The New Batman is Here, and He is Sparkly

Okay, okay, okay…

So we finally have an announcement as to who is taking up the mantle for the next entry in the Batman series, currently titled The Batman. The film, to be written and directed by Matt Reeves, is scheduled to begin production later this year for a September 2021 release.

The new Batman is Robert Pattinson.

The internet took it pretty well actually. No wait, I didn’t say that right. Let me correct…The internet lost its collective shit because the internet hates everything, and as I said about Game of Thrones recently, no one hates Batman casting picks as much as Batman fans do.

Early reports claimed that Reeves was searching for a younger Batman, and upon reading everything I’ve read about the film, I still believe it will be tangentially related to the larger DCEU, set some time before Batman looked like Ben Affleck. There will likely not be any reference to the larger DCEU, but that would be a smarter thing than forcing it in or confusing the general movie-going audience by adding another separate Batman franchise next to the standalone Joker movie and the DCEU proper. It’s just messy.

As far as Battinson (see what I did there?) goes, I’m rather excited. No, he wasn’t a very good sparkly vampire, but his work in the Twilight franchise was a decade ago, and he was working from a not-great screenplay and source material. Compare the Twilight books to the larger Batman comic books. If you agree that Batman’s source material is better, then you have to assume that a better screenplay and director at the helm can only help.

If you’ve seen Battinson in films like The Rover or Good Time, then you’ve seen a range that will separate him from his Twilight days quite effectively. Hell, he wasn’t half-bad in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

To put it simply, and to paraphrase Spongebob Squarepants’s thoughts on Krabby Patties, the only people who don’t like Battinson have never tried him.

I think I’ve made my point.

 

UPDATE: Just as this was set to be published, as with all news stories from DC, it appears there is more to this than previously thought. It would seem that Nicholas Hoult, known for his work as Beast in the X-Men films and also playing J.R.R. Tolkien in the new biopic, is also in the mix for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Now, I don’t have any funny nicknames for Hoult as with Battinson, so that’s one strike.

On the other hand, though, Hoult has proven himself time after time to be an excellent actor with a wide range similar to that of a Michael Keaton. Keaton was a controversial choice back in the 80s to play the Caped Crusader, but with turns from Beetlejuice to things like Mr. Mom, he proved he had the right mixture of professional acting and insanity, something I would argue Hoult also has. Don’t believe me? Check Mad Max: Fury Road to see that level of Let’s-Get-Nuts that a Keaton would have. There are indeed similarities.

So what it boils down to is that both of these choices would be inspired, and in Matt Reeves I trust, so whatever he decides, I’m down for the ride.

So what do you think? Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Midsommar Trailer Brings Us Ari Aster’s New Nightmare

So we have the official trailer for Ari Aster’s new film Midsommar, his follow-up to last year’s Hereditary, a film I felt was completely snubbed at the Academy Awards.

Midsommar’s trailer opens with Christian and Dani (played by Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh), a couple who are clearly going through a difficult time in their relationship. Christian is going to a strange festival in Sweden, one he didn’t tell his girlfriend about.

Christian’s friends don’t like Dani, saying she has problems and reminding him he’s been wanting out of the relationship. Christian, likely in a last-ditch effort to save the relationship, invites her to join him and his friends on the journey. While this is nothing new in the horror realm, it is highly relatable. So many of tend to think we can save the relationship with a crazy trip or gesture, but of course it doesn’t always work like that.

Early on in the trailer, it is clear to see that the direction and cinematography are going to be highlights of the film as we see some very interesting sequences like Dani running to the bathroom and leading her and us right on to the plane.

Ari Aster’s biggest strength as a storyteller seems to be his ability to take broken people and put them in situations without a clear-cut escape. He did it well with Hereditary, and I’m seeing a lot of shades of that in Dani and Christian’s relationship in Midsommar too. The only fault I’m potentially seeing, though, is Aster’s return to old-time ritual horror, and yes, Midsommar is a different film for a follow-up but there are similarities in the type of horror, and I was hoping for something drastically different.

That’s not to fault the trailer, which ensured me that I will be there for this on opening weekend. In fact, as the trailer unfolds, we get a sense that everything is not quite right here. At night, the sky is still sunny and blue, so there are elements of time out of whack here, an interesting idea. It seems on the surface that Aster’s previous film gave a sense of human causation behind its horror, whereas Midsommar steps right into the surreal and dreamlike, or nightmarish, perversion of what is normal.

As the story of the trailer unravels, it becomes clear that Aster is aiming bigger and bolder with this new film, and as long as it separates itself from his previous work. I absolutely adore Florence Pugh after Fighting with My Family, so it excites me that she is getting another headlining role here.

The trailer ends with a single line of dialogue that concerns me about the similarities with Hereditary. A character says, “I was most excited for you to come.” This line could lead us down a path of organized planned ritual surrounding a specific target, something that kind of happens in Hereditary.

Again, I’m really hoping that Midsommar forges a different path from its predecessor, just so that Ari Aster isn’t judged as a one-trick pony. I’d really like to see him swing for the fences on every film and keep challenging the assumed path like he did with Hereditary, but I’ll need to see more before I know for certain.

What did you think of the trailer for Midsommar? Are you planning on seeing Ari Aster’s new film? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[EDITORIAL] Game of Thrones Fans Now Hate Game of Thrones

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 8, EPISODE 5: THE BELLS

I’ve been enjoying Game of Thrones for a large portion of its 8th and final season. I’ve had a few issues overall, most notably for me is seemingly the misuse of Bronn. He’s had two scenes in the last run of episodes and I didn’t really believe that Cersei would trust him with the mission of killing her brothers. Hopefully there will be something redeemable in the last episode with him.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. Today, I’d like to address the complete turning of GoT’s fanbase in the course of five episodes. We are going to go through this a piece at a time, so bear with me while we discuss.

*Something I wanted to add before we get all spoilery with GoT talk is that I am completely fine with fans and viewers being frustrated that the show didn’t go in the direction they expected/wanted, but my argument has to do with those who flat-out condemned the series in Season 8 without having the full vision of the season. That being said…

 

Episode 801: Winterfell & Episode 802: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Really, the fan frustration for these two episodes is rather silly and stupid, but it needs addressing. Fans complained nonstop about the lack of episodes in Season 8 before the premiere even aired, and they were especially mad that the first two episodes of Season 8 were the normal run time while the last four episodes would be Super-Sized episodes. Then, upon the airing of each of these dialogue and character-driven episodes, fans voiced anger at the fact that no major action or battles took place. I guess this was something I kind of expected, but I was shocked to find so many people lashing out at lack of action in a show that is mostly talking and politics.

 

Episode 803: The Long Night

When the third episode of Season 8, The Long Night, was about to air, I voiced my excitement. This was, after all, what the fans had been longing for all season, and it was a potential culmination (in a post Avengers: Endgame world, what does culmination even mean anymore?) of 8 seasons of the Night King’s slow-spreading disease of an invasion. Here it was for all of us in all its glory. But then everyone hated it.

The hate erupted from a variety of different issues, but the main one was the lighting of the episode. Most of The Long Night was, well, dark. Too dark for some. I was watching on a Standard Definition broadcast, and I can tell you that I didn’t really have a problem with the lighting. I found the episode to be dark, but also, I found it to be one of the most stressful television experiences I have ever had. 80-some minutes of non-stop carnage with many of my favorite characters right in harm’s way for a bulk of the time. It was difficult to watch, but at no point did I miss any of the main character deaths. There were times when I turned to the others in my room and ask who that was that died, but I think that added to the experience. Yes, we had to turn out all the lights in the room and draw the shades, that much is true, but I felt like was part of the experience.

There were other problems, too, many of which I just didn’t have a problem with and some I was able to find a good explanation for even if I would have done it differently. Viewers were angry that Ghost didn’t get much attention in the episode, and he seemingly disappeared early on in the battle, leaving his fate unknown until the following week. I understand that CGI is expensive on network TV and if less Ghost means more dragons, then I’m all for it (although I would have just killed Ghost off seasons ago if I knew that to be an issue).

Some had a problem with Arya Stark killing the Night King. I didn’t understand the problem and was surprised that she did it. I had expected it to be Jon Snow and was quite happy to be wrong. There were some who called out how crazy it is that she was able to get to the Night King at all with his many followers in tow, but I recall Arya sneaking her way into the godswood previously in the storyline, and it’s a setup that works just fine for me. There was also the question of how easily the army of the dead was dispatched, but knowing that the Night King is the only one in need of dispatching in order to stop the whole army, I expected a somewhat out-of-nowhere ending to the saga of the dead (and again, I would have never let the Night King anywhere near Winterfell if he’s the only one you need to kill).

Episode 804: The Last of the Starks

Okay, so I had a few problems with The Last of the Starks, but I should stress that none of them took my enjoyment from me.

As it came down to it, I really wanted Jon and Dany to get together officially. Yeah, they are related, but that didn’t seem to be too much of a problem in GoT, right? This episode actually served to fracture that relationship further, and it did so quite well, putting the problem that faces Jon before him and having him struggle with it because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the North. A brilliant way of complicating matters, one I hadn’t really thought of.

There was the issue of the death of Rhaegal, the second of Dany’s dragons. People didn’t like that no one could see the fleet of Greyjoy vessels hiding out and waiting, but I would invite you to watch the scene again. There’s enough suspension of disbelief here.

Then again, I agree that many of our leads have been making somewhat foolish decisions this last season. They are underestimating Cersei as a villain, a very bad idea, or so I thought. My issue is from the idea that Cersei proves to be a faulty strategist this season. She sent Bronn to kill Jaime and Tyrion, two men who have been friends with the sellsword, knowing his allegiance was to whoever offered more. This led to the most underwhelming sequence in the season, or perhaps series.

There’s the issue of the death of Missandei, and again, I only really take issue with the question of how everyone learned she had been taken by Euron’s fleet. If Grey Worm doesn’t know what happened, who would? Many critics of the episode pointed out that Missandei’s whole role here is to support other character arcs. I would argue that Missandei had a pretty nice little arc across her time in the series, and I feel like that arc was pretty close to completion. There’s also the saying that Characters Serve Story, and Missandei was meant to fuel us toward Dany’s eventual choice that we would come to see in the following episode.

