Unfortunately, the new Hellboy is noise and gore signifying nothing

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There’s a scene about midway through Hellboy in which a giant sword goes through a monster’s head, virtually splitting it in half, unleashing a reservoir of blood, and showing some of the blood and brains underneath the skull. While taking in that moment, I thought to myself, “I think that’s what watching this movie feels like.”

I was rooting for the 2019 reboot of Hellboy. It was going to be too easy to dismiss this movie and say Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman did it better — twice — without even seeing this new version. But the wave of early reviews seemed to confirm what so many feared when this project was announced. Was there really any point to reviving Hellboy if there wasn’t anything new to offer?

Part of the sales pitch for this new Hellboy, directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour, is that the movie would be based more closely on the source comic books by Mike Mignola (although Del Toro’s 2004 film had elements from the comics as well) and that will always make fans’ horns point a bit higher. Mignola himself seemed to endorse that narrative, which implied that Del Toro took his movies in a slightly different direction from the comic books.

Read the full review here

Shazam! stands out by embracing what makes the superhero fun

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With one magic word, Shazam! keeps the fun train rolling for the DC cinematic universe. DC was already on the right track with the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but taking a chance with a B-list (maybe even C-list) character who had a chance to reach a younger audience might have derailed that momentum.

Some fans and critics might feel like DC’s big-screen product won’t be fully established until the big names like Batman and Superman have been restored, and the cinematic universe is on a path to getting the band together in another Justice League film. But Marvel seized the superhero movie pedestal with lesser characters and by creating a slow build that stoked anticipation for a big payoff.

Another reason that Marvel has succeeded while so many other studios and franchises have failed in trying to build a cinematic universe is its realization that many different types of stories and genres could be featured within a superhero universe. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man resonated with audiences because they were comedies as much as blockbuster spectacles. Humor has always been the honeypot for these movies.

Read the full review here

Diving deep into the Batcave on Batman's 80th anniversary

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A few months ago, my nieces stopped over for a visit. With their mother around, watching TV or playing with the iPad wasn’t an option. So the kids went to Uncle Ian’s room to find some toys to play with or books to read.

While we were doodling on sketch pads, Junior Niece asked me, “Why do you like Batman so much?” What do you mean, kid? Why do you ask think I like Batman?She then took some Blu-rays from my TV stand and set them down in front of me. Hmm, the kid had a point.

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She definitely caught on to a theme. And that pile didn’t even include the Justice League and Batman v Superman discs that were also on the stand. Or the many other DVDs/Blu-rays I keep in a folder. She continued to bring me things scattered throughout the room.

Read the full post here

Us will creep you out and is packed with ideas, but lacks satisfying scares

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Whether or not you consider Us a scary movie depends on your personal preferences. If “scary” means making you jump in your seat, shielding yourself with the person sitting next to you, or screaming out loud, you might be disappointed with Jordan Peele’s latest film.

But Us is most certainly creepy, with imagery that might live inside your head for a while and revisit when you close your eyes. The broken mirror doubles that a family suddenly encounters are chilling, a credit to make-up and costuming as well some fantastic acting — both in a physical and psychological sense — from the cast.

Following Get Out, Peele has made another thinking person’s horror film. No, Us probably won’t resonate the way his first effort did. And the story’s resolution doesn’t feel as satisfying. That might compel some fans and critics to use terms like “sophomore slump” in critiquing this movie. But Peele deserves credit for not repeating himself here, something that surely would’ve been easy to do.

Read the full review here

Highlights from final Avengers: Endgame trailer - Blasts from the past, new haircuts, Quantum suits, and Captain Marvel

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Surprise, surprise, surprise! Should we have expected a final trailer for Avengers: Endgame six weeks before the Marvel superhero epic hits theaters? Three trailers is usually the standard, and we’ve already seen one teaser and a Super Bowl ad, so maybe a third look at Endgame was inevitable.

It’s also possible that Marvel wanted to bounce off the Captain Marvel springboard and remind everyone — if anyone wasn’t actually aware — that far bigger things are on the way in the world of the Avengers and the newest hero we were just introduced to plays a role in that story.

Like with the previous teasers for Endgame, there’s a dark, somber tone here. Our heroes have been defeated and the bad guy won. Is a comeback and retaliation possible? If Captain Marvel taught us anything, it’s that the hero’s journey is often getting up after being knocked down. We don’t know who’s making it out of this story alive, and some of our favorite characters likely won’t, but they’re not going down without a fight. (And it looks like there’s a big one on some devastated, fiery landscape.)

Interestingly, we don’t see Thanos at all here. But we know he’s the reason for all of this. Maybe that does raise the question as to whether or not another threat is at hand. Can there really be a bigger adversary than Thanos? (And for that matter, where are the Guardians of the Galaxy other than Rocket and Nebula? Did their role in Endgame change when James Gunn was fired from GotG, Vol. 3?)

As we like to do for big trailers (especially for superhero movies), here are some takeaways from this final preview of Avengers: Endgame before we’re served the whole enchilada:

These Guys Have Come a Long Way

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The first thing we see in the trailer is Tony Stark in the Afghanistan desert, the remains of his Mark I Iron Man suit scattered across the sand after he escaped from The Ten Rings. Now he’s broadcasting (or recording) a message to Pepper Potts across galaxies with his Mark L helmet.

Then we’re taken back to skinny Steve Rogers in 1942, yearning to join the Army and fight in World War II but deemed too frail for battle. Nearly 80 years later, he’s the quintessential superhero, leading a group of heroes — all of which are more powerful than he is — into the ultimate battle.

Later, we’re reminded of how much Thor’s world has changed. Once the heir to the throne of Asgard and an admiring son to Odin, Thor has lost virtually everything. Asgard is gone. Odin appears to be dead. Mjolnir has been destroyed. And his hair is much shorter.

How often have we seen characters develop and evolve across a multi-film arc of stories like this?

What’s Happened to Hawkeye?

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Hawkeye was curiously missing from Avengers: Infinity War, presumably retired after the events of Captain America: Civil War, which left him jailed and away from his family. We saw a glimpse of him in the first Endgame trailer, sporting a sword and new costume in what’s likely the Ronin identity he assumed in the comic books.

The scene of Clint Barton tutoring his daughter in archery is an allusion to the family he lost when Thanos eliminated half the universe. With his family gone, he’s apparently become something else — something Black Widow is visibly upset to see. Judging from the shot of him shooting arrows again later in the trailer, he becomes Hawkeye (with a mohawk) again. Will he get his family — or his hair — back?

Black Widow Goes Back to Red

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OK, it’s probably sexist to highlight Black Widow’s hair, and not anyone else’s appearance. (Although Thor’s haircut was noted earlier in this post.) But what is going on there? Natasha Romanoff has gone through several hairstyles throughout the Avengers and Captain America films.

When we last saw her, she’d gone platinum blonde with shorter hair. Now we see her apparently growing her hair back out, likely an indication that a significant chunk of time had passed. (Hey, Steve Rogers shaved his beard off too.) Maybe Natasha has become Bonnie Raitt in the post-Thanos world.

Off to the Quantum Realm?

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Ever since the release of Ant-Man in 2015, fans have speculated as to what role the Quantum Realm will play in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was wrong to guess that it would tie in with Doctor Strange. Many others thought there might be a connection to Captain Marvel.

However, the Quantum Realm almost certainly plays a role in Endgame. We know Scott Lang was trapped there at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, but he’s returned home based on his presence in the Endgame trailers. But how did he get back and what may he have found there — even unwittingly — that might help the Avengers defeat Thanos?

The merchandising for Endgame revealed the new suits that the Avengers would wear in the movie. (Unless the new looks were simply a means to sell toys.) Even the Hulk — who might be digitally hidden here — wears one in some of the marketing that’s been revealed. Is there a practical reason for the suits, such as surviving in the Quantum Realm? Based on set photos, it also appears that a time-travel element is part of this story. Does that happen through the Quantum Realm?

Another notable glimpse: Tony Stark and Nebula are with the gang here, so either they were rescued from space or made it back to Earth on their own somehow.

There She Is, Captain Marvel

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We’ll try to avoid spoilers if you still haven’t seen Captain Marvel (although we’d love for you to listen to our special episode on the movie or check out my written review), but the movie serves as both an introduction to Carol Danvers and something of a prequel to Avengers: Endgame. Of course, the timing of Captain Marvel’s release isn’t a coincidence. Marvel’s newest hero is part of the Endgame storyline and possibly the key to the Avengers defeating Thanos.

So it’s really not a spoiler to say that Danvers eventually meets up with the Avengers. After all, we saw Nick Fury’s signal go out to her at the end of Infinity War. What we know now is that Carol got the signal and is ready to join the fight. But the Avengers have no idea who she is and Fury isn’t around to vouch for her. The same goes for Carol; she doesn’t know these people and the world has obviously changed very much in her 24 years away from Earth.

