Tag Archives: Superhero

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017) is reaping critical praise, and opened with an astounding one hundred million dollar weekend box office. It’s being hailed as the best movie in the DCEU—i.e., D.C. comics extended universe—although I’m not sure how exactly that’s different than the DC movies that preexisted that label.

Still from Wonder Woman (2017)Regardless, this is the first big screen standalone treatment of the character, which originally debuted during the Second World War, created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. Wonder Woman was always a kind of female variation on Superman. Paradoxically, she was both a symbol of female empowerment and a pinup bondage fantasy. Initially, under the original artists, she was more feminist than titillating. Predictably, it was the pinup quality that drove the bulk of her fan base and informed most of her subsequent incarnations, the notable exception being the series helmed by George Perez’ silvery pencils. Even then, “Wonder Woman” comics never equaled the sales of her male counterparts. When it was announced that Israeli actress Gal Gadot was being cast as the big screen Wonder Woman, a lot of fanboys harped, comparing her unfavorably to 1970s TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter—because, frankly, Carter has more robust cleavage. In 2011, an updated TV movie was planned, but once publicity stills were released of actress Adrianne Palicki wearing a long pants version of the red, yellow, and blue suit, the DC fundamentalists were up in arms. They wanted legs, dammit, and went the politically correct route of whining about political correctness. The movie, which apparently was a pilot for a series, was purportedly wretched anyway, and seems to have vanished from memory. Five years later, when Gadot’s cameo proved the only bright spot in the execrable Batman vs. Superman, the fanatics were finally appeased, and thankfully silenced.

Wonder Woman is well-crafted, entertaining, and has a charismatic lead, which says a hell of a lot more than the recent crap fests Man of Steel, the aforementioned BvS, and Suicide Squad. It gets right what all those films missed—it remembers that simplicity, primary colors, and ethical nostalgia, all wrapped up in a lasso of fun, are the attraction of the DC characters, who are really more appealing than their angst-ridden Marvel competitors. With a few exceptions, the multiple DC based TV series (live action and animated) get that right (i.e., “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and the recent “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders,” which could as easily have been dubbed “The Return of Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar”).

One of the main positives here is the direction of Jenkins, who is far better suited to the material than the dullard boys have proven to be. Predictably, right-wing fan boys, while giving faint praise and Continue reading ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

284. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

“Being the Batman fan that I am, I pretended to like the film. I passionately defended it to my ‘non-Batman’ friends who found it ‘weird’ or ‘dumb.’ But eventually, I gave in to the fact that this film plain sucked. This macabre, morose, dark abomination was a Batman film in name only. Frankly, I felt screwed by Warner Brothers and Mr. Burton.”–Bill “Jett” Ramey, “Batman on Film”

“It’s human nature to fear the unusual.”–The Penguin, Batman Returns

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Michell Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito,

PLOT: The film sets Batman against three new villains: Oswald Cobblepot, a deformed outcast who lives in the sewers and adopts the name “the Penguin”; “Catwoman,” former secretary Selina Kyle turned feminist avenger after a near-death experience; and Max Shreck, a wealthy retailer who wants to build a power plant opposed by Gotham City’s mayor and by Batman’s alter-ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne. With differing agendas and shifting loyalties, the three form a plan to run Cobblepot for mayor and to frame Batman for the city’s crime problem, while Bruce and Selina pursue a romance, not realizing that they are sworn enemies. After the superhero foils the initial plot, the Penguin pulls out a more elaborate, apocalyptic plan.

