Keep On Morbin in the Free World

I saw Morbius opening weekend at the behest of a very sweet, very misguided coworker who thinks Jared Leto is hot.  It was a bore.  I struggled to remain awake through our 10 a.m. screening, the details of which linger only as a fuzzy grey mold at the edges of my brain.  There is no camp value to Morbius.  There’s nothing of value to the film at all, except maybe as a cool-down reminder that Jared Leto is a tedious drip after he accidentally delivered his first entertaining performance in House of Gucci.  And yet, Morbius has been resurrected as an unlikely meme in recent weeks.  Ironic shitposting of phrases like “It’s Morbin time” and “You got Morbed” have raised the profile of this flavorless gruel as if it were a so-bad-it’s-good delicacy worthy of re-evaluation.  As a result, online knuckleheads around the world are tricking themselves into watching Morbius for hatewatching kicks, and it’s difficult to feel anything but pity for them.  There’s nothing there.  Morbius is not interesting enough to be funny or entertaining, even “ironically”; it’s barely interesting enough to keep you awake.

I can’t be too harsh on the irony-seeking looky-loos who’ve been tricked into watching Morbius by a few well-timed memes.  I, too, am a recent victim of grassroots meme marketing, and my mistake also falls under the ever-expanding umbrella of Spider-Man Content.  After years of seeing it .gifed & memed into oblivion, I somehow became convinced that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 had potential as an unsung camp classic with misleading nerdboy rage souring its critical reputation.  One library loan later, I feel like I’ve been Morbed.  Based on the memes, I assumed Spider-Man 3 was entirely about Peter Parker going dark-sided goth.  I pictured the Venom symbiote rotting his brain by brushing greasy bangs in front of his eyes and transforming him into the toxic indie scene boyfriend of your nightmares.  I was only partly right.  All of the fun images of Emo Parker strutting, shooting finger guns, and dancing the roof off his favorite jazz club were from a brief fifteen-minute stretch of the film.  The rest of it is just a typical, bloated superhero actioner.  There it not nearly enough Spider-Bangs content to make Spider-Man 3 stand out as a novelty, no matter how fun it looks from a digital distance.

There’s probably a lesson here about how a movie’s meme potential does not directly translate into entertainment value, but I’m refusing to learn it.  As frustrating as Spider-Man 3 is for withholding its novelty goth content for a brief stretch in its second act, I wasn’t mad that I watched it.  There’s enough goofy retro Saturday Morning Cartoon charm to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man cycle that its worst entry is still passably entertaining.  If nothing else, there was plenty of surreally dated CG action to go around, and Danny Elfman’s score kept the mood light.  I doubt that the poor souls who are allowing Mighty Morbin memes to trick them into watching Morbius are coming out the other end equally unscathed.  If they’re somehow convincing themselves that joking with friends over that filmic void is more fun than joking around while staring at a blank wall, though, I’m not here to spoil their good time.  Morb on, you crazy diamonds.  There’s an endless supply of much more vibrantly entertaining, so-bad-it’s-good novelties out there they could be genuinely enjoying instead, but the indulgence is only going to hurt themselves.  It’s pretty harmless otherwise.

The only potential harm in ironic Morbius “enjoyment” is that it might convince Sony there’s an appetite for a Morbius 2 out there, but that result would be much funnier than even the mediocre memes that inspire it.  The worst-case scenario is that the studio pays Jared Leto a grotesque amount of money to say “It’s morbin time” on camera, and just as few people show up in theaters to hear it; I’m not going to lose any sleep over Morbius 2 bombing.  It would actually be nice to have a reason to laugh at Morbius content for the very first time.  The best-case scenario is the unlikely possibility that a Morbius 2 is actually as fun as people are pretending Morbius 1 is, which can only be a boon.  Even Spider-Man 3 earned some retroactive appreciation after the recent Spider-Man: Oops! All Spider-Men free-for-all that brought Toby McGuire back to the franchise for a victory lap.  The memes can only make Morbius more fun, even if it has a much steeper uphill battle ahead of it than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Meme did. Sony’s just now testing the waters with a theatrical “reissue” of Morbius, and I’m already laughing.

-Brandon Ledet

The Heroic Trio (1993)

I recently read an encyclopedia of classic Hong Kong action movies titled Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head, which is overloaded with hundreds of capsule reviews of the once-vibrant industry’s greatest hits.  Each blurb makes each title sound like the most explosively badass movie you’ve never seen, fixating on the industry’s unmatched talent for absurd plot details, tactile fight choreography, and for-their-own-sake visual gags.  It’s a daunting surplus of giddy movie recommendations, with no real guide for what to prioritize besides whatever happens to be available to access.  After being pushed to check out the bonkers Indiana Jones mutation The Seventh Curse by the We Love to Watch podcast crew, I had no clear path for where to go next.  Thankfully, that decision was taken out of my hands by happenstance.  I lucked into a small haul of Hong Kong action DVDs (some bootlegs, some official releases, all pictured below) during a recent trip to Goodwill, which included the 1993 superhero oddity The Heroic Trio.  This was the same week that Criterion announced an upcoming Blu-ray release of The Heroic Trio and the same month that one of its stars, Michele Yeoh, was gifted a career-high acting showcase in the Daniels’ own novelty superhero picture Everything Everywhere All at Once, which made it the most obvious must-see.  I’m often overwhelmed deciding what movie to watch next when I’m left to my own devices, so it’s always a pleasure when the universe steps in to program that selection for me.

I am sure that the new Criterion restoration of The Heroic Trio will lovingly highlight the film’s technical beauty and pop-art iconography in a way few audiences have seen before.  I’ll still admit that I was charmed by the tape-warp warmth of the bootleg DVD that found its way into my collection, since it plays right into the film’s vintage appeal.  The Heroic Trio is a retro superhero team-up featuring the masked & powerful heroines Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung), Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), and Invisible Woman (Yeoh) – each a total badass.  They start disorganized & distrustful of each other as a mysterious case of 19 kidnapped babies derails Hong Kong into chaos.  Eventually, they find love & unity amongst their super selves to fight the methane-breathing sewer god responsible for those kidnappings, brutally confronting the gender-ambiguous deity in their underground lair/baby-storage facility.  Tonally, the film plays like the kind of R-rated kids’ movie that you’d normally find through American labels like Troma & Full Moon, even featuring the children’s nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down” as a soundtrack motif.  It is S&M superhero cinema for the permanently immature, indulging in vintage Saturday-morning-TV cheese with far more gore, kink fashion, and shock-value baby deaths than any child should be consuming with their breakfast cereal.  It just executes that volatile immaturity with exquisite technical skill you will not find in its low-budget American equivalents, especially in the beauty of its complex, tactile fight choreography.

