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The Summer of Mail

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Reddit

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


The dog days of summer are officially upon us, and with the heat and humidity making everyone miserable, I would gladly take some of that “Winter is coming” that Jon Snow is always talking about.  This is a very unusual time of year with baseball taking a break for a few days, most of the summer blockbuster movies have come and gone (RIP Indominus Rex), and Comic-Con has completed sending sweaty nerds home with visions of Joker dancing in their head.  There will not be any grand studio movie announcements anytime soon, and we have to wait until the fall for the TV shows we love to come back into our lives.

What I am trying to say is that I am bored, and even though Ant-Man and Trainwreck come out this weekend, there is nothing exciting on the horizon.  So what is a bored writer to do during this dark time when “Winter is coming,” but it won’t be here for quite some time?  He opens up the mailbag and answers some questions from his readers.  There are some terrific questions that I’ve wanted to get to, so let’s dive in and help each other beat the heat with some entertainment talk.


This time of year sucks as far as TV goes, what should I be watching right now?  I miss Sunday nights being the best night for TV, and True Detective isn’t doing anything for me.

Shane – Dallas, Texas

Sunday night is still must watch and I will tell you why: Battlebots!!!  There is NOTHING more metal that robots fighting each other with sparks flying, flames throwing, and nerds getting mad at each other.  If there was a way to gamble on this, then I might like this show more than Game of Thrones.  The smart money is on Tombstone, an intimidating number one seed, who has taken a basic robot design and is using it to make spare parts out of the rest of the field.

ABC
ABC

Sure, there may be other decent shows on that are dramatic and enthralling, but I am with you on not being able to get into True Detective, and I think part of that is that I need a break this time of year.  For years now, Sunday night was all about Breaking Bad or Mad Men or Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, so during the summer I am really enjoying my “drama” in 3-minute fights between two robots that were built by really smart people to destroy each other.  It is exciting and fun for all ages, so why not just enjoy the lull with something like this.  Battlebots is a bracket style tournament; you will quickly find someone to root for and even people to root against, like spoiled MIT kids who act entitled and who I hope meet Tombstone and have to watch their dreams destroyed in a violent manner.  Suck it MIT kids, Tombstone Fo Life!!


Can you give me any recommendations for a video game?

Jessica – Houston, Texas

Does this count? This is the last time I was current on video games.

Giphy
Giphy

I have spent the last month arguing with friends trying to decide who would win in a “John off” and have gone back and forth several times, so I’m sending this to you for help deciding.  Who would win in a fictional fight between Jon Snow and John Cena?

Jeremy – Waco, Texas

I hate to break it to you Jeremy, but both answers are wrong when it comes to who wins the battle of the John’s.  John Wick walks into a room with Cena, Snow, Wayne, or any other John you want, and walks out of that room alone.  Nobody wins a fight against John Wick, and I mean nobody, just ask Theon Greyjoy how it worked out.

Universal
Universal

That is one of the secretly underrated parts of John Wick, while we are on the subject.  If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, then you can watch full-dick mode Theon Greyjoy for the first part of the movie, and then seem him shit his pants and go full Reek as soon as John Wick shows up.  I’m sorry that I couldn’t settle your internal struggle of John; nobody stands a chance in this fight.


Is it me or is July 17th starting to resemble a heavyweight fight between Trainwreck and Ant-Man?  Who do you think wins the opening weekend?

It’s the most underrated movie battle of the year, and on top of those two movies going at it, don’t forget about those pesky Minions who will also be in the mix.  Trainwreck has been promoted so much now that it almost feels like I have seen the movie, so I am hoping there will be some surprises along the way. Amy Schumer is one of the funniest people in the world, and Judd Apatow is widely known and respected, so I have a strong feeling that this movie will be good, but you never know.

Apatow Productions
Apatow Productions

I had that same feeling about Funny People, and it is far from being a good movie.  It has good parts, but for the kind of star power it has, it drastically missed the mark.  Will Trainwreck have that same type of thing happen or will it stand out as the best comedy of the summer?  I honestly don’t have an answer, just the opinion that it will succeed, and even if it doesn’t, it is going to have a strong opening weekend.

Ant-Man, however, is something that I know will be good, but I’m not so sure about how it is going to open.

Marvel
Marvel

I am sure that it will be good because Marvel is a well-oiled machine at this point, and I trust that studio more than any other right now to turn out a quality product.  Guardians of the Galaxy had a solid opening weekend at $94 million with characters that nobody knew about at the time, but the only other movie it was going against was the less than stellar James Brown biopic Get On Up.  With Ant-Man, there is serious competition, and this may be the first Marvel movie that doesn’t open strong, even though it is going to be a strong movie.  I have a feeling that one of these two movies is going to suffer because of the other, and come in third at the box office with Minions coming in second.  I’m calling it now.


Who won Comic-Con this year?  I have watched the Batman v. Superman trailer at least 20 times.  It has to be that right?

Kenneth – Houston, Texas

I absolutely loved the Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer, and it was exactly what I wanted to see from the movie.  Seeing portions of Wonder Woman in-costume fighting is something that is new and exciting, and the only other thing that I wanted was Aquaman footage, but I get why they are waiting at this point.  I actually think Aquaman is going to be a key to part of the plot, so who knows if they will show him in the trailer at all.  All of that being said though, Suicide Squad, and more specifically The Joker, is what I came away from Comic-Con being the most excited about.  The trailer from that movie showed just enough of Leto as The Joker and holy shit does it look and sound amazing!

