Wednesday Videos: Marvel and DC Give Thanks and then Fight

WednesdayVideoHey, hope you are all having a happy Thanksgiving week! Here’s what Marvel and DC are thankful for:

And you know what would make me thankful? If this movie ever got made. Check out this amazing fan trailer for a Marvel/DC movie in which all the heroes and villains of the franchises go head to head. Here’s Part I:

And Part II which is basically 7 minutes of glorious combat:

Hawkeye Vol. 4: A Great Conclusion to a Great Run

I’d like to thank Hawkeye Vol. 4 (Rio Bravo) for making me cry at the public pool. No, really. The other moms didn’t think it was weird at all. Jeez.

Since 2012, Matt Fraction and artist David Aja have been writing a Hawkeye comic for Marvel. This comic tells the story of “What Hawkeye does when he’s not Avenging.” Hawkeyes, AKA Clint Barton, adopts a dog, he trains his protege, Young Avenger Kate Bishop, (she gets several issues of her own drawn by Annie Wu), he fights with his ex, he drinks too much, and he gets beat up a ton. What makes this run so great is that Clint, on his off hours, isn’t trying to save the world – he’s trying to save his apartment building, and getting his ass royally kicked in the process.

This run is never gimmicky, but it’s often experimental and meta. There’s an issue (#3) in which Clint decides to sort his trick arrows. For complex reason, he and Kate find themselves in a car chase with one bag of arrows – Kate grabbed the un-labeled trick arrows on her way out the door. Hilarity,. mayhem, and a lon, long payoff joke ensure. There’s an episode in which a great deal is communicated via sign language, and an episode in which Clint dreams that he’s a character in a kids’ TV show. Above all, there’s an issue that takes place entirely from the point of view of the dog (Lucky, known to fans as Pizza Dog). In this issue( #11), people talk over Pizza’s Dog’s head, but the only words we see are ones Pizza Dog knows (I was impressed by “Collar stays.” How, I wondered, would the dog know what collar stays are? He doesn’t, bu the words are legible because he knows “Collar” and “stay.”)

Here’s a short and incomplete list of reasons I love this run – the last volume just came out and I can’t urge you enough to run out and buy all four and have a glorious binge. I didn’t even like Hawkeye before this run. It’s a jewel among comics.

  1. Pizza Dog.
  2. Everything else on here should be Pizza Dog.
  3. The Russian Gansters who inexplicably say, “Bro, bro” all the time. In Hawkeye’s dream, Hawkeye is a dog and the Gangsters are wolves who say, “Dog, dog.”
  4. Clint’s brother Barney.
  5. Kate Bishop. LOVE HER. LOVE HER ARC.
  6. The humor.
  7. The heartwarming stuff
  8. Everyone in the apartment and how they use Clint’s TV because he broke the satellite dish (with an arrow)
  9. Boomerang arrow.

As is so tragically often the case, io9 says things much better than I do in their post “6 Reasons Why Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is One of Marvel’s Greatest Comics” by James Whitbrook. So go read that, and then read Hawkeye. Or skip to Hawkeye. Because Pizza Dog, Bro.

Wednesday Video Want A Black Widow Movie!

WednesdayVideoSo there’s been a lot of chatter online lately about how badly we need a Black Widow movie.  Hollywood seems to be having a hard time grasping this concept, but luckily the folks on youtube are here to help them.  Here’s not one, not two, but THREE Black Widow videos for you (two fan made trailers and one music video).

First up, here’s an origin story.  Look, it’s arty!  This is flawed but fascinating.

OK, maybe you want a love story between Widow and Hawkeye.  We got you covered.

And here’s a short music video, just because I like it.  It’s a little short, but lots of fun.

OK Hollywood, your fans did all the heavy lifting for you.  Now MAKE MY MOVIE!

 

 

How Captain America: The Winter Soldier Gets It Right

Movie poster of Captain America, the Winter SoldierCaptain America: The Winter Soldier is a great comic book movie, a great action movie, a great comedy/drama, and a serviceable political thriller.  I’d argue this is the best stand alone Marvel movie yet, with Iron Man III running a close second.  Here’s what Winter Soldier did right:

This sequel is character-based.

