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Michael Bay's BENGHAZI Movie. Yes, For Real.

This piece made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon

For my international readers: American politics is still currently consumed by conspiracy theories surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. The event (which resulted in the deaths of multiple CIA operatives and at least two longtime American diplomats) is universally regarded as a tragedy, but differences in accounts of the day re: why relief was not deployed earlier and on whose authority have lead to widespread speculation and theories, most settling on a displacement of blame ("Someone important fucked up and their incompetence is being covered up"); but for a particular brand of unhinged paranoiac (read: The Republican voting-base) it's another insidious betrayal by President Evil - aka Barack Obama.

So goes some of the more popular lunacy: Obama and Hillary Clinton, in order to placate their respective Black Panther and Feminazi foot-soldiers (who are, for some reason, aligned with Islamic Fundamentalism in this scenario) "allowed" the Americans stationed there to die as some sort of sacrifice to either Al Qaeda, Gaia, or both. Or neither. Maybe they're just so evil it doesn't matter. Anyway, for obvious reasons it's not an issue that Democrats or "mainstream" Republicans are particularly hot to discuss (bringing it up during the last election led to one of Mitt Romney's most embarassing public gaffes), so the only time you really hear about it is when some hot-air escapes the right-wing talk radio echo-chamber.

In any case, you can see why this is fodder for a movie Hollywood would be desperate to make but almost no one would want to lend their name to: It's a more topical BLACK HAWK DOWN, with the potential to draw major box-office on curiosity alone... but it's also almost-certain to become co-opted by GOP/Tea-Party types and wind up bearing some super-ugly stigma. You'd basically need a major director who lives and breathes action, has a comfortable relationship with the "security community," desperately wants attention (and awards) as a Serious Filmmaker but also doesn't give a fuck about a bad media image.

Commissioner... get to the roof and light The BAY Signal...

For what it's worth, 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is based on a book compiled from eyewitness accounts by members of the ex-military contractor team at the story's focus; which aligns largely with the "known facts" of the events and maintains an "in the moment" perspective and doesn't get into the stateside political theories or implications - save for the suspicion among some of the contractors that their CIA handler - whom they claim ordered them to delay intervention by about 20 minutes, leading to the attack getting disasterously out of hand and ultimately preventing rescue - did so in order to further conceal Agency presence in Libya by trying to enlist local militia fighters instead.

I have no idea what Bay's politics are, save that he has very strong feelings about animal cruelty and the protection of endangered species in particular. For what it's worth... I think it looks pretty good. I don't always love the way he cuts/edits the final product together, but Bay really is something like a prodigy when it comes to composition and mood - and for better or worse it's obvious that military settings inspire him to really dig deep. Cinematography is by Dion Beebe this time around, though it's impressive how much of the expected Bay aesthetic shines through.

My sense of this is that any political "interest" he might have in Benghazi begins and ends with his obvious affection for various military branches and the ability of the word "Benghazi!" to get audiences into theaters and the movie into the Serious Discussion circuit - that January 15th release date almost-certainly means it'll be screening NY/LA and critics groups in December to qualify for Awards Season. Yup, 15 years after PEARL HARBOR, Michael Bay is ready to try for his Oscar again. That should be interesting.

This piece made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon


Because you demanded it, here (after the jump) a text version of my now-famous PIXELS review. And hey, while you're here, maybe consider visiting The MovieBob Patreon?

I… have no words. I just don’t. I saw PIXELS mere hours ago as of this writing, and I find myself incapable of putting what I’m feeling into words – such is the magnitude of the disaster I’ve witnessed. Is this what Cavemen felt the first time they saw what, to them, looked like something was literally eating the Sun? Is this that Existential Horror thing Lovecraft was talking about… in between all the super-uncomfortable anti-semitic stuff?

PIXELS… is an unmitigated piece of godawful fucking dogshit. It’s existence feels like alternately like a poison or a genital infection. It is celluloid chlymidia. Cinematic strychnine. I shouldn’t even BE here – this isn’t my jurisdiction: I’m a film critic, and PIXELS isn’t a movie… it’s a motherfucking active crime scene. And the crime is cultural vandalism.

What we’re faced with here is not simply the almost-certainly WORST major Hollywood movie of the goddamn year and easily the worst Adam Sandler movie where he’s NOT doing a stupid fucking vocal-affectation, but the vomit-encrusted nadir of the unholy assembly-line transmutation of Generation-X nostalgia into the quote-unquote “geek” corporate-branded marketing identity – the Burning of The Library of Alexandria by way of Hot Topic t-shirt printing.

PIXELS is bad enough to make you hate the things you love, and watching it made me want to take a blowtorch to every scrap of video-game memorabilia… except then I’d only have like 2 decent t-shirts. I didn’t merely hate this movie – I wanted to beat it slowly to death with a fucking wiffle-ball bat. So it’d take longer. I was bored within 2 minutes, angry after 5 and by the time all 100 minutes had run out I was sad and numb… which has now simmered into pure, white hot pants-shitting rage. This is the kind of movie that shouldn’t be “reviewed” so much as fed through a malfunctioning industrial shredder… cock first, as I have to assume is the custom over at Happy Madison.

Egh… fuck everything. But anyway! The “plot” to this tepid cauldron of room-temperature yak piss (inspired by a charming animated short film from a few years ago whose creator I… hope was well fuckin’ compensated at least) is that a race of aliens have misinterpreted samples of Earth popular-culture contained in NASA probe for a declaration of war and have attacked the planet with an army of energy-creatures mimicking the forms of circa-1982 arcade games included among said samples.

That’s… not the “worst” mechanism for setting up what is effectively retro-game JUMANJI by way of a castrato-cover of MARS ATTACKS – assuming that’s something you’ve decided needs to exists for some shit-awful reason – but in Sandler’s typical combination of overwrought yet somehow still half-assed story-structure, it can’t just leave things there. Instead, PIXELS wants to shoe-horn in a metric-ton of Kevin Smith-style pop-reference pandering in the form of another tired-as-fuck manchild hero’s journey; so the invaders opt to challenge humanity to life-sized “real life” variations on one specific classic game at a time – leading Kevin James’ embattled United States President (fucking really!) to conscript Sandler, Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage as a team of former competitive arcade champs to lead the battle… mostly by engaging in tacky, dated stereotypes about these “loser weirdo” gaming-nerds having to prove themselves against the skepticism of the big meanie army guys.

SIDEBAR: The *hell* is Peter Dinklage doing in this pile of skidmarked Sumo thongs? I know a Lannister always pays his debts but what the FUCK? Did Sandler pull him out of a tire fire or something? He doesn’t have to do this shit! Hell, neither does Josh Gad – I’m pretty sure he gets paid every time someone buys one of those fuckin’ Olaf dolls!

Anyway... The whole “SCOTT PILGRIM but for assholes” routine with the game sequences is so overcomplicated yet poorly thought-out you’d think they shot the fuckin’ thing over a weekend if not for shamefully expensive it all looks. The rules, stakes and mechanic change with no rhyme or reason: The humans play the “good guy” player role for the Centipede scene but they have to be the Ghosts in the Pac-Man scene – why? Who the fuck knows and the movie doesn’t care. At one point entering a “cheat code” works for some reason without explaining how it was entered and why it mattered; and these aren’t tiny nitpicks – these are major plot developments getting ground up into some of the worst action-movie storytelling since TRANSFORMERS 2.

What do the Aliens even want? Nobody seems to care – sometimes they’re evil, then in the next scene it’s all about them being confused, at one point we’re flat-out told in a moment of important, highlighted exposition that they were peaceful until they got hold of our probe and could maybe be reasoned with… and it’s dropped ONE scene later never to come up again because there’s some Donkey Kong jokes we haven’t done yet! There’s the germ of an interesting idea dying from lack of oxygen within this shitstorm i.e. so muchof our popular-culture being grounded in the mythologizing of, competition and the arbitrary winner/loser binary why wouldn't they mistake it for us declaring war… but that might’ve been interesting and insightful, and PIXELS is clearly aiming more of an “advanced scrotum-cancer” kind of vibe.

But what really turns the whole thing from just one more stupid fucking waste-of-time Summer comedy into the waterfall of elephant jizz cascading into theaters this weekend is that it’s so oppressively, endlessly, bald-faced cynical about the disingenuous appropriation of its own supposed reason for existing. There’s not a single interesting joke or visual gag making use of the presence of all the classic gaming iconography Sandler and his goon-squad have been allowed to fuck around with. The supposed “humorous” use of every single Pixelated “thing” in the movie never ONCE rises beyond the level of “HAHAHAHAHA! I recognize that, which for some reason qualifies as a joke now!” This isn’t just keeping great art in a bad frame – this is using original Monets to wallpaper a port-a-potty at an IBS Symposium.

This is the kind of bad licensing-driven movie that’s so fucking glib and self-satisfied with its own sleazy cash-grab existence that it takes time out to make sure it ALSO shits on the sort of more earnest, heartfelt version of the same idea someone who gave two shits might’ve made – as you’ve already seen in the trailers with the weirdly mean-spirited "creator of Pac-Man" sequence.

But it get's worse: One of the dozen fucking go-nowhere nonsensical subplots is that the aliens beam down “good” incarantions of random game characters as “trophies” when the humans win a game, which literally ONLY exists so that Q*Bert can become a comic-relief sidekick midway through… except the aliens later refer to him a “traitor” which contradicts this and OH MY FUCKING GOD DID ANYONE PROOFREAD THE SHOOTING SCRIPT FOR GORILLA TURD!? Still… Q*Bert briefly becomes the only decent (if pointless) thing in the movie because he’s cute and its just kinda funny that he’s “there” …but they find a way to fuck it up.

See, another subplot is that Gad’s creepy basement-nerd caricature is obsessed with a made-up female game heroine who shows up as one of the Pixel-monsters but then switches sides and helps him fight because reasons… and then he’s sad vanishes with all the other aliens once the good guys win (SPOILER! Fuck you!) win because “they only get to keep the Trophies” ...which then causes Q*Bert to magically transform into that same heroine for some cocksmith’s idea of a fucking happy ending. So PIXELS *ends* with the only likable character and the only non-bullshit incarnation of it’s own premise blinking out of existence so that ONE of two vaguely-prominent women characters in the cast can serve as a literal trophy. Holy fucking shit.

That, above all else, is what’s so irrationally infuriating about this maggot-oozing head-wound of a movie: It plays at being this sentimental ode to the glory days of classic games, but clearly doesn’t have a fucking drop of sincere interest in what’s made these characters and imagery so enduring or even what made the games themselves so compelling! No matter how many classic cabinets and 80s MTV needle-drops PIXELS trots out, it’s always – nakedly! – the work of a bunch of shit-gargling fuckwits with zero love for or understanding OF this stuff beyond the ability to sell tickets based on “Hey! Remember PAC-MAN!? Remember SPACE INVADERS!? Remember when this guy was in GOOD MOVIES!?”

Fucking hell. Sandler’s literal character-arc in this movie is learning to let go of the pride he takes in having the skill to excel at these classic games and instead embrace an open-ended “what-ever!” just-try-not-to-die modern-gaming approach in order to succeed – “But hey! Don’t pay attention to all that, folks! Look! Stuff from JOUST! Remember JOUST!? Pay us money to remind that JOUST existed!!!” And the only thing worse… is that it’s probably going to work – one more bullshit movie-interlude for the masses to break up the monotony of our ongoing waddle toward IDIOCRACY.

Let me be crystal fucking clear here, folks: PIXELS is the *worst* thing to happen to video games since the CDi, Microtransactions, YouTube screamers, voice-chat and the death of the Dreamcast combined... but it would absolutely still be a festering ocean of stagnant koala feces no matter WHAT licensed-property nostalgia it was pretending to pander to – and probably will still be less than four fucking months from now in the form of that Jack Black GOOSEBUMPS movie. Every game company who let their creations turn up in this shitpile should be flogging themselves like a Catholic masturbator right now – yes, even you, Nintendo – fucking hell, you "swear off" Hollywood for like 20 years after one shitty Mario movie but NOW suddenly you’re totally okay with Mario, Donkey Kong and the Duck Hunt Dog showing up in this abortion? Classy. Real motherfuckin’ classy.

But for now, PIXELS is awful on a level that defies even the most negative conventions of review. Not a single joke lands, not a single performance works, the story is beyond lazy, the stakes make no sense, the staging is limp and lifeless and director Chris Columbus has finally made a movie worse than NINE MONTHS. It demands some sort of new metric below the “stars” or “thumbs” number-scales, like “How many fingers should the people responsible for this be allowed to keep?” I hate this movie so much I would’ve rather watched BLENDED again. I hate this movie so much I wish I’d caught up with PAUL BLART 2 instead. I hate this piece of shit so much I’m no longer rooting for Tyrion to make it out of Season 6 alive! I wanted to run this movie over with my car. Repeatedly. I wanted to ritually blind this movie with razor-wire.

As a film critic, I’m so used to Sandler sucking at this point that it’s a challenge not to start grading his bullshit on some kind of “curve,” but as some who actually loves all the stuff PIXELS fucks around *pretending* to appreciate it feels like the Pride of Manchester New Hampshire here broken into my fuckin’ house, took a bloody, backed-up post-Taco Bell Miralax-shit in the middle of my fuckin living room and now wants me to pay him for the goddamn privilege.

Fuck this movie. Fuck everyone who made this movie. And if you pay money to watch this movie? FUCK YOU TOO.

IN BOB WE TRUST: "Does Batman Need a New Origin?"

Pitch Me, Mr. B: MARVEL'S X-MEN

This piece made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon. Please consider becoming a Patron.

In case you missed the earlier installments of this: Here's what's up, here's the first one and here's the second.

So... yeah, hypothetical "scriptment" pitches for hypothetical movie adaptations. Thought exercise and all that.

This one will be a touch on the different side, less of a blow-by-blow and more of an outline; since in this instance the "challenge" isn't to figure out how to turn the X-MEN franchise into a movie (that's been done) but to work out how a "reboot" of the series might be made to fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe if and when the rights to the characters were to fall back under Marvel/Disney's control.

Principal aims: Work out the "purpose" of Mutants in an MCU which, within a few years, will likely have already burned through the "disenfranchised minority metaphor" business using THE INHUMANS. Renew focus on the sexual/relationship politics-dominated "soap opera" interplay that characterized the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne era wherein these characters became popular.

See what I came up with after the jump:

And here we go:

OPEN in 1834, the THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. Yup, we're going here: CHARLES DARWIN is investigating animals and cataloguing samples, gradually discovering the beginnings of his theory of Natural Selection... faster than one might have expected, thanks to some whisper-gentle nudging from a largely anonymous assistant who seems to already know as fact the theories he's subtly planting the seeds of in Darwin's head. His name is NATHANIEL ESSEX.

We move ahead to: WORLD WAR II, the liberation of a Concentration Camp by joint U.S. and Canadian forces including CAPTAIN AMERICA and The Howling Commandos. Cap is irritated by the fact that freeing these camps isn't higher on the Army's priority list, and that this is the first one his unit has been sent to - and not for the camp itself, but for what's "under it."

As if on cue, HYDRA troops appear from an underground bunker and a fight breaks out. While the Commandos protect the prisoners, Cap finds himself fighting into the bunker alongside a Canadian soldier posessed of superhuman strength. When asked who he is: "Would you believe 'Captain Canada?'"

In short-order, Cap and yes-we-know-it's-WOLVERINE discover a HYDRA lab where experiments are being conducted on a boy of about 6 - ERIK LENSHER. The scientist in charge gives up rather easily and offers a fake name, but we can recognize Nathaniel Essex, looking not a day older than 1834.

Another leap, this time to 2015 (presume, for the sake of this exercise, that this film would not be produced until at least 2020 - one year after Marvel's last currently-slated feature is set to bow) and the offices of the AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. An update on the Inhumans "situation" is being presented, along with a theory that some of the assets classified as Inhuman are actually not - that they are mutations of ordinary humans, not descendants of alien interference.

These "Mutants" are a troubling prospect - born with powers nascent until their teens but biologically indistinct from humans and not requiring Terrigenesis to "activate" their abilities - but the talk is gently but firmly shot down by a Senior Agent - Essex, once again.

Finally, the PRESENT - a suburban Superintendent of Schools office late at night. Teenaged student KATHERINE "KITTY" PRYDE slips into the building to steal SAT answers - via the mutant power of walking through solid walls. But she's stopped by an oddly well-timed security guard - Essex again, brandishing a gun.

Kitty is saved by a voice in her head telling her to beware, followed by the appearance of CHARLES XAVIER (bald, wheelchair) and his much older companion - Erik Lensher (ancient-looking but strong, standing/walking with the aid of metal braces on his legs, back and arms.) Essex proves able to block Xavier's psychic attacks, but Lensher's metal-controlling powers bludgeon him badly enough that he reveals his monstrous-looking true form: MISTER SINISTER!

Enter THE X-MEN, in classic blue/gold uniforms, ages ranging from 19 to 22: CYCLOPS, JEAN GREY, ANGEL, PYRO and MYSTIQUE. Brawl ensues, Sinister escapes.

The X-Men bring Kitty aboard the BLACKBIRD jet and explain the scenario: Mankind isn't prepared to know about Mutants, fear of the recently-revealed Inhumans has made it worse, Xavier and Lensher operate XAVIER'S SCHOOL FOR THE GIFTED to protect/nurture Mutant youth, the X-Men are onetime students graduated to teachers.

Recruitment to Xavier's School (via CEREBRO, which can discern Mutant from human/Inhuman where biology cannot) has been increased of late in order to checkmate abductions by MR. SINISTER (an augmented human via experiments on Mutants, which he believes he "discovered" in the mid-1700s) the reasons for which are yet unclear.

At the school, Kitty (yes, he's our audience-POV character for this one) meets her same-aged (mid-teens) student contemporaries; chiefly cocky athlete ICEMAN, gentle-giant COLOSSUS and withdrawn beauty ROGUE.

Xavier reaches out to a contact in S.H.I.E.L.D (or whatever the post-CIVIL WAR power-aparatus is), HANK "BEAST" MCCOY (non-furry version) for information about Sinister. Not much known, but his actions threaten to (finally) pull Mutants into the public sphere. Charles and Erik argue - Erik in favor of going public and starting a fight he believes will occur no matter what, Charles on the cautious side.

Also noted: The Inhumans have (off the record) refused to "cover" in the event of exposed Mutants by claiming them as part of their race.

While the machinations of the Bigger Story grind on in the backdrop with the "grownups" (short version: Sinister is collecting powerful Mutants for what he calls a "Brotherhood," promising that he can both keep them safe and improve their natural powers, Xavier has plotted out a list of likely targets to try and head him off) Kitty does the Harry Potter thing moving between the students and classes. All is not well: Growing "cliques" of students profess a psuedo-cultist fixation on "militant" essays (as opposed to Xavier's pacifist philosophy) Erik penned as a younger man...

...but Erik is ambivalent about those writings now, and gently dissuades his would-be acolytes. He develops a rapport with Kitty, explaining that his lifelong militancy softened fairly recently and for a specific reason: When Captain America (effectively) returned from the dead, he had a chance to meet and thank the man who'd saved his life as a boy and began to believe in second chances.

On a dare, Kitty sneaks onto the Blackbird for a mission - quietly observing the X-Men's recruitment of STORM (usual origin re: orphan worshiped as a goddess/witch in tribal Africa.) Back at school, she and Kitty become friendly.

Meanwhile, a Christian Fundamentalist religious sect called THE CHURCH OF NATURAL LAW (think Westboro Baptist, but fixated on hating aliens, Inhumans and superheroes) led by REVEREND WILLIAM STRIKER begins to make news with outlandish protests against various events/ideas referencing other recent story points in the MCU. Erik finds him especially disturbing.

Kitty and her friends discuss whether or not they'll also be X-Men as they get older. One thing they agree on: The blue/gold uniforms don't work for them, and they begin to discuss their own hypothetical gear/getup.

A later recruitment (with Beast tagging along for S.H.I.E.L.D reasons) does not go so well: The target, TOAD, has already sworn allegiance to Sinister - it's a trap! The X-Men escape, but not unscathed: Beast is hit with an "improvement" injection from Sinister and mutates into his blue furry form.

With the team's progress delayed, Xavier asks Erik to take a detachment of "advanced" students (Kitty, Iceman, Colossus, Rogue and Storm) to attempt contact with another potential target in rural Germany: Teleporter Kurt Wagner, NIGHTCRAWLER. It goes... awkwardly, but Nightcrawler ultimately agrees to come along because he's immediately smitten with Kitty.

All parties return to the School for some (relative) down-time. While the grownups compare notes (and Erik secretly agonizes over growing issues with his arthritis and bone problems), a group of "cool girls" (including JUBILEE, maybe?) goad Kitty into getting Nightcrawler to teleport them into a sold-out local concert by pop-star DAZZLER (think Miley Cyrus by way of Lady Gaga.)

At the Dazzler concert, Kitty feels bad about "using" Kurt, but he's already over it - he's noticed that Dazzler seems to be setting off light-effects on the stage without any means of ignition: She's a Mutant!

Something else they both notice (too late) "Nathaniel Essex" is in Dazzler's roadie crew! He sets off a chemical release which supercharges Dazzler's powers, causing he to fire destructive light-beams out of her fingertips. Footage makes the news, and just like that Mutants are now publically known.

The Federal government (particularly whatever superhuman governing-machinery is set post-CIVIL WAR) mobilizes hearings on "The Mutant Problem." With public hysteria growing, Erik presses a reluctant Xavier to hold a press-conference spearheaded by "a friend" (Tony Stark if that's still plausible, someone else if not) introducing/rebranding The X-Men as an Avengers-style superhero team to put public fears at ease.

Kitty is torn between the two "sides" in the school: Some want to go militant and prepare for war with humanity, others want to coexist. The only person she can fully confide in is Storm, who is thus far an observer not taking any full side.

During the press conference, a Mutant henchman of Sinister's hits Erik with the power-charging serum, resulting in a metal-controlling freakout that turns the assembled crowd (with goading from Stryker's "Church," who attended to heckle) against them.

Amid the chaos, Sinister appears in full regalia, feigning as though he's an ideological ally of the scattered, confused X-Men. His "Brotherhood" (a small army of B/C-list Mutants, have fun with it) attack the crowd, and by the time The X-Men can regroup to fight them everything has gone to shit. Sinister escapes, but before he does he hands Lensherr a vial of "something" and an ominous message: "Admit it. You enjoyed yourself back there. Here's another taste - if you want it. And you will."

An analysis of the vial reveals that it contains (among other things) genetic material with a remarkable healing factor... but NOT the type that keeps Essex/Sinister effectively immortal. It's marking also trace back to an obscure decomissioned military facility in Canada's Northwest Territories. An obvious trap, but The X-Men (bringing an insistent Nightcrawler along for good measure) have no choice but to try.

Kitty (and the rest of the school) watch via video monitors as The X-Men attempt to raid the compound... only to find themselves attacked by amped-up Brotherhood henchmen and taken prisoner via mind-control devices of Sinister's design. When Xavier tries to reach out psychically to stop this, an already-ensnared Jean Grey telepathically knocks him unconscious. Nightcrawler barely manages to teleport himself and a badly-beaten Cyclops to safety, beginning a travel-by-teleport rush back to the Xavier School...

...which has problems of its own: A torches-and-pitchforks style mob, led by Reverend Stryker, has stormed the grounds, and without Xavier to hold them back things go straight to hell - including a brutal injury to Erik. The students are unable to coalesce in resistance (Kitty leads the "protect and de-escalate" side, with the militants outnumbering them) until...

Storm appears (classic costume, classic attitude), demands they fight together but backs Kitty's "just get them out of here, don't make things worse" approach. She does, however, use some extreme examples of her power to put the fear of God(dess) into Stryker before sending him on his way.

Xavier comes to amid the wreckage just as Cyclops and Nightcrawler teleport in, adamant that the X-Men have to be saved but unsure how to do it. Kitty proposes a solution: She, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Iceman and Storm should serve as a new/temporary X-Men team under Cyclops' leadership to go and rescue the others. He's unsure... but there's no other choice.

The "All-New X-Men" suit up in the unique costumes they'd discussed earlier (Cyclops trades his battered blue/gold uni for his 80s all-blue look) and head into battle.

Unseen in the rubble, Erik is alive... barely. He manages to get his hands on the vial from Sinister and, with nothing else to lose, drinks it. The effects are shocking and immediate - he begins to de-age into a remarkably fit-looking man possibly in his mid-30s, just with white hair.

The "new" X-Men fight through Sinister's goons, only to find themselves fighting the mind-controlled originals! After a difficult fight, all of the X-Men are now on the same team, and chase Sinister himself into the bowels of his base. There, Sinister reveals a mysterious form inside a tube of chemicals - a Mutant of "remarkable powers" whom Essex calls an "old friend" that had been turned into a bio-weapon by a Canadian military-backed science project. "The truth is, some people already DID know about Xavier's little Boy Scout troop, and wanted a checkmate. Enjoy your time with WEAPON X!"

Sinister takes off as WEAPON X (Wolverine-but-not-with-that-name-yet from the prologue, duh) emerges, pops his claws and an all-against-one fight breaks out, eventually exploding out in the forest with both X-Men teams easily matched by this rampaging monster. Only a combined pooling of their various powers, with Kitty and Nightcrawler using phasing/teleporting in tandem to wear him down, prevails.

Jean Grey uses her powers to un-brainwash "Weapon X," who remembers nothing except the codename "Wolverine" - but he's immediately fond of the "lady head-doctor."

Back at the school, repairs are underway. Angel (real name Warren Worthington III) is reveal to have gotten his family business to donate much of the cost, but at a price: He's to finally take an active role on the board, meaning he must depart The X-Men. Also departing: Mystique and Pyro, who confide in eachother that after what they've seen from Stryker etc they can't believe in Mutant/Human coexistence anymore. Beast is headed to (an MCU science/research reference) but will be in touch.

Saddened but accepting of this change in personel, Xavier makes it official: Kitty, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Iceman, Colossus and Storm will join Cyclops, Jean and Wolverine as the new official X-Men team.

STINGER: Pyro and Mystique seek out "Mutant resistance" information in a secret location, only to hear talk of "TRUE Brotherhood" and the reveal of a still de-aged Erik Lensher, now wearing his classic uniform and calling himself MAGNETO.

This piece made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon. Please consider becoming a Patron.

Review: PIXELS (2015)

Time To Light The Lights.

This is the "pilot pitch" for the upcoming ABC prime-time revival of THE MUPPET SHOW. It represents probably the best use anyone has made of these characters since at least MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND (and I liked the first of the two recent movies, so don't start any shit.)

I love The Muppets like few other things, and this feels like it could be something really spectacular. The movies have always been fine - at least three of them are great - but these characters belong on TV in this exact type of farce. So excited.

Did I Just See What I Think I Saw in ANT-MAN? (UPDATED!)

So. Just saw ANT-MAN for a second time, just because. Hold's up - this one really works. Not GUARDIANS-level transcendent, but really good.

Anyway! Long story short: By now you've heard that there's quite a bit of Universe-building business sprinkled throughout this one - multiple cameos, two post-credits beats and a no-name name-drop. But on my second viewing, I'm reasonably certain I caught a glimpse of something that's either a sly inside-reference, the most well-hidden Easter Egg since Cap's prototype shield on the workbench in IRON MAN (the first one) ...or I'm seeing things.

Obviously, to say/show more would be a MASSIVE SPOILER even if I'm wrong, given the sequence it occurs in. So I'll put the rest of this after the jump:



Okay. So, ANT-MAN's version of Chekhov's Gun Finishing-Move is "going subatomic," i.e. using the Ant-Man suit's shrinking capabilities to reduce one's size down below that of the building blocks of life - useful, but super-dangerous because if you shrink too far you hit the point where physics and reality no longer matter and start slipping through the cracks in space/time, and in the film's backstory, doing so led to the death of original Ant-Man's wife Janet "The Wasp" Van Dyne (hence why he's adamant that his daughter Hope not use the suit herself, hence the conscripting of Scott Lang as the new Ant-Man.) Using this technique ultimately turns out to be the only way for Scott to defeat YellowJacket in a deadly situation, and he winds up tumbling down through the Subatomic World in nifty, possibly COSMOS-inspired sequence (there's a Tardigrade!!!) that starts out straight-science and then goes all Cosmic Marvel. 

At sub-atom size, Ant-Man continues to drift through the kind of hazy/colorful psychedelia Marvel has thus far used to represent "otherworldly" spaces like Thanos' domain, finally winding up in a fractal space where he's finally able to finagle an escape back to reality - though he can't remember anything he saw or did there. It's enough, however, for Pym to imply that he's keen to go looking for Janet again...

Anyway! At one point in the process (during both the "shrinking" and "escaping" shots), we pass through what vaugely looks like a cloudy mountain-range of some kind. In the upper right-hand corner of the frame, I'd swear you can see (partially masked by "clouds") what appears to be a gigantic humanoid figure looming over the scene. It's brief, it's not "pointed out" and it could be anything - but it sticks out to me because it's there both times.

Here's a snap from an in-theater recording I found online (I'm not linking to the original, I'm generally against phones/cameras in theaters and if there turns out to be an issue here I'll glady remove it.) Anyway:

And HERE'S a version I've highlighted to show where I'm seeing the "figure":

So. Assuming this is "something," who or what is it? Marvel overseer Kevin Feige has already confirmed that the subatomic/cosmic stuff in ANT-MAN is meant to be a really tiny tease at how "The Other Side" can look/work for DOCTOR STRANGE, so that leads me to think this could be an early sighting of either Eternity or Infinity - in the Marvel Universe, esoteric cosmic concepts (see also: Death, whom Thanos is in literal love with) have semi-physical embodiments that you can meet and talk to if you have the ability, and Stephen Strange is one of the folks most often doing that talking. Here's what they look like:

And yes, they do "present" as male and female - a couple whose "union" (all of space and all of time) encompasses the entirety of the Universe (in case you wondering - yes, there are dopplegangers of both in all the different adjacent Universes in the Marvel canon.)

On the other hand, it sort-of looks like there's a light-source coming from where the chest would be on the shape, so it could also be The Living Tribunal, the disagreement-arbiter and final authority over all cosmic entities like Eternity and Infinity. Basically, this is the on-paper powerhouse of the Marvel Cosmology - the last "guy" on the totem pole in terms of power and authority below "The One-Above-All," (aka The One True God - whose true form/identity/alignment/etc are never officially depicted.) He looks like THIS:

So. What say you, Internet? Have we seen our first Cosmic Entity in the MCU?

UPDATE: Some folks are chiming in to say it could just as easily be The Wasp, which is true enough. Meanwhile, here's director Peyton Reed saying on the record that "an object or a person" is indeed hiding within our view of subspace:

Review: ANT-MAN

Suicide Is Painless

If there's ONE reason to be excited about comic-book continuity being a "movie thing" now, outside of just "because it can be," it's that the medium is rife with great material that really only works when it has a Universe backing it up. Among the best examples of that: "Suicide Squad," a long-lived DC cult-fave whose knockout premise (an Government program that offers conditional pardons to incarcerated supervillains if they agree to use their special powers/skills for off-the-books, high-risk covert dirty-work assignments) just wouldn't be as much of a knockout if we didn't "know" these people were the assembled nemeses of a whole planet full of Batmans, Supermans, Flashes, etc.

With that in mind, just the knowledge that there is now going to be a cohesive (for good or ill) DC Movie Universe makes this already fairly kick-ass (despite being obviously comprised of very early, obviously-unfinished footage) SUICIDE SQUAD trailer feel like it's got real weight to it. Plus, David Ayer is a fascinating choice for directing this sort of material, and even Will Smith looks like he showed up to play:

Whether or not this is any good will come down to the story, execution, etc; but as "sizzle reels" go this is a good one. I'm still not really "in love" with Floridian Juggalo Joker, but I can at least see it as a "look" he'd try on and - gods help us - Jared Leto actually seems pretty into it. 

The "thrift store versions of our usual costumes" look actually makes sense and goes with the overall feel (they look like those mall kiosk t-shirts where Popeye or Marylin or whoever are all tatted-up in L.A. gang ink and bandanas); and there's a brief comics-perfect glimpse of Deadshot in his "classic" getup that at least leaves hope open that Margot Robbie (who looks nuts) will get to slip into Harley Quinn's classic latex body-stocking at least once.

Really, though, what's most interesting here is the idea that this (supposedly) R-rated, no-bullshit, grownups-only "side story" is being directly connected (and openly promoted as such) to the more PG-13 "big" DCU movies and promoted as such - you can see Ben Affleck's Batman (plus someone wearing a Batman party-mask) right there in the action wrassling with Joker's purple and green Lambo' (because David Ayer) and Amanda Waller specifically namechecks Superman. That's a bridge Marvel really has yet to cross (I'd love to see someone like Blade or Punisher spend their whole individual movie/show wading through blood only to show up in AVENGERS or whatever all "Oh, hey guys.")

RIP Saturo Iwata - 1959-2015

Tragic news. Saturo Iwata, the colorful CEO and "public face" of Nintendo since 2002, has died of an ongoing health issue at the age of 55.

Described as a "genius programmer" in his youth, Iwata begna his gaming career working at Nintendo-affiliate HAL Laboratories on classics like EARTHBOUND, the KIRBY series and BALLOON FIGHT. His elevation to CEO at Nintendo - the first man not descended from the company's founding-family to ever hold the position - was widely seen as an overdue turn toward modernity for the fiercely-traditional company, and he became a familiar and beloved presence to gamers and the gaming press for his participation in the offbeat, humorous Nintendo Direct internet presentations.

The most important thing, obviously, is sympathy and condolence to Iwata-san's friends and family, but there is no overlooking that this is an incalculable loss to the video-game world. It was an open secret that Iwata was the main business-side force pushing the last giant of the Golden Age into embracing the modern game-culture more enthusiastically - in 2013, when the company was facing a financial shortfall, he famously took a major pay-cut in lieu of firing any employees. Without him, the future direction of the company and indeed the industry feels suddenly more uncertain than it has in a long time.

I Want To Believe

Just because I'm anticipating being called a spoilsport or overly-negative because reasons, I feel like briefly mentioning that THIS feels like genuine gods-honest hope to me:

I still have no real "faith" in JJ Abrams. I think he's an average technician (at best) with deeply limited vision and terrible creative instincts. But he clearly has passion for this, and so does everyone else involved so far - even Ford. Sometimes that can override a lot. OR I'm just a sucker for puppets and model-work and monster-costumes and I've missed BTS reels that are something other than mocap suits and greenscreens SO. MUCH...

This might work. This might actually work.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN Comic-Con Trailer Now Online

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2:28 -  Oh, snap! So that's what happened to Batman's parents! Whew. Man, I was worried they were never going to tell us!

As I've said before, at this point I (and anyone else on my "wavelength" about this stuff) needs to suck it up and accept that Warner Bros and DC have consciously decided that 90s COMICS: THE MOVIE (better-than-ever art/visuals, pointlessly dark/grim, thematically-unrecognizable characters) is the way they're going with their Cinematic Universe. You've got to have some way to distinguish these things, and since Marvel/Disney current has the market cornered on no-bullshit fun n' wonder superheroics, they're going hard and heavy for the Frat Rat set: These are Muscle Milk-chuggin' collar-poppin' ballcap-reversin' Ed Hardy-stylin' Nickleback-blastin' sick abs-flashin' Axe Body-Spray smellin' Bro Actioners that happen to feature DC Comics characters; deliberately - and they're going to have to be judged as such.

At the very least, it looks pretty gorgeous on a strictly visual side. Warners' "please write thinkpieces about this" pitch to the non-fanboy press (particularly regarding their wishy-washy approach to continuity) is that they're making Real Cinema(tm) versus Marvel's assembly-line pulp; and if that's your story Snyder is the guy to tell it - at least in trailer form. He looks to be back in his own comfortable style here, rather than the Christopher Nolan emulation from MAN OF STEEL.

We get our basic plot from this, too, which looks to be about what you'd expect: Bruce Wayne is mad about all the 9/11-by-way-of-Akira-Toriyama destruction caused in MAN OF STEEL - "Batman V Superman: We Meant To Do That, Honest!" - so he pulls his Batman gear out of mothballs and picks a fight with Superman, likely with a little egging-on from Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who has Kryptonite and is up to something nefarious with the corpse of General Zod that I don't think will be the huge surprise* they're betting on it being. Also, Wonder Woman is there, looking... actually, nothing to even snark about there - she looks on-point. Snyder knows women-in-action, and complaints about Gadot not being able to sell the physicality appear fairly unfounded.

See also:

  • I think Superman speaks approximately one line of dialogue in this trailer. If I didn't know better, I'd assume we were introducing this character on the heels of a BATMAN movie, not the other way around.
  • "You don't owe this world a thing, you never did." Well, good to know there's some ideological consistency in the Kents' shitty parenting. Maybe this is more deliberate "modernizing," Clark Kent as a Gen-Xer defying his Me-Generation 'boomer parents? Or just more bad writing.
  • Apparently Gotham City and Metropolis are right next door to eachother. That's dumb.
  • "Retired" Robin-costume in a glass case, reminding us (like we needed it) that this is Frank Miller's aging fascist asshole Batman from TDKR. So is it Jason, Tim or Dick? FWIW, rumors have pegged a Nightwing'd Dick Grayson showing up in one of these movies - possibly this one.
  • #1 reason to not go the trendy "figgity-tech-dweeb-because-Apple-get-it???" route for your super-genius supervillain: Listen to Eisenberg utterly fail to sell "Black and Blue! God versus Man! Day and Night!" or "The Red Capes are coming! The Red Capes are coming!" and imagine it coming out of an actor with gravitas and conviction. Hell, not to go with the obvious, but think about Gene Hackman tearing into prose like that.
  • Bruce Wayne - billionaire with a lifetime of combat experience able to afford any training equipment he could possibly need - preps for his Batman-ing by gettin' swole-up workin' the Big Tire. Totes epic. Pound it, 'bro.
  • All the scenes of Batman in motion look better than the character has ever looked in terms of a physical presence onscreen... and also like cutscenes from the Arkham games.
    Kidding aside, though, this looks... alright. Probably enjoyable, though I imagine I'll be rolling my eyes if the Sooooooo Seeeeeeeerious tone of this trailer is what plays out for the whole thing. Superheroes are inherently silly, particularly DC's roster of mostly pre-WWII Depression Era wish-fulfillment avatars. The "awe" or "mythic" aspect of them shines through best when it exists in-tandem with how intrinsically goofy they are (think Captain America instructing the cops in AVENGERS, or any Alex Ross painting ever) - not when it's trying to supplant (or apologize for) it.
      We'll find out how this all comes together in March. For now, color me... I dunno, "not dreading it?" I think that's about right.

      If I had to guess (based on things known, things assumed and the way WB has managed this franchise for the last 20 years) Zod isn't coming back to life, but they'll use his body/DNA/whatever as a quickie origin story for someone/something big enough to fight/sideline Superman in Act 3, necessitating a Justice League recruitment drive or both. Doomsday? I'd bet on Doomsday - like I said, WB has been operating under the assumption that Death of Superman, Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke are the only stories they own worth telling since about 1990 or so. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they "killed" Superman in this as the inciting-incident for JUSTICE LEAGUE; i.e. the instant-win-god-mode guy is sidelined for most of the first movie, comes in to save the day at the finale, just in time for "Something not even Superman can easily defeat is coming!!!" setup for PART II.

      Is GOOSEBUMPS Still A Thing? This Movie Hopes So.

      In case you forgot they were making this, here's the trailer for the GOOSEBUMPS movie - which for whatever reason seems to be not making any kind of big deal that Jack Black is supposed to be playing the "actual" R.L. Stine:

      The basic premise here (all of the "iconic" Goosebumps monsters escape into the real world, knowledge of the books is the key to beating them) feels like it's relying on a ready-made audience eager to cheer on the appearance of each famous creature - the climax of CABIN IN THE WOODS but for kids and stretched-out for a whole movie. Good pitch, but is the audience there? I could be totally off-base, but do the Goosebumps books actually have any kind of following among contemporary (read: born after the series big moment in the 90s) kids?

      A few years back when I was working in a used book store, I remember we would constantly get huge collections of old Goosebumps stuff in. And while we'd sell out of it just as constantly (as in: People would see our huge wall of GB books and buy like 20-25 at a time) it was almost never to kids in the "target" audience - always older Gen Y teenagers impulse-buying for nostalgia.

      So I can't help but feel like doing "JUMANJI, but for Goosebumps" is sort-of a missed opportunity - if the main audience for this property is now college-age "O.G." Goosebumps megafans, the idea of these creatures turning up and being actually "horror-movie scary" (preceded, obviously, by college-aged protagonists reminiscing "ironically" about reading Goosebumps as kids and how "they totally aren't/wouldn't be scary NOW!") sounds like a more interesting feature - in fact, whoever owns the rights to ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? Feel free to steal that.

      Or maybe I'm wrong, and there's enough "current" fandom for these things combined with the 90s nostalgia crowd to give GOOSEBUMPS legs. Sony certainly seems to think so, as they've positioned the film for a Halloween-ready October 16th U.S. release.

      Japan Accepts U.S. Challenge In Giant Robot Combat. No, Really.

      This is for real: Japanese robotics engineers Suidobashi built a fuctioning, weaponized, human-piloted mecha called The Kuratas. An American firm, Megabots, built one of their own - a two-pilot (because of course) beast with similar capabilities... and then challenged their Japanese counterparts to a fight. Between the robots:

      ...a challenge which Suidobashi has now accepted, because "Giant robots are Japanese culture" - though they appear to stipulate that they first want both robots to outfit for melee combat, as opposed to their current functions.

      Alright, then. It's not quite where this sort of thing was supposed to be by now... but I'll take it.

      Really That Good: INDEPENDENCE DAY

      This series brought to you in part by contributors to The MovieBob Patreon

      It's one of the biggest blockbusters of all time and a cross-generational classic for action fans, yet on its initial release it was treated by many as a punchline about "dumbed-down" Hollywood moviemaking. 20 years later, is there something smarter and more profound hiding behind the big explosions and bombastic speeches of ID4? Really That Good aims to find out...

      Steef Chowbes

      Yeah, I'll say it - this could be the best film of the year, and whether or not I'll be able to engage is going to be contingent on the degree I can ignore Fassbender's bizarro-world accent (it doesn't even sound like Fassbender's usual voice) as Steef Chowbes STEVE JOBS.

      I'm sorry, but it's incredibly distracting and not just because everyone on the planet knows what Steve Jobs' voice sounded like and this ain't it. The performance looks fine, cinematography is gorgeous, you know Danny Boyle is going to turn in something enjoyable (even garbage like TRANCE is watchable when he's in charge,) the supporting cast looks great and whatever else you can say about Aaron Sorkin as a screenwriter he's almost perversely well-suited to this material.

      But that voice... GAH! Halfway through I started compulsively imagining this as a full-on parody, totally expecting Christoph Waltz to show up as Bill Gates and challenging his rival to a "bat-TEL ooph OH-furly man-hert Eee-yor-pean ACK-Sehn-TET Eeng-KLISH dihle-hock!"

      Still rooting for this one, of course. Even if it falls more on the "brilliant but necessary asshole" side of things, we're well overdue for a real-deal, deep-dive dressing-down of the Apple Cult and "slick" tech-scenes in general. Great performances have shown through obviously "wrong" casting elements before (Anthony Hopkins didn't look or sound a thing like NIXON) but sheesh... this is gonna take some lifting, is all I'm saying.
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