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‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review

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**The following is an in-depth review of “Captain America: Civil War” and does contain spoilers.**

Friend versus friend; brother versus brother; Avenger versus Avenger.

Captain America: Civil War” is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third – and presumably final – film in the Captain America film series. Based on the2007 comic book miniseries by Mark Millar, “Civil War” involves a falling out between fellow Avengers Captain America and Iron Man, a falling out which splits the team in two and has both factions fighting against each other.

After the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and the resulting devastation from the events of that film, the United Nations has decided that vigilante superheroes accountable to no one can’t be allowed to continue to operate without certain government sanctions and regulations. The U.N. then draws up the Sokovia Accords, an international treaty which would require superheroes to operate only when directed to by the United Nations, or not to operate at all.

Captain America objects to this level of government overreach, stating that the superheroes involved are being robbed of the most important freedom anyone could ever have: the freedom to choose their own destiny. Because of this, Captain America refuses to sign the treaty.

Following on from the events of the last film – “Captain America: The Winter Solder” – Cap is still searching for his former friend, Bucky, who has been in hiding since the last movie. When Cap discovers Bucky’s whereabouts, he is forced to go after him breaking the law prohibiting unauthorized superheroing and instantly becomes a wanted criminal. It then falls to Iron Man and the legitimate Avengers to bring Captain America to justice.

“Captain America: Civil War” introduces two new characters into the MCU, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. While Spider-Man has been seen before in two other film franchises, this marks the first time the Black Panther character has ever been adapted in live action.

Unlike other film series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Captain America series has been the most like an independent film series, and “Civil War” is no different. There is a clear story that starts in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and continues all the way through “Civil War.” While events from the Avengers movies are – of course – acknowledged, the films don’t rely on those events. The Captain America series stands alone, and it does so magnificently.

Much of the actual storyline is changed from the original comic books, basically distilled down to its essence and then taken in a new direction. The Winter Soldier character, who is an essential piece to the film’s storyline is almost completely absent from the original comic books. This is most prevalent in the way the government oversight is presented.

In the original comic books, the civil war is brought about when the United States passes the Superhero Registration Act. The original comics treat it as a U.S. problem, and something that only affects U.S. superheroes. Because of this, the Black Panther – who is the king of an African country called Wakanda – stays neutral through most of the story. It was changed to be more of a worldwide issue for the express reason of being able to include Black Panther as a major player in the conflict, setting the character up for his own solo movie next year.

The politics are also somewhat downplayed in the film. Captain America still opposes the new laws on the basis that they interfere with the personal freedom of the individual superheroes, but it’s more mentioned in passing than anything else. While this is unfortunate, in mainstream Hollywood – and especially in a film produced by Disney – it isn’t completely surprising.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo bring the same 1970s espionage thriller feel to this film that they brought to “The Winter Soldier,” and once again it totally works. The film feels raw and real and doesn’t have the manufactured look that most mainstream Hollywood films seem to have these days. “Civil War” doesn’t feel like it rolled off an assembly line, despite having some of the world’s most well-known and mainstream superhero characters in it.

Marvel Studios has done a great job of using every film to build toward the next, and this one is no different. There are many questions left unanswered that makes the viewer really interested in finding out where the franchise will go from here, and how it will all culminate in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” There is absolutely no status quo which is returned to by the end of the film and it leaves the future of the Avengers very much in doubt.

Superhero movies have definitely stepped up their game in recent years, and “Captain America: Civil War” embodies every ounce of that growth within the genre. It is, without a doubt, one of the best movies of the year.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitterand check out my column at TheBlaze.

‘Elvis & Nixon’ is a Must See

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**The following is an in-depth review of “Elvis & Nixon” and does contain spoilers.**

In December of 1970, Elvis Presley – the “King of Rock n Roll” and one of the biggest celebrities of the time – ran away from home.

Elvis had become restless with his life as basically a shut-in, and he needed to get away from it all. He needed an adventure. Something that was crazy and that he would never have been able to do under normal circumstances. Being a collector of law enforcement badges, Elvis quietly left his home on a cold December night and decided he was going to arrange a meeting with the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, and appeal to the leader of the free world to be made a federal agent-at-large. This is, of course, a title that has never existed in any U.S. law enforcement agency.

Elvis & Nixon” tells the mostly true story of these events. Mostly true because no one really knows what actually happened. History does record certain events, but the specific details of these events remained known only to Elvis himself until his death in 1977.

Elvis did leave his Memphis, TN mansion without informing anyone. He did book passage aboard an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles, CA where he met up with a former employee and friend, Jerry Schilling. Elvis then booked a flight to Washington, D.C, stopped at a donut shop, and eventually did have a meeting with President Nixon in which he wore a purple velvet suit and matching cape.

These events, while absolutely true, are so ridiculous that they easily lend themselves to satire, and satire them this movie absolutely does. “Elvis & Nixon” is very much a comedy, and it isn’t the first time these events have been satired. A much more tongue-in-cheek version was produced in 1997 by premium cable network Showtime as “Elvis Meets Nixon.”

“Elvis & Nixon” stars Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley and Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon. Both men turn in marvelous performances, especially Spacey who is one of the most accomplished impressionists in Hollywood. The problem, however, is that Shannon – while an extremely talented actor who turns in a very sincere performance – looks and sounds nothing like Elvis. This, unfortunately, tends to take the viewer out of the film whenever Shannon’s Elvis is on screen.

In spite of Shannon being a less than convincing Elvis, the movie still manages to be very entertaining. The script is smart and the directing is above par. Shannon does a good job of embodying the personality and charm of Elvis, but he’s just so physically different from The King that it becomes distracting.

While the movie does have a wonderful soundtrack of 70s rock hits, it’s conspicuously lacking in any actual Elvis songs. For Elvis fans, this is mildly disappointing.

Much like Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon,” Kevin Spacey nails Nixon perfectly, despite no attempt being made to make his facial features more mirror those of Nixon with make-up or prosthetics. Had Shannon been able to muster a more convincing Elvis voice and some of Elvis’ trademark mannerism, he might have been better able to overcome the drastic difference in appearance between he and Elvis.

In spite of its flaws – which most assuredly are minute – “Elvis & Nixon” still manages to be an amazingly entertaining movie. While much more serious than the outright parody that was “Elvis Meets Nixon,” “Elvis & Nixon” is still very funny, almost to the point of making your sides hurt in some parts.

The funniest sequence in the film comes once Elvis makes it into the Oval Office. After being briefed on how to behave and proper White House etiquette, Elvis proceeds to break every rule he was given. It almost comes off as Elvis just being Elvis, which makes it all the funnier. He’s Elvis Presley and he’ll do what he wants.

“Elvis & Nixon” is by no means a perfect movie, but it comes awfully close. I honestly can’t recommend this movie enough.

‘Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2’ is Worthy of Its Predecessor

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**The following is an in-depth review of “Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2” and does contain spoilers.**

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2” is the long-awaited follow-up to James Merendino’s 1999 semi-autobiographical masterpiece “SLC Punk!

Set 19 years after the original’s 1985 period – so, 2004 – “Punk’s Dead” follows the exploits of Ross, the illegitimate child of original character Heroin Bob and Bob’s girlfriend in the original film, Trish.  Ross has a somewhat skewed worldview on life, mostly from growing up without a father, due to Heroin Bob’s accidental overdose on narcotic pain pills.

Ross fell in love for the first time really in his life with a girl named Lillith.  Lillith, unfortunately, thought it would be a good idea to sneak off with some other guy at a party.  Ross sees them and leaves.