Winter Soldier has tons of action.  But the movie isn’t about action, it’s about character.  The central problem of the movie isn’t “How will Steve (Captain America) stop that helicarrier from killing everyone?”  The central problem is, “Can Steve continue to play a heroic role in a complicated, morally ambiguous and corrupt world?”  One way Steve can play a heroic role is, in fact, by stopping a helicarrier, so there’s plenty of action, but all the action seems to come organically from the results of the character’s decisions, and all the action counts.

Marvel has been following a pattern in which they use each character’s origin story to tell us what makes this character comfortable.  Tony Stark feels powerful in his suit?  Make him fear the suit and then take it away altogether.  Steve Rogers feels comfortable with honor, teamwork, and a fight against evil?  Throw him into a situation in which morality is ambiguous and everyone lies all the time.  The approach is genius because it allows the audience to have that sense of comfort with the known (Steve still likes honor) while creating a fresh set of conflicts that are based around his character (Steve has to live in a world that is murky and corrupt).

Steve Rogers and Nick Fury

Every major side character has their own story, even if that story isn’t fully explored.

This is especially important because we still haven’t gotten a stand alone movie featuring a woman or a character of color.  This is beyond annoying.  If I don’t see a Black Widow movie in, oh say, five minutes, heads will roll.  Also I’d like a Falcon movie, please.  Lately Marvel has many triumphs and few failings, but the fact that so far all their movies feature straight, white men is a failing.

But what Marvel DOES do right is avoid having side characters be merely accessories or tools to further the hero’s story.  This is most true in the Captain America movies.  Peggy, Sharon, and Natasha have lives and dreams and missions and accomplishments that have nothing to do with Steve.   Natasha’s emotional journey in the film is so powerful that they could just as easily have flipped the credits and called it “Black Widow:  The Reckoning, also starring Captain America”.  The female characters aren’t there for decoration and they don’t revolve around men, although they are deeply influenced by the powerful men in their lives.  Meanwhile, while The Falcon and Nick Fury lack Steve’s augmented soldier abilities, they are both extremely skilled at combat and The Falcon is much better at living life than Steve is, while Nick Fury is much better than Steve at manipulation and survival.  I would LOVE a Falcon movie – I found him to be a compelling character on his own aside from being that guy who can truthfully say, “I do everything he does.  Only slower”.

Anthonly Mackie as The Falcon

 

The film manages to balance humor, angst, and fun.

Somehow this movie manages to combine some fiercely painful drama with truly suspenseful action, hilarious lines, and a sense that while some things about superhero life suck, having super powers can be pretty fun.  It’s hard to keep all this tonal stuff balanced.  In a lot of movies that try combining drama and comedy, either the drama feels forced or the comedy feels forced, but in this movie they meld seamlessly.  Remember how I said this movie is character based?  Part of what keeps these elements balanced is that everything everyone says feels genuine, whether they are saying something heartbreaking or funny – or in some cases , both, as in Steve Roger’s response to whether he’s doing anything Saturday night:  “Well, all the guys in my barbershop quartet are dead, so…no”.

The fact that the movie is so rooted in character is also what helps create a sense of tension and menace.  We’re all pretty sure that Captain America will survive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll end up OK, and we care about that.  While I thought the basic premise of the film was pretty ridiculous, it’s ridiculous in a way that’s consistent with the crazy Marvel Universe, and I was truly worried about some of the characters.

Natasha Romanoff

This movie is fun, it’s painful, it’s emotionally engaging and visually exciting, and it’s fun.  I wish they had done more with the political angle – while Robert Redford tries really hard to sell the idea that what he does is morally grey, it’s quite clearly not grey at all (whether it’s black or white you’ll have to discover on your own).  But overall this movie was the kind of movie that I want to rush right back into the theater to see again.  Well played, Marvel, well played.  Now get me my Black Widow movie.

Wednesday Videos Are Excited About Captain America: Winter Soldier

WednesdayVideoCaptain America:  The Winter Soldier opens this weekend and obviously I’m breathless with excitement.  Just to get us all in the proper movie-going mood, here’s two fun Avengers videos.  First we have a great music video – extra points for including plenty of Black Widow.  In my heart, the full title of “The Avengers” is “Black Widow with Special Guests”.

And here’s a great fan made trailer to catch you up on who these people are:

See you all at the movies!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Eye-Spy

Agents of SHIELD logoThis is more like it!  This week’s episode was fun, but also suspenseful, gross, creepy, and emotionally engaging.  I worried during this episode, and I laughed, and I went, “Ewwww!”  So, a good week.