Thor tries to test her by whizzing Stormbreaker past her head, and Carol doesn’t flinch. That’s apparently enough to impress the god of thunder. Those who think Carol (or Brie Larson) doesn’t show enough emotion in her portrayal miss the point that she acts this way for a reason. She’s been doubted and tested by men throughout her life. Plus, she thinks — knows — she could take Thor in a fight if she had to.

As fun as Captain Marvel was, it’s going to be exciting to see her interact with the Avengers.

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[UPDATE: Many discerning fans noticed that Danai Gurira’s name was not listed above the credits on the poster, despite her character Okoye, being one of the heroes featured. Marvel has since changed that.]

This is a good final trailer to whet the appetite for the big meal coming in six weeks. Just enough new goodies were revealed to add a little bit more understanding of the story and generate excitement for what figures to be the movie event of the year. (OK, Star Wars: Episode IX will take issue with that.)

But really, enough with the trailers. We’re ready to see this thing, right? We’ve waited not-so-patiently for the past year and, just like Steve Rogers, aren’t quite ready to move on.

Avengers: Endgame — and its rumored three-hour runtime — surges into theaters April 26.

Captain Marvel takes a while to click, but eventually comes together for a payoff

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Carol Danvers has been a C-list character in Marvel Comics for most of her 50-year history. Only within the past seven years has she held the mantle of Captain Marvel that sells her as a pretty big addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Danvers has a convoluted comic book history, one that surely made her difficult to distill into something simpler for a movie. Yet like Tony Stark before her, the lack of a signature storyline made Danvers a blank slate for Marvel Studios and the five writers (including Guardians of the Galaxy's Nicole Perlman and Inside Out's Meg LaFauve) who took a crack at Captain Marvel's story.

A comic book overhaul in 2012 by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (who appropriately has a quick cameo in the movie) made Danvers a tougher, more accessible character fueled by all of the doubts and obstacles encountered throughout her life. That perseverance is what pushed her into becoming an elite fighter pilot and gave her the edge to stand as an equal with Captain America, Iron Man, and the other Avengers.

Read the full review here

How to live your best streaming life - and for less than $100 per month

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With so many streaming services currently competing for your dollar, how will you decide what to keep and what to cancel? I’ve been trying to decide for myself what to keep and what to sign up for that would all work within my budget.

I would call myself a streamer, not a cord cutter and yes, there is a difference. To me, if you are a true cord cutter, then you live life with just a internet connection or maybe the basic Netflix package. That’s it. Streamers don’t spend money on traditional cable packages, instead subscribing to many different platforms.

This is just a guide to explain what I would spend my money on. The goal is to get everything important to me while spending less than the average American spends each month on TV only. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average American spends around $100 a month on just cable or their satellite bill. Crazy, I know.

So I will try to keep my budget somewhere between 70 and 90 dollars a month. The best part about all of these services is that none of the streaming services come with an annual contract. You can come and go as you please, only subscribing during the time of year that you want to.

Let’s start with the most essential subscriptions first, the ones that I will never consider canceling: Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. The trickiest one for me to put in some sort of category is Amazon Prime because it has so much value beyond just what you get with Prime Video.

What I decided to do is take the yearly cost of 120 dollars and divide that by 12 to get the grand total of 10 dollars a month. Sound good? That puts Netflix and Hulu as my super must-haves.

With Netflix, I have the premium plan for Netflix at $16.00 a month because I have a 4K tv and Netflix has a ton of 4K content. For most people, Hulu isn’t a must-have. But for me, I’ve really enjoyed how quickly it gets shows the day after they finish on broadcast and its original programs have gotten better. Now that Disney owns a huge chunk of Hulu, it will be interesting to see that service’s content over the year to come. That being said, I have the no-commercial plan of Hulu, which runs me 12 dollars a month. I

So for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, I am paying just 38 dollars a month and you could arguably watch anything you really wanted to at that price.

If those services are my top three choices, the next has to be DC Universe. I couldn’t imagine life without it at this point. It provides so much content all the time that can’t possibly all be consumed.

Not only do you get classics like Batman the Animated Series, but also new original content like Titans and the upcoming Doom Patrol with much more to come. I signed up for the promotional rate of $75 dollars for 15 months, which was a crazy no-brainer. It comes out to a whopping five dollars a month. As I often explain on the podcast, I’m a new comic book fan which makes a subscription to DCU mean even more. I probably read about 30 dollars worth of comics a month. For me, that’s an amazing value.

That brings my monthly total up to 43 bucks a month with some services still remaining. With my top-tier services out of the way, there are still several more that can get my hard-earned money each month. To me, all of these services are easily interchangeable and I can come and go as I please.

