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September 1, 2022

Static Age #22: Legends of the Superheroes (1979)

Promotional frame from Legends of the Superheroes (1979)

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Legends of the Superheroes (1979), a two-episode television special (each episode runs for a full hour) made by Hanna-Barbera Productions and aired on NBC. Loosely based on the Super Friends animated series (that I may cover one day via this column) and featuring several DC superheroes and super-villains, most notably the ones from the 1960s Batman kitsch-fest. By employing a standard TV show approach (complete with a laugh track and stand-up comedy antics that range from sexist to racist – I mean, ‘Ghetto-Man’, seriously?), the first studio-confined episode (‘The Challenge’) is unbearable, but the second one (‘The Roast’) is featuring several vignettes that makes it a bit more sustainable.


And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…


Stanger Things - Season 4

Netflix’s crown jewel series Stranger Things (2016 – present) returned with its 4th and most epic season offered in two volumes (the first becoming available in May and the other in July 2022) totaling 9 feature-length episodes (the finale alone is almost two and a half hours long) that reveal an increase in budget and inspiration. The Duffer brothers have done it again, offering a solid story that takes us back to our favorite 1980s amidst a chaos of alien threats and banal fashions. This is landmark television, master storytelling, killer pop aesthetics, and it should not be missed by fans of the genre.


Daredevil - Season 3

It used to be the case that if you were dark you’d most likely be in the DC Universe, but Netflix changed things and the 3rd season of Marvel’s Daredevil (2015 – 2018) is violent and bloody, as we find the titular superhero (Charlie Cox) in a new round of battles against Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio); it’s a pity though that the end result is boring as well, and after you’ve finished with its 13 episodes you feel like it’s for better that we didn’t get more. The angle with the Albanian mob and the arc with Daredevil as a wanted man from the FBI are both interesting, but not enough to save the day.


Executive produced by Jason Blum for his own Blumhouse Television and made available on Hulu, the 1st season of Into the Dark (2018 – 2021) consists of 12 feature-length holiday-themed episodes, most of them so well-done that could have easily played theaters. ‘The Body’ is about a hit-man (Tom Bateman) who after offing somebody gets mixed-up in some circumstances that have him lose the dead body to some Halloween partying teenagers (each one of them more annoying than the other) and now has to retrieve it on time and deliver it to his unseen boss (they only talk on the phone), a task that will also require the help of data analyst Maggie (the gorgeous Rebecca Rittenhouse). ‘Flesh & Blood’ is about agoraphobic teenager Kimberly (Diana Silvers) who is mourning the recent death of her mother, but her dad (Dermot Mulroney) may be hiding a terrible secret or two. ‘Pooka!’ is about a struggling actor (Nyasha Hatendi) who strikes gold when he signs up to play the titular toy character in a television commercial and his life changes completely, but is it for the better or for worse? ‘New Year, New You’ is about healthy lifestyle influencer Danielle Williams (Carly Chaikin) who gets invited at a house party set up by her old friends from school, but unbeknownst to her the setting is a trap and all they want from her is to confess to the bullying she had initiated that resulted in the suicide of a young girl several years ago. ‘Down’ is about two people (Natalie Martinez and Matt Lauria) stuck in an elevator, but there’s more to the situation than what meets the eye. ‘Treehouse’ is about a TV chef (Jimmi Simpson) who is about to get punished for his sinister past. ‘I’m Just F*cking with you’ is about a resentful internet troll (Larry Adams) who spends a night in Bates-like motel where the jokester clerk (Hayes MacArthur) may be a bit too dangerous. In ‘All that We Destroy’, a geneticist Victoria Harris (Samantha Mathis) creates several clones to satisfy the violent urges of her son (Israel Broussard). A family mourns the passing of the mother in ‘They Come Knocking’, until things get a paranormal twist. ‘Culture Shock’ tells the story of a group of people crossing the Mexico/U.S. border in order to find the American dream, but all they find is nightmares. A group of students in detention are about to face nightmares of both the real and supernatural kind in ‘School Spirit’. A dodgy purity camp featuring a creepy pastor is the setting of ‘Pure’, but religious fundamentalists may get what they deserve in this one.


Castle Rock - Season 2

Based on characters and settings created by Stephen King and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, the 2nd season of Hulu’s Castle Rock (2018 – 2019) is about a nurse (the gorgeous Lizzy Caplan) who is struggling with her own personal mental demons, but things will get worse once she moves into the titular location where she’ll find herself amidst a beef between local businessmen and Somali migrants. Featuring a near-perfect performance by the legendary Tim Robbins, this may not be a small screen masterpiece, but it is quite enjoyable. Its main weakness are the several flashbacks that have become mandatory these days, but drag the proceedings.


Peaky Blinders - Season 6

The 6th season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – 2022) has ruthless gangster Thomas Shelby (Cilian Murphy) getting involved with more gum than he can chew (his limitations are often a matter of discussion among some of the main characters), eventually involved with politics and bigger businesses, essentially suffering from delusions of grandness. He will also get to question his faith and superstitions, as well as lose more things that he loves and possibly more than he can stand. A dark hero’s journey in six episodes, this is less of a gangster epic and more of a western-like grotesque poem that although not really entertaining, always a thrill to watch.


The Boys - Season 3

The 3rd season of Amazon Prime’s The Boys (2019 – present) starts with the sups returning to their old evil ways (complete with fame and corporate shame) and it is now up to the real good guys to get things back in order. Troma-style humor that includes exploding body members and a guy getting inside another person’s anus, this is a big-budget excess of grossness and toilet humor.


The 13th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is the last one featuring Jodie Whittaker in the titular role and she goes out with a bang, as the mere 6 arc episodes are amongst the best we’ve seen so far from the series. Facing the threat of an evil force that may end the universe, the Doctor along with her remaining sidekick (Mandip Gill) need to save the world once again, while the production finds the space to throw in all of our favorite villains from past seasons.


The Deuce - Season 3

Set in 1985, HBO’s 3rd (and final) season of The Deuce (2017 – 2019) is about the decline of New York’s 42nd Street smut-peddling, drug-pushing, and trick-turning empire, detailing how the dirt was defeated by the AIDS epidemic, the transformation of the porn industry from chic films to plot-less scenes shot on videocassette, as well as the invasion of capitalism and real estate that resulted in the gentrification of the world’s greatest sewer. This is great television and my favorite series in the history of the medium, so it is a pity that it didn’t last for longer, pretty much like the story and the characters it depicts.


And now, please allow me a word on some recent mainstream releases…


Spider-Man: No Way Home

Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) directed by Jon Watts, has the titular superhero (Tom Holland) accidentally revealing his identity and sees the world turning against him, thinking of him as a vigilante and a threat. Spider-Man asks for the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), but when he doesn’t play by the magician’s and the universe’s rules, things get even worse. An array of super-villains including the Green Goblin (William Dafoe) and Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) target the web-slinger, but the biggest enemy he has is himself. Made on a massive $200 million budget, this is as big and epic as these things get, and it went on to gross a stunning $1.8 billion, making it one of the most successful films in cinema history, and what’s more the critics and the fans alike loved it; deservedly so if I may add.


DC’s The Batman (2022) directed by Matt Reeves, is not an origin story per se, but we get to learn a lot about the titular superhero (the excellently cast Robert Pattison), as it is to be expected by a reboot of sorts. The main thing however is that gangsters like The Penguin (Colin Farell) and nut-jobs like The Riddler (an outstanding performance by Paul Dano) have brought chaos to Gotham city, and since the police is corrupt and controlled by the underworld, the Batman vigilante will have to take the law into his own hands, albeit with a little bit of help from the Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz). Noir-ish in its approach, and epic in its scope (and clocking at almost 3 hours long), this is an unforgettable masterpiece that will forever be cherished as one of the best superhero films ever made.


Morbius (2022) poster

Marvel’s Morbius (2022) directed by Daniel Espinosa, tells the tale of the titular vampire superhero (Jared Leto) and its struggle against his mean brother (Matt Smith) who is also a vampire. Putting a lot of effort into presenting its protagonist as the new poster boy for gothic fandom, this is a mediocre film that relies too much on its CGI that are not that well-done anyway.


Old-timer maverick director Sam Raimi, responsible for iconic horror aesthetics as well as some of superhero cinema’s greatest innovations, brings fresh air to the tired Marvel formula in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), in which the titular sorcerer supreme (returning Benedict Cumberbatch) changes universes with the frequency most people change their underwear, only to find out – once again – that his (as well as the world’s) greatest enemy is himself. Looking like exactly what it is – a canon Marvel movie directed by Sam Raimi – this brings the best of both worlds on the table and succeeds on almost every level, going as far as even scaring little kids a little bit.


Jurassic World Dominion

Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World Dominion (2022) takes the iconic 1990s franchise’s story forward (some of the original cast returns) and in a world where dinosaurs now live peacefully – and sometimes not so peacefully – amongst us and the rest of this planet’s animals, until the central evil science corporation sets up a locust pandemic that is threatening to extinguish all life. Clocking at a massive – and at times tiring – 2 hours and a half, as is the norm for most blockbusters nowadays that unleash as many character arcs as possible and then fails to tie them together, this is spectacular as expected (even the CGI are surprisingly stunning for this sort of thing) and biology students will have a field day with.


BJ McDonnell’s Studio 666 (2022) is about the struggle of stadium rockers Foo Fighters to find inspiration for their tenth album, until they acquire a haunted villa, resulting in the demonic possession of their lead singer (Dave Grohl, playing himself) that assists him in discovering a new musical note and writing an epic song. For a horror-comedy – a very difficult genre to find balance in – this is not very funny, nor very scary, and it even drags at times as its pacing is not its strongest asset; however, its heart is in the right place, the attempt seems sincere, and the gore effects are gruesomely entertaining, so it is not without its merits. Featuring cameos from John Carpenter (who also co-wrote the score) and Kerry King (from Slayer).


Netflix’s feature-length true crime documentary Girl in the Picture (2022) directed by Skye Borgman, is looking at the mystery behind a – you guessed it – girl in a picture that was taken with the man that pretended to be her father, ended up marrying her, pimping her to a strip club, and eventually killing her. But who was she, and what was her real name? For such a rich and captivating story, the documentary is not as strong as it could be, but it is still a more than a worthy addition to the annals of the genre.


Minions: The Rise of Gru

Illumination Entertainment’s Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) are about the rise of the titular villain (voiced by Steve Carell) with the help of the beloved minions, and for such a late addition to the franchise it is surprisingly strong and funny. Featuring voice acting by Julie Andrews, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless, and Steve Coogan among others, hyper-realistic and stunning animation, as well as a bombastic soundtrack (featuring artists such as Ted Nugent and The Rolling Stones), this is a thoroughly good time.


And finally, this time around I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…


Not as thorough or definite as it could have been (I can think of several films that could be included and were not, and a few franchises had some films tackled and others not) David J. Moore’s massive 560-pages-long coffee-table hardcover edition of The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars, 1960s-Present (2016, Schiffer) is still a work to behold, written with a lot of passion and affection for the genre. This being a guide book, most of its hundreds of reviews consist of a total of two paragraphs (usually a synopsis and a few comments), but where the book really shines is with its numerous interviews of action stars that are informative and entertaining.


Katherine Coldiron’s Midnight Movie Monographs: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) (2021, PS Publishing) at a mere 97 pages long is a tiny but highly intelligent tackling on Edward D Wood Jr.’s infamous atrocious cinema classic that manages to become what amounts to the most accurate thesis I have ever read on why we watch bad movies. Highly recommended both for fans of the director as well as anyone that is even mildly interested in theorizing about film.


Alan Jones’ Frightfest Guide 5: Grindhouse Movies (2021, FAB Press) is actually the author’s second volume – within the same book series – to tackle the same subject (the first volume was labeled ‘exploitation’), although this is a much more interesting outing both for widely relying on notes he wrote upon the first viewing of the films and for focusing on largely more obscure titles. Short and sweet, this is informative, entertaining, and well-illustrated in glowing color.


Tim Lucas’ The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes (2022, Electric Dreamhouse, PS Publishing) is the novelization of the same-titled unproduced screenplay that the renowned film critic co-authored (heralded as one of the greatest movies never made) and it takes a deep but entertaining dive into the making of The Trip, one of Roger Corman’s finest pictures and a 1960s milestone. Based on interviews the author had conducted over the years with several key people involved, this is truer than fiction, but most importantly it is masterful storytelling and a very special treat for us, Corman super-fans.

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