'Eternals' Movie Review

WARNING! THIS IS NOT A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW FOR MARVEL’S ETERNALS. 

Guardians of the Galaxy? Who the hell are they? Remember the puzzled looks on people’s faces who hadn’t read the comics, or better yet, even those who did? Guardians became a success, with the third installment already on its way. Since then, these characters have been in several MCU films and even had their own video games. I was among the few who actually knew who this bunch of antiheroes were before James Gunn’s movie came out because I'm a weirdo and read the obscure stuff. 

Years passed, more heroes arrived, and I thought there were no more surprises waiting for this Marvel nerd. Then the announcement arrived: the Eternals will be joining the MCU! The question immediately came: Who?

I pride myself in reading many Marvel comics, but these guys weren’t even on my radar. I quickly fixed that by getting my hands on some of the much-needed comic books. It blew me away. It was very different from what I was used to from Marvel, and I absolutely loved it. Very quickly, the Eternals ended up on my most anticipated list. I was most excited about the arrival of Angelina Jolie and Ma Dong-Seok (Don Lee) to the MCU. I’ve been a huge fan of Angelina for many years. I love her movies and everything she does for others. Ma Dong-Seok became an essential part of my movie life after Train to Busan and my massive need afterward to watch more of the things he was in. 

I was not disappointed.

Art by LilyK 

By the time the premiere day came, my anticipation and anger were boiling. Why were you angry, Lily? Well…the rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. In this case, I was utterly baffled by the score as no other Marvel movie has scored so poorly, and I was glued to the screen from beginning to end. Since Captain America: Winter Soldier, I haven’t been as invested in any Marvel titles’. So I personally don’t understand the score

Let’s break down the movie’s basic plot because that’s why we’re here. Right? 

A long time ago, The Eternals were sent to Earth to fight the Deviants. Still, they were not allowed to interfere with anything unless it included these monster-like creatures. Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) could have easily helped civilizations evolve because he could create anything, and Druig (Barry Keoghan) could have stopped major wars simply by using his power to control people’s minds. But an order is an order, and thanks to their leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek), they are doing what they were ordered to do. All while being unaware of the actual truth behind why they were sent to Earth in the first place and who they really are. 

After defeating the last Deviant, they go their separate ways to experience what the world offers. Some find new loves like Sersi (Gemma Chan). In contrast, others learn the meaning of true friendship like Gilgamesh (Don Lee) and Thena (Angelina Jolie), or simply enjoy life in the spotlight like Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani). Their ultimate reunion is somewhat bittersweet as the Deviants make their big comeback, and the truth starts to reveal itself. 

Eternals promotional image for Disney+

Ajak is dead, and the weight of leading the Eternals falls on Sersi’s shoulders, the one who loved humanity from the beginning. When Sersi has to face Arishem, the Celestial being, we find out his plans for Earth. We learn how their race is born as the planets and their civilization grow and evolve. The being born inside Earth after humans have progressed far enough is Tiamut. The Eternals must stop to save the world as the arrival of the Celestial means the destruction of the planet.

If the term ‘Celestial’ sounds familiar, it is because we already met one of them in the MCU. Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell), was Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father. Outside of the MCU, the Phoenix Force that Jean Grey uses also counts as one, and Apocalypse was a Celestial being. So it is definitely not the first time we meet these all-powerful beings, but it is the first time we are getting a good look inside their story and who they are.

The other big reveal is that the Eternals are actually advanced robots designed by the Celestials; their memories get wiped after every successful mission on the different planets. 

Tiamut emerging from Earth - official shot from the movie taken from IMDb

These things are all part of a more profound MCU lore, and although they were always part of it, I have to admit that I never thought it would appear on the big screen. The fact that they introduced Ego should have been a giveaway. 

Eternals is the first movie on the MCU list with a poor rotten tomato score…in my opinion, it shouldn’t be rotten. I read reviews where they said it was confusing because it played out through two timelines. I don’t know what critics were watching, but it definitely wasn’t Eternals. For me, there was a clear and very understandable separation between present and past. I thought it made perfect sense why Chloé Zhao wanted to jump between the two timelines. It made it much easier to understand who these people we were being introduced to were, their purpose, and their view on life itself.

Gilgamesh (Don Lee) and Thena (Angelina Jolie) - official promo picture, Photo: Marvel Studios

Eternals deals with a lot of very critical issues. 

It dares to ask questions about life and death, the right or wrong thing to do. The big dilemma of Eternals comes as they find out about their true purpose: they had to protect civilizations so the birth of Tiamut could be possible. It was never about protecting the people of Earth; they were only part of a bigger plan. So the question comes from Sersi: is the birth of one being worth sacrificing all those people’s lives, the ones they were sent to protect? 

Even though the “villains” of the story are the Deviants, once the actual plan is revealed, one can’t help but wonder. The Deviants - after all - were also just pawns in the hands of the Celestials. 

I absolutely adored Chloé Zhao’s beautiful directing style. She took the time to get to know these characters. Although it was our first time meeting them, it felt like we had always known them.

Eternals introduced a beautifully diverse cast, something that we can just never get enough of. 

Of course, just like every movie, this one is not without fault. The introduction of the Eternals this late in the Marvel game brings up a lot of questions. Why didn’t they help when Thanos came? This was obviously answered by their directive. But it definitely opens up even bigger questions about the state of the Universe. How did no one notice that the Celestials have been destroying planets to give birth to their next in line? How come Ego could roam freely without intervention from one of his brothers? He must have known that Earth was a birthing ground too, so how come he tried to take it over? And so on and so on… 

I saw many people poking holes in the plot on Twitter. As the MCU expands, I believe that even more of these questions will come up, which initially is not a bad thing if they can manage it correctly. This will be something that only time and more movies will tell. 

Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao explaining a scene to Richard Madden (Ikaris) - source: Sophie Mutevelian / Marvel Studios

Altogether, it is tough to find balance in creating something entirely new while staying true to what fans grew fond of, especially these days. Some will say that the MCU movies follow the same formula, and therefore, they are never changing or evolving. In Eternals, the “usual” structure is basically dropped entirely. Many who reviewed it wrote things like: “it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie” or “what was that ending? There was no big battle?”

There was no big battle; their fight - first and foremost - was internal, something that they had to sort out between themselves. It was incredibly effective and powerful nonetheless. Fighting against one of your friends (Ikaris) is a more significant challenge than anything else. While watching Makkari and Phastos kick Ikaris’ butt, all I could think about was the thing Dumbledore said to Neville Longbottom in the first Harry Potter movie: 

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

It was an absolute joy to watch this film; I felt like a child again. The sets were stunning, the bond they managed to build between the characters was powerful and meaningful. 

