Friday, May 26, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 23: Finish Line

It's the Season Finale of The Flash!

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON, INCLUDING DISCUSSION ABOUT THE DEATH OF A MAJOR CHARACTER! TURN BACK NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE!

SERIOUSLY, BIG HONKIN' SPOILERS AHEAD! I'M NOT KIDDING!

LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SPOILERS!

Overall this wasn't a great season of The Flash, but it had its moments.


The whole "Flashpoint" storyline turned out to be a dud, mostly because it only lasted a single episode. Think how much they could have done with the "alternate reality" concept if they'd given it four or five episodes and let it breath a bit, ala The Framework arc over on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We also got not just one but TWO "Villain With A Shocking Secret Identity" storylines this year, which was at least one too many. The first, the Alchemy arc, was muddled and mishandled as he turned out to be Julian, the most obvious candidate possible. In fact I was convinced he had to be anyone but Julian, because he was such a glaringly blatant choice. 


The "Who Is Savitar?" storyline was similarly botched, as it dragged on for months and months. He first appeared in Episode 6 for Thor's sake, and his identity wasn't revealed until Episode 20! Fifteen episodes was WAYYYYY too long to drag out that mystery, as most of the audience (myself included) stopped caring weeks earlier. And when Savitar was finally revealed to be a future time remnant of Barry Allen, it required some heavy duty and convoluted time travel shenanigans in order to make it work.

Thankfully the season wasn't all bad though. The big Invasion! crossover episode with all the other Arrowverse shows was a highlight, as well as the two part return of Gorilla Grodd.

And the season actually started picking up near the end, once the mystery of Savitar's identity was finally resolved. It was a bit too little, too late though. Three or four good episodes do not a season make.

In a perfect world, The Flash showrunners would adopt Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s "story pod" system, and give us three or four shorter arcs per season. They sort of tried that this year with Flashpoint, Alchemy and Savitar, but if was clunky and much less elegant than the way S.H.I.E.L.D. effortlessly does it.

This week's episode was a bit of a mixed bag. There were a couple of cool developments, a head-scratching, puzzling sequence, and a terrible ending pulled straight out of the writers' asses. 

Last week I totally called the fact that HR used his transmogrifier to impersonate Iris, and that Savitar actually killed him instead. And that's exactly what happened, right down to the stage directions I described. Boo-yah!

I was also very surprised that the writers decided to have Killer Frost reject her cure, and remain a quasi-supervillain. Conflicted, anti-hero Killer Frost is much more interesting than meek, vanilla Caitlin any day.

On the down side, I didn't for one second buy the scene in which Barry and the Gang try to reach Savitar, and he actually accepts their offer of help. He tried to murder them all season long, and we're supposed to believe he does a complete 180ยบ turn after just one pep talk? Doubtful.

The worst part of the episode though was the ending, in which Barry enters the Speed Force as penance for his time travel shenanigans. It came completely out of the blue and gave new meaning to the phrase "tacked-on." It feels like the only reason this ending exists is because the writers realized they hadn't come up with a cliffhanger yet, and cobbled one together in five minutes.

Lastly, The Flash executive producer and co-showrunner Aaron Helbing announced he won't be returning for Season 4. His brother, co-showrunner Todd Helbing, will remain with the show. I don't know whether this is good news or bad.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The season finale picks up right where we left off last week— with Barry cradling the dead form of his fiance Iris, who's just been murdered by Savitar. Tracy Brand looks on in disbelief, while up on a nearby rooftop, Joe collapses with grief.

But wait! Iris isn't quite dead after all. And she isn't quite Iris either! She pulls out the facial transmogrifier and instantly transforms into HR, just as I predicted last week!

See, shortly after HR said his weirdly stilted goodbye to Cisco in the previous episode, he used the shard of Savitar's blade to find out where he was holding Iris. He then used the transmogrifier to make himself look like her, and vice versa (which we didn't know it could do, but whatever). Iris protests, but HR convinces her to go along with the ruse.

HR and Tracy share a brief goodbye, as he tells her he loves her. HR then gives Barry a special message for Cisco and promptly dies. Joe points out that Savitar took the Speed Force Bazooka with him after he killed "Iris."

Meanwhile, Cisco and Killer Frost are facing off in the forest. Savitar appears and tells her not to kill Cisco, as he needs him for a special project. Savitar then doubles over, saying something's not right. He realizes— as new memories from Barry form— that Iris is somehow still alive.

Back at STAR Labs, Joe says that since Iris wasn't killed, Savitar will never be created and should vanish from reality. Barry says this is technically true, but it could take several hours to happen. Julian tells the group that he worked with Caitlin's mom (remember her?) and came up with a cure for her Killer Frost-ism.

In Savitar's lair, he orders Cisco to alter the Speed Force Bazooka so it will shatter him and spread his fragments throughout time, so he'll exist simultaneously in the past, present and future. He says this will make him immune to the paradox that wants to erase him from history. Cisco of course refuses to help. Savitar threatens to kill, er, Killer Frost if he doesn't, and Cisco reluctantly gives in.

Barry, Iris and Joe enter the Time Room and see that the holographic newspaper now once again has Iris' byline on the front page, indicating things are back to normal. Iris asks Barry what he's going to do next, and he says "the last thing that Savitar expects!"

