ENTERTAINMENT – Wonder Woman 84 Premieres On HBO Max As A Complicated Reimagining Of Familiar Themes

“As lovely as Aphrodite – as wise as Athena – with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules – she is know only as Wonder Woman, but who she is, or whence she came, nobody knows!” – All-Star Comics, December 1941

 

Sitting down to watch Wonder Woman 1984, staring (Gal Gadot) , initially my excitement was fairly high because the impactful Wonder Woman film that premiered in 2017 was such a wonderful lesson in feminine heroism. I was hopeful for a return of such feminine strength of character portrayal, and the film’s opening sequence that begins with Diana’s (Wonder Woman’s) adolescence on her native island of Themyscira or the Amazonian’s place of origin also known as The Paradise Islands. The cinematography of this sequence is quite beautiful. We are given a hint of a lesson to come that focuses on honesty and truth and after all isn’t that what Dr. William Moulton Marston, an international psychology icon, intended for his creation of “Wonder Woman”?

She is described from the very beginning as a, “character founded in scholarship,” by the Phi Beta Kappa (ΦBK) Key Recorder in Autumn of 1942. We learn as a young child, she learned why truth was such an imperative for the Amazonian women that they all lived by. Wonder Woman becomes a reminder for mankind to live up to such a higher calling for society, and when certain villains fall short, she’s around to hold their deeds accountable for the sake of a redemptive world. The opening sequence is very much in the tone of the original film, an excellent depiction of supreme athleticism, muscular control and a love for the continuous struggle of fair competition. This is what draws us into the world of such superior women.

Gal Gadot and Kristen Wiig star in WW84.

The film translates into a less perfect time for fashion, political consequence (or Reaganism) and accountability of deeds in the 1980’s. Some of the fractures of the time include a harsh recall of fashion with padded shoulders and fanny packs. Between 1980 and 1982 the U.S. economy experienced a deep recession, the primary cause of which was the disinflationary monetary policy adopted by the Federal Reserve. The recession coincided with U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s steep cuts in domestic spending. Unfortunately, when the economy grew, it was unsustainable. That’s because in Reagan’s second year there was a very serious recession, and the poverty rate reached 15%. The early 1980s recession was a severe economic recession that affected much of the world between approximately the start of 1980 and early 1983. It is widely considered to have been the most severe recession since World War II.

Take note, spoiler alerts begin here!

Many disconnects in story also fall hard and fast as a citrine “Dreamstone” is found by the Smithsonian that is imbued with magical powers by the god of lies, also known as the Duke of Deception in the film WW84. It has apparently been around for centuries and often popped up in civilizations that have collapsed. This should have been a warning bell but the alarm and threat of the stone is not heavily dramatized until the effects of such granted wishes have begun to call in the cost for such wishes.

Kristen Wiig begins to find her footing as Cheetah in WW84

Before Max Lord, played by Pedro Pascal, (an opportunistic media entrepreneur, an oil tycoon, and an enemy of Wonder Woman), wishes to become one with the stone, Diana Prince (AKA Wonder Woman), and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), both inadvertently wish upon it – Diana wishes to be reunited with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) , while Barbara Minerva wishes to be strong, sexy, cool, and special. These wishes are granted but, we learn later, that they come at a cost.

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in WW84.

Diana begins to lose her powers while Barbara loses some of her humanity. Barbara becomes one of the big bad’s in the movie by taking the form of Barbara Minerva’s Cheetah, she becomes the initial form of a “powered” Minerva in WW84. Barbara slowly transforms into the Cheetah, first by becoming more like Diana Prince.

Chris Pine and Gal Gadot star in WW84.

So much of WW84 is filled with cliché’s and gapping story holes. I am the biggest fan of female superheroes. I have followed Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek for years. From childhood I embraced Lindsey Wagner as The Bionic Woman and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the original TV series. These inspirations encouraged me to create my own interpretation of a biracial female superhero in the books of Vela Kurv. However, so much of the story fell flat with Steve Trevor’s re-emergence in this film; while in the TV series, his re-emergence with the timeline change was just so simply explained.

