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Movie Review – Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Pretend I’ve been whipped with the lasso of truth, 3.5 readers, for this will be an honest review.

Some preliminary thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a movie theater quality movie that it was nice.
  2. I get why some reviews are calling it bad.
  3. It’s not as good as the first one…
  4. …but that is, largely in part, due to the fact that the first one was so good.

If we back up a few years, DC had totally botched its rollout of a DC Universe of movies that we hoped would rival what Marvel had done over the past decade. Instead, we got the horror show that was Batman vs. Superman and the Suicide Squad movie (I was the only one who liked it though even I admit it could have been better.)

In those days, we realized that DC wasn’t going for perfection, or anything near it. Instead, they were going for the quick cash grab, trying to rake in a big haul before the comic book movie bubble burst. (I’m not sure why they thought it would. If anything, there’s a hole to fill in the wake of the end of Marvel’s Avengers saga that DC could be stepping in to fill nicely had it taken its time to work on some good stories.)

At any rate, there was a lot of pressure on the first Wonder Woman film. BVS and SS were considered total failures and if WW had tanked, that would have been the end of DC movies for the foreseeable future.

Ahh, but then our favorite lasso wielding lady came in and stole the show, as well as our hearts. Her origin story, as an Amazon warrior princess who leaves the safety of her homeland to save the world from the destruction of World War I was quite harrowing indeed, and frankly, her presence saved the mediocre Justice League movie.

In DC’s defense, they had a bigger challenge. Marvel’s cast of characters were largely unknown to the movie going public, and so they were able to roll out each character with an origin story of their own, followed by flicks that tied the heroes together.

Meanwhile, we’ve already seen Baby Superman’s space capsule crash in Mr. and Mrs. Kent’s backyard 100 times on screen. We’ve seen Young Batman watch his parents get shot after a night at the theatre too many times too. We didn’t need any more origin stories for them and yet, we would have benefitted from stand alone adventures that introduced us to these versions of the well known characters.

Don’t even get me started on the drek that was Birds of Prey. DC should just pay to have all the copies recalled.

Thus, it’s hard for me to knock Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot is beautiful and charming and overall, this character and Gadot’s portrayal pulled DC’s bacon out of the fire. WW is now carrying the whole DC universe on her back and its sad, because if they’d put more thought into creating a cohesive cinematic world, then it would never have had to be that way.

Back to this movie.

We want it all and we want it now. We’ve felt that way for quite some time and the 1980s is arguably the decade where that sentiment began. Get rich. Get famous. Get this. Get that. Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie and give it to me today, not tommorrow.

This is evident from the opening said, where WW saves numerous citizens from, well…their own self-obsession. Idiots impressed with their fast car don’t noticed a jogger. A groom holds up his bride too close to a railing over a steep drop to get the best photo while dopey teenagers run from a store with their shoplifted goods. A pack of imbecile crooks who’d rather cause mayhem in a shopping mall than get caught and do the time attached to their crime. There’s an ongoing theme – everyone is obsessed with their own personal gain and only Wonder Woman can save them from…themselves.

Enter villain Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal aka Mando), a typical 1980s self-help type guru who promises his fans big riches if they buy into his BS. We quickly learn is schtick is but a mere pawnsi scheme, but when he gets his hands on a wishing stone that has wreaked havoc on past civilizations, he gets it all, but to a disastrous effect.

You see, 3.5 readers, at the start of the film, a young WW learns the hard way, back on Amazon Island (whatever it’s called) that nothing good in life is free and if we want something, we must put in the time and the effort. We must slug our way through to the end and drag our weary butts across the finish line. We can’t do things half-assed. We can’t take shortcuts. We can’t cheat our way to success and expect to grab a long lasting success that actually matters.

Referring to “The Monkey’s Paw Effect” (which assumes viewers have read the Monkey’s Paw or seen one of its many TV parodies), WW and company learn that wishing upon the stone comes with a terrible cost. When something is given, something else is taken away. In the Monkey’s Paw tale, an elderly couple wishes on a simian hand. They get, but they also lose…big time.

