She-Hulk Smashes Her TV Show

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law just completed its season at Disney + with a literal smashing finale that went all out with comedy, guest stars, and unexpected meta moments as She-Hulk destroyed the fourth wall in her TV show.

Tatiana Maslany starred as both Los Angeles-based lawyer Jennifer Walters and her alter ego, the sensational She-Hulk. In the pilot episode, Jennifer is involved in a car accident with her cousin Bruce Banner aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and his gamma-infused blood is mixed with hers, which turns her into She-Hulk. Unlike Banner, Jennifer is able to maintain her personality when she transforms into She-Hulk, and is able to continue her career as an attorney, who now represents superhumans in court.

The Disney + show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is supposed to be the first comedy series for the MCU as numerous guest stars and new characters popped into the show. Many of them were obcure Marvel Comics characters, others were more notable MCU personalities like the Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) and Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth) and most recently Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox). Many of these guests are welcome, though with his many appearances in recent MCU projects, Wong is starting to overstay his welcome. Meanwhile, with his charm, Cox practically stole the episode he first appeared in, which was one of the best in the series.

It was alarming that the Daredevil-centric episode was one of the best because it was the second-to-last episode. Many episodes felt flat and too cute, and worst of all, a couple were not funny, which is deadly for a comedy. There was a feeling throughout most of the series that it was playing things too safe and holding back its punches. A good example was when She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall during episodes. For anyone who does not understand, breaking the fourth wall is a narrative technique where a character in a story directly addresses the audience and steps outside of the story to do so. We’ve seen this done in the Deadpool films and comics, though She-Hulk did this first in John Byrne’s The Sensational She-Hulk Marvel Comics series to great effect.

In the TV show, the fourth-wall breaking was sparingly done to add some wry commentary to what was going on. While the comments were humorous the show did not run with this technique until the final episode, which happened to be its the best. During the third act, a frustrated She-Hulk has had enough with a predictable slugfest that made little sense and actually left the series, broke out of the Disney + menu and entered the real world looking for Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios. Antics like this often occured in the comic books and should have happened more often in the TV show. These antics were not the only hysterical moments, but the opening credits for the episde was a hilarious recreation of the 1970s TV show The Incredible Hulk, but with Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk acting out scenes originated by Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno. Things like that should have happened more often in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, which turned out to be a very light-hearted legal dramedy. To be honest, if the show was not set in the MCU and was just a regular legal comedy, most of us would not bother to watch it.

Another thing that was deadly at times for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law were its special effects. It had its moments, but many times, the CG was quite dodgy and rushed. There were reports about how overstretched special effects companies were with MCU properties and this show is evidence of that. It’s a shame because MCU films and TV shows have great special effects. But here with this show, it had to convince us that this ultra tall, green woman actually existed, but on too many occasions the show failed to trick us. It might have been better if they use more conventional tricks like makeup and tall body doubles instead. Let’s hope Marvel Studios goes back and patches up the effects in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law because it is sorely needed.

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Werewolf By Night Harkens Back To Classic Horror Films

The latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Werewolf by Night, was just released on Disney + in time for the Halloween season. Werewolf by Night is actually a rarity these days, a television film and only about an hour, at that. More interesting is that like many projects in the MCU’s Phase Four, it is not the typical superhero slugfest. In fact, the film does not make any kind of overt connection to the larger MCU, but it ends up enriching the MCU with its solidly supernatural motif.

Filmed largely in black and white, the film follows Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), a so-called monster hunter, who arrives at a spooky manor and participates in a ceremonial hunt of a captured monster held in a maze in the manor’s grounds. The prize for finding the monster is a mystical stone called the Bloodstone that was once wielded by Ulysses Bloodstone, who died recently. During the hunt, Jack teams up with fellow monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), the estranged daughter of Ulysses Bloodstone. Jack is only interested in finding the monster, while Elsa wants the Bloodstone. During the hunt the two must deal with rival monster hunters and Jack’s hidden secrets.

Werewolf by Night, is surprisingly fun and spooky. It clearly harkens back to the old Universal classic horror films from the ’40s featuring Dracula, the Wolfwman and other famous monsters. But the film also has a grindhouse, 1970s feel with its graphic violence (muted by the black and white photography), it is probably the most violent MCU offering to date and is appropriate for this kind of project.

