With the new “Shazam” movie with Zachary Levi in post production, this story (or retelling as it were) comes at a very specific time. Now The Rock has always been floated as the idea of Black Adam as well. Those stories blend into the fabric of “Shazam Vol. 1 (The New 52)” [Geoff Johns/DC/192pgs] with the texture of Billy Brayson who inherits the mantle of Shazam. Granted this might just be another iteration of the story but with Johns having been the head of DC’s film division up until recently and the fact that the convenience store scene looking pretty close in the trailer to some of the art here, there might be some comparisons. Returning to brass tacks, the essence of the story is about lost family and finding those that connect. Billy is a foster child who never wants to depend on anyone but doesn’t want to trust in anyone because he knows that he will be let down. However, despite his immaturity there is a texture of wanting to be a protector. So when a wizard summons him (perhaps by mistake) but also when Black Adam is set loose, a domino effect of actions goes into motion. Billy reacts as most kids would but it is the interaction of his new foster family (specifically the kids) that makes it work. The conclusion when it all comes together has the feeling of a “Goonies” or “Explorers” visually and tonally if it was done right. But these transformations as well as the essence of the Seven Sins have a big build up but not the payoff they should have. The resolution is clean but slightly muddled in what it could have been. Black Adam’s perceptions are what does him in but there are those looking for magic who are still rising against Shazam. The fun of the art is reflected in the kids and especially Billy/Shazam’s disbelief at the fact that he is strong, adult and a superhero. Sometimes it only takes that confidence to find the balance.
By Tim Wassberg
Moving into the cable structure of NBC/Universal with dramatic outlays from SyFy to USA to E! The approach is multi-faceted appealing to demographics and textures of stories that continue to diversify.
Krypton (SyFy) This anticipated series follows the angle of Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather and the challenges he must face on their home planet. Creator David Goyer explains the approach: “We do roughly have a 7-8 year plan. Everyone know Krypton blows up. But this is an untold story. As you saw from the promo there is time travel involved. It is advantageous being its own thing with its own story. Not that much is know about Kryptonian society. We play and subvert into the expectations of what Superman’s grandfather would be like.” Cameron Cuffe, who plays Seg-El talks about the challenges of the role and his approach: “I am a fan. I have always loved Superman. He has always been there. I know what that symbol means and that keeps you grounded. These roles and these symbols mean something very real. The legacy seems very far away from him when the show begins.” Goyer continues on working in story elements that are unknown but also how it relates to today: “I can say that even when [Christopher] Nolan and I were working on “Batman Begins”, [we figured out] when there is a blind spot [it can be good]. Science fiction can act as an allegory for today. We’ve got 10 hours over the stories of the first season. It may not be hard to write Superman but it is hard to cast. It is an ineffable quality. Even if it is his grandfather, it is hard to cast Superman.” In terms of finding accessibility for the audience, the creators found the point of view through another DC mainstay character: Adam Strange. Geoff Johns, CCO and President of DC Entertainment, explains that engagement: “We wanted Adam Strange to be from Michigan, He doesn’t honor the same things Superman does. One of the great things about Adam Strange is that when he travels by Zeta Beam to the other planets he becomes this hero…an unlikely hero to shoulder a burden.” But as to the essence of Seg-El as a character: “He will at least try to make the right decision. He is meant to be better than us. But he is not perfect.”
Unsolved: The Murders Of Tupac & Notorious B.I.G. (USA) Doing dramatic interpretations of current events, especially ones as intrinsic as the murder of these two rap stars and the investigations thereof creates an interesting dichotomy. Exec producer Anthony Heminway, who directed “Red Tails” on the Tuskagee Airmen for Lucasfilm as well as episodes of American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson”, speaks on the approach to the story: “This is a way to really lay into the friendship [of Biggie and Tupac]. Even seeing the detectives point of view intersecting at the same point with different goals. The show really gives us this human study of what we are seeing today in our culture. It was about who [these men] could they have been today.” Marcc Rose, who plays Tupac Shakur, speaks of keying into his character: “It is just the layers of who he was. I am used to seeing the artist but behind the scenes [it is about] why he said certain things. He was filled with passion. His brother was on set [for this] and very helpful. To just be around him and also to meet Tupac’s mom before she passed [was invaluable].” Wavyy Jonez, who plays Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G., talks about his perception and engagement with the character: “This killing of Biggy and Tupac was a tragedy. But going back [if is about] what could have disconnected these two. But to go back and research and look at the friendship. Everything Biggy talks about is so yum. Coming from a single parent home and become so massive and then to lose your life.” Hemingway continues, discussing the impact of the music but the essential family stories at the core: “The music was the fun part of it. It was the soundtrack of my childhood. [But it was also] about having the opportunity of today and now. We really touch on a family story: a mother dealing with loss and watching her explore the voice and pain as well as triumph and courage.”
Citizen Rose With recent take down of Harvey Weinstein and his fall from grace no one has been more crucial and outspoken than Rose McGowan having spearheaded the movement. With her new reality show on E!, the camera will explore her everyday life which continues to develop every day. Sitting in front of the press at TCA, McGowan speaks: “I scare because I care. My father said I was born with my fist up. It is not important to be seen as anything. I don’t respect those who don’t respect. My platform is really raising consciousness by 10%. The narrative that has been run by me for 20 years has been erroneous.I think it is a time of reckoning and a reset button.” As to her decision to do a show with E!: “I really like the people at E.I feel comfortable working there because I know what I’m doing.” McGowan also speaks to the current state of women in the directors chair in the entertainment industry: “You have 96% directors in the DGA [that are male]. Fix that. 3 years ago when I was preparing for this show. I realized that I could not speak on camera without a script. I have trained the past 3 years to exist just as me. It is sometimes not pretty. It is raw and it is my truth. This is my form of volunteer work. [But] the terms are different this time. I was waiting so long for this guys. I don’t have a lot of trust. I am down with calling this “reality”…this is mine. It is not an accident that I am sitting here. I fought for this.” Speaking to her continuing activism. McGowan continues: “It is about freeing your mind. I wanted to be like Gertrude Stein and have a discussion with the world. “Rose Army” I trademarked 3 years ago in all forms. What it can do is eventually exert force. I know a lot of things so people think I make pronouncements.” She also speaks of dispelling myths but also the continued struggle: “I never signed an NDA. That is a mistake the press made. We have [also] found out a lot of them can be broken. [That said] I am having to sell my house to pay off legal bills to fight the monster.”
WWE RAW 25th Anniversary Wrestling is and continues to be a major draw despite any other sports criticism of it. The mix of persona and physicality is undeniable. Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Office of World Wrestling Entertainment, explains the power that this kind of sport provides: “We are more socially engaging than “Game Of Thrones.” This being the 25th Anniversary edition, the essence is on the moments of history that stand out. The Miz, one of the biggest draws of RAW, speaks on his memory: “Everytime I come out into the arena with 20,000 people saying “You Suck”. There is no better feeling in knowing with an audience that you have them.” McMahon believes in the progressive nature of the sport finally coming full circle: “In terms of real, one of my most memorable raw moments was a couple weeks ago, when I came out and surprise all the women in the ring when I was able to announce the All Women Royal Rumble match.” Retired WWE wrestler Sean Michael concludes the thought and infers the texture of his experience: “The most important thing here is the relationships. I am the only guy to be able to look at this in the rear view mirror. Taking a lot of it in and even though it is the silly WWE wrestling business, we are thankful to have it.”
By Tim Wassberg