superhero movies

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

Highlights from the new Captain Marvel trailer: Noble warrior heroes, blue blood and alien kitties

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Kicking off a big week for Marvel, the second trailer for Captain Marvel debuted during halftime of Monday Night Football. (The long-awaited first look at “Avengers” 4 is expected to debut Wednesday morning during Good Morning America.) ESPN was likely grateful for some corporate synergy to draw viewers to the broadcast who probably weren’t interested in watching the Eagles play the Redskins.

It’s often interesting to compare the first and second trailers for a blockbuster movie marketing campaign, and see what the intention is toward the audience. As we saw back in September, the first Captain Marvel trailer was more of an introduction to Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and her abilities, emphasizing showy points like the story taking place in the 1990s and younger versions of characters like Nick Fury and Phil Coulson.

With the intro now out of the way, this latest trailer focuses more on the story. The Skrulls and Kree are alien races at war, and the conflict has made its way to Earth.

With rumors of trailers for Avengers 4 and Spider-Man: Far From Home (along with Shazam! or Godzilla vs. Kong from the non-Marvel realm), there’s the possibility that Captain Marvel’s new preview gets quickly overshadowed. But probably not, with the goodies that this trailer includes and the likelihood that it will be attached to some blockbusters during the holidays like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mary Poppins Returns. (Probably Aquaman, too.)

For now, however, Captain Marvel has the spotlight to herself. Here are some takeaways from our latest look at Marvel’s newest star:

That’s why Captain Marvel hit that old lady

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For many viewers, one of the shocking moments from the first Captain Marvel trailer was seeing our hero belt a kindly old woman on a train. Who would punch an old woman? What kind of hero does that? But most Marvel Comics fans guessed that the civilian was a Skrull in disguise. And what better way to demonstrate their shape-shifting abilities than to take the form of a seemingly harmless elderly woman?

This time, we see the follow-up. That old lady isn’t harmless, providing the entertaining visual (with guttural growl) of her springing out of her seat to drop-kick Captain Marvel in the chest and cartwheel down the corridor. For the sake of public perception, let’s hope that the Skrull reverts to its true form after Danvers knocks her out. Otherwise, the Kree might have a public relations issue with the other passengers on that train. (Not that she’d care…)

Hey, it’s Annette Bening!

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One of the fun things about Marvel movies is to see actors not typically associated with blockbuster films (Glenn Close, Robert Redford, etc.) get to play a role. Annette Bening joins that group, though we don’t know exactly what part she’s playing in Captain Marvel.

While it might be fun to see her fulfill an older mentor type of role, like Liam Neeson did in Batman Begins and Star Wars: Episode I, the assumption is that Jude Law’s character will provide guidance for Carol Danvers. Based on what we hear from Bening in this trailer (“we made you one of us”), she has more to do with programming Danvers into a soldier for the Kree, changing her physiology (which includes blue blood), and so forth.

There’s a Skrull!

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We got a brief glimpse of Marvel’s legendary shape-shifting alien invaders in the first Captain Marvel trailer, but get a much closer look here. Additionally, we get some dialogue from Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, who will hopefully be a villain on par with Orson Krennic from Rogue One. (Mendelsohn also played something of a bad guy for directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck in 2015’s Mississippi Grind.)

The Skrulls have been long overdue to appear in a Marvel movie. At one point, it was believed that the rights to the Skrulls belonged to Fox as part of the Fantastic Four’s package of characters and that’s why they didn’t appear in The Avengers. But the rights are obviously shared between studios, like Quicksilver was between the Avengers and X-Men films. (Such rights issues will be a moot point with the Disney-Fox merger.)

With their ability to take the form of any person, it’s expected that the Skrulls could become a major player in the studio’s next phase of films. Could some of our favorite heroes end up being an alien menace in disguise in future Marvel films? That could be fun and upsetting.

She has the power!

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Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has said that Captain Marvel is the most powerful hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those familiar with the character from the comic books nod knowingly and approvingly. But that might be a tougher sell to fans who think Carol Danvers couldn’t possibly be more powerful than Iron Man or the Hulk. Or what about Thanos?

Obviously, we’ve yet to see on screen just how powerful Captain Marvel can be. This movie and Avengers 4 will surely take significant steps to establish how powerful she is. (Will she be the key to defeating Thanos, for instance?)

But the trailer provides a hint of that in its climactic moment with Danvers saying that she’s going to end the war between the Skrulls and Kree. We then see her surge with power, fly above the Earth and destroy spaceships with energy fired from her hands. (Oh, and she’s doing so wearing that cool battle helmet — designed by Jamie McKelvie for the comics — which forms her hair into a mohawk. We haven’t seen Thor or Iron Man do that. Stand back.

That’s no kitty, nick fury

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Based on this trailer, one of the highlights of the movie promises to be the banter between Carol Danvers and a younger, pre-eye patch Nick Fury. This is literally a side of Fury we haven’t seen before. He has both of his eyes, a full head of hair, and isn’t the sardonic badass we’ve come to know in the Marvel films.

Fury also apparently has a soft spot for cats. But the little kitty with which the future director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is so smitten — who also lurks in the shadows of the first Captain Marvel poster — isn’t a terrestrial feline. No, sir. That’s an alien lifeform.

The cat is a relatively recent addition to the Captain Marvel mythology, which has been built up over the past 10 to 15 years as her role has become more important in the Marvel Comics universe. Named Goose, surely as a nod to Danvers’ pilot days (the cat is called Chewie in the comics), the pet is actually a Flerkin. Flerkins resemble cats, much like Rocket Raccoon looks like a terrestrial raccoon.

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Rocket and Goose (Chewie) have actually butted heads in the comics, so maybe that gives us something to look forward to in Avengers 4. In the meantime, it’s probably a good idea for Fury to be sweet to that little beast. Otherwise, he might reveal those fanged tendrils that reside deep in his mouth.

There’s an air of mystery to Captain Marvel

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Fortunately, this second trailer doesn’t reveal everything. There’s even a hint at a mystery that Danvers (and Fury) are likely trying to solve throughout the story.

“Something in my past is the key to all of this,” Danvers says to Fury. What exactly brought Danvers back to Earth? Was it simply her role in the Kree-Skrull War? Or is there more to it? Why was Danvers taken by the Kree in the first place? Was she in the wrong place at the wrong time, becoming an unwitting participant in an intergalactic battle? Was there something different about her from the very beginning?

We’ll get to see Captain Marvel in theaters on March 8, 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.

Aquaman’s extended New York Comic Con trailer looks bold and ambitious: 7 takeaways

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With just under three months until Aquaman’s Dec. 21 release, DC Films and Warner Brothers capitalized on maybe their last chance to really appeal to the geek crowd with an extended trailer that shows the scope and ambition of the movie.

Aquaman pretty much had the movie spotlight to itself at this weekend’s New York Comic Con. Most of the other trailers were from TV shows like Daredevil, Star Trek: Discovery, Good Omens and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. But the sheer size of the trailer also likely helped DC’s undersea blockbuster stand out.

The five-minute preview includes a variety of influences from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Clash of the Titans, Lord of the Rings, disaster movies like Deep Impact, and maybe even some good old-fashioned fables in which a lighthouse keeper falls in love with a princess (or queen?) from the sea. And there’s just a whole bunch of action, which looks — to use what appears to be Arthur Curry’s favorite word — badass!

As we try to do every time we write about a trailer, let’s list some takeaways from a rather impressive extended look at Aquaman.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard have chemistry

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We don’t know if Arthur Curry and Mera fall in love during this movie, but they’re destined to be together in the comic books. So it’s important for Momoa and Heard to create some sparks between each other and create some of that “Will they or won’t they?” energy.

Personally, I like the idea of Aquaman being kind of a big, dumb lunk who jumps into everything head-first and eventually endears himself to Mera — who knows he’s meant for greater things — with his quippy charm.

Momoa appears to be great with the one-liners that the script gives him, while Heard has some sharp burns (“You do your best thinking when you’re not thinking at all”) that keep the banter crackling.

Which Dolph Lundgren will be more fearsome this fall?

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This trailer provides our first look at Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus. According to reports, Nereus is Mera’s father — rather than her betrothed husband-to-be, as in the comics — but is he an ally to the story’s big baddie, Orin (Patrick Wilson), or is he an adversary to the aspiring conquerer of the seven seas?