Michele Yeoh’s inclusion in the titular trio was my prompt to watch the film and, dramatically, she gets the most to do.  Invisible Woman is the only complex character of the bunch, starting off as the brainwashed lackey of the baby-snatching Evil Master but eventually coming around to join arms with her master’s enemies.  I still found Maggie Cheung to be the MVP of the trio as Thief Catcher, providing most of the film’s comic relief as a Bugs Bunny-style anarchist, a motorcycle-riding vigilante in dressed in bike shorts & lingerie; Tank Girl, eat your heart out.  Anita Mui is saddled with the least exciting part as Wonder Woman, who—as her name implies—is the most stereotypical comic book hero of the bunch.  Her mask & cape iconography and secret-identity shenanigans are essential in grounding the film in a recognizable superhero genre, since most of its in-the-moment indulgences are more aligned with Hong Kong action antics than with comic book tradition.  Director Johnnie To uses the superhero team-up template as a playground for martial arts chaos & Looney Tunes goofballery, playing around with as much Evil Dead POV camera movement, wuxia-style wire work, and bone-crunching brutality as his scrappy budget will allow.  He gives each heroine room to establish separate, distinct personalities in the film’s early scenes, then smashes them together like action figures during an especially sugared-up recess.  It’s the most gleeful, energizing movie experience I can think of that depicts the death of a dozen innocent babies.

Watching The Heroic Trio left me no better equipped to select my next Hong Kong action title.  Yeoh, Cheung, and Mui each have extensive careers in martial arts classics exactly like this.  To was equally prolific in his directorial career without them.  All four of those collaborators reunited for a direct sequel to The Heroic Trio titled Executioners, also released in 1993, but it is not regarded as any of their respective best.  Below, I’ll list the essential continued-viewing titles for Michelle Yeoh alone, as suggested by the authors of Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head, just to demonstrate the overwhelming wealth of great, over-the-top Hong Kong action pics there are to choose from.  And she’s only one of the industry’s many, many creative geniuses.  I’ll likely just wait until another title falls directly into my lap the way The Heroic Trio did, taking the decision out of my hands.   Otherwise, I’ll browse these titles & blurbs for hours without ever settling on one, the modern movie streamer’s dilemma.

Michelle Yeoh’s “Selected Filmography,” per Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head, printed 1996:
Magnificent Warriors (1986)
Royal Warriors (1986)
Yes, Madam (1986)
Police Story 3: Supercop (1993)
Project S (1993)
The Tai Chi Master (1993)
Butterfly and Sword (1993)
The Heroic Trio (1993)
Wonder 7 (1994)

-Brandon Ledet

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

There was something electric about watching the first Venom film in theaters, discovering its gonzo comic energy in real time as it mutated from a C-grade superhero origin story in its first hour to an A+ slapstick body horror in its second.  Tom Hardy singlehandedly elevates that film through stubborn force of will, dialing the intensity to a constant 11 while everything else around him is set to a comfortable 6.  His performance is not exactly Nic-Cage-in-Vampire’s-Kiss levels of manic, but it’s not not that either.  And so, it’s majorly disappointing that Hardy’s no longer working against the grain in Venom 2: Let there Be Carnage – a movie that knows it’s funny and, thus, isn’t very funny at all.  Let’s call it the Tommy Wiseau Effect; the Venom series has already become too self-aware of its “ironic” appeal to still be authentically bizarre.  It’s still silly enough to be passably entertaining, but it’s far from the Nic Cagian freak show of the lobster tank days.

Even within the Venom universe, characters refer back in awe to Eddie Brock’s “bizarre outburst at the lobster restaurant” as the stuff of legends.  Hardy’s still willing to make himself absolutely disgusting in the sequel, appearing greasy, unshaved, and effectively living in a giant ashtray.  However, while the first movie was Eddie Brock’s show, the second film belongs to his wisecracking alter-ego.  As a voice in Eddie’s head, Venom provides sarcastic, real-time MST3k commentary on how idiotic & edible the rest of the world appears to him.  When they have a lovers’ quarrel and temporarily break up, Eddie becomes just another greasy sad sack roaming the Bay Area, while Venom goes out on the town to Find Himself as a strong, independent symbiote.  In the first film, their vaguely romantic psychic bond felt like a refreshingly queer angle on modern superhero filmmaking; the sequel instead reverse-engineers Venom as a natural successor to the Gay Icon Babadook meme, getting him bachelorette-party-drunk at a queer nightclub as a way of breaking free from Eddie.  They inevitably reunite to take down throwaway villain-of-the-week Carnage (Woody Harrelson reliving his Mickey & Mallory glory days), and the whole thing tidily wraps up in a spectacularly dull superhero battle we’ve seen thousands of times before.  It’s all very muted & self-aware in a way that renders it totally anonymous. The first Venom was compellingly chaotic; the sequel is tragically competent.

I’m a simple man.  I still laugh every single time I hear Tom Hardy pronounce “Eddie” in his Venom voice, and Let There Be Carnage provides plenty of his Scooby-Doo line readings for my boneheaded enjoyment.  I also appreciate that you can watch this frothy 90-min novelty in half the time it would take to watch Matt Reeves’s upcoming gritty Batman reboot.  Still, there’s nothing special or surprising about Let There Be Carnage that wasn’t accomplished to greater effect in the first Venom.  Even deliriously overwritten lines referring to “this spinning shit wheel we call Earth” feel like a poor substitute for Venom’s musings about his limbless victims “rolling down the street like a turd in the wind” in the original.  There was a brief, blissful moment when only Tom Hardy knew what made Venom fun & funny, the same tension that transformed Capone from a tragically bland nothing of a movie into a riotous good time.  Unfortunately, that party’s already over, and this hangover just registers as a low-energy Deadpool for goths.