In reality, magical comeuppances are rare, but to cheat usually brings shame upon yourself. It damages your reputation. Makes people less inclined to trust you. To want to work with you. Ultimately, any ill gotten gain isn’t worth it. You would have been better off slugging away in the trenches of your profession, building yourself up than say, sleeping with your boss to get ahead, or slandering a rival or engaging in corporate espionage or what have you.

Comeuppances in exchange for wishes are bigger and bolder in this film, and that’s where it starts to fall apart. You see, Lord wishes to become the wishing stone, the granter of wishes, and thus, when he grants a wish, he decides what he wants to take from the wisher, and does so in order to fill his needs. Wishes beget more wishes, comeuppances beget more comeuppances, somehow this all escalates into global turmoil as world leaders enter the fray, wishing for madness and getting madness in return.

Ultimately, the movie is more of a lecture on the dangers of consumerism and the need to walk the straight path. If you want to be X, you need to get in line, wait your turn, and check off all the boxes that come with becoming X. Great lesson but, you know, we’d all prefer to see less lecturing and more of WW beating dudes senseless with her whip.

It was cool to see comedienne Kristin Wiig get her day in the sun. She’s that underdog you root for. Talented. Funny. Got to shine in Bridesmaids and then was never given another major vehicle until now. My main complaint is that she is WW’s nemesis, Cheetah, yet we see very little of Cheetah.

STAUS: Shelf-worthy. Overall, it’s a good movie and if you miss the theater experience as much as I do, you’ll enjoy this. It doesn’t beat the first, though it’s rare for a sequel to do so. Wonder Woman continues to be the best that DC/Warner Bros have to offer and if recent forays like Birds of Prey are any indication, poor Ms. Prince will be carrying the DC universe on her back for years to come…so if she wasn’t all you hoped and dreamed for this time around that a) you missed the movie’s point and b) give her a break. She’s doing a lot of work.

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Movie Review – Justice League (2017)

Well, it only took two years and four films, but Warner Brothers has finally figured out a winning formula.

BQB here with a review of “Justice League.”

Character development.  It’s what the Marvel Cinematic Universe excelled at and what Warner Brothers failed at, even though the winning formula was clear – make a bunch of films starring the individual heroes, then make films starring the heroes working together…repeat.

Warner Brothers went a different way in March of 2016 with the pathetic flop that was “Batman vs. Superman.”  Technically, they started with “Man of Steel” years back, though at the time it didn’t appear as though there was an intention for that particular version of Superman to stick around…as far as I know anyway.

In B v S, we were flashed quick versions of Batman and Wonder Woman.  The plot was hacky, like Man of Steel, it was riddled with product placement, and Lex Luthor, greatest villain of all time, was turned into a nerdy wiener played by Jesse Eisenberg.

While critics despised “Suicide Squad,” I enjoyed it, though looking back on it, I’m not sure it really capitalized on its main asset – Harley Quinn.  A Joker and Harley movie is long overdue.

Bottomline – Marvel’s characters weren’t as well known to general audiences.  Thus, Marvel/Disney was able to make an Iron Man flick, a Hulk flick, a Captain America flick, a Thor flick, an Avengers flick, then press repeat, minus the Hulk flick because the green guy just can’t carry a film on his own, sadly.

But the character development in the individual flicks always paid off in the Avengers flicks.  We would see the individual characters suffer and face their demons and  then come together as a team.

DC’s cross to bear was that prior to this attempt to copy Marvel, Batman and Superman had been done umpteen million times.  However, while I still maintain that audiences didn’t need another origin  story for Batman or Superman, there could have been a film to introduce us to this grittier, older, depressed version of Batman starring Ben Affleck.  We didn’t need to see Bruce Wayne’s parents get capped after a night at the theater for the 1000th time, but it would have been nice to have seen a film where we jump into the new Batman’s world and see what he’s all about.  For example, a Batman vs. Joker and Harley film could have done just that.

