Actor Adam West, forever associated with his breakout role as Batman, has died following a short battle with leukemia. According to a family statement West died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by loved ones. West was born in Walla Walla, Washington, where he grew up on a ranch. While West had a long career in movies and on TV, he is best known for his iconic portrayal of Batman in the 1960s ABC series and related feature film. West’s performance helped define the show’s trademark pop-art vibe and cheeky tone. There were other Batmans on screen before him, but West’s was the first to become a true cultural force and make a star out its actor. The show only last three seasons but it defined the character in the public’s mind for decades until Tim Burton’s darker vision arrived at the end of the 80s. West, for his part, embraced the lighter tone of the show. According to the family”s statement, West “always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero.”
Today Marvel Studios released their first trailer for next year’s Black Panther, which focuses on establishing the world of Wakanda. Likening the African kingdom to the old legends of the Lost City of El Dorado, this initial glimpse of Wakanda blends the ancient with the futuristic.
Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis & Martin Freeman (so far with pants intact). The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, opens February 16th, 2018.
Well, it was probably inevitable that Annapurna Pictures would want to ride the coattails of Wonder Wonder‘s current popularity to promote the inevitable William Moulton Marston biopic. The film will use Marston’s unconventional domestic arrangements as a lens for exploring the creation of his famous heroine. Will the biopic be the rare insightful examination of a complex personality or the all more common disposable, superficial recitation of facts and character impersonation? Who knows? But, hey, here’s a vague teaser:
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women stars Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall & Bella Heathcote. It is written and directed by Angela Robinson. Annapurna Pictures will release it at some undisclosed date (presumably fall’s Oscar season, if the test audiences like it enough).
Tents pole movies always come with astronomical expectations. Fans are hoping for the most amazing film they have ever seen (until, at least, the next installment) while studio executives are hoping to be awash in cash. Critics, depending on how they stride the pop culture divide, are either sharpening their knives or readily willing to suspend disbelief. As box office attendance continues to decline, the stakes have only increased. The continuing lackluster performance of Aliens: Covenant has many analysts wondering who assumed there was any pent-up demand for a sixth helping of silver screen Xenomorphs. Into this contentious atmosphere Wonder Woman arrives with even weightier expectations. It is the first superhero film directed by a woman. It is the first solo female superhero film since the genre’s resurgence a decade ago, and not just any superheroine at that. Wonder Woman has been, from her inception, a feminist icon; how she would be portrayed on screen would be critiqued in circles far removed from fandom, especially in the current social environment. Meanwhile, back in their beach bungalows, the suits have their own concerns. After last year’s critical takedowns of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Warner Brothers desperately needs a little respectability for their superhero universe. Yes, both those films made a lot of money, while the latter somehow won an Oscar, but perception is important. In the cliché parlance of the day, they want a narrative reset for the DC Cinematic Universe. And so, Diana arrived in theaters on Friday with an unreasonable amount of baggage. The good news is that the movie easily proves itself more limber than anything else the DCCU has offered up so far. Despite its flaws, it is an entertaining experience.
On Friday, Woman Woman’s first solo live action film will premiere in US theaters. Fittingly her primary antagonist will be Ares, a character possessing a long, storied history with the Amazonian princess. He is the Joker or Lex Luthor of Diana’s Rogue’s Gallery, the mirror image which defines who she is. Played by the talented British actor David Thewlis, there are high hopes for Ares to be a commanding presence on screen. In addition, Warner Brothers has confirmed what many fans have long suspected: Diana will face off against a second adversary, namely Doctor Poison. While Doctor Poison debuted several months prior to Ares, the character has never had the prominence of the God of War. Still Doctor Poison’s roots are tied to the earliest of Wonder Woman’s exploits.
Korean director Bong Joon Ho is no stranger to genre having built a career on such films as Memories of Murder (policer/serial killer story), The Host (monster movie), Mother (murder mystery) and Snowpiercer (science-fiction dystopia). In the process, he has firmly established himself as one of the most talented filmmakers working today. He is back this year with another variation on the monster motif: Okja. And based on the first full trailer, it promises to be another stunner:
Okja stars, among others, TIlda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal and See Hyun Ahn. The movie will make its world premiere later this week at the Cannes Film Festival, where it is screening in competition. Netflix will release the movie in limited theaters and home streaming on June 28th.