Barry goes to an abandoned (of course) warehouse and a few minutes later Savitar meets him (I guess he remembered this happening in the past?). He pleads with Savitar to let the STAR Labs Gang help him, dredging up memories of past fun times. Amazingly, this half-assed attempt at psychology somehow works on Savitar, seemingly reversing centuries of anger and hatred in just a few minutes.

Barry brings Savitar to STAR Labs, and asks the Gang (or what's left of it) to help him. Despite the fact that Savitar tried to kill Iris and ruined the past year of her life, she's willing to give it a go and forgives him. Tracy's not so generous, refusing to help the man who "took away her future." Iris tells Barry she knows someone who can convince Tracy to help. Savitar says it was a mistake to come to STAR and zooms off.

Tracy sits in her lab, brooding. Suddenly she sees what she thinks is HR's reflection, and spins around. Turns out it's actually Harry, who the Gang somehow transported from Earth-2 without Cisco's help. She's disappointed of course that he's not the HR she knew, and says she's not helping Savitar. Harry gives her a Patented The CW Pep Talk™, telling her not to be such a Gloomy Gus and that it's what HR would have wanted.

Suddenly an alarm sounds, and Barry sees that Savitar somehow left the Philosopher's Stone in a lab and it's "rigged to go off," whatever that means. He and Wally zip everyone out of the building seconds before a comically cliched giant blue laser shoots through the roof and high into the sky.

Back at Savitar's lair, Cisco says he's done modifying the Speed Force Bazooka. To no one's surprise, Savitar then orders Killer Frost to kill Cisco. She fires a barrage of deadly icicles at him, but he's saved by the timely appearance of Gypsy, who tackles him and vibes him to safety.

Savitar and Killer Frost then take a trip to a park, where he zooms around in a circle and opens up a Speed Force portal (which is different from an Earth-2 portal) so he can begin his ascension into godhood. He says the Speed Force doesn't like it when speedsters mess with time, and right on cue, the Black Flash exits the portal and zooms toward Savitar. Killer Frost nonchalantly freezes Black Flash solid and he shatters.

Savitar then stands in front of the portal, as Killer Frost shoots him with the modified Speed Force Bazooka to fragment him across time. It begins to work, until suddenly Savitar's knocked over by a superfast figure. It turns out to be Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-3, who's now been freed from his "prison" inside the Speed Force.

Just then Barry, Wally, Cisco and Gypsy show up to take on Savitar and Killer Frost. Savitar zooms away, with the speedsters (including Jay) in hot pursuit. Cisco and Gypsy battle Killer Frost. They manage to defeat her, and Cisco tosses her the serum that will turn her back into Caitlin Snow (Um... where'd he get that?).

Savitar outmaneuvers the others and returns to the park. He picks up Cisco and is about to kill him, when he's blasted by Killer Frost, who I guess has decided not to be semi evil. 


Barry returns to the park well, and Savitar tells him he's going to kill Joe, Iris (for real this time) and Wally. Barry then leaps at Savitar, phasing into his armor and throwing him out of it, which I have to admit was pretty darned cool. For some reason the Savitar armor turns red with Barry inside it.

Barry extends a blade and looks like he's about to execute Future Barry, who hisses at him to just do it already. Barry begins vibrating and shatters the Savitar suit from the inside, and walks away from the now-beaten Future Barry. Suddenly Future Barry screams and runs toward Present Barry, intending to kill him. A gunshot rings out...

Future Barry falls dead to the ground, as we see Iris was the one who shot him. That was easy! She says that for months Barry tried to save her, but in the end she saved him.

Cut to the Gang at HR's funeral, as they all say a few words over his grave. Barry tells Cisco what HR told him as he died: "Tell Cisco this took strength, and he gave it to me." Barry sees Killer Frost lurking behind a tree, watching the funeral. He, Cisco and Julian approach her. She gives them back the serum, saying she's not going to take it. She says she's no longer Killer Frost, but she's not Caitlin either, and needs time to figure out just who and what she is.

After the funeral, Barry and Iris relax at their place, discussing their wedding plans. Suddenly a series of tremors strike, as violent lightning stabs down at Central City. They return to the ruins of STAR Labs, and determine that the disturbance is being caused by the Speed Force. It requires a speedster to maintain its balance, and once Jay exited, it became unstable.

A Speed Force portal opens in the center of town, and what appears to be Barry's mother walks out of it. She tells Barry to come with her. He tells the others it's time for him to pay for altering time and creating Flashpoint. He says goodbye to everyone and walks into the portal. It disappears and the lightning stops.

Thoughts:

• The past few weeks I've commented on how difficult it is to write a logical time travel episode, one that's not riddled with inconsistencies, paradoxes and plot holes.

This episode is no different, but credit where credit's due— at least its blunders are consistent with what's gone before. 

When HR saves Iris by switching places with her, this prevents Savitar from ever being created. Instead of Savitar simply winking out of existence like you'd expect though, it takes a while for the paradox to catch up to him. 

This is the same way we've seen time travel work over on Legends Of Tomorrow. There, Rip Hunter tells his teammates that they have a bit of latitude when trying to change the past or future, because the timeline "takes a while to harden."

So while Savitar sticking around for a while after being "uncreated" doesn't make any sense, at least it's consistent with what's gone before.

• The first time we saw HR's transmogrifier in action, it simply altered his face. Last week when Barry borrowed it, it transformed his entire body to make him resemble Lyla Michaels of ARGUS. Now this week we find out it can somehow cause two people to swap appearances, even when only one of them is actually holding the device.