Ross soon meets up with his two closest friends, Penny and Crash.  Ross, who has never touched a drop of alcohol in his entire life, decides today he wants to get drunk.  Ross has lived such a sheltered life that he doesn’t even realize that you have to be 21 to buy alcohol, and is surprised when Crash asked how he was able to buy the beer.  He just walked in and bought it, and didn’t think twice of it.

Ross wants to just get in Penny’s car and just wander, but Penny informs him that they’re going to be late for the punk rock show they’re supposed to go to.  This prompts Ross to point out how ironic that statement is, pointing out that she’s worried about being punctual to anarchy.

Trish becomes worried about Ross because no one seems to know where he is, so she calls in three of Heroin Bob’s closest friends – also characters from the original movie – to help find her son.

The film basically follows Ross’ odyssey with his friends and the “adult’s” efforts to find him.

“Punk’s Dead” is an extremely enjoyable film.  It has the same feel and basic structure as the original, while dealing with completely new themes and circumstances.  It’s familiar and fresh all at the same time, and that is what a sequel is really supposed to be.  James Merendino really understands storytelling.

Returning from the original film are Michael Goorjian as the ghost of Heroin Bob – who serves as the narrator – Devon Sawa as Sean, Adam Pascal as Eddie and James Duval as John the Mod, although now he’s John the Metalhead.  While Trish is a character in both the original and the sequel, she is played by a different actress.  Annabeth Gish – who played the character in the original – is replaced here by Sarah Clarke.

Not present – and sorely missed – is Matthew Lillard’s Stevo, who was the focal character of the original film.  The film absolutely stands on its own two legs without Lillard’s character, but it would have been extremely interesting to see where Stevo is 19 years later – probably a lawyer – and how he’s dealt with the death of his best friend.  I also find it inconceivable that he wouldn’t have been a strong father figure in Ross’ life.  Stevo would have felt that he owed it to Bob to be there for his kid.

Heroin Bob’s mohawk is obviously fake.  The line from his bald cap is not only visible, but it smacks you in the face every time Bob is on screen.  While this can be distracting, it also strangely kind of fits for this film.  It’s also over-shadowed by Michael Goorjian’s amazing performance.

The rest of the cast – both new and returning – all turn in wonderful performances.  Devon Sawa is almost unrecognizable, all grown up and aging, but you can still see Sean come through in his performance.  Especially in the scene where he’s walking around Washington, D.C. – Sean now works for a US Congressman – wearing oven mitts.  Heroin Bob even comments that you can’t take the punk out of a guy like Sean.

All in all, this is a wonderful film and truly a delight to behold.  It’s a must-see for any fan of the original.  If you’re not a fan of the original, watch the original and then make sure to watch this one.  Both of these are great films, for the true punk and the poser alike.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

‘Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday’ Review

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**The following is an in-depth review of “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday” and does contain spoilers.**

Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday” is the film return of Paul Reubens’ iconic 80s character Pee-Wee Herman. The last time this character was seen in a motion picture was in 1988’s “Big Top Pee-Wee,” the follow-up to his 1985 feature film debut – and the film that introduced audiences to the directing talent of Tim Burton – “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”

The film follows Pee-Wee, now a short order cook for a local diner. While working at the diner Pee-Wee meets “True Blood” star Joe Manganiello and the two immediately hit it off, often sharing the same thoughts and speaking in unison. Learning that Pee-Wee has become stuck in a rut in his regular life, Joe invites Pee-Wee to his birthday party in New York City so that Pee-Wee can get away from it all.

Pee-Wee embarks on a road trip to New York – completely ignoring the events of the original film by stating this is his first road trip ever – and things head south from there.

Pee-Wee inadvertently picks up three armed bank robbers who steal his car and ditch him in the middle of nowhere. He is offered a ride by a traveling joke salesman, and just ends up getting into one sticky situation after another while trying to make it to New York City.

The film manages to bring several celebrity cameos, but there is one key element it forgot to bring: humor.