-Brandon Ledet

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

I was very excited this past summer when, during that period when things were starting to reopen and I was able to go back to the theater for the first time since Emma. way back in March 2020, to see Black Widow. I managed to see two others in theaters before the end of the year, when threats of Omicron (Persei 8) means that many of us are once again sworn off of the in-person theatrical experience, Nicole Kidman be damned. For the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to squeeze in a few last 2021 releases in order to soothe my conscience with regards to ensuring that my forthcoming end of the year list was sufficiently well rounded and informed, consistently texting Brandon that “I just need[ed] to finish Matrix Resurrections/The French Dispatch/etc. and then I [would] ‘call it.'” Many years ago, I wrote that no one could gaslight me like I could gaslight myself, and like Charles Boyer himself, I just kept moving those goalposts, until I think we are finally at an end, as I got the opportunity to see Spider-Man: No Way Home in a relatively safe environment courtesy of coincidental access to a GMC Terrain and Austin’s own Blue Starlite Drive In

Spoilers!

We open just where we left off in Far from Home, with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Twink (Tom Holland) having just had his secret identity as Peter Parker exposed by J. Jonah Jameson, once again played by J.K. Simmons, although this time instead of being an editorial-mad editor, he’s here running a Daily Bugle that, instead of being a decently respectable publication, is not-quite-InfoWars. Although no criminal charges associated with the accusation that he killed Mysterio manage to stick (thanks in no small part to Charlie Cox reprising his role as Matt “Daredevil” Murdock), the repercussions of the allegations ripple throughout his life. Peter and May have to move out of their apartment to avoid harassment from Mysterio truthers, and the controversy costs Peter and his friends the opportunity to go to MIT together. It’s the last of these that prompts Peter to seek out assistance from Dr. Strange to try and reverse the damage, but Peter’s second guessing causes the magic to go haywire, setting off a bizarre series of events. 

Seriously, spoilers. 

As a result, everyone who knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man, even in other universes, begins to appear in New York. Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) from Spider-Man 2? Of course! Willem Dafoe’s hypnotic Sam Raimi-movies Green Goblin? You betcha! Electro (Jamie Foxx) from Amazing Spider-Man 2? Um, ok, yeah. Thomas Haden Church as Raimi’s Sandman and Rhys Ifans as Lizard? If, um, if you want, I guess. Aunt May (Rosemary Harris)?! Unfortunately, no, although I kept an eagle eye out for both her and Mageina Tovah. Peter manages to round up these accidental invaders with help from Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya), and Strange prepares to send them back. However, when each of them shares that the last thing that they remember are the moments leading up to what we the audience know are their deaths (give or take a Sandman), Peter decides that he can’t knowingly send them to their respective dooms without instead curing them so that they might live instead: repairing the broken interface between Octavius and his cybernetic arms, ridding Osbourne of the Goblin identity, delectrifying Electro, etc. It’s actually kind of nice, but of course, goblins gotta goblin, so it goes off the rails, which is where things start to get really interesting. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. A few years back, the CW DC shows did a big multiverse crossover event that managed to incorporate a shocking number of appearances from “other universes” that were explicitly other media adaptations: Smallville, Doom Patrol, Titans, the 1990s Flash, Superman Returns, and even more esoteric examples like Lucifer. There were appearances from Huntress from the short-lived Birds of Prey series from 2002, Burt Ward reprising his role as Dick “Robin” Grayson from the 1960s, and having Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman in the 1990s animated series (aka my Batman), appear in the flesh as Bruce Wayne for the first time. Watching it unfold was like a matryoshka doll of niche specificity; it was a much lower budget than this, obviously, but it was still fun. I knew Far from Home was planned as a big crossover, that would start off the multiverse thing, which was hinted at in WandaVision and would play a big role in the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Who Cares, blah blah blah. But following on the heels of the what narratively should (but obviously capitalistically never could) have been the finale of this whole enterprise with Endgame, I didn’t really think that another installment in the Disney money-printing machine would manage to elicit the same kind of emotional thrill that of four-color yesteryear. 

And then it did, somehow. Maybe? There’s no Disney logo at the beginning; when the Sony logo came up, followed by Tristar, I thought it was another trailer, until the ending audio from Far from Home played. But I’m getting off track. Pre-release, it was impossible to avoid the rumors. Would Tobey Maguire come back? Surely not. The rights alone would make it all so complicated. But someone saw, or said they saw, or maybe heard from the PA that you met at a friend’s party that Andrew Garfield and his Tumblr-famous jiggly puffs were spotted back in the old spandex. And somehow, post-release, even after a couple of weeks, I assumed that it must not have happened, since no one on Twitter had spoiled it (for me) yet, but yeah, here they are. And, like, it’s impossible not to feel a swell of something warm inside when they all meet here. 

It’s common to call reference-heavy, perhaps even fan service-y fare a “love letter to the fans.” I’m not usually a fan of that phrase since most of the things that are intended to be so—perhaps especially when it comes to my beloved Star Trek franchise—usually come out muddy at best and are frequently, sometimes infamously, bad. And this does run the risk of that, especially if one is too young to really remember or to have ever even seen the older films referenced herein. But sometimes, especially in trying times, maybe a little bit of nostalgia is all that you need. Sometimes, it’s more than enough. Spider-Man: Three Spider-Men wrang legitimate tears out of me, and not just because no one bothered, I assume, to see what Rosemary Harris was doing. After the two older Spider-Men recount to Gen-Z Peter how they respectively lost their Uncle Ben and/or Gwen Stacy, Amazing Spider-Man gets the opportunity to save a falling MJ here, and this time he succeeds where he failed before, and it’s genuinely one of the most emotionally satisfying things that this bombastic, bloated franchise has ever managed to affect. 

And that’s just the bittersweet stuff; there’s still plenty of humor to go around, although obviously not on the level of Homecoming. I’ve spoiled enough of the drama that I’ll leave the comedy unrepeated so that there’s something for you to still discover if you haven’t already seen this one. If there’s one big quibble that I do have, it’s that Jameson as no-celebrities-were-harmed Alex Jones doesn’t quite work for me. Firstly, there’s no way that Marvel could ever let J.K. Simmons ever go full Jones; Disney might take a couple of potshots at him by having Jameson hawk not-quite-nootropics, but a film under their umbrella is never going to have Jameson get involved with Pizzagate or get taken to court for calling the Battle of New York survivors crisis actors. Although the film briefly touches on what the equivalent of our own real world conspiracy theorists would look like in the MCU, it’s pretty toothless. Going soft on Jones with a parody that neither sees him get his comeuppance nor push his pathological adherence to his outrageous beliefs past the line where his charisma fails to walk him back … you just wonder why they bothered. 