I have never seen a version of Joker like this on film, and I could not be more excited about Leto being the one who is bringing it to life.  In the Bats v Supes trailer, there is a brief shot of the Bat Suit with The Joker’s writing on it, so it appears as if this is post Killing Joke where it is taking place, which puts it in some of the most dark and scary Joker times that there have ever been in the comics.  The one thing that DC DEFINITELY does better than the competition is produce villains that are terrifying, and for my money, there is no better villain in the world than The Joker.  That short 20-second look at him in this trailer, and the knowledge that David Ayer is the one in charge, makes me so very excited to see the darkest version of this character.  That, to me, won Comic-Con and was the loudest reaction that I heard from any of the footage.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

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2015 San Diego Comic-Con Preview

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Reddit

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


If you walk outside right now, face west, and inhale really deeply, then it is possible that you will catch a whiff of the type of smell that can only happen when 1000s of sweaty nerds in costume converge in one place.  The 2015 San Diego Comic Con is this week, and this year, like every year, Whale’s Vagina becomes mecca for all things movie, TV, and comic book related.  If you are one of the people who says it has just turned into a corporate event and has lost all of its charm, then I’m here to offer you a counter-argument to that.

It would have never became such a large event if it wasn’t for those nerds who grew up reading comics and are now in charge of making those comics come to life.  Would you trade a smaller crowd once a year for no Dark Knight trilogy?  Some things are worth it, and I, for one, welcome those corporate studios because they want to get the crowd excited by huge announcements and fanfare.  The announcement two years ago that Batman was finally going to be on screen with Superman in the same movie made me cry and jizz at the same time, and that kind of movie or announcement wouldn’t be possible without the SDCC.  I mean, just look at the reaction and tell me that this still doesn’t give you the bumps of a goose.

I am very curious to see whose movie or news will dominate all of the talk this year, and have a few thoughts on the topic.  Let’s run through some of the top panels and preview what we hope to hear this year.


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

DC Entertainment
DC Entertainment

Marvel has dominated the SDCC for the past few years and has established themselves as the top dog when it comes to comic movies, but they will not be there doing a panel this year.  Age of Ultron has already been released, and Ant-Man comes out next week, so all of their movie releases came at points that promotion here isn’t needed.  That gives DC a wide open lane to come in with some good footage and a couple of announcements, and destroy the minds of everyone there.

They have to put on a show because they are miles behind Marvel and need to make up some ground.  There is a trailer that has been released, but I’m expecting some new footage that includes more than Bats and Supes glaring at each other.  I’m hoping for some Wonder Woman footage because she is going to be one of the main characters, and if they don’t show her, then the fears that are present that they made a bad choice in casting are going to show up again.

Reddit
Reddit

On top of wanting some Wonder Woman footage, I would like to see Aquaman and his trident pimping around on the back of a whale.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Aquaman is going to have more to say in the plot than the title would suggest, so there may only be a quick shot, but it still needs to be a shot nonetheless.  This movie has so much more than Batman and Superman, and even though it is a year away, we want and need to see those other elements, and hopefully DC doesn’t let us down the way they did with that piece of shit Green Lantern movie like it has in the past.  Bring it on DC, drop your big movie dick on the table and show us what you’ve got!


The Hateful Eight

Weinstein Company
Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino will be making only his second appearance ever at SDCC, and could quite possibly steal the show.  There haven’t been any formal announcements on who will be showing up from the cast with him, but I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour than listening to Samuel L. Jackson say mother fucker while there is some awesome footage of people getting shot in the old west.  A trailer hasn’t been released for the movie yet, so get prepared to see it hit the web in the very near future since it will most likely debut in Hall H.

Now, it is very possible that Quentin doesn’t care about making a splash and is only showing due to a studio obligation, and if so, then it will be boring and he’ll be out the door.  However, if he is there to drink and party and blow people away with possibly the best cast he has ever had, then I am all for him showing everyone that he means business.  You never know which Quentin will show up, but I’m expecting movie fan/heavy-drinking Quentin to show up to crash parties and end up on YouTube doing something ridiculous.


Fear the Walking Dead

AMC Studios
AMC Studios

Say what you will about having The Walking Dead, the highest rated show on television, to anchor Sunday nights, but AMC is getting scared that they are almost out of programming.  Mad Men is gone, Better Call Saul isn’t the hit they thought it would be, and Walter White isn’t walking back through that door……wait, what??  Breaking Bad might have a season 6??  That scares me, and not in a good way.  With Fear the Walking Dead, this is a pure spinoff that the network is hoping will catch on the way its predecessor has and give them another show in their depleted arsenal.

The first season is premiering soon, and will only have 6 episodes, so you know full well that those episodes are going to be intense and action-packed.  They have some things in their favor, the top of those things being Kim Dickens being cast as the lead, and so there is a chance that it catches on, but for it to be successful, the Comic-Con/comic-reading audience needs to be on board.

AMC Studios
AMC Studios

This new show isn’t something adapted from the comics, this is a straight spinoff, so part of that huge audience might not respond to the characters the they did with the original.  At the end of the day, it’s still zombie-killing, and zombie-killing is fun to watch, but without that emotional connection from the story it will be a failure.  I am a huge The Walking Dead fan, so I’m rooting for it to work and for them to eventually meet the Atlanta group, but who knows if that ever happens.

At SDCC, however, the new show will be on the same panel as the old show, so any clips that are seen will have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Fans are going to go crazy, but that doesn’t mean they will watch it.  A good showing here might change that, or it might ruin it before it ever gets out of the gate.  This panel will be one that I watch closely.


Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

Here is your odds-on favorite to show up this weekend (2nd to last show on Saturday) and shut down Comic Con like Eminem rap-battling a toddler.  JJ Abrams could walk into Hall H with a lineup that includes all of the members of nerd Mount Rushmore and make the force awaken in everyone’s pants at the same time, and I wouldn’t put it past him to do exactly that.  Sure, there has been some hype about the movie, but that is mostly from fans, and it is close enough now that the studio is going to start ramping up the excitement themselves.

Reddit
Reddit

What better way to do that then with Han, Luke, and Leia on stage together at the same time on a panel that will melt the faces of every fanboy in attendance?  I’m sure they have appeared together at some point since then, but if they have, I don’t remember it, and it is time for that to happen, even if Harrison Ford will be comatose the entire time and doesn’t give a shit about you.  He is still Han Solo, and his presence alone wins the SDCC; if he is as stoned as he normally is, the look on his face when 84 Chewbaccas are looking at him at the same time wins going away.  Someone please make that happen!  I don’t ask you for much!


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

The Dark and Dangerous Descent of Actors

Pacific Coast News
Pacific Coast News

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


All actors are not created equal, no matter what you read about actors describing their “process” for preparing for a movie and how they get into character.  Sure, most actors put in months of research in preparation to play a role that might entail shooting a gun, playing a cop, or playing an instrument.  The majority of the time, studios will pair an actor with an expert on the profession they are attempting to portray, so some of the more subtle things see natural.

Warner Bros
Warner Bros

For instance, when Matt Damon was preparing to play Police Officer Colin Sullivan in The Departed, he spent time with a Massachusetts State Police unit where he learned how to properly do a pat down, he went on a raid, and rode along with various officers on patrol.  All of that is good preparation, but that is what separates a solid actor like Matt Damon from other actors who rolecan win an Oscar every single time they appear in a movie.

The list of actors and actresses who can pull that off is smaller than you might think, and what separates them from the rest of the pack is that they are so methodical in their acting and preparation that it can be borderline dangerous.  When I think of the people who have a legitimate chance of winning an Academy Award with each movie, it is a fairly small list in relation to the volume of working actors in Hollywood right now.


Here is a version of what I think that list could look like:

Daniel Day Lewis (DDL is the reigning GOAT and only actor to win 3 Best Actor Oscars.)

Leonardo DiCaprio (This is the hardest sell since he’s never won, but I honestly believe Leo is one of the best around.)

Tom Hanks (He has 2 wins and 5 nominations, but he’s starting to slow down)

Meryl Streep (I think it’s easy for her to get nominated because of her name, but winning isn’t the same.  15 nominations and 2 wins is still impressive.)

Cate Blanchett (She’s the best working actress in Hollywood and it is not close.)

mirror.uk
mirror.uk

Christian Bale (I am much more surprised by this than you are, trust me. I was never a fan of his early on.)

Sean Penn (The former Mr. Madonna has 2 wins and 5 nominations.)

Kate Winslet (Kate has notched 6 nominations and just 1 win.)

You could possibly make the case for Hillary Swank or Joaquin Phoenix, but those are hard sells to me.  I think Phoenix is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, but he is also a legit crazy person which keeps him from being nominated more than he has.


So that is the entire list: eight total people who have a legit chance of WINNING an Oscar each and every time they appear on screen.  So what separates them from everyone else?  What puts them in the category of award-winning caliber and also box office successes?

The answer for me is fairly simple; it is the way they descend into a character to sometimes scary levels, and voluntarily transform their body in sometimes scary ways.  I want to call this the Heath Ledger Corollary, but I’m not sure he is the best example. He’s the most well-known example, which is different, but it is also a great place to start.

pintrest
pintrest

Ledger was on the rise as someone who could make the category above, but when he was cast as The Joker, the wheels fell off so much that he could never recover.  There were numerous reports that he locked himself in an apartment for a month prior and after shooting, and never broke character the entire time.  There were also reports that he would show up to set on his days off, in character, to watch creepily from the back in a way that seriously disturbed everyone on set.  We all know how that ended, but what we don’t know is how much of that was mental stress that he brought on himself because of his commitment, and how much of it was him taking drugs and falling off of the rails.  The answer probably lies somewhere between the two.  The reason I have been thinking about this is that there are already reports from the set of Suicide Squad that Jared Leto, a renowned method actor, has sent gifts to his costars in the forms of a live rat in a black box, bullets, and a dead hog with a video of him in character.  Is Leto heading down the same path as Ledger did?  Is there something about method actors and The Joker that makes it too hard to shake?  I’m sure there isn’t, and I don’t want to practice overreacting to certain things like that, because that is serious subject matter and I’m not one to make light of that topic.

imgur
imgur

What I am sure of is that The Joker is unique to any other character, especially any other villain, in any form, from any movie.  As someone who has read 1000s of Batman comics, I can say without pause that The Joker is the scariest villain you could ever imagine.  He is completely insane, but also has a split personality, and can go from “over the top” scary to “having a quiet conversation in a car with a dead person that he killed” subtle-scary in a second.  To take that on as a method actor could absolutely be overwhelming, but I’m sure Leto will be fine and shake it off eventually.  I am not comparing the two actors; just the menacing psychosis that I’m sure would infect anyone who pretended to be that for months at a time.

I’m not the only one who thinks that, because this time with The Joker around, the filmmakers have what they are calling a “Life Coach” on set at all times because of the very dark subject matter that will be in this movie. There aren’t any reports of any talks he has had with anyone, but when Leto dives into a character, he goes deep, and I’m curious to see him on the other side of that evil coin once filming has ended.  What I expect to see is an actor who is on his way to the “every time” Oscar category we touched on earlier, and someone who can get any role he wants.

That is how he breaks into the categor,y and is also what separates the category from the rest of the field.  If you look at that group, all of them are fully capable of disappearing into a role and not coming out until they are done filming.  Daniel Day Lewis might be the best example since he is the acting GOAT of a generation, and the only 3-time Oscar winner for Best Actor.

reddit
reddit

This is a man who takes very few roles, but please don’t try to argue that anyone else is better than him at acting or preparation for a role.  Your kneejerk reaction is say that Tom Hanks is the best actor of his generation, and he is a terrific actor and an American treasure, but he is not better than D. DayLewis has won 3 Oscars to Hanks’ 2, but Lewis has taken on 28 acting roles to get that and Hanks has taken on 76.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is what they call killing it!  DDL sinks so far into roles that when he played Christy Brown in My Left Foot, he refused to get out of his wheelchair for the duration of the role, and not only that, he refused to even sit up straight so as to not break character.  That commitment is what got him the Oscar, but it also got him 2 broken ribs from the stress and over a year of physical therapy to recover.

reddit
reddit

That is incredible to me! When you read stories of Christian Bale dropping down to 120 pounds to play a role, and then turning around and gaining 90 pounds to play Batman eight months later, it seems like a good story, and it is, but it is also incredibly dangerous.  Those types of physical transformations take their toll on a body and mind, and it’s something that these type of actors do on a regular basis, which I think is taken for granted.  That is why I worry when I see a method actor taking on a role like The Joker or when I read that actors are struggling with drug abuse.

There have been some tragic examples of this, with the likes of Heath Ledger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but that is where this corollary shouldn’t be a surprise, and one that we should be on the lookout for.  These people do this for their craft, they do it for us, but they also leave behind families, so keep that in mind the next time you see someone lose weight or you hear a rumor about drug abuse.  These people are better at their jobs than we are at ours, and it is something that I think about when I can forget that someone is award-winning famous for two hours and just be impressed by the performance.  It’s an amazing transformation!


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

Game of WTF?!

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Reddit
Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


I know that I promised more on Jurassic World and how casting and execution is the key to summer movies, but that has been put on hold for now.  Now that Game of Thrones has ended, and everyone has had a couple of weeks to catch up and work though what they saw, I want to recap Season 5 and make some predictions on the upcoming Season 6.

Spoiler: If you haven’t watched all of Season 5, then stop reading immediately and come back after you have finished.

After watching the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones, every theory I had about the show was left lying in the snow making me want to punch a kid in the throat for what he just did.  Say what you will about GOT, but no other show in history has ever made it more acceptable for wanting to blast a child in the face.  I didn’t know if I was a bad person for wanting to see something worse happen to King Joffrey than the fate he encountered, but settled on the fact that this is fantasy and as such, that kid deserved way worse than he got.  Of course, it also has made watching a brother and sister have sex next to their dead son in a church seem like just another episode too, so take that for what you will.

Home Box Office
Home Box Office
Season 5 did, however, give us some of the best moments from the entire run of the show, so does Jon Snow bleeding into the snow as the camera pulls back mean that everything we loved from the season wasn’t true?  My favorite moment from Season 5 was Daenerys and Tyrion sitting next to each other drinking wine and talking about their fathers.  It took 4 ½ years for everyone’s two favorite characters to meet face to face, and they did not disappoint at all.  I think that both of them will have a big say in the end of the series, but the main person who I thought/think will have the biggest impact on who ultimately decides the rightful person to sit on the Iron Throne was killed in the finale.  Jon Snow took several knives to the stomach, the most crushing of which coming from Olly the trusted house boy.

So does that mean it’s a wrap on Jon Snow forever, or will something else happen to undo the bitter end of being betrayed by those you depended on and who depended on you?

Here are some predictions on what will happen next season…


Jon Snow is dead and not coming back – This theory is one that I don’t like at all, and ruins all of my future theories, but it has to be considered a possibility.  Where does that leave the Stark house, though?  Well, it leaves the Stark house with its 4 youngest members all scattered about, which includes one who hasn’t been seen for an entire season.  All of them think that Jon Snow is still alive and running the Night’s Watch, so it is conceivable that some or all of them will seek him out, which may lead to their eventual harm at the wall, or team them with others who wish to protect them…i.e. Sansa Stark and Brienne of Tarth.

The best bet for the Stark house is Bran proving to be much stronger in his ability to possess people and things, and attempting to take over something that makes the Stark house a force and rally the North behind them.

Home Box Office
Home Box Office
What could he take over?  The last scene we saw him in, he was told that he would never walk again, but that he would fly.  The only two things that fly in Westeros are ravens and dragons.  Could he take over one of the dragons and do some major damage alongside Dany and Tyrion?  If that happens, then it would really mean that Dany is the one true ruler, and that she will sit on the Iron Throne alone with the best of the other houses there to support her.  A nice thought, but a much too obvious one for something that has changed course so many times like Game of Thrones has over the entirety of its run.

The odds of this happening are around 17%.


Jon Snow will end up alive, but not show up for Season 6 – There were several people who did not have a single scene in Season 5 that I’m sure will show up in Season 6.  Bran, most notably, but also The Hound was never actually seen dead, and I don’t believe he is.

Home Box Office
Home Box Office
The Hound was far too important for his death to be shown off camera and for him to go out without killing his brother (or what is left of his Frankenstein brother at this point), and he is going to show back up.  It’s easy to forget how great his scenes with Arya were, but they rank among the very top of any scenes from the show.

So with The Hound and Bran both being out for the entire season, it could stand to reason that Jon Snow will have the same kind of fate.  He could show back up to save the day when what is left of the Stark family tries to take back the kingdom that belongs to them.  That would also get Jon Snow away from the wall and back with his family.  Nothing gives you a free pass away from the wall like a bunch of stabby dudes tricking you into playing pin cushion in the middle of the night.  Jon Snow is brought back to life and shows up a year later, a little changed, but a lot more fired up about killing people that fuck with his family.

Home Box Office
Home Box Office
I also hope that Theon, aka Reek, sticks around long enough for Jon Snow to put a sword through his face for everything he has done to his family.  I don’t care how much has happened to Theon or how much he ends up doing to save Sansa, that dude is a straight up dick and needs to go.

Odds of this happening are 38%.


Lady Melisandre brings Jon Snow back to life and we find out who his real parents are – Look, I know that Melisandre isn’t winning any awards for talking Stannis into having a Fourth of July BBQ with his daughter, but if she brings Jon Snow back to life, then I’ll totally forgive her.  Don’t forget that she rode into Castle Black on the same day that Snow was stabbed, so it’s possible for her to have seen that, and bring him back when nobody is around.  She saw it happen and believes in the same god that did it before, so you know she would be crazy enough to try it.  Plus, she doesn’t know that Stannis is dead, and for all she knows she could be raising Jon Snow from the dead to protect herself.  As for Jon Snow’s parents, that is the thing that I’ve been bugged about since Season One, Episode One.

By all accounts from everyone, everywhere, Ned Stark was the most trustworthy and honest person in all of the Seven Kingdoms.  Except for this one time that he was off to war trying to save his sister, he comes home with a bastard kid?  That never made sense to me, and I think I know the reason why.  There have been a few times that other characters have spoken about Lyanna Stark running off with Rhaegar Targaryen, and they always leave it with Ned finding her at her dying moments, and then coming home with a bastard kid.

Those are Jon Snow’s real parents, and it makes even more sense that the season is going to be spent partly in flashback, since casting news has GOT looking for a young Ned Stark and a man who can only be described as Arthur Dayne.  If the series is going to spend time on the Tower of Joy storyline from the books, why would they do that when Ned Stark and Jon Snow are both dead?  The answer is that they aren’t, and Jon Snow is still alive!

giphy
giphy
Not only is he going to be alive, he is of royal bloodlines and will end up on the Iron Throne with Dany, Tyrion, and Bran by his side.  I’m not the first one to put this theory together, but from all of the reading and research and years of figuring out plots, this is the one that I think is most likely to happen.  The Starks are making a comeback in a big, bad way, and the Lannister’s house is about to come crashing down.

Odds of this happening are 65%.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

Summer Movie Scorecard

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to tent pole movie season, where blockbusters are currently jumping off of the screen in 3D! The summer movie excitement is in full swing, and this weekend marks the first statement made by the movie-going public.  I predicted back in April that this would be a big year for movies at the box office, and that this summer would see Avatar get knocked off of its perch as the highest grossing movie of all-time, but the movie I picked to do it, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is not going to have the legs to run it down.

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Avatar’s reign may still be in jeopardy, however, as the statement made these last few days is that movie goers cannot get enough dinosaurs and Chris PrattJurassic World is gaining steam after a tremendous opening weekend, and the end to its momentum is still very far away.

So what has been the best movie of the summer?  I am so glad you asked!  I want to run through a few of them to take a look at the summer scorecard, which is 6 rounds into a 12-round heavyweight fight.  A fight that has already seen one movie crack the top 10 of the highest grossing movies of all time, and another one steaming towards the top spot like a runaway train that even Denzel and Captain Kirk can’t stop.

*All numbers current worldwide box office totals as of 06/19/2015


Mad Max: Fury Road

Current box office total – $335,316,904

Village Roadshow Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures

The point of a summer movie is to sit back, turn off your mind, and enjoy explosions.   Mad Max: Fury Road has this by the truckload, and knows exactly what it is the entire time.  You will not see Max pretend to be something it is not, nor will you see it apologize for how over-the-top it is.  There are times during this movie that I saw what was on screen and had two thoughts at the same time.

“That is absurd.”

and

“That is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!”

Those two thoughts typically don’t go hand-in hand, but for this movie it is an excellent balance, and the main reason that it is so much fun to watch.  You are not going to get very much message and meaning, but what you will get is two hours of explosions, car chases, gun fights, fist fights, awesome cars, and at least 20 things that you have never seen on any screen at any point in your life.  When I left Max, I walked out into the desert sun (literally – I was in Arizona) and needed some water and wanted to yell, “WITNESS ME!!!!” as I drove my rental car back to my hotel at high speeds.

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If the box office numbers are any clue, however, you are probably going to wait to see this movie when you can watch it at home, but I’m begging you to reconsider.  This movie is the perfect combination of fever dreams, acid flashbacks and “looking back over your shoulder at cool explosions” faces. Go see this on the big screen with a bottle of water and a smile on your face.  You will not regret that you did.


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Current box office total – $1,356,373,457

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

It’s hard to describe any movie that has climbed to 5th on the all-time highest grossing movies of all time a disappointment, but Age of Ultron was made by Marvel to claim the top spot on the list.  I have heard this movie described as lackluster, but I see it as the first comic book movie that combined all of the characters you love, and does not have to spend much time on backstory.  Other incarnations of the Marvel franchise have moved past origin stories at this point, so why the backlash when the studio does that exact same thing with the group?

