After detailing our thoughts on the best and worst aspects of the second season of Orange Is the New Black, we realized that there's just too much craziness going on at the Litch for one article. The season is chock-full of great moments, but also a few regrettable ones. We've decided to compile another list of the best and worst aspects of Orange Is the New Black's second season.
Good: Morello is actually crazyNasty casual racism aside, Morello was a interesting background player in Season 1, but the revelation about the true nature of her engagement with Christopher was remarkably executed. We've been hearing Lorna drone on about wedding plans and a perfect fiancé since the first episode, but to learn that they were really the delusions of a profoundly delusional woman was one of the show's finest Season 2 shockers.
Bad: And Sister Ingalls is hardly a nunYet more proof that you never really know someone, the outwardly pious sister Ingalls was revealed to be a fame-hungry rock star wannabe who saw herself as the Bono of charity work (so, basically just Bono). It was an interesting curveball for the character, but it doesn't quite line up with everything we gleaned about her from last season.
Good: Everything with RosaWho knew the mostly silent cancer-stricken inmate would become such an endearing character in Season 2? Orange Is the New Black excels at adding dimension to characters who could have easily been written off as one-note background figures. Rosa's character, with her pessimistic snark and heartbreaking storyline, became a huge highlight of Season 2.
Bad: Nothing for Ramos and GonzalesWhile so many characters got beefier roles in Season 2, inmates Maritza Ramos and Marisol Gonzales weren't given the same upgrade. There was the short subplot where the duo blackmailed Bennett into sneaking contraband into the prison via his leg, but they didn't have much to do beyond that. We really want to learn why Gonzales has such an unhealthy fascination with The Smiths.
Good: Vee's demiseAfter terrorizing the Litch for a full season, it looked like Vee might slip away in the wind, but good ol' Rosa, patron saint of manners, made sure Vee received the ultimate lesson in etiquette. "So rude, that one!" Vehicular manslaughter has never felt so cathartic.
Bad: ...Vee's demiseThere's a pendulum of feelings regarding the death of Vee swinging in our minds right now. Carnal satisfaction is bumping up against proper storytelling logic, and as nice as it was to see Vee get exactly what was coming to her, it did leave a slightly sour taste in our mouths behind all that sweetness. Vee hit Litchfield like a tempest, but there doesn't seem to be much debris in her wake. We worry that Rosa mulling down Vee with the prison van hit a factory reset on the show, and everything will now, more or less, go back to normal. It feels like too tidy of an ending for such a great storyline. At least Caputo is experiencing the biggest headache of his life.
Good: The Crazy Eyes flashbackThe best flashbacks on Orange Is the New Black help to shed light on the characters' current situations in prison, and perhaps our favorite one of the season was Crazy Eyes'. We thought that the visual gag of Crazy Eyes' posh white parents from season one was a one-off joke, but the series followed up on it, delivering a great glimpse at why Crazy Eyes has such a craving for affection, and why it's so easy for Vee to wrap Suzanne around her little finger.
Another good: Nicky's near relapseDespite her truckloads of sarcasm, Nicky still has some dangerous demons swirling around inside. Seeing the character struggle with her heroin addiction yet again was a great callback to Season 1. Now that the character is sitting on a truckload of the drug thanks to Vee, it will be interesting to see if she can maintain her sobriety in Season 2.
Bad: The way Alex is returning to LitchfieldSure, fans went into a series of convulsions when they heard that Laura Prepon would only be appearing in a few scant episodes of Season 2, but the character's disappearance from the Litch led the way for some interesting things story-wise, especially with regards to Piper. Thus, the way Alex is presumably returning for Season 2 feels a bit contrived. It was just too easy for Piper to manipulate Alex back into prison.
Another bad: The wait until Season 2A drawback to watching every episode of Season 2 in one mad binge is that we all have to wait for an entire year for more. It's going to be a long, long year spent refreshing Netflix on our browsers.
Back when their stars didn't shine quite as brightly, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon produced Project Greenlight. The HBO series gave first-time writers and directors a chance to helm a feature film. The gonzo idea took a fresh-faced writer or director chosen from a pool of submissions, and taught them every step in making Hollywood feature. The show went on for three seasons before petering out, but not before creating three films, one of which starred a young Shia Labeouf. Sadly, none of them were ever remotely profitable, and the series was cancelled.