I can’t close out this review without saying that, as I predicted, Angelina Jolie and Don Lee’s team was my absolute favorite thing. I watched many interviews with the cast. As Angelina points out, their friendship shows how much we need a friendship like theirs on screen; it’s pure, honest, and authentic. It caused me to have a massive breakdown when Gilgamesh (Don Lee) sacrificed himself for Thena (Angelina Jolie). 

I encourage you to go and see it and decide for yourself. Lately, we as a society have become incredibly dependent on what others say about entertainment around us. I am at fault in this too. I missed out on many things in the cinema because they scored so poorly that I didn’t want to risk it. Then to discover later that I actually really like them. Sure, there are absolutely times when the film is simply rubbish, but it’s often better to decide for yourself. We all have such different tastes, which is absolutely fine in the long run. Eternals was released on Disney plus on January 12th.
I loved Eternals, and I hope a lot of you out there loved it too. Will you be watching when it releases on Disney?

The Uncharted Cargo Plane Fight Scene Released

Like it or not the Uncharted movie is happening and it's using an action set piece right out of the Uncharted video game series the film is based on. Sony decided to just go ahead and release the whole cargo plane fight scene since most fans have played that scene several times in the third game and the trailers released so far pretty much spoiled the scene already as well. Take a look for yourself...

For reference here's the cargo plane scene from the game narrated by Nolan North (the actor and voice of Nathan Drake in the games) and Amy Hennig (the creator and game director of Uncharted 1 - 3).

In comparison to the game, you can see the film has changed this scene's beats quite a bit. Right away we see that Drake is in a tight spot and needs to cause a scene. So he does what Drake does and pulls the cargo ripcord. Then Mark Wahlberg (Sully) parachutes off the plane right when Drake pulls the cargo cord. Which seems odd out of context. Didn't Sully see that Drake wasn't wearing a parachute? Why would he bail on his buddy Drake?

After that moment we see some nice flips and a lucky escape from Drake before he's pulled out of the cargo plane with his foot caught in a box net. Here's where the film starts to depart from the game not only in action beats but in world psychics. In the game, you can see Drake really struggling to hold on to the cargo nets. In fact, his feet are blowing upwards from the wind speed. It looks and feels like it would be pretty difficult to climb back in the plane. The movie scene on the other hand feels like it was shot on a green screen with a mild wind machine. The fact that Drake is able to leap upside down from one crate to another is probably impossible in this situation. Unless... due to the wind displacement from the rear of the plane causes the wind to go around the crates. I'm not an aerospace engineer but I doubt this is the case but maybe there's someone who can set the record straight here.

This scene is still a lot of fun and we get to see Chloe be the badass we know her to be and likely will save Drake and Sully's ass more than once in this film. My hope is that this scene was edited down for this clip a bit. Not only does it feel a bit all over the place in pacing, but there are also moments that are in the earlier trailers that are not in this edit. Which doesn't mean much since trailer scenes don't always make the film's final cut but I do hope the scene is longer in the film and there is an edit that shows the bad guys climbing out on the cargo crates vs just appearing out of nowhere in the current edit now.

Uncharted comes out exclusively in movie theaters February 18th. Despite my nitpicks, I'll be there with bells on to see this in the biggest loudest theater I can find.

What do y'all think of this cargo plane clip they released? Did it make you more excited or are you still on the fence?

The Matrix Resurrections: Familiar Visuals Redirect Focus to the Story

The Matrix Resurrections is now in theaters and available for streaming on HBO Max. I saw it opening day at a local IMAX theater, and I had to share my first impressions.

I'll start by setting some context. 

As many of my fellow Gen-Xers can attest to, seeing The Matrix (1999) for the first time on the big screen was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Wachowskis' vision brought something altogether new in cinema. The combination of visual style, choreography, and special effects became iconic. (I mean, who doesn't know what bullet time is these days?) As we approached our 30s, The Matrix made us feel like we were living in special times! 

For a quick refresher, check out this 4-minute The Matrix Resurrections: Legacy video on YouTube. Resurrections cast members recall memories from their first time watching the original trilogy:

At that same time, though, you'll hear strong opinions from the faction who loved the first film and downright hated its two 2003 sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. While I loved those films, I admit they seem more like portfolios for 2003-era special effects artists, diminishing the new, more complex story. The first film, with its "man vs. machine" theme, left its ending neat and tidy while keeping possibilities open to revisit the Matrix universe. In Reloaded and Revolutions, though, the Wachowskis treated the first film like the setup to subvert our expectations in the rest of the trilogy. The trilogy story as a whole has a more abstract theme of "choice vs. control."

So how does The Matrix Resurrections feel after that history? 

Great! Amazing, even! But perhaps not for the reasons you'd think. Here are my highlights without going into spoiler territory.

Special effects are updated to modern standards: In 1999-2003, the visual effects of the original Matrix trilogy were mind-blowing. When I rewatch those films today, though, I find them distracting. I think that's because I've seen what filmmakers are producing today with better technology and techniques. Fortunately, Resurrections brings the Wachowskis' familiar visual effects up to modern standards.

Neo blocks more than just bullets in The Matrix Resurrections.

Special effects became the backdrop instead of the focus: We have plenty of opportunities in Resurrections to appreciate the new-and-improved special effects. However, the film mostly uses effects we're already familiar with, like bullet time, the liquid metal assimilation, slow-motion explosions, and the iconic Matrix console visuals. (In fact, it's possible bullet time was a bit overused in this one.) But I think Lana made the right choice to stick to these familiar visual effects rather than introducing new ones. In doing so, she redirected us to focus on the new characters and story, and the visual effects just blend into the natural flow of the film.

Beautifully framed shots and stunning set lighting: Lana continues the trend she and Lilly started in the original trilogy of creating a complex set of emotions simply in how the shots are lit and framed. When I grabbed screenshots for this article, it was hard to choose which ones to feature here because every frame was a work of art.

Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) helps Neo (Keanu Reeves) rediscover himself.

Flipping the "choice vs. control" theme on its head: This new film returns to this theme from the original trilogy. However, Resurrections takes place some years after the events of Revolutions, and a lot has happened since then. We see more emphasis on the cost of choices and the simplicity of allowing the powerful to stay in power. We see machines making more choices while humans see control as offering a sense of stability. One character, knowing what's at stake if they leave the Matrix, must choose whether to pay that cost or surrender to a lifetime of control.

