DC Studios’ ‘Black Adam’ Deserves At Least Some Credit

Courtesy: DC Studios/Warner Brothers

Big changes are coming to the DC universe now that James Gunn and Peter Safran have taken over as the new heads of DC Studios.  Those changes will begin this year with the new Flash movie, which will be the company’s answer to Marvel Studios’ multiverse.  The movie will completely reset the entire DC cinematic (and television) universe.  New movies centered on Superman and Supergirl alike are already planned for the new universe, as well as a new Batman movie.  Swamp Thing is even getting a new try on the big screen under the watchful eyes of Gunn and Safran while Blue Beetle is getting its first ever outing, and Aquaman is getting at least one more outing.  Beyond that, little else is known about the cinematic side of things for DC Studios.

The uncertainty of DC Studios’ future beyond its first phase is important to note due to the results of two of its most recent connected movies, Shazam: Fury of the Gods and Black Adam.  Neither proved a success at the box office, with the latter resulting in an even worse result than the former in regard to their respective ticket sales.  While audiences wait to find out whether stars Zachary Levi (Shazam) and Dwayne Johnson (Black Adam) will finally face off down the road, they can at least take in Black Adam on 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack, Blu-ray and DVD.  Released to its home physical platforms Jan. 3, the movie proves itself a movie worth watching at least once that also opens the door for future movies leading up to a bigger Justice Society movie.  The movie proves itself worth watching at least once because of its story, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home physical release adds to the reason for audiences to watch the movie.  This will be discussed a little later.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of engagement and entertainment, too, so it will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Black Adam.  All things considered they make Black Adam maybe not the best of DC Studios’ offerings but also not its worst.

Black Adam was one of the last movies to be entered into the DCEU before the entrance of James Gunn and Peter Safras as the new heads of DC Studios and while not a great movie, it also is not the worst of DC Studios’ previous generation.  As a matter of fact, it actually is worth watching at least once.  That is due in part to its story.  The story is simple: Black Adam is freed from his prison of sorts after more than 5,000 years because a professor named Adrianna (played by Sarah Shahi – Alias, Old School, Bullet to the Head) summons him.  She summons him because she and her brother, Karim (Mohammed Amer – Mo, Americanish), are about to be killed by a group of mercenaries.  As a result of him being freed from his prison (He was put in the prison by the same wizards whose powers would eventually be the source of Shazam’s own power), Black Adam is still very angry and takes out his anger on those mercenaries.  From there, he goes on to face off against the members of the Justice Society, who are there to essentially apprehend him because of the danger that he poses in their eyes.  The danger lies in what the Justice Society knows about Black Adam’s history.  At first the two sides are at odds, but as the bigger story unfolds, Black Adam ends up on the side of the Justice Society just as he occasionally would in the comics world, in order to stop an evil force from the pits of Hell.  Of course, the collective ends up defeating the big bad in the end when they put aside their differences and finally fight together, and honestly the story is tied up nicely.  To that end, the concerns raised in the media about whether a sequel will ever come for Black Adam under the new DC Studios regime really should be a moot point.  Yes, there could be a second movie, but the way in which the story closes, it does just as well as a standalone story.  Add in that in the comics realm, Black Adam only comes into focus every now and then, and that negates the need for an immediate sequel.

Throughout the course of the story, the writing team of Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani does well to make sure Black Adam’s turn and the Justice Society’s role in that turn does not cause the story to get bogged down in itself.  That is definitely to be applauded.  There could have been so much ruminating on Adam’s history, but thankfully, the trio of writers save that back story for a brief sequence late in the story, allowing instead, the bigger story play out first.  It all plays out so well.

Another side item worth noting in the story is the subtle political commentary addressing America’s involvement in foreign nations.  The topic comes up more than once, the most notable moment coming as Adrianna chides Hawkman (Aldis Hodge – Die Hard with a Vengeance, One Night in Miami…, Hidden Figures) for the Justice Society’s sudden appearance in Kahndaq after no outside nation had come to the country for decades, allowing the country to be controlled for such a long time.  This is just one of a handful of moments when the topic is addressed and thankfully does not overpower the story, either, but certainly cannot be ignored.

