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Tag Archive: Elizabeth Shue


Review by C.J. Bunce

Underneath The Boys, a series so full of all things offensive, with language, misogyny, immorality, violence, sex–something sure to offend everyone, lies a backbone of a story that might have something to say, if the way it was laid out wasn’t so exploitative.  It’s easy to imagine show execs Eric Kripke, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen pulling the strings behind the curtain on this project, but what exactly are they trying to say?  Mocking the real-life modern horrors on your TV, protected by the acknowledgement that the moral is clear that all the bad they show is bad, it’s intended as satire, as social commentary.  It’s an unusual medium to convey its many messages, questions without answers for many things Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson took on in their source material comics of the same name, very much like Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s stories from the 1980s it attempts to pay homage to.  It’s impossible not to compare The Boys to Moore’s Watchmen–superheroes for a dark and modern time that are different but familiar to the superheroes we all know so well–it may be even closer to Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns despite its lack of well-known characters.  The entirety of the story of the first season, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is the familiar “Who watches the watchers?”

Who are “The Boys” of the title anyway?  Led by ever-angry Bill Butcher, played by the actor of all franchises Karl Urban, it’s a small team of five rebels determined for their individual reasons to take down Vought, a corporation that manages the superheroes that protect Americans from almost every crime that’s occurring.  As good as the production values are, the series is not that clever, but its difference is how over-the-top and grimy it’s willing to get to tell its story.  From the previews you might think it compares to The Umbrella Academy.  Make no mistake, the storytelling in The Boys is better and less yawn-worthy, except The Umbrella Academy showed off some better superhero special effects along the way with its Number Five character.  You’ll find a lot here no one else is willing to touch on TV, making it a clear NC-17/R+ show: Carlin’s seven dirty words get explored, anti-fundamentalism, blasphemy in themes and situations, assault on today’s politics and extremism, nationalism, misogyny, sex abusers and other deviants, gender issues–most of these used to make valid points about issues mirroring modern times.  But like watching the daily news (or newsfeed) it’s not that enjoyable.  It never manages to approach similarly violent but fun efforts like tongue-in-cheek superhero films Deadpool or Kick-Ass.  Except for the vengeance.  When the bad guys pay–and that’s strangely rare–it’s hard to deny some of the scenes are pretty satisfying, especially when Urban wields a newborn supe as a laser gun.

The Boys has some cream-of-the-crop acting, which elevates the entire project.  Urban leads it all as the Daniel Craig-in-Layer Cake level, put-upon, amped-up mercenary Butcher.  As with all of his performances he jumps right in, creating one of his best, ugly characters (compare to his Caesar, Vaako, Cooper, and Skurge).  Equal to that is a layered performance by Jessica Jones’ Erin Moriarty.  The series is really about her.  She plays Annie January aka Starlight, a young, naive woman who sincerely wants to use her powers to help others.  She makes it into an elite, corporate controlled group of “supes” called The Seven.  But she quickly learns The Seven are more bad than good for America and the planet: one supe forces her to have sex, another invisible supe hangs out in the restroom leering at her.  Along the way Starlight picks up a friend in The Hunger Games’ Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell, a guy whose girlfriend is killed by a speedster supe in The Seven–but was it an accident?  Hughie is enlisted to help Butcher try to take down Vought–the corporation behind The Seven.  Vought might as well be Detroit’s Omni Consumer Products from RoboCop or Veidt Enterprises from Watchmen, but even more vile.  The shock and in-your-face violence is every bit a match to these films from that infamous era of no-holds-barred 1980s violence.

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In the world of the dark superhero universe you start with Alan Moore’s Watchmen and The Killing Joke, and you might pick up Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan, Garth Ennis’s Crossed, and if you go back a bit further you might pick up Jim Starlin’s Batman: A Death in the Family.  And you take another look at Tim Burton making Batman movies.  You also might stumble over Garth Ennis’s The Boys and Brian Michael Bendis’s Jessica Jones.  These last two comics are making their way to your television this summer, first with the return of Marvel’s Jessica Jones for its third season on Netflix as the swan song for all its Marvel series, and then Amazon Prime is stepping in with an adaptation of Ennis’s The Boys, dark in every other way that Jessica Jones isn’t.  Those are in addition to Brightburn, a movie written by the live-action superhero guru Gunn brothers about a kid with Superman powers who doesn’t use them for good.  Meaning lots of bloody gore and violence.  It’s still in theaters.

Our first trailer is for the final season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones Should it be a surprise that everything seems exactly as it was in the last season?  Is it enough that Krysten Ritter′s anti-hero conquers her demons one at a time?  Viewers want to cheer her on, to do anything to get happy in a dark and dreary real-life New York, but without development of her character beyond returning to the bottle and self-inflicted pain, we’re left to turn to other characters.  Thankfully that left her adopted sister Trish, played by Rachael Taylor, as last season’s real hero to root for.  But does Jeremy Bobb (Russian Doll) have a chance at filling in as next villain as Foolkiller after David Tennant’s performance as Kilgrave?  And why another new guy for Jones, bringing in Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) instead of Luke Cage or The Punisher?