BOO! Bad form, writers! You can't keep adding new functions to sci-fi tech like this every week as the script demands! How are we ever supposed to know what a device is capable of if you keep changing its rules? It's as bad as the sonic screwdriver on Doctor Who!


• Future Barry actually calls his headquarters his "lair!"


• I guess speedsters really do heal faster than a normal person. Last week Savitar gave Wally a severe beatdown, even appearing to break his leg. Poor Wally was even bedridden at the end of the episode.

In this week's episode (which takes place immediately after the previous one), he's up and around with nary a bruise to be seen!


• I wasn't a fan of the scene in which Barry tries to redeem Future Barry as it came out of nowhere and seemed completely unrealistic. He's been an evil, unrepentant bastard all season, and then suddenly after one heartfelt chat with Barry he's willing to try to be good? Feh!


The only reason this scene existed is because they needed to pad out the runtime a bit.


• Seems like the writers momentarily forgot that Savitar automatically remembers ANYTHING that Present Barry thinks or does.

At one point Barry and Iris sit in the Time Room and ponder what to do about Savitar. Iris asks Barry what he's going to do. Barry says, "The last thing he'd expect."


Cut to an abandoned warehouse, where Barry waits. Suddenly Savitar shows up. Barry says, "I wasn't sure you'd come... so you remember coming here."


Um... why is Barry so surprised that Savitar remembers meeting him in the warehouse? Does he really think that "doing the last thing he'd expect" could possibly work? It doesn't matter what Barry does. He can zig instead of zagging all he wants, but it's all ancient history to Savitar. Do the writers not understand this?


Then a bit later Barry brings Savitar to STAR Labs to "help" him somehow. Savitar's very uncomfortable, and really does seem like this is something he didn't expect the Gang to do. Again, this is not possible. From Savitar's point of view, ANYTHING Barry or the others do has already happened. There cannot be any surprises.


• Is murder not a crime in the Arrowverse? When the Gang tries to talk him into being good, he says he murdered people. Iris says, "And you are going to have to live with that. But we won't give up on you, okay? That is not what we do." 

Really? That's it? Just living with it? What about, oh, I don't know, throwing his ass in prison for first degree murder?

• I don't think I've mentioned Future Barry's makeup since he first appeared. Um... yeah. It ain't good. 

Maybe they didn't wanna get too graphic in prime time, but his scar looks reeeeeally cartoonish. It's much more Freddie Krueger than what a real burn scar looks like.

Early in the episode Cisco mocks Future Barry, saying his face looks like a thin crust pizza. That's a pretty apt comparison, as it actually does look more like a pizza than damaged skin. The milky contact lens is a nice touch, but the overall look is one big fail.

By the way, did they ever explain how Future Barry got his facial scar? A couple weeks ago in I Know Who You Are, Tracy mentioned that Savitar's armor protected him from the massive heat generated when he ran at super-superspeed. 


Is that what happened to him? Did he run so incredibly fast he literally burned his face?

• In Cause And Effect, Barry discovers that Savitar is a future time remnant of himself. They then have the following chat:


Savitar: "God feels no pain. All I had to do was become one. And I only need two more things— for Iris to die so that you are driven so far into the dark that I can be born."
Barry: "And the other?"
Savitar: "It may sound ironic given who I'm talking to, but I'll keep that one to myself."

Um... so what was the mysterious other thing Savitar was keeping to himself? Was it the Speed Force Bazooka, that he meant to use to fragment himself across time? Or was it something else and the writers just forgot about it?
• Somehow the Gang brings Harry to Earth-1 without Cisco's help to open a breach.

OK, I honestly can't remember any more— can Barry open breaches to other Earths by himself? I thought only Cisco could do that?

• Glad to see the return of Harry this week. He's been the best version of Wells so far, and I hope he sticks around next season. Why not? Now that Jesse's living on Earth-3 he's got nothing to keep him on Earth-2.


By the way, here's how great an actor Tom Cavanaugh is. After HR was killed I thought, "Gosh, that's too bad that the actor who plays him just lost his job!" It took me a minute or so to remember that Cavanaugh's still on the show, playing Harry! He really did make HR seem like a completely different person.

• Speaking of HR, remember earlier in the season when there were multiple occasions where his actions seemed borderline sinister? We'd see him lurking in the shadows, or eavesdropping on conversations with an ominous look on his face. For a while it honestly thought like he had some sort of dark secret, and could turn on the Gang any second.

So what the hell was that all about? Was it a red herring to make us think he might be Savitar? Or was there going to be an Evil HR subplot and the writers ended up abandoning it?

• Everyone who didn't foresee Cisco double-crossing Savitar by futzing with the Speed Force Bazooka, stand on their head.

• When Killer Frost attacks Cisco, why does he need Gypsy to save him by vibing him away? Other than to give Gypsy and excuse to appear on the show again, that is. Couldn't he have escaped by opening a portal by himself?

I think maybe he needs his special glasses to do that, and Savitar took 'em away from him? I swear I've seen him vibe without them though, so who knows?


• Nice to see our old friend the Blue Laser getting work!

So is STAR Labs destroyed for good? The outside looked OK, but the Cortex was definitely trashed. Will the Gang have to find a new HQ next season? 

• When Savitar opens a portal to the Speed Force, the Black Flash emerges and makes a beeline for him. Killer Frost freezes him and he shatters into a million pieces. 

Well that was certainly easy! Eobard Thawne spent most of Season 2 of Legends Of Tomorrow running from the Black Flash, implying he was an inexorable and unstoppable force of nature. And then Killer Frost dispatches him without breaking a sweat. Too bad Thawne didn't have her number!