 

Episode 805: The Bells

Okay, so here we are. The most recent episode seems to be the most hotly-debated and criticized. I will count myself as someone, going into the episode, have just rewatched the previous two, who believed that Dany would make the right call. I knew the decision would be upon her, and I felt like she would make the right call for decency. This is a choice, after all, that she has been given before. But after the “twist,” as some have called it, in which Dany decides to burn King’s Landing to ash and all those within its walls, I began to rethink myself, and though I wish this decision was given more time to fester and play out, I got it. I saw the many times in Dany’s arc on the show where she was given the option for mercy and decided against it. Add to that her most trusted allies leaving her one by one. Jon rejects her, unable to cope with that whole Targaryen incest thing. Jorah and Missandei are killed, as are two of her dragons. Tyrion fails her. Varys plots behind her back. Dany sees herself as alone. Just her and Drogon against the world.

But if you look back, you will see that this Mad Queen scenario is earned several times. When Dany loses her brother Viserys, she does not mourn him. Yes, he is a monster, but he is also her brother, a man she always thought to be her eventual husband (due to that nasty inbreeding thing). She often threatens to burn opposing cities to the ground in pursuit of the iron throne, and she regularly uses her dragons in a showcase of power.

The only issue with this whole season has been the pacing (and also Bronn, I mean, c’mon!), the way events feel so rushed, but we are down to the endgame here and small character building moments earlier have paved the way for the rushing now, and many of these moments were earned.

 

Look, I’m not trying to tell you that your opinion isn’t valid. If you haven’t enjoyed this season of Game of Thrones, I understand, but don’t go attacking the writers or the producers or HBO for it. Take second to really think about where the series is headed, and do some looking back for these setups.

I personally believe that, upon the series completion, with a complete rewatch knowing the beginning, middle, and end will do wonders for anyone doubting the show. At the very least, see how it all plays out before you jump to any conclusions about the quality of the season.

And if you are being a toxic fan, fucking stop it.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Shazam! (2019)

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou

Screenplay: Henry Gayden

132 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.

 

After the success of Aquaman, it seems like the DCEU may finally be righting the ship with their cinematic universe, and now, only a few months later, the question remains as to whether or not they can actually bring a wacky character like Captain Marvel (no, not that one) to life. Well, I have the answers you seek.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel, Driven to Dance, TV’s Andi Mack) has been bounced from one foster home to another for years following his accidental separation from his mother as a child. He’s been given one last chance with a large foster family run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez. Billy, not one to settle, struggles with connecting to his new family, but while fleeing bullies after defending foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, It, Beautiful Boy), Billy finds himself pulled out of the world, landing in a strange place where a mythical wizard (Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond, Captain Marvel) informs Billy that he’s been chosen as the new champion, Shazam. After saying the word Shazam, Billy finds himself transformed into an older and much more powerful version of himself, and he doesn’t quite know how to fix it, but Freddy might.

It seems like the DCEU has finally adopted the MCU viewpoint of developing great stories that just so happen to include superheroes. The screenplay by Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) is, first and foremost, a film about family, both the search for one and the power of finding one, and its themes permeate the story with subtle moments that use the Shazam lore to expose character and progress plot nicely. The emotional beats of the film ring true in a lot of ways, and it’s great to see representation like this on film.

Beyond all that, Shazam! is a ton of fun. The tone of Big as a superhero film is perfect, and it weaves seamlessly into the darker material surrounding Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, TV’s Deep State). The film takes its source material seriously while pointing fun at what would happen if a teenager all of a sudden gained superhuman powers. This is a movie that is perfectly encapsulated within its trailers, as opposed to a tonally troubling film like Suicide Squad which was sold on one tone and struggled to find one in the finished product.

Zachary Levi (Blood Fest, TV’s Chuck), who plays the heroic older Billy/Shazam, is a kinetic and magical onscreen presence. He consistently shines as a superheroic version of a teenager, and he’s believable in the role, something many performers before have struggled with. I bought into the whole thing quite well. His interactions with Jack Dylan Grazer were pitch-perfect.

Mark Strong is mostly great as Dr. Sivana, but the one problem with his arc is that he is another DC villain who falls prey to the DCEU villain problem. It took Marvel some time to dig out of this as well, and Dr. Sivana is a step in the right direction, but parts of his villainy devolve into CG monster territory.

Shazam! had a tall order after its first few trailer gave us a feel for the tone of the film. I was excited but apprehensive because I’ve been hurt before by DCEU films like Suicide Squad which sold one tone but ultimately gave me a different one. Thankfully, David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation) has done it again by crafting a film wholly different than any of the others he has been known for. Shazam! is aided by powerful turns from its entire principal cast, and it mostly dodges many of the pitfalls that its predecessors have fallen into. This is a fun and exciting superhero movie unique to its character and story and well worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

For my review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, click here.

For my review of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, click here.

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out (2013), click here.

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation, click here.

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