HBO Now is in this category for me. It’s a crazy $15 a month and I wouldn’t usually pay for it consistently. I also have CBS All Access for six dollars a month. But you can pay $10 for no commercials and the ability to download shows. During the TV season, CBS All Access really shines because you can watch all of CBS’s programming right away. I was going to cancel it at the end of the current TV season, but I’m looking forward to The Twilight Zone so I’m keeping it around. Additionally, I subscribe to ESPN+ at five dollars a month for no real reason other than I enjoy all of the 30 for 30 films and they’re all available. Plus, you get access to a ton of sports.

Including those second-tier services, I am now up to 69 dollars. That gives me all the crazy content I could ever want for less than $75. I’ll add another $10 to my monthly total when the Disney+ service launches later this year. Disney has already announced several shows for the service and it will include all of the Marvel and Pixar movies as well. For someone with a three-year-old, that’s a no brainer and will save me from having to buy the movies.

All of this puts my grand total at $79 per month. Obviously, it could be cheaper for you depending what services you decide are most important. That’s the great thing about streaming — no contracts — and you can subscribe to various services at different points of the year. Hopefully, my example helps you decide how you can manage your subscription life.

The Trench creatures from Aquaman are getting their own movie

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If your favorite part of the Aquaman movie was the scene during which Arthur Curry and Mera navigate through a treacherous stretch of ocean populated by walking piranhas, this news is probably going to excite you.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Brothers is developing an Aquaman spinoff involving The Trench, a region just outside of Atlantis inhabited by creatures that were cut off from the mythical city when it sank underwater. Having to survive outside Atlantis forced them to evolve into monsters that terrorized any life that traveled into the Marianas Trench territory.

Don’t get too excited about this being another Aquaman movie, however. As THR reports, this is intended to be a horror movie with a far smaller budget that won’t involve anyone from the original film. So no Aquaman, no Mera, not even Ocean Master or Vulko. That might prevent the story from going deep undersea to the Trench kingdom, as seen in the comic books too.

But horror is right in the wheelhouse of Aquaman director James Wan, who will be one of the producers on this project.

The concept of The Trench was introduced in the first issue of 2011’s rebooted Aquaman comic book, part of DC Comics’ “New 52” initiative. The creatures attack a coastal town seeking food, pushing them into conflict with Aquaman. The Trench and its inhabitants were also part of the 2012 Justice League “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, which was adapted into a 2015 animated film.

Relatively new screenwriters Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald will write the script. Both previously worked for J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company. The two collaborated on the screenplay for a submarine thriller titled The Volos.

This leads to the natural question of when an Aquaman sequel will be announced. Having grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, we’ll definitely be getting another movie with the new King of Atlantis. For now, however, it looks like Wan, Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and crew (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Patrick Wilson will almost certainly be back as the bad guys) are reveling in their success.

Marvel's mutants don't have a merry movie outlook in the near-future

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What started out as a promising twist on the superhero movie and a potentially clever mix of genres looks like it’s turning into a debacle that 20th Century might prefer to ignore and bury.

During the TCA (Television Critics Association) press tour this week, producer Lauren Shuler-Donner — a longtime producer and shepherd of the X-Men movie series — talked about the franchise moving over to Marvel Studios with the Disney-Fox corporate merger. In the process, she addressed where the merger left the remaining X-Men related projects that Fox is still releasing or was developing.

One of those films is The New Mutants, following a teenage group of mutants learning to develop their abilities. The movie, conceived as a mash-up of horror and superhero elements, was originally supposed to be released last April. (April 13, to be exact.) But concerns about the film’s story and tone resulted in reshoots and the release date being pushed back to Feb. 22, 2019. Continuing creative uncertainty, namely an effort to make the movie scarier, punted the project even further down the calendar to Aug. 2.

Famed New Mutants artist Bill Sienkiewicz confirmed the renewed delays in an interview, according to Bleeding Cool.

Among the changes rumored to be made in reshoots was the introduction of a villain in a post-credits scene. Reportedly, Jon Hamm had originally been cast to play famed X-Men villain Mr. Sinister, but the studio decided to use a different bad guy with Antonio Banderas in the role. There have also been rumblings that a new character, Warlock, had been added to the main story. As a techno-organic alien that can change shape, adding Warlock would surely require a heavy use of digital effects, depending on how he’s used in the script.

All of this has left the movie in a messy, uncertain state, though director Josh Boone is reportedly still working on post-production before he begins work on adapting Stephen King’s The Stand for a CBS All Access series, which he is co-writing, co-producing and directing.

