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Jumping the Soapbox: Teen Titans NO! – The Titans Trailer and Toxic Fandom

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Titans and Teen Titans Go are owned by Warner Bros Television Distribution and DC Entertainment

All other copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

It’s that time of year again where Hollywood sprinkles a dash of hype here and a pinch of news there right in the middle of San Diego for the yearly celebration of fandom known as Comic Con!  What does this mean for everyone who CAN’T book a ticket for California and drop ridiculous amounts of money on hotel rooms and cab rides?  Why trailers of course!  And this year we start the event off with something BIG!  DC and Warner Bros have been teasing us with a new Teen Titans live action show for some time now, and they’ve finally released the first trailer for it!  Let’s see how far we can get into this before I find something to criticize!

*ONE SECOND IN*

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Explicit language, adult themes, and violence.  Well those are certainly the first three things I associate with these characters!!

NOPE!  Sorry, DC and Warner Bros!  You couldn’t have missed the point harder if you actually FOUND the point and then threw it into the Mariana Trench so that no one could ever find for all eternity!  Now look, I don’t want this to be a rant about COMIC BOOK ACCURACY (mostly because I’ve never read a Teen Titans book) or about how it doesn’t match my nostalgia for that original Teen Titans cartoon (something we’ll talk about soon enough).  No, my problem is that this trailer is cynical garbage.  It’s a list of bad ideas that you could only make if you were TRYING to be this awful, and maybe in a cynical way that’s what they’re going for here.  It’s no accident that the trailer takes great pains to show you Robin straight up murdering dudes (he stomps that dudes’ neck, shoots a gun, and gushes someone like a sprinkler; I don’t care if they explain in the show that they were “just injured”) and to also have him shout FUCK BATMAN while covered in blood.  This is what a very immature person sees as COOL and MATURE (never mind that maturity is not the ability to withstand and consume dark material but to learn to empathize with your fellow people and take responsibility for yourself and those you care about) and it hews far too closely to the toxic nightmare that comic fandom has become in recent years (or at least has revealed itself to be now that its victims have platforms available to them).  Who would want to see Robin snap someone’s neck or Starfire set criminals on fire?  Probably the same “upstanding folks” who wanted Batman to kill people and are yelling at everyone about a Snyder Cut.

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Damn you, Frank Miller!  Will your awful influence on the Super Hero genre ever come to an end!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Sorry to Bother You

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Sorry to Bother You and all the images you see in this review are owned by Annapurna Pictures

Directed by Boots Riley

This is a great time of year because once the summer blockbuster season starts to wind down we start to get some really great stuff from the indie scene right before the Prestige Films and the Oscar Bait start to take over the multiplex.  Sure, August is normally considered a dumping ground for mediocre movies (I’m wary about Slenderman to say the least) but that’s more to do with the BIG releases rather than the harder to find stuff in the fancier theaters which is pretty much exactly what we have here today as I had to make a bit of a drive to catch this on the big screen.  Now I’ve been keeping my eye on this film since the trailers started to pop up due to its interesting style and oddly relatable premise, at least from what they were selling us on, and most importantly I could really use something other than super hero flicks and The Rock to fill out my GOOD MOVIES list for this year!  Does this bizarre little story manage to be just as good as I hoped it would be, or was I just too eager to find something new that there was no way it would live up to my expectations?  Wouldn’t be the first time this year (*cough* Thoroughbreds *cough*)!  Anyway, let’s find out!!

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a man just trying to survive day by day and constantly wondering if anything he does will ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things.  After all, once he dies and his theoretical children die and then THEIR theoretical children die, will there be ANYONE left to remember him or the fact that he just barely managed to get a job working as a telemarketer?  His girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) thinks he’s worrying too much about all that and she’s content to work on her art projects in between gigs as a sign flipper, but with the world slowly going to hell in a handbasket (a new company called WorryFree is basically reintroducing slavery by praying on the impoverished) it all just seems pointless unless he can REALLY start to make some money and find what it is that he’s good at.  As it turns out though, he has a knack for this telemarketing thing once he finds his “white voice” (David Cross) and is on the fast track to being a POWER CALLER which is basically doing the same thing only for more money and selling stuff other than encyclopedias.  However, his rise to the top has some roadblocks along the way as his fellow workers are staging a strike just as he’s about to make it as a POWER CALLER, and said promotion doesn’t come without its own problems and indignities that slowly start to tear at Cassius’s soul and creates a divide between him and Detroit.  Throw in some colorful characters like Squeeze the leader of the telemarketer’s strike (Steven Yeun), Steve Lift the CEO of WorryFree (Armie Hammer) who’s about as big of a douche bag as you’d imagine, and the mysterious Mr. ******* (Omari Hardwick) who represents the future that Cassius has waiting for him if he sticks it out at his new job for just a little bit longer.  Can Cassius find a way to use his talents for massive financial gain without losing his soul in the process?  Just what is WorryFree up to, and how does it connect to this Telemarketing Company as well as Cassius himself?  Is there like a hotline I can call that’ll explain this movie to me, because I feel like I STILL don’t have a clear grasp on what the heck was going on!

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“For plot summary and cast list, press 1.  For thematic elements and symbolism, press 2.  If you still haven’t come to terms with the horrors of Late Stage Capitalism, please stay on the line.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

If I was reviewing films back when the first Hotel Transylvania film came out, it would have easily been in the top five films of that year.  Avengers?  Whatever!  Flight?  Forget about it!  21 Jump Street, Prometheus, Skyfall, Chronicle?  Okay, SOME of those might have made it on the list, but Hotel Transylvania was an absolute surprise that I don’t think anyone has really managed to top in regards to its animation and flat out hilarity.  Now that’s not to say that films like Coco, Wreck-It Ralph, and The LEGO Movie aren’t great in their own way, but what Tartakovsky did with Hotel Transylvania was sheer brilliance and just hasn’t been replicated since.  Except for MAYBE The Peanuts Movie which ingeniously recreated the art style in CG, no other film has felt so AUTHENTICALLY cartoonish as this series, and that certainly earns it a massive amount of respect from me even if the sequel was FINE but not up to the first one.  Now that we’re at the third film though with Tartakovsky STILL directing these (wasn’t he supposed to make a film called Can You Imagine, or that new Popeye movie?), so with this film has the spark FINALLY gone out for this franchise or did they fix the mistakes of the sequel to bring something just as fantastic as the first film?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Part 2, the titular Hotel Transylvania has been doing well with Count Dracula (Adam Sandler), his daughter Mavis (Selina Gomez), and his son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg), keeping down the fort as the place becomes a popular tourist attractions for both humans and monsters, and ESPECIALLY for monster wedding; presumably both in terms of scale and as a description of those tying the knot.  However, all this lovey-dovey stuff has made it more clear than ever that Drac himself has been alone for at least a hundred years since his wife (and Mavis’s mom) died at the hands of a torch wielding mob of humans, so maybe it’s time to get him back in the saddle.  At least you’d THINK that’s what everyone is thinking, but Mavis thinks he just needs a vacation and takes him on a cruise along with all his buddies (Kevin James as Frankenstein, David Spade as The Invisible Man, Steve Buscemi as The Werewolf, and Keegan-Michael Key as The Mummy) along with THEIR significant others (Fran Drescher, Chrissy Teigen, and Molly Shannon), as well all the monsters who have ever stayed at the Hotel so you can see them do their classic bits, and of course we cannot forget Drac’s dad Vlad (Mel Brooks)!  Oh, and don’t forget the kids Dennis and Winnie (Asher Blinkoff and Sadie Sandler) who are on this trip as well but are doing their own thing with Dennis’s giant pet dog Tinkles.  Said vacation by the way is being hosted by the adventurous and very much human Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) who’s not just whisking these monsters on a fabulous journey; she’s also managed to immediately steal the heart of Drac who ZINGED the moment he caught sight of her!  Now Drac has to find a way to confess his feelings for Captain Ericka while also keeping it from Mavis who he worries might not accept him dating again after the death of her mother all those years ago.  Can Drac find love out on the open sea, or will his duties as a loving father (and grandfather!) keep him from finding love once again?  Is Captain Ericka as wonderful as she seems and the perfect match for good ol’ Drac, or is there more to her than meets the eye?  If this movie is a hit, can we finally get Tartakovsky to do that Popeye movie?  PLEASE!?

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“We’ve made Sony a BILLION dollars!  You’d think they’d throw him a bone at some point!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Skyscraper

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Skyscraper and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

I for one will NEVER turn down a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson flick even if it looks as freaking ridiculous as this Die Hard knockoff looks to be!  The guy is an unstoppable force in Hollywood and the fact that almost all of his movies are least SOMEWHAT enjoyable is a good indication of why that’s the case.  This one looks to be no different in any significant way, but hey!  More of what we love from the guy can’t possibly be a bad thing… right?  Does this manage to be fun despite its silly premise and unbelievable set pieces, or is there a limit to what even THE ROCK is capable of carrying?  Let’s find out!!

Our hero is Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) who’s a former FBI… SWAT… Solider… something, who’s spent the last ten years working as a private security consultant.  See, he had to retire after… the incident, which may have taken one of his legs also led to him meeting his wife (Neve Campbell) who he then married and had two kids with (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) so six of one half a dozen of the other!  Anyway, he’s landed his biggest job yet as a third party verifier of the security and safety systems that are put in place at THE PEARL.  What is THE PEARL you may ask?  Well it’s the largest skyscraper IN THE WORLD (it sure would suck if someone had to climb it later in the movie) that was built by Chinese billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) and is about to open its upper floors to renters; provided of course they pass Will’s safety check which will secure them a reasonable insurance policy!  Well as exciting as all that sounds, things start to go south as a crew of well-trained criminals (led by Roland Møller) not only infiltrate THE PEARL but also get total control of their security system, and they set fire to the upper floors in an attempt to smoke Zhao out of his penthouse and get whatever it is he’s hiding up there.  There’s just one problem!  Okay, actually two problems.  Will’s family was STAYING on one of those floors they just so happened to set on fire, and Will himself was outside THE PEARL as part of his security check and now needs to find a way inside.  So not only did you piss him off by putting his family in danger, you’re gonna force him to face heights, smoke, and absurdly high temperatures as well which is just gonna get him THAT much more angry at you!  Can Will somehow infilitrate the burning building and save his family before it’s too late?  What exactly is Zhao hiding, and is worth all the destruction these bad guys are causing?  Wait, is he SERIOUSLY gonna try to jump that!?

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FLAP YOUR GIANT MUSCULAR ARMS, DWAYNE!!

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Super Recaps: Tom Goes to the Mayor (CNE)

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Tom Goes to the Mayor and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros and Adult Swim

Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

We’re back with another episode of Tom’s Anatomy as Tom is forced to confront his greatest enemy yet; the Pharmaceutical Industry!  I’m calling it now; dude’s a total goner by the second act.  The episode begins with a magical scene of Tom and some beautiful lady gallivanting in a world of rainbows and unicorns; sharing moments of happiness that clearly cannot last because this is Tom and everything that’s great in his life eventually turns to garbage.  Now you can probably surmise form the inclusion of rainbows and unicorns that this is all one big dream sequence, but where things start to turn is when Tom has a… a-hem… accident in his sleep.  No, not number one or even number two… number three.  Well that’s not necessarily a BAD thing, right?  I mean sure, it’s inconvenient to have to wash the sheets, but a good time is still a good time, right? Well… not quite.  You see, the moment he… finishes, he’s violently woken up as the act seems to have caused him a great deal of pain as well as the condemnation of his lovely wife Joy who by the way wasn’t the woman in his dream.  These abrupt interruptions are also wreaking havoc on Tom’s sleep schedule to the point that when he visits The Mayor the next day, he ends up collapsing right there on the floor before he can even propose his latest get rich quick scheme.  The good news is that Tom wakes up in a hospital bed instead of The Mayor’s basement or his underground lair beneath his office.  The bad news?  Well it looks like Tom’s issues are not just a lack of sleep and a few uncomfortable wet dreams.

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“I’m afraid that you have TV cancer.  You’ll cough up a spoonful of blood every once in a while, and a wacky character actor will teach you the meaning of life before you die.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Ant-Man and the Wasp and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Peyton Reed

