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Movie Review: The Hate U Give

the hate u give posterThe Hate U Give is a blistering indictment of cyclical violence and cyclical poverty, while delivering a star making performance by its main cast. Adapted from the popular novel, the title is taken from a Tupac lyric: T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E is an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F#*&$ Everybody.”

And it is this message that is carried throughout this film’s social conscience. A never-ending spiral of violence falls down on the next generation, and continues old wounds and old wars.

So how do we solve it?

Enter our star, appropriately named Starr (Amandla Stenberg). The film opens with her and her brother as young children being give “The Talk” by their black-panther-inspired father. This is “the talk” that black parents need to have with their children about how to interact with the police warning them that if they do not comply and act exactly a certain way they may end up dead.

She lives her life in two worlds. One is at her tony private school across town, where she is one of the only black students. She does not use street slang, she can’t be aggressive, she doesn’t quote rap lyrics, because she doesn’t want to give any of the students any reason to believe that she is an angry or threatening black person. She has a white boyfriend, who cutely tries to use this lingo on her, which is almost endearing but also very cringe-worthy– likely intentionally so.

Starr’s other world is at home in her neighborhood. She is free to love her sneakers and Hip-Hop and talk anyway she wants. She also faces violence and drugs regularly.

The opening scene foreshadows an incident not long into the film where Starr and a childhood friend are pulled over by the police and he is murdered when he goes to reach for a comb and the officer believes it is gun. Starr is then thrust unintentionally into a very rough position.

The strong culture of silence when violence happens– not snitching to the police, even when the police are, ironically, the perpetrators– in order to cover for the local drug dealers and other people in power. One of the most powerful, King, is played by Anthony Mackie, who gives possibly the best performance in this film and one of the best of his career. He is charming and strong. You can see why he is powerful just based on his charisma. On the other hand, every word he says is backed by muscle and guns. And despite a history between him and Starr’s father, he doesn’t want her to speak up against police violence, because her friend was one of his dealers.

Of course, this is the headline in most of the major media. Young black kid gets shot for no reason, but he was a drug dealer, so what? It’s at this point where Starr is torn between speaking out or not. She feels the need to stand up for her friend and against the violence that plagues her community, but she also wants to retain her anonymity. She knows speaking out, especially publicly, will make her just another black victim in the eyes of her classmates, and also place a target on her and her family and their home. And while she navigates this ethical quandry, even in silence, she is exposed to the ways casual racism creeps into her interactions with her white friends at school. Some of them get upset when she starts talking more about social justice or police brutality (sound like any #Comicsgate people we know?)

Her story is in a sense a superhero origin story. And her voice and her opinion is her superpower. There is a moment late in the film where she confronts police violence threatening to turn a peaceful protest into a riot, and she stands up for what she believes in. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes on film this year — almost like the No Man’s Land scene from Wonder Woman in terms of a hero taking up her mantle and finding her place in the universe — and the only downside is that everyone who truly needs to see this film never will.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but this is a better film than A Star is Born, and most of the other Oscarbait that we are about to see. The performances are crisp. The script is tight. And even despite an ending that was maybe a little bit too pat, it was also harrowing and you really get a sense of how easily things could have turned out tragically.

We see this tragedy too often played out in real life. Or perhaps, we don’t see it because of the pervasive invisibility of violence in communities of color, which is often treated with a condescending tone as though it is some moral failing of the victims of crime and oppression.

This film reveals the not-so-invisible hands that oppress everyone. It has everything to do with who’s getting rich off of the system, and also a media complicit in telling the same stories over and over that contribute to white supremacy.

This is a fantastic film, and worthy of both your attention and your heart space. If you can’t see it in the theater, make sure you see it in some other way, streaming or at home, before awards season. If this doesn’t end up with several Golden Globe and Oscar, etc nominations, we also have a broken, racist awards system.

4 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Halloween

halloween-poster-2018This sequel to the original Halloween pretends its sequels never happened, and, upon jettisoning four decades of history, brings us the best reinvention of the story of Michael Myers ever. Finally, we have a worthy sequel to the film that helped define the slasher genre.

While this is almost a cliche, the best way to describe this film is “all killer, no filler.” Indeed, including flashbacks to the original film, you go nary 15 minutes in this film without someone getting brutally murdered by Michael Myers.

The film plays very close to the structure of the original: Michael Myers, in an asylum, nearing the anniversary of his murders, is visited by two real-crime podcasters (how very 2018!) who want to interview him ahead of his transfer to another facility.

His doctor introduces them, and they go about further investigating the murders that happened 40 years ago, including an interview with a fairly off-kilter and paranoid Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) the sole survivor of Myers’ previous spree. Just like the original, our monster breaks out during the transfer and returns to his hometown to go on a murder spree.

The only difference is, this time Laurie has been preparing for 40 years for this very moment. In some of the film’s best parts, and a supreme twist of fate, Myers becomes the hunted and she becomes the hunter. And this is where the film becomes wholly different and its own thing.

She is joined in this with both her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who have varying degrees of tolerance for their mother/grandmother’s nuttery. To be fair, the elder Strode very much seems to have gone off the deep end, and hearing that Myers is back confirms all of her fears and preparation as realism, not paranoia.

The best surprise of the film is having this Trinity of three generations of strong women uniting to fight this unstoppable evil. It takes the first film’s rumination on purity and power and makes it a culturally relevant feminist coup de grace for today. The Strode women, divided by generations and outlooks on the world, when united are the only force that even comes close to counteracting Myers.

The other great surprise of the film is just how funny it is. Screenwriter Danny McBride and screenwriter/directorDavid Gordon Greenwho are normally more adept at stoner comedy (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, Eastbound and Down) put some really amazing touches on here to help break the tension. While the film is all killer, no filler, in between the kills we often get moments of levity that help set up the characters who are about to die gruesome deaths at the hands of Michael Myers and the stakes of the next phase of murder sprees.

Yes, it’s also extremely brutal. This film earns its R rating with some truly gross special effects that we haven’t seen outside of a Troma film in a long while. Also, apparently in this universe blood spurts very very very loudly! There are also a few moments involving impaling, or people’s heads being smashed in, that are on full display here. Horror and slasher fans will be delighted.

Again, it’s almost played for comical effect, and helps lighten the tone of what would otherwise be so dark and depressing. But the film never enters into camp, always staying on the right side of the slasher genre. While it knows that some of the campy elements are necessary, it keeps its funny parts funny and violent parts brutal.

The other great thing about this film is it does not present a great barrier to anyone who has never seen a Halloween film before. It sets up its universe extremely well and establishes its characters even without knowledge of the previous material. However, for die-hard true fans there are a lot of nods to the original that make you feel right at home. This also includes a return of the iconic John Carpenter score, which is as effective now as it was four decades ago.

Fans will eat this film up, and general audiences will likely have a good time as well, though maybe not as good of a time as the core audience. In this way it’s very much like the films in the Marvel franchise where there is a definite fanbase who will enjoy the film at a different level, but there is a strong mass appeal as well as a low bar for entry.

This is not only a great Halloween film, it is a great film for Halloween time. The slasher movie is a tried-and-true staple of the horror genre and especially popular this time of year. Audiences will find the tricks and treats that they so desire here and will be thoroughly satisfied.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Detective Pikachu Gets an Official Synopsis

The world of Pokémon comes to life! Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the first live-action film base on the Pokémon franchise. Beingreleased May 10, 2019, the Warner Bros. Pictures film stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu, with Ken WatanabeJustice Smith, and Kathryn Newton in live-action roles and directed by Rob Letterman and written by Nicole Perlman.

We also now know what the film is about!

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world— they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu also stars Justice Smith as Tim; Kathryn Newton as Lucy, a junior reporter following her first big story; and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe  as Lt. Yoshida.

Directed by Rob Letterman, the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu creative filmmaking team includes two-time Oscar nominated director of photography John Mathieson, production designer Nigel Phelps and Oscar-winning editor Mark Sanger. Visual effects are by Moving Picture Company and Framestore.

Movie Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

bad times poster largeBad Times at the El Royale might tread some familiar territory, but it’s also not like anything we’ve quite seen before. Much like director and writer Drew Goddard’s previous film, Cabin in the Woods, this is both an homage and new classic in the canon of “strangers meet at a hotel” noir thrillers.

