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Tag Archive: Captain Marvel


Review by C.J. Bunce

DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers began to take a shift in their superhero movie franchise with last year’s more adventurous Aquaman.  With Shazam! the studios proved that a movie based on DC Comics characters could be every bit as good as the source material, and more satisfying than their past big budget efforts.  True to the spirit of the characters and the story going back to the original Captain Marvel that was so successful in the 1940s, director David F. Sandberg found the sweet spot with Shazam!  Just as seen on the big screen, now on home video Shazam! balances good fun with the requirements of demanding modern audiences.  With the heart of the 1978 Superman and the Tom Hanks hit movie Big, the movie is the best of what DC has to offer in live action entertainment (check out my review of the film earlier at borg here).  Worthy of the film itself, the new home release offers a trove of special features.

The film’s first strength is screenwriter Henry Gayden′s lighthearted story.  It’s all about heart and family bonds, but it also has its action, and even for its comparatively modest $100 million budget, the movie relied extensively on practical effects for its key action sequences.  All of the scenes with Shazam, his extended family, and the villain Dr. Sivana featured a mix of actors and stunt professionals, with far less reliance on the CGI in so many recent DC and Marvel films.  So many of these scenes are showcased in the features that it’s apparent the 1,000 effects filmed for the third act in the final 12 weeks of shooting required something like the strength of Shazam to accomplish.  As director Sandberg remarks in the bonus features, the production had very little slippage in their timetable.  And the success can be seen in the final edit.

Some of the best content on the home release examines how the lead actors filmed their aerial scenes.  Comic fans and fans of stars Zachary Levi and Mark Strong will appreciate their knowledge of the history of the characters they played.  Levi initially submitted screen tests to play a grown-up version of Billy Batson’s foster brother Freddie, and it was apparent immediately to Sandberg he needed to take the lead role.  Strong, who already played a great Sinestro in the less well-received Green Lantern movie, continued to add to the wealth of powerful live-action supervillains, bringing gravitas to the production, reflected in the final cut of the film.  His acting prowess while being transported as if soaring across the sky with cables in front of a green screen (instead of rendering him entirely in CGI) reflects a versatile, impressive thespian who can do his craft in whatever environment is thrown at him.  But fans of the film will find more than 37 minutes of deleted scenes really make the home version a must-watch.

So what all is in the home release?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This month, a new book examining what makes a great character also takes an in-depth look at Hollywood and film from the silent picture era to today.  It’s Turner Classic Movies/TCM′s latest book on film, Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History I previously reviewed film historian Sloan De Forest′s Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World here at borg, a fun read and a fun list that is more a celebration of pop culture than film school companion.  De Forest seems to have far more passion for her next subject, selecting a masterful list of 50 women worth reading about–and worth seeing their films.  She also connects the dots between actors, their characters, and their personal lives in a way you’ve probably not seen before.  In one word, Dynamic Dames is brilliant.

Everyone reading anyone else’s list of 50 people of any pursuit will have quibbles along the way, but De Forest shows an impressive knowledge of film and delivers.  Not only a selection of 50 worthy actors–she doesn’t select the roles most movie critics flock to and rave about–she also finds those finer, more nuanced performances where these Dynamic Dames probably should have scored their Oscars.  She also divides the book into eight sections and finds perfect examples that exemplify each section, from Pre-Code Bad Girls, to Big Bad Mamas, Women of Mystery, and Strong Survivors.  A category not possible until more recently, Superheroines, rounds out the list, and although the performances have not had much of a chance to steep from a historical standpoint, De Forest provides solid rationale for them all.

Authors of a book like this typically will reserve a small percentage of the list for modern readers to have something to be attracted to, but that’s not the case here.  De Forest actually embraces recent films, pulling in more than 20 percent of her list from characters appearing in 21st century films.  Most of her rationale for each of these more recent actors and corresponding characters justifies their inclusion, comparable in performance, significance, and influence, to the film greats any movie buff would expect to find on this list.  She also ties in some of cinema’s–and literature’s–best women writers; it should be no surprise that many of these outstanding characters in film over the course of 92 years resulted from great women writers of the 19th and 20th century, including Charlotte Brontë, Agatha Christie, and J.K Rowling.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After 21 movies and a decade of superheroics, the end arrived this weekend with Marvel StudiosAvengers: Endgame, already setting new box office records.  Nearly every seat at multiple screenings at my local theater was sold out this weekend, as was the case across the country.  Which means many have seen it, but even more haven’t. You can’t review a film without some details, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor: bookmark this and come back later.  The short version: If you’re a superhero fan and you’ve followed the previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you won’t want to miss it.  But re-watch both Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel first.  I’ve no idea how anyone will follow the events in the film without first seeing at least these two films.  Endgame is a good wrap-up to the first major story arc in the franchise and a fine segue into the future of the films.  But it’s not perfect (what ever is?) and I’m going to walk through some goods and bads from the film.