There is not a single funny joke in this entire 90-minute debacle. Not only are the jokes unfunny, they’re mostly tired and groan-worthy. “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday” also fails at telling an engaging story. This is basically a re-imagining of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” without the wonderful imagination and intriguing visuals of Tim Burton.

“Holiday” brings all of the fantasy and colorful characters the original had, but it doesn’t capture the imagination the way the original did. The original also had the benefit of having jokes that were legitimately funny, which this one doesn’t.

While “Big Top Pee-Wee” couldn’t even hope to compare to its predecessor, it at least kept the audience engaged and at least slightly entertained. Most of the time, I found myself actually feeling sorry for “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.” It was trying so hard, and failing so badly. It was almost like watching a small child playing his heart out on the little league baseball diamond, and just not being any good. This movie truly made my heart hurt.

“Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” made me a fan of the Pee-Wee character and of Tim Burton. Over 30 years later, that film is still enjoyable. “Holiday” won’t be remembered 30 years from now. It won’t even be remembered 30 minutes from now. It’s literally depressing how bad this movie is, and how great it could have been.

The most die-hard Pee-Wee fans might find something to enjoy about this film, but I’m not sure if die-hard Pee-Wee fans even exist anymore. I don’t just recommend you skip this film, I recommend you run away from it for dear life.

I would gladly sell my soul to the devil right now to get back the 90 minutes I spent watching this movie.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Brings Frank Miller’s Batman to Life

Author’s Note: Due to a large editorial load at TheBlaze, they have not yet published my “Batman v Superman” review.  For my regular readers who are waiting on it, I have decided to publish here on my personal blog.

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**The following is an in-depth review of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and does contain spoilers.**

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has taken the superhero movie genre and turned it completely on its head.

Here we’re presented with a Batman who tortures, maimes and yes, even kills with reckless abandon when the situation requires it. While Batman never wantonly murders anyone – everytime Batman kills, it’s clearly self-defense – he does stack a lot of bodies.

“Batman v Superman” is a complex film. Not just that it has a lot going on – which it does – but that it isn’t really what comes to mind when you think “superhero movie.” If that’s the movie you’re looking for, “Captain America: Civil War” comes out May 6th.

“Batman v Superman” is much more than a cheap, exciting, popcorn flick. It has layers upon layers of subtext and nuance, something these films are generally devoid of. If you are of the mind that superhero movies need to be “fun” or that they are only “cheap entertainment,” then this movie isn’t for you. If, however, you’re willing to explore what the genre could be, and not only what it has been – something the comic books have been exploring for decades – then there may be something here for you.

Leonard Maltin, in his review for Indie Wire, wondered why superhero movies aren’t fun anymore. To that I would say, they are. Over at Marvel. Warner Bros. and DC Comics are trying to do something different, something that brings new things to the table and tells deeper and more mature stories. For that, they should at least be commended for taking risks.

“Batman v Superman” follows on from the events from “Man of Steel,” although it’s mentioned that two years have passed since Superman’s fight with General Zod and the near-destruction of Metropolis. It’s been said that “Batman v Superman” isn’t a sequel to “Man of Steel,” but I disagree. The events of that film have a profound lead-in to the events of this one.

It’s revealed that Bruce Wayne was present in Metropolis during the battle and many of his friends were killed when Superman and Zod took out a Wayne Industries office building, prompting Batman’s mistrust of Superman and his power. That does beg the question as to why it took Batman two whole years to do anything about the “Superman threat,” and that is a question that goes unanswered.

Likewise, Superman begins to learn of Batman and his brutality – like physically branding criminals with a bat-emblem – and he feels as though that brand of “justice” shouldn’t be allowed to run rampant. These feuding ideologies are ultimately what lead to the titular battle in which Batman dons an extremely Frank Miller-inspired suit of armor.

The entire movie, in fact, is very much an adaptation of Frank Miller’s version of the Dark Knight from the graphic novels “Batman: Year One,” “All-Star Batman and Robin” and most apparently “The Dark Knight Returns.” The latter being Miller’s first work on the character.

Admittedly, it’s Frank Miller’s influence that may cause the most division among the audience. Miller’s Batman is a bit of a bastard, and all of that is present in Ben Affleck’s performance of the character. In that, Miller’s Batman can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow. He’s not a nice person, and for a lot of people that can come off as unsettling.

This isn’t the first Batman film to take inspiration from Frank Miller. Both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan drew heavily from Miller’s work when crafting their respective translations of the character. Here, however, it is almost straight Frank Miller with no chaser.

“Batman v Superman” doesn’t just adopt a tone – and costumes – from Miller, but many scenes are panels pulled straight from “The Dark Knight Returns” and plopped onto the screen. This was something that director Zack Snyder did so well with “Watchmen,” and he does it just as well here. While “BvS” is in no way an adaptation of “Dark Knight,” anyone who has read the graphic novel will be delighted with some of the shots and scenes that were culled from the book.

The movie isn’t without it’s share of faults. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor jumps out as a big one. He is probably the worst version of the character to be done in film or television. Eisenberg plays the Luthor character as though he were playing the Joker or the Riddler, and that just isn’t Lex Luthor. Luthor should be brilliant and cunning, not psychotic and crazy.

There are also several parts in the film where it feels like something is missing. This is, of course, because it is. In order to secure its PG-13 rating and to keep the run time reasonable, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 minutes were excised from the final film. While the film still makes sense without this footage, one could definitely see where it should probably be. Warner Bros. has announcedthat this 30 minutes of footage will be restored to the film for its home video release in July.

The bottom line is that “Batman v Superman” is a good film. It’s a very good film. It borders on near perfect, if you’re looking for something outside the normal superhero movie box. If you’re a fan of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight – or if you’re a fan of Marvel’s “Daredevil” series on Netflix, which also draws heavily from Frank Miller’s work on that character – this is a must-see.

If you just want to see a movie where two superheroes punch each other in the face, wait for “Civil War.”

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘Steel’

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This is the thirty-fifth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

The whole of the 1990s consisted of several false starts in trying to bring Superman back to the big screen.  There had been success with the character on television, with “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and “Superboy,” but nothing quite gelled on the big screen.  In an attempt to recoup some of the lost funding spent on those false starts, Warner Bros. decided to produce a Superman spin-off.

Steel had been a break-out character for DC Comics during the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline, which saw Superman replaced by four impostors after his death at the hands of Doomsday.  Of the four, Steel was the only one who didn’t claim to be Superman, although other people claimed he was Superman reincarnated even though Steel was a black man – John Henry Irons.

The rights to produce the film were secured by record producer Quincy Jones.  Jones felt that Steel represented a positive role model for children, even though he hesitated to call him a superhero.  Instead, Jones preferred to call the character a “super human being.”  Jones hired Kenneth Johnson – who had developed “The Incredible Hulk” for television 20 years earlier – to write and direct the film.  It was Johnson who removed the trademark cape from Steel’s costume due to remarks made by producer Joel Silver that Steel should be a knight in shining armor in a modern day setting, as opposed to a superhero.

All connections to Superman were severed in the film, which would seem to be counterproductive considering that Warner Bros. was making this movie specifically to tie-in to that character.  The only indirect connection to Superman is a Superman tatoo – which Shaquille O’Neal has in real life – and mention by Richard Roundtree’s character that “John Henry Irons has turned himself into the Man of Steel.”

When Steel was spun off into his own ongoing comic book series, the character was based in Washington, D.C.  This setting was changed for the film to Los Angeles, where principal photography took place.  Shaquille O’Neal was only available for five weeks of filming due to basketball commitments in the 1996 summer Olympics and the Los Angeles Lakers training camp.

Steel” was a critical and financial failure, making only $1.7 million of its $16 million budget back and carrying a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  “Steel” couldn’t even fail properly, as Shaquille O’Neal was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor, but lost to Kevin Costner for “The Postman.”

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

“Steel: Production Notes”. Steel Official Website. Warner Bros. 1997

“Steel (1997)”. Box Office Mojo.

“Steel — Rotten Tomatoes”.  Rotten Tomatoes

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘Spawn’

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This is the thirty-fourth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

In 1992, as one of the flagship characters of the fledgling creator-owned company Image Comics, Todd McFarlane created what would become one of the most popular superheroes of the 1990s – Spawn.  Five years after the first issue hit newsstands, Spawn was being featured in his own feature film.

At the time, “Spawn” was easily one of the most anticipated films of the decade.  Universal Pictures was originally in negotiation with McFarlane to produce a film based on the comic book as early as 1992, but those negotiations never came to fruition when Universal wouldn’t give McFarlane the creative control he wanted.

McFarlane eventually sold the film rights to Spawn to New Line Cinema for $1, provided he would be given complete creative control and all merchandising rights.  New Line Cinema’s president, Michael DeLuca – who was a comic book collector himself – wanted to secure a property that already had the wide audience Spawn had.  He did, however, have one stipulation to producing the film: he wanted the film to be rated PG-13, while retaining the darkness of the comics.  DeLuca wanted the film to carry a PG-13 rating so that it could be marketed to a large audience.  Achieving a PG-13 rating for “Spawn” would prove to be a Herculean task.

The film’s main production team was made up entirely of former Industrial Light and Magic employees.  Mark A.Z. Dippé was hired as director, Clint Goldman came on as producer and Steven “Spaz” Williams became the visual effects supervisor and doubled as second unit director.  Williams and Dippé were actually still attached to ILM when “Spawn” went into production and saw it as their way out of ILM.

“Spawn” was written by Alan McElroy, who had written issues of the Spawn comics and was head writer on the “Spawn” animated series the same year.  McElroy also wrote the Christian films “Left Behind” and “Thr3e.”

“Spawn” received mostly negative reviews and currently holds a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The extremely formulaic nature of the film – adhering to every superhero movie trope and adding little to the genre – hurt the film.  It also suffered from substandard special effects and CGI, even for the time.  While many fans at the time felt the film was decent, it couldn’t maintain the longevity of a film like “The Crow,” which had a similar premise but was executed much better and didn’t adhere as much to the comic book superhero genre.

“Spawn” deviated in several places from the original comics, but most of these deviations were relatively minor.  In the film, Spawn’s best friend Terry Fitzgerald – who is an African-American in the comics – was played by caucasian actor D.B. Sweeney in the film.  Spawn’s original murderer was a character named Chapel, who was created by Rob Liefeld for his own “Youngblood” series.  Since Chapel wasn’t a Spawn character, and since McFarlane didn’t own rights to that character, a new character named Priest was created to fill that role in the film.  Also, in the comics Spawn was said to be infertile and unable to give his wife Wanda a child in life.  After Spawn’s death, Wanda marries Terry and has his child.  In the film, it is left rather ambiguous whether or not Cyan is Spawn or Terry’s daughter.

In spite of barely doubling its production budget, McFarlane immediately began promising a sequel that never materialized.  After the turn of the century, sequel promises turned into dark reboot promises, more in keeping with the tone of the comics.  Nothing came of any of these promises and Spawn’s cinematic future currently remains up in the air.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

“As Once-Dead Heroes Go, He’s Tough to Beat – latimes”. Articles.latimes.com. 2012-02-11

Marla Matzer (2010-03-08). “‘Spawn’ of a New Era : Studios Turning to Mix of Houses for Modest-Budget Effects Films “. L.A. Times

Wolf, Jeanne (1997-08-03). “Bringing The Dark Comic `Spawn’ To The Screen – philly-archives”. Articles.philly.com.

