Halloween Treats: FANGORIA Flashback

Recently my LCS (local comicbook store) had something interesting tucked away at the end of its new releases rack. A handful of vintage, shrink-wrapped FANGORIA magazines, from their first few years of publication (a time before I had even heard of the magazine, let alone was old enough to buy them)!

Few people outside of its target audience are familiar with Fangoria magazine. But for horror-movie heads in the 80s and 90s, Fangoria was sacred text. In that pre-internet era, it was the ONLY source of horror movie news, special effects features and behind-the-scenes info and interviews.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t always meant to be that way. Originally conceived of as FANTASTICA, it was intended to be a companion to Sci-Fi mag STARLOG, but focusing more on fantasy, freaks and creatures. A legal wrangle prompted the last-minute name change to FANGORIA and cover star Godzilla helped launch issue #1. One year and six issues later, Fangoria still hadn’t caught on, and was losing money with each publication. A creative shift came next that ramped-up the focus on horror (as those were the features that were proving most popular with readers) and that’s when things started to click. And Fango never looked back.

It surged in popularity through the 80s and 90s, and, quite amazingly for such a niche magazine, it managed to survive and thrive in the post-internet era. The Fango empire grew to include such offshoots as: a multi-city series of horror movie conventions (Weekend of Horrors/Trinity of Terrors), an annual horror awards ceremony (the Chainsaw Awards) and a film production/distribution company, (Fangoria Films). Unfortunately, not all good things can last forever and Fango ceased its regular print production in 2015. But the Fango spirit still lives on (mainly through its still-active website Fangoria.com).

Now, back to my back issue discovery. I picked up a trio of these flashback fright mags, and later noticed  they were issues #2, #12, and #22 – each published about a year and a half apart – and noted that taken together, they provide nice little snapshots of how Fangoria found its footing during its early years on the cusp of the modern horror film boom. So, in honour of all the Halloweens and other times of the year that Fangoria provided heaping helpings of horror, join me as I take a look back at the early years.

Issue #2, October 1979

  • Cover – Evidence of Fangoria’s non-horror roots abound, from the tagline “Monsters, Aliens and Bizarre Creatures” to the Doctor Who pull-out poster, to a feature on the fantasy art of Carl Lundgren.
  • New releases – Creature feature Prophecy and the sci-fi tinged Phantasm check off the current horror boxes for this ish.
  • Nostalgia alert – Fango didn’t just cover contemporary movies. In fact a large portion of its page count in the early years came from nostalgia features, as this issue exemplifies. In addition to the War of the Worlds piece featured on the cover, this issue also featured deep dives into ’30s classics Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. 
  • Shape of things to come – In the Postal Zone letters column an editorial reply to a fan confirmed that “Horror will continue as our main concern”
  • Shape of things not to come – Elsewhere in the Postal Zone, Fango confirms that the next JAWS sequel will be titled National Lampoon’s JAWS III, People: 0 and is to be co-produced by the teams behind Animal House and the JAWS films. Obviously that sequel never came to fruition and instead, 4 years later, we got JAWS 3-D.
  • Flashback fun –  Upcoming projects mentioned include blurbs about John Landis’ , American Werewolf in London and acclaimed “young director” John Carpenter’s The Fog, the follow-up to his mega-hit Halloween.

Issue #12, April 1981

  • Knightriders (George Romero’s knights-on-motorcycles flick), Clash of the Titans and a profile of a Warner Bros. animator prove that there’s still a mixed bag of genres being covered.
  • Nostalgia alert – A Roger Corman interview and a look back at the gimmick films of William Castle
  • New releases – Friday the 13th Part II gets the horror spotlight here, with other contemporary fright features spotlighting the Michael Caine thriller The Hand and an interview with director Tobe Hooper, fresh off The Funhouse.
  • Flashback fun – Director Steve Miner on his directorial debut, Friday the 13th Part II: “…even if it were a huge bomb, which I know it won’t be…” (an obviously true prediction, but doubtful that even the confident Miner would have predicted that his sequel would be the first of a franchise that would eventually include 9 sequels, a cross-over and a reboot)
  • Now filming – Announced as “currently filming” is a little film based on a Phillip Dick novel called Blade Runner.

Issue #22, October 1982

  • Cover – Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Friday the 13th Part IIICreepshow – by virtue of the cover alone, you can see that Fango has now pretty much embraced the horror-heavy focus that would remain for the rest of its run.
  • Still room for more – The non-horror spotlight shines it diminishing light on  The Beastmaster and Pink Floyd’s The Wall
  • The hostess with the mostest! – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark gets an “introduction” article, profiling the television host of the then Southern Cal-broadcast-only Movie Macabre.
  • Paging Dr. Loomis – The push behind Halloween III is quite amazing, everyone is all gung-ho on this non-Michael Myers non-sequel as being the start of turning the Halloween movies into an anthology franchise (and we all know how that turned out – HIII flopped, angered fans and caused the series to go dormant for 6 years while Jason and Freddy dominated the slasher scene, until they finally dusted off Michael’s white mask and let him loose in Haddonfield once again)
  • Silver Shamrocks – But still, being able to order the masks that are central to the plot of Halloween III, was a pretty sweet marketing tie-in (obviously aimed at collectors, but I wonder if any parents actually shelled out the dough to get some of these for their kids– especially given what happens in the movies to kids who wear the masks….)

And that’s about it for this FANGORIA Flashback! So, I guess all that’s left to say is…“ ‘Fangs’ for the memories!” (ouch. Sorry.)

Happy Halloween!

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Oscar’s Record-Setting Films

lalaOn the topic of the Academy Awards’ and record-setting Oscar films, the focus is usually placed on the following three categories: films with the most Oscar nominations, films with the most Oscar wins, and films that have swept the “Big 5” awards (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Writing – Screenplay or Adapted Screenplay).

After this year’s nominations were announced, the total number of films that shared the top spot in each of these categories reached three apiece. So now, as Oscar night quickly approaches (this Sunday!), I thought it would be fun to have a little looksee at these particular films and dig a little deeper for some interesting trivial tidbits (including a few that can actually be applied as tie-breakers in a couple of instances, if you’re the type of person who really likes to parse things down to a single, definitive winner).

And now, the Oscars went to…

Most Academy Award wins
11 wins 

Ben-Hur (1959)
Titanic (1997)
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)

Of the three most Oscar-winning films, Titanic is the only one that is also tops in most nominations, with 14 (Ben-Hur received 12 nods, LOTR: Return Of The King, 11)

Titanic received its 14 noms from a possible 17 categories, but the year Ben-Hur received its 12 noms, there were only 15 available categories. So, even though their total noms received differ, the total noms they missed is the same, as both films managed to get nominated in all but three of the available categories in their respective years.

Even though it garnered the fewest noms of the three films, the 11 wins for LOTR: Return Of The King  represented a clean sweep of all of its nominated categories, making it the film with the largest Oscars sweep ever.

Most Academy Award nominations
14 nominations 

All About Eve (1950)
Titanic (1997)
La La Land (2016)

The 14 nominations received by All About Eve actually represented nods in only 12 categories (out of a possible 16), as it received two nominations apiece in both the Best Actress (Bette Davis, Anne Baxter) and Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter) categories. Apparently cancelling one another out, none of the ladies went home with an award that night. Of the film’s eventual six wins, the only statuette it received for acting was given to George Sanders (for Best Supporting Actor).

Similarly, La La Land’s 14 nominations represent nods in “only” 13 categories, as two of the musical’s original compositions (“City of Stars” and “Audition”) made it onto the list of Best Song Nominees.

Titanic is the only film whose 14 nominations were in 14 different categories, giving it the distinction as the film with the most unique nominations ever.

Films That Swept The “Big 5” Awards
3 films

It Happened One Night (1934)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

In the history of the Academy Awards, a total of 43 films have been nominated for all the “Big 5” awards – Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Writing – with the above three being the only ones to manage a clean sweep.

The most recent film to join the ranks of Big 5 nominees is La La Land – which brings up an interesting point: None of the previous most nominated or most winning films had ever managed to have their impressive totals include all noms in Big 5 categories. This year, La La Land  became the first such film to finally break that barrier.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like La La Land will take it a step further and actually sweep the Big 5. Now, 4 out of 5 is definitely possible, but as much as I like Ryan Gosling, he seems to be, at best, coming up as a distant third place for Best Actor, behind front-runners Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences).

But then again, we are living in a time of unbelievable voting outcomes, so who knows what will happen come Oscar night?

X-Men: Apocalypse and a Post-Script to the 2016 Superhero Smackdowns

xmenapocI really did not plan for posts on superhero movies to take over my blog this year, but here we are with my fourth one in a row. Ah, well – at least this won’t be dwelling too much on the hero vs hero theme, because X-Men: Apocalypse is not an all-out, hero vs hero brawl like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. But, it still has some significant talking points – not to mention some crazy continuity issues – so let’s get to it! (Minor spoiler-ish stuff ahead).

The Battle

So, the big bad of the movie is Apocalypse, an ancient Egyptian mutant resurrected in the 1980’s who wastes no time in setting waste to the world as we know it (and played by Oscar Isaac as if he were Marlon Brando in Island of Dr. Moreau after Boo Berry-esque makeover). According to legend, Apoc always employs a guard of four mutant-powered horsemen to stand with him, help protect him and generally wreak havoc. This time around the mutants he has chosen are Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto. This sets up the big hero vs hero battle of the movie, where Apoc’s X-Horsemen face off against Xavier’s X-Men.

Except it’s not really a hero vs hero battle. In the comics, Storm, Psylocke and Angel were all well-established members of the X-Men years before Apocalypse first appeared. The movie, however, has Apoc recruiting the trio long before they’ve even heard of Professor Xavier’s School for the Gifted and Never-Aging, so there’s no real “good guys vs good guys” morality going on here. The Horsemen are the straight up bad guys, doing the bidding of an even badder guy. No moral choices hang in this battle, it just straight forward good vs evil.

That said, it still gives those familiar with the X-Men comics a superhero smackdown, because even though they’re “evil” versions of their comic counterparts, they are still Storm, Psylocke and Angel. And as such, we get some great scenes of Mohawk Storm dishing it out with Cyclops, Ninja Psylocke and Beast swiping and slicing at each other and (Arch)Angel’s metal wings of fury trying to pin down the teleporting Nightcrawler. And the fact that it isn’t a hero vs hero issue, actually works in its favour. It doesn’t have to get bogged down the heavy-handed sermonizing of BvS or deal with the weighty moral issues of Civil War, it can just give us a pure throwdown. And that’s just fine for this flick. And next to the expected Quicksilver slo-mo sequence, the final smackdown is the most enjoyable part of the movie.

FUN FACT: While it may lighter in tone than both BvS and Civil War, it definitely has the most collateral damage and massive casualties, not to mention the least fallout – than the other two films combined. I mean, Apocalypse morphs half of downtown Cairo into a big pyramid, and sooo many inhabited buildings, houses, cars and landmarks the world over get dismantled and sent skyward – the Sydney Opera House, Golden Gate Bridge – were talking tens of thousands of deaths, in addition to those who mercilessly perish at the hands of Magneto, Apocalypse and Weapon X (who was let loose by a remorseless Jean Grey – way to go Jean!).

Lampshading The Muties

Of course, being an X-Men movie, there are also some story problems – and I think it’s hilarious how the filmmakers have gone from not being able to line up the continuity of the first X-Trilogy with the current one to not even being able to line up the continuity of the films within the current trilogy…and it doesn’t seem to bother them a bit that so much stuff just doesn’t make sense. In fact, they call themselves out on almost all of it before the internet legions could have at ‘em.

First off, “lampshading” is trope where an element of a story that make shake a viewer’s willing disbelief is specifically called out by the characters in the story, as a way of saying “we get it, it doesn’t make sense, and we know it, but we’re going with it”. And X-Men Apocalypse is one of the lampshadiest movies to ever have lampshaded a lampshade. Just some examples:

  • Apocalypse takes place 20 years after X-Men First Class, yet no one in the cast seems to be 20 years older, which Professor X calls out when he sees Moira McTaggert and marvels at how she looks like she hasn’t aged a day since their first meeting.
  • Quicksilver is first seen chilling in his mom’s basement, exactly like he was a decade earlier when the X-Men first met him in Days of Future Past. He later calls this out when he mentions that he does nothing and has been living in his mom’s basement for 10 years.
  • Mystique, always a champion of not being ashamed of who you are and who would proudly display her natural blue skin whenever she could, spends a large portion of the film in her human guise (Jennifer Lawrence has gone on the record several times about despising the Mystique make-up process). Is Mystique no longer “loud and proud” about her mutant-ness? Nope, she just didn’t like all the attention she was getting for being a “hero” after the events of Days Of Future Past, so now she goes incognito as human. (So, she’s still not ashamed of who she is, she’s just trying to dodge the paparazzi, y’all)
  • The X-films have never done right by their mutants when it came to their uniforms, usually sticking them in nothing more than glorified flight suits. Apocalypse’s iteration of this is by far the blandest and most generic – but also the most acknowledged: “Hey guys, look – flight suits!” – Cyclops, stumbling across a locker in the Alkali Lake facility, which the X-Men quickly plunder.
  • When Scott, Jean, Kurt and Jubilee go see Return of the Jedi, they have a very meta talk about trilogies and how the third one always sucks (a slight dig at the less-than-loved X-Men: Last Stand, which got all but erased from X-continuity after Days of Future Past…or DID it?)
XmenFC_APOC

Professor Xavier’s first class of mutants, (Top, circa 1962) are shocked to discover that none of them have aged more than 5 years over the past two decades (Bottom, circa 1983)

And then there are things that the film does not even mention, but just hang there, taunting viewers – like how Alex Summers is the X-Men’s own Benjamin Button. To wit:

1) We’ve got a 20+ year difference between siblings Alex and Scott Summers (Alex/Havok was a teen in First Class, and now, 20 years later, he has a little bro Scott/Cyclops who is just a teen himself in Apocalypse)

2) Alex should be pushing 40, but looks like he still hasn’t started shaving yet

3) Mr. and Mrs. Summers look to be in their late 40s themselves, and definitely not old enough to have a child of Alex’s supposed age.

So what gives? Well…does it even matter? The filmmakers don’t think it does, so why should we?

And therein lies part of the fun of the X-Men movies these days. In this age of superhero cinematic saturation, at least the X-Men films can stand out by being the most comic book-y of them all – complete with an implied mission statement that resonates with any comic fanboy or girl. Something like, “Give em’ some big flashy battles with the characters they wanna see, and if it doesn’t make sense, who cares – we’ll just ret-con it all later…maybe”

Captain America: Civil War Is a Super-Hero Fight Done Right

civil-war-poster3I was a little hesitant to do my third post in a row on a superhero movie, especially since I usually only post on a monthly basis, so I try to keep my topics varied. But then I thought: Well, superheroes ARE pretty much dominating pop culture right now…and this post actually will tie in the last two quite neatly so…I quickly convinced myself to go ahead with it.

And now that the dust has settled from 2016’s third (but definitely not last) superhero box office assault, Captain America: Civil War has surprised absolutely no one by dominating its debut weekend with a domestic gross of $179 million (adding to its already-impressive global tally, which Box Office Mojo reports is currently at $494 million). So now let’s take a look at the other impressive feat the movie accomplished:

Namely, where this year’s other hero vs hero spectacle (Batman v Superman) went wrong, Captain America: Civil War went right. Many times, in fact – so let’s take a closer look. (Fair warning: minor spoilers ahoy!)

The Reason for Conflict

Civil War kicks off with an Avengers mission that results in the deaths of multiple innocent bystanders. This, in addition to civilian casualties from the events in the previous Avengers films, causes the United Nations to say that super-powered individuals need to be kept in check and should not be able to act with autonomy however they please. Thus, the team has a choice: work under the United Nations and only on approved missions or hang up their costumes and retire (or otherwise face arrest). The issue not only divides Captain America and Iron Man and the rest of team, but it is also gives the viewers something to weigh the pros and cons of and see which side they would support.

The conflict of BvS however, was between two superheroes who felt each other needed to be taken down because their methods proved that they were a threat to society. The fact that they were both correct – Superman has his carelessness about collateral damage and Batman’s overly violent tactics lead to many unnecessary deaths – are lost on both of them, and as a result the audience gets no one to really root for or even an issue to side with. Both are in the wrong and it becomes just two thick-headed heroes in grudge match.

The Battle

The big face-off in Civil War is simply glorious. It’s a comic book splash page come to life as each side of heroes charge into battle on a deserted airport runaway in the bright light of day. And while it’s a serious battle, there are still light-hearted moments to be had and even more amazingly, it involves 12 heroes flying and jumping and zapping and punching yet it never feels overcrowded, each hero gets a chance to shine and the action is crisp and clear and easy to follow.

Apparently Hawkeye didn't get the memo about red being Team Cap's signature colour

Apparently Hawkeye didn’t get the memo about red being Team Cap’s signature colour

The muddled big battle of BvS just looks even worse by comparison. Dark and gloomy and set mostly inside crumbling buildings – it’s sometimes hard to pick out exactly what’s going on, even though it’s just a one-on-one battle.