The Good Stuff

This episode set a different tone than the previous episodes. with a creepy opening sequence in which a young black woman encounters a group of strange men with suits, briefcases, and red masks at a street fair.  They end up on the same train, the lights go out, and when they come back on train is full of dead red-faced guys while she is at the station unloading a box of diamonds into her hand.  It’s part horror, part heist.

See?  They're creepy!

See? They’re creepy!

We can thank three things for this week’s success – decent writing that was unafraid to show a story that doesn’t revolve around Our Heroes emotional tics, excellent direction (the opening montage was visually fantastic), and a sublime performance from guest star Pascale Armand, as Akela Amadour.  Here she is, folks:

PASCALE ARMAND

It’s a tribute to the power of tropes that I saw the opening scene as a woman being stalked by creepy guys, when in fact the plot suggests that she stalked them.  And there are lots of other nifty reversal and twists in this episode.  Above all, Armand is such a subtle actress that she single-handedly brings a high level of gravitas to the show, which the actors around her do a great job of keeping it from becoming oppressive.  Akela projects vulnerability, so I felt empathy and worry for her.  She’s tough (physically and mentally – holy shit, that eyeball thing was badass!)  and smart, so I respected her.  And her presence allows for more conflict among the team  – May is genuinely put out with Coulson, the ever-infallible Coulson seems to have made a huge mistake in the past with Akela, and everyone has to do things they aren’t comfortable doing.  So, I laughed plenty during this episode, and had fun, and got to take a much-needed weekly break from Thinking Deep Thoughts, but I also got very invested in what was going on.  Congrats, show!

I’m fond of the fact that this show keeps addressing, and subverting, the idea that the role of an agent is to seduce people.  In the pilot, Skye only uses her womanly wiles to gain an advantage over Ward after he specifically tells her that that will work.  In the next episode, Coulson’s ex tries to seduce him but that just makes him realize that she’s up to something.  In the following episode, Skye attempts wiles again but is informed by the bad guy that he is only interested in her brains.  And in this one, Ward has to seduce a man.  Now, I’m annoyed that Ward would balk at the idea of seducing a man.  He’s been an agent for ages and I find it hard to believe that he hasn’t had to do it before.  But, I find it hilarious that the problem isn’t really that he has to seduce a man, it’s that he has to seduce a man who is probably straight, and that the answer to this conundrum is to try to make friends.  Yes, Ward, friends.  It’s in the dictionary.  Look it up.

Agent May is extra scary in the morning.

Agent May is not amused.

The Not As Good Stuff

I still don’t understand why Fitz and Simmons are doing eye surgery.  They don’t understand it either.  Is it actually possible that no one on the planet but me, Fitz, and Simmons understands the difference between being able to build a bomb and being able to cut someone’s eye out without doing unintentional damage?  I mean, anyone can cut out an eyeball, but putting it back, or even leaving it out and not having your patient bleed to death through their eye socket – that’s tricky.  I’m sorry to have to dwell on such a disgusting subject, but oh, my God, the eye horror was through the roof this week, with the needle, and the – OK, see, now I have to go lie down.

Best Lines of the Week

The best line this week comes from the unexpected difficulties of stakeouts, when Fitz, Simmons, and Skye ask Ward where they are supposed to pee (“It was really a long drive! and some of us are nervous”) and he suggests an empty water bottle, prompting Skye to say, “Did you ever learn the part where boy parts and girl parts are different, and our parts aren’t PENISES?”

For other standouts, I give you the following:

Fitz/Simmons giving Ward experimental weaponry:  “In case you miss!  Or…have…multiple..assilants”.

Coulson:  “Next time I get to decide what we call ourselves, OK?”

When Skye mentions being attacked during the stakeout, Coulson says, “That should never have happened”.  and when she brushes it off saying it wasn’t as scary as listening to her parents fight, he says, “That should never have happened either”.  Now I have, like, ALL the emotions.  Excuse me while I just stick my heart back into my chest.

Couple bits of trivia – this episode was directed by…wait for it…Roxann Dawson!  Who played B’Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager!  Personally, I’m not a fan of Voyager, but I was a fan of that character, so – Hi!  And on a purely personal note, whenever I’m looking for images for these posts I keep finding images of Loki instead.  Oh, Loki.  Ours is a forbidden love.