Meanwhile, “Man of Steel” was yet another Superman origin film and as Supes and Zod punched their way through 7-11 signs and IHOP restaurants, the whole thing felt very forgettable.

June of this year’s “Wonder Woman” was Warner’s first critically acclaimed hit.  Wonder Woman has appeared in TV form before in the 1970s, but generally, she wasn’t as well known as Bats and Supes, so Warner had a chance to introduce her and tell us what she’s about.

Thus, in “Justice League,” the main continuity payoffs come from references to the earlier “Wonder Woman” film whereas references to B v S made me want to hurl, as I’m still doing all I can to forget that epic fail of a film.

Honestly, I feared that character development was not Warner’s forte.  It felt like they were rushing these films out, not taking their time, that we were a bunch of chimps who would put our butts into the seats no matter what so they just cared about money and not plot or telling us what made the characters tick.

Thus, it felt to me like “Justice League” was destined to fail.  We were introduced to new Batman and new Superman, albeit poorly, and we were introduced to Wonder Woman well, but introducing us to the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg all in the same film and somehow making us care about them seemed like a tall order and yet…they pulled it off.

Ray Fisher plays Cyborg/Victor Stone with just the right amounts of anger and sadness.  Cyborg, a young man rebuilt as part-man but mostly machine by his scientist father, views himself as an abomination, subject to the will of the technology that controls him, tech that he has little control over himself.  He must overcome self-hatred to serve a higher purpose.

Ezra Miller provides much needed comic relief as The Flash/Barry Allen.  The Flash has appeared on TV in the 1990s to not so great results, though a more recent return to TV faired better.  There were a variety of ways the film could have gone with Flash but here, they decided to go with an accidental bumbler.  Hit by lightning, the kid can now run really fast.  At the time of this film, he’s foiled a few petty crooks with his feet of fury, but he’s never gone toe to toe with a big bad and that leaves him scared shitless.  He devours entire pizzas in one sitting without gaining weight because his top speeds leave his body depleted and a scene where he thinks he’s about to shine only to realize Superman can run as fast as he can is the highlight of the film.

I was on the fence with Jason Mamoa’s “Aquaman.”  Aquaman, long panned as the lamest Justice League member due to his power of talking to fish, has always been a long haul to bring home.  After all, the cartoon version featured Aquaman riding two dolphins under his feet as if they were water skis.  Here, Aquaman is portrayed as a gritty merman, unsure of why he was cast out of Atlantis and left to protect a seaside community.  This Aquaman is very “Point Break-ish,” an extreme adventurer type, enjoying badassery, boastful of his manliness and so on.  I had mixed feelings about him throughout the film until a humorous scene with Wonder Woman won me over.

As in any film, there are flaws.  Bruce Wayne doesn’t seem to give a shit about revealing himself as Batman to every new team member he meets, though I suppose if he’s going to work with these people, he has to.  Also, the plot revolves around finding three boxes that hold the power to global destruction before the villain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) can.  Something about those boxes made me think about Marvel’s tesseract, though I suppose similarities between comic worlds are inevitable.  There’s only so much of this shit that can be done before it all seems to mold together.

Ultimately, it’s a good ride.  Would independent Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman films helped?  Maybe…maybe not.  Honestly, I worried about that going into the film but somehow the movie manages to give us just the right amount of back story for these three heroes – not too much, not too little – perhaps independent films would have been overkill.  Now that we’ve given small doses of them to see what makes them tick, we might root for them more independently.

Amazingly, the movie finally even gets Superman right.  Superman has always been a tough one.  He’s the ultimate boy scout who does no wrong and basically has no flaws, so its hard to relate to him.  Further, even though he can fight like anything and survive, Hollywood rarely pits him against foes worth his time.  Superman shines here, though I think long term, the franchise will suffer because of the earlier decision to let Eisenberg play a geeky version of Lex Luthor rather than go with the traditional comic book version were Lex is the ultimate cunning badass.

