Category Archives: Comment

When (not if) will Captain America die in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

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After watching The Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, a completely random thought unrelated to the movie popped into my head, “someone better die fighting Thanos in the 3rd Avengers movie.”

The innate flaw of the superhero genre is that you know going in the superhero(s) are going to survive.  As franchises go on, this conceit is what basically causes them to creak, then crack, and ultimately crumble–the original Superman franchise comes to mind, as well as the Bond films before the Daniel Craig reboot.  But how much more would we enjoy a film if the survival of all the protagonists was not assured?

Steve Rogers’ death is assured.  Chris Evans has stated in interviews he would like to take a break from acting.  Sebastian Stan has a nine feature film contract with Marvel as Bucky Barnes.  It has already been established in the comics that Bucky takes on the mantle of Captain America after Steve is killed.  So the question is when and not if.  I believe it will happen during the 3rd Avengers movie against Thanos.  Why

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The destruction of Captain America’s shield is a very symbolic and powerful symbol.  And though the shield has been destroyed in the history of the comics a few times, only one of those times also involved Steve Rogers’ death:

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And unlike the comic death, this one will stick.  Quite frankly it has to.  Marvel has been upping-the-ante with each subsequent film.  With Guardians they have basically identified Thanos as the ultimate evil in the galaxy and the collection of the infinity stones the creation of the ultimate weapon.  How can there be no consequences to fighting him?  How can someone not die in the confrontation?  If no one does, then anything that follows cheapens everything.  I would be surprised if only Steve Rogers dies.  My guess would be Rogers, the Hulk, and Loki in an act of redemption saving Thor.

And what about Avengers 2 Age of Ultron?  Will anyone die then?  Who knows outside of the filmmakers and the studio.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if there is at least one major casualty:

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Like Captain America, Iron Man is also a mantle.

Ultron in the movie is created by Tony Stark.  will Avengers 2 be a modern retelling of the Frankenstein story?

 

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Merry Christmas! And Where I Have Been.

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Edwin, Santa, Joshua, and Me

As you can see, it has been a joyous holiday season.

The Great Pumpkin brought us Joshua on October 30th to the hospital and our home on November 1st. We had much to be thankful for over Thanksgiving, and had a very Merry Christmas.

Though we had started the adoption process, we and the adoption agency were caught off guard by the speed with which everything happened. I literally got a call at work in the morning letting me know a healthy baby boy had been born and if we wanted him. That’s how quickly our lives changed, and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since.

As far as the blog goes, my priorities have changed and my time is more constrained. That being said, our lives are starting to normalize so I hope to get back on the writing wagon soon. I have been able to watch a few films at the theatre, so reviews will be coming shortly–though most likely under a new, shorter, style.

I hope you all have had a great holiday season and will have a Happy New Year.


After Superman: or, How I learned to stop worrying and accept that DC & Warner Brothers do not have a plan.

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WARNING: Spoilers Follow

Judged as a single film Man of Steel is a success. But viewed as a first film of a franchise and cornerstone film of a new superhero universe, Man of Steel basically painted all follow-up films into a corner. The main reason is simple, where do they go from here?

While it took an entire team of superheroes and one human nuclear weapon to save the Earth from an alien invasion in the Marvel Universe, all the DC Universe required was Superman and one Kryptonian Phantom Zone “bomb”. And in reality, the threat level in Man of Steel was actually an Extinction-Level-Event. The aftermath in The Avengers was 9/11 level damage to the city and all the heroes being battered & bruised. InMan of Steel Metropolis suffers the equivalent of a nuclear detonation and Superman’s hair is not even tussled.

So, where do the filmmakers go from here? Who does Superman fight next? Who presents so large a threat that Superman would require help and need to form the Justice League?

The most logical answer to the Justice League question is Darkseid, ruler of the planet Apokolips. The problem with him is Thanos, who will most likely be the main villain of the second Avengers film. You will have two similar looking and powered villains–Thanos was inspired by Darkseid–fighting superhero teams with the fate of Earth/the Universe in the balance. And by the time of each films respective release we the audience will have a greater connection to the heroes in The Avengers.

As for the Superman question, who knows. If the filmmakers still do not want to use kryptonite as a weapon against the Man of Steel, then it is too soon for Lex Luthor to make an appearance as the main enemy. A possible option could be Brainiac, but would the filmmakers want to deal with Kandor in a bottle? By starting off the franchise with such a heavyweight enemy the filmmakers have limited their options of who would be a viable enemy for Superman to face.

Backtracking, the Nolan Batman films were never meant to create the DC Universe, and, more importantly, at the end of his trilogy Batman–the man and concept–no longer exist. That being said, Man of Steel is the first film of a new DC Universe, but it does not effectively setup a world in which other superheroes can plausibly exist. Where Marvel took their time to woo the audience into a world with heroes and slowly built that world to reveal their biggest gun, Thor; DC went straight for the biggest gun. The Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America were all created by human technology, and Iron Man & Captain America were accepted as heroes in their time. In a world where heroes already existed and have great power & strength, Thor coming from the sky is plausible. But in Man of Steel Superman literally appeared out of the sky. The defeat of Zod’s forces is with the use of Superman’s alien technology. No evidence is given that humans are capable of producing any technology on par with Iron Man, or developing a serum or radiation that would create a Hulk. Nothing is presented to us to accept a world with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, let alone any of the other possible superheroes in the Justice League: Martian Man Hunter (alien), Hawkman (alien), Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Cyborg.

If Snyder and Goyer only scaled back the method of Zod’s defeat it would have helped for at least the remainder of the Superman franchise. Remember that Kal-El only just became Superman. Until his fight with Zod and his forces he fought no one. His feats of strength and use of power were primarily to save people. How does Kal-El know how to fight? The film does present a plausible scenario of how an untrained Superman can defeat a Kryptonian soldier–crack their helmets and beat them while they are disoriented by their super-senses. But then the filmmakers remove it by having Zod quickly adapt to his new powers, and having a battle royal that levels most of Metropolis.

What could have, should have, but didn’t

What would I have done differently? In keeping with the no Kryptonite and Lex Luthor rule I would have made Metallo the main villain with a slightly reworked origin story. Instead of the cyborg being powered by kryptonite he could be powered by another radioactive meteorite. Metallo as a villain presents a world where humans are capable of advanced technology. Also, since one of Metallo’s ability is to convert other humans into cybernetic drones, he can create an army that Superman cannot defeat with strength for fear of killing the humans. Metallo can also use other metal and technology to augment his size and power. This enlarged Metallo can face and be defeated in a fight. By the end of this hypothetical movie Superman learns how to fight and wins, and Metropolis is not leveled.

From here the next Superman film could have the Intergang as the antagonist. Since they are supplied with technology and weapons from Apokolips they would have the means to challenge Superman, while setting up a big villain for a Justice League film. As for the first Justice League film, Zod and his cronies would have made great villains. Imagine a fight between Wonder Woman and Faora, the Martian Manhunter and Tor-An, and an underestimated Batman figuring out how to capture them all in the Phantom Zone. Though the setup of both my hypothetical Justice League films are similar to the Avengers films, in the first it is a limited number of superpowered aliens as opposed to a hoard, and in the second a few years would have passed since we saw Thanos in “Avengers 2”.

But all this is fantasy. In the end we are stuck with a Superman in full, and not one still trying to figure himself and his powers out. Whether the filmmakers can figure out a way to challenge Superman without loosing respect from the audience is an unknown. All I know is they made their job much more difficult by how they chose to end Man of Steel.


“Fahrenheit 451” – Book / Play / Film

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Fahrenheit 451 is novel written by Ray Bradbury about a dystopian near-future where books are banned, and if discovered burned by “Firemen”. Bradbury himself wrote an adaptation for the stage, and Francois Truffaut & Jean-Louis Richard wrote and adaptation for the screen.

I read Fahrenheit 451 for the first time in September, 2012 while on vacation. I cannot remember the last time a book so affected me and caused me to think. I vaguely remembered a film was made, and while researching the film I discovered that Bradbury also wrote the play. Soon thereafter I bought the play and ordered the film. What follows is my comparison of the three.

The protagonist is Guy Montag, a “Fireman”. His life is changed after meeting and befriending his young neighbor Clarisse. Slowly waking from the apathy of his life, Montag starts to save and read books. He decides the society that he lives in must be challenged and changed.

The near-future of Fahrenheit 451 is a familiar one. More accessible now than when the book was first published and film released. The world presented is one in which everyone is numb and people only care about their immediate pleasures. No one is really connected with each other, even if they are husband & wife. This is represented most clearly through the character of Montag’s wife, Mildred in the book and Linda in the film. She takes pills to sleep, pills to wake, and spends her days in distraction with her “parlor walls” interactive television–where everyone will get their chance at fifteen minutes of fame. Her friends, actually convenient acquaintances, are equally vapid.

Books became banned not through the act of an over reaching government, but through the growing apathy of the citizenry over decades. As the population grew and the pace of life accelerated people wanted their books to be shorter and easy to read. As time went on and the books were abridged and then reduced to bullet points, people wanted only those that made them happy and did not challenge them to think. And still later with the rise of minorities & special interests and the need not to offend becoming prevalent, the people further abandoned and then banned the books.

Compare this future to our present. This is a time of shrinking newspapers and one page internet articles, a time of the two-minute news piece and fluff entertainment interview, a time of hundreds of celebrity articles/posts to one thought-provoking essay. We live in a time of no talent “celebrities” getting their fifteen minutes of fame. A time where the “parlor walls” of Fahrenheit 451 are the smart phones & tablets of today. How many times have you been to dinner and eyed a family across the way where everyone at the table is obsessed not with the conversation between themselves–because there is none–but what they are doing on their smart phone and/or tablet?

The most interesting character is Captain Beatty. The strength of the book and play, and weakness of the film is him. Beatty is a bizarro surrogate for Bradbury. His monologue of how and why books were banned is Bradbury ranting about things to come. It is implied by the book and made explicit in the play that Beatty is not only well read, but also an owner of books. The book leaves you wanting to learn more about him. Bradbury either knew this or wanted to learn more about Beatty himself, because he delivered in spades with the play. On the opposite side, the film reduces the character and the movie surfers for it.

Another key difference between the book and other adaptations is the fate of Clarisse. Bradbury so liked what Truffaut did with the character he emulated it in the play. Also, whereas the book and play have the hound, the film does not–most likely due to the budget and special effects technology at the time.

Experiencing Fahrenheit 451 across three mediums was interesting and proof positive each one must be treated uniquely. The book came first and is a triumph of literature. The film followed and was flawed. And though it was the weakest interpretation of the story, it still had some good take-aways. Having Julie Christie play both Montag’s wife and Clarisse was an inspired choice, and brought into sharp contrast the rot in Montag’s society. The play was last and focused the story to its key components, while at the same time adding new information about the characters.

Book = A
Play = A
Film = C- (you can read my review here)

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Of Race

Owing to the fact that I have recently watched Lincoln and Django Unchained, the subjects of race and slavery has been on my mind.

The concept of slavery being tied to someone’s race is, historically speaking, a recent one–only a few hundred years old.  In ancient times one became a slave when one warring party defeated another, and then made the losers their slaves.  The City-State of Sparta had a ratio of 7 helots (slaves) to every Spartan; helots being other Greeks from conquered territory.  Equally, the origin of the American slave is based on conquest and not race.  American and European slave traders did not go into the African hinterland in search of Africans to capture and make slaves, but purchased them from other Africans who conquered them.  Only later did the concept of race and superiority come into play.

And what of race?  Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald states, “Race is the stupidest idea in history. It is also, arguably, the most powerful.”  Genetically there is no difference between a White, Black, Asian or Hispanic, but because of the concept of race we are indoctrinated to certain stereotypes.  My views of race have evolved as I have, not because I more educated but because I know more people.  I know more people who have come from different places, have different customs and are not like me.  And I have learned that though we are all different, we are all also the same.  No one group has a monopoly on intelligence or ignorance, work ethic or sloth, being nice or an asshole.

But who am I, where do I come from, and what is/was my environment.

I’m Cuban-American, thirty-nine, gay, have a forty-two year old husband from a college town in the Midwest, and have lived in Miami my whole life.  My parents came from Cuba in 1961 to escape a communist regime and created a good life for me and my sister.  Miami today is a metropolitan city where sixty percent of the population came from somewhere else, fifty-six percent is hispanic, everyone thinks English will be lost to Spanish, but if you head to Sunny Isles you better know English because your other option is Russian.

My mother was from the upper class and my father the upper-middle.  Neither had black friends in Cuba, and their main dealings were with their servants and housekeepers.  Early in my life I was exposed to comments such as “we didn’t have these problems in Cuba, they knew their place.”  I was also exposed to racist jokes, and told them on occasion.  When my older cousin came back from college with a black girlfriend my aunt made sure my father was aware of it so he would not offend.  My grandmother told me stories of how the household prepared for hurricanes in Cuba:  my grandfather would bring in black gardeners at the last possible moment to trim the trees and then paid them with rum and sent them on their way before the storms would hit.

Growing up I went to private catholic schools.  There were only a couple of black kids in my entire grade school and none in my grade.  In high school there were more.  But even there, either between classes or after school I remember a black student who lost a bet which resulted in him having to tell every black racist joke he knew, and he knew a lot.  College wasn’t much different from high school, only bigger.

It wasn’t until I started working in construction did my prejudices really start to change.  On a regular basis I dealt with all different types of people from all different types of backgrounds–from wealthy developers to poor laborers, the well-educated to the drop-out, the upstanding citizen to the guy who could only leave his house to go to work because of his parole.  On my first project I had to visit a vendor at a location where my bosses insisted I take Naimen, one of our laborers, because he is black and I was going to a “bad” area.  After going there and coming back I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

But I have also experienced and heard things that are wrong; witnessed to a lesser extent the persecution of the “other” and the “them”; been in a subcontractor meeting where the superintend of the project bragged that in his hometown they had a banner across the main street that on one said read “such & such a place, home to the greenest hill and the blackest dirt”, and on the other side it read, “Nigger, don’t stay here overnight.”  I have played golf with the brother and friend of the company owner I used to work for, where they proudly bragged the year they graduated high school was the last year before desegregation.  I later found out the brother, a Florida Highway Patrolman, was suspended with pay for two weeks after calling his first black partner a nigger within ten minutes of meeting him.  An old big boss of mine, a man I respected and considered the best builder in the city, a man who worked with and employed the same black man as his lead foreman for over thirty years, a man who continually employed the same Haitian for over fifteen years who was injured on a job, pulled me aside when he learned I was going-off with my own business and proceeded to tell me, “a nigger will always be a nigger.”

I was quite for all the above.  Not so much anymore.  An old fraternity brother of mine and Facebook “friend” posted on his wall before the election a photo of Michelle Obama with a caption reading, “don’t forget to vote to throw the monkeys out of the White House.”  I called him out on it and he removed it.  When I hear derogatory remarks I speak-up.  When I receive an e-mail of caricatures of all the Presidents showing forty-two white faces and one black face with a caption asking which one doesn’t belong?  I reply-all and call that person out on their “joke”.

And what about the city I call home, Miami?   The melting pot of diversity it is today is a recent identity.  In the past on Miami Beach Jews could only live South of 5th Street or in North Beach, and blacks could only work on the Beach but not live there.  The only black beach was on Virginia Key between Miami and Key Biscayne.  The vibrant black area of Overtown was purposely gutted when the course of I-95 was shifted to cut through its center.  (If you are driving on I-95 just North of Downtown Miami and you notice the interstate shifts East for about a mile and then shifts West again for apparently no reason, well then, you just went over Overtown.)  One of the largest race riots in the country occurred in Miami in 1980, and another would happen in 1989.  The city today is better than what it was, but it still has a long way to go.  As with any area that has a large population from many different places, there is always an us vs. them atmosphere.  But over time as we live together and become more assimilated, the lines begin to blur.  The us and them become we.