Now, seven years later, Project Greenlight is back, with Affleck and Damon returning to produce. In a new video released by HBO, a beefy, Batman-sized Affleck and regular-sized Damon introduce the newest incarnation of the series, which invites novice directors to submit a three-minute short film. The winner will direct a full-length script and lead other aspects of production.
The timing of Project Greenlight's return seems quite apropos. In the ensuing years since the last Project Greenlight closed up shop, we as fans have developed an interesting relationship with the media we consume. Nowadays, there's more collaboration between fans and creators than ever before. In the age of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, people seem more keen to give small-time, unproven creators new opportunities to show their mettle and create something new. Thus, we think the idea of letting the public vote on their favorite directors, and having the winner create a feature film is an idea that would flourish moreso now than it did in 2001. In fact, other Hollywood productions seem to be following similar patterns of audience participation - the recently announced Jem and the Holograms film similarly invited people to submit their own ideas and creations for the film. Perhaps the first three seasons of Project Greenlight were just ahead of their time.
Thirteen hours of betrayals, shankings, geriatric prison escapes, and nun protests later, Orange Is the New Black wrapped up its sophomore season in spectacular fashion, creating a more self-assured and deeper season of television than the first. While the show corrected some of the first season's biggest stumbles, there are still some adjustments to be made in creating an even better third season. Here are our thoughts on the best and the worst aspects Orange Is the New Black's second round in the clink.
Good: VeeLitchfield was hardly ever a place of racial harmony and tranquil repentance, but whatever semblance of peace that did exist in those grey walls, Vee smacked it in the head with a giant lock in a sock. Vee was the spark that lit all of the tensions floating around Litchfield ablaze, and her war with Red reverberated through every cell and bunk in the prison. It's going to be tough to find a villain as twisted and alluring as Vee for Season 3.
Bad: SosoVee wasn't the only new face at Litchfield. There's a really tricky balance at play when creating a character who is purposefully annoying. OITNB struggled to find that balance with its other new inmate, Brook Soso, whose long asides about Bonnaroo, gluten, cancerous deodorant quickly dovetailed from enjoyable to insufferable.
Good: Season 1's villains are given more depthOrange Is the New Black managed to find strands of humanity in the deep black pit of bigotry and gloom that is Mr. Healy, and even the bible-thumping psychosis of Pennsatucky. Even a character like Caputo is revealed to have a good amount of integrity. There's a war of good vs. evil brewing in every soul, and OITNB excels at creating dynamic, flawed characters that are believable.
Bad: ...But Larry is still terribleFirst, it should be known that I was a staunch defender of Larry during Season 1. His screw-ups were just as mean and twisted as Piper's, so really they were both semi-horrible people that were made for each other. Unfortunately, Larry has somehow found a way to become even more insufferable in Season 2. Larry's storyline took up a lot of real estate that would have been better used at the Litch.
Good: More PousseyIn Season 2, Poussey graduated from wisecracks and witty asides (as fun as those were) and became much more of a fully realized character. Her strengths, flaws, and passions were all on full display as her friendship with Taystee was stretched to its breaking point.
Bad: Less SophiaWhile Possey received a boost in screen time, we got a lot less Sophia. Sure, we got to see the sassy stylist give a full crash course on female anatomy, but the character was sadly left IN the background for most of the season. We did get a tender moment between her and her son, but not much else. Here's hoping we see more of her once Season 3 rolls around.
Another Bad: Where's the Big Boo backstory?We thought this season was sure to deliver a Big Boo flashback, but the season came and went without a glimpse into the character's past. We got a Black Cindy flashback for heaven's sake, but still no info on Big Boo's life before the Litch. A character as raw and entertaining as Boo certainly needs some fleshing out.
Good: The show is even more of an ensembleWhile the rundown to the Season 1 finale was very much about the battle between Pennsatucky and Piper, Season 2’s emphasis is much more focused on the other inmates at Litchfield. There's a mosaic of characters, rivalries, friendships, and relationships in place and Piper is but one little piece in a much larger and vibrant picture. Inmates that were mostly background fodder in Season 1 had their characters and stories fleshed out in Season 2, and the world of Litchfield feels deeper and richer because of it.
