Black Widow | Hints and Some Bad Visual Effects

After watching this movie and seeing that WandaVision‘s showrunner Jac Schaeffer – and Ned Benson (Eleanor Rigby) – is one of the people behind the story with Eric Pearson (Godzilla vs. Kong, Thor: Ragnarok, Agent Carter) writing the screenplay. Based on a Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Don Rico this adaptation is directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) and stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh (Little Women), Rachel Weisz (Disobedience, My Cousin Rachel) & David Harbor (Hellboy, Extraction, Tombstones).

Premise: Following the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), Natasha Romanoff finds herself on the run and forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Romanoff must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Review: I may have first watched this movie when a bit sleep deprived but I don’t think that played a role in how uninspiring this movie is to me, and the writing is a big reason for it. Schaeffer is the only writer on this team that’s known to me at this point, but I feel like they didn’t rise to the task. I didn’t have expectations going in yet I feel like this could have been better.

Giving what happens to Natasha in Infinity War and Endgame, a movie set before those event might not have seemed like a good idea. However this movie has a lot of interesting aspects to it. There’s a sleeper cell moment in the beginning of the movie that I feel was a great idea, in particular when you realize that Nat knew, while Yelena didn’t. As interesting as the idea is, they coud have done a bit more with it by contrasting the girl’s carefree family life with Alexei / Red Guardian finishing his mission before joining them thus showing Alexei with a shred of skills.

I also enjoyed the way the black widows are “selected / recruited” for lack of better non-spoilery word. There could have been a better commentary on that if that aspect lasted a bit longer with a clearer idea of what the future widows go through once “recruited.” I’d even go farther by including a scene where a new generation of widows’ first cycle would be the deciding factor for their hysterectomies. But I’m aware of how not family friendly that might be for some, and how some sick people would see that idea as titillating.

Taskmaster is another aspect of the film that could have been better, and I don’t think that a lot would have been needed to achieve that. The action scenes featuring the character are great, maybe a bit spoiled by the teasers and trailers but they are fine. The bulk of them though, doesn’t show enough of his copycat fighting style. It’s mostly hinted at and not showcased enough for me.
These are only a few examples of some of the interesting things that are introduced and only explored on a surface level. We are asked to fill in a lot of blanks, so much so that it feels lazy on the writers’ part.

The acting and the cast is one of the saving grace of the movie. Johansson and Pew do an amazing job, they feel like sisters, and have great chemistry. They work their action scenes extremely well, even if the visual effects doesn’t always back them up as it should. Harbor, O-T Fagbenle and Weisz deliver solid performances with what they’re given. The main cast breathe life to the movie despite being in an uneven story.

Black Widow needed more space maybe a second and / or third film focusing on different aspects of this film. It remains entertaining both being a great intro to Yelena and a good farewell for Natasha.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

The Boys (S2) | When What We’re Missing is Super-powered People

The Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Revolution) Prime Video series, based on the comic books “The Boys” by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick W. Robertson, is back for a second season. Karl Urban (Thor: Ragnarok), Jack Quaid (The Hunger Games), Antony Starr (Banshee), Erin Moriarty (Captain Fantastic), Dominque McElligott (House of Cards), Jessie T. Usher (Shaft), Laz Alonso (L.A.’s Finest), Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl), Tomer Capon (When Horses Fly), Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad), Nathan Mitchell (iZombie), and Shantel VanSanten (Shooter) are returning. Aya Cash (Fosse/Verdon, You’re The Worst), Patton Oswald (Agents of Shield, Happy), Claudia Doumit (Where’d You Go, Bernadette), and Goran Višnjić (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, ER) round out the season two cast.

Last season: We found out that superheroes weren’t born but made by Vought International, using compound V on infants. It also turns out that Homelander knew about it and sold compound V to criminals thus creating a league of super-villains in an effort to convince the government and general public to let super-heroes into the military. We also found out what really happened to Billy Butcher’s wife after she was raped by Homelander. She wasn’t killed but in hiding, thanks to Vought International, raising the child she had with Homelander.

Premise: The Boys are in hiding, they are wanted for the alleged Murder of Madeline Stillwell, a Vaught Industry higher up.

Review: As I suspected after the three episodes premiere, The Boys season two looks to have been written as an eight hour movie, a bingeable piece of entertainment. However, I understand the weekly release strategy, not only from a business stand point for Amazon, but also for some aspects of the story arc.

