Henry Cavill Flying Away Is an Opportunity for DC to Start Over

The latest death of Superman is upon us: Henry Cavill, the English-born actor who’s played the Man of Steel in three movies, is reportedly leaving the DC Universe. What Warner Bros. will do going forward is unclear, but the studio did release a statement today saying "we have made no current decisions regarding upcoming Superman films." And with that, for the first time in years, the onscreen fate of one of DC's most critically and commercially bulletproof characters is up, up in the air. And maybe it should stay that way.

Ever since 2013's Man of Steel, Warner Bros. has been attempting to replicate the shared-storyline success of Marvel's decade-old mega-franchise. It could have worked. Warners had plenty going for it: A galaxy-sized archive of DC Comics characters and narratives; access to major stars like Ben Affleck (Batman) and Will Smith (Deadshot); and a hit-making architect in writer-director Zack Snyder. But whereas the Marvel films balanced gravitas with humor and comaradery, Snyder’s brooding vision was full of aggro heroes and city-leveling catastrophes. The resulting movies were bombastic, baffling, and unaware of their own joylessness (not to mention expensive). By the time of 2017's failed Justice League—the equivalent of a two-hour screen-saver, full of unhappy performers and unconvincing CGI—it was clear the studio's unification plan would need to be rethought.

Now, DC's big-screen interconnected universe may be dead for good; at the very least, it's on ice. Deadline notes that Affleck—who has portrayed Batman in a trio of Warner Bros. films—likely won’t be returning to the cowl-and-growl role that resulted in one of the more depressing memes of all time. And a long-ago-promised sequel to Justice League will likely slip off IMDb at some point soon, much to the chagrin of no one, save for Jason Momoa's abs sommelier, who was looking forward to that bonus.

Instead, Warner Bros. is focusing on stand-alone stories featuring characters like Wonder Woman, Shazam, The Joker, and Batgirl. Wonder Woman 1984 will take place in a Supes-free past, while the recent Aquaman trailer was almost exclusively about Aquaman, with no winking big-star cameos. Even the in-the-works The Batman looks to remain grounded in Gotham.

These are characters who are creeping toward their 100th birthdays, yet have remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. Both are due for some sort of radical re-thinking.

For those who've endured the studio's labored, Martha-lovin’ attempts to bring their heroes to the multiplex, the new DC Existential Unilateralism (or DCEU) feels like the only sane approach. Characters like Batman and Superman were never intended to play well with others: They’re outsiders—one a billionaire loner, the other an awkward alien—whose social skills and inflexible ideology all but demand they work in fortresses of solitude. One of the more inspired elements of the Tim Burton-directed Batman was to play up the fact that Bruce Wayne wasn't particularly suave or assured; instead, he was a night-crawling nut who barely felt at home in his own mansion. The idea of Burton's Batman having a sustained conversation with another hero, much less teaming up with one of them, was unthinkable.

That first modern Batman movie turns 30 next year—which points to another reason for Warner Bros. to pull the limelight from some of its better-known in-house heroes: There’s very little left to say about them. The last four decades have seen eight live-action movies with Superman, and ten featuring Batman. Villains have been recycled, costumes have been refurbished, origin stories have been reiterated. These are characters who are creeping toward their 100th birthdays, yet have remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. Both are due for some sort of radical re-thinking.

But first, they need to disappear for a while. It took almost two decades for the camp-Batman of the '60s to transform into the noir-weirdo Batman of the '80s. The same amount of time passed before audiences were willing to let go of the square, small-screen Superman of TV, and embrace Christopher Reeve's winking, more emo Man of Feels. Those sort of changes require a prolonged absence—one that allows characters, and viewers, to evolve at the same rate. If you want moviegoers to believe a man can fly, it helps to ground him for a while.

