“MALCOLM X” Review (✫✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Warner Bros.

Liberate your mind. 

If history has taught us anything, it was that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had starkly different methods to fighting racism in America. Yet they were so similar in so many other ways despite all of their differences. For instance, both men have experienced firsthand the boot and lashes of white America. Both were men of faith that were compelled to action because of what they believed. Both fought fiercely and passionately for the day that black men would be free from persecution and hatred. And both were shot and killed at 39 years old before they would ever see that day realized.

But of course, Malcolm X is not remembered by many for marching for the same causes that Martin Luther King Jr. did. Malcolm is not remembered for advocating for his fellow black men, for his fight against the evils of racism, and for his rousing speeches and words burning with passion and fire. Instead, he’s remembered because his words were filled with contention and confrontation, not the piety and the hope as Dr. King’s speeches were. Regardless of which ideology you do or don’t agree with, there’s no denying the one truth that both men share: they understood all too well of what it meant to be a black man in America.

In Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Denzel Washington portrays the Muslim minister in an epic encapsulation of his whole life. The movie covers everything from his traumatic childhood where his family was hunted by white supremacists, to his robbery days as “Detroit Red,” to his discovery of Islam during his time in prison, to his emergence in the civil rights movement, all the way to his last days ministering before he was ruthlessly gunned down by Thomas Hagan and his crew.

Seeing Malcolm’s life play out like this gives perspective into who he was, where he came from, and what happened in his life to shape him into the leader he’s widely recognized as today. Writer-director Spike Lee illustrates Malcolm’s life story with intensity and conviction, fully committed to showing you who he was and who he wasn’t. Lee stylizes his scenes with flair and pizzazz, with Malcolm and his buddies dressed in colorful outfits, shucking and jiving down the streets in Boston while the smoke and police sirens linger in the background. But Lee’s film design isn’t gimmicky or exploitative of Malcolm X. Like Lee’s earlier films Do The Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues, they speak to the era they’re representing and add authenticity to Malcolm’s story.

The scenes that deal with Malcolm’s faith are especially moving and touching. When he’s first introduced to Islam in his prison cell, it’s an emotionally-stirring moment where Malcolm faces who he is and how he needs to make a change in his life. When he later confronts the hypocrisies of the Nation of Islam, he becomes disillusioned to what message he’s been preaching and what his faith really represents. And when he later travels to Mecca and encounters Muslims of all ethnicities and cultures, Malcolm experiences a spiritual revival of Islam and what it means to him. It’s a poignant redemption arc that shows how he grew from Malcolm Little to becoming Malcolm X.

I can’t talk about Malcolm X without mentioning the man who plays him. Denzel Washington is simply stunning as the civil rights activist. Whether he’s portraying him in high school trying to pick up white women, running a numbers game as a gangster, or standing against oppression in the streets as an outspoken civil rights advocate, Denzel portrays each chapter of Malcolm’s life with vigor and authenticity. He isn’t playing one character so much as he is playing several characters and their many transformations throughout their lives, and he fully commits himself to every single aspect of those characters. I find it fascinating that in the really captivating moments where he was preaching to crowds and protestors, I never once thought it was Denzel reciting someone else’s words. I only saw Malcolm X.

This leads to the film’s greatest strength, and that is its honesty. With a figure as controversial as Malcolm X, it would have been too easy to shy away from the hard conversations Malcolm X forced us to have and sanitize his story for the comfort of neutral moviegoers. But Spike Lee doesn’t do that. Instead, he lays out the entirety of Malcolm X’s legacy, and he doesn’t shy away from its highs or lows. It’s no secret that Malcolm X made many disparaging remarks to many individuals throughout his life, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and white America as a whole.

Yet the movie doesn’t virtue signal as to whether Malcolm was right or wrong in the statements he’s made: it just shows it the way it was and lets the audience decide for themselves. I’m not going to comment much on it myself, because my job as a film critic is to review the movie, not the person it’s portraying. I will say that if Malcolm X’s words bother you more than the lynchings, the police brutality, the white nationalism, and the racist institutions he was fighting against, then you need to evaluate whether it’s the words that bother you so much or the cause behind them.

Whatever conclusions you come to about his life, Malcolm X is a powerful film: dramatic, well-acted, and faithfully executed. The film forces you to face uncomfortable questions regarding America’s racist history, and many people may not like facing those truths. My view of it is that if Malcolm X couldn’t shy away from it, neither can we. We could all learn something from those that we don’t see eye-to-eye with. Perhaps we could start with Malcolm X.

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Zack Snyder’s Cut Of ‘Justice League’ Will Be Released Next Year

justice-league-1200

Never underestimate the power of the internet.

Ever since Justice League was released in 2017 to mixed reviews and lackluster box office earnings, fans have been demanding for a director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s original vision for the film. For those of you that don’t remember, Zack Snyder left production for the film earlier in the year due to a personal tragedy he and his wife Deborah were dealing with. That was when The Avengers writer-director Joss Whedon stepped in to handle reshoots and post-production for the film. The result was a campy, cliché, tonally inconsistent picture that switched between being serious and melodramatic to downright silly and in-cheek.

Whatever you thought of the Justice League movie, it’s clear it wasn’t Zack Snyder’s original vision for the film. Maybe his version would have been better than the theatrical cut – maybe it would have been worse. After all, he did release Batman V. Superman before the film’s release. Regardless, some fans were flustered by the inconsistencies of the theatrical cut and wanted to see Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League. Thus, the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement was born.

