Justice League Almost Great

Justice League 4

First off, let me say that for us JL purists, this is not exactly a Justice League film. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) didn’t get involved with the league until near the onset of the 21st century. Where are Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter (both scheduled for the sequel), Hawkman and The Atom? The villain here, Steppenwolf, was basterdised from a fairly new JL storyline, but was defeated thousands of years ago by a combined army of Amazons, Atlanteans, humans, and gods (who appear to have included at least one Green Lantern Corps member).

Justice League 6

Batman (Ben Affleck) knows this from Lex Luthor’s notes left behind in “Batman vs Superman”, and he tries to put a team together with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to defeat the villain. He goes to Iceland to track down Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who says he works better alone and turns him down. We later get reintroduced to Aquaman when Steppenwolf steals the Atlantean box. The three boxes are a source of pure energy that will allow the demonic villain to reshape Earth and replace humanity with his parademons.

Justice League 7

Barry Allen/Flash (Ezra Miller) is more receptive. He is brilliantly cast here as a bit of a nerd. He tells Bruce he “needs friends” because he doesn’t quite get people. Also, he hates bugs , finds taller people intimidating, and has never been in a real fight, having mostly pushed people around. He becomes the film’s comedy relief.

There are plenty of violent but bloodless fight scenes, highlighted by crisp CGI effects and action that rivals any of the Marvel films. The script also is helped by a healthy dose of levity, such as when Barry asks Bruce what his super power is and Bruce replies “I’m rich”. After the villain is defeated with the help of the revived Superman, we cut to a shot of Bruce showing Alfred and Diana where the new League headquarters will be and end on a light note as Flash has challenged Superman to a race  If this is the future of the DC universe, bring it on.

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The Death of Radio in L.A.

100.3 FM logo  For fans of classic rock in  Los Angeles, the above logo has been their life’s blood for around 10 years—since the old KXEZ switched from pop-rock to the “classic rock” format. Now, news has come from CBS that in 30 days, The Sound will be gone, replaced by a “christian music” station, and people are outraged.

The Sound’s Facebook page has been filled with raunchy, derisive comments that make it quite clear—Los Angelinos do NOT want christian music to replace their favourite station. CBS is trying to make excuses to validate this change, but they are falling on deaf ears.

Chief Jack In Studio With Glasses After many decades in this business, I understand the desire of station management to want to occasionally try something new in hopes of shaking things up, and the results can get wicked, and it’s not only the listeners who get hurt. Sometimes the on-air talent also suffers. I recall one station I worked at that made an unannounced switch from rock to country. I opted to stay with the station and “boned up” on country music and artists and returned on the air within days with a somewhat expert knowledge of the format, but every other member of the “air talent” opted to ditch the station and seek employment elsewhere. As luck would have it, the country format took a header within months, and the station used me as their “lifeline” to bring the old listeners back.

Chief Jack Singing in Studio in 2000  People bond with the persons they hear on the radio, and to this day, there are legendary radio voices almost everyone has heard of—like Wolfman Jack, Dan Ingram, Uncle Bruce Morrow, or Dr. Don Rose. If the show host has “inside info” on the artists he plays, it helps strengthen that bond.  Some hosts use jokes or sound effects to embellish their “schtick”. I used a blend of news tidbits coupled with “inside info” and scientific facts, opinion pieces, and an occasional live song to liven things up. That never changed no matter what kind of music I played, and this gave fans of rock, country, pop, and even classical music a chance to hear what my show was like.

With this decision by 100.3 The Sound, fans are harping that this will kill radio in Los Angeles. Their heartfelt mail points out that there are two other “underperforming” christian stations (K-WAVE and The Fish) already operating here. One fan wrote “This is L.A. If you want to hear Gospel, move to Kentucky”. They say there are no other “real” classic rock stations in town because the others play “too structured and repetitive content”. They mourn the loss, years ago, of the previous station of choice, KMET (which The Sound often mentioned). 100.3 catered to the fans with things like “Triple Play Thursday” and the “Classic Rocker of the Day” (which I once won). The last  time another L.A. station made the kind of move KXEZ did with The Sound was also a CBS station when 93.1 FM (Arrow 93) became Jack FM (“playing what we want”), and that format quickly soured and became more like “top 40” format.

