Review: Mapplethorpe

Starring Matt Smith

Review: Wonder Park

Featuring the Voices of Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner, and John Oliver

Review: Greta

Starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz

Review: Captain Marvel

Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jude Law

Review: Gloria Bell

Starring Julianne Moore


Zack Snyder Is Still Out There Defending His Violent Take On Batman And All Superheroes

Zack Snyder has been quite vocal about what his version of the DCEU might have been if allowed to continue on, but the simple fact is audience didn't respond to his grim 'n gritty take on DC's superheroes. Personally, I found his version of Superman to be quite inspiring in Man of Steel, and didn't mind that he killed because it led to his understanding of the consequences of doing so. Snyder's Batman also had its merits, but audiences clearly did not like the violence attributed to his take on the Dark Knight.

It's funny that, as Warner Bros. embarks on their most light-hearted movie yet with Shazam (my review here), Snyder is out and defending his approach to superheroes, which is that they are killers and folks should just deal with that.  The director was attending a Director's Cut event that gave us a #SnyderCut nobody really asked for, and an attendee captured what appears to be a defensive rant...

“Someone says to me, ‘Batman killed a guy.’ I’m like, ‘fuck, really? Wake the fuck up,’” explained Snyder. “I guess that’s what I’m saying. Once you’ve lost your virginity to this fucking movie and then you come and say to me something about like, ‘My superhero wouldn’t do that.’ I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’ I’m like down the fucking road on that.”

“It’s a cool point of view to be like, ‘My heroes are still innocent. My heroes didn’t fucking lie to America. My heroes didn’t embezzle money from their corporations. My heroes didn’t fucking commit any atrocities.’ That’s cool. But you’re living in a fucking dream world.”

I mean, damn Snyder. Okay, so on the one hand I get what Snyder is trying to do. He's trying to put these iconic characters in a modern context and the world is pretty damned grim out there. Snyder thinks all of these heroes that we would normally look up would be just as corrupt as any other person with power is. That's a take that should have him directing episodes of The Boys, but not Superman movies.

But I think Snyder operates on extremes when there should be a middle ground. Marvel managed to inject modern day fears into their movies, most notably Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, while still presenting the Avengers as heroes to be respected.

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Review: 'Shazam', Lightning Strikes In DC's Most Fun Superhero Movie Yet

No other movie encapsulates the change in tone of Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe than Shazam, a wholly enjoyable ode to the comic books of our childhood that inspired a sense of hope and wonder. Not to further chop down the Zack Snyder era, but this truly feels like a turning of the page that started with Wonder Woman and continued with Aquaman. Slowly but surely, the DCEU is becoming a place where superhero movies can just be fun again, and a reminder of why we fell in love with comic books in the first place.

Shazam is a firm reminder that comic books, and in particular superheroes, were created to inspire the imaginations of kids. We've all sat around the lunchroom table and talked about what it would be like to get super powers; what kind of hero we'd be. For Billy Batson (Asher Angel), that wish comes true although it's not something he ever wished for. Billy's an orphan, a particularly trouble-making one who has run away from multiple foster homes. It's shortly after being place in his latest home, a Full House situation if there ever was one, that he is zapped from a chase by schoolyard bullies and into the wizard Shazam's (Djimon Hounsou) realm. Weak and near death, Shazam needs a champion to pass his powers on to, someone pure of heart. Considering the things we've already seen Billy do up to this point, it's debatable whether he qualifies, but Shazam is desperate. Billy passes the test and transforms in to the new adult-sized Shazam, who now looks 100% like Chuck star Zachary Levi.

We've never seen an origin story quite like this on the big screen. Taking its cues from Tom Hanks' Big and other light-hearted nostalgia flicks, Shazam finds Billy bumbling through being both an adult and a hero with incredible powers he has yet to figure out. He turns to the only person he knows who can help, his disabled, equally-trouble-making foster brother Freddie Freeman (a terrific Jack Dylan Grazer) who knows what this superhero thing is all about. And they do what any kid would do who suddenly looked grown up. They exploit it, buying alcohol and hitting a strip joint. But Freddie also tries to teach Billy how to use his powers, with hilariously disastrous results that are all captured and marketed on YouTube turning them into celebrities. But is using these gifts, which include flight, strength, invulnerability, and electricity, to become famous the most responsible thing to do? What would Superman think? Or Batman, for that matter?

