Marvel (MCU) & Star Wars Have A Bright Future At Disney

By now, everyone reading this must have heard of the Disney 2020 Investor Day announcements on Decelber 10, which left us geeks and nerds salivating and tickled pink with excitement over what Disney has planned with our favorite IPs in their Disney+ streaming platform and theatrically. That last point alone is enough to hearten us since Disney more or less declared that the theatrical viewing experience will not die out. The best example of their commitment came when presenter and Marvel Studios head, Kevin Fiege, affirmed that the long-delayed Black Widow film will debut in theaters next May. This squashed any rumors that the film would premiere first on Disney+ and marks a return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

MCU Phase 4

Marvelous News

Kevin Feige gave perhaps the most anticipated presentation since we’ve all been suffering from MCU withdrawal this year. Fortunately the wait will soon end as WandaVision will finally stream next month on Disney+ and the new trailer shown on Disney 2020 Investor Day was just as bizarre and trippy as the previous trailers. WandaVision looks like it will be a pivotal anchor in the MCU going forward and is rumored to be the first of a multiverse-connecting trilogy that will be further explored in the next Spider-Man film before concluding with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It was confirmed that the Doctor Strange sequel will feature America Chavez.

By the way, very little information was given about the new Spider-Man, probably because it’s a Sony film, but the non-stop reports about cast members from all the previous Spider-Man  films coming back just leaves us very ecstatic.

Other highlights from Feige’s presentation were the news that the She-Hulk TV show will star Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, have appearances by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and Tim Roth will return as the Abomination; two mini-series about the Secret Invasion and Armor Wars comic book events will stream on Disney+; the third Ant-Man film (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) will feature Kang the Conqueror as the villain; Christian Bale will play Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder; and from the footage shown the best were the previews of the new Loki series which will deal with the Time Variance Authority, the animated What If…, and the tantalizing behind-the-scenes footage of Ms. Marvel, who will also appear in Captain Marvel 2. Perhaps the most exciting news was the confirmation that Marvel Studios will produce a proper Fantastic Four film to be directed by Jon Watts, who directed the MCU Spider-Man films. Finally, a chance to do the Fab Four correct! Hopefully Spidey can make an appearance in that film!

Aside from Black Widow it is at this point too early to go into the release dates announced by Feige because we all know the schedule can change. But it is exciting and comforting to know that Marvel Studios is plowing full-steam ahead with their productions and 2021 will mark the Great MCU Comeback. Continue reading

The Greatest DC Hallmark Ornaments

dc ornaments

The Holiday season is when the ornaments based on popular genre start to shine as they adorn our Christmas trees or desks. Hallmark ornaments based on characters from DC comics, films and TV shows are some of the company’s most popular and enduring line of ornaments. Here is a list of the best DC Hallmark ornaments released to date.

10. Beware My Power (2012):

This Green Lantern ornament was clearly inspired by the mediocre Green Lantern film, but it still is a well-sculpted ornament with a nifty feature. Press the button and see the ornament emit a green light as Green Lantern charges his ring and recites his famous oath against evildoers. 

9. The Bat Cycle (2010):

There are many Bat vehicle ornaments released by Hallmark throughout the years. Most of them related to the Batmobile. While the vehicle ornaments are well done, the Bat Cycle is the best of them simply because of the attention to detail not just on the Bat Cycle but the heroes riding it, Batman and Robin.

8. Descending Upon Gotham (2009):

Batman, naturally is the most popular DC Comics superhero done by Hallmark. The Caped Crusader often is shown in dramatic striking poses and this one is his most dynamic one yet as the pose captures him in mid leap ready to go into action.

Superman shield

7. A Symbol of Hope (2017):

The instantly recognizable and legendary Superman symbol stands out from other DC Hallmark ornaments not just for the simplicity of the “S” symbol but because it plays John Williams’ masterful and iconic Superman theme.

6. Wonder Woman (2018):

This DC Hallmark ornament captured the best moment from Wonder Woman as the Amazonian warrior charged the enemy German line during World War I. The pose is quite dramatic and intense as Wonder Woman uses her shield to ward off gunfire.

5. The Bat Symbol (2006):

One of the best DC Hallmark ornaments has a simple yet imaginative feature of having a light projecting a small Batman logo symbol. It may not be as striking as the one Commissioner Gordon uses to summon the Dark Knight but it looks great on any Christmas tree.

4. The Last Son of Krypton (2010):

Most Hallmark ornaments about Superman have him in a flying pose, which after a while becomes unimaginative and hard to tell the difference from each other. This one differs because it shows the Last Son of Krypton in mid-flight throwing a punch, which signifies Superman is doing something heroic and action packed besides flying. 

dark knight returns ornament

3. The Dark Knight Returns (2012):

Hallmark sold many exclusive ornaments in conventions such as Comic-Con. This exclusive is a recreation of Batman as imagined by Frank Miller from his classic graphic novel mini-series, The Dark Knight Returns. Like many Hallmark ornaments this one has a sculpture which is painstakingly accurate down to Batman’s squared jaws  and bulky physique as seen in The Dark Knight Returns. 