I guess I should close by saying that although this was a lot of fun, it doesn’t really hook me on the franchise’s future at all. I didn’t stay for the post-credits scene, and although it’s true that I was, as stated, at a drive-in and that my bladder was full, I still simply couldn’t bring myself to care enough to stay. But, like, does that matter? Did it ever? Maybe. Probably not. As a capper on the Spider-Man series, this would also do, and it brings it all home.

-Mark “Boomer” Redmond

The Suicide Squad (2021)

There is something hilariously ironic about James Gunn reviving the Martin Scorsese “theme parks” discourse while making the promotional rounds for his Suicide Squad sequel.  Over two years ago Scorsese off-handedly referred to billion-dollar superhero blockbusters in the MCU and DCEU as theme park rides (as opposed to legitimate cinema) in a one-off interview, and nerds have had their bedroom-mounted swords out for the auteur ever since, apparently Gunn included.  While promoting The Suicide Squad for the DC Comics brand this month, the long-time MCU Guardians of the Galaxy director defensively retorted (into the void, I’m assuming, since there’s no possible way that Scorsese could still give a shit), “It just seems awful cynical that [Scorsese] would keep coming against Marvel and then that’s the only thing that would get him press for his movie […] He’s creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films, and so he uses that to get attention for something he wasn’t getting as much attention as he wanted for it.”  There are two things that are cracking me up about this: Gunn is himself reviving a long-dead non-rivalry with a director way above his punching weight in order to promote his new superhero movie, the exact thing he claims Scorsese was up to.  Even more hilariously, “a theme park ride” is exactly how I would describe my experience with The Suicide Squad.  I had a lot of fun riding this Tilt-a-Whirl while it lasted, but forgot practically every detail about it the second it was over while seeking out my next amusement.

All told, I enjoyed Gunn’s latest big-budget superhero sequel with a gold-plated heart of rot about as much as I enjoyed his two Guardians films.  As with Guardians, this crass, colorful sci-fi action epic follows a misfit group of anti-hero outlaws who reluctantly save the day despite their communal and moral dysfunction.  There are bestial humanoids among the crew (this time a shark and a weasel instead of a raccoon); there’s lots of handwringing about fathers who fall miles short (this time pantomimed by Idris Elba & Taika Waititi, two more crossover Marvel contributors); and there are the requisite cameos from extended members of the James Gunn family (including Michael Rooker in a flowing Edgar Winter wig).  As you likely recall from the first Suicide Squad film, these particular imprisoned supervillains only fight for Good because they’re being controlled by a government institution that has implanted explosives at the base of their brains, basically holding them hostage in exchange for heroism.  And if you don’t recall that, it’s no matter.  The set-up is mostly an excuse for Gunn’s big-budget escalation of the same character-based splatstick horror comedy he’s been doing since he was a twentysomething Troma employee.  Cruel baddies crack wise, crack skulls, and crack open some cold ones with the boys, getting so chummy with the audience that you often forget they’re worthless scum who kill innocent people for fun.  If the gory action-horror sequences are this theme park’s rollercoaster attractions, at least you get to hang out in line with interesting friends who can tell some solid one-liners while you wait.

If there are any specific details about The Suicide Squad that will cling to your braincells, it’s likely to be a stand-out character among the misfit cast.  It was unanimously agreed that Margot Robbie’s interpretation of Harley Quinn was the stand-out performance in the first film, which led to the fantabulous spin-off sequel Birds of Prey (the only truly Great superhero movie of the past two decades, imo).  Declaring the stand-out character in Gunn’s sequel is more of a toss-up.  Robbie’s as delightfully devious as ever here, but she’s more of a tangential side character than a main member of the crew.  Lots of people seem to be drawn to the rodent-commanding sleepyhead Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) as Quinn’s successor, likely because she’s the only beacon of sincerity among her heartless comrades.  On the exact opposite end, I could see Sylvester Stallone’s slurred vocal performance as a himbo shark-man stealing the show for anyone looking for goofball one-liners, since his entire purpose is to serve as a joke delivery machine.  Personally, I was most enamored with John Cena as the fascist American “superhero” Peacemaker, who chipperly parodies the ACAB side of superheroics that usually goes unexamined in these types of movies.  There are a lot of reasons why Cena’s performance was the stand-out to me: I’ve never watched popular TV show The Boys—which parodies that exact superheroic fascism in the exact same way—so the humor was still fresh to me.  I’m also deeply invested in John Cena’s R-rated comedy work in films like Blockers & Trainwreck, to the point where I’ve turned around in the past decade from thinking he’s the worst thing about pro wrestling to thinking he’s one of the great entertainers of our time.  Speaking of which, my most anticipated match at this month’s SummerSlam PPV is John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, something I’m still wrapping my mind around considering both performers’ dull, repetitive ringwork in the not-too-distant past.  John Cena is currently at the height of his self-aware, image-subverting powers right now, and Gunn puts his surprisingly game, shockingly raunchy screen presence to great effect here.  If I were to visit this particular theme park again, Cena’s performance is the one attraction that I’d be looking forward to revisiting – the same way I used to eagerly anticipate riding the Gravitron at local fairs every year as a little kid.

Besides its gaudy, momentary thrills, the way The Suicide Squad most resembles a theme park is that it’s absolutely fucking exhausting.  The film is, at heart, a comedy, which makes its 132-minute runtime more of an affront to good sense & good taste than any of its amoral one-liners or post-Troma gore gags.  Even with forty fewer minutes weighing this thing down, it likely still would’ve felt like a never-ending game of bumper cars, but as is it feels like enduring that series of scrapes & jolts while keeping down a stomach full of corn dogs, cotton candy, and gallon-sized sodas.  I left the film amused but numb, hardly remembering any details of the sensory assault I just bought a ticket for.  The only way I know how to rate this thing is by scoring it slightly higher than the first Suicide Squad movie – a much shabbier, more sinister kind of amusement park run by some real scary looking carnies.  Even if this is technically a better film than the first, I don’t know that it’s the more interesting one of the pair.  At least in the original, there was a behind-the-scenes war between director & studio execs whose editing room bickering led to a singularly bizarre experience.  By contrast, Gunn seemingly got free reign to do his own thing here, and pretty much delivered exactly what you’d expect from him (an R-rated revision of Guardians of the Galaxy with some throwback gross-out aesthetics echoed from his Troma days).  It’s hilarious that he thinks this is the art that’s worth picking a one-sided fight with Scorsese over, not his darker, more idiosyncratic works like Super or Slither.  It’s a fun ride, but that’s about all you can say about it.

-Brandon Ledet

Black Widow (2021)

About every 1.6 weeks, someone gets on Twitter and asks some variation of “What’s the best tweet of all time?” There is always of course, the trotting out of the greats, like this one, this one, this classic, this jab, this burn, this zing, mockery of the New York Post, a personal favorite, someone who presumed the universality of a ludicrous idiosyncratic belief and chooses to dickishly ignore that they’re completely wrong, and of course, the truly greatest tweet of all time (and these two, which go out to my friends back home). But what’s “best” anyway? For me, all of these pale in comparison to this tweet, which I think about at least once a week: 

It came to mind again most recently yesterday, as I sat in a movie theater for the first time since Emma., watching Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh engage in a car/motorcycle/tank chase through the streets of Budapest and into the city’s subway, exchanging quippy dialogue all the while. In that moment, I flashed back to the similar car chase sequences in Berlin in Civil War, Seoul in Black Panther, San Francisco in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and [Cleveland as D.C.] in Winter Soldier, as well as probably others that I’m forgetting. And although this was another movie that largely stuck to the tried-and-true Marvel formula, I thought to myself, Why must a movie be “novel’? Is it not enough to sit somewhere dark and see a thrilling car chase through a metropolitan area, huge? After all, although this isn’t the first MCU film all about one of our lady heroes, it’s leaps and bounds better than Captain Marvel, which I gave a high star rating to upon release but was largely tepid about it in the review proper (I literally wrote “I’m hot and cold on this one”) and which I look back on now mostly with contempt, as its imperial Yvan eht Nioj underpinnings have only become clearer with the passing of time. 

I’ll admit here that, by and large, it’s pretty easy for a film to manipulate me emotionally (the people would like to enter into evidence my likewise high star rating for 2016’s Ghostbusters), and it’s also not just films that do it. The Alamo Drafthouse has, for the past few years, used the same simple animated introduction before new releases where several colored circles appear, then overlap, then space out to mimic planets orbiting a star, then come back together to embody the six circular cut-outs of the classic film reel canister. My description is overselling the complexity, I think, but I can’t find it online anywhere so forgive me. The sound design of it is fairly simple as well, but this time, after the theater darkened and the traditional Alamo font appeared on screen saying “We missed you,” the pre-show included a montage of clips of characters from the movies at the movies: Amélie, Taxi Driver, Cinema Paradiso, etc., and then the bonging tones of that intro came together, and I was overcome. It felt like coming home, and if I’m warmer to Black Widow than it truly deserves because of it, well, maybe the people will have to enter this review into evidence one day, too, but for now, I have to say, I really liked it. Even my best friend, who is generally apathetic to Marvel movies, thoroughly enjoyed it; immediately afterward, she said she would be willing to pay to see it again, and when we were considering watching another movie back home last night, she said she’d rather just watch television than another movie because she enjoyed Black Widow so thoroughly that she wanted to “marinate” in it a while before another cinematic experience watered it down. Take from that what you will. 

We open in Ohio in 1995, where a young Natasha (Ever Anderson, daughter of Milla Jovovich and Paul W. S. Anderson) rides her bike through suburban streets and into her backyard, where she plays with her younger sister, Yelena (Violet McGraw). When Yelena skins her knee, their mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) attends to her, and there appears to be some tension between Natasha and dear old mom. As night falls, Yelena notes the appearance of fireflies in their backyard, and Melina gives her daughters a little science lesson about bioluminescence. While they set the table, father Alexei (David Harbour) returns home, agitated. He shows Melina a 3.5’’ floppy and notes that “it” is “finally happening.” As Melina whispers a meaningful apology to Natasha at the dinner table, Alexei grabs a rifle and the entire family hops into their SUV and makes haste toward a small airstrip, with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in pursuit shortly. After a tense shootout, the family manages to make their getaway in a prop plane and land in Cuba, where we learn that the “family” is comprised entirely of Russian agents, even the two children, and that the past three years in America have been part of a long term operation at a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Natasha attempts to prevent her separation from Yelena, citing that the younger girl is only six years old and too young for training, but Alexei notes that Natasha herself was even younger when she first began, and the two of them are forced apart on the orders of General Dreykov (Ray Winstone). 

After an opening montage (set to a downbeat cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) gives us the general impression of what constitutes a Black Widow’s training in the “Red Room” (it’s not fun!) we move forward to 2016. The rest of the film is set parallel to the events of the aforementioned Captain America: Civil War, following Natasha (Johansson) in hiding after siding with Cap against Tony re: The Sokovia Accords. Elsewhere, Yelena (Pugh) and a team of fellow Black Widows tracks down and ultimately kills a rogue Widow, but not before her former ally exposes her to a red dust that acts as a counteragent to Yelena’s Black Widow programming, which we learn has grown beyond conditioning and brutal training to literal mind control. Natasha makes her way to a safe house in Norway with help from her friend Mason (O-T Fagbenle), who also delivers some things left behind at her last safe house in Budapest, which includes a package from Yelena that contains several vials of the red dust; the dust, in turn ends up drawing the attention of Taskmaster, Dreykov’s right hand killer, who has the ability to mimic the fighting styles of anyone from merely watching a video. Yelena and Natasha reunite and decide to destroy the Red Room once and for all. In order to do so, they must first rescue their “father” from the Siberian gulag to which he has been sent; the former “Red Guardian,” the only successful supersoldier equivalent of Captain America who was produced by the Soviet Union not relives his glory days in stories told to his fellow inmates and is mocked by his guards. He, in turn, leads them to their “mother,” who reveals that she was the scientist who worked on the beginnings of the mind control project. But can any members of this reunited not-really-a-family trust one another long enough to stop Dreykov? 