Now for all of the good that the writing team does in this story, it is not entirely perfect.  There are some plot holes so to speak, the most notable being why exactly Adrianna is even searching for the crown in the first place.  She makes the statement at one point that the crown belonged in a museum, so was that why she wanted to find the cursed powerful crown?  This is never really explained away, and in turn does create some problems in the story’s bigger picture.  Ironically, if not for her search for the crown, Black Adam might never have been woken and Kahndaq might never had been liberated from the mercenaries and their evil grip.  To that end, one could argue that this somewhat negates that primary plot hole.  Keeping that in mind, it is easy to argue that the writing exhibited in Black Adam is for the most part a positive that works well for the movie’s presentation.

Building on the foundation formed through Black Adam’s writing is the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release.  The bonus content is presented on the movie’s Blu-ray disc in its 4K UHD/BD combo pack and obviously on the BD disc on the standalone Blu-ray format.  This is important to note because as this critic has noted so many times previously in other reviews, 4K technology is still so cost prohibitive today that not everyone has a 4K UHD BD player and/or TV.  Most people have Blu-ray players and standard hi-def monitors.  So by placing the bonus content on the BD disc on both platforms ensures a wider range of viewers will get to take in said content.

Now keeping all of this in mind, there is plenty of bonus content for everyone to enjoy, beginning with the separate bonus features focusing on the history of Black Adam and the Justice Society in the comics realm.  The separate features serve as wonderful starting points for those viewers who might be less familiar with their histories.  In learning said histories, those noted viewers could ultimately end up becoming new fans of both properties and end up looking for the original comics.  On another note, learning through both features that Johnson himself is a lifelong comic book fan is another positive for the comic book community.  That is because people who are fans of Johnson but who might have otherwise not been fans of comic books might now be encouraged to become fans themselves.  The “making of” featurette – titled here, “From Soul to Screen” adds even more depth to the viewing experience as it takes audiences into more depth in the movie.  Audiences will be especially interested to learn here, that instead of just using so much green screen and special effects, the movie’s crew and creative heads opted instead for another technology to help make each scene more realistic in its look, and it pays off greatly, too.  The tech in question is something known as LED screens.  The screens play the actual backgrounds that are used throughout the movie.  They allow the cast to actually see what they otherwise would have had to envision with a green screen, which clearly plays into not only the look of the movie, but the cast’s performance.

Speaking of the cast’s performance, the ability to see what they are doing in each scene definitely plays into the appeal of the cast’s work.  It is just part of what plays into that appeal, too.  Even in moments when the LED screens are not being overly used, the cast puts on plenty of enjoyable performances, not the least of comes from Noah Centineo (The Perfect Date, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before).  Centineo plays the part of Atom Smasher, one of the younger members of the Justice Society’s current makeup.  He essentially serves as the cast’s comic relief throughout the movie, but in doing so he makes the most of his time on screen.  There is something about his comic timing that harkens to Tobey Maguire’s take of Peter Parker in Marvel’s Sam Raimi-helmed Spiderman movies.  Not to mention a movie from another studio and comic book company, but the comparison is inescapable.  That certain lack of confidence even as he is trying to learn the ropes makes for plenty of enjoyment.  Centineo could have hammed it up in his moments on screen, but he opts for the less is more approach, making for so much enjoyment.  One can only hope that should a Justice Society movie be part of DC Studios’ future schedule, he will be part of that movie.  It would be interesting to see a more developed persona for Atom Smasher, should that happen.  No doubt he would do well.

Quintessa Swindell (Voyagers, Master Gardener), who takes on the role of another younger Justice Society member named Cyclone, puts on just as much of an enjoyable performance even though she seems to get even less screen time and even lines.  She spends more time as a supporting character, but in the few moments she gets to interact with her cast mates, she does an admirable job.  One of those very rare moments comes as she explains to Atom Smasher how she got her powers.  As with Centineo, hopefully she will have more presence in the future, should a standalone Justice Society movie be in the cards.

Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Mrs. Doubtfire) deserves just as much applause as he takes on the role of Dr. Fate.  His calm demeanor even in the most tense situations makes him an expert counter to Hodge’s more intense performance as Hawkman.  The counterpoint that the two create through their respective performances shows a definite chemistry between the actors off screen.  That apparent chemistry makes for so much enjoyment watching the duo share lines.

The members of the Justice Society are not the only cast members who deserve credit for their work.  Johnson deserves his own share of applause as the movie’s titular character.  The controlled demeanor that he presents as Black Adam is first awoken is actually quite powerful in its subtlety.  He could have so easily just done the typical thing and gone all out as has been done in so many situations in other movies by other actors.  Thankfully he did no go that route, instead showing that brewing, controlled anger.  It makes Black Adam come across as that much more dangerous right from the outset.  That is because even as powerful and destructive as he is, he does not necessarily show a lot of deference to anyone, save for Adrianna.  It is a great way to set up Black Adam especially as Adam’s change takes place over the course of the story.

On another note, his deadpan delivery about showing respect to prisoners as Adam tries to show sarcasm is so subdued, and that actually makes for another funny moment that real fans will find enjoyable.  On a similar note, his dogged determination to find Amon (Bodhi Sabongui – The Baby-Sitters Club, A Million Little Things) is just as powerful.  That is because even as clear as it is that he is determined to catch Amon’s kidnappers, there is a certain control in Adam’s presence.  Again, in so many other similar style action flicks, such sequences are over blown, but in this case, the control that he gives Adam actually makes his concern for Amon so wonderfully understated, and that makes for its own appeal for Adam.  Between these moments and others throughout the movie, Johns proves his performance is just as engaging and entertaining as those presented by his cast mates.  All things considered, the cast’s overall work throughout the movie makes for just as much appeal for this presentation as the movie’s story and its bonus content.  That overall content comes together to make Black Adam a movie that deserves to be seen at least once.

Black Adam, one of the last of DC Studios’ movies released prior to DCU’s forthcoming reset, is an interesting finale note to the company’s previous cinematic realm.  It is not the company’s best nor worst entries and deserves to be seen at least once.  That is proven in part through its relatively simple story, which tells how Black Adam became an unsuspecting her in the modern world even despite (and because of) his past.  It makes him an anti-hero figure that audiences will root for because of his imperfections.  People, for some reason, go for that brooding style persona, and will here, too.  The story does not waste a lot of time setting things up or even ruminating on Black Adam’s motivations and feelings, either.  Those discussions are there, but thankfully are limited in their use.  This makes for solid pacing, and in turn, sustained engagement and entertainment for audiences.  The bonus material that accompanies the movie in its home physical release adds to the interest in the movie.  That is because of the background that it provides on a variety of topics, including and not limited to the comic book history of Black Adam and the Justice Society.  The bonus content that focuses on the movie’s production elements makes for its own interest and in turn increases that engagement and entertainment.  The cast’s overall work builds even more on the presentation, with each main actor giving his and her own enjoyable performance.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Black Adam a movie that while not the best or worst of DC Studios’ offerings in recent years, a presentation that is still a mostly enjoyable superhero flick.

Black Adam is available on 4K UHD/BD combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD.  More information on this and other cinematic offerings from DC is available at:

Website: https://dc.com/movies

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dc

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‘League Of Super Pets’ Is Not Super, But Still Worth Watching