Plus, the more DC moves away from its flagship capers, the better their chances of finding weirdness in the margins. A few years ago, Marvel’s Ant-Man—a character whose exploits were were relegated to the three-for-a-dollar discount-boxes—became a household name. And the Guardians of the Galaxy were essentially cult heroes until the 2014 hit movie bearing their name. Similarly, DC's television efforts have found ways to make mainstream heroes out of lesser-known properties like Black Lightning, Firestorm, and Hawkgirl.

There are several other potentially compelling—possibly even fun?—DC characters that could work in movies (the Wachowskis were angling to make a Plastic Man film as far back as the mid-'90s). But for now, the strategy of an Aquaman here and a Supergirl there is far more sensible given the glut of superhero headlining acts that have put DC's characters in such dire straits (both on and off screen). Batman and Superman can afford to take some time off. There's plenty more to marvel at.


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Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/henry-cavill-superman-dc-future/

Crazy Rich Asians Changes Nothing About Rom-Coms, and Everything About Movies

Rachel Chu and Nick Young are like most millennial couples in New York City—at least millennial couples in which one is a brilliant economics professor and the other is heir to a real estate empire in Singapore. There’s a problem, though: Nick (Henry Golding) has kept Rachel (Constance Wu) in the dark about his circumstances back home. His plan to invite her to Singapore for the wedding of his best friend and to meet his family, he hopes, will remedy this. So begins director Jon M. Chu’s posh extravaganza, Crazy Rich Asians, a movie of necessary firsts and communal heart.

What Rachel doesn’t realize when she accepts Nick’s invitation is that he isn’t just from any family, but Singapore’s wealthiest and most influential (a fact that has lended him celebrity-bachelor status among locals). It doesn’t take long for the drama of home to reveal its sneer. Rachel—who is Chinese-American and thus considered an outsider—finds herself in an obstacle course for acceptance. The first series of hurdles are relatively painless. Nick’s cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) is harboring secrets of her own; she’s discovered her husband is cheating and finds an unlikely confidant in Rachel. Next are Nick’s aunties and a former flame. With help from her college BFF Peik Lin (a rowdy and riotous Awkwafina) and cousin Oliver (Nico Santos), Rachel proves a resilient spark against their torrent of social exile.

The final hurdle turns out to be Nick’s mother, the matriarch of the clan. Deeply protective, Eleanor Sung-Young (a steely Michelle Yeoh) is a woman of familial duty and respect, and believes Rachel is the wrong woman for Nick. And so the women come to represent dueling ideals of tradition and freedom. Eleanor wants Nick to take control of the family business, but he’s become enthralled with the idea of carving out a life with Rachel, even if that happens to be in America. A mother’s wrath, though, is unforgiving and its reach endless. Eleanor’s last-ditch effort to torpedo the couple’s relationship—by exposing a long-buried secret about Rachel’s father—triggers the film’s most high-stakes moment.

Crazy Rich Asians culminates like a Singaporean Cinderella, illustrating the extent each character will go to for the people they love. It’s a film of big ambitions that doesn’t entirely upend the rom-com format, but instead infuses the genre with a tint of hope. And so, we are left with a movie about sprawl—and the lengths people travel to connect with others, to greet them where they are, to find peace on common ground. Between mother and son. Between partners and friends. Between America and Singapore. Between the known and the unknown. Between truth and fiction.

Based on the 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan, the film does vital work in demolishing certain Asian stereotypes that have found an unlikely lifeforce in American pop culture. Early on, Peik Lin’s father (a predictably bonkers Ken Jeong) instructs his two youngest children to finish their dinner; “Think of all the starving children in America,” he says. Other chasms the film attempts to cross prove less fruitful. Unfolding at a blistering pace, it never quite comes up for air to allow for enough nuance around characters that demand it. Astrid and Eleanor’s backstories, while convenient, feel microwaved and could have ultimately benefited from more substance and time.

These are important stories to tell. And we need to witness them on screen. But danger lurks in the collective narrative.

The marrow of the film, and its most crucial lesson, deals with the politics of comfort: how those on screen navigate the trappings of high society, and how we, the viewers, are cushioned into a specific characterization of Asian identity. The movie is full of humor and pluck, but nothing emotionally gut-wrenching. And deservedly so. It is a rom-com after all. But one gets the impression that Hollywood would have been less eager to greenlight a $30 million film that more closely resembled 1993’s The Joy Luck Club, which chronicled four struggling immigrant families in San Francisco. It was the last studio-backed feature to enlist a majority Asian and Asian-American cast until Crazy Rich Asians (which includes actors that span the diaspora—China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines).

The comfort nourishes us, but is it what we need? We only ever witness the splendor of Singapore, touring its most elite enclaves and never once getting a peek into its other, less affluent regions. Not that the film, its writers or director, have that particular obligation. But it does raise the question—who is this movie speaking for and speaking to? That is not to take away from its historic achievements. But a movie of such cultural immensity is bound to be viewed as representing for the whole, whether it intends to or not—a weight shouldered earlier this year by Black Panther.

These are important stories to tell. And we need to witness them on screen. But danger lurks in the collective narrative. It’s an onus routinely projected onto major films (or books, or TV shows, or even politicians): The first Asian this. The first black that. But no one movie can speak for the whole. Not entirely. The fault is ours, really. We are a culture that, in 2018, still revels in “firsts.” A culture that happily celebrates victories we so desperately need, but rarely investigates why it took us so long to get here.


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Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/crazy-rich-asians-review/

Scots are loving this kebab shop sign in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Thanos could use a deep fried kebab.
Image: marvel studios

Kebabs are good, but it’s a deep fried version that has got people talking.

If you haven’t seen the new Avengers: Infinity War, there happens to be a scene set in Edinburgh, Scotland where Elizabeth Olsen (who plays Wanda) and Paul Bettany (Vision) have a conversation front of a kebab shop.

But it’s not the conversation people are obsessing over. It’s the damn sign that says “WE WILL DEEP FRY YOUR KEBAB,” complete with a Scottish Saltire flag under it.

Yes, the sign actually says that.

So yeah, people think it’s pretty damn awesome. And by people, we’re pretty sure they’re just Scots, or at least Scots at heart.

OK, you’re probably wondering by now: Do people in Scotland actually deep fry kebabs? 

Well, the Scots deep fry a lot of things (hello, pizza crunch and deep-fried Mars bars), but it seems to be more of a joke about Scottish cuisine. 

But it wouldn’t be surprising if there was a chippy (a fish and chip shop) out there doing it. There was Glasgow’s Stonner Kebab from a few years back, which was a pork sausage wrapped in doner kebab meat, battered then fried. 

It’s also worth noting that the kebab shop in the movie, Hüsnü, was unfortunately only a film set. In real life, it’s a vintage jewellry store called Miss Katie Cupcake.

Being Scotland though, they’re probably hiding a deep fryer out back.

[h/t Junkee]

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/01/deep-fry-kebab-avengers/

‘Justice League’ fizzling is the DCEU’s worst nightmare come true

The DCEU needs a hero.
Image: Warner bros. pictures

The DC Extended Universe is in deep crisis.

With $96 million on opening weekend, Justice League is by far the weakest box office performer of all the DCEU films. This was supposed to be their Avengers. Instead, it was their Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem.

Five movies deep, with all your key heroes activated and united, is this where you want to land on the DCEU opening weekend rankings? 

  1. Batman v Superman: $166 million

  2. Suicide Squad: $133.6

  3. Man of Steel: $116.6 million

  4. Wonder Woman: $103.25 million

  5. Justice League: $96 million

What does Warner Bros. do now?

Now the studio finds itself in a real pickle

This is precisely what the studio was trying to avoid when it pointed Zack Snyder to the exits a year ago, plugging in Joss Whedon to rip out the critical movie’s guts and reshoot them with an all-new, lighter, jokier, ensembley-er tone.

The coming weeks will be worse for Justice League, as its box office returns drop like a stone. Wonder Woman may have the next-lowest domestic opening weekend, but that film had unbelievably powerful legs, holding strong for a stunning 21 weeks on its way to passing all the other DC films and landing in the Top 5 superhero movies of all time.

Justice League will be lucky to crack the Top 25.

And now the studio finds itself in a real pickle. It spent mountains of cash and political capital to pivot away from Snyder’s doleful vision that critics hated but at least was working with a loyal (and, ahem, vocal) swath of DC fans. There’s no going back to that look – that ship has sailed – but the way forward is not exactly clear, either.

Wonder Woman may be one of the most beloved superhero movies of all time; it will be shared and re-watched and talked about for generations. But melding casting, character, and director is a fussy magic, more a result of serendipity than planning or foresight. It’s safe to say that Wonder Woman succeeded in spite of its place in the DCEU, and certainly not because of it.

Aquaman was hardly the breakout character of Justice League, and yet he’s up next December. Neither Batman nor Superman has a date on the calendar, and Wonder Woman 2 is a full two years away. Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps are the only projects with spots on a calendar.

Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps? Are they serious with that game plan?

Shazam, Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps? Are they serious with that game plan?

It’s a mess, compounded by Warner Bros. desire to eject Affleck’s foibles from the Batmobile – how do you do that gracefully, keeping continuity and a straight face? – and the fact that the studio is in the midst of an ownership change. Anyone staring down the barrel of new bosses about to take over knows how paralyzing that can be.

With Suicide Squad director David Ayers out of the picture, not even it has a way forward. That movie was hot vomit but at least it made money; a sequel should’ve been a foregone conclusion the minute tracking came online.

Ahh, there’s that phrase: At least it made money. Something all the other DC films, love ’em or hate ’em, could boast. “We made it for the fans!” the studio crowed, and the fans, at least, turned out.

But for Justice League to fall below that important cosmetic nine-figures domestic opener is a big, blazing distress signal in the clouds that those fans are becoming impatient.

And you better believe someone is muttering that they should’ve just let Snyder finish this DCEU thing. At least that would’ve been a way forward.

Not so sure they have that now.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/19/justice-league-box-office-fail-zack-snyder-warner-bros-what-now/

‘Wonder Woman’ whips ‘The Mummy’ at the U.S. box office, but Tom Cruise rules the world

Gal casts a pretty big shadow, Tom.
Image: Mashable composite/warner bros./Universal

Sorry Tom Cruise, but Wonder Woman is just too powerful.

Patty Jenkins’ juggernaut had the best week-over-week hold for a modern superhero film at the domestic box office, dropping only 45% for $57.2 million in its second week and casting a dark shadow over Universal Studios’ attempt at launching its own “cinematic universe” with The Mummy.

But if we’ve learned anything from Tom Cruise over the years, it’s to never count him out.

The Mummy did a sickly $32.2 million in North America for its opening weekend, according to estimates provided by ComScore, but its overseas haul of $141 million is one of Cruise’s best ever. Critics may have hated it and U.S. audiences aren’t fooled by whose name is on the marquee, but around the world, it’s been proven time and again that movie stars still sell tickets.

Universal is launching its monster-mashup “Dark Universe” with The Mummy next up, the still-uncast Bride of Frankenstein in 2019 in an attempt to build what Marvel and DC have for their men (and now women, praise Zeus) in tights. Turns out it’s not that easy to do in reverse: The Mummy couldn’t even beat 1999’s The Mummy ($43.3 million), 2001s The Mummy Returns ($68.1 million), 2002s The Scorpion King ($36 million) or 2008s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, ($40.5 million) which is even worse if you factor in inflation.

But that global haul for The Mummy should have Universal executives breathing a little easier.

Meanwhile, with weekday returns, Wonder Woman is now at $205 million in North America alone, and its strong hold bodes well for a long, prosperous run over many weeks. Its $57.2 million second frame outright beats the sophomore sessions of both Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, giving it a real chance to overtake both films by the time it’s played out in theaters.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/11/wonder-woman-the-mummy-box-office/