Rest In Power, Chadwick Boseman. 1976 – 2020

Chadwick Boseman
theatlantic.com

In 2018, during the press tour for Marvel’s upcoming release Black Panther, the film’s star Chadwick Boseman gave a heartfelt interview with SiriusXM Radio during which he shared with viewers a story from his time filming the Afrofuturist superhero epic, which would go on to become a cultural milestone and a critically acclaimed celebration of Black pride and joy. The story was that of two young boys, named Ian and Taylor, both suffering from terminal cancer, whom Boseman had exchanged letters with: the boys were trying to hold out long enough to see Black Panther finally come to life onscreen, but tragically they passed before they had the chance. Boseman broke down in tears while telling the story, but used the moment to talk about the larger cultural impact of Black Panther and the ways in which movies and media can help to empower and inspire communities that often never see themselves represented onscreen in sympathetic roles.

At the time, none of us in the general public knew that Chadwick Boseman had himself been diagnosed with colon cancer just two years prior to that touching conversation. We found that out the hard way last night, when it was announced by Boseman’s family that the star, aged 43, had passed away after an exhausting four-year long battle with the disease, during which he had never ceased in his fight to change Hollywood from the ground up. Last night, we lost a true legend, a man who “radiated power and peace”, whose talent for acting was rivaled only by his talent for effortlessly spreading love, happiness and a sense of pride and dignity to marginalized communities around the globe. As Simu Liu, who would have been his Marvel co-star starting next year, put it: “Without Chadwick, and what he gave to his character, there is no Shang-Chi. Period.”

He was T’Challa, the poised, elegant King of Wakanda that audiences first fell in love with after his thrilling Marvel debut in Captain America: Civil War. But he was also baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson in 42, a role that cemented him as one of the great actors of our time. He was Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s Marshall. He was the “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown, in Get On Up. He was the fictionalized, almost god-like Vietnam War-era soldier “Stormin'” Norman in Da 5 Bloods. He would have been the African samurai Yasuke in an upcoming biopic about the 16th Century warrior. To embody so many of Black history’s most celebrated figures in so little time takes a special kind of dedication and determination – two virtues with which Chadwick Boseman was blessed, beyond a doubt.

Chadwick Boseman
indiewire.com

It’s been hard for me to process the grief I feel over losing Boseman so early – far too early – to a disease as malignant as cancer, when he clearly had so many years left in him, so much art and talent he still could have shared with the world. But processing this pain has been made easier by seeing the genuine joy that Chadwick Boseman inspired, especially in children who looked up to his persona as the Black Panther, but also in Black audiences of all ages and all walks of life, who saw in that groundbreaking character something so much more than just a Marvel superhero with a flashy suit. Reading the tributes to Boseman from Black individuals for whom Black Panther revitalized their interest and pride in their cultural heritage (whether that expressed itself in the action of wearing traditional African clothing or studying Afrofuturistic philosophies, or anything else in between) has been both powerful and humbling.

In the absence of Boseman’s commanding presence, we are left with the legacy he leaves behind and with the urgent opportunity to carry on with that legacy, thus ensuring that future generations will remember Chadwick Boseman as a true king, an honor he deserves after the hard work he put into each and every one of his performances. At the same time we are left with his incredible body of work, which we must preserve so that it may continue to inspire future generations as it did us. We are also left with a sobering reminder to be kind: several months ago, although it wasn’t known at the time that Boseman was battling cancer, the actor appeared in public for a photo that quickly went viral for all the wrong reasons, with people on social media making jokes about his dramatic weight loss. Words have power, no matter how well-intentioned. It never hurts to be kind.

Chadwick Boseman
etonline.com

After winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for an Outstanding Ensemble Cast, the cast of Black Panther, led by Chadwick Boseman, took the stage; and Boseman spoke passionately and eloquently in the space of just a few minutes about the experience of being “young, gifted and Black” in Hollywood at such a crucial time, and how special, how life-changing it was for him to be able to work alongside so many other gifted Black professionals in the business and to give something back to pop culture, something that ultimately redefined the film industry in more ways than he would have ever thought possible. The background music signaling that his speaking time was up played too soon, cutting him off midway through his speech – but Boseman kept talking, refusing to allow that rare, unique, powerful moment to pass until he had made his point loud and clear.

But now, his life and career have been cut short, and he, despite his best efforts to fight colon cancer, is gone too soon: it is understandable and entirely acceptable that many (especially in the Black community) will feel devastated, and will need time for self-care. I cannot and will not dissuade you from taking as much time as you need to absorb this news and process it however you please. But we can’t allow this rare, unique, powerful moment in which we live to pass by either: our world – our society – is at a point where we need to firmly and unequivocally repeat that Black Lives Matter (in our writing, in our speech, in our actions most importantly) until they actually do in the eyes of the law and the institutions that constantly resist that simple statement, or worse, actively seek to violate the freedoms of Black people around the globe, through acts of violence and intimidation. Don’t let the moment pass. Don’t let the music play until we’ve said what has to be said, until we’ve done what needs to be done. Instead, let us all continue to do what Chadwick Boseman would have done: fight to protect Black lives, and fight to see the Black community represented in the media we consume by consuming that media responsibly and uplifting Black voices wherever and whenever possible.

Chadwick Boseman
bbc.com

Rest In Power, Chadwick Boseman.

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“Ammonite” Trailer Review!

Director Francis Lee managed to make the lives of English sheep-herders look downright sensual in God’s Own Country, so it’s somehow no surprise that his next feature film project, Ammonite, stars two 19th Century English paleontologists passionately courting each other in between long walks on the windswept beaches of Lyme Regis, searching for fossil fragments. Despite how seemingly bizarre the concept might be, it’s the chemistry between Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan (moving from one period piece, Little Women, to another) that is going to carry this film to what could easily be a slew of Oscar nominations.

Ammonite
Kate Winslet & Saoirse Ronan | wmagazine.com

Winslet plays an actual historical figure, English paleontologist Mary Anning, one of the most remarkable women working in science during her era: though she made numerous important discoveries during her lifetime, she was undermined at every turn by men who took her work and gave her little to no credit, and she suffered from financial difficulties until her death in 1847. To make ends meet, she opened a fossil and seashell shop for tourists – but the fossil-hunting business was surprisingly risky (she was nearly killed during a landslide on one occasion). Her hard work and perseverance eventually won her the respect she deserved after her passing. Ammonite follows her during her bleak later years. Ronan, meanwhile, plays Mary Anning’s younger apprentice, the real-life Charlotte Murchison, who suffers from “melancholia” and hates the sea, at least initially. The two women couldn’t be more different, but eventually find themselves falling deeply, hopelessly in love with the other. There is no concrete evidence that Anning and Murchison were lovers in actuality, or that either was a lesbian, as Ammonite suggests, but when the topic came up last year (after one of Anning’s distant relatives expressed her displeasure with the idea), Francis Lee wrote that: “After seeing queer history be routinely “straightened” throughout culture, and given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context?”. Lee is correct that Anning never married, and is not known to have had any relationships with men, whereas her close and long-lasting bonds with the women in her life are well-documented.

Ammonite
Mary Anning | independent.co.uk

Whether Anning and Murchison were or were not lesbians and/or in love, Ammonite still looks like an excellently made film with a clearer vision and a tighter, more well-written story than God’s Own Country: and it’s sure to be a big hit amongst fans of the “cottagecore” aesthetic. For those unaware, “cottagecore” refers to the escapist fantasy of living harmoniously with nature by enjoying a simple life that can include past-times such as baking, gardening, knitting, and, yes, living in tiny cottages, and it is particularly popular with LGBTQ+ folks, especially lesbians and queer women. If there’s a “maritime cottagecore” subgenre of the aesthetic, then Ammonite conveys it perfectly: brisk walks along the beach; houses perched on cliffsides; lots and lots of fossils and shells (interestingly, although it’s never been confirmed, Mary Anning is sometimes said to be the inspiration for the “She Sells Seashells” nursery rhyme; just something to keep in mind); and, just as importantly, a lesbian romance. Those interested in learning more about “cottagecore” and its prominence in LGBTQ+ culture should definitely check out Rowan Ellis’ deep-dive into the aesthetic’s origins and meanings.

Ammonite
Twitter | @FilmUpdates

Basically, it’s a good time to be alive if you’re a fan of “cottagecore”, LGBTQ+ friendly content, historical fiction, romance, women in science, paleontology, geology, Kate Winslet or Saoirse Ronan (who isn’t a fan of Saoirse Ronan at this point?). Somehow all of those elements work together very nicely, and I’m excited to see if Francis Lee has progressed enough as a director (I really didn’t like God’s Own Country) that he can make this understated romance pop onscreen and attract all the media attention it will need to start a strong Oscars campaign. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, a French film from last year which followed a very similar concept (two women meet on a beautiful coastline and fall in love while bonding over art) was a fan-favorite but failed to score even a single nomination from the Academy. Ammonite, luckily, has Winslet (an Oscar winner and six-time nominee) and Ronan (a four-time nominee) as its secret weapons. Fingers crossed that their fossil-hunting expedition proves fortuitous for everyone involved!

Trailer Rating: 9/10

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“The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum” Video Game Trailer!

I’m not sure whether any of my readers have been anxiously waiting for me to start reviewing trailers for upcoming video games, but the lack of gaming content on my channel has bothered me for a while – even though it really shouldn’t, since I’m not a professional gamer by any stretch of the imagination. But the thing is: video games are increasingly growing more and more cinematic as time goes by, and the industry of adapting them to the big screen has become very profitable over in Hollywood. In fact, one could even say they’re becoming very prestige, with the recent news that Cate Blanchett will star in Lionsgate’s Borderlands adaptation.

Gollum
radiotimes.com

It’s highly unlikely that a game like The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum will ever get that same treatment, but the reason I’ve selected this as my first video game trailer to review is simple: firstly, I’m familiar with this franchise, and I can think of things to say about it. Secondly, I’ve been considering reviewing certain video game trailers for a while, and this one just happened to land at an advantageous moment. So here we go!

The teaser trailer for Daedelic Entertainment’s Gollum is extremely brief, and features no glimpse of actual gameplay. In theory, the game is supposed to be stealth-based, with the player doing their best to control the frail, diminutive protagonist (I use that term loosely) as he switches back and forth between his two wildly different personas: the cunning, manipulative Gollum, and the kinder, gentler Sméagol. The player technically controls which persona they can play as, although game designer Martin Wilkes described it in an interview with IGN as being akin to “maneuvering a truck with two flat tires and trying not to drive it off a cliff”, which sounds…challenging, to say the least. As for exciting, well, that’s a different question entirely. Since Gollum isn’t particularly strong and rarely uses any weapons more advanced than a rock, the game is not going to feature a heavy focus on combat, but will instead force the player to use their survival-instincts to endure the horrors of Mordor and other inhospitable regions of Middle-earth.

Gollum
usgamer.net

In the teaser trailer, we see only two areas: Gollum’s cave in the Misty Mountains, littered with bones and what looks to be a recently deceased viperfish, and the rocky wastelands of Mordor, where Gollum finds himself after being taken captive by Orcs. The game will follow the events of the books and their detailed appendices more closely than Peter Jackson’s movies, although certain stylistic decisions have been made which appear to have no basis in either – most strikingly, the design of Sauron’s tower, Barad-dûr, which appears in the trailer as a thin, metallic spire with strong sci-fi influences. Since this game is set between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, Gollum’s journey in the game likely has to end with him being captured by Aragorn and imprisoned by the Wood Elves of Mirkwood, but hopefully there’s room to explore, and/or mess about with the actual chronology of events just a little bit.

It was revealed that several characters from the books will have small but crucial appearances in the game, and off the top of my head I can think of a few who might show up: the Nine Ringwraiths, with whom Gollum appears to have had unpleasant interactions; the Orc commander Grishnákh, who instantly recognizes Pippin’s impression of Gollum’s voice in The Two Towers and knows or guesses about the One Ring; Shelob, the great hulking spider-demon dwelling in the mountains above Mordor who aligns herself with the miserable creature in exchange for new victims delivered to her doorstep; Aragorn, who captures Gollum and delivers him into Elven custody; and Legolas, who may very well have been one of the hunters tasked with trying to find Gollum, and was one of his eventual captors at any rate. Whether these characters will have wholly original designs (if they appear at all, though Shelob at least seems a given) remains to be seen.

Gollum
pcgamer.com

As for Gollum himself, our main character bears a passing resemblance to the CGI version of the slinking rogue seen in both The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings trilogies, although he has more hair in the video game (an attempt to make him more relatable, apparently). Andy Serkis is not believed to be reprising his role voicing the character, which is a big loss for the game studio if true: Serkis’ iconic performance as Gollum is commonly cited as one of the films’ strongest, and he still routinely slips back into character.

Will you be playing Gollum when the game arrives on PS5, Xbox Series X and PC next year? Is Serkis’ voice a deal-breaker for you? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 5/10

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“The Snyder Cut” DC Fandome Trailer!

The Snyder Cut of Justice League will finally release on HBO Max next year (in four, hour-long segments), and at last we have a full-length trailer for the now legendary epic film that most thought would never see the light of day. But for several years now, fans have been asking – even demanding – that Warner Brothers release the Snyder Cut, and I can’t blame them, because (a) Joss Whedon’s Justice League, the version of the film that actually got released in theaters back in 2017, was memorable only for how horrible it was, and (b), more importantly to me, the tenacity and perseverance of Snyder Cut fans has since inspired similar fan-driven campaigns such as the push for a She-Ra movie or a Quake spinoff, both of which I support wholeheartedly.

The Snyder Cut
denofgeek.com

But anyway, back to the Snyder Cut. Truth be told, it’s not urgent to me that I see Zack Snyder’s cut of this film, though I will definitely be curious to see how it turns out, and whether or not it lives up to the intense hype. The trailer does a pretty good job of letting us know what we’re in for: an epic of gargantuan proportions, overflowing with darkness and unimaginable horrors, set in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. The members of the Justice League are divided across the world, Superman is dead, and an ancient alien tyrant named Darkseid chooses this moment to arrive on earth with the intention of subjugating the human race.

Prior to this trailer, there was no clear victor in the perennial contest between DC’s Darkseid and Marvel’s Thanos, two suspiciously similar characters who both appear in their respective cinematic universes under very similar circumstances – but I still don’t know if there’s a clear victor, even now that we can compare both of them. Which one looks better? I’d be inclined to say Thanos: his slightly more humanoid features allow for a greater range of emotions to pass across his broad, bald head. But which is the better-written character? Well, that’s impossible to say until we actually see the Snyder Cut. Darkseid was written out of the theatrically released cut of Justice League and replaced with his servant, Steppenwolf, who also makes an appearance in this trailer but not as the main villain. Steppenwolf’s new design looks appropriately fearsome: he’s an alien mass of prickling scales and spines. Darkseid’s design, meanwhile, is still not fully-rendered, so I’m not going to pass judgment just yet, but I will say this: based on what we can see so far, I’m not certain I like his look. He’s a little on the short side, and a bit too bulky, with enormous hands – but then again, I’m not a big fan of his design in the comics either.

The Snyder Cut
Darkseid | nerdist.com

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” plays over scenes of global destruction as Darkseid and his cosmic armies rain fire on the earth, while the Justice League slowly but surely gets their act together and begins to fight back. Superman returns in his stylish, all-black suit; Aquaman strips down in slow-motion because reasons; Cyborg actually has a lot of screentime, which lends credence to Zack Snyder’s continual promises that his character is the emotional core of the film; Batman poses dramatically on gargoyles in the rain; Wonder Woman, oddly, is almost nowhere to be seen; and The Flash of all people actually has cool action scenes, which is…shocking (no pun intended). Obviously, we all kind of know what’s going to happen: we have, technically, seen this movie before. But the Snyder Cut is sure to feature some major changes from the theatrically released Justice League. New characters like Iris West will show up, while other characters will have vastly different roles in the story.

