe. I liked Arrow season one and two, and disliked season three and four. I have been entertained with Flash, though my major problem with all of these shows is most prevalent on this series and that is the “CW romance, but I can’t say what I feel or do the right thing because it’s a twenty-three episode show” troupe. Legends of Tomorrow is wacky and entertaining, and while I haven’t seen the second season yet I actually had a really good time with Supergirl.

While the CW shows are great, I have always been a fan of the freedom that Netflix, Amazon and other services of the like have when making their shows. You see Preacher on AMC, Game of Thrones on HBO and Marvel characters on Netflix seeing good to great success because they are allowed to tackle more mature themes and stories, it also doesn’t hurt that we can see the trinity in effect; Swearing, Violence, and Nudity. If I could pick a property I would want to see, it would defintely be the following.

Etrigan the Demon

Etrigan

One of my favorite “oddball” characters, Etrigan the Demon could be a crazy fun trip through the ages. A demon tied to a hero of ancient time, Jason Blood, Etrigan represents the possibility for deep story and character driven development in the for of Jason Blood as they tell his story and how he ended up being bound to the Demon, as well as some fantastic fights scenes and special effect laden battles when Etrigan comes out to play. Also the struggle of these duel personalities makes for a great secondary macguffin.

Along with the clear horror ties this character has, he could also backdoor in others such as Swamp thing, Constantine and Deadman.  We would also be able to run the gambit of fantastical villains as we traipse through multiple timelines and era’s.

While I have my own wants and potential stories to be told, I would be interested in hearing what others want to see, and what the movie universe holds in store for you if you were in control.

Review of The Iron Fist: Better than Kung Fury, but it ain’t no Enter the Dragon (Spoilers)

I want to preface this review with a bit of information. I am not very knowledgeable on Iron Fist from the comics, so there are nuances to the character I may not know/understand. I am reviewing this based on the merits of the show itself and the strengths of its actors and actresses. This is a spoiler review.

Netflix has been on a pretty positive roll with their Netflix series set within the Marvel universe. Daredevil has been touted across the board as excellent, while both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have been critically well received with positive fan feed back along side them. Characters like the Punisher and the team up of the Defenders, which includes our titular character Danny Rand, are in the works or finishing up their production for us to consume. On top of already announced projects, fans are speculating about other potential heroes to join the Netflix roster such as Moon Knight, The Demon Etrigan or Constantine, I personally want to see Etrigan as I like fantasy shows and a demon who rhymes is just cool.

With all of the positive momentum that Netflix and Marvel have garnered so far however is marred by the internet having issues with its latest series. The “controversies” like white washing in other movies made their way into Iron Fist, which in itself is comical, as this character is actually white in the comics as well, but I digress. Couple these casting discussions with the fact that many outlets that got the first six episodes of Marvels new Netflix series were not as entertained as they had been with previous entries. Whether it’s too high of expectations, or Marvels legitimate first major misstep, everyone was talking about it. To add fuel to this fire unfortunately the main lead, Finn Jones, made some less than, lets call them, “well thought out” comments about peoples negative reactions. However we are now a few days past the release date, and those of us who want to be part of the conversation have binged the first season of Iron Fist, so lets actually talk about it.

Iron Fist 2

The series opens with our introduction to Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, listening to some old school hip hop as he wanders down the street. Clad in ratty cloths, and an old backpack, he enters his father’s office building, only to be promptly kicked out. To be fair, if you went into the offices of a place that knew you, but you have been presumed dead for the past fifteen years, being kicked out seems pretty reasonable. Undeterred however, Danny tries to enter a second time and we get to see the teachings of K’un Lun in action. . . . and they are not very impressive. The unfortunate nature of either how these were shot or the actor himself does not lend any sort of weight or mysticism to this brief encounter against the security guards. This ‘soft touch’ or ‘half speed’ nature that many of the fights have are, in my opinion, one of the main reasons Iron Fist suffers, however I will discuss that later.

Danny makes it up to the top floor to see the Meachum siblings, Joy and Ward, and as you can imagine everyone is confused and scared because a homeless looking man is in their office building. This is not a beat by beat recounting, I just wanted to bring these three characters in at the beginning because they are the primary trinity that we revolve around, which in itself causes issues with the story. Both actors Jessica Stroup, Joy, and Tom Pelphrey, Ward, are actually solid actors in this series. Mr Pelphrey actually being one of my favourites in the series due to the constant outside forces pushing against him. Ms Stroup does a good job of being the both the hammer and the sickle when needed in their business life, and on the occasion in their personal life. Out of all the characters in this series though, I have to say that Finn Jones was the actor who struggled to make an impact in my book the most.

