A Look Back At Wonder Woman #9 (1987)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Very recently, Warner Bros. announced that due to the ongoing coronavirus disease COVID-19 pandemic, it has decided to reschedule the release of Wonder Woman 1984 to August 2020.

While fans, geeks and moviegoers have to wait a bit longer for the much-awaited movie, we can take time out to look back to the year 1987 when DC Comics published the comic book Wonder Woman #9 written (plot) and illustrated by the legendary George Perez with scripting done by the late Len Wein.

Remember seeing Dr. Barbara Minerva (Cheetah) played by Kristen Wiig in Wonder Woman 1984? This comic book marked the debut of the post-Crisis Cheetah whose civilian personality is Dr. Barbara Minerva (her literary debut was in Wonder Woman #7). To make history short, the original Cheetah that appeared in 1943’s Wonder Woman #6 was Priscilla Rich while the second Cheetah was Deborah Domaine (Priscilla Rich’s niece). Dr. Minerva is the third and arguably the most modernized and most popular Cheetah.

With the history talk over, here we go with Wonder Woman #9!

WW9a
The cover drawn by George Perez.

Early Story

The story begins with a ritual performed by a short, old man with a knife. He cuts the skin of a naked woman and collects some of her blood. He uses the blood to feed a plant he believes to be a god (the plant-god). Afterwards he returns to the naked woman and covers her with the cloth.

The next morning, at another location, Wonder Woman flies happily in the air. Below her were publicist Myndi Mayer, Julia (Diana’s host and personal educator) and teenager Vanessa.

It turns out, Wonder Woman, who strongly values honor, was happy to have received a letter from Dr. Barbara Minerva. Julia however is not confident and based on her research, she described Minerva as “shady as your average weeping willow.”

Myndi, who is looking for the next great scoop, dismisses Julia’s concern and remains focused on accompanying Wonder Woman to meeting Minerva.

Quality

Apart from marking the first appearance of Cheetah (no longer a lady wearing a silly costume) in the post-Crisis era of DC Comics, Wonder Woman #9 is still a very compelling and fun comic book to read. Its great quality combined with a solid concept can be attributed to George Perez.

On storytelling, Perez and Wein delivered a solid balance between spectacle, characterization, plotting and mystery. The presentation of Dr. Minerva as an accomplished yet arrogant archaeologist is a clever concept of having her involved with Wonder Woman who in turn also has a personal interest in relics and evidences of established cultures and societies (given the Amazonian society Diana came from). Minerva’s transformation and first action as Cheetah is indeed excellent to read.

WW9b
Diana/Wonder Woman and Dr. Minerva/Cheetah meet for the first time ever.

Being one of the greatest comic book illustrators ever, it is no surprise that this comic book still looks great! Even though Perez used a lot of panels per page, the amount of visual details as well as the maintenance of his art style remain high.

When it comes to the first-ever battle between Cheetah and Wonder Woman, Perez pulled no punches back with the spectacle. There is a good amount of brutal action which so enjoyable to see and I can only hope that director Patty Jenkins took inspiration from the comic’s action scenes for Wonder Woman 1984 (a conflict between the Queen of Superheroes and the animalistic villainess on the big screen is inevitable).

WW9c
Brutal action between Cheetah and Wonder Woman!

On characterization, this comic book continued to deliver the good and believable development of Wonder Woman who is still adjusting to Man’s World. To put it short, it is not exclusively focused on Cheetah and Wonder Woman (whose encounters were the highlights). You will get to see how much Diana adjusted with modern society, what she thought about how modern society’s members perceived her and how close she got with Julia and Vanessa while still keeping strong with her Amazonian values.

Going back to Cheetah, the development of Dr. Minerva changing into her animalistic form is very well handled by the creators. There are enough details that explained her physical transformation and her uncanny abilities, not to mention showing her being able to give Wonder Woman a good amount of trouble. This way of modernizing the literary Cheetah is, indeed, very compelling and definitive. By reading this comic book, you will realize why this particular version of Cheetah was chosen to be part of Wonder Woman 1984.

For the collectors reading this, if you are serious on getting an existing copy of Wonder Woman #9, be aware that, as of this writing, a near-mint copy costs $77 according to MileHighComics.com

Overall, Wonder Woman #9 (1987) is highly recommended! It’s a great collector’s item too!

In ending this, watch this first official movie trailer of Wonder Woman 1984.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Action Comics #544

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I just love it when comic book creators really pushed their creativity and bold concepts to make an anniversary celebration comic book fun, engaging and memorable. As seen in the history of American superhero comics, such great comic books become essential when their concept sets a new standard of quality or when it sets its series (and its featured superhero) to a new and well accepted direction (which then opens up many opportunities to keep the series and the superhero fresh creatively).

Such greatness was achieved by DC Comics and its creators with Action Comics #544 published in 1983.

AC544cover
The cover.

As seen in the cover above done by artists Gil Kane and Dick Giordano, Superman in the background could do nothing but be surprised to see his two foes Lex Luthor and Braniac presented in doubles reflecting a change of design – Luthor getting his now iconic powered suit of armor and Brainiac having a more robotic design.

So you must be wondering…how is the quality of the story and art of this particular comic book that celebration Superman’s 45th anniversary?

