How DC Got the New Wonder Woman Movie Right, Based Marvel’s Proven Yet Secret 3 Point Formula

I know the exact science behind why Wonder Woman is an amazing movie…

Imagine if someone finally released the top secret recipe for Coca-Cola or for the Colonel’s KFC chicken… Well, I’m that guy, but for releasing Marvel’s secret movie formula.

For those of us who have kept up with all comic book movies for the past decade, we know that Marvel seems to always just easily crank out really good super hero movies. Meanwhile, DC hadn’t figured out how to really get it right. Think about their superhero movies last year:

Batman V. Superman? It was entertaining, but ultimately problematic.

Suicide Squad? Eh… kind of a mess.

So did DC just luck out with their wild success of Wonder Woman? Nope.

They simply (and maybe even accidentally) used the same proven yet secret formula that Marvel’s been using all these years:

1)      Character Arc of the Super Hero: It’s fundamentally important for the audience to see a flawed protagonist who evolves over the course of the story. Remember how in Batman V. Superman, Batman was the same brooding, disgruntled billionaire while Superman was the same perfect alien? Neither characters individually evolved. We instead want to see an imperfect character who is forced to positively evolve. We want to see character growth.

2)      Engaging Arch Nemesis. The superhero is only as interesting as the bad guy. Just as an imperfect superhero is crucial in order to engage an audience in the protagonist, that superhero relies on a villain who spiritually contrasts and compliments their struggles. Being evil isn’t enough. We need to see a memorable arch nemesis who is the perfect foil for our imperfect hero.

3)      Genre Hybrid: Marvel knows that their super hero movies aren’t simply super hero movies. Instead, each one is ultimately a different genre, disguised as a superhero movie. Ant-Man is a heist movie. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a government conspiracy movie. Using that same concept, Wonder Woman is a World War II movie, which also contains strong elements of Greek mythology.

This secret formula is the reason Marvel’s movies do well. And finally, DC has figured it out.

Seriously, who isn’t excited by the new Justice League trailer? It looks like they will be applying the Marvel formula to all their movies from now on. I’m happy that DC is back on track.

 

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Parental Guide Summary of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Parental Guide Summary of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

This review today is written for parents who are wondering if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might be too inappropriate for their children to see.

Despite what most critics are apparently saying, I personally actually enjoyed the movie.

And to serve my Internet followers, I decided to take good notes during the entire movie, to help inform parents of any potentially offensive material.

Here’s the video version I made, if you prefer:

Of course, to keep this family friendly for this review, I’ll censor out some vowels so we all have a clear conscience about it.

Language:

So let’s get started with profanity. For a gritty PG-13 rated movie, I actually feel the language was a bit light:

2 vain uses of G*d d*mn

2 vain uses of G*d

1 vain use of Chr*st

1 vain use of J*sus

1 vain (not literal) use of hell

1 vain use of d*mn

2 uses of son of a b*tch

1 literal use of b*lls, referring to the human anatomy

1 literal use of sex trafficker

As you can see, this movie only has a few token “cuss words”. Instead, it’s the vain uses of God’s name, as well as terms revolving around eternal damnation, that would be deemed offensive by many religious parents.

Violence:

As expected, this movie is over 2 hours of constant action and violence. The death count is easily in the dozens; not to mention the thousands that lose their lives during a building collapse.

However, very little blood is shown. This is not a gory movie, which keeps it from being R-rated.

Sensuality/nudity:

While there is no explicit nudity or overtly sensual scenes, situations are definitely implied at few times.

-A naked male corpse is shown, with the pelvic area censored by the person observing the body.

-A group of rescued yet still captive human trafficking victims are shown behind bars, while Batman brands the trafficker himself after Batman chains him to the wall.

-Bruce Wayne is shown waking up with an unknown woman in bed, as to imply a casual sexual relationship, though the woman’s face isn’t even shown.

-There is also a scene in which Clark Kent casually walks in on Louis Lane in the bathtub. The bathwater censors her, but by the end of the scene Superman joins her while fully clothed, as the
camera pans away to imply more is about to happen.

-Wonder Woman’s attire might possibly be deemed as too revealing by conservative parents.

Religious Blasphemy:

A reoccurring theme of the movie is the question, “Is Superman good all the time?” However, God’s name is often substituted for Superman’s name when this topic comes up.

Similarly, Lex Luther at one point says, “God is as good as dead.” (Of course, he is referring to Superman; comparing him to God.)

Overall:

Ultimately, this is a dark, PG-13 rated movie. However, it’s not gory or explicit. The language easily could have been much worse.

Based on this information I’ve provided for you today, I’ll let  you decide as the parent, what age is appropriate for a child to be to see this movie.

Dear Jack: You were Legitimately Worried People Would Think I’m Superman

5 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: You were Legitimately Worried People Would Think I’m Superman

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday, as I was paying for parking so we could attend the Nashville Boat & Sportshow, as well as Monster Jam 2016, you and Mommy stayed in the car.

