Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS

Aside

I love a good documentary, but none more than Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. Last year, Erika and I had the distinct pleasure of viewing this film (and reviewing it), and it moved me beyond words. It says so many of the things I want to say here at this blog about women and comics. For this fangirl, it’s an intelligent, poignant and supremely validating look at the female superheroine and her role in shaping the American woman. It is a must see film for ALL comic book fans. Beyond comic fandom, it will enlighten the friends and families of comic lovers of the power of comics in culture.

WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES will have its television broadcast premiere in the United States on PBS’s Independent Lens series on Monday, April 15, 2013. Check your local listings to confirm the time and date.

G3 Review: The Amazing Spider-Man


Whether a Spider-Man film, especially an origin story, is necessary so soon after the last franchise ended is debatable but ultimately irrelevant. Box office take aside, the real test of a film’s legitimacy is its quality. Is the reboot that no one was clamoring for any good?

Yes, it is. The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t always live up to the title, but it’s an entertaining, likable popcorn movie that is very lucky to have Andrew Garfield in the lead role. Garfield brings an emotional complexity and unexpected edge to this version of an extremely well-known character. His Peter Parker is a good guy and a nerd all right, but he’s got an undercurrent of anger and nervous energy that makes him exciting to watch. The Amazing Spider-Man is also a love story, and a mighty sweet one at that. Continue reading

G3 Review: Super 8

Between outrageous ticket prices and patrons who can’t stop texting/Tweeting/yapping for even two lousy seconds after the lights go down, I’ve often wondered whether it’s still possible to experience child-like joy at the movies. However, my skepticism was no match for the wonderful J.J. Abrams-directed thriller Super 8. It was like time travel. Just seconds into this film, I could feel myself turning back into that 12-year-old girl who was watching E.T. for the first time. Continue reading

G3 Review: Sucker Punch

Ladies and Gents, this review contains SPOILERS.

Critics have slammed it, and the box office numbers are dismal in comparison to the $82 million budget. The former affecting the latter, I’m sure. But Sucker Punch has quickly become a polarizing film in pop culture fandom. I stand firmly on the side of the pleated skirts. Orcs, fishnets, and Steampunk Nazis? Oh, yeah. Baby Doll leads us on a physics-defiant fantasy ride within her two-tiered dissociative delusions, which are the movie. Continue reading

Rethinking Lois

Rumors are swirling that Lois Lane might not be the female lead in the upcoming Superman movie, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating on who should play her if and when the time comes. As much as I love Emily Blunt and Rachel McAdams, I’m a little annoyed by how monochromatic the entertainment media wish-lists are. While some armchair casting agents have looked beyond the typical starlets, most have been depressingly predictable. Obviously, the role should go to the best actress available. However, there are a number of wonderful actresses who don’t even seem to be in the running. Hollywood, here are some alternatives you might want to consider:

Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa Lathan: She’s played plenty of strong characters, and her turn as a driven career woman in the little-seen Something New was really good. As an actress, Lathan has the right mix of steeliness and vulnerability to do right by the role.

Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones: The multitalented Ms. Jones could do a great screwball comedy turn on Lois Lane, harkening back to the Margot Kidder model. There’s something wonderfully perky about her, and since she’s co-authored a comic book, we know she’s a fan of the medium.

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes: Besides having a stunning screen presence, Eva just comes across as a formidable woman. She’s also funny, as her turn as Will Ferrell’s wife in The Other Guys proves. I can definitely see her staring down a shady mofo on the other side of a reporter’s notebook.

 

Anika Noni Rose

Anika Noni Rose: The voice of Disney’s first African-American princess and big-screen Dreamgirl would make a plucky, loveable Lois. She’s a fresh face and a big talent who deserves more exposure. Plus, she’s a fellow alum of my alma mater (Florida A&M, represent!).

Grace Park: She’s been on Battlestar Galactica (geek cred!), and she’s currently Det. Kona Klakaua in the updated Hawaii Five-O TV show (badass!) Enough said.

Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton: OK, Thandie was my top choice to play Selina Kyle, but that ain’t gonna happen. So why not give this lovely, proven actress a chance to do her thing as the most famous reporter in the DCU? Besides, who would deny this woman a quote?

G3 Review: Batman-Under the Red Hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood
Rating: PG-13
Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Judd Winick
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs

If you’ve been a geek for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered your Scott and Jean — a comic book topic that makes you so angry that you can’t discuss it without going completely off. I’m not talking casual disdain, but full, frightening-the-children rage. As someone who was deeply affected by Batman: A Death in the Family when it was originally published, I’d long considered Jason Todd’s return from the grave to be my Scott and Jean. Especially since said return has often amounted to little more than violent douchery. (Big spoilers ahead.)

While I eventually reached a sort of Zen acceptance about Jason’s resurrection, I had no intention of watching, let alone enjoying, the animated film adaptation of Judd Winick’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. My husband ordered it On Demand, and after a long day, I simply didn’t have the will to get off the couch. The bottom line: Jason’s presence remains problematic in a bigger sense, but it works surprisingly well in a self-contained story. And despite the inherent cheapness of bringing characters back from the dead, Under the Red Hood has some truly gripping moments that evoke the raw sadness of A Death in the Family.

Nothing annoys Bruce Wayne like a fellow vigilante, particularly one who has no problem capping criminals. So when a nouveau Red Hood shows up in Gotham City and starts blowing shit up, Bruce and Dick Grayson (still Nightwing in this context) go after him. Even if you’re not familiar with the Judd Winick-penned comics the movie is based on, it doesn’t take much to figure out Mr. Hood’s identity. After all, the story is punctuated with flashbacks of Bruce and Jason’s time together as Batman and Robin, including the latter’s sickening death at the Joker’s hand. That scene alone is worthy of a PG-13 rating, so make no mistake: Under the Red Hood is not appropriate for small or sensitive children.

Speaking of the Joker, John DiMaggio’s voice work as the cackling menace to society is excellent. His delivery is alternately ha-ha funny and ha-ha-now-he’s-freaking-me-out creepy. Bruce Greenwood is a solid Batman, and you can never go wrong with Neil Patrick Harris, who gives voice to Nightwing. Jensen Ackles is fine, if not memorable, as Jason Todd. The animation is well executed, and it’s more fluid than some of the earlier DC direct-to-DVD offerings.

Under the Red Hood is sure to rekindle the conversation about Batman’s no-killing code, particularly where the Joker is concerned. As the Red Hood himself puts it, we’re not talking about Penguin or Harvey Dent (Two-Face), but a serial, gleeful murderer who beat an adolescent to death and put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. Seriously; go back and look at those panels of the Joker clubbing Jason with a crowbar and tell me that guy doesn’t deserve far worse than a presidential suite at Arkham. (Gee, maybe THIS is my Scott and Jean.) I get Bruce’s concern about tumbling into the abyss, but somehow, I think he’d be OK. And this being DC, it’d only be a matter of time before the Joker came back to life!

My non-geek spouse, who completely dug this movie, had the advantage of being able to view it without the continuity baggage. We both agreed that the final scene is real heart-tugger, but it also reminded me of what an awkward position Jason Todd now occupies within the DC Universe. Considering all he’s been through — including the readers’ decision to off him in the first place — I can’t help but think he deserves more than a gold Crazy Medal.

New Spidey: What Say Ye?

Alas, the movement to cast Donald Glover as the next big-screen Spider-Man fell short, though not for lack of trying. V. and I were among the many “Community” fans who thought it would have been a stroke of genius to have Glover play everynerd/superhero Peter Parker in the forthcoming reboot. However, British actor Andrew Garfield has nabbed the role. OK, fine. He’s certainly got the traditional Peter Parker-y look, and though I have yet to see Garfield in anything, legitimate sources say that he is funny (something a young Spider-Man should be) and talented. That’s a good sign.

I hope the Glover campaign wasn’t completely for naught, though. Maybe the studio will at least offer him a juicy supporting role, or perhaps he’ll now be a serious contender to play another movie hero. The main argument against his casting was that a black Spider-Man might confuse people, but I don’t see how. Young, brilliant man bitten by radioactive spider. Develops super powers. Puts on tights. Fights crime. Where’s the confusion?

What’s your take on Garfield’s casting? Who should play Mary Jane? Aunt Mae? (Helen Mirren in the house!) Do you even care about this franchise?

Donald Glover for Spider-Man!

No joke. We can see it.

The hilarious NBC sitcom “Community” is on a short list of things we love as much as reading comic books. So cast member Donald Glover — aka junior college jock, Troy — had G3 at biblioteca when he began campaigning for the Peter Parker role in the forthcoming “Spider-Man” film reboot. Glover is a gem on a show filled with them, and the studio would be smart to take his interest seriously. The fact that he’s African American isn’t an obstacle — it’s an opportunity to breathe new life into a movie franchise that’s grown a little tired. Here’s why putting Glover in red and blue tights makes perfect sense:

Filmgoers need a reason to care.
The last movie in the Tobey Maguire-led trilogy was released just three years ago, so when news of a reboot began circling a few months ago, even hardcore geeks were asking, “Why?” Spider-Man hasn’t been gone long enough for us to miss him, and there’s a big cloud of been-there-done-that hanging over this idea. Casting someone unexpected — like a nonwhite actor — would certainly heighten filmgoers’ interest, and you could do worse than a guy on a critically acclaimed TV show.

Glover’s a good actor.
When you can hold your own in a scene with Chevy Chase, you’re obviously doing something right. Comedic acting is harder than it looks, and Glover’s take on Troy, a less-than-brilliant former high school football star, is endearing and frequently LOL funny. He’s handsome but accessible in that boy-next-door way, and Glover could easily amp up the intelligence to play reluctant superhero Peter Parker. He’d be awfully cute in glasses, not to mention the suit.

Spidey is familiar enough to re-imagine.
With three very recent live-action movies on DVD shelves, Spider-Man is well known to the general public — so familiar that taking him in a direction shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Besides …

Kids don’t care that much.
On an Around Comics podcast several months ago, one of the panelists mentioned that his nephew, who is white, had this reaction to Ryan Reynolds’ casting as Green Lantern: “Green Lantern’s white now? Aw, man.” This kid had grown up on the Justice League Cartoon Network series, in which the resident Green Lantern is a black man, John Stewart. I could be wrong, but the racial freak-outs — at least as far as entertainment goes — seem to be more of an adult specialty.

Peter is an outsider.
Peter Parker’s origin story is full of teen-outsider angst, and take it from me: Few things are more ‘outside’ than a black, adolescent geek. Glover could take that aspect of Parker’s life in a whole ’nother direction.

While we’re on this topic, can the filmmakers please cast a better Mary Jane this time around? It would be cool for the studio to cast a talented, non-white performer in that role, too, but that (unfortunately) might be asking too much. If so, I hereby nominate cute-as-a-button Alison Brie, another fabulous “Community” cast member. She and Glover have such good chemistry, and in her recurring role on “Mad Men,” she’s proven that she can do drama as well as comedy. Bring on the Clairol #44 red hair coloring, and it’s a wrap. Hollywood, you’re welcome!

Beyonce As Wondy?

Well, damn.

On the Entertainment Weekly website, writer Darrin Franich sparked a lively debate by suggesting that Beyonce play the lead in a yet-to-be-greenlit Wonder Woman movie. It’s not an entirely new discussion: In 2008, the megastar herself said that she’d love to rock Diana’s tiara, and that a black Wonder Woman would make a powerful, 21st-Century statement.

We at G3 are not Beyonce haters. She’s a gorgeous, talented entertainer, and no one would be happier than me to see a black woman in a superhero film. Not that one of the world’s biggest stars needs my stamp of approval, but even with all of B.’s assets, I can’t get behind this idea.

She’d certainly look great in the costume, and I know our society is supposed to be all post-racial now. (And let me know how that’s going, because there seems to be plenty of hostile, openly racist commentary on this topic.) However, Wonder Woman is an iconic figure who has been white for 70 years. In order for Jane and Joe Moviewatcher to get past that, any nonwhite actress who played the lead would have to be amazing. Kenneth Branagh was criticized for casting Idris Elba as a Norse deity in the upcoming “Thor” movie, but guess what? Idris Elba is an established actor, and a really good one. He isn’t a singer who’s still learning the acting craft.

Beyonce’s acting has gotten better, but it’s still not good enough to take on one of the best-known superheroes of all time — especially one who is so woefully overdue for a major, live-action movie. Besides, every time B. gets a juicy film role, I can’t help but think that someone with better chops was cheated. It’s not like Hollywood has that many brown actresses on speed-dial to begin with, and Beyonce doesn’t exactly need the work or the exposure.

Alas, life and movies aren’t fair, I wouldn’t boycott a Wonder Woman movie just because I disagreed with the casting. Plenty of filmgoers — including my husband — would happily buy a ticket to see Beyonce in that tiara, and her acting ability probably wouldn’t have much to do with it.

What’s your take on the casting debate?

Is Hit-Girl Badass, Or Just Bad?


As a parent, I feel compelled to say that I do not condone murderous, vigilante shenanigans and extreme, “Deadwood”-style swearing by children. OK?

That being said, the “Kick-Ass” trailer showcasing the foul-mouthed, cap-busting 11-year-old character Hit-Girl is bananas. My friend T., who studied film in college, described it perfectly as “One of the most appalling movie clips I’ve ever seen, and one of the most awesome.” I haven’t read Mark Millar’s “Kick-Ass” comic, but based on this clip alone, I kinda wish the movie was just about Hit-Girl. Continue reading