Whether it was from poor direction, poor script, or the actor was just the wrong choice the role if Iron Fist never feels fully fleshed out. The first episode to the last keeps the character circling the same few plot points over and over again, and each time there is a clear path to expanding upon his character they choose to avoid that off ramp and stick to their circle. This is disheartening to say the least, but frustrating in part because each of these potential divergent character flaws or branches of growth would have done the one thing Danny was sorely missing, and that is the aforementioned fleshing out. While it’s made clear that he has psychological problems due to the trauma of his parents dying in the plane crash at the beginning of the series, and a point we continually go back to in flash backs, they never allow the character to grow up. His mentality, maturity and overall morality system are based off of this one incident, which again would be fine at the beginning of the series, but not at episode thirteen. Couple this fact with that those said personality traits mentioned above radically change every couple of episodes at its best or multiple times within the same episode at worst, and you have a character that feels like a collection of idea’s and not a singular being. Not all is negative with Jones however as he does try, or at least seems like he does, to give his all for each scene. He feels honest in the quieter moments of each episode, and even though some of the lines are brutally bad, I can appreciate the effort. His spats of rage/flashback induced fear also seem to be pulled out from him well, as his physical acting in these parts match’s what someone might do or feel.

The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, much like the Meachum sibblings they all give solid performances. Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing is one of the seasons strongest actors, as she supports Iron Fist throughout the majority of their time on-screen. I personally dislike how it seemed to go from “oh you’re a guy” to “I am infatuated with you because you know kung fu” over the course of. . . well I don’t actually know when, I can’t seem to find the actual transition period when going back, as it just seems like she goes from the Daughter of the Dragon to the girlfriend of the Iron Fist in the blink of an eye. It should be known I am not a fan of romance subplots, as to me they are not usually done well, though I am prepared to be told I am wrong here. If I had to pick standout actors though it would be Harold Meachum’s David Wenham, Faramir from LotR for those sweaties in the crowd and Wai Chng Ho as the always impactful Madame Gao. David’s portrayal of a man pinned into a corner but is always working the angles gives you an ally and villain you can get behind throughout the course of the show. On that same playing field is Madame Gao, much like Rosario Dawson’s character Claire, helps bridge the gap between each of the Netflix shows as part of their connective tissue. Her soft but menacing touch to every scene she is in makes her such a fun character to watch, and as events unfold you see how well she weaves her webs of deception and lies to great effect. I have to mention one more character as a personal favourite of mine as he brought the level of action up for a brief moment to where I had wanted it all season, and that is Lewis Tan as Zhou Cheng a Zui Quan, or Drunken master style, martial artist. He was only in Iron Fist for one episode, but I found him to be entertaining to watch in the fight, philosophically on point to his oath/word and brought a dry humor to the scene which was needed.

Iron Fist

Speaking of fighting, let’s get into what should have been the crowning achievement of this series, but ultimately fell flat in the overall picture. The Iron Fist is supposed to be a martial arts master, a point which is reinforced through exposition throughout the series, yet watching Danny Rand fight felt like watching a group fighting in water. Besides a few of the scenes I will discuss in a moment, every fight felt light, and did not have the impact one would expect coming from a martial arts-centric series. Punch’s are floaty, kick’s limply impact their opponents and throws feel like everyone is landing on pillows. There are exceptions to this however, and I think they need to be pointed out as what the standard SHOULD have been. The first one to really grab my attention was the first and second time Colleen Wing entered into an underground fighting ring. You can see her unshackle herself mentally as the rush of combat over takes her. Each blow feels like a fight is happening and the more visceral nature of these cage fights show off how Iron Fist can get their trade craft done right. The aforementioned Zhou Cheng fight two-thirds of the way through the season is another fantastic fight to draw inspiration from. This, out of all fights in my opinion was the closest thing to a “Full on Daredevil Fight” we saw, as the impact of blows to body and face looked and felt like they were happening, instead of the worst episodes of the CW’s fight scenes we were normally treated to. The second most “Daredevil fight” was when they fought Ramon Rodriguez character Bakuto in the elevator hallway. This extended fight once again felt impactful and real, as silly of a term that may be, compared to the rest of the episodes.

As I reflect back on season one of Iron Fist, my biggest negative take away is how much the main character didn’t follow any of the story arcs they brought forth in the scene/episode before them. It may seem like I am harping on it, but the inability for the character to grow out of his adolescence mentality doesn’t suit the their overall universe and, in my opinion, makes Danny Rand look like a poorly constructed character. His lack of character development is countered however by the rest of the cast being pretty on point for the most part and makes up for many of the short comings the season was hampered with. The ending of season one leaves the door wide open for much better story telling, significantly better fighting sequences and hopefully a worthy successor to this character, as it’s not quite limp, but it certainly isn’t an Iron Fist.

As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -4

Logan Review – Regenerating a love for the Berserker in all our hearts (Spoiler)

It is odd for a movie, especially one in the comic book genre, to leave you both fiercely grinning and wiping a tear from your eye. It evoked images of every Berserker rage we should have seen in previous movies past, along with the incredible compassion Wolverine has with younger female characters, a trait we have seen often. With our, seemingly, last snikt to be had, let’s get into a review of Logan.

Wolverine as a character has always been at odds with its movie counterpart. As a PG13 rated series in the X-Men, we have never really seen the animalistic nature of the Weapon X project in full swing until this movie. As a personal fan of the character since my real introduction to him in 1991, I have always wanted to see the rage and sorrow that good writers brought to the character, and while previous movie entries have tried, none have succeeded like Logan.

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The first five minutes of the movie show how broken down and beaten our Old man Logan really is. Relegated to a limo driver to stay alive and support Charles and Caliban as they hide out, he has to do everything possible to protect his livelihood aka the limo. Que the group of scumbags and a bloodbath ensues. Even in the minor rage we see towards the end of the fight, it is ever-present that there is something wrong with our anti-hero. This fight also shows us the brutal nature of the R rating, which pulls no punch’s as men are dismembered and disfigured with absolute authority.

Putting aside the violence for a moment, it has to be said that Hugh Jackman crush’s it in his portrayal of Logan in this movie. Taking bits and pieces from the Old man Logan comic book and mixing it in with ideas of family, self loathing, depression and the faint rays of light known as happiness play themselves out across the world-weary brow of Logan. Throughout this movie there is an underlying pressure which bubbles to the surface that causes not only Wolverine, but Charles, Caliban, Laura, and the villains known as the Reavers to shift violently into this movies R rating. This shift is not only what keeps the movie on its relatively quick pace but also helps you grow with the characters as they struggle with their life choices and battle their own demons. Putting aside the few instances in which the movie slows down, which I will talk about in a bit, the movie flies by for just under two hours and twenty minutes.

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While it is easy to extol virtue onto Hugh Jackman for this, in my opinion, Oscar worthy performance one should not sleep on the rest of the supporting cast. Patrick Stewart as Professor X gives not only the best performance of the character to date, but also manages to make the use of fowl language both funny and meaningful. You never think of that character as one to lower themselves to such a vulgar level, yet the first F’bomb you hear him utter not only makes you laugh, but gives you a moments pause to consider the situation they are in for that relationship, one of father and care taker of a troubled youth turned into one of bitterness, regret and strained loyalty.  His death scene in particular shows the terrible burden he realizes he did but also on how Logan took the burden of that travesty upon himself to spare his mentor the pain and anguish.

While he had a small role, I think it is worth talking about Stephen Merchant as Caliban. He had a small amount of screen time, even less than the villains of the story, but I feel his presence was akin to the ‘voice of reason’ for Logan’s perpetual darkness that he drudged through. This is plays again in the fact that he is ultra sensitive to sunlight, so his light in the darkness role plays twice in a somber yet humorous nature. The motif of shadow and light play in one final time due to a taunt thrown at him by the Reavers leader upon capture, and utters as a final defiance before his sacrifice to try and aid Laura and Logan in any way possible with “Beware the Light”.

Before talking about the incredibly talented actress in Dafne Keen, I want to touch on the villains of the movie. As mentioned before, our bad guys consist of a enhanced para military type unit called the Reavers. These cyborgs don’t sport all the modifications from their comic book representations, but hey we can’t always have a guy with tank treads rolling around now can we. Special mention should be given to Boyd Holbrook however as he walks the difficult line that all villains of this genre have to walk. His character, Donald Pierce, does an excellent job of being menacing, smart, and sophisticated without being cheesy, bland or overbearing. His understated animosity and aggressiveness towards, coupled with his brief star struck nature meeting Logan when looking for X23 is just one example of how a constant pressure applied to a wound, in this case Charles, Logan and Laura on the run, make for a great villainous intent that doesn’t need an overbearing nature we would expect from other comic book movies. He may not be Loki, but Donald Pierce might be one of the best villains in a movie with super powers.

Now to talk about the woman who stands toe to toe with our failing berserker, the incredible Dafne Keen. The short version of her character is she is a clone of Wolverine, made with his DNA in a lab somewhere and as a new version in the weapon X program, x23 to be exact, she was supposed to be a new weapon to be manufactured. For every inch of height disparity between Laura and Logan, Mrs. Keen makes up for in pure savagery when she unleashes her own brand of fury upon her enemies. It would be easy to think that a tiny girl would be dangerous, yet ultimately ineffective against men thrice her stature and estimated skill level, yet nothing could be further from the truth as not only is she a trained killer, but for someone so young she couples her brutal efficiency with her speed, agility and penchant for groin/near groin shots puts her high on the little murder girl spectrum.

For most of the movie X23 says nothing, instead preferring to communicate in pensive or glowering stares to all but the Professor. Her attitude give her a larger than life body in which we see her slip in and out of. On the one hand, the aforementioned murder girl vibe sits comfortably within her character as not only a clone of Logan, but as a defensive mechanism that any kid may try and reenact when treated as poorly as she has been. The other side of that coin falls into her softer side, the child peaking out of the animal that is caged within said child. A perfect example of this is her riding the mechanical horse and as she grows frustrated with the ride ending, and not understanding how to make it work, she resorts to a nature she knows works, violence. Que Logan with a quarter and stern gaze, and we see Laura’s demeanor switch back to that pensive stare to Logan and back again to the child, enjoying a ride on a mechanical horse.

Thankfully James Mangold, the writer and director was not content to make a tiny ball of rage be the only side we see from Dafne Keen’s performance. Once she starts talking, you feel the passion of a character looking for love, being scared, and trying to understand why a man, who feels like her doesn’t love her. If that doesn’t stab you through the heart then you could be a Reaver.

logan-violence

As both simultaneously wind down the story and ramp up the violence, I think it is apt to actually touch on how violent this movie is. At an R rating, the fowl language is one thing, but rarely have we seen the R rating bring us the level of pin point carnage we see in Logan. The image above is actually one of the more tame images to choose from as we see the skull get pierced, slashed and eventually blown away, not to mention the copious amount of limb rending, flesh tearing and flurry of bladed blows to the face neck and chest of this movies more regenerative characters.

As stated in the first sentence of this review, I was grinning from ear to ear in every major fight, as I found Logan’s use of violence to be so inline with the character and the story that I couldn’t contain my happiness and excitement to see what unique way a man would die next. Morbid as it may sound, the brutality not only shocks you but it deepens the stakes we see as the movie progresses. Whether its Logan struggling against the telepathic outbursts of Charles Xavier, punching his claws into the wall as some sort of makeshift climbing pick only to stare into the eyes of men he killed or the fury and rage of a juiced up Logan in the forest frantically running and murdering yet still looking to protect the children he would as a member of the X-Men.

None of the violence hits quite as hard or bloody as the set pieces with X24. This clone of Wolverine is a pure ball of rage, akin to the escape of Logan when his moniker was Weapon X. The battle between new and old reads like every fight between Sabertooth/Deadpool and Wolverine  we want to see. Another reference that came to mind, and one that has been echo’d online quite a bit, is Terminator 2 which I think is incredibly accurate. In the last duel between them blood spills in the liters as both man and clone rend flesh from each other, one spending the last of his rage and anger to save a small girl and her friends, while the other seethes an unstoppable aura of rage and a regeneration factor to match, its clear the outcome is not in our heroes favour. Much like the performance he gives, Hugh Jackman’s death, and subsequent salvation are masterfully executed and just add to the prestige of the actor and the character. His salvation, comes at the hands of Laura, his daughter with an adamantium bullet he meant for himself, and while she robs him of a demise he thought he wanted, she gave him a peace he would have never found. The love of a child and the weight of despair lifted from his shoulders due to that love. Talking about his death chokes me up a little even now, as I have been invested in this character and mythology for over twenty five years now, and I personally find it to be the cap to a story I have been experiecing since I can remember. The final cap drives home the finality of these characters with Laura quoting the movie Shane, which she and Professor X watched in a hotel room. As she mimicks the speech that Alan Ladd’s character says to a small boy as a funeral speech, you see the similarities between new and old, not only with the movie’s character reflecting upon Logan, but upon how Logan reflects and influences Laura. As the children leave one final homage to the heroes she believed in, the X-Men, she turn his cross on the side to something simple and pure, an X

Logan in my opinion is the movie to beat this year. Not just from other comic book movies, but from films in general. It will be hard to beat the gut punch you receive as you sit with these characters, and there is a good chance the action will not be matched for years to come. As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score 0