Tag Archive: Shazam


Review by C.J. Bunce

Isn’t this a great time for a new superhero series to begin?  If you agree then you’re in luck, because tonight’s premiere episode of Stargirl might be DC Comics’ best TV pilot yet.  Prepare to meet the next superheroes from the corners of 30 years of DC Comics.  Courtney Whitmore’s relationship with her new stepdad is like you’d expect at first–awkward.  But it’s doubly awkward when he’s an over-eager good guy named Patrick played by Luke Wilson (known best for his roles in Wes Anderson movies and an unforgettable spot on The X-Files).  Courtney (seen above sporting a rather timely mask) discovers there is more than meets the eye with Pat, and the series opener will propel viewers further ahead into his secrets and past–sooner than you might expect.  The result is incredibly promising, a pilot mixing well-done special effects with a great story, a coming of age tale targeted at kids, a fun cast of familiar faces and a new young actress hitting the ground running (or soaring), a cool car and a 1950s vibe, and throwbacks for viewers who keep their eyes open.  And the entire first season is now available on digital.

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Swamp Thing ad

When people with creativity and skill have their grasp on the reins of DC Comics properties, great things can happen.  Unfortunately it’s a rarity.  Although its Arrowverse on the CW Network were good efforts, DC at the movies hasn’t shown much promise until last year’s Shazam!, although Aquaman was another good effort.  But the big win of live-action DC Comics adaptations was last year’s Swamp Thing (above) featuring the titular creature and other Justice League Dark characters Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger.  The series was our own selection here at borg for top superhero series last year.  Shazam! and Swamp Thing prove that with good writing, production, and acting talent both movie and television adaptations truly worthy of the comic book source material are possible.

New streaming provider HBO Max announced this week its own team-up.  It will join J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions to produce a new live-action Justice League Dark series with Warner Brothers Television (in addition, a project related to Stephen King’s The Shining called Overlook was also announced).

Justice League Dark is, as the title suggests, a band of superpowered characters from the shadows of the DCU.  Spanish artist Mikel Janin was tasked with re-imagining the look of these more offbeat and occult characters from their earlier individual series and appearances for the New 52 launch in 2011, and for us Justice League Dark is synonymous with Janin’s designs, shown above and below (we interviewed Mikel about the new look here at borg back in March 2012).  The JLD then included Zatanna, Constantine, Deadman, Shade, Madame Xanadu, Swamp Thing, the Phantom Stranger, Frankenstein, and the Enchantress, and more as they would emerge throughout the series’ short 40-issue run.

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When we created last year’s preview of 2019 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and homed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our annual picks in our Best Movies of 2019.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this month for our print media picks, and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2019 here.  Wait no further, here are our movie picks for 2019:

Best Film, Best Superhero Movie, Best Re-Imagining on Film Shazam! (Warner Bros.).  Movies are supposed to be a wonder, right?  What brought the magic of the movies back to theaters more than Shazam?  Why did DC take so long to adapt a superhero to the scene perfectly?  Who cares–they finally did it.  Faithful to the character from the #1 selling superhero book of the 1940s, this was the superhero movie many of us have been waiting for for the past 50 years (or more).  Full of superhero fun, one of the best training montages ever, Zachary Levi’s boyish hero was perfectly matched to Jack Dylan Grazer’s take on best pal Freddy.  It’s also the only superhero movie we can think of that got better as it went along, culminating in a fantastic, satisfying third act and finale.  This is what we want more of.  And it was the first DC superhero movie of the millennium that could be watched and enjoyed by the entire family.  Honorable mention: Glass (Universal), Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony Pictures).

Best Fantasy Movie, Best Adventure Movie, Best Comedy MovieJumanji: The Next Level (Columbia Pictures).  The only issue with this film was that its status as a sequel will prompt some to not recognize it for the gigantic success it truly is.  With adventure scenes bigger and better than anything in the entire Indiana Jones franchise, two movies in and director Jake Kasdan proved a sequel can actually be as good as the original.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game were perfectly spliced in to tell a new tale.  The bridge crossing scene is now the adventure film scene to beat.  An epic fantasy that’s loads of fun.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Movie: Shazam! (Disney/Marvel), Captain Marvel (Disney/Marvel).

Best Movie Borg, Best Borg Film – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Carl, Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount Pictures).  It would have been almost impossible for James Cameron and director Tim Miller not to get this right, a new thread through time reuniting Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and a new T-800 with Arnold back with another take on his greatest borg of all time.  New characters and new effects kept the franchise from getting boring, but this was more than just getting by, a big sci-fi spectacle with great cyborg battles, and easily the best cyborg fix this year.

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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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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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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarentino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorsese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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In addition to Doctor Who’s new “woman who fell from the sky,” there’s another new heroine arriving soon the same way…

Not many pop culture events topped Infinity War discussions in 2018.  It’s probably more fun to talk about the end of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War with passing fans than regular comic book readers.  “Wait–where did everyone go?” and “Are they coming back?”  Before we learn the answers to those questions, recall that, for those who stayed after the credits (and we know many of you walked out before that, despite the warnings, you know who you are), Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury sent a last-minute pager message to someone with a strange new symbol, right before he disappeared into dust.  That was the symbol we see for the next new character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the next movie in the franchise, Captain Marvel.  (For the passing fan, that’s the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel, played in the new movie by 2015 best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson, not the DC Comics Captain Marvel played by Zachary Levi in the new Shazam movie).

