3.5 readers, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times:
Making money is for suckers.
Sure, any old author can make millions of bucks off the fruit of their scribbling labors but me? I’m like a monk. I’ve taken a vow of poverty and that’s how I can afford to just give my books away for FREE, YES TOTALLY FREE which means, YOU PAY NOTHING!
So, what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Head on over to Amazon and pick up a FREE copy of my book, “The End is Nigh” which is about a wacky conspiracy theorist who might just be babbling about something that a certain government agency (that may or may not exist) doesn’t want the public to know about.
If you want to buy a book while you’re there and in so doing, make a contribution to Jeff Bezos’ next space flight, be my guest, but you certainly don’t have to. You’re more than welcome to just grab A FREE BOOK FOR FREE!
The original Hitman’s Bodyguard, released, wow 4 years ago already, was a surprise hit, one of those original films where your faith in Hollywood is restored and you’re happy to see something fun and new. In that outing, you might recall that Ryan Reynold’s disgraced bodyguard character, Michael Bryce, was totes depressed over losing a client to a hitman…and alas, in order to save the day, he must protect that hitman, Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid, the professional killer who shares Jackson’s penchant for saying the word “mother-effer,” from certain doom so he can testify against a war criminal.
In that role, we were introduced to Kincaid’s wife, Sonia, (Salma Hayek) equal to her husband when it comes to a penchant for violence and obscenity. In this go-around, the trio must, once again, band together to save, not just the day but the world, for an evil billionaire (Antonio Banderas) has vowed to crush Europe in retaliation against economic sanctions levied on Greece.
As sequels go, it’s fun, full of lots of great action scenes and hilarity. Once that band-aid is ripped off the first, the second outing is rarely as good once we’ve become used to something, but still, worth your time.
STATUS: Shelf worthy. One of those movies I meant to see and ended up renting on TV, so I do wonder about the future of theaters. I do want theaters to remain in business and yet, if they’re going to keep putting blockbusters on my TV, I’ll probably remain to lazy to go to the theater when a blockbuster is available at the push of a button.
Bonus points to this film for having one of the hardest titles to say. Try saying it three times fast.
I HAVE THE POWER…to write this review, 3.5 readers.
BQB here to check out Netflix’s sequel series to the popular 1980s cartoon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
3.5 readers, perhaps you’ve heard there is a bit of controversy behind this show. Rather than do a straight up review, I’m going to organize my thoughts into PRO and CON but beware, SPOILERS abound. Frankly, I wish I had watched it before reading about it online, so if you haven’t read about it, here’s your chance to go watch it first, then come back and praise it or kvetch about it, or both, whatever your preference. Believe it or not, I fall into the “or both” category.
Fans of the series were totes stoked that He-Man was coming back in a Netflix series helmed by Kevin Smith, a comic book auteur known for keeping it real when it comes to comics. If K-Smitty is behind it, it must be good, for he’s an OG comic fan from way back and would never, ever sell out to The Man just to make a quick buck.
Alas, in the first episode (BIG TIME MEGA SPOILER) He-Man and Skeletor (the trash talkiest villain of all time, basically imagine a combination of your mother in law, a sassy drag queen, and Donald Trump in their ability to pinpoint and throw shade on your flaws and put them in a skeleton man costume) have the final duel that has been forever in the making. At first, this seems awesome but then, they kill each other and for the rest of the series, the show is helmed by Teela, the longtime friend, confidante and lady bodyguard of Prince Adam, He-Man’s true identity and alter ego.
To boil it down further, there is very little He-Man in a show where He-Man is the main draw.
#1 – Teela is voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller which makes me happy as a Buffy fan.
#2 – Kevin Smith’s argument is that he made a show for adult fans of a kids show – people who loved a show when they were little but are now in their 30s and 40s. Often, adults tend to look back at things they loved as kids with rose colored glasses, only to revisit them as adults and realize it was kind of dumb and silly. For example, I like He-Man as a kid. It wasn’t my favorite show, for that role went to GI Joe, but I generally like the show. As an adult, I went back and looked at old clips of He-Man only to find it is campy and silly AF, lots of bad puns and goofiness and what have you.
Ergo, Smith tried to make something where the stakes are real, in other words, where there are consequences and yes, where characters can actually die, as opposed to the show we got when we were kids, where He-Man and Skeletor would just wail on each other for a half hour each week and then the next week, they were fine and ready to go at it again.
He makes a good point. The show has a great musical score that puts me back in the 80s and it has that 80s feel while not being a campy romp. It has about as much of a plot as a fantasy show about warriors battling over the control of a planet’s magic can have and though I was sad to see He-Man go, I did want to find out what happens next. The five episode run is short and bingeable.