Subplots and Introductions

It wouldn’t be a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie if there wasn’t a set-up for new characters and/or spin-off films, and Civil War keeps the status quo. At the risk of overcrowding a film bursting with returning characters, the filmmakers added two new ones – Black Panther and the rebooted-for-the-MCU Spider-Man – to the mix. But unlike BvS, which shoehorned in a lame side story that went nowhere and had nothing to do with main plot at all in order to tease the future Justice League members, the new debuts in Civil War are more organic and connect to the plot

Black Panther/T’Challa is royalty from Wakanda, the nation which lost a number of citizens in the tragedy depicted in the opening mission and he is present, along with Black Widow, when a bomb goes off at the UN and kills his father, the king of Wakanda. This gives him his own agenda which then crosses paths with the rest of the Avengers.  And Tony Stark, needing to beef up his ranks for the impending smack down with Cap’s own beefed-up team of supporters, heads out to Queens, NY to have a little chat with one Peter Parker – a nervous, techie teen who lives with his Aunt May (hello, Marisa Tomei!). Tony (with the help from many StarkTech surveillance gadgets) has correctly sussed out that Parker is the new spider-themed hero that has been cleaning up crime in New York. A quick recruitment drive later and Spidey is on Team Iron Man (and easily one of the best parts of the big smackdown).

All in all, it’s much more plausible and thought-out  than just having the new heroes  “show up” unannounced to join in a big fight, much to the confusion of the other players – which is exactly how Wonder Woman was brought into BvS (which was very welcome, of course – but still very clunky).

Fanboy Moments and Surprise Twists

Civil War has a number of definite, clear fanboy moments – cool shots or scenes that look fine to the average viewer but hold something more for the seasoned fan (e.g. Hawkeye + Ant-Man…’nuff said).

BvS couldn’t even make a moment out of explaining the absence of Robin by showing his defaced costume in a display case, since it wasn’t even close to recognizable as Robin’s costume in the first place.

Civil War also had an awesome surprise from Ant-Man (that was spoiled for some when it was revealed in a Lego tie-in playset, of all things) as well as a final-act twist that literally had me gasp (although, I never watch the full trailers for movies I’m going to see, so it may very well have been a twist that was already revealed).

But the big surprise in BvS is…Superman dies. And then he gets buried, but the twist is that he may not actually be dead?

Um, yeah – the dude’s in the upcoming Justice League movies and he’s also, y’know Superman…so, I can pretty much guarantee that not one person was shocked by this shocking twist.

 

Listen, I’ll always be a DC fanboy at heart, but Captain America: Civil War was just the palette cleanser that was needed after the overcooked Batman v Superman. And it somehow managed to do something pretty amazing, too – it got me actually looking forward to the next Spider-Man film (I KNOW).

 

 

Batman v Superman: Pros v Cons (Part II)

 

batmanvsuperman-headerContinuing my breakdown of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – my last post covered some of the films Pros, so this time around I’m digging into its Cons. Word of warning – my Cons contain deeper dives into the film and its specifics, so if you haven’t seen it yet…Spoilers Ahoy!

Cons

Desaturation – Director Zach Snyder has never met something bright he couldn’t suck the life out of or something pristine he couldn’t muck up with a few handfuls of dirt, and Batman v Superman is no different. It’s a film whose primary colours appear to be brown/grey/blue.

One of Man of Steel’s problem points for comic fans was how dirty and dark Superman’s costume looked. And once the first official images from BvS appeared, featuring a suited-up Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, it was apparent that this was going to be standard practice going forward. Granted, Superman’s “S” shield in BvS is indeed brighter than the Man of Steel version, but everything else – and I mean EVERYTHING else is sucked dry of colour.

batman-vs-superman-robin-pic

Robin’s costume…or just a pair of greasy coveralls that Batman wears when tuning up the batmobile?

This is done to such a degree that a big Easter Egg in one scene flew right by me unnoticed, even though I was looking straight at it. The scene in question shows Bruce Wayne in the batcave as he walks by a dark costume encased in glass and defaced with a spray-painted taunt from the Joker. I just naturally assumed it was one of Batman’s old costumes (the dude has a thing for saving memorabilia, after all). It wasn’t until I saw a still of that scene a few days later when I realized, “Holy crap – that’s ROBIN’s costume!” (and that makes it a big moment for fans who know that in the comics, Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd, was brutally killed by the Joker). But, with all of its signature red and yellow leeched out, the Robin costume was barely recognizable, unless you managed to notice the barely discernable “R” emblem (and if you weren’t too distracted with trying to read the Joker’s message).