The weekly release schedule allowed us to sit with the plot – well some of you did because I watched the last 5 hours the same week. Spending some time to digest what happened in an episode make it easier on the viewer to catch some details, the little subtleties within the show.
It becomes useful when it comes to Stormfront. Given who she is, the weekly episodes allows us to reflect on the character’s actions and makes it easier to notice and observe how she uses the system to reach her goals. I can give an example to this, it is not a spoiler since it was in the trailers, but her comments about Homelander’s appearance when she first meets him is a clue as to what she turns out to be.

The show is very topical, and touch on a variety of subjects. There are a lot of the social commentaries found throughout the season. The synergy between corporations, their bottom line, and politics is amazing to see play out on screen if not in real life. The parallels made on the show barely hide what they’re referencing. If you can’t substitute them for something or someone I’m real life, watch the news. Stormfront, again, is a good reflection, a comment on the disguise people like her take nowadays and the impact they can have on society at large.

Money and/or power seem to be driving force of a lot characters in the series. We see the manipulation and shaping of the outrage economy by people who seemed at odds with each other, knowingly or not working together. Even the big reveal at the end, that threw me for a loop, follows that pattern.

The Boys S2 is real life with sups mixed in, they are the only ingredient we don’t currently have. The “superheroes” are still deeply flawed people but no more than some the regular folks depicted on the show, they can just do more damage. It was a lovely season that could have been binged.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

If you’re interested in the comics that inspired the show, it’d be a huge help if you get them from the links bellow

The Boys (S2 Premiere) | The Set Up of What Could Be a Great Season?

The new season of The Boys, based on the comic books “The Boys” by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick W. Robertson, premiered on Prime Video.

Review: I am really struggling with writing this, why? Because as good as The boys is it’s not a weekly type of show. There is no vilain of the week, it’s long form storytelling, the kind with a giant arc that spans a set number of episodes. So review the first three hours feels like stopping to discuss a book after barely getting into it, in this case it’s a sequel and we just slipped back into that world. For Prime Video the release strategy makes sense but it doesn’t for this show, am I alone on this?

The first three hours are basically just the set up for the second season, that’s pretty much what it is. Although interesting to see it very much feels like watching 1/3 of a movie. We stopped just when the action and tension was ramping up. It allow us to reconnect with the characters in season one. Learning a little more about some of them, tie up and or clean up some open-ended storylines, while introducing us to Stormfront and new plot points.

The three episodes premiere of season two is the base of what could be an exciting season. It looks good but it’s still up in the air for now.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Harley Quinn (S2) | A Spike of Quality Despite the Slow Start

The DC Universe animated series was a very welcomed and pleasant surprise for me. Season one of Harley Quinn introduced us to a great ensemble of voice actors, and some genius versions of famous DC Comics characters. Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dave Lorey, the creators and writers, did an amazing job with the show. The cast – Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn, Lake Bell as Poinson Ivy, Ron Funches as King Shark, Tony Hale as Dr. Psycho, Jason Alexander as Sy Borgman, Christopher Meloni as Commissioner Gordon, J.B. Smoove as Frank the Plant, Alan Tudyk as Clayface & Joker are returning and being joined by Sanaa Lathan, Briana Cuoco, Rachel Dratch, Alfred Molina, and Tom Hollander .

Last season: After he break up with the Joker, Harley Quinn strives for emancipation by making a name for herself and striving to becoming a member of the Legion of Doom.

Premise: After defeating the Legion of Doom, instead of joining them, Harley’s penchant for anarchy and her unwillingness to take control of Gotham leaves the door open for other nefarious forces to step in. The situation gives an opportunity for new heroes to rise up and new alliances to be made.

Review: The previous season was a blast, very funny, with great story-lines, and amazing voice acting. It highlighted how perfect Kalley Cuoco is for the role of Harley, on this show and possibility in live action.

Season two is still funny, the cast is great, and the pop-culture references are hilarious. I loved the nods to The Little Mermaid and Magic Mike. However the first part of the season, with the Injustice League, felt like a procedural, a good one though but still, it was kind of weird. The season really took off for me in episode six – it’s also when I dove back into the show, the weekly episodes are not the brightest of ideas.

The smart way the writers introduce and slightly reinvent well known characters is a blast. It’s always done so organically that it doesn’t put you off, even though some of them – well one – didn’t exactly need to be featured this season. But I guess, actually hope, that they’ll pull a Kiteman and give them more to do next season – and there’s better be one. Speaking of Kiteman, he’s becoming one of my favorites, he’s a more fleshed out this season and really stood out. I feel for him.

As for one of the relationship on the show, I love that the writers didn’t just use some queer-coding that they would never pay off, instead they went for it in an intelligent and grounded way. It was more subtle in the first season but it became obvious this season – unless you were obtus – to finally pay off. The relationship was complicated, not for the sake of drama but for reasons that made sense for both character’s personalities. It’s pretty obvious who I’m talking about but just in case I’ll stay vague.

