Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Batwoman Pilot Episode - Plot Recap and Review

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If Superman's cousin can have her own TV show, how can Batman's not?

So we have Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) donning the cape and cowl. The episode starts off with a voice over by Kate. She is handcuffed and has to make her escape from being drowned in icy waters. This reminded me of Bruce Wayne's training scene with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) in Batman Begins.

Back in Gotham, Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) runs Crow Security and has taken the role of protecting Gotham. Where is Batman? - you might ask: As per the writers, Batman has been missing in action for about three years. Of course, no one observes that Bruce Wayne is gone too. But, I digress..

Jacob is in charge of a public ceremony, being presided over by the Mayor Akins (Chris Shields). He wants to shut down the Bat signal. But disaster strikes and Crow's Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) is abducted. Sophie also happens to be Kate's former lover.

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Kate's step-sister Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang) informs her about the situation. Using her deductive skills and the footage from Bruce Wayne's security, Kate deduces that the gang has taken Sophie to the Burnside Orphanage.

We run into Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), the son of Lucius Fox. And just like his dad, he becomes the Q to our soon-to-be self-anointed superheroine.

The movie charts the steady descent of Arthur into madness and perhaps unsurprisingly, we get to see Joaquin Phoenix in literally each frame. 

Kate rushes head first to rescue instead of listening to her father. After a showdown with the gang members, Kate is overpowered and taken to their leader, Alice (Rachel Skarsten). 

Alice knows much more about Kate and her family than a stranger would. It is also revealed that her primary target is not Gotham or Crow Security, but Kate's dad himself. But instead of killing Kate, Alice has her deposited somewhere else..

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Kate decides to take things into her own hand and re-visits Wayne Manor. This time, she hits the jackpot and discovers the Batcave. She also learns that Bruce Wayne/Batman has spent years trying to figure out why he could not save her sister and mother from the fatal car crash which was supposed to have killed them.

Kate has Luke re-design the Bat costume to fit her. Donning the new suit, Kate aka Batwoman takes on Alice and her gang and rescues Sophie.

Despite her successful debut, Kate is still disturbed with the fact that Batman could not help save Beth, her sister. Finally, it dawns on her that Beth is still alive and is in fact Alice.

The episode also sets up another plot line - Sophie is now married to Tyler (Greyston Holt). But clearly, she is still deeply in love with Kate.

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This was an ok pilot episode. The acting was passable from every one except the lead actress. Ruby Rose seems to be overacting. She is not alone though. Rachel Skarsten as Alice/Beth also chews the scenery as an over-the-top villain.

Dougray Scott and Camrus Johnson do their best with their roles of caring father and the nervous geek respectively. So does Nicole Kang and Elizabeth Anweis in their roles as the naive daughter and status conscious wife.

The only actor to make an impression is Meagan Tandy as Sophie Moore. She manages to convey the intimate connection that her character shares with Kate.

The series is heavily influenced by the Chris Nolan movies. As I mentioned before, the training montage was similar to the one in Batman Begins. The Wayne Tower itself too has been lifted from the same movie. Plus, the night time shots of Gotham also reminded me of those from The Dark Knight.

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On the other hand, the only scene featuring Batman looked to be shot on a shoestring budget. Granted this was the pilot episode.. still that scene could have been shot better.

Recommended watch to fans of DC Comics.

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Image Sources: Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television

Monday, October 7, 2019

Joker (2019) Movie - Plot and Review

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This post contains spoilers and readers are recommended to watch the movie before proceeding further.

The (purportedly) standalone origin story stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime. Todd Phillips (Old School, The Hangover trilogy, Due Date) has directed the picture.

Check out the trailer:

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a clown for hire and an aspiring stand-up comedian. Arthur has some psychological issues and is on medicines. He laughs out uncontrollably when under stress and carries a placard asking onlookers to ignore his outbursts. Arthur also has a gaunt physique to match his fragile mindset.

The movie charts the steady descent of Arthur into madness and perhaps unsurprisingly, we get to see Joaquin Phoenix in literally each frame. 

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Torn between his career ambitions and personal duty to take care of his ailing mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy), Arthur looks up to Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) as his mentor/role model. Arthur also has a crush on his neighbor/single mother, Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz).

Arthur is regularly picked on by bullies and street punks day in and day out. Randall (Glenn Fleshler), one of Arthur's colleagues, provides him a gun for self-defense. It does not help that Murray himself makes fun of Arthur.

As the final nail in the coffin, his state sponsored therapist informs him that their sessions will be over soon, due to lack of public funds.

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All this inner rage and frustration boils over, when Arthur is bullied by three Wall Street types. Using the aforementioned gun, Arthur turns the tables on his tormentors and becomes the poster child for the oppressed/downtrodden sections of Gotham.

From then on, it all goes downhill as Arthur discovers the truth about his troubled childhood. He then goes to murder his mother, his colleague and finally Murray himself.

This was one of the darkest cinematic experiences I have had so far. At a time, when mass shootings are happening in a disturbingly regular basis, making and releasing this movie seems to be a very poor choice in judgment by the director and the studio.

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Acting wise, Joaquin as expected gives his all and has delivered an absorbing performance. De Niro looks to be miscast as a popular host. Speaking of the female leads, both Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy have limited scope to perform and are pretty much one dimensional characters.

The movie excels in the technical aspects. The production design by Mark Friedberg and cinematography by Lawrence Sher are top notch.

While the lead actor might win acting awards and the movie will make lot of money for the studio, thus taking forward the director's career much ahead, there is also the matter of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The movie has been well made and scores on both acting and technical fronts. But does the DC supervillain really need an origin story, that humanizes him and in a way justifies his crimes?

That is the moot question.

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Looks like Todd Phillips wanted to make a Martin Scorsese type NYC based gritty movie set in the 1980s and since Warner Bros is always looking to make money using the DC Comics based characters, an unholy alliance was made. A truly disturbing decision was made to turn Travis Bickle/Rupert Pupkin into the Joker.

We DC Fans deserve better. 

Despite being a lifelong fan of DC Comics, I cannot recommend this movie. For great Joker performances, I would suggest the readers to check out either The Dark Knight or Batman (1989) or  Batman: Under the Hood or Batman: The Animated Series. I would take any one of these far superior ones over this version.

Click here to read all my posts about DC Comics.

Image Sources: BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Joint Effort, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Joker (2019) Teaser Trailer - Review

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For a long time, there has been a lot of online chatter about the different Jokers in the DC comics based movie universe (DC Films or DC Extended Movie Universe as it is referred to). We have seen Jared Leto's interpretation of the Prince Clown of Crime. Now we have our first look at Joaquin Phoenix's take on the super-villain.

In addition to Joaquin, the movie also features Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen and Frances Conroy. Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy, Old School) directs the origin movie for inarguably one of the most famous baddies to have inhabited a comic book.

Check out the trailer:

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a struggling comedian. Like Travis Bickle, he is at odds with the world and is being slowly driven to losing his sanity. Joaquin's Arthur is also seen flexing his  lean and mean physique. If that reminds you a bit of Scorsese's Travis Bickle, you are right on the money.

Martin Scorsese was once attached as a producer and there were rumors that one of his frequent collaborators (Leo DiCaprio) would don the grease paint. But as a small consolation, we have his other favorite collaborator, Robert De Niro (the Taxi Driver himself) starring in the movie.

Joaquin Phoenix seems to have delivered a knockout performance as the titular character. While it is too early to judge, based on a 2.5 minute teaser trailer, that smirk in the closing scene is quite telling.

Set to the song Smile” by Charlie Chaplin, the trailer sells itself as an urban crime drama with the lead character who is out of control and spiraling into the abyss of insanity.

In addition to Martin Scorsese's movies, the movie is also inspired by Batman: The Killing Joke, the graphical novel by Alan Moore. 