DC Comics fans are getting a double dose of Wonder Woman this holiday season. Not only is HBO Max streaming Wonder Woman 1984 starring Gal Gadot on Dec. 25, the channel is also giving fans a special treat by featuring the original 1970s Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter.

The original Wonder Woman series ran for three seasons from 1975 to 1979. The first season originally aired on ABC, and had Wonder Woman coming to America in the 1940s during World War II disguised as Diana Prince, assistant to military man Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner). When CBS picked up seasons 2-3 of the show, the title changed to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and took place during the ’70s instead of the ’40s.

Lyle Waggoner and Lynda Carter star in Wonder Woman TV Series.

Inside The Comics & The TV Series

In general, the Wonder Woman timeline hasn’t been a major issue when it comes to exploring the ongoing relationship between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. In the comics, Diana first encountered Steve and entered man’s world during WWII, not WWI, and Steve didn’t die during their first mission together. Instead, he remained a major love interest for Diana and served as an ambassador between humanity and the Amazons.

Nor have the Wonder Woman comics had to deal with the same timeline problems as the DCEU. DC’s comic book universe operates on a sliding timeline, with origin stories constantly being updated in order to keep characters rooted in the present day. Diana may have originally debuted during WWII, but her origin has changed to show that she appeared in the DCU in the modern day alongside heroes like Superman and Batman. When DC’s New 52 relaunch began in 2011, it was established that Diana has been active in man’s world for roughly five years.

Chris Pine and Gal Gadot reunite as Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman.

The movie looks to be more in the vein of the 1977 TV series in this regard. That series ran for three seasons, with the first taking place during WWII and the latter two jumping ahead to the 1970s. Actor Lyle Waggoner played a version of Steve Trevor for all three seasons, but in Seasons 2 and 3 he played Steve’s son, Steve Jr. The series was never very specific as to what happened to the elder Steve, only revealing that he died at some point in between Seasons 1 and 2 after being promoted to Major General.

 

“This world is not yet ready for all that you will do,” as Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman emerged in 2017 as a proud statement of how well a woman can change the conditions for mankind in the positive with a well measured dose of balance procured with a female hand of superhero, not just a protagonist doled out with fighting power and speed. She is capable and strong, of course, but she is filled with heart and caring for the condition of mankind and their part in the world as time turns, is how she was depicted.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

It was my wish that WW84 would reflect again, such a stand as described by her creator, William Moulton Marston in March of 1945, “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.” Instead this Wonder Woman of 84 had her hands tied up in clumsy gold wings that dragged and clanged. She didn’t need them to fight Cheetah or Max Lord, all she needed was what she used in the end, her task to remind mankind to believe in truth and stature. This positioning is so much better than the padded shoulders and fanny backs that reminded us of how bad this fashion was in the 80s. The best scenes in the film were in the opening sequence on Themyscira and the final Easter-egg-sequence inside the credits of WW84 starring Lynda Carter. I’m holding onto my belief in the dynamic duo of Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins for a hard-hitting comeback. And I’m still very hopeful for Wonder Woman III.

Superhero Vela Kurv Books

A Curvy Chick Production for Riley Rose superhero and graphic novels.

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman

ENTERTAINMENT – Viola Davis And Chadwick Boseman Star In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Premieres On Netflix

  • RileyRose (Author) McKesson

Yesterday I watched the amazing Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman who star in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix. Both performances are incredible and moving.

The setting of the film opens with an impactful yet comical setup.

The volatility of the time for Black Americans still comes through quite clearly. It’s not a setting or a time period one can forget.

“The story centers on Ma Rainey, the pioneering “Queen of the Blues,” during the time she is making a record in a studio in Chicago in 1927.”

The story is setup in 1927. Ruben Santiago-Hudson adapted the screenplay based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play. Netflix describes the setup of the film, “Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await trailblazing performer, the legendary “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey (Academy Award® winner Viola Davis).”

Chadwick Boseman and Taylour Paige

“Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music.

As the band waits in the studio’s claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious cornet player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) — who has an eye for Ma’s girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry — spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories revealing truths that will forever change the course of their lives.”

Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis pictured against the original Ma Rainey

The incredible additional cast members include: Colman Domingo as Cutler, Glynn Turman as Toledo, and Michael Potts as Slow Drag, Jeremy Shamos as Irwin, Jonny Coyne as Sturdyvant, Taylour Paige as Dussie Mae, and Dusan Brown as Sylvester.

Superhero Vela Kurv Books

A Curvy Chick Production for Riley Rose superhero and graphic novels.

The film stars, Rachael Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr.

ENTERTAINMENT – Netflix Offers Another Romantic Christmas Movie, “Love, Guaranteed!”

If you’re like me and it’s Christmas time, sometimes you need an escape and that’s what Netflix is offering in its release, “Love Guaranteed”.

It’s definitely filled with a fair amount of cheese and if you like, a relaxing glass of wine, to complete your escape into the world of romance. The film stars, Rachael Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr.

There’s definitely some false advertising going on according to Nick Evans (Damon Wayans) who decides to sue an online dating website for seemingly overblown promises. Susan Whitaker (Rachel Leigh Cook), plays the attorney he hires to represent his lawsuit. It’s not about, will they end up together, it’s more about, how will it happen. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the film offers an understated climb of meaningful moments that aren’t as on-the-nose as so many of the holiday romance tales offered during the holly jolly season on Netflix’s platform.

Rotten Tomatoes scores were a bit hard hitting but they tend to be on heavy rom-com stories with a happily ever after ending. The last such film I wrote about barely climbed about 40, so in comparison, this film flies much higher in its critical score.

Lisa Kennedy from Variety explains how: “Susan Whitaker has her own shingle as an attorney. Nick is a physical therapist at a rehab center. How others feel about each of them — her employees, his patients — attests to the fact they are decent people.

When Nick first seeks out Susan’s services for a lawsuit, she has her doubts.

Still, her penchant for turning paying clients into pro bono projects means bills are stacking up and her two supportive employees are concerned. She needs a windfall.”

Nick, a former baseball player, wants to sue the online dating service Love, Guaranteed. The fictional company is based in Seattle. He’s 986 dates into his search for The One and thus far, the company has failed the promise of its brand.

He’s going after the outfit for “reckless endangerment of the heart.”

Although Susan initially suspects he’s a “loophole shark,” Nick seems less an opportunist than an odd kind of stickler. More than once in his and Susan’s blossoming repartee, he corrects a word in her occasionally off phrases.

Rachel Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr.,

In launching her own practice, Susan’s gone without the creature comforts some women enjoy. Sister Melanie (Caitlin Howden), also her next-door neighbor, has a doting husband, a not-as-sweet-as-he-looks young’un and a baby on the way. The home bustles. Susan’s fridge is packed with take-out boxes from the nearby Chinese restaurant.

When she takes on Nick as a client, employees Roberto (Sean Amsing) and Denise (Lisa Durupt) insist she do research and put her profile on the Love, Guaranteed app.

Intercutting the newbie’s exploits in the online dating world with her deposing of some of Nick’s 986 dates goofily teases the highs and lows — but mostly lows — of the dating game.

As much as Love, Guaranteed honcho Tamara Taylor (Heather Graham) touts the spiritual lessons of her travels to Tibet, she’s no softie. There’s gonna be some hardball come litigation time. Tamara has gathered a small army of lawyerly suits around the table to underscore just that. She offers Susan and Nick the closest thing to a nemesis, beyond their own love-shy impulses, of course.

It’s a nice touch that Cook and Wayans don’t perform their characters for broad laughs. Wayans especially plays it close to the vest. He observes a lot and reserves even more. Cook (a producer on the film) allows Susan a fine amount of social awkwardness without undercutting the fact she’s relatively successful. Writers of Love, Guaranteed are Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy

Superhero Vela Kurv Books

A Curvy Chick Production for Riley Rose superhero and graphic novels.