The Boys is a different kind of dark, but in many ways it’s just another effort to do what Alan Moore did with Watchmen–deconstruct superheroes until they are only recognizable because of the capes and costumes.  So think of the depraved nature of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass, but add a multiplier.  Or if Watchmen was a normal school day, The Boys is Watchmen where the teenage kids take over.  The kids in this case include Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg as producers, so expect plenty of “adult language” aka expletives, and their typical brand of raunch and bodily fluids.   Is there a chance of some subtlety or nuance with these guys behind the series, or can we hope for something closer to Superbad?  The more promising elements in the trailer are found in the costumes (by Iron Man costume designer Laura Jean Shannon, Titans’ designer Joyce Schure, and Doom Patrol’s designer Carrie Grace) and the cast, including pop culture icon Karl Urban (Thor: Ragnarok, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Judge Dredd, Xena: Warrior Princess) and Erin Moriarty, who also starred on season one of Jessica Jones, Elizabeth Shue (The Karate Kid, Leaving Las Vegas), and Jennifer Esposito (Spin City, NCIS).

Take a look at these trailers for some of the darker edge of superheroes in genredom:

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It’s Bruce Willis in a sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable?  Nope.

Bruce Willis took over for Denzel Washington in the sequel to The Equalizer?  Nope.

But the remake of 1974’s Death Wish is another vigilante action thriller just the same.  Willis is back in his Unbreakable hooded sweatshirt and he’s adding another entry into the long list of films in the modern vigilante sub-genre.  We all must like the good guys getting rid of the undisputed bad guys, one way or the other, because Hollywood keeps giving us more vigilante movies.  Just look back to this abbreviated list of predecessor films:  Dirty Harry (1971) (and all the sequels), Billy Jack (1971), Walking Tall (1973), Coffy (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Mad Max (1979) (and its sequels), The Star Chamber (1983), Batman (1989) (and all its superhero emulators and incarnations before and since), Out for Justice (1991), Falling Down (1993), Nowhere to Run (1993), The Crow (1994), Timecop (1994), Kill Bill (2003), A Man Apart (2003), Walking Tall (2004), Man on Fire (2004), Sin City (2005), V for Vendetta (2005), Munich (2005), Shooter (2007), Taken (2008), Kick-Ass (2010), Machete (2010), The Equalizer (2014), and Deadpool (2016).

Charles Bronson (The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, The Twilight Zone, The Magnificent Seven, Never So Few, House of Wax, Pat and Mike) was 53 years old when he made the first Death Wish, and 72 by the time he made the fifth and final film in the Death Wish series.  Bruce Willis is 62, so we’re in the right neighborhood for re-casting the role of a husband and father out for payback after his wife is murdered and daughter assaulted.  Willis’s character’s ill-fated wife is played by Elizabeth Shue, seen most recently on TV’s CSI, but most memorable from Karate Kid, Cocktail, Back to the Future II and III, and Leaving Las Vegas, where she earned an Oscar nomination.  The film co-stars Vincent D’Onofrio (The Magnificent Seven, Daredevil, Men in Black).

Check out this first trailer for Bruce Willis in the remake of Death Wish:

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Back in Time

“It’s great to have a bunch of lunatics on your side.  They’re crazy, but they’re crazy good.” — Michael J. Fox

If you don’t know the lengths some fans will go to express their love for the target of their fandom, some documentaries on the subject may give you a jolt.  Filmmakers enjoy looking not at diehard fans of beloved movies and other properties, they seem to thrive on meting out the fringe of those fans.  If you’re already immersed in the fandom, these documentaries may be your thing.  But if you’re not, you may find more cringing than amazement.  Examples of this, for some, include the 1997 and 2004 Trekkies and Trekkies 2, and the more recent 2010 documentary by Gene Roddenberry’s son called Trek Nation.  With these looks at the fans themselves, viewers are left to wonder whether the fandom is a target being objectified for its oddity or a true love affair by and for the fans.

As part of the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future and Back to the Future Week, filmmaker Jason Aron is releasing the documentary Back in Time, the result of countless interviews with fans and even some interviews with the cast and execs behind the time-travel trilogy.  If Back to the Future is more than your favorite movie, you may want to track down this documentary this week in theaters or pre-order a copy here at Amazon.com to get it on its release date, Back to the Future Day, October 21, 2015.

Probert BTTF design

Andy Probert’s design for the DeLorean time machine.

Highlights include an interview with Michael J. Fox where he recounts the British release of Back to the Future attended by him and Princess Diana and Prince Charles, an interview with concept designer/artist Andy Probert (best known for his work on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica) who worked on storyboards and the DeLorean time machine, and the story behind the screenplay as told by co-writer Bob Gale.  The documentary also includes more brief interviews clips with Huey Lewis, who had a hit with the show’s songs “Power of Love” and “Back in Time,” score composer Alan Silvestri, Donald Fullilove (who played Goldie Wilson), director Robert Zemeckis, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and cast members Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, James Tolkan (Principal Strickland), and Claudia Wells (the first Jennifer).

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