The basic story is quite simple, and don’t let anyone spoil any more than this for you. Four strangers check in to the El Royale Hotel which sits on the border between California and Nevada, with half of the motel in each state. The old place has seen better times, once the hay day of licentiousness in 1960s Rat Pack Nevada, it has now, for one reason or another, fallen into disarray and ill repute. However, these four strangers, a priest played by Jeff Bridges, a singer played by Cynthia Erivo, a vacuum salesman played by Jon Hamm, and a California hippie played by Dakota Johnson, all check in one fateful afternoon. Each has a secret, or multiple secrets, as does the hotel itself. And wackiness ensues.

The film also includes great turns by a supporting cast that includes Chris Hemsworth, who reunites with Goddard after Cabin in the Woods as a would-be Manson family/cult leader, and also a brief any-shorter-and-it-would-have-been-a-cameo appearance by Nick Offerman. A lot of the hotel’s secrets are also held by the El Royale’s only staff person, played by Lewis Pullman, who has a bunch of secrets of his own.

One of the best things about the film is its structure, revealing the backstories of each of our main characters one-at-a-time as it explores them in their individual hotel rooms, identifying them by their rooms (Room 4, Room 5, Room 1) rather than their names. It’s the setting-as-character basics that make an atmospheric film like this so much fun, especially as it relies on a late 60’s R&B heavy soundtrack to establish its feel. And, oh my gosh, that soundtrack. In this way — its structure and reliance on soundtrack — it’s easy to make comparisons to Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, this film bears a lot of resemblances to Tarantino’s own take on “strangers meet in a hotel” The Hateful Eight. But Bad Times at the El Royale is so much more, especially in shedding much of Tarantino’s problematic racial commentary/edginess for a better social conscience that is far more incisive. Royale also retains Goddard’s interest from Cabin in the Woods on themes like voyeurism and its counterpoint, paranoia about people watching you.

The film really rests on three main performances — Bridges, Erivo, and Hemsworth. Jeff Bridges for the last many years has been largely coasting, with most of his performances ranging mostly between mixes of his personas as The Dude and his Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Heart. Even his most compelling recent roles, such as in True Grit and Hell or High Water are really just mixes of those two. Finally in Bad Times at the El Royale we see him stretch his acting muscles and doing something wholly new and interesting.

And Hemsworth, known best for his blockbuster performances as a leading man does something wholly new and interesting. He’s beautiful and charismatic and menacing and quixotic and everything you expect a cult leader to be. What’s really interesting is he seems to be basing at least some of his vocal cadence and performance on the unlikeliest of people — Bill Murray. While that shouldn’t be in itself surprising since Murray also has straddled comedy, action, and serious drama extremely well, but it’s that he sounds just a little bit like Carl Spackler from Caddyshack. . . so he’s got that going for him.  You almost forget he’s in this movie, as he doesn’t really appear until the third act, and when he does he comes in like a heretofore unseen movie monster straight from the pits of hell. And yet, he also provides the explanation for a lot of what’s happening in the film thematically.

However, Erivo is the real star of the film as Darlene Sweet, whose singing performances provide both soundtrack and commentary to the film. Her singing literally has to carry several of the scenes and it is intense and soulful. This is a star-making performance and I can’t wait to see more of her in a few weeks in Widows. There is something to be said for the film’s commentary on race and expectations both in its late 1960s setting and today. [Minor spoilers for the first 10 minutes of the film, so skip if you must] Her reveal of her story and background are one of the most important. When she checks in, several comments are made by other characters that imply she is checking in to do sex work. She is dismissed. She is invisible. She is assumed to be less than she is.

Later, she provides some of the film’s best commentary as she skewers Hemsworth’s Billy Lee by deconstructing exactly who he is and what he is doing. Unbeknownst to her, she beats him at his own game, hoisting him on his own pseudo-intellectual/spiritual petard. She’s the center of the film, its Rosetta Stone to understanding it. And it’s a slamming indictment of racism both in the 60’s and today that we’re sort of tricked into a stealth lead role by a woman of color. Three white men top the bill for the film when she is, in fact, the key character. This says everything about the subtle ways white male supremacy clouds almost everything into a cultural landscape where black women are largely made to be invisible. There’s also a moment where she does this great character reveal that changes her appearance– and it says so much about (white) beauty standards and the expectations for women of color to change in order to pass in (white) society.

The film is violent and brutal. Even from its opening moments which provide some fairly shocking, and, in retrospect, amazingly aware, cinematography. There are moments in the film where the camera placement and shot composition is so on point. You could frame some of these images and put them on a wall, or composite them into a movie poster.

The script is also fairly smart, full of quippy dialogue that never seems to take itself quite so seriously. At times, the script seems to want to make a point about the nature of duality — Heaven and Hell, good and evil, California and Nevada — but it’s never quite as smart as maybe it thinks it is. However, I doubt Goddard ever meant for the script to be all that smart. While offering some imagery and symbolism, it doesn’t seem that there is any greater grand meaning or design behind any of it. While there is duality, Goddard isn’t really making any statements about the nature of Good and Evil, etc. It’s mostly just a fun thriller which is character-forward rather than symbolism-forward.

And while the visuals in the film and its methodological approach are beautiful and masterful, it’s also an incredibly slow burn. The only downside is that the film clocks in at 2 hours and 21 minutes, and it sometimes feels it. There were likely places that could have been cut from this, and it’s possible some of the material is just dealt with a little bit too preciously. Goddard seems to feel the need to let his cast really chew some scenery and have fun with the script, rather than push the film along. It’s very possible though that this is a feature, rather than a bug. It’s sort of like ordering the “cowboy” bone-in ribeye steak instead of the more basic cut. Yes, you have much more gristle and fat, but even though you won’t necessarily ingest those parts, they give you something flavorful to gnaw on that adds to the experience. So just make sure as you go in that you don’t order the largest soda or you have a steel bladder and are ready to sit through the entire run time.

This is one of the best films out there right now though. It’s a lot of fun if noir-thrillers strangers-in-a-hotel is your sort of movie. Well maybe not as good as Cabin in the Woods, it does offer some great thrills and is worth treating yourself to on a big screen so you can enjoy the visuals and colors as well as the performances by some great actors at the top of their game.

4.25 out of 5 stars

Where the Data Ranks 2018’s Comic Book Films. Over $5 Billion Worldwide

Comic film adaptations are big dollars and we track how they do each week to see trends and what’s working and what’s not.

Venom dropped just 55.5% and earned an estimated $35.7 million to bring its domestic earnings to $142.8 million. That’s impressive as everyone expected a drop of at least 60%+ based on past movie performances. It’s outperforming expectations in every way.

Internationally, the film was in first place as well adding an estimated $69.7 million from 54 markets. It has now earned $235.3 million. It next opens in Japan on November 2 and an opening in China hasn’t been determined yet. That’s a worldwide total of $378.1 million after two weeks on just a $100 million budget. The film is a success surviving poor reviews from critics.

With a budget of just $100 million, the film is already looking like it’ll be quite profitable and another success for Sony’s Spider-Man franchise which earn on average $318.8 million domestically, $488.4 million internationally, and $807.2 million worldwide. It’s about average when it comes to domestic vs. international earning averages for previous films and that’s without major markets opening. It should swing to heavily favoring international earnings once China opens. The film’s budget though is less than half the average Spider-Man film which average $209.5 million. So, the film needs to make far less to be as profitable.

Ant-Man and the Wasp came in at #26 for the weekend adding $90,00 to its domestic total to bring that to $216.5 million. Internationally the film gained about $400,000 million internationally over the week to bring that amount to $405.6. Worldwide the film has earned $622.1 million.

The film has not only passed the original domestically (both adjusted and not-adjusted for inflation) but it also has passed it internationally. The film should keeping adding dollars to its total for the next month and be somewhere above $100 million over the original when it’s all over. The sequel has a budget of about $32 million more than the original so it’ll need to that to even out profitability.

Deadpool 2 wasn’t on the chart for the weekend, but the film added about $1,000 to its domestic total. The film has earned $318.5 million domestically and $415.8 internationally for a worldwide total of $734.2 million. The sequel lags the original in every way and with a much higher budget, it’s unlikely it’ll be as profitable as the original. It is the second most successful “X” film domestically behind the original (not adjusted for inflation) and worldwide the film is in third place (again unadjusted).

Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther both gained some dollars. It’s unknown if this was actual gains or adjustments. Avengers: Infinity War added about $78,000 to its international earnings. Black Panther added about $3,000 internationally.

Here’s where this year’s comic films stand as far as the actual numbers.

Total Domestic Gross: $2.094 billion
Total International Gross: $3.110 billion
Worldwide Gross: $5.205 billion
Total Reported Budgets: $897.1 million
Total “Profit”: $4.283 billion

Average Domestic Gross: $261.8 million
Average International Gross: $388.8 million
Average: Worldwide Gross: $650.6 million
Average Budget: $128.2 million
Average Profit: $522.4 million

Below is where the films released stand when it comes to being compared to this year’s averages. Those in green are above average while those below are red.

Venom and A Star is Born Repeat at the Top of the Box Office

The top two spots at the weekend box office were a repeat from the previous week as Venom and A Star is Born went one-two again. Two new films, First Man and Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween followed at three and four.

Venom dropped just 55.5% and earned an estimated $35.7 million to bring its domestic earnings to $142.8 million. That’s impressive as everyone expected a drop of at least 60%+ based on past movie performances. It’s outperforming expectations in every way.

Internationally, the film was in first place as well adding an estimated $69.7 million from 54 markets. It has now earned $235.3 million. It next opens in Japan on November 2 and an opening in China hasn’t been determined yet. That’s a worldwide total of $378.1 million after two weeks on just a $100 million budget. The film is a success surviving poor reviews from critics.

In second was A Star is Born which added $28 million domestically, a drop of just 34.7%. It’s earned $94.2 million so far. The film also added $20.2 million from 65 markets overseas, a 14% drop from th previous week. Next weekend the film opens in Australia and then Japan after that on December 21.

In third place was First Man which debuted around expectations. The film earned $16.5 million over three days. The movie received a “B+” CinemaScore and currently has an 88% rating on RottenTomatoes. The film’s audiience was 56% male and 52% were 35 years of age or older. Internationally the film opened in 22 markets with an estimated $8.6 million for a worldwide total of $25.1 million.

With $16.2 million and fourth place was Goosebumps 2 which also met expectations. The film’s audience was split 50-50 and 72% under the age of 25. It received a “B” CinemaScore. The movie also debuted in 16 markets with an estimated $3.7 million.

Rounding out the top five was Smallfoot which dropped from third place the previous week. The film earned an estimated $9.3 million to bring its domestic total to $57.6 million. It also earned $14.5 million from 57 markets to bring its international earnings to $52.6 million.

When it comes to comic films…

Ant-Man and the Wasp came in at #26 for the weekend adding $90,00 to its domestic total to bring that to $216.5 million.

We’ll be back in an hour for a deeper dive into this year’s comic film adaptations.

Movie Review: First Man

firstmanposterFirst Man is a beautiful film celebrating the best in human achievement and brings drama and stakes to a story despite us knowing the ending. It still has some flaws, but its cast shines through and delivers a nostalgia blast of epic proportions as it tries its own moonshot of earning more Oscar gold for its director Damien Chazelle and main cast Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the eponymous First Man, and Clair Foy as his wife Janet.

The other shining star of this film is it supporting cast. This includes such mainstays as Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Ethan Embry, Ciaran Hinds, Shea Wigham, Patrick Fugit and Lukas Haas. It’s a cavalcade of “Oh, hey, I know that guy!” character actors doing their normal workmanlike best. But the true gem here is Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin. He’s everything that Armstrong is not in terms of being outward emotive, and even funny, and Stoll really relishes the part, having fun with every moment that you can.

Director Damien Chazelle here has two major moves. First he relies on the cinematography of the film to really offer some breathtaking emotions and empathy for what things were like for the early astronauts. Rather than the slick space-age feel of a lot of films about the era, Chazelle shows a lot of the dirt, grime, and machinery. We have so many other classic films that depict this era. Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff is still an amazing primer and still worthy of anyone’s attention even 35 years after it came out– focusing on the Mercury missions that predated the Gemini and Apollo programs. And Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 is an appropriate denouement for this film, as it shows what happens just less than a year later and everything that could have gone wrong that did not in the Apollo 11 mission. But the approaches could not be more different. Howard makes space feel slick and cool. Kaufman is a little more down and dirty, but less personal. Chazelle, by focusing so closely (literally) on his subject in these tight, confined spaces makes many of the films most intense moments feel claustrophobic and unsafe, even though you know the outcome of the film. Chezelle uses his camera lens to capture that feeling and put us as the audience as close to it as possible. We feel uncomfortable. We feel the tension.

His second trick is to emphasize the Man in First Man. Gosling is a character study as Neil Armstrong, with a sedate, understated tone that gives off a coldness, when we the audience recognize that underneath that placid surface is a turbulent whirlpool of emotion, barely held in check. While Gosling does an amazing job doing so much with so little, it is Claire Foy who really brings us in to the emotion of this piece. At once a master class in acting on her part, and also a commentary on the sacrifices forced on women in the era, and especially of these astronaut wives, she is able to show all of the heartbreak that we the audience feel. We empathize with her as her husband throws himself into his work and mission rather than putting his family first. His emotional compartmentalization takes a toll, and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

As I said in my review of Dunkirk last year, it’s important to note that whenever a filmmaker, especially one with the cache of a Chazelle or Christopher Nolan, at this time of greater cultural awareness decides to make a film with a mainly or even exclusively white and/or male cast, something needs to be investigated about that deliberate choice. Especially when the last film about the space program in this era was Hidden Figures, it’s social malpractice to not even note this. While I won’t go as far as The New Yorker’s claim that First Man is “accidental right wing fetish object,” it is still a story about white male heroism extolling a reserved, square-jawed version of masculinity that isn’t exactly toxic but isn’t exactly woke, either. However, to his credit, Chazelle is able to work with some of this and turn Foy’s and other women’s performances into a commentary on sexism and the gender politics of not only the 1960s, but also (reflectively) today.

On the racial bits, however there’s a bit more of a failure. One of the best bits of the film is as the Apollo missions are preparing, he cuts to some protests outside of Cape Kennedy, where we see people calling for the end of NASA and the moon mission, including a black man singing a song about how he doesn’t have a job or food to eat, but they’re putting white people on the moon. He has a point, and it’s important to note that whenever we tell a story like this that is primarily about white men, there needs to be space made as to why that choice was made. I’m not sure Chazelle really passes that bar here, but he certainly did a better job at it than Christopher Nolan did with Dunkirk. (low bar)

Regardless, the best thing you can say about a film that chronicles historical events, especially ones that are so well documented and remembered in recent history, that you feel a certain tension and anxiousness as events unfold, even though you know what is going to happen. That is the true testament of this film and why it works.

But the film doesn’t really reach its greatest heights until the very end. The scenes on the moon and the way they present it celebrate the majesty and greatness of the moment. It also has some specific personal payoff for Armstrong which will likely demand many audience members bring tissues. But perhaps its best moment is when it saves a key piece of space history into the mix. It is JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech:

It’s hard to listen to this without tearing up a little bit.

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?” (note: this was the most hilarious inadvertent laugh line in our Austin screening)

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

It’s hard to hear that, to understand the risk, the sacrifice that went into our space program, and not think about so many other societal issues that face us. Almost a decade ago I blogged about this same issue and the need to take climate change as seriously as Kennedy took going to the moon. And with the publishing of the new UN report on climate change, we now know we have even less time to avoid disastrous warming.

If you can put aside the gender and racial politics of First Man and take it as a story of everything we can and should be able to accomplish if we put the right resources into it, I hope we can take that hope that might be able to save humanity.

3.75 out of 5 stars

Constantine: City of Demons is Out Today and We’ve Got a New Clip

From executive producers David S. Gover and Greg Berlanti, The Hellblazer is back in an all-new twisted tale of mystery, intrigue and the occult with Constantine: City of Demons, a full-length, R-rated feature film based on the acclaimed DC animated series from CW Seed. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Blue Ribbon Content, and DC Entertainment, the action-packed movie will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment starting October 9, 2018 on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and Digital.

Constantine: City of Demons is available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack ($39.99 SRP) and Blu-ray Combo Pack ($24.98 SRP) as well as on Digital ($19.99 HD, $14.99 SD). The Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc featuring the film; the Blu-ray Combo Pack features the Blu-ray and DVD. The Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Combo Pack include a digital version of the film.