But is The New Mutants such a mess that Fox might nix its theatrical release and try to salvage whatever it can by selling the movie to a streaming provider? Apparently, there have been rumors that Fox might be talking to Hulu about taking the film. Shuler-Donner addressed this while talking to the press at TCA.

“They worked hard on it,” said Shuler Donner about the film’s production team, “I want to see it released (theatrically), I’d hate to see it thrown at Hulu.”

That quote comes from Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, who also reports that a decision like moving a theatrical release to streaming won’t be made until the Disney-Fox merger becomes official. If The New Mutants gets pushed to Hulu, the good news is that fans would get to see it. Of course, that also means the movie didn’t go to theaters and almost certainly wouldn’t get a sequel. What may have began as a bold attempt to stand out could turn out to be an ambitious failure.

Another X-movie that we might not see at all is Gambit, which Channing Tatum still wants to make and had hopes of co-directing with his creative partner Reid Carolin. But the Disney-Fox merger has put a hold on any development there. Several directors have been attached to the project over the years, including Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski, only to eventually drop out. According to The Playlist, Tatum and Carolin tried to get their Magic Mike and Logan Lucky director, Steven Soderbergh, on board, but he has no interest in doing a superhero movie. (That’s unfortunate; a Soderbergh take on superheroes would be a must-see.)

Addtionally, Shuler-Donner acknowledged the inevitability that Wolverine will eventually be recast if and when Marvel decides to its own X-Men movies. It could be quite some time before Marvel gets around to the X-Men. If Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants are disasters, the studio will likely want to give audiences time to forget and regain an appetite for those characters.

In the meantime, movie sites can generate content by guessing who could take over for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. (I’d start a list with Tom Hardy and Taylor Kitsch, but maybe that’s something we can discuss on the podcast sometime soon.)

New Batman movie scheduled for June 2021, won't involve Ben Affleck

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There are plenty of compelling Batman storylines that can be found these days in DC Comics. But one of the greatest mysteries currently involving the Dark Knight concerns the next time we’ll see him on the big screen.

This week, however, some details were finally revealed regarding Matt Reeves’s new Batman film. Reeves, best known for directing two of the rebooted Planet of the Apes movies, has been working on a script for the project and filming reportedly wasn’t going to begin until he and Warner Brothers believed they had it right.

Apparently, it’s just about there. WB announced on Wednesday (Jan. 30) that The Batman, which was supposedly the working title when Ben Affleck was writing and directing the film, is set for a June 25, 2021 release. (The studio also announced an Aug. 6, 2021 date for a Suicide Squad sequel, and TheWrap is reporting that James Gunn is set to direct.)

But Affleck won’t be playing Batman in this movie. According to Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, Reeves’s story involves a younger Bruce Wayne, which means the role will be recast. Other outlets, such as Entertainment Tonight, have confirmed that Affleck isn’t wearing the cowl in this one.

Affleck gave his thumbs-up to the project on Twitter, and essentially confirmed the report by not denying that he won’t be returning to the Batman role.

Rumors of recasting Batman have been prevalent for nearly two years, ever since Reeves took over the project. Initially, The Batman was envisioned as an all-Affleck endeavor. He was set to write (with DC’s Geoff Johns), direct and star in the film. While that excited many fans, eager to see the director of Best Picture winner Argo (2012) helm a Batman movie, taking all of those roles on was surely over-ambitious. No one has ever tried to write, direct and be the lead actor of a blockbuster superhero movie before.

Affleck insisted that he and Johns needed to get the script right before production began. But for a variety of personal and professional reasons, he eventually stepped aside as director. Once Reeves was tapped as a replacement, he took over the script as well and set to rewrite it. Soon thereafter, rumors persisted that Affleck was done playing Batman. Whether that was because of the critical beating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice suffered, the financial failure of Justice League, a growing disinterest in being chained to a franchise superhero role, or all of the above, it seemed like a matter of time before WB announced that a change would be made.

Reeves told The Hollywood Reporter that he has a “noir” detective-style story in mind for his depiction of the Caped Crusader. He also said here will be a Rogues Gallery,” which will open up plenty of guessing as to how many villains Batman will face. (Previous rumors have said that The Penguin will be the main bad guy.)

Until we learn more, the speculation will immediately begin as to who will play Batman next. It’ll be one of the hottest rumors in Hollywood. Let the fun begin. And remember the reaction when Affleck was cast as Batman? The next choice better be ready.