#3 – Lena Headey steals the show as Evil-Lynn, a sorceress who rivals Skeletor in her ability to throw shade. He Game of Thrones co-star, Liam Cunningham, is also pretty great as Man-At-Arms, Eternia’s resident weapons-smith.
#4 – The show isn’t a reboot. It starts where the series left off, just with a flare that is more adult yet can be watched by children. In the 1980s, comic book type shows and movies were considered silly by adults, and presented as silly for the kids with the idea that comic books are silly and should be presented as silly for the kids. Today, see the Marvel movies as an example of how it’s almost as if the studios think about the adults first and the kids second when it comes to comic book movies. This is a show with a plot that will appeal to adults yet kids can watch it. Whether or not today’s kids will enjoy it though, I have no idea. I’ll admit I wasn’t enough of a He-Man fan to keep up with it over the years and I had forgotten its main plot points, though the show quickly reminds who in the beginning who everyone is and what they do, what the world and the war is all about.
#5 – To the show’s credit, it is called Masters of the Universe: Revelation. In other words, it’s not called “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” as it was originally titled. This should suggest up front that a) there was a reason why they didn’t include He-Man in the title and revelation means something you didn’t expect is going to happen.
#6 – The show survives by plugging up past plotholes. Namely, Teela never knew that Prince Adam was He-Man and feels betrayed so many of her friends knew and never told her. King Randor never knew either. An ongoing plotline was Teela and the King thought Prince Adam was a wimp and if only he could be half as brave as He-Man. The King’s rage at being lied to leads to a big shakeup in the kingdom. Teela becomes so jaded that she dons a butch haircut and travels the world as a merc, giving a middle finger to honor and duty and just being in it for the money and herself.
#7 – The show pits magic against technology. With magic in short supply as a result of Skeletor’s chicanery, Eternians turn more to tech, which seems like a commentary on the modern age, i.e. people turn to religion for comfort yet are more reliant than ever on tech.
#1 – MOTU without He-Man is like buying tickets to an Insane Clown Posse concert only to arrive and find that ICP took the day off and have been replaced by Flo from the Progressive commercials strumming a ukulele. It’s like turning on a new Batman movie only to discover Batman has decided to go to a spiritual healing retreat while Robin takes over for 2 hours. It’s like showing up to a Mets vs. Yankees game only to discover both teams have gout, and the only entertainment will be Mr. Met dancing the Macarena for 4 hours. It’s like showing up at the alter, ready to marry your beloved, only to pull back the fall and discover she has been replaced by a chimpanzee in a dress.
In short, when He-Man and Skeletor buy the farm so early in the show, you can almost hear the WOMP WOMP.
#2 – I’m not 100 percent sure this was the case here, but in today’s super woke world of ultra woke wokesterism, it’s hard not to believe that some suit at Netflix HQ didn’t decide that there was no way a show helmed by a character who is a super muscular stud-muffin blonde barbarian man who is so frigging straight and macho that he probably bangs hot chicks two at a time in between sword battles was going to fly unless he gets straight up ganked in the first episode and is replaced by a female character and said female character needs a butch makeover. I mean, for Christ’s sake, He-Man is so freaking macho and manly that his name is literally the combination of HE and MAN (which hey, by 1980s standards, the dude put his pronoun right in his name and in retrospect was hella woke) but no way such a macho sumbitch can be allowed to be in charge in this day and age. I’ll admit, that was my first reaction when I learned He-Man kicked the bucket early but then I admit once I started watching, I was intrigued.
#3 – I’m not sure what to think of K-Smith’s involvement. It feels like he was brought on board to give the series that OG Comic fan street cred. As of late, he’s been ranting online about how the fans are being jerks yet a comic guru like himself should realize you can’t just waste He-Man without there being some blowback.
#4 – Eighties kids have been through this already. Corporate suits loved to straight up murder characters we loved all the time, often just to sell toys. The Transformers movie ganked both Optimus Prime and Megatron and their top cronies, all for them to replaced with all new characters, which little kids of the day openly realized was just a cheap marketing trick (though we demanded our parents buy us those toys anyway.)
The Transformers move was so poorly received that Optimus had to be revived in the show and the GI Joe movie had to scrap storyline where Duke dies and it ultimately went to release straight to video. In short, we didn’t like it when our TV show cartoon pals died as kids and we don’t like it as adults either.
BOTTOMLINE – Whenever I want to criticize a show or a movie, I take stock and admit that hey, at least they made something, which is more than I did. I’m a frigging adult, so it’s not like I’m crying over the demise of He-Man. Though he is the main draw, I did binge the show because I found the storyline interesting and wanted to see where it went, so perhaps ultimately Smith and Netflix found a way to get the show a lot of free press and to draw viewers in. Would a show where He-Man wields his sword and kicked ass while Skeletor mocks his loin cloth been just more of the same? I don’t know.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though I’m not sure where the show goes from here. A MOTU show without He-Man and Skeletor probably can’t last forever and yet, if you bring them back with a magic wand wave, that sort of cheapens the idea that this show has adult level stakes. As much as I have enjoyed watching Teela’s storyline, I wonder if, in the long run, you do need the buff barbarian and the trash talking skeleton to go at it because really, who doesn’t want to see more of that?
