Captain Marvel – Popcorn Not Included

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It’s another one of them Marvel movies and this time they even put the company name in the title. That’s brand synergy.

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Captain Marvel

Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Produced by: Kevin Feige
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Edited by: Elliot Graham & Debbie Berman
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Workshop #38 – Talking around politics

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We don’t like to discuss politics straightforwardly on this show, but in today’s episode we touched on a bunch of stuff that borders on political. Well, everything’s political, really. Sorry.

Nevertheless we hope you put up with (and maybe even get something out of) our discussions on The Vietnam War (both the actual event and the Ken Burns documentary), James Gunn’s firing, and how the cultural discourse has gotten so uncivil.

We usually don’t talk “current events” all that much. This episode was recorded a couple weeks ago so things around the James Gunn situation have developed a bit, but hopefully our discussion is still mostly valid.

Stick around to the end of the show to hear us definitely answer the question on everybody’s minds: when did Facebook stop being cool?

Bits Don’t Byte – Solo: A Star Wars Story

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We began with a Star Wars movie discussion and now we bring you another one just six months later. It’s almost like they released two Star Wars movies really close together. But that would be crazy!

Our talk includes abbreviated thoughts on the first spin-off, Rogue One, and Star Wars expanded universes new and old. Oh, and we also talk about Solo, eventually.

Bits Don’t Byte – Avengers: Infinity War

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After a long absence, scheduling difficulties, and some technical glitches, Bits Don’t Byte is back! We bring you another long, nerdy, in-depth discussion of a movie.

If you’ve heard my movie podcast, then you know I was really jazzed about Infinity War. Find out what my co-hosts Joshua Kehe, his brother Ben think. We also discuss the MCU in general – the past and future including our favorites, least favorites, and theories for Avengers 4.

Unfortunately with our remote podcast set up we had some technical issues. Please forgive the less-than-pristine audio quality. We’ll try and have that back up to snuff next time.

Speaking of next time, we’d like to do these more often and have several topics we’re excited to talk about in-depth provided we can schedule it. So hopefully the next episode will be out than 6 months from now.

Wonder Woman combines the best of the MCU & DCEU

While it’s not quite as genre-transcendent as The Dark Knight and not quite so emotionally resonant as Spider-man 2, Wonder Woman‘s a well above average superhero movie. The film manages to be thematically satisfying while also ticking all the usual superhero movie boxes. There’s a finely-tuned balance between humor and sobriety; action and character development. Oh, and there’s villain that actually works.

Wonder Woman is the DC Extended Universe’s first good movie. We’ve previously experienced the disappointing, sometimes laughable, sometimes lamentable Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad. I guess fourth time’s the charm?

On the other side, we’ve got the Marvel Cinematic Universe sitting at 15 films (it’ll be 16 in July with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming and 17 with Thor: Ragnarok in November). I like the Marvel movies less than your average person, but I’d say about 5 of them are pretty good. The rest are mostly competent if uninteresting to me personally.

What’s interesting is the different ways these studios (and I supposed comic book publishing houses before that) have approached their craft.

The Marvel film empire has found success from entirely competent films, but rarely good films. There’s not a lot of depth in your average Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Lots of times they function more as extended trailers for the next film in the franchise. But they get away with it over and over and over.

Marvel’s secret is likable characters. Not necessarily deep characters. Not challenging, complex characters, but really likable ones. I didn’t even realize how much I liked these characters at first, but they kept me coming back despite often being disappointed by the movies built around them.

DC, conversely, has done a notoriously bad job with its characters beginning with the absolute butchery of Superman in Man of Steel. And I think that’s the main and perhaps only real problem of DC’s films before Wonder Woman. Audiences forgive all kinds of ills if they are presented with likable characters to follow.

DC has been criticized widely for being dark, brooding, and generally lacking in fun. I would say last year’s Batman v. Superman was the height (or the low point) of this. It left me impressed by the visuals, but utterly cold otherwise. It presented a world not worth saving and superheroes who didn’t seem to believe in much of anything. None of them were likable (with the exception of Wonder Woman’s cameo – but she was hardly a developed character in that movie.)

While DC lacks in characters, there is a certain ambition on display in these films – a visionary flair. There’s a grandiose air about them. They skew closer to myth than Marvel’s utilitarian filmmaking.

DC movies desperately want to be About Something. This has lead to grander and more spectacular failure, of course, but you can’t deny the effort. There’s real vision and passion behind the messy final products.

Marvel’s lack of ideas and themes really bores me. Those movies don’t say much of anything about the world, human nature, history, politics, science, spirituality, or even about the heroes themselves. And on rare occasion that a Marvel movie does contain thematic elements (like the surveillance state in Captain America: The Winter Soldier or artificial intelligence in Avengers: Age of Ultron), they’re never developed, never fully formed thoughts.

Sure, sometimes it’s nice see a piece of escapist fiction that doesn’t remind you of real life. But I think it’s cowardly and disingenuous to keep making movies ostensibly about heroes doing good in the world if you’re never saying anything about the world.

Wonder Woman is comparatively a poignant statement about human nature while also being entertaining mythmaking. This film shows that likable characters and interwoven thematic content in a superhero movie works extremely well. I hope we see more like this.