Bad: Piper's storyline was pretty gratingWhile the series did well stretch its focus to the other inmates this season, it feels like Piper's storyline got the short end of the stick. Next to the tense face-off between Vee and Red and Caputo's mission to expose Fig's corruption, Piper's little squabbles with Larry and her attempts to get furlough seemed petty and dull in comparison. There were simply way more interesting things going on this season.
Good: It's funnier and weirder than everThe world of Litchfield has managed to get even weirder in Season 2. Carrier cockroaches, hunger strikes, the gaggle of nuns at the front gate, and catholic candles straight killing people with the power of Jesus all helped make season 2 even weirder than the first.
Brad Pitt is being deployed once again. This time, in David Ayer's upcoming war drama Fury, which centers on a five-man tank crew making one last push against the Germans in the final weeks of World War II. But the team finds itself terribly outnumbered and behind enemy lines. Pitt's Sergeant Wardaddy (nope, that's not a joke, that's really his name) stands at the center of Fury. He's a hardened, weary-eyed patrol leader that has marched his tank squad across the numerous fronts of WWII. Now his team is preparing to strike at the heart of the Nazi war machine, but the long battle has chipped away at their souls. Through its grit and intensity, the Fury trailer serves foremost as a reminder that Pitt might very well be at his best when playing a war hero.
His rugged good looks, strong jaw, and steady voice perfectly mirror the type of brave men we imagine were really stomping through the fields of Europe and Africa during the real WWII. Wardaddy seems eerily similar to Inglourious Basterds' Lt. Aldo Raine, a man who also fought Nazis behind enemy lines... though we don't think Wardaddy will be as scalp-happy as Lt. Raine. Both men had scars that told stories and experienced events during the war that fundamentally changed them.
Pitt is great at giving these soldiers layers. Wardaddy is a man putting on a brave face, even as his foundations are cracking at the joints. Looking as far back as 1994's Legends of the Fall, Pitt has always been great at giving soldier characters a sense of duty, honor, toughness, and vulnerability; all things that seem to be rolled into Pitt's portrayal of Wardaddy. We'll have to wait and see to be sure, but Fury looks like the latest in a line of good war performances from Brad Pitt.
Fury hits theaters November 14.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
A familiar face will be cruising through Marvel's cinematic galaxy come this August. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has confirmed that the one and only Nathan Fillion will appear in the upcoming space adventure in a "very small fun cameo." While earlier rumors suggested that Fillion might play a bigger role in the film, Gunn set the record straight via his Twitter account last night. With Fillion's addition the cast, Guardians of the Galaxy is looking like it might be the most geek-friendly film of the decade. In light of the good news, we've decided to assess to geek cred of every major cast member in the film.
Relevant Projects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible's Ding-Along Blog, Justice League Unlimited, that one episode of Lost Geek Cred: Through his frequent collaborations with nerd Jesus Joss Whedon, including a guest-stint on the last season of Buffy and a leading role in the cult sci-fi western Firefly, Fillion has built up an incredibly loyal legion of fans. Even 10 years after it's cancelation, some of the more deluded browncoats out there still believe there's a chance Firefly can somehow become un-cancelled. Now, there's some credibility for you.Rating: 5 out of 5
Chris PrattRelevant Projects: Jennifer's Body, Wanted Geek Cred: Pratt doesn't have a whole lot of nerd fodder to his name, but appearances in the comic book film Wanted and the underappreciated horror comedy Jennifer's Body to give him a decent boost. Rating: 3 out of 5
Relevant Projects: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Avatar, The LosersGeek Cred: Saldana has a prominent role in the newest chain of Star Trek film, though that might boost or diminish her cred, depending on who you talk to. There are similarly mixed feelings about her other two genre pictures, Avatar and The Losers.Rating: 3 out of 5
Relevant Projects: The Man with the Iron Firsts, RiddickGeek Cred: Batista has spent more time wrestling than appearing in movies so most geeks probably aren't familiar with their new Drax the Destroyer. He did have a role in the latest Riddick sequel, but was overshadowed by Vin Diesel. (More on him later)Rating: 2 out of 5
Relevant Projects: AliasGeek Cred: Unfortunately, Bradley Cooper doesn't have the most geek friendly filmography as of yet, but his role as Rocket Raccoon should change that quite soon. Geeks might remember him in Alias, but even in the J.J. Abrams show, he wasn't the one doing the cool spy stuff.Rating: 2 out of 5
Relevant Projects: Doctor Who, Outcast, OculusGeek Cred: Huge! Gillan three-year stint on the British import Doctor Who was almost perfectly timed with the show's explosion in popularity in the states.Rating: 4 out of 5
Relevant Projects: Stargate, Alias, EragonGeek Cred: Not very high. Hounsou has enjoyed small roles in things like Stargate, Alias, and Eragon, but noting really major for geeks to really get to know the actor.Rating: 2 out of 5
John C. Reilly
Relevant Projects: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Wreck-it Ralph, everything Tim and EricGeek Cred: Reilly doesn't have a huge backlog of geeky things on his resume, but Wreck-It Ralph and his work in the absurdly wonderful world of Tim and Eric does give him some clout to work with.Rating: 3 out of 5
Relevant Projects: Mars Attacks!Geek Cred: Despite being a A-lister in Hollywood, Close has mostly steered clear of genre pictures, though her appearance in Mars Attacks! does give her something.Rating: 1 out of 5
Relevant Projects: The 6th Day, Slither, Stargate SG-1, Chuck, The Walking DeadGeek Cred: Rooker's cred skyrocketed with his role as Merle on The Walking Dead, but the longtime character actor has stealthily built up quite the geeky filmography over the years with appeareances in shows like Chuck and Archer.Rating: 4 out of 5
Benicio Del Toro
Relevant Projects: Sin City, The Wolfman, Thor: The Dark WorldGeek Cred: Fans recieved a snapshot of Del Toro's "The Collector" character in the end credits stinger for Thor: The Dark World, but beyond that, the actor's geek cred is pretty slim.Rating: 2 out of 5
Relevant Projects: All the Riddick moviesGeek Cred: Huge. Even outside of his career, Diesel is a well-documented geek and enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons on his off-time. He has also developed a good relationship with fans, appearing in video game adaptations of his Riddick films, and even putting up his own money to fund the 2013's Riddick.Rating: 5 out of 5
Relevant Projects: The Fall, the Hobbit moviesGeek Cred: Pace has impressed in the last two Hobbit films, but he doesn't quite have the same history as some of his cast members.Rating: 2 out of 5
The Fourth Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards were held Thursday night, with AMC's Breaking Bad, Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, and FX's Fargo coming away with the big wins. The awards, which are chosen by TV critics, have a knack for recognizing the programs and performances that are often overlooked by the other big television award shows. But do the slightly out-there nominees have a chance for gold when it comes to the Primetime Emmys? We've decided to predict the nominees and winners of this year's Emmys based on the winners of last nights Critics Choice Awards. The two award shows might have more winners in common than you would expect.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsThe Americans Breaking BadGame of Thrones The Good Wife Masters of Sex True Detective
Emmy PredictionsBreaking BadGame of ThronesThe Good WifeHouse of CardsMad MenTrue Detective
Last year's Emmy winner, Breaking Bad, is coming off a fantastic final season, so it's hard to reason how Vince Gilligan's masterwork won't win the night's big award yet again. But on the slim chance that Bad doesn't win (and we mean slim), True Detective is the most sensible alternative. We don't expect low profile dramas like Masters of Sex and The Americans to be recognized by the Emmys, and the hype on Downton Abbey has cooled of considerably this year. Another Emmy favorite, Homeland, had its worst season yet last year, freeing the category up for some new blood.
BEST COMEDY SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsThe Big Bang Theory Broad City Louie Orange Is the New Black Silicon Valley Veep
Emmy PredictionsThe Big Bang TheoryLouieModern FamilyOrange Is the New BlackParks and RecreationVeep
Freshman dramedy Orange Is the New Black will certainly get nominated at the Emmys, but we're doubtful that Netflix's prison series will win the top prize like it did at the Critics' Choice Awards, certainly not in a race that includes Modern Family. The juggernaut of a sitcom has won the category four times in a row, and there's nothing with enough buzz to stop it's warpath. Elsewhere, Critics' Choice nominees like Silicon Valley and Broad City are way off the Emmys radar, and don't stand a chance of getting nominated.