This is the second appearance Lundgren has made in a big-time trailer during the past couple of weeks, following our first glimpse at his reprisal of the Ivan Drago role in the Creed 2 preview. We know he’s a bad guy as his offspring’s trainer and cornerman when Viktor Drago and Adonis Creed face off in the ring. Rocky Balboa also has a great line while referring to him, saying “He broke things in me that ain’t never been fixed.”

The guess here is that Lundgren will actually have a more substantial role in Aquaman, but more people will remember him in Creed 2 because of the history between Drago and Rocky.

Black Manta looks badass!

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Hopefully, Aquaman doesn’t fall into the trap of cramming too many villains into the story, which we’ve seen in movies like Spider-Man 3, Green Lantern and Batman v Superman. Not only does that take focus away from some fine characters, but it inevitably ends up in some memorable villains being pushed aside or used up in a one-and-done plotline.

Whether or not Black Manta is Aquaman’s greatest adversary is open to argument. He probably hasn’t been portrayed as such in the comic books, but many fans (including me) think of the two as great arch-rivals from them being on opposite sides of the Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon with the Legion of Doom.

Manta has always had one of the coolest-looking costumes in comics, so it’s reassuring to see the armor worn by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II look extremely imposing. Let’s hope Manta isn’t a one-and-done villain like Hector Hammond or Sandman and we’ll see him in either future Aquaman sequels or DC superhero films.

Will Aquaman juggle Ocean Master and Black Manta as well as The Dark Knight handled the Joker and Two-Face? (Note what happened to Two-Face in that story, however.)

Action by land and sea

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Will Aquaman’s most memorable scene take place on land, rather than in the deep sea? The centerpiece of this five-minute trailer is a rooftop chase scene in which Mera is being pursued by Black Manta’s henchmen (Atlantean soldiers?) while Manta takes on Aquaman.

The sequence recalls Captain America chasing Bucky in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the Stormtrooper-like assailants running through buildings and residences as they go after Mera. Mera sprinting across the rooftops is also reminiscent of Daniel Craig’s James Bond running along Mexico City ledges in Spectre.

This isn’t to say that the chase looks derivative. Hell, it looks really fun and could be unlike anything we’ve seen on screen before. Director James Wan is the guy who had a car jump from one skyscraper to another in Furious 7, and he could be topping himself here.

Nicole Kidman, action hero

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Not much else to say here, other than it’s cool to see Kidman taking out a bunch of attackers with her trident. Pleasantly unexpected, much like watching Colin Firth as a lethal fighter in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Maybe this establishes that Atlantean women like Mera are true warriors and not to be messed with in a fight.

It would also be fun if Kidman’s character, Atlanna, taking on the bad guys relegates Aquaman’s father, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) to the proverbial damsel-in-distress who needs to be protected. Role reversal!

Seafood’s revenge

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Giant crabs? It’s probably safe to guess that Red Lobster and Joe’s Crab Shack won’t be running any sort of promotional tie-in with Aquaman.

DC’s protector of the seven seas is almost certainly going to communicate with aquatic life (or “talk to fish,” as Bruce Wayne/Batman put it in Justice League) during the story. Wouldn’t it be a disappointment if he didn’t?

But maybe it doesn’t even matter since some of those undersea creatures are spectacularly imposing — such as the aforementioned enormous crustacean, whatever the hell that lizard-looking thing rising out of the water is, or an oversized piranha — along with sea horses and sharks facing off in battle. (Can we call it a battlefield when it’s underwater?)

Will Aquaman wipe out a legion of pescatarians over the holiday season?

The gold and green is on, baby!

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Here’s the money shot from the Aquaman trailer, the image that virtually every film and geek site in existence screen-capped and published on Friday.

Jason Momoa’s shirtless, tattooed aquatic brawler from Justice League was just the first look for the character. Eventually, Arthur Curry dons the famous (Can we call it iconic?) gold and green costume from the comic books and cartoons. (Outrageous!) Appropriately, the suit has been upgraded to armor rather than a sort of body suit.

This seems like kind of a spoiler. Does Aquaman don the suit at the end of the film in a signature shot that leads to the credits? Or does he gear up for the movie’s climactic battle? Anyway, despite Momoa not looking exactly like the comic book or animated Aquaman, the traditional Aquaman look suits him well.

Aquaman swims into theaters on Dec. 21.