What We Learned This Week: April 15-21

LESSON #1: LEAVE SOME THINGS TO MYSTERY— We’ve reached the final week of hype before Avengers: Infinity War.  The anticipation is peaking, but so are the dumb think pieces and click bait articles trying to capitalize on the upcoming premiere.  If I see another article asking where the Soul Stone is or a poll prognosticating which characters are most likely to die, it will be the umpteenth one and already too soon.  They reach badly, kind of like this one talking about world domination.  As I’ve preached before, let the film come to you.  Pull off the tin-foil hats.  Take a breath and soak it in.  Have some patience.  You’ve come this far.  Don’t ruin your good feelings with swimming too far into guessing games.  Start avoiding reviews after Sunday’s night’s Hollywood premiere and Tuesday evening’s press embargo.  I promise you will enjoy the big opening more with more mystery and less overstimulation.

LESSON #2: COMIC BOOK ACTORS ARE NOT SELLOUTS— Speaking of Avengers: Infinity WarGuardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana had the soapbox opportunity to clap back against the “elitists” out there that look down upon comic book films as comfort food trash and soulless acting.  Her full statements are absolutely outstanding and must-read.  She’s not the first to have this stance in the nearly two decades of this peak comic book film era.  More established and classical actors from comic book films, from Robert Redford and Kenneth Branagh to Patrick Stewart and Anthony Hopkins, have done this work for wonderful reasons like family connection, fan support, and as a door opener to more wider visibility and more opportunities.  Why would anyone frown upon someone who wants to have fun while making money or have something their children and grandchildren can see them in?  Those critical aren’t elite people anymore.  They are inflexible haters with lesser hearts.

LESSON #3: DUMB MOVIES DESERVE ROASTING AS LONG AS EVERYONE CAN KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT IT— I got a kick out of the story this week that Netflix finally got to return a little troll favor against popular scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  On more than one occasion, NDT has enjoyed tweeting and pinpointing the scientific inaccuracies of films. Armageddon was one of his favorite targets and it is now on Netflix.  For overly-committed fans of cheesy movies, Tyson’s commentary has been labeled as “ruining” by whiny uneducated fanboys.  I side with Tyson, though I enjoyed (see the article) the return rub of gamesmanship from Netflix.  Movies like Armageddon are stupefying when taken seriously, so I, for one, appreciate the extra level of shared smarts.  Good science fiction movies can make solid entertainment and still keep their science cred intact.  That said, if the enjoyment level is present (and it is most of the time for the Armageddon crowd), it’s OK to close the textbooks and kick back.  It’s good to see both sides laughing.  Halle Berry did it years ago when she accepted her Razzie in person.  Others can and should too.

LESSON #4: MOVIEPASS WAS DOOMED TO FAIL— Chalk this up in the “things that are too good to be true often are” column.  Business reports are auditors revealed that MoviePass has lost money for its parent company in the nine-figure department.  The original prediction was $7.4 million only to have that number balloon to over $150 million.  Good golly, that’s quite a haircut!  The company claims it can become profitable by 2019, but it will require seeking other forms of revenue, especially with another price drop shrinking the profit margin.  Good luck with that.  Current members, skip past wait-and-see and enjoy the service while you can.  You’re getting a heck of a deal.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

Episode 066: Spider-Man: Homecoming

This week we’re excited to be talking about our friendly neighborhood web-slinger and his triumphant return to Marvel storytelling control. Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun, fun, fun. We discuss new tech, getting the high school setting right, and who our favorite Spider-Man of the past 20 years is.

What We’ve Been Up To – 001:15

(Aaron –  Board Games/Pandemic Legacy: Season 1)
(Patrick – The 48-Hour Film Project)

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review – 0:23:59

The Connecting Point – 1:12:47

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder Woman

In the opening minutes of Wonder Woman, young Princess Diana (played by the precocious Lilly Aspell), bounds about the island of Themyscira with such a tireless enthusiasm, imitating lady warriors in training, channeling the energy of Wall Street’s Fearless Girl, defiant of rules and stereotypes.  Even as her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson), tries to subdue her daughter’s eagerness to place herself in precarious circumstances, we can tell that Diana is cut from a different cloth. This is an origin story untold on the big screen before now, and in a cinematic society weary of such redundancies, the coming of age of the would be Amazonian princess is welcome, and in so many ways, necessary.