2. Comic Heroes #2: Superman (2008): 

Remarkably, this was the only ornament in Hallmark’s short-lived Comic Book Heroes series to feature a DC Comics superhero. This ornament doubled as mini-comic book with a 3D sculpture in the front cover of Superman bursting through the pages of his comic book, which retold his origin story. It’s too bad, Hallmark never got around to doing such an ornament about Batman and a mini-comic book from his line. 

 

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016):

Actually this diorama is made up of three separately sold ornments featuring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as seen in the controversial film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. These ornaments can be displayed separately or put together to form a diorama which represents how the heroic trio joined forces in the film and inspired the formation of the Justice League.The poses and sculpts are excellent as the DC superheroes strike dramatic poses. 

Honorable Mentions:

The following are huntworthy DC Hallmark ornaments for any fan of the superheroes or quality ornaments whether online or at a random store or flea market. 

Aquaman: Justice League (2017); The Bat: The Dark Knight Rises (2012); The Batmobile (2020); Christopher Reeve as Superman (2019); The Fastest Man Alive (2009); The Flash (2018); Green Lantern (2011); Harley Quinn (2010); Holy Hit TV Show, Batman! (2014); The Joker (2013); The Joker (2015); Princess Diana Returns: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020); Superman (1995); Villain Database (2007)

José Soto

 

Streaming Wars & The Decline Of Cinemas

As we all know the current COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted our society in so many ways. In this case, with our entertainment viewing options. Given the infectious nature of the coronavirus most movie theaters have shut down in response for the safety of the audience and their employees. Most films scheduled to be released this year either had limited releases (like Tenet) or were re-scheduled for next year and beyond (such as The Eternals) or wound up available for viewing in the safety of our homes (namely Mulan) through streaming services or video on demand (VOD).

One ray of hope is that a few vaccines will be available starting in a few weeks, which should hopefully end the pandemic in 2021 and we can resume our formerly normal lives. Or will it, at least when it comes to cinemas?

The movie theater industry has always been insecure over its propects of survival whenever a new type of medium came into being. Back in the 1950s, film studios were convinced films were doomed because of the mass introduction of television. Later the same fears arose with the rise of home video and cable networks and streaming services. Then the industry had to compete with other forms of entertainment like video games. Yet, throughout all of the competition, cinemas survived. But now many fear it appears as if they will finally close because of the pandemic.

Of course, the pandemic will not last forever, but it exposed the drawbacks of the movie-going experience which is more socially based than most of us realized. Also, film studios have found ready audiences with home media which has grown with the rise of the streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max.

The studios have realized what was important to their bottom line was not necessarily new content but a vast library that will keep streaming subscribers. It may not make sense but it is true. Look at Disney+, they have existed for just over a year and the only premium original content they debuted was The Mandalorian. Yet, the service has over 73 million subscribers who enjoy their library of Star Wars films and specials, Pixar films, Disney classics and Marvel-related films and TV shows. Technically the service does not have to introduce new content to keep their subscribers although this concept may be tested if Disney+ fails to deliver on its many promised premium Star Wars and Marvel shows.

Meanwhile, Netfilx has an exhaustive library of content but much of it is licensed and the service is losing many of them. This is why Netflix has cranked out so many original films and TV shows like Stranger Things, The Umbrella Academy and at one time Marvel-based shows like Daredevil and Luke Cage.

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Of Love And Monsters

Love and Monsters was released last month through video on demand and had a limited theatrical release. Like practically every film since this spring, it too could not get a widespread theatrical release because of the coronavirus. It’s a shame since this extraordinary film deserves much more attention, though positive word of mouth might elevate it to cult status sometime down the road.

love and monsters dog

In a nutshell, Love and Monsters stars Dylan O’Brien as Joel Dawson, an insecure twentysomething doing his best to survive during a giant monster apocalypse, all in the name of love.

As told in the film’s opening segments, years ago, a giant asteroid threatening Earth was destroyed with missiles, but the fallout mutated Earth’s cold-blooded creatures into gigantic monstrosities that essentially destroyed civilization. Now what is left of humanity ekes out meager existences in underground shelters and bunkers, and do their best to avoid the bloodthirsty critters that have claimed the surface world.

Joel pines for his lost love, Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who was forced to separate from him years ago. Recently, he tracked her down at a colony over 80 miles away from his own and he decides to risk it all to reunite with her. The only problem is that Joel lacks basic survival skills and somehow has to find a way to make it through the deadly surface landscape without being eaten.

Along his voyage, he comes across a handful of memorable characters. These include a loveable dog called Boy, which quickly bonds with Joel, a broken robot Mav1s (Melanie Zanetti), and a scruffy but friendly survivor Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his spunky companion, a young girl named Minnow (Arianna Greenblatt). They help Joel out and teach him how to survive in the rugged landscape by using his wits and valuable survival skills.

Naturally, Joel and Boy face many dangers, some of which are genuinely creepy and tense, but he discovers his own potential as he grows during his journey. Sure, it seems implausible that Joel could have survived for years in the giant monster apocalypse without having basic survival skills, but his emotional journey was quite satisfying to watch.

Love and Monsters is such a pleasant surprise. It is not a dire, dark film, but it is still boasts its fair share of thrills. By the way, the creature designs are very imaginative and unique. The best way to describe the many monsters Joel and the others encounter is to think of those creepy pit creatures from Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong.

Yes, thanks to its lighter tone, Love and Monsters can be compared to Zombieland, though it is not as funny. Still, it does have a lot of heart, has charming characters and it is easy to tell everyone involved from the actors to the production crew to the writers (Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson) and director (Michael Matthews) gave it their all. The result is a satisfying giant monster film with a ton of heart.

In fact, the film strikes and inspirational tone with its message that although a situation may be dire, it is possible to overcome it and thrive. In some strange way, Love and Monster is somewhat relevant to our current situation by demonstrating the pluck nature of humanity will overcome obstacles, which in the film’s case are giant monsters.

José Soto

The Sean Connery Genre Films Ranked

As we reflect on the film legacy of the late, great Sean Connery, who recently passed, his contributions to genre films must be recognized. Of course, not all of them were classics, in fact, some of the films were very substandard. Still, Connery shone in his appearances in those flawed films, and was the highlight. Here are the Sean Connery genre films ranked:

12. Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)

A pre-Bond Sean Connery appeared in a supporting role in this Disney film about an old man in an Irish town and a leprechaun king. It’s strictly for the kids, but Connery got to demonstrate his fine singing voice.

11. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

A very disappointing sequel to the classic fantasy film about immortal warriors was doomed with its clumsy script and retcons. Needless to say that Connery stole the film whenever he appeared.

10. Time Bandits (1981)

Connery only had a brief role as King Agamemnon in this Terry Gilliam fantasy film about a boy who joined a band of time traveling little people. Not as funny as you would think, the film had a grand epic scale with imaginative scenes and Connery lent a gentle gravitas to his performance.

9. Zardoz (1974)

This is just bizarre, but unforgettable. Sean Connery starred as this brutish warrior in a post-apocalypitc future who disrupted an elitie society of immortals. Seriously, Zardoz was one of those weird non-sensical sci-fi films from the ’70s, but Connery was Connery even though he was outfitted in a strange, futuristic loincloth.

8. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

The film that convinced Sean Connery to retire from acting was an OK adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic book series about famous literary Victorian-era heroes and real-life persons who teamed up to fight a supernatural threat. Connery played Allan Quartermain and even in his advanced age, he was able to pull off a convincing and charasmatic action hero.

7. Dragonheart (1996)

Sean Connery provided a dignified vocal performance as Draco, the last dragon, who formed a friendship with a not-so-noble knight. As one of the better fantasy films from the ’90s, Dragonheart was elevated by the lead performances, especially Connery who injected character and wit into Draco.

6. Meteor (1979)

Meteor was one of the last, all-star ’70s disaster flicks. You know the kind whose film poster featured headshots of the entire cast. Connery played a scientist who has to coordinate international efforts to destroy a world-killing meteor that was approaching our planet. Meteor was dumb, loud, but glorious with all the scenes of destruction.

5. The Hunt for Red October (1990)

This adaptation of the Tom Clancy book can only be considered semi-sci-fi and more of a Cold-War thriller. Connery turned in one of his best performances as a Russian submarine commander who decided to defect to the U.S. with his experimental stealth submarine. As the first Jack Ryan film, it still is one of the best.

4, Outland (1981)

This underrated sci-fi gem was a sci-fi remake of the Western High Noon with Connery playing the role of the noble lawman in the future. Assigned as a marshall to a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon, Io, Connery soon ran afoul of his fellow marshalls and boss who operated an illegal drug ring. Although some of the science was wonky and having an aesthetic clearly inspired by Alien, Outland was buoyed by Connery’s subtle performance and action scenes.

3. Highlander (1986)

Sean Connery played an immortal warrior who mentored a fellow immortal on how to survive against other immortals. Frankly, the Scottish actor stole the film with his boisterous and eloquent performance, even as he took part in some of Highlander’s well-staged fight scenes.

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

The third Indiana Jones film received a jolt of creativity when it showcased Sean Connery as Indiana Jones’ father. The irony in his casting was that the Indiana Jones films were patterned to be American versions of James Bond films. Connery played against type and delivered a memorably funny performance as a slightly goofy professor who had a soft spot for his son.

1. The James Bond Films (1962-67, 1971 and 1983)

What else would be at the top of the list other than the film series about the British super spy launched by Connery? Sure, many of the James Bond films, especially the early ones, do not have any sci-fi elements, but some of the best Bond films like Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice have these elements with their doomsday plots and fantastic gadgets. While they added flavor to the films, Sean Connery’s groundbreaking performances were the true standouts and paved the way for the suave and tough action hero we love in films.

RIP Sir Connery