Shazam! (2019): A Beautiful Tale on What it Means to Have Family

New Shazam Poster Reminds You the Movie Is Fun | Collider

    “Shazam!” is easily the best film so far in the DC Cinematic Universe. I’m speaking as someone who thought “Wonder Woman” was great and enjoyed “Aquaman” and “Man of Steel.” This film is better than all of those and is the most fun I’ve had in a DC film since “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’m glad they got this win. “Shazam!” captures what makes super heroes and comics books so enjoyable and fun in the first place. This is a film that never stops being fun. For non-spoiler thoughts, it is worth seeing for that reason alone. This film is comedic, dark, adventurous and explores the concept of a family better than so many films that say that is their theme. Not only that, the film looks great and has a fantastic soundtrack.

The film was directed by David F. Sandberg with screenplay by Henry Gayden and produced by Peter Safran.

The story follows foster boy Billy Batson as he is given to the last foster family who will give him a chance, as he has ran away from all those prior. Left with the choice as he searches for his missing mother other threats are plot and act as Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) is empowered by an evil and only the wizard Shazam can empower someone pure of heart who can stop him in his quest of destruction.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – Finally the DCCU works. This film calls upon classic “Shazam!” villains who were part of his universe before Faucet Comics were bought out by DC and when he was Captain Marvel. The villain is Dr. Sivana who is a classic foe who DC brought into their universe. As someone who loves the rich lore of comics this was a movie that hit me on so many levels. There is more related to the lore that I’ll get into later in the review, but this is a world that doesn’t need the rest of the DC universe to be good but enriches it by existing.

The Action and Cinematography – The action is visceral, colorful and feels like it has been pulled from the pages of a comic. It isn’t the same beautiful the way “Spider-Verse” did it with it’s animation (blending anime, modern, noir, etc.) but it does it using the dark and light in the character’s abilities and where they choose to shoot the fights. For example, the final fight takes place in a carnival. This use of the dark and light contrast makes the fight sequences stand out and when they happen (because when they happen they matter) it adds to the narrative and is a brilliant use of storytelling.

The Characters – The characters and their relationships are what makes this movie work in this end. I would have rated this movie as at least very good if all I had to go on where performances and the character relationships, and this film delivers on those in spades. The relationships are a big reason I want to go back as I think I’ll notice more in the rewatch as far as how the characters see one another and what that means in the finale.

Billy Batson – Billy Batson / Shazam / Captain Marvel is the main character, who as the foster kid is seeking his mother. He is a kid who only looks out for himself and tells his foster family as much. He does grow more attached to them over the course of the film, which is part of his essential arc. When he becomes the Champion empowered by Wizard we see Billy’s arc go from selfish kid seeking his mother to hero who has found his true family. Both Zachary Levi as Shazam and Asher Angel as Billy give so much depth to the role.

Freddy – Freddy is one of Billy’s foster siblings and the closest thing he has to a friend. He’s also a huge comic book nerd and becomes Billy’s mentor on how to become a hero when he becomes the Champion / Shazam. At first they are both really selfish but Freddy figures out the bigger picture first and calls out Billy for how he has become a selfish bully with his abilities. Freddy does have his arc payoff though, but I’m not revealing what that is, since it is one of the best parts of the film.

Shazam Family – Billy’s adopted family becomes the Shazam Family at the end to fight the Seven Deadly Sins and it is awesome! Each of them is a hero as strong as Billy and together they face off against the Sins. How it happens is fascinating too as it Billy realizing that he needs to open his heart to find his true power and it is in sharing power, not taking it (like Dr. Sivana) where true power lies. Each of the family members has distinct personalities contrasted by their grown up identity and I can’t wait to see them further. I won’t describe more as the seeing their story payoff is one of the best parts of the film.

Dr. Sivana – Dr. Sivana was one of the people chosen by the wizard a long time ago to be the hero but failed because of the temptations from the Demons who are the Seven Deadly Sins. From that point on he seeks out the Sins and frees them before seeking out the hero who he envies for having the great power that is only capable of defeating him. We see why he is this way too as he comes from an abusive family and power was the only thing his dad and brother ever respected. What innocence and pure of heart that he needed to be the Champion was stamped out a long time ago.