Courtesy: Warner Brothers/Warner Animation Group/DC Entertainment

In 2005 when Warner Brothers brought Superman’s canine friend Krypto to the small screen in his own series, it marked the first time ever that any of the DC Entertainment Universe’s animal superheroes had ever gotten its own attention.  Prior to the series’ premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers had only focused on DC’s human and superhuman stars, so it was a key step in the companies’ attempt to expand DC’s comics to screen universe.  The series less than two years from March 2005 to December 2006, spanning just two seasons and even incorporated Krypto’s original Legion of Superheroes cohort Streaky the cat.  After the series ended, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment largely abandoned any plans for any future Super Pets properties on TV and in theaters.  However, late last month, the companies brought some of DC’s super pets back to the screen again, this time in theaters in the form of League of Super Pets.  The movie, which made its theatrical debut July 29, is a mostly entertaining presentation, though is not perfect.  The main positive in this movie is its story, which will be discussed shortly.  While the story is enjoyable for the whole family (albeit not entirely accurate to the comics), the story does have one troubling aspect, that being the use of some adult language.  This will be discussed a little later.  It is not enough to doom the movie, so to that end, there is at least one more positive to note in the form of the cast’s work.  This will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered they make League of Super Pets a mostly successful new take on DC’s Legion of Super Pets comic book and new family flick.

League of Super Pets, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers’ latest addition to the ever-expanding DC Entertainment Universe, is a mostly successful overall presentation.  The movie’s story is really the key to its success.  The story in question finds Krypto, Superman’s canine friend having to assemble a group of super powered animals to help save the big blue boy scout after a guinea pig named Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live, Bombshell) bent on world domination kidnaps him and the rest of the Justice League members.  The other animals (which are not original members of the League of Super Pets from the 1962 comic book), gained their powers thanks to some orange kryptonite that broke off of an orange kryptonite meteorite and was captured by said megalomaniacal guinea pig.  The unexpected group of heroes ends up saving the day after Lex Luthor turns on Lulu, and Krypto learns a valuable lesson about friendship along the way.  Meanwhile, the other Super Pets – Ace, Chip, Merton, and PB – all end up being rescued and adopted by the other Justice League members.  There is some accuracy and inaccuracy here.  Ace has always been known to be Batman’s dog, while Chip has had a tie to the Green Lantern Corps.  PB meanwhile was never Wonder Woman’s pet.  She was Circes’ pet in the comics, but that can be forgiven.  The very message about the importance of rescuing shelter pets that is clearly tied into the story makes that forgivable.  Shelter pets need forever homes, so having that accented here in a less than preachy fashion is so welcome.  The friendships between Krypto and the group will resonate with audiences of all ages as the group takes on Lulu and Lex.

While the story featured in League of Super Pets is engaging and entertaining, there is at least one problem within the story.  That problem is the use of some adult language throughout the movie.  The language in question comes from Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne – Orange is the New Black, American Pie, Slums of Beverly Hills).  Lyonne is not to blame here, but rather the movie’s writers.  There are points where Merton clearly is meant to be using a certain foul word since it is bleeped out.  At other points, she uses clearly other foul language that is also bleeped out.  Merton is not the only one who uses some questionable language.  There is a young kitten (yes, a kitten – IE child) who says to the super pets, “See you in heck” as it tries to kill them.  Considering that this movie is rated PG and is meant to be a family friendly flick, having that language in there, even censored, is still disappointing.  That the movie’s writers and creative heads felt the need to go blue in a family movie really does detract from the movie’s appeal, and parents need to be aware of this aspect. 

While the questionable language that is peppered throughout the movie is problematic, it is not enough to make the movie a failure.  The work of the movie’s cast works with the story to make for more appeal.  Dwayne Johnson leads the way as Krypto.  At first, the announcement that he was going to take on the role was questioned by many, and justifiably so.  That is because of his current body of work.  His current body of work is composed of action flicks and very specific tough guy type roles.  It leads one to imagine Johnson giving Krypto such style persona.  Thankfully that was not the case.  He actually made Krypto endearing, showing his ability to adapt to the role. 

On a related note, Kevin Hart, who has also developed himself into a very specific type of actor, pulls back here, too.  His typically annoying, over the top approach to his roles is nonexistent here, which is appealing.  The vulnerability that he brings to Ace as Ace talks abut how he ended up at the shelter balances well with Ace’s more confident side to make Ace a well-rounded character in his own right.  McKinnon really does well in her own right to bring out Lulu’s megalomaniacal nature, too.  She does so well to make Lulu’s diabolical nature so funny and believable at the same time.  Between the performances put on by Johnson, Hart, and McKinnon, and those of the rest of the cast, the whole makes the cast’s overall work just as engaging as the movie’s story.  Those two items together make the movie in general worth watching at least once, even with the concerns of the occasional unnecessary foul language in mind.

