WandaVision Brings Back The MCU With A Magical TV Twist

For too long (only about a year and a half but it felt like eternity), fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) were deprived of new content. But that ended when the Disney+ TV show WandaVision premiered last January and the series finale just streamed yesterday. By the time the finale, appropriately titled “The Series Finale”, streamed WandaVision became the latest water cooler show to talk about as many theories (most of which did not pan out) were discussed, and for good reason. Some spoilers will follow.

WandaVision stands out from the normal MCU fare by focusing more on character, plot twists and mystery. It still is an MCU offering but it took full advantage of its new television medium and tantalized viewers with questions and character studies with each episode. It also was quite unconventional as a TV show.

The series was an intriguing hybrid of MCU action and world building and a tribute to American sitcoms. We got to see the evolution of sitcoms from the 1950s to today with various episodes taking on a tone which was appropriate to the era it evoked. Starting with the first two episodes, WandaVision emulated 1950s shows like The Dick Van Dyck Show and Bewitched with a narrow television ratio, laugh tracks and black and white photography in the first two episodes. The following episodes were in color with changed lighting that evoked the bouncy and colorful TV world of the 1970s like The Brady Bunch; the schmaltzy and corny overlit family comedies in the 1980s as seen with Growing Pains or Family Ties; the more in-your-face and goofball vibe of Malcolm in the Middle from the 2000s; and contemporary comedies where characters talk to the fourth wall as in The Office and Modern Family. Each era/episode came with an opening title scene that fit perfectly for the era it evoked. 

It was a lot of fun to watch these episodes which brought back memories, although the earlier episodes could have actually been funny. This flaw was a turn off for some viewers but others were rewarded when the series expanded beyond the bizarre artificial world created by the superpowered Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, who has never been better at this role) and we learned what was going on. 

WandaVision truly began to stand out when we began to get answers and the world opened up. Essentially, the series takes place in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame as Wanda is struggling through her grief over the loss of her lover, the android called Vision (Paul Bettany) and the events from the last two Avengers films. In her emotional pain, Wanda retreated to a fantasy world that inserted herself and a resurrected Vision in a sitcom world.

This draws the attention of the real world in the form of an agency called S.W.O.R.D., and people who investigate Wanda’s world. These included familiar MCU faces like scientist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and new faces such as Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and S.W.O.R.D. director and all-around tool Tyler Heyward (Josh Stamberg). It is remarkable that this show was able to take minor and annoying MCU characters who detracted from their films and made them so endearing. Darcy and Jimmy have to return in one of the other Disney+ MCU shows. Meanwhile, Monica made a brilliant impression as the newest MCU hero, the future Photon/Spectrum and the episode that focused on her return to life during Avengers: Endgame provided a fullfilling look at what the impact the events of the Avengers films had on normal people. 

Events quickly elevated and intrigued us when Wanda’s deceased brother Pietro/Quicksilver (Evan Peters reprising his role, sort of, from the Fox X-Men films) turned up out of the blue. Meanwhile, tantalizing clues and Easter eggs engaged us to try to figure out what was going on in the show and its characters, namely Wanda and Vision’s nosy next-door neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), who showed a wide range of depth from comedy to villainy. 

However, the true stars of the show was of course Wanda and Vision. The actors reveled in their roles and ran audiences through the emotional gamut as their scenes ranged from goofball comedy to horrifying heartbreak. But the emotional pulls were genuine and did not feel forced (unlike many of the attempts at humor). Their story was the heart of WandaVision as the series grew darker and darker when she processed her grief.

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Superman & Lois Takes Off To A Promising Start

When the latest DC superhero TV show on the CW, Superman & Lois, was announced, many of us shrugged our shoulders based on the previous quality of superhero shows on that network. While the so-called Arrowverse DC TV shows are usually entertaining, they quickly fell into a worn-out formula that catered to the YA audiences of the CW. These shows were known for humdrum cinematography, average-to-obvious CG effects, a quirky support team for the main character complete with a nerdy IT person who talks too much. and a light tone with angst-driven melodrama.

Adding to the preconception about Superman & Lois was this version of Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) was the same one introduced in Supergirl and many fans complained loudly over how the showrunners intentionally made Superman inferior to Supergirl in her show. This was the last thing the character needed in this day and age where he struggles to stay relevant. 

Well, after viewing the pilot episode of Superman & Lois, it is  great to discover that the show, so far, has taken a different approach with an emphasis on quality that approaches what one would see on HBO Max and even on film. 

The pilot begins with a summary of Superman/Clark Kent’s life from the moment he arrived on Earth as an infant to how he met his future wife, Lois Lane (Bitsie Tuloch) and to the birth and raising of their twin sons, Jon (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alex Garfin). During the pilot, a life-altering event occurs which forces Clark to return with his family to his childhood home in Smallville, Kansas. He and Lois find themselves at a crossroads in their lives and careers as they find out being journalists does not offer career or financial security. Real world problems invade their lives. Throughout the episode, Superman investigates a mysterious villain, while the boys struggle with their sense of identity and finding their way in a changing world.

From the start, the show featured exceptional special effects and cinematography, a more mature tone, and actual characters. Tyler Hoechlin turned in a fine performance as Superman and Clark Kent, who is conflicted with his responsibility to his family versus his life as a superhero who is constantly on call. Even though he is invulnerable, can bend steel with his bare hands and is faster than a speeding bullet, Clark still struggles to relate with his teenage sons. One of them has a social anxiety disorder while the other is an up-and-coming jock. These revelations showcase a more vulnerable and relatable side to the superhero, which is needed since he is criticized often for being a perfect boy scout. 

A caveat with the pilot episode of Superman & Lois is that it does feel at times like a CW show, especially when it devotes screentime to the boys. Their moments of teenage angst comes off as an updated version of Smallville complete with the dumb jocks, coy would-be girlfriends and teenage social gatherings that go awry. The partial reveal of the villain’s identity could produce some groans because Superman has a large gallery of villains to pick from that have yet to appear in live action. The episode could have used a bit more humor to liven up the mood. Then again being that the Arrowverse usually goes overboard with humor to the point it detracts from the drama, the more serious tone of Superman & Lois is very welcome.

Another point to be made is that Superman & Lois casts off much of the Arrowverse trappings to the point that it can be argued that it does not take place in the Arrowverse. It takes its inspirations from Man of Steel instead of Supergirl and it shows from the redesign of Superman’s costume to its hand-held photography (it is more brightly lit than Man of Steel, however) to its grittier tone. Be that as it may, Tyler Hoechlin’s take on Clark Kent and Superman is much closer to Christopher Reeve in the early Superman films than Henry Cavill in the recent films. the rest of the cast are also fine in their respective roles. 

Also, there is a terrific nod early in the pilot to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons and even the first cover image of Action Comics #1 where Superman sports an early prototype costume complete with the red trunks. The cinematography during the opening segments/flashbacks contrast nicely with the current setting and helped set this episode apart from the other Arrowverse pilots. 

The first episode of Superman & Lois is a welcome surprise in a crowded TV landscape of underwhelming superhero shows. The makers realized that unlike the early Arrowverse shows, it is competing with other shows that raised the bar in terms of production values and writing. It is only the first episode and it remains to be seen if it can maintain this tone. The big test will come with the inevitable crossover episodes with the Arrowverse properties. But based on the pilot, Superman & Lois has taken off to a promising start. 

José Soto and Walter L. Stevenson

 

Who Will Be The WandaVision Surprise Cameo?

By now, most fans have heard of a recent interview with actress Elizabeth Olsen where it was revealed that there will be a surprise cameo at the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Disney+ show WandaVision. Supposedly it will rival the shock and magnitude from the surprise guest appearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the second season finale of The Mandalorian.