Mr. Mind – This is a classic villain for the Fawcett comics who DC brought back when they revamped the character. He is this caterpillar looking worm who is a genius. He meets up with Dr. Sivana in prison and tells him there are more ways to power than simply magic. It is a great set-up for future films as Mr. Mind is a villain unlike anything we’ve seen so far in Marvel or DC.

Okay:

The Foster Parents – The Foster Parents are kind but kind of generic. We get glimpses of their past but never in relation to their kids, only in relation to one another. They both grew up in the Foster system so I’m not saying it is a negative but them opening up to any of their foster kids about their past would have added a layer of depth the story wasn’t able to do. Not entirely a con but definitely the weakest part of the film.

This is a great film. Shazam is such a fun hero and I can’t wait to see how Mr. Mind and Shazam and his foster family are used in later films. In both there is so much potential there to be explored. This was also a film that doesn’t need an expanded universe to work. Billy’s relationship to his foster family and his biological mother give this film more than enough heart to make this film wholly great on it’s own merits. If you are looking for a film that has a deeper point while still managing to be a hilarious comedy, you will probably love this film as much as I did. It is definitely one of my favorite films.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2018): A New Studio’s Decent Introduction to the Studio Stage

With Hayao Miyazaki retiring soon and with it…I doubt his studio will ever be as strong. Hell, his son’s film “From Up on Poppy Hill” nearly put me to sleep and I’m afraid to see “Tales of Earthsea” given how much I love that series and the bad things I’ve heard about it. So lets put Ghibli’s future on hold. Who will take up the banner? Well Studio Ponoc throws their hat in the ring with this film as it captures many similar themes, from coming of age, nature v. science and other Miyazaki-esque themes. How did it do? If you like anime films I’d recommend it. It isn’t great but it is a solidly enjoyable outing. The film was released in 2017 in Japan but 2018 in the States so I’m counting it as my first 2018 film review.

The film was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi who also co-wrote the film with Riko Sakaguchi and produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura.

The story involves Mary, a young girl in England about to start school who stumbles upon a Witch’s Flower which transports her to a magical school where she soon finds herself in over her head as Witch Madame Mumblechook and Doctor Dee seek the flower to their own ends.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is really neat. I like that the Magic School / World lives above ours so it is hard to access, and the fact that it seem to imply anyone can access it and be changed by it. This also leads to a con though, the logic of this world is never answered…which I’ll bring up later.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful and very Ghibli-esque. It is open and gives characters a range of expression while also being fluid and full of compelling color, while remaining bright like a fairy tale. If they make more films with this aesthetic I may check out what they simply to see the animation and if they can take what great thing they have and make it better.

The Flashback – A mysterious witch is running away with the flower while being attacked by summoned water dolphin beings. The threat is high the entire time and we see her fall and her broom and the flowers become overgrown by the world below. This is an amazing setup and I wanted to know what happened.

Doctor Dee –  I saw the English dub because that was what released in theatres and Jim Broadbent is the one who voiced this mad scientist. He is really interesting as he sees unethical experiments as for the greater good and is seeking immortality. He also used to be tall but has now become short and uses machines to walk. His obsession has completely transforms him, but that didn’t change his love for Madame Mumblechook, the Headmistress of the school.

Great Aunt Charlotte – This is the character the movie should have been about. She is the witch at the beginning and we see that she’s settled down but still held onto a single flower. How did her life change after her escape? So much time has passed…but she was a witch so does her magic leave after she leaves the school? None of these questions are really answered. I wanted her story. She is way more compelling than our protagonists.

Okay: Mary and Peter – Mary and Peter are okay. Mary is clumsy and wants to help and doesn’t thing she is good at anything and Peter is a bully who ends up becoming more when he finds that Mary is friends with his cats. Mary saves Peter after becoming a witch and must stop Mumblechook and Dee…okay. This is all fine but none of them are all that complicated and I was far more invested in the side characters than our leads.

Madame Mumblechook – Madame Mumblechook is also okay, we don’t really see why the Witch’s Flower corrupted her motivation as Doctor Dee is the one doing mad scientist experiments and she is in charge of the school. We don’t really get her change beyond possibly her love for Dee? Which is a shame as Dee was driven by mad science, so he had more going on.

The Cons: World Development – Do Witch’s only get magic from the flower? Do you keep your magic if you stay at the school? How does the Witch World interact with ours? What is the difference between magic and science in this universe? This was a world of potential but it failed to fully explore the fascinating premise it started with.

