Top 5 on The Strip: DC stuff we’re anticipating edition

Flash’s new movie with return of Michael Keaton

You all know how much we here at GI love Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. And we’re practically jumping up and down for joy that it’s been confirmed we will see him again in this upcoming Flash solo film. Yes, we do love Ezra Miller as the Flash, but it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen Keaton don the cowl. That’s worth any price of admission.

Future seasons of Titans

This past season of Titans was fantastic. Vincent Kartheiser, of Mad Men brilliance, as the Scarecrow was on point with the long game the entire season, and we finally got Jason Todd as the Red Hood. We all knew it was coming, but how and why was expertly done. We’re expecting great things in the upcoming seasons now that the focus is shifting back to Dick Grayson being the leader of the Titans in San Francisco.

Black Adam coming with the Rock

Black Adam’s long development has been simmering for a while, and now it’s boiling if you smell what the Rock has been cooking. We’re more than ready for Dwayne Johnson take on the character — who, in the intervening years, has been drawn in his likeness. The movie looks to be great, and we support Johnson in anything and everything he does. We’re looking forward to Shazam going one on one with the Great One finally.

Blue Beetle film with Xolo Maridueña

We have so grown to love Xolo Maridueña, best known for his role as Miguel in the brilliant Cobra Kai. His earnest and awesome portrayal of the cute karate powerhouse means we will follow his projects, and Blue Beetle is one that’s taking shape for DC. The character is cool, and we expect that Maridueña will bring the heat when he finally gets started.

Henry Cavill returning as Superman

Given that he’s been the best choice for the Man of Steel for nearly a decade, we welcome the return of Cavill if he’ll have us. His Superman is believable and decent, and we loved his version in Justice League. We also happen to be big fans of Cavill in general — he was fantastic in The Tudors — so if he’s willing to don the cape and House of El symbol once again, we’ll take it.

Strip Talk #31: DC finally getting back on track

Listen to me good when I tell you all something: DC has to do something. They’re getting hurt out there in the ring, and they can’t take too many more hits before it’s lights out. They need that ring bell to save them and fortunately for them, it’s coming in a few projects.
How they got here is not a mystery. Incoherent, nonsensical decisions with stars for their movies, the movies themselves being atrocious, and a lack of obvious planning and forethought. It was a lot, and it seemed like every time the company took a step, they stumbled. And their rival, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was churning out hit after hit at the box office, adding insult to injury.
But there were beacons of hope: Television and animated properties.

DC has always had strong television and animation. Their Justice League characters are so well known that almost all have had multiple shows that have done well. Their animated movies and shows are so good that decades later, they’re still producing spinoffs that are just as good if not better than the originals.
So, this is their go-to in the bleak times.
When faced with hard times, Warner Bros. does what it knows how to do best: Milk something to death and ride that cash cow until the wheels fall off. And that’s why we’re getting great television in the form of Titans. That’s why more animated Batman is here to put the DC name on his back and carry everything across the finish line. That’s why we’re getting more Batman spinoff films and a Flash spinoff bringing back the Batman version that worked – Michael Keaton for those of you still playing along at home.
DC trades on what it knows works best for them: Nostalgia. And they are smart to do it. That bell has rung finally for DC, and they can get a breather from that beating the MCU and Kevin Feige has been delivering for the past 10 years. The body shots can maybe slow down, they can regain their footing and they’re finally doing something. Something worthwhile and exciting. It’s about time they come in with gloves ready for the fight game.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #30: Marvel winning war; let me tell you why

It should be obvious by now that we love comics here at Gaming Insurrection. Very obvious. I have been a comic book fan — no matter the company — for a long time. I was doing reading, writing and arithmetic and perusing comic books well before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe or a DC Universe. But let me be the first to tell you: I love Marvel a lot more than DC, and a lot of that can be gleaned from current happenings.

Boring film writing: There are household names there: Joker, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash. Why is it that none of the DC ensemble movies or versus movies can get off the ground? They have the more well-known superheroes. Their stable is full of interesting stories. But none of this can translate to film it seems. The most interesting film in the past 15 years involved Superman “dying” and then resurrecting to fight the Justice League. Insert sigh here.