That means “there be spoilers ahead” so consider yourself forewarned if you continue.

Note to email subscribers: Clicking on the link will take you into the full review.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Alita: Battle Angela could be just another space-age story.  It’s full of cyborgs (we love’ em), but it’s not standard fare for frequent sci-fi movie buffs and sci-fi readers.  Without the “distraction” of Robert Rodriguez’s special effects, you can really get to the heart of the movie’s story by going to the underlying source work it adapts, or in this case, its novelization, Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization, by author Pat Cadigan, who also wrote last year’s Harley Quinn–Mad Love, reviewed here at borg.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of what looks like a teen girl.  The film changes enough from the manga, incorporating several new characters and conflicts, that the novelization and film stand apart from Kishiro’s manga.  So how does the new story fare?

Above all, the biggest surprise is that Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization is in every way a young adult novel, based on its protagonist, story structure, and the author’s writing style.  In fact the film may have missed a niche audience–as the studio targeted adult sci-fi buffs instead of fans of stories like the Divergent series, Twilight, The Maze Runner series, City of Ember, and Ender‘s GameEven more on-point, Alita: Battle Angel follows the same emotional highs and lows of The Hunger Games.  Both The Hunger Games and Alita: Battle Angel are teen heroine updates to both Rollerball (1975) and The Running Man (1987), but like some of the best science fiction they are also remakes of the oldest of them all, Frankenstein, and its descendant PinocchioBlend these four popular stories together and you can understand why James Cameron prepared 600 pages of development material for the Alita project he would ultimately produce into the film.

Pat Cadigan‘s storytelling is a mirror of the writing style and pacing of The Hunger Games’ novel writer, Suzanne Collins.  In a significant way, Alita: Battle Angel is a teen romance, a romance between Alita–an amnesiac cyborg who is primarily robotic but has a human brain–and her newfound human boyfriend Hugo.  Hugo is a street kid who helps her learn who she wants to be and how to survive on the streets of a futuristic Earth where everyone who isn’t a cyborg is mugging cyborgs to steal their parts and swap them for cash.  As with Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, Alita and Hugo fall in love as they help each other and work together when faced with an onslaught of ever-increasing impediments to their survival.  And yes, this is another superheroine with a problem like the heroine in the new Captain Marvel movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Make no mistake, Billy Batson aka Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (aka Shazam since 2012) has always been the most difficult to fold into the DC pantheon of superheroes.  With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman–the trinity at the top of DC Comics for so long–audiences always know much of what those characters are going to bring to a story even before they walk into the theater.  To be fair, Billy wasn’t a DC original, shuffled much later into the DC universe because of some decades-long legal tedium.  Billy Batson is a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero, so the trailers have been compared to Penny Marshall’s Big, another story about a kid suddenly dealing with being grown-up.  And that is, indeed, part of Shazam!  The movie is also part origin story, because although Shazam! adheres to Billy’s origin story going back to the 1940s (just as Captain America: The First Avenger adhered to its source material), much of the audience that saw the character in his heyday–when he was even more popular and well-known than Superman–aren’t around to make up the target moviegoing audience.  But Big and an origin story is just the beginning.

You know it when you watch a movie unfold and realize something great is happening.  DC Entertainment–the movie guys–finally paid attention to DC Comics–the actual writers and artists who built the character from the ground up–and at last delivered what this comic book reader has always wanted.  Shazam!, the story, Zachary Levi‘s superhero, and a new young actor named Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s friend Freddy–are fantastic.  The magic, wonder, and heart of DC Comics is finally back in the theaters.  It’s a gamechanger for the DC universe, because it finally steps away from Zack Snyder’s dark and brooding Justice League and returns it to the roots of DC Comics and DC At the Movies that we first got a taste of with Christopher Reeve’s first Superman and Michael Keaton’s first Batman.  So if the executives at DC are paying attention, and audiences agree once the film hits general release April 5, this could be an opportunity for a switch-up–an excuse to build a new Marvel-level superhero film universe around the new, amazingly fun and appealing superhero characters in this film.

At its core, the story by new screenwriter Henry Gayden updating a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer, Goosebumps) is about a foster family and the importance of family, so don’t think this is another frivolous superhero movie to be easily dismissed.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s loaded with emotional beats, and it’s all heart.  What do kids care about, and what are they afraid of?  The film takes some time to look seriously at these things.  It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny in spots, expect some snorts, too.  But look for some emotional pangs along the way, on par with an oft-forgotten superhero movie that may have more heart than any other, the 1980 John Ritter sleeper (and one of my favorites) Hero At Large.  Which makes Shazam! also a movie for fans who count Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles among their most favorite superhero movies.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of a book about the popularity of Fawcett Comics‘ original Captain Marvel, the world’s mightiest mortal–the superhero renamed Shazam and featured in a new movie this month starring Zachary Levi–will be the perfect trip through time for fans who have enjoyed the character in his many stories going back to his debut in 1939.  My personal favorite Captain Marvel stories can be found in the original Whiz Comics (all in the public domain and available to read online now here) and as drawn by Alex Ross in his landmark graphic novel with Mark Waid, Kingdom Come.  For the first time in a softcover edition, Chip Kidd’s Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal has been reprinted by Abrams ComicArts just in time for the release of the film, Shazam!

For those not in-the-know, this is the Captain Marvel who now goes by Shazam (the word that causes him to bring forth his powers)–the one owned by DC Comics today, and not the one owned by Marvel Comics and also in theaters now in the movie Captain Marvel (reviewed here at borg).  Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal is a historical work, and it doesn’t hesitate to use the name he’s always been known as by his fans.  As told by writer Chip Kidd, the Captain Marvel fan club had 400,000 people in it in its best year in the 1940s, and Fawcett projected 40 million followers of the character in books and film.  Captain Marvel books sold 1.3 million copies per month, not a common feat even today.  Does anything approach that kind of fan club status today?  At the height of the character it was more popular than Superman and Batman, and so of course the character had hundreds of tie-in products.

Readers will marvel over a reprint of the entire story from Captain Marvel Adventures, Issue #1–created by two then unknowns: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and reprints of several colorful covers from Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel Comics, WOW Comics, Master Comics, America’s Greatest Comics, Spy Smasher, and even Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, plus pages of scans of original comic pages from ex-Fawcett staff.

The book uses photographs from a collection of some of the scarcest superhero collectibles known, including images of books, toys, and paper ephemera for Captain Marvel and the entire Marvel Family–superhero kids like Billy Batson–the boy who turns into Captain Marvel–and his friends who use the Shazam powers but remain as kids.

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If you don’t want to see anything about Avengers: Endgame you might want to skip the latest trailer, which reveals some trickery by Marvel Studios in its earlier trailers–although with time travel bringing anyone back into the fold it’s not just possible but a likely scheme to mess with Thanos, and anything can happen.  Take a look at the new trailer below, along with a new poster including the key cast at least one version of what we’ll see in the film.

If you don’t see Captain Marvel first (reviewed here at borg), one thing is clear: you’re not going understand what’s going on in Avengers: Endgame.  As Marvel fans will see in one of the codas for the current film in theaters, everything is coming together, and in today’s trailer the Avengers Assemble–that also means new uniforms.

 

It’s good seeing most of the Avengers back again, even if there’s still no sign of the last recruit, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.  The only quirk: Danai Gurira’s Okoye is in the poster, but her name was the only actor not included in the first poster released today in the above-the-title list of actors (she is listed below the title, along with those not pictured: Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, and Gwyneth Paltrow)–contractual deals tend to be specific about what actors get the top of the marquee listing and who doesn’t, but this decision tends to stand out.  But Marvel updated that a few hours later (shown updated to the right above).  And in the realm of trickiness, note that the original poster included 19 names, many of which were omitted this time–reflecting the characters who vanished in Avengers: Infinity War, like Benedict Cumberbatch.

Take a look at the next trailer–if you dare–for Avengers: Endgame:

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As the last Marvel Cinematic Universe film arrives in theaters before the climactic conclusion to the decade-long journey culminates in Avengers: Endgame, one new book celebrates Captain Marvel, the film (reviewed here at borg), and another provides a new adventure for the superheroine expanding from the pages of Marvel Comics.  Captain Marvel: The Official Movie Special is the film’s official “souvenir book” full of photographs behind the scenes as well as screen images tied together with interviews from the cast and crew.  It’s the kind of book fans of the film can go to to find details of the production process, and learn more about the actors and how they approached the characters.

Also now in print is Tess Sharpe’s novel Captain Marvel: Liberation Run, which is not related to the film, but provides a new story bringing together Carol Danvers, Mantis, Medusa, Ant-Man, and more, as the Captain goes to a distant planet to save a group of women aliens from an oppressive autocracy.  Readers will find the novel closer to the most recent comic book series than past comics or the character as seen in the film.  Captain Marvel: The Official Movie Special is available now for pre-order here at Amazon (shipping Tuesday), and Captain Marvel: Liberation Run is available here.