Elevating the Neo and Trinity relationship: If you've watched the trailers for Resurrections, you know that Neo and Trinity are finding each other again in this film after some time apart. In the original trilogy, I loved the Neo and Trinity love story, but it was always secondary to Neo's main story. This film establishes that Neo's trilogy story is over and centers the story on the Trinity and Neo connection.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) tries to reconnect with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) at a local coffee house.

Heavy fan service at the beginning: As you may have guessed from the trailer, this film spends some time in "Matrix self-reflection." We're bombarded with this in the first third of the film. It's almost like Lana was thinking, "Let's get two decades of nostalgia out of their system before I settle in to tell the story I want to tell." That said, much of it is the film taking jabs at its own franchise, and I found that incredibly satisfying to watch.

Can't get enough of Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff! Without divulging details about their characters, I'll say that the modern legend NPH and the delightfully versatile Jonathan Groff both delivered great performances in Resurrections. I admit that while I'm skeptical of having any further Neo/Trinity films after this one, I would appreciate seeing more of Harris and Groff in those roles.

Jonathan Groff plays more than just a game company executive.

A solo triumph for Lana Wachowski: This new Matrix film represents an interesting milestone for Lana. For over three decades, including before they each came out as trans women, Lana and her sister, Lilly, have been highly esteemed for their collaborative writing and directing work in film, TV, and even video games and comics. The Wachowskis have been synonymous with collaboration, with filmmaking colleague relationships that span multiple productions. Their Matrix trilogy and V for Vendetta are not only great films but are pop culture icons.

However, in this new era of Wachowski filmmaking, Lana alone took us back to the Matrix in Resurrections. I suspect this is in part because Lilly has had her hands full. Lilly is a writer and producer for the Showtime series Work in Progress alongside series co-creators Tim Mason and Abby McEnany. Based on things I've read, like this Vox article from 2019, Work in Progress is a passion project for Lilly. I applaud Lilly for focusing her energy on something that means so much to her.

Lana Wachowski (center) with Carrie-Ann Moss and Keanu Reeves (photo by Kelly Sullivan via Getty Images)

I thought I would be melancholy not seeing both sisters' names splashed across the screen as directors at the end of the film. However, I instead found myself incredibly proud of both Lana and Lilly for taking their careers to the next level!

In short, I loved the film for its story and performances, and I felt fulfilled seeing the updated versions of familiar visual effects. It would take multiple articles into spoiler territory to get into everything I enjoyed. However, I think I need a few viewings to process the blast of nostalgia and fan service. It's time for a second viewing here at home on HBO Max!

Have you seen the film yet? What did you love? What did you hate? Let's break it down in the comments (spoilers welcome)!

Bugs (Jessica Henwick, second from left) and some of her crew on the Mnemosyne

Find Both New and Favorite Christmas Movies Across the Streaming Services this Season

Curled up in a favorite chair with a warm beverage? Stuck in a long car or airplane ride to visit family? If you have access to a streaming service, you have access to some great Christmas entertainment. Even if Christmas isn't your thing, you're sure to find something to enjoy!

Amazon Prime

Polar Express - This movie is a must-watch animated film for children and grown-ups alike. It is the story of a boy who lost his faith in Christmas and embarks on a journey (on the Polar Express train) that will change the way he sees things. It's sometimes silly, but it's an important lesson about what Christmas really is all about. Tom Hanks performs the voice for multiple characters in the film.

Elf - For me, it doesn’t get any better than Elf, from esteemed director Jon Favreau, if you just want to watch something genuinely fun and, at the same time, heart-warming. It's a wonderful performance from Will Ferrell, who plays Buddy, a human who was raised by an elf at the North Pole. Buddy goes on a mission to find his parents in New York City and to figure out where he belongs. Elf is also available on Hulu and HBO Max.

Home Alone - What a classic! Do I even have to introduce Kevin? If you've never had a chance to see this iconic film, here's what you need to know: it is the story of a series of unfortunate events for our dear Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) who's been accidentally left behind at home when the family leaves for a Christmas vacation. Even worse than that… he has to protect the house from two burglars! Say what? If you haven’t seen this, what are you waiting for? It's available on both Amazon Prime and Disney+. Follow it up with Home Alone 2, set in the famous Christmas setting of NYC, and which I honestly preferred over the first film. Both are must-watch movies for the holidays!

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone

Netflix

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey - This is a Netflix original that is here to stay. What an absolutely wonderful musical! I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because the beginning felt more like a Hallmark movie - which is not bad, but not great, either. However, as we stepped into the book’s wonderland, a story started to unfold, told in part through the beautiful songs. I would say it became an instant Christmas classic on its 2020 release. It has a splendid cast, songs that will stick with you, and a story that will warm your soul with its pureness. All hats off to Forest Whitaker, in particular, for his performance in this movie, both acting, and singing.

The Christmas Chronicles - This is another Netflix Original, and what a truly magical one! A brother and sister duo accidentally crashes Santa’s sleigh, so they have to do everything to… well… save Christmas. There's amazing writing and performances plus another important lesson learned from this instant classic. Definitely a must-watch! Follow up this 2018 film with its 2020 sequel, The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas - This is the live-action adaptation of Dr. Seuss' original illustrated story of the same name from 1957 and its 1966 animated TV short that many kids grew up watching. I think this is a very underappreciated movie and yet has the single most important message out of all of the movies I've listed so far. Jim Carrey is a legend playing the grumpy, Christmas-hating Grinch who does everything he can to destroy the joy that comes around this time of year. It's an important reflection on society as a whole, and it's an all-together fun film.

Klaus - This is a Netflix original animated film with beautiful animation, story, and, above all else, message. I'm not sure why I hesitated to watch this movie, but I am glad I did so I didn't miss out on an amazing journey. Klaus’ message is stated by the title character himself, voiced by the incomparable J.K. Simmons: “A true selfless act always sparks another.”

Arthur Christmas - This is my favorite animated Christmas movie. It's pure, genuine, and a very important tale. If you haven't seen it yet, make time this holiday season!

And for lovers of Christmas-themed rom-coms and Vanessa Hudgens, check out The Knight Before Christmas, The Princess Switch, and the two Princess Switch sequels.

Madalen Mills and Forest Whitaker in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Disney+

Disney has several holiday classics available, including The Santa Clause and its sequels featuring Tim Allen and the aforementioned Home Alone movies. But let me recommend you check out these two Disney+ originals that have important messages and the Christmas feel that many of us love:

Godmothered - This film stars Jillian Bell, Isla Fisher, and several familiar faces, and it's on the magical side of Christmas stories. This comedy is on my list now after flying under my radar when it came out in 2020. 