The passing of The Sound is being equated with the death of radio in Los Angeles, and I agree with that allegory. This is just another typical California mistake that shows California itself is dying a slow death.

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The Orville May Not Be Enough Spoof

Orville 3  Seth McFarlane believes he has the perfect sci-fi spoof for us with The Orville. After the pilot episode, it looks like no one believes him—not even the Fox Network, which has only commissioned 3 more shows as of September 10. Here’s the lowdown:

Seth McFarlane returns home to find his wife in bed with a blue-skinned alien, after which he walks out on her. Fast-forward a year later and Seth’s Captain Ed Mercer character gets his own command—the exploration ship The  Orville. He meets with the crew and his officers—Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerrald), chief medical officer; Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), helmsman and his best friend; Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), second officer from a single-gendered species; John LaMarr (J Lee), navigator; and Isaac (Mark Jackson), a Kaylon artificial life form that considers humans inferior. He has no first officer but learns one will join him on his initial mission. Turns out that officer is his ex-wife. So far this sounds too much like my life to be comfortable.

Orville 4 There is a plethora of strained divorce one-liners here but a few funny moments, such as when Bortus informs Mercer that his race only excretes waste once a year. As the story moves on, Mercer’s crew has to secure a time-advance device that a scientist says can be used to solve the problem of feeding colonists but could also be used as a weapon.

Orville 1 This could be a good alternative as a comedic Star Trek parody, but it tries to be too serious while exploring for laughs where no man has gone before—except for Mel Brooks, who went there with more flair and aplomb in “Spaceballs” years ago. Overall, I don’t find McFarlane to be an adequate comic persona, and I don’t think America is ready for a Star Trek spoof—especially when it has so little to offer. At least the special effects are fairly good, but won’t be enough to save this travesty.

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Wonder Woman—DC Does Superhero Right

Wonder Woman 4 When DC decided we needed to see a totally new superhero for the Justice League films, they opted for Wonder Woman (portrayed by Gal Gadot, as seen in Batman vsSuperman) and decided to do it right. The tease we got in B vs S hit on all cylinders by giving us a lady who’s not a “where’s the guy who’ll save me” female, but rather a super powerful demigod. Then they gave the directing job to Patty Jenkins and gave her a dynamic co star in Chris Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor.

Wonder Woman 3 Here, the story deviates a bit from the comics as the story is set during World War I rather than the Second World War. Tying in the story with the entire DC Universe  is the story’s opening in Paris’ Louvre Museum where a Wayne Enterprises truck delivers a package to Diana Prince. The package contains the WWI photo we saw in B vs S, and a note from Wayne that he found the included original pic and hopes she’ll tell him the whole story about it. This gets Diana reminiscing about the past as we enter her thoughts as she relives her youth on Paradise Island (here called by the original name of Themyscira, the Greek name in mythology). The deftly handled banter between characters fleshes out the story about the origins of man, the Amazons, Zeus and Ares (Mars), the god of war, as well as how Diana secretly trains to become a warrior. Queen Hyppolita, who fashioned Diana from clay and is perhaps overly protective of her sculpted daughter, first refuses to have Diana learn to fight, but after Trevor crashes near the island in a German plane, Axis soldiers land on the island by boat and a vicious fight ensues which convinces Hyppolita that Diana is the one named in legend to defeat Ares and restore world peace, a job that will require her to enter the world of men.

Wonder Woman 2 Trevor and Diana wind up in London, the headquarters for the Allied forces, and here we get some light-hearted yet historically accurate flavour as Diana acquires “modern” clothes and complains “How does a woman fight in these clothes?”, then gets snubbed and practically gets thrown out of a “men only” war briefing. Trevor gets help from Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) to sneak into Belgium and pull off a commando raid to neutralise the new weapon Mustard Gas (a real WWI biological weapon). Here follow several armed encounters, some on horseback, which is also historically accurate for WWI field combat.

Wonder Woman 1 Diana eventually goes one-on-one with Sir Morgan, who is actually the God of War who is using the War as a subplot to corrupt all of mankind. Trevor winds up giving his life for the cause, and we finish the story with Diana looking at the old WWI photo. This should hold us until later this year when the Justice League movie finally reaches us. This movie does a great job at story telling and is the best DC superhero film to date. Let’s hope it’s a springboard for better DC Universe films.

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Valerian Visually Stunning Yet Comes Up Short

Valerian 3 First off, let’s put our cards on the table. French films do NOT play well in America, and French science fiction is a tough ball of wax, especially when it’s based on a little-known (in America) comic book. Not even the powerhouse duo of Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg could work their magic back in 2011 with “The Adventures of Tintin” in spite of the fact that Tintin is known all over the world but a virtual unknown in America. Additionally, the French seem to have little knowledge about making sci-fi films—they are too quirky.You can go all the way back to 1902, when Georges Melies made “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” (The Trip To The Moon). Decades later, in 1966, the Eddie Constantine movie “Alphaville” royally flopped in America.

At this point, enter Luc Besson, who in 1997 directed “The Fifth Element”. The redeeming value there was that Milla Jojovich and Bruce Willis were teamed with Gary Oldman in this French-made romp.  Here, Besson wrote and directed Valerian And The City of a Thousand Planets, and has Herbie Hancock, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, and Rihanna for flavour, but overall, this film asks the average American to process too much information.

Valerian 5 The opening starts off well, enhanced by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in the background and a visually stunning, growing space station as we witness the different astronauts who met here in the past. The story tells us the station got too big, so much so that it became a threat to Earth and was set adrift in open space where it continues to be a roaming example of human technology and meeting place for space races.

Valerian 2 The French expect the viewer to connect all the dots on their own, so there ensues a series of unrelated adventures involving Major Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and his partner, Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delavigne), a couple of government agents who travel through time and space solving cases—which is the supposed foundation for a future film series with the characters. Think James Bond 500 years in the future, and you have the general idea.

The story loosely follows the history of a planet that was destroyed 30 years before Valerian’s events, involving the giant space station Alpha, and the various aliens who have made it their home.

Valerian 1 The commander on Alpha is not all he appears to be, and eventually gets his come-uppance as a secret hinted at near the movie’s beginning becomes known. Valerian has a desire to marry Laureline, and she appears receptive to the idea, yet that aspect is merely used for comic relief. Rihanna appears as a shape-shifting dancer who also has a secret.

The most expensive independent film ever produced, at well over 100 million Euros, the visual effects and grandeur of this movie are utterly outstanding, but the script gives the impression that three (maybe more) writers actually scrabbled a series of unrelated incidents together into one movie. Yes, there IS a story here, and the nimble-minded can manage to follow it, but a sci-fi “newbie” seeing his first film with Valerian will be turned off for life with the genre. At 2 hours and 17 minutes in length, it appears to go for hours without end and is chock full of action, aliens, weapons, and special effects. Unfortunately, not even Luc Besson had the glue to make this all stick together. I have little expectation of this movie breaking even in America. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if it wound up getting pulled from theatres within weeks.

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Spider-Man Homecoming Pushes All the Right Buttons

Spider Man Homecoming 4 How does “Homecoming” tie up with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe? The film eases into it with a team working on salvaging the damage caused in Avengers Age of Ultron and briefly touching on the new building seen in upstate New York at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, whose firm was tasked with the salvage job. He is ordered off the job by Tyne Daly, who heads Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)’s US Department of Damage Control to recover the alien technology used in the old Avengers Tower.  Unknown to everyone, Toomes and his men have kept some of the parts and debris to build lethal weapons.