ENTERTAINMENT – Found Lighthearted Christmas Cheer On Netflix’s “Operation Christmas Drop” Movie

  • RileyRose (Author) McKesson

I have recently found fun Christmas movie escapes with Netflix. If you need an escape during this time of extreme shutdown, “Operation Christmas Drop”, is the fun film to watch!

From Netflix: “A by-the-book political aide falls for a big-hearted Air Force pilot while looking to shut down his tropical base and its airborne Christmas tradition”, starring: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Virginia Madsen.

Congressional aide Erica Miller (Kat Graham) gathers intelligence from Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig) in “Operation Christmas Drop.” Netflix

Variety’s Guy Lodge reviews the Netflix Original Christmas movie in detail. It is now a genre unto itself, its ranks expanding every year by the flimsy, tinselly dozen. What its identifying aesthetic features are — and how you might distinguish it, say, from a Hallmark or Lifetime variation — is a tough question: You’d have to remember any single one of them a season later to say for sure. Some have Christmas princes, some have Kurt Russell, but almost all of Netflix’s yuletide offerings blend seamlessly into a cheer-by-numbers mass, as sweetly bland and textureless as non-alcoholic eggnog.

There’s nothing especially wrong with that, or with “Operation Christmas Drop,” an anodyne, friction-free romantic comedy that faintly distinguishes itself from its snow-sprayed genre brethren with enticingly balmy South Pacific scenery.

If nothing else, it gives viewers something to daydream about while they keep half an eye on its story.

“Have you heard of a partridge in a pear tree? We’ve got a seagull in a coconut palm!” Such is the level of quippery in “Operation Christmas Drop,” that familiar type of romcom in which general perkiness must suffice for the “com” part, while mutual amiability stands in for any romantic chemistry. Leads Kat Graham and Alexander Ludwig are cute as can be, vying with the beachscapes of Guam for smooth, unfettered prettiness, which is how things should be in this kind of holiday escapism: Everything here is decoration, including their characters’ cursory backstories.

She’s a tightly wound Washington aide burying family issues beneath lofty career goals; he’s a wholesome Air Force dude forever putting humanitarian projects before his personal relationships. Will they overcome their differences and work obligations to find love over Christmas? Yes! Do we care? No! Will we watch anyway? Sure, why not? Did I mention they’re both really cute?

Netflix released “Operation Christmas Drop” on Nov. 5. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Amid the sparkly wish-fulfillment fantasy here is a sliver of something true. The title refers to an actual military mission, an annual Christmas tradition since 1952, whereby the U.S. Air Force airlifts large crates of essential supplies and gifts to deprived communities in Micronesia.

A humanitarian project that also serves as a training exercise for American service people out of bases in Guam and Japan, it can be uncomplicatedly classified as an all-round Good Thing — which naturally makes it an apt target for fictional Scrooge-ian dealings in Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer’s perfunctory screenplay.

Politically indeterminate but icy congresswoman Angie Bradford (Virginia Madsen, looking like she’s counting the days) has been appointed head of the Base Realignment and Closure commission, and is out to make some tough cuts in the name of efficiency. When she gathers that the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam is most publicized not for essential military action but for Operation Christmas Drop, it goes to the top of her closure list. Boo! Hiss! Bah humbug! Rather than cancel Christmas in the South Pacific herself, she sends her ladder-climbing lackey Erica (Graham) to the island to observe and report. The base, in turn, sends dreamy, huge-hearted captain Andrew (Ludwig) to show the bean-counter around, and persuade her that, just maybe, charity is not so bad after all.

From the updated Trailer on YouTube.

The story has a behind the scenes real life account of what happens in the military as a Christmas operation supporting the natives on location of the story setting.

Those new to the general concept of movies may be surprised to find that the rigidly professional D.C. tightwad and the upbeat military man despise each other at first, but that it only takes a day around the island’s glinting beauty and his vast white-bread smile for her to come around. (Cue a whole lot of tourist-board aerial lensing.) “I wonder if I’ve drifted too far from the real reason I got into politics in the first place,” she inevitably muses, and if the real reason was to go snorkeling with dashing pilots in the south seas, she has our sympathies.