Noelle - This comedy stars Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as Noelle and Nick Kringle. After their father’s retirement - their father being Santa - Nick gets cold feet about taking over the family business, so Noelle takes over. This movie reminded me of Arthur Christmas a little bit with the Santa family line being a central story point. The film definitely had even more to offer than I would have imagined.

Let's extend our recommendations in the comments! Share some of your favorites along with the streaming services we can find them on.

Bill Hader in Noelle

Uncharted Movie Trailer 2 Breakdown

Sony and Playstation dropped a longer second Uncharted movie trailer that gives us a LOT more footage, one-liners, crazy action set pieces, and wait for it... a Sully mustache! Sony clearly hoping this will quell fans' fervor over the Mark Wahlberg casting as Victor Sullivan. If you haven't seen the trailer yet check it out below then let's break it all down.

Overall this trailer gives away WAY too much. There's a lot in here that I would've loved to be surprised by. The first Teaser Trailer that dropped did a much better job at getting fans and newcomers a taste of what's to come. The teaser also had a needle drop from Led Zeplin that gave it a bit more panache. Let's go through it scene by scene.

We've seen this scene from the Teaser Trailer. Based on the banter this is how Sully and Nate meet but there's a good chance Sully's had his eye on Nathan Drake for a while from afar and now's the time to bring Nate into the life of adventure.

It's not an Uncharted film unless we get a bit of a history lesson. Here we see some foreshadowing on the lost Magellan ships that Nate and Sully will be looking for along with a brief write-up in the pages about the 5 ships and 270 men Magellan set sail with but lost 4 of the 5 ships and only 18 men survived his journey. Feel free to zoom in or hit the Wikipedia page for how the ships were lost.

Nate looks around what's probably either Victor Sullivan's room or Antonio Banderas character (Moncada?) study both of whom are obsessed with finding the lost Magellan treasure (5 billion dollars worth of treasure we learn in dialogue). Really digging the set design and lighting here.

This is where things get interesting. An old Carrack class ship rising out of the water. I'm not seeing any floats or wires attached to the boat. So unless this is channeling some supernatural Pirates of the Caribbean ghost ship themes this is a bit of a mystery on how this ship is doing this. If you have theories post them in the comments. The next shot we even see the tattered sail unfurl but by who...possible flashback?

It's Antonio Banderas storytime. Narrating the first part of the trailer is the sexy Banderas voice, giving us the history lesson on the lost treasure. "500 years ago my family found the world's biggest fortune...then was betrayed." "So much blood" Sounds like either Moncada is a Magellan ancestor or more likely was a crewman on one of the ships Magellan led and was betrayed by Magellan because you know...greed.

Puzzle-solving time. There is a lot of footage out of order here and it's pretty obvious. This is clearly later in the film after they've stolen the cross and found the map that gives them the clear where the treasure is buried. Nice shot though.

Giving off some strong UC3 and UC4 game vibes as well as a bit of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade... all clues are hidden in old churches. This looks like Nate (Tom Holland), Sully (Mark Wahlberg), and Chloe (played by Sophia Taylor Ali).

Yay! Uncharted puzzle! Although this one doesn't seem really complicated like the ones found in the games. Turn clockwise isn't exactly clever. They make a joke about it to put a pin on the idea that this puzzle and booby trap is kinda lame. It's not that funny and Nate kinda comes off less witty and funny and a little too serious. I guess he was more serious when he was younger? This sequence takes place after they steal the cross from Moncada and most likely this opens up a passage into the underbelly of the church where the real prize lies...probably a map.

Here we are tomb raiding with Nate and Chloe. I'm guessing this is below the church from the previous shot. Chloe looks like she's having a blast while Nate again seems frustrated. If they do make Nate the straight edge to Chloe and Sully's comedy that will be a huge character departure from the games.

The hero and villain meet. Pulled right from Uncharted 4 there is an auction going on and both Nate and Sully and Moncada want the jeweled cross and Sully bids on the cross while Nate distracts everyone so they can steal the cross under everyone's noses. "This cross has a very tragic history. So much blood." Moncada warns Nate here.

Nate is good at distracting people by using his inhuman ability to climb and swing from things while escaping from security. To be fair his line "This is gonna suck." followed by "ahhhh" are pretty much want I expect Drake to say before leaping off a balcony and swinging on a light chandelier.

No surprise here. Nate and Sully swipe the cross and Sully's using it as a teaching lesson. This is likely pretty early on in the film soon after Nate and Sully team up. The cross is the first piece of the puzzle.

The famous plane sequence from Uncharted 3 video game is again shown briefly here. There's more footage in the teaser trailer. While some don't like that this looks shot for shot the same as the game even the car gag at the end knocking him off the plane after working really hard to climb his way back in. I for one am excited to see it come to life in live-action. It's one of the best set pieces from all the Uncharted games and it's no surprise why they wanted to use it for the film. It's going to be awesome.

Another moment that feels like it's pulled right from the games is Nate driving this speed boat across the blue Caribbean waters that are a big part of Uncharted 4's gameplay. It's another beautiful shot and we see Nate is alone here and not with either Sully or Chloe. This is likely after the plane sequence and Nate has to catch up with the bad guys and hopes that Sully and Chloe stay out of trouble before he arrives to save the day.

He's our first look at what's probably Nate's apt. (that lighting is on point. Even if the film's story isn't good. This movie looks great.) He's opening a chest full of memories including some photos of wait for it...

Here's our first look at Sam Drake, Nathan Drake's lost and assumed dead (in the games) brother. Does anyone know who this actor is? Surprising that they showed his face in the trailer let alone the film. I assumed Sam would show up as an end-credit scene in a Spanish prison setting up the next film. Will this actor play a slightly older Sam in the movie? Or will they cast someone else? Does Sam show up in the 3rd act of the film? Lost of questions still to be answered here but I do like from the get-go that Sam is a big part of Nate's motivation to find this treasure and probably has a lot to do with the choices he has made leading up to now.

The ring! Sic Parvis Magna is inscribed on Sir Francis Drake's ring which roughly translates to "Greatness from small beginnings." In the games, Nathan is obsessed with Francis Drake and takes his last name.

Chloe doing what Chloe does. The doublecross, which usually ends up being triplecross. She's arguably the most interesting Uncharted character as she isn't as wholesome as Drake and Sully but often teams up with the bad guys if it helps her achieve her goals. Here we can assume she's stealing the map from Drake in the church tomb.

Looks like Nate and Chloe get close on this adventure which makes sense in the narrative of the games. In Uncharted 2 we get the sense that before Drake meets his eventual wife Elena, that they had a pretty intimate relationship. It's actually nice to see this dance shot here as most of the clips seem related to a heist, or action piece. I'd really dig it if this film slowed down a minute to really get to know our characters a bit.