For a long time, the Snyder cut seemed like a pipe dream: a hashtag that celebrities like Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Ray Fisher could post about and get a few retweets out of. But after he streamed a live watch party of his 2013 hit Man of Steel, Zack made the groundbreaking announcement that the Snyder cut would be released on HBO Max next year. The Snyder cut of Justice League suddenly switched from being a distant impossibility to a very tangible reality.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project will cost approximately $20-30 million to finish the editing, musical scoring and visual effects for the finalized cut. It would also be released either as a massive four-hour feature-length movie or as a six-part miniseries.

Regardless, fans are finally getting to see their Snyder cut, and Zack Snyder will finally complete his version of Justice League that he’s always dreamed about.

“I always thought it was a thing that in 20 years, maybe somebody would do a documentary and I could lend them the footage, little snippets of a cut no one has ever seen,” Zack told The Hollywood Reporter. “As a family, as a couple, I think we have grown in a way that has made us stronger. We’re doing our best. You really can’t hope for more.”

You can watch Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League on HBO Max in 2021.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter, Variety

“SONIC THE HEDGEHOG” Review (✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Paramount Pictures

Go, go, go blue hedgehog. 

To anyone and everyone attempting to make a video game movie in the future: this is how you do it. This is exactly how you do it. When Paramount dropped the first trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog last year and unveiled that God-awful-looking abomination that was supposed to be a blue hedgehog, the Sonic community rightfully ripped it apart and begged Paramount to fix the design. At that moment, Paramount did the smartest thing they could have possibly done in that situation: they listened to the fans.

It’s funny because in a day and age where viewers have criticized how ridiculous other cinematic characters have looked (see Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four or Doomsday in Batman V. Superman), it would have been way too easy for Paramount to simply write the fans off and go about making the movie. But in listening to the fans, Paramount demonstrated that constructive criticism can, in fact, be a very good thing. Can you imagine how quickly all of this might have been resolved if they just brought fans in on day one and simply showed them that horrific-looking rodent they debuted in the first trailer?

In either case, we have our first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie after waiting for over 30 years. In this big-screen adaptation, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is a speedy blue hedgehog endowed with lightning-fast reflexes, and he uses it to jet around in what is aptly described as a blue blur. He lives hidden in a small community in Green Hills, Montana, which is also home to Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), who Sonic affectionately refers to as “Donut Lord” and “Pretzel Lady” (take a few guesses as to why).

One day, Sonic releases an electromagnetic pulse while running that knocks out all the power in town, alerting the authorities to his presence. Unsure of what they’re dealing with, the military enlists in the help of Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a genius megalomaniac who has thousands of egg robots at his disposal, to find and kill Sonic. Now literally on the run from the government and a psycho robot genius, Sonic has to escape before his powers are used for more nefarious purposes.

One of the immediate elements you catch about this movie is its energy. Like its speedy blue devil, Sonic The Hedgehog is fast-paced, funny, and spontaneous, kicking things off at a quick rate and only barely slowing down to catch its breath. The video games run at a similar pace, with Sonic running through hills, pipes, bridges, and loop-de-loops crazier than a pinball machine. In a rare display, the movie matches the attitude behind Sonic the Hedgehog almost perfectly, with his wild antics and adventures feeling like a crazy level you’re whizzing past in one of those classic Sega arcade games.

The key reason for this is because the movie simply nails the Sonic character. Director Jeff Fowler, who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004 for an animated short film called “Gopher Broke,” rightfully envisions Sonic as a hotwired little kid; impatient, impulsive, and running wherever life takes him. Ben Schwartz especially does a great job voicing the blue speedster. Whether he’s uttering a clever quip or spouting a long-winded thought excitedly, Sonic feels like a sugar-induced teenager that just wants to pack everything into his day and won’t stop until he fills out his bucket list. Of course, we look forward to the scenes where Sonic is running up buildings and fighting robots, but even in the slower moments, Sonic is still a wildly entertaining character. His exhilarating personality kept the movie moving even when everything else was slowing down around him.

Jim Carrey’s Robotnik also serves as a nice contrast to Ben Schwartz’s Sonic, especially when he incorporates his trademark wackiness into the character. Carrey is admittedly quite different from his video game counterpart: while Eggman in the video games is noticeably chubby and bald, Carry’s Robotnik is thin and has a head full of hair. Yet you don’t mind the differences that much because his performance is just that infectious. Jim Carrey huffs and haws at the less-intelligent beings beneath him and offers no shortage of condescending remarks, like bullets aimed towards the film’s unfortunate victims. He pulls off Robotnik’s haughtiness with the same charisma and pizzazz as his other villainous roles, including the Grinch, the Riddler, and Count Olaf. It’s so nice to see Carrey return to the spotlight yet again to take on a villainous role that really lets his more animated qualities shine on screen. This role could serve as a viable comeback for Carrey, and it would be a very welcomed one if he’s going to consistently deliver this quality of performance.

The story, while basic and predictable, is simple enough to be enjoyable and surprisingly even has a few emotional punches that paint Sonic as a more sympathetic character. James Marsden and Tika Sumpter are functional albeit forgettable in the movie, with Carrey easily outshining them and the rest of the cast. And the movie is visually a delight, with Sonic’s quick-witted and lightning-fast reflexes providing for some fun, exciting, and speedy-filled action that’s akin to the Quicksilver and Flash scenes from the X-Men and Justice League movies (with even a few fun references thrown into the mix as well).

Sonic The Hedgehog further demonstrates the potential for the modern video game movie adaptation. This is the second time where a recent video game movie captured the spirit of the source material with charm and vision, with the first being last year’s Detective Pikachu. What other possibilities are there and where does the genre go from here? I can’t say for sure, but wherever it goes, at least it’s bound to be better than that original anorexic Sonic design. I can almost look forward to a new Super Mario Bros. movie. Almost.

