Friday, January 17, 2020

Crisis on Infinite Earths Parts 4-5

© The CW
A Brave New World!
by Brandon Coulson

Be sure to check out the Crisis on Infinite Earths Parts 1-3 recap!

Part 4

After a month long hiatus, The CW’s giant crossover event returned for a two-part one-night capper. Starting it off we got the origins of The Monitor ten thousand years ago on the planet Maltus. Finally seeing him as a person instead of a godlike being was interesting. It let us see the wife he lost and even had him comment on the suit design she chose for him and how ridiculous it looked. A scientist traveling back to the dawn of time to see creation but as these things do so often go wrong … yeah he unwittingly created the Anti-Monitor and started this whole mess to start with.

After that origin story we jump back to The Vanishing Point where our paragons have been trapped for months together, all except Barry who has been missing after running into the Speed Force. We get a quick update on how everyone has been coping through a nicely done montage that includes Kara paying tribute to the comic version's iconic dead Supergirl moment but with her holding her cousin's cape instead of Superman holding her.

But Barry soon returns and after his unnecessary exposition Oliver shows his ashen face now as The Spectre. It’s here that we get the main thrust of the episode in our heroes' last ditch effort to undo the end of all things in a two pronged attack. One team going to the dawn of time to fight the Anti-Monitor while Kara, Lex and Ryan go to Maltus and try to prevent The Monitor and his counterpart from ever being created.

© The CW
Getting to their destinations prove to be much harder than expected however as the gang gets lost in the Speed Force and Barry has to track them down using memories as connections and bonds. What this ends up meaning is a trip through the greatest hits, much like Avengers Endgame did but on a much smaller and cheaper scale.

During this little trip though we get the last and biggest cameo of the entire crossover - Ezra Miller’s Flash!! How in the world did they keep this one under wraps?! And the way it’s played, very simply, with the two Flashes face-to-face both shocked and then admiring each other's suits and their differences, a very funny and overdue acknowledgement of the shows by the film side in a way that even Marvel hasn’t done yet. Ezra fades away and the journey through crossovers past and pivotal show moments continues.

Ryan Choi is quickly becoming a fun new character for the CWU as he is being slowly set up to take Brandon Routh’s place as the new Atom on Legends of Tomorrow. When he arrives with Kara and Lex on Maltus, his remark about the alien forest not looking so alien was a very Legends type of line, calling out the budgetary restraints and most certainly just another Vancouver location. Soon after the inevitable happens as Lex double-crosses them intent on becoming the greatest power in the universe, he even gave himself powers with the Book of Destiny. This doesn’t do much as The Monitor has easily shown that Lex isn’t to be trusted. Thus The Monitor is convinced not to time travel and all should be well.

The build up of the two stories here felt a little bit like filler. The saving grace being the chemistry and nostalgia of the classic scenes revisited carrying it until the inevitable big fight in a rock quarry against the Anti-Monitor. Yes, even though the Monitor we’ve known never came to be, an alternate version somewhere still did and so we still have a big bad to deal with.

The fight looked silly and it's so obvious they're all fighting nothing on set. Even their directions and action seem like the director just said go fight the air however you want and we'll fix it in post. But after that silly display, Ollie and the Anti-Monitor face off, well basically just grapple, and Oliver gets one last catchphrase in as “You failed this Universe” might be one of the cringiest bad lines ever in the Arrowverse. But Ollie dies and a new Universe is born. Yay, but Ollie’s death feels a bit undercut as it’s really like the third time he’s died in this crossover. And what of this new Universe? That was all explained in...

© The CW
Part 5

Okay, so this episode had a lot of issues. It’s clunky and there are a ton of cheats. But I loved it! Kara and the other Paragons wake to find the world has no memory of what happened. This also means they don’t know about the massive changes to their world as they did the one thing every fan has been asking for: the CW heroes are all on the same Earth finally!

Yes, much like the comics version they used this to bring Kara and Black Lightning to Earth Prime as it’s now called, streamlining things but also raising a ton of questions. The set ups for all the shows moving forward have me super excited as big things are introduced.

Lex is good! Yes, in another Luthor like twist Lex used his influence to make the new world’s history look at him like a hero. What this does to the current story with Lena and Kara is anyone's guess but it lets the show do the classic dynamic of Lex being beloved while the Kryptonians know how terrible he truly is. Oh and that wink he gives Kara at the medal ceremony is just the right amount of smarmy. We even got a cameo from Marv Wolfman, one of the brains behind the 'Crisis' comics and countless other comic projects, as a rabid fanboy.

The cheat I mentioned was a sort of necessary but all too easy catch up from J’onn as he psychically fills in all the other heroes on what happened and what's changed. I get why that doesn’t mean it isn't cheap. Also speaking of cheap, J’onn shows off a new look as I’m guessing budget concerns have pushed them to let the human side of J’onn wear his Martian suit and fight now, cutting the CG bill in half, though he still changed to fly so we’ll have to see how much they use his new look.

