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June 2019

May 2019

Summer Movie Round-up!

Summer is usually when the movies get big and dumb, and we all flock to them anyway. Is it that we have no taste in the summer, or we’re craving air conditioning and overpriced popcorn? Or maybe it’s that we tend to have more spare time and fewer commitments. At any rate, summer means movies, and usually not the art-house flicks.

I don’t pretend to watch every movie - I leave that to my guest columnist Rahul Menon, who literally does watch every. single. movie. But here’s a quick rundown of the movies coming up this summer, and what we expect from them.

 

Already Out

No, we didn’t bother reviewing Endgame, because a) just about every one of you saw it anyway, and b) every blog in the universe had a review. What could we add to the conversation? We were all too busy standing in line to see it again.

Also out: Aladdin, which has middling reviews but I hear that Jasmine finally gets her own bloody song, and it’s about time. Also Pokemon Detective Pikachu, which you could not pay me to see, and Brightburn, which is Evil Superman as the Bad Seed.

And there’s Booksmart, which is confounding me. I was actively angry at the trailers, which appeared to depict two young women who are supersmart but of course completely socially inept, because everyone knows “book smart” is antithetical to having a social life or understanding the basics of human interaction, with an (un)healthy dose of fat-shaming as the plus-size friend is the loud, obnoxious and clueless one. However. Several people I know and trust have seen it and say it isn’t that at all, and it’s actually a terrific movie. I’m not sure I’m convinced enough to head to the theater, but I might give it a chance on Netflix. Have you seen it? What do you think?

 

May 31

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. If you follow us on any social medium, you know that guest columnist Jim D. Gillentine is the biggest Godzilla nerd in the Western hemisphere. Probably you could have figured that from the 19 Godzilla-themed posts on his Facebook in the last 24 hours. (I am not exaggerating, I counted.) So look for a Godzilla review next week, as we watch the Big Iguana go to town on a collection of traditional kaiju from … you know, I will let Gillentine handle that.

Rocketman. Early buzz is much more positive for this biopic of Elton John than a similar-themed Bohemian Rhapsody a few months ago.

Ma. Horror flick starring Octavia Spencer as … a psychopath knocking off the usual nubile, drunken teenagers? Offbeat casting and Spencer is an Oscar winner, which is about the only thing that would interest me in what looks like a paint-by-numbers thriller.

 

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• Comic book nerds unite, because the long-running X-Men saga is taking a second try at Dark Phoenix. They certainly couldn’t do a worse job than the first attempt, despite the very
best efforts of the Phase One crew, and Sophie Turner has impressed me in the trailers at least.

• Also releasing: Late Night, in which Emma Thompson is a talk-show diva and Mindy Kaling is her unexpected muse; and The Secret Life of Pets 2, about which the less said is better. Also also: a Ron Howard documentary about Pavarotti is of great interest to me and probably will play absolutely nowhere near me.

 

June 14

• Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth escape the Marvel Universe to take on the awesome suits of Men in Black: International, co-starring Emma Thompson (again!) as the new Zed.

• Also releasing: a new Shaft movie with Samuel L. Jackson, a zombie flick titled The Dead Don’t Die and a whole lot of little drama films you’ve never heard of.

 

June 21

• CultureGeek Junior (a.k.a. Ian Smith) is approaching Toy Story 4 with a now-familiar mixture of dread and excitement. For his generation (end-millennial), Toy Story is the language of childhood, and the third film closed on a perfect note. Do we want to reopen the toybox? Can they really pull it off a fourth time without screwing it up? Look for his assessment in late June.

• Also releasing: a reboot of Child’s Play, which seemed like the world’s worst idea until I heard that Chucky’s voice is Mark Hamill. Now I’m paying attention. Also a documentary on Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. See above note about Pavarotti.

 

June 28

It's a catchup week, with a weird Danny Boyle flick about a world where the Beatles never happened titled Yesterdayand the next installment in the Conjuring series with Annabelle Comes Home. I have very complicated feelings about the Conjuring movies, which I may detail in another column someday. There's also a scattering of dramas and documentaries, as is usually the case in a catchup week before...

 

July 5

The Fourth of July is another tentpole week in a summer full of tentpoles, but this year they’re going light on us: only one mega-film releasing. Spider-man: Far From Home returns us to the MCU in the aftermath of Endgame, and hopefully will answer some of our lingering questions.

  • What happened to all the families with a five-year gap in ages now that they were un-snapped?
  • Why is Peter’s best friend (and apparently all his other friends) still in high school? Were they all snapped?
  • Who's running the country when the snapped politicians and leaders got un-snapped? Runoff election time!
  • What happened to all those people who were on planes or undergoing surgery?
  • Was the rat really Loki?
  • Why didn’t anyone pick up the trash for the five years of the Snap?

(Okay, that last one is probably only bothering me.)

There’s also a couple of thrillers coming out - Midsommar, Cold Blood Legacy - but no one cares.

 

July 12

It’s a catchup week, as we see a bunch of non-tentpoles crowded into a week without a superhero. We have two thrillers: Crawl, about a woman fighting alligators during a hurricane (okay); and 21 Bridges with Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman as a disgraced New York detective fighting bad guys by shutting down New York’s bridges and tunnels. Already the premise raises red flags for me, but I’d happily watch Boseman read the phone book, so….

Also releasing: Karen Gillan and Dave Bautista in a ride-sharing “comedy” titled Stuber (no) and The Farewell, a “comedy” about a grandmother who is dying and being lied to by her whole family. I must be missing something there.

 

July 19

500Disney’s at it again, with the “live action” Lion King remake. Okay, we know it’s not actually live action but just a totally different kind of animation because hey, real animals on the veldt don’t sing and dance. Shut up.

It’s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Beyonce and Alfre Woodard on the voices, with James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa because there is no other God before him. Also, John Oliver as Zazu is my pick for casting choice of the year.

Literally nothing else is going up against this. Oh, except a documentary about David Crosby.

 

July 26

• Quentin Tarantino can’t leave Leonardo DiCaprio alone, as he’s put him with Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. One is a fading actor, the other is a stunt double, and Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Christopher Walken and Margot Robbie show up as well. Supposedly it’s Tarantino’s “love letter to L.A.” I generally can’t stand Tarantino (yeah yeah I know) but it’s vaguely interesting from the trailer.

 

Aug. 2

• It doesn’t matter how many times the Fast and Furious people make me watch the same. bloody. trailer. I have no interest in Hobbs and Shaw, but perhaps I would feel differently if I had seen any of the prior F&F films. What do you think?

Also releasing: Dora and the Lost City of Gold, updating Dora the Explorer to teen years and hopefully giving young girls a new heroine.

 

Aug. 9

It’s another dumping ground, with horror flick Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, dramas The Kitchen and Brian Banks, and Kenneth Branaugh directs Artemis Fowl from the Irish fantasy YA book series.

 

Aug. 16

We close out the summer with Angry Birds Movie 2 and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, proving that no movie can be so bad or flop so badly that someone won’t greenlight a sequel. Also crime drama The Informer, comedy music pic Blinded by the Light re: Springsteen, and I kid you not, Playmobil: The Movie, with... Daniel Radcliffe? I cannot make this up.

That’s the run-down. So what are you looking forward to seeing? What would you like to see CultureGeek and the Guest Voices review? Happy summer!


Guest Voices: SuperLegends Finales!

I previously reviewed the just-completed seasons of Arrow and The Flash in tandem, as the two shared a lot of common themes this year.



While the same is true of Supergirl and Legends, a lot more than I expected, I must acknowledge it’s like comparing a straight superhero story (Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle’s run on Supergirl, for example) to the Keith Giffen/J.M. Dematteis era of Justice League, where half the plot revolved around Booster Gold and Blue Beetle’s get-rich-quick schemes, the Martian Manhunter was addicted to Oreo-like treats, and Green Lantern Guy Gardner was laying the groundwork for the #metoo movement with every leer.



With that said, these two remarkably different shows both taught us this season that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself … but that fear itself has friends in high (and low) places.

Former TV Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter was introduced in the early days of Supergirl as an American president who — like reporter Kara Danvers and DEO leader “Hank Henshaw” (the Martian Manhunter) — was not what she seemed. Olivia Marsdin was a Durlan, a member of a shape-shifting race introduced in the Legion of Super-Heroes comics.

That secret comes out to the public early in the season, and America takes a turn for the xenophobic. Enter Sam Witwer (formerly of Smallville and the U.S. version of “Being Human”) as Ben Lockwood, small-town businessman by day, iron-masking wearing demagogue “Agent Liberty” by night, stirring up people’s resentments over jobs lost to extraterrestrials.

Mass detentions. Alien registries. “Earth First” signs waved at protests.

 And that’s not even getting to the introduction of Lex Luthor (a masterful Jon Cryer). Or James Olsen getting superpowers, but of a less wacky variety than in the comics.

Brainiac 5 gets a love interest: Dreamer, a trans* woman of Lallorian lineage, ancestor of his Legion teammate Dream Girl. Nicole Maines (trans activist turned model and actress) brings a great energy to the series — like Mon-El in season 2, she’s someone for Supergirl and J’onn (and Brainy) to mentor, but unlike Mon-El, she doesn’t pull Supergirl into a romantic subplot that overwhelms everything else.

 We get to see Jesse Rath — a regular this season as Brainy — run through a gamut of emotions this season, with hints at the less benevolent Brainiacs of the past.



Meanwhile, over on Legends, the team starts out the season facing a murderous unicorn that spits hallucinogenic goo at Woodstock and ends with a circus at a “monsters-are-people-too” theme park literally built overnight using a magic diary, and a double homage to both Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire AND the Disney animated classic Peter Pan.

In between, DC Comics demon Neron tries to collect a whole lot of souls by stirring up fear of magical creatures — including an ogre who just wants to sing, a minotaur who plays the guitar gently, the Baba Yaga, and a mummy — through creating a “monster spotting” app whose terms of service include handing one’s immortal soul over him. (No one reads the terms of service, right?)

Legends is the show about the underdogs. So of course, one of the season’s standout characters is a food delivery worker named Mona who ends up as monster dietician and all-around wrangler. And of course, when the team starts to feel a little big for its collective britches, there’s a heavier-than-expected price to pay.



But there are great character moments both serious and farcical all along the way. The Legends take a “hard pass” on the 2018-19 “Elseworlds” crossover, so Supergirl, The Flash, and Green Arrow take a “hard pass” on helping them out with something of seemingly lower stakes later.

Sara Lance and her girlfriend Ava’s romantic life gets sorted out in Ava’s personal Purgatory — an “IKEA Store from Hell.” Shipmate Zari (the modern-day version of the 1970s DC Saturday morning heroine “Isis,” except they can’t use that name now), a rare example of a Muslim heroine, gets some great characterization all along the way and some resolution to the crisis that brought her to the team in the first place.



Oh, and Tom Wilson — Biff from Back to the Future — will make you cry. More than once.



Though the Legends sat out this year’s crossover, all five shows (Flash, Arrow, Legends, Supergirl, and the new Batwoman series) will participate in the late-2019 “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event. And both of these season’s finales tease to it in their own ways.



Supergirl season 4: 5/5 stars


DC’s Legends of Tomorrow season 4: 4/5 stars

 

Jason Tippitt is a recovering seminarian and mostly recovered former journalist living a few miles beyond that place you stop to use the restroom off Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis.


Guest Voices: Flarrow Finale

Legacy. Family of choice. Good intentions with bad results. Redemption. Sacrifice.

DC Comics’ interconnected shows on The CW took an interesting path in the 2018-19 season, with the four series (see also Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl) seeming to pair up thematically in key ways this year.

The Flash and Arrow shared similar concerns with the big topics listed above.

 Both series introduced some new characters and some new settings: Green Arrow meets a hitherto unknown half-sister, Emiko Queen. Team Flash gets to know Nora Allen, Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future where The Flash disappeared in a capital-C Crisis.

But we also met new characters … and older versions of some familiar faces … as Arrow flashed forward to the post-Crisis era and we caught up with some (but not all) of our familiar band of crimefighters. And by digging into Nora’s past on The Flash, we see another stage in the life of Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash.

Events in the present day would have their effects in the future, instilling every present-day decision with more weight as we saw the consequences down the line. Is the timeline malleable? Thawne certainly thinks so.

 The Flash welcomed guest stars Chris Klein, Sarah Carter, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Kyle Secor over the course of the season.

Arrow welcomed Colton Haynes back to the main cast as Roy Harper/Arsenal and also featured Kirk Acevedo as last-season’s main villain Ricardo Diaz, Michael Jai White as Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger, and Adrian Paul (TV’s Highlander) in a role I won’t disclose, with relative newcomers Katherine McNamara and Ben Lewis playing key roles in the future scenes.

Oh, and halfway through the season came the “Elseworlds” crossover, which also included an episode of Supergirl. (Legends of Tomorrow sat it out due to character congestion.) And in that crossover we met a mysterious figure called The Monitor … and we met the Barry Allen of Earth-90, a seasoned hero played by John Wesley Shipp (who’s previously played Barry’s dad and alternate universe Flash Jay Garrick in these series). Yes, the 1990 version of The Flash is now in these shows’ multiverse.



The Monitor has some dire predictions about the future. And the thread doesn’t just stop there. This fall’s five-series crossover (Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and the newly launched Batwoman) will be titled “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the seasons’ finales all point to it in their own unique ways, there will likely be tears before it’s over, and the road started with this season for most of the shows.

Arrow season 7: 5/5 stars
The Flash season 5: 4/5 stars

Tomorrow: Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl finales!

 

Jason Tippitt is a recovering seminarian and mostly recovered former journalist living a few miles beyond that place you stop to use the restroom off Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis.