Box Office Buzz is getting a remodel!

Although I’ve been blogging here since 2011, I realized I hadn’t done anything to update the look of my blog, other than change one of the images in my header.😉 I wanted to go with a design that was a little cleaner and a little more open, and also with more white space so the text was easier to read. I’m continuing to tweak the page, so let me know if you run across something that looks funny or doesn’t work correctly. Thanks to everyone who has followed along  with my blog!

My top 10 favorite Marvel superhero movie moments

zmm7hhlo2hg3at0r0fqfMay has been a good month for Marvel superheroes, with “Captain America: Civil War” still riding high at the box office and “X-Men: Apocalypse” coming to theaters this weekend. In “Civil War” we saw our favorite heroes test their limits and battle each other, and in “Apocalypse” we’ll watch the X-Men literally try to stop the end of the world. Each of these films seems to up the ante in terms of epic action set pieces and overall scope, and I thought it might be fun to look back over these movies and rank some of my favorite moments.

10. Nick Fury’s first end credits scene from “Iron Man”

Although I didn’t fully comprehend it at the time, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury’s appearance during the end credits of “Iron Man” was a huge deal for Marvel fans. When Fury told Iron Man he’d come to discuss the “Avenger Initiative,” it offered a hint of Marvel’s long-term plans for the franchise. It’s fun to look back and see how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come since they first planted the seeds for a super-powered team-up.

9. Fourth-wall breaking expressway fight from “Deadpool”

As a whole, I actually didn’t love the “Deadpool” movie as much as I had been hoping to, but the fourth-wall breaking fight on the expressway is violent, outrageous, and tons of fun. Ryan Reynolds nails Deadpool’s twisted sense of humor, and his witty quips punctuate this great action sequence.

8. Tiny train set fight from “Ant-Man”

Although I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from “Ant-Man,” I found I really, really enjoyed this movie, and my favorite moment was the fight between a miniaturized Ant-Man and Yellowjacket on the toy train set. It’s a good action sequence but also quite humorous since it’s on such a small scale. The giant Thomas the Tank Engine crashing through the window is pretty funny too.

7. Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock in “Spider-Man 2”

Arguably the best of the Spider-Man films, “Spider-Man 2” features a battle between Spider-Man and Doc Ock. Doc Ock made for a great villain because he didn’t start out the movie as a psychotic mastermind bent on world domination. He’s a well-meaning scientist whose creation tragically takes control of his mind and ruins his life.

6. Magneto submarine lift from “X-Men: First Class”

“X-Men: First Class” is actually my favorite X-Men film. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy did a great job portraying the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X as the characters come to terms with their mutant powers. My favorite part of the movie is when Magneto finally masters his ability to manipulate metal and raises a giant submarine from the ocean (it’s also a great musical moment from the film’s score).

5. Avengers (finally!) team up in “The Avengers”

It takes the Avengers quite a bit of screen time to team up and actually fight the bad guys, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye defend New York City from Loki’s intergalactic army in a big budget, action-packed battle.

4. Hydra reveal in “Captain America: The Winter Solider”

In a shocking twist we didn’t see coming, Captain America learns that for decades, Hydra has been slowing infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. and now the organization is rotting from within. This revelation shakes the Cap to his core, and sets up his distrust for the government and regulation of superheroes, which plays a big role in “Civil War.”

3. Team Stark vs. Team Cap in “Captain America: Civil War”

And speaking of “Civil War,” Team Stark vs. Team Cap is one of my favorite MCU battles. We’ve watched these heroes fighting before, but now we see what happens when they turn on each other. It’s an intense fight that’s deeply personal and sometimes hard to watch, because we’ve come to love all these characters. We also get to see some new heroes in action (or at least new to the MCU): Spider-Man and Black Panther.

2. Guardians take control of the Infinity Stone from “Guardians of the Galaxy”

There are so many great moments in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” from Star-Lord’s cassette tape of ’60s and ’70s tunes that play throughout the movie to the surprisingly heartfelt friendship between a talking raccoon and a walking tree. Yet my personal favorite is at the very end of the film, when the Guardians truly become the Guardians for the first time. Star-Lord takes hold of the Infinity Stone, and as it starts to tear him apart, the other Guardians join hands with him, and together they harness the power of the stone. It’s one of my favorite moments in the film score, also.

1. “I am Iron Man” from “Iron Man”

Iron Man is my all-time favorite superhero and my all-time favorite superhero film. Robert Downey Jr. is just perfect in this role, and his best moment may be the final one in the film. Up until this point, we’d seen superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man work so hard to conceal their secret identities. Tony Stark, however, couldn’t care less. At a press conference, he reveals his own secret identity, telling the world, “I am Iron Man” — and daring the world’s super-villains to come and try to stop him.

So, what are your personal favorite Marvel superhero movie moments? I’d love to hear what you think!

Cast your vote: Who are the best – and worst – fictional politicians?

leia-carrie-fisher-2Although U.S. voters won’t actually cast their ballots until November, election season is (for better or worse) already in full swing. Since politics are on many peoples’ minds, I thought it might be fun to put together a list with some of my favorite good — and not-so-good — fictional politicians from movies and TV. I’d also love to hear about fictional politicians you’d like to vote into — or out of — office.

THE GOOD

1. President James Marshall from “Air Force One”

The bad guys learn — the hard way — that they really shouldn’t mess with President James Marshall. After Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists, Marshall (played by Harrison Ford) orders his staff back in D.C. not to negotiate with the terrorists and personally fights to regain control of the aircraft. With nerves of steel and a willingness to lead from the front lines, President Marshall would totally have my vote.

2. President Thomas J. Whitmore from “Independence Day”

When the United States has to defend itself from an alien invasion, it’s in good hands with President Thomas J. Whitmore (played by Bill Pullman). Whitmore doesn’t just give inspiring speeches (although he is pretty good at that) — he actually pilots one of the fighter jets targeting the alien ships. He’s an awesome commander-in-chief, if you ask me.

3. Princess Leia from “Star Wars”

If Princess Leia filled out a résumé, it would be pretty impressive: member of the Senate, leader in the Rebel Alliance, and later a general. Leia leads with conviction, intelligence, and grace, and she’s also pretty good at firing off sharp retorts when the situation calls for it. She’s willing to sacrifice everything she has for the people she serves.

4. Kingsley Shacklebolt from “Harry Potter”

Apparently, politics in the wizarding world are just as messy as politics are for us Muggles. There have been some pretty awful (and downright evil) leaders of the Ministry of Magic, but as the new Minister of Magic, Shacklebolt helps to reform the organization after the downfall of Voldemort. Shacklebolt doesn’t get a lot of screen time in the Harry Potter movies, but he serves a pretty important role in the plot, helping Harry and his friends to escape from the Death Eaters several times.

5. Moira Queen from “Arrow”

Mayoral candidate Moira Queen didn’t start off as a hero on the “Arrow” television series. In fact, she was actually part of a plot to destroy part of the city, although she later turned herself in and confessed her role in the project. Always a complicated character, Queen may not have been perfect, but she does deeply love her children and tries to do the right thing in the end. I was sad when she died in season two; I think she would have made an interesting mayor of Starling City.

THE BAD

1. Emperor Palpatine from “Star Wars”

From his humble beginnings as a Naboo Senator, Palpatine manages to single-handedly destroy the Republic and turn it into an Empire. He’s really good at pretending to be a humble public servant, but he really just craves power and will do anything to get it. He also seduces Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and brings down the Jedi Order. NOT a nice guy.

2. President Snow from “The Hunger Games”

He’s just as evil as Palpatine and might be even more awful, if that’s even possible. President Snow presides over a post-apocalyptic society that sends youth to fight in a televised death match as punishment for a failed uprising years ago. Although he strikes fear in the heart of the people he rules over, he feels threatened by the “girl on fire,” Katniss Everdeen.

3. Harold Saxon from “Doctor Who”

He may have convinced everyone in the U.K. to vote for him, but Prime Minister Harold Saxon is hiding a dangerous secret: he’s actually the Master, the Doctor’s long-time arch nemesis. He ends up enslaving the planet but thankfully is defeated by the human wife he tried to deceive.

4. Regina Mills from “Once Upon a Time”

During the time she serves as the mayor of Storybrooke, Regina is a pretty bad person. Actually, she’s literally the Evil Queen. She abuses her mayoral powers and is bent on ruining Snow White’s happily ever after. Thankfully, Regina’s character arc doesn’t mirror the fate of most fairy tale villains; she turns away from her dark past and becomes a hero. Repentant Regina would actually make a pretty good mayor, I think.

5. The President of the Galaxy from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

I love Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy. I really do. But he’d make a pretty terrible president in real life. He doesn’t seem to have any relevant life experience that would make him a good politician and is generally clueless for most of the film. This is, after all, a man whose brain is fueled by lemons.

Movie review: ‘Captain America: Civil War’ another hit for Marvel

NEHltLvz2UuBLJ_3_b

The Avengers have faced some difficult opponents, either as a team or on their own: the Red Skull, Loki, the Mandarin, Ultron. However, in “Captain America: Civil War,” they face a new kind of enemy: each other. “Civil War” divides the Avengers, forcing them to align with either Iron Man or Captain America. Iron Man believes superheroes should sign a government document that will keep them all accountable; Captain America fears the government will abuse that power and it would be dangerous to sign. They are also split on exactly how the Winter Soldier — the Cap’s brainwashed best friend Bucky Barnes — should be brought to justice. This conflict will challenge and even ruin friendships, and it will bring an end to the Avengers as we know them.

“Captain America: Civil War” is a tense, thought-provoking superhero film that is both global and personal in its scope. It ventures into definite moral gray areas and sometimes it’s tough to decide who is actually doing the right thing. Although there are a lot of superheroes, and a lot of subplots, the Russo brothers — who also helmed 2014’s excellent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — successfully manage everything that’s going on and never lose sight of the central conflict between Iron Man and the Cap. “Civil War” is a must-see for Marvel fans and shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Civil War” starts by examining a theme that, a little surprisingly, is often overlooked in superhero films: collateral damage. When superheroes battle super-powered villains, city blocks tend to get leveled and the landscape gets destroyed. We may not like to think about it, but in these types of epic battles, civilian casualties would be difficult to avoid. In “Civil War,” Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, inadvertently kills civilians while trying to stop a bomb. This incident appears to be the last straw in a long line of catastrophic Avengers-related events (New York, Washington, D.C., Sokovia), and the United Nations presents the Avengers with a document called the Sokovia Accords, which are designed to control them and keep them accountable.

Normally the rebel but now haunted by his past mistakes, Tony Stark is one of the first to sign. However, Steve Rogers can’t bring himself to do the same. He’s afraid of giving the government this kind of control, and he is concerned the government could abuse this power. He also believes Bucky Barnes is a victim of brainwashing, even though the government has labeled him as a No. 1 priority terrorist and has ordered their agents to kill him on sight. Captain America ends up going rouge with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and several other Avengers, and Tony is forced to hunt him down with the help of War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow — and a couple surprise allies.

While there’s a lot going on in “Civil War,” the directors keep everything running smoothly, and it feels like every character and plot point gets just the right amount of screen time. It’s a more satisfying film than last summer’s “Age of Ultron,” which remains the only MCU film that I don’t own and the only one that left me feeling slightly disappointed. “Civil War” does a better job of managing its large cast and finding time for some quieter, more character-focused moments, even in the midst of all the action. Marvel’s weak link is sometimes its villains, and you could say this film’s villain, Helmut Zemo, isn’t as dynamic as he could have been. But this film was never really meant to be about the Avengers fighting an outside villain: it’s about what happens when they fight each other, and Zemo is merely the catalyst who facilitates that conflict.

Although this is very much the Cap and Iron Man’s film, there are some great cameo appearances and newcomers here. I was excited to see Ant-Man join the Avengers for the first time, and the revelation of his new “special ability” is one of the best — and funniest — moments of the film. I also really loved Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, and I’m excited for his upcoming solo film. He brings an outside perspective to the conflict, and he’s definitely a superhero you want to have on your side. And no review of “Civil War” would be complete without talking about Spider-Man. I was a little nervous about how the character would blend with the Avengers, but the Russos handle his introduction marvelously, sending Tony Stark to recruit the excitable and lovably awkward teenager. It’s also a blast to see him using his powers in the big showdown between the opposing groups of superheroes.

The film ends on a slightly ambiguous note, which I was actually happy about. There’s not a direct resolution to the conflict, and the Russos don’t completely repair the division in the team. I was concerned the film would try to rush and wrap everything up too neatly, and thankfully, it doesn’t do that. The conflict will continue to impact Marvel films in the future. All in all, I was very pleased with “Civil War.” I’m not sure yet exactly where this ranks on my list of favorite MCU films, but it’s definitely in the top 5. I guess I’ll just have to go see it again.😉

Movie preview: Will ‘Captain America: Civil War’ be a game changer for Marvel?

captain-america-civil-war-02082016We have less than a week to go until “Captain America: Civil War” hits theaters, and the initial buzz is good — really, really good. The film is at 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and their review summary is exactly what many fans, I think, wanted to hear: “‘Captain America: Civil War’ begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed superhero blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore thought-provoking themes.”

The film is a new direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, pitting several of our favorite Avengers against each other in an ideological battle. Tony Stark, normally the rebel, is sobered by some of the traumas he has experienced, and he now believes there should be government oversight of super-powered heroes. He feels someone has to keep the Avengers accountable. However, Steve Rogers has seen some things too, and he no longer trusts the government he once swore to protect. He also can’t bear to betray his best friend Bucky, even though he has been transformed into the Winter Soldier. Iron Man and Captain America find themselves facing off against each other, recruiting their own teams of supporters. Friendships will be broken, and lives could maybe even be lost.

While I’m not as familiar with the original comics this film is based on (the comics are still on my must-read list!), I’m really intrigued by this storyline. Up to this point, the Avengers have been fighting outside enemies, and it will be really interesting to see what happens when they turn on each other. These heroes have been to hell and back together, and there are some genuine friendships amongst the team members. Now, everyone has to pick sides.

I also like how Marvel has framed this conflict, even though originally I would have pegged Tony as the rebel fighting against government control. However, within the context of the MCU, it really makes sense. Tony has experienced a lot since he first built the Iron Man suit, and he’s made some pretty major mistakes, such as the creation of Ultron. Also on his mind has to be the vision he experienced in “Age of Ultron,” where he saw the death of all his teammates. Tony knows firsthand what can happen when heroes get out of control. He thinks it’s time to have someone keep those heroes accountable — including himself. However, I can definitely understand the Cap’s concern about this plan. He witnessed the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to a long-range H.Y.D.R.A. plot no one saw coming until it was too late, and he’s learned the government he proudly served in World War II is maybe gone for good. He also believes his friend Bucky is not beyond redemption, a belief the government seems to disagree with.

Although I’m solidly in the Team Iron Man camp (Robert Downey Jr. is my favorite actor, and Iron Man is my favorite superhero), I can see that both heroes have some good points. “Civil War” will venture into some definite gray areas, and I’m really curious to see how this film impacts the MCU. Who will still be a member of the Avengers in the upcoming two-part Infinity War series? Will Iron Man and the Cap reconcile at the end of Civil War, or will Marvel leave things slightly ambiguous?

The one concern I have is that even though this is technically a Captain America film, it has a LOT of heroes in the cast, including some major new characters. There is a danger the film could become too busy and chaotic, and we could lose sight of the central conflict between Iron Man and the Cap. Still, my gut tells me this movie will be what I was hoping “Age of Ultron” would be last year: a darker, thought-provoking take on the MCU and a study on what happens when very powerful heroes disagree and turn those powers against each other.

So, what do you think? Are you Team Iron Man or Team Cap? Who do you think will win the conflict?

2016 summer movie preview

X-Men-Apocalypse-Poster-No-Text.0.0It’s that time of year again — summer blockbuster season is here! Summer is typically my favorite time of the year at the movie theater, because it tends to bring more science fiction and superhero films, my two favorite genres. This year, however, my “must see” list seems to be a little smaller than normal. There definitely are some really big and really exciting movies coming up, but there just don’t seem to be as many that made me think, “Wow, I’ve got to pre-order my ticket for this right now!” It could be that overall, this year’s offerings aren’t quite as strong as years past, or it could simply be that studios are moving some of their big-ticket items to other parts of the year (but more on that later).

The top item on my summer list is, of course, “Captain America: Civil War” (May 6), and I’m betting it will be the biggest movie of the summer and (hopefully!) my favorite. I’m excited about the concept, which pits two of the best Marvel superheroes against each other. Captain America normally respects the rules better than Iron Man does, so it’s interesting to see that this time, Captain America is the one on the run from the law. I’m glad to see Ant-Man joining the team, and I’m looking forward to the introduction of Black Panther. My one fear is that, similar to “Age of Ultron,” Marvel may have packed too many superheroes into this film. Hopefully they’ll keep the focus on the ideological and also personal conflict between Captain America and Iron Man.

I’m also looking forward to two other superhero movies: “X-Men: Apocalypse” (May 27) and “Suicide Squad” (Aug. 5). I’ve really enjoyed the X-Men prequel series featuring the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, and I think the immortal Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) will prove to be a worthy foe. While “Suicide Squad” — which recruits a group of unstable villains to save the world — could be more of a gamble, I hope this movie will be as fun and dark and crazy as the trailers seem to promise.

Although I’m sad the Star Trek reboot franchise has had to continue on without director J.J. Abrams, I’m glad that Simon Pegg, the actor who plays Scotty, has helped write the script for “Star Trek: Beyond” (July 22). I’ve really enjoyed these reboot films, and I think film makers picked a great cast to carry on the spirit of the original series. While I’ve heard some concern that the trailer makes this look too much like a standard action film, I think there are some cool elements in the trailer, and hopefully this movie will continue to push the franchise into exciting and uncharted territory.

The final film on my “most looking forward to” list is actually a bit of a departure for me.:) “Me Before You” (June 3) is based on a novel about a young British woman who becomes a caregiver for a quadriplegic who resents his paralysis and no longer wishes to keep living. They do end up falling in love, but the ending is far from conventional. I read this book with my book club and absolutely loved it, even though it’s a bit different from the kind of books I normally read. I’m also excited about the “geek cred” of the cast: Daenerys from “Game of Thrones”; Finnick from the Hunger Games series; Clara, Doctor Who companion; and even Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey!😉

I do have some films that I’m keeping an eye on, to see what initial reviews are. I’m worried about sequels like “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (May 27) and “Independence Day: Resurgence” (June 24) and maybe even “Jason Bourne” (July 29). Has it been too long since the previous films in these franchises came out, and will audiences still find these movies relevant? I do think “Jason Bourne” could be an interesting opportunity to show how the world — and the nature of national security — have changed since the first Bourne movie came out almost 15 years ago. “The Legend of Tarzan” (July 1) has a good cast and could turn out to be cool, and while “Ghostbusters” (July 15) does have a fun (and funny) cast, it’s always risky to mess with a classic.

As I look at all the other movies coming out this year, I’m wondering if we’re starting to see a bit of a shift away from the traditionally crowded summer movie season, and film makers are more willing to release big crowd-pleasers at other times of the year. “Batman v. Superman” fits the traditional summer movie mold but was released in March, and late fall/early winter has proven to be a good fit for some major films, such as the Hunger Games franchise and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I’m actually really looking forward to the fall and winter season this year, with “Doctor Strange,” “Star Wars: Rogue One,” J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt’s “Passengers,” simply because it’s a sci-fi movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (what more could I ask for?).😉

So, what films are you most looking forward to this summer? What will be the biggest hit or the biggest flop?

Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’: To boldly go where no superhero has gone before?

Mystical-Strange-005-EWAfter finding success with films about Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, Marvel Studios has been trying its hand at superheroes who are a little farther outside the mainstream. “Ant-Man” had its skeptics, and while I wondered how well the concept of a man shrinking down to the size of an ant would translate to the big screen, the movie turned out to be hilarious and fun. Although “Guardians of the Galaxy” may have seemed like a tough sell with its walking, talking tree and trigger-happy mutant raccoon, it became a huge hit and is now one of my all-time favorite movies. Now, Marvel is preparing to introduce us to another unconventional hero: the mystical Doctor Strange, who has the power to bend the elements and even reality itself.

Marvel just released the first trailer for the “Doctor Strange” movie, which is coming to theaters in early November. The trailer leaves us with a lot of questions, but I’m not really too worried. By this point, I pretty much just trust Marvel; if they could make “Guardians of the Galaxy” work, they can make anything work. The only Marvel film that really disappointed me was “Age of Ultron,” because I felt it introduced some interesting ideas but didn’t push them far enough. In order for “Doctor Strange” to work, I think Marvel needs to fully embrace the, well, “stranger” aspects of this character and not shy away from the weird or supernatural elements of this story.

Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a top neurosurgeon who is injured in devastating car crash that ends his career. While on a desperate quest for healing, he meets a mythical being called the Ancient One, who trains him to use magic. Doctor Strange rises from the ashes of his former life to become a superhero protecting the world from evil forces.

I’m a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, and I’m excited to see him take on this role (his American accent did throw me a bit at first, though).😉 While I love him as the title character in the BBC show “Sherlock,” it’s also nice to see him take on different and potentially challenging roles, like this one. The rest of the cast is good, too: Chiwetel Ejiofor as the maybe good-guy or maybe bad-guy Karl Mordo, another pupil of the Ancient One, and the always intriguing Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One herself.

However, as good as this cast is, what really grabbed my attention in the trailer were the gorgeously weird visuals (and I do mean “weird” as a compliment). It reminded me a little of “Inception,” with the way the magical characters could manipulate landscapes and reality. While I’m hoping it won’t be too much like “Inception” and will find its own voice, I think we’ve only seen a small taste of what will be in the final film, and hopefully it will be genuinely mind-blowing.

I’m also intrigued to see how Marvel handles the use of magic in this film. We’ve seen superhuman powers in Marvel movies before, but according to producers this one is supposed to serve as the official “doorway” to the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We could be seeing alternate dimensions and a blend of science and magic. I hope Marvel doesn’t play it too safe here, because I think they could bring us something really exciting and different. I think Marvel is saving the best elements for the film itself.

So, what do you think? Are you feeling excited or skeptical about “Doctor Strange”? What do you hope to see in the film?

The Rebellion strikes back: Some quick thoughts on the first trailer for ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’

ybrhoyn9luekz3ulvh9lThis week was a double treat for Star Wars fans: “The Force Awakens” was released on DVD, and we got the first trailer for the upcoming “Rogue One” film about a team of Rebels fighting the Empire, which takes place before the events of “A New Hope.”

“Rogue One” is a new type of project for the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. We’re used to seeing Star Wars films that are part of epic trilogies that revolve around the Skywalker family and involve the battle between the Jedi and the Sith. “Rogue One” is a bit different — it’s meant to stand on its own and appears to focus on non-Force-users.

Here’s what we know so far: Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a member of the Rebel Alliance who is tasked with a secret mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. From what we’ve seen in the trailer, she’s a bit of a loose cannon who prefers to play by her own rules. We catch glimpses of an Imperial official played by Ben Mendelsohn, a character who is possibly a bounty hunter played by Forest Whitaker, and a warrior (perhaps a former Jedi?) wielding a quarterstaff played by Donnie Yen. There’s a battle with AT-ATs on a beach with palm trees, and we witness the dawn of the Death Star.

Like most good trailers, the trailer for “Rogue One” teases more than it reveals. But so far it looks good — really good. Star Wars has a long history of strong female characters, and Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso looks like she’ll carry on that tradition well. I’m curious to learn what her character’s background is, and why she joined the Rebel Alliance.

I also really like that this film has its own vibe; it’s definitely Star Wars, but it stands on its own. I have a feeling “Rogue One” will be to Star Wars what “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is to the Avengers. The characters in “Rogue One” may not be the main heroes, and they might not have amazing Force powers. However, they’re still a key part of the Rebellion, and without them, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia couldn’t save the galaxy.

I’m thinking this film won’t have a happy ending, because we all know what happens in “A New Hope.” The Rebels don’t stop the Death Star from being built, and they can’t save Alderaan from being destroyed. Still, it will be interesting to see how this sets up the original trilogy.

My one disappointment about the trailer is that we don’t get to see Darth Vader. I’ve heard rumors he’s going to be in the film, and I hope it will be more than just a cameo. We haven’t seen Darth Vader in a full-on battle before, and I really, really hope we get to see him in action, running across a battlefield with his lightsaber. My gut feeling is that they purposefully chose not to show Darth Vader in this trailer, to build up suspense, and then they’ll give us just a little glimpse of him in the next trailer.

So, what do you think? Are you excited for “Rogue One”? What are you most looking forward to about it?

Dawn of Justice: What’s next for the DC Extended Universe?

