Suicide Squad: Grading the Cast

Suicide Squad is Warner Bros.’ latest attempt at breathing life into its DC Comics cinematic universe. The movie has been getting a lot of attention, and most of it isn’t the kind the studio wants. Several friends and colleagues that I respect hated the movie. I didn’t think it was that bad. It certainly wasn’t a great superhero movie, but I’d watch it again on cable. Compared to this year’s superhero movies, I found it much better than Batman v Superman (aka Murderous Batman vs. Mopey-Ass Superman), but not nearly as good as Deadpool or Captain America: Civil War.

Having said that, I don’t feel like writing a proper movie review. Instead, I’m going to rate the Suicide Squad team members (as well as the puppet master and villains) individually. Let’s do this!

[Activate your spoiler shields, please.]

Suicide Squad Deadshot Harley Quinn
Suicide Squad: Deadshot and Harley Quinn

Deadshot (Will Smith) F: For me, Will Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot was the worst part of Suicide Squad. I’m a big fan of the character — both from the Suicide Squad and the Secret Six books. Smith’s performance was incredibly lazy and uninspired. He acted like Will Smith instead of Floyd Lawton. The guy that played Deadshot on Arrow did a much better job with the character. It’s amazing that a huge Hollywood star was considerably outperformed by a television actor on a CW show — a frickin’ CW show!

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) B+: Robbie is unbelievably sexy and gets an extra half-grade for that. Heterosexual male bias aside, she was one of the best parts of Suicide Squad. She did a fine job at portraying Harley as equal parts keenly intelligent and mentally unstable. While the accent was similar to the one she used in The Wolf of Wall Street, it totally worked for the character. I appreciated how she turned the severity of the accent up and down situationally throughout the movie. The biggest problem I had with her character had nothing to do with the actress, but how she was written and directed. Super Harley — the one that deftly dispatched supernatural beings with her fists and a baseball bat — threw me for a loop. When the hell did Harley become psychotic Wonder Woman?!?

Suicide Squad Amanda Waller
Suicide Squad Amanda Waller

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) A: Suicide Squad’s government puppet master was outstanding. Davis completely owned this role, serving up a Waller that was razor sharp, manipulative, and terrifying. She left you with a feeling of, “You do not want to f*ck with this woman.” From the comfort of the other side of the screen, it was fun enjoying her cold and calculating portrayal. Waller is one of my favorite characters in the DCU and I was thrilled that David brought her to life so perfectly.

The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) B-: Again, my heterosexual maleness requires me to give an extra half-grade boost to Miss Delevingne for being astonishingly beautiful. She also gets another half-grade for coming from a wealthy family. In my dreams, Cara Delevingne makes me a kept man. In Suicide Squad, she was a little bit silly. She played the victim, June Moon, well enough. As the Enchantress, the director had her doing some ridiculous things. While I was mostly enjoying watching her gyrate like a stripper as she was casting spells, there was a point where I thought, “Come on man. You’re just exploiting her hotness.” Still, she’s gorgeous, she’s rich, and she has incredible eyebrows; it’s tough for me to criticize anything she does. #truth

Suicide Squad Joker
Suicide Squad Joker

The Joker (Jared Leto) B+: Several of my friends have bashed Leto’s performance as the Joker, but I loved it. He gave the Clown Prince of Crime a modern and edgy feel. I found Leto’s Joker much scarier and more realistic than Ledger’s Joker. I’d love to see more of him in a proper Batman movie.

Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) C: I’m actually not sure what to do with this grade. I am of the opinion that Jai Courtney sucks and has the best management team in Hollywood. I’m baffled that he gets so many big roles with such little talent. My friend Solomon pointed out that Captain Boomerang sucks in the comics (many writers have portrayed Boomer as a joke among DC villains). From that perspective, hiring an actor that sucks to play a villain that sucks could be considered inspired casting. However, I’m certain that the studio didn’t think that deeply. Courtney was surprisingly acceptable in this limited role, which is probably his best “acting” to date.

Suicide Squad Rick Flag
Suicide Squad Rick Flag

Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) B: I’ve never seen this actor before, but left the movie impressed by his performance. He did a good job of playing the straight-laced protagonist surrounded by insane people. His role might of been the trickiest of all, because Suicide Squad is all about letting the villains shine. He had his moments when appropriate, but otherwise let the baddies do their thing.

On a side note, Kinnaman kind of looks like WWE Edge. Whenever Flag popped up onscreen I thought, “You think you know me.”

Katana (Karen Fukuhara) D+: As a Katana fan, this performance was disappointing. She added nothing to Suicide Squad. Take out all of her scenes and the movie is pretty much the same. You’re not given a reason to care about Katana, so when she had her big crying scene, it felt empty. She added nothing of consequence to the movie, which is a shame because Tatsu is a cool character. Similar to movie Deadshot, movie Katana is inferior to CW Arrow Katana.

Diablo (Jay Hernandez) C+: I liked this character up until the end of the movie. He was fun as the super-powerful but reluctant villain enlisted to do good. I’m not sure how, but hours (in movie time) of doing nothing and whining caused him to think of the other Suicide Squad members as family. Uh…okay. Expectedly, he got all sentimental and sacrificial, but his face turn lacked weight.

Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) C-: The character looked really cool, so he gets an extra half-grade on behalf of the makeup team. However, he was almost as useless as Katana. He was instrumental in a scene that required swimming…and that’s about it.

Slipknot (Adam Beach) Incomplete: I love that the movie played on Slipknot’s mishap with the implants from the comics (but in a much deadlier way), with Captain Boomerang as the impetus. In the immortal words of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, “Bwahahahahahaha!!!”

Random Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is the best Avengers movie Marvel Studios has made. That was an easy conclusion to arrive to. It’s quite possibly the best or, at the very least, one of the three best movies from the studio. After seeing the movie last night, that seemed like a reasonable opinion, but I wanted to sleep on it in order to give my movierection (a medical term) a chance to settle down. After reflecting a bit on Captain America: Civil War, I can totally understand the argument that it’s the best Marvel Studios film to date and also accept the opinion that it’s not. Let’s keep the examination going, with the RPadTV binary not-a-review of Captain America: Civil War.

[Turn on your spoiler shields!]

It’s An Avengers Movie, Not a Cap Movie (Good): Although he’s the titular character in Captain America: Civil War, this is very much an ensemble movie. Sure, Cap and Iron Man are at the forefront, but many characters get a chance to shine. Some help drive the plot forward (The Winter Soldier, Black Panther), while others are comedic scene stealers (Ant-Man, Spider-Man). Whatever the case may be, this is definitely an Avengers film…and the best one ever, at that.

Scarlet Witch Still Sucks (Bad): I’ve been high on Elizabeth Olsen for years, but was puzzled by her portrayal of the Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Once you get past her hotness, I’m not sure what she does for the movie. Speaking with a bad accent and doing funny things with her fingers doesn’t add much to the film. That said, these are very minor criticisms of Captain America: Civil War. That’s how good the movie is — you have to actively look for flaws and it’s difficult to find anything significant.

Tony Stark is a Dick (Good): Similar to his heel turn in the Civil War comics, Iron Man is pretty much a dick in the movie. His emotions are manipulated (perhaps too easily), leading to irrational thoughts and actions. I suppose your political leanings come into play on whether you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, but to me, Tony is clearly the villain in Captain America: Civil War.

Captain America Civil War
Avengers, Disassemble!

Wonderfully Diverse Comedy (Good): I loved the humor in this movie. It’s frequent and diverse, without getting in the way of a serious conflict. Ant-Man’s bits were wonderful. Spider-Man will win the hearts of millions. I even enjoyed the deadpan rapport between Falcon and Winter Soldier. For me, this is what separates Captain America: Civil War from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Many cite the latter as Marvel Studios’ best, but I prefer Civil War. I won’t argue with anyone that thinks The Winter Soldier is Better, because that’s an understandable opinion, but I’ll watch Civil War exponentially more in the future, simply because the comedy balances the drama. Also, the jokes about Marisa Tomei’s age and beauty were excellent…though I’m still not sure the world is ready for Hot Aunt May.

Lack of Anger Management (Bad): While I understand that they needed to be Cap’s antagonists, it was somewhat disappointing to see Iron Man and Black Panther suffer from ridiculous mad-ons. The former is supposed to be one of the smartest people in the world, while the latter is supposed to be one of the noblest Avengers. For most of the movie, both gave into their anger and went full Sith. Much of the conflict would have been avoided if everyone — those two in particular — calmed down and applied some rational thought to the situation. Of course, the movie would have been much shorter….

The New Guys (Good): Although he was irrationally angry for much of the film, Black Panther was pretty frickin’ cool. His fight scenes were dynamic and his costume looked great. Ant-Man (new in The Avengers movie sense) was pretty awesome on several levels. I mentioned his comedic bits before, but I love the way the movies portray his shrinking powers and it was brilliant to see him as Giant Man for a bit. Spider-Man lived up to his comic-book adjectives — amazing and spectacular. Spidey’s CG was fantastic and it was fun having an innocent character around for a heavy conflict.

You're either #TeamCap or a communist traitor
You’re either #TeamCap or a communist traitor

Second Comings (Good): Winter Soldier and Falcon have grown into their characters nicely. I’m a huge mark for the comics version of Winter Soldier and Bucky Cap. Sebastian Stan was very good in that role. Falcon, who’s pretty lame in the comics, was great in the movie. Anthony Mackie did an admirable job as the Avenger’s birdman. His new tech made him look cool and he brought a confidence to the role that makes him much more than Captain America’s token African-American friend. That said, I will always see him as Papa Doc from 8-Mile. It would have been awesome if the Civil War conflict came down to a freestyle rap battle between Falcon and Vision.

Wanton Violence (Good): In previous Avengers movies, the good guys spent most of their time beating up aliens and robots. You never really felt the weight of the violence. Seeing Captain America and Iron Man bloodied, bruised, and battered hit much closer to home. The violence was borderline shocking, especially because former friends and allies were truly taking it to each other.

Best Action Ever (Good): Marvel Studios has really upped the ante on its action sequences. Whether it’s visceral melee combat, thrilling chase scenes, or fanboy-squeal inducing super-power sequences, Captain America: Civil War has raised the bar for Marvel action. I enjoyed every bit of action in the movie and will certainly pay to see it again.

Masterful Pacing (Good): I was shocked to see that the runtime of Captain America: Civil War is 146 minutes. The directors and writers did an incredible job of weaving action and comedy into a dramatic conflict, allowing the film to move at a zippy pace. While I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that movie feels like it’s 136 minutes.

Captain America Civil War Spider-Man
Spidey-Cap?

Bottom Line: As I was leaving the movie, I said to my excellent friend Paul, “It’s hard to think of anything wrong with that movie.” While I understand that abandoning logic was necessary for the hero vs. hero conflict, the worst thing I can say about Captain America: Civil War is that Scarlet Witch’s accent and finger motions were silly. For me, it’s definitely in my top three Marvel Studios films, along with Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There’s a good chance that it’ll end up being my favorite (I need to see it a few more times). Its combination of amazing action, excellent comedy, and a weighty conflict completely worked for me.

For another take on Captain America: Civil War, check out this PaulSemel.com review.

Olivia Munn is the Worst, Exhibit Q: Lying About Her Stunts

For years, I’ve been telling anyone that would listen that Olivia Munn is pretty much the worst person alive today. Although her popularity is booming, more and more people are starting to realize the truth about Olivia Munn — she’s a horrendous human being. The latest news comes from The Golden Lasso, that bravely pointed out how The Newsroom actress lied about doing her own stunts. The succubus has been making the media rounds promoting X-Men: Apocalypse and told reporters, “It was important to me that I was able to do all of the stunts.” The only problem is that she had a highly capable stunt double.

I strongly recommend checking out The Golden Lasso article for the full details on Olivia Munn’s big lie and information on the amazing stunt actress (Julia Rekaikyna) that was denied credit. I’ll use the rest of this space to reinforce what you should already know — Olivia Munn is wretched.

First, it’s appalling that she tried to take credit for someone else’s work and pretended to be something she’s not. That said, most people I know that worked with her at G4tv would say that’s typical behavior for Munn. In her G4tv days, she pretended to be an uber-nerd in order to make herself more appealing. Now she’s pretending to be an acrobatic sword master in order to make her seem like a legitimate action star.

As my pal Cliff Bleszinski noted, “Folks, Olivia Munn is a bad person. She is the embodiment of appropriating nerd culture and using it for her gain. Don’t trust her.” That tweet is bursting with accuracy and wisdom.

If you’re a proud male heterosexual nerd or a proud female homosexual nerd then please, please, please don’t be fooled by Olivia Munn. While she’s physically attractive and can be an entertaining actress, she’s simply a terrible person that’s trying to take advantage of your awesome nerdiness. In the immortal words of Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype!”

[Special thanks to my excellent friends Tom and Tricia for making me aware of this instance of Olivia Munn being awful!]

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Random Thoughts on Deadpool (Movie Review)

Deadpool’s journey from pulp to cinema took many twists and turns. People were worried that a big movie studio wouldn’t let Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth” be true to the comics. Some were worried that the Deadpool movie couldn’t possibly live up to the outstanding marketing campaign that preceded it. I’m incredibly happy to tell you that the movie is all that and then some. The movie is true to one of Marvel’s most unique characters and Fox’s best comic-book movie to date.

Now let’s break it down using the hallowed RPadTV binary system. Naturally, turn on your spoiler shields!

Ryan Reynolds Redeemed (Good): It’s no secret that I hated the Green Lantern movie — like physically, palpably hated that piece of sh*t. I was a Ryan Reynolds fan going into Green Lantern and wanted to kick the crap out of him after watching that craptastic failure of a film. He ruined one of my favorite characters in comics and I was deathly afraid that he was going to do it again, but…

Deadpool was so enjoyable that after the movie was over, I thought to myself, “You’re forgiven, Ryan Reynolds. It’s all good.” It took a remarkable effort (maximum effort!) and a great performance to redeem him, but Reynolds did it (to my delightful amazement).

Best. Opening. Credits. Ever. (Good): I can’t even spoil this one for you. It was too good. It even had little Easter eggs, like Rob L’s cup of coffee.

Deadpool Movie Review 2

Perfect Tone (Good): As expected, there were some changes from the source material, but the tone of the movie and the character were spot on. The combination of Reynolds’ performance, sharp writing, crude language, and ridiculous action made the movie feel like the real Deadpool. Of course it wasn’t as literal as The Watchmen, but Deadpool is still among the most faithful movie adaptations of a comic book.

Daario Nawhatshisface (Bad): One of the movie’s few weaknesses was Ajax. The movie version of the villain was totally “generic British baddie.” Actor Ed Skrein had a few fun moments, but his performance was otherwise flat. Also, I couldn’t stop seeing him as Daario Naharis v1 from Game of Thrones. I’m pretty sure all Game of Thrones fans that see Deadpool will recognize him. Those summer teeth are unforgettable.

Angel Dust (Bad): While Gina Carano made for a menacing villainess, I was bummed that this role was a budgetary amalgam. Originally, the cast of baddies was larger. For monetary reasons, the characters of Garrison Kane, Sluggo, and Wyre were mashed into Angel Dust. I’m particularly fond of the Kane character, so it was a bummer that he didn’t make the cut. While Carano had some nice fight scenes, her acting is…pretty much what you’d expect from an ex-MMA fighter.

Fourth Wall Follies (Good): One of the most entertaining aspects of Deadpool (the comics character) is his penchant for breaking down the fourth wall. Deadpool (the movie character) does this too and he does it well. It would have been easy to lean too heavily on this device, but I think the writers kept it on the right side of the line between entertaining and overzealous. The fourth-wall humor and constant pop-culture references are two of the reasons the Deadpool character is unique and they had to be part of the movie. Witty words delivered sharply by Reynolds made it work.

Deadpool Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Good): Okay, the movie version of the character is nothing like the comics version, but it totally worked. Brianna Hildebrand had a small role in the film, but she maximized her screen time. She was great as an angsty teen mutant with energy-based powers. Plus, it’s just fun to say and type Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Negasonic Teenage Warhead — see?!?

Surprisingly Heartfelt (Good): One aspect of the movie that I wasn’t expecting was effective romance. Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin had great onscreen chemistry, making the romance between Deadpool and Vanessa believable. The movie had a shocking amount of romantic charm, making it one of the few comic-book movies that works for a Valentine’s Day date (provided you’re dating or married to a cool chick).

Ultra Violence (Good): Like the comics, the Deadpool movie has a zany type of violence. Fierce gunplay, acrobatic swordsmanship, and physical comedy were blended together marvelously. There was a nice contrast between Deadpool’s dynamic fight scenes and Colossus’ power moves. The brief “fight” between Deadpool and Colossus was frickin’ hilarious.

Music Sweet Music (Good): You have to give it up for a movie that effectively uses Juice Newton, Salt-N-Pepa, Neil Sedaka, Chicago, and Wham! in the same soundtrack.

Bring On the Director’s Cut (Good): I’m looking forward to watching a longer edit of the movie. As it is, the pace of the theatrical release is just about perfect for a mainstream audience. As a lifelong comics nerd, I want more — especially more scenes with Weasel and Blind Al. I love both of those characters and the talent playing them in movie is fantastic.

Bottom Line: Deadpool exceeded my expectations. I was expecting a movie packed with raucous action and lewd humor. While the movie did have those elements, it also had deeper characterization than I was expecting, as well as smarter writing. Deadpool has been one of my favorite Marvel characters for decades and I’m thrilled that Fox did him justice on the big screen. Again, I’m comfortable saying that this is Fox’s best comic-book movie to date. More importantly, I’m happy to say that Deadpool makes up for the travesty that was Green Lantern. Thank you, Ryan Reynolds, for championing this movie and delivering a fantastic performance.

Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There’s so much that I want to say about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Thankfully, this website lets me share my (silly) stream of consciousness with the world. Today’s “not a review” uses the tried and true RPadTV binary system for lots of random thoughts on the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. Here’s the short version — I loved it and will happily pay money to see it again in theaters…several times.

Like most nerds, I love the original Star Wars trilogy. That said, I probably enjoyed the prequels more than most (don’t get me wrong, Jar Jar and Ani suck). I also greatly enjoyed director JJ Abrams’ two Star Trek movies. Going into The Force Awakens, I had high but reasonably tempered expectations. I’m happy to say that my expectations were exceeded. The Force Awakens is a phenomenally fun movie. Now kindly turn on your spoiler shields and lock your S-foils in attack position for some random thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Force Awakens Review b

Mark Out Moments (Good): The Force Awakens had four moments that overwhelmed my heart and had me holding back tears of joy.

  • The first time the Millennium Falcon is shown
  • Seeing the new X-wing fighters
  • The first time R2D2 is shown
  • Rey using the force to grab a lightsaber

 

These scenes dazzled me and had me believing in movie magic again. In the immortal words of Sergio from Get Him to the Greek, they left me feeling “like an eight-year old who just discovered his first boner.” While I’ve marked out at the movies before, I don’t recall ever feeling so high from a film. It almost makes you feel bad for younger people that didn’t grow up with the original Star Wars movies, since they won’t have those nostalgia-fueled mark-out moments.

A New Scoundrel (Good): Resistance pilot Poe Dameron stole the show early on. He’s one of the best pilots in the galaxy and has a roguish charm. When he’s captured by The First Order and brought face to face with baddie Kylo Ren, Poe quips in the face of danger. He’s supposed to be terrified, but playfully says, “Are you talking first? Or am I? Who’s supposed to talk first?” It’s a nice eff you to Kylo Ren and peril in general. For the rest of the movie, Poe is pretty much the good guy male moviegoers want to be.

The Force Awakens Review c

Finn Grow on You (Good): Initially, Finn comes off as flat and uninteresting. Part of the problem is that he was paired with Poe in the earliest portion of the movie (Poe will always be “the cool one”). Over the course of The Force Awakens, Finn grows on you and then you realize that he’s a fantastic perspective character. Yes, he does heroic things, but he also has moments of freak-out cowardice, lies about his identity, and overstates his importance. He behaves in a wonderfully realistic way that’s layered, nuanced, and easy to relate to. While he starts off flat (perhaps intentionally), John Boyega’s multifaceted importance and comic timing were impressive.

Rey Kicks Ass (Good): When protagonist Rey first appeared I said, “Look, it’s less-attractive Keira Knightley.” (Partially because of her bone structure, but more for her accent) As The Force Awakens went on, she became more-talented Keira Knightley, which ultimately made her more-attractive Keira Knightley.

Rey is one of the coolest and most kick-ass female characters in sci-fi. She’s capable on several levels, equally adept at scavenging for valuable goods, jury rigging the Millennium Falcon, and fighting with a lightsaber. While there are more and more powerful female characters in mainstream movies all the time, Rey might be the most important, simply because Star Wars is huge. Daisy Ridley did a wonderful job bringing a new heroine to life. Her progression from desert scavenger to force heroine was enjoyable and mysterious. I kind of wish that I had a daughter that idolized her.

The Force Awakens Review d

No Jar Jars (Good): The Force Awakens didn’t have any annoying aliens that got way too much screen time, annoying kids that somehow grow up to be menacing villains, and wooden young adults that (also) grow up to be menacing villains. The Jar Jar factor was probably my biggest fear going into the movie. I’m grateful that The Force Awakens didn’t have any Jar Jars or Anis.

Too Much Imitation (Possibly Bad): The biggest potential issue with The Force Awakens is that it, perhaps, is too beholden to the original trilogy. It contains many similarities and hits many of the same beats as A New Hope. Here are some examples — droid with important info gets stuck on crappy desert planet, protagonist in bland clothing finds said droid, good guys look for help at an intergalactic dive bar, bad guys build enormous spherical weapon, good guys attempt to blow up said weapon by attacking minuscule design flaw, main baddy wears a mask that gives him a menacing voice, baddy’s boss is fond of video chat, one of the X-wing pilots is overweight, mentor character dies, etc.

Some fans will feel that these instances are flattering imitation and a respectful homage to the first Star Wars film. Others will feel that they’re unoriginal and prevent The Force Awakens from being truly fresh. Personally, I enjoyed all of these moments. History has a tendency to repeat itself, even in a galaxy far away. That said, I understand if some moviegoers feel that The Force Awakens has too many similarities to A New Hope. (I will also classify those people as heartless killjoys.)

Greg Grunberg is the New Jek Porkins: I love that Greg Grunberg is in this film. I need a bestie like JJ Abrams, so that I can get roles in all of his work. More importantly, I love that Grunberg’s Snap Wexley is an overweight X-wing pilot. I am positive that Wexley’s real last name is Porkins and that he changed it to escape the sizable shadow of his heroic father.

Spoilers (Good): Disney was pretty tight with advanced screenings and did an amazing job containing press leaks. With the way today’s Internet and social media work, it’s shocking that the company was able to control information as well as it did. I was genuinely surprised about Kylo Ren’s parentage. While it was telegraphed in the movie, I’m amazed that Han Solo’s death wasn’t plastered all over the Internet weeks before the release of The Force Awakens.

Kylo Ren Temper Tantrums (Good): There were two scenes where Kylo Ren threw fits and lightsaber-ed the crap out of everything around him. Compared to how cool and controlled previous Star Wars villains were, it was fun watching him lose his sh*t. I loved it when Kylo Ren was throwing a tantrum offscreen and two stormtroopers were shown turning around. I bet their conversation went something like this:

Stormtrooper 1: “Oh crap. Wannabe sith is having another one of his bitch fits.”
Stormtrooper 2: “Yeah, let’s head to the canteen while the IT department cleans up his mess.”
Stormtropper 1: “I hope they have the penne with peas again.” (Eddie Izzard reference ftw!)

Lightsaber Duels (Good): The fight between Rey and Kylo Ren might be my favorite lightsaber fight to date. The ones from the original trilogy were fairly basic. The ones from the prequels had moments of brilliant choreography, but were overdone and had too many instances of people swinging at lightsabers instead of bodies. (Watch me execute this dynamic CG flip and swing my lightsaber ever so fiercely at your lightsaber!) The lightsaber showdown in The Force Awakens was more interesting than the original duels and more realistic than the prequel fights.

Harrison Ford Has Fun (Good): I wasn’t expecting so much Han Solo in the movie, but am grateful for all of his scenes. Old Han Solo is damaged and brittle, but still the scoundrel that everyone loved from the original movies. I couldn’t help thinking about the last time Harrison Ford reprised an old role. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull felt laborious, as if playing the character was a burden for Ford. In The Force Awakens, he appears to be genuinely enjoying himself and having fun with the Han Solo character. While his sarcasm is toned down, he awesomely busts out a few old-school Solo-isms every now and then.

C-3PO’s Entrance (Good): This was just about perfect. Han and Leia are having an emotional moment when 3PO interrupts and kills it. Bwahahahahahahaha!!!

General Hux (Good): While he wasn’t quite the new Tarkin, Hux was a nice addition to The Force Awakens. He’s a manipulative and competitive sociopath. His dynamic with Kylo Ren was fun. Domhnall Gleeson did a great job at making this character such an unlikable dick. You can’t wait to see him eventually get blown up or sliced with a lightsaber. As a sci-fi/fantasy nerd, I love that an actor from the Harry Potter franchise is playing a part in the new Star Wars movies.

Bottom Line: Anyway, those are some assorted thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have many more floating around in my head, but I want to hear what you thought of the film. Please leave a comment below with your opinions and observations on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I hope we have an awesomely nerdy discussion!

Addendum (Updated Dec-18 2:11PM)

Kylo Samberg (Bad?): Adam Driver is funny looking. With his big nose and poofy hair, he had me thinking about another funny-looking actor — Andy Samberg. Whenever Kylo Ren was onscreen, 11 percent of my brain thought about him unmasking to reveal Andy Samberg’s dopey face.

More Keira (Good): My buddy Paul brought up an interesting point about Daisy Ridley’s resemblance to Keira Knightley. Perhaps it was intentional. Knightley did play one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens/decoys/pieces of cannon fodder in The Phantom Menace. The resemblance between Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley even confused their respective mothers during the filming of the prequels. Having a young actress with similar looks would make sense if Rey turns out to be part of the Skywalker bloodline.

The Latest Batman v. Superman Trailer is Better!

After several “meh” clips, things are starting to heat up for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Today’s trailer was, to me, easily the best footage released from the upcoming blockbuster. Yes, Superman is still vanilla-ish and annoying as Clark Kent, but Ben Affleck was better than expected as Batman and Bruce Wayne. Ignore the fact that he did his stupid trademark smirk; he was great at the whole bitter-and-angry thing. While many purists have issues with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, I found him totally charming in the clip. That said, the attitude was not at all what I expect from Lex Luthor, but I’m happy to give Eisenberg’s take on the character a chance. Lastly, Wonder Woman is hot.

Anyway, check out the latest Batman v Superman clip when you have a chance and let me know what you think.

Warcraft Trailer: So What Do You Think?

The Warcraft trailer was met with great fanfare at BlizzCon 2015. Attendees went wild over the clip, released at the show by Blizzard Entertainment and Legendary Pictures. Naturally, a high level of enthusiasm was expected at BlizzCon, as the show if full of ardent Blizzard fans. I’m curious to hear what you think of the trailer. The clip is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

What do you think of the costumes and special effects? How about the story? Kindly share your feelings (like a Care Bear) on the Warcraft trailer in the comments section. For now, here are some random (and probably silly) observations on the Warcraft trailer (with convenient timestamps!).

00:13 — The eagles from The Lord of the Rings have defected to the world of Warcraft (see what I did there?). Tired of taking orders from senile wizards and providing Uber service to hobbits, the eagles are moving onto bigger and better things in the Warcraft movie.

00:16: Phallic towers are mandatory in fantasy films…but you already knew that.

00:23: There’s your hero, Anduin Lothar played by Travis Fimmel.

00:28: When orcs attack….

00:37: I spy a racist white lord.

00:40: The orc story is explained. See, they’re not bad. Their makeup and CG just makes them look that way. Also, there’s your other hero — Durotan, played by Toby Kebbell.

00:47: You know orcs are badass when they’re completely comfortable with canine creatures that dwarf them.

01:02: Ah, that’s what Paula Patton has been up to since divorcing Robin Thicke. Is it weird that I think she makes a sexy orc?

01:15: The heroes meet! Obviously this is the part where they come to respect and understand one another…which is followed by the part where their people think they’re nuts and the warring continues. I learned this in college in Hackneyed Contrivance Plots 101.

01:24: See, a white man is behind all the trouble.

01:44: Blatant Moses ripoff! *snicker*

01:48: Climactic battle looks climactic.

01:55: Anduin pulls a Legolas.