Inconsistency: Batman and Superman have been done to death. There have been too many actors putting on the cape and cowl for both characters, and it’s a distraction. I loved Michael Keaton as the bat; my love has been well documented here, and yet, we have another name popping up for the role in the film world. I counted five for Batman alone — Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale and Affleck. You know who played Iron Man? Robert Downey Jr. for all solo character films and all ensemble films. You know what that tells me? No consistency is to be had, and it shows in the uneven product.

Retreads: Marvel is guilty of this, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m plenty tired of Spider-Man and his millions of different origin story retreads every time they change the actor; also, I’m not a Spider-Man fan. But this is getting ridiculous with DC and its “Snyder Cut Policy.” Stop remaking movies every time you feel one that you commissioned and spent a lot of time on somehow magically fails at the box office. If they reboot any Batman or Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League or Teen Titans property one more time, we riot. And, let me state for the record: Allowing the Snyder Cut sets a dangerous precedence that we need not allow. What will be the next movie released that gets the “director’s cut” treatment that should have been the original version to start with?

DC is floundering but the situation can be turned around. The love for DC characters is abundant, and they do have saving graces in their animated and television properties. DC’s television game has always been excellent and strong in terms of cohesive storytelling and rich experiences. In fact, Marvel has traditionally struggled in that area and is just now entering that arena. But DC needs to step it up in the film marketplace; there is enough for everyone to get a bag and come out like robber barons in the superhero movie game. I really need DC to get it together over on their side and give me something to take my attention away from the MCU. Because as a fan, when everyone does well, I win.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh [at] gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #26: Taskmaster

Name: Tony Masters

Alias: Taskmaster, Barney Toastmaster, Captain America, Chief Warrant Officer T. McWilliams/Ground Crew Chief McWilliams, Tasky

Affiliation: Power Elite, Ravencroft Institute, Black Ant, Hydra, Hydra’s Avengers, Hydra High Sect, S.H.I.E.L.D. Secret Avengers, A.I.M., The Org, The Cabal, Initiative, Shadow Initiative, Committee, U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., Cyber Ninjas, Lords of the Living Lightning, Sons of the Serpent, Black Choppers, Trenchcoat Mafia, Militiamen, The Inquisition, Agency X, Frightful Four, Thunderbolts

Special abilities: Photographic memory and, after taking an experimental version of the Super-Soldier Serum, the ability to memorize the motor skills and abilities of others. This ability comes at the cost of his own memory.

Background: Tony Masters was born in the Bronx and realized at an early age that he could perform feats he’d seen on TV just by watching someone perform them. When he matured, he joined S.H.I.E.L.D. as an agent. During a mission, he injected himself with the Nazi experimental version of the Super-Soldier Serum (much like the one that changed Steve Rogers) and gained enhanced abilities gained through his photographic memory and reflexes. This came at the cost of his memories as he overwrote his true memories with those of the person he observed. His wife, Mercedes Merced, then crafted the Taskmaster persona to help him. Through his ill-gotten gains as Taskmaster, he became a trainer of villains, or anyone who would pay. He has trained several super villains, been part of the Secret Empire and Hydra and re-learned his true past, only to lose it again after being forced to learn a new set of moves.

Relationships: Mercedes Merced (wife)

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Appearances in other media:

Television: Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble (animated)

Film: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, Iron Man (animated), Captain America: Heroes United, Black Widow (upcoming live-action)

Video games: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel Heroes, Avengers Initiative, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics, Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The Official Game, Marvel Avengers Academy, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Avengers (2020), Marvel: Future Fight

Marvel character highlight #25: Thanos

Name: Thanos

Alias: The Mad Titan

Affiliation: Infinity Watch, Black Order

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility and longevity. Thanos is a genius-level tactician capable of telekinesis and telepathy, can survive indefinitely without food or water and is immune to all terrestrial diseases and death from old age. The Eternal can also project plasma energy.