Good story.  Good plot.  Good characters.  It had heart and humor.  I finally care about these characters.  It took awhile, but WB finally got it right.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

Amazon warrior babes!  Evil Germans!  The best female superhero ever!

BQB here with a review of Wonder Woman.

Let me just say it right off the bat, 3.5 readers.  This is a great movie – a really great movie.

It was a high stakes film for DC and Warner Brothers, a make or break film in their quest to create a Justice League franchise that would rival the success of Marvel’s Avengers.

The first attempt, last year’s Batman vs. Superman was an economy sized stink burger with extra poop cheese.  The second attempt, Suicide Squad, was not a critical success, though I liked it personally.

Luckily, WB/DC not only avoided a third strike with Wonder Woman – they knocked it out of the park.

Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) lives an idyllic, peaceful life on a secret island filled with super hot, boner-inducing Amazon warrior babes.  For years, she’s been told a tale by her mother, Queen Hippolyta and aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright) of how men were once kind and noble but alas, their minds were poisoned by Aries, the God of War, to fight one another.

The Amazons found safety on an island paradise but that is disturbed when WWI pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on their territory.  When Steve informs the super hot warrior babes that World War One (or just, the World War at that time) has broken out, Diana is convinced that this is the handiwork of Aries and teams of with Steve to save the day.

Great action, amazing special effects and plenty of humor as Diana adjusts to life in the early 1900s, a time when women were expected to be obedient to men and only speak when spoken to. (Ah, those were the days!  Wait, who said that?  Surely, not me.  Crap.  I’m going to get complaint letters now.)

Gal Gadot was the perfect choice for this role and she can wrap me up in her lasso of truth anytime.  Alas, I just wish I had more interesting stories to tell her.

The story is great, a real blend of history and fiction to come up with something unique on its own.

Frankly, I wish this film had been the start of WB/DC’s foray into Justice League territory. Marvel has been making bank for nearly a decade with a tried and true formula, namely, give each hero their own movie, then put all the heroes into one movie, then give each hero their follow up movies, then do another movie where all the heroes get together and repeat.

Admittedly, DC had a higher mountain to climb.  Batman and Superman are so well known that no one needed another movie where little Bruce Wayne sees his parents get shot or another movie where baby Kal-El crash lands in an Iowa cornfield.

Still, there could have been some standalone films where we are introduced to the latest incarnations of Batman and Superman.  True, we did get that with Man of Steel, but otherwise, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were all tossed into a big crap sandwich in the super sucky Batman vs. Superman before we ever got to learn what makes any of them tick.

And really, Wonder Woman was the only part of B vs. S that did not suck the super big one.

This is the first critical success for the Justice League franchise and what I hope will be the beginning of a winning streak.  Unfortunately, from the trailer of this November’s Justice League, I fear the winning streak won’t last long, as characters like Cyborg, Aqua Man and the Flash are all lumped together before we get movies that tell us who these characters are and what they are all about.

At least, no matter what, we can say we know what makes Wonder Woman tick, thanks to this film.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Best film of the year thus far.  Get off your butts and see it in the theater, 3.5.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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Movie Trailer -Wonder Woman

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here again with another movie trailer, this time for Wonder Woman.

From the outset, I like it.

It’s got fine ass Amazonian warrior babes which is what I want to see in a Wonder Woman movie, and also at BQB Headquarters at all times.

It looks like effort has been made to produce a story line, which is an improvement over that Batman vs. Superman garbage we were given earlier this year.

I am slightly concerned that maybe they’re just bogarting the Captain America movie – i.e. they’re both superheroes that fought in a war a long time ago and then end up in modern times.

B vs S sucked. I did not think that Suicide Squad sucked though the critics did.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Wonder Woman will leave me and the critical world happy.

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