Comic-Con 2017 Movie & TV Highlights

San Diego is host once again to Comic-Con and after a slow couple of days, interest exploded into unbridled passion today with the reveal of several high profile trailers and announcements. By no means does this mean that the news coming out of Comic-Con before today wasn’t anything to laugh off, it’s just everyone was waiting for the big guns today.

ben-affleck-as-batmanBefore today’s revelations, the biggest news coming out of the comic book/genre convention could have been considered negative. First, was the rumor that Ben Affleck was stepping away from the role of Batman in the DCEU. That was disturbing to the fledgling cinematic universe since his character was supposed to be the lynchpin tying the DCEU films together. It was kind of ironic because when he was first announced as Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, his casting was widely derided among fans but since the release of that film, many have come around to embrace his portrayal as an older and embittered Batman. In fact, many have claimed that Affleck has been the best actor to play the legendary superhero to date. Today, the actor dispelled the gossip and stated his intention of remaining in the role. Whether that holds up as filming starts with The Batman remains to be seen, but hopefully it will be true.

Next was the unveiling of the second trailer for Marvel’s upcoming TV show Inhumans. Overall, it was a better looking trailer compared to the first bland teaser, but what ruined it was the cheap looking CG used to animate Medusa’s hair, something that everyone was waiting for and it was a disappointment. With the IMAX pilot coming in less than two months it is hard to see how the effects will improve significantly. The other disheartening news was that 20th Century Fox is apparently not letting go of the Fantastic Four film rights with the announcement that a Doctor Doom film is in development. If this were to happen, the rights will stay with the studio instead of going back to Marvel Entertainment since Marvel’s premier supervillain is so closely associated with the Fantastic Four. The fact that the film is being developed by the showrunner of Legion is a bittersweet salve for fans hoping and desperately wishing that Marvel Studios would get back the rights to the superhero team given Fox’s abysmal record with their versions of the Fantastic Four.

Today, the big guns were brought to bear as trailers after trailers were released to hungry fans attending the crowded convention or scouring the Internet. In many ways, Warner Bros. and DC Studios won the day with the universal acclaim received for the third trailer for this year’s Justice League. Building on the success of this summer’s Wonder Woman, the new trailer opens with the Amazonian princess doing her thing then quickly cuts to showcase the other members of the team and a tantalizing tease of the film’s villain Steppenwolf. The Flash stole the trailer with his awkward and funny demeanor that called to mind Spider-Man. Sadly, although he was teased, there still isn’t any sign of Superman. Come on DC throw us a bone!

Speaking of Superman’s absence, DC Studios announced their updated slate of films and a sequel to Man of Steel was not on the roster, which is disappointing. However, some of the announcements made up for it with Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Dark, Batgirl, Wonder Woman 2, Shazam, Aquaman (this one is no-brainer given that it’s currently filming and footage was shown tonight), Suicide Squad 2, The Batman and The Flash: Flashpoint. The last film sounds very exciting since it can be the method used to reboot the DCEU if needed, and on the other hand could explain the recasting of Batman if that were to happen.

Marvel Studios, like DC Studios, had a huge presentation with stunning announcements and teases of their upcoming films. We got a glimpse of concept art for Captain Marvel and sweetening that presentation was the news that Captain Marvel will be set in the ’90s and have her fighting the Skrulls, one of the core enemies of the Fantastic Four. We also learned that Lawrence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer are joining the cast of Ant-Man and the Wasp as Bill Foster/Black Goliath and Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp.

The highlights for Marvel Studios’ presentation were the trailers for Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War. While the visually stunning and trippy Thor: Ragnarok trailer was released online, the ones for the latter two films so far are absent. This has been super frustrating for fans online since we have all been teased for a week about how jaw-dropping the footage is in Avengers: Infinity War. It was first shown in the ultra-exclusive D23 expo last week and everyone was hoping to see it this weekend. For some reason, probably for marketing, Marvel has refused to drop the trailer and most of us have to contend with leaked grainy footage. Our best hope is that enough leaks forces Marvel to release the trailer like DC did with Suicide Squad two years ago. But seriously, Marvel stop the tease, you could have topped DC tonight but you let that victory slip from your fingers!

Other trailer highlights include these nuggets:

Stranger Things 2! With our favorite ’80s geeks cosplaying the Ghostbusters as they come upon another sci-fi mystery!

Defenders, which has a kick ass trailer featuring a grounded and gritty version of the Avengers and Justice League!

A new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, looks stunning though the Klingons seem weak compared to the classic space viking look!

But the most exciting trailer for the day was the first teaser for Steven Spielberg’s next sci-fi epic, Ready Player One. This trailer about a futuristic video game player is so loaded with genre Easter eggs, it warrants multiple viewings! Who knows how jammed the final film will be? But the awesomeness of this trailer will make anyone want to go out and read the book that inspired Ready Player One. Those shots of the Iron Giant and the DeLorean from Back to the Future sold it!

That does it for this year, sure there is one more day left of Comic-Con 2017, but no major announcements are expected, but you never know. Maybe first looks of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Predator, or Avengers: Infinity War will finally be unveiled to the entire world. Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates, and here, of course!

The True War For The Planet Of The Apes Is Within Caesar’s Soul

war for planet of the apes poster

The third film in the Planet of the Apes reboot/prequel, War for the Planet of the Apes, is a fitting conclusion to this unexpectedly great film trilogy. The film series follows the emotional journey of Caesar (motion captured by Andy Serkis), the super intelligent chimpanzee capable of speech who fights to defend his kind, while while he grapples with intense moral questions. In this film, Caesar is an embittered and weary leader who finds himself fighting a very different kind of war.

Taking place 15 years after the first film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this film opens with Caesar and his band of super smart apes besieged by human military forces in the thick forests of the west coast U.S. During the trilogy a deadly virus wiped out most of humanity and apes rapidly evolved to have human-level intelligence. Both humanity and apes are in dire straits. Caesar only wants his kind to be left alone, while the desperate humans see the apes as a threat to their dominion of the Earth.

Tragic events lead to Caesar undergoing a dark metamorphosis where he has come to hate humanity as vengeance rules his heart. He sets out on his own to hunt down the human responsible for his misery, a crazed soldier known as the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) that leads a rogue military unit. However, his closest compatriots, which include the gentle and wise Maurice (motion captured by Karin Konoval), an orangutan,  refuse to leave his side. During their journey, they come across two new and interesting characters, Nova (Amiah Miller), a young mute human girl, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn in a motion capture performance), a nearly hairless and humorous chimpanzee who is also able to talk. Both characters in their ways represent the downfall and promise of both species. While both Nova and Bad Ape’s arcs were fascinating to watch, Caesar’s emotional turmoil is the heart of this film and that is where the real war rages.

maurice and nova

Without giving too much away, the film’s title is misleading. War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t an action-packed military film with epic battle scenes boasting large armies. There are some well choreographed battle scenes, but this film is more of a meditative drama that makes viewers think about the moral complexities facing Caesar. It is disheartening to see Caesar’s arc from the wide eyed and innocent ape in the first film to an angry and dark soldier in this film. He is not some bloodthirsty savage and deep inside he is a good being. It is just that sad circumstances have challenged Caesar and he questions how he has changed for the worse. That is the true war in this film, where his soul is the battlefield and prize and it is not clear how this inner battle will conclude. This spiritual conflict define Caesar and makes him seem so…human and is the true highlight of War for the Planet of the Apes.

Of course, the film has so much more going for it than Caesar’s soul searching. The other characters are just as engaging as the lead ape. The Colonel is a truly frightening beast of a man who wants to ensure the survival of his species. What is disturbing to us is that we can relate to his point of view and wonder if we would be as desperate as him if we faced the same dilemma. Unlike the past films, there is less emphasis on the humans as the apes dominate the film. So as a result the human characters are not as nuanced as in past films. There are some other drawbacks to this film; mainly that the plot features some biblical allegories that are a bit heavy handed and telegraph how some stories will play out. But the film’s merits make up for the flaws.

The film boasts the best special effects of all the Apes films. By now, the CGI apes look flawless. There were many instances where it is easy to believe that real apes were used. The motion capture and the special effects are completely convincing. The film is beautifully shot with rich colors and perfect composition as we witness a richly textured post-apocalyptic world that is being reclaimed by nature and the apes.

war-for-planet-apes-poster-caesar

However, these merits would not mean anything without the brilliant performances of Serkis and the others. It is a crime that Andy Serkis has not won an Academy Award for his work and he certainly deserves one for this film as it’s his best work. The Academy just has to get over its hang up about motion capture and recognize its powerful artistry, which is this film exudes.

So, how does War for the Planet of the Apes compare with the other films in the trilogy? It is hard to say at this point, but this film holds its own compared to the earlier films, although Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best one in the series. Nevertheless, War for the Planet of the Apes is a powerful and thoughtful finale to this trilogy that should not be missed.

José Soto

 

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming Brings Spider-Man To The MCU With Flourish

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a glorious celebratory homecoming for Marvel’s flagship superhero into the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Ever since the MCU took off nine years ago and grew, fans have pined for Spider-Man to join the MCU ranks. We got a taste of how the MCU would interpret the Wall-Crawler with his scene-stealing cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. Now, an entire film is devoted to him as Sony Pictures (who holds the film rights to Spider-Man) have joined forces with Marvel Studios. The result is the best Spider-Man film since the early Sam Raimi efforts.

om-Holland-as-Peter-Parker-in-Spider-Man-Homecoming

The film takes place shortly after Spider-Man’s debut in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has to go back to a humdrum life as a teenager in Queens, New York. Aching for the glory of a superhero and joining the Avengers, Peter has to contend with the usual teenage gripes like fitting in socially in high school. These aspects of Spider-Man: Homecoming are clearly influenced by the John Hughes teenage comedies and they work perfectly, by the way, this film has a great soundtrack evocative of those Hughes films. Thanks to Holland’s sincere performance, we are able to empathize with Peter and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). The young cast in the film are for the most part engaging, though some may be put off with the unconventional casting choices, but it should not be a deal breaker. One of the reveals about a certain character near the end feels very forced and detracts from that character who was at that point one of the film’s quirkiest and memorable characters.

Speaking of casting, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture is terrific as a working-class villain. The film takes the adequate amount of time to set him up and making him a bit sympathetic by showing him as being inadvertently pushed out of a lucrative living by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Instead of craving revenge like in an average superhero film, Toomes finds an inventive way of earning a living by scavenging parts and wreckage from superhuman battles. Then his gang turns these parts into futuristic weapons for the black market.

During the course of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the Vulture’s activities catches Spider-Man’s attention, and this leads to conflict between the two. On one side, Toomes sees the world with a cynical eye and just wants to take advantage of an opportunity to make some money. Parker, on the other hand, is a young idealist who wants to impress Stark and sees Toomes’ activities as being wrong. In the comic books, the Vulture has always been one of the weaker members of Spidey’s rogues gallery, but in this film he shines. He is actually one of the best villains ever featured not just in Spider-Man films, but in those of the MCU.

This Spider-Man film is clearly a film set in the MCU with its Easter eggs, references and character appearances. Despite the marketing, Iron Man is not a co-star of Spider-Man: Homecoming, though his influence is there with the constant name dropping and the high-tech Spider-Man suit that the title character dons in the film. The suit worn by Spider-Man is a true marvel with all of its gadgets and gimmicks, but it strays too much from the core of Spider-Man’s character that this film otherwise gets so right. Meaning that Spidey is more of an everyman, someone who is relatable to you and I and has the same problems we face.  Hopefully in the sequel they will address this and depower the suit. On a side note, this film proves what many fans have felt over the years: Tony Stark and Happy Hogan are a couple of dicks.

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s emphasis on the hero’s hardscrabble roots and normal problems is why it’s so successful. Past Spider-Man films have shown this and were rightfully revered for doing so and this latest film continues that tradition. Not only that, but the film is a lot of fun and quite exciting at the right times. It zips along nicely without a dull moment since we are so invested in the characters when there aren’t any fisticuffs. Like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 there is some world building and set ups for sequels but unlike that film Spider-Man: Homecoming does not go overboard and as a result flows more smoothly and focuses rightfully on Spider-Man. The film does a great job of showing how Peter is still a novice at what he does, which led to some truly funny moments. Other times he gets in over his head and has to deal with the consequences. One interesting example is one scene where he crawls up a building that is higher than he’s ever scaled and when he realizes this has to deal with a fear of heights!

Now how does it compare to the Sam Raimi films? That is hard to say and will take some time to fully compare them, though the action sequences in the Raimi films were better filmed and on the whole those films were more evocative of the comic books. Also, the romances not just in Raimi’s, but in Marc Webb’s films were much better done as those actors had better onscreen chemistry than here. Still, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels more authentic and more grounded than the bombastic Raimi films. What this film has in common with the early films are the tributes and shout outs to unique Spider-Man moments and scenes directly lifted from the comic books. Remember that famous scene in Spider-Man 2 that was inspired by The Amazing Spider-Man #50? This film has another tribute to an equally famous moment from Spider-Man’s comic books, which will delight Spider-Fans.

Spiderman Homecoming in truck

After the misfire of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming successfully re-launches the franchise with this amazing (pun intended) entry. At the same time, this is a spectacular (another pun!) standalone MCU film in its own right that is another winner for the cinematic universe. Hopefully, Sony and Marvel Studios will keep this up in future films.

José Soto

 

Top 10 Summer Movie Seasons

For decades, every summer brings a glut of fun and spectacular films to help us celebrate the carefree days of the hot season. Since the 1980s film studios realized the killing they made at the box office, sometimes for the entire year, with their big-budget, talked-about blockbusters.

Some summer movies of some years are more memorable than others since those years brought us unforgettable classics or pure guilty pleasures that hold up to this day.

Of course, we’re only halfway through this summer season, but if the buzz holds true then with this month’s upcoming trifecta of Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, this year may become one of the great summer seasons. We’ll find out soon! 😀

Anyway, these are the best summer movie seasons so far. Bear in mind that some seasons on the list may not have great films but they sure are guilty pleasures for some fans or were big hits at the time. Needless to say, the emphasis here is on genre flicks, so films like Top Gun or the Mission: Impossible films won’t be mentioned.

10. Summer of 1990: Arachnophobia; Back to the Future, Part III; Darkman; Dick Tracy; Flatliners; Ghost; Gremlins 2: The New Batch; Total Recall; The Witches

9. Summer of 1987: The Believers; Harry and the Hendersons; InnerSpace; The Living Daylights; The Monster Squad; Predator; Robocop; Spaceballs; The Witches of Eastwick

8. Summer of 2004: Alien vs. Predator; The Chronicles of Riddick; The Day After Tomorrow; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; I, Robot; Open Water; Shrek 2; Spider-Man 2; The Village

marty and doc brown

7. Summer of 1985: Back to the Future; The Black Cauldron; Cocoon; Day of the Dead; Explorers; Fright Night; The Goonies; Lifeforce; Return of the Living Dead; Return to Oz

6. Summer of 1999: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me; The Blair Witch Project; Deep Blue Sea; The Iron Giant; Mystery Men; The Mummy; The Sixth Sense; Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Tarzan; The Thirteenth Floor

5. Summer of 2011: Captain America: The First Avenger; Green Lantern; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II; Kung Fu Panda 2; Melacholia; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Super 8; Thor; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; X-Men: First Class

4. Summer of 1984: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension; Conan the Destroyer; Firestarter; Ghostbusters; Gremlins; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; The Last Starfighter; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Streets of Fire

3. Summer of 2014: This summer had many modern classics and even a few notable stinkers/popular-but-dumb hits like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Other films released that summer were exceptional. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Edge of Tomorrow; Godzilla; Guardians of the Galaxy; How to Train Your Dragon 2Lucy; The Purge: Anarchy; X-Men: Days of Future Past

2. Summer of 2008: The summer that brought us a transcendent super hero film and the debut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus, some wonderful and thrilling eye candy! It was a pivotal summer season since its influence is still felt today. The Dark Knight; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Iron Man; Kung Fu Panda; Hellboy II: The Golden Army; Hancock; The Incredible Hulk; Speed Racer; Star Wars: The Clone Wars; WALL-E; Wanted

summer 82

1. Summer of 1982: With masterpieces of genre films that still resonate today, how could this famous year not be the number one summer movie season of all time? If you haven’t seen any of these bonafide classics then what are you waiting for? Blade Runner; Conan the Barbarian; E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; Firefox; Poltergeist; The Road Warrior; The Secret of NIMH; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; The Thing; Tron

How would you rate these summer movie seasons? Are there other years that are worth mentioning? Let us know!

Waldermann Rivera

 

Han Solo Film Directors Fired = I Got A Bad Feeling About This

Solo cast fired directors

The movie world, not to mention Star Wars fans, are still in absolute shock over yesterday’s stunning news that the directors of next year’s Han Solo film, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired from the film. What made the announcement so jaw dropping is that most of the film has been completed with only three weeks of principle photography remaining. That is just unheard of and feels unprofessional on the part of Disney and Lucasfilm to just let two talented filmmakers go when their film is nearly complete. On top of this, Lucasfilm is still standing by the film’s planned release date of May 2018. That is probably not going to happen.

So what happened? The truth is we may never really know. All we do know, based on trade reports, is that Phil Lord and Chris Miller clashed repeatedly with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the film’s executive producer and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. Much of that had to do with the improvisational directing style of the two directors that made the old guard executives uncomfortable with their take on a Star Wars film and the iconic character. Kasdan, who wrote the book on Han Solo in the original Star Wars film and Episode VII, has a distinct viewpoint of the space pirate. He saw Han as selfish and cynical, and wanted him portrayed in that manner. Meanwhile, the two young directors wanted to present Solo in a lighter, more comedic light. This would have complemented their humorous directing style as seen in the 21 Jump Street films, The Lego Movie and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Face it, Lord and Miller are more known for their comedic films so it was a surprise that they were chosen to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story (if that is indeed the final title).

The problem here is that they had been hired to direct the Star Wars spinoff film for quite some time. They were involved with Solo: A Star Wars Story from the beginning and started shooting it earlier this year in January. Shouldn’t the executives have known that these two would not fit into the world of Star Wars? Why let them go on for so long? Why didn’t someone at Lucasfilm had the foresight to nip the problem in the bud and replace them much earlier? Kennedy, Kasdan and other executives had to have worked closely with the two directors and had meetings with them. They must have stressed that the film was to be a certain way. They had to have picked up the notion that Lord and Miller may have wanted to try a different approach and be defiant. Whether Lucasfilm wants to admit this or not, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have genuine film creds. They have delivered well done films that pleased critics and audiences. Why not just have some faith in them and let them finish the film? The film studio could have then just taken over post-production like they did with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and edit it into the kind of Star Wars film they wanted.

We get that Disney and Lucasfilm are protective of their IP, after all, they spent billions to acquire it. With that mentality they are entitled to keep it safe and the best way to do that is to play it safe. So why go to the trouble of hiring these two to direct the film headlining the franchise’s most beloved hero? The reason to recruit new blood into the Star Wars franchise is to bring in fresh ideas and different outlooks into the Star Wars films. Firing Phil Lord and Chris Miller this far into production just shows a lack of confidence in this approach. Consider that director Garth Edwards was pushed aside in post-production of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because Lucasfilm felt the film wasn’t quite a Star Wars film. Now this happens. Lucasfilm might as well just hire workhorses and yes-people to direct future films and give up this idea of bringing in new talent because clearly they are not welcome.

Now, Lucasfilm has to shut down production and find someone willing to come in at this late hour to complete Solo: A Star Wars Story. Will Lucasfilm pull a Salkind and have most of the film re-shot as what happened with Superman II? If so, kiss May 2018 goodbye. Can Ron Howard (the currently rumored frontrunner to take over UPDATE: Howard has officially been hired to finish the film) or Joe Johnston or someone safe come in and finish the film, while imparting their own vision? Finishing it is doable, but trying to leave their own mark is impossible with so much already filmed and with so little time. Who would want this burden?

In any event, the message is clear to other would-be Star Wars directors, especially those foolish enough to think they will have some measure of control: You can play with the Star Wars toys but at the end of the day, you have to give them back in the shape you found them.

José Soto

Post Script: After Ron Howard was picked to complete the film, Lucasfilm has been in full-scale PR damage control. Stories are circulating that the film’s star, young Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich, was the first one to voice concerns about the direction of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Reportedly, the film was too comedic and slapsticky for the execs’ taste. On the one hand, Star Wars needs to branch out creatively, but on the other hand, a Han Solo film may not be the best venue to go full-scale comedy. If all this is true, the question still stands as to why Kennedy, Kasdan and the other higher ups let this go on for so long? The few bright spots coming out of this debacle are that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are now free to jump onboard the stalled Flash movie, which fits their style anyway, plus Howard has already shown that he has a lot of class with his recent praise of Lord and Miller’s work on the film. Given his close ties to Lucas and his solid directing background, he is the best choice to come in and salvage the film.