Star Trek Turns 55

Yes, the classic sci-fi TV show that started the unbelievable Star Trek phenomenon turned double nickels this year. At 55, Star Trek continues to captivate untold numbers of fans. As any Trekker knows, the show has spun off into nearly a dozen TV shows (which includes Short Treks and the original animated TV show from the ’70s) and thirteen films.

There are many reasons for the enduring appeal and success of the Star Trek franchise. They include the captivating story lines and characters that serve as allegories for our current situation or are at least imaginative. The stories also offer a beacon of hope for humankind, that we will overcome our strife and spread out into the stars. Whatever the reason, Star Trek, despite its ups and downs, will continue to entrance fans and be a part of our culture for a long time.

To help celebrate the 55th anniversary of Star Trek, the streaming app Paramount+ presented a live celebration of the show and its spinoffs on September 8. This day is now known as Star Trek Day because the original TV show debuted on September 8, 1966. The Star Trek Day celebration featured many cast members and showrunners from previous, current and upcoming productions dedicated to Star Trek. The panel presentations featured actors from previous Star Trek shows who reminded the audience of the significance contributions their shows made to the franchise. These were followed up by beautifully performed live scores of each Star Trek show by Jeff Russo and his orchestra.

Probably the most anticipated highlight of the Star Trek Day event were the presentations of upcoming Star Trek TV shows such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (which revealed its full crew lineup that includes Nyota Uhura, Christine Chapel and new characters), Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Picard. The trailer for Star Trek: Picard unveiled that the second season will be time travel romp that partially takes place in modern times and was a delightful callback to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as the characters struggled to blend in with our times, Good luck with that, many of us are also struggling! It was announced that Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a third season and premiere dates were given for a few of the shows.

But the most insightful panel was a celebration of the 100th birthday of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The panel, hosted by Wil Wheaton, featured Rod Roddenberry, George Takei, LeVar Burton and Gates McFadden. They all shared their personal stories of meeting Gene Roddenberry and how they worked with him. It was an excellent and heartfelt commemoration of Gene Roddenberry and his impact on Star Trek and our culture.

Even though the current Star Trek shows have their issues, their best aspects were highlighted and it was clear that the people involved with the shows were passionate about their work. It was heartening to see during the Star Trek Day event that the show that started 55 years ago continues to shine which is remarkable considering that most TV shows from that long-gone era have been forgotten. This includes TV shows that garnered more ratings than the original Star Trek.

The celebration was a welcome reminder that Star Trek will continue to live long and prosper.

José Soto

The Impactful Success Of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the latest film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), defied expectations and debuted to a stunning $71 million take at the box office this weekend and has a combined total of $90 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend. This shattered box office records not just for the year but for the Labor Day weeken in general. Usually by this time of the year the box office becomes a dumping ground for films as the summer season winds down. But Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings upended that,

Given the pandemic the success is stunning and portends to the eventual recovery of theaters. It also supports the idea that the current hybrid model of releasing a film at the same time as it is available for home streaming has a negative impact on a film’s box office take. Just look at the failure of The Suicide Squad and to a lesser extent the disappointing earnings for Black Widow. If a film is exclusively available in theaters and it is a high-profile film, it will do well. Not as well as it could have pre-pandemic but it still successful. Another good example is Free Guy, which performed much better than expected because it was a well-made film and you only could see it in theaters.

The key factor in the success of Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is that they were well received and had good buzz, especially with the MCU film which earned rave reviews. Not only that but the public is eager for new MCU content and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings offered something new for fans. Namely, that the film focused on persons of color, and explored a new side of the MCU. Given that this film and Black Panther performed well, expect future MCU to feature other persons of color such as Latinos. America Chavez will appear in the next Doctor Strange film and could be spun off into her own film. Maybe the Puerto Rican hero White Tiger could be the next hot property for the MCU. What is important for these films to succeed is quality, both Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Black Panther demonstrated that people will go see a film if it is well made and exciting.

Aside from its merits, the success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has already had a positive impact with future films. Whereas Sony Pictures delayed the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage to mid-October, the film studio has now moved up the film to October 1. There were rumors that Eternals might be delayed as well as Spider-Man: No Way Home until society recoverd more from the pandemic. We have seen the release dates for the upcoming Tom Cruise films Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: impossible 7 delayed to 2022 because of the pandemic. Those rumors for the MCU films, however, are unlikely to come to pass as more and more people are getting vaccinated and the case numbers should start to fall later this year. To date, the release dates for those films have not changed.

Of course, it will take a lot more time for theaters to achieve the earnings they enjoyed pre-pandemic, but recent releases like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have shown that there is a bright future ahead for theaters and fans.

The Outrageous Return Of The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad is the latest entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), directed by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and is currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Beware of some spoilers after this notice.

This standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad features returning characters Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and captured supervillains Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), who as part of the secret United States black ops group Task Force X, are sent on a literal suicide mission by U.S. operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to the island nation of Corto Maltese, along with new characters such as Weasel (motion captured by Sean Gunn), and Blackguard (Pete Davison). However, this group is almost wiped out at the start of the film, with only Flag and Harley surviving and captured by the military of Corto Maltese. It’s revealed that they are a decoy team for a second team led by other captured supervillains Bloodsport (Idris Elba), King Shark (motion captured by Steve Agee and voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Peacemaker (John Cena) and Polka Dot Man (David Mastmalchian), who also arrive on the island at another location. They are supposed to destroy a secret weapon, which is later revealed to be an extraterrestrial entitiy known as Starro, a gigantic starfish that can seemingly destroy the world.

The second group eventually rescues Flag, who was actually captured by rebels intent on overthrowing the island’s military government. Harley is able to escape by herself in an exciting and colorful action sequence and then she joins up with the rest of the Suicide Squad. They eventually head to a secret research facility housing Starro, leading to the biggest action scenes in The Suicide Squad with the group showing off their abilities and a surprise confrontation when the US government’s role with Starro is revealed. The final battle features the gigantic alien starfish ready to destroy a city Godzilla style and the members of the squad fighting a seemingly hopeless battle. The conclusion is both crazy, outrageous and creepy, which demonstrates the overall feel of the movie quite well.

The interaction between the characters is a highlight with Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2 forming a father-daughter bond, and King Shark providing good comic relief with his quest for food (namely human) and friendship. Peacemaker’s contradictory love of violence in the name of peace and his rivalries with Bloodsport and Rick Flag is also enjoyable, as is Polka Dot Man’s neurosis over his mother who he sees as literally everyone. Harley is as zany and psychotic as she has been since the first Suicide Squad, lethal one minute and a seemingly ditzy blonde the next.

The connection with the first film is minimal with this film having a separate plot, although it’s not a reboot as some earlier reports said. The tone of The Suicide Squad is somewhat lighter than the previous one with numerous musical interludes and humorous moments throughout. Some of these scenes go on too long which explains the two-hour-plus running time that does stop the momentum of the plot, but the film makes up for this during the hectic finale. The killing off of the first team at the start of the film is somewhat unfortunate as we never get to know them well, though some of them warranted more screen time. One advantage the first film had was the presence of more familiar characters, such as the Joker and Killer Croc, and a more intense feel, but the new film is still an enjoyable experience that has great action scenes and over-the-top violence. That is one thing to keep in mind if watching it with kids. There are numerous gory scenes with decapitations, King Shark devouring people with glee and faces blown off. It’s rated R and earns it, but at the same time The Suicide Squad doesn’t take itself seriously, which softens the blow and keeps things light.

Overall, The Suicide Squad is an adventurous and outrageous entry into the DCEU, which may point the way to more films like this with James Gunn returning for future unnamed movies, as well as the upcoming spin-off HBO Max series starring John Cena as Peacemaker. We are seeing more interactions like this between the streaming service and theatrical DC and DCEU films with a Gotham PD series to follow The Batman, and a Batgirl movie in the works for HBO Max. This is different than in the past when TV shows such as Gotham, and Krypton were standalone TV shows with no relation whatsoever with any films. This seems to be changing and may point to a more interconnected DC live-action universe. This was hinted at during the CW Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover that had the theatrical DCEU Flash appearing in a cameo. Having the story of The Suicide Squad continue through Peacemaker’s new show is a clear example of this interconnection.

Whether another Suicide Squad movie will be coming is not known at this time, but hopefully, based on the initial reaction to The Suicide Squad, we haven’t seen the last of Task Force X.

C.S. Link

More Genre Film Delays?

Looks like we are heading back to square one with the COVID-19 pandemic. The delta variant of the coronavirus has raised infection numbers worldwide just as it was recovering from the pandemic (thanks maskholes, covidiots, and other morons who either won’t mask up or get vaccinated for stupid reasons). As the COVID-19 cases began to explode in alarming numbers this development seems to be causing film studios to reconsider their release schedule. We all know how severely their original film schedules were thrown out the window when the pandemic first happened last year.

Already, Paramount Pictures announced that they canceled the September 17, 2021 release of Clifford the Big Red Dog to no date certain. While many adult genre fans would not care about that they have to realize the precedent this is setting. The same thing happened last year when the James Bond film No Time to Die had its release date canceled. It was the first major film to be delayed. This eventually caused a ripple effect as the pandemic worsened as we saw that Marvel Studios’ Black Widow was yanked from its May release date with just weeks to go. Can history repeat itself if the film release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is delayed from September 3, 2021 to who knows when? What about Eternals? What about Spider-Man: No Way Home?

That Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures production is the most eagerly awaited offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for the year. But we have yet to see a trailer or even acknowledgement about what it is about or who appears in the film. So the speculation about Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will continue. This is concerning for Spider-Man fans because the film is supposed to come out this December and by this time there should have been a trailer, but Sony has not provided any updates on the film. This is fueling speculation that Spider-Man: No Way Home will be delayed.

Adding ammunition to this is that today’s trailer release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage did not have a release date, only the tag: “Exclusively in movie theaters this fall”. The Venom sequel is supposed to be released on September 24, 2021 but by the way things are going, it’s anyone’s guess if this will happen. If Venom: Let There Be Carnage is pushed to October or November this in turn will push Spider-Man: No Way Home’s release date to next year and further delay Sony’s Morbius film.

If Spider-Man: No Way Home is delayed this dominoe will affect the other MCU films slated for future release. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is connected to the Spider-Man film and is the first MCU film of 2022. Will this impact the Disney+ MCU TV shows, as well?

Of course, the delays will create even more tension with Marvel Studios, their parent company, Disney, and Sony. Spider-Man: No Way Home is Sony’s biggest film and they want to get the most bang out of their production so they may want to hold off until next summer. As mentioned above this will disrupt Marvel Studios plans for their films creating more delays. On top of that there are reports that Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige is not happy with Disney over the way they handled the release of Black Widow. He did not favor its simultaneous release onto Disney+ and in theaters, which caused the film to lose money in the box office. And he was sided with Black Widow’s star Scarlett Johansson, who is suing Disney. This could be the start of the unraveling of the Golden Period of the MCU. Who knows where this will end? Perhaps Feige may eventually jump ship and go work at another film studio. Warner Brothers will take him in a second!

At least for Warner Brothers, their DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films may not be as affected as The Suicide Squad is coming out this week and they don’t have any DCEU films slated for release until next summer. Hopefully by then the unvaccinated will get a clue and we’ll be able to put this disease behind us. Their other genre films like Dune and the new sequel to The Matrix, which were slated for release this year, will also stream on HBO Max. So they might stick to the schedule for the rest of the year. As we have seen throughout the pandemic this release strategy will dampen box office returns. Keep in mind, both Warner Bros. and Disney have announced they will discontinue this practice. That could change if the pandemic doesn’t abide soon.