Contains a spoiler for the mid-credits scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, plus multiple ones for Infinity Gauntlet and its aftermath.
This past weekend Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrived, racking up the box office and leaving fans wondering what was next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s cosmic heroes. The immediate answer is Avengers: Infinity War which will involve Thanos, Infinity Stones and some sort of existential threat to life throughout the universe. The question is what comes after all that. Guardians writer/director James Gunn has already confirmed that there will be a Guardians Vol. 3 for Phase 4 of the MCU and that he will be returning to helm it. In his statement, he reiterated Marvel Studio’s party line about Avengers 3 and 4 being a culmination of everything which came prior. He also dropped a hint that, like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Guardians will see some status quo shifting post-Infinity: “It will conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next ten years and beyond.” This is a rather broad statement which covers a wide amount of ground. The universe is a vast place and, even with certain character rights tied up at Fox, still well-populated with assorted friends and foes. The following is not in any way a prediction of what Marvel and Gunn are planning but simply an imagining of what one possible avenue could be.
So far, Marvel Studios has had a bit of a sequel problem. Iron Man 2, 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultrondelivered various levels of enjoyment while containing flaws which prevented them from fully hitting the heights of their initial installments. Thor: The Dark World was able to improve on the first Thor outing (an admittedly low bar to clear) and provide an entertaining experience. Still, it is unlikely to make many fans’ favorite lists. Only Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War have been able to avoid the sequel curse. Both films were able to deliver bigger thrills while also deepening the characters driving the narrative. The movies, particularly Civil War, drew on the advantages of having a shared universe without getting bogged down in the negative aspects as did Age of Ultron. This pattern is odd, given how successfully Marvel Studios has cultivated their cinematic universe; after all, in a sense, even new properties such as Ant-Man or Doctor Strange are simply further chapters in the unfolding Avengers saga. Fans know sooner or later that all of this is going to tie together. Watching the pieces fall into place can be exciting, but it can also be tiresome when mismanaged (again all that foreshadowing in Ultron). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pulls back from some the first film’s more overt seeding (sorry, no surprise Thanos cameo) in order to focus on the Guardians themselves. The result is an entertaining film which delightfully extends the zany vibe of the original.
As part of today’s The Last Jedi panel at Star Wars Celebration, Disney released the first trailer for Episode VIII. As with most initial views it is mostly teaser, but still, it’ll give fans shivers . . .
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, opens December 15th.
This review was originally published last October when the movie screened at the New York Film Festival. It opens today in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto; it will expand to additional cities over the coming weeks. For more information on the film’s expansion schedule, please see Dash Shaw’s tumblr.
Over the past several years, Dash Shaw has earned widespread acclaim through writing and illustrating of graphic novels such as 2014’s Doctors. This year he unveiled a new type of project: his first feature length film, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. Shaw’s animated movie premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival before appearing this week at the New York Film Festival. My Entire High School is a thrilling, poignant movie, which demonstrates that Shaw’s skills stretches beyond the printed page.
Film by its nature is a collaborative process. When a movie is successful, it is the result of a variety of talented individuals blending their skills into a final product. At the same time, some filmmakers leave behind more prominent fingerprints than others. Most fans would be hard pressed to distinguish the characteristics of an Andrew Stanton directed Pixar film from a Peter Docter one. This is not a slight on the quality of their movies, which is quite high, but an observation about style. Meanwhile, other recent animated films such as Frankenweenie and Anomalisa are instantly recognizable as the products of Tim Burton and Charlie Kaufman’s idiosyncratic imaginations. Shaw’s My Entire High School fits into this second category. As with Frankenweenie or Anomalisa, My Entire High School is a visually striking, emotionally resonant experience. To watch it is to become fully immersed in the distinct vision of its creator.