Still from Batman Returns (1992)

BACKGROUND:

  • Tim Burton, who had scored a blockbuster with the original Batman (1989),  was reluctant to produce a sequel. Warner Brothers convinced him to helm the film by giving him almost complete creative control. Heathers‘ Daniel Waters was brought in to shade Sam Hamm’s too-sunny original script. It was a move the studio came to regret (the film was profitable, but not as big a hit as its predecessor, and parental complaints that it was too violent/sexy/weird for kids spooked the suits). Neither Burton nor star Michael Keaton returned for the third movie in Warners’ Batman franchise, which went in a lighter, more family-friendly direction under Joel Schumacher.
  • Angry parents boycotted McDonalds for (unwisely) including Batman Returns action figures in Happy Meals, complaining that the movie was too violent for kids.
  • Oscar-nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup. Also nominated (unjustly, in our opinion) for a “Worst Supporting Actor” Razzie for Danny DeVito.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: I’m going to go with the army of penguins equipped with missiles striped like candy canes (remember, this is a Christmas movie).

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Kitty corpse revival; poodle with a hand grenade; missile penguin army

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Let loose with a budget of $80 million and almost complete creative control in 1992, Tim Burton smuggled weirdness into the cineplex in the guise of a superhero sequel. The resulting picture has as many excesses as you can possibly sneak into a blockbuster: suggestive S&M duels between sexually repressed loners clad in fetish gear, a carnival-themed gang who unleash their surreal clown fury on Gotham at Christmas, and an army of penguins led by a deformed sociopath.


Original trailer for Batman Returns

COMMENTS: Earning over 260 million simoleons at the box office—although some ticket buyers probably asked for a refund—Batman Continue reading 284. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

Created by Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange was an authentically odd character in the Marvel universe of the 1960s. Aptly, he debuted in the “Strange Tales” comic. The character almost perfectly encapsulated Ditko’s idiosyncratic, surreal pencil work, even more so than his better known co-creation, Spiderman. Complementing Ditko’s art, Stan Lee scripted the character as a hybrid mixture of Jungian archetypes with a theosophist cocktail of Eastern mysticism and Egyptian mythology. When other artists took over Doctor Strange after Ditko’s departure, it never had quite the same texture, and quickly became bland before descending into parody as the good doctor could be found in superhero team-ups with the likes of Hulk and Spiderman (!)

A pulp mystic, the character hardly seemed like a viable nominee for big screen treatment, and when Doctor Strange (2016) was announced as the next Marvel movie, the prospects didn’t look hopeful, considering director Scott Derrickson’s execrable resume.  Surprisingly,  Derrickson and his co-writers went straight to Ditko and Lee’s original source material, delivering an entertainingly psychedelic production, which is helped by actor Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, , the ever reliable , and .

Still from Doctor Strange (2016)As much as embodies Iron Man, Cumberbatch does the same for this surgeon with the Trump-sized ego. However, an accident leaves Doc’s precious surgical hands mutilated, prompting him to seek enlightenment via the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, filling in for ), Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong). Before you can say Expecto Patronum, Strange sees the light and transforms into Chandu the Magician heading to the next Hare Krishna meeting. Despite the here-we-go-again St. Paul conversion myth, it plays out much more uniquely, viscerally, and tongue-in-cheek than one might expect.  As Strange perfects his new metaphysical trade, the CGI actually enhances the narrative, as opposed to distracting us from it—and, yes, see it in 3D, because that’s the best route for trippy 60s symbolism. Derrickson and company faithfully recreate and expand upon Ditko’s peculiar brand of surrealism and the havoc they wreak with illusionary imagery from the mirror universe is refreshingly off-kilter.

In a rarity for something churned out by Marvel, the director and team have been given room to play outside of conveyor-belt dictates. The fun they have is contagious, but such a subject can only be as good as its villain. Fortunately, they have one in the outlaw mystic Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) who engages in a phantasmagoric battle with Strange on the streets of New York (aided considerably by Michael Giacchino’s galvanizing score). Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius could very well be his astral, Dark Dimension, bony version of Hannibal Lecter (and shame on those who missed that late series, which rendered the /Jonathan Demme version obsolete), delivering his hocus-pocus dialogue with such aridity, he scares the hell out of you just by speaking. Mikkelsen is cast well (although underused) against Cumberbatch’s in-the-know remote wit. Likewise, McAdams is smartly cast as Strange’s ex-girlfriend who literally assists in his physical and metaphysical healing. The actors, coupled with visuals blatantly inspired by MC Escher, give Doctor Strange an all too uncommon individuality. This is not the Avengers taking turns pounding away at big shiny black, metallic thingamajigs. Rather, the good doctor, with his cloak of levitation, takes his battles to the realm of pop nightmares, which makes the late hint to an inevitable Avengers tie-in all the more disappointing. Is it weird? Nah, but it’s an empyrean burlesque and, for this studio, that is a surprising treat.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

It’s fairly clear now that the DC fanboys are, in some way, shape or form, related to Trumptards. They see a vast conspiracy, most likely one that is orchestrated by the shadowy Illuminati, whose nefarious aim is to overthrow the world with mind control. These are the same invisible Zionist-ran, Koch-funded demons who manufactured the holocaust lie; conspired with the Knights Templar to hide Mary Magdalene from history; orchestrated 9/11; fabricated the Sandy Hook massacre; discredited Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and the Duggars; are trying to rig and steal the election from Lord Trump; and are a front for Rotten Tomatoes, whose critical pawns give bad reviews to beloved deities who wear their underwear outside their pants.

Never mind that Suicide Squad writer/director David Ayer has never produced anything worth a damn, and don’t be fooled by the same Rotten Tomatoes 90 % plus ratings for shows like “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Supergirl,” The Dark Knight, “Lois and Clark,” or Superman II. That’s a well-manufactured plot meant to distract us from their depraved intent of usurping our funny paper religion.

Still from Suicide Squad (2016)Fanboy thugs aside, Suicide Squad has reached a new low for the DC universe. Of course we expect a darker hue from a suicide squad, but Ayer and his cult seem to take the “suicide” part a tad too literally. Now, before DC fanboys add me to their most hated list, I should add that when it comes to DC VS. Marvel, I’m DC by a considerable stretch. I have unending affection for these classic characters, adorned in primary colors, who are entertaining symbols giving us a shred of hope in this hellhole. Superman, by far, is my favorite. He set the model and is what a superman should be—a trusted paternal figure who will get a cat out of a tree. He was never better than in his original incarnation in Action comics, the Fleischer shorts, and under the auspices of George Reeves (his was a Superman who tapped into Wyatt Earp, and even exercised gun control to put bigots in their place. A  retrospective on that innovative series is on my own blog). The Flash—with his red suit, sense of humor, ability to weather all the tragedies that fate could muster—Green Lantern, and Green Arrow all have had a secure place in my Christmas stockings over the decades. Now with that out of the way: Mother of Mercy, are we really this bankrupt?

The dyed-in-the-wool defense is “well, that’s my taste, I was born with it, and nothing I can do about it.”

B.S. Our tastes change in all things. We certainly weren’t guzzling coffee in our adolescence, and growing tastes have placed the Beatles above Elvis, Karloff above Lugosi, and Bing Crosby’s jazz-tainted velvet pipes above Sinatra’s pop-flavored silvery whine. Taste is a reflection of our openness and willingness to be more than what we know. Taste defines us.

Does Suicide Squad reach the nadir of Batman v. Superman? Well, no it doesn’t. I doubt (and hope) we’ll never be subjected to anything so Continue reading ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

CAPSULE: CUTIE HONEY (2004)

AKA Cutie Honey: Live Action

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Eriko Satô, Mikako Ichikawa, Jun Murakami, Eisuke Sakai; voices of Carrie Keranen, Eva Kaminsky, Vinnie Penna, Madeleine Blaustein (English dub)

PLOT: A naive, upbeat female superhero battles the alien organization “Panther Claw” after they abduct her professor uncle, while simultaneously trying to keep her temp job and find a true friend.

Still from Cutie Honey (2004)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It is weird, in that Japanese pop way, but it’s also extremely lightweight, and we have to draw the line somewhere.

COMMENTS: “She’s that trendy girl/The one with the teeny butt… She’s that popular girl, the one with the bouncy boobs.” So goes Cutie Honey‘s theme song, which omits any reference to her crimefighting abilities. Our first view of Honey is of her soapy legs and feet in the bubble bath. She gets a phone call in the tub, learns her uncle is abducted, and has to rush to the scene of the crime—only she has no clothes available, so she runs through the street in her underwear, partially covered by a trash bag that doesn’t conceal much. Her regular crimefighting costume features skintight black pants and a heart-shaped cutout for her cleavage; during her off hours she favors midriff-baring mini-skirts and stiletto heels. Somehow, the camera always finds that the upskirt angle best captures the energy of the fight sequences. But, even though Cutie’s body is relentlessly sexualized—virtually fetishized—the story never compromises the innocence of her character. Cutie herself has no sexuality; she seeks only harmless friendship, and any impure thoughts others might have about her stem strictly from their own corruption. (The bosses clearly get an erotic charge out of battling her, especially Cobalt Claw, the vampire dominatrix Honey defeats with a searing embrace). Japanese movies have a way of pulling off this innocent fanservice without making it seem too skeevy, and director Hideaki Anno’s background in anime clearly served him well in the endeavor.

Former swimsuit model Eriko Satô’s considerable physical appeal aside—and to be fair, she does do a nice job rounding out her character between all the cheesecake shots, locating Honey’s legitimate grrl power—Cutie Honey is a wild, electric affair, one of the best live-action translations of anime style. Anno even splices in some brief, stylized animation at times, such as when Honey dodges Gold Claw’s missiles in the sky or hurls Scarlet Calw’s energy beam back at the villainous supergeisha. Of course, reality is a distant cousin to the characters of this world, and they’re not really on speaking terms. Panther Claw’s human henchmen dress in snazzy black Zorro-inspired uniforms, carry golden guns, and generally act like disposable buffoons from Adam West’s “Batman.”  The big baddie—Sister Jill—is some sort of tree goddess who eats virgins, and her tuxedo-clad butler wears eyeliner and a very fake mustache. There’s also a giant holographic uncle. And what would a weird Asian movie be without out-of-place musical numbers, including some drunken karaoke from the three principals, plus a quartet of henchmen playing violins as Black Claw croons a jazzy mid-tempo challenge (your toe will tap as he sings “for the sake of my own happiness, please wither away beautifully, baby.”) Cutie Honey is like an extended sugar-rush episode of “Power Rangers,” if the solo Ranger was played by a teenage pop star who dresses like a hooker.

The “Cutie Honey” franchise began life as an ecchi manga, then became a more innocent animated children’s TV series in the 1970s, followed by various video and television revivals of varying degrees of naughtiness. This feature version was followed by a live-action TV series, with a new live-action feature film scheduled for release in October 2016. Hideaki Anno, of course, is best known around here for directing two separate “Evangelion” anime series; we’re still awaiting the final installment of the second series, which seems to have stalled since Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo rolled out in 2012.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…those who like their films with a distinctly Western sensibility should be warned – Cutie Honey is loaded with trademark Japanese kookiness, and is at times just plain weird.”–Craig Villinger, “Digital Retribution” (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by a reader whose comment was lost in a server crash years ago. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

EAKER VS. EAKER VS. BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN (2016)

Alfred: How can a movie with the two biggest male kahunas in comic book history go wrong? Easily, if it’s made by Hack Snyder. The best thing that can be said about Batman vs. Superman (2016) is that it’s not quite as wretched as Man of Steel (2013).

Still from Batman Vs. Superman (2016)Predictably, upon receiving news that actor Ben Affleck had been cast in the role of the Dark Knight, comic book fans took their protest to social media. Actually, the actor has little to work with here, and, for some reason, uses ‘s “mouthful of rocks” voice when wearing the Bat armor. Thus, through Snyder’s apathetic direction, Affleck is rendered a beefcake yet again, unable to make the role his own. The writers (David Goyer and Chris Terrio) certainly did not give Affleck the humorous, burnout nuances that he perfected in his performance as TV Superman George Reeves in Hollywoodland (2006). With Good Will Hunting (1997), Gone, Baby Gone (2007), The Town (2010), and Argo (2012), Affleck has certainly proved to be a better writer and director than Snyder or his team, which may give DC Comics fanboys a glimmer of hope for his upcoming solo Batman project. One would think fans would have been more worried about Snyder and prepared for the predictable worst since he has never made even a remotely good film. What Snyder had delivered in BvS amounts to a disarrayed, styled “Passion Of The Batman.” As for the handling of Superman: that is a Snyder slider that can only be craved by people who hate the character.

One has to ask what the suits of Warner Brothers and DC were thinking when they handed Snyder a 250 million dollar budget and carte blanche? Are executives unable to tell the difference between a good film and a bad film? Between a visionary craftsman (, , Sam Raimi , Joss Whedon, ) and a hack (Snyder)?  And, if not, then why are they in the business of producing movies? Imagine if these same execs ran a restaurant, without concern over the quality of the  food? In any other industry, such bad decision-making would result in a lot of suits rightfully being fired and Snyder’s career being put to a merciful end.

Undoubtedly, fans will flock to Batman vs. Superman, regardless. The fanatics and Snyder himself will scream that bad reviews are part of a Marvel conspiracy. Or, maybe those artsy fartsy critics are being paid off by the Illuminati, cuz you know “they’re not fans” and “they hate all superhero movies,” despite the fact that quite a few of the DC/Marvel movies (X-Men, Iron ManDark Night, Avengers) have been widely praised by those same sadistic critics.  Of course, the disciples of fictional super guys will live in denial, like Donald Trump worshipers throwing a blanket over all evidences of their deity’s imbecility, and the proof of their validation will naturally be box office receipts because “the people” have spoken. Never mind that timid, undemanding audiences also made a hit out of live action Scooby Doo Continue reading EAKER VS. EAKER VS. BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN (2016)

EAKER VS. EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

Eaker vs. Eaker is the latest “send Alfred to the summer blockbuster movies so that he can curmudgeonly complain” event, but with a twist, cinema fans and friends! For the first time (without even knowing it), you voted to send Alfred and his wife, Aja, to the flicks and have them duke it out, publicly, about each so-called-blockbuster. Everybody here knows all about Alfred’s cinematic savvy, and his cranky-old-dog approach to film critique. Now, you get 2-for-1: Aja is Alfred’s beloved clinical and counseling psychologist partner, who loves to counter just about every cinematic point Alfred makes. Our final assignment of the 2015 summer season, selected by you, dear readers, was Fantastic Four.

Aja and Alfred 366AlfredThe Fantastic Four (2015) is astoundingly mediocre. Worse, it doesn’t even have sense enough to be godawful-campy, which might have redeemed it.

Just how hard is it to get Marvel’s first family done right on the big screen? After all, at its center, The Fantastic Four has a charismatic villain in Dr. Doom, who undoubtedly was a major influence on George Lucas’ Darth Vader. As far as Marvel villains go, Doom is on par with The Red Skull—whom Captain America: First Avenger (2011) also wasted. The original “Four” books, by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, are models of vibrant pulp myth. That is not the direction taken by Josh Trank (who understandably has disowned this). Instead, he takes the dark, soulless route of the contemporary graphic novel route. That this approach is woefully wrongheaded for the foursome should be obvious to anyone, except Neanderthals in empty suits.

Still from Fantastic 4 (2015)Trank claims studio interference ruined the film, which no one doubts, but despite his protestations, he co-wrote this mess and it’s clear that the simplistic concept of the Four and Doom eluded him at the drawing board stage. He spends a full hour in exposition land, and with all that wasted time we still don’t give a hoot or holler about a single character. The lot are merely sketched rudimentarily, and there is no sense of tragedy or empathy during the scientific accident. Ant-Man‘s hodgepodge approach and lack of originality was somewhat redeemed by a goofy lead performance. Fantastic Four lacks even that.

Additionally, there is the yawn-inducing evil-military-complex-syndrome subplot. Even that is not milked for entertainment. The subpar FX include an invisible bubble, which was better executed in The Wizard Of Oz all the Continue reading EAKER VS. EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

THE HISTORY OF SUPERHERO MOVIES (AND THEIR RABID FANBOYS) PART TWO

Continued from last week’s survey of the history of the superhero movie.

Today, Marvel has the upper hand in big screen superhero adaptations. However, DC has long ruled the small screen with both live-action and animated productions. DC’s “Superboy” series (1988-1992) was actually written by comic writers (imagine that), producing a critical and popular success.

Trying to compete with their rival, Marvel issued The Punisher (1989), and the film was as inherently dull as the character itself (they proved this point again in a 2004 reboot).

In the wake of 1989’s hot Batman, executives launched the short-lived TV series “The Flash” (1990). Somehow, it took awhile for them to realize that the Red speedster’s appeal lay in his flashy nemeses. By the time they figured it out, the potential audience had given up after seeing Flash square off against one too many bland burglars. This was unfortunate because later episodes, two of which feature Mark Hamill as the Trickster, were among television’s most psychedelic comic book adaptations.

Dick Tracy (1990)Warren Beatty produced, directed, and starred in Dick Tracy (1990), which ranks among the best of its kind, self-consciously conveying a delightfully alternative synthetic universe despite uneven writing and an off-kilter performance from Madonna.

Foolishly, Warner Brothers sacked from its Dark Knight franchise (a testament to the influence of a mighty McDonald’s Happy Meal deal) and committed hara-kiri by turning the reigns over to perennial hack Joel Schumacher.

Not surprisingly, on TV “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-1995), the animated “Superman” (1996-2000), and “Justice League” (2001-2006) found the original comics’ pulse far better than most of their feature film counterparts. Like the earlier incarnation, ‘s “Spiderman” (1994-1995) also became a much sought after cult favorite. Semper had a simple rule, which one think would be obvious to everyone but producers: “It does not matter who Spiderman is battling. What matters is Peter Parker has girlfriend problems and struggles to pay the rent.”

DC’s “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” (1993-1997), shared Semper’s commonsense ideology. Again, DC met with critical and popular success, despite its less than dignified final season.

Marvel had a trio of hits in Blade (1998), the even better Blade II (2002), and Blade Trinity (2004), although as super-horror none of the films could compare to Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan’s long-running cult comic book “Tomb of Dracula.”

DC’s “Smallville” premiered in 2001 and had an extraordinary decade-long run until 2011, although it consistently had mixed reviews.

Smartly, Marvel briefly learned from mistakes made by DC and hired Continue reading THE HISTORY OF SUPERHERO MOVIES (AND THEIR RABID FANBOYS) PART TWO

THE HISTORY OF SUPERHERO MOVIES (AND THEIR RABID FANBOYS) PART ONE

“Fan” is short for fanatic, and fanatic is synonymous with fundamentalist. Most people associate fundamentalism solely with religion, but this kind of zealotry is hardly confined to beliefs about the afterlife or universal creation. It is a given that partisan politics, opera, and comic books invite rabid fundamentalism. All of these interests have denominational factions (Republican vs. Democrats, Traditionalist vs. Modernists, Marvel vs. DC) and each has their own form of atheism or, more accurately, an imagined conspiracy of atheism, which the various defenders will see as a provocative enemy.

Steel from Man of Steel
2013’s “Man of Steel”

Like evangelical kooks, the majority of fans subscribe to either/or isms. The comparative religious example would be adherents to sola scriptura (in layman’s terms, biblical inerrancy). Approaching ancient sacred texts as a mix of mythology, parable, folklore, poetry, metaphor, and symbology with a sliver of historicity is beyond the fundamentalist’s grasp. That is a choice. To say it is irrelevant whether or not something actually happened is heresy for the fundie; an aesthetic or literary approach to scripture is incomprehensible.