Look, this is a Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe consumable product. You’ve already decided if you’re going to see it or not, and if you’re going to see it, whether you’ll do so on a big screen, fork over an exorbitant amount of money to watch it on Disney+, or wait for a more affordable at-home option. It exists to sell toys, costumes, and trips to theme parks while continuing to build the Disney monopoly that we should all be more worried about since the overseers of antitrust laws are asleep at the wheel, and probably would be more worried about if we weren’t all (a) contemplating our insignificance and powerlessness to stave off the climate disaster that will boil, drown, bury, burn, smother, etc. us all alive, or (b) living in a state of denial of said looming extinction event. Its emotional beats are rote, its storytelling checkpoints are familiar, and the forward thrust of its characters is largely moot considering that, as of 2019, Natasha Romanoff is dead. For what it’s worth, at least Disney isn’t trying to insultingly push Black Widow as “empowering for girls/women” (one can read the text that way, but it’s not part of the metatext for once, and the film itself calls attention to the fact that Natasha’s dark past as an assassin renders her “hero” status among “little girls” problematic, to say the least). This film is also decidedly Not For Children, given its use of the visual language we associate with human trafficking to illustrate the horrors of the Red Room as well as the higher-than-normal profanity and a fairly graphic verbal description of the Red Room’s sterilization procedure. 

I’m sure that there will be some reviews that cite the film’s “heart,” although I would warn readers to take that with a grain of salt. The “reunited family that was really composed of spies but who could be a found family” element is present, and all of the cast (Pugh in particular) sell this angle in their performances, but how much it will resonate with you as a viewer will depend on a lot of factors that are external to the film proper. I wasn’t sold on it, but I still had a blast, and the setpieces here are some of the best that this franchise has brought to the table. Pugh is great in this first entry for her into the MCU, and Harbour brings an effortlessly comedic touch to the proceedings. Weisz has never given a bad performance ever, and her Russian accent here is a delight. It’s a shame that Johansson is finally given a vehicle in this series that is hers and hers alone and it must be an interquel due to the choices made in other films, but she’s been carrying films on her back since she was a literal child, so it’s no surprise that she delivers here in her postscript swan song. If you’re going to see it, see it, before we’re all dead.

-Mark “Boomer” Redmond

The New Mutants (2020)

Plenty was already written about the X-Men genre-bender The New Mutants in the years before its actual release.  Thanks to its very public production troubles, post-production tinkering, and release-date delays since its teaser trailer premiered in movie theaters way back in the Before Times of 2017, The New Mutants has been engaged with more as a News Item than as a Movie.  I’ve even personally contributed to that phenomenon myself, cheekily declaring it to be “The Defining Film of the 2010s” a full year before it ever screened for the public.  After living with the Idea of the movie and its bungled potential to mutate the superhero genre into an entirely new beast for multiple calendar years, general audiences (or at least the nerds who pay attention to this kind of cultural runoff) couldn’t help but enter The New Mutants with rigid preconceptions of what it was going to be – whether expecting a playful superhero-horror genre hybrid or an incomprehensible editing room disaster.  It’s hilarious to me, then, that its journey into wide distribution ended with the film being unceremoniously dumped into empty movie theaters in the middle of a global pandemic, then quietly surfacing on cable television just a few months later to practically zero fanfare.  In retrospect, it was the only fitting conclusion to that sad, drawn-out saga.

Approximately one million years ago, I was pretty dang excited for The New Mutants.  The now-ancient teaser trailer for the film/news-item promised an X-Men version of The Dream Warriors, indicating that the superhero genre had established a sturdy enough cultural footing that it could now experiment with subgenre detours—including, apparently, Nightmare on Elm Street riffs—without alienating general audiences.  The finished product (which is, reportedly, the exact version of the film director Josh Boone intended to release in the first place) is unfortunately much more timid than the horror genre detour I was expecting.  Instead of a Mutant Dream Warriors creep-out, The New Mutants is essentially just the YA version of Glass.  Its target audience skews way younger than what I initially hoped for, reeling in the broader possibilities of a superhero-horror blockbuster to settle for a PG-13 thriller aimed specifically at teens.  It even openly acknowledges that aim by including multiple scenes where the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show is playing on a background television, clearly indicating the exact kind of media it hopes to emulate.  Re-orienting its context from X-Men on Elm Street to over-the-plate PG-13 horror required a major expectation adjustment for me. Once I understood where it was coming from, though, I actually found the film passably decent . . .  give or take a few ridiculous accents & wigs.

Like The Dream Warriors, The New Mutants features a small group of traumatized teens living in shared confinement in a mental ward, each haunted by the literalized versions of their worst nightmares.  Except, in this case the teens are all X-Men type mutants in training.  Also, instead of their worst fears being brought to life by the wicked scamp Freddy Krueger, it’s the fault of a new recruit who doesn’t yet know how to control her unwieldy powers.  Because this is a superhero film, the surrealism of that teen-mutants-vs-their-own-psyches premise is eventually reduced to a smash-em-up CGI battle with a single, destructive villain (in this case, a kaiju-scale Demon Bear), but there are some truly great creature designs & jump scare gags in the build-up to that inevitable climax.  Its commitment to PG-13 scares means there’s no true body count, and the cast is rounded out by less-than-charismatic performances from TV-star teens who got their start in now-dusty properties like Game of Thrones & Stranger Things (including a career-worst performance from usual-MVP Anya Taylor-Joy). As far as tween-friendly horror goes, though, it ain’t half bad.  If nothing else, it scores easy bonus points for being centered around a cute, queer romance that’s more genuinely hormonal than what’s typical for the superhero genre, even in properties that are supposedly aimed at adults.

As a news item, The New Mutants was a cultural time capsule that typified a wide range of ways mainstream blockbusters were marketed, edited, distributed, and passed around between corporate buyouts in the 2010s.  As a movie, it’s nothing special – especially not in a market already flooded with similar #content like Split, Morgan, Legion, The Umbrella Academy, and Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  It could have been a game-changer within the superhero genre, had it taken the genre-blurring risks teased in its early advertisements.  Still, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed for what it actually is: a dumb-fun popcorn movie for teens.

-Brandon Ledet

Tank Girl (1995)

As much as I love Birds of Prey, I’m still in shock that a Major Studio superhero movie ended up landing in my personal Top 5 films of 2020, much less Swampflix’s collective Top 10. The hyper-violent, hyper-femme irreverence of that film feels like a major disruption of the usual smash-em-up superhero tedium, if not only for the novelty of watching Women Behaving Badly in the context of a mainstream action movie. That doesn’t mean that Birds of Prey is a total anomaly, though. In fact, its major precedent is decades-old at this point, a similarly anarchic Girls Doing Violence superhero gem from the way-back-when of the 1990s. There is strong proto-Birds of Prey energy running throughout the 90s adaptation of Tank Girl, right down to Margot Robbie & Lori Petty doing the same Sadistic Betty Boop Voice as their films’ respective antihero leads. It’s a shame neither movie was a hit, since they’re easily the most exciting specimens of superhero media since Burton revamped Batman as a fetishistic horndog.