This trailer has raised my expectations and hopes for the movie and Joaquin's performance. Fingers crossed, that the final product will live up to the hype.

Click here to read all my posts about DC Comics.

Image Sources: BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Joint Effort, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Paperless Posts Review - Your Go-to solution for all invitation needs

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Are you planning a great event for your near and dear and need help with sending out beautifully designed invites. Check out Paperless Posts - they have an extensive range of elegant designs (both free and premium options are available).

Whether it is for professional events like Charity and Fundraisers or a simple Thank You/Greeting cards, Paperless Posts has lots to offer.

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There are extensive options to customize these designs including the colors, words and the font size. Similar to conventional invites, even the envelope and postage can be customized. User can explore all of these options effortlessly thanks to the intuitive user interface that the Paperless Post offers.

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Once the invites are sent out, tracking is available not only for the responses, but even the menu options chosen.

In today's fast moving world, people might often forget to prepare for life events well in advance. Paperless Posts comes to the rescue by enabling us to quickly customize and send out the invites in a relatively short span of time. Compared to the traditional posts, users also face less hassles as there are no postage or printing charges. Further, they are environment friendly and help reduce carbon footprint.

I would recommend Paperless Posts to readers who are looking for an easy and convenient way to design and send greeting cards/invites for any and all occasions.

Disclosure: Paperless Posts provided free digital coins to sample their services for this review.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Shazam! (2019) Trailer - Review/Reaction

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Warner Bros. has released the (supposedly) final trailer for the next superhero movie: Shazam!

To readers who are unfamiliar with the titular character, here is a quick intro: Billy Batson is a kid who assumes the adult alter ego of Captain Marvel/Shazam by saying the word - “Shazam”.

Check out the trailer:

Shazam was created in 1939 (a year after Superman) and gave the Man of Steel a run for his money in terms of popularity and sales figures. Powers wise too, he rivals Superman in terms of super strengh, speed and flight. Plus, he can manipulate electricity.

The casting seems to be perfect here. Kind of like Aquaman. Zachary Levi looks to be a great choice for the role. The same goes for Asher Angel as Billy Batson and Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman.

All three of them show excellent comedic timing in their respective scenes. Looks like David F. Sandberg has repeated the James Wan magic of casting actors who may or may not be great thespians, but can bring these comic book characters to life in the best way possible. And the movie looks to be having a stronger sense of humor than Wan's excellent take on the King of the Seven Seas. 

Speaking of Aquaman, a common link between these two movies is Djimon Hounsou who plays The Wizard who grants the superhuman powers to Billy and played King Ricou in James Wan's picture. More trivia: Djimon also portrayed Korath in Captain Marvel (yes the other one).

David seems to be a huge fan of DC Comics. In addition to the obvious Batman reference in the store, there were a couple of shout outs to Superman.

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  • Shazam catching the bus and placing it back on land safely is a reference to the famous Supes poster.
  • The final scene in the trailer has the line - Leap tall buildings in a single bound”, which is a famous Supes catch phrase. David smartly utilizes this to provide arguably the funniest scene in the trailer.

Of further interest is the fact that the movie includes two cast members from the cancelled Justice League Mortal movie (that would have been directed by George Miller): D.J. Cotrona and Adam Brody. These two actors were supposed to play Supes/Clark Kent and The Flash/Barry Allen respectively. I am curious to see what roles they play in this movie.

Shazam has an extended family known as Marvel Family” and they are making their live action debut as well. Mary Marvel is being played by Grace Fulton.

Finally, we come to Dr Thaddeus Sivana, the antagonist. This is the second time Mark Strong has played a DC comics baddie. He also portrayed Sinistro in the ill fated Green Lantern. To the best of my knowledge, Dr Sivana is pure brains. I suspect that he is playing (temporary) host to Black Adam and is hence able to go toe to toe with the powerhouse known as Shazam. We will see if my theory holds true when the movie hits the screens in April 2019. But come what may, Mark looks better cast here and I believe he will deliver a fantastic performance and leave a much stronger impression compared to his previous DC outing.

