(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: a former Johnny Depp fan struggles to let go.)
Who would have thought that, one day, the name “Johnny Depp” would become a dirty word?
Johnny Depp used to be one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. He was attractive, alternative, zany and cool. He was the offbeat art kid’s entryway into Hollywood idolization. He was awesome.
Now, though? Depp is a tired mess of his former self. Growing older is something that can’t be held against anyone, but aging disgracefully certainly can. He’s an actor trying to hold onto his youth in the worst ways. He’s a caricature of his former self. Worst of all, he’s now plagued with scandal.
So how does someone who used to love his work deal with this?
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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has shot to the top of my must-see list this winter. The film, which follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as he becomes acclimated to his new spider powers and is mentored by the forever-broke Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), looks like it’ll be charming, heartfelt, and poignant, especially with the smattering of father-son dynamics the film provides (with Brian Tyree Henry playing Miles’ police officer father, Jefferson Davis). Also, it looks fantastic. In fact, I’d say it’s the best animation has ever looked in the 21st century.
To be more laser-focused, my gripe lies squarely with the tastemakers who believe that 3D is now the only way to tell a story just because the technology is still considered “new,” even though it’s been in use over 20 years at this point, even before Toy Story came along (let’s not forget Reboot, the first 3D-generated TV show ever, and a show that was rich in story as well). There’s also the idea that there’s only one way 3D characters can look and act in order for it to be deemed as “lucrative.” For me, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a film combining both 2D and 3D animation techniques, not only allows audiences to rediscover the power of a 2D-animated film, but it also broadens what 3D animation can do.
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(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Super Mario Bros. is much better than we give it credit for.)
Illumination Entertainment and Nintendo are gearing up to bring Mario, Luigi and the gang back to the big screen with an animated Super Mario Bros. film. Fans of the video game are hoping it’s going to be good, especially since many are trying to erase the original live-action film from their memory. It’s popular in film circles to say 1993’s Super Mario Bros. is atrocious. But I disagree. In fact, I think we’re all undervaluing it.
The film, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, two brothers who get trapped in an alternate New York City run by humanoid dinosaurs, is a film that is considered so awesomely bad, that it becomes good. But I think it’s actually good. While there are tonal shifts that don’t make sense and a confused sense of direction, Super Mario Bros. is not the worst film to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Its leads are convincing, its design is thought-provoking, and contrary to popular belief, it actually follows the Nintendo video games much closer than people actually remember. What also makes this a good movie is that it’s a movie fit for film lovers who like learning about how to tell better stories. One of the boons from Super Mario Bros. is, in fact, learning about its mistakes.
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Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger surprised me in the best way possible. It’s a show that tackles heavy themes and strives for a place within New Orleans’ rich and varied history, all while providing those comic book story thrills. Aside from Agent Carter and Luke Cage, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Marvel’s TV offerings, but Cloak & Dagger offers something new and mature.
One of my personal gripes with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole is that it doesn’t often speak with its chest when it comes to honestly tackling hot-button issues. But Cloak & Dagger absolutely does. It’s a series that’s not afraid to talk openly about racial discrimination, sexism, the effects of police brutality and harsh family dynamics. This isn’t a show for fanboys; it’s a show for people who are angry with society and want to change it for the better. This is Marvel at its most activist-driven, and it’s a side of Marvel we should see more often within the MCU.
There’s so much to say about Cloak & Dagger’s spectacular first season, so let’s break it down into some component parts. And, of course, talk about what we’d like to see in season 2.
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The season finale of Cloak & Dagger has come and gone, and I can honestly say that this show has been a blast to watch. Each week, the series seamlessly weaved New Orleans culture with Marvel’s comic book flair, creating something wholly unique to the Marvel TV universe. The trend continued this week with “Colony Collapse.” The big climax of the season was Roxxon’s valves erupting and putting New Orleans in danger. But, in true Cloak & Dagger fashion, it happened during Mardi Gras, one of New Orleans’ biggest holidays, and brings the African spiritual implications of the Divine Pairing to its head.
Even more interesting is that in order for Tandy and Tyrone to save society, everything must be flipped and turned around, which could create more chaos later on. But for right now, it’s what our superheroes need to do to save the world.
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Next week is the Cloak and Dagger season finale, dudes and dudettes! Thankfully, we got the Season 2 renewal, so us Cloak and Dagger fans can heave a sigh of relief. With the promise of a second season, we can watch this week’s episode, “Back Breaker,” with more of a relaxed mindset.
However, Tandy and Tyrone aren’t relaxed at all as their lives appear to be falling apart. As Father Delgado taught his literature class, we’re at the point where our heroes are at their lowest, regressing further back than ever in their respective mentalities. Or, is all of it fate guiding its heroes to their destiny? Let’s get into how the spirits are just setting up our duo for their biggest test yet.
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The theme of this week’s Cloak & Dagger episode, “Ghost Stories,” seems to be all about revelations. This episode was the anniversary of the deaths of both Tyrone and Tandy’s loved ones, so the overarching spirit of melancholy was even more intense than usual. But the mood was heightened by truths (both subtle and not-so-subtle) that were revealed over the course of the episode. Here’s what we learned this week. Read More »
(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)
It’s considered a cliché to say that the Joker is not only Batman’s greatest villain, but the greatest villain in comic book history. But is it really? It’s not as if The Joker’s status as top villain isn’t earned; he’s consistently kept fans enthralled for decades with his mix of actual comedy and misanthropy, and while his level of nihilism has changed throughout the years, his core message to Batman – that good only exists where there’s evil – remains.
That message rose to its height in The Dark Knight, which brought us the best portrayal of the Joker onscreen (yes, even better than Jack Nicholson). Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime elevated the character from mere “comic book legend” to a relevant and thought-provoking icon, challenging Batman on his core tenets of being a superhero and, indeed, of being a person on the side of good. It’s this challenge that makes the Joker and Batman’s dynamic the best in comic book movie history – and why Marvel, for all it’s Infinity War fervor, needs to sit down and learn a thing or two about how to craft villains with longevity and meaning, meaning that sticks with the viewer long after the ending credits have rolled.
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The latest episode of Cloak and Dagger, “Lotus Eaters,” takes place inside Ivan Hess’ addled brain. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this episode is actually quite an inventive and stylized look at how it feels to endlessly ruminate, despite the answer to your problems literally being right at your fingertips. For Ivan, his answer was his daughter Mina’s cookie. But the cookie represents something much larger; it represents remembering who you really are and what you’re fighting for.
Let’s take a quick, non-ruminating look at this week’s episode.
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It was a glib assumption by some that this series was only set in New Orleans because of tax breaks. This week on Cloak & Dagger, “Funhouse Mirrors” showed us just how big of a player New Orleans actually is in the lives of Tandy and Tyrone. More on that a little later, but right now, all you need to know is that this week we learned just how much of New Orleans history resides within our two main characters – and how much of the city’s future lives in them, too. Read More »