Harley Quinn is a smart bloody funny show with good social commentary throughout.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Bloodshot | When visuals supersedes story

Inspired by a comic book by Bob Layton, Don Perlin, and Kevin VanHook, Bloodshot was helmed by first time feature film director Dave Wilson and stars Vin diesel (Guardian of the Galaxy) in lead, co-starring Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3), Sam Heughan (Outlander), Eiza Gonzáles (Alita: Battle Angel), and Toby Kebbel (Fant4tic).

Premise: After he and his wife are suddenly assassinated, Marine Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is brought back to life by a team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he becomes a superhuman, biotech killing machine – Bloodshot. As Ray first trains with fellow super-soldiers, he struggles to recall anything from his previous years. But when his memories flood back and he remembers the man that killed both him and his wife, he breaks out of the facility hellbent on revenge.

Review of the feature adaptation of Bloodshot

Review: Writing the premise, I omitted part of the last sentence which is, “only to discover that there’s more between what he originally feels and a conspiracy.” I’m not sure that it is necessary to sell this movie, I’m on the fence. Selling it as a revenge movie with cool visuals would probably work for Diesel’s core fanbase or anyone who just love action scenes no matter what the story is about. The phrase I highlighted and took out of the premise gives more subtances, more meat to the story. It could intrigue a casual action movie fan into seeing Bloodshot trying to figure out what the conspiracy is about. Saddly the marketing took that away from the viewer.

It’s not high art, and that “conspiracy” is not too difficult to figure out but they could have tried. Tried, among other things, to not give it away before the movie was out. Since for almost two third of the movie it is not adressed. They could have put more subtle clues about what’s really going on before Ray discovers it, enticing audiences to watch the film a second and/or third time instead of the one and done it turned out to be.

There are actors that I love in this film but they failed to level up the story. The performances were a little wooden but to be fair you can’t make up what’s not there. Although, Toby Kebbel kind of made it work, I really saw two dinstinct versions of the character he was playing. As for the rest of the cast they can count their blessings because people will forget they were even in this.

The visuals are clearly a selling point of the movie – that is if you count Vin Diesel as a reason to see a film – and it’s the only thing that some thoughts went into. For a debut film Dave Wilson has shown that he’s good with action scenes and visual effects but still needs to show that he can direct actors, maybe in another movie with a…story.

Bloodshot is action packed with awesome secenes and weak story, so leave your brain at the door and enjoy your popcorn.

Harley Quinn (S1) | When voice-acting outshines live-action.

Developped and produced by Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dave Lorey this adult animated television series from DC Universe follows Harley Quinn, a fictional characters created by Paul Dimi and Bruce Timm, and features a lot of comic book characters from DC Comics.

Premise: The series is about Harley Quinn’s adventures as she strives for emancipation after she breaks up with the Joker. She’s helped by her friends Poison Ivy, Clayface, Doctor Psycho, King Shark, and Sy Borgman in her plans to become a member of the Legion of Doom.

Review: First and foremost, the show is funny, made for adults, and the animation style is good. The storylines are smart, we’ll written, and as grounded as they can be. They make sense for each characters. Every character featured have distinct, memorable, personalities that are elevated by the voices.

The voice cast is genius. Ron Funches as King Shark? Rahul Kohli (iZombie) as Scarecrow? Or James Adomian – I didn’t know who he was but he’s cute – as Bane? Whoever thought of putting together that cast needs a f-ing raise.

The ones I just mentioned are only a few of my favorites, stand outs, but I don’t think there’s a weak link in that cast. If you’ve read my Birds of Prey review you know this but Kaley Cuoco basically outshined Margot Robbie with her voice alone. I know these are two different takes on Harley Quinn, and I’m in no way trying to pit two actresses against each other but Cuoco did a great job. I can see her in those films and not miss Robbie. Cuoco could easily pass for a former gymnast, a psychologist, and a f-ing brawler in a fight. In an alternate universe Robbie – if we have to have her – would be Poison Ivy or some other character – to Cuoco’s Harley.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Robbie as an actrice but we’ve been presented with a great alternate. Honestly, I just liked Robbie’s look in Suicide Squad – and that’s not acting – and in Birds of Prey she was cute, except that I really liked her in one fight scene. I’m excited to see how James Gunn will showcase the character in his film even though I’m starting to feel like Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique

Harley Quinn is a blast, very funny, with great storylines, and amazing voice acting. It turns out to be a bad idea for Robbie to let someone else voice that role.

Rating: 8 out of 10.