The episode really felt like a victory lap, having Mick be at a book signing and bringing back giant Beebo however brief was very fan-servicey. This of course before we found out the Anti-Monitor is still alive and sends swarms of his ghouls to attack. This time though they have a plan to have him shrink supposedly forever into the Microverse also cementing Palmer and Choi’s bond before the hand-off hero duties later this season.

Kara got to be scary again as she did what looked like a death charge at the Anti-Monitor, before being told she throws like a girl, again a cheesy but oh so satisfying silly end to the whole crossover. It was the final moments that really showed how much has changed and how much got fixed. The big one, something that never sat right with me was after Flashpoint Diggle’s child went from a girl to a boy showing the timeline was altered. Now Diggle has both children fixing one of Barry’s biggest mistakes. Also Lois tells Clark their sons, plural, are with her. We’ll see how this shakes out especially as they got a series order. And in a big and final send off to Ollie (his eighth one by now), the President gives Oliver credit for saving the world … or actually worlds as we see that a new Multiverse is established, acknowledging the DC Universe shows including the upcoming Stargirl, Titans, Doom Patrol and what looks like a sneak peak at HBOMax’s Green Lantern project, ending the montage on a perfect note as Brandon Routh’s old, weary Superman lives and looks happy finally.

In an episode with what seems like every piece of fan service possible, we got another cherry on top as the hangar from the first big crossover is established as the base for this world’s Justice League and yes it is the Hall of Justice. We even get a hint at Fleek the super monkey being loose in the world, though I doubt we’ll see that pay off ever.

This crossover was a giant, ambitious, messy, cheesy, uneven, gloriously nerdy pile of callbacks and references that is as dorky as it is fun! I could have done with some better action sequences but it more than made up for that with the fun and chemistry from the cast. Well done! The aftershocks of this event will surely be felt in the seasons to come of all of the CW series and exciting things look to be on the horizon.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The 92nd Academy Awards Nominations

It's a record setting year, but not without controversy
by Chuck Duncan

Probably the least interesting thing about this year's Oscars ceremony will be that for the second year in a row, there will be no traditional host. What should be of great interest is the completely open races there are in several categories, including Best Picture. The reason: this is the first time in Oscars history that FOUR films have earned ten or more nominations. That means four films will be duking it out for Best Picture with a possible fifth as a real spoiler. Among the Best Picture nominees, Joker scored 11 nominations while The Irishman, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood and 1917 racked up 10 each. Of course, nominations don't always matter. In 1977, Star Wars had 10 nominations including Best Picture, and Julia and The Turning Point scored 11 noms plus Best Picture. The winner was Annie Hall with just five nominations ... and four wins.

But in the Best Picture race, the nominees in the Editing category seem to predict what film will win Best Picture. Only ten films since 1934 have won Best Picture without winning in the Editing category, the most recent being 2014's Birdman, but that was promoted as a 'single-shot' movie so no Editing nomination was expected. The same holds for 1917, also billed as one continuous take. Before Birdman, Ordinary People in 1980 was the last Best Picture winner with no Editing nomination. And of the four top nominees, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood joins 1917 without an Editing nomination. The spoiler here could be Parasite, which is also up for Director, Original Screenplay and International Film as well as Editing. That film has been a critical darling, scooping up awards left and right, so it very well could go on to win both Best Picture and International Foreign Film and upset everyone. 1917's Golden Globe win for Best Picture - Drama is not a guarantee of an Oscar.

Where it gets a little less crazy is in the acting categories. You can almost bet on DiCaprio, Zellweger and Pitt to take their categories, and Laura Dern may have a lock on Supporting Actress.

Like it or not, Netflix is a major player this year with three Best Picture nominees -- The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes -- as well as two of the Animated Feature nominations for I Lost My Body and Klaus, icing out Disney's expected Frozen II nomination. The Mouse House scored just one in the category with Toy Story 4, only one of two sequels in the category.

Where the Academy stumbled this year was in its representation of women and diversity, at least in the major categories. Everyone held their breath during the Directing nominations, hoping to hear the name of at least one of the three women directors eligible in the category -- Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Lulu Wang (The Farewell) and Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim). Gerwig did get notice with an Adapted Screenplay nomination as well as Best Picture, but the directing omission that was carried over from the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs is causing some uproar. Cynthia Erivo represents the only real diversity in the major nominations with her Best Actress nod (as well as Best Song), while many expected and hoped Awkwafina would score for The Farewell, and Eddie Murphy would have seen a nomination for Dolemite Is My Name. One may think the Academy is still congratulating itself for egregiously awarding Green Book the Best Picture Oscar last year.

Say what you will, it should all make for a very interesting ceremony come February 9. Below is a complete list of this year's Oscar nominees. Did your favorites score or get snubbed?


