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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Godzilla vs Kong”

Godzilla vs Kong gave me everything I wanted. Is it an amazing film? No, of course not. But it is a very fun one. My biggest complaint of the MonsterVerse films has always been an overreliance on human characters at the expense of the Titan characters. While Godzilla vs Kong still has a few too many human-based plotlines, the focus always feels squarely on Kong and Godzilla. By tying their plotlines into Godzilla and Kong’s respective character arcs, the filmmakers make it a lot easier to enjoy the human stuff. The movie’s not really about the humans; it’s about Godzilla and Kong—and it’s about time! It’s a simple movie. The bad guys are looking for an energy source from the Hollow Earth for ~questionable~ reasons and they need a Titan to help guide them through the Hollow Earth. So, they team up with a scientist (Dr. Andrews) and her adopted daughter (Jia), who’ve learned to communicate with King Kong, to use Kong as their guide. Meanwhile, Godzilla senses a new threat and begins attacking various human settlements while also hunting down King Kong, who he feels is a threat to his dominance.

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REVIEW: “Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League” by Sean O’Connell

I’m a fan of creators having control over the things they create. Yes, to a degree, all art is a process of collaboration, whether it’s written or visual. But there’s nothing worse than seeing a creator either forced down an avenue they don’t want to explore or having their entire project taken out of their hands. The latter, it seems, is what happened with 2017’s Justice League movie. Full disclosure: I’m pretty neutral on Zack Snyder as a filmmaker—I’ve liked some of his films, and I’ve disliked some of his films. I’m also pretty neutral on the fandom that surrounds him—every fandom has positive and negative elements, and I think it’s disingenuous to paint any fandom based on its worst aspects. So, I don’t have any skin in the discourse that surrounds the Snyder Cut. What I do have, however, is an interest in the behind-the-scenes stories of films like Justice League. This interest is what brought me to Sean O’Connell’s Release the Snyder Cut. Going into it, I was hoping for a well-sourced examination into the making of the Justice League movie—what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how we got to a point where Snyder’s original cut could be made. Unfortunately, that’s not what the book is. Instead, O’Connell’s book reads as more of an extended blog post, briskly chronicling the history of the DCEU—from its earliest days with Man of Steel up until the disastrous theatrical release of Justice League and the subsequent fan-driven campaign to restore Snyder’s original cut. It’s fine, but there’s not much here that isn’t available elsewhere. (3 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss. All thoughts are my own.

Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League by Sean O’Connell
Release the Snyder Cut is an entertaining, investigative, and emotional recap of 2017’s failed Justice League movie, followed closely by a breakdown of the exhaustive efforts by a dedicated fan base to unearth director Zack Snyder’s unfinished version. We’re currently in the golden age of superhero blockbusters. Movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Joker, and Avengers: Endgame routinely break box office records and compete for Oscars. Yet, Zack Snyder’s 2017 behemoth Justice League—a veritable sure bet at the Hollywood casino—tanked miserably, and the behind-the-scenes reasons for the movie’s demise are fascinating. The true story behind Justice League’s failure is only half of the juicy narrative, though. Snyder—who left the project months before filming concluded—still fans the flames that surround the rumor of a “Snyder Cut” of the film. This allegedly is the version of the story he wanted to tell before the studio, Warner Bros., pulled him off of the project. Hence, the “Snyder Cut.” Pop-culture fans love a meaty mystery, and the controversy swirling around the lost Snyder Cut of Justice League has been captivating comic-book movie fans for years. Additionally, an army of passionate DC and Snyder fans are committed to getting the “Cut” released. They already have gone to incredible lengths to fight for the movie’s opening, and have found strength, support, and charitable goals in their global “family” of Snyder Cut supporters. Their stories are remarkable, and the book is just as much about the dedicated fans who make up the Snyder Cut movement as it is about the unreleased film. Their efforts finally paid off with the recent announcement that Snyder’s cut will be released in 2021 by Warner Bros. and HBO Max. Release the Snyder Cut tells the entire story.

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REVIEW: “Wonder Woman 1984”

Three years after its theatrical release, 2017’s Wonder Woman remains one of the best entries in the DCEU. Perfectly capturing the spirit of Wonder Woman, the film is a testament to how good the DCEU can be when it allows itself to take risks and tell character-based stories. So, naturally, anticipation and expectations were high for Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins’ return to the character. Now, after numerous delays (some pandemic related, some not), a sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, is finally out. And it’s good. While having a couple of underbaked character arcs, running a bit too long, and being light on action, Wonder Woman 1984 is a marvelous return to the world of Wonder Woman. It’s buoyed by gorgeous visuals and even better performance and is sure to delight fans old and new. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: There are mild spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984. Read at your own risk.)

Wonder Woman 1984 (written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and David Callaham; directed by Patty Jenkins)
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) lives quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s — an era of excess driven by the pursuit of having it all. Though she’s come into her full powers, she maintains a low profile by curating ancient artifacts, and only performing heroic acts incognito. But soon, Diana will have to muster all of her strength, wisdom and courage as she finds herself squaring off against Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and the Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility.

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REVIEW: “Tenet – The Complete Screenplay” by Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s films are always a bit hit-or-miss for me. When they work, I enjoy his dramatic tendencies and his sense of scale and spectacle. But when they don’t work, they really don’t work. To this day, Inception remains one of those films that I can watch repeatedly without growing bored. But I haven’t liked a Nolan film since The Dark Knight Rises. It’s with this level of trepidation that I approached Tenet. With movie theaters in my state closed for the foreseeable future, I can’t see the film anytime soon. But I can read its recently published screenplay. Based on the writing, alone, Tenet is weak. It’s devoid of any meaningful characters, hampered with a premise that never fully makes sense, and reads less like a film and more like a collection of loosely related set pieces. (2 out of 5 wands) 

(NOTE: There are mild spoilers for Tenet ahead. Read at your own risk.)

Tenet: The Complete Screenplay (written by Christopher Nolan)
Tenet is a global thriller whose action stretches across time zones, and stars Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and John David Washington. The film displays Nolan’s preoccupations, especially how Time can shift from one moment to the next.

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REVIEW: “Scoob!” (The New Scooby-Doo Movie)

scoobI love Scooby-Doo. I’m way out of the age range for the show these days and I haven’t regularly watched anything from the series since the mid-2000s, but it still holds a special place in my heart. I grew up on those direct-to-VHS movies and re-runs of the old series (especially A Pup Named Scooby-Doo) on Cartoon Network. So, it’s one of those things that will always be special to me. However, I tend not to be one of those fans who get upset by changes made to the franchise. I really enjoyed the live-action Scooby-Doo films from the early 2000s and when I first saw the trailer for Scoob!, the latest theatrical reboot of the series, I was intrigued. The animation style was neat, it seemed to be teasing a pretty enjoyable story, and I was interested to see what some new talent could bring to the material. Thankfully, even with most movie theaters around the country closed, Scoob! was able to make its initial release date – just on PVOD instead of in theaters. So, having seen Scoob!, how is it? In short: it’s surprisingly solid. It’s a decent-if-predictable story with some good jokes, some beautiful animation, and a lot of heart. (Mild spoilers follow!)

Scoob! (written by Kelly Fremon Craig; directed by Tony Cervone)
“SCOOB!” reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

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REVIEW – Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island

zombie islandScooby-Doo holds a special place in my heart. I was of the generation that primarily grew up on the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies instead of any long-running show. As such, some of my earliest exposures to the Scooby-Doo universe were films like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost, and Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. With that in mind, the idea of a sequel to Zombie Island – my favorite of the animated Scooby-Doo films of the 1990s and 2000s – was both an appealing one and one that caused some trepidation. Zombie Island was one of the rare Scooby-Doo movies where the monsters turned out to actually be real and some of the more recent Scooby-Doo entries have placed an increased focus on ensuring that people don’t think the monsters are real. On the other hand, the trailer looked kind of fun and it could very easily be a very enjoyable experience to return to this movie I loved as a kid. So, I tried to go into this movie with an open mind; I didn’t expect anything as wonderful as the original Zombie Island, but I was hoping for something that was still enjoyable. In the end, Return to Zombie Island isn’t a very good sequel to Zombie Island but it is a pretty solid Scooby-Doo movie – at least for the first half. (Spoilers ahead!)

Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island (written by Jeremy Adams, directed by Cecilia Aranovich & Hamilton Ethan Spaulding)
Join Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the Mystery Inc. gang as they win a vacation of a lifetime and attempt to put their mystery solving days behind them. As soon as they arrive to the tropical island, Velma, Daphne and Fred can’t help but notice how strangely familiar this island is, to a terrifying trip they once took decades ago. They soon find out paradise comes with a price when they encounter an army of zombies! Hop on board and travel with Scooby-Doo and the gang, as they unearth the mystery of Zombie Island in an original movie adventure!

