Episode 121: AQUAMAN Trailer Breakdown

 

Episode 121 is now LIVE! On this Episode we are happy to Welcome Back Tom Harper to the podcast as we breakdown the latest Aquaman trailer!

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Facing the Kryptonite: Taken Down by Anxiety and Rollercoasters

by Drew Kiess

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In most contexts, feeling like Superman would be a fantastic thing. Absolutely invincible—a man of steel. But what happens when some two-bit thug pull out that dreaded green rock? Steel turns to water and no amount of positive thinking seems to be good enough to get you back to normal.

 

That’s a bit what it’s like going through life with anxiety. I am claustrophobic and a agoraphobic, which means I am afraid of two things: Being in tight spaces and being seen being afraid of being in tight spaces. An anxiety or panic attack is bad enough on its own, but being seen having one is such an extraordinary dose of embarrassment that it has kept me from doing a lot of things that I would normally consider fun (or, at the very least, an improvement on doing nothing at all). For this reason, I drive separately to places. If I feel anxious, I’ll make up an excuse and drive home.

 

And so the prospect of riding with a group of friends to an amusement park three hours away to be strapped into a rollercoaster is about as kryptonite as it gets. I am trapped and have made some promises that I have no confidence in my ability to keep.

 

But, like Superman, it was “up, up, and away” anyway.

 

A mere fifteen minutes after arriving at the park, I found myself being strapped into my first coaster. I doubt it made much noise, but in my head, the vest restraints coming down sounded something like prison bars slamming shut. I was surprised at my ability, despite the tight restraints, to adjust in my seat.

 

Deep breath. And we’re off.

 

The climb began and I look down to see my feet dangling. My anxiety is hitting the level that if I were a cartoon, a steam whistle would have been going off. We hit the top of that hill and gravity takes over. Loops, twists, falls, climbs, banks, and two minutes later the vest comes up and I’m done.

 

And you know the strange part? I had fun. My anxiety spiked and I had fun. Perhaps, eventually, I could do another. But not right away, right? Only an idiot would do a second coaster that quickly.

 

Ten minutes later I was being strapped into my second coaster. This time, my reaction was quite different. The vest restraint included a skin-tight vest that pinned the rider into the seat. The moment that was secured on me, my chest began hurting. The sensation felt like I was a pencil being shoved through a straw. I couldn’t breathe, and it took everything I had not to rip the thing off and just get as far away from every living thing as fast as I possibly could.

 

The ride started, and for the minute and a half I was riding the coaster, I didn’t think much of the restraints (and may or may not have had a little bit of fun, but I will never admit to that), but when the car came to a stop, it felt like I was waiting for hours while this vest tightened its grips on my body, threatening to pop my head like a cork. My anxiety was through the roof and I was utterly and entirely embarrassed. I came with a mission to conquer this monster and I failed.

 

I rode only two more rides my time there. One was one of those classic log drop rides where your thrown over a waterfall and get drenched just because its fun. The other was a swing that took you twelve stories in the air at a 100 degree angle and swings you to the other side at nearly seventy miles per hour. Both of these were exhilarating and exciting, but I knew my anxiety wasn’t really in a place to take much more of a beating. If I did much more, I didn’t know that I would even have been able to enjoy being around my friends anymore.

 

Anxiety, in that way, is like a loose change jar. You can fill it with as many quarters, nickels, and dimes as you can, but sometimes all it takes is a few pennies to make a dollar. I was about at ninety-nine cents and had no desire to cash-in.

 

Attacking the things that scare is all about taking that one step further than we thought we could. If you think you can only take one step, take two. If you don’t think you can take any, just take one. You’ll be further along than you ever imagined. The only person you ever have anything to prove to is yourself. How far do you think you can go in conquering your fear? Let’s take one step further together.

 

In all honesty, I don’t know that I would call my trip a success. I faced some demons and lived, but I feel like I let them get to me more than I would have liked. But here’s the rub: I can honestly say that I enjoyed spending time with people I care about despite the fact that they saw me have a panic attack. And I left with a chip on my shoulder. Next time, I can go just a bit further. And maybe it’ll be just one more step than last time. But I am completely over letting anxiety tell me what I can or can’t do, and what I should and shouldn’t do in my life. Next time, I’ll be ready. Next time, I’ll take one more step.

 

Next time, I’ll leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The Death of Superman: Best Superman Movie Yet?

by Drew Kiess

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The Death of Superman is the latest film in the DC Animated Universe directed by Sam Liu and Jake Castorena from a script from comics writer Peter Tomasi. The film stars Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, and Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor. The Death of Superman is the first part in a two-part release adapting the Death and Return of Superman story arc from Mike Carlin’s Superman writing team in the early 90s, with The Reign of the Supermen hitting stores next year.

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for any significant amount of time, you will know that I have been critical of many of the recent DC Animated releases. I think that one of the many benefits of this format for the DC characters is the ability to take a concept directly from page to screen. Recently however it would seem that these films are less interested in showcasing our heroes acting out the stories we all love and more interested in pushing them into adult-like scenarios, and I say adult-like because I don’t think there is anything remotely grownup about excessive blood splatters and fetishizing lesbianism (here’s looking at you, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay). Most of the time, these harder edged updates come across tacky and out of touch with the characters and quite possibly the fans. Many of these films have been written by veterans in the DC animated worlds, so the disconnect hasn’t made a ton of sense, but perhaps they’ve just run out of things to say about this world.

 

Enter Peter Tomasi.

 

For my money, Peter Tomasi is the best thing to happen to the DC Movies in quite some time. His recent run at the beginning of DC Rebirth on the Superman title (opposite of Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics) has ushered in one of the greatest eras in the character’s 80 year publication history. Being tasked to bring this story to life is no small task, as the book itself is marred in a messy continuity and is impenetrable to anyone who is not familiar with that era (why does Lex Luthor look like a troll doll? And who the heck are these superheroes?) Don’t get me wrong, I love that time period, but there are good reasons why it hasn’t quite been elevated to the status of The Dark Knight Returns like it probably should have been. It’s weird and is very much a product of its time.

 

Placing The Death of Superman within the Justice League War continuity makes the story much more accessible (Let’s be honest: Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash are much more popular than Thorn, Gangbuster and Guardian). Dropping the Superman-Doomsday fight into a world we recognize allows Tomasi to draw out Clark’s personality.

 

The best parts of this movie don’t involve Superman punching Doomsday (although that stuff is great), but involves Clark and Lois. Clark is struggling letting Lois in on the big secret. It’s an incredibly well written plotline that humanizes Superman and gives him a weakness that is much more relatable than an alien killing machine. When the titular event finally does happen (this isn’t a spoiler… we all know Doomsday wins), you feel the Lois’ loss.

 

And this emotional weight that doesn’t rely on shock, gore, or sex to make the film stand apart is actually what makes it stand apart. It is emotionally resonating, visually exciting, and well-written from start to finish, with so many references from Superman’s history that I lost count. This has everything I could have ever wanted from any Superman movie, be it animated or live action.

 

I said after seeing the Deluxe Edition of The Dark Knight Returns (DC’s other two-part release, re-released as one movie) that it was the greatest Batman film ever made. I think we could be on the precipice of the same thing being said by me about Superman films if the second half pays off (and we get a Deluxe Edition, which I am hoping that we do), because I think I just saw the first half of what could be one of my all-time favorite comic book films.

 

As it stands, this is clearly among the best, if it is not the best, DC Animated Universe movies sense the relaunch. It is nothing short of spectacular and I hope that this raises the bar for this studio on what it means to adapt these characters and these beloved stories. They can be updated and adapted with love and accuracy. And they can be done with excellence.

 

This one certainly was super.

 

Final Grade: A+

 

The Death of Superman is on Blu-Ray and DVD August 7th, 2018

Episode 118: Mario Robles

Episode 118 is now live! For a third time in recent months we welcome Mario Francisco Robles onto the podcast. Justin and Kyle sit down and chat the ongoing Henry Cavill situation and what that could mean going forward for “Man of Steel 2.” Additionally, the guys chat the recent news on #TheBatman and what Matt Reeves has in store not just for the script and story, but for the role of The Caped Crusader!

10 Years Later, The Dark Knight Still Matters

By Mark Hughes

1200x630bbAs we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Batman film “The Dark Knight,” most talk centers on the film’s status in the superhero film genre and the iconic performance by Heath Ledger. But it’s worth remembering the film’s powerful reflection of our national debate about balancing social fears and security with our individual liberties and right to privacy, amid the so-called “war on terror.” It remains one of the most socially relevant and resonant action films of the modern cinematic age, and even more so specifically within the superhero genre.

“The Dark Knight” is among a group of high-profile films forcing us to consider the sacrifices and conflicting ideals civil society must confront in an age of anxiety about domestic terrorist threats and loss of individual autonomy. “Prisoners,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Rendition” are among those spiritual siblings to “The Dark Knight,” representing literal or analogous depictions of the rising national security state apparatus and how it has changed our culture forever. The best of such films also include themes about technology becoming both an existential threat to, and instrument of expression for, our security and our liberty.

I recommend watching a movie paring of “The Dark Knight,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Prisoners,” and “Rendition.” Specifically, I’d suggest watching them in that precise order, to achieve maximum impact. These films take different yet comparable paths to examine many of the same or conflicting ideas about terrorism, torture, privacy, abuse of power, and the painful choices we make or refuse to make, depending on if and when a given moment allows us to transcend ourselves and serve a greater good.

Does the greater good require us to violate our ideals, or does it demand we double down on living up to them? Do we take the easy path, or the hard path, and where does that path lead and any given moment? What are we willing to give up, and what is too precious to sacrifice in the name of either safety or liberty? When does our principled idealism have to give way to the truth about mandatory compromises to save civil society and our ideals from those who use them as weapons against society itself? Is it noble or foolishly selfish to keep our own hands clean and wave the flag of idealism, rather than get our hands dirty doing things to protect society even if society will damn us for it later?

These and many more questions are posited in each of the films I recommend you watch for this marathon on the anniversary of “The Dark Knight”’s release. And I hope everyone will participate in such a marathon viewing, to remind us all that these questions have not faded or lost relevance, even a decade later. Indeed, the relevance grows ever more obvious, and cinema has always been a great way for our society to confront our inner demons and major issues of the day together, in a church of pop culture where ugly truths and painful questions can be vocalized and portrayed in ways inviting us to let our guard down, internalize the themes and messages, and walk away willing to face the questions directly, with new insights and understanding of different perspectives.

Today, our nation faces a renewed crisis of conscience and existential threats to the very survival of civil society and democracy, if not eventually the survival of the world itself. The threat of terrorism was and remains very real, but larger threats have conspired and aligned against us both domestically and externally. So we cannot ignore the renewed importance of our debate about how we prevent and fight terrorism, without losing our fundamental liberties to authoritarians abusing those national security considerations as a means to grab power and undermine democracy.

It’s a testament to the power of cinema that it can play a significant role in how we visualize, consider, and ultimately address the most troubling questions about what sort of future we want for our country. “The Dark Knight” is one of several superhero movies proving comic book films are a valid part of artistic expression relevant to our national dialogue about who we are as a people, particularly with regard to waging war at home and abroad in the post-9/11 age.

The impotent cry of “keep politics out of superhero comics/movies” from certain corners of fandom is transparently absurd at face value, since of course comics have always been political and some of the greatest comic book stories are great precisely because of their social commentary and political relevance. Such is the case for superhero movies, and “The Dark Knight” proves it perhaps better than any other example from the genre. No reasonable viewer could watch “The Dark Knight” and fail to recognize its social and political relevance. How you interpret it is of course dependent on what you bring to the experience and how you perceive the world, but it’s also possible to interpret the film contrary to your own views, or to glimpse morally ambiguity within the story as well.

“The Dark Knight” might conform to your own views, or it might conflict with them, or it might conform to them in some ways while conflicting with them in others. Or it might all seem ambiguous and uncertain, the lessons hard to describe as either intentionally righteous or flawed and doomed to fail. What you get out of it can be radically different, even while certain aspects of the film have an element of objective truth to them, simply serving as mile-markers of sorts to keep our moral and intellectual journey honest.

It’s great when a superhero film entertains. It’s even better when a superhero film entertains and also informs. But it’s perhaps best when a superhero film entertains precisely because of how it informs. “The Dark Knight” is a terrific example of the latter, a film that is thrilling and transcendent because of how it informs us, how it challenges us, and how it makes us realize this caped crusader, this masked vigilante, this Batman, is a truer reflection of us and our world than we ever realized.

Happy anniversary, “The Dark Knight.” Of all the praise I could give you, I think the best is this: you mattered, and you matter even more today.