Readers of Captain Marvel: The Official Movie Special will get a sense in the cast interviews (Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Djimon Hounsou, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Algenis Perez Soto, and Rune Temte) of the approach each actor took for their characters, how they worked with the directors and other actors, and share their thoughts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As the last movie before the big finale next month as Avengers: Endgame premieres, this weekend’s release of Captain Marvel provides another big win for Marvel Studios that both provides a new character to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe beyond the Avengers-centric adventures into “Phase IV,” plus it fills some gaps in the story so far.  Despite all the harangues about the history of the title “Captain Marvel” across the decades as used by both Marvel in this movie and as the lead character in the coming DC Comics movie Shazam!, oddly enough the words never get used in the film except for the title logo at the end credits.  But Brie Larson‘s take on Carol Danvers elevates the character beyond a name or title, surprisingly pulling more from the classic roots in Marvel Comics stories back to Ms. Marvel of the 1970s than from the current, cockier version of the character.  This Carol Danvers is a solid new superhero on film, who, like Black Widow, The Wasp, Jean Grey, Gamora, Storm, and Domino, happen to be women, as powerful (and sometimes more so) than their male, inhuman, or alien, counterparts.  Larson’s take on the character is certainly heroic, but initially she plays the part reserved, with Carol uncertain of her powers at first, before she settles into her boots and takes the lead role as badass against all the film‘s villainous threats.  Co-director/screenplay writers Anna Bodin and Ryan Fleck make the character smart enough to suss out the mystery behind the secrets kept hidden from her.  In many ways Danvers is unstuck in time, but the time-shifting story never causes confusion along the way–and unlike several entries in the MCU, the writers deserve credit for a fully plot-driven story.  Captain Marvel is one of the series‘ easiest to watch–all-out fun from beginning to end–with a cool cat named Goose as a bonus.

In second chair is Samuel L. Jackson playing a 1990s version of his Nick Fury character, with probably the most screen-time the character has seen in the franchise.  This becomes his chronological introduction to the MCU along with Clark Gregg‘s Agent Coulson, and fans of these two since the beginning will no doubt love seeing them back in action together, although Coulson has a lesser role.  A big surprise is Ben Mendelsohn‘s performance as the Skrull called Talos.  Mendelsohn proved he was a powerhouse character actor for years, but has taken on star status more recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Ready Player One, and here he is a standout force again even behind heavy prosthetics.  Talos is among the best of all the Marvel movie villains, up there with Magneto, Red Skull, Hela, Bushmaster, Surtur, Killmonger, Vulture, Venom, and Loki.

Every single character and actor in the film is done right, from Kree team members played by Jude Law, Gemma Chan, and Djimon Hounsou returning as Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lee Pace back again also from Guardians (but hardly recognizable this time) as Ronan the Accuser.  For those who are fans of the Marvel film and comics space fantasy stories like Guardians, this is the next film in that vein.

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This weekend at New York Toy Fair 2019, toymaker Mezco Toyz surprised fans of the classic Six Million Dollar Man series with a peek at two new 3.75-inch scale, five points of articulation action figures from its “5 Points” line.  Zica Toys previously discontinued its line of Six Million Dollar Man action figures for low sales back in 2014.  The sculpts for the two new figures revealed at the Mezco Toyz booth are similar.  Fans of the 12-inch Steve Austin action figure from the mid-1970s will recall it being the #1 toy of its day, following on the success of 12-inch G.I. Joes.  A later generation in the 1980s and 1990s would experience G.I. Joes reduced in size closer to the Kenner-sized figures.  Now Mezco Toyz has created homages to the 12-inch Bionic Man and the other popular action figure from the original line, the 15-inch Bigfoot.

Although Zica Toys released both a red (and blue) track suit small version of Steve Austin and a Bigfoot, the new figures take it all a step further, revealing the cyborg chips in Steve’s right arm similar to the design of the large-sized classic figure, and Bigfoot features the chest button that, when kick-punched, revealed the robotic circuitry inside (we’re not sure how the Mezco Toyz version will work).  New Steve also comes with the accessory engine, which the large-sized figure easily lifted over his head.  With the classic Adidas Dragons, the only thing missing is the removable skin, chest patch, and bionic eye.  If you’re watching Doom Patrol, you’re seeing DC’s Cyborg borrowing his clothes from the original Cyborg.

Mezco Toyz also featured several new licensed figures from its six-inch line–the One: 12 Collective–including Brie Larson′s Captain Marvel from the coming 2019 film, David Harbour′s Hellboy from the upcoming film, Jon Bernthal′s The Punisher, classic Wesley Snipes as Blade, The Warriors, and yet another They Live alien figure following on Super7′s new 3.75-inch figures.  Plus many more.

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