  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Parasite



  • Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Adam Drive, Marriage Story
  • Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
  • Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes



  • Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
  • Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
  • Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  • Charlize Theron, Bombshell
  • Renée Zellweger, Judy



  • Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
  • Al Pacino, The Irishman
  • Joe Pesci, The Irishman
  • Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood



  • Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
  • Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  • Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
  • Florence Pugh, Little Women
  • Margot Robbie, Bombshell



  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • I Lost My Body
  • Klaus
  • Missing Link
  • Toy Story 4



  • The Irishman
  • Joker
  • The Lighthouse
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood



  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood



  • Martin Scorses, The Irishman
  • Todd Phillips, Joker
  • Sam Mendes, 1917
  • Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Bong Joon Ho, Parasite



  • American Factory
  • The Cave
  • The Edge of Democracy
  • For Sama
  • Honeyland



  • In the Absence
  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone
  • Life Overtakes Me
  • St. Louis Superman
  • Walk Run Cha-Cha



  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Parasite



  • Corpus Christi
  • Honeyland
  • Les Misérables
  • Pain and Glory
  • Parasite



  • Bombshell
  • Joker
  • Judy
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • 1917



  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker
  • Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
  • Randy Newman, Marriage Story
  • Thomas Newman, 1917
  • John Williams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



  • 'I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away', Toy Story 4
  • '(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again', Rocketman
  • 'I'm Standing With You', Breakthrough
  • 'Into the Unknown', Frozen II
  • 'Stand Up', Harriet



  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Parasite



  • Dcera (Daughter)
  • Hair Love
  • Kitbull
  • Memorable
  • Sister



  • Brotherhood
  • Nefta Football Club
  • The Neighbors' Window
  • Saria
  • A Sister



  • Ford v Ferrari
  • Joker
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



  • Ad Astra
  • Ford v Ferrari
  • Joker
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood



  • Avengers: Endgame
  • The Irishman
  • The Lion King
  • 1917
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • The Two Popes



  • Knives Out
  • Marriage Story
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Parasite

Monday, January 6, 2020

Movie review: Chained for Life

© Flies Collective
Chained for Life takes a unique approach to define beauty
by Justin Moore

Chained for Life opens up with a quote from Pauline Kael that discusses how actors and actresses are more beautiful than ordinary people and how they have an advantage over everyone because everyone loves to look at beautiful people. This quote represents the film, directed by Aaron Schimberg, which offers a unique look at how actors and actresses with disabilities may be treated differently than others and what defines beauty. Chained for Life feels different than most movies that attempt to send a message like this. The film is about a German director (he may not be German and he may have been raised in a circus) who is shooting a horror film about a scientist who operates on disabled patients. One of the stars of the film is Mabel, who plays a young woman who is blind. She meets her co-star, the man she is supposed to be in love with in the film, Rosenthal, who is played by Adam Pearson. Pearson was born with neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to grow on his face. Mabel struggles with working with her co-star but opens up when Rosenthal asks her for acting lessons.

Their relationship builds on and off screen which features some charming moments amongst the two as well as some deep conversations. Rosenthal is very comfortable with himself, despite his condition, and considers himself shy even though he talks to everyone around him. Mabel is written as someone who worries about what other people say about her. Mabel is a beautiful actress and Pauline Kael would say that she landed her role because of her beauty. Rosenthal and Mabel are completely different characters and director Aaron Schimberg uses that to his advantage.

He is able to tell a story about how people with disabilities are treated while filming a movie or even out in public. The film the German director is shooting features other actors and actresses with disabilities and he makes them sleep in the hospital that they are filming the movie at while everyone else spends the night in a nice hotel. Schimberg uses subtle moments to capture how disabled people are treated poorly but making those moments feel heavy.

Towards the end of the film, it is hard to determine what is part of the movie being filmed or not. Many moments in Chained for Life has a scene starts off with intriguing dialogue that captures the viewers, but is quickly revealed to be a scene within their film. I found it frustrating at times because I found the scenes that were being filmed to be powerful, but it turned out to be part of a movie within a movie. This happens quite often at the end of the film with no transition into the crew getting together to set the scene.

One of my favorite aspects of the film is how often there are long conversations that are part of the horror movie that is being filmed as well as off-screen. There are a lot of conversations about beauty, dreams, and what people would do if they didn’t look like they did. Chained for Life had a lot to say about beauty and what defines it. Schimberg was able to convey his message well with a unique style of directing. Schimberg often utilizes long takes to allow for the actors and actresses to have deep meaningful conversations.

Chained for Life took a unique approach to tell its story. I loved Adam Schimberg’s directing as well as the message behind the film. I also would be interested in seeing the movie that was being filmed within Chained for Life. That seemed like a good movie too!

Chained for Life is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber on January 7, 2020. Click on the image below to order.

Chained for Life