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May The Fourth Be With You.

SOURCE: Lucasfilm

This video was a hard one to do. Not just because of all the filming, editing, and effort that usually goes into long-form content like this, but more of the emotional story behind it that kept pushing this video out weeks after weeks after weeks.

I was originally supposed to publish this video ranking all of the Star Wars movies at the tail end of 2019, around the same time when Rise of Skywalker came out. But for those that know me, I was dealing with a lot at the time that prevented this video’s release. For one thing, I lost my Grandmother, or “Ducky Schwartz,” to respiratory complications. I still miss her dearly, though I am glad she doesn’t have to go through this pandemic at the very least. I lost my best friend. And to top it all off, I got into a car accident that wrecked me financially.

The holiday season passed (quite possibly the worst one I’ve ever experienced). January rolled around and I just got back on my feet. I was ready to film this video albeit a month later, but at least I was making progress. Then at the end of my recording session, all of the video footage got corrupted and wasn’t usable. So I had to reset and film the whole thing all over again.

A string of health problems prevented filming until March, and then I finally had all of my video clips and was ready to import the footage. Only problem was, for some inexplicable reason, my computer wouldn’t download all of the video clips. I have no idea why. But I had to pull out my other computer and download the rest of the footage from there. Halfway through downloading, my computer crashed and wouldn’t turn back on. I was so emotionally exhausted and frustrated that I couldn’t contain myself. I had a meltdown and completely broke down in my living room. I just felt so powerless. After dealing with one traumatic incident after another, all I wanted to do was shoot and edit a damn video, just to get my mind off of things. But I couldn’t even do that.

I was eventually able to restart my computer and download the rest of the footage several days later, but by then I couldn’t care less. I was so emotionally drained from the experience that I just shut out my computer and put the project on the back burner, focusing instead on my work and mental and emotional health. These videos haven’t done a damn thing for me, I thought. Why would I waste any more of my time and effort on them?

Fast forward to April, where we’re in the heat of dealing with this pandemic. Finally locked into my room with my own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and videos, I finally found the strength to return to my project and finish what I started. Video editing is not easy, and for those that are unfamiliar, it typically takes an average of one hour to edit one minute of footage. So I decided to take my time and just bite off one piece at a time. Two weeks later, I finally realized my vision for my ranking of the Star Wars series.

And yet, technical mishaps would strike yet again and try to stop me one last time. I finalized my remaining graphics and was ready to export my video. Only one problem: my computer wouldn’t boot up. I tried everything that Apple support suggested, but despite exhausting all options, the computer remained inaccessible, making a weekend’s worth of editing completely pointless.

So I pivoted, fired up my other computer, edited the video from a backup, implemented the graphics, and finally published my video against all odds. Suck it, Apple. Your shoddy hardware couldn’t stop me from sharing my love of Star Wars. 

Why am I sharing all of this? Because out of all the videos I’ve produced, this is the one I’m most proud of by far. Every conceivable obstacle was thrown into my path for this video, from personal to physical to technical. And despite all of those roadblocks, I was able to persevere and do what I love most: talk about movies.

I don’t know how much more I’ll resume video work after this. The experience has been so emotionally taxing on me that I question how much longer I want to do this, if I even want to keep doing this at all. I still want to publish roundups for the decade as well as the Oscars, though now I’m questioning whether I want to do those in alternative formats to avoid further stress and frustration.

But I’ll leave those questions for tomorrow. For now, I’m proud of what I’ve produced, and I’m proud I got to share my love of Star Wars and the movies with you once again.

Thank you all for continuing to support me and watch my videos. I genuinely appreciate it, and it has kept me going in these very difficult past few months.

Anyhow, enjoy my ranking of the Star Wars movies. Happy Star Wars Day, and of course, May The Fourth Be With You.

– David Dunn

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AMC Theatres Bans Universal Pictures

Out of all of the public spats to have surfaced in the face of the coronavirus, no one could have predicted that one of the most controversial came from two of the most prominent entertainment companies in the industry.

After movie theaters shut down worldwide last month due to the coronavirus, many movie studios had to pivot to streaming their films on demand in order to make a profit. One of the more popular studios to have found success in this format was Universal Studios. Its most recent films The Hunt and The Invisible Man were among the first releases to be made available on VUDU, while Robert Downey Jr.’s Dolittle was released later on down the road. But one of the most successful rentals is, oddly enough, Trolls World Tour, which set the record for the most streams in a weekend release, surpassing even Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s streaming numbers, according to Deadline.

“The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of [premium video on demand],” NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell said to The Wall Street Journal. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

Well, that interview ended up being the worst possible thing Jeff could have done, because after that, AMC Theatres declared that it would no longer screen any of Universal’s movies in its 1,000 theaters across the globe. 

In a strongly-worded letter, AMC Entertainment President and CEO Adam Aron wrote to Universal conveying the company’s disappointment, expressing explicit frustration over Shell’s “release movies on both formats” comment. 

AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies,” Adam writes. “It assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on Universal’s part as to how its actions affect us. It also presumes that Universal, in fact, can have its cake and eat it too, that Universal film product can be released to the home and theatres at the same time, without modification to the current economic arrangements between us. It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice.”