Sully meet Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Braddock is likely a hired badass that works for Moncada to help protect him and deal with the pesky Drake and Sully. Glad to see Tati Gabrielle in this role but I hope her character isn't just a bunch of cliche bad guy lines and an excuse to have our hero's get beat up by a woman as a joke.

Is the screen color getting grey? Where's Drake's breathe meter? Let's assume he trying to escape a trap gone wrong which leads him to a really cool shot of a ship in a cave. Wait for it...

Another shot we saw in the teaser trailer and it looks like it's pulled straight out of the Uncharted 4 game. What we know now is that above this cave is a jungle so these ships aren't getting the Goonie's exit. It's a bit more dramatic. Also with a hole in the cave ceiling that big I wonder why no one found these ships already?

This is one of those moments that I wish was held back from being in the trailer or at least just teased. Right before this shot, we see two quick shots of a helicopter with a grapple line and several guys buckling the lines into the ship. Then we see one of Magellan's ships rise from the treeline. This is really cool and a moment I haven't seen in a game or movie before. This leads to the next big action set-piece...

This looks epic! Two of Magellan's ships being ferried by helicopters is a cool moment. I really wish this wasn't spoiled in the trailer. We know Drake snuck onto one of these ships. Let the high-flying action begin.

I think the bad guys know that Drake's on the other ship and happen to have these really dope grapple guns to swing to the other ship like Peter Pan's lost boys. I think the writers have been to many Pirates Dinner Adventures. We are really going all-in on the pirate theme here. Including...

When you are on an old Carrack ship and have a knife you have to slide down the sail...it's basically a bucket list item for pirates and scallywags and Nate Drake apparently. Although doing it while the ships are being flown through the air up's the danger a bit.

This is the first glimpse we see of Nathan Drake taking out a bad guy. While he's holding a gun we don't see him fire it at a bad guy in either the teaser trailer or this one. The flying knee is a solid move and no doubt this guy is not getting back up again. But it's a bit worrisome that we haven't seen any action featuring guns, rockets, or grenades when it's such a big part of the gameplay in the Uncharted games. Does Drake kill hundreds of bad guys like in the games to gain fortune and glory or is this a PG-13 Spider-Man version of Drake that doesn't kill? Even Indiana Jones had to shoot loads of Nazi's to win the day. Let's hope this Uncharted is not too watered down.

Don't fall Drake! Something tells me he's going to be ok. From a trailer standpoint, this is the crescendo moment before the Title hits and it's a bit of a meh moment. I would've chosen a cooler shot. Even the shot from the Teaser trailer when he spins around a rope and fires his gun is cooler than a slow-motion fall cliffhanger. That's ok though the trailer goes all-in for fans after the title.

And here it is. The Victor Sullivan mustache or at least the start of one. It's not quite the full bushy stache that we've come to love from the games. But let's also take note of the green button-down that's classic Sully attire along with the giant 6 shooter hand cannon he carries. Unless there's a decent time jump in the movie this is probably an epilogue moment after the hero's save the day. I'm sure Sony and Playstation wanted this to be a fun reveal at the end of the film but unfortunately, if you read any comments on the internet fans aren't too happy about the mustacheless Mark Walhberg. I'm sure even this won't be enough to quiet the fans... I can hear it now... "where's the cigar!?!".

There you have it. The race for the greatest treasure is on… if they can survive each other first. #UnchartedMovie is exclusively in movie theaters on February 18 starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas.

Let's us know what you think of this second Uncharted Trailer.

If you want to hear what Nolan North, the voice and actor for the Uncharted games, think of the Uncharted films you can watch several episodes from CouchSoup including Trailer Talk where we break down more things.

Shang-Chi is a Tribute to Chinese Culture and Filmmaking

In spite of the fact that many were predicting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to be a flop, Marvel fans once again proved that it wouldn't happen under their watch. 

While my cinema experience was… quiet... to say the least, the few of us who watched it in the theater that day were all clearly Marvel fans. We laughed and cried together, and we got terrified by that one scene on the scaffolding of a high-rise building. My articles about Marvel productions already show how much I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but I was not expecting Shang-Chi to make me love this studio even more than I did before. They proved that they will always have more to say and show to us, and the possibilities are endless. 

Is Shang-Chi the best origin story since Iron Man started the MCU? For myself, yes it is, but more about that later. First, I have to cover what makes it a great film overall, which is similar to what we experienced in Black Panther (2018): culture.

"Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside our window."

- Stan Lee, legendary Marvel writer and publisher
Marvel promotional image for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu).

To demonstrate the impact I'm talking about, I'll start with a question: How many foreign-language movies do you watch compared to Hollywood movies produced in English? I look at the movies I consume, and even though I feel like I am open to many many things, the truth is that 85% of what I watch still comes from Hollywood. That's not a bad thing, but it is a reminder that I'm not as diverse as I want to be in what I'm watching.

In recent years, my hunger for something a bit different has grown tremendously. I mostly turned to Korean cinema, and I also got into African and Chinese filmmaking and a bit of Indian and Spanish. But those experiences weren't enough to appreciate the cultural references throughout those films. 

Shang-Chi helped me feed that hunger, bringing an amazing amount of Chinese culture to a 2+ hour Marvel movie. The film added a lot of new things to love to the now more than 3000 minutes long Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The courtship scene with Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) and Li (Fala Chen)

From here, I'll slide into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen the film yet and don't want to know the details, go watch it and come back to finish reading!

The backstory told in the first 10 minutes of this movie are a beautifully written ode to Chinese filmmaking. From every camera angle, the perfectly choreographed fight scenes and the Chinese folklore references sewed into it, and the actual fact that it was all in Chinese… not gonna lie here folks, it made me tear up. I adore Chinese filmmaking, and I think it is incredibly beautiful and gorgeously detailed in every way, but I know so little about it and wish I knew more. I wrote one of my university theses based on their film culture, but even the extensive research I put into that was just scratching the surface of what is actually in there. That's why this opening scene to Shang-Chi meant so much to me. 

In particular, the courtship between Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) and Li (Fala Chen) was something I've waited for ever since Yimou Zhang’s masterpiece Hero. If you like Shang-Chi, I encourage you to watch Hero if you haven't already. I believe that it had a huge influence on Shang-Chi both in cinematography and color-use, particularly in its opening sequence. The choreography of the fight and courtship of Wenwu and Li is an amazing nod to Chinese films and something I know made a lot of people’s hearts beat a lot faster. 