And then as if things weren’t dark enough, we’re given a final climatic fight with three of the most dour-looking superheroes taking on a CGI monstrosity in the middle of what appears to be a maelstrom of mud, dirt and rock. Ugh.

And this look parallels the feel of the film itself. In fact, the last five major DC films (The Dark Knight TrilogyMan of Steel, BvS) have all been colourless, joyless affairs – and if this is the type of cinematic universe DC wants to create, I’m not sure if I want to be a part of it.

No

No

Lex Luthor – While some problem areas of the film are tolerable, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Superman’s arch enemy, is not. Who would ever think it would be a good idea to take the confident, arrogant and formidable evil entrepreneur that is Lex Luthor and turn him into a jittery, twitchy, incessantly rambling scientific genius with unresolved daddy issues who constantly appears to be one facial tic away from being fitted for a strait-jacket? The makers of this film, that’s who.

Bodycount Batman – If you’re making a Batman movie, the one thing you for sure do NOT want to do is make your Batman into someone who states that we should just straight-up kill someone even if we are only 1% sure that he could become an unstoppable threat – and then have that Batman soullessly and needlessly gun down, stab and kill a number of hired bad guys who are more or less just in his way. Not cool, Bat-bro, not cool.

The Title Conflict – I have a few big issues stemming from this, so let me break ‘em down for you:

1  First off, the “hero vs hero” is not only a long-standing trope in comics, but as of late, it has become one of the most overused tropes (there’s so much I can say about this, I may actually do another whole post about it). Case in point – Spring 2016 not only brings us Batman v Superman, but also Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, featuring Team Captain America v Team Iron Man, as well as DC Entertainment’s animated release, Justice League vs Teen Titans. *Sigh* can’t everyone just get along? (Answer: Of course not, because comics).

2  Next up, this statement: For generations, comic book fans have always asked – ‘who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman?’  – which has appeared in one form or another in so many pieces about the movie. This seems to infer that the film is finally giving  the fans something they have wanted to see for decades. Well, not so much. Because you know who asks that kind of question? Kids. Little kids ask that question. Older fans don’t ask that question because they know they can find a dozen different instances where that scenario has already been played out in various comics and graphic novels over the years. And the fans also know that while they do tend to make for some good reading, ultimately, they don’t end up mattering in the big scheme of things. That’s what makes the first cinematic pairing of DC’s two most popular heroes so frustrating – because without even seeing the movie we all know that no matter the outcome of this conflict, the end result will be Bats and Supes buddying up going forward (thanks in no small part to DC’s well-publicized announcements of two upcoming Justice League films and a slate of solo spinoffs).

3  Which brings me to this point – the film’s reason behind the “hero vs hero” conflict. Generally these conflicts can make for a good comic book story because they are usually the result of one of the following scenarios:

  • two heroes/teams meeting for the first time and mistakenly think each other is the enemy
  • a hero/team is forced to turn against their comrades (eg., via mind control, or in order to ensure the safety of innocents)
  • a controversial choice is made or stand is taken that divides heroes and ultimately makes them fight for what they think is right.

But none of these hold true for Batman v Superman.

The heroes whole conflict is because Bat-Douche thinks the Son of Krypton is an irresponsible threat to civilians and Super-Smug thinks the Dark Knight is ruthless vigilante meting out his own sadistic brand of justice. They are both aware of one another, but don’t know each other – so of course, neither try to approach the other and say, “Hey dude, we both want to stop evil, but I think you should maybe check yourself a bit, y’know?” Instead, they just start right in with the fisty-punchy ka-pows and the bang-bang-zappy. (Superman does try for one brief second to reason with Batman, but then gets sucker bat-punched and goes off the rails…again).

So, the title conflict is ultimately between two heroes who have both been in the wrong with their actions – but are blind to it. They only think that it is the other who needs to be held accountable for what they’ve wrought, when in fact they both do. There’s no side to root for and no real resolution to their fight. They finally switch from bitter enemies to battle buddies after realizing that they’ve been played by Luthor and trudge off to join what really should have been the title bout of Dawn of Justice:

Wonder Woman v Doomsday!

Final Verdict – Pros v Cons: Cons

 

Batman v Superman: Pros v Cons (Part I)

BvSposterIt has been just under a week since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice punched it’s way to a record-breaking box office debut (as of this writing, the film’s worldwide grosses have just passed the half a billion mark) and a lot of talk has been made about the reception of the film. It certainly hasn’t won over the critics, as the overall consensus has been resoundingly poor (it currently sits at 29% “fresh” on the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and has an average score of 44/100 over on Metacritic). There has been a lot of buzz-speak against this fact, and about how the film was “not made for the critics” but is a “film for the fans”.

But is it really? I’m a comic book fan, and while I didn’t think it was a “bad” film, I did think it was really “meh” – because even though it is mostly well-made and has its share of good moments, I found that there were a lot of problems story-wise as well as stylistically – and overall it’s definitely not the type of film I was ever hoping a Batman/Superman team-up would be. And even though the audience may have turned out in droves to support its debut, it seemed they left  mostly feeling “meh” as well (Cinemascore had viewers giving the film an overall “B” rating –  but also noting that this came partly from a  balanced amount of “A” and “C” grades given, and not simply a majority of “B” grades). It would appear then, that just as many movie-goers are enjoying the film as those who are not, while the remaining group doesn’t see much difference either way.

So, in the spirit of pitting two forces against one another, I’m going to dive a little deeper into my own views on the film and do a two-part Pros v Cons of Batman v Superman. Up first, the Pros!

Pros

Addressing the destruction in Man of Steel – By opening the film with a civilians-eye view of the destruction in Metropolis caused during Man of Steel‘s climatic fight between Superman and Zod, the film addresses head-on the biggest problem point of that film – that hundreds, if not thousands of innocent bystanders would have been killed during their battle, and no one seemed to bat an eyelash about it, most especially Superman himself. This time around we see the affect it had on those caught in the catastrophe, including one Bruce Wayne.

Wonder Woman – The long overdue big screen debut of the Amazing Amazon didn’t disappoint – the only problem being that there wasn’t enough of her, with her barely-there subplot only serving to set up future films. But still, when Gal Gadot finally suited up to join the fight against Doomsday, my face cracked the smile that had been absent from minute one of watching the film. And that smile was also due in part to…

Wonder Woman’s theme – Junkie XL collaborating on the score with Hans Zimmer seemed like an odd choice, but when Wonder Woman finally appeared, all armoured-up and backed by this jacked-up, synthesized, pulsating orchestration, it was just all kinds of right.

Batman_v_Superman_Dawn_of_Justice_WW

And just like that, the movie suddenly gets a whole lot better

Alfred – Comic book fans have known for years that Alfred is more than just a butler and surrogate father, he’s a bad-ass dude in his own right. It was refreshing to see Jeremy Irons’ portrayal of him was more as Bruce Wayne’s tech-savvy right-hand man, fully capable of tasks like drone-piloting the Batwing, than just as someone who simply buttles and tut-tuts.

The Batcave – Having the entrance to the Batcave be hidden in the middle of lake that magically parts like the Red Sea when the batmobile launches over it was the kind of stuff we needed more of – it’s a little nod to the past (in this case the 60’s Batman series with the cave entrance hidden behind a false cliffside) that’s also modern enough to give you one of those fun “oh, cool!” superhero moments that are largely lacking otherwise in the film.

The introduction of the other future Justice Leaguers – With every new hero that was announced for this film – Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg – it seemed like DC Entertainment and Warner Bros were so desperate to play catch-up to Marvel’s cinematic universe that they were going to overstuff this movie with too many points of focus. Luckily, these three heroes were all only seen briefly (apart from Flash’s cryptic cameo in the Batcave) on a few minutes of surveillance footage – with only  minimal dialogue and explanation – just a teaser of what we can expect to see of them sometime down the road.

Up next: The Cons!

Alternate Oscars and Other Dubious Distinctions

As this year’s Academy Awards ceremony fast approaches, all signs point to it being a more “heavier” ceremony, what with boycotts and the ongoing issues with diversity, so I thought I would try and lighten things up a bit.

(Serious Sidebar – for the record, my view is yes – the Academy membership needs to be shaken up, but the reason for the lack of nominations for people of colour should not be focused so much on #OscarsSoWhite, but rather more on #FilmsSoWhite. The Academy has proven many times that it does recognize and award performances by people of colour – but the problem is that there needs to be more of these diverse performances in general. Film studios need to be casting more of their films with a colour-blind eye in order for change to really happen. Okay, serious stuff over).

Anyway, as I was saying – I’m just here to have a little fun with the Oscars right now. And to do so, I decided to create some frivolous Academy Award categories of my own, as well as some special achievement awards for some very special films, indeed.

And now, the (not really an) Oscar goes to…

Best Performance by Supporting Characters in a Lead Role

The Minions in Minions

Best Performance by a Lead Character in a Supporting Role

Tom Hardy as Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Performance by Channing Tatum as a sexy beast (figuratively)

As the titular stripper in Magic Mike XXL

Best Performance by Channing Tatum as a sexy beast (literally)

As Caine, the alien/dog hybrid bounty hunter in Jupiter Ascending

Outstanding Mascot of the Year (animal)

Bears (The Revenant, Ted 2, Paddington)

Outstanding Mascot of the Year (non-animal)

Droids (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Outstanding Achievement in Title Punctuation (cumulative work)

The colon (:)

The saviour of number-prone sequel titles, the colon was used in the titles of no less than 14 films released in 2015 (only one of which, Kingsman: The Secret Service, was a non-sequel/non-franchise film)

Outstanding Achievement in Title Punctuation (individual)

The period (.)

There’s nothing like a snappy acronym, and the period pulled quintuple duty to draw attention to the one in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Best-Titled Sequel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This and Jurassic World were the only sequels released in 2015 that eschewed both colons and numeric designations, but the edge goes to Hotel for craftily working into its title the fact that it’s the second Marigold Hotel movie

Worst-Titled Sequel

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Both this and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation employed punctuation overkill with the combination of colon + dash, but only M:I – RN gets a pass, since the colon is part of its original tile. The Hunger Games however goes for the unnecessary overkill. Pro-tip: if you are including a numeric designation in your title, you don’t need to further separate it with any punctuation (even if there’s already a colon in play, which is amazingly something that Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 got right)

Best Film To Demonstrate Everything Wrong With Reboots, Superhero Films and Reboots of Superhero Films

Fantastic 4

Say what you will about the goofy Jessica Alba Fantastic Four films – at least they gave us an FF that was an actual superhero team using their super powers to do super-heroey things. In this desperate cash grab/film rights extender, we were supposedly getting a “grittier” version of the FF, but what we got was a sullen, sulky batch of millennials who spend almost the entire movie indoors (or in a dismal, dark otherworldy dimension) working on science stuff, bickering , walking down hallways and acting angsty. It was the film equivalent of someone shrugging their shoulders.

Best Anti-Tourism Film for a Title Location

San Andreas  (“Come for the great weather, stay because the earth cracked open and swallowed you up)
Everest  (“Come for the breath-taking views, stay because the altitude is also breath-taking, so now you’re dead.”)
Brooklyn (“Come to 1950s Brooklyn and see how charming, clean and pretty it is, stay because it’s 1950s Brooklyn and you’re stranded because smartphones, wi-fi, GPS and Uber haven’t been invented yet”)

Most Misleading Titles of the Year

Magic Mike XXL…the “XXL” was only in reference to the film’s running time
Trainwreck…was not a locomotive-based disaster flick
Ricki and the Flash…was not about a former talk show host who teams up with a superhero speedster

Least Creative Titles of the Year (aka “Titles that could also be MadLibs answers”)

Home
Room
Spy
Joy

And finally, a Special Award going to the year itself, 2015, for:

Outstanding Achievement in Box Office – Worst Wide Openings

A “wide opening” film is a film that debuts on at least 2,000 screens. 2015 saw the release of not one, not two, but FOUR wide opening films that did so bad that they all managed to land in the Top 20 on the list of films with the all-time worst opening-weekend box office grosses (the most of any year represented on the list).

Even more incredible is that three of the films, Jem and the Holograms ($1.37mil), Rock The Kasbah ($1.47mil) and We Are Your Friends ($1.76mil) charged in right to the top tier, nabbing the fourth, fifth and sixth slots. 2015’s other entry on the list, Victor Frankenstein, just barely sneaked in at number 19 ($2.46).

And so, by producing not only some of the biggest box-office blockbusters of all time like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 …but also some of the biggest flops of all time as well, 2015 showed that it truly was a diverse year for movies!

Congrats, 2015!