We can now start with my retro comic book review of Action Comics #544.

Early Stories

This special-sized comic book features not one but two separate Superman stories titled “Luthor Unleashed!” (written by Cary Bates and drawn by Curt Swan) and “Rebirth” (by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane).

“Luthor Unleashed!” begins with Luthor already down on the ground hurting from the crash of his aircraft and with Superman present. Even though Luthor’s already helpless, Superman flies away to an unknow destination confident that the super villain will still be there once he returns. However, Luthor got assisted by a robot of his who took him to a secret lair and rode a spacecraft going into deep space. Luthor arrives on the planet called Lexor.

“Rebirth” begins with Superman saving a lady and dog from getting hit by a car on the city street. Afterwards, he flies into space and arrives at a computerized planet that Brainiac created. Just nearby, the star of Epsilon 4 is about to go supernova which prompts him to do something so that many lives will be saved.

Quality

Visually, the art of both stories, respectively done by Curt Swan (arguably the most memorable artist to draw Superman during the pre-Crisis age) and Gil Kane is still good to look at. Both artists knew how to frame the action in interesting ways, put enough details on the people and environment surrounding Superman or Luthor or Brainiac.

When it comes to the storytelling and characterization, not only were both stories really well written, they succeeded in humanizing Luthor and Brainiac. In “Luthor Unleashed!”, the portrayal of Lex Luthor as a family man (he has a wife and a child) as well as a highly revered leader among the citizens of Lexor was excellently done. By just reading that story, it really looked like Luthor could have been a great contributor for the good of the DC Multiverse had he not been a super villain. What writer Cary Bates made clear was that Luthor’s hatred for Supermen was deeply embedded within him.

AC5441
Lex Luthor the husband and father.

The story of Brainiac meanwhile was very engaging. Marv Wolfman really went all-out on portraying the death and rebirth of Brainiac who got reshaped in the form of a futuristic robot armed with his own octopus-like spaceship. What is great about this cybernetic form of Brainiac was that he not only looked more sinister but also proved to be a more dangerous super villain than before. Also, Superman’s first encounter with Brainiac in his new form is very memorable.

AC5442
A great debut for Brainiac in his new form.

Conclusion

While Action Comics #544 is a celebration of Superman’s 45th anniversary, it is truly a showcase of the two classic super villains who not only got new looks but also went on to become more challenging to Superman on a new and higher level. Before he got his iconic powered suit of armor (designed by the great George Perez), Luthor was not much of a physical challenge to Superman. Before he got his robotic body, Brainiac was not as deadly and had much less resources to be cause chaos to Superman and others. To say the least, this comic book is a true classic of superhero literature!

If you are a collector, be aware that as of this writing, a near-mint copy of the newsstand edition of Action Comics #544 is now worth $77 while its other edition’s near-mint copy is worth $39 at MileHighComics.com.

Overall, Action Comics #544 is highly recommended. This great comic book also has another thing of value: great inspiration and references that Warner Bros. should use when making a new Superman movie with Luthor and Brainiac as the super villains.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back At Friday The 13th Part 3

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced by means of watching the movie and doing research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Long before movie franchising and shared cinematic universes became normal in modern day Hollywood, the very low-budget Friday The 13th movie of 1980 became a very profitable success and paved the way for sequels throughout the decade. Really, the first movie was just a standalone, self-contained story of horror set in the American summer camp. There really was no plan back then to turn that particular film into a series of movies that showcased people getting killed in slasher horror style.

Because Friday The 13th grossed almost $60 million worldwide, its first sequel Friday The 13th Part 2 was rushed into production (with more than double its predecessor’s budget) and eventually got released less than a year later. Part 2 made $21.7 million in America (note: overseas ticket sales remain unavailable) which was barely half that of its predecessor ($39.7 million) in the same market.

Creatively, Part 2 was made with Jason Voorhees as the antagonist because (SPOILER) his mother was the killer in the first movie. While Jason was indeed a victim in the 1980 movie, the Part 2 filmmakers had to make hard changes to establish him as the new killer and expand on the previous film’s concept. The result was that, within Friday The 13th’s version of history, Jason somehow witnessed his mother’s death from a distance and motivated him to become a territorial killer at Crystal Lake (note: the first movie established him as having drowned to death because the summer camp counselors did not watch him). This paved the way into introducing a grown-up Jason (wearing a potato sack as mask) as the new killer in the sequel.

Even though the box office reception for Part 2 was weaker, this did not stop the filmmakers and Paramount Pictures from pushing through with a sequel: Friday The 13th Part 3. To say the least, the business model on making Friday The 13th movies with very low budgets and raking big profits was too good for the filmmakers to stop doing. At the same time, the 1980s saw a huge demand for slasher horror. As if that was not enough, there was a short-lived revival of 3D cinematic viewing (moviegoers wore the old-style red-and-blue 3D visors to see the 3D effects on the screen) which the Part 3 filmmakers (led by director Steve Miner and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr.) decided to capitalize on. As such, they used special cameras and lenses to make Part 3.

Screenshot_20200313-225025_YouTube.jpg
This is what the film looked like in 3D and this is the 3D yoyo scene.

Enough with the history of the Friday The 13th film franchise for now. This is my retro movie review of 1982’s Friday The 13th Part 3.

Early Story

The movie opens (SPOILER for Part 2) with a recap of the final conflict in Part 2 showing Ginny (Amy Steel) in Jason’s shack in the forest. After some struggle near the makeshift shrine which had the decapitated head of Jason’s dead mother, Ginny’s boyfriend Paul arrived to save her from Jason. As Jason focused on fighting Paul, Ginny struck the killer with a blade on his left shoulder putting him down. After Ginny and Paul left the shack, it turns out that Jason (in brand new footage for the movie, a creative attempt to revise key story elements) was still alive and slowly moved.

The next day – Saturday the 14th – at a small town store (with a private residence), Jason (still wearing his clothes from Part 2) arrives and kills the couple (the owners) in the evening. Before getting killed, the wife saw TV news footage of Ginny being moved into an ambulance (using daytime footage from the ending of Part 2) establishing the current day as Saturday.

Screenshot_20200312-230358_YouTube.jpg
The bodies of the husband and wife being moved into the ambulance. Jason killed them on the evening of Saturday.

And yet the next day – Sunday the 15th – a group of teenagers travel together in a van heading towards the private property of Higgins Haven which is located by Crystal Lake. Due to the lack of security, Jason moved there in secret becoming a danger to them…

Quality

With a budget that was much bigger than that of Part 2, Friday The 13th Part 3 has better production values. Higgins Haven in the film was a nice physical set that was actually constructed from scratch in California. The vacation house, the barn and even Crystal Lake (which looked radically different from the first two films) were all made on location. Of course, money had to be spent on making tracks and setting up the cameras which had special lenses for filming in 3D. I also noticed that Part 3’s visuals are a lot more colorful to look at than in Part 2 which is the result of using the cameras with special lenses. The downside of this is the constant lack of sharpness on the visuals when compared to Part 1 and 2.

Screenshot_20200312-230434_YouTube.jpg
Larry Zerner’s Shelly (middle) is one of the most memorable characters of the entire Friday The 13th film franchise.

In terms of storytelling, this movie looked generic on face value when compared to not only the other Friday The 13th films but also with the many other slasher horror movies that were released. There is a group of people who don’t realize they were being stalked by a killer. The killings are done in secret. Some people either have sex or use illegal drugs. The film’s protagonist encounters the killer and somehow survives. The storytelling is shallow and the characters were designed to be mostly killed off by the antagonist. Of course, there was no real room for any character development.

The good news about this particular movie is that it was nicely paced, there were no boring moments, the on-screen kills were visceral enough, there was an amount of humor to balance the tone enough, and most of all, Part 3 is a lot more fun to watch than any of its predecessors.

Screenshot_20200312-231454_YouTube.jpg
Nothing like being stalked by Jason.

Adding more to the fun factor was that the cast of characters was pretty good. Dana Kimmell as Chris Higgins is charming, romantic, physically capable and also sympathetic. Larry Zerner meanwhile is funny to watch as Shelly who is an overweight guy trying hard to gain attention and friendship. Zerner has a certain appeal of being funny without ever becoming an on-screen annoyance. Like Chris, Shelly is also sympathetic.

Similar character traits are also found in Debbie played by Tracie Savage, and Vera played by Catherine Parks. Vera is the lady on a blind date willing to have fun as she goes on a journey of discovery with her friend. Debbie is pretty, sweet and loves to have fun with her boyfriend even though she is already pregnant. By the way, Tracie Savage acted early as a little girl and her performance her shows it. In real life, Savage went on to become a credible journalist and she was involved in covering the O.J. Simpson murder story of the mid-1990s. Check out Tracie Savage in these embedded videos below.

Screenshot_20200313-224951_YouTube.jpg
Tracie Savage in 3D as Debbie!

And then there are the arrogant, leather-wearing bikers who were written only to cause trouble. Kevin O’Brien as Loco is tough, Gloria Charles as Fox is rude and yet has a weakness for doing something fun, while Nick Savage as Ali is both savage and even funny.

As for Rick played by Paul Kratka is the least interesting character as the good-intentioned boyfriend of Chris. Rick is bland not because of Kratka’s performance but rather the way he was written for the film.

Richard Brooker, a circus performer, excelled in his portrayal as Jason Voorhees and he provided the template on how the icon should act on screen. Not only was he physically imposing, he had to endure the tough procedure of going through several hours of movie makeup (for Jason’s distorted face) before even wearing the hockey mask. Brooker’s Jason is a major improvement over than of Part 2 and it’s too bad we never got to see him reprise the villain.

Screenshot_20200312-231540_YouTube.jpg
Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees. Believe it or not, the use of a hockey mask in the film was unplanned and it so happened than one of the film crew members was an ice hockey fan and he had a mask with him.

When it comes to on-screen spectacle, the killings by Jason were creative and visceral at the same time. Apart from a few on-screen kills that paid homage to key kills in the 1980 movie, Brooker and the filmmakers delivered a good job on showing how deadly Jason is as the killer. We also get to see that Jason is not only unstoppable but also is very strong (look at what happened to Rick) and even agile (look at his first encounter with Ali). It was also in this film where moviegoers got to see for the first time how visceral a hockey mask-wearing killer could be on the big screen.