Of course, Elizabeth Olsen did not elaborate on this and only confirmed to the interviewer that there will be a surprise cameo. In another interview, Paul Bettany who plays the Vision mentioned he will work with an actor he’s always wanted to work with, so take that as a clue or a misdirect. This MCU show is already proving to be adept at the art of misdirection. It could be this already happened with the appearance of Evan Peters as her brother Pietro aka Quicksilver. But it is doubtful that actor’s appearance is of the OMG scale many are now expecting. Then again it could be and all this could be a misdirect, which would be a huge disappointment for many WandaVision viewers.

However, let’s assume that the final episode of WandaVision will have a surprise cameo appearance that will keep the internet busy with buzz and hype for months. Who could that person be?

By now, most fans have heard of a recent interview with actress Elizabeth Olsen where it was revealed that there will be a surprise cameo at the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Disney+ show WandaVision. Supposedly it will rival the shock and magnitude from the surprise guest appearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the second season finale of The Mandalorian.

Of course, Elizabeth Olsen did not elaborate on this and only confirmed to the interviewer that there will be a surprise cameo. In another interview, Paul Bettany who plays the Vision mentioned he will work with an actor he’s always wanted to work with, so take that as a clue or a misdirect. This MCU show is already proving to be adept at the art of misdirection. It could be this already happened with the appearance of Evan Peters as her brother Pietro aka Quicksilver. But it is doubtful that actor’s appearance is of the OMG scale many are now expecting. Then again it could be and all this could be a misdirect, which would be a huge disappointment for many WandaVision viewers.

However, let’s assume that the final episode of WandaVision will have a surprise cameo appearance that will keep the internet busy with buzz and hype for months. Who could that person be? Be sure to leave a comment or two

Little Fish, Large Emotions

Little Fish is a new romantic film relevant to our times with sci-fi elements has just come out in video on demand and a few select theaters which will please sci-fi fans and their dates while offering genuine emotions to all viewers.

Little Fish takes place during a pandemic where people from all walks of life are randomly infected with a debilitating disease that robs them of their memories. The disease, neuro-inflammatory affliction (NIA), can be easily compared to Alzheimer’s disease but young people contract the disease, as well. Little Fish devotes its screentime on how NIA affects a young newlywed couple, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell), as the disease eats away at their treasured memories of their relationship.

Elevated by strong performances and haunting and scintillating cinematography, Little Fish hits the appropriate emotional beats as it explores the couple’s love for each other as they grapple with NIA. At the start of the film, the couple see firsthand how devastating the disease is when their mutual friend Ben (Raul Castillo), a musician, struggles to remember how to play his guitar and then his relationship with his partner, Samantha (Soko). It is not long before she becomes a complete stranger to him, who he sees as an actual threat to him.

Emma and Jude go about their lives; she is a veterinarian who is forced to euthanize dogs after their owners forget them, while Jude is a photographer who begins to forget certain little things like his wedding photography assignment or a recent conversation he had with Emma. Now that Jude has contracted NIA, the couple is desperate to find at least some kind of treatment. Throughout the film, we see other NIA sufferers and the impact on society. These include, roving and constant police patrols searching for missing persons who forgot their addresses or who they are; people who have their personal information tattooed onto themselves; throngs of desperate people rioting as they try to get treated for NIA. Then there are the quacks and conspiracy nutjobs flooding social media and the internet with supposed cures.

Director Chad Hartigan knows enough not to let the film’s focus drift away too much into the outside world. Instead, the attention is kept on Emma and Jude. Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell have a pleasant and easygoing chemistry with each other, which makes Jude’s descent into amnesia all the more disheartening. There are many insightful moments when we witness how his memories become faulty. In one scene, we are shown how people in the memory of his wedding become little more than fuzzy silhouettes. Many of their moments are poignant as Emma and Jude clutch onto the small moments in their past that drew them to each other. There are times, the film potentially becomes treacly, but Hartigan has enough restraint to reel in such emotional hazards and keeps the feelings in check.

