Defending Captain America: Civil War

The way I see it, CA: Civil War (a movie I thoroughly enjoyed both times I saw it at the theater) is that it is a movie that by its very nature is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t. The reason I say that is for starters look at its length. Its scope. Its large cast. Many would say it’s too much, mainly because they allow themselves to be overwhelmed by one of the aspects, either separately or collectively. Let’s look at the length. A movie of this scope with this many moving parts would be maligned for being too [insert complaint] if it were 20 minutes shorter. Let’s look at the cast. A movie with war in the title and an internal war at its core is going to need two large factions of folks going at it. That leaves the scope and scale of a movie of this kind. Well, of course a movie smack in the middle of a shared universe narrative is going to require large set pieces and a HUGE (and I mean YUGE!) epic battle between the warring factions. Yet, because of that large scale battle, some were left with the impression that “there’s very little story” or not enough quiet, character moments, which I contend are simply false.

Let’s look at the story itself. Due to previous events that were arguably irresponsible and shortsighted, there’s some backlash, individually and collectively. Steve’s got his issues. Tony’s got his. Bucky’s are obvious. Wanda and Natasha too. Enter T’Challa and there’s a mini-story there with all its ramifications. Same with Peter. Now, let’s introduce some way-back past events that impact Steve, Tony and Bucky dealing with the murder of Tony’s parents at Bucky’s hands – due to sleeper-agent indoctrination. That’s no big deal though. It’s not a big moment for the characters, it doesn’t touch or elevate the emotional core of this conflict and this deepening rift between 2 major players, 2 friends. Surely it doesn’t inspire an emotional climax in said story. [sarcasm]

For some reason, amid all the action and fighting – cuz, y’know, it’s in the action-adventure genre – these deeper moments got missed or overlooked by the movie’s harshest critics.

Had the makers of the movie come lightly on any of those aspects, what would we be saying? We’d be a bit underwhelmed, amirite? I think I’d probably rather be overwhelmed by a movie than underwhelmed. At some point I can come to embrace whatever there’s too much of, but on the flip of that, I can’t compensate for what’s missing.

Ya dig?

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The River’s Edge | Riverdale Pilot Commentary

Obviously the inspiration for this adaptation, particularly in tone, is more owed to the recently rebooted Archie comics than the old school originals that began in the golden age of comics during the 1940s. So going in with that and the fact that it’s a modern day teen show on the CW with a mysterious teen murder as a backdrop, you know it’s going to be darker, seedier. However, being created/executive produced by Greg Berlanti gives it more than a snowball’s chance in hell to become a successful show on multiple levels, if Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are any indication.

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All in all, last week’s pilot episode of Riverdale was intriguing, despite various changes to the essence and mythos of the Archie universe, not to mention typical pilot wrinkles. There’s a Twin Peaks feel to it, mixed in with some 90210 melodrama. I have to admit a teen show of this nature is not something I had been looking for since like Dawson’s Creek in 1998 in my mid-20s, and I still  don’t necessarily need one these days, not with the current trappings that comes with today’s teenage life (trust me, I’m a dad on his second teenager currently).

Here’s a bullet-point rundown of the nitpicks I had with the pilot:

  • The casting is pretty good, especially Veronica Lodge, Fred Andrews and Jughead Jones, but . . .
  • They couldn’t find a blond to cast for Kevin Keller, especially considering there are no blond dudes on the show?
  • There’s always a visual problem when you have very mature looking 20-somethings playing teenage characters, especially mere sophomores.
  • The lesbian kiss between Veronica and Betty was forced and gratuitous in its execution.
  • Moose Mason . . . cue the closeted gay bisexual high school athlete. Really? Gay/bisexual characters are totally fine (I’m very far from being a homophobe), but the closeted gay/bisexual jock is such low-hanging fruit. It’s too convenient.
  • Is it really hard to put together a teen-aimed show minus the forced sexual content?
  • Josie “Pussycat” McCoy had one-note and not an ounce of charisma.
  • Reggie Mantle is rather vapid.
  • Jughead was scarce, we need more Jughead. However, he is Archie’s best former best friend and also the narrator, so naturally his role will increase.

My initial rating is somewhere around a 3.5 or a little more. But what the hell, my teen daughter digs it and I have an opening in my nightly schedule at the moment, having dropped out on the CW’s Supergirl after a rocky start to season two. I’ll employ a little patience to give Riverdale a couple of episodes to truly win me over.

Episode 2 is tonight at 9 PM EST.

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Commentary | Star Trek: Beyond

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STAR TREK: BEYOND. It was a highly fun and entertaining movie, right in line with the previous two of this J.J. Abrams reboot. We left feeling like it was really good, and I still have that thought a few days later. Coincidentally, there was a theme that ran through the story, a timely theme of diversity, togetherness and teamwork. Staying together for mutual purpose in order to achieve harmony and to prosper – the common Star Trek theme, of course. But also this: no matter what our sins are in the past or present, in order to make a better tomorrow we need to unify, overcome and forge ahead together.

Upon reflection a couple of days later, something about this movie has me questioning whether or not I was as emotionally engaged in it as I was with the previous two installments. I don’t think it’s the actors’ fault that maybe I’m getting a sense that it lacked a certain amount of depth. Chris Pine as Cpt. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Comm. Spock seemed to do what they could to emote their character’s pathos. I would say that particular criticism would lay at the foot of director Justin Lin. For instance, I should have felt Kirk’s inner turmoil, Spock’s loss and even more inner turmoil, and even Krall, the villain’s century’s long plight a little deeper. I was surprised by the merely 2 hours running time, and maybe another ten minutes could have allowed for the story to delve a little deeper. I dunno, it’s just my opinion that stories/movies that are meant to be epic are even more so when the audience’s emotions are just as engaged as their intellect – amplifying the sense of awe.

In the grand scheme of things, this does not greatly diminish the overall experience, it’s more of a residual concern after the fact for me. Visually the movie was very stunning and impressive. The SFX contained both the great and not-so-great aspects of CGI. However, when scale is a big ingredient, you really can’t escape the necessity of all that CGI has to offer. As the credits rolled I noticed Simon Pegg’s credit as the co-screenwriter. A job done well. Happy to see that, for now, Kirk and Spock aren’t throwing in the towel just yet.

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Commentary | AMC’S Preacher: Season 1

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After the excellent and humorous 6th episode “Sundowner” from a couple of weeks back, PREACHER and I have finally reached an accord with each other, I suppose. I’m starting to judge it less in comparison to its comic book/graphic novel source material, finally. Last week’s episode, “He Gone” was fairly good. Still, I have issues with Cassidy and Tulip hooking up so early in the overall scheme of things. And while Tulip’s TV portrayal has been a tour-de-force by Ruth Negga, her likability compared to comic book Tulip has been compromised, thus far, IMHO. Yet, overall, I’m still entertained and intrigued at this point, so I’m in for the long haul.

Now, weeks later as we are on the verge of the season one finale, another thought on the show occurred to me. I’ve been on record elsewhere with a number of criticisms about this particular adaptation. Nothing too harsh, I don’t think. My latest thought is in regards to the show’s slow-burn, a criticism I’ve seen levied against it recently.

The thing is, there’s no need to decompress the story of PREACHER (i.e. drag its plots and storylines out unnecessarily) because there is plenty of material from the source to run probably six 10-episode seasons. Sure, they’d have to pad some things out, which they’re doing now, but they’ve actually compounded the situation because although they’ve slowed things, and have even rewound things to a point prior to where the story starts in the comics, they’ve also expedited certain things in the timeline that, in my opinion, aren’t for the most compelling storytelling reasons, at least not when in comparison to how things were plotted out in the original series. I know, I know, this is a * prequel * and they do not have the budget for what should be a weekly road trip show. Still, and I’m going to harp on this again: Tulip and Cassidy’s tryst, this early, not to mention this consensual, really bothers me and I have yet to see a compelling reason for it happening this early. Also, the Quincannon inclusion this early also has me taken aback just a bit. Still, I’m have to say I do enjoy the show and would largely consider it a success. I just can’t understand why I’m having such a hard time separating myself from the source material because that’s not how I am usually. I’m usually happy to see deviations if they make sense and are happening for compelling and understandable reasons. At any rate, I’ll continue to watch. And I’ll share my thoughts on the season finale here next week.

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Geoff Johns Now Co-Head of DC Movies

Broken News Commentary: Finally, like with the television division, a comic book guy is in place to be able to ensure that certain other creative minds don’t go too far off the comic book reservation with the movies. A swift move that should be very effective.

The great comics industry journalist Heidi MacDonald writes via her wonderful The Comics Beat blog:

That thud you just heard was official confirmation of the other shoe dropping after the extremely mixed success of Batman v Superman. The last few weeks rumors have been flying about a shake-up at Warner Bros. Pictures…

The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit has all the exclusive major scoop.