Trevor (Ben Kingsley) and Morris

Getting into the film, right from the beginning there are many references to Chinese folklore creatures that build up to an absolutely breathtaking scene right before the big endgame. Shang (Simu Liu), Katy (Awkwafina), Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and Trevor (Ben Kingsley back in his role from Ironman 3) arrive at the ancient village of Ta Lo with the help of a dìjiāng named Morris. A dìjiāng is a creature associated with the Chinese god Hundun and the element of chaos. They are known to cause chaos and confusion wherever they go, and they very much enjoy music and dance. Morris doesn't have a face, but he quickly became everyone's favorite new creature.

I have a theory that Trevor was able to understand Morris not only because they spent so much time together but also because Trevor's own life has become so chaotic.

The lion guardians, who we also saw in the trailers, are called shíshī and are probably familiar around the world. There are always two of them, traditionally a male and a female, symbolizing the Buddhist yin and yang balance. They've been found in architecture guarding palaces or tombs dating back to Imperial China.

The nine-tailed fox

Also in Shang-Chi, we see the famous húlijīng, or nine-tailed fox, that has been making its rounds in pop culture lately. One of my favorite shorts from Netflix’s Love Death + Robots is "Good Hunting" in which the character Liang forges a bond with the shape-shifting húlijīng who he helped to survive in a brand new world. When the nine-tailed fox popped up in Shang-Chi, my heart skipped a beat. 

I would need a separate article to cover all the creatures that appeared in Ta Lo, but I can't go on without mentioning the Chinese dragon. The dragon in Shang-Chi is the Great Protector of Ta Lo who provides their power and protection. The highest point of the movie was when siblings Shang-Chi and Xialing joined forces with this mythical creature to defeat the Dweller-in-Darkness. The visuals were flawless and really jaw-dropping. I was fortunate enough to watch many films this year, but Shang-Chi is my favorite so far on every level. 

Now let's shift to what makes this film a perfect origin story. First, casting Simu Liu as Shang was an A+ decision as he brings his very best to the MCU. Now that the film is out on Disney+ and available on DVD and Blue Ray, I recommend checking out the behind-the-scenes shorts (and the bloopers) to appreciate all the work that Liu and others put into making a movie like this. 

I also have to praise the rest of the cast. In particular, I am sure that the amazing Tony Leung stole many people’s hearts with his performance as Wenwu. Wenwu has a troubled relationship with both of his children after the death of his wife, but the love he feels for them was balanced perfectly in his performance.

Xialing, Shang-Chi, and Katy

The dynamic between the two siblings and their father showed that each of them has their own failures in the story. Wenwu never paid much attention to his daughter, and he blamed Shang for their mother’s death even though he was only a child when it happened. He chose revenge over his family, and he even used one of his children to achieve his goals. Shang left Xialing behind and stopped all communication with her, never even considering getting her out of there. It was an endless circle of right and wrong to the point they turned against each other. It took until the very last minute for Wenwu to realize that what should have been the most important thing was always right in front of him.

I believe that the theme of grief in MCU Phase 4 became incredibly evident in Shang-Chi, and I honestly believe that it is a smart move for Disney. After all, for 5 years in the MCU continuity, half of the population was gone, and once they came back there were still those who made sacrifices. I do truly love that Kevin Feige won’t shy away from showing hard times in these people’s lives.

If you haven't guessed already, Shang’s growth throughout his first movie is one of my favorite stories told across this universe. From a boy who ran away from home because of all the regret and pain that lived inside him, he became a man who chose to face those fears and to forgive both himself and his father. 

I LOVE the fact that the diversity in Stan Lee's vision is becoming more and more a reality in the MCU. I am also so glad that these films focus on cultural accuracy, building both mythology and tradition into their movies. We live in a big world with so many interesting things to see and experience, and I love seeing films showcase that.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in the final battle sequence. (Photo by Jasin Boland)

In short, Shang-Chi has a special place in my heart. It opened the door to completely new possibilities, diving into Chinese culture and giving us great new characters to love. And Shang-Chi himself got the same love from me as Steve Rogers, who I've extolled in my art and my ink. I honestly can’t wait for the return of Shang-Chi and Katy (I adore Awkwafina beyond words) to see where their story will go and to get deeper into Chinese mythology. Just as Thor films bring in the Norse mythology and legends, and Black Panther triumphed with its representation of colorful African traditions and culture, Shang-Chi is doing the same with Chinese culture… and I am here for it! 

Have you seen Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? Did you fall in love with it as I did? Share your experience in the comments!

Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness Trailer Leaks Online (Spoilers)

Because we now have phones with 4K cameras and Twitter exists nothing is sacred anymore. And so we now have the leaked Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness trailer that apparently plays as a second after-credits bonus with Spider-Man No Way Home. Based on the fact that all the leaked "butt cam" footage has Japanese subtitles I'm assuming the Spider-Man film is already out for everyone over there.

Spoilers from here on out!

My initial thoughts are based on some really shitty camera and audio...

This trailer is going to be a nice tease and we get some little hints that Wanda and Strange will team up, but they may not be working towards the same goal. Johnathan Major's Kang the Conqueror shows up with a little surprise for Strange... an evil Doctor Strange who's clearly a variant that did some naughty shit in the multiverse. While I haven't seen Spider-Man No Way Home yet so I don't know how that sets up this film. I'm pretty excited for a Sam Raimi Marvel film that could be dark and maybe a little scary? Although, It still feels like a generic Marvel film based on the pixelated trailer available and I'm not getting the Evil Dead vibes I was hoping for. Instead, this feels more OG Spider-Man Raim which is fine too. Hell, I'd settle for Darkman vibes.

Looks like we get Gargantos throwing a bus at Doctor Strange and maybe America Chavez? Again hard to tell with buttcam footage. You know what...I'm going to give you a chance to stop here and wait till Marvel drops the HD version. It will be a better experience and it will probably drop by the time you find this article so why not.

No? Cool here it is. Multiverse of Madness hit theatres on May 6th 2022.

The trailer in the Tweet will probably will get taken down FYI.

Thought this tweet was pretty funny.

The New 'The King's Man' Trailer Has A Goat Licking Ralph Fiennes

Witness the formation of the greatest spy agency... Let's Go!!! Despite being a prequel that nobody was asking for. All of "The King's Man' trailers have been really well done and each time they show new footage that just further emphasizes how batshit crazy awesome this movie is going to be. There's a point in this trailer where a goat sensually licks Ralph Fiennes's face right before it head-butts him off a cliff. WTF... I'm so in. There's also an amazing Red Band trailer that came out a month ago that slaps.

See #TheKingsMan only in theaters December 22.

Here's the extra "History" promo trailer for Matthew Vaughn's The King's Man, direct from YouTube:

Logline: As a collection of history's worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them. Discover the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency in The King's Man.

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Based on the Comic Book “The Secret Service” by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

Produced by: Matthew Vaughn, David Reid, Adam Bohling

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, with Djimon Hounsou, and Charles Dance

The Dune We've Been Waiting For

"What's in the box?" 

Paul Atreides asks this simple question in an iconic scene from the original Dune text from Frank Herbert in 1965. Those of us who have been fans of that book or any of its film adaptations shared a similar uncertainty about this new two-part Dune film production from Legendary Entertainment and director Denis Villeneuve.

Dune: Part 1 - Arrakis arrival

As for me, though, I was blown away after seeing Dune: Part One both in theaters and on HBO Max during its release weekend in the U.S. As I said in my video review of the film, this is the Dune production I've been waiting for. The entire cast delivered performances that paired perfectly with how Villeneuve and his fellow screenplay writers John Spaights and Eric Roth crafted the story for film. And that storycraft was well suited to a feature-length film and to a broad audience hungry for new epic sci-fi movie.

Though in his early 20s during production, Timothée Chalamet portrayed the central character, a late-teens Paul Atreides, in a way that brought that character straight off the pages of the book. Early in the film, Chalamet was able to convey Paul's vulnerability that he struggles to cover up by his proud, noble demeanor. Chalamet's performance goes on to reflect Paul's growth as the film progresses. Plus, Chalamet's hair should win an award for its own stand-out performance.

Dune Part 1 - Paul's Growth
Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has tremendous growth over the course of the film.

Going back to the storycraft, I think it was brilliant to reimagine the political landscape of the book as a canvas on which to paint the character's stories. This is in contrast to the book, which places a much heavier emphasis on the politics and history of its fictional universe. There's even a glossary in the back (like any good fantasy novel) in case you forget anything. 

Dune: Part 1 - Duncan Idaho
Jason Momoa's performance as Duncan Idaho rekindled my love for the character from the book.

The film sticks with the most critical parts of the politics, introducing the desert planet Arrakis, also called Dune, and the Known Universe's most coveted resource, the Spice Melange, which is exclusive to that planet. The film also presents the power struggle for Arrakis between noble houses in the Imperium and the underlying Bene Gesserit religious order that manipulates the political landscape from the shadows. 

But the film stops short of introducing us to the Padishah Emperor himself or explaining the Bulterian Jihad. Perhaps we'll hear more politics and history in Part Two, or perhaps Villeneuve has decided to leave that level of complexity to the book readers.

Dune trivia: The Known Universe's reliance on the Spice Melange and the struggle for power in Arrakis reflects our real world's reliance on oil resources from the Middle East and the associated struggle of world powers to keep political influence in that region.

Dune: Part 1 - Stilgar
Javier Bardem's performance as Fremen leader Stilgar gave the character an added dimension that doesn't fully manifest on the written page.

Villeneuve keeps the character profiles simple. He starts by painting the most prominent characters from two noble houses: House Atreides is home to our main protagonists in Part One, and House Harkonnen is clearly positioned as the antagonists. He strikes just the right balance in how he introduces the completely separate faction called the Fremen (think "free men"), natives to Arrakis who aren't allied to houses. The Fremen hold the real "desert power" in their ability to coexist with the planet's ecosystem, and the film highlights how that power is rising while the noble houses start to lose control.

Beyond the story and characters, the visual and audio experience of the film was extraordinary. From the lush coastal shorelines on Caladan to the vast desert landscapes of Arrakis, the landscape shots were stunning. The way both interior and exterior shots were lit, framed, and color-balanced played a large part in creating the emotion of each scene. Also, sitting in the back row of the theater, it felt like my seat had haptics synchronized with the rumbling of machines and the booms of explosions during battle. Plus, all the special and practical effects blended seamlessly, and I felt like I was in a world that was grounded and real.

Dune: Part 1 - ornithopter in flight
The ornithopters ("'thopters") in Dune: Part 1 resemble dragonflies in flight and while also having the look of a real military helicopter.

While I truly loved everything about this film, I admit that there are some parts of my 654-page book that I would like to have seen that didn't make the cut. For example, I am a big fan of the Mentat order, the history behind the order, and their roles throughout the Imperium. We did get to meet Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) and Piter De Vries (David Dastmalchian), but we didn't get the full story on how they each serve their noble houses. 

Dune: Part 1 - Thufir Hawat
Thufir (Stephen McKinley Henderson) performs a quick calculation for Duke Leto.

That said, spending time explaining the Mentats and developing Thufir and Piter wouldn't have added value to the core storyline in Part 1. In the film's limited time to present the first half of Dune, I think the screenwriters struck the right balance on what to add in and what to set aside for the book readers to discover. And as for the Mentats, the second part of the book does provide Villeneuve with some options for Part 2.

As I write this, I see that Warner Bros. has announced that Part 2 is a go and is targeted for an October 2023 release. I am delighted to hear it! Thanks to all the fans who indulged in Part 1 this past week and paved the way for Part 2!

How about we wrap up with some Dune trivia questions? Tip: You'll need to go beyond the film for some of these, so book readers, avid fans, and savvy internet searchers will have an edge. How many can you get without looking up the answer? Post your answers in the comments along with your thoughts on this newest movie!

  1. What is the Fremen's name for the desert mouse we see frequently throughout the film?
  2. In the Known Universe history, what is the name of the great revolt against computers and thinking machines?
  3. What organization holds a monopoly on space travel and includes the navigators who rely on the Spice Melange?
  4. The Sardukar is an army of soldier-fanatics. Who do they serve?
  5. What title is given to the male Bene Gesserit that the order has been genetically and politically preparing for over centuries, whose mental powers will bridge space and time?
  6. Bonus: List the Marvel Cinematic Universe actors who had roles in Dune: Part 1.
Dune: Part 1 - Atreides Transports

Why Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is Better than Back to the Future

Tick, tick tick...it's the only sound that I hear when trying to type this article out. “There’s never enough time” when I have a lot of thoughts on this subject. I wish I had a machine that could turn back time, or at least pause it.

Let’s go back to the 80s where two influential movies were about traveling through time: Back to the Future (1985) and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). Both are great movies in their own rights, but if I had to choose which one is superior? My pick is Bill and Ted, hands down. I know what you’re thinking, "How can you not choose the bigger franchise?" Let me point out a few comparisons between the films, and then you can hear me out on why I appreciate Bill and Ted more. 

Original poster for Back to the FutureCaution:There are spoilers in this article, so if you have not watched either of these films, I totally recommend watching both before reading on.

Let's start with the costs and risks in each production. From what I can gather, the two films' budgets had a $9 million difference: Back to the Future at $19 million vs. Bill and Ted at $10 million. We also know that the majority of Back to the Future's budget went towards the special effects. Plus, Steven Spielberg was riding the success of films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Gremlins (1984) when he came in to help as an Executive Producer, and the film cast both established and up-and-coming actors such as Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover. Universal Studios knew they had a hit on their hands. 

Original poster for Bill & Ted's Excellent AdventureBill and Ted, on the other hand, had the challenge of finding leads. The crew knew that they couldn't break the bank for the leads or else the project would have stalled or risk getting canceled. Keanu Reeves (Ted) was unknown at the time with a resume consisting of a few Coca-Cola commercials and a hockey movie with Patrick Swayze called Youngblood (1986). Alex Winter (Bill) was previously cast as one of David's vampires in The Lost Boys (1987). So De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) wasn't too sure if this Bill and Ted project would be a hit or not. It would be neat to have watched this back when it came out, wondering whether the actors would actually make it big long before Keanu Reeves became synonymous with John Wick or Alex Winter directed the Ben 10 movies.

So far, that makes Bill and Ted the dark horse in this comparison, taking the bigger risk and having the most challenges. And I love those kinds of films. A similar favorite is Sam Raimi’s first movie The Evil Dead, which had a budget of around $375K but went on to make $2.7 million and become a popular franchise. Likewise, George Miller's lower-budget Mad Max spawned the iconic Australian franchise and launched a career for Mel Gibson.

Marty McFly plays rock and roll to a 1955 crowd

In Back to the Future, Marty distracted the crowd by playing some rock and roll.

Next, let's look at the plots between the movies. Back to the Future's Marty McFly gets stuck in 1955 using a time machine built from a modified DeLorean while escaping from terrorists that killed his friend who made the machine. Not only does Marty have to get back to his time, he also has to fix the goof-up he made that prevented his dad from meeting his mom in the timeline.

Bill and Ted are lifelong best friends that have to figure out a way to pass their history exam. If they don't pass, their band Wyld Stallyns will break up cause Ted's dad will send him to military school. The band's breakup will ruin the future where they brought peace to the universe. To prevent that, Rufus, played by the late great George Carlin, goes back in on a modified telephone booth that he lends them to use to gather history’s key figures. 

Wyld Stallyns practicing

Bill and Ted practicing their Wyld Stallyns music.

Both films had rocky productions at different points of filming. During Back to the Future, The original Marty McFly was Eric Stoltz, who was coming off a high-profile role at the time starring with Cher and Sam Elliott in the award-winning Mask (1985). I recall reading that it was within a month or two that they decided to go in a different direction and cast Michael J. Fox, believing that he would be able to pull off the goofball comedy moments. If the production of Bill and Ted felt like they made the wrong decision after a month in, they would have been shit out of luck since they wouldn't even have the funds to reshoot key scenes like Back to the Future did.

Eric Stolz as Marty McFly before the role was recast

Eric Stolz (left) as Marty McFly with Christopher Lloyd on the set of Back to the Future, before Eric was replaced by Michael J. Fox.

Bill and Ted also made an unorthodox production decision by completely changing the ending during the last few days of filming. Instead of the iconic ending where they had the historical figures coming in one at a time with kickass music playing and Billy the Kid shooting one of the light fixtures, we almost got the stereotypical high school version of getting in front of the class and just talking. The director and the crew knew that they needed to make an adjustment and spend extra money for the extra set pieces and actors to do their presentations. 

Guinea pig from Josh Neff's film

The guinea pig from my 40-hour film project.

Being able to change on the fly like that during the end of a production shoot makes me appreciate the film more. I can relate as I remember the time I was competing in the 48-hour Film Festival. We had a scene in which the main character passed out and was dreaming about his "guardian angel." After a few takes, we felt that we couldn't make our guardian angel look ridiculous enough. After half an hour of brainstorming, we decided to film a guinea pig owned by one of our crew and draw an Abraham Lincoln stovepipe hat in post-production. During the premier, the guinea pig got a big pop from the crowd which was reassuring for my team.

Besides its humor, another thing that pops up in my head when I think about Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is how awesome the soundtrack is. It doesn't have a complete orchestral score like Back to the Future. Instead, it has different bands that most people had never heard of getting their shot to have their songs play in a motion picture. If you play any of those songs for 3-5 seconds, I can automatically tell you what scene it is from. The song that gets me most hyped was at the end of the movie where Bill and Ted give their presentation: "Walk Away" by Bricklin. A close second is "Two Heads Better Than One" by Power Tool just because that was catchy when the crew was recruiting the historical figures for their history report. 

By comparison, Back to the Future had three memorable pieces of music: the "Main Theme" by Alan Silvestri, "Power of Love" by Huey Lewis & The News, and "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry. The rest of the soundtrack was forgettable for me. Thus, I think Bill and Ted has the edge when it comes to music.

Bill and Ted visit Socrates in Ancient Greece

Ted waxes philosophical with Socrates in Ancient Greece.

In spite of my bias toward Bill and Ted, I admit that I'm impressed by how both films made their set-pieces. With Back to the Future, recreating the 1950s look was a challenge getting the right clothes, car, paint style, gas pumps, and buildings, such as the diner. Bill and Ted had an equally difficult challenge setting up multiple locations throughout the film, such as the wild west, Athens (Greece), and "somewhere in Medieval Europe." Bill and Ted got to balance that challenge with some fun depicting what the future might look like.

Diner from 1955 in Back to the Future

This stylized 1950s diner was just one of many period set designs for Back to the Future.

Remember how earlier in the article that Bill and Ted had the biggest risks and challenges? That went beyond the end of production. As post-production was starting in 1988, the same year the film was set to be released, DEG went bankrupt. The film was finally released in 1989, though the filmmakers had trouble trying to sell the film to different studios and have it released in theaters. Most studios didn't understand the use of vocabulary in the film, asking, “Is this how kids talk these days?”

Don't get me wrong, both of these movies are great in their own ways. Both made more money than what each studio expected, and both became pop culture icons that are still well-known today. Growing up as a kid, though, I leaned towards Bill and Ted because it was a straight-up comedy with some history, in which I have to note that 80% of the historical figures Bill and Ted picked up died in the worst way. Back to the Future has a more serious tone with funny bits, drama, and action scenes, which is fine. But if I had to choose a movie to watch on a rainy day, it would be Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Let me know how you feel about these films in the comments below, and whether you agree or disagree about which film is better… SAN DIMAS FOOTBALL RULES!