 

Japanese Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

Are you ready for more Star Wars: The Force Awakens? If you answered yes then check out the Japanese trailer for the most anticipated nerd movie of the last decade. There’s a bunch of new footage and dialogue that wasn’t shown in the American trailer. Kindly check out the clip when you have a chance and let me know what you think of the international trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the comments section. And just because it’s Friday, may the Force be with you. #ForceFriday

Coffee Talk #665: ESPN’s Closure of Grantland is Disheartening

On October 30, 2015, ESPN made the horrible decision to shut down Grantland. The website offered a fantastic combination of sports and pop-culture coverage. It quickly became my favorite website on the Internet shortly after it launched. Grantland’s writing was longer, smarter, and sharper than most of what you’ll find on the Internet. The site’s closure is disheartening on several levels.

As a readerGrantland’s closure is disappointing because it had some of ESPN’s best writing. The site excelled at long-form articles that were informative and entertaining. It had a wide variety of writers that skillfully covered a wide variety of topics. While sports was Grantland’s emphasis, it also covered movies, music, television, pro-wrestling, and more. No matter the topic, I could always depend on a well-written article on Grantland that always entertained me and often left me a bit smarter than I was before I read it.

As a reader, I also appreciated Grantland’s simple layout. The design emphasized content and the advertising was tame by today’s standards. Grantland loaded quickly on desktop and mobile devices, unlike some of my other favorite websites (I’m looking at you, The Verge). Sadly, a website with great writing and user-friendly design is uncommon these days. That Grantland offered both was extraordinary.

As a longtime Internet writerGrantland’s closure is depressing. It shows that corporate hacks are unwilling and/or unable to support great content creation. It’s sad that the dozens of fantastic editors and writers at Grantland no longer have jobs, while ESPN continues to pay Stephen A. Smith to act like an idiot on television. It makes me wonder what kind of support the website had from the suits, its advertisers, and its readers. Obviously something was missing. The high-quality content was there, but did the suits support it with enough marketing? Did the site not get enough ad dollars? Were people uninterested in longer articles? It’s baffling.

As a longtime ESPN.com reader, I’m amused that Grantland’s closure killed the best writing the company had to offer. I used to love ESPN.com, but it has become garbage. While the site is ESPN’s Internet flagship, the writing on Grantland and FiveThirtyEight (another ESPN-owned website) was superior to anything on the “main” website. ESPN.com has devolved in a mashup of moronic click bait, AP reposts, thoughtless opinion pieces, daily LeBron James updates, and the occasional solid article. Copyediting is, sadly, optional on ESPN.com.

Add it all up and it’s disheartening. My favorite website is gone. Another corporate overlord has pissed on the value of quality content. Instead of enjoying my daily dose of Grantland, I’ll have to read the crap on ESPN.com. Oh well, maybe it’s time to give Yahoo! Sports another look.

Coffee Talk #664: Freddy vs. Jason

Since it’s Halloween week, let’s have a horror-based column and poll in today’s Coffee Talk. I want to know which horror series you like best. In the red corner, it’s Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the blue corner, it’s Jason Voohees and Friday the 13th. Both series have scared millions of moviegoers and have earned millions of dollars. Both have had frightful high points and unfortunate sequels that are best forgotten. Come to think of it, both series have gotten the reboot treatment as well. While A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th certainly have a lot in common, I’m certain that you guys and gals prefer one over the other. Kindly vote in the poll below and explain your choice in the comments section.

As for me, I’m going with A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are so many things that I love about the movies and, especially, its villain. The movies had several moments that were legitimately scary. The movies also had some of the earliest instances of “meta” jokes that made sense to me in my youth. I love that Freddy Krueger was portrayed by the guy that played the goofy alien in V and later by the guy that played Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears. In addition to being a fun movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street III exposed Dokken to a mainstream audience.

Most of all, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund’s version) was a charming villain. He was funny and had a warped sense of humor. There were several times when I was rooting for him to kill the Elm Street kids, which felt all kinds of wrong but is a testament to the character’s actor and writers. While Jason Voorhees certainly had a more physical and intimidating presence, he was slow and stupid. If I wanted to be entertained by slow and stupid, I’d just watch a Batista match on WWE Network (zing!).

Anyway, that’s my vote and explanation. Now let’s hear yours! Kindly take the poll and expand on your choice.

[poll id=”196″]