After the billion dollar success of Aquaman, DC Films seems all set to continue the winning streak.

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Image Sources: Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, DC Comics, New Line Cinema

Friday, March 1, 2019

Dark Phoenix Trailer - Review and Reaction

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We got the second trailer for the long awaited and supposedly the closing chapter to the Fox's long-running X-Men franchise. As readers know, Disney bought Fox and the merry mutants are now part of the Marvel group under the supervision of Kevin Feige.

Dark Phoenix is directed by Simon Kinberg, the producer and writer of some of the X-Men movies. Joining the established cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp and Kodi Smit-McPhee) is Jessica Chastain as Smith.

Check out the trailer below:

The trailer is better than the teaser trailer that debuted a few months ago. The movie still looks a bit underwhelming, but I still enjoyed at least two scenes in the trailer: The first in which Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix is trying to crush Magneto's head using his helmet and the second in which Eric uses his mutant powers on the machine guns for an all out assault on the titular character.

Yes, I am a big fan of Michael Fassbender's Magneto and his performance continues to be the highlight of the series. Despite the fact that he does not look as invested in the role as in the previous movies (especially X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of the Future Past), still he manages to own the screen as the Master of Magnetism.

As for the rest of the trailer, the movie seems to suffer in production values. Looks like Fox was not sure about the movie and made severe budget cuts. The results are obvious and the movie often gives off the vibes of being staged and executed like a TV show. Further, Simon Kinberg is making his directorial debut and may not have the experience to pull off a comic book based  movie which is not only epic but whose main character literally wields cosmic powers.

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Among the actors, only Jessica Chastain looks to be having fun. Most of the other cast members either look too serious or seem to be phoning it in. Even the always reliable James McAvoy seems to be on autopilot mode.

Here is what I made of the plot: Jean Grey is manifesting her Dark Phoenix personality and Smith is mentoring/manipulating her. When the X-Men try to reason with her, she (mistakenly) kills Mystique. This would explain the cemetery scene with Beast (who goes on to join Magneto's team), Quicksilver having a go at the Dark Phoenix and most importantly, Magneto forming his new Brotherhood of Mutants to take down the woman, who is responsible for Mystique's death. As can be expected, Prof X tries to stop the baddies from harming his beloved student and has Cyclops and other fellow minded folks to help him on his mission.

Speaking of Mystique, I am glad that the movie (hopefully) does away with her. I have nothing against the character per se, but am not a big fan of the way in which Fox made her the lead character just because of the actress who played the role. Mystique is a great character and I genuinely loved Rebecca Romijn as the blue skinned shape shifting mutant in the original trilogy. I especially loved how they portrayed Mystique: as an integral part of Magneto's team and her animosity towards Prof X and his X-Men.

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Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique neither has the necessary physique to pull off the character nor does her character arc is loyal to the comics. Since the last movie, Jennifer Lawrence has been in full Katniss Everdeen mode spouting motivational speeches like: Let's go to war”, “You are not students any more. You are X-Men!”. It is just pure nonsense on the part of the studios to have her train the X-Men (Scott Summers/Cyclops is always the leader of the X-Men in my humble opinion) and she should definitely not be the moral compass/role model that Storm (yes the great weather controlling Ororo Munroe herself) should look up to for inspiration. I mean what would Black Panther say to that?

So hopefully this movie would get rid of this monstrosity and cleanse our palate. Simon Kinberg may not be Bryan Singer, but if he kills off this version of Mystique, he earns brownie points.

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Plus give me a few great action sequences of Magneto vs Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix and I am sold on this movie. Fingers crossed that Simon Kinberg and his crew/actors can pull of a miracle and give a proper send off to what has been (for the most part) a great and enjoyable movie franchise. Kind of what Logan did for Wolverine.

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Image Sources: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Donners' Company, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment