Tag Archives: Andy Serkis

Nuclear Family banner ad

Get a First Look at The Batman

As expected, DC Fandome delivered a first look at the highly anticipated The Batman from director Matt Reeves and actor Robert Pattinson. The film also stars Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, Paul Dano as Edward Nashton/The Riddler, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth, Peter Sarsgaard as District Attorney Gil Colson, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, and Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon.

In the segment, Reeves says the film takes place in “year two” and Batman is trying to figure out how to impact Gotham as the murder count increases and the corruption of the city becomes clearer. While the film isn’t the origin of Batman, it does touch upon his coming into the role as well as the origins of some of Gotham’s villains. Is that the Joker Gang we see?

Also revealed is the Gotham television series will be more of a “year one” as Batman emerges. It’ll explore new areas and more of Gotham along with new characters.

Venom 2 Gets a New Release Date and a Title

Carnage

Sony Pictures has announced that Venom 2 will come to theaters on June 25, 2021. That’s the date originally held by The Batman which moved to October 1, 2021. The sequel to Venom was originally to be released on October 2, 2020.

We also get the news that the sequel has an official title, Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

Andy Serkis is directing the Venom sequel, which sees Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Woody Harrelson reprising their roles of Eddie Brock, Anne Weying, and Cletus Kasady. Naomie Harris will be playing Shriek.

“Let There Be Carnage” is a reference to the character Carnage, another symbiote who bonds with Cletus Kasady, played by Harrelson. The character is an unrepentant serial killer with no morality. Kasady was created by David Michelinie and artist Erik Larsen, the character first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #344.

Harrelson briefly appeared in 2018’s Venom in a mid-credits scene teasing the character’s debut in a sequel.

Venom earned $213.5 million domestically, $642.6 million internationally, and a little over $856 million worldwide.

Andy Serkis to Direct Venom 2

The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive that Andy Serkis will be directing Venom 2. Serkis seemingly confirmed the news on Twitter. Tom Hardy will return in the title roles of the Marvel Comics characters Eddie Brock and Venom.

Venom earned $213.5 million domestically, $642.6 million internationally for a worldwide total of just shy of $856.1 million. It was the 13th highest-grossing film of 2018 domestically and 7th highest-grossing worldwide.

This will be Serkis’ third directorial gig after 2017’s Breath and 2018’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, which ended up on Netflix after being made at Warner Bros.

Serkis rose to fame through his motion-capture work such as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also was part of the second unit directing with the Hobbit trilogy. Serkis was Klaw in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, so he’s already been part of the Marvel family. Though Venom is with Sony, Spider-Man’s last two films have been joint ventures between Sony and Marvel.

Kelly Marcel wrote the script for Venom 2. It’s expected that Woody Harrelson will also be part of the film after he was teased at the end of Venom as Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage, a villain of the character as well as Spider-Man.

Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster Join Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard

Fox‘s adaptation of Mouse Guard has found its leads in Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. The film is being directed by Wes Ball.

Mouse Guard is based on the graphic novels by David Petersen and set in a medieval world where mice are warriors that protect the realm. Think a fantasy story with mice as the knights and foxes, eagles, other rodents as the enemies. The comic series published by BOOM! Studios imprint Archaia as won two Eisner awards.

The movie will be motion capture and is expected to begin production in May.

Movie Review: Black Panther

Lets get this out of the way, Marvel films are rather formulaic. We get the origin of the hero in the first third of the film, the second third is the set up where they are beaten down, then the last third turns into a fist fight. This is generally what we can expect and as more films are released, that formula grows a bit old. So, the question is, with each new release, can Marvel Studios deliver enough “new” to keep the audience engaged and interested. Black Panther delivers a lot new and then some, though suffers in that last third due to the formula.

The story is a bit James Bond as Black Panther must bring to justice a man who stole the country’s precious Vibranium decades earlier. Cool gadgets are plenty as illegal deals are attempted to be broken up all as we learn more about these cast of characters.

While we know some of Black Panther and the Dora Milaje (his elite bodyguards/warriors) from Captain America: Civil War where they debuted, the world of Wakanda is mainly unknown and this film is far more than the few that debuted in what seems forever ago. In a sense, this is an origin story like so many other Marvel Studios releases as T’Challa takes up the mantle of King as well as Black Panther. But, where Black Panther stands heads and above what’s come before is how it does that origin story and it’s focus on not just one man.

Played by Chadwick Boseman, T’Challa is conservative in many ways. There’s not as much ego or brashness, instead Boseman plays the character as the leader of a nation but also one who is clearly learning. He doesn’t go it alone or “have to learn,” he seeks council and relies on those around him. This is a very different superhero and the movie does an excellent job of recognizing that. Where it really stands out from those before is the supporting cast which is large and in charge. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Letitia Wright as Shuri, it’s the women (especially the Dora Milaje) who steal the show. Wonder Woman showed us kick-ass women, this film takes it to the next level in so many ways. And, while they definitely kicked ass, their presences was a statement too. The Dora Milaje are not one size fits all. While all members are athletic, the heights, build, and skin tone differ for each. While I expected a general uniform look (something more like the Amazons in Wonder Woman), I was surprised at the vast differences. In one scene in particular one rather tall member is next to a shorter member and I can only think this was done on purpose to emphasize this. Wright especially stands out for her enthusiasm and Q like character. She delivers the tech that makes Black Panther (and Wakanda) function. As T’Challa’s sister, there’s also a healthy relationship that feels fresh and like it’s been missing from movie screens.

But, it’s not just the young brilliant and kick-ass women who add to the film. Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Forest Whitaker as Zuri add a gravitas in a way and feel like they’re passing the baton to a new generation of Black actors.

But, what is a Marvel film without its villains? Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger step into those roles in what may be the best Marvel villains to date. We’ve seen Serkis’ briefly in a previous Marvel film, but here he’s able to amp up the sleaze to the next level both having fun with it all and making the audience feel dirty. But, it’s Jordan’s Killmonger that delivers a character that’s complicated at at times sympathetic. It’s difficult to truly dissect everything without spoilers but he’s an American whose goal is to take over the throne of Wakanda. His Western Imperialism embodied but one whose past and history makes him sympathetic.

And that complicated nature is what also makes Black Panther stand out as one of Marvel’s best films. This is a film, that in numerous scenes, debates the isolationist policy of Wakanda. It debates how this wealthy African nation leaves other nations and specifically Black individuals to suffer. While it prospers it does not provide aid, instead pretending it too is a Third World Nation. It directly addresses the concept of Black individuals “making it” then leaving others, the debate about supporting one’s own community. While the film takes place in Wakanda, it’s a debate that’s had right here in American communities, about supporting Black owned businesses or creators. It’s that sort of layering and detail that again makes the film stand out and the films’ writers Ryan Coogler (who also directed) and Joe Robert Cole deserve accolades for that.

Coogler’s direction, while good, falls a bit short of my expectations. Coogler is known for Fruitvale Station and Creed (both starring Michael B. Jordan). When it comes to direction, both of those films surpass Black Panther. But, visually, the film is amazing delivering us something that would make Jack Kirby cry. This is Afrofuturism on screen and through all the wonders of the city, when we get to the streets it feels lived in and real. Visually the film is stunning and you do see Coogler’s touches with small looks and moments that create a story that feels natural and how individuals actually interact.

As I said, the film does stumble a bit towards the end with a typical battle that has become standard in Marvel Studio films. This one feels like a bit of escalation with the amount of individuals involved so it does shake things up in some ways. It’s not just the usual hero fighting bad guy. But, the film does stumble in typical Marvel fashion. If it had come out earlier, before the pattern of stories was clear, this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue. But, the pattern and formula is pretty clear now.

Black Panther feels fresh though. The women steal the show. The first 2/3s feels more like a James Bond film than typical superhero movie, and there’s a healthy dose of exploring real world issues. There’s an enthusiasm and enough freshness about the film to make it stand out from the pack as one of Marvel’s best. The fact that everyone on screen doesn’t look like me is a large portion of that. Hopefully the film is as much of a success as I expect it to be and we see much more of this to come.

Overall Rating: 8.75

11 Things to Check Out Before Black Panther

The hype is strong out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s newest addition — and not without reason. While I am prohibited from revealing major plot points or spoilers from Black Pantherwhat I would like to provide is a sort of guide to what you’re getting into. Think of it like a wine and cheese pairing list to prepare your appetite before you go into see this next film.

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron / Captain America: Civil War.