While neither Superman or Batman appears in Shazam, their influence is felt both on a visual level (sight gags abound!!!) and on a thematic level. Both heroes serve as guideposts to the kind of hero the world needs for Billy to become, but his path to getting there is vastly different than theirs. Of the recent superhero movies the one Shazam reminds me most of is Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where the family structure, or lack thereof in Billy's case, prove pivotal to their development. For Billy, the selfishness and anger he displays is a mask to hide his insecurities and feelings of abandonment. While he may not accept it at first, it's the loving attention of his new family (including precious kid sister Darla Dudley played by scene-stealer Faithe Herman) that sets him on the right path.

On the wrong path is villain Thaddeus Sivana, played by Mark Strong. Sivana is someone who knows all too well the gifts the wizard Shazam can bestow or deny, having been tested once himself as a child. As an adult he's sworn to get those powers, and eventually calls for the Seven Deadly Sins, grotesque creatures bent on destroying the Earth and all humanity. It's strike two for Strong in playing DC supervillains, after his Sinestro in Green Lantern was so lame. Sivana is pretty bland, overall, and by far the least interesting aspect of Billy Batson's adventures as Shazam. To be fair, Marvel hasn't quite nailed the villain thing, either, with only Killmonger, Thanos, and Loki measuring up as complex characters. Sivana does take the story into some truly dark places, though, which can be jarring considering the tone for much of the film is the opposite.

Having never watched Chuck I wasn't as sold on Zachary Levi in the role of Shazam, but it didn't take long to convince me. His boyish persona preceded him, of course, and it fits him as perfect as Shazam's muscle-suit. He has terrific chemistry with Grazer, whose Freddie Freeman is a jumbled mix of sarcasm and resentment, but also loyalty which he shows to Billy and the rest of his family on multiple occasions.

I could complain that far too many of the funniest scenes were spoiled by trailers, but there are plenty more that haven't been shown yet. And the film runs long, clocking in at 132 minutes which is absurd for a movie geared towards kids. You feel that runtime, too; there are definitely momentum issues when director David F. Sandberg and screenwriter Henry Gayden try to embrace too much of the Shazam mythos. It's not necessary and the pace drags as a result. Easily about 30 minutes could've been cut to make a leaner, more accessible movie that won't have the kids restless in their seats.

The final battle with Sivana is fast, funny, and full of great surprises. Don't let anybody spoil it. You won't have seen a fight between superhero and supervillain quite like it, that much I can promise. With heart and imagination to spare, Shazam is the real deal and you shouldn't miss it. All you have to do is say his name.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

New Scooby-Doo Movie Casts Zac Efron And Amanda Seyfried As Fred And Daphne

The Mystery Inc. gang is going to have an all-new look in Warner Bros.' animated Scooby-Doo movie. Longtime voice actor Matthew Lillard is gone as Shaggy (and he's not happy about it), replaced by Will Forte; Frank Welker is back voicing his pal Scooby as he's done since 2002, and Gina Rodriguez was recently cast as team brain, Velma. We now also know who will be voicing the team's final two members, Fred and Daphne, as well as the movie's shortened new title.

Zac Efron and Amanda Seyfried have joined the cast of Scoob, playing Fred and Daphne, respectively. Yes, Scoob appears to be the title according to Deadline. Not sure what the point of that is other than to alienate the very fans who would even want to see a Scooby-Doo movie. Whatever. Anyway, Efron and Seyfried are good choices for those characters. Fred is the de facto leader of the team, well-dressed in his ascot and with perfect hair. Daphne began as something of a ditz attached at the hip to Fred, but in latter seasons grew into a stronger, more independent woman.

This version of Scooby-Doo will include other Hanna-Barbera characters such as Captain Caveman, who will be voiced by Tracy Nelson. The film will open on May 15th 2020 with Tony Cervone directing.


Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Shocks With Record-Breaking $70M Debut

1. Us (review)- $70.2M
The anticipation for Jordan Peele's sophomore effort, Us, was greater than anything I've ever seen for a director's followup to a horror movie. But that was the cultural impact of 2017's Get Out that Peele has so quickly become a director whose films are appointment viewing. Us had a record-breaking debut over the weekend with a massive $70.25M, more than double Get Out's $33M launch. It's biggest premiere weekend ever for an original horror movie. That's also more than triple the film's meager $20M budget, and the second-largest debut ever for an original live-action movie. It's also further evidence that movies featuring mostly black casts can be tremendously successful, following on the trend started by Black Panther. Peele is out here creating movies audiences have never seen before, and it's the kind of thing we always say we want more of yet fail to support. But Peele has tapped into something and it's safe to say all eyes will be on what he does next.
2. Captain Marvel- $35M/$321.4M
Captain Marvel continues to soar, adding another $35M to give it $321M domestic. Worldwide the $1B mark looks like a certainty, with $910M earned in only three weeks!
3. Wonder Park- $9M/$29.4M
4. Five Feet Apart- $8.7M/$26.4M
5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World- $6.5M/$145.7M
6. A Madea Family Funeral- $4.5M/$65.8M
7. Gloria Bell (review)- $1.8M/$2.4M
Expanding into just over 650 theaters is the Julianne Moore-fronted drama Gloria Bell, with $1.8M.  The film is a remake of the acclaimed 2013 film, written and directed by the same filmmaker, Sebastian Lelio. Moore plays a middle-aged divorcee who is adventurous in getting her love life back on track. It's a good movie and targets an audience that is rarely catered to these days. I'll be curious to see if it expands further.
8. No Manches Frida 2- $1.7M/$6.6M
9. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part- $1.1M/$103.3M
10. Alita: Battle Angel- $1M/$83.7M