Below are two links to columns and posts much more eloquent than mine:

Click  on image to read column

Click on image to read column

Click on image to read post regarding "Django Unchained"

Click on image to read post regarding “Django Unchained”


Movie Confessions Blogathon

A fellow movie review blogger, MyFilmViews, invited me to be part of a blogathon.  In this case the theme are movie confessions.  Below are my answers to the questions sent followed by some thoughts:

  1. Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?  The Night of the Hunter.  I know it is meant to be surreal.  I know it has one of Robert Mitchum’s greatest performance.  I know it is a misunderstood masterpiece.  And I know “The Preacher” is one of the most iconic characters of all time.  But I also know when I saw this film for the first time my reaction was underwhelming “Ehh”.  It didn’t do anything for me.  I neither loved it nor loathed it.  It didn’t stay with me and pop into my mind from time to time.  
  2. Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?  The 400 Blows, The Apartment, Taxi Driver, Gone with the Wind, Do the Right Thing, The Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, Some Like It Hot, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Battleship Potemkin
  3. Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?  To the best of my memory, no.
  4. Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?  Katherine Hepburn.  I’m not saying she is a bad actress, but for someone that appears to be acting the same way in all the limited films I have seen her in I can’t believe she has been nominated twelve times and won four.
  5. From which great director have you never seen any movie (and why)?  Ingmar Bergman.  I have no good reason why I have never watched any of his films; I just don’t feel any urge to.
  6. Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?  Hudson Hawk.  It’s #1 Guilty Pleasure, and I have no idea why it is hated so much.  It’s not great art, but it’s a good popcorn movie.
  7. Have you ever been one “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?  Borderline yes.  I don’t remember if I was having a conversation with my mother or returning a phone call to my sister with her, but we did it while the end credits were rolling.  Since this was done after the film and during the credits, I am not sure if it qualifies.
  8. Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because a specific actor/actress was in it?  Which one and why?  In a theatre no, but at home yes.  I’ll usually watch anything with Harrison Ford and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  I’m a big fan of both and try to watch all their films.  Best example of this would be G.I. Joe.
  9. Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles?  No
  10. Are there any movies in your collection that you have has for more than five years and never watched?  The 400 Blows.  But after a recent review by AndyWatchesMovies I set a goal to myself to watch before Labor Day–first weekend in September.
  11. Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?  Though not from my point-of-view, but Hudson Hawk.  Also Candy, which is the worse movie ever made starring the most number of famous people.  I keep it just for that reason.
  12. Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?  My TV is small; it is in an armoire with the doors typically closed unless we are watching the TV.  As such, and movies I watch with a lot of action I usually watch laying on the floor in front of the TV instead of the sofa behind the coffee table.  Otherwise it is difficult for me to see all the details of the action.
  13. Any other confessions you want to make?  I’m typically biased against European films.  I stereotype them as being painfully slow and poorly edited.  I know this is not true, but I blame a film school professor of mine who loved those types of films for giving me this perception.  Most people naturally assume I am a sci-fi film fan, but I have actually seen very few of them. I am not a fan of gross-out horror films.  I usually watch comedies as rentals and not in the theatre.

So there you go, my answers to the questions.  Overall I had a great time working on this.  It reminded me there are still a lot of classic movies I have not watched yet, and reminded me that liking a film is purely subjective.  We all have out guilty pleasures that we like to watch and other people will give us an odd stare for.

As a thank you, here is the link to MyFilmViews post on these questions, as well as other bloggers who are participating:

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Also, here are some links to earlier posts of mine that touch on some of my responses to the above questions:


“John Carter” – A Second Opinion

I like Peter Travers’ take on the negative publicity of John Carter.  You can find it here:  Rolling Stone Review.  All the negative press because of the budget reminds me of when Titanic first came out and a lot of people seemed to want it to fail; but then it kept bringing in $20 million weekends and eventually shut everybody up.  Unfortunately, the same won’t happen for John Carter.

Click on image to view extended "Great Ape" scene.