What does this mean for Universal? Going forward, you can expect any film with a Universal logo on it to not be playing at any AMC or Regal theater, including the upcoming Fast & Furious 9, animated Illumination movies such as Despicable Me and Minions, and future sequels to the Jurassic Park franchise. At the moment, you could still watch Universal movies from Cinemark or Harkins theaters, but that’s assuming if they don’t pull out later on like AMC or Regal Cinemas did. With AMC and Regal being the largest movie theater chains by far, you can expect Universal to be absent from over 18,000 screens across the world.

I get AMC’s frustrations with Universal. In his letter, Adam says they accepted Universal to originally stream Trolls World Tour to homes as an exception due to “unprecedented times.” He even says that they were willing to sit down with Universal and discuss different strategies and economic models that would benefit both companies, especially in the face of this pandemic.

So when Jeff completely disregards all of those conversations and investors and unilaterally decides this is the “new normal,” I can understand why AMC is more than peeved at his comments to the press. Yet, I can’t help but feel this might be a slight overreaction on AMC’s part. As part of Hollywood’s “Big Five” studios, Universal holds 11% of the market share, slightly behind Sony Pictures’ 12.1% and more than double of Paramount’s 5%. Universal’s movies have consistently placed among the year’s highest grosses, competing against Columbia Pictures, TriStar, 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, and even Warner Bros. Saying that a big chunk of movies would be missing from movie theaters is a severe understatement, and with that, a large chunk of the market as well.

“We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary,” Univeral wrote in a response statement to AMC. “As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on [premium video on demand] when that distribution outlet makes sense. We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition partners.”

What do you guys think? Do you feel this is an overreaction on AMC’s part, or do you think they’re right to shut out all future Universal releases? Comment below, let me know. I’ll see y’all when the theaters reopen. 

– David Dunn

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter, Wall Street Journal, Deadline

“ROMA” Review (✫✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Netflix

La belleza es donde la encuentras.

For some reason, the Madonna song “Vogue” came to mind while I was watching Roma, which is Alfonso Cuaron’s first Spanish film in 17 years since directing 2001’s Y Tu Mama Tambien. It’s the lyrics that specifically stick out to me, and despite Madonna’s jazzy disco groove and upbeat tempo, there’s a sadder story lying in the song about a woman trying to escape from life’s troubles. Everywhere she turns is heartache, she wants to escape the pain of life that she knows, and there’s a longing to be something better than what she is. And, perhaps most important, she learns that beauty is where you find it.

Alfonso Cuaron illustrates this sentiment early on in Roma. Whereas most movies work so hard to set up groundbreaking establishing shots that set the tone for the movie, Roma opens up on the black-and-white tile floor of a middle-class family in La Roma, Mexico City. The image itself is so plain and ordinary, and at first seems like an unusual opening shot for a family drama. But it’s what Cuaron does with the shot that makes it so compelling. Off-screen, we hear a maid throw soapy suds onto the tile floor, and the reflection raises a mesmerizing pattern of a broken yet beautiful city. Brick rooftops surround the image like a picture frame. Clouds break up the gray sky like cotton candy on a canvas. And far into the distance, a plane flies overhead, carrying its passengers into a new tomorrow.

The whole movie is like that, with Alfonso Cuaron finding captivation and interest in every frame, every pan, every close-up, every wide shot, and every sweeping capture of the scenery and sensation that’s on display. The cinematography never looks or feels forced, awkward, pretentious, or unearned. It is intimate and vivid, like a long-lost memory that has suddenly resurfaced back into your mind.

Roma is based on Alfonso Cuaron’s own childhood while growing up in La Roma with his parents and two brothers, as well as the caretakers that looked after them. Although much of the movie is based on Cuaron’s youth, the movie never makes it clear which character he’s supposed to be. In fact, I’m not even confident any singular one of the children in this movie is him. Any one of them could be him, or two of them, or even all of them.

The movie never specifies which is which, and it’s just as well. After all, Roma isn’t even about Alfonso. Instead it’s about his housemaid, played here by Yalitza Aparicio in her theatrical debut. While Roma does follow her everyday routine caring for the family and their children, the movie is about so much more than her work as a housemaid. It’s about her navigating life in 1970’s Mexico City during a period of political tension and upheaval. It’s about looking for love and finding heartbreak instead. It’s about finding balance and peace in a time where there is nothing but calamity and disturbance. It’s about searching for family and a home to belong to.

You can tell that Alfonso Cuaron comes from a very personal place in writing, directing, and shooting this small-scale epic, because the storytelling feels so honest. Cuaron himself is no stranger to making cinematic epics. He directed the third and arguably the best Harry Potter movie Prisoner of Azkaban, while the films Children of Men and Gravity were among the most thrilling science-fiction movies released in their respective decades. But Cuaron is coming from a much more intimate and vulnerable place with Roma, from the life experiences he’s portraying to the culture he’s paying homage to. The movie finds its heart in its most soft-spoken moments, like a mother whispering a lullaby to her child.

And newcomer Yalitza Aparicio is especially vital to making this movie resonate with us emotionally. Originally studying to be a preschool teacher, Yalitza stumbled onto this film when her sister encouraged her to audition. So much of her performance feels so natural and genuine, mostly because it is natural and genuine. Cuaron notably shot this film in sequence and would provide pages to the script days, sometimes even hours before shooting was supposed to begin so that the actors could more believably react to what they were experiencing. This leads to the most authentic and honest performance Cuaron could have pulled from Yalitza. She didn’t feel like an actress trying to mimic the part of a middle-class housemaid. She felt like she really was a young woman trying to navigate Mexico’s turmoils all by herself, and that wrapped you up in her journey all the more because of it.

Roma is a masterpiece. Go and see it. Movies come and go, but few capture your attention, your intrigue, your emotions, and your imagination as raptly as this picture does. Who would have dreamed years ago that when one humble woman accepted the job as a family’s housemaid that her life story would one day be told on the big screen? Imagine what stories Alfonso Cuaron’s children will tell of their father when he grows old.

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Sam Raimi Confirms He’s Directing ‘Doctor Strange 2’

Sam Raimi is returning to the Marvel universe, only this time he’ll be helming a project much “strange”-r than his last superhero outing.

A fantasy-horror filmmaker whose projects range from The Evil Dead series to Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi is no stranger to taking on unusual and off-the-wall type projects. His 1990 cult action film Darkman is one of the few original superhero movies out there, while his 2009 sleeper hit Drag Me To Hell was a creepy and unsettling return to his horror roots. Perhaps most notable to the superhero genre is his Spider-Man trilogy, starring Tobey Maquire and earning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Now Raimi is making a return to the superhero genre to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. After previous director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Day The Earth Stood Still) dropped out of the project back in January, talks of Raimi taking his place circulated around shortly after Derrickson left the project. Raimi essentially confirmed his new role while speaking to ComingSoon.net, all while expressing his fascination with the sorcerer supreme.

Fun fact: Doctor Strange was actually name-dropped in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, where “Daily Bugle” publisher J. Jonah Jameson was brainstorming names to call Doc Ock.

“I loved Doctor Strange as a kid, but he was always after Spider-Man and Batman. For me, he was probably at number five for me of great comic book characters,” Raimi said. “He was so original, but when we had that moment in ‘Spider-Man 2,’ I had no idea that we would ever be making a ‘Doctor Strange’ movie, so it was really funny to me that coincidentally that line was in the movie. I gotta say I wish we had the foresight to know that I was going to be involved in the project.”

Well there ya have it, folks. Sam Raimi is officially returning to the Marvel universe. I for one am very happy to see him return, as I was a big fan of both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. However, he did also lead the widely panned Spider-Man 3, a film that was so universally mocked that Sony was forced to reboot the series with Andrew Garfield. We’ll have to wait and see how Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness pans out, but at the moment, I for one am very excited to see what Raimi does with the elusive sorcerer. At the very least, Disney has a better track record when it comes to studio interference than Sony does. 

What do you guys think? Are you excited to see Sam Raimi return to the Marvel universe, or would you rather he just left behind the web he weaved? Whatever you think, comment below, let me know. 

– David Dunn

SOURCE: ComingSoon.net, CNET 

Coronavirus Contagions

It’s time we face the facts here: the coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. Since it first surfaced in Wuhan, China in December last year, it has gone on to infect over 308,000 people across the globe, killing over 13,000 of them. And since it has come to America earlier this year, the United States went from having less than 10 cases in January to now over 26,000 cases this month. For those of you not keeping up with the math, that’s faster than even Italy’s growth rate.

What does that mean for us? I’m not exactly sure. Since earlier this month, the coronavirus seemed like an afterthought, a distant threat that was impacting other countries but mostly remained separate from ours. Now it’s reshaped almost everything in our everyday life, from working from home to delayed movie releases to even shopping for groceries. Just a few weeks ago, my biggest frustration with the coronavirus was how it delayed upcoming movie releases such as James Bond’s No Time To Die and A Quiet Place Part II until the fall. Now my biggest fear is contracting the virus myself, or even worse, spreading it to somebody else.

There are some positives to glean from this. For one thing, the majority of people who contract the coronavirus only suffer from mild symptoms, with 81% of victims eventually recovering from the disease, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It still remains to be one of the low-risk diseases globally, with the SARS and MERS epidemics killing between 10-30% of its infected, both significantly higher than the coronavirus’ 4% fatality rate. And numerically, it is still one of the less deadly diseases, with thousands of people dying daily from both AIDS and the seasonal flu, whereas on the coronavirus’ worse day it hasn’t even topped a thousand yet.

So in terms of globally and nationally, the coronavirus is still relatively low-risk. But I don’t want to shortchange this threat. The most concerning thing about it, of course, is that it’s asymptomatic, which means you could have it and not even know it. This doesn’t mean much to you, of course, but it could jump from you and infect somebody close to you that is more vulnerable to the disease than you are, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

We’re also not prepared if this outbreak grows to exceed Italy’s numbers, as hospital beds, respirators, and ventilators are overwhelmingly short on supply. This is before you even get into the fact that we’re working with incomplete numbers since testing for the disease is even more scarce than hospitality availability. And don’t even get me started on the ramifications of President Trump’s decision to fire the pandemic response team in 2018.

This is all before you even get into the economic impact of the coronavirus. Since the virus has broken out, many local governments and municipalities have forced local businesses, shops, stores, gyms, and hotels to close down, while limiting many restaurants to takeout and delivery only. This will leave a massive hole in both our local and national economies and most likely will lead to a recession and maybe even a depression. Many people are pushing for government bailouts, but that can only last for so long. It’s funny how those who were decrying the threats of socialism are now happily willing to accept it, so long as they get a paycheck from it.

Look, I don’t want to start a panic, but we also need to be practical at what we’re facing here. The fallout from the coronavirus will be significant. Whether it is in the form of further infections, massive unemployment, or social and economic collapse, the hammer will drop somewhere in some form as a result of this virus. In its best-case scenario, the coronavirus will inconvenience America – indeed, the whole world – for the next several months. At its worst, it will reshape our entire society as we know it.