• After Cisco defeats Killer Frost, he tosses her Julian's serum and says it'll cure her. 

Where the heck did Cisco get that? Julian unveiled it at STAR Labs AFTER Cisco was captured by Savitar. I guess maybe Barry took the serum with him to the park and handed it to Cisco while we weren't looking?

• The scene in which Barry phases into Savitar's armor and shove him out of it was pretty darned awesome!

As were the scenes in which Barry was then wearing it (Barritar?)

Was there any reason though why Barry turned the armor red? Other than because it looked cool, and to differentiate it from Savitar?

• At one point Cisco calls Savitar "Two-Face." How does Cisco know that name? Does that mean Batman exists somewhere in the Arrowverse? Or are do they just have Batman movies there?


• I guess after they inscribed the Mark Twain quote on HR's sleek, ultramodern tombstone, they didn't have room for his birth and death dates?

• Late in the episode, Cisco actually says, "Hey, Wally, can you reverse the polarity on the neutron flow?"

This is of course a shoutout to Doctor Who. For some reason the technobabble phrase has become associated with the Third Doctor, even though he only said it twice during his tenure on the show! He said it once in 1972's The Sea Devils, and again in 1983's The Five Doctors, which was the 20th Anniversary Special.

The Third Doctor would often use a shortened version of the phrase, saying, "Reverse the polarity," so maybe that's how the whole thing started.

• After Savitar's defeated, Barry and Iris relax at home. Suddenly their apartment is struck by a powerful quake. Iris is gobsmacked, declaring, "There's never been an earthquake in Central City!"


Sorry, Iris. According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Information Center, EVERY state in the U.S. has experienced an earthquake of some magnitude at one point or another. The USGU does list Florida and North Dakota as the two states with the fewest earthquakes though.

Once again, I am not a seismic geologist. I found this out with literally fifteen seconds of googling.

• When the crazy lightning appears over Central City, the Gang gathers back in the ruins of STAR Labs. Cisco manages to get some their equipment up and running to analyze what's going on. He spots a large portal in the center of town, and says, "Holy plutonium! What even emits that many kilojoules?"


Sigh... Again with the joules!

A couple weeks ago in Cause And Effect, Tracy unveiled the Speed Force Bazooka, and said it needed 3.86 terajoules of energy to function. This greatly impressed Cisco, who said, "That's more energy than in the sun!" That statement was woefully wrong, but never mind that now.A joule is described as "the work required to produce one watt of power for one second." A terajoule is equal to ONE TRILLION joules. A kilojoule however, is equal to one thousand joules.

Why is Cisco so impressed by something that's literally a million times LESS than a terajoule?


• At the end of the episode the Gang discovers the Speed Force is unbalanced, and needs a speedster inside it to restore order.

For a brief second I honestly expected Jay to volunteer to return to the Speed Force instead of Barry.

• I guess as of this episode Savitar's prophecy is now complete. Way back in The Present, Savitar (through Julian) said, “I know your destinies. One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death. This is the knowledge I have for you about your everlasting damnation.”

So how'd he do? Caitlin is obviously the one who betrayed the Gang. HR was the one who fell. And based on the end of this episode, Barry's the one who suffered a fate far worse than death, as he became trapped in the Speed Force.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Savitar: "Fix this."
Cisco: "Fix what? The Speed Force bazooka? Hey, I didn't name it. If I didn't name it, I didn't make it. And if I didn't make it, I don't know how it works."
Savitar: "Oh, you know enough about it to alter what it does."
Cisco: "Oh, I see. You want me to alter it. Well, what do you want me to alter it into? Like, a hair dryer? Or a waffle maker? Oh, I know. Maybe something that's gonna fix that thin-crust pizza you call a face?"

Savitar: "Get to work, Francesco."
Cisco: "How about I sit on my ass and let you obliterate permanently from existence? How's that sound?"

Barry: "Are you still planning on becoming a god?"
(I included this line because it makes me laugh)

Savitar: "So how's this gonna work? Where will I live?"
Barry: "What do you mean?"
Savitar: "Are Wally and I gonna be bunk-mates? Am I supposed to just rejoin Team Flash, fight some Rogues? What kind of life were you thinking I'd lead?"
Barry: "I hadn't gotten that far yet."

Iris: "He wasn't a genius, and he didn't have super speed. But when we needed him the most, he was our hero. He was my hero."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Today's Trump Tidbit: The Emperor's First Overseas Trip

Back in February, I decided I was going to start a new feature here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld, in which I would chronicle all the batsh*t insane things our Glorious Leader Trump did each week.

Sadly, I threw in the towel after just two installments. It was literally impossible to 
keep up with all the crap that Trumpy did and said on a daily basis. It would take me twelve or fourteen hours a day, every day. I am not kidding. It's that bad.


So I've contented myself with occasionally talking about the REALLY outrageous things he says and does. Like these!

Gods help us, but this week Emperor Cheeto's taking his first foreign trip since becoming president.


His first stop was Saudi Arabia, where First Lady Melania chose not to wear the traditional head scarf, which is required of all women who appear in public.


Note that it's not required for foreign-born women to cover their heads, and most don't.


You can probably guess where this is going. Back in 2015, Trumpy blasted Michelle Obama for not wearing a scarf when she traveled to the country...

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Trumpy took country music singer Toby Keith with him to Saudi Arabia to perform at a concert there.

You know, the same Toby Keith who wrote such touching ballads as Whiskey Girl, Drunk Americans and I Love This Bar. Songs that are sure to go over well in a country that's outlawed the drinking of alcohol and the mixing of sexes in public. Well done, Don!

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Is everything OK in the Trump household? Any marital spats, resentment or tensions that have been simmering for months, only for the stress of overseas travel to cause them to bubble to the surface?

The reason I ask is that Melania seems unwilling to hold hands with the Commander-In-Chief.

Here they are on a red carpet in Saudi Arabia. Note how she visibly swats him away as he attempts to hold her hand.

And here they are the next day, exiting Air Force One. Note that Trumpenstein reaches for Melania's hand and... DENIED! She jerks it away with lightning speed, pretending to adjust her hair rather than have her husband try to wrap his tiny, clammy digits around her hand.

It's obvious from these incidents that the First Lady recoils in revulsion at her husband's very touch. Honestly, who could blame her?

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On Day Two of Trumpy's Saudi Arabia visit, he reportedly dropped out of an event due to "extreme exhaustion," sending his daughter instead.

Hmm. Didn't he tweet something about this topic a year or so ago? Something about stamina?


Ah, here we go! I guess traveling to another country and shaking hands with various dignitaries must be MUCH more stressful than running an entire country!

Does Trump understand that we can still see everything he ever tweeted?

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No time to rest for Glorious Leader! On day three, he visited Israel's National Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem.

As he left the museum, he signed the guest book, writing:

"It is a great honor to be here with all my friends. So amazing and will never forget."

That... doesn't seem like an appropriate sentiment for such a solemn institution. Did... did he think he was signing someone's yearbook?

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The whirlwind tour continued, as Emperor Cheeto visited the Vatican on Wednesday, for a meeting with none other than Pope Francis! And the Pontiff couldn't have been happier to meet the leader of the free world!

Just look at the Pope's jubilant expression! He's so ecstatic he can barely stay in the frame!

It should be a law that from this day forward, any and all books about Body Language MUST include this photo.

I imagine this photo session went something like this:

Photographer: "OK, everybody smile now. Your Holiness, could you scooch in a bit to your right?"
Pope: "Just take the goddamned picture!"

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Lastly, on Thursday Trumpy attended a NATO conference in Brussels, to mark the nation of Montenegro becoming an official member of the organization.

After the meeting, Glorious Leader physically grabs Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, and literally shoves him out of the way so he can get a good spot in front of the cameras. He then just out his chin as he theatrically adjusts his jacket, in a typical display of dominance.

Congratulations, Trumpy! We're now at war with Montenegro!

Only two days left on his trip!

Putrid Posters: Spider-Man: Homecoming

There was a time when a movie poster was just as important as the film it promoted, if not more so. A good poster would tease, inform and pique your interest about a particular film, whipping you into a frenzy until you couldn't wait to see the movie.

That time is long past. Gone are the days when movie posters were beautiful examples of graphic design and illustration, and works of art in their own right. Classic movie poster design has been replaced by nightmarish collages, poorly stitched together in Photoshop.

And they seem to be getting worse, not better. So bad that I'm starting a new feature here on Bob Canada's BlogWorld, called Putrid Posters.

For example, take this brand new Putrid Poster for Sony/Marvel Studio's upcoming joint venture, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Oy gevalt! Where do I start?

Seriously, Sony? It's hard to believe this is an official piece of promotional art from a professional marketing department, and not an example of amateurish fan art.

So why is it so bad? Because there's no design! There's no focal point to draw your eye, so your attention bounces all around the thing like a moth looking for a place to land. 

Who am I supposed to be looking at here? Who's the main character? Is it Tom Holland as Peter Parker? He's sort of in the center, but he's overwhelmed by Robert Downey Jr., who's sternly hovering over his shoulder as he stares off into the distance. What's he looking at? And why does he seem to be on fire? Who knows?

Why is Michael Keaton's face bigger than Tom Holland's? Is he more important than the main character? Why not place the small image of Keaton as the winged Vulture closer to his head, to establish a connection between the two?

Plus Michael Keaton and Marisa Tomei are both staring at something off to the right, which is another big no-no, as it drags your poor eye away from the main character (Tomei in particular seems delighted by whatever it is she sees!). They should both be facing inward, to draw your eye back to the center of the poster.

And was there really no other photo of Jon Favreau available anywhere in the world except for one in which he's awkwardly trying to button his suit jacket?

It's blatantly obvious that this "poster" was cobbled together from at least thirteen or fourteen different photographic elements, all of which were shot under radically different conditions with multiple lighting sources.

Seriously, look at the image above. Each yellow arrow represents a different light source.

As a general rule, when designing a collage with multiple figures and objects, you should pick ONE light source and stick with it. It helps to tie all the disparate elements together and make a complex layout into a cohesive whole. When you have a dozen light sources your eyes may not notice something's wrong, but your subconscious mind will.

Contrary to how I sound, I don't think ALL photographic posters are inherently bad. It's entirely possible to have a well-designed one. Take this Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 poster for example. It features lots of photographic elements, but they're all consistently lit, well-posed, extensively modified and they're all tied together with colorful computer graphics. 

You just needs an artist who knows what the hell they're doing.

There's a really easy way to eliminate all these photo-collage problems— ILLUSTRATE your poster instead! That way you won't be at the mercy of whatever photographic content you're provided, and you can control the light source, as well as the poses of your figures. No more guys buttoning their suits on the poster!

