Deep Six Podcast: Episode 5

DeepSixPodcast_square2Hey everyone, Episode 5 of the Deep Six Podcast is online now! In the new episode, Steve, Dan, and I discuss the happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the short list of directors for “Captain Marvel” and Dan Harmon’s involvement in “Dr. Strange.” Also, I (Matt) reveal that I did NOT like Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Please, please, PLEASE give this a listen and like, share, subscribe, or, you know, comment. This is continues to be a passion project for me but it can be a BETTER time with your support.

As always, we appreciate the support we already have… Now tell your friend(s)!

You can find the Deep Six Podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

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DoorMatt Movie Discussion: Was “Man of Steel” Intended to Launch a DC Cinematic Universe?

Henry_Cavill_Batman_v_SupermanBy now, it is no secret that we here (read: I) at DoorMatt Review are big fans of DC Comics and the DC Cinematic Universe. While I did not give a glowing review to “Suicide Squad,” I also certainly did enjoy the film and ended up being a big fan of what they did with it despite a few obvious pratfalls in the making of the film. “Batman v. Superman” was similar for me; there are obvious flaws with the film (though many of them are addressed and solved in the Ultimate Edition cut of the blockbuster) but overall I highly enjoyed DC Entertainment’s effort to relaunch the Batman character and create their shared universe vision. While I was writing my “Suicide Squad” review, though, I really started to think these things through more in depth and came to a conclusion that I’m honestly not sure is right or wrong, shared or not; “Man of Steel” (2013) was not intended to be the start of the DC Cinematic Universe as we know it. DC Entertainment has created many detractors with their approach to the Cinematic Universe and, as I see it, this could be mainly attributable to the fact that it was hurriedly thrown together to alleviate the problem a failed chart for the future of what they thought their universe would be. Hear me out.

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Let’s rewind to 2003. In the early parts of that year, Warner Brothers hired relatively small (at that time) director Christopher Nolan (imdb) to relaunch their Batman film franchise. After the failure of “Batman & Robin” (1997), the idea of doing a fifth Batman installment had been batted (PUNS!) around for some time before Nolan signed on. Up to that point, Nolan had been known mostly for his cerebral approach to film-making (“Following”) and his use of non-linear storytelling (“Memento”) but after the critical success of “Insomnia” (2002), Nolan became something of a rising star for Warner Brothers. Within two months the film series also had a writer in David Goyer (imdb) and, later, a star in the unknown (again, relative to the time) Christian Bale (imdb). With a renewed focus on making the viewer care for both Batman AND Bruce Wayne, and a tonal shift toward the hero rather than the villain, the film was a critical and commercial success. The film even received praise from “Batman” (1989) director Tim Burton (imdb) who said of the film:

“…captured the real spirit that these kind of movies are supposed to have nowadays. When I did Batman twenty years ago, in 1988 or something, it was a different time in comic book movies. You couldn’t go into that dark side of comics yet. The last couple of years that has become acceptable and Nolan certainly got more to the root of what the Batman comics are about.”

With such high praise, it was only natural that a sequel would come and it did in the form of “The Dark Knight” (2008, trailer below). The film can be taken and interpreted many different ways but, at its core, it is the story of Harvey Dent’s (played by Aaron Eckhart) journey from symbol of hope to the antithesis of Bale’s Batman, the yin to his yang. Of course, the film is most known for Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker, and his accidental death following the film’s production. The film went on to gross more than $500 million at the domestic box office, cross over $1 billion worldwide, and win a posthumous Oscar for Ledger. Most telling about the production of the film though is that Goyer originally turned in a treatment for two sequels to expand the Dent and Joker storyline over two films, rather than the one that we ended up getting. Of course this was followed with a third film in the series, 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” once again starring Bale and Tom Hardy as Bane. Nolan and Bale were thought to not be very interested in coming back for the third film but Nolan had the following to say upon confirming his involvement in the series ender:

“The key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story […] rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story […] Unlike the comics, these things don’t go on forever in film and viewing it as a story with an end is useful. Viewing it as an ending, that sets you very much on the right track about the appropriate conclusion.”

Like “The Dark Knight” before it, the film was a commercial success with good critical response as well. After the film had been released, conversation again shifted to whether or not Nolan and Bale would return to continue the series or not. Meanwhile, David Goyer (who had written the story concept for the previous films) left early in production on “Rises” to begin work on “Man of Steel.”

Henry-Cavill-Zack-Snyder-MOS-Shanghai-080“Man of Steel,” of course, was met with harsh critical and fan reaction in response to its presentation of a darker, tortured Superman. Given the shared writing connection, and the tone that Nolan had set with his Batman universe, it should have come as no surprise that the Zack Snyder film gave us a Superman that struggled with his place as a man in the world and didn’t quite understand his power. It’s here that we really get away from my love letter to Christopher Nolan’s bat universe and back to the topic at hand: was “Man of Steel” meant to launch the DC Cinematic Universe?

Based on what can be inferred from what I’ve presented here, there’s no real way we can answer that with anything but a resounding “no.” While “Man of Steel” did end up launching DC’s shared screen team-ups, it certainly was not plotted that way originally. Warner Brothers announced “Man of Steel” in 2010 after a series of years that saw WB take pitches from comic writers and directors about what their take on a new Superman film might be. WB turned down every pitch, however, until Christopher Nolan and David Goyer brought up the idea for their film, which would become “Man of Steel.” Christopher Nolan on his and Goyer’s approach to the film:

“He basically told me, ‘I have this thought about how you would approach Superman’, I immediately got it, loved it and thought: That is a way of approaching the story I’ve never seen before that makes it incredibly exciting. I wanted to get Emma Thomas and I involved in shepherding the project right away and getting it to the studio and getting it going in an exciting way.”

Further, Nolan added that “A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that’s what I know how to do,” and on the concept of Batman and Superman coexisting “Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other.” Nolan went on to hire Zack Snyder to direct the film and served as a producer. On the topic of Batman and other DC characters inhabiting the universe, though, Snyder had other thoughts, including references to several other characters in the film and a direct reference to Batman with Wayne Enterprises technology being shown during the film.

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So, while Nolan might not have seen them sharing the universe, Snyder certainly did, and neither at the time saw themselves as starting something new with “Man of Steel,” as Snyder was working within the confines of Nolan’s concept of the universe and Nolan himself had not yet begun work on “The Dark Knight Rises” when “Man of Steel” was announced. Given all of that, we can certainly gather then that, while Nolan and Snyder may have differently viewed what was happening with the DC Universe at the time, they both certainly never dreamed of “Batman v. Superman” as it exists now at the time. I would venture to say that Snyder himself at the time pictured a world where Christian Bale’s Batman would inhabit the world created by Christopher Nolan and venture to Metropolis to tangle with Henry Cavill’s Superman. Later the tone changed and Snyder himself mentioned that he wanted to hire Bale to play a different role in “Batman v. Superman” just to further establish the different universes idea (here). While we may disagree on whether “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman” are good movies or bad we can likely all agree that this was an idea best left unexplored.

All in all, I am still very excited for where the DC Universe is going but what about you? Would you have more interest in the film if Nolan’s universe continued with Christian Bale still donning the cape and cowl? Would you be more accepting of a darker Superman if the screen was shared with Nolan’s dark Batman? Leave comments below or on any of our social media platforms.

Also, stay tuned later this week for the potential new writer I mentioned last week, as well as a recap of why I have been so busy over the past week and a half.

Deep Six Podcast: Episode 4

DeepSixPodcast_square2I am a little bit late to the party (for reasons that will become evident as this week and this week’s posts move along) but Episode 4 of the Deep Six Podcast is online (as of Friday!) In the new episode, Steve, Dan, and I discuss the happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the short list of directors for “Captain Marvel” and Dan Harmon’s involvement in “Dr. Strange.”

Please, please, PLEASE give this a listen and like, share, subscribe, or, you know, comment. This is continues to be a passion project for me but it can be a BETTER time with your support.

As always, we appreciate the support we already have… Now tell your friend(s)!

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You can find the Deep Six Podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

DoorMatt Reviews #3: “Suicide Squad” (2016)

clac5pdwyaadpxoIt’s no secret by now that DC Entertainment has developed a track record of releasing highly divisive pictures under its banner. Starting with “Man of Steel” (2013) and continuing with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), DC has began to build its stable on the heels of its biggest feature attractions; Superman, Batman, and to a lesser extent, Wonder Woman (trailer at the end of this article). Despite the box office draw of Batman (coming off the highly successful Christopher Nolan trilogy), though, and the appeal that is corn-fed Clark Kent, DC’s opening salvos into the contested comic book movie genre have been critical duds. In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I am a giant fan of both. “Man of Steel,” from its very first trailer (seen below), had me hooked (the Russell Crowe voice over, the way you can’t even tell it’s a Superman trailer until Zack Snyder’s name pops up on the screen; it’s the perfect setup for what a Superman movie should be). DC continued that universe with BvS, regardless of whether of not “Man of Steel” was ever even intended to be a universe starting picture or not (more on that later). BvS introduced a new, older, veteran Batman to this universe that is tired of criminals shit and is willing to go to whatever length necessary to stop it. Highly influenced by several high profile DC Comics event runs, it should have been a hit (and it was… you know, just for me and a few select others).

So what exactly has gone wrong? While hard to pinpoint, speculation is easy. Zack Snyder’s direction has been a point of contention, as well as casting decisions, storyline and scripting, editing, and Warner Brothers interference. That brings me to “Suicide Squad,” the newest entry into the DC Entertainment Cinematic Universe that released on August 5th.

clac5qvweaqjdspIt would be next to impossible to start this review in earnest without mentioning the incredible amount of negative attention that this film has received, even before the general public had seen the film. Critical reviews (see Rotten Tomatoes) have been overwhelmingly poor and the usual suspects have been out sounding off on how bad the film is. This has created a harsh battleground between pro-DC faithful and Marvel backers, critics, and review aggregate sites, like Rotten Tomatoes. Having seen “Suicide Squad” now… They aren’t entirely wrong. My single biggest issue with the film, which is arguably the BIGGEST issue period with the film, is that it may be the most poorly edited film I’ve ever seen. There is simply very little logical flow to the film. Without entering spoiler territory, there is a sequence about 5/8 of the way through the film that has the Squad entering a federal building. Directly before this scene is a serious clip of Will Smith’s Deadshot, preceded by a jokey scene of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn “window-shopping,” preceded by a serious scene with the film’s villain establishing part of their plot. Oh, and the scene entering the villain is followed by two jokey scenes with Deadshot and Harley, then more action, then a serious scene. This is the general flow of the movie; scenes like this occur all within minutes and there are no smooth transitions, things just happen, jarringly at times, and you’re along for the ride. It’s like an old school wooden roller-coaster and you’ve previously had a neck injury.

Jared+Leto+JokerA secondary issue, and this may just be me, is relating to Jared Leto’s Joker. Inevitably, every conversation I have had about “Suicide Squad,” save one or two, has devolved into some form of discussion about who the best Joker is. We all know the usual suspects; Heath Ledger in the Nolan-verse, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s take, and Mark Hamill in “Batman: The Animated Series” (lest we forget Cesar Romero in Batman 66′). I am in the extreme minority on this issue but I loved Leto’s take on “The Clown Prince of Crime.” As I have mentioned to others, this is the Joker I have been waiting to see on screen. I realize the brilliance of Ledger’s performance, at times it bordered on mesmerizing, but he wasn’t The Joker. Ditto for Jack Nicholson who, while he was fun in the film, was essentially just playing Jack in face paint in Tim Burton’s interpretation of Batman’s world (which isn’t much like Batman itself). And while Mark Hamill certainly embodies a voice appropriately for The Joker, playing a character on screen where every emote is captured for all time is a completely different ballgame. This is the closest I’ve seen to a comic book take on The Joker. He’s sinister, appropriately psychotic, and holds court differently. He’s not a raving anarchist, or a mafioso, he’s a lunatic. That’s The Joker to me. Too many people are getting caught up in their opinions on people with tattoos and are quick to label the character as a “thug,” the infinitely more hilarious “juggalo,” or a “hot topic scene kid” (something also attributed to Heath Ledger upon first look at his take on the clown), instantly removing any credibility they had. Once you get beyond the tattoos, and the gang mentality behind the character, this is a character more influenced by the comic roots behind it than any other film take on the character yet.

All of that said, getting to the issue I mentioned, The Joker is barely in “Suicide Squad.” Estimates range anywhere from between 7 and 10 minutes of total screen time in a film around 2 hours long. The character, and Leto’s performance, captured the screen for me every time he was on it, so when he disappeared for the second half of the film, it became distracting when I kept expecting him to reappear every other scene. Instead, nothing was ever explained and I just kept wanting more. It should be mentioned though that this is NOT The Joker’s movie. He is just a side character and the movie could have existed in its current state even if they removed him completely from the film (and if you believe the rumors, they already removed 50% of what Leto shot for the film).

maxresdefaultWhat did I like though? Pretty much everything else. The casting was spot on for the movie (see the individual character trailers above). With ensemble casts like these, often a few roles seem to slip through the cracks and manage to miss the mark. In this film it didn’t feel that way. The two main characters of the film are Deadshot (Smith) and Harley Quinn (Robbie) and they are developed quite well through in more in depth back story. The side characters, namely Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara), all tend to be more fascinating on occasion, have less developed back stories, and had performances so good that they left me wanting A LOT more of them. Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag originally had me worried (based on different factors) but both performed their roles well for what they called for and should make solid additions to the extended universe. Sadly, it feels as if Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Slipknot (Adam Beach), and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) were added mostly to fulfill storyline facets, not to be parts of the film and Squad itself. Even these characters though, for as much as they felt tacked on, were cast well and felt fleshed out. Also of particularly good note, the cameos in the film were well done and should please fans of the DC Cinematic Universe. Make sure you stay through the credits!

It is somewhat hard to make a judgement call on the story of the film because the editing made so much of a mess out of it. What I will say is that the threat of the film felt credible enough to need the cast of criminals that were called upon to save the day. It is an A-level threat that the Justice League themselves may be called upon to face… you know, if they had been formed yet. While the actions, or inaction as it were, of the threat itself is questionable, it felt big enough to require a team effort to stop it.

In general, I would count myself among those who highly enjoyed “Suicide Squad.” Is it a perfect film by any means? No, it really isn’t. There are certain issues that WB MUST work on moving forward before they can be taken seriously by the general public to avoid the negative reviews they continually see for their films. Judging by the following trailer for “Wonder Woman” (2017), it seems like they are on the right track:

If I can try to impart anything it’s to see the movie yourself, don’t trust the word of a critic, or a friend who shits on the movie but won’t even make their voice heard with their dollars. Form your own opinion and then, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

This Week on The DoorMatt Review…

Moving forward, plans for the site for this week! After a rough week last week, Monday my review for “Suicide Squad” will hit at 6 a.m., look forward to an article from me this week where I analyze whether “Man of Steel” was intended to be a universe starter for DC or not, and a potential guest/permanent second writer coming on board at The DoorMatt Review! Stay with me, I promise we are only just getting started!

DoorMatt Reviews #2: “The Killing Joke” (2016)

11295488-1954394628505164One of my earliest memories as a comic book reader is reading a copy of The Killing Joke. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke isn’t one of the best graphic novels ever written, hell, to call it a graphic novel might even be a bit of an exaggeration as it’s only about 60 to 65 pages, total (and, to be completely fair, I would count Watchmen in the same vein – it was 12 separate issues first people, not a novel). That said, this does not make it any less of an amazing Bat Family story and, quite possibly, the DEFINITIVE Joker story.

What the story captures incredibly well, and sets the pace that still caries the vibe 26 years after press (the original release was March of 1988), is that Joker and Batman relationship. (ed. note: what follows is all PERSONAL opinion) What has always made that relationship great is that The Joker is the perfect antithesis and foil to Batman. Batman is the “World’s Greatest Detective,” he makes his living off of figuring out what makes his villains tick, tracking them down, and often outsmarting them in a game of wits. Batman, though, for all his intelligence, has often been unable to outsmart The Joker over the long game. He doesn’t know what makes Mista’ J tick, he never knows his true motivations, and he can never do what it will take to stop a criminal like him. This is all because Batman, unlike any of his other villains, has no idea who The Joker was and where he came from. Just like it is for the readers, The Joker’s origins are a mystery to Bruce Wayne as well and he can never truly grasp what it would take to stop him.

What makes The Killing Joke such a fascinating story (and the film follows this plot line almost to a T) is that it posits to give The Joker an actual backstory. The Joker is a family man. He has a wife, with a child on the way, and is trying to provide for them. At the same time, he is trying to be a stand-up comedian and make progress in that venture. The Joker feels like a loser and a failure. In this way, Alan Moore almost makes the character sympathetic, in the same way that 2015 documentary “Welcome to Leith” (trailer) manages to create sympathy for a white supremacist that intended to force people from their homes and out of towns, but instead finds himself on the receiving end of hate; At times, you don’t like yourself for sympathizing with the villain. In some ways, reading a novel or comic book allows you to detach yourself from those feelings and keep moving; it’s all in your head after all. When the picture moves, though, and the characters are brought to life with brilliant voice acting, as in the case of DC animated’s “The Killing Joke” (releasing on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday August 2nd), you may have a harder time removing yourself from these feelings.

The-Killing-Joke-2“The Killing Joke” largely follows the exact same story as the Alan Moore story; The Joker escapes from Arkham, Batman seeks him out, Joker causes chaos as revenge, and Batman comes to the rescue with horrifying results for all involved. Without significantly spoiling anything, while this sounds like the common setup of a Batman-Joker comic storyline, there are real stakes for characters you both know and don’t know and there is a kill count. This is very much a high level PG-13 or low level Rated R story set within that Batman mythos (to whit, DC did release two different versions – a PG-13 and a Rated R). It is worth mentioning that it seems like DC, in an effort to beef up the run-time, added some storyline elements that didn’t exist in the original story. This is mostly in the form of a “prologue” of sorts that establishes an odd random gangster character stalking Batgirl and a Batman-Batgirl romance that culminates in a far overblown sex scene that is in no way steamy or interesting. One can only make the assumption that the scene was added to establish some emotional context for what was to come later in the story and to create a longer run-time to A) make the film long enough to charge $19.99 for the physical media release and B) meet theater needs for the special DC one two night only special screening event. This encompasses about the first half-hour of the film until we get to the Batman detective aspects and Joker enters the fray. In no way did it take me out of the story and if anyone says it did, they are complaining for the sake of complaining. This is a solid DC story and the film is a great addition to it.

MV5BZmIxNTZmYjctMmRlZC00Y2JmLWFmMDAtODg5YjFhZTVkM2M4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_One thing that “The Killing Joke” absolutely nails is the cast for it’s animated tale. DC has made great strides in terms of creating an “Animated Universe” to rival Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (though it is now somewhat a second thought given DC establishing it’s own Cinematic Universe) but one thing that has always bugged me is the way that voices tend to change from film to film. DC made the excellent, and fan friendly, decision for “Killing Joke” to bring back a piece of it’s “Batman: The Animated Series” cast with Kevin Conroy (“Batman”) and Mark Hamill (“The Joker”) returning to the roles they made famous and Tara Strong returning to a role she has played on occasion over the years as “Batgirl.” The voice cast is phenomenal, truly. While it is certainly possible to convey emotional through a comic book panel, nothing can quite move a person like a voice, or a moving performance, and when you have actors and actresses that embody their performances the way that the ones here do, it is second to none. Hamill, over time, has come to be thought of as the quintessential Joker. While some may disagree, or have different favorites, he owns this performance, especially in the dramatic and flashback moments, and brings like to a Joker that is both reflective and murderously insane at the same time. It’s something that we will not forget in what Hamill says is his last voice performance as the character.

As with any animated film, the animation style certainly must be mentioned. It’s been mentioned in some online forums that fans are disappointed that DC chose to not utilize the same animation style that was used in “Batman: The Animated Series” and fair enough. If you’ve spent any considerable amount of time watching the “TAS” then you know why it is so universally loved. I feel that, in this case though, the animation style utilized was perfect for what the story was. “The Killing Joke” is not a story for children, so the animation used should not be for children. “TAS” was a very smooth show. By that I mean that everything, quite literally, looked very smooth. The art in “Killing Joke” has no such smoothness. There are jagged edges to characters, things don’t look perfect and safe. And why should they? If you have any familiarity with the story, this is not one that was playing it safe. Alan Moore has stated that he sees Batman and The Joker as mirror images of one another, something I alluded to previously and, further, critics have said that both Batman and Joker are tragic characters that (at least in Moore’s version of the Joker tale) are results of one bad day. These aren’t perfect creatures we are discussing; these are very damaged characters that are in no way perfect, fixable entities. To gloss them over in a smooth, more colorful way… It simply wouldn’t do the story justice.

All of that said, while I did enjoy DC’s effort with “The Killing Joke” I certainly enjoyed the book more and encourage people to read it. For this author, that does nothing to diminish either the film OR the book, we live in a world where both can exist and it is good that they do. For the comic industry, it’s good for people to see this, hear critical response, and seek out the book to see what the differences are. For the film industry, it’s good that comic readers will want to see their favorite story played out and compare dreams to reality. Whenever these comic stories are committed to digital or celluloid, we shouldn’t waste time debating whether it should or should not have happened, we should enjoy it. What a time to be alive as a fan.

You can buy “The Killing Joke” on August 2nd at Amazon.

You can buy The Killing Joke, also, on Amazon.