This is one of those posts that I look forward to writing after seeing a movie. That usually comes because of one of two reasons, I either hated the movie and can’t wait to dump on it (see Us) or I am overjoyed and want the world to share in my enthusiasm. So take a guess what I am motivated by here, it’s OK, I’ll wait…

“Boom” you probably guessed right, I loved this film. “Shazam!” is the kind of movie going experience I crave. When I walk out of the theater, I want to tell everyone I see how much I enjoyed the film and I want them to go out and see it too. Let’s spread some happiness and put your tail in a seat for this lighthearted piece of comic book fantasy, that delivers exactly what most people who loved comics as a kid first got from them, …a rush of pleasure. “Shazam!” is not going to be a breakthrough cinematic event. The movie is not going to set up a compelling narrative that will allow us to explore characters with deep flaws and themes of human frailty. It is simply going to entertain you for a couple of hours and leave you feeling refreshed rather than exhausted.

Director David Sandberg and screenwriter Henry Gayden have managed to remove the stick that has been up the bum of the previous DC films. Our hero here is not brooding, the color palate is not dark, and the humor is not gallows. “Shazam!” instead is a conventional hero origin story, told with a sense of humor and the goal of entertaining the kid in us who loved comic books because they were fantasy adventure and colorful. It doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel, rather it puts the wheels on a straightforward and simple tale of good vs. evil, and rides it all the way to the end. You can see what is coming from a mile away, but you want care that there are no story surprises because the way you get through the story has all of the small pleasures.

Billy Batson is a teen foster child who has run away from several group home in pursuit of finding the Mother that he was separated from at a very young age.  He becomes the vessel of a wizards power, to fight against the seven deadly sins which are being harnessed by a grown man who was once offered the same opportunity but could not pass a test of worthiness. The two stories of the hero and villain are set up in the first half hour, not with a rapid fire action sequence that throws us into the middle of what we don’t understand (ala Captain Marvel) but instead with a coherent series of events that allows us to be invested in both characters. Mark Strong, who I think most movie fans will have loved from a bucketload of other films, but especially “Kick Ass” and the two Kingsman movies, plays the grown up version of Thad Sivana. Sivana is a kid who is misused by his family in ways not too dissimilar from Billy, buy he is clearly under the influence of the deadly sins. Billy, played by an appealing young actor named Asher Angel, is a ne’er do well , who has yet to figure out his real source of strength. When he becomes the superhero, Billy is played by Zachary Levi, who is just goofy enough to convince us that he is a fifteen year old occupying the body of a god-like man. The flashy costume and a struggle to come up with an appropriate moniker for the new hero are just two of the plot points that provide a plethora of humor.

Freddy Freeman is another kid in the foster home who helps Billy become the hero that we all will need. Jack Dylan Grazer, who played the asthmatic Eddie in “It”, has grown a couple of inches but can still play the youthful and hopeful type that he is cast here as. The banter between him and both versions of Billy is what drives the story and the comedy. I found something to laugh at ever couple of minutes and Grazer is one of the sources of that mirth. Levi gets to ham it up as a kid who is just not quite grown into the body he is occupying. Grazer occupies the role of side kick, mentor and brother just right. The group family has some interesting characters and fortunately they don’t go into overdrive to make jokes out of eves archetype that gets thrown in. Little sister Darla goes right up to the edge of annoying, but never crosses the line. She is also so adorable that you might be willing to forgive her if she did.

“Shazam!” is a bit of a send up of comic book movies, but it is not a deconstruction of the myths. This story just takes advantage of the youthful fascination with power and uses it to explore responsibility a little bit, but laughter a lot more. The tone is reminiscent of “Sky High”, a kids film from back in 2005. This is a playful movie that has the usual adventure action story attached to it, but it is executed with a sense of fun. DC fans will find themselves amused at some of the lightly self depreciating humor of the film. Be sure to stick around for a mid credit sequence and a final stinger. They are not as hip as the MCU films try to be, but both work for this film.

After more than a month of dreary films that don’t inspire me much as a movie goer, what a refreshing way to break the cycle and fall back in love with going to the movies. I can’t imagine anyone not being able to enjoy this. I would take this movie over almost all of the other films I’ve seen this year. Not because it is a great movie, but because it made me feel great about going to a movie.