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-000220568DC has begun building up to its Justice League team-up film, although its start has been a little rockier than Marvel’s build-up to its Avengers movie. DC and Warner Bros. recently released “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which serves as a teaser for their big Justice League film in 2017. “Batman v. Superman” has made an impressive amount of money at the box office, but critics weren’t kind, earning it a score of 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s fair to say that score is probably too harsh; there are definitely good parts to the film, namely Ben Affleck, who is actually quite good as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and of course Wonder Woman, who arguably steals the whole show. However, the film did have weaknesses, and DC’s Extended Universe is not yet on as strong a footing as Marvel’s.

On paper, I think DC and Warner Bros. have good ideas. I like that they’re not just trying to copy Marvel and give us a bunch of individual movies leading up to their team-up film. I also like the darker tone the DC films seem to be taking. Everyone knows how much I love Marvel😉 but I think that DC does need to have its own voice. DC’s execution has just been a little hit or miss so far. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a masterpiece, but it won’t be a part of the DC Extended Universe going forward. Fans are split on their feelings for “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman,” and it’s probably better if we just don’t mention “Green Lantern,” which also seems to have been excluded from the DCEU.

The good news is, I don’t think DC will have that hard a time getting people excited about their Justice League team-up film. While “Batman v. Superman” proved to be a little polarizing and didn’t seem to leave fans as pumped as they were after “The Avengers,” people will still want to see “Justice League.” The Batman and Superman characters are enough of a draw on their own. That said, if “Justice League” has a lukewarm reception, that will be a big liability for the franchise going forward, and it will be challenging to build up momentum for upcoming solo films featuring characters like the Flash and Aquaman.

After seeing Wonder Woman in “Batman v. Superman,” I am really excited for her solo film next year, and if this film is good, it will definitely help build excitement for “Justice League.” I haven’t seen a lot on this film so far, other than that it will be an origin story. Entertainment Weekly recently ran a sneak preview photo that shows Wonder Woman on Paradise Island, home of the Amazons, so we know at least part of the film will take place there. It’s also possible this film will take place in the past. In “Batman v. Superman,” Bruce Wayne finds a photo of Wonder Woman taken during World War I, and I noticed one of the other people in this photo looked like Chris Pine, who has been cast as a character in the Wonder Woman film. Does this mean part of the film will be during World War I? I really loved the retro feel of the first Captain America movie, which took place during World War II, and I’m excited to see “Wonder Woman” attempt something similar, but with its own flair.

I’m also intrigued by “Suicide Squad,” which is coming up later this summer. While it’s not as direct a tie-in to “Justice League” as “Wonder Woman,” I’ve enjoyed the trailers for this film. It looks dark and zany, featuring reject heroes who are sort of a twisted DC version of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” While I don’t see this team playing nice with the Justice League, it could be a cool counter-franchise, if all goes well.

After the Justice League film in 2017, DC and Warner Bros. will follow up with solo films for the Flash and Aquaman in 2018. I’m still a little skeptical about the Flash movie, just because the CW TV show is so good and it’s hard to think of someone other than Grant Gustin in the role. However, I’m definitely willing to keep an open mind, and hopefully this film can bring something new to the character. We’ve only seen a short teaser of Jason Momoa as Aquaman in “Batman v. Superman,” but he definitely looks like a hero you shouldn’t take lightly. I think Aquaman will add a different and exciting element to the team. Still, the Justice League film will need to be REALLY good in order to convince people to watch solo films on these other characters.

So, what do you think? Are you excited about these upcoming DC films? What do you think DC will need to be successful going forward?

Movie review: ‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’

Batman-v-SupermanAlthough “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” promised to show fans an epic smack-down between two of the greatest superheroes of all time, the initial reviews for this film were, unfortunately, not-so-super. “Batman vs. Superman” is currently sitting at 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and one critic called it “an onslaught of too much, too often, and for too long” (ouch). However, these reviews didn’t seem to dampen moviegoers’ enthusiasm too much — the film pulled in an impressive $170 million over the Easter weekend, and audiences rated it a far less painful 73 percent.

Despite the 29 percent critics’ rating, the film isn’t as bad as you might first believe. I walked into the theater with a good deal of skepticism but found I was actually entertained by the film. There are some good moments, and even flashes of greatness, though it’s also fair to say the film isn’t all that it could have been. Since there are some pretty stark contrasts between the good and the not-so-good, I’ve decided to skip my regular movie review format and instead do a list of what works and what doesn’t.

