The Surprise Hits That Are Changing a Genre

The Surprise Hits That Are Changing a Genre

Logan and Wonder Woman are surprisingly well-received - so how is that going to affect superhero movies?
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The superhero/comic book genre in film is probably the biggest money-maker for Hollywood right now. With huge successes like The Avengers, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, and television programs such as The Walking Dead, it's not going anywhere. However, due to the several films released a year, the genre is running the very high risk of becoming stale. So far, 2017 has seen the release of three major movies – Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, and Wonder Woman, with three more (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League) by the end of the year. Of the three so far, Logan and Wonder Woman have almost changed the game entirely. One uses a combination of the superhero and Western genres to create a realistic, solemn film, the other focuses on a female hero while never making it “a big deal.” So with that in mind, what is going to keep the genre alive?

Logan takes the iconic Wolverine character, who had not seen a lot of success in his solo films, and gives us something we haven't seen much of in this kind of film – character development like an early 1970s drama. Hugh Jackman, the actor behind the adamantium claws for seventeen years, made this film his last, and made sure the film would be properly made, taking a pay cut to guarantee an R-rating. Now, even though Logan is R-rated, it isn't not good because they are given an “adult rating.” Logan is good because it doesn't do what many of these films do and simply a hack-and-slash action movie. One of the defining moments in the film is the scene in which Logan, Professor Xavier, and Laura sit down to have dinner with a family they met on the road. There is no mention of past adventures, no bad “Wolverine's claws come out when they aren't supposed to” joke, nor is there any trait of the superhero genre beyond the mutants at the table. It also does not use the name “Wolverine” in the title, contrasting with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Wolverine. He is no longer an X-Men member, he is a shadow of his former self – something we haven't seen in such a way in a superhero film. The story is small, the action contained, and only one explosion occurs in the entire film. It is the antithesis of the modern blockbuster – a story of an old man who just wants to get away from the action and violence.

The semi-opposite would be the first film this year released by DC Comics. Wonder Woman is the first modern (read: post-Iron Man) superhero movie to have a female lead, and after the box office and long-time audience reaction to the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, was a massive gamble. However, unlike Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman is not a movie about a perfect, do-no-wrong woman and a crew of bumbling male sidekicks. Instead, the male characters, such as Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), are major aspects in their own right – they're for the most part soldiers, who know what World War I is like from their own experiences. This makes a contrast with Wonder Woman herself, who is unaware of the true horrors of war, but is still willing to walk across No Man's Land to save the people of a local village – which itself has some metaphor, as while none of the soldiers on either side will cross, Wonder Woman will. Despite this one major moment, much of the movie portrays her team as highly-skilled operatives, just as capable as the hero is. What this signals is a minority-led film (the title character is portrayed by Israeli actress Gal Gadot) that doesn't make the lead a token minority, and makes the supporting cast just as well-developed as she is.

So beyond making their individual films good, what do these two mean in the grand scheme of things when it comes to superhero movies? First off, the critical and audience reception shows that people want to see new things and experimentation within the tried and true genre, breaking away from the cut-and-paste formula. Scenes like the previously mentioned dinner scene and No Man's Land scenes are already being hailed as some of the best in the genre – a collection that includes the iconic “I've got you, miss”/ “You've got me...who's got you?!” and “Can You Read My Mind” scenes from Superman: The Movie all the way back in 1978. Logan does not use the name of the hero, and uses the freedom of its R-rating to, as stated above, portray a man at the end of the rope, and Wonder Woman is both an inspiring story and shows the entire cast as strong – giving everybody something to like. Compare that to what was also considered a game changer, Deadpool. That film really just uses the same old formula of comic book movies, but with a lot of dirty jokes and a lack of a fourth wall. And while that does work for that single film, in the long-run, that will grow tiresome and leaves no room to try something new and different – which is exactly what Logan did. Wonder Woman is also the most well-received of the DCEU movies, and many are already suggesting making that film the standard to which DC must work to. Maybe it was because of the unfamiliar territory they were getting into, or maybe they finally learned. Either way, the same can be said for Logan. Guess the two companies aren't that different after all.

But there is a limit of course. If the genre goes too far away from some form, then it starts to lose the aspects that originally brought people into the theaters. Things like well-made action scenes, character work, heroes doing what they do best, a cast giving their all – those are what makes the genre work. When that all is accomplished, then they can try something new. Go too far, and you get Amazing Spider-Man 2. Do it just right, and you get Captain America: Civil War. There is plenty of room to move around and try a different approach, as there is in the comics themselves. As we've seen so far with the two surprise hits, as long as the happy medium can be found, then we're in for a new age of superhero movies. Maybe that will be how they'll save themselves following the already hyped Avengers: Infinity War. Change and different takes are great, it just depends on how they handle said take.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Brothers/DC Comics

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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