Constantine: City of Demons is rated R for bloody violence/gore, disturbing images, and some sexual content.

A decade after a tragic mistake, family man Chas and occult detective John Constantine set out to cure Chas’s daughter Trish from a mysterious supernatural coma. With the help of the mysterious Nightmare Nurse, the influential Queen of Angels, and brutal Aztec God Mictlantecuhtli, the pair just might have a chance at outsmarting the demon Beroul to save Trish’s soul. In a world of shadows and dark magic, not everything is what it seems, and there’s always a price to pay. The path to redemption is never easy, and if Constantine is to succeed, he must navigate through the dark urban underbelly of Los Angeles, outwit the most cunning spawns of hell, and come face to face with arch-nemesis Nergal – all while battling his own inner demons!

Constantine: City of Demons has been produced in a dual format – initially as animated shorts, the first five of which appeared on CW Seed. With a runtime of 90 minutes, the feature-length Constantine: City of Demons film has over an hour of never-before-seen content including the film’s thrilling climax.  

Doug Murphy (Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost) directs the film from a script by J.M. DeMatteis (Batman: Bad Blood). Art Direction is courtesy of Phil Bourassa (Young Justice). Butch Lukic (Justice League Action, Batman Unlimited) is the film’s producer. Sam Register and Sarah Schechter also serve as executive producers.

Matt Ryan, who set the standard for the role of Constantine on the NBC live-action television series, returns to the famed trenchcoat in animated form – after reprising the role in both live-action (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow) series and an animated film (Justice League Dark).

The cast surrounding Ryan includes Damian O’Hare (Hell on Wheels) as Chas Chandler, Laura Bailey (Critical Role) as Trish & Asa The Healer, Emily O’Brien (The Young and the Restless) as Rene Chandler, Kevin Michael Richardson (Family Guy) as Mahonin, Jim Meskimen (Parks and Recreation) as Beroul, Robin Atkin Downes (The Strain) as Nergal, Rachel Kimsey (Justice League Action) as Angela, and Rick Wasserman (Batman: The Killing Joke) as Mictlantecuhtli.

Enhanced Content

The Sorcerer’s Occultist – Understanding John Constantine – An exciting examination of the powers and abilities used by DC’s working-class occult detective, John Constantine.

Constantine: City of Demons WonderCon Panel – 2018 – Storytellers join City of Demons’ star Matt Ryan at this year’s WonderCon for an inside look at Constantine’s latest adventure.



Constantine: City of Demons will be available to own on Digital October 9, 2018. Digital purchase allows consumers to instantly stream and download all episodes to watch anywhere and anytime on their favorite devices.  Digital movies and TV shows are available from various digital retailers including Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and others. A Digital Copy is also included with the purchase of specially marked Blu-ray & 4K Ultra HD discs for redemption and cloud storage.

Disney’s Loss is Warner Bros. Gain as James Gunn Hops on Suicide Squad 2

Warner Bros. apparently doesn’t care about trolls as they’ve opened up their arms to James Gunn who will write and possibly direct the sequel to Suicide Squad.

Gunn was fired by Disney as trolls set their sites on the outspoken director over tasteless jokes he made about rape and pedophilia in the past. Gunn apologized and said he had grown as an individual. Disney caved to pressure firing him, though keeping other problematic individuals on staff both behind the scenes and starring. He had been working on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The film will reportedly still use his script.

Suicide Squad revolves around a group of supervillains recruited by the government in a Dirty Dozen type situation. The first film starred Will Smith and Margot Robbie and earned $746.8 million worldwide on a $175 million budget. Gunn’s sense of humor and action shown off in both Guardians of the Galaxy films can easily translate to the property. The property also allows reinvention and recreation with a rotating cast of characters which opens it up even more for Gunn to play with.

This isn’t the first director Warner Bros. has poached from Marvel Studios. Joss Whedon who was behind the first Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. worked on Justice League. Can we hope for a Joe Johnston directed Superman?

Dave Bautista who played Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and has voiced his displeasure over the firing has already said he wants to sign up for what comes next. Can you say the next Bane?

(via The Wrap)

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