In the sweet, simple world of “Operation Christmas Drop,” there’s no room for practical or moral nuance when it comes either to politics or the military — even if, in fairness to Madsen’s hard-nosed villain, life on the Andersen base is made to look very breezy indeed.

Wood’s film doesn’t want us thinking about this, or anything else, really: The overall benevolent niceness of Christmas is the sole takeaway here, down to a custom-written easy-listening carol by Colbie Caillat. More than once, we’re told that “this is what Christmas is supposed to feel like,” which, as it happens, is a cannily timed reminder in a pandemic year when many people won’t be able to hold their usual family festivities. (In an accidental injection of topicality, the technical strains of togetherness-by-FaceTime are noted throughout.) “Operation Christmas Drop” thus sets itself a low bar, and a sunny disposition plus two pleasant-to-be-around stars are all it really takes to clear it. Perhaps that’s the Netflix Christmas movie in a roast chestnut shell.

Still from Operation Christmas Drop taken from original Trailer

Blake Stilwell explains the military operation behind the film. Netflix’s fictional “Operation Christmas Drop” is the first new addition to the queue of Christmas movies ready-to-binge this holiday season, but the setting where it takes place is very real — and so is the mission.

Since 1952, U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo planes have been dropping Christmas cheer — and critical supplies — throughout 55 islands across 1.8 million miles of the Pacific Ocean. And despite what the movie implies, the program is in no danger of going away anytime soon.

“When we get that call saying it’s our drop day and word gets out, the island has a different feel to it,” Allentino Riugiufmal, Northern Islands Central High School vice principal on Woleai, told Air Force News. “The island just has this pure feeling of excitement that is shared across the community, like a child just waiting to see what’s under the tree.”

Boxes dropped on the islands contain items ranging from rice and other foodstuffs, canned goods, fishing nets, toys, clothing, school supplies or anything else island life might require.

For the Air Force and its allies, it’s great practice for a good cause.

Operation Christmas Drop uses Low-Cost, Low-Altitude (LCLA) drops, which means the aircraft will drop supplies from as low as 150 feet, releasing boxes with repurposed parachutes and expendable pallets that don’t require equipment to unpack. This kind of resupply training is useful for future humanitarian or wartime missions as well.

The first drop came in December 1952 when the crew of a B-29 Superfortress was overcome by the spirit of Christmas over the island of Kapingamarangi. They decided to drop some of the supplies they carried to villagers waving at the plane as it flew by. These were just the supplies they had aboard the aircraft.

From the real military drop portrayed in Netflix’s Operation Christmas Drop

That first drop has since evolved into a massive Pacific Air Forces Partnership and fundraising effort throughout the Pacific region. From Joint Base Marianas’ Andersen Air Force Base, airmen, business owners and residents of the island of Guam raise money and gather goods to drop in 400-pound boxes. Like many other Christmas food and toy drives, locals will leave donations at drop boxes positioned around Guam. Volunteers then build boxes, sort the goods and pack them.

Real packages from Military.net portrayed in Operation Christmas Drop on Netflix

Sometimes, foreign air forces, like those of Japan and Australia, will join in on the exercise.

For some living on these faraway islands, the annual Christmas Drop will bring some of their first toys or their first pair of shoes. The annual Air Force resupply mission also brings food and medicine for the villages on the islands.

Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, star in Operation Christmas Drop on Netflix

“We all have childhood memory of seeing the planes fly overhead,” said Riugiufmal. “As we each grew older, we truly understood how important it is for the islands. These bundles have toys, yes, but they more importantly carry bags of rice to help feed the 500 villagers we have here. The parachutes and their rigging is used to make sails for our boats and the wire for our spear guns. Some of our bundles were sent solely for our school and contained the educational supplies our students need to thrive.”

The movie “Operation Christmas Drop” is streaming on Netflix. The real Operation Christmas Drop is performed live every December in the Pacific Theater.

Superhero Vela Kurv Books

A Curvy Chick Production for Riley Rose superhero and graphic novels.