The film’s atmosphere is perfect for the story it tells and has the right amount of jump scares and thrills. The film could have benefited from a slightly longer length to flesh out the story and characters, but supposedly there was extra footage that was deleted because they were too comical and Marvel Studios is smarting over recent criticism that their projects are too comical. It would be a joy to see a followup to Werewolf by Night, as there is so much about Jack Russell and Elsa Bloodstone that we viewers are not aware of and there is a lot of potential with the those two. Also, it would be interesting to see how they fit in with the larger MCU, and the same goes for the third standout character in the film, Man-Thing. In addition to the Werewolf, the hulking, moss-covered monstrosity is perfectly comics accurate and imposing. The effects used to bring the creature to life were very impressive, in fact, it was clear most of the film’s budget was held back to benefit Man-Thing’s appearances. If anything, a Man-Thing spinoff film or series must be made.

As for the title character, he was obviously a person wearing monster makeup, but it was a refreshing throwback to the CG that has taken over. More importantly despite the low-tech approach to how he is presented, the monstrous Werewolf was very terrifying with his savage and animalistic fights.

Director Michael Giacchino creates a moody and dark atmosphere filled with shadows and a sense of dread, which is what made the old Universal horror films so beloved. His directorial debut is quite impressive given that he is best known for his distinct film scores (by the way, he also scored this film and his work was brilliant as always). Given the way he was able to bring out the scares and deliver a solid horror film, he should be seriously considered to direct the Blade film, given that Marvel Studios is now scrambling to find a director for that project. Werewolf by Night demonstrates that Giacchino has the skills to give us a great vampire film.

Unlike some misfires in Phase Four of the MCU, Werewolf by Night is a textbook example of doing something different that engages the viewers and unveals spooky new corners of the growing MCU.

José Soto

The Return Of Hugh Jackman As Wolverine In Deadpool 3!

The news lately about Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a series of downers as fans have become frustrated by delays, non-announcements and disappointing films and TV shows. However, most were elated this week when Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds announced that not only was Deadpool 3 officially being made but that it would co-star Hugh Jackman returning to his iconic role as Logan/Wolverine.

This was very exciting news considering that Hugh Jackman’s last performance as the famous X-Men hero was in 2017’s Logan and the character died in that film. At the time Logan was released, Jackman announced that he would no longer play the role, which saddened many, but led to wild speculation about who would eventually replace him. This speculation went into overdrive when Disney acquired Fox Studios and the film rights to the X-Men characters in 2019.

One thing frustrating fans of the X-Men is that although Disney and Marvel Studios has had the film rights to the X-Men and associated mutants since 2019, very little was done with the characters. Not even the recent announcements about Phase Five and Six of the MCU revealed anything hinting at the X-Men or even mutants. Sure there have been some revelations that Ms. Marvel, Namor and possibly the Scarlet Witch are mutants in the MCU, but nothing else.

What also made the recent Phase Five and Six disappointing was that Deadpool 3 was not part of the announced MCU films and TV shows even though Ryan Reynolds had been quite vocal about wanting to reprise the role and reports he was in negotiations with Marvel Studios for a possble Deadpool 3.

Well, it turns out that our patience has been rewarded, as Deadpool 3 will begin filming for a September 6, 2024 release. Of course, sweetening the announcement was Jackman’s return as Wolverine. Just the announcement of a third Deadpool film was fine enough, but this added bonus is enough to make the film one of the most anticipated films coming out that year.

As to what would the film be about and how it would fit in with the MCU is anyone’s guess at this point. Reynolds confirmed that the Wolverine that appears in Deadpool 3 would be a separate variant than the one seen in Logan. This is similar as Professor X’s (Patrick Stewart) appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness where it was fairly clear that even though Stewart played Professor X, the one seen in the film was different from the one featured in the Fox X-Men films. It is possible that Deadpool and Wolverine will appear in the Fox X-Men universe, which has conflicting continuity, and somehow crossover into the MCU. Perhaps the two will tour various universes in a loose adaptation of Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth. It is also possible that Deadpool’s time-traveling antics at the end of Deadpool 2 causes the deadly interdimensional incursions introduced in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Hopefully Deadpool 3 will actually turn out to be a superhero version of a cop/buddy film as Reynolds hinted because it would be hilarious seeing Wolverine playing a straight man to Deadpool’s zaniness.