Where does that leave us? For now, everyone needs to stock up, keep their heads down, and distance themselves from the rest of the outside world. That will be difficult for some extroverts that need human connection, while it will just be everyday life to some introverts like me. Regardless, limiting the spread of the virus is the best way to fight it at this moment. Even if the pandemic spreads into the coming months, it will at least be contained enough so hospitals will be able to treat patients without overwhelming the healthcare system.

As for myself, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I publish on this website to bring you the most up-to-date information on new movies and theater releases, but since there won’t be many in the foreseeable future, that puts me into a bit of a pickle. Even if movies are still coming out like Wonder Woman 1984 is this summer, I doubt I would go to the movie theater to see them. That just wouldn’t be the smart or safe decision at this point.

No, instead I think I might focus more on recent releases I’ve missed reviewing, like Onward, The Invisible Man, and Sonic The Hedgehog. I’d also like to focus more on video work as well since I have yet to do my best and worst movies of the decade lists. Heck, I still want to review that disaster of a Cats movie that released that December. Did you know that there’s a cut of that movie out there where the cats’ buttholes were not digitally removed? I didn’t know it was possible to make that movie any more horrifying.

I’ll figure out what I’m going to do for this website in the coming weeks. But for now, stay home, keep yourselves healthy, and don’t unnecessarily put yourself at risk of the disease.

Stay safe out there, fellow movie lovers. I’ll let you know when my review of the butthole cut of Cats is coming out.

Love,

David

‘Borderlands’ Movie Nabs Eli Roth As Director

Well, depending on your viewpoint, this is either wonderful or horrible news for the Borderlands movie.

On Thursday, Gearbox Software President Randy Pitchford announced via Twitter who would be directing the upcoming live-action Borderlands movie based on Gearbox’s critically and commercially acclaimed video game series of the same name. That director is none other than the horror head honcho himself, Eli Roth.

Eli Roth is a strange, albeit oddly appropriate, choice to helm the upcoming dystopian action movie. Following a group of vault hunters on the planet Pandora trying to find long-lost treasure, Borderlands has spawned a series of sequels, spinoffs, and even an off-kilter marriage proposal, all while creating a massive cult following of fans. With the level of popularity and prominence Borderlands has amassed, a film adaptation of the science-fiction franchise almost seemed inevitable. 

Unfortunately, video game movies don’t have the best track record, even with the recent successes of Detective Pikachu and Sonic The Hedgehog. That being said, a Borderlands movie could definitely work, if given the right director to handle it.

Whether Eli Roth is the right guy or not is very dependent on which Eli Roth you’re getting. I won’t deny that Roth has delivered some solid horror movies in the past: his debut Cabin Fever was an amusing homage to B-movie horror cinema, while Hostel delivered a wildly disturbing yet entertaining slasher flick. But his larger filmography is mostly unimpressive, with the Death Wish remake simply being a vacant and cliche revenge thriller while the cannibalistic Green Inferno was just gross and stomach-churning. Even 2018’s The House With A Clock In Its Walls was a generic and uneventful family comedy.

Top that all off with the fact that he doesn’t have much experience with CGI-heavy films to begin with, and what you have left is a big, fat “huh?” in regards to his involvement with this movie. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to bring in a filmmaker that has more experience with CGI and dry, smirking banter? Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, for instance, would have been a perfect fit were it not for the fact that he’s busy working on Suicide Squad 2. David Leitch would have been another solid choice, considering his work on other high-octane and witty action flicks such as John Wick, Deadpool 2, and Hobbs & Shaw. Heck, Quentin Tarantino would have been a great pick as well if he ever got his mind off of Kill Bill: Vol. 3 and his adaptation of Star Trek.

What do you guys think? Do you think Eli Roth is a reliable choice for a Borderlands movie, or do you think Claptrap and crew deserved more? Comment below, let me know.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: Kotaku, IGN

‘Parasite’ Creeps Into Top Honors At 92nd Academy Awards

I gotta say, I’ve covered the Academy Awards for a long time now. Year after year, I watch as they award their Oscars to winners both old and new. I see them give their statuettes sometimes to those that are most deserving, other times to nominees that couldn’t be less deserving. And with each passing ceremony, there isn’t one where the Academy doesn’t spring at least one surprise on its unsuspecting viewers.

Take this year’s awards, for example. Not only is this the first year where a comic-book film was nominated the most (Joker with 11 nominations), but this is also the second year where the Academy led its ceremony without a host. Last year it was to the ceremony’s benefit, as the awards carried out at a brisk pace while simultaneously being quick-witted and funny. This year, however, the awards seem airy and directionless, like they were scrambling to get through all the categories and find some loose way of connecting them together.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the presenters were very funny, like Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus when they confused the cinematographers and film editor’s jobs, and James Corden and Rebel Wilson, who came out in these awful-looking Cats costumes and stressed the importance of good visual effects. Other times presenters seemed random and pointless, like when Kelly Marie Tran and Anthony Ramos came out to present… another presenter. 1917 actor George Mackay illustrated the monotony of the presentation brilliantly, saying he was a “presenter to present another presenter who was going to present… another presenter.”

But the Hollywood elites who read from the envelopes this year were the least of the night’s surprises. In fact, the biggest surprises of all came from a film that I wasn’t even expecting to win the night’s top prizes:

SOURCE: CJ Entertainment

Best Picture: The Academy’s top honor didn’t go to 1917, a beautifully-filmed war epic that captured the essence of its tragedy in one seemingly endless shot. It didn’t go to the witty and wild love letter to 60’s cinema Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. And it also didn’t go to a movie about the mental descent of one man that would grow to become Batman’s greatest nemesis in Joker. No, the Academy instead chose to give the night’s highest recognition to a film you probably haven’t even heard of: South Korea’s harrowing yet hilarious commentary on classism and economics, Parasite. 