Wait, why does Alison Brie look so different here?  No, that’s Alison Brie from Community and GLOW, not Brie Larson, who was in an episode of Community, but you probably saw her in Kong: Skull Island or 21 Jump Street, or lots of other things.  Keep up!

A big roster of acting talent will appear in this movie–Jackson joins Brie, with the return of Lee Pace as Ronan, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, and Djimon Hounsou as Korath, with Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Talos, Gemma Chan (Humans) as Minn-Erva, and we get to see more of everyone’s second favorite British actor, Jude Law (Gattaca, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows).

Marvel released the first trailer for Captain Marvel today–Check it out:

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Last weekend San Diego Comic-Con spotlighted women costume designers and the creations of more than a dozen women designers created for actresses for some of the decade’s biggest genre films.  The Costume Designers Guild presented a panel Saturday featuring members Sanja Hays (costume designer, Captain Marvel, Star Trek: Beyond, Star Trek: Insurrection), Amanda Riley (costume designer, Supergirl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Laura Jean Shannon (costume designer, Iron Man, Titans, Black Lightning, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) who provided highlights and anecdotes about their careers designing costumes for some of the most popular current and recent productions on television and in film.  A big high point for attendees was Hayes, whose new Captain Marvel costume will be the next benchmark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be worn next year by Brie Larson in Captain Marvel–the first Marvel film with a woman in the title role.  Hayes commented that she found working on Marvel movies  different from past projects in that many details of design and even minor changes require extra levels of approval from Marvel’s continuity side.  Each of the designers stated they have arrived at a stage in their careers where they now have the power to cherry pick costumes to personally dive into from their projects and assign other production team members for the rest.  They also stressed the value of having close-knit and exceptional artists on their teams that can work together to meet the requirements of production.

   

At the giant Marvel Studios area on the convention floor, attendees could get up close to several key screen-used superheroine costumes from the past ten years, from Anna B. Sheppard‘s World War II Agent Carter uniform worn by Hayley Atwell from the beginning of the franchise to Evangeline Lilly‘s armor from The Wasp from this summer’s Ant-Man and The Wasp, created by Louise Frogley.  Eight other costumes bookended one side of the Marvel stage, including another four costumes opposite them in glass display cases–twelve heroines in all: Lupita Nyong’o‘s Nakia, Danai Gurira‘s Okoye, and Letitia Wright‘s Shuri costumes from Black Panther, created by Ruth E. Carter, Tessa Thompson‘s Valkyrie armor created by Mayes C. Rubeo for Thor: Ragnarok, Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow costume from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Zoe Saldana‘s Gamora costume, Karen Gillan‘s Nebula costume, and Pom Klementieff‘s Mantis costume from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, all created by Judianna Makovsky, Elizabeth Olsen‘s Scarlet Witch costume from Avengers: Age of Ultron, created by Alexandra Byrne, and Jaimie Alexander‘s Sif armor from Thor: The Dark World, created by Wendy Partridge.

A separate giant display elsewhere was created for Karl Urban‘s Skurge armor created by Mayes C. Rubio for Thor: Ragnarok.  DC Entertainment displayed Leah Butler‘s Shazam! costumes for Asher Angel‘s Billy Batson and his superhero alter ego, played by Zachary Levi.  And Lucasfilm presented David Crossman and Glyn Dillon‘s costumes from Solo: A Star Wars Story (a little more out of reach than the rest, posed high at the top of their exhibit), including screen-used costumes from Alden Ehrenreich‘s Han Solo, Joonas Soutomo‘s Chewbacca, Emilia Clarke‘s Qi’ra, Donald Glover‘s Lando, Erin Kellyman‘s Enfys Nest, and Paul Bettany‘s Dryden Vos.  And it wasn’t just about costumes, as many displays included the corresponding screen-used prop weaponry for the character.

Costume designers Laura Jean Shannon, Sanja Hays, and Amanda Riley at the costume designers panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday, July 21, 2018.

The following are photographs of all 22 costumes.  The lighting and glass displays limited the clarity of some of the images, and the Star Wars display was too high for our equipment to get any detail.  Yet some of the detail is better than you find in many behind the scenes books on the market today showing the costumes of DC, Marvel, or the Star Wars films–nothing beats seeing these close-up.  Take a look:

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shazam

Several images have leaked from the studio over the past few months showing Zachary Levi in a supersuit close to the classic Captain Marvel outfit first seen on the cover of Whiz Comics Issue #2 in 1940, more than 78 years ago.  Levi will star in a comedy take on the DC Comics character next spring in Shazam!, a film that  has sounded so far like equal parts Tom Hanks in Big, John Ritter in Hero at Large, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way. 

Which will it be?  I think we can scratch Jingle All the Way, but the trailer for Shazam! showcases a scene right out of Hero At Large, and, of course, it has the feel of Big.  Both great things, and great for DC movies.

Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, Kingsman, Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes) and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Wayward Pines, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) will co-star in the movie with young actor Asher Angel as Billy Batson.

Check out the trailer for a movie outside the usual DC Comics movie universe, Shazam!:

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