The first Ant-Man is easily one of my favorite Marvel films and has always felt like an outlier in the MCU because (incoming pun VERY much intended) it knew the value of going small.  The fate of the world wasn’t at stake, it didn’t involve Gods, Kings, or vast armies of convenient cannon fodder; rather it was a heist film about a guy who basically just needed a job and got wrapped up in a while bunch of sci-fi nonsense!  It was fun, it was light, and it didn’t have the weight of a dozen other films dragging it down which, given my lukewarm reception to the more recent BIG TEAM UP MOVIES, is just the kind of Marvel film I could really use right about now.  Seriously, I couldn’t IMAGINE a better time to make a goofy palate cleanser than in the wake of Infinity Bore which I’m STILL feeling rather grumpy about and could certainly use something like this to take my mind off of it.  Does this manage to be the perfect antidote to the overly serious and bombastic Avengers film that preceded it, or does the specter of that film loom large enough over the MCU that even THIS series cannot escape from its massive shadow?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins in that period between Civil War and Infinity War where The Avengers are basically split up but no one is all that freaked out about it.  Spider-Man is doing his thing on the East Coast, Black Panther is dealing with his kingly duties in Wakanda, and it turns out that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been doing… nothing.  Yeah, it turns out that after helping Captain America in Civil War and taking a plea deal with the US government, he’s under house arrest and hasn’t been doing his Ant-Man thing in a while; especially since the Sokovia Accords (ugh…) have an odd stipulation that the people who MADE the tech he used are JUST as responsible as he is and need to face similar punishments.  Well jeez, I kinda wish we ACTUALLY had that with gun manufacturers, but what it means here is that Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) are on the run and decidedly not talking to Scott for putting them in this situation in the first place… not that they could considering he’s under house arrest.  Jeez, kind of a downer way to start the movie, BUT things get better once Scott starts having night terrors about the Quantum Realm and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is the mother of Hope and the wife of Hank, and manages to get this message to those two who swiftly kidnap him MERE DAYS BEFORE HIS HOUSE ARREST IS UP!  It turns out that the two of them have been continuing their research while running from the law (pretty easy to do when you have the ability to shrink) and they’re VERY close to making a tunnel to the Quantum Realm (that place you go to if you shrink TOO SMALL and where Janet ended up after doing so on a mission) but apparently Scott has some connection to it and potentially to Janet due to him somehow escaping it in the first film.  Okay, so Scott helps them with the Tunnel and with any clues he may have about Janet from his dreams, and then they just drop him off at his house before the cops realize he’s gone!  Easy enough, right!?  Well… not exactly.  Throw in some wannabe gangsters looking to snag their research for profit (led by professional scumbag Walton Goggins), a mysterious woman who has bad ass phasing powers (Hanna John-Kamen) trying to steal their research for reasons OTHER than profit, and all of a sudden it looks like Scott might end up going to jail for twenty years because he got caught up in some giant caper yet again and could get caught out of the house at any moment by FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) who is just itching to put him away for good!  Can Scott, Hope, and Hank find out what happened to Janet and maybe save her from the Quantum Realm?  What exactly is the mystery phasing lady after, and just how far will she go to get her hands on their research?  When they get that glove away from Thanos, can we use the Time Stone to go back and make EVERY Marvel movie about Ant-Man and The Wasp?

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“Captain Ant-merica!  Guardians of the Colony!  Thor; Ragna-wasp!”     “Yeah, I’m sure Paul Feig is gonna put those on a marque.”     “Well you won’t know until you ask him!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

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Sicario: Day of the Soldado and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures

Directed by Stefano Sollima

You know what I thought when I got out of the first movie?  This is PRIME material for a franchise!  Yeah, the first Sicario was a dark journey through the worst aspects of the War on Drugs which felt REALLY complete as a story, but after it made a boat load at the box office the studio couldn’t help itself from squeezing as much money out of this cash cow as they could which HOPEFULLY means we’ll get a crossover with The Fast and the Furious franchise, but until then we’ll have to get stuck with more straightforward entries of vastly diminishing returns.  Okay, that’s a little unfair.  After all, it’s not like you COULDN’T make another movie with this cast, and the premise seems like a great starting point to bring up issues surrounding immigration and border patrol that have only become more exacerbated since the last film came out!  Wishful thinking I suppose, but you’ve gotta have SOME amount of hope, right!?  Will this be a great and topical sequel to an already fantastic movie, or was this project doomed long before it had a chance to say something important about our current political climate?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film, Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick (Josh Brolin and Bencio del Toro) seem to have parted ways at least for the time being as the former is still running operations at the border while the latter is waiting for another chance to hit hard against the Cartel.  The good news is that such an opportunity has presented itself and will lead to their most drastic and bloody mission yet!  The bad news though is that said chance only happened because terrorist blew up a grocery store in Kansas City where at least one of them seems to have gotten into the country illegally from the border (ugh…) and might have even gotten a bit of help from the Cartel.  With a blank check from the government to mess things up in Mexico, Matt decides to kidnap the daughter of one of the Cartel bosses down there (Isabela Moner)  and then blame it on one of the other Cartel bosses; causing a civil war within the country that will decimate their stranglehold on the area.  Things SORT of go off without a hitch, but once it’s time for them to return the girl under the guise of “finding her” across the border, things go sideways as Matt and Alejandro’s crew is ambushed and the girl runs off into the desert.  Alejandro goes for the girl while Matt and the rest head back to base in Texas, but all is well as the ambush has made things more complicated than they should be and it’ll be that much harder for Matt and Alejandro to find a way to resolve this without stabbing each other, the US government, or anyone else, directly in the back.  Can Alejandro not only find this girl but find a way to keep her safe from those who wish her harm?  Just how far will Matt go for Alejandro, and will he be forced to choose between his friend and his duty?  Wait, how are we supposed to be rooting for these guys now!?  You SAW what they did in the last film, right!?

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“BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG!!”

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