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsBryan Cranston, Breaking Bad Hugh Dancy, Hannibal Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel Matthew McConaughey, True Detective Matthew Rhys, The Americans Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Emmy PredictionsBryan Cranston, Breaking BadJeff Daniels, The NewsroomJohn Hamm, Mad MenDamien Lewis, HomelandMatthew McConaughey, True DetectiveKevin Spacey, House of Cards
McConaughey came out on top at the Critic's Choice Awards, but despite his massive performance in True Detective, we're doubtful he will best Cranston at the Emmys. We're expecting the rest of the category's Emmy nominees to be rounded out with the usual suspects. While the critics recognized the great performances in Hannibal, The Americans, and Bates Motel, we're doubtful that any of those shows will make it to the Emmys this year, or any year for that matter.
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Critics' Choice Awards Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black Keri Russell, The Americans Robin Wright, House of Cards
Emmy PredictionsClaire Danes, HomelandJulianna Margules, The Good WifeElisabeth Moss, Mad MenTatiana Maslany, Orphan BlackKerry Washington, ScandalRobin Wright, House of Cards
When the dust settles, we're expecting Tatiana Maslany to also win the Emmy in this category. At this point, her hype is insurmountable, and riots might break out if she doesn't leave the Nokia theater with something golden.
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsLouis C.K., Louie Chris Messina, The Mindy Project Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation Robin Williams, The Crazy Ones
Emmy PredictionsDon Cheadle, House of LiesLouis C.K., LouieMatt LeBlanc, EpisodesJim Parsons, The Big Band TheoryAndy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-NineRobin Williams, The Crazy Ones
The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons will likely walk home with both awards. In terms of the other nominations, there's no way Chris Messina or Thomas Middleditch have a chance at securing an Emmy nomination. We're also betting that Robin Williams gets nominated, due mostly due organization's usual affection for "veterans" ... or so the Emmys have an excuse to invite the actor to the show and hear his Genie voice.
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsIlana Glazer, Broad City Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep Wendi McLendon-Covey, The Goldbergs Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Emmy PredictionsZooey Deschanel, New GirlLena Dunham, GirlsEdie Falco, Nurse JackieJulia Louis-Dreyfus, VeepMelissa McCarthy, Mike & MollyAmy Poehler, Parks and RecreatonLouis-Dreyfus' foul-mouthed vice-prez will likely win the Emmy along with the Critics' Choice Award this year. As for the other nomination slots, Glazer and Schumer have no chance at getting nominated for Emmys. We're expecting the rest of the nomination list to be filled up with Emmys regulars like Melissa McCarthy and Edie Falco.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsJosh Charles, The Good Wife Walton Goggins, Justified Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad Peter Sarsgaard, The Killing Jon Voight, Ray Donovan Jeffrey Wright, Boardwalk Empire
Emmy PredictionsPeter Dinklage, Game of ThronesWalton Goggins, JustifiedAaron Paul, Breaking BadDean Norris, Breaking BadMandy Patinkin, HomelandJeffery Wright, Boardwalk Empire
Aaron Paul seems like a lock for the Emmys this year. The only person we could see upsetting what is basically destiny at this point is Peter Dinklage, who had a massive year on Game of Thrones. As for the other nominees, we are actually expecting the two award shows to stack up pretty similarly. Mandy Patinkin will definitely get an Emmy nod, while there might be enough space in the mix for long-snubbed Walton Goggins. One can dream, right?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsChristine Baranski, The Good Wife Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad Annet Mahendru, The Americans Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead Maggie Siff, Sons of Anarchy Bellamy Young, Scandal
Emmy PredictionsChristine Baranski, The Good WifeEmilia Clarke, Game of ThronesAnna Gunn, Breaking BadChristina Hendricks, Mad MenMichelle Monaghan, True DetectiveMaggie Smith, Downton Abbey
While Anna Gunn didn't secure a Critics' Choice Award for the last season of Breaking Bad, we're betting she goes home with an Emmy this September. As for the other nominees, we don't expect Maggie Siff, Melissa McBride, and Annet Mahendru to get an Emmy nod, even though each actress certainly deserves the recognition.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsAndre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Keith David, Enlisted Tony Hale, Veep Albert Tsai, Trophy Wife Christopher Evan Welch, Silicon Valley Jeremy Allen White, Shameless
Emmy PredictionsAndre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-NineJesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern FamilyEric Stonestreet, Modern FamilyTy Burrell, Modern FamilyTony Hale, VeepNick Offerman, Parks and RecreationAt this point, the supporting actor in a comedy category should be renamed the "Which Modern Family actor hasn't won in a while?" and that honor goes to Ferguson. Even though the Critics' Choice Awards don't feature a single nominee from ABC's dominant sitcom, expect at least three nominees from the show on Emmy night. Four if Ed O'Neil sneaks his way onto the bill. Also, kudos to the Critics Choice awards for nominating Albert Tsai for Trophy Wife. Bert will live in our hearts forever.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Critics' Choice AwardsMayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory Laverne Cox, Orange Is the New Black Kaley Cuoco, The Big Bang Theory Allison Janney, Mom Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Emmy PredictionsMayim Bialik, The Big Bang TheoryJulie Bowen, Modern FamilyAllison Janney, MomKate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New BlackSofia Vergara, Modern FamilyMerrit Weaver, Nurse Jackie
It might be crazy talk, but we think this category is Orange Is the New Black's best chance for its first Emmy. The show has such a dynamite supporting cast and heavy following that it may be able to crack the winner's circle in its first year of eligibility. We're thinking Kate Mulgrew has a good chance since Modern Family isn't nearly as dominant in this category as it is in Best Supporting Actor.