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REVIEW: “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu”

detective pikachu - posterI’ll be totally honest – when I first heard that Warner Bros was making a live-action Pokémon movie based on some game that featured a talking Pikachu that moonlit as a detective, I was pretty skeptical. The subsequent announcement that Ryan Reynolds would be voicing the titular Detective Pikachu did intrigue me a bit, at least, but I still wasn’t sure such a thing could work. Then the first trailer hit and the CGI actually looked really good and the tone seemed to be a softer version of Reynolds’ Deadpool humor, so I was a lot closer to being sold on the idea. Having now seen the film, I can safely say that it’s exactly what you think a film with a talking Pikachu moonlighting as a detective and voiced by Ryan Reynolds would be: devilishly funny. But it’s also a pretty solid mystery and a really fun movie. (Mild spoilers follow)

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (written and directed by Rob Letterman) 
The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim (Justice Smith) to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds): a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City – a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world – they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

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The New “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” Trailer is Beyond Exciting

DipbR_SXcAETQLXToday was the Warner Brothers panel at Comic-Con and the first thing they did was debut a new trailer for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s our first look at the film since the teaser trailer was released back in March. This trailer is nearly double the length of the first one and features a whole lot of new footage and much better look at both the tone and content of the film. Written by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It continues the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he is tasked by Dumbledore (Jude Law) to help track down and defeat wizard terrorist Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). It is due to be released on November 16, 2018, and also stars Katherine Waterstone as Tina Goldstein, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, Ezra Miller Credence Barebone, Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander, Brontis Jodorowsky as Nicolas Flamel, and Claudia Kim as a currently unnamed Maledictus.

At the end of the first film, the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander. But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise wizards and witches up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

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The New “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” Trailer is All Kinds of Awesome

Warner Brothers just released a trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and it’s all kinds of awesome. It’s been nearly five months since the reveal of the title of the film and that promotional image of the cast, so we’ve all been kind of starved for any real footage or news of the film and this trailer fully delivers. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and is written by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. It follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) as they travel to Paris in order to track down Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) under the request of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law).

CredenceThis trailer does everything a good teaser trailer should do: it teases us. It shows just enough to whet our appetites but not enough to actually ruin the film too much. I really like that the trailer didn’t rely solely on nostalgia. It opened with a nostalgic shot of Hogwarts and featured a lot of Dumbledore, but that was basically where the nostalgia ended. It was a nice way of reminding people who maybe weren’t totally on board with the previous film that this is still part of the Harry Potter universe (now rebranded as the Wizarding World). I also like how colorful this film looks in comparison to the last one. I loved the last movie, but man did it have a pretty bleak color palette. This one seems to have a much brighter and more colorful one, so that’s nice.

dumbledore 2Speaking of Dumbledore, there’s a lot of him in the trailer and Jude Law is absolutely killing it as Dumbledore. It’s gonna take me a bit of time to fully get used to him in the role, but he’s doing a spectacular job. There’s a line he has towards the beginning of the trailer where he says something along the lines of “If you’ve ever had Newt in a class, you know he doesn’t take orders” and it was such a Dumbledore thing to say and it made me smile so much. Interestingly, there’s very little Grindelwald in the trailer. I wonder if it’s to avoid the controversy around Johnny Depp’s casting for a little bit considering how that blew up after he was so prominently featured in the promotional picture from November. There’s about one shot of him in the trailer and he’s nearly unrecognizable. Which is good. If Johnny Depp can stop being Johnny Depp for about three seconds, he could actually deliver an interesting performance. I’d have still preferred just have Colin Farrel as Grindelwald, but such is life.

DYLpLo-W4AAE1KbUltimately, I loved this trailer. It did its job in getting me super excited for the movie. It was well edited and structured, showed off how beautiful the film looks, teased just enough while withholding enough to still be mysterious, and overall just felt magical. It reminded me why I love the Wizarding World franchise so much. For all its hits and misses, it still brings me joy in the way it did when I was a kid. It’s not perfect and the filmmakers often make mistakes and questionable decisions, but I still love it. This trailer reminded me of the best things about the franchise and has successfully gotten me super excited for the next installment.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald lands in theaters on November 16, 2018.

The Next Fantastic Beasts Film Will Explore “The Crimes of Grindelwald”

FNBST2_First_Look_3000x1800-R01We finally have a title for the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. That, alone, is a lot to unpack. But Warner Brothers marketing, never being one to skimp out on goodies for fans, also unveiled a new promo image for the film featuring our first look at the new and returning characters! And, oh boy, it’s a doozy. I wish WB had released a trailer today (it would have made smart marketing sense; Justice League, another WB film, releases in theaters this weekend and it would only make sense for WB to attach the trailer for next year’s blockbuster for the studio with this year’s blockbuster for the studio, but, alas, I do not head the marketing team). Either way, finally having a title and a first look at the cast is a really nice thing and I’m eager to break it all down. (more…)