League of Super Pets, the latest addition to Warner Brothers and DC’s ever-expanding universe, is an interesting presentation.  It succeeds in part because of its story.  The story finds Krypto having to form a new group of furry super powered friends to save the Justice League.  Along the way, he also has to learn about friendship and teamwork, which will resonate with plenty of audiences. While the story featured in this movie is accessible for audiences of all ages, the occasional use of some questionable language is disappointing.  That is the case even with it being censored.  There was no need for the movie’s writers to go blue and ruin what is otherwise a family friendly atmosphere throughout the story.  It is not enough to doom the movie but is certainly a concern.  The cast’s work pairs with the story to make for more engagement and entertainment.  That is because the cast’s performances are so believable.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered League of Super Pets proves maybe not super but still worth watching at least once.

League of Super Pets is playing now.  The movie’s home release date is under consideration.  More information on this and other titles from Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment is available at https://dc.com

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Eric Zayne’s New Single Is Getting Some Celebrity Love

Courtesy: O’Donnell Media Group

Independent rocker Eric Zayne is getting a big push thanks to a very well-known celebrity.

Zayne debuted his new single ‘Coming Undone‘ Monday.  The single is the new sound of famed pro wrestler/actor/TV host Dwayne Johnson’s new collaboration with Under Armour clothing, #ProjectRock.  The song is even featured in Johnson’s Progress Workout Playlist.

The new song was co-written by Zayne, Naz Tokio, and Lauren Hashian.  It was performed and produced by Zayne.  The song’s musical arrangement boasts a bluesy approach and sound that also incorporates a touch of stoner rock influence to its whole.

Zayne’s own vocal delivery plays into that sound, adding a slightly gritty touch to the song while the subtle, steady beat on the floor tom adds to the arrangement’s infectious nature.  The song’s bass line expertly compliments that steady drum beat to enrich the song even more.

The lyrical theme featured in Zayne’s new song addresses the personal obstacles that Zayne has faced in life and his overcoming of those obstacles.

Zayne discussed this matter in a recent interview.

“I am a refuge kid,” he said. “I represent the displaced people who feel like they don’t belong. Being a child of war from the Congo evacuated at the age of 12 without my family left me to raise myself. I learned my strength in do or die scenarios, but I also picked up a lot of demons. I was lucky enough to find music early on and ride its wings performing all over the world which includes Asia, Europe, Canada and the US, all since I was 15 years old. I’m driven by the belief that we are all individually special and have our path to walk. I hope to bring some light to those who need it.”

More information on Eric Zayne’s new single is available along with all of his latest news at:


Website: http://ericzayne.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ericzayne


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Universal Pictures Announces ‘Fate Of The Furious’ Home Release Date

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

The latest installment in the hit Fast & Furious franchise is racing to home release.

Fate of the Furious will be released Tuesday, July 11 on DVD, Blu-ray and 4KUltra HD Combo pack.  It will be preceded by a digital HD release on Tuesday, June 27. Audiences can see the movie’s trailer online now here.

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Vin Diesel, Jason Staham, Michelle Rodriguez, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, the movie follows Dom, Letty, Mia, Brian and the rest of their friends as they embark on one more globe-trotting, action-filled adventure.  This time, the threat that the elite driving corps faces comes from a deranged anarchist bent on bringing total chaos to the world.

The movie’s upcoming home release on DVD and Blu-ray includes a digital director’s cut and more than an hour of bonus content including a behind-the-scenes look at the stunts used throughout the movie, audio commentary with director F. Gary Gray and extended fight scenes.  The movie’s Blu-ray release will feature its own bonus material that will be exclusive to that platform.

The full listing of the movie’s bonuses is noted below.


  • The Cuban Spirit –As the first major studio motion picture to shoot in Cuba in decades, the country’s effusive spirit permeates the making of the film.
  • In the Family –In The Fate of the Furious, family ties are put to the ultimate test. Get an inside look at the family divide.
  • Car Culture –It’s time to put yourself in the driver’s seat of the supercharged vehicles showcased in The Fate of the Furious.


  • All About the Stunts –Go behind the scenes to witness how The Fate of the Furiousaccomplished the most epic stunts in franchise history.
  • Extended Fight Scenes
  • Feature Commentary with Director F. Gary Gray

Director F. Gary Gray’s never-before-seen extended cut and the Theatrical release are available on all physical products (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD) that will include digital codes for both versions.  Also available on digital platforms.

More information on The Fate of the Furious is available online now at:




Website: http://uni.pictures/FateFuriousExtended

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FastandFurious

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FastFurious




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‘Moana’ Makes For An Enjoyable Occasional Watch

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios has gone to great lengths in recent years to attract young female audiences looking for something other than the standard damsel in distress stories.  New strong female leads such as Princess Elena (Elena of Avalor), Merida (Brave) and Elsa and Anna (Frozen) have proven those efforts have paid off.  The company’s take on Rapunzel (Tangled) could be argued either way.  Late last year, the House of Mouse brought its young female audiences another strong female role model in the form of Moana.  The Polynesian teen’s coming-of-age story proved to be a rousing success for Disney in terms of sales.  Now available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, the movie has proven to be just as much of a financial boon for the company.  As successful as it has performed, this latest teen-centric tale of self-realization and friendship is, in reality, not Disney’s best.  It is not a total loss, though.  That should be emphasized here.  That is due in part to its dual-pronged story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The story’s pacing does take away from the story, bogging it down more than once.  The movie’s bonus material should also be noted in examining its overall presentation.  That will be discussed at more length later, too.  Each element plays its own part in Moana’s overall presentation.  They show that while it is anything but Disney’s best, it is also not the studio’s worst effort either.  It is worth at least an occasional watch.

Walt Disney Studios’ latest animated adventure Moana is hardly the famed studio’s finest work.  To be fair, it is also not the company’s worst effort.  It is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to the movie’s dual-pronged story.  The most obvious of those two prongs is Moana’s own coming-of-age story.  After being told by her father not to go beyond the reef, she decides (on the advice of her grandmother) that she should make her own decision.  This leads her to strike out on her own adventure in an effort to save her island and its surrounding islands.  This story of self-actualization generates, in itself secondary messages about finding one’s own way in life, not being afraid to take chances, and so many other messages.  The movie’s writing staff is to be commended for the way in which they incorporated those messages into the central story without allowing them to overpower the script’s central story.  They are to be commended just as much for the balance of that central story with the secondary story of Maui’s turn from villain to hero.

The secondary story of Maui’s turn from villain to hero is just as commonplace in the cinematic realm as Moana’s coming-of-age tale.  As the pair journeys to return the heart of Taffiti Moana eventually leads Maui to realize the error of his ways, leading him to make a tough decision about himself and about personal sacrifice, leading him to atone for his past wrongs and become a hero.  It is, in its own right, its own coming-of-age story, just more in the avenue of self-actualization.  This story of personal growth is just as commonplace in the cinematic realm as Moana’s coming-of-age tale.  Yet somehow the script’s writing team was able to make both stories work.  That ability to make both stories so entertaining makes the movie’s writing team deserving of its share of applause.  At the same time though, that applause cannot be too loud.  That is due to the problem raised through the story’s pacing.

Moana’s writers are to be commended for joining two common-place cinematic stories and somehow balancing them.  They are to be commended, too for somehow taking at least a somewhat original approach to the all-too-familiar stories.  While the writers are to be commended for the efforts taken to make those stories work collectively and alone, they cannot be applauded too loudly.  That is because their efforts also led to a pacing problem that clearly bogs down the movie.  That pacing issue is evident early on as Moana is given the heart, only to lose it when she is caught by her father.  The problem here is that it meant the story had to take a lot of unnecessary time building up to Moana getting the heart back from a somewhat expected source all while she is growing up and finding her way all before she even embarks on her epic journey.  Once Moana finally gets her voyage, things pick back up a little, only to get bogged down again as she and Maui get randomly attacked by a bunch of mutant-type living coconut pirates.  Yes, mutant-type, living coconut pirates.  Sounds like the premise for a really bad 1950s B-sci-fi flick, right?  Once they escape the creatures’ (which conjure thoughts of the goombas from the Mario Brothers video game franchise) clutches, the story does pick up again, only to be bogged down yet again later as Maui (at least temporarily) deserts Moana—not to give away too much—before things pick up again in the story’s final act.  Considering the constant back and forth of the story’s pacing, keeping audiences engaged in the nearly two-hour movie is not easy.  That could potentially chalked up to the fact that it seems like the writers just threw together elements of past Disney offerings such as Aladdin, Hercules, and so many others and hoped they would make this story work.  They made the story’s dual-pronged approach work.  But they clearly caused problems in the story’s pacing.

The pacing of Moana’s dual-pronged story is a problem that cannot be ignored in examining the movie’s overall presentation.  The constant back and forth of the movie’s pacing makes maintaining audiences’ engagement (especially younger audiences) problematic.  Luckily, the efforts of the movie’s writing team to balance the stories and somehow make them at least somewhat original makes enduring the pacing problems easier.  Another element that makes up (at least somewhat) for the movie’s pacing is the bonus material included in the movie’s home release.  The movie’s key bonus feature is the documentary “Voices of the Islands.”  The roughly half-hour program takes viewers along with the movie’s heads to the South Pacific as they studied the Polynesian people and their culture ahead of the movie’s creation.  Audiences will be surprised to see how much of the region’s culture—from the importance of family and community to the importance of the coconut to even something as minor as the people’s hair style—plays directly into the movie in this program.  All of these discussions exhibit just how much time and work went into making the movie believable and that it properly paid tribute to the people on which it is centered.  It creates a new respect for the work put in to bring the story to life and is yet another example of how bonus features can make an otherwise forgettable flick more memorable and not the last.  The bonus ‘Gone Fishin’’ short that features Moana and Maui adds its own enjoyment to the movie’s overall presentation.  When the movie’s bonus material and its story are coupled together, they make the one negative of the movie’s pacing bearable.  The end result is a viewing experience that audiences of all ages will enjoy even with just the occasional watch.

Walt Disney Studios’ new animated movie Moana is not the studio’s best effort, nor is it the company’s worst offering.  It is a movie that is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to the balance in the movie’s dual-pronged story.  The story’s pacing is problematic.  There is no denying that, but luckily it is not so problematic that it makes the movie unwatchable.  The bonus material that is included in the movie’s home release gives audiences even more reason to give it a chance; especially the movie’s companion 30-minute “Voices of the Islands” documentary.  That bonus documentary, when coupled with the movie’s balanced two-part story, the two elements do plenty to make up for the movie’s pacing problems.  That combination makes the movie worth watching at least once in a while.  More information on Moana is available online now at:




Website: http://movies.disney.com/moana




Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/disneymoana




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G.I. Joe Sequel Another Of 2013’s Worst Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2013 has been a rough year for the movie industry.  It has been either feast or famine for the big studios.  That is thanks in large part to the glut of sequels churned out by the industry’s major studios.  From the upper echelons all the way down to the general movie-goer, those same studios have been lambasted for their increasing reliance on sequels.  The latest movie in the G.I. Joe franchise justifies those darts even more.  Sure it has lots of flash-bang-boom action sequences and its share of special effects, and an easy to understand storyline, it doesn’t have much else.  Some might consider this a good thing for an action movie.  But the reality is because of this, it turns out to be one more movie that won’t take long to end up in the discount bins at retail outlets now that it is officially out on DVD and Blu-ray.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t the worst of the year’s movies.  It isn’t the worst of the record thirty-seven sequels that will have hit theaters by the year’s end.  But it isn’t one of the year’s best movies, either.  The question remains then, what is it about this movie that has left it in movie limbo so to speak?  To answer that isn’t easy.  But it isn’t impossible, either.  The best place to begin with the movie is its writing.  The story’s writing is for the most part, relatively simplistic.  It is also very predictable.  Right from the story’s opening minutes, audiences learn that at the end of the franchise’s first flick, Cobra Commander and Destro had both been captured and placed in special suspended animation tanks of sorts.  It is pretty obvious from this point where the story would progress.  It doesn’t get much better.  From here, audiences are introduced to the story’s secondary plot, the evil twin plot headed by the evil Zartan.  Simple math, right?  Yes.  Two plus two equals four.  Yet another world domination plot on the part of Cobra, which at least goes along with the old cartoon series from the 80s and early 90s.

The predictability of the story in G.I. Joe: Retaliation is just one microscopic part of the problem with its writing.  Just when one thinks the writing couldn’t get any worse, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick make the story even more convoluted by adding in a third storyline involving Snake Eyes’ (one of the few remaining Joes after Cobra’s attack on the Joes) hunt for his arch nemesis, Stormshadow.  Snake Eyes has to nab Stormshadow and bring him back to answer for the murder of his sensei, of which he was accused of committing as a child.  This additional storyline really wasn’t necessary to the overall outcome of the movie.  Wernick and Reese must have known this as they tried to justify it by making sure that only Stormshadow would know the full extent of Cobra’s evil plans this time out.  They could have still had him be a key player without the extra drama.  Had all of this extra fluff been cut, it would have saved a lot of time and maybe even made all of the movie’s over-the-top fight scenes and explosions justified.  But no, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Instead, they left it in.  And to make matters even worse, they made the story drag on even more by adding in unnecessary elements of melodrama both on the part of Stormshadow and the remaining Joes.  There is the whole aspect of Stormshadow having to come to terms with Zartan being the real killer and tricking him when he was a child.  And then there is Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) coming to terms with taking over the Joes after Duke’s (Channing Tatum) death early on.  Let us also not forget Lady Jaye’s own drama involving her father issues, too.  It’s all extra fat that could have been trimmed from the whole thing to make it at least more bearable.

Had the unnecessary elements noted above been removed from the movie’s final script, that removal would have made G.I. Joe: Retaliation more bearable.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  Even the choice of the movie’s title is problematic.  The very inclusion of the word “retaliation” in the title hurts the movie even more.  It’s an ambiguous subtitle.  That’s because in reality, both Cobra and the remaining Joes are retaliating against one another for everything that had happened in the course of the franchise’s first film.  More than likely, the intent was for the subtitle to be aimed more at the retaliation of G.I. Joe against Cobra for its actions against its forces.  But again, the ambiguity is there; too much of it in fact to make such a subtitle work.  And along with the already poor writing, it reduces the movie’s credibility even more.

There is so much that went wrong with G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  However, it would be unfair to ignore the only shining rays of hope that this largely forgettable Summer action flick does have.  Those rays of hope lie in the movie’s really cool gadgets and its action sequences.  Again, had the gadgets and action sequences been left with the predictable writing, the movie would not have been half as bad as it turned out to be.  But because that didn’t happen, the action sequences come across as little more than an excuse to try and distract viewers from the poor writing.  This is most clearly evident in the ironic fact that the most exciting of the action sequences was one that itself might not have even been necessary.  It involves Snake Eyes and his protégé, Jinx, facing a horde of ninjas along a sheer cliff face after having recovered Stormshadow in the aforementioned equally unnecessary extra story line.  As impressive as this sequence was, the only way that it (and its companion story line) could be justified is the fact that so many of the cast members from the previous film didn’t return this time out for whatever given reason.  So something was needed (in the minds of the writers) to advance the storyline.  Thus this sequence and its associated story line were inserted.  Had both elements been removed in the end, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still could have survived.  Sure it probably would have still ended up being forgotten in the grand scheme of things.  But it still would have survived and even taken more seriously.  As enchanted as studio heads continue to be with franchises, it would be no surprise if audiences eventually see another sequel or even a franchise reboot already.  When either of these scenarios plays out, one can only hope that whoever writes its script will learn from all of this and will make a movie that will return honor to the name and legacy that is G.I. Joe.

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