Where's Drew Struzan when we need him?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Box Office Predictions Part One RESULTS (January thru April)

Last year my nephew Kyle and I began a tradition of predicting the year's Box Office Hits and Flops. We didn't do so well in 2016, as Kyle's predictions had a 41% accuracy rate, and mine was even worse at 37%. I guess we vastly underestimated the general moviegoing public's willingness to sit through literally anything.

We decided to try our hands at predicticating again this year, and see if we could do better this time. Below are the results of our 2017 Box Office Predictions Part One (January thru April)My comments are in red, while Kyle's are in blue.

Note: I don't want to have to keep saying this over and over, so keep this in mind— due to marketing and other costs, these days a movie has to make around TWICE its PRODUCTION BUDGET in order to break even. So if a movie cost $100 million to film, it's gotta make $200 million before it actually makes a dime! Crazy, huh?

OK, let's see how we did!

Underworld: Blood Wars
Bob: The fact that this was supposed to come out last October and was pushed back to this January tells me all I need to know. Plus these movies have historically ALL been "meh" at best. I doubt it'll even, um, break even.

Budget: $35 million
Domestic Gross: $30,348,260 • Foreign Gross: $50,709,541
Worldwide: $81,057,801

Welp, I was right on the nose if you only count the domestic gross. It cost $35 million and only made a shockingly low $30 million. If you add the domestic and foreign grosses, it managed to scrape up $81 million, meaning it just barely moved past the break even point. That has to be a disappointment for Screen Gems, aka SONY.

I'm gonna go ahead and give myself a point for this one.

The Bye Bye Man
Bob: Sounds like the usual watered down PG-13 horror tripe. If its budget is small enough, it might manage to make a bit of money. Teens will pay to see any movie so they can sit in a dark room and text.

Budget: $7 million
Domestic Gross: $22,395,806 • Foreign Gross: $4,271,391
Worldwide: $26,667,197

As I predicted, as bad as this film was (and boy, was it bad) it managed to make a small profit. Another point for me.

Monster Trucks
Bob: It has a $125 million budget (!), so it's gonna have to make at least $250 million just to break even. I don't see it making that much. I'm betting it'll be an expensive flop.

Budget: A whopping $125 million
Domestic Gross: $33,063,274 • Foreign Gross: $31,123,749
Worldwide: $64,493,915

This movie's inexplicably enormous budget doomed it from the start. There was no way it was ever gonna make it past its break even point, due to all the bad press the film received before it ever came out. I still maintain that this was a deliberate tax write-off on the part of Paramount.

Another point for me!

Split
Bob: The film only cost an extremely low $5 million (!), so I actually think it'll do OK. Surely it can clear at least $10 million!

Budget: $9 million
Domestic Gross: $138,120,085 • Foreign Gross: $136,857,851
Worldwide: $274,977,936

Hmm. I predicted it would do "OK." Looks like I was a bit off here. It grossed a very surprising and respectable $138 million here, for an astonishing total of $274 million worldwide. I don't get it, as I thought it was a middling film at best, but SOMEONE must have liked it.

Darn. A miss for me.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Bob: I'm predicting a bomb.

Budget: $85 million
Domestic Gross: $44,898,413 • Foreign Gross: $301,249,245
Worldwide: $346,147,658

Well, I predicted a bomb, and I was right if you only count the domestic gross. The film barely racked up half its budget here in the States. It's a much bigger hit overseas though (no doubt due to the diverse, international cast), where it grossed a very impressive $346 million!

I'm going to give myself half a point for this one.

The Red Turtle
Bob: It's a Studio Ghibli film, and they're always well-regarded, but they usually don't get a wide release. There's no way it'll be a huge hit. It'll probably make more on home video.

Budget: $3.7 million
Domestic Gross: $912,825

As I suspected, this film didn't get much of a release, playing in just 115 theaters (for comparison, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage played in 3,651 theaters!). It never played anywhere near me. I have no idea why it had such a limited release. Maybe they intended it to be a home video release, but stuck it in a few theaters and film festivals so it could win some awards?

Another point for me!

A Dog’s Purpose
Bob: Kids might latch onto it, so I think it might be a very mild hit if Rogue One isn't still siphoning money from the box office at the end of January.

Budget: $22 million
Domestic Gross: $64,230,845 • Foreign Gross: $120,670,635
Worldwide: $184,901,480

I'm very surprised by this film's success, especially considering the "animal abuse" bombshell that dropped shortly before it's release. I predicted a "mild hit," which is what I'd call the domestic gross.

I'm gonna give myself a half point for this one.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Bob: I doubt this'll be a massive hit, but I think it'll make a small profit.

Budget: $40 million
Domestic Gross: $26,830,068 • Foreign Gross: $285,412,558
Worldwide: $312,242,626

Well, I predicted it would make a small profit. That was wrong both domestically and abroad. It was a huge flop in the States, and a massive hit overseas. Look for Resident Evil 7 in a year or two!

Darn. Another miss.

Rings
Bob: Rings was supposed to come out last year, but was pushed back to the January Film Dumping Ground, which is a bad sign. It's yet another watered down PG-13 horror film which will make back its low budget and turn a very small profit.

Budget: $25 million
Domestic Gross: $27,793,018 • Foreign Gross: $55,287,872
Worldwide: $83,080,890

As I predicted, Rings made a very small profit (as most horror films do), due to its relatively low budget.