It’s even possible that the ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League will leave the door open for future team-up movies: it’s unclear whether DC has an interest in bringing him back for the long run, but based on his celebrity status amongst fans and his popularity with the cast, it probably wouldn’t be a bad business decision. With Ben Affleck officially returning as Batman in The Flash and Henry Cavill set to reprise the role of Superman somewhere down the line, it seems like DC is trying to lure in the Snyder fanbase again across the board, not just with this one film.

The Snyder Cut
comicbookmovie.com

When all is said and done, this trailer is incredible because it’s for a movie that wouldn’t even exist had the fans not rallied behind Zack Snyder with all their might and worked to get something done. On its own, it’s only an okay trailer, and I intend to rate it as such – it really doesn’t make me any more intrigued than I already was by this whole concept – but when you take a step back and see the bigger picture, it’s a lot more than that. It’s a testament to the power of fandoms, and the impact we can – and arguably, should at times – have on the decision-making process.

Trailer Rating: 6.9/10

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“The Batman” DC Fandome Trailer!

The reaction to the first teaser trailer for The Batman, revealed last night at DC Fandome, has been one of almost unanimous praise so far: which makes it my painful duty to report that I can’t quite share in the growing excitement surrounding the film as much as I’d love to, as much as I truly hope to be able to in the near future, as more of the film is completed and revealed to us. Unfortunately, the teaser trailer simply isn’t connecting with me, although I’ve now watched it several times. I’ve identified most of my issues, as well as several elements which I genuinely find interesting or at least intriguing, and hope to see expanded upon.

The Batman
variety.com

Let’s start with a positive: Robert Pattinson. I’m a big fan of Pattinson, and I feel certain he has all the makings of an excellent, instantly iconic, Batman. A dark, twisted, vengeful Batman who stalks the streets of Gotham like a rogue detective – we’ll talk about detective work in a moment – dealing out a very violent kind of justice to the city’s hordes of criminals and wrongdoers. Pattinson’s suit has the perfect Batman silhouette, and I absolutely love all of his gadgetry and customized accessories – particularly his Batmobile, which flares into life around the trailer’s midpoint and looks to be equipped for high-speed chases. I don’t quite understand what Pattinson and director Matt Reeves are going for with Bruce Wayne’s long, unkempt hair and dark eyeshadow, but it’s striking nonetheless and it’s already given rise to a deluge of memes about “Emo Batman”.

Gotham City itself is honestly a bit of a mixed bag, personally. On the one hand, I feel like this film is going to tell a Jack the Ripper storyline under the guise of superheroes and villains – The Riddler, who appears to be the film’s primary antagonist, shares many similarities with the historical serial killer, which this take on the character could be examining – and I love that idea. We don’t see any establishing shots of Gotham in this trailer, but it has all the essence of Jack the Ripper’s London: dark, foggy, atmospheric; the kind of city where evil lurks in wait around every street corner, and nobody is safe. But that stylistic decision feels almost too easy, too safe. It’s dark and it’s gritty, and those are two words I’ve heard enough of when it comes to Batman.

The Batman
deadline.com

Now, I’m not saying that The Batman has to be as brightly-lit or gaudy as Birds Of Prey, but I do feel like a pop of color would help to differentiate this Gotham from past incarnations of the iconic city, while a bit of absurdity never hurt anyone. My ideal vision of Gotham is of a semi-psychedelic labyrinth, lit by flashing neon and inhabited by colorful characters. Gotham’s brooding darkness has been explored to death, but its sensuality (for lack of a better word) has never really been touched upon. Even if I were lucky enough to be making this movie, I would still incorporate that Jack the Ripper tone, but I don’t see why it needs to be oppressively grimdark to achieve that. At the same time, I should point out that only about thirty percent of The Batman has actually been filmed, and this teaser trailer may not be indicative of everything that’s in the film. Matt Reeves explained in the panel leading up to the trailer’s debut that all the characters will still be transitioning into the heroes and villains we know from the comics, and considering that he counted Gotham as a character in the story, I wonder if that same sort of character arc will be granted to the city itself.

I also don’t want to sound like I hate everything about Gotham – I love the mansion which Selina Kyle’s amateur Catwoman attempts to burgle, with its arched Gothic windows looking out over the city skyline. This mansion is also the setting where the Riddler’s first murder takes place.

Speaking of which, time to address the Riddler in the room! Paul Dano is never unmasked in the trailer, but from what we see and hear of him, he’s definitely a very disturbed and terrifying character. The first we see of him, he’s taking his time setting up a perfect little crime scene, leaving his clues and a signature calling card for Gotham’s greatest detective, Batman himself (feeling the Jack the Ripper vibes yet? Because I am). Matt Reeves mentioned that most of Batman’s villains are still new on the scene in this film, which takes place during the early years of the Caped Crusader’s career, and that Riddler in particular is only just emerging for the first time. That gives me hope that, despite Dano’s character appearing in muted green throughout the trailer, he will eventually suit up in a brighter, somewhat more comics-accurate costume, perhaps trading in his mask for a quaint little hat along the way. The tone of this Gotham seems so dark that it’s hard to imagine that being the case, but I’m remaining hopeful.

The Batman
indiewire.com

A large part of why I’m still hopeful is because Catwoman actress Zoë Kravitz mentioned in a previous interview that she has already had a chance to wear her Catwoman suit during the filming – so either she’s referring to her low-tech burglar getup in the trailer, or there are actually comics-accurate costumes in store for all of Batman’s villains. I don’t see why not: Batman got a perfect outfit, so why shouldn’t the rest? Ironically, Catwoman’s costume already looks quite good, though I don’t know if she’s intentionally embracing her feline design aesthetic, or if her ski mask is only accidentally bunching up into cat ears as an act of foreshadowing.

Then there’s The Penguin, and this is another negative: not because of Colin Farrell, who is very talented and seems to have undergone an incredible physical transformation into this role with the help of extreme makeup and prosthetics (can you say Oscar nominations?), but because the role requires this much makeup and prosthetics at all. When Farrell was announced as The Penguin, my first thought was how original and out of the box it was – in the comics, Penguin has always been a very grotesque figure, whereas Farrell is traditionally handsome. I concluded too quickly that Farrell’s Penguin would be very suave, maybe even fabulously dressed or well-groomed. Well, not quite. Farrell is instead unrecognizable under all the makeup, which has turned him into a much more familiar, jowly, balding crime lord. It feels safe. Too safe, if you ask me.

The Batman
observer.com

That’s my big problem with the trailer as a whole: it’s just a tad bit too predictable. When Matt Reeves promised us a Batman movie that’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before, I expected a wild divergence from the days of the dark, gritty Batmen in their dark, gritty Gothams – but instead, Reeves has doubled down on the dark and the gritty and come out with something that almost looks and feels like an exaggeration of everything I’ve grown bored with when it comes to this character. Now, I’m well aware that this Batman’s selling-point is supposed to be that he works as a detective, which is something I’m very excited to see (especially with The Riddler being the main villain), but I didn’t see him doing any actual detective-work in the trailer. And again, this is a teaser for a film that isn’t even half-completed yet, so it’s not fair to make any assumptions about anything, but I’ve still got to review what we did see – and what we did see didn’t feel like anything I haven’t seen before in some way or another, though there are distinct differences here and there.

Well, time to turn it over to you, dear reader. Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7/10

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“Wonder Woman 1984” DC Fandome Trailer!

“Barbara, what did you do?”

What Barbara Ann Minerva has done is somehow steal the spotlight in the second official trailer for Wonder Woman 1984, released today at the opening panel of the online DC Fandome event. Even with the epic trailer showcasing new scenes of Wonder Woman herself, all eyes are on one thing: Barbara Ann Minerva, and her grisly transformation into the apex predator she’s always dreamed of becoming – the animalistic supervillain Cheetah.

How could she not be the main focus of this trailer? For months, we’ve been waiting eagerly to catch any official glimpse of her look, and relished all the merchandise leaks that have given us hints: but nothing beats the real deal. And even though her scenes in this trailer are darkly-lit (making me question whether her design is still being worked on behind-the-scenes?), there’s enough here to make it obvious that she will be a formidable villain to Wonder Woman, armed with fearsome claws, super-strength, incredible stamina and agility, and a feral bloodlust for power. In fact, as much as we all love Wonder Woman and want to see her take the lead, it’s hard not to watch this trailer and wonder whether Barbara Ann Minerva’s tragic story will form the emotional core of this hotly-anticipated upcoming DC movie.

Wonder Woman 1984
slashfilm.com

Wonder Woman 1984 will tackle many issues, some of which are alarmingly relevant today: the main conflict comes from Maxwell Lord, a charismatic con-man (intentionally modeled off a younger Donald Trump) selling lies, empty promises and cursed gifts to the gullible, with both Wonder Woman and Barbara Ann Minerva being ensnared by his spell. But whereas Wonder Woman presumably gets a reunion with Steve Trevor, the former love of her life, as part of her bargain with Lord, Barbara Ann Minerva gets superpowers which put her on equal footing with her arch-nemesis but have the side-effect of turning her into a horrific animal/human hybrid. When I say “horrific”, I mean that in a good way…not in, like, a Cats way. It’s difficult to say when she’ll obtain her powers, however, because most of her action scenes (such as her fight with Wonder Woman in the hallways of the White House) have her wearing an extremely fashionable cheetah-print jacket and high-heeled boots, complemented by a messy mane of blond curls. That and her black evening attire when she strolls into high-society for the first time are still her best looks, based on what we’ve seen so far.

Wonder Woman
cinemablend.com

But while it’s Cheetah that has captured my attention, there are other standout moments in this trailer: we once again see Wonder Woman lassoing lightning and swinging through the clouds, but she has tranquil, emotional beats with Steve Trevor as well (walking past the Washington Monument in what is sure to be a lovely romantic scene), and the duo are just as humorous as ever – Steve Trevor, a man out of time, is clearly having a hard time adjusting to 80’s fashion norms, though if anyone can rock a fanny-pack and parachute pants, it’s him. There’s more footage from the gravity-defying Amazon Olympics on Themiscyra, a sequence which I’m sure must have some significance to Wonder Woman’s arc, but for now just looks really cool.

The trailer is lacking just one thing, and that’s a catchy, era-appropriate song choice. It’s not too major a problem, but it does feel like a downgrade after the first trailer‘s brilliant use of an electronic instrumental rendition of “Blue Monday” by New Order.

So how are we feeling, DC fans? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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Happy Quake Week! What Will It Take To See Quake In The MCU?

Yesterday we discussed a fan-driven campaign very dear to my heart – the #SheRaMovie movement – but today we need to talk about another one: #QuakeSpinoff…and also #ChloeIsMyQuake…and just #QuakeWeek in general. There’s a lot of Quake related hashtags going around on Twitter today, and they’re all created by fans of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series who fell in love with the character of Daisy Johnson, better known by her superhero nickname Quake, and who want to see her return in a big way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why? Because she’s amazing, that’s why.

Quake
latimes.com

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was created as a Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-off, but since then it has diverged radically from the main timeline of the MCU – until the finale earlier this month, that is, which showed the team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents apparently returning to the main timeline (or something like it, at any rate) and moving on with their lives, going their separate ways. Daisy Johnson’s storyline, which began with her as a roguish hacker trying to decipher S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets, ended with her furthering the organization’s mission of peace and goodwill in the depths of outer space, onboard the Zephyr Three with her sister Kora and boyfriend Daniel Sousa. Instantly, fans caught onto clues left in this very open ending: specifically, the way it seemed to link her to the S.W.O.R.D. organization, a team of space-faring agents who operate as ambassadors to alien nations while dealing with cosmic threats. S.W.O.R.D. is currently being introduced in the MCU, with former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury organizing an entire army of new agents on a top secret space station: other members of this team are expected to appear in the WandaVision series on Disney+. For years, fans have been hoping to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cross over into S.W.O.R.D. after the end of their own series, and the conclusion to Daisy’s story seemed to leave the door wide open for such a continuation.

Couple that with actress Chloe Bennet’s recent statements about how she doesn’t think she’s done playing Daisy, and you have yourself a fan-driven campaign. #QuakeWeek was started as an attempt to celebrate the superhero’s long and frankly fantastic character arc on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., highlighting her epic seismic powers. #QuakeSpinoff demands that Daisy not just debut in the MCU, but, obviously, get her own film or Disney+ series – personally, I’d settle for a major role in a Secret Invasion or Secret Warriors series. And #ChloeIsMyQuake insists that Marvel doesn’t simply take the character of Quake and recast her; Chloe Bennet is responsible for the popularity this character has across all mediums. For instance, I highly doubt you’d see Quake showing up in the new Avengers video game if Bennet hadn’t made her a fan-favorite with her nuanced performance.

Quake
cinemablend.com

Now, there are issues involved with transitioning Quake to the MCU – obviously, otherwise this probably would have been a done deal ages ago. Marvel Studios and Marvel TV started out with the intention of having a mostly symbiotic relationship, with the events in the movies impacting the TV shows and vice versa: but that hopeful dream was crushed fairly quickly, even though the few crossovers between the two led to some extremely memorable events on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and also the opening sequence of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Since the latter event, there’s been a huge rift between the two divisions, which has only finally been healed now that the TV division has been folded under Kevin Feige’s management. The concern is that Feige has no interest in the entire TV division and wants to throw it all out: he hasn’t ever specifically said that, but he has his own clear vision of the future and it’s unclear what he wants to do with this remnant of Marvel’s past. Reassuringly, it was stated earlier this year that Feige has had talks with ABC, the network on which S.H.I.E.L.D. aired, about future collaborations: there’s no hint of what that might entail, but it’s comforting to know that he cares enough about the work that was done on ABC with S.H.I.E.L.D. to want to expand on that.

At the very least, it’s not implausible that Daisy Johnson could transfer over to the MCU. She’s an extremely popular character, and she has ties to several other major characters and plotpoints soon to be introduced in the MCU, such as the Inhumans, Kamala Khan, and S.W.O.R.D. Most importantly, she and the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team are about as close to the MCU as they can be after the events of the series finale. It’s been confirmed that, at the very least, they now exist somewhere in the same multiverse – a multiverse that, need I remind you, will be explored in depth in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel. And while it’s hard to say what’s canon to the movies anymore, the movies have subtly hinted that there’s still a connection: Captain Marvel was the most recent Marvel film to reference a S.H.I.E.L.D. character.

Quake
medium.com

And as for why Quake should cross over, well, here’s the thing: she’s not quite the first superheroine in the MCU (and environs), but she’s one of the most consistently well-written ones they’ve ever had. In fact, all the women of S.H.I.E.L.D. are. Daisy Johnson, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons…these women have been given the blessing of having hours upon hours of screentime in which to develop their strengths, their flaws, and their messy, complex personalities: this isn’t at all meant to diminish the onscreen achievements of heroines like Peggy Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Gamora, Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Shuri, or Carol Danvers, but it is noteworthy that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had not one but two heroines of Asian descent throughout its entire run (one of them being Daisy herself), and since season three has featured a prominent Latina heroine – something the show never gets enough credit for, in my opinion. These are groundbreaking advances that can’t be undermined or ignored: representation matters. Daisy Johnson matters.

And that’s why I’m lending my voice to the growing movement of passionate Quake fans, and calling on Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel to make Quake canon. Bring her into the MCU. Have her enlist at S.W.O.R.D. Even if it’s just for a glorified cameo, make sure this character continues to matter for future audiences.

How would you feel if Quake entered the MCU? Delighted, right? Right? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Is Kaya Scodelario In The Lord Of The Rings Or Not?

We’re all hungry for more news and information about Amazon Prime’s adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, and so, unsurprisingly, many of us have taken up the habit of theorizing to try and piece together our own news and information. But while many theories have no basis in factual evidence, there’s one that’s been making the rounds recently that actually sounds pretty plausible. I speak of the rumor that actress Kaya Scodelario has possibly joined the cast of The Lord Of The Rings and is moving to New Zealand to begin filming.

The Lord Of The Rings
theplaylist.net

The theory came to my attention when it was posted by TheOneRing.net on their Twitter account, but their post did not credit the original theorizer, kayascodsnews, a Kaya Scodelario fan account on Instagram that actually did some very nifty sleuth work and managed to construct a fairly elaborate and convincing theory about Scodelario’s new whereabouts.

As they noted in their theory, Scodelario has been talking on her Instagram about moving away from her home country (the United Kingdom) to an unidentified new location: but she seems to only plan on moving for a year, suggesting that this is for her career, not for any personal reasons. Just a few days ago she embarked on a flight, which she mentioned in her Instagram story would last up to 27 hours – pretty much the exact time it takes to fly between the U.K. and New Zealand. As a going-away present, Scodelario’s friends gifted her a poster for The Hobbit with their faces edited over the thirteen Dwarves and other characters: a funny gesture, or something with a little more significance? If Scodelario has already told that many of her friends that she’s working on The Lord Of The Rings, then she’s not doing a very good job of keeping Amazon Prime’s secrets: but it wouldn’t be at all uncommon for this to happen. Besides, Amazon Prime has been a bit too secretive for my taste recently: since the main cast reveal, we’ve gotten hardly anything from any of their official channels.

The Lord Of The Rings
Celebrian | tor.com

That’s the extent of the theory, and since then we’ve had no updates: Scodelario hasn’t yet confirmed where in the world she is now. But with all this in mind, let’s imagine for a minute that Scodelario is, in fact, onboard The Lord Of The Rings series in what I have to assume will be a major role. Who would she be playing? TheOneRing.net pointed out that she bears a striking resemblance to Liv Tyler, who portrayed Arwen Evenstar in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and deduced that Scodelario could be playing Arwen’s mother, Celebrían (she can’t be playing Arwen herself, because Arwen isn’t born during the time period when the Amazon Prime series takes place; during the Second Age, over three-thousand years prior to the Quest of the Ring). In the histories of Middle-earth, Celebrían is a bit of a background player until the Third Age, when she gets abducted and brutally tortured by Orcs, leading to her eventually leaving Middle-earth entirely and setting sail for the West. In the Second Age, all we really know about her is that she’s the daughter of the Elven lady Galadriel, and accompanied her during several of her travels. At some point, she met and fell in love with Elrond Half-elven. For an actress like Scodelario (who has had major roles in several franchises, including the most Pirates Of The Caribbean movie) to be attracted to this role, the character’s story would almost certainly have to be expanded through original material – which isn’t a problem, if you ask me, but anything that diverges even slightly from the books is bound to court with controversy. Whoever she’s playing, Scodelario’s recent success as an action star in the horror-thriller Crawl suggests to me that her character would have some sort of action element (and on a side-note, Scodelario’s sister in Crawl was played by Morfydd Clark, who will play Galadriel in The Lord Of The Rings according to all sources: would it be so much of a stretch for Scodelario to now play her daughter?).

The Lord Of The Rings
yahoo.com

But now we’re moving away from the facts. Simply put, we don’t know whether Kaya Scodelario is in The Lord Of The Rings: it’s possible she’s filming something else entirely (the Resident Evil reboot, for instance), or not filming anything at all. It’s possible she’s not even heading to New Zealand. But while this is merely a rumor for right now, it’s a rumor with a grain of truth – which means we shouldn’t discount it just yet, but should instead keep a close eye on Scodelario’s next move.

What say you? Does it seem likely to you that Scodelario has joined the cast, or are you wary to jump to conclusions? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Spider Woman” Moves Forward With Olivia Wilde Likely To Direct!

Spider-Woman, one of Marvel Comics’ myriad of web-slinging superheroes, is set to join either the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or both) at some point in the next few years, but first she needs an origin film: and thankfully, Sony has landed Olivia Wilde to do the job. Or at least, so it is being widely reported – technically, Wilde is developing a secret, female-centric Marvel movie for Sony, but the options for what that could be are fairly limited. It’s almost certain that this movie will follow the beginnings of Spider-Woman’s story.

Spider-Woman
comicsbeat.com

The question of which Spider-Woman, and which cinematic universe she’ll feature in, has yet to be answered. Wilde’s pitch for the film is said to have “completely revamped” the title character, which makes sense but also gives us no clear indication of what we might be getting into: will this new version of Spider-Woman still go by the name of Jessica Drew, or will she be someone else entirely? Will she join Tom Holland’s Spider-Man over in the MCU, or will she be wholly separate?

These questions need answers quickly, and I’m sure we’ll have more information soon because everyone who knows their Marvel Comics knows what this could mean for the MCU if (and that’s a big if) this take on Spider-Woman does in fact come under the Disney/Marvel umbrella, and if she is directly inspired by Jessica Drew: the Secret Invasion storylines begin to write themselves. In the comics, Jessica Drew is a major player in the takeover of Earth by hostile Skrull aliens, who have already been introduced in the MCU as mostly benevolent figures. Drew is impersonated by the Skrull queen Veranke, who uses her disguise to infiltrate organizations such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and the New Avengers. While there hasn’t yet been any explicit hint of an upcoming Secret Invasion story in the MCU, the groundwork is being laid, and a series is rumored to be in development that will follow the story’s events: already, Skrulls have been shown impersonating Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home, under his orders, and Fury is working with an entire army of Skrulls at an in-orbit space base believed to be the headquarters of his new covert organization, S.W.O.R.D. – an organization where, in the comics, Jessica Drew herself sometimes works.

Spider-Woman
vocal.media

But all that is wild speculation, and for now we only have to wonder how much of Drew’s backstory will be adapted into Olivia Wilde’s origin film for the character. Drew’s powers (superhuman strength, bioelectric energy blasts, etc) derive from radiation, of course, but her story begins with her living in the Balkan nation of Transia as a child before being adopted by HYDRA and given the fitting codename of Arachne. As a HYDRA agent, she traveled the world, killing and causing chaos in a super-cool outfit equipped with wings, until she was able to break free from her brainwashing with the help of Nick Fury – not unlike the MCU’s Black Widow. Since then, she’s proven to be a dependable ally of the Avengers and other forces of good, and has also worked with Madame Web, an unconventional antiheroine who is also getting her own solo movie. Her own villain roster includes Viper (otherwise known as Madame Hydra), who has previously appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilde picks Viper as the first film’s big bad: in the comics, Viper and Jessica Drew form a complicated relationship with Viper actually helping Drew on several occasions and even pretending to be her mother, and Wilde enjoys telling stories that center female relationships.

Spider-Woman
boundingintocomics.com

Wilde’s own previous directorial credits include the popular breakout hit Booksmart, a witty coming-of-age comedy. She is one of a steadily growing number of women joining the Marvel and Marvel-adjacent universes as directors, and she is definitely well aware of that fact: it was reported that she had a chance to pass on this project several times, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to “launch her own female superhero” and accompany other groundbreaking women like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland and Nia DaCosta into the superhero genre. I can’t wait to see what she can do with Spider-Woman’s character, and I’m excited to see how/if it ties into the MCU.

So what are your feelings on a Spider-Woman movie? How should the character’s backstory be adapted? Who should be cast in the lead role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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A She-Ra Movie Needs To Happen – Here’s Why.

SPOILERS FOR SHE-RA SEASON 5 AHEAD!

She-Ra
She-Ra | latimes.com

The animated She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power series on Netflix ended a few months ago, bringing five seasons to a close with one epic, super emotional finale. It was, in my opinion, a great conclusion: the fifth season raised the stakes higher than I would have ever thought possible, but still kept audiences firmly rooted in the emotional core of the whole series – the suspenseful will-they-won’t-they romance between heroine Adora (better known by her alias She-Ra) and the antiheroine Catra, which eventually ended with the two characters confessing their love for each other while the world came crumbling down around them. The power of that love was enough to activate the Heart of Etheria and in turn save the entire planet from being decimated by Horde Prime’s alien hordes; and so at last Adora, Catra, and their squad of friends and allies got to enjoy what seemed to be a mostly happy ending for everybody involved (well, except Horde Prime).

But it didn’t take long before the She-Ra fandom rallied behind a new hashtag on Twitter, #SheRaMovie, which has consistently become a top trend on social media for the past several weeks. And while some might dismiss it as dissatisfied fans hungry for more content, the truth is that there are many good reasons for why a She-Ra movie could and should happen: not only because it’s a smart business move to tap into such a large and clearly motivated audience, but because (a) there’s never been a better time for fan-driven campaigns and LGBTQ+ representation in animation, and (b) there are plenty more stories left to tell in the She-Ra universe.

She-Ra
Scorpia & Catra | syfy.com

Fan-driven campaigns have often been seen as foolish or vain endeavors: there have been times where they’ve succeeded in changing the minds of studio executives (Sonic the Hedgehog’s redesign, for instance), but 2020 has really made the sky the limit in terms of what a fan-driven campaign can achieve, and that’s all thanks to Zack Snyder’s never-before-seen cut of Justice League. Fans asked for it for years, and insisted that it would be better than the disastrous box-office flop that actually got released in theaters back in 2017; they trended #ReleaseTheSnyderCut whenever they could; and most importantly, they never gave up. They kept the movement going, they got support from the film’s cast and crew, they made the simple hashtag become a household phrase – and this year, they were rewarded for their efforts with the news that Warner Brothers will indeed soon release Zack Snyder’s Justice League. #SheRaMovie is in part inspired by the success of that movement, and as long as fans continue to make it trend regularly and continue to receive support from insiders (She-Ra showrunner Noelle Stevenson never fails to express her admiration for the fan campaign, which in turn motivates the fans to keep up their efforts), they will attract attention from the higher-ups at Dreamworks Animation and Netflix, and could soon share in the happiness that Snyder Cut supporters are feeling.

The need to see more strong LGBTQ+ representation in entertainment media is likely going to be another important factor in greenlighting a She-Ra movie. She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power was one of several animated shows and films this year that made a place in the narrative for well-rounded LGBTQ+ characters (and Noelle Stevenson’s wife Molly Ostertag is in fact responsible for writing several episodes of another of those shows, Disney Channel’s The Owl House, which features Disney’s first bisexual lead character) which earned the series plenty of well-deserved praise, including from my blog. With so much progress happening so quickly, my question for Dreamworks is…why stop now? When you have an established LGBTQ+ friendly franchise like She-Ra already perfectly positioned to continue leading the charge for diversity in animation, why not utilize that advantage?

She-Ra
Adora & Catra | tor.com

And moving away from the business perspective for a minute, let’s take a look at in-universe reasons for why a She-Ra movie should happen: obviously, the movie needs to have a reason to exist. But luckily, She-Ra ends with plenty of set-up for an eventual spinoff – in fact, the very last scene features the entire main cast of characters already planning to embark on a new adventure to share their planet’s abundant magic with the rest of the galaxy. A spinoff movie could partly follow that plotline, which would take us to new locations and introduce us to new characters. Besides that, there are still several questions left unanswered after the finale, particularly questions about the First Ones and their forgotten technology, the origins of Horde Prime and of She-Ra herself, the universe outside Despondos, and the character of Madame Razz, who, despite not having and not needing a large role in season five, could be a major player in a She-Ra movie if her mysterious backstory ever gets explored in-depth.

Most of the characters have room to grow post-season five, no matter what else happens. Adora and Catra finally got together, but now both young women need to keep working to maintain the bond of trust and understanding they established after basically rebooting their entire relationship. They’re starting over from scratch, which makes their dynamic all the more fascinating. Glimmer, still Queen of Bright Moon, is going to have to return there eventually and rule alongside her best friend/boyfriend Bow and her recently-returned father, Micah, who was King before he went missing (I love some political intrigue). Scorpia and Perfuma will be rebuilding the Fright Zone side-by-side. Mermista and Seahawk should be commanding their own pirate fleet by now. Entrapta will be trying to convince her friends to trust Hordak, which won’t be easy considering he (checks notes) plundered and pillaged all of Etheria, robbed Scorpia of her birthright and brainwashed her into thinking she never had one, destroyed Mermista’s entire kingdom, kidnapped Adora and Catra as babies, employed Shadow Weaver to emotionally abuse his soldiers, personally tortured Catra, started a decades-long war with the Princess Alliance, paved the way for Horde Prime’s takeover, and never apologized for any of it. And the shape-shifter Double Trouble will be living their best life on a theater stage, even though we still don’t know what happened to their last disguise, the prophetic Prince Peekablue – in fact, finding him could be another potential subplot.

She-Ra
flickeringmyth.com

My ideal She-Ra movie would tackle all of these storylines, but, since the ending of season five perfectly sets up a space-based adventure, that’s where I’d want the film to start out, with Adora, Catra, Glimmer, Bow, Entrapta and Hordak (and Wrong Hordak, just for fun) either just setting off on a quest across the stars or returning from one. Most of the film, however, could still be set on Etheria. As for the conflict, with Horde Prime and Shadow Weaver both dead and Hordak a good guy now, who’s left to challenge She-Ra? Easy: the First Ones. The technologically-advanced, semi-mythological figures who created She-Ra and programmed Etheria to be their own superweapon may have been defeated during Horde Prime’s war of conquest, but it’s not implausible that some survived – and if some did, they’d want nothing more than to finally deactivate She-Ra, their experiment gone wrong. And they probably wouldn’t be too keen on the notion of Etheria spreading its magical resources across the galaxy, come to think of it. While Adora and Horde Prime had a fairly impersonal conflict, it would be hard to get more personal than a fight between Adora and the First Ones, who literally designed her super-sized avatar (well, Adora fighting Catra would be more personal, technically, but we’ve been there, done that).

To conclude, my message to all of you is to keep pushing for a movie because it could very well happen – but only if Dreamworks and Netflix both see that the demand is there. Don’t let a week go by where the hashtag doesn’t trend. Don’t stop calling for better, stronger LGBTQ+ representation in all media, but especially in animation where it’s currently on a roll. If you’re active in the She-Ra fandom, you know all this already, but it’s important to reiterate. Let’s make this movie happen!

How do you feel about a She-Ra movie? Do you think it’s smart from a business perspective, and do you think it’s wise to continue the story? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Howard Ashman’s Story Is Brought To Life In “Howard”!

Howard is yet more proof that one of the Disney+ streaming platform’s greatest strengths, despite an overall lack of original content, is its catalog of documentaries – not all of which, to be fair, were created exclusively for the service. Between this, Into The Unknown: The Making Of Frozen II, The Imagineering Story and Waking Sleeping Beauty, viewers are in for a treat if they ever seek out this particular genre on Disney+. Unfortunately, it remains one of the service’s better kept secrets that all these films and miniseries’ are even on there at all. Howard, which explores the life and times of one of the studio’s most celebrated songwriters as well as the impact he had on the Disney Renaissance, is neither the most illuminating nor the most well-made of these documentaries, but it is a welcome addition to the collection – and like the rest, it affords us a much-needed glimpse behind the curtain into the making of Disney magic: particularly the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the creative process.

Howard Ashman
d23.com

Now, if you’re already familiar with many of the details of Howard Ashman’s story (and/or if you are subscribed to the superb Dreamsounds channel on YouTube, which examines Disney music through an LGBTQ+ lens and as a result focuses several video essays around Ashman), then Howard probably won’t be anything too groundbreaking. The film goes over all the pivotal moments in Ashman’s life, from his youth to his accomplishments in musical theater and film, to his tragic death from AIDS, before closing off with a look back at his legacy – accompanied by a montage which includes footage from Disney’s live-action remakes of Beauty & The Beast and Aladdin – but while it does also dig a little deeper into his personal life it still feels distanced and a bit cold until the very end: though this could be because the film only uses voiceover from the people who knew and loved Ashman to narrate a long string of old photographs, snippets of footage, etc, rather than allowing us to attach faces and, most importantly, real emotions to the names of the interviewees.

Probably the most important element of the film is how it tackles the latter period of Howard Ashman’s life, while he was simultaneously turning out some of his greatest work for Disney and also suffering from AIDS. The documentary appropriately doesn’t make the whole story about Disney (though you might think that’s the case early on, as Ashman’s sister recounts how as a child he used to create fantastical stories about magic and made-up characters), nor does it gloss over the horrors of the AIDS epidemic: the 1980’s was a terrifying and extremely dangerous place for gay men, which the documentary makes very clear by recounting how Ashman kept his illness a closely-guarded secret until near the end of his life for fear of losing his insurance and being fired by Disney. Just because he was working for a studio with a reputation for charming, happily-ever-after fairytales doesn’t mean he was oblivious to the reality that at the time (and even now, to some extent), there was no surety that Disney was an LGBTQ+ friendly company or that they would accommodate his needs (they did, much to Ashman’s relief; sending their teams of animators and writers to his home in upstate New York rather than requiring him to fly back-and-forth between the East and West coasts, and continuing to involve him in the songwriting process for Aladdin while he was hospitalized).

Howard Ashman
medium.com

The gay subtext that Ashman is believed to have put into the music he wrote for Disney is also addressed (though again, if you want to know more about it, I recommend the Dreamsounds channel, which covers this topic in much greater depth). Both Part Of Your World, the iconic “I Want” song from The Little Mermaid that Ashman fought for despite Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s objections (the “I Want” song wasn’t Ashman’s invention, but he certainly popularized the term) and The Mob Song from Beauty & The Beast are often believed to have LGBTQ+ themes, though only The Mob Song is brought up to prove this point in the film, with parallels being drawn between the townsfolk’s fear/hatred of the Beast, which results in them marching with pitchforks, gun and torches to kill him, and society’s fear/hatred of the LGBTQ+ community, which expressed itself in similar, and no less brutal, violence. A counterargument is provided that Howard Ashman wasn’t projecting his own experience into the lyrics of his songs, but was instead stepping into the shoes of the characters with the help of his remarkable amount of empathy, but it can’t be argued that a large part of his empathy with the struggles of misunderstood and mistreated characters like Ariel and The Beast is likely to have stemmed from his own struggles being accepted in a homophobic society.

Following the course of one man’s real life story leads us inevitably to Howard Ashman’s last days on earth, with his working partner Alan Menken, The Little Mermaid star Jodi Benson and others sharing their last memories of him, including a prophetic dream of the lyricist wearing black robes which Menken had on the same morning as Ashman’s passing. It goes without saying that the last couple of minutes of the documentary are an emotional ride.

Howard Ashman
syfy.com

Howard Ashman was able to get a lot done in his life, and several of the interviewees note that his frustration at having so little time left often motivated him to work even harder during his last years. Despite only working on a handful of films for Disney, Ashman shaped the future of the studio, its storytelling and its music, and he continues to impact the way they craft their animated films to this day. The whole Disney Renaissance is largely because of him and the way in which he was able to seamlessly reinvent the studio’s formula to closer match that of the Broadway musicals which he loved. On the stage, of course, he was responsible for the legendary Little Shop Of Horrors musical and was involved with the subsequent film adaptation, which is itself getting a remake sometime in the near future. And he is particularly notable for being able to accomplish so much of this while working as an openly gay man, no easy feat in any time period. In the documentary, he is heard humbly admitting that he doesn’t think of himself as a trailblazer – but there is no question that he was one of the most brilliant minds in music during his time, and that his influence will continue to be felt for a very while.

Movie Rating: 7.5/10

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“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Episodes 12 & 13 Review!

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD!

After seven years, the end has finally come for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’m pleased to report it’s a glorious one. In so many ways, it’s the end of an era – for us, as the devoted fandom who stuck with the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. team even when others claimed it wasn’t worth it because it would never be Marvel canon; for the cast and crew, obviously, since they’ve put so much hard work into making this show everything that it has become; and for an epic chapter of television history; Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought us seven seasons worth of brilliant, albeit absolutely bizarre, storylines spanning the entire Marvel Universe (and occasionally breaking out from its confines). And best of all…it’s a happy ending, the kind where all our major characters get to go out on a high note and nobody gets killed off just to make the plot more dramatic: in fact, precisely zero of our protagonists died on last night’s two-hour long finale event. On the flip-side, I think I can safely say that we, the audience, all died just a little as we had to grapple with the realization that this is…really it. It’s over. It’s done.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
tvline.com

Though, if anyone is wondering – and be warned, you will be hearing about this a lot from me in the near future – there’s still plenty of ways in which Marvel could continue the story of certain S.H.I.E.L.D. team members, particularly Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) and Yo-Yo Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), both of whom I still firmly believe can and should join the MCU proper.

The finale, which is actually two back-to-back episodes, gave us a lot to muse on: from Avengers: Endgame tie-ins and references, to cinematic visual effects, to the individual endings for each and every character’s arcs. Because this show has always centered around its amazing characters, we’re going to break down all of those endings one by one: yes, even the villains because villains deserve satisfying endings too.

Well, except for Chronicoms. And speaking of Chronicoms, let’s talk about them first and foremost because these folks (a race of emotionless cyborgs with the ability to steal human faces and wear them as their own) have been a mixed bag since they first showed up in any large capacity. When it was just Enoch (Joel Stoffer) back in season five, they did seem kind of interesting – but ironically, that was because Enoch turned out to be a rogue Chronicom who had actually developed emotions during his long sojourn on Earth. Particularly in this final season, the Chronicoms have felt very one-dimensional, with only their leader Sybil the Predictor (Tamara Taylor) having much personality. And that doesn’t really change much in the finale. The Chronicoms are extremely threatening, which helps, but they still don’t rank high on the list of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. villains, with their vague motivations and bland character designs. In the opening minutes of the finale’s first half, they capture Daisy, Al “Mack” Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) as the trio of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tries to launch a daring raid on the Zephyr One, where their friend Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is being held prisoner. But apart from Sybil, the Chronicoms don’t actually come out in full force until the last half of the finale, when their entire army heads to the Lighthouse S.H.I.E.L.D. base in a last-ditch effort to stop their arch-nemesis Leopold Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), only to find themselves defeated by a very unlikely threat from above: Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), who, after incapacitating Sybil with a kick to the face, uses her newfound empathetic powers to give the entire Chronicom army emotions. It’s a good idea in theory and it underscores the point that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been about compassion and unconditional love, but it’s definitely a concept that needed more set-up: and the way the Chronicoms simply drop their weapons, declare themselves to be friends, and then disappear completely from the story afterwards is…well, not exactly underwhelming because I didn’t expect much from the Chronicoms, but just a little anti-climactic.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jemma Simmons & Deke Shaw | comicyears.com

But that’s okay, because they were never the real big bad anyway. This whole time, that’s been Nathaniel Malick (Thomas E. Sullivan), the son of HYDRA royalty, who was supposed to die young in 1970 but, due to timeline meddling, ended up surviving all the way into the present day, stealing some of Daisy Johnson’s seismic superpowers and becoming the finale’s main antagonist. I didn’t have a problem with this: Malick, despite his questionable fashion statements and anarchistic tendencies, is a lot more compelling than any Chronicom – and the duel between the two Quakes is every bit as epic as was promised. Malick’s goal by this point in the episode is to kill Daisy and use the remaining half of the Chronicom fleet that’s still descending through the earth’s atmosphere to wipe out S.H.I.E.L.D., and he figures that Daisy won’t be able to stop him because the only way she can feasibly kill him is by killing herself in the process. “That’s the idea”, Daisy responds – and she explodes. In the biggest display of her powers ever, she sends shockwaves tearing through space, ripping the entire Chronicom fleet to pieces: taking Sybil and Nathaniel Malick with it. But Daisy, at the eye of the hurricane so to speak, unintentionally survives the blast and her drifting body is picked up by Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in the Zephyr One just in time for her sister, Kora (Dianne Doan), to come in and revive her using her own healing powers.

Kora, the final season’s third major villain, has an awkward redemption arc at the last moment. She comes to her senses after a confrontation with Daisy, tries unsuccessfully to convince Malick that Daisy is actually a good person, gets shot for her efforts, and then uses her powers to assist Melinda May in the final battle. Fitz describes Kora as the key to ensuring the survival of the world and that’s great and all, but…what exactly did she do? Her powers get upgraded so quickly it’s hard to tell what her limits are anymore: first it was just glowing punches, then it was somehow related to electricity, then she could heal people, now all of a sudden she can shoot laser beams through space. But while I might have to rewatch the episode to clarify certain details, I’m still a little confused as to why her power was so vital. She saved Daisy, so I’m eternally grateful for that, but Daisy had already defeated the Chronicoms – her survival wasn’t necessary, except to fans. And the laser she shot at the Lighthouse achieved…what, exactly? In hindsight, I wish she had been introduced earlier in the season if only so we could have gotten a better idea of what she wanted and what she could do. But of course, that wouldn’t have worked because of the way the time jumps were going, so…

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
slate.com

Speaking of time jumps. The emotional core of the entire finale is the FitzSimmons duo, who, as it turns out, have been orchestrating most of the events of seasons six and seven with masterful intricacy and a lot of help from time travel. As is explained in flashback, they both took off at the end of the season six finale and spent years perfecting a time machine design so they could eventually come back and save their friends. Fitz, whom we’ve been waiting for ages to show up again, finally reappears at the crucial midpoint of the finale and confirms that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually utilizing the same time travel logic from Avengers: Endgame – which states that going into the past creates divergent timelines, rather than changing the future. Amazingly, the Endgame tie-ins don’t end there. Not only does Fitz reference how time travel makes use of the subatomic Quantum Realm and explain that he’s been traveling the Realm all the time he’s been gone, examining different timelines to see which ones work in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s favor, but he actually takes the S.H.I.E.L.D. team through the Quantum Realm, along with the entire Chronicom fleet. This is all to make sure that the Agents get back to their original timeline and leave the other timelines mostly unscathed, but it has the added benefit of bringing the show closer to the MCU than it’s been in years.

Unfortunately, escaping the alternate timeline to return to the original one comes with consequences: one member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team has to stay behind in the past to work the time machine apparatus, and that member is the rascally Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward), who offers himself up voluntarily. Deke has spent his entire time on the show trying to fit in, and he’s never truly belonged anywhere but the 1980’s. And, as he explains to the team, he’s kind of a rock and roll superstar in this alternate timeline. But that’s not his only task: with all of 80’s S.H.I.E.L.D. in chaos, Deke promises to step up to the challenge of becoming the organization’s new director, a title that definitely should not suit him as well as it does. Thankfully for him, he’ll get to work with a couple of agents who escaped the Chronicom attack on last week’s episode – including a younger but still instantly recognizable Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), who gets her long-overdue justice on her killer John Garrett (James Paxton) by shooting his younger version in the forehead.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
deadline.com

Returning to the day of the season six finale and what should be the proper timeline, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are able to overcome both Chronicoms and Malick. This requires a slight detour to the ancient Mesoamerican temple where the season six finale took place, where we reunite with Piper (Brianna Venskus) and the Inhuman Flint (Coy Stewart), both of whom have hilarious interactions with the time-traveling FitzSimmons as they try to make sense of what’s going on – one of the funniest moments is when Piper, for whom only a few minutes have passed, asks whether or not all the commotion is being caused by the death goddess Izel (the season six big bad), and Simmons has to wrack her brain just to try and remember who that is. But Piper and Flint aren’t just there for laughs, being asked by Simmons to stand guard over a mysterious chamber while she and Fitz manage the whole time travel business. As we discover near the end of the episode, that chamber contains something incredibly precious to FitzSimmons: their daughter, Alya, named after the star system in which they hid for years, lived their lives and designed their time machine. Alya, who speaks with a Scottish accent clearly inherited from her father, is the reason why the fight is so personal for FitzSimmons, and she’s the perfect culmination of their incredible love story.

And on that point…culminations. The end for so many characters we’ve grown to love over the past several years. FitzSimmons, luckily, are the first ones to get their happy ending, and they even get to enjoy it twice – since by finale’s end, they’ve settled down in the current timeline, on Earth. The last scene of the finale follows the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team reuniting via hologram message at Enoch’s old hideout, the Swordfish bar, discussing old times, playfully teasing each other, and promising to stay in touch, with each eventually disconnecting and giving us a little glimpse into their new lives. FitzSimmons and little Alya are enjoying a picnic when we last see them, and they’ve never looked so happy. Their romance, which one seemed like a curse, has blossomed into something beautiful.

Mack and Yo Yo had the least to do in the finale overall, with Yo Yo only getting a couple of action scenes (standouts, nonetheless: that’s just how awesome she is), but their lives in the present day look fascinating. Mack is still director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he’s sporting a very Nick Fury-like coat as he strides about the deck of his helicarrier. Yo Yo, meanwhile, is on assignment with her own team, which includes Piper and Davis (Maximilian Osinski), who has been resurrected as an LMD. Yo Yo has one last incredible moment as she jumps out of the team’s car and speeds off down the road, her upgraded Inhuman powers giving her the ability to go wherever she wants and never have to “bounce back” any longer.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Mack, Yo Yo & Melinda May | tvline.com

For Melinda May, her future involves a lot of hard work – but no longer as “The Cavalry” (a nickname she finally embraces near the end, putting aside the trauma she had formally attached to it). Instead, she now works as a teacher at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, which has been renamed the Coulson Academy and also seems to sport a daisy in its new logo. Flint is amongst her students, and May seems genuinely happy helping the next generation begin their training as agents. Some fans of the Philinda romantic coupling are upset that she and Coulson didn’t head off into the sunset together, and I get that, but I also feel like May’s new empathetic powers lend themselves well to the role of a teacher (besides which, her and Coulson are still giving each other meaningful looks in the closing minutes so maybe there’s still a spark between them?)

Eventually the series brings us back down to where it all began, with Coulson and Daisy. Their relationship is the real core of the whole story: it’s fitting that they get the last word. For Daisy, her future includes a journey into the depths of space alongside Daniel Sousa (they end up together, which is…fine, I guess), and Kora, with the intention of reaching out to alien races across the galaxy – almost like they’re Agents of S.W.O.R.D. or something. Those of us who still want Daisy Johnson in the MCU will continue to push for an Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series that includes her in some capacity, and the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale has given us a tantalizing hint of how awesome it could be.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Phil Coulson | deadline.com

And as for LMD Coulson…who did NOT decide to power down or turn off completely, the future is looking bright. He’s taking some time to himself, traveling the world without any urgent plans, and he’s got a “cool” (the very last word spoken in the entire series) new flying Corvette modeled after his original car, Lola. A gift of Mack’s, the sci-fi vehicle allows Coulson to go out in an appropriately epic style, soaring over the streets of Washington D.C. and zipping away to destinations unknown. I was certain that Coulson would die this season, completing his cycle of death and rebirth, but this is a much more fitting end: after all, this whole series was started partly because of how much fans rallied behind the hashtag #CoulsonLives, after it seemed we had lost him forever in The Avengers. Coulson is, indeed, living his best life now.

And that’s the true beauty of this show. It’s always been about the fans. We’re not the biggest subsection of the Marvel fandom, but we’re passionate, we’re persistent, and we made it so much farther than anyone could have ever guessed. And in the end, I hope we’ll all keep in touch, just like the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – raise a toast to a spy’s goodbye for now, but somewhere down the line we might cross paths again. Maybe in the MCU, even, if we pressure Kevin Feige enough…

Once an Agent, always an Agent.

Episode Rating: 9.8/10

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