This is significant for a few reasons. One: Parasite is so out of the box and so unusual for the Academy that you wonder if their tastes are changing for the new generation. It’s strange that the Academy has gone a whole decade without recognizing at least one war film like 1917, or that it wouldn’t take up the chance to be self-absorbed in their own culture with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood like they were with The Artist or Birdman. But Parasite is just such an unusual choice for the Academy. Take away the fact that it’s a Korean film for one second: the fact they would even consider an exercise in minimalism and implication like this is so out of left field for Academy voters. If it wasn’t, then why wasn’t Get Out awarded Best Picture in 2018? Or The Revenant in 2016?

Two: Parasite is the first foreign-language film to have won Best Picture… ever. That is a stunning title for it to own, especially when you consider the fact that the Academy has overlooked nominees such as Roma, Amour, Babel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful, The Postman, and several other films dating all the way back to 1938. This also does not consider outstanding foreign-language films that weren’t even nominated for Best Picture, including A Separation, Pan’s Labirynth, The Sea Inside, Joyeaux Noel, Amelie, Ikiru, and several others.

Is Parasite undeserving of the Oscar? Absolutely not. It was cunning, captivating, poignant, thoughtful, and like all great movies, had something powerful to say about our culture. Should it have been the first foreign-language film to have earned the Best Picture honor? Probably not. It makes you wonder where the Academy has been in all years previous to Parasite, as well as what they’re going to do moving forward now that the gates are open for all foreign-language films at the Oscars?

Speaking of Parasite

Best Director: The bigger surprise isn’t even the fact that Parasite won Best Picture, which it might have been able to nab anyway since it also won Best International Feature and Best Original Screenplay (more on that later). The biggest surprise is that director Bong Joon-Ho won Best Director, beating out DGA winner Sam Mendes for 1917

Again, Bong Joon-Ho is not undeserving of this honor in the least. The way he mirrored the two worlds of the rich and the poor was stunning and captivating and showed the true genius of a brilliant director at work. But what’s so surprising is that his win supersedes Sam Mendes’ win at the DGA Awards, which have been used to predict Best Director Oscar winners for decades now. Are the DGAs slowly moving towards irrelevance in regards to the Academy? Only a few more ceremonies will confirm that for sure.

Either way, congratulations to Bong Joon-Ho and his well-deserved win. I’ll admit 1917 was my favorite to win both Best Picture and Best Director, but I can’t fault Parasite by any means. Joon-Ho made a brilliant film, and nobody can take that honor away from him.

Best Actor: The Academy was right to award Joaquin Phoenix his first Oscar in his 30-year career for playing a meek clown gone mad in Todd Phillips’ Joker. He completely earned the Oscar for giving one of the most haunting and darkly comedic performances of the decade. Congratulations to Joaquin for his well-deserved win, although his acceptance speech where he complained about the evils of milking cows was a little strange.

Best Actress: Judy Garland may have never won an Oscar, but Renee Zellweger did for portraying the actress in her dramatic biopic Judy. It still blows my mind that this home-grown Texan could portray the late actress’s final years in show business and pull it off with the conviction and appeal that made Garland a household name in the first place. Congrats to Renee for winning her second Oscar. Here’s to never forgetting an unforgettable performance.

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt rightfully won his first acting Oscar for playing a quietly disturbing stunt double in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Having recently revisited Pitt’s psychotic portrayal of a man’s splintered persona in David Fincher’s 1999 hit Fight Club, I was surprised to find out that he’s only been nominated for three acting Oscars prior to his first win, including 12 Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Moneyball. Pitt’s nominations don’t do justice to his commitment in the roles that he plays. Either way, congratulations to Pitt for his well-earned win. He taught me a lesson about never paying an uninvited visit to Cliff Booth at night.

Best Supporting Actress: As expected, Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for playing a sensitive yet savage divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. Having re-watched Dern and her co-star Scarlett Johannson in both Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, I’m still baffled as to how Dern could have the edge over Johannson, especially when you see her passioned and sensitive performances in both of the movies she’s nominated for. If you want to talk about talent that wasn’t even nominated, Jennifer Lopez gave a commanding performance as a stripper with attitude and swagger in Hustlers. Either of those women could have walked away with the Oscar and it would have made perfect sense. But Dern has a couple of scenes in her office and in the courtroom and suddenly she’s an Oscar frontrunner? Why? What did she do that was so special compared to her fellow nominees, or even her fellow co-stars?

Either way, congrats to Dern for winning Best Supporting Actress. I could think of five other movies she deserved to win the Oscar for more so than this one, but I guess the path doesn’t matter as much as the destination does.

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Animated Feature: Like clockwork, Toy Story 4 won Best Animated Feature, despite the fact that How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Klaus were both better films. If the Academy keeps this up, they should save the viewers some time and simply rename this category to the Disney-Pixar award. At least then they’d be honest.

Best Documentary Feature: Okay, I got this one wrong, but to be fair this category was already a toss-up in the first place. I figured the Academy would go with a film as unique and creative as the one that followed one of Bekirlija’s last beekeepers in Honeyland. I should have known the Academy would have gone political and given the Oscar to the Obama’s first documentary produced under their new production company, American Factory. Earning an Academy Award is officially the newest thing that the former President can claim that the current President cannot.

Best International Feature: Of course since Parasite won Best Picture, Best International Feature was obviously going to be a shoo-in. I do find it odd that it technically has won two best film Oscars on one night, but either way, it isn’t undeserving. If you haven’t gotten the memo by now, you need to watch Parasite at your earliest convenience if you haven’t done so already.