'Dora The Explorer And The Lost City Of Gold' Trailer: This Is Not The Dora You Grew Up With

A Dora the Explorer live-action movie is a real thing that is happening, and honestly, I've been kinda fascinated by it. Nickelodeon's educational series about the quest-loving Latina doesn't exactly scream for a blockbuster movie, and that may be why the trailer is so very different. With Sicario 2's Isabela Moner in the title role, Dora has been aged up into a teenager and her journey looks like a cross between Tarzan and Tomb Raider.

The whole junior Tomb Raider vibe is prevalent, but also a fish-out-of-water storyline that finds Dora failing to assimilate with "regular" teens after spending most of her life in the jungle. When her parents, played by Michael Pena and Eva Longoria, get lost while looking for the legendary Lost City of Gold, Dora and her cousin Diego, along with her pet monkey Boots voiced by Danny Trejo (!!!) take on the task of finding them. Oh, and the foxy villain Swiper is voiced by Benicio Del Toro. 

Directed by James Bobin (The Muppets) with Eugenio Derbez, Adriana Barraza, Temuera Morrison, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, and Madeleine Madden co-starring, Dora the Explorer and the Lost City of Gold opens August 2nd. 


Idris Elba Joins 'Mouse Guard' As An Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque Rodent

Idris Elba isn't just a great actor, he's also a great voice actor and has kept him busy voicing characters in The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, and Zootopia. Well now you can add another animal role to his credit, as Elba is joining the cast of Wes Ball's graphic novel adaptation of Mouse Guard, voicing a mentor figure ala Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Elba is joining a cast that recently added motion-capture master Andy Serkis and The Maze Runner's Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the latter reuniting with his director of that film. The movie is based on David Peterson's comic set in a medieval world where a group of mouse warriors protects their people from outside threats. Elba will play Celanawe, an Obi-Wan mentor-like figure who was previously a legendary champion and who was thought to have vanished a long time ago.  Serkis has the role of Midnight, a blacksmith who betrays his own people, while Brodie-Sangster is the young warrior Lieam.  Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) is listed as a producer.

Interestingly, Elba will soon play the mouse's natural enemy, a feline, in Thomas Hooper's big screen version of Cats. He can be seen right now in his new Netflix comedy series, Turn Up Charlie.  Production on Mouse Guard begins in May. [THR]


DC Readers: Win Passes To A Free Screening Of Disney's Live-Action 'Dumbo'

We're happy to offer our DC readers the chance to attend a free early screening of Disney's live-action Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton. The film stars Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, and Eva Green.

SYNOPSIS: From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

The screening takes place on Tuesday, March 26th at AMC Mazza Gallerie at 7:00pm. If you'd like to enter, complete the Rafflecopter form below. Winners will receive a 4-pack of passes, so please bring your family or friends!

Dumbo opens in theaters on March 29th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

'Unicorn Store' Trailer: Brie Larson's Whimsical Directorial Debut Heads To Netflix

Eager for a reunion of Captain Marvel duo Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson? They did have hella chemistry in the superhero flick, but the next time they're together won't be to save the MCU (probably, can't speak for Avengers: Endgame) but in Larson's directorial debut, Unicorn Store, which has just dropped a rainbow-colored new trailer.

Larson directs and stars in the film which debuted at TIFF and was recently picked up by Netflix.  The story, penned by Samantha McIntyre , follows a whimsical dreamer who discovers a hidden store that offers her the one thing she's always wanted: her very own unicorn.

A long time in the works, Rebel Wilson was originally attached to star with Miguel Arteta behind the camera. With Larson's Oscar-winning profile and recent work with Marvel, there's guaranteed to be more eyes on this movie now.  

Also starring Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie, Karan Soni, and Hamish Linklater, Unicorn Store hits Netflix on April 5th. 

Review: 'The Highwaymen', It's The Bonnie & Clyde Story Only Much Slower

Former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault are undoubtedly to be considered heroes, but ask people who they are and 99% probably wouldn't have a clue. And those who do only see them as asterisks in the prolific criminal career of infamous duo Bonnie & Clyde. In Arthur Penn's seminal 1967 film about the crime spree Hamer and Gault are basically portrayed as rigid but bumbling lawmen who lucked into the biggest kills of their careers. By most accounts that wasn't the least bit true, and The Highwaymen, a film with quite a history behind it, attempts to set the record straight about Hamer and Gault in the least exciting way possible.

The Highwaymen is the passion project of writer John Fusco, who didn't like that Penn's movie glorified Bonnie & Clyde while making Hamer look like a keystone cop. Originally set to star legendary actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman, which should give you an idea how long it's been sitting around, the job eventually went to Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. Costner, who knows a thing or two about playing straight-laced lawmen, has aged well into the role of Hamer, pulled out of retirement by Texas governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) to end Bonnie & Clyde's killing spree, once and for all. For help he turns to his old pal Gault (Harrelson) who besides moving with the speed of a kneecapped turtle is conflicted about the lethal justice he handed out back in the day.

There's a certain amount of righteousness in what Fusco and John Lee Hancock are doing. Undoubtedly, Bonnie & Clyde have been hailed as Robin Hoods of their era, stealing from the rich as defenders of the poor. The Highwaymen comments on their celebrity by stripping all of it away. We rarely see the outlaws at all, even during a daring jailbreak that kicks off the story. They are instead treated as simply cold blooded murderers, in particular Bonnie who laughs with glee as she shoots police officers pointblank in the face. There's nothing to celebrate about them, which is why their pursuers are galled to see scores of people dressed like these wanted felons. It's a world Hamer and Gault no longer can fathom, where violence has given birth to a strange fandom where cruelty is to be celebrated. Like Tommie Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, they seem lost in a place where chaos rules and good men live in shadow. The irony, and perhaps the film's truest touch of conflict, is that Hamer and Gault have killed for morally dubious reasons themselves, and are being charged with doing so again. How are they any better than their intended targets? Violent tales of their past don't make them out to be heroes, just men doing their jobs.

Of course, a big strong Texas man like Hamer internalizes everything, and The Highwaymen features many a scene of him staring off into the dusty distance. The manhunt itself moves at a crawl, but as Hamer pieces together through various clues the path of his prey it establishes him as a real investigator of some merit. The crime procedural aspects are illuminating, showing us a side to the story that we knew little about, but it's delivered with all of the thrill of a Wikipedia entry.

Costner and Harrelson's gruff, unromantic performances are exactly what the roles call for, and they match Hancock's unsentimental, no frills direction. The chemistry between both leads is there, but you wish there was something in the script that helped one of them to shine. It feels like we've seen Costner play this tough hero role before, probably because he has for most of his career. And we've now reached the point where Harrelson seems to be directly commenting on his earlier, edgier performances. Twenty years ago he was part of the sexed-up Bonnie & Clyde duo of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, now he's the angry senior citizen hoping to give those young whippersnappers what for.

The Highwaymen isn't exactly invigorating stuff, but it works as a rational counterpoint to the Bonnie & Clyde myth we all grew up hearing about. While Costner and Harrelson do their level best and put some shine on the agents who brought them to justice, by the end it's clear why Hollywood hasn't been racing to bring their story to the screen.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Macon Blair To Direct Reboot Of 'The Toxic Avenger' For Legendary

The legions of Troma fans now know who will be directing the return of its most famous character, The Toxic Avenger! Variety reports multi-talented actor and filmmaker Macon Blair will direct the upcoming reboot of the 1984 "classic".

Blair is probably best known for his roles in Jeremy Saulnier's films Blue Ruin and Green Room, but he turned his attentions to directing with 2017's I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore. Blair will also write the script for The Toxic Avenger, with Troma's Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz producing. The project is set up at Legendary, which has me dreaming of a Toxic Avenger/Godzilla crossover someday.

The 1984 cult classic was set in the fictional town of Tromaville, where a bullied janitor at a health club is chased out of a second-story window into a drum of toxic waste. The mix of chemicals transforms him into the superhuman Toxic Avenger, which he uses to fight crime and defend the weak against other bullies. The film sparked a number of sequels, all goofier than the next.  Toxie became so popular he helped launch an animated series, a video game, and even a musical.

A previous attempt to launch a remake had Sausage Party director Conrad Vernon attached, but that obviously fell through. Blair hasn't done a ton of directing but I was impressed by the offbeat nature of his directorial debut, and he should be a good pick for updating The Toxic Avenger.