For the past decade, Marvel Studios has coasted along on the coattails of a genuinely decent cinematic universe, wherein rival DC has limped along with luke warm to abysmal attempts post-Nolan at keeping up with the Jonses. Rabid fandom aside, DC has mostly earned the reputation of being the VH1 to Marvel’s MTV.  But credit where credit is due, DC is the first studio to test the theory that a female centered superhero film can stand alongside the glut of “fill in the blank”-man movies that have strong armed the studio’s purse strings for far to long.  Giving the reigns to a passionate, visionary filmmaker like Patty Jenkins was also the right thing to do. There is an undercurrent of authenticity to this film, as if it knows it carries an extra burden.  Fair or not, Wonder Woman needed to be more than entertaining.  

Wonder Woman needs to be examined on multiple fronts. As a superhero film, it’s decent, much in the way most of these genre films are.  There will be things that work and things that will not, but generally you will feel a sense of satisfaction when the credits start rolling.  And yet, Twitter trolls will spew nonsense, and fanboys will gather to defend. If you can block out that noise, you can expect an above average slice of blockbuster pie that isn’t without its flaws.

Comparisons can be made to Captain America: The First Avenger in both style and structure.  The pacing isn’t always a strength, and it does feel the full weight of the 141 minute run time as a result.  The film ultimately falls into familiar genre trappings, where CGI assumes command of a final battle between super-beings in a dark cacophony of sight and sound.  But enough good will has been earned by that point for me to forgive most of that.  It isn’t terrible, just familiar.  

As maligned as Producer Zack Snyder is with a lot of his creative choices, casting Gal Gadot is purely inspired.  She is perfect, and with no disrespect to Linda Carter, she is the Wonder Woman for all going forward.  Gadot brings so many layers of Diana Prince to life, portraying her with a fearless intensity that smacks of both strength and vulnerability. There is a grace and beauty to Diana, and yet her fierce sense of duty never wavers.  Between Gadot’s talent and Jenkins’ direction, Wonder Woman never strays down a path that could have cheapened it.

To that end, props to Chris Pine (as Captain Steve Trevor), who never oversells himself.  He seems to understand there is something bigger going on here, and his portrayal of Trevor never impedes on Gadot.  Pine shows range with the character- sometimes frustrated, confused, or downright angry- but he’s always respectful of Diana’s role within this world.  

All of the plot devices and technicalities of filmmaking aside, the success of Wonder Woman, at least for me, lies squarely on its ability to serve as a beacon for gender equality.  And I’m of the opinion (admittedly the opinion of one white bred, middle aged dude), that this film succeeds on that front.  Every time I started to get concerned the line might get crossed- when the male hero might be called upon to save the day- Jenkins and Gadot sidestep, making sure the focus stays on Diana as hero, keeping the male characters involved but at a respectable distance that never feels unnatural. 

To that end, we male critics can comment on the basics of storytelling, or on technical merit, or character development, but I don’t feel as if we have the right to pass judgement on this film based on our experience outside of those particular contexts. It isn’t our film, guys.  We can love it or hate, but what matters is the way it lands with women who find inspiration from the main character.  What matters are the women who have felt the brunt of misaligned gender politics and look to a simple film as a step in the right direction.  What matters are women who find courage and strength in a world that doesn’t often allow them to express those traits.  What matters are the multitudes of little girls who don the warrior princess’ outfit and walk away empowered, seeing themselves as equals, seeing themselves in the same context as their male peers who sport Iron Man and Captain America gear on Halloween.  It’s really the only thing that matters here, and it’s long overdue.