Lori Petty stars as the titular Tank Girl, a sugar-addled rebel scavenger in the not-too-distant-future of 2033. Water is in scarce supply, leaving a power vacuum filled by the mega-corporation Water & Power (not to be confused with the infamous enema porno Water Power) under the direction of evil overlord Malcolm McDowell. The water-rich oligarchy in this Mad Maxian desertscape entertain themselves at Hype Williams-style future-brothels; the resistance is led by mutant kangaroos; and Naomi Watts hangs around as a sidekick brunette. As with Birds of Prey, none of these plot details or set-decoration eccentricities matter nearly as much as the central performance that anchors them. Lori Petty bounces off the walls as a manic Bugs Bunny anarchist, openly mocking every inane indignity that distracts from the one thing she loves: blowing shit up in her girlified battle tank. Like with Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Petty’s Tank Girl is the blinding fireworks show at the center of this film, and everyone else is just there to gaze at it in wonder – even the mutant kangaroos.

It’s incredible that the Tank Girl movie doesn’t have more of a prominent legacy in the pop culture zeitgeist. The only time I remember this film being around was when Comedy Central was looping some cut-to-ribbons edit of it to pad out their daytime broadcasts in the early 2000s. I was fascinated by the out-of-context snippets I would catch from those broadcasts as a kid, but never enough to watch it from start to end (a feat I’m not sure anyone’s accomplished with any commercial-padded Comedy Central movie broadcast). I was taken aback, then, that the actual movie is so unapologetically Vulgar. Tank Girl has enough Saturday Morning Cartoon energy that it feels like it was made for kids, but Petty’s hyperactive antihero is an omnisexual social anarchist who challenges every taboo she can point a tank at, like Bugs Bunny smooching Elmer Fudd in drag. In just a slightly better world, that kind of horned-up flippancy would be celebrated as one of the all-time-great superhero performances, but 25 years later we still live in a world where Birds of Prey was allowed to tank at the box office (even though it improves a lot of this film’s already stellar chaotic highs through revision). I don’t get it.

A lot of early-MTV Cool was deployed to boost this movie’s marketability, including a Björk-scored strip club routine, an Iggy Pop cameo, and an opening-credits remix of DEVO’s “Girl U Want.” Still, you can tell it was underfunded & under-supported in its time, if not only because many of its transitional exterior shots & action sequences are supplanted with panels from the original Tank Girl comic. I found that choice to be a boon to the movie’s stylistic paletteborrowing a post-Love & Rockets indie comics patina from the source materialbut it’s also frustrating that a vision this fun & this idiosyncratic was left so scrappy while contemporary superhero tripe like Spawn, The Phantom, and Judge Dredd were just torching piles of cash. I would have loved to see Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl vision on the scale of Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey budget. Recent history has only proven that it would’ve still been ignored & discarded, but you can’t account for general audiences’ lack of taste. This is the superhero media that should be culturally celebrated & exalted, but instead we’re still struggling to shake off the dour, self-serious conservatism of the Nolan era; shame on us all.

-Brandon Ledet

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Once again helmed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor/sorta, respectively, along with additions Pedro Pascal (as Maxwell Lord) and Kristen Wiig (as Barbara Minerva, aka Cheetah), sequel Wonder Woman 1984 (stylized as WW84) has hit the big screens and small screens at the same time. Like many people who spent their Christmas apart from their family this year, and also have HBO Max, my Christmas morning involved watching WW84. As a Christmas present, it was like the gag candy that looks like coal and you get in your stocking, where for a moment you think that you’ve been punished before realizing it’s a sweet, except in reverse, where what seems like sugary fun at first turns out to be kind of a piece of coal. Wonder Woman 1984 is … pretty bad. And not in the way that the first one was considered “bad” by a lot of people who (understandably) lost the thread somewhere in that muddy finale or who just have a mental block that makes them hate the Wonder Woman character. This movie is a mess, with a few true gems in the narrative, but also with some troubling philosophical underpinnings. But what WW84 is, at its core, is something that Diana of Themyscira never would be: cowardly. 

It’s 1984, and Diana is working at the Smithsonian in her civilian identity, where she has access to artifacts recently recovered from a black market jewelry shop front that was revealed during a botched robbery that Diana foiled as Wonder Woman. She meets colleague Dr. Barbara Minerva, who establishes the value of everything save for one object: a citrine sculpture with an inscription that Diana translates to, essentially, “you get one wish.” She absently reminisces about Steve, and there’s magic little tinkly sounds and an air machine, and I can admit that I loved that bit. Barbara, for her part, wishes she could be more like Diana: effortlessly confident, eternally alluring, and tirelessly kind. Diana discovers that the wishing stone was actually en route to Maxwell Lord, a televised Ponzi schemer selling the idea of a socialistic communally owned oil reserve (I don’t get it either) when the FBI confiscated the artifacts, but she fails to stop him before he obtains and then acquires the power of the artifact. Steve comes back to life and although the two are happy to be reunited, the method of his resurrection reveals that the artifact operates on Monkey’s Paw rules (explicitly; it’s invoked, and it’s an admittedly nice touch that it’s Steve who calls it by name, as it would be a recent reference for him), and Lord’s using the granting of wishes to increase his personal power even as his body and society start to fall apart. Will Diana be able to stop him in blah blah blah?

If you’re completely removed from The Discourse or are Very Offline to the point that you’re in a bubble vis-a-vis politics, both contemporary and of the 1980s, then it might be possible for you to just turn your brain off and enjoy a nostalgic throwback about Wonder Woman fighting a Ponzi schemer in 1984. It’s certainly what the film wants you to do, and to that end, there are a lot of elements that are super fun.

