DC

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

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.

Batman: The Long Halloween to reportedly be adapted into two-part animated movie

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One of the best Batman stories of the past 25 years is next on DC Entertainment’s animated film slate. As first reported by Revenge of the Fans, Batman: The Long Halloween is set to be adapted into a two-part movie. The original limited series written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale ran for 13 issues between 1996 and 1997 and was a significant influence on Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, particularly The Dark Knight.

Though DC Entertainment has adapted many memorable comic book story arcs into animated movies, only a select handful have been given the two-part treatment. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was the first of the studio’s two-part ventures, with each installment released four months apart between 2012 and 2013. Later this January, Reign of the Supermen will debut, following up six months after The Death of Superman was released.

The Long Halloween takes place early in Batman’s career, as the Gotham police and district attorney’s office try to end the mob war between the Falcone and Maroni families. Igniting the conflict is a mystery killer, who murders the youngest Falcone son and proceeds to murder someone each month, usually on holidays. Along the way, crime boss Carmine Falcone employs villains like the Riddler and Poison Ivy to gain an advantage, while the Joker attempts to take out the Holiday killer for moving on his territory.

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Above all, The Long Halloween is an origin story for Two-Face. Harvey Dent works with Batman against the two mob families, but becomes increasingly irrational in his ambition. Following attempts to kill him and his family, and the pivotal incident that scars half of his face, Dent loses his grip on reality and seeks revenge on Falcone.

What could be most intriguing about this adaptation is whether or not the animation style tries to follow the distinct style of Tim Sale’s dark, moody art. Sale’s Batman looks unlike many other interpretations, especially with the Dark Knight’s mask and cape. But his version is a bulkier hero, similar to Frank Miller’s Batman. Sale’s style is most distinct with the supporting characters in the story, notably each member of the Falcone and Maroni families. Nobody draws the Joker, Penguin or Poison Ivy like he does, depicting each as almost supernatural characters.

According to Mario-Francisco Robles’s report, this two-part Batman film will not be part of the DC animated universe that’s been established with films like The Death of Superman and the various Justice League movies. This will be a standalone Batman story like The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns and the upcoming Hush.

There’s no word on when The Long Halloween is expected to debut, but the 2019 schedule for DC animated films — including Justice League vs. The Fatal Five and Wonder Woman: Bloodlines — so we probably won’t see Part 1 of this story until 2020 at the earliest.

DC Universe's Swamp Thing casts its Alec Holland and title creature

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The upcoming Swamp Thing series on the DC Universe streaming service has been slowly building its cast. But of all the actors joining the ensemble, the most recognizable being Will Patton (Halloween) and Virginia Madsen (Designated Survivor), the actor portraying the title character had yet to be announced. That is, until now.

On Tuesday, Warner Brothers revealed that Andy Bean (It: Chapter Two) will play Alec Holland, the scientist fated to become a plant-based monster in a horrible accident. But Derek Mears will suit up as the creature, getting what presumably is the juicier role as the Swamp Thing.

The 6-foot-5 Mears has plenty of experience playing a monster during his career, portraying Jason Voorhees in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake, Moloch in Sleepy Hollow, and the Kree Captain in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That should be a good pedigree for stepping into the large footprints left behind by Dick Durock in two Swamp Thing movies and the 1990s syndicated TV series.

As could be expected on a TV series budget, Swamp Thing will not be CGI imagery on the screen. Writer and executive producer Gary Dauberman told Slashfilm in September that the creature will be created with practical effects, though he promises the physical costume will look less like a man in a suit than Durock’s version of the character did.

Dauberman also mentioned that the DC Universe series will indeed be an origin story for Swamp Thing (as it should be), and Alec Holland’s presence in the story confirms that. What isn’t yet known is whether or not we’ll see more of Bean as Holland in flashbacks throughout the show’s 13 episodes.

Via DC Universe, here’s an official description of the series and its title character:

"Emerging from the swamp with a monstrous physique and strange new powers over plant life, the man who was once Alec Holland struggles to hold onto his humanity. When dark forces converge on the town of Marais, Swamp Thing must embrace what he has become in order to defend the town as well as the natural world at large."

Circling back to Bean and Mears’s castmates, Patton will play the bad guy of the story, businessman Avery Sunderland, while Madsen is portraying his wife Maria. The cast also includes Jennifer Beals (Taken) as local sheriff Lucilia Cable, Crystal Reed as Abby Arcane (a very important name to fans of the Swamp Thing comic books), Maria Sten as reporter Liz Tremayne, and Jeryl Prescott, who will play fortune teller and sorceress Madame Xanadu.

Swamp Thing will debut on DC Universe sometime in 2019.

Ewan McGregor will be man behind Black Mask in Birds of Prey movie

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Ewan McGregor might not be the first actor who comes to mind for a fearsome crime lord. But behind a black mask, maybe he’ll be more believable as a sadistic Gotham City gangster who enjoys disfiguring and torturing his victims.

As first reported by The Wrap’s Umberto Gonzalez, McGregor has been cast as the main bad guy for the Birds of Prey film. He’ll play Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask, who murdered his parents to take over their cosmetics company but squandered that fortune with poor business decisions. When his company went under, Sionis blames Gotham City high society — including Bruce Wayne — for his downfall, dons a mask made from the wood of his father’s casket and puts together a gang of criminals called The False Face Society.

But this is the Birds of Prey movie, not the next Batman flick. And with the introduction of Huntress (to be played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) alongside Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, it doesn’t seem like there will be time for a bad guy’s origin story. Yet maybe that’s all somehow tied together.

Black Mask has become a prominent member of Batman’s rogues gallery since his introduction in 1985. He’s been notably featured in the Batman: Arkham Origins video game, in addition to animated series like The Batman and The Brave and the Bold, and animated films like Under the Red Hood and Bad Blood. (I like the ebony wood-carved mask, rather than the skull but that appears to be well-established.)

He’s a good choice for a movie villain that isn’t from the familiar collection of the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Mr. Freeze. (Maybe we should include Bane and Ra’s Al Ghul in there too.)

McGregor is a curious pick since he doesn’t typically play an outright bad guy (though he has played a criminal, co-starring with Titans’ Brenton Thwaites in Son of a Gun). But Birds of Prey is apparently been looking for a somewhat comedic presence who can maybe go unhinged. Previous actors attached in rumors to the Black Mask role were Sharlto Copley and Sam Rockwell.

But according to director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), the Birds of Prey script (written by Christina Hodson, who’s also writing a Batgirl movie for DC) has a lot of dark humor to it. The movie is also going to be rated R, which could indicate a harder edge or pushing the violence and language as the two Deadpool movies have.

Birds of Prey is set to hit theaters on Feb. 7. 2020. As it stands, the movie will follow Aquaman, Shazam, and Joker on the DC Films release schedule.