Michael Keaton As the story develops, we learn that Stark has been designing upgraded weaponry and a new costume for Peter Parker (Ton Holland) to use as Spider-Man, and his involvement in the Civil War movie was part of an “initiation process” to assess his capabilities. We see Spider-Man being relegated to minor crime fighting and helping people as he foils a bike theft and gives directions to a lady who seems lost.

Spider Man Homecoming 3 A major fly in the ointment is that Toomes is actually super criminal The Vulture, who uses highly advanced mechanical wings to get around. Here is where the action starts as Spider-Man goes one-on-one with the gang after using his friend Ned’s help to disable the suit’s tracking system so that Stark can’t see where he is. This winds up “evolving” the suit’s built-in weaponry, including a “kill protocol” that Peter keeps telling it to abort.

Further complications ensue when during a confrontation on the Staten Island Ferry, the ferry is nearly destroyed by the Vulture and his men, but is saved by Iron Man, who winds up reclaiming the Spider Suit. Peter is romantically (in his mind) involved with a girl who winds up being Toomes’ daughter. Peter decides to tackle the Vulture

Spider Man Homecoming 1 on his own with his old homemade suit and winds up beating him. This leads Stark to reconnect with Peter through his agent Happy (former Marvel movie director Jon Favreau). Stark is impressed by this feat and returns the suit to Peter, setting the scene for the sequel in 2018.

Look for Stan Lee’s cameo near the beginning of the movie, and note that the “Vulture” name is never used in the movie—we fans just know who he was. In the comics, Happy and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) were an item, Pepper leaving Tony for Happy in the stories. Also appearing is Flash, who in the comics was a Parker antagonist who wound up being a friend. The casting of fetching Marisa Tomei as Aunt May got much initial bad press, but she fits into the story very well.

Spider Man Homecoming Poster Spider-Man Homecoming is fairly long at 133 minutes, but there is little in wasted moments as the entire story flows smoothly along, dropping hints about Peter’s origin while deftly setting up new scenarios. I might add that I saw the 3D version of this film, the first 3D movie I’ve seen in over 36 years. It was a wonderful experience, since 3D has matured much in the last few decades.

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47 Metres Down is a One-Trick Pony

47 Metres Dowm 1   In this era of “female empowerment” movies when everything ever done is being recast with women (think Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters), it was only a matter of time before someone got a hold of Jaws and made it female-centric. This is that movie.

Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are two sisters who are secretly in competition with each other.  Lisa’s boyfriend has dumped her, and she thinks going on a vacation with Kate will make everything OK. Lisa is secretly envious of Kate’s rapport with guys and she hopes vacationing in Mexico (here being portrayed by the Dominican Republic) and taking pictures to show her ex will make him jealous and willing to come back to her.

47 Metres Down 4  The fly in the ointment is that the girls meet up with a couple of local Lotharios who convince them that cage diving among sharks is just the ticket.  Lisa almost chickens out twice but finally gets roped into trying the stunt, which they both later regret. They go through a quick “crash course” about their equipment and are lowered into the drink in a cage.

47 Metres Down 3  Soon enough a large shark begins circling the cage while Lisa panics and asks to be raised up and out, which is when the fun begins. The steel wire holding the cage is frayed and weak. It snaps, sending the cage the titular 47 metres down, and the remainder of the film involves the girls’ attempts to reach the surface without becoming fish food. There are several good, jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but you quickly realise that you’ve seen all of this before in films from Jaws to Deep Blue Sea, and it begins to get monotonous.

47 Metres Down 2  The direction is relatively lackluster, and the ending is highly unsatisfactory.  You may usually come out after the movies talking about the film, but you’re more likely to leave 47 Metres Down thinking “what the hell did I just watch?”

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