Everything to do with Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva, aka Cheetah, is great from a performance standpoint. Wiig is once again playing a character similar to her previous role in Ghostbusters: a woman of high academic achievement who is nerdy, Hollywood Homely, and largely ignored/disdained by her peers to exaggerated comic effect (none of her male colleagues help her collect her dropped documents, only Diana does). Her own boss doesn’t even remember meeting her previously, which was funny in Office Space but just feels painful and awkward here, especially as it comes so early in the film that the tone hasn’t really been set yet (more on that in a moment). Her immediate interest in Diana is adorable, as she sees in the literally divine Amazon a reflection of what she wishes she could be, in more ways than one, and her friendship with Diana is fun and likable, before it inevitably goes sour. Wiig is having a lot of fun playing “frumpy” and excitable, and while that’s definitely within her wheelhouse, it’s also fun seeing her stretch those muscles playing some of Minerva’s more subdued moments. Unfortunately, the material she’s working with plays against her talents, especially once she’s turned into a clawing, snarling CGI abomination (seriously, the practical effects in The Island of Dr. Moreau from 1996 are better than how this looks). 

The film’s length works both for and against it. When you’ve got a movie like this that’s premiering in people’s homes, it’s not like a theater in which the audience’s attention is captivated and captive; at home, there’s a lot more to distract you, and if you’re not drawn in by the opening, you’ve already lost a lot of people to their phones. As for how it works in its favor, I’m not opposed to a 2.5 hour movie (if anything, mine and Brandon’s recent discussion of Doctor Sleep proves that I thrive on them), and the film’s decompression allows for some of the film’s best elements to have sufficient breathing room. We get to see Diana reignite her love with Steve Trevor, who is brought back to life* via the magic of the film’s MacGuffin, and start to develop a friendship with Barbara that’s warm and kind. There’s an awful lot of complaining that this film is too light on thrills and that the length of time between action sequences is to the film’s detriment, but the same complaints were made about Spider-Man 2 when it was first released, and even after 15 years in which the prevalence of superhero media has done nothing but grow at an exponential rate, that’s still considered one of the most triumphant examples of the genre. It’s what doesn’t move the plot along that makes the film work when it does work; although this film has a different resolution than a big blue laser beam (and one that’s a novel choice, if nothing else), it still follows the rote and prescriptive stations of the plot outline for all of these movies.

The action sequences are also nothing to scoff at (most of the time). The opening scene on Themyscira is a fun contest, if a little Quidditch-y at points and hosting the film’s most questionable CGI choices, but there’s also really gorgeous location work that makes you just yearn for the beach; it really does look like Paradise. The mall sequence that brings us to the film’s 1984 “present” is really what sets the tone for what’s to come: it’s light, pastel, a little goofy, but warm and inviting and not too threatening. As Diana runs around stopping people from being injured during a robbery gone awry, she really seems like Wonder Woman, the real deal, the friend to all living things  who loves kids and Christmas and ice cream and justice, and it’s very clear that the movie’s operating on G.I. Joe/A-Team rules: nobody dies, they always parachute out or land in water instead, etc. There’s an extended roadway set piece that’s very impressive and makes inventive use of the lasso, and the best White House-based action since X2. The battle with Barbara in her Cheetah form is less fun, but the fact that the climactic sequence is not about beating Maxwell Lord into submission and is instead about saving his soul is a nice change of pace from the third act megafight that’s become the standard. Although the film is explicitly set mostly in midsummer (there are Independence Day fireworks over Washington at one point), that the film’s major conflict comes to a head when a greedy Dickensian man renounces his need to own the world gives the whole thing more of a Christmas vibe than the tacked-on snowy holiday set piece that ends the film proper. 

That having been said, there’s a lot going on here that’s … questionable. I couldn’t put it more eloquently than Walter Chaw does here, and I won’t try to, other than to say that all of the things that WW84 brings to the table pale in comparison to its gross narrative choices. And if you’re sitting there after having gone and read Chaw’s review and you’re thinking that he’s reading too much into it, then I’d direct you to a follow-up Tweet of his, which says, succinctly and simply, “The nature of bias is that yours is invisible to you.” It’s easy to hear the siren call to overlook the hard-to-face fact that this film has a supervillainess’s face-heel-turn be her self-defense against a sexual assailant. A woman is punished for wanting to be powerful, and instead of breaking through her defenses by lifting her up, Wonder Woman (who is friend to all living things and loves ice cream, remember), gives her one chance to recant without any encouragement or warmth, and then gives her the old toaster-in-the-bathtub treatment. Chaw wrote about the implications of the Bialyan anti-colonial sentiment expressed by an oil baron, but there’s so much being implied in the margins here that even he couldn’t get them all down. How about the fact that the wish stone is tied to the fall of multiple civilizations due to the chaos that it creates, including the Roman Empire and the Mayan civilization, and that the Mayans are explicitly stated to have been unwilling to take the actions needed to save their society? Yeah, yikes. For recommended further reading, there’s also Roxana Hadadi’s discussion of the film’s Middle Eastern stereotypes here.

At the top, I mentioned that WW84 was cowardly, and where that shines through the most to me on a personal level is in the choice of place and time without the willingness to tackle the topics of the time. The POTUS in the film is nothing like Reagan, other than in the raging hard on for nukes, and the unwillingness to attack the tarnished late-blooming legacy of a president who was despised (even within his party and even in his time) and who turned a blind eye to the HIV/AIDS pandemic with callous disregard for human life (by the end of 1984, nearly 8000 people had contracted HIV, and nearly half of that number had died). Maxwell Lord is clearly supposed to echo the soon-to-be-former-President Donald Trump, with his facial bloat, unconvincing dye job, and all-consuming greed, but in a year dominated by politicized response to public health emergencies and dangerous alliances between pulpit and podium, history was lobbing a slowball straight over the plate, and WW84 not only didn’t make contact, it didn’t even swing. 

Some films we’re able to appreciate despite their flaws by recognizing that they are products of their times. Unfortunately, WW84 is the same, as its flawed technical achievements and interesting character moments take place in a narrative that’s circumscribed by peak white liberalism, blind to its own faults like a lot of capitalist products that aim to capture leftward social momentum and leverage it into profit. Maybe Wonder Woman is harder to get right than we thought when lighting was captured in a bottle in 2017. I don’t think it had to be this way, but unfortunately, this is what we got. 

*Some restrictions may apply.

-Mark “Boomer” Redmond

Episode #123 of The Swampflix Podcast: Birds of Prey (2020) & Good Movies in Bad Genres

Welcome to Episode #123 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, and Britnee discuss the recent superhero blockbuster Birds of Prey (2020) and several others movies we enjoy in genres that usually bore us.

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on  SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherYouTube, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew