Tag Archive: Zachary Levi


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

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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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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Still aren’t in the Christmas spirit yet?  With no Christmas day episode of Doctor Who this year, Netflix is filling in the gap with an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina called “A Midwinter’s Tale,” another solid episode of the series taking the story forward where the first season left off, and delving into some classic tropes of American and Victorian Christmas lore.  It’s all with the twist of the darker, horror-infused world of the show, but as Miranda Otto’s character Aunt Zelda says, “Christmas is the best time for ghost stories.”  See A Christmas Carol, as an example.

Plenty of Christmas episodes of past genre television series are available right now, most via services you may already subscribe to, others for a few dollars (and some you may find free to watch on YouTube).  How about starting with the unofficial sequel to Die Hard and Die Hard 2 starring Reginald VelJohnson (Ghostbusters, Tron: Uprising) in his third appearance as Sgt. Al Powell?  He’s one of several actors guest starring in a trilogy of Christmas episodes of Chuck, available on Amazon Prime.  First is “Chuck vs. the Crown Vic,” then VelJohnson and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) in “Chuck vs. Santa Claus,” rounded out with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Arrow) and Stan Lee in an early cameo as himself in “Chuck vs. the Santa Suit.”  But be careful, you may end up getting sucked into the rest of the series, starring Zachary Levi (Shazam!, Psych the Movie, Thor: Ragnarok), Yvonne Strahovski (The Predator, The Handmaid’s Tale), and Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Leverage, Castle).

In the same vein as Sabrina, check out Grimm with Christmas episodes “Twelve Days of Krampus” and “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas,” both available on Amazon Prime.  “Twelve Days of Krampus” provides one of the best illustrations of Krampus, the folkloric character who has been a subject of this time of year for more than 2,000 years.  Ever get coal in your stocking?  Learn more here.  And you’ll find some familiarity with the critters in “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” as the new Sabrina episode.  Each of these Grimm episodes is among the best of Christmas episodes, and overall great episodes of the series.  And if paranormal shows are your thing, don’t forget the Supernatural episode, “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”  Catch it on Netflix.  The Winchester Brothers pursue some pagan gods at Christmastime, revisit their own Christmas past, and try to share a Christmas together as only they could.

That brings us to six classic Christmas episodes.  How about six more?

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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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Even after 121 episodes, from 2006 to 2015, Psych fans couldn’t get enough.  Earlier this year USA Network announced a reunion show and the long wait is almost over.  Psych: The Movie is less than two weeks away.  James Roday is back as Shawn Spencer with his sidekick of many names, Dulé Hill, as Burton “Sillypants Jackson” Guster.  Corbin Bernsen, Kirsten Nelson, Maggie Lawson, and Kurt Fuller are also expected back, and somehow Jimmi Simpson will return as Mary.  Look for Zachary Levi as a villain, and Jazmyn Simon, Ralph Macchio, and Charlotte Flair are also set to appear in the special. Psych creator Steve Franks co-wrote the movie with James Roday and will direct.  Series co-star Tim Omundson, who played Lassiter, suffered a stroke and so it looks like he will only have one scene in the show.  But if all goes well, there may be more made-for-TV movies down the road.

But while you’re waiting for the movie, why not check out the book?  What?  You didn’t know there was a book?  Many of the most diehard “Psych-os” (what the fans call themselves) may not realize Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster have their own 290 page guide for wannabe Private Eyes.  It’s the aptly named Psych’s Guide to Crime Fighting for the Totally Unqualified, by Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster (and Chad Gervich*), and it’s just the thing for fans to refresh their memories of some of the best comic banter ever dressed up as a detective show.  Shawn tries very hard to write a professional book, and well, fails at that, but not after much encouragement from Juliet “Jules” O’Hara and corrections and opposition from Guster.

Fans will appreciate that the book is, of course, dedicated to actor Billy Zane, and it features a foreword by Tears for Fears frontman Curt Smith.  Look for hundreds of callbacks to the series, and an entire volume of Shawn re-interpreting things he may or may not have overheard at the police station and during his many cases closed successfully for the Santa Barbara Police Department.  Plus some advice from Henry Spencer (SBPD ret.) and Detective Carlton Lassiter.  There’s even a twice-baked potato recipe from Mr. Yang.

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Even after 121 episodes, from 2006 to 2015, Psych fans couldn’t get enough.  Earlier this year USA Network announced a reunion show and it will air in December.  The cast was featured in a panel at San Diego Comic-Con yesterday, generating great buzz and fan excitement for the holiday show, titled Psych: The Movie.  The only down beat is that co-star Tim Omundson, who played Lassiter on the series, suffered a stroke and so it looks like he will only have one scene in the show.  But if all goes well, there may be more made-for-TV movies down the road.

Corbin Bernsen, Kirsten Nelson, Maggie Lawson, and Kurt Fuller will be back, and big news: somehow Jimmi Simpson will return as Mary.  Look for Zachary Levi as a villain, and Jazmyn Simon, Ralph Macchio, and Charlotte Flair are also set to appear in the special.  Psych creator Steve Franks co-wrote the movie with James Roday and will direct.

Check out this great teaser with James Roday and Dulé Hill for Psych: The Movie:

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