“The `Spaz’ Who Spawned His Own Style / Computer animator Steve Williams doesn’t look or think like a typical designer”. SFGate.

Beatty, Scott (August 1997). “Spawn: The Movie Figures”. Wizard (72): 86.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘Generation X’

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This is the thirty-third installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

Generation X” was a made-for-television movie which aired on the Fox network in 1996.  The film was a precursor to the cinematic X-Men films, the first of which would hit theaters just a few short years later, and actually shares an aesthetic as well as thematic elements with those films.

The film revolves around a new team of teenage mutants, recruited into Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters by Sean Cassidy (Banshee) and Emma Frost.  The film was based on a comic book of the same name which had just premiered two years before, and concerned a new campus which had been set up for the teenage students.  The name of the school in the main X-Men books was changed to the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.

The team featured Jubilee – who had been a popular character in the animated X-Men television series – Skin, Monet St. Croix and Mondo from the comics as well as two original characters – Refrax and Buff – who were created for the film.  The new characters replaced the characters of Husk and Chamber, whose powers would have been too expensive to create for television at the time.  Mondo was also changed from the comics.  The Mondo in the film was an amalgamation of the characters Mondo and Synch from the comics.

While the film is often erroneously referred to as a pilot, it was never intended to spawn a television series.  While there was talk of possibly following up the film with a series if it were successful, those plans were never followed through with.  Instead, the film acted as a sort of “proof of concept” for an X-Men feature film, which began pre-production and planning almost immediately due to the success of the “Generation X” movie.

While the film is mostly panned by fans today, at the time it was very well received.  The major complaint by modern fans seem to stem from Jubilee being played by a white actress, instead of Chinese-American as she was in the comics.  Interestingly, this character was originally written to be Dazzler, but was changed at the last minute due to Jubilee’s popularity both in the comics and on the animated series.

The exterior location for Xavier’s school was Hatley Castle, the same location used for the X-Mansion in the first three theatrical X-films as well as the Luthor mansion on “Smallville” and the Queen mansion on the first two seasons of “Arrow.”  The use of Hatley Castle helps to tie “Generation X” in visually with the films that followed.

Jeremy Ratchford, who played Banshee in the movie, is often cited as also having voiced the character in the animated series.  Ratchford’s own website does not cite this credit in his filmography, though Ratchford did audition for the role of Wolverine in that series.  Ratchford also expressed interest in playing Wolverine in the theatrical films, but that part eventually went to Hugh Jackman.

Emma Frost is probably the closest character in the film to her comic counterpart.  Frost is played by Finola Hughes, who audiences at the time remembered from the television series “Blossom.”  In the film, like in the comics, prior to becoming an instructor at the Xavier school Frost had another group of students called the Hellions who were mentioned to have been killed.

The villain of the film is Russell Tresh – another original character created for the film – played by Matt Frewer.  Frewer plays the character very similar to Jim Carrey’s Riddler in “Batman Forever.”  While the character can be over-the-top during much of the film, he also brings a sense of real threat to the characters and can be downright diabolical.

An unrated cut of the film exists and was released to VHS in the UK and other European markets.  The unrated cuts features several scenes not in the US television version, and includes Jubilee using some R-rated profanity as well as Russell Tresh threatening to “mind rape” Skin’s younger sister.  It is a decidedly darker cut of the film.

While by today’s standards “Generation X” may seem lacking in many areas, in the context of the time it was released it certainly was a step above from anything Marvel was doing at the time.  It also served to kickstart the X-Men film series, which in turn ignited a superhero movie renaissance that has lasted for over 15 years.  It could be argued that without “Generation X” there would be no Marvel Cinematic Universe today.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

“Marvel In The 90’s: GENERATION X”.  Twitch Film

“Exclusive: Director Jack Sholder on Fox’s Generation X, controversial castings and the X-Men effect”.  Blastr

“Fox Tuesday Night at the Movies Generation X”.  Variety

Olicity Just Can’t Happen. Here’s Why

Olicity CW Arrow Emily Bett Rickards

The following contains detailed discussion of events that happened in the “Arrow” mid-season finale, “Dark Waters.”  Spoilers follow.

They’re adorable together.  They have wonderful onscreen chemistry.  Everyone wants to see Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak tie the knot someday and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, this just isn’t destined to be.

Now, please understand this isn’t going to be the “He’s with Black Canary in the comics!” argument.  Yes, for most of their history in the comics, Green Arrow and Black Canary have been an on-again/Off-again item, and eventually got married.  Then the New 52 happened.  In keeping with Dan DiDio’s moratorium against our heroes at DC Comics being able to have any sort of normal life at all, all past relationships were wiped from continuity.  Barry Allen never married Iris West, Oliver and Dinah (Laurel) Lance have never had a romantic history, even the romantic history between Superman and Lois Lane was wiped from existence.  Because of this, the argument that Oliver must end up with Laurel because comics just doesn’t hold water.

The mid-season finale of Arrow, entitled “Dark Waters,” saw fan favorite couple Oliver and Felicity get – finally – engaged.  It then also saw Felicity almost immediately thereafter meet her demise – or at the very least, be severely injured – in an attack by season 4 main villain Damien Darhk.  Maybe Felicity is dead, maybe she’ll pull through, we’ll all find out together in January.  That is, however, irrelevant.

We were teased in the season opener with a funeral.  We aren’t told who died, we only know that it was someone close to Oliver and at least acquainted with Barry “The Flash” Allen – which, just so we’re clear, could be almost any major Arrow character at this point.  My first thought was that it was Detective Lance.  I didn’t think, and still don’t, that Barry looked distraught enough for it to be Felicity, and I don’t see it being Thea or Laurel, and with Lance being revealed to be in cahoots with Darhk, it made sense.

Quentin Lance has sense redeemed himself for being briefly in cahoots with Darhk.  I don’t feel like he has any sort of penance left to pay that would require his death for him to be redeemed.  So, at least to me, it no longer makes sense for it to be Quentin in the grave.  Maybe it is, it’s possible, but it’s not as much of a no-brainer to me as it was right after the season premiere.

If it does end up being Felicity, Barry’s reaction still doesn’t sit right with me, but maybe he’s had time to grieve already.  Maybe he’s emotionally in shock.  I don’t know.  And maybe it isn’t Felicity at all.  There are still plenty of people it could be in that grave, it doesn’t have to be Felicity, and Felicity could easily pull through from her injuries in “Dark Waters.”  Again, all of that is irrelevant.

In the continuity Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have created, this version of Green Arrow is very much a Batman analog.  This has been a complaint by detractors of the series since the beginning, and they aren’t wrong.  They’re wrong about it being a bad thing, but they aren’t wrong about it being a fact.  Because of this, I just can’t see Oliver Queen getting a happily ever after.  If he did, he wouldn’t have a reason to continue his crusade.

Think about where we met Oliver at the beginning of the season.  He retired, he left Starling City, he and Felicity ran off to be happy together.  He was brought back because the team needed him, but I think he and Felicity would have been happy living a civilian life, and I don’t see either of them wanting him to continue if they were to get married.  Felicity wants her happily ever after.  She wants a family and a normal life.

Because of this, Oliver and Felicity can’t end up together.  Like Batman, Oliver continuing his crusade is dependent on tragedy.  Once Oliver finds true happiness, which he has with Felicity, I don’t see him going on.  Especially since he has a great team there to continue protecting the city.

Maybe I’m wrong.  It’s happened before.  The way I see it, this just ins’t meant to be.  And just because the funeral is still several months, that doesn’t mean Felicity is out of the woods on her injuries.  She could be in the hospital on life support for several more episodes, or she could even seem to recover and then some unknown internal injury could tragically take her out.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

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