Background: Thanos was born on the Jupiter moon Titan to Eternals A’lars and Sui-San. He quickly developed a taste for death, intensely falling in love with Mistress Death, the physical embodiment of death. To impress Mistress Death, he killed his many children and augmented his strength and powers. He also kills millions of fellow Eternals on Titan and travels to find the Cosmic Cube. He succeeds, wills himself to become omnipotent and allies with Adam Warlock. After betraying Warlock, he manages to acquire the Infinity Gems to create a weapon to destroy a star. He loses the gems, but regains them, using them to erase half the population of the universe to prove his undying love to Mistress Death. These actions are undone by Nebula and Warlock eventually, and Thanos later joins Infinity Watch as a path to redemption.

Relationships: A’lars (father), Sui-San (mother), Eros (brother), Mistress Death (eternal companion), many children including Gamora (adopted daughter), Nebula (adopted daughter)

First Versus appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media:
Television: Silver Surfer (animated), The Super Hero Squad Show (animated), Avengers Assemble (animated), Guardians of the Galaxy (animated), LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – Guardians of the Galaxy: The Thanos Threat (animated), LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – Black Panther: Trouble in Wakanda (animated)

Film: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame

Video games: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel Future Fight, Marvel: Contest of Champions, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Fortnite Battle Royale, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, Spider-Man Unlimited, Marvel Powers United VR, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Top 5 on the Strip: Avengers Edition part 1

Steve Rogers/Captain America: If you ever needed a leader and wanted to make sure your every directive was followed, you employ Steve Rogers to get the job done. Rogers was the first Avenger and the last Avenger and the team’s heart and soul (and mom), no matter the roster.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Bruce Banner brings not only his vast genius intellect to the fight, but also his green angry alter ego Hulk, who is equal parts mad as he is cunning and destructive. The madder Hulk gets, the better the outcome for the Avengers.

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Much like Banner, Tony Stark brings his intellect to the fight and usually other toys to ensure that the Avengers will win. Beyond that, Stark provides a place for the Avengers to stay and upgrades for every team member. Think of him as the dad of the team as well as the brains of the organization.

Luke Cage: Now that Netflix has brought some of the more background Marvel characters to the forefront with excellent (but canceled) TV shows, Luke Cage has a spotlight on him that showcases his invaluable contributions. Cage is virtually indestructible with super strength to match. The Hero for Hire hasn’t joined the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe just yet, but know that when he does, it will be worth the wait.

John Walker/U.S. Agent: An alternate version of Captain America, U.S. Agent is a bad dude. Receiving his super strength from the Power Broker, John Walker has gone against Captain America and won as well as joined the Avengers and its derivatives such as Norman Osborne’s Dark Avengers. Walker once worked for the Commission on Super Human Activities and has taken up the Captain America mantle in the past.

Property review: Black Panther

Marvel Studios, 2018

Black, powerful,beautiful

Seeing your people represented on the silver screen when you are a person of color means quite a bit. Seeing them do important things and be decent human beings means quite a bit more. Seeing them as royalty and enjoying prosperity means everything.

Written well and superbly acted, Black Panther has the difficult job of being a lot of things to a lot of people and it succeeds. Even with the heavy topics of race and what it means to be black in the world, there are light moments. Black Panther isn’t without humor and it’s deftly mixed in with the right balance. How it achieved this balance is important because it has quite a few stories to tell in a short amount of time.

When Black Panther was announced, the most we knew about T’Challa was from the comics: He was the ruler of Wakanda — a prosperous black nation in Africa that was hidden from the rest of the world — and that he was married to Storm of the X-Men. Also, he was on a quest of revenge for the death of his father T’Chaka, which occurred in Captain America: Civil War. That’s about it. But then something wonderous happened: Marvel started talking about T’Challa’s origin story and why it was important to get it out there. And that push began one of the greatest runs ever for a comic book property.

Black Panther is so layered with different concepts that it’s hard to not go down the rabbit hole too deep. Black Panther starts out with the re-introduction of T’Challa some months after the death of T’Chaka and T’Challa’s ascent to the throne of Wakanda. In swift order we are introduced to Okoye, Shuri and the advanced nature of Wakanda, thanks to the infinite supply of vibranium. T’Challa’s day-to-day struggle to rule Wakanda alongside its other clans, keep the nation safe from the outside world and get involved in the world’s affairs is just one of the layers and that’s swiftly peeled back to show that everything on the surface is just that: Surface material for the more pressing concept of just what it means to be black and free.

The introduction of Erik Killmonger is one of the next layers down. Killmonger represents the rest of the black experience: hurt, angry, bitter and wanting something more in life than to be stereotyped and abandoned by the world at large. Killmonger’s story is the result of what happens when we as black people are not uplifted and left at the mercy of an unforgiving system of oppression and what happens when we don’t help our own who are downtrodden and hurting. And though that struggle is simplified here for the general masses, it still speaks to the heart of America’s past and present in terms of race.

On a deeper level, there is the concept of what it means to be a leader and a man. T’Challa’s development from Civil War to Black Panther is so detailed that it feels like we knew nothing about him before Black Panther. And this is the same with the rest of the characters: No one is left out of the development process and every character’s motivations are addressed in painstaking detail. And with that development comes a wealth of standout characters. Shuri, Okoye, W’Kabi and Nakia are wonderful characters that add depth to T’Challa’s life and story. And the true scene-stealing addition is M’Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe. Making a memorable entrance early in the film, M’Baku manages to strike a defiant yet relatable chord in his quest to have his part of the Wakandian pie recognized for its might and resiliency.

And what a pie Wakanda is. From the opening sequence of T’Challa returning home from an important mission to the ending sequence showing the Wakandian sunset, the nation of free and prosperous black folk is a beauty. Everything that we imagine the motherland to be in its natural beauty and wonderment was and is a sight to behold in the fictional nation’s depiction. Wakanda is beautiful, lush and vibrant with an Afropunk futuristic vibe that we have only seen glimpses of in the real world through the pages of magazines.

Black Panther meant a lot of things to a lot of people when it hit the screen. Its sequel is poised to bring the same type of magic as well. With the show put on by director Ryan Coogler in Black Panther, we can only wish that our return to Wakanda is just as fun and important as our first go around. Wakanda forever.

How we grade

Acting: 10

Story: 10

Like the comics?: 9.5

Overall grade: 9.8

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Strip Talk #25: Black Panther film is needed, necessary now

Needed. Necessary. Now. Black Panther’s release was all of this and more in a time when melanated super heroes on the big screen are far and few in between.

Why was the ensemble tale so necessary? While little children can throw a stone in any direction and hit any number of white superheroes, the number of black superheroes is small. In mainstream comic book movies, at most there are: War Machine, Storm, Cyborg and Falcon. That’s it. That is, until T’Challa and his nation of advanced progress hit the scene.

The presence of the almost entirely black cast was sorely needed. The presence of a capable black director was needed. Seeing positive images of black folks was needed. Why? Because it’s about time that black folks were shown as human, beautiful, smart and good people. It’s long overdue, but the thrill of seeing a black man run his nation and do the right thing when given a choice never gets old.

And why now? Because for the positive side of black superheroes to do well in this climate, it was nothing short of genius and a miracle. Now is the time for the conversations surrounding representation and diversity, and Black Panther is the perfect vehicle. Now is the time for black folks to rise above negative stereotypes and look at how we are perceived, point to Black Panther — a fictional character aside — and say, “We are more than capable of bringing in box office dollars and, most importantly, we are human and here to stay. We have a seat at the table.”

Wakanda forever.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire
Warner Bros., 2014

300: Rise of an Empire late but bold enough to make impact

The first movie in the possible pantheon of tales about the valiant Spartans who died at the Battle of Thermopylae was a rollicking good time. There were epic one-liners, fighting, sex and death: Everything you could ask for in a movie about ancient Greece and Persia. The second film had a name to live up to and a reputation to uphold. While it manages to recreate some of the fun of 300, Rise of an Empire comes much too late to capitalize and continue to curry the favor that 300 cultivated.

Rise of an Empire starts with the premise that King Leonidas and his brave brigade of warriors from 300 are dead. Taking place during, before and after Leonidas’ sacrificial trip to the Hot Gates, Rise of an Empire shows the beginning of Xerxes I’s reign, his creation of Persian city states, his rise to power and seeming immortality, and his ruthless general Artemisia’s background and eventual lust for revenge and power. With simultaneous story threads, the film moves along at a quickened pace despite being an hour and 42 minutes long. It needs that amount of time to flashback for multiple characters and push the present events forward.

While the look at events in Rise of an Empire are interesting, quite frankly it was too long between movies for there to be much interest in the proceedings. Rise comes seven years after the original, which means there’s plenty of time to forget the original plot, character motivations and reason for most of anything that occurs. There are plot recaps at the beginning, thankfully, but it’s hard to remember a plot from seven years previously and remain engaged.

Despite the passage of time, the film looks good. The chroma key technique used in the original is used again and then given a fuzzy sheen. While slightly jarring, the sheen doesn’t detract too much from the original look that matched the comics. The soundtrack remains the same as well, so not much has changed aside from the focus and some of the stars. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo as does Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes. Eva Green — a former Bond Girl — and Sullivan Stapleton join in new roles to round out the cast. The new additions are great and seamlessly fit the universe. Green and Stapleton sizzle with chemistry and Green, in particular, is a standout. Santoro still commands as Xerxes whenever he is onscreen but the God King seems to take a backseat, which is hard to understand. As he remains the main villain, he should remain front and center.
Despite the long wait and storyline lagging from time to time, 300: Rise of an Empire is still a fun history lesson for the comic book lover and casual moviegoer alike.

Story: 7
Like the comics: 10
Casting: 9

Total: 36/40 or 9

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Marvel character highlight #23: Pyslocke

Name: Elizabeth Braddock

Alias: Betsy, Betts, Kwannon, Lady Mandarin, Captain Britain, Lady Briton, Death

Affiliation: X-Men, Captain Britain Corps, X-Force, S.T.R.I.K.E., Extinction Team, the Mandarin, Sisterhood of Mutants, Exiles, Hand, Hellfire Club, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, X.S.E.

Special abilities: Psylocke is an Omega-level mutant who has the ability to generate psionic weapons with her mind. She is a near-Omega-level telepath who can use telekinesis, telepathy precognition and teleportation. She is capable of generating shields and flight.

Background: Psylocke started life as the daughter of Otherworld resident Dr. James Braddock, who fathered three children on Earth. She grew up with latent mutant powers as a telepath, which were unlocked after a battle at Braddock Manor with Dr. Synne. After this, Psylocke became a model and encountered S.T.R.I.K.E, the British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Through them, she learned to harness her powers and strengthen herself. She later became a version of her brother’s superpowered identity, Captain Britain. While using this identity, the villain known as Slaymaster beat and blinded her. She regained her eyesight when villains Mojo and Spiral abducted her and gave her cybernetic eyes. With these eyes, she was used to spy on the X-Men for Mojo. After the defeat of Mojo, the Morlocks were massacred by the Marauders and she helped those who survived. After the battle to avenge the Morlocks, Psylocke was invited to join the X-Men in a full-time capacity and she accepted. In her later adventures with the X-Men, she was forcibly switched from her body to assassin Kwannon’s body by Kwannon’s lover, crime lord Mats’uo Tsurayaba. Kwannon, in Psylocke’s original body calling herself Revanche, then developed the Legacy Virus and died. Psylocke has remained in Kwannon’s body. She has battled the Crimson Dawn and gained new powers, such as the ability to fuse with the shadows and travel with them. Through contact with Jean Grey, her powers were magnified on a cosmic level to reach Omega status.

Relationships: Brian Braddock (Captain Britain), brother; James Braddock Jr., brother; Warren Worthington III (Angel/Archangel), lover; Nathan Christopher Summers (Cable), lover; Tom Lennox, lover; Agent Michael (alias), lover; Neal Shaara (Thunderbird), lover; Victor Creed (Sabretooth), lover; Fantomex, lover; Cluster, lover.

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom (character assist)

Appearances in other media: X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (video game), X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (video game), X-Men 2: Clone Wars (video game), X-Men: Children of the Atom (video game), Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (video game), X-Men: Next Dimension (video game), X-Men Legends (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Marvel: War of Heroes (video game), Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign (video game), X-Men: Battle of the Atom (video game), X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse (video game), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Apocalypse (film), X-Men: The Animated Series (television), Wolverine and the X-Men (television)