For now, it is too soon to say where things will end. Perhaps infection and death rates will plummet or booster shots to combat the delta variant will be distributed soon to put the vaccinated at ease. There are reports that vaccination rates are increasing so hopefully by the end of the month we can see better numbers. Of course, this grousing about delayed genre film releases cannot compare to the pain and misery that the coronavirus is causing among us. We all have to do our part, which includes continuing to mask up (even if we’re vaccinated), washing up, social distancing, and the other efforts to stop the spread of the virus. OK, PSA is over, whether or not these films we love get delayed it’s more important to stay safe and enjoy the many other media that is still available for our enjoyment.

About Black Widow’s Box Office…

After what seemed like forever Marvel Studios and Disney finally released on July 9, Black Widow, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Predictions and projections were all over the place over how the film would perform and be received.

At first, Black Widow performed very impressively, earning $80 million dollars in its opening weekend. This may be small compared to some of the bigger MCU hits, but terrific for a film release during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the box office worldwide. In fact, Black Widow has set the record for the highest debuting film during the pandemic.

However, the news was quick to turn against the film and Disney when Black Widow had an enormous drop in its second week, earning only $37 million dollars, a drop of 67 percent, the biggest second week drop for an MCU film. This current weekend it earned $11 million dollars, placing it in third place and it actually beat the film that displaced it in its second week, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Currently its box office haul is $315 million worldwide. Yes, that is impressive but it had a budget of $200 million and it looks like it will barely break even if it reaches $400 million by the end of its run. Consider that the average MCU film of late earned roughly $1 billion dollars and its lower earning films averaged around $500 to $600 million. These figures can be used to conclude that Black Widow will be a disappointment in the box office. In fact, there are tons of reports trying to explain its relatively poor performance.

But that is not necessarily the complete picture.

As anyone reading this knows, Disney simultaneously released Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney+, for $30 dollars on top of a subscription to the app. Many people scoffed at paying such a high price for a film that could be seen in theaters for much less. Yet, it earned about $60 million dollars to date and that is aside from its box office haul. Surely, Disney’s accountants will point out that the streaming haul means that the film’s earnings to date are close to $400 million and anything over that is just profit.

It was also heavily pirated online, which certainly robbed Disney of a lot of revenue. Being that the film was completed over a year ago, there were many opportunities and time for it to be pirated before it was officially released.

Many have correctly pointed out that the online access to Black Widow robbed the film of its full box office potential. Theater owners are enraged that Disney did this because it undercut their business, and set a precedent for film releases going forward, although after the upcoming Jungle Cruise is released both in theaters and premier access on Disney+, the entertainment company will discontinue this practice.

Others have said that the film had limited appeal since it was not a big-event film like Avengers: Endgame and that it came out too late. Yes, given the film’s setting and the main character’s eventual fate, the film should have been released right after Captain America: Civil War in 2016 or 2017. But many circumstances beyond the film’s control prevented that and while the film is just a standalone film and is not perfect, it is a solid MCU entry that shone an overdue spotlight on Black Widow herself and her world.

Of course, the wildcard in the film’s performance is the pandemic. Hardcore MCU fans braved going to the theaters to see the film, while everyone else thought it was safer to pay for online access or waiting. However, at the time of Black Widow was released, the perception was that the pandemic was winding down given the huge drops in COVID-19 infections and deaths. But since many idiots refuse to get vaccinated or others are unable to have access to vaccines, the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread like wildfire and increased cases. In other words, the rising cases and deaths encouraged potential theater goers to stay home instead. With the pandemic it is doubtful that even an Avengers: Endgame would have performed as well as it did pre-pandemic.

So, saying Black Widow underperformed is not so clear cut. Given the many hurdles it faced it performed remarkably well and helped bring the MCU back into theaters. Hopefully the next MCU films will fare better and Black Widow itself will gain in popularity later on like many other MCU films.