There are questions about the Fox X-Men film universe though, namely will other characters from that film series appear? Will that film universe be destroyed in an incursion? Will Deadpool 3 serve as the swan song for the Fox X-Men film universe or will some characters become part of the MCU or take part in Avengers: Secret Wars? Deadpool himself is a definite character who will appear in that epic Avengers film. But the most important question is will Wolverine finally don a comics-accurate suit?

One thing to keep in mind is that while it is terrific that Hugh Jackman is reprising his role as Wolverine, his appearance just kicks the can down the road as to who will eventually play the character in the MCU. Not only that, but it keeps reinforcing the notion that only Jackman can play Wolverine, which will make the re-casting of the mutant superhero harder for fans to accept.

This dilemma is something to worry about for another time, and should not detract from our celebration of the news that Deadpool 3 is coming and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine will be part of the package.

Still Flying: Firefly 20 Years Later

“We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty” – Mal Reynolds

The TV junkyard is littered with dozens if not hundreds of gems that are shows that were killed off too early by dim-witted TV executives. Everyone’s got a favorite show that they loved but apparently no one else did, hence the quick cancellation. Firefly is a prime example. But unlike many of these forgotten gems, Firefly continues to shine 20 years after its debut on television.

Created by Joss Whedon, the man behind the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and of course, the first two Avengers films, Firefly premiered in the 2002 fall schedule on Fox and was quickly canceled after only fourteen episodes were filmed (fifteen if you count the original pilot episode “Serenity” as a two-part show). In fact, not even all the episodes were aired. But the show found a new life after cancellation in the world of home media. Word of mouth quickly spread and a cult following not seen since Star Trek blossomed.

For the uninitiated the show is basically a science fiction western taking place in 2517, showcasing a group of renegades and smugglers who eke out an existence on board a Firefly-class space freighter called the Serenity. This is the back story; humanity has used up Earth’s resources sometime in the future. Eventually, people abandoned Earth, traveled to another solar system and terraformed dozens of planets and moons to make them habitable. Now the original terraformed planets are the Core Planets and have the latest in technology and resources and are considered the center of the universe or ‘verse as said in the show. The outer planets in the system are known as the Border Planets or Outer Planets and don’t have access to the latest technologies. The people living there are left to fend for themselves with basic tools. In these backwater worlds, the highest level of technology is on the level of the nineteenth century with horses being the common mode of transport. This is why the show has that dusty and rustic Western look.  Basically, the show is set in an interplanetary society of haves and have nots.

In the pilot’s opening scenes, viewers witnessed a brutal battle in the civil war between the Alliance (the main governing body of the Core Planets) and the Independents, which was comprised of the Outer Planets. The Alliance won the aforementioned Battle of Serenity Valley and the war. During that battle the show introduced one of the soldiers who fought for the Independents, Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). According to interviews, Whedon stated that this was an allegory to the American Civil War with the main characters standing in for former Confederate soldiers.

Several years later and now a jaded cynic, Mal owns a beat-up freighter ship that he uses for smuggling operations. His crew is comprised of loyal first mate Zoë Alleyne (Gina Torres), another Independent war veteran; carefree pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), who is married to Zoë and loves Hawaiian shirts, dinosaur figures and his wife; Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), the whimsical ship’s mechanic and Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) a greedy and not-too-bright muscle man. The rest of the cast are the passengers on board the ship for various reasons. Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin) is a beautiful and cultured prostitute who rents a small shuttle on board and is attracted to Mal and vice versa. Their unrequited romantic tension was a major sub-plot. Reverend Book (Ron Glass) is a spiritual wanderer with a mysterious past with hinted ties to the Alliance. The final two passengers provided much of Firefly’s conflict; Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau), two sibling fugitives on the run. River was a gifted student who was forced to undergo deadly experiments by the Alliance and became a deadly psychic killing machine masked under the guise of a gentle and mildly mentally challenged teenage girl. Her brother Simon, a successful rich doctor, risked everything (including his wealth) to free her from the Alliance. In the pilot, Mal decided to allow them to remain on board, provided Simon took a job as the ship’s medic, and kept an eye on her. 