The second one may seem obvious — it was the first time we saw Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa on screen, and it tells us at least a little bit about his home country of Wakanda. But we’re also introduced for the first time to Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, who shows up a lot in Black Panther. 

But many of us will have forgotten (or tried to forget?) that Andy Serkis showed up for about 10 minutes in Age of Ultron as Ullyses Klaue, a South African arms dealer who stole vibranium from Wakanda, which Ultron then took from Klaue, along with a sizeable portion of his arm. This becomes important, so it’s worth revisiting at least that scene from Age of Ultron, and then watching Civil War, because Civil War is just so. dang. good.

It’s also worth noting T’Challa’s character arc in the film, especially as it relates to him being on Team Iron Man. In Black Panther, we’re treated to seeing just how much he respects international law and being subject to the Sokovia Accords. . . which is not at all, as we first see him in the film running an operation outside of Wakanda’s borders to rescue a colleague.

Also, note the final scenes he’s in with Zemo, and with Cap and Bucky in Wakanda. Boseman’s character work and scripting is excellent here, and this carries over into our film here.

Oh, and anyone who felt teased by this scene where a Dora Milaje is about to throw down with Black Widow?

“As entertaining as that would be. . .” Well, we get that entertainment in Black Panther. And the wait is worth it.

2. An Encomium To The Black Experience: Why I Am Excited To See Black Panther

This article by our own Troy Powell is a must-read. This is an incredibly thoughtful take on why Black Panther’s vision of afro-futurism is refreshing and exciting. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

3. Fruitvale Station and Creed

Director Ryan Coogler‘s career so far has been pretty well entangled with that of actor Michael B. Jordan and it’s great to see Jordan stretch his wings as the villain of Black Panther, Eric Killmonger. The MCU has often been faulted for relatively weak on-screen villains, but Killmonger is a rare exception.

To see their first collaboration, go back to Coogler’s first film, Fruitvale Station, which he both wrote and directed. It tells the true story of Oscar Grant who was shot by a San Francisco Transit Officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. It’s a heartbreaking story of hope and tragedy, and a film which I first reviewed as being “the best and most important film of 2013 that everyone who truly needs to see it never will.”

Coogler followed this up with the most unlikely of films– the Rocky franchise reboot/sequel Creed, also starring Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed who seeks out the aging champ Balboa to train him. The single shot of the young Creed’s first fight is such a masterwork of filmmaking it’s worth the price of admission alone.

You add onto that really brilliant character work and an intense understanding of the franchise, and you can understand why Coogler was a great choice to take on the MCU. Coogler grows as a visual director, and it’s great to see his growth from a low budget film to a medium budget studio film to using Disney/Marvel money.

4. That Kendrick Lamar soundtrack

black panther soundtrackAnother common complaint about the MCU is lack of memorable music. And especially where the films have tried to pair up with popular music, results have been. . .  mixed. Yes, I love hearing Foo Fighters play Walk in the bar in Thor (and over the credits), but it doesn’t quite mesh with the film overall. And then you have Soundgarden playing some nonsense over the credits to The Avengers — in my mind, the only problem with that film at all. They should’ve just licensed a good Soundgarden song and called it good. (How much better — and more fitting — would “Rusty Cage” have been there?)

But from the moment we heard a hip hop sample of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the first trailer for Black Panther, we knew we were getting something different.

You can listen to the album streaming on Spotify here and now.

5. A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

a nation under our feet 1

While this current run on Black Panther may not have a lot to do with the movie from a narrative or character standpoint, it shares something incredibly important which is a social commentary. Coates’ opening run on Black Panther may have been set in Wakanda and been about the politics of Wakanda, but it wasn’t hard to see parallels to our current political situation in the US.

This is completely true of the film as well. It’s also clear that Coogler and Coates are of similar minds about presenting a critique of colonialism (and our current neo-colonialist attitudes towards Africa). Our film also hits hard on the oppression faced by black Americans, a struggle Coates has written on extensively and which finds itself woven into the philosophical discussions of A Nation Under Our Feet.

Beyond that, the basic premise of this run is whether T’Challa and Wakanda have some duty to the larger world or only to their country and their throne. That resonates thematically with T’Challa’s growth in the film. It’s also paced similarly– with lots of dialogue and character and less action.

Please also check out our video review of this on Facebook.

On a side note, a quick shout out to one of my favorite podcasts, Funnybooks and Firewater, which covers comics and offers drinking games and custom cocktails to go with your reading. They covered this a few weeks ago, and if you ever wanted to hear four white guys from Utah and California struggle with their privilege and talk about why they love this book so much, this is worth a listen. Also, they’re currently halfway through Watchmen and inching up on their 100th episode, so check them out.

6. Black Panther by Christopher Priest

h/t to my colleague Jon Carroll, who recommended this to me. Starting in his 1998 run on Black Panther, Christopher Priest introduced the Dora Milaje and the character of Everett Ross, whom we see a lot of in this film.

7. Static Shock

Speaking of Christopher Priest, it’s worth mentioning and recommending Static Shock, which he co-created with Dwayne McDuffie (Rest in Power– we miss you still), Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, and Michael Davis.

For kids of a certain age who will remember this fondly from the Kids WB lineup of cartoons, this was simply the height of early 00’s superhero awesomeness. It was also important to remember how groundbreaking this was at the time to have a superhero show led by a young black hero. Sure, Storm had been on the X-Men cartoon, but only as a part of a team that also included a fuzzy purple demon.

But this was the impetus for creating the character in the first place– greater representation and diversity in the world of comics and tv. Here’s hoping we also see more of him with the upcoming Young Justice continuation on Netflix as his inclusion was a highlight of Season 2.

8. Blade II 

Yes, for all the hype about this being the first time we’ve had a black comic book superhero in a big budget Hollywood movie, we’ve forgotten that Blade was a Marvel comics character before Wesley Snipes took on the role. However, in my opinion, the first film was good, not great. But Blade II is the far superior film.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, contender for Best Director this year for The Shape of Water, we get Blade teaming up with a vampire clan to take out the Reapers, new creatures that feed on vampires. This also reunites Del Toro with Ron Perlman from their previous work on Cronos, but perhaps more importantly, set up Del Toro and Perlman to make Hellboy. 

The major difference between the Blade movies and Black Panther? It’s missing a broader social conscience. This is something the Blade franchise always seemed to approach but never quite executed on, using vampires as stand-ins for parasitic and oppressive capitalism and the resulting income inequality. You can read that into the first two Blade movies (we dare not speak about the third one), but it isn’t quite there in the same way Black Panther wears its social commentary on its sleeve.

Some have suggested along with Blade, I should also recommend Spawn, which also starred a black superhero. But then I would be recommending Spawn. And I just can’t bring myself to do that. The Summer of 1997 was very cruel to comic books at the movies. I’m still not sure what is the bigger ignominy– nipples on the batsuit or the entirety of Spawn. 

9. Ultimates II

A Marvel animated film based off the second arc of The Ultimates, or the comics themselves, in which the Ultimate Universe versions of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which became a sort of meta-blueprint for a lot of the MCU) enter Wakanda and meet Black Panther.

10. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Because one good cartoon deserves another, this cartoon series for some reason met an early death after only two seasons despite some amazing work. Klaue shows up fairly early, and T’Challa shows himself the equal or superior of all of our Avengers.

11. Luke Cage and Black Lightning

Last but certainly not least, these are great tv shows, and certainly Luke Cage is set in the same universe. But I didn’t want to just fall into a trap of just listing every superhero adaptation with a black protagonist. What sets these apart is a clear connection with a strong social commentary on what it is to be black in America right now. It should go without saying that if you aren’t watching Black Lightning every week on the CW, you should be. And if you somehow skipped Luke Cage on Netflix, it’s a good time to catch up, especially before the next season of Jessica Jones comes out in a few weeks.

 

Well, there we go. While certainly not an exhaustive list, this should help you as you wait patiently to see this film later this week.

Did I miss anything? Have a favorite Black Panther tie-in? Leave it in the comments section. Wakanda Forever.

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

Somebody get Andy Serkis an Oscar, stat. And possibly Woody Harrelson. Then get ready to think deep thoughts about what it means to be human, to feel all the strong feelings you can think of, and to watch one hell of a summer action movie.

War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the few third films in a trilogy that in no way disappoints. It is, in some ways, the best of the three. It’s the strange summer blockbuster that doesn’t skimp on the action but still manages to leave us deeply pondering our own existence.

The new film ends only a few years after the close of the last film. Caesar (Serkis as the masterful CGI-mocap ape creation) is considering leading his people out of their home in the woods north of San Francisco to a new promised land. (They lay on the Moses symbolism pretty heavily). far away from the humans whose soldiers continue to lead attacks against them.

Their leader is The Colonel (Harrelson) whose soldiers form a squad (really more of a cult) called Alpha-Omega.  Their attacks on the apes are not without purpose, as we learn (slowly, deliberately) the Colonel’s tragic backstory and why they believe they are fighting for their lives. As part of this, they end up enslaving most of Caesar’s people and force them to build a giant wall around their base, setting up a final act that is mostly a prison break.

There is a battle of wills between Caesar and The Colonel, and an internal ethical struggle they both face on the brink of extinction. How far will I go? To see revenge? To protect my people? They are perfect foils for one another and especially amazing performances given that Harrelson and Serkis are playing off each other with one of them in a mocap suit.

But one of the best parts of the film is one of the new characters– a former zoo chimp who calls himself Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who dresses in human clothes and adds very needed comic relief to a very otherwise heavy, dense narrative.

And for those who missed the first two films? Everything you need to know is told in a couple of title cards at the opening. You’d be fine walking into this completely unaware of any of the other films — a true rarity for a franchise film such as this.

Perhaps even more spectacular, there are numerous nods, references, homages, and Easter Eggs to the other films in the series. Fans will get payoff in ways the rest of the audience won’t quite grasp, but it never feels like fanservice or like anyone is left out.

In short– it’s the perfect film no matter how familiar you are with the Apes universe.

Speaking of homages, they are almost too numerous to mention. But needless to say that the fact that Harrelson is playing a Colonel should not be lost on anyone, as the second half of the film could basically be described as Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now running the prison camp in The Great Escape. Having mentioned the heavy Moses symbolism, this also draws heavily from both the Old Testament story and The Ten Commandments as there is a definite Charlton Heston vs. Yul Brenner level of gravitas in the interplay between our two lead characters.

There is also a surprising amount of prescient social commentary in the film. The fact that the humans are trying to build a wall should not be lost on anyone and may, perhaps, date the film a little bit. The Colonel plays the best on-screen fascist in a big budget Hollywood film since Domhnall Gleeson yelled at stormtroopers in The Force Awakens. So the commentary hits home, if a bit on the nose. But if you take it as a human instinct to desperately and futilely build walls in order to protect ourselves from forces beyond our control, the commentary lands a little more softly.

But, regardless of politics, it should inspire all of us to consider how desperation and grief lead us to make decisions opposed to our morals.

It bears considering, however, in a world filled with CGI apes that the film still can’t manage to pass the Bechdel Test. One can even bring the claim that female characters are “refrigerator-ed” to provide reason for the male characters to act. This was a trap the second apes film managed to avoid with stellar performances by Judy Greer and Keri Russell that did not transfer over to this final chapter. A lone ray of hope here is the continued stellar work by Karin Konoval as Maurice the orangutan, who continues to act as Caesar’s conscience. While tropey (and it should be mentioned Maurice is apparently canonically male, which is why the film fails Bechdel) her performance here is so excellent that it deserves praise among of cast of apes who all do amazing work. Amiah Miller also puts in a great performance as the mute human Nova, adopted by Caesar. But unfortunately those do nothing for the gender politics of the film. Even in a post-apocalyptic future, both and ape and human society remains rigidly patriarchal. *Sigh*

Oh, and did I mention that are some great action scenes with giant explosions? The film begins with an assault on Caesar’s camp, and ends with a climactic battle between opposing forces. While the Apes franchise is never trying to be The Fast and Furious, there’s enough action in here to be enjoyable.

Some may complain the 142 minute runtime is too long, it’s hard to say what deserved to be cut. A great movie can never be too long, and a bad one can never be over too quickly.

It’s worth noting that director and co-screenwriter Matt Reeves will next tackle Batman, taking over directing duties after Ben Affleck decided starring in and directing the film would be too much. Given Reeves’s work on the Apes film and his study of nuance and character, ability to weave action and dark characterization, The Bat should be in good hands.

As amazing as Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver have been, this, by the width of a chimp’s hair, is the best movie currently in theaters.

4.5 stars out of 5

Fish Kill side ad