What works

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Although Ben Affleck initially got quite a bit of flak for his casting, he actually turns out to be a pretty interesting Bruce Wayne/Batman. I like the choice to portray an older and more world-weary Batman; every time you see Bruce Wayne, there’s a sad, almost tired look in his eyes. His years of vigilantism — and his isolation — are starting to wear on him, and we get the feeling he’s keeping up this superhero business more out of a sense of duty than a burning desire to champion the cause of justice. He provides a thought-provoking contrast to Superman. Unlike Superman, he doesn’t have any supernatural powers; all his special abilities come from tech he’s developed. It was also nice to see him hold his own in the film’s inevitable fight between the two heroes (hey, you can’t call it “Batman vs. Superman” and not have a battle between these two).

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. While I worried that DC might be adding too many heroes to this film, essentially turning it into “Justice League Lite,” I’m really glad they included Wonder Woman. Marvel has Black Widow (and now the Scarlet Witch), and it’s great to see DC bring in a female superhero, especially one with powers as impressive as Wonder Woman’s. I loved watching her interact with the other superheroes in the big battle during the film’s third act. I’m also now pretty pumped for her solo film next year.

The dark/gritty tone. This film is pretty dark, both literally and figuratively — the film itself is shot in a muted color palette, and the tone is somber. While some critics said the film is too serious and doesn’t take enough time for fun, I’m glad DC didn’t try to copy the Marvel template. I love the Marvel films, but DC’s Cinematic Universe needs to develop its own voice and its own style. Besides, I’d much rather have it be too serious than too silly (I’m looking at you, “Green Lantern”).

Superhero accountability. While the case could be made that this film didn’t explore the theme of superhero accountability as deeply or effectively as it could have, I still liked the discussion about the benefits and dangers of relying on heroes with super powers. When humanity is in a bind, it’s great to have Superman intervene and save lives. However, what if Superman were to turn evil, and use those powers against us? Should there be someone, or something, keeping superheroes accountable? If so, who? And how do you keep a superhero in check who has seemingly unstoppable powers? Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” will be dealing with many of these same themes later this year, and I’m curious to see their take on it as well.

What doesn’t

Lex Luthor. Although Lex Luthor is one of the most iconic DC villains, in this film he unfortunately comes across as too cartoonish. I don’t really blame actor Jesse Eisenberg for this; I think it has more to do with the director and the way the character was written. It’s almost like they’re trying to echo the Joker without echoing the Joker, and it doesn’t quite work. The mutant monster that Luthor creates at the end of the film is also a little too reminiscent of some other superhero film finales, but it was pretty cool to see Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fighting this creature together.

Some plot confusion. Some fans and critics have called out the plot for being confusing and not always tying all the various elements together. Although I enjoyed the movie while I was watching it, as I thought about it over the weekend I did think of more plot holes. There is a lot going on, and it doesn’t always connect. I also felt the film needed more interaction between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman. Much of the time, they’re following separate storylines, and the film waits too long to bring them together.

Rushing to the finish. I don’t think DC necessarily needs to be like Marvel, which introduced all of its main heroes in solo films before giving us the epic team-up “The Avengers.” Yet it still feels a little like DC is trying to fast-track the Justice League film, which is coming to theaters next year. By necessity, “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” has to spend time setting up this team-up film. I wish DC would slow the pace a little, and earn their team-up film like Marvel earned theirs. Putting Batman and Superman in a film together was a good idea. The solo Wonder Woman film is also a good idea, and I’m now really excited about it after seeing Wonder Woman in “Batman vs. Superman.” I’d also like a solo Ben Affleck as Batman film too; maybe the Flash could have a role in this film so we get to know him a little better before seeing him in the Justice League film (I still wish they’d called Grant Gustin from the TV show “The Flash” up to the big leagues — no pun intended — but I’m happy to give Ezra Miller a shot). I just feel like a Justice League film next year is a bit too soon.

All in all, I paid $7 for a matinee ticket for “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and I felt like I got $7 worth of entertainment out of it. While the DC Cinematic Universe has not yet produced an offering that I love as much as the best of the Marvel films, I think they have the elements — and the cast — they need to succeed. Maybe “Justice League” can be that film.

So, what did you think about “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice”? Did you love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?