Just a reminder my book, “The Phone Did It” is super free this weekend, so free that I paid for a listing on Freebooksy, an awesome site that promotes free books when they are indeed, free.
Q – BQB, will I have to pay for your book?
A – No, because it is totes free.
Q – That’s good because I hate paying for stuff.
A – That’s good because I hate earning money for stuff.
Q – Wow! We’re a match made in heaven then.
A – Yes we are.
And look! I was put together in a posting with a free book about what I assume is a crime solving cat, so you could check out this link, get my book for free, get a book about a crime fighting cat for free…look, let’s face it, before you saw this post, your day was going to be bupkus but now? Now you get a free book about an evil phone, a crime solving kitty cat, and plenty of other freebooksy books.
Click on the crime fighting cat and you will see my book a few books down:
Q – BQB, I was just kidding. I hate free stuff. I love to pay for things.
A – Oh, then you shouldn’t click on this link and get a free copy of my book. You should totes wait a few days and buy a copy of my book when it goes back to $2.99. I would hate earning money from the fruits of my labor. I really would.
Have you ever had an ex that you dumped because of X reason, but then the years go by, the world beats you up, you suddenly realize nothing and no one is perfect, and all of a sudden, you wish you had them back in your life because the alternatives are so bad that X reason doesn’t even seem like a good reason for dumping them any more?
That’s how I feel about the original Space Jam in light of the new Space Jam.
When I was a kid, I thought the original was a horrid mess, just a dumb piece of film, sans plot, just one big ad for the NBA and Loony Tunes, a marketing ploy to get people to pay attention to both.
Ah, but the new one made me go and seek out the old and…well, it still is a very silly movie…but I’ll admit…there is a better attempt at a plot and much more success at humor.
The thin plot? Swackhammer (Danny Devito) is the crooked owner of the intergalactic theme park known as Moron Mountain. Sales are dwindling, so he wants to kidnap the Looney Tunes and force them to perform for park guests until the end of time. He sends his tiny minions, the wimpy nerdlucks, to kidnap Bugs and Co and while they lack physical size, they make up for it with enormous ray guns that the tunes can’t beat.
In true Bugs fashion, the wascally wabbit sticks a post-it note in a made-up rule book that says the Tunes get a chance to defend themselves (he could have just written you have to let the tunes go but then the movie wouldn’t happen.)
Long story short, Bugs challenges the nerds to a game of basketball, thinking his opponents are so small that he and his loony friends will easily dominate them. Alas, the nerds manage to steal the skills of famous 90s players like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues and a few others whose names I forget already.
This makes for the funniest parts of the film, as it becomes an ongoing sideplot where the players and the NBA investigate how they lost their skills. The NBA assumes a mysterious virus is in play, so they cancel the season so they can tent and fumigate all the basketball forums, almost a blast from the past that we can relate to today in this age of covid.
Meanwhile, Prince Charles and friends visit doctors, healers and all manner of quacks in the hopes of figuring out how to regain their skills, each scene funnier than the last.
The Tunes kidnap Jordan so he can become their star player, and the film literally wastes no time on Jordan wondering how the heck he got there or being shocked that cartoons and/or aliens are real and so on. Like, it almost would have made more sense if they had spent a minute or two with Jordan being shocked about this, but His Royal Airness is just like, oh well this is just an unexpected pain in the ass thing I have to deal with.
Bill Murray and Wayne Knight round out the cast, Wayne of Seinfeld fame being Jordan’s toadyish sidekick/publicist and Bill declaring that he always harbored a secret desire to play pro ball. B-Ball legend Larry Bird has a few funny scenes, the funniest being when he and Murray witness Jordan being sucked down a golf ball hole and decide that they’re too busy to do anything about and not to worry because he’ll probably be OK.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Both the original and sequel have major plotholes, though both have the attitude of plotholes being so silly that they make the movie good. However, the original at least made an attempt at patching the holes together with tape and glue, while the sequel doesn’t try. I noticed more second and third billing tunes were allowed in the original, which makes me think these cartoons are so old that today’s kids only know about Bugs and his immediate friends. The original is only an hour and a half long, whereas the sequel drones on, and the Tunes get way more screen time. The film has a self-depricating approach, where the tunes themselves mock things that don’t make sense, spiriting plotholes away with a joke.
I couldn’t help but notice the distinct lack of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” but I’ll review it anyway.
I was a kid when the original Space Jam came out and my thought at the time was, “This is the dumbest movie ever made.”
And then I blinked, half my life passed me by and now they’ve made the dumbest sequel to the dumbest movie ever made.
But let me back up. The sequel inspired me to watch some clips of the original and I’ll admit, as an adult, I appreciate the original a bit more and I somewhat understand what everyone involved was trying to do.
Basically, in the 1990s, Michael Jordan conquered basketball, but unlike Alexander the Great, he didn’t weep, because there were plenty of other worlds to conquer…and boy he tried, oh how he tried. His Royal Airness tried to dominate baseball but didn’t get too far. He got into shoe design and succeeded, Air Jordans being more popular than ever.
And he attempted a foray into Hollywood with the original, “this is so bad it is kinda good” movie…at the very least it developed a cult following. If you were a 1990s kid and you loved cartoons and basketball, then you loved this movie.
Meanwhile, the Looney Tunes had grown stale, stagnant. The world had become a rougher place and there was less appreciation for their brand of pie in the face, slapstick comedy.
Thus it was a match – a movie that allowed Jordan a Hollywood victory while keeping Bugs and Co. alive well into the twenty-first century.
Skip a head a couple decades and some change and Lebron James is today’s numero uno basketball star. Hollywood is remaking literally everything, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before they remade a movie that was odd to begin with.
The main criticism you may have read already? It sells out. The entire movie comes across as one great big commercial for Warner Brothers’ movie catalog, perhaps even taking advantage of the opportunity to rekindle old IP claims.
Disney is a master at this and there are times when Mickey and Co. collaborate with the House of Mouse’s stars, only for the audience to gasp at how far reaching their cinematic universe is.
So it feels like WB wanted to mimic that…but I mean…you know…come on now…how many kids were waiting to see a cameo from Casablanca, or A Clockwork Orange or What Happened to Baby Jane? (I actually thought that one was an odd looking Marilyn Monroe until the web told me different).
My 2 cents is the massive sell-out saves the movie, and is probably the only way it could have been made. The plot, if you can call it that, centers around “Warner 3000” or the Warner Brothers Studio server, controlled by an algorithm or to be exact, “Al G. Rhythm” and honestly, I’d love to be the writer who came up with that name. He was probably like, “Yeah I have to get this draft in soon and I don’t want to be late for pilates so Al G. Rhythm it is.”
Even worse, Al is played by the great Don Cheadle. Part of me feels bad that Don, a longtime established thespian who has taken on great, dramatic roles and appeared in some of the biggest movies of the past few decades, lowered himself to appear in this drek…but then the other part of me reminds myself that Don cashed the check so…moving on.
Al considers himself a great genius deserving of glory and will never be famous for as long as he remains hidden in the Warner Server-verse. So, blah blah blah, long story short, he hatches a plan to kidnap Lebron’s son Dom and challenges King James to a basketball game, to be livestreamed to the public, the clicks of which will no doubt give him the attention he desires.
At first, Lebron thinks this will be a cinch, for he can call on WB’s greatest champs, like Superman, the Iron Giant, King Kong and so on to take on Al G.’s Goon Squad consisting of NBA and WNBA greats mashed up with animals to become b-ball dunking monsters.
‘Alas, you guessed it…Bugs Bunny and friends are the only back up that the Warnerverse will put at Lebron’s disposal.
In my opinion, the Tuney crossover into the Warnerverse saves the movie. I get why people think it’s a sell out, but 30 minutes into watching Lebron act (hey no offense, but everyone has one talent gifted from God and people want to see basketball players act about as much as they want to see Meryl Streep dribble a ball)…watching Bugs chase down his pals who migrated to other corners of the Warnerverse gave me the laughs I needed to keep watching.
For me, Wyle E. Coyote and the Mad Max villains chasing Road Runner and Wyle E. holding up a sign that reads “Witness Me!” was all I needed to stay…and at a run time of 2 hours for a plot as thin as tissue paper, you really do need a good laugh.
On the one hand, it’s fun. It’s got a lot of pretty colors and great graphics. If your kids like sports, they’ll like it. If they don’t like sports, just fast forward through the first half hour until Bugs shows up.
On the other hand, I have to question several of the cameos. While Disney’s characters are family friendly…much of the Warnerverse? Not so much.
Examples? Rick and Morty return the Tazmanian Devil to Bugs, after apologizing for conducting experiments on “his weird badger thing.” Yes, R and M is a cartoon but no, this is def not a toon you want your kids watching. Frankly, you shouldn’t watch it either. It’s that naughty.
Others? Well…the game at the end is attended by a vast, sprawling audience consisting of WB characters, with one side devoted to the villains who cheer Al G. on. Some are fun…like an assortment of Batman villains, decked out in their garb from the 1960s, 80s, 90s and so on. Danny Devito’s Penguin hanging with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Cesar Romero’s Joker etc. The Flying Monkeys from the Wizard of Oz? Sure.
Of course, good guys like The Jetsons, the Flintstones, Scooby and the Gang show up to cheer for Lebron and Co.
But then the cameos take a weird turn. Pennywise – seriously, who thought a clown who murders children would be good in a kids’ film? The Nuns from Ken Russells’ The Devils, a film so sexually explicit that WB had to make big cuts to it during the 1970s, which was basically the Wild West period of filmmaking – post Hollywood’s Golden Era where people just agreed nothing naughty should be on film and before the 1980s’ invention of the rating system, which at least gave viewers a heads up if they were about to watch something naughty.
Perhaps the strangest of the strange cameos are the Droogs. Keep in mind that noted skunk pervert Pepe LePew was cancelled, forever banned from the Loony Tunes line up. Those unfamilar? He was a skunk who spoke with a French accent who fancied himself the world’s greatest lover. In each of his toons, a female black cat would accidentally be painted with a white stripe down her back, thus fooling Pepe into thinking there was a hot lady skunk afoot. The Pepester would then pursue the female cat with reckless abandon, refusing to take no for an answer, constantly hitting on her and usually getting clobbered to funny effect in the process.
All I can say is once upon a time, context existed. Pepe never existed to say that men who act like him are to be admired – far from it. He was a character used to make fun of such men and show how ridiculous they are and how women are reviled by them.
But all 2020s Twitter saw was a pervert skunk…so be it. The stinky twerp was cut from the film. I mean, a good writer could have drummed up a quick take where Pepe is called into WB Studios and told that he’s being fired for being a problematic, socially unacceptable pervert skunk (I thought I read somewhere they tried something like that but even a scene where Pepe is shown as problematic would be problematic apparently.)
Where was I? Ah, yes. The Droogs. Have you seen Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Don’t. It will warp your mind. It focuses on mind control experiments where the government tries to wash all violent, sexual and evil thoughts and actions from London’s criminal gangs. One such gang, the long john wearing, bowler hat sporting Droogs, conduct a home invasion where they abduct a poor, unsuspecting woman and do horrible things to her.
I won’t belabor the point but like so many who have already opined on this, I find it odd that the pervert skunk had to go, so awful was he that he couldn’t be included even with a joke about him being a pervert skunk, but a gang of brutal rapists, also from the 1970s pre MPAA ratings period, were placed front and center at the b-ball court.
No one seemed to find it odd that Game of Thrones cameos were included. On one level, dragons and white walker zombie cameos are fun and ostensibly kid friendly, just as long as kids don’t ask their parents if they can watch Game of Thrones…because that surely isn’t a show for kids.
Overall, I could go on and on about this point. Warner Bros wants to flash all of its kid characters on screen? Sure. Have it. Flintstones? Jetsons? Scooby? Bring it on. But leave the cameos from adult movies and shows at home. The adults won’t find them that interesting and won’t want to have to explain who that is and who that is to kids who are better off not knowing who they are.
Alas, I can picture the thought process of the WB suits (who, to their credit, are also parodied). “Sure we can cancel Pepe the Pervert Skunk but…WHAT?! You want the Droogs out of the movie?! But someone might see it and want to watch it and then we’ll make more money!”
Which just goes to show that Pepe LePew could have gotten away with sexually harassing poor, unsuspecting white stripe painted female felines for decades to come as long as he made Hollywood money. Disagree? Research the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby cases and get back to me.
STATUS: Shelf worthy. I applaud it’s good message where Lebron advises his son that whatever he wants to achieve in life, he needs to put in the work. An early scene shows a young, unfocused teenage Lebron who almost lost a game due to a lack of focus, a mistake he vows to never again make, thus leading to his success. Focus and hard work. You won’t get far with out either.
There’s also the inevitable lesson for kids who feel pressure from their parents to choose a career path they aren’t interested in, to abandon a dream that seems unlikely. Lebron and Dom lock horns as Lebron wants his son to follow in his b-ball footsteps, while Dom dreams of becoming a video game creator. (I mean, not exactly relatable as most kids might dream of being a b-ball star or a video game creator but instead, their parents want them to go to plumbing school to learn how to install toilets or something, but you get the gist.)
But I must knock off 1 million shelf points because many of the villain cameos were inappropriate and ill advised. Warner, you aren’t Disney, ergo, you might have a Warnerverse, but leave the murderous kid killing clowns and roving gangs of 1970s London based rapists in the vault.
And you know what? Adults don’t really want to see this stuff in a lighthearted kids’ movie either. I get sometimes writers/producers of these movies will throw in the occasional joke that will sail right over the kids’ heads and make the adults laugh as a thank you to those who bought the tickets, but do adults who signed up to watch a movie about Bugs Bunny and Lebron James playing basketball want to see murderous clowns and rapists and evil nuns and so on in the background? No. No we do not. WB should have asked a focus group that question and would have easily found the answer is no.
Want to feel old? The star of Space Jam 3 probably hasn’t even been born yet, or at least hasn’t started playing ball. Here’s hoping I’ll be alive to make fun of the third installment in another 25 years.
Russian spies! Explosions! Boris and Natasha accents!
BQB here with a review of the latest Marvel movie, Black Widow.
It’s funny, I forgot to mention in my Major Grom interview that it would have been better if the characters who dubbed the English lines over that film had spoken in bad Russian accents. It was odd to see characters running around Russia speaking American English, whereas if they had just spoken like Count Dracula, my American ears would have been like, “Oh, OK! Now I can get into this!”
Well, don’t worry because the accents are here…except for Scar Jo. I guess it would be a lot to ask her to keep up a Russian accent for so many films. But I digress.
Anyway…so after a year and four months of not going to the movie theater, I finally ventured out and saw this one…in a theater…with a bag of popcorn…and miracle of miracles…I didn’t die…yet…for all I know someone might have sneezed the Delta Variant on me while I wasn’t looking, but oh well, I suppose you can lock yourself up from all the world’s ills and live forever, but then again, if you do that, you will have never truly lived.
I’ll say it up front. It’s good. The movie is a prequel that should have been a sequel. I mean, for Christ’s sake, they gave Ant Man two movies before they gave Black Widow one. It sort of feels like an afterthought, i.e. now that Marvel ended the Avengers films, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Loki gets a show. Falcon and the Winter Soldier get a show. Holy crap, even Loki gets a show. But Black Widow was never bottom of the barrel material. She was ready for primetime all along.
The plot? In the 90s, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz appear to be a typical couple, parents of two daughters living in Suburbia. As it turns out, they are spies, posing in the states so as to get their hands on U.S. tech, and once the mission is done, they return their lives as covert spies, Melina as the Iron Maiden and Harbour as the Red Guardian, Russia’s answer to Captain America.
The daughters, quite horrifically, are sold out. Young Natasha aka Black Widow was old enough to know she was just posing as an American kid for spying purposes, but wanted the idyllic American life to continue. Sadly, Yelena was so young she thought she actually the spies were her parents and was heartbroken to discover they weren’t.
The years pass. The “Red Room” program begins, led by the evil Dreykov, aptly portrayed by Ray Winstone, who honestly, is pretty decent as comic book villains go. While other MCU villains rely on gadgets and costumes and powers, Dreykov relies on espionage combined with an army of abandoned young girls turned Black Widows, or brainwashed assassins who murder and destroy on his command. Oh, and his top baddy is The Taskmasker, a masked evildoer capable of copying an opponent’s fighting style and using it against them.
Long story short, Yelena, now a Black Widow herself, discovers a chemical that can break her fellow widows free of Dreykov’s mind control, but she must team up with Scar Jo’s Natasha as, well as Red Guardian and Iron Maiden…in order to take Dreykov down and set the widows free.
Overall, a fun time and Florence Pugh steals the show, the bratty little sister who constantly mocks Natasha’s alleged posery (What is this stance you do where you land on your feet and grab the floor? What is that all about?)
My main criticism is I thought Natash and Yelena forgive their faux parents way too easily. I guess you could make the argument that they live in a rough world where parental figures selling them out are the least of their worries…not that this isn’t something to worry about but, you know, you have to prioritize when bad guys are literally trying to explode you every five minutes. But ultimately, Guardian and Maiden were the only Mom and Dad these kids knew…they’re just forgiven too easily for abandoning their parental roles and turning them over to the evil Red Room program…but then if they didn’t you wouldn’t have a movie.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I have to be honest, I always was a big fan of movie theaters. I have stayed away a long time out of COVID fears, plus it didn’t feel like Hollywood really put out anything worth while, opting to save their best stuff for post Covid days. But Black Widow got me back to the theater, even though I could have rented it on Disney Plus.
I’ll be honest, there were days in the past where I almost went to the theater to see anything, literally anything, just for something to do. But now…I mean…will I go to the theater to see something like Space Jam? I hate to admit it but in the past, on a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing better to do, I might have (OK I would have) but now…I mean yeah, if they’re letting me see it on TV now, I’ll watch Space Jam at home and only the big movies like Black Widow will get me to buy a ticket.)
Wow, 3.5 readers. It’s official. The Russkis have entered the comic book movie world.
BQB here with a review.
So like the rest of you, I was scrolling through Netflix’s Top Ten the other day and came across a film by the above name. I thought it sounded like a dumb name for a movie but then again, when I scroll through most of Netflix’s original offerings and read the titles and descriptions, it makes me feel like their entire greenlight strategy is that there’s a chimpanzee in a business suit in the basement of Netflix HQ throwing darts at various words and phrases and whatever the darts land on ends up being the next show.
But I digress.
It turns out this is a Russian movie. It’s dubbed in English but you can tell it’s a bit off, i.e. it might make more sense if you knew Russian and saw it in the original Russian, but then you’d also have to know Russian expressions, manners of speech, accents, colloquialisms etc. Sometimes I wonder if these movies are better not dubbed. For example, I thought the IP Man movies were better with the subtitles and lost something when they got popular and were dubbed with English speaking actors. With the subtitles, you could find out what they were saying but then also hear what is emphasized, what isn’t in the native language even though you don’t understand it.
Bubble Studios is behind this, a name I’d never heard of until coming across this movie. After looking it up, it turns out they’ve been bringing American style comic books to Russia for the past ten years, with the ultimate goal of making a movie and this is it.
It stars some Russian guy as the titular Major Igor Grom (yeah I’m not looking up all the actors and stuff I am too lazy), a St. Petersburg police detective with a reputation for being tough on crime, not afraid of skirting the rules if it means putting a bad guy behind bars. The beginning sequence and aftermath, where he chases down a van of bank robbers by wrecks half the city while doing so, only to end up getting yelled at by his captain makes me think some Russian film executive somewhere is a fan of the Lethal Weapon series and all the cop movie tropes that come with it.
Moving on, after the obligatory, “Give me your badge and OK you can have your badge back we have bigger problems!” sequence, we learn the son of a powerful billionaire has, in a most crooked manner, been released on charges stemming from him running an orphan down with his fancy sports car. From this incident, the vigilante known as the Plague Doctor is born. In olden times, Plague Doctors, with their big long beak masks, would treat the diseases, sometimes setting fire to afflicted areas if need be.
Here, the vigilante sees corrupt rich oligarchs as the modern disease that he must burn with the fire shooting fists of his elaborate costume.
Naturally, Grom must investigate, with a nerdy rookie sidekick in tow and a love interest in the form of an intrepid lady journalist on his arm. Sometimes he stops to eat a burrito (I think it is a burrito unless it is a Russian treat I don’t know about) to give him personality.
Overall, the movie is very silly, laden with plot holes, and sort of reeks of Russian film execs saying, “Hey look! We can sell out just as hard as the Americans!” A lot of stylized action and so forth, a lot of explosions and special effects and the occasional attempt at humor or plot explanation.
There are some things will come across as odd to Americans. For example, the Plague Doctor becomes popular on social media, leading some to ask why the government doesn’t just shut his postings down – after all, he’s hamming it up for likes and might stop if his attention goes away. Clearly, the Russian government has a greater power to do that than in the US. The freedom of speech becomes a key plot point – if we pick and choose who can speak, pretty soon the government will warp that into just shutting down any and all governmental criticism. Still, sometimes people say things that are pretty awful. In America, we’ve accepted that we have to accept people saying awful things as the cost of saying everything else we need or want to say, and of course, one person’s awful thing to say is another man’s firmly held believe so where does it end and where does it begin?
There are also some cultural differences that some American viewers might question. For example, Yulia, at first a thorn in Grom’s side as a journalist who keeps bothering him and later a love interest, obtains her goals through trickery and deception, for she lacks Grom’s muscles which he uses to smack the answers he needs out of most of the film’s goons and henchmen. In an American film, Yulia would just smack the goons around herself, the 300 pound brutes being flung wildly through the air upon a single kick from her tiny high heel shoe, although to the film’s credit (SPOILER) she does get to mace a couple of baddies so that’s fun. At any rate though, my brain registered a few moments where American feminists might be rattling off a curtly lettered complaint letter to…I’m not sure where such letters go in Russia…probably some bureaucrat in Siberia I guess.
Long story short, this is probably something I never would have watched if we a) weren’t in a pandemic where Hollywood has scaled back and new, blockbuster American films are few and far between lately and b) if Netflix didn’t put it in front of me. I would have never gone in search of Russian comic book movies. It was fun and I suppose the rub is now that I watched one I’ll probably watch a sequel.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though I do worry about the implications of the Russians entering the global blockbuster type popcorn munching movie market. The movie is fun and makes Russia seem like a nice place to live where tough guy cops like Grom have the citizen’s back. However, I’m not sure these movies ever would ever criticize the Russian government or Putin. Maybe there are Russian legal reasons why they can’t or maybe, more understandably, they just won’t because they don’t want to wake up cracking rocks in the gulag one day. I’m not sure what life is like for the average Russian and info coming out of that country seems to be scarce. My gut tells me its probably better than it was during the Cold War but not as good as it could be. Somewhere in there but what do I know? All we know is Putin has been president for what? Twenty something years? There isn’t a true democracy that would keep anyone in power for twenty something years. Add to that how Putin’s critics have a tendency to go belly up and well…I just worried a growing trend of Russian action/comic book movies might leave Americans thinking, “Hey, look! It’s a lot of fun over there! No need to worry about human rights abuses and so on.”
Putting the obligatory geo-political worries aside, the movie is fun and it isn’t lost on me that Grom has no powers other than he punches bad guys in the face, then eats a burrito while his girlfriend and nerdy sidekick do all the paperwork, which let’s be honest, is probably the Russian version of having a superpower.
Well…about a year and a half ago, I became obsessed with collecting comic books. I suppose that’s a post for another time.
After that I became obsessed with collecting coins. I don’t know if that warrants a post or not.
Then out of a random thought to diversify, I went down the rabbit hole of basketball cards, having been somewhat interested ever since the news reports a couple months ago about how Target had to stop selling cards (from sports to pokemon) because people were getting into fights over them.
My initial reaction was why would people care but apparently, these have become big business.
Part of me is sad about that. When I was a kid, my town had an old, run down movie theater, with a perfectly placed comic book and baseball card shop next door. It was a pretty common past time, for parents to take their kids to a movie then stop in at the collectible store after. Frankly, it’s my last memory of a store of that kind making any money. Pre-internet and in a good location where parents were hard pressed to say no.
I was never into sports, not as a kid, not as an adult. There was a teacher/football coach who really encouraged me to try our for football, but academics were my thing so I passed. In retrospect, sometimes I wish I had. Maybe I would have embraced exercise and built up muscles and cardio at an early age to carry with me through life…but then again with my luck some dumb kid would have knocked me the wrong way and I would have ended up a paraplegic. Yes, my Eeyore-ish ability to talk myself out of doing things for fear of the worst case scenario has existed since childhood.
Anyway, while I was never into sports, I did like stopping in at the shop. Oddly enough, I wasn’t that into comic books either unless they were funny. I was always a humor buff. Sneaking downstairs to watch SNL and at the comic shop, I’d bypass Iron Man, Captain America and so on to grab copies of Mad Magazine.
On occasion, I’d buy packs of baseball cards, not so much out of a love of the game (it was non existent) but from a junior tycoon thought that I’d tuck them away and maybe when I’m an adult, one of those cards would make me a millionaire. (Huh, come to think of it, what did I do with those cards? Damn it, Ma, you just HAD to have a clean house, didn’t you?! What?! Oh, yeah, sure, it’s my fault ‘cuz you warned me 1000 times if I didn’t clean up my room you were just going to go in and throw everything away.)
Sigh. How many collectible fortunes have ended in the junkyard in the name of spring cleaning?
Anyway, if you check the prices, they are ridiculous. We’re talking hundreds, even thousands, in some cases for a single card if the player is popular enough…or in other cases, for a box.
Collectors speculate on cards like brokers speculate on stocks. The key seems to be to try to grab up rookie cards of new, popular players in the hopes that they’ll be the next Jordan or Lebron. It sounds like losses, even big losses are possible. After all, maybe that rookie having a moment now will fizzle out in the future. The game always has players that fans know, but only a handful of athletes per year gain household notoriety. The key is to get that rookie card for that decade defining player. Your algebra teacher doesn’t know random point guards, but in the 80s, they knew Bird and Magic, in the 90s they knew Shaq, in the 2000s they knew Kobe, in the 2010s they knew LeBron.
Anyway, I think like most obsessions this too will fizzle out for me. I’m interested but ultimately can’t afford it. I splurged on a Zion Williamson card and will keep my fingers crossed that this kid will end up a megastar, in movies and everything…so that he can be happy, of course and oh if I could sell my card and buy a summer house in Bermuda that would be a nice bonus.
But that’s it. I had to put my foot down and cut myself off. I can see the potential for people to throw away obscene amounts of money on this and not make a penny in return. They have livestreams where people can buy like, a share of an unopened box, i.e. it’s preagreed that you’ll pay like, some absurd sum and then the box will be opened live on the internet and you’ll be randomly assigned a certain amount of cards from the box. With my luck, I’ll be assigned like, the player who keeps running around backwards, accidentally scoring points for the other team. (Coincidentally, that would have been me if I had played sports, why I never got into it in the first place.)
Anyway, I just wanted to ramble about my latest obsession. I would not advise getting into it. Part of me does feel bad for the kids. I remember when you could get a pack of cards for like a buck and they would come with a stick of bubble gum so hard it would cut your gums, but that’s what kids could afford and you’d put them away…and some kids would dream of becoming sports stars and kids like me would dream of becoming card tycoons…but the point is kids could afford it and now…with these prices kids will be shut out…sad because cards should be for the kids first. (I know I’m a hypocrite because I bought a card at a high price and will lock it away in the hopes it will appreciate like a mutual fund.)
Enough from me. Here’s an unboxing video from KOTQ