After teetering on the cusp of creative disaster, Marvel has finally put its Ant-Man film back on track, but the project - now on its second director - still looks like a bit of a question mark for the blockbuster studio. Luckily we might have some new answers flowing through the rumor mill. According to some new rumors from JoBlo, Paul Rudd's Scott Lang character will be a petty thief and single dad that steals the Ant-Man technology from Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. There are also whispers of the identity of the new villain, as the site also alleges that comic book character Darren Cross will be the film's central antagonist. In the comics, Cross is the founder of Cross Technological Enterprises, a large bio-tech firm that rivals other Marvel universe corporate giants like Stark Industries and Oscorp. Cross will reportedly have a suit similar to Ant-Man's but more militaristic, and might be played by Corey Stoll or Patrick Wilson. It's important to note that Cross' character in the comics takes on a Hulk-like appearance, but the film might not head in that direction, given the current rumors. Cross' cousin, William Cross, is also a villain named Crossfire in the comics.
While these are all rumors, and should be taken with the appropriately sized grain of salt, we wonder if Ant-Man would benefit from heading in a different direction villain-wise. Darren Cross is only the latest in a long parade of evil businessmen wreaking havoc in the Marvel universe. There's been Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man, Sam Rockwell's sniveling Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, and Guy Pierce's Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3. But even outside of Disney's output, comic book films are completely stuffed with corporate boogeymen. There's the enterprising Bolivar Trask in this year's X-Men: Days of Future Past, and yet another rendition of Lex Luthor via Jesse Eisenberg in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The sinister businessman has remained a well used trope in the sprawling Marvel universe, and while it makes sense that Tony Stark would frequently bump heads with other enterprising industrialists, hearing that Ant-Man might also be clashing with big immoral businessmen has us wishing that the film would look for some other antagonists. Ant-Man, whose chief ability is to grow very small and still retain his normal strength, is comic book absurdity at its very finest, and the fact that he can communicate telepathically with ants makes it even more over the top. It feels like the powers that be at Marvel should have something zanier up their sleeves than yet another cutthroat capitalist in a three-piece suit that worships the American dollar. A weird hero should have even weirder rogues to do battle with.
With all that said, there might be more to Darren Cross than meets the eye. Maybe the character does turn into a giant pink Hulk in the film's climax? We'll just have to wait and see.
YouTube/The Young Turks
Spent: Looking for Change wants to have an uncomfortable conversation. The new documentary from director Derek Doneen and producer Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) shines a light on the "Underbanked", the 70 million Americans across the country who are not being served by traditional banking institutions, and must turn to check cashing services or pay day loans. Unfortunately, these services often have dire financial consequences. At a press conference for the film, Doneen, Tyler Perry (who narrates Spent), New School Professor Lisa Servon, and Dan Schulman of American Express discussed the challenges facing the "underbanked," the possible solutions to a financial system in grievous disrepair, and how education might the first step in the right direction.
Proper financial management is a skill so few of us have. Many of the issues depicted in the film stem from a lack of knowledge of the financial system.