This movie starts out action-packed, it ends action-packed, and there is plenty of action inbetween, so the quieter moments stand out more, but that exposition is what has tied the entire Marvel movie franchise together.  Marvel has never sacrificed story, and the future of their name, just to make a mindless summer action movie.  That is why they are so respected, so it baffles me that Age of Ultron is catching the type of reviews it has.  Was the entire movie great?  No, but they are building for a much, much larger payoff than any other movie this summer.

A conversation between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers while chopping wood seems unnecessary, but will fit perfectly when Captain America: Civil War kicks off.  Ant-Man will make money and be a good movie, but again, it will not be a stand-alone because the studio has already told us that he will be on screen with other characters from the franchise at some point.  That is very much a comic book trait and the reason that people have continued reading comics since the 1930s.  Do you think that generation after generation after generation would continue to read comics if the stories weren’t well thought out and compelling?  Do you think that Marvel could have existed for this long as a comic book company if they put each character on an island and never brought characters over from different books?

digitaltrends
digitaltrends

Marvel studios will continue to plan for the future and will continue to give the fans what they want, but if the occasional movie spends 20 minutes setting up the next 5 years, then we should trust them that it will pay off.  I have more faith in Marvel Studios than I do almost any other studio or executive group in the world.  They had a plan that has been executed perfectly, and they have the next part of that plan that has been put in progress, which will also be carried out precisely.  Trust me, it will all pay off when you see Spiderman slinging webs alongside Cap while the Guardians are protecting space with the help of Hulk.  This is your childhood coming to life on the big screen, so don’t judge farm scenes and exposition too harshly.


Jurassic World

Current box office total – $594,000,939

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

This is all the movie review that you need…This movie is so much fucking fun!!  I distinctly remember seeing Jurassic Park in the theater in 1993 and loving it.  I have also watched it several times since, and while parts of it do not hold up, (I’m looking at you Laura Dern’s high-waisted-khaki-mom-shorts) I still love the movie.  You could do worse than Steven Spielberg directing a movie with a clever script about dinosaurs, but when he signed on to direct the original there was always going to be a heart at the center of everything.  That is why the original is remembered so fondly and nostalgia for Jurassic Park is one of the main reasons loved I Jurassic World so much.

Jurassic World does such a wonderful job of including the past with the future, especially when they end up at the old park while lost on the island.  Seeing those old familiar doors and buildings, if only for a few minutes, made this sequel the first one that actually picked up the original story and made sense where Lost World did not.  The story itself isn’t going to win any awards, but I am a sucker for casting, and Jurassic World knocks it out of the park with the casting here and I’m not just talking about Chris PrattBryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jake Johnson, and Ty Simpkins make for a tremendous cast, especially when Chris Pratt is on screen doing Chris Pratt things on Chris Pratt motorcycle next to Chris Pratt raptors.

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I had concerns about how Pratt would do outside of the Marvel machine, and he completely exceeded my expectations.  He is a full-on movie star and carried this movie so well.  How well you ask?  At one point he is telling the two boys the names of the raptors, with the last one being named Blue, the beta male.  When they ask him who the alpha is, he responded with, “You’re looking at him,” at which point I leaned over to my date and told her, “I think I would f*ck this guy.”  I’m lucky that she has a great sense of humor, but she also very much agreed that he is a bad ass.

This is one of those rare occasions where a sequel is made that makes you like the original better, at the same time you like the movie you are watching.  It is a fun, well-cast, kind of scary, really well done movie that needs to be seen in the theater, and everyone in the world must agree.  Through its opening weekend it is already half-way to the Avengers: Age of Ultron box office total, and at $204.6 million it is showing no signs of going away.  I’m not sure that it will take down Avatar, but I’m absolutely rooting for it to do just that.


You have possibly noticed that I don’t have much negative to say about any of these movies, and that is because I take them for what they are: summer popcorn movies that are an exciting two hours.  Does that mean there aren’t flaws in any of these movies?  Absolutely not, but what is the point of negative reviews for movies that aren’t pretending to be award-winning productions?  Sure, several summer movies aren’t great, but those are the movies I choose to watch at home instead of at the theater.  I’m sure I wouldn’t like San Andreas, and several summer movies tend to be sequels, but it all depends on the execution and casting.  Daredevil has as many interesting storylines from the comics as Batman, but Daredevil the movie and The Dark Knight don’t belong in the same category.  Execution is key, and casting is equally as important, so that is how I make my decisions, which is something that I’ve picked up from years and years of being a movie fanatic.  I knew every beat that was coming in Jurassic World, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of how they presented it.

More on this next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

That 80s Mailbag

Lorimar Productions
Lorimar Productions

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


Welcome back to week three of “I Love the 80s” month here at The Scoop, where we are celebrating everything from that glorious decade that we all know and love.  In case you missed the first two installments you can find them here and here.

As you can imagine, talking about the 80s brings back a lot of memories for people who grew up in a world of MTV, “Just Say No,” and Aquanet, so I’ve been inundated with questions about all things 80s.  Not only have I received a ton of questions, but I’ve received some terrific questions, so this week I am going to open up the mailbag and throw out a few answers to you fine people.

So let’s sweep the leg of this mailbag and show it who is boss…

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I like the 80s, but why did the “That 80s Show” not survive any longer than it did?  I thought it was going to be funny, and don’t know why it didn’t work.

Jason – Austin, Texas

The answer to why any televised situational comedy fails or succeeds is always the quality of the writing, and the writing on That 80s Show was really, really, REALLY bad.  It debuted in 2002 after That 70s Show was a huge hit, and the network, being reactive in nature as it is, thought that it was only the nostalgia that people loved.  That 70s Show really took care of story and characters, which when paired with excellent casting, can make a show exceptional.

Carsey Werner Productions
Carsey Werner Productions

That is why I was surprised that the show didn’t work, because the same team of writers was behind both, but it was painfully obvious that they were just being asked to do something for the network with 80s Show, while 70s Show was a labor of actual love.  You could tell they were just going through the motions by the way that most of the jokes were about how terrible the things in the 80s were, while the reason That 70s Show worked was that the decade was just a setting for great stories each week, not the focus of the entire show.  That is what makes it so much fun to watch, and what makes a current show as much fun as that one.

ABC
ABC

If you have missed The Goldbergs, then you are missing out on one of the best comedies that is currently on TV.  It is the best combination of nostalgia, humor, story, family, and charm, and it isn’t just a running joke about the 80s.  Yes, it is set in the 80s, and there are some great things to see from the decade there, but the reason the show works so well is that the stories are really well done, and the jokes work in any decade.  The good news is that you have time to catch up on it now, and you will be very glad that you did.  The second season just ended and you have all summer to plow through the first two seasons and get ready for season three.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.


How have you written so much about the 80s and not mentioned Glamour Shots yet?

Amanda – Arlington, Texas

You are 100% correct, that is a terrible job by me to have not said anything about it yet.  There are very few things that are better than the glossy, hair-sprayed, and soft lighting of Glamour Shots.  I firmly believe that the two reasons that the Internet was invented were to find hilarious Glamour Shots and to see pictures of Nic Cage’s face on things.  Those two Google searches always lead to non-stop entertainment and make me want to send a thank you note to Al Gore for inventing the Interwebs.

Photo Credit; Lea Brown
Photo Credit; Lea Brown

Look at this picture!  I mean really take it in, it is just absolutely perfect!  Only in the 80s could you leave the house thinking, “You know, I think I’m going to have my picture taken with enough hairspray on to kill the ozone, and I’m popping the collar to my jacket that looks like it was made from a world championship wrestling belt.  I look so fly right now!”  And you know what, she does look great.  You can’t look at this now and compare it to modern fashion, you have to absorb it with the 80s perspective, which is: This look made all of the guys stop and say DAAAAAAAMMMMNNNN!!!


Who was the toughest movie villain to escape in the 80s?  Jason Voorhees has to be high on the list, but Freddy Kruger is in your dreams, so he has to be the toughest, right?

Mike – Grapevine, Texas

They are both formidable opponents to escape with your life, but the toughest is and will always been Hell Track.  You might not make it out with your life because face it, not all of us are Cru Jones.

TalliaFilm II Productions
TalliaFilm II Productions

What did you want to be when you grew up in the 80s?

Charlotte – Houston, Texas

A computer programmer…

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Can you please settle a bet for me?  My friend says that the best thing from the 80s that nobody talks about anymore is Fraggle Rock, and I say it is Buck Rogers.  Which one of us is right?

Dave – Dallas, Texas

First off, you both have excellent taste, but I have to disagree with both of your answers.  The best thing that nobody talks about from the 80s has to be G.L.O.W.Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling had it all, from skits to rapping to wrestling to the best names that have ever been created.  They rapped their intro, and as it turns out, the “rings” that they wrestled in weren’t even padded, they were essentially carpet over plywood.  Do you know how tough these women would have to be to do that?

I stumbled on to G.L.O.W. as a kid because I was a big fan of WWF and watched Saturday Night Superstars religiously, but one night after it ended, I didn’t turn off the TV for bed and this started.  I ended up watching all of it and kept on watching it for the next four years.  It was and is very entertaining to see these women rap and perform the worst promos that have ever been cut.  If you have never seen this show, then do yourself a favor and fall down that YouTube rabbit hole for a few hours, only to return forever changed.


Can you think of something from the 80s that wasn’t meant to be funny at the time, but has now become unintentionally hilarious?

Evelyn – Houston, Texas

That is a tough question, Evelyn, since you just described almost anything from the 80s, but luckily you have come to the right place.  The answer to your question is undoubtedly the British kids’ television series, T-Bag……you read that correctly, T-Bag.

Thames Television
Thames Television

T-Bag was a show about a woman named Tallulah Bag (T-Bag), who obtained magical/witch-like powers when her kid sidekick Thomas Shirt (T-Shirt) made her a cup of tea from the High T-Plant.  T-errific, right?!

Each series had a different title, such as, T-Bag and the Pearls of Wisdom, T-Bag Bounces Back, and Take off with T-Bag.  Everything about this show is dripping with unintentional hilarity and, for my money, you cannot find a better measure of how innocent the 80s were.  God bless you, The 80s, please never change.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

I Love the 80s: The Swayze Awards

Silver Pictures
Silver Pictures

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


Welcome back to week two of “I Love the 80s” month here at The Scoop, where we are celebrating everything from that glorious decade that we all know and love.  In case you missed the first installment, check out the Couple Skate Power Rankings here.

Just like with any decade, the 80s were full of things that were good and bad, but when they were bad in the 80s, they were really, really bad.  I’m fully aware that most of that is hindsight, but I was one of the kids who grew up poor, and I would have told you then the same that I will tell you now…that Gobots sucked ass.  They were cheap, they were small, and compared to a Transformer, they looked like an Ewok standing next to Chewbacca.

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That made me appreciate the finer things in life, even if I only had one Transformer and an empty TV box that I turned into my own Fortress Maximus.  You knew that it was Fortress Maximus due to the writing in pencil I put on the side of the box that said Fortress Maximus.

There were countless things about my childhood that kept me in constant fear of getting beat up, but that information leaking out would have been as sure fire a butt-kicking as someone seeing my tighty-whities with blue Donald Ducks on them that were sewn by hand by my Aunt Reta.  I’m telling you now that if a picture of that surfaces, I am going on the lam and moving to Canada like a draft dodger in the 60s.

Being poor, though, just meant that when something awesome happened, I really appreciated it so much more.  The year that I turned 8, I finally had a birthday party that wasn’t at home with my cousins Chris and Harrell and whatever other friends we could scrape together (I wasn’t the popular kid if you couldn’t tell from my underwear selection)  to enjoy some homemade cake and store brand ice cream.  Please don’t misunderstand me, those are now some of the best memories that I have, but at the time I wanted an actual party at the skating rink or bowling alley or anywhere that would make me seem like the cool kid that I most definitely was not.  So, for my 8th birthday, my mom invited some people and we loaded up the car for a full-fledged birthday at McDonald’s!

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Words cannot convey how awesome that was at the time, and how much fun McDonald’s was to a kid of the 80s.  To be fair, that may have just been for me, because my dad was notoriously cheap and refused to eat anything fast food, so anytime we got to go out to eat in general it was an amazing event.  When I got to play at this place, it always made for a special day.  I mean look at it and let its glory wash over you!  You got to play outside (skin cancer wasn’t a thing then) and ignore the fact that in the middle of the summer, that solid metal playground equipment could give you 3rd degree burns.  The BEST!  I will never forget that birthday; it goes down in history as one of the best I ever had, even if I did get another stupid Gobot that year.

So now that I can look back and appreciate the finer things in life, I want to give retroactive awards to some certain things that may have been forgotten.  What do I call an award that celebrates the best things the 80s have to offer?  The Swayze Award, of course, what did you think it was going to be?  Nothing sums up everything good about the 80s better than Patrick mother-effing-WOLVERINES Swayze!  His name is forever going on this award, and there is no other person who can even come close, so hat-tip to the Movie Yoda for the idea.

So without further ado, here are the categories and winners for the 1st annual Swayze Awards.


Best Toy of the Decade:

Transformers

Look, they are freaking more than meets the eye, what else do you need in a winner?  GI Joe was cool, and He-Man action figures were much better than the cartoon, but when it came down to pure greatness, you cannot beat Optimus Prime and his crew of Autobots.  I will admit that this choice is very much slanted to the boys of the 80s, but I am 100% aware of how Cabbage Patch Kids and Strawberry Shortcake are hall of fame toys.

I am aware, but never had any in the house growing up because my sisters are 7 and 9 years older than me.  There are definitely other great toys from the decade, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I watched religiously on TV and had all of the action figures, but nothing trumps Transformers.

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Especially not My Buddy with their catchy jingle or Teddy Ruxpin, which looks cool on TV until you see it talking in person and realize his face/mouth/voice is clearly being maneuvered by the devil.

Best Commercial of the Decade:

Where’s The Beef?

The first commercial that came to my mind wasn’t this commercial, but I do bow to its longevity now.  The Where’s the Beef? lady coined a catchphrase that stuck around the rest of the decade and beyond.  She was even on talk shows simply because of how popular she had become by doing the commercials.  There are several other options from the decade that came to mind for me first, like California Raisins and that pesky Noid trying to make your pizza cold before you could enjoy it.  Those are great commercials, and if you ever get bored, then chase the Kool-Aid Man, wrecking shit for 5 decades on YouTube.  Nothing can top the Where’s the Beef? lady, and I’m sure she was a huge fan of Patrick Swayze, so she gets the award.

Best Music Video of the Decade:

Weird Al Yankovic – “Eat It

I am sick and tired of Thriller being considered the best music video of all time.  Sure it was good, and sure it was groundbreaking, and sure Michael Jackson was the biggest thing in music, but how on earth can you top this song?  Weird Al is a freaking pioneer, who still cranks out great songs to this day, and to top that off he’s never been to court over allegedly diddling children.  Weird Al changed the lives of so many adolescent boys of the 80s and made it cool to make a fool of yourself.  His Weirdness is a freaking icon and if you don’t like that, then you can eat it.

Best Movie of the Decade:

Road House (1989)

Giphy
Giphy

If you think for one second that I’m creating an award named after Patrick Swayze, and not including this movie as the best of the decade, then you are crazy!  I totally get that there are movies that you might consider “better” than Road House, and I even had an argument today with our friendly neighborhood 80s guru Jenifer Sutton about it, who maintains that if you’re going with Swayze you have to roll with Dirty Dancing, but nothing is changing my mind on this (even though she tried very hard to do just that).  Sure, nobody puts Baby in the corner, but nobody and I mean NOBODY is going to fight on Dalton’s watch, and especially not that greedy asshole Brad Wesley.

Silver Pictures
Silver Pictures

This is peak Swayze on top of peak Sam Elliot on top of peak Kelly Lynch, and to top that off, Swayze rips the freaking throat out of a guy AND has sex with a woman against the wall standing up straight!  Both of those things are equally impossible if you’re not The Swayze (seriously, try to pull that off and be prepared for your core muscles to jump out of your body, screaming in pain.  Stop lying to me, movies, you dick).  Did Han Solo ever do that?  Did Indiana Jones ever spot a blade on Nazi boot?

The answer is a resounding no!  It’s Dalton and Road House for the win, so don’t get a problem over it there, mijo.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.