Throughout the series, they faced dangers in the form of cannibalistic savages called Reavers, other smugglers, criminals, the unscrupulous upper class and the Alliance itself. The stories were usually about capers and the mishaps they would get into. They were well written with witty dialogue that had an interesting touch; the characters would often speak Mandarin. Whedon surmised that in the future both western and American culture will blend with Asian cultures and great pains are taken to show this in the series. Signs and view screens show Asian and English script, while many crowd scenes had a multicultural ambiance with people wearing outfits influenced by various cultures.

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D23 Expo 2022: A Great Disappointment For Marvel

For some time, fans expected the presentation by Marvel Studios at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) to pale when compared to this weekend’s D23 Expo 2022. The last D23 convention was jammed with exciting announcements about Marvel Studios. Being that D23 is prepared by Disney and devoted to its properties, one would think all mind-blowing announcements and presentations about Marvel Studios would be revealed at D23 after this summer’s SDCC. For weeks, the rumors have been flying fast about pending casting announcements for upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) projects. Supposedly, Deadpool 3 was to be announced with a special appearance by Ryan Reynolds; Henry Cavill, Denzel Washington, Jodie Comer, and numerous actors were to be announced as being cast for several MCU films and TV shows; the cast for the Fantastic Four would be revealed. Did any of that happen? NOPE.

There weren’t any major, new announcements, except that Matt Shankman has been officially announced as the director of the Fantastic Four film, and Armor Wars has been re-confirmed as going into production. The Marvel Studios presentation consisted of films and TV shows that we knew about. We did get some casting announcements such as Ke Huy Quan appearing in the second season of Loki, and that Tim Blake Nelson will appear in Captain America: New World Order as the Leader, With that last revelation does this mean that the Hulk will appear in Captain America: New World Order? The Leader is a Hulk villain, after all.

We did learn that a lot of footage and trailers were presented at D23 about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Echo, Loki, The Marvels, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Ironheart. Too bad, most of us cannot see them. Based on Twitter and other social media feeds by those lucky enough to have attended the presentation, the footage sounded great, but no one else could see the footage. All we received were TWO trailers. One for Secret Invasion, which has the look of a solid spy thriller, and Werewolf By Night, a one-shot film coming next month on Disney +. It is both surprising and concerning that Werewolf By Night will stream on October 7, less than a month from now, but it is only now we are seeing any footage. Honestly, the black-and-white trailer makes Werewolf By Night look very campy while evoking the mood of an old Universal horror film and a grindhouse film. But it could be good.

Perhaps the most intriguing news coming out of the Marvel presentation was the revelation of the Thunderbolts lineup. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Basically, the lineup seems like a reunion of cast members from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow, plus a return of a villain from Ant-Man and the Wasp. So, no Abomination or Baron Zemo as everyone expected. Still, just the inclusion of the Winter Soldier is enough to get excited over the Thunderbolts.

As it can be seen, there wasn’t any announcements about other MCU projects. No news on Blade, Deadpool 3, zilch about the X-Men, not even anything on the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which is supposed to be streaming in a few short months, or Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3. Keep in mind that an exclusive trailer for that film was shown already at SDCC. They could have at least released it to the general public.

Even if Disney could not show exclusive footage to the general public for their MCU projects, at least release an image. Let us see a better look at Namor or Kang! Releasing two trailers does not cut it.

On the other hand, the Star Wars presentation was better, with its highlight being the release of the trailer for the third season of The Mandalorian. With the Star Wars presentation, not everything was shown to the general public, but at least enough was released. Even the Disney animated films presentation from yesterday was more interesting.

Blame it on our unrealistic expectations and for giving in the hype and speculation, but aside from the few thousand people who attended D23, the Marvel Studios presentation was a disappointment for everyone else. This was the first live D23 since the pandemic and the excitement was wild, Disney could have made some exciting and surprising announcements on the level of Avengers: Secret Wars at SDCC, but nothing new was revealed. Overall, the Marvel presentation was almost as disappointing as the presentation by Warner Bros. about their upcoming DC films and TV shows at SDCC. Yes, that bad.

Disney definitely dropped the ball at D23 with Marvel Studios and the MCU. Hopefully, future conventions and presentations will improve, but we should temper our expectations and be realistic.