Point for me!

The Space Between Us
Bob: I smell a bomb.

Budget: $30 million
Domestic Gross: $7,885,294 • Foreign Gross: $6,908,091
Worldwide: $14,793,385

WOW! When I said "I smell a bomb," I had no idea just how right I was! What. The. Hell? How the hell can a movie gross just $7 million in this day and age? This wasn't a limited release either, it played in 2,812 theaters! Holy crap!

Another BIG point for me. Heck, I oughta get five points for this one!

The Lego Batman Movie
Bob: The Lego Movie brought in $470 million worldwide. I think this one will do even more than that. Kids will be chomping at the bit to see a new Lego adventure, plus ticket prices are slightly higher now.

Kyle: Right now, The Lego Batman Movie appears to be the only kid-family oriented film opening in February, so it should be a modest hit. I don't see it equaling the Lego Movie's numbers, but I predict this bringing in somewhere between $300-350 million.

Budget: $80 million
Domestic Gross: $174,691,628 • Foreign Gross: $134,000,000
Worldwide: $308,691,628

Hmm. Looks like both Kyle and I seriously overestimated the popularity of this film. I'm honestly surprised, as I expected it to do much, much better.

A miss for both of us.

A Cure For Wellness
Bob: It's directed by Gore "Pirates Of The Caribbean" Verbinski, for whatever that's worth. It's rated R, which is a rarity for a horror movie these days, but I don't know if that'll be enough to save it. I'm gonna say bomb.

Budget: $40 million
Domestic Gross: $8,106,986 • Foreign Gross: $18,356,451
Worldwide: $26,463,437

Yikes! Another huge bomb that I predicted! Again, this wasn't some indie-circuit thing, it played in 2,704 theaters. That's just embarrassing.

Another point for me!

The Great Wall
Bob: The movie's already made almost $200 worldwide, which is amazing. Honestly it could go either way here. I definitely don't think it'll be a blockbuster, but it might make a small profit.

Budget: $150 million
Domestic Gross: $45,157,105 • Foreign Gross: $286,800,000
Worldwide: $331,957,105

Whoops! I predicted it might make a small profit here. Just the opposite. That's too bad, as I liked the movie quite a bit. Even with the foreign gross, it just barely squeaked by the break even point.

A miss for me.

Patient Zero
Bob: Not to be confused with the cinematic jewel Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. This one inexplicably stars Matt Smith, Natalie Dormer and Stanley Tucci. What the hell are they all doing in a movie like this? I dunno, I'm gonna say it might make a very, very slight profit.

Hmm. This movie was supposed to premiere on February 17, but it's release date is now listed as "TBD." That's never a good sign.
No points either way, since it never came out.

The Girl With All The Gifts
Bob: This one actually looks interesting, and much better than Patient Zero. It's a British film, and unfortunately didn't do well there, which is a bad sign. It'll probably get spotty distribution in the States, so I don't foresee a huge hit.

Welp, this one apparently never made it to theaters here and went straight to home video, which should probably tell you something about its quality.

Again, no points either way.

Get Out
Bob: If the budget's low enough, I think it'll probably be a very low-level hit.

Budget: $4.5 million
Domestic Gross: $172,534,250 • Foreign Gross: $21,153,229
Worldwide: $193,687,479

The budget info wasn't available when I made my prediction, but it's listed now. And boy, is it ever a tiny budget at $4.5 million! With a production cost that low, pretty much ANYTHING it made was guaranteed to be profit.

I said it'd be a "very low-level hit." It was much more than low level, grossing almost fifty times its budget!

Darn. Another miss.

Rock Dog
Bob: It was supposed to come out last year, which is all I need to know. BOMB!

Budget: $60 million (!)
Domestic Gross: $9,420,546
Worldwide: $9,420,546

Looks like I was right. Despite the fact that it looks like a direct-to-video CGI cartoon, it somehow cost a whopping $60 million! And it only grossed a sixth of that, worldwide. I'd call that a bomb!

Point for me!

Logan
Bob: Unlike the vast majority of fanboys who lost their collective minds over this trailer, it honestly didn't do anything for me. I think it looks dull as hell. But I think it'll be a big hit, mostly because Joe Public will think it's a Marvel Studios movie.

Kyle: This won't do Deadpool numbers but should do better than X-Men: Apocalypse. I predict this grossing in the $630-$675 million range.

Budget: $97 million
Domestic Gross: $224,508,170 • Foreign Gross: $383,233,488
Worldwide: $607,741,658

Welp, as I predicted, it was a pretty big hit. And I ended up liking it more than I expected as well. It came pretty close to Kyle's oddly specific $630 million prediction.

Point for both of us!

Kong: Skull Island
Bob: This looks a lot like a remake of the 1976 King Kong, which was a wonderfully cheesetastic train wreck. It looks kind of fun though, so I think it'll be a moderate hit.

Kyle: Not a bomb, but not a huge hit either. This will be a steady mainstay on cable networks like FX and TNT five years from now.

Budget: $185 million
Domestic Gross: $167,066,744 • Foreign Gross: $398,100,000
Worldwide: $565,166,744

Welp, I was completely wrong about this film. I said it'd be a moderate hit, and it didn't even make back its budget in the States, but was a pretty big hit overseas.

Another miss for us both.

Raw
Bob: Supposedly this movie wowed the festival circuit last year. it's a French film though, so that means it probably won't get a very wide release, and will only play in select markets. So it's not gonna make much money, no matter how good it might be.