I wish Studio Ponoc success, and given this is their first film they’ve released I hope they can continue releasing films of at least this quality and better. For any fans of the themes in Miyazaki and Ghibli films, check this one out. It has a lot of untapped potential but what they do explore is a lot of fun and the animation is simply beautiful. Here is to the future and hoping that Studio Ponoc will only grow from here.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

 

Bright (2017): Good Ideas Trapped in a B Movie

“Bright” is a film that is built on a wonderful idea. Take Tolkien fantasy and make it the modern day world…from here the story tells itself and it is that core idea that keeps the film from ever being bad, even though some of the writing doesn’t work at all. David Ayer also worked on “Suicide Squad,” and I honestly enjoyed this film more as the action and editing are much more solidly done and even though there are many holes in the universe in regards to magic and lore…it never stops being fun or forget what drives the core characters. This is a film that has been panned by critics and honestly doesn’t deserve the hate. I’ll explain more on why, deeper into the review.

“Bright” was directed by David Ayer (who was also one of the producers), written by Max Landis and produced by Eric Newman and Bryan Unkeless.

The story takes place in a world where an ancient Dark Lord was defeated and 2000 years later on modern day Earth, humans, orcs, elves and the other 9 races live together in a separate class structure, with the Elves as upper class, humans in the middle and Orcs as the disenfranchised outsiders. The story follows human LAPD cop Daryl Ward and the first orc cop Nick Jakboy as they investigate a mysterious cult tied to the ancient Dark Lord defeated long ago.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is amazing, take a Tolkien level backstory with the whole 9 races and the defeat of a Dark Lord (who it implies as an elf) and now it is modern day and how the war went defined the class structure of the realm with orcs being lower class for having served the Dark Lord years ago. There cultures are really unique too, humanity is basically us but the orcs have blood honor and getting blooded as earning respect, elves are tied to magic and own the government but also have a cult tied to the Dark Lord…and there are 6 other races we learn nothing about.

The Action – This is a good action movie. Even in dark scenes you can see which people are fighting and there is constant tension that drives each scene as we have the build up post Daryl surviving getting shot by an orc. I was never bored during this scene, essentially it didn’t have the Sorceress fight from “Suicide Squad.”

Fantasy Races as an Analogy for Race and Class – Orcs live in the poor areas and the only rich orcs we see tend to be gangsters, humans walk between the different areas and there are elf only areas of town. The analogy for racism is obvious and it works, from “Orc Lives Matter,” and the graffiti in the opening…this is a movie that has a deep under current that it doesn’t need to do much to explore as the story tells itself in regards to the clash between orcs, humans and elves.

The Main Three Characters – The main reason this film isn’t awful are the three main characters have arcs that work. Each of them has changed by the end of the story and that is what I’ll go into in their individual character profiles.

Daryl Ward – Daryl is played by Will Smith and is a family man who was once admired by the LAPD but messed up later on, which is why the force put him with the first orc police officer. His arc is overcoming his prejudice and by the end he discovers he is a Bright (someone who can wield magic wands and magic) and considers Nick his partner as he discovers just how bad orcs have it and grows as a cop and person.

Nick Jakoby – Nick’s arc is embracing his role as a cop and finding a wider role in his people as when Tikka (the elf who escaped the Dark Lord cult with a wand) resurrects him after a orc gang leader kills him he is seen as their savior. His arc is learning to trust Daryl and finding his place in the force and his partner. It is really well done and I loved how earnest his character is. Edgerton did a good job in the role.

Tikka – Tikka is the Bright elf who escapes the cult she is a part of and steals the cult leader (Leilah’s) wand in the process. She is a damsel through a lot of it, which I hated, but once it is revealed to have been a ruse it is fantastic as she both resurrects Nick and saves Daryl quite a few times. She is presumed did until Daryl spots her at the end, though whether this is her or the return of the Dark Lord or something else, is left up to the sequel.

Okay: Leilah and her Cult – The cult is threatening and it is cool seeing elves fight with magic and daggers and Noomi Rapace is fun as Leilah, but her and the cult get almost no exploration. This was a shame as she and the other actors are in it are talented people…but we never got their motivation or learned anything new about the Dark Lord.

Magic Task Force – This is the FBI who arrive at the very end and cover up the events with the cult. They are lead by an elf who has a huge issue with the cultists and sees them as embarrassing to elves. He is compelling but we never get his motivation either, and the Magic Task Force is mostly useless though they work as a plot device.

The Writing – There are gaping holes in the lore and some of the dialogue is cringe-worthy. I’m not putting this as a con because sometimes it works and the world does feel lived in. But it isn’t a pro and does bring down the overall quality of the film.

The Cons: Predictability – The biggest con is predictability, I knew Nick would be brought back to life, I knew that Daryl would end up being a bright and I knew they’d have to learn to work together. I could have used a lot more twists than just corrupt cops and Tikka just pretending to need to be rescued.

Holes in the World – Who are the 9 races? We see some random ones but know nothing about them and their roles, how does magic work? Who created the wands? How did this world become as it was in the present? These are just some of the questions that keep the film from being great as the fact it isn’t fully fleshed out is the biggest detriment to the story.

This is a movie that aspired for greatness and because it did, managed to be overall enjoyable, even with the flaws. “Bright 2” has already been slated and I can’t wait to see what they do with this universe as we know nothing about the other 6 races, nothing about the Dark Lord and even how magic works. If these questions had been answered than this would have been a really good film. I still recommend this one though, it isn’t perfect, but it is a lot of fun and it is a universe I can’t wait to return back to. This is a total B movie, largely because of some of the hokey dialogue and the plot holes but it is worth seeing once.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

“The Librarians” Season 2 – Characters Grow and the Art of Ego and Story

the-librarians-season-2

    “The Librarians” Season 2 works in so many ways, especially as it relates to the main overarching narrative as the face off against Propsero. Where it falls apart sometimes, is when we get our single character driven episodes, but even with that there are exceptions as it is within those episodes that there was one of my favorite guest stars and one of my favorite episodes on this entire show, so there are exceptions of which I’ll get into deeper in the review.

  This is the only show I’ll watch on TNT and John Rodgers really did a fantastic job creating a show that takes the best of “Doctor Who” and “Indiana Jones” and does something completely new, this season continues that.

     The main arc of this season is the Librarians taking on the threat of Prospero who reintroduces magic into the world and wants to bring the world back to a time before humans. It is up the Librarians to discover how to stop him and his agents he brings from other stories, such as Professor Moriarty.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “The Librarians” has always been a lot of fun and in this season we get more mythic beasts, more with magic and also science and tech. mixed together like what we got in one of the alternate without Flynn futures. Suffice to say I can’t wait to return to this world in Season 3.

The Premise – The idea of a fantasy character coming to life because of belief in it is super neat and this show takes that premise and runs with it as we meet other characters like Prospero and he summons other people to help him bring about a world where magic reigns supreme.

The Characters – The characters have always been the strongest part of the show and this season is no exception as each of our heroes are given the chance to get explored and we get some pretty fantastic minor characters too.

Mephistopheles – John De Lancie guest stars as “The Devil” Mephistopheles and he is amazing! It is very much a Q type role, which a role De Lancie excels in and it is fun to see him win for most of the episode until his entire premise of granting wishes is turned on him.

Prospero – Prospero is a good baddie. We learn that he arose from Shakespeare afraid of having nothing to live for anymore and he is Shakespeare embracing ego and fear to become Prospero. In this way it is fun to see him come back as they use to words and symbols of Shakespeare in order to defeat him and turn him back into a man.

Moriarty – Moriarty is wonderful and complex. He is the betrayer and clever, but at the end of the day stands with the Librarians. He also has a crush on Eve which is all kinds of adorable as he cares about our heroes even though he cares more about himself and fears Prospero more for most of the show. David S. Lee does a fantastic job and I enjoy how Flynn became his Sherlock. He’s the most sympathetic Moriarty outside of “Elementary.”

Jenkins – Jenkins is in a much smaller role this season when he isn’t figuring out how to stop Prospero. He’s still great and important but the part that stood out the most to me was his conflict with Cassandra when the Ladies of the Lake come to her. He rightfully has a lot of fear wrapped up in anything involving magic.

Stone – Stone has to deal with his father who is an Oil Baron and come to terms with the fact that he won’t ever really have peace with him. It is cool when he admits all the great things he’s done though and at least come to neutral with his Dad. His Dad’s ire is part of what inspires him to be great as he is a reaction to him, which feeds to “Monster of the Week.”

Ezekiel – Ezekiel’s good comes out this season as we see him risk his life countless times in the videogame episode and show that he does care even though he pretends not too. This season he really comes through and shows just why he is a “Librarian.”

Cassandra – Cassandra is tied to the magic and risks everything to stop Hell on Earth at one point. For this she meets the Ladies of the Lake and we see that she tied to magic and can join them if she so wishes. This leads to her clashing with Jenkins and I suspect conflict down the line as magic is shown to be corruption or at least disconnecting from humanity.

Flynn – Flynn like Jenkins is more on the side this season when he isn’t dealing with Prospero and the main plot. We see how clever he is though and how fun he is as well as tricks Prospero, making Prospero believe he destroyed the Tree of Knowledge and his conflict with Moriarty is great too as they both care about Eve.

Eve – Eve has some good stuff this season, when she is leading she is at her strongest and she does get an episode where she has to save a friend who made a deal with the devil. In that she shows how clever she is as she wishes for the devil to be mortal. She really is an amazing character and is the heart of the show as she is always helping those around her grow and growing herself.

 “And the Point of Salvation” – This was the best episode this season as it involves the team being trapped in a Quantam Computer that is a videogame and it is only though Ezekiel’s sacrifice and actions that they are freed from the game. Has the most heart felt moment in the show when he tells them about how often he has watched them die.

The Power of Story – The power of story is a theme of the season as the Librarians fight fictional characters and said characters try to create their own stories and narrative. Within the bounds of their characters and story so much is done and the power that comes with that comes full circle when Shakespeare is saved.

Letting Go – Stone has to let go of his dad’s thoughts about him, Shakespeare has to let go of fame, Cassandra and Ezekiel make the ultimate sacrifice and all of them have to let go of their dreams to come back to reality and escape Prospero’s trap. This is the overall theme of this season and it is done beautifully.

Okay: Tone – The tone facing the “Doctor Who” problem where sometimes it is a bit cartoony and slap stick and this is happening at the same time as serious events of mortality and morality. I didn’t mind it but I did notice it this season.

The Cons: “And the Image of Image” – This was a bad episode, I enjoy the book, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” but here Gray is forgettable and his relationship with Jenkins never felt real. This episode also had our characters getting drunk which usually always involves hack writing in any show.

    This was a great season, how it compares to last season, I’m not quite sure…but I enjoyed it all the way through and it made me look forward to how relationships will further develop in Season 3. I loved the theme of letting go and story this season as they are themes I enjoy in my own writing and the Ezekiel episode is one of my favorite television episodes of any show at this point. If you got past Season 1 and loved it, chances are you will love Season 2.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Doctor Strange (2016): Fantastic Universe and Protagonists With Sadly Forgettable Villains

doctor-strange

      “Doctor Strange” is a really fun, this is a film that would have easily gotten into my Top 5 if it had managed to get over the hurdle that most Marvel Cinematic Universe films face…as in having a compelling villain who exists as more than just a hurtle to be defeated and if the love interest had actually been more than a plot device. These are problems that this film has right off the bat and I’ll get into more details with the spoilers below. Suffice to say, this is still a great film you should see…the protagonists are all fantastic and the world is a compelling one that I can’t wait to return back to.

     The film was directed by Scott Derrickson who co-wrote the screenplay with C. Robert Cargill and was produced by Kevin Feige.

       The story involves Doctor Strange, a famous surgeon whose world is thrown upside down when after a car accident he can no longer use his hands, which forces him to seek out help leading him to the Ancient One and a universe full of dimensions, magic and threats.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is amazing! This is a world where other dimensions and being exist, where people can create magic from energy from those worlds and the limits of imagination are explored (something I wish we could have got more of in “Inception”). The World is easily the biggest reason to see this movie.

The Special Effects – How the world is visualized is through the magic of special effects and these are the best ones I’ve seen and unlike “Inception” which sticks with the grey of the city this one embraces the acidic trippy roots of “Doctor Strange” and does in fact go “Far out.” It’s a trip and a good one.

The Action – The action is wonderful largely due to the effects and how magic is visualized in this universe. It takes the idea of energy and uses it to empower artifacts and to create weapons and gateways. This leads to some fantastic sequences as reality, time and dimensions are twisted in quite a few fantastic fight sequences.

The Protagonists – I’m not including the love interst in this because she’s a disposable prop like the villains, but the sorcerers are amazing and compelling, each in their own ways.

The Ancient One – Tilda Swinton does a wonderful job as this complex master of Celtic origins who is of unknown age. She manages to show compassion and also bluntness and vulnerability and strength, be old and young and appear genderless. She is the Ancient One and her relationship with her pupils is compelling in how those relationships grow or fall apart over the course of the film. One issue that the film tries to skirt and never addresses is the fact that the Ancient One was was originally Tibetan. They attempt to skirt this with an endogenous female Ancient One in Swinton, and she does a good job in the role but it does white wash a group (Asian Americans) who are rarely represented in Hollywood and rarely represented in this film though the location of Tibet is still used as the home and Headquarters of the Ancient One and her organization.

Wong – Benedict Wong plays my favorite character in this Universe. We are introduced to him as the new Librarian after Mads Mikkleson (villain name is irrelevant and he isn’t compelling enough to call him by his name) kills him so he’s strict about the rules of the Library. Over the course of the film we see that he has a sense of humor, such as when Strange reverses time to save him and the world and he embraces it showing living matters more to him than any rules and he loves the fight.

Mordo – Mordo is a Paladin, he’s all about the rules and what is right and when he finds the Ancient One was bending the rules and dealing with the Dark in order to fight it it leads to his loss of faith, especially after Strange also makes a deal with the Dark as he leaves them deciding that there are too many magicians and that he needs to reestablish the Natural Order that they are all upsetting.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the fall so well and I can’t wait to see him as an antagonist in future films. He was my second favorite character in this film, the third being Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange – Doctor Strange is an arrogant dick who using the loss of his hands was the best thing that happened to him since it offered him to see beyond himself and his ego. This is his arc and what separates him from Tony Stark is he comes off as a much bigger dick than Tony even in “Iron Man 2.” In this way his bending the rules even after he’s learned makes sense and why he’s willing to face eternal pain to save the world. He realizes just how much of a monster he was and makes amends. Benedict is great in this role and I can’t wait to see more of this character.

The Ending – Strange crosses into the Dark Dimension to make a deal with the Dark One Dormammu and gets killed many times before Dormammu makes the deal Strange has been offering the entire time. It is humorous and fitting and I really like that it wasn’t a fight scene. It showed that Strange is a mind based hero and sometimes you can’t beat the big bad you can only keep it away or outsmart it.

The Cons: Disposable Characters – The villains could have been anyone and Rachel McAdams’s character could have been played by anyone. These characters exist as props to advance the plot of Doctor Strange, nothing more.

The Love Interest – She saves his life and makes him realize he cares about people….that’s it. What is her family life like? No idea. We here about when her and Strange hooked up….Why? We never find out. Why does she like Doctor Strange? No clue. She is a plot device and the plot didn’t need her which is a shame because McAdams is a great actress.

The Villains – Mads Mikkleson is an evil wizard who wants to bring the Dark One to Earth and have immortality. Beyond that and his falling out with the Ancient One it is never explored further. Dormammmu is just kind of there, an evil Special Effect and together they could have been any Villain of the Week (Like Mads’s character). There is no reason to care about either of these characters and neither of them ham it up like Ronan enough to make it interesting. But you are seeing a Marvel Movie, you got to go into knowing they don’t know how to make good villains usually and this film is a shining example of it.

    This was a great film but the problems that underwrite it as a Marvel Film that doesn’t take risks keep it from becoming more. This is a film that if the villain had been more humanized (as Mordo is leading to his fall) or the love interest had been more than a plot device would have elevated it into my Top 5. For now I’d say it’s below “Ant-Man” for sure but above some of the sequels like “Thor 2” and “Iron Man 2,” as it could have been so much more if characters had been disposable in the plot, be they the antagonist or lover. You should still go see this film, just know these problems going in and you’ll have a better experience all the more for it. This is a film that is standing proof of just how well the Marvel Model works and I can’t wait to see more of this character and his world.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Eeney, Meeney, Miney…Magic!” – The Messed up Mind of Dr. Venture

Eeney Meeney Miney ... Magic

     “Eeney, Meeney, Miney…Magic!” was an okay episode. Thus far it is the weakest as the tone and jokes don’t always work and some scenes are almost a little too awkward. But it is still enjoyable and worth checking out, it’s just not as great as past episodes.

  The episode was directed by Jackson Publick and written by Doc Hammer.

   The story involves the arrival of Dr. Orpheus and his daughter Triana who are renting a room from Dr. Venture. Things soon go out of control though when one of Dr. Venture’s devices lures Brock within forcing Dr. Orpheus and Dr. Venture to work together.

The Pros: Dr. Orpheus – The guy is hilarious and seems to be a mixture of Dr. Strange and old 50’s pulp comic book villains in how he’s over dramatic and a master of magic. He sees himself as the standard bearer against all evil (and is a little anti-tech.) but at the end of the day is a good guy, a much better man than Dr. Venture.

Brock – Brock gets trapped in the machine Dr. Venture built where his dreams are made a reality as we see him hook up with Molotov Cocktail and fight a whole bunch of villains and ninjas, at one point just saying that isn’t it enough already?

Hank and Dean Venture – These two help save Brock but find themselves trapped in the machine as well and it isn’t until Triana calls out that Hank’s love for lets the machine release them.

Dr. Venture – Uses an orphans heart to create a machine where people can live out their fantasies and his plan is to make a lot of money off it. He’s such a messed up character and it is amazing just how messed up he is.

Okay: Triana – She’s a punk rocker and that’s all we have so far. I can’t wait to see how she’s developed further as we need more character development for her.

The Cons: Tone – The episode starts out dark and foreboding as Dr. Orpheus destroys H.E.L.P.eR. but once you get to know him it clashes with the tone established at the beginning as he’s mostly just over dramatic.

This was a fun episode and is well worth checking out, even though it is merely good rather than great like the episodes prior. Dr. Orpheus is a great character and it is always good to get into Brock’s mind or see just how messed up Dr. Venture is as a person.

Final Score: 8 / 10

The Last Witch Hunter (2015): Good Actors Can’t Save This Script

The Last Witch Hunter Poster

    “The Last Witch Hunter” isn’t good, it isn’t so bad it’s good…but it does have what could have been a good film within it if it had handled things differently than it did. There is a great cast here and it feels like a Vin Diesel passion project. For what it’s worth I didn’t hate it, but it was a bad film.

    The film was directed by Breck Eisner. and written by Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless and produced by Mark Canton and Bernie Goldmann.

    The story involves Kaulder who defeats the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) and is cursed with immortality in the process. In the present the With Queen’s followers are attempting resurrect her and it is up to Kaulder and the Dolan (26th played by Caine, 27th by Wood) to stop him.

The Pros: The World – The idea of Witches being born of another species is kind of cool. It gives them a faerie vibe especially as they specialize in nature spells in most of what they do and the Witch Queen functions in a tree and connecting people like roots.

Okay: The Actors – The actors all do alright, but the cons drive them down and keep their performances from being great.

Vin Diesel – His Kaulder has two emotions, fearless and fearful and nothing in-between. This is largely the fault of the script more than anything else so Diesel becomes an actor more wooden than Groot.

Rose Leslie – Ygritte from “Game of Thrones” is sassy in this as as the rebel witch but her character is never given any motivation. She owns a magic bar that she loses when the Witch Queen’s minion destroys it but that is about it. She is there to be rescued and the love interest.

Michael Caine – He is the 26th Dolan who is protecting and advising Kaulder and also lies to him as they keep the Witch Queen’s heart which is why she’s still alive. He is nearly killed by her minions but Kaulder saves him and we learn he was going to tell Kaulder the truth. Still only okay as a character though.

The Cons: The Script – The writing is terrible and makes George Lucas look great by comparison. It hurt to listen too as we are given so much tell and not any show and the tell isn’t even told that well.

The 27th Dolan – Elijah Wood does an obvious betrayal and there is nothing that can save it, this is one of his worst performances.

The Witch Queen – Her hatred of humanity is never fully explained and she just wasn’t all that threatening or scary.

The Special Effects – The cinematography isn’t unique or special in any way and there is nothing that keeps this from being a made for tv film.

  This was a film that is really forgettable, it’s enjoyable the times the idea of the world comes through but there is so much bringing it down, especially the writing. It is easily one of the worst films I have watched this year.

Final Score: 3 / 10