Dana Kimmell proved to be capable with the stunts she was given and the action during the encounters between Chris and Jason. Her attempts to fight back at Jason with the knife was believable in terms of character desperation. She is comparable with Amy Steel (Part 2’s Ginny) but is ahead in terms of doing the stunts. Kimmell even had an accident during a chase in which she tripped and fell down face-first.

On storytelling, Part 3’s fimmakers made the right gamble by having the film set immediately after the events of Part 2. Originally there was a plan to make Part 3 feature Ginny in a new story setting her up with another encounter with Jason. Because Amy Steel turned the role down, this particular movie became the result. Part 3’s filmmakers scored a right move having the story set at a private vacation property by Crystal Lake which is a nice change from the summer camp settings of its predecessors.

When it comes to cinematic style, I just love the way director Steve Miner had Jason appear discreetly on screen long before he gets the hockey mask. To see Jason standing on the foreground (no head shown) looking at the characters in the background remains creepy and stylish, slowly adding to the build-up of suspense. To see Jason slowly creeping in the background was also creepy. These are cinematic moves that were not used that much anymore in the sequels that followed.

If there is anything lack here, it definitely is the 3D cinematography which involved a process that is crude and ineffective by today’s standards. The old-style 3D (with 3d visors of red and blue) visuals can be viewed on an HDTV when selected but such visuals have not aged well. I personally prefer to watch it in old-fashioned 2D even though the sharpness of the pictures is lacking and even though the key on-screen moments originally filmed for 3D (with objects captured close to the camera) look out of place. Back to storytelling, I felt that Chris Higgin’s recall of a past incident in the woods felt like an afterthought on the part of the screenwriters.

Conclusion

Overall, Friday The 13th Part 3 is a fun horror movie to watch again. It is not only one of the best ever Friday The 13th films released, but also one of the strongest among all slasher horror movies released in the 1980s. That being said, it made the original Friday The 13th look more of a bore and it made Friday The 13th Part 2 look half-baked. Truly, Part 3 was the film that had the standards of fun and engagement of its film franchise raised higher. Of all the Friday The 13th movies I saw in my life, I declare that Part 3 is the 2nd best film of the franchise.

In terms of cinematic artistry, Part 3 serves as the template on storytelling and structuring for the franchise similar to how Goldfinger became a standard for the James Bond film franchise. To make things clear, this film not only showed Jason wearing for the first time an ice hockey mask (now iconic in American pop culture) but also showed why he is so dangerous whether he stalks people or strikes them down. This film marked the true beginning of the now iconic Jason Voorhees and the filmmakers did a nice job in showcasing him as a horrifying antagonist, easily blowing away the Part 2 potato sack hermit Jason.

Screenshot_20200312-231703_YouTube.jpg
Dana Kimmell as Chris (right) in a scene that copied a similar scene in the first movie.

The film has, in my view, the most appealing cast of characters. There are key characters worth caring for and when you see the most likeable characters killed off, you will feel very sorry for them.

What struck me most was what happened to Chris at the very, very end of the film. Granted, she is the final girl of this movie but what I saw when this film ended will always stick me. Without spoiling anything, I should say that Dana Kimmell’s Chris is creatively a standout among all the many slasher horror movie final girls that were presented. I really felt sorry for Chris and Dana Kimmell was very convincing with her performance.

Back to Friday The 13th Part 3’s quality and overall fun factor, I can boldly declare that without this film, the filmmakers of the sequel Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (Part 4) would not even have the foundation and concepts to make their own film great. Really, Part 3 is really good and it’s even intriguing to learn that it was originally made to mark the end of its franchise.

Overall, Friday The 13th Part 3 is highly recommended. To those who are about to watch it for the first time, remember that this movie is a part of 1980s Hollywood history.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Wonder Woman (2017)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced by means of watching the movie and doing research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I just love watching superhero movies, especially the ones that were well crafted by the filmmakers complete with solid storytelling, sufficient spectacle as well as memorable performances by the hired talents (both behind and in front of the camera).

Of all the superhero movies made by the forces of Hollywood starting with 1978’s Superman, I can clearly say that 2017’s Wonder Woman is my favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I did not limit myself to just DC Comics superhero movies. I saw all the X-Men movies and their spinoffs, almost all the Spider-Man flicks, almost all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and even the obscure ones. Along the way, there were some great superhero flicks that became modern-day classics like Logan and Avengers: Infinity War.

Still it is the Gal Gadot-led, Patty Jenkins-directed Wonder Woman that I loved watching the most.

Let’s start with my retro review of Wonder Woman, the one film that arguably saved the DC Comics Cinematic Universe for Warner Bros.

WWposter1
The Wonder Woman movie poster from 2017.

Early Story

The story begins sometime after the end of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice during which Diana finds a long lost photograph recovered by Bruce Wayne. Then she remembers her past in Themyscira where she grew up as the only little girl among the women called the Amazons and her mother is none other than Queen Hippolyta. Concerned that the wicked Aries is still alive, Hippolyta’s sister Antiope trains Diana (initially in secret until they were discovered) to be strong, brave and more capable than their fellow Amazon warriors.

One day, Steve Trevor arrives in Themyscira becoming the first-ever man Diana ever met. Tension rises when the Germans (from World War I Earth) arrive on their island causing the Amazons to fight in defense. A lot of people lost their lives, including someone very close to Diana.

While interrogated with the Lasso of Truth, Steve reveals who he is and what he has been doing. He states that back in his world, World War I is ravaging the world costing many people their lives. This causes Diana to stand up and stop the war somehow (she believes Aries is responsible). Queen Hippolyta disapproves of Diana’s analysis. After privately meeting with Steve, Diana then starts her move for a mission to stop the war in Man’s World.

Quality

Screenshot_20200228-213823_YouTube.jpg
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in the middle of German soldiers.

Let me start with the performances. Gal Gadot definitely IS Wonder Woman in this movie. Regardless of how many versions of Wonder Woman there are in comics, the Israeli actress truly captured the essence of Diana’s early development which includes her special place among the Amazons (note: she is the only Amazon who was born in Themyscira and grew up from infant into a mature woman), her fateful meeting with Steve Trevor, her entry into Man’s World and how she adapts with the events and people outside of Themyscira. Wonder Woman’s purity on saving the world, doing what is right and emphasizing love and compassion were all nicely translated into cinematic art by Gal Gadot. From doing the action scenes to saving people, speaking her mind among her fellow Amazons and interacting with others as she adapts with Man’s World, I really love Gadot’s work on bringing Wonder Woman to life. As her cinematic work is great, there is no doubt that Gadot will always be iconic to fans of the Queen of Superheroes and superhero enthusiasts in general in the decades to come right beside Lynda Carter (who played the icon on TV), Christopher Reeve (Superman), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man) and Chris Evans (Captain America). Meanwhile, the portrayals of Diana as an 8-year-old girl as well as a 12-year-old were perfectly done by Lilly Aspell (who is truly skilled with horse riding) and Emily Carey.

QueenDaughter
Lilly Aspell as young Diana with Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta.

Chris Pine is excellent as Steve Trevor who is portrayed to be very dedicated to his work, brave in what he does and still shows compassion instead of arrogance towards others. He also has great chemistry with Gal Gadot and, like in the comic books, their relationship is nicely translated on the big screen. Pine’s performance here is, in my view, the best superhero movie supporting role to date.

Screenshot_20200228-213746_YouTube.jpg
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor with Gal Gadot as Diana in disguise.

Connie Nielsen meanwhile is great in playing Queen Hippolyta and all throughout, there is always a sense of leadership complete with a touch of motherly love just like in the comic books. Her sister Antiope was nicely portrayed by Robin Wright as the one Amazon who taught Diana to be brave, strong and highly capable as an Amazon warrior.

Danny Huston, who played the lead villain in the 2009 movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played yet another military bad guy here but this time he’s a World War I German officer. He’s a villain with a purpose who not only fights for the glory of Germany but also strongly believes that war is natural and inevitable for humanity. In some ways, Huston’s Ludendorff reminds me Michael Shannon’s General Zod in Man of Steel.

Antiope
Robin Wright is excellent as Antiope.

When it comes to presentation, this film is Patty Jenkins’ 2nd movie as director (her debut was way back in 2003) and the great turnout of Wonder Woman as a high quality movie (as opposed to being a critical and commercial success) only proved yet again that the old saying in Hollywood – The director’s second movie is his/her best movie – is true. Jenkins, who also worked on television, not only prepared a lot to make this movie but also researched Wonder Woman, developed ways to get the most out of the cast members, tweak the written story of the film (by Allan Heinberg, Zach Snyder and Jason Fuchs) and, most notably, she led the production with a lot of passion. To put it short, Wonder Woman is a labor of love (and the No Man’s Land scene is iconic) that not only resonated with fans of the Queen of Superheroes but also with the film critics and moviegoers.

Regarding storytelling, I noticed that a key story from Wonder Woman’s origin in the comics (the contest of the Amazons) did not happen at all in the film. While there were die-hard fans of the icon who complained about it, I felt that the contest of the Amazons would have made this movie more complicated and surely would have lessened the impact of World War I as a key story element. Since the purpose of this movie was to emphasize Diana’s origin and her entry into Man’s World with a major mission, I believe that the contest of the Amazons can be made cinematically later in a future movie.

The way the story was told cinematically, it also captured Diana’s reactions to the events that happened around her. The scene in which she saw the village destroyed showed how death and destruction compelled Wonder Woman to accomplish her mission even though others find ending the war impossible. Along the way, the actors – specifically Gal Gadot – really added life into the narrative with their strong performances.

When it comes to on-screen humor, which is popular among moviegoers and is almost a requirement for most new superhero movies that come out, having it done by supporting players Lucy Davis and Saïd Taghmaoui was a clever move since it allows Gal Gadot to portray Wonder Woman without any performance disruption. Considering her short screen time, Davis as Etta Candy is really funny. The amount of humor in this film, in my view, was just right and never annoying.

Spectacle? Wonder Woman is loaded with action, stunts and exciting stuff! The action involving Wonder Woman was brutal and satisfying to watch, and Patty Jenkins’ use of slow motion on key moments was great (even comparable to John Woo’s past work) and at the same time not too excessive. The Themyscira battle between the Germans and the Amazons at the beach was engaging and strategically filmed. Also, it was fitting that the action ramped up nicely starting with the iconic No Man’s Land sequence. The final battle in the film, unsurprisingly, had lots of computer-generated images (CGI) which is understandable considering the fantasy element of Wonder Woman.

More on the action, I love the way Patty Jenkins had Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Chris Pine perform the action themselves which all made their characters even more believable. Of course, there were certain moments in which stunt doubles were used to do the more dangerous moments on behalf of the actors.

Screenshot_20200228-213315_YouTube.jpg
This happened just before the iconic No Man’s Land scene.

Apart from the core cast, a lot of the actresses playing the Amazons trained for several months not just to look the part but also to perform action sequences using weapons with actual skill. The stunt coordinators and specialists hired by the filmmakers deserve praise for contributing nicely on making the cinematic Amazons highly believable. This alone not only makes Wonder Woman stand out nicely among all Hollywood superhero movies but also reflects nicely what was portrayed in the comic books.

The production design is also top-notch. I love the scenic locations of Italy used for scenes set in Themyscira. The filmmakers also did a great job recapturing the look of World War I Europe from the historical pictures to the big screen. The costume designs were fantastic, and the standout designs were, unsurprisingly, the costumes of the Amazons which really made their fantasy culture look believable. The filmmakers decided to have much more colorful visuals instead of following the look of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.

On the music, the work by Rupert Gregson-Williams was great. His rendition of the Wonder Woman theme was very lively to listen to. The same can be said about the music he provided in the memorable No Man’s Land scene which had a nice build-up as Wonder Woman made her first full appearance in costume on the field. Other tunes played in the film suited the scenes well.

If there were any weak spots in this movie, it would be certain shots of action that were not filmed with precision. I’m talking about filming action scenes way too close to the camera combined with music video-style editing that’s supposed to make film look flashy. It’s not only disorienting, it also took me out of the movie.

Conclusion

Overall, Wonder Woman is one of the best-ever superhero movies ever made and easily my favorite of them all. It has an excellent balance between storytelling, character development and spectacle, and Gal Gadot gave the performance of a lifetime not only by bringing Wonder Woman into life in cinematic form but also emphasizing what the Queen of Superheroes stood for. As part of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe, this movie stood out by having optimism and heroism as core themes (as opposed to the dark, gritty and even cynical approach of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) and, more importantly, by focusing strongly on Wonder Woman instead of building up for the Justice League movie (which was released months after this one).

Apart from high-quality production values and a strong creative approach, the cast and cinematic performances are easily among the best in the superhero movie genre. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is an excellent example of a supporting role that is engaging without ever overshadowing the lead role. By the end of the film, you will realize the impact that Queen Hippolyta and Antiope had on Diana’s personal development.

QH
Connie Nielsen made a great queen and mother in this movie.

Being strongly focused on heroism with optimism, director Patty Jenkins and her crew succeeded in making this film without ever succumbing to the extreme views of the Political Left in Hollywood and the loudmouth social feminists. When I see the battle between the Amazons and the German soldiers on the beach of Themyscira happen, I simply saw armed women defending their homeland not from men who intend to rape them but rather men who had no right to intrude in the first place. Even as there were scenes showing men in power in World War I Europe (putting Diana in a powerless position), there still was no feminist-inspired hatred towards men. Also the bond between Steve and Diana developing from friendship into a romantic relationship literally shut the door on extreme feminism.

As a Wonder Woman-focused story, this film succeeded on emphasizing the Queen of Superheroes to both long-time fans and mainstream moviegoers. This movie also had a nice mix of having a fantasy setting with Themyscira moving on to a historic setting with World War I Europe. On the origins of Wonder Woman herself, I don’t mind at all that the contest of Amazons was not told because this movie’s concept is already great to begin with and its running time of 141 minutes was just right.

Wondyclimb
Gal Gadot will be remembered for a very long time for her excellent portray of Wonder Woman in cinema.

With all the greatness it was made with, I kept coming back to Wonder Woman when replaying superhero movies here at the comfort of home. In the cinemas back in 2017, I saw the film three times. Ultimately, I can say out loud that Wonder Woman is highly recommended and essential!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

If you are looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984, check out my preview and opinion about the first movie trailer.

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Birds of Prey

As I mentioned before, I never read a single comic book about Birds of Prey. Apart from previously knowing Harley Quinn, Black Canary (from the 1980s specifically) and Huntress (from the 1990s), I had minimal knowledge of the DC Comics’ title as well as modest expectations entering the cinema yesterday to watch Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn which is the latest superhero production from Warner Bros.

Right now, I’m happy to share to you that the R-rated movie proved to be a fun-filled watch and is proof that the DC Comics Cinematic Universe is still moving forward (in terms of engagement, enjoyment and creativity) towards greatness.

Here is my movie review of Birds of Prey.

FB_IMG_1579954917133-1.jpg

Early Story

The story begins with a look into the past of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) moving forward until her breakup with the supervillain Joker (don’t expect to see Jared Leto’s image). Through narration and clever visuals, Harley is now living a new life. Along the way, there is a club within Gotham City bustling with life which Harley haves fun at and eventually she encounters the club owner Roman/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) who is not what he seems. After getting drunk and becoming vulnerable to men with sinister intentions, Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who sings at the club, comes to her rescue. After recovering, Harley moves on to destroy a huge facility of Ace Chemicals which further sets events off…

Quality

While the screenplay by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) lacked storytelling depth and character development, director Cathy Yan and her team still managed to craft a superhero film that was fun, action-packed and, surprisingly, not too reliant on computer-generated visual effects.

To make up for the lack of story depth, the movie relied mainly on the performances of the actors to bring their characters to life. Margot Robbie really excelled in playing Harley Quinn inside and out. While this latest cinematic portrayal does not have Harley insane, she’s still crazier than in Suicide Squad. Robbie’s act this time is more creative, more adulterated (which is the way the go), more daring with action and also more comedic. From this point on, I should say that Warner Bros. should rehire Robbie to play Harley Quinn in even more DC Comics movies.

FB_IMG_1579954826376.jpg
Here come the ladies: Renee Montoya, Huntress, Harley Quinn, Cassandra Cain and Black Canary.

Rosie Perez as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya delivered a strong presence as the law enforcement element in the film and through her, we get to see the culture of the local police. Don’t expect her to have any links with police commissioner Gordon or Batman, though. Jurnee Smollet-Bell as the cinematic Black Canary is one of the stronger performers even though her version of the character is radically different from the one I read in the comic books long ago. Ella Jay Basco, an actress of Filipino and Korean heritage, as the orphan Cassandra Cain is clearly the movie’s representative (and attraction to) of the youth. Performance-wise, Basco delivered a nice performance even though her character (who in the comics is one of many who became Batgirl) lacks depth. Fortunately for us moviegoers, she is not the whiny teenager who annoy viewers and, more importantly, she delivered nicely in her part of the film’s plot. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good as the cinematic Huntress. It’s too bad her on-screen presence is not long enough to be enjoyed, nor were moviegoers given better opportunities to know the Huntress better.

The most outstanding performance in the movie was delivered by Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. McGregor, who is a naturally artistic actor, is very colorful with his portrayal of a supervillain who, unlike many other such antagonists in other superhero movies, is charismatic, suave and yet cruel to the core. This cinematic Black Mask is not your generic action movie villain and, as such, hiring McGregor was one of the best moves made by Warner Bros. I honestly find McGregor a worthy adversary versus Margot Robbie when it comes to cinematic artistry.

When it comes to spectacle, Birds of Prey is heavily loaded with hard-hitting action plus some bloody shots that make it standout among the many superhero movies released in this current century. For one thing, the actresses themselves took an active part in doing action and the stunts they could pull of on their own (the harder stuff were understandably done by stunt doubles). Watching Harley Quinn beat up the bad guys with that large hammer, the baseball bat and other stuff were not only hard-hitting but also creative without ever looking choreographed. Black Canary’s high kicks were notable. Renee Montoya’s reliance on guns and hard action were symbolic throwbacks to the police movies of the past. Huntress meanwhile showed how deadly her small but powerful crossbow can be on-screen.

Late in the film is a certain long-take action sequence filled with the characters struggling with the bad guys simultaneously (without using computer-generated imagery) which was cleverly filmed with nice timing as the camera moved on very steadily. That sequence, even though short, is worth watching again and again. Oh yes, there are no shaky camera sequences shot!

The action scenes, in my opinion, came into play at the right time whenever I felt enough dialogue and exposition were made. This shows that the filmmakers pulled off the right moves with the pacing to ensure that people are kept entertained while still maintaining some storytelling sense which is quite an achievement since the film’s plot lacked depth. The stunts, meanwhile, are really nice to watch.

As for the brewing arguments and anticipation that Birds of Prey is a leftist and feminist piece of propaganda, I should say that such influences are more on the visual side than on the dialogue. Even though Ewan McGregor publicly said the movie is feminist, it’s not too strong. The feminism is more visible in images of the ladies fighting the bad guys who are varied with their looks – muscular, tall, big, beards, etc. The feminism is obvious with the ladies teaming up together and that is not surprising at all. Even though it has feminism elements, Birds of Prey is still pretty much a superhero movie on its own. You want a movie with stronger and more blatant feminism? Watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi instead. Maybe you want to try Elizabeth Banks’ failure Charlie’s Angels.

Conclusion

FB_IMG_1579954888780.jpg

With strong and creative performances plus loads of fun stuff that more than made up for the lack of story depth and character development, Birds of Prey is an enjoyable superhero movie that is worthy of being part of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe. Without relying on fan service, this movie expands the current cinematic universe’ presentation of Gotham City and shows the other parts of it away from Batman.

Even if you have not read any Birds of Prey comics, this movie will still prove to be entertaining. Just don’t expect to see the more iconic DC Comics characters and don’t expect to see heavy amounts of computer-generated images on-screen. Birds of Prey is more grounded and for a production of roughly $100 million, the production values still look high.

Overall, Birds of Prey is highly recommended and I encourage you to watch it in the cinemas as soon as possible. And if you have the extra money, watch it on an IMAX screen as the film was optimized for the format.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

8-million-strong Christians United for Israel produce cutting-edge documentary — ‘Never Again?’

8-million-strong Christians United for Israel produce cutting-edge documentary — ‘Never Again?’

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — From Pittsburgh to Poway anti-Semitism is increasing in both prevalence and violence in the U.S. and around the world. But the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization – Christians United for Israel – is fighting back and has produced NEVER AGAIN?, a cutting-edge, feature-length documentary to expose and combat increasing violence and bigotry.

NEVER AGAIN? premieres in 800 theaters nationwide for two nights only Oct. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m., local time. The documentary is distributed through Fathom Events.

“Violent anti-Semitism is rising across the country, and people of conscience cannot sit idly by,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee. “Anti-Semites have used the fertile ground of ignorance to grow their malicious ideology. If we are to stem the tide, we must inoculate the next generation against the world’s oldest hatred by empowering them with knowledge and reaching them with a message of unity. If we are to fulfill the promise of Never Again, we cannot allow the memory of the Holocaust to fade.”

The film from the 8-million member CUFI could not be more timely. Just this month, 200 survivors of the infamous Auschwitz Nazi extermination camp gathered for Holocaust Remembrance Day. At almost the same time, Pew Research showed 45 percent of Americans did not know 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.

“Viewers of the film will be guided by a Holocaust Survivor and a former radical Islamist,” said Producer Rick Eldridge, CEO of ReelWorks Studios. “They will learn about the history of anti-Semitism and come to understand why all of us, regardless of faith or political persuasion, have a responsibility to keep the promise of Never Again.”

NEVER AGAIN? will engage contemporary audiences with the horrific events of 75 years ago and demonstrate why they must be understood and remembered by the coming generation.

“This is not your parents’ documentary,” said CUFI co-executive director Shari Dollinger. “It meets the audience where they are, engaging them in a modern and cutting-edge manner. If we’re not to see history repeat itself, we must ensure the next generation learns the lessons of the past.”

About Christians United for Israel (CUFI)

As the largest pro-Israel grassroots organization in the United States, Christians United for Israel is also the only Christian organization devoted to transforming millions of pro-Israel Christians into an educated, empowered, and effective force for Israel. For more information, visit https://www.cufi.org

+++++

This is an official press release sourced from CUFI.org.

Birds of Prey Coming to Cinemas

As far as superhero movies go, 2020 is looking interesting as there is no new Avengers movie coming out this year. After the climax of last year’s Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios is gradually building up new anticipation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Widow. Sony Pictures has Bloodshot which is the first live-action film adaptation of any of Valiant’s comic book properties. Warner Bros. has the highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 set for June.

Before Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. will start their 2020 superhero movie journey with Birds of Prey which will open in cinemas on February 5-6-7 in varied parts of the world. For your viewing pleasure, below are the movie poster and the first movie trailer.

FB_IMG_1579954917133-1.jpg
The movie poster.

Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is the next entry of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe (which started in 2013 with Man of Steel) starring Margot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn (started in 2016’s Suicide Squad), Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollet-Bell as Dinah/Black Canary, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain and Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. It is directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs).

According to the movie’s page at IMDB.com and the above movie trailer, the movie is set some time after the events of Suicide Squad as Harley Quinn left Joker..…looking for a fresh start. This leads her to encountering Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya and they band together to save a young lady who has been targeted by Black Mask. This leads to a conflict between the ladies and Black Mask’s gang.

FB_IMG_1579954826376.jpg
The gang with Harley Quinn.

In the United States, the review and classification board MPAA rated Birds of Prey with an R (restricted) for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material. If the movie trailers are any indication, this movie is looking like it will have some really intense action scenes and harder acts of violence.

In my honest opinion, crafting a superhero movie that is more intense, more adulterated and more expressive than the usual Hollywood superhero movie can work wonders for as long as the film’s presentation is nicely done and makes the best out of its fantasy concept.

In the case of Birds of Prey, the trailers suggest that Harley Quinn is more insane (than being crazy in the Suicide Squad movie) not only with her personality but also with the way she fights others. I’m expecting to hear Harley and Black Mask say F-words in the movie. While so far nothing has been shown in the previews, I’m anticipating that there will be scenes showing Huntress fire her arrows and kill gang members violently.

While it is R-rated, Birds of Prey is predicted to open with over $50 million in the American box office for the reasons that it is the only wide release for its opening weekend, all the exhibitors anticipated it and the movie has a strong anticipation with moviegoers below the age of 25.

Some of you may be wondering…what exactly are the Birds of Prey? Is that a popular comic book franchise? When did it start?

Historically, Birds of Prey started in the mid-1990s with the one-shot comic book Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1 written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Gary Frank. That comic book featured mainly Black Canary (specifically Dinah Lance) and Barbara Gordon. For your viewing pleasure, posted below are the front cover and two pages.

RCO001_w~2.jpg
The cover.
RCO008~2.jpg
This is Dinah/Black Canary.
RCO040~2.jpg
Hard-hitting action!

I never read any Birds of Prey comic book before. I’m not exactly a fan of Harley Quinn and her performer Margot Robbie. Still, because Birds of Prey is the latest DC Comics Cinematic Universe entry, I plan to watch it and review it here. Also it has been a long time since the highly talented Ewan McGregor had a memorable cinematic performance. I really find its concept intriguing. Warner Bros. and the filmmakers (Walter Hamada and Suicide Squad director credited as Executive Producers, plus Margot Robbie is a producer) are taking a huge risk to sell this $100 million production with an R-rating.

In closing this, here is the 2nd trailer.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com