My grad school experience in theology made for some frustrating, but humorous, exchanges. I manifested a classic example of “open mouth, insert foot,” in dialogue with a professor when I unthinkingly referred to the Genesis narrative as a “creation myth.”

Like a bee to honey, a fellow student immediately interrupted: “You don’t believe Adam and Eve existed?”

“Well, being an adult, no I don’t believe snakes talk, the earth is 6,000 years old, or we all came from two people. It’s simply a beautiful myth.”

“Then, you don’t believe in the Bible.”

“Explain to me what you mean by belief, because that is an abstract concept. You can’t touch belief, see it, hear it, or smell it.”

“I don’t have to explain it because you are one of those liberal, existentialist atheists who gives God the finger.”

“No, I am not an atheist. Rather, I am a progressive Catholic existentialist who gives your two-dimensional version of God the finger.”

Because I did not take the Bible at face value (as she obviously did) and because I dared to hint, from a literal perspective, that the Bible was a fallible collection of writings, she assumed I had to be an atheist. From her severe perspective, it was easier to stick me in the box labeled atheist. As the dialogue continued, the student predictably leveled the accusation of “pretension.” It’s the well-worn standby defense crutch of every simpleton—when they fail to grasp something beyond their black or white, either/or point of view, they automatically spew accusations of snobbery, elitism and pretentiousness, Continue reading THE HISTORY OF SUPERHERO MOVIES (AND THEIR RABID FANBOYS) PART ONE

EAKER VS EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS (BONUS COVERAGE): ANT-MAN (2015)

Eaker vs. Eaker is the latest “send Alfred to the summer blockbuster movies so that he can curmudgeonly complain” event, but with a twist, cinema fans and friends! For the first time (without even knowing it), you voted to send Alfred and his wife, Aja, to the flicks and have them duke it out, publicly, about each so-called-blockbuster. Everybody here knows all about Alfred’s cinematic savvy, and his cranky-old-dog approach to film critique. Now, you get 2-for-1: Aja is Alfred’s beloved clinical and counseling psychologist partner, who loves to counter just about every cinematic point Alfred makes. You didn’t choose to send us to Ant-Man (2015), but we went nevertheless.

Aja and Alfred 366Alfred:

How much of the script for Ant-Man (2015) was written on a chalkboard? I imagine a bunch of executives sitting round the table, outlining the plot for its six writers: “To be successful, we have to follow the Marvel formula, have archetypes, etc.”

“Well, we can do it like Iron Man.  Have the hero in and Ant-Man suit and a villain in a rival insect suit.”

“Ok, but Ant-Man is little. So what other movies are there about shrunken people.”

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

“Ok, good. What else?”

The Incredible Shrinking Man.”

“Well, maybe, but that’s kind old, isn’t it?

Still from Ant-Man (2015)“Hey, it is about ants, so what about the Ants move?”

“Good thinking. Let’s look at Ants too. We need to give him a mentor, some comedy relief, and a femme fatale babe.”

“Ok, good, but we gotta give Ant-Man something to fight for. Audiences love little girls. Let’s give him a daughter.”

“Yeah, and the villain goes after her like that Octopus guy went after Spiderman’s aunt.”

“Or Lex Luthor when he went after Lois Lane.”

“We can even have a bald villain, like Luthor.”

“Let’s develop all that and up the ante. Make Ant-Man a divorcee—kind of a loser. He only gets to see his daughter on weekends.”

“Yeah, and his ex-wife is married to a jerk.”

“Right, and after learning her biological dad is Ant-Man, the daughter learns what a true hero he really is.”

“Now, we’re rolling. What else?”

“Let’s use the corporate bad guy plot, you know like making the big business guys trying to get the secrets of the suit, so they can sell it Continue reading EAKER VS EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS (BONUS COVERAGE): ANT-MAN (2015)