Budget: $3.8 million
Domestic Gross: $514,870

Well, I was right on the money here. Based on that astonishingly tiny gross, I'm assuming it played on the festival circuit only.

Point for me!

Beauty and the Beast
Bob: Disney. Live action remake of a beloved animated classic. Nuff said. Massive box office hit.

Budget: $160 million
Domestic Gross: $498,225,739 • Foreign Gross: $724,050,444
Worldwide: $1,222,276,183

I'd call crossing over into BILLION dollar territory a massive box office hit. Actually it's continuing to rake in money, as it's STILL playing around here, two months after its release.

Point for me!

The Belko Experiment
Bob: Sounds interesting, and I like pretty much everything James Gunn's ever done. It comes out the same weekend as Beauty And The Beast though, so... it's gonna underperform.

Budget: $5 million
Domestic Gross: $9,697,090

I'd call grossing less than twice its production budget "underperforming."
Point for me.

Life
Bob: I watched the trailer and it looks interesting, but it seems to be the same "alien possession" story we've seen a hundred times before. I predict an expensive film that won't be a bomb, but won't make its money back either.

Kyle: This looks like a pretty interesting SciFi movie. Originally schedule for release on memorial day weekend, it was moved back to March to avoid competing with the new Pirates of the Carribbean movie (another hard skip for me). I always enjoy some of the more under that radar scifi movies like Moon and I an cautiously optimistic for this one.

Budget: $58 million
Domestic Gross: $30,189,466 • Foreign Gross: $63,577,006
Worldwide: $93,757,472

I'm gonna give myself a point here, as it didn't come anywhere near close to making its money back. Kyle said he was "cautiously optimistic" for it, so I'd say that's a miss for him.

Power Rangers
Bob: Who's this movie for? Fans of the original will be put off by all the puzzling changes made to the characters and hardware, and people who never watched the show won't go see this anyway. It's gonna be one expensive flop.

Budget: $100 million
Domestic Gross: $85,080,980 • Foreign Gross: $54,881,952
Worldwide: $139,962,932

Yep. Expensive flop. Lionsgate had big plans for this film, hoping it would start a whole Power Rangers franchise. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Part 2, unless it's a very, very stripped-down, low budget affair.

Point for me.

Ghost in the Shell
Bob: No matter how good it might be, the white washing controversy is gonna hurt it. It's gonna have an uphill climb just to break even. I smell a bomb.

Kyle: I love the original anime movie and manga this is based on. I just don't see why an asian actress wasn't cast in the lead. That being said, I predict this grossing similar to Scarlet Johansson's 2014 film Lucy, which did $463 million.

Budget: $110 million
Domestic Gross: $40,540,778 • Foreign Gross: $129,131,608
Worldwide: $169,672,386

Wow. When I said I smelled a bomb, I had no idea how right I was. It made an embarrassing $40 million here in the States, and made slightly more than its budget overseas. Maybe making a live action movie of a twenty four year old anime that was innovative in its time but now seems stale wasn't such a great idea after all?
Point for me. A miss for Kyle, who predicted it would gross $400 million (!).

Sleight
Bob: Supposedly a hit at last year's Sundance Film Festival. Everyone's comparing it to Chronicle, which I liked OK, but... eh. I don't see this being a hit.

Budget: $250,000 (no, that's not a typo!)
Domestic Gross: $3,858,730

I don't even think this played at any cineplexes around here. If I did it must have only been out for a week before it was yanked. I don't remember sI'm not really sure how to call this one. A gross of almost $4 million bucks is laughably low these days, but when you put it up against its paltry $250,000 budget, suddenly it becomes massively profitable.
I'll give myself half a point here.

Smurfs: The Lost Village
Bob: Jesus, they're still making these things? The original Smurfs grossed $563 million worldwide, while Smurfs 2 made $347 million. Looks like the Smurfs films are following the law of diminishing returns. It'll probably make around $150 million. Depending on the budget, that's probably not enough to make it a hit.

Budget: $60 million
Domestic Gross: $43,198,127 • Foreign Gross: $139,501,190
Worldwide: $182,699,317

Hmm. I said it wouldn't be a hit, but due to it's low budget, it actually made a slight profit.

Darn. Another miss.

Spark
Bob: NOPE! Bomb.

Apparently this is another one that went direct to video, as I can't find ANY info on it now.

No points either way.

The Circle
Bob: The titular Circle is obviously a thinly disguised Google. The trailer looked like a whole lot of "meh" to me though, so I'm gonna say it might make a very small profit.

Budget: $18 million
Domestic Gross: $20,091,354

Ouch! Are you kidding me? After being in theaters for an entire month, this film could only manage to scrape up a measly $20 million, which is little more than its production cost. I'm not sure if it just hasn't played overseas yet, or if it's not going to. If it does, the foreign market could help it, but I'm gonna go ahead and call it a flop.

Another miss.

So that's it for our 2017 Box Office Predictions Part One (January thru April). Let's see how we did!


Bob: 66% Accuracy Rate

Kyle: 20% Accuracy Rate

Welp, I got 66%, which is much better than last year's dismal 37%. Believe it or not, that's still considered a lowly D+ on the standard grading scale. No wonder I hated school so much!

Unfortunately Kyle did worse this year, with 20%. Probably because he hasn't had as much time to become as cynical as I am.

Stay tuned for our 2017 Box Office Predictions Part One (May thru August) results!
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