Wonder Woman

Well, we have waited a long time for this and it is finally here. A DC Universe film that makes you anxious to see another DC Universe film. With iconic heroes like Batman and Superman and villains like The Joker, it still took a woman to put them on the right track. Men just can’t ask for directions. Fortunately we have two women to thank for bringing these movies back from the brink of disaster. The perfectly cast Gal Godot and the very talented director Patty Jenkins. They have managed to make a film that is watchable but also memorable. The best thing the film does is give us a central character that we can root for and care about. Diana, Princess of Amazons, who has spent her whole life preparing to fight. We get to see that preparation but even better than that, we get to witness her explode into the world in a romantic period piece that has a great mix of reality and comic book silliness.


There are two distinct world depicted in this film. The first is the seemingly idyllic island that the Amazons life on, without the need for men. The only child on the island is the daughter of their Queen, Hippolyta. She tells Diana that she was molded out of clay and brought to life with the breath of the god Zeus. There is no sens of time in their world, so as Diana grows, it could be  over twenty years or twenty-thousand. She definitely has enough time however to become the greatest warrior ever among her people. Her mother despairs of her becoming a fierce instrument in the battle against war, but her Aunt Antiope, the current bad ass of the clan, knows that it is Diana’s destiny. The whole section on the island is told with efficiency and with as little excess as possible, while still filling us in on the legends and backgrounds of the characters. Certainly there are some blank spaces and questions, but director Jenkins manages to keep us focused on the main issue, which concerns Diana’s role in fighting back against the God Aries, the lord of war.

Chris Pine continues to impress in his starring roles. This second fiddle part is certainly not as challenging as his role in last years “Hell or High Water”, but it does put him in a high profile blockbuster for another consecutive year. Between his Steve Trevor and the leading lady, it is nice to know that pretty people will always be able to find work. Gal Godot is the not so secret weapon in this film. She has a look about her that can be haunted one minute and determined the next. That she has a face that could break a man’s heart and moves (admittedly enhanced by technology) that could render her the greatest action hero ever, does not hurt this film a bit. The sincerity of her demeanor at times when combined with her outright sexiness, should make massive fans out of those who watch this movie.

One other reason that I think this movie works better than “Man of Steel“, “Batman vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad“, is that it is set in a more nostalgic period when cynicism was seen as a vice rather than a virtue. Scowling villains are not confronted by scowling heroes, but rather by open hearted optimists who see evil and while they may have some doubts about what is good, they want to do the right thing for the right reasons. Diana is so innocently hopeful that she is going to save the world, that when she experiences doubts, especially about humans, it is more believable that she can make a good choice in the long run. Her heart breaks when tragedy strikes at home when she and her Amazon family first confront modern man. She experiences the same slap in the face when she sees that even good men can be faulty in too many ways. The fact that we are capable of making an act of self sacrifice also an emblem of love, leaves it’s mark on this Princess.

Spanish Actress Elena Anaya and veteran character actor Danny Huston, serve as the tertiary  bad guys, the ones that draw the focus of our heroes immediately. Mankind is the secondary villain, and it will survive to challenge Diana Prince in the future, as we already know from our earlier DCU experiences. The main villain is exactly who you think it is going to be. When he appears on screen, you just know that something else is going on here. Since it is a movie and film is a visual medium, there will be a cinematic confrontation. It ends up a little too much like all of these stories do, with  an ultimate power being battled on the most basic physical front rather than on a more cerebral level. Still, it measures up to the kind of fireworks you want out of a movie based on a comic book.

The battle sequences on the beach of Diana’s home and in “no mans land” at the front, are two stand out episodes of the story. We also get two fish out of water stories for the price of one. Steve is befuddled by the ancient matriarchy he has fallen into and Diana is horrified by the ugly modern world, trapped in what seems like never ending war. The side characters in the WW I story are just interesting enough to be worth including, but since the story is not going to stay in this time period, it is understandable that they do not get too much backstory or time. The romance works the way wartime romances usually do, in spite of the short time period that couples have for bonding. I love the look of the film in both the mythical and battlefield visions. I could hear that Wonder Woman Theme come on in most of the scenes and still get goosebumps. I really liked this movie, and while it does have some story issues, they won’t bother you much. Instead of worrying about a lack of backstory or the tie in to Greek mythology, the real Wonder of Wonder Woman is how do we get more of Gal Gadot in all of the DC Universe?