Best Original Screenplay: Again, Parasite upsets in the original writing category after securing its win at the WGA’s. When I predicted Quentin Tarantino would win for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, I did so only knowing that the Academy almost never awards writing Oscars to foreign-language films. In fact, the last time a foreign-language film even won the original writing Oscar was Spain’s Talk To Her in 2002, and after that eight other films were overlooked in this category before Parasite finally won last night. Again though, it deserves the win as Bong Joon-Ho’s writing is just as clever and captivating as his directing is for the film. I just hope Bong Joon-Ho doesn’t go too crazy with celebrating. I would like him to not die of alcohol poisoning and keep making more movies as wonderful as Parasite.

Best Adapted Screenplay: In another stunning upset, Taika Waititi wins the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Jojo Rabbit and shuts Greta Gerwig out for Little Women. If Academy voters are smart, they’ll hide out in their bunkers and wait for rage Twitter to blow over. Little Women fans are going to be upset about this one for a while.

SOURCE: 20th Century Fox

Best Film Editing: Yet another category I got wrong. I thought Yang Jin-Mo was going to win for seamlessly assembling various perspectives into one cohesive and tragic narrative in Parasite, but I neglected how exciting and dizzying Ford v Ferrari was while simultaneously being coherent enough to follow all of the fast-paced racing action. Michael McCusker (Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma) is not undeserving by any means, and I’m happy he can finally call himself an Oscar-winner. At the very least, Ford v Ferrari’s best editing win makes more sense than Bohemian Rhapsody’s win did last year.

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins rightfully earned his second Oscar for his masterful one-shot technique in Sam Mendes’ emotionally stirring war epic 1917. If any other nominee won, rioting from the cinematographer’s branch would have been the only appropriate reaction.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Bombshell won best makeup, as expected. Thank you, next.

Best Costume Design: I thought Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’s timely wardrobe would appeal to the Academy as it does to its colorful and charismatic characters. I figured since Jacquelin Durran already won once for Anna Karenina that the period piece play wouldn’t work as well on the Academy this time around. I should have just went with the period piece, because Little Women won as predictably as Anna Karenina did in 2012. Jenny Eagan was also not nominated for Knives Out, which means that in a way, I lost twice in this category.

Best Production Design: In a happy upside, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood won the Oscar for Best Production Design. Nancy Haigh deserves her win for accurately recreating 60’s signage and movie sets. That is, before Quentin Tarantino covered it all with blood and splattered brains.

SOURCE: WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Best Musical Score: As predicted, Hildur Guonadottir won for providing the haunting, eerie string themes for Joker’s descent into madness. I’m just frustrated Thomas Newman has to go through his 15th nomination for 1917 and still not win a blasted Oscar. But in either case, congratulations to Guonadottir for making a beautiful yet unsettling theme for the Joker’s mental and moral decay. Meanwhile, let’s hope the 16th time is a charm for Newman during a future ceremony.

Best Original Song: Elton John won his second Oscar for his uplifting and empowering theme “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” for Rocketman. Thankfully so, because I don’t know how fans might have reacted if Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars and Rocketman didn’t win at least one. Either way, congrats to him for his well-deserved win. He made everyone feel the love tonight.

Best Sound Editing: Ford v Ferrari beat out the rest of the nominees for Best Sound Editing. I personally made the case for 1917, but Ford v Ferrari admittedly did have some exemplary sound editing in it. I’m not as frustrated by the loss like I was last year when Bohemian Rhapsody unbelievably won this award over A Quiet Place. I doubt any nominee winning this year could top my shock any more than that win did last year.

Best Sound Mixing: If that “Wayfaring Stranger” scene in 1917 didn’t convince you that it deserved to win for sound mixing, then nothing ever will. Thankfully, Academy voters saw that scene and was as moved as I was and rightfully awarded the film with the Oscar anyway.

Best Visual Effects: What did I tell you? What did I bloody tell you? The Academy can’t support outstanding visual effects to save its dang life if it means awarding it to a superhero movie. They did just that this year by giving the best visual effects Oscar to 1917 instead of the vastly more grand-scale Avengers: Endgame. Granted, I do not feel 1917 is a better film than Endgame is, but that’s like comparing apples to oranges. After all, 1917 is a grounded war eulogy while Endgame is the epic conclusion to a superhero saga that was several years in the making. Still, recognize the better work when you see it. 1917 may be the more moving film, but you’re bonkers if you think that film compares visually to the sensation and spectacle of Avengers: Endgame. At this rate, Disney should just buy out the Academy and give themselves the visual effects Oscar every time they’re nominated just to get a fair chance in this category.

Disclaimer: I’m kidding, of course. I don’t want Disney to get even more power-hungry than it already is. But still, I hope you understand how hot-blooded I am about this snub, especially since this is hot off of the heels of Avengers: Infinity War losing to First Man in 2019.

And finally, the shorts. I don’t know what is going on with me, but I’ve been on a roll with these categories as of late. Last year, I unbelievably got all of them right as opposed to most ceremonies where I get most of them wrong. This year I’m continuing the good streak as The Neighbor’s Window, Hair Love, and Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (If You’re A Girl) all won Best Live Action, Best Animated and Best Documentary Short respectively. That helped boost me in predicting 16 out of 24 of the categories correctly this year. Not my best Oscar performance, but definitely not my worst.

Thank you all for tuning in yet again this year, fellow Oscar lovers. Now go and see Parasite. You obviously need to.

– David Dunn

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