Tyler Perry: "I think [financial hardships affect] the children of parents who are experiencing this, if they understood how the system works, and how when you’re outside of it it can be very difficult. Because no one taught me credit or check cashing or pay day loans, it was just the norm in the neighborhood. This is what you do. Growing up with us, you didn’t go to the bank, you went to the check cash. You went to the corner, you cash your check with Mr. Johnson down there, he took his money, he gave you yours. So [we need] to have an education to let people know that there is a cost, a very high cost, outside of the system."
Unfortunately, with the stigmas instituted by our capitalistic society, this ignorance often leads to shame.
Lisa Servon: "There’s a lot of shame around money. I talked a little with Alex, Melissa, and Debbie [the subjects of the documentary] before the show. We’re kind of made, societally, to feel like it’s our fault if we don’t have six months of savings, if we can’t make ends meet, if we somehow can’t pay the bills. So I think there’s a lot of inhibition about getting out there and saying that this is a real problem."
More Americans are being affected by the bank system than we realize.
Dan Schulman: "Forty-five percent of Americans who earn between $50,000 and $150,000 spend all or more of their monthly income every single month. So, there’s a huge opportunity here to redefine the system."
Lisa Servon: "I have actually started not liking the term 'unbanked' or 'underbanked' so much, because I think if you are part of the 99 percent, which I am, we’re all underbanked. The fact is, I can absorb a $35 overdraft fee, and people who are living right on the edge can’t. So this is why, I think, Alex and Melissa stopped using the bank. you saw those overdraft fees mounting up. It cost them more to use the bank than to use a check casher. So people are kind of saying, 'I can’t afford to go over.' At least when I go to the check casher, I get my check, I cash it, I look at what my bills are. I figure out who’s least likely to cut me off, so I’ll pay half of my Con Edison bill and three quarters of my phone bill and hopefully it will work out, but I’m not going to overdraft because this is all the money that I have."
Reform in the bank system might be closer than we realize, and one of the first steps is education.
Lisa Servon: "I think we may be at a moment of creative destruction with respect to financial services and that we are on the brink of seeing some really innovative solutions. There’s a tendency for us to just throw up our hands about banks and say, frankly, it’s just not in their business model to serve people they don’t make money on. And yet there is a history of policy and legislation, and one of the things that we can ask legislators who are sending out press releases to do is to hold banks’ feet to the fire."
"We all live in New York City. We’ve all seen the A, B, and C in restaurant windows – I think we should do that for banks and check cashers and credit unions. I don’t know if Chase or Citi Bank is better for me, but I want to know if they’re going to cost me more. Are they aligning with my values? If we could create a scorecard that would allow that to happen, I think banks would be a little more responsive."
Dan Schulman: "One of the things that we’re doing, if you go to Spentmovie.com, is that we’re going to a town in Mississippi called Clarksdale. It’s down on its luck. Fifty percent of the population is underserved. What we’re doing is working with two non-profits. We’re putting in free Wi-Fi into the whole town, and we’re going into the high schools to educate high school students in the economics classes about financial wellness and health. Then, what we’re hoping to have [is] an outside third party monitor, because it really makes a difference, all of this education and technology and people caring about this... I think it is a combination of having technology but also having the understanding of what it means to be financially well."
Spent: Looking For Change is available to stream on Spentmovie.com.
It's a truth almost universally acknowledged that Aquaman isn't very cool. The co-founding member of the Justice League and the King of Atlantis gets a pretty bad rap from most people, and it's easy to see why. To most outward appearances, he's pretty useless out of the water, and unless it's unseasonably humid, you'd probably rather have Superman by your side in a land battle. Aquaman might not have the best reputation as of now, but things look to be turning around for the hero. After months of talks, the former Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa has signed on to play Aquaman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. At first glance, Momoa doesn't seem to be a good fit for Aquaman. The muscular actor skyrocketed to fame playing the imposing and deadly Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, but there's nothing terribly imposing about the DC swimmer. He's usually clad in a bright stretchy orange jumpsuit with scales, and sports finely coifed blond hair. But we're thinking this version of Aquaman will take some inspiration from a different version of the character.
The 1990s did some terrible things to comic books. Many of our favorite characters were changed for the worse, and some were even given updated costumes dripping in misguided turn-of-the-century angst. In fact, the entire industry almost folded in on itself after the comic book market collapsed. But while these dark times almost killed superhero comics altogether, they did wonders for Aquaman. That extra dose of angst was actually good for the character; writer Peter David took the underwater boy scout and turned him into a rough burly seaman with a hook for a hand, a fierce mane of hair, and a new badass disposition. Now the King of the Seas actually looked the part.
This was a character for a new age of readers. One that inspired fear and respect, and one that is mostly unknown to those that didn't spend their formative years in the nose of a comic book. While most people laugh at the very idea of Aquaman, it's easy to imagine Momoa stepping into this version of the character, especially after watching Khal Drogo terrorize the great plains of Essos in Game of Thrones.
But even without the cool updated look, Aquaman has always been as cool as it gets. That's right, we said it, Aquaman is cool. Sure, the outfit is silly, but every superhero outfit is silly when you think about it (Batman is running around in stubby bat ears yelling about his no parents and he gets eight movies). This is a character that controls the earth's waters, and the last time we checked, the earth was made up of 80 % of that stuff. He also has an entire kingdom of sea creatures as his beck and call. No, not just little guppys and jelly fish but giant squids, sharks, andwhatever ancient beasts are still lyind dormant in the depths of the ocean. He could probably pop out a Kraken if he really tried. On top of all this, he still has super strength, even on land. We think he easily earns his place on the Justice League.
These days, the Aquaman in the comics has since reverted the character back to a more classic look, but if Momoa's casting is any indication, the upcoming film will take many of its cues from the burly '90s Aquaman. In any case, Aquaman is a hero that deserves a second assessment, and it looks like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice might reintroduce the character to a generation of naysayers. Resist all you want, but we're betting a few of you might have a new favorite hero once 2016 rolls around.
LucasFilm via Everett Collection
J.J. Abrams has the shutters on Star Wars: Episode VII closed tight, but rumors continue to seep through the cracks. This time, a new rumor from the mega-fans at Making Star Wars (via Cinemablend) claims that the main villains of Abrams' sequel will be a group of "Jedi Hunters," fearsome warriors clad in black and wielding, you guessed it, lightsabers as their weapon of choice. Furthermore, the site reports that this group has been hunting down Luke Skywalker and his comrades for the past couple decades, and the seasoned Jedi has become tired and weary of fighting back his pursuers (we're hoping for at least one "I'm gettin' too old for this Bantha s**t"), and needs some help. It's an intriguing premise with a lot of possibilities going forward. But as exciting a prospect as this rumor may be, it leaves us with more questions than answers. Foremost: Who are the Jedi Hunters?
The idea of the Jedi being hunted down and killed isn't an idea new to Star Wars. Emperor Palpatine's infamous Order 66 was responsible for the deaths of a large portion of the Jedi order in Revenge of the Sith. It was this same order that sent Yoda into hiding in the swamps of Dagobah and Obi-Wan to the desolate sands of Tatooine. Additionally, the Expanded Universe has toyed around with he idea of "Jedi Hunters" frequently throughout its history (there's even a whole Wookieepedia page dedicated to the concept). But we're still left guessing as to the nature of these new villains. One inescapable theory: they're members of the Sith.
They certainly fit the description. The Sith are also warriors garbed in black who battle Jedi with lightsabers. It wouldn't be a leap to predict that a third-act twist in the film might be that these Jedi Hunters are really Sith warriors in disguise. The Sith, in some form or another, have been a mainstay in the Star Wars universe. They are the yang to the Jedi's yin. The dark counterbalance that levels out the force. It's hard to imagine a canonical Star Wars film that doesn't feature the Sith rearing its ugly head in some form or fashion, but that may be the franchise's biggest problem.
The Sith have been a part of every live-action Star Wars film to date. Even if they weren't known by name until 1999's The Phantom Menace, the dark order has been pulling the strings of the universe ever since the series' first opening crawl. Maybe it's time for the franchise to start a change of pace. Star Wars is a universe so steeped in customs, rules, codes, and prophecies, that going against established ideas may feel sacrilegious, but change can be a good thing. Having a Star Wars film without the Sith would be a bold move for the franchise that might pump some much needed novelty into its veins. George Lucas' previous films have hinted at a rich and diverse universe at the periphery of the main narrative, but have almost stubbornly stuck to telling the same old story of Sith vs. Jedi. Having a new group rise up to fight the Jedi, perhaps with completely different set of reasons for fighting, divorced from the same old prophecies, would be a good move for the Jedi. It may be time to leave the dark side of the force alone for a while.