Little Fish is an emotionally satsifying indie film that leaves you pondering and treasuring your own memories. It is the kind of film that will please romantics without being overly sentimental since it is quite honest with its story and the journey of its characters.

Quicksilver: We Didn’t See That Coming!

Spoiler Alert: If anyone reading this has not seen the latest episode of WandaVision and do not want to be spoiled then click away!

With that out of the way, it’s time to go over the latest WTF moment in the Disney+ TV show WandaVision, which is the kickoff to Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The show stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the Avengers Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Unlike previous MCU incarnations the show was in a sitcom format but recent developments have revealed WandaVision to be much more than a comedy.

Apparently, Wanda has experienced some kind of emotional breakdown and used her powers to create an alternate reality in a New Jersey town called Westview where she lives a sitcom existence with her husband, Vision, complete with a laugh track. However, cracks have manifested in her reality as we are fed clues as to what is actually happening. Each question answered led to new questions including the shock reveal at the end of episode five of WandaVision called “On a Very Special Episode…”, which was a true head spinner.

In the MCU, Wanda’s superpowered brother Pietro aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) died during Avengers: Age of Ultron and Wanda is still mourning his death. But at the end of the episode Quicksilver shows up in her front door as her long-lost brother (complete with audience cheers at the revelation of the special guest star). The true shocker was that Quicksilver was not portrayed by Taylor-Johnson but by Evan Peters who played the same character in the Fox X-Men films, a completely different film universe unrelated to the MCU.

Needless to say, fans online are geeking out over Peters’ reprisal of Quicksilver because it now creates a link between the two film universes and is just a taste of what is to come with the MCU films. The next Spider-Man film will bring back several actors from the Sony Spider-Man films to reprise their roles and the sequel to Doctor Strange tells us that the sorcerer will be up to his ears with alternate realities by the sequel’s title, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, the crossing over of film universes actually began in the most recent Spider-Man film (Spider-Man: Far From Home), which showed J.K. Simmons reprising his role of J. Jonah Jameson from the Sony Spider-Man films.

Quicksilver’s appearance in WandaVision raised many questions such as is that actually the Quicksilver from the Fox X-Men films? He acted differently than the speedster featured in the last X-Men films. Or is that his personality has been supplanted by Wanda’s powers? In “On a Very Special Episode…” it was revealed that the townspeople in Westview had their true personalities supplanted by fictional characters to serve the comedic hijinks in Wanda’s sitcom reality.

Also, if this is the Fox X-Men Quicksilver then he is replacing the MCU version of Quicksilver because he is dead and Wanda clearly makes a point in the episode five that she cannot resurrect the dead. That contradicts the fact that Vision is alive in the Westview reality and she is aware that her husband is dead in the MCU. then again Vision is an artificial being so she may have been able to bring him back to “life” with her powers. Also, since the episode takes place in the 1980s, Quicksilver in the Fox X-Men films was alive during this time period and it would have been easier to transport him to the 80s setting of the Westview reality.

The special guest appearance of Quicksilver gives us hope that other Fox X-Men characters portrayed by the original actors may appear in the MCU. Olsen has said WandaVision will feature a surprise cameo on the level of Luke Skywalker/Mark Hamill appearing in The Mandalorian. Who could that be? Patrick Stewart as Professor X? Hugh Jackman as Wolverine? There were reports a year or so ago that those actors met with Marvel Studios for undisclosed reasons. Maybe it was to negotiate them returning? On the other hand, both actors made it clear they were done with their roles. Perhaps Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) will be the surprise. His breaking of the fourth wall would fit in well with the meta nature of WandaVision, if one thinks about it.

Of course, there could be another explanation and Quicksilver could be Mephisto in disguise or another hapless townsperson whose personality was altered to becoming Pietro, but not his appearance. In other words, Peters is playing a Westview resident forced to assume the Quicksilver personna and the fact that Peters is playing the person is just a nod and wink to viewers and fans. Still, the casting was a bonafide treat not just for MCU fans but for those fans of the Fox X-Men films who can take heart that those films have not been forgotten.