(Fortunately, we lucked out, and only had to pay $13 to park. In downtown Nashville, that’s a good deal.)

I was wearing my new Superman baseball cap that you and Mommy got me for Christmas. As I was outside in the parking lot finalizing our parking space, you asked Mommy, “What if people think Daddy is Superman because he’s wearing that? What if they start crowding around him?”

This was a legitimate concern to you; that the tourists of downtown Nashville would be stopped in their tracks by the presence of the real Superman.

How would they spot me? Because of my Superman logo on my hat; as opposed to my shirt, were the Superman logo is usually displayed.

Never mind that Superman would be more like 6’4” and 220 pounds, whereas I’m 5’9” and 155 pounds.

Still, in your mind, I could pass as Superman.

If I allowed myself to, I could let that go to my head.

I also learned that same day, that you believe Batman, as well as Superman, are not simply fictional super heroes, but actually real people.

As you saw the “Batman building”, as we Nashvillians call it, you proclaimed, “Daddy, I wonder if Batman really sleeps up there on top of the Batman building?”

So in your mind, not only is Batman a real person, but he happens to live in the center of downtown Nashville.

I love the way you think. I love the thought of a version of reality in which not only legendary superheroes walk among us, but also where I, your Daddy, could possibly be mistaken for one.

But in your mind, it works. I am Superman.

Love,

Daddy

Jesus and Hollywood: What’s the Difference between Acting and Actually Doing, Especially as a Christian? (Pondering Profanity, Sexuality, and Violence)

 

 

Seems like a strange pair, but we born-again Christians love our movies and TV just as much as everyone else.  But where do we draw the line?

One of my favorite TV shows during 4th and 5th grade was surprisingly The Dick Van Dyke Show as it was featured in syndication on Nick at Nite.  It was while watching that show (I was around 9 or 10) that it occurred to me, “Dick Van Dyke is kissing Mary Tyler Moore, but in real life, they may both be married to someone else who has to watch them kiss another person.”  To me, that would just be too weird… and wrong.  As much I fantasize about being an actor in a flash-sideways version of my life in some alternate path I could have chosen for myself a decade ago, I have to acknowledge that as a born-again Christian, there would be an exhaustive list of limitations for me as a legitimate actor.  (Granted, Kirk Cameron got around the “have to kiss another woman” dilemma when he used his own wife as a stand-in at the end of the movie Fireproof.)

That’s not to say that there aren’t born-again Christians who act in mainstream media.  For example, there’s the often-mistaken-as-a-Jew-but-actually-just-Welsh-American actor Zachary Levi, who is the protagonist of the hit show Chuck.  He has been outspoken about his relationship with Jesus Christ.  Click here to see what he said in one of his interviews with Relevant magazine.  I am fascinated by his Hollywood success and his commitment to his faith.  I would love to ask him about this very topic today; specifically this question, “As a Christian, what won’t you do in a role?”  (Zachary Levi, if you’re reading this, feel free to comment and help me out.  Thanks.)

Where does a Christian draw the line when it comes to acting?  I would say kissing another person on stage is harmless except when either or both of them is married.  And what about “love scenes” (scenes that involve sexual activity, with or without nudity)? What about profanity? Are there any words you just shouldn’t say?  Personally, I could easily curse on camera before I could say, “oh my God”; because to use God’s name in vain is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, while cursing is simply a fading taboo of shifting rules set by the expectations of culture.  To me, there are plenty far more destructive ways that words can be used that go against the Kingdom of God, like gossip, malicious sarcasm, and belittling.

Here’s where it gets really tricky.  If you think it’s wrong to curse in a role or play a character who has premarital sex, how is that so different from playing a character who is a murderer?  At least by playing a killer, you’re truly just pretending to play a character who is obviously in the wrong.  But by being filmed semi-nude under covers in a bed, you’re sending a subconscious message that sex between two consenting adults doesn’t necessarily have any spiritual concerns attached to it.

So in theory, in 1983, as a born-again Christian, if given the opportunity to have Al Pacino’s lead role in Scarface, would I, should I, could I?  For it’s time, the movie Scarface contained more profanity than any other film in history.  It was originally rated NC-17 for its violent content.  But in the end, (sorry if you haven’t seen the movie but you’ve had 28 years to see it so I feel okay about giving away the ending) all of Scarface’s sins find him out.  It’s obvious that his life of violent crime led to his own demise and in the end, it wasn’t worth it. Does that mean that this movie teaches its viewers not to waste their lives in a mob, getting  involved with violence and cocaine?  In theory, yes.  In theory, it has positive, redeeming value because in the end, crime doesn’t pay.

That’s something I’ve observed about Christian culture.  It seems most Christians are okay with a character doing obviously un-Christian things if in the end they repent: Unlike the character of Stacy Hamilton, played by Jewish actress Jennifer Jason Leigh in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who decides to have an abortion and seemingly goes on to live a completely normal life, never regretting her decision.  I contrast that to the song “Red Ragtop” by Tim McGraw, whether the 20 year-old protagonist gets his 18 year-old girlