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– by David Kozlowski

 

By David Kozlowski   |   7 July 2017

Welcome to Issue #10 of The LRM WEEKEND, a weekly column offering opinions about film, TV, comics, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, animation, and anime. We also want to hear from you! Share your feedback and ideas for future columns: @LRM_Weekend

PREVIOUS ISSUES: 8.18.17 | 8.11.17 | 8.4.17 | 7.28.17 | 7.21.17 | 7.14.17

 

Hey LRM Weekenders, we’ve hit double-digits! This week we’re taking a dive into the odd career of martial artist-action star Steven Seagal, exploring the creations of Hellboy’s Mike Mignola, and reaching back to the amazing, epic sci-fi films of the 80s. But first, in our editorial we explain why WB needs to stick a knife between the ribs of the DCEU and dump it into the nearest body of water.

 

Warner Bros. Must Come To Their Senses And Kill The DCEU — Focus On Stand-Alone Solo and Elseworlds Films!

Hollywood has fallen deeply, tragically in love with trilogies, franchises, and connected universes, often to the detriment of simple, clear storytelling. Movie theaters today are dominated by sequels and spin-offs that prize continuity over character development and focused narratives. Over the last couple of years several studios have learned harsh lessons about jumping headfirst into the deep end of cinematic universe construction. Unfortunately, Hollywood appears to be doubling-down, greenlighting more sprawling universes within genres like horror, action, sci-fi, as well as superheroes. However, outside of Marvel, Star Trek, and Star Wars there are few properties that have proven capable of sustaining audience interest over multiple years (much less successive decades).

Arguably, if there’s any property out there ripe for a shared, cinematic universe it’s the WB’s DC Comics (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, et al). Unfortunately, their initial foray into universe-building has been more bust than boom, leading many to speculate whether they can sustain it long-term. Their most recent entry, Wonder Woman, is a mammoth success — a real game-changer for the genre. However, the film barely references other DC properties, which raises the question of whether a connection to Batman or Superman was even necessary.

DC’s superhero characters have existed since the 1930s, and their popularity today is stronger than ever (based on box office returns). Richard Donner’s Superman films of the 70s, Tim Burton’s Batman of the 90s, and Chris Nolan and Zak Snyder’s more recent Batman and Superman reboots have permanently solidified these brands in the public’s consciousness. These films told compelling, stand-alone stories without the need for crossovers or other extraneous relationships — each is a complete film with a definitive beginning, middle, and ending; their sequels merely built on the previous films, but weren’t slaves to a broader narrative. But then in 2008 everything changed, and Hollywood (and DC particularly) has been reeling ever since.

Marvel Studios released The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, the first in a series of films that introduced and connected several of Marvel’s lesser-known superheroes, including Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury in a first-of-its kind, shared, cinematic universe (aka The MCU). Marvel established these characters in separate, stand-alone films, and then brought it all together in The Avengers (2012), a team-up film that knocked Hollywood on its collective ass (and created a template that no one else has really been able to copy).

Perhaps believing they had the stronger hand, WB sought to replicate the MCU; they branded their version the “DC Extended Universe” (DCEU). Rather than build-up slowly, as Marvel had done, WB attempted to flip-the-script with Superman v Batman (2016); a mega team-up film combining cornerstone characters: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, and Doomsday — the film made a lot of money, but did little to convince skeptical fans or critics of the need for the DCEU. Part of the problem was that audiences were only a few years removed from Nolan’s Batman films; additionally, Snyder was more or less given the reins to oversee the DCEU, but many were polarized by his filmmaking style, which was dark and somber compared to Marvel’s light and humor-laden films. WB also announced a massive list of future DCEU films, which has been in flux almost from the moment it appeared.

Today, DC and WB are stuck in a never-ending cycle of announcement, retraction, alteration, and re-announcement for their ever-changing slate of DCEU films. Directors and stars are dropping-out, projects are moving around, and fans are becoming confused and frustrated by the lack of any consistent or cohesive vision. And it’s all because WB/DC desperately wants to beat Disney/Marvel at the universe game (and they don’t need to). The reality is, WB doesn’t need the DCEU, and frankly they should just kill it and pretend that it never happened at all.

Consider two recent top 10 superhero films, Deadpool (2016) and Logan (2017), which are both Marvel properties that were released without overt connection to any existing universe. These are stand-alone films that generally ignored continuity with any other Marvel property. In the parlance of Marvel comics, these are “What If?” movies that are intentionally made outside of continuity — fans and critics loved them; DC has their own such non-continuity label: “Elseworlds,” which they should embrace with both arms.

After the release of Justice League this November, DC needs to have a gut check. The DCEU is an anchor dragging down every film they’re making or planning. Meanwhile, projects like Logan, Deadpool, Wonder Woman, and even the first Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) clearly show that fans simply want good, fun, exciting, well-told superhero movies — continuity be damned.

I believe that many of DC’s announced films (Shazam, Justice League Dark, Joker Origins) would be much, much stronger without obvious connection to any other DC film, freeing them up to tell whatever stories they wish. Look at it from another angle, consider the growing concern over Ben Affleck’s up-and-down relationship with DC, if continuity constrains the DC films, what happens to Batgirl, Nightwing, or Suicide Squad 2 if he suddenly bails — sounds like major script re-writes to me. Then there’s the premise of The Flash: Flashpoint, a time-travel film wherein Barry Allen’s journey literally alters character identities and present-day timelines, a genie not easily put back into the bottle (The CW tried a variant of Flashpoint in its The Flash TV series, and the results were no bueno).

For the good of all their film projects, WB needs to murder the DCEU and replace it with Elseworlds. Drop continuity altogether from their slate, make each film work as a stand-alone project, and allow sequels to build upon previous events but not be slavish to them. A great (non-superhero) example of “What If” or “Elseworlds” premise in-action is the James Bond franchise, which has seldom concerned itself with what happened before or after each iteration. Bond is even replaced every 4 or 5 films without much issue, and occasionally an old adversary even re-emerges, but it’s all in service of telling the best Bond possible with each entry. This is the obvious roadmap for WB and DC, but I fear that they’re too caught-up in universe building — if they’re not careful, audiences can (and will) vote with their feet (just ask the producers of King Arthur, The Mummy, and The Dark Tower).

SOURCES: Marvel , DC

Each week we’ll choose a familiar (or not so familiar) fighter and their base style. Our goal is to help fans understand a bit more about the differences between the various fighting styles shown in our favorite movies and shows, how they compare and contrast, and what makes them cool!

STEVEN SEAGAL – AIKIDO

FIGHT OF THE WEEK: OUT FOR JUSTICE (1991)

BONUS: AIKIDO DOCUMENTARY (NAT GEO 2011)

Who Is Steven Seagal?

Steven Frederic Seagal (1952-present) is an American actor, producer, screenwriter, director, martial artist, and musician who holds American, Russian, and Serbian citizenship. Seagal earned a 7th-dan black belt in Aikido while studying the art in Japan — he eventually became the first foreigner to operate an Aikido dojo in the country.

Seagal’s Hollywood career began as a martial arts instructor on the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983) — where he allegedly broke actor Sean Connery’s wrist during production. In 1988, Seagal made his acting debut in Andy Davis’ Above the Law, a modestly successfulcrime-thriller set in Chicago. Seagal’s breakout role, however, was in Under Siege (1992), another collaboration with Andy Davis, wherein he played a Navy SEAL who almost single-handedly thwarts a terrorist attack at sea. Seagal has starred in a variety of action films and even a reality TV show about his work in real-world law enforcement.

Why Should We Care?

Much has been written about Steven Seagal’s career and martial arts prowess (much of it negative). He is a divisive personality, given to conflict and bombast — particularly in recent years. Seagal has worked in law enforcement, he’s taught firearms skills to police officers, and he is a legitmate martial artist with exceptional skills. He is primarily an Aikido stylist, which is an fighting style that emphasizes joint locks, takedowns, and turning an opponent’s force against them.

The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques, coupled with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, staff and knife. Founded by Morihei Ueshiba early in the twentieth century following his own extensive study of various armed and unarmed martial systems, Aikido represents a potent distillation of centuries of Japanese martial knowledge. It is one of the most widely practiced budo, or martial way, in the world.

SOURCES: EPIC FIGHTS – Tony , Mariacher

Each week in The Creators we’ll showcase a legend or innovator from our favorite comics, movies, and shows via profiles, interviews, and documentaries that highlight these amazing individuals from any point in the last 100 years of pop culture.

ARTIST AND WRITER: MIKE MIGNOLA

THE AMAZING ART OF MIKE MIGNOLA

MIKE MIGNOLA INTERVIEW #1

MIKE MIGNOLA INTERVIEW #2

Who Is Mike Mignola?

Michael Joseph “Mike” Mignola (1960-present) is an American comics artist and writer known for creating the “Mignola-verse” for Dark Horse Comics, a collection of titles including Hellboy, B.P.R.D. and various spinoffs (Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, etc.). He has also created similarly themed titles for Dark Horse including Baltimore, The Amazing Screw-On Head and Joe Golem, Occult Detective.

Mignola’s film work includes Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Blade II (2002), the 2004 adaptation of Hellboy, its 2008 sequel and 2018 reboot.

Why Should We Care?

Few comic book creators have been able to transcend the medium and break into both film and pop culture… fewer still have achieved the overall success of artist and writer Mike Mignola, who is probably best known for his Hellboy comics and graphic novels. However, Mignola is also a much sought-after artist and storyteller in Hollywood — his work was THE inspiration for Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) animated film and he’s been a concept artist on Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Guillermo del Toro’s Blade II (2002).

Mignola is a graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts, an intense and highly-respected college in Oakland, California where he earned a BFA in illustration. He got his professional start as a freelance artist in comic trade publication, The Comic Reader, in 1982. He later found work as an inker at Marvel (on Daredevil, Power Man, Iron Fist, and Hulk). His comics breakthrough came in 1988 on Cosmic Odyssey, a DC comics mini-series that combined the Justice League with Jack Kirby’s New Gods; he went on to create the revered Gotham by Gaslight, an Elseworlds tale of Batman in the Victorian era. In 1994 Mignola signed with Dark Horse, who published his first Hellboy story: Seed of Destruction.

In recent years Mignola has turned away from Hellboy to pursue other characters and stories, such as The Amazing Screw-On Head, Baltimore, and Sledgehammer 44 — tales of the occult, folklore, and history with a dark, mischievous slant.

SOURCES: Dark Horse Comics , nerdlocker

We all grew up watching all kinds of movies and TV shows from the 60s-90s that turned us into the fanboys and fangirls that we are today! Whether it’s Ultraman, Jackie Chan, Voltron, Akira Kurosawa, or Knight Rider (you know who you are!), we tend to associate types of genre (Action, Comedy, War, Crime, Western, Sci-Fi, Horror) or sub-genres with particular decades (80s Action, 50s Westerns, 60s War). Each week we’ll profile and analyze a specific genre and decade, while asking what these films or shows said about that particular time in pop culture.

SCI-FI FILMS OF THE 80s

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

BLADE RUNNER (1982)

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

What Is The 80s Sci-Fi Genre?

If the 1970s represented the rebirth of sci-fi with Star Wars, Mad Max, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Alien… then the 1980s were undoubtedly the genre’s graduation into the mainstream. Dozens of amazing sci-fi films between 1980-1989 that introduced truly innovative characters, special effects, and storylines, which still resonate today.

Franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, Mad Max, Robocop became entrenched in pop culture during this period. Whether you’re into speculative sci-fi, comedy sci-fi, horror sci-fi or hard/military sci-fi there’s a sub-genre for you… we could drill down into just the films of Harrison Ford, John Carpenter, or Schwarzenegger — each a sub-sub-genre of their own!

Why Should We Care?

Sci-fi films in this era married the revolutionary special effects of George Lucas’ ILM with remarkable storytelling, inspired direction, and A-list performances that firmly established the genre again after it’s demise in the late 1950s. The Empire Strikes Back started the decade off with arguably the most important and beloved sci-fi film ever… and things only got better from there.

This period also marked the hybridization of genres, such as the military themes in Predator, Aliens, and Star Trek II; social allegories of Escape From New York, The Road Warrior, and Blade Runner; coming of age humor in E.T., Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters. The amount of originality in these films was truly stunning, while adaptations of classic sci-fi literature from Frank Herbert (Dune), Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner), and Paddy Chayefsky (Altered States) took older, legacy sci-fi concepts and updated them for modern audiences with sometimes mixed results.

For many sci-fi fans, this is where it all began — and today’s reboots, sequels, and remakes just can’t hold a candle to the challenging storytelling of this era.

SOURCES: TrailersPlaygroundHD , Movieclips Trailer Vault , Movieclips Trailer Vault

It’s the weekend, which means it’s finally time to catch-up on all the stuff we’ve bookmarked on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vimeo, Twitch… you get the idea. The LRM community has millions of hours of stuff on our collective DVRs. We want to hear from you; tell us the shows, movies, etc. you’ve recently finished, or have queued-up!

ALIENS (1986)

What Is It?

LRM fanboy, David Kozlowski, recommends James Cameron’s epic sci-fi sequel Aliens, starring Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Avatar), Michael Biehn (The Terminator), Bill Paxton (Titanic, Apollo 13).

Synopsis: After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds of aliens that have invaded the colony.

Why Should We Care?

“When I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film’s roller-coaster ride of violence — Roger Ebert.

The original Alien (1979) was a seminal sci-fi-horror film by master director, Ridley Scott. That film ended rather dramatically, so how could there possibly be a sequel and who could even dare to follow-up Scott’s work? James Cameron, who had just two years prior created The Terminator, was signed and the result was one of the top 10 action films of all-time!

Aliens combined Ellen Ripley’s powerful central character with a platoon of Colonial Marines and a planet full of hungry, angry, ugly, Xenomorphs… who aren’t even the true bad guys of the film. Underlying all of the action is the malevolent Weyland-Yutani corporation, who covets the space monsters as a weapon of war. Ripley discovers the corporations plans, but only after they’re all stranded on the planet, low on ammo, and facing a nuclear explosion… because tension!

This might be the most intense and unrelenting movie you’ll ever see. The special effects are dated, sure, but the acting and the combat is powerful and visceral. If you haven’t seen this movie A) what’s wrong with you? B) man, I wish I could be you. Watch this movie NOW!

SOURCE: N. B.

DRIVE (2011)

What Is It?

This week LRM fanboy Moby85 is back with another super cool and epic film recommendation: Drive (2011) starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks.

Synopsis: A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor. .

Why Should We Care?

This weekend, cued up up right now actually is “Drive” with Ryan Gosling! Perhaps the most stylish action film in the past 10 years, it has a great narrative I don’t want to spoil. All I’ll say is about half-way through the movie gets turned on its head. Gosling gives an understated but powerhouse performance. Oscar Isaac does well as a con trying to reform himself. And it has Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman in supporting roles – what more could you want?

How about a fantastic score of 80’s themed Synthwave? If you at all like 80’s themed music or ambient electronic music this has one of the best scores you’ll here. It’s cool, it’s violent, it’s touching, and not a single scene feels boring or unncessary. It’s an arthouse masterpiece that demands not only to be seen, but then studied afterwards by looking up analysis and commentaries online about the Driver’s psyche.

SOURCE: Movieclips Trailers

LITTLE WITCH ACEDEMIA (Netflix)

What Is It?

LRM fanboy, Joseph Jammer Medina, recommends the Netflix original anime series Little Witch Academia.

Why Should We Care?

This was an interesting project because it started off as a 25-minute standalone episode. Following that success, a 50-minute sequel was funded on kickstarter, so this full Netflix series is something that was accomplished after many steps, which is interesting.

As for the show itself, it’s an interesting little gem. It’s by no means for everyone, as it skews incredibly young. The deeper I got into it, the clearer it becomes that it’s intended for a younger audience, which is fine. If you have a 8-year-old, they may very well love this show. The animation is gorgeous and well done, and the overall tale is pretty universal in nature. And to those Harry Potter fans out there, you’ll have a good time drawing countless comparisons, because it kind of feels like a younger, animated Harry Potter in nature.

And for those of you wondering, yes there is an English dub.

SOURCE: The Geek Show Podcast Network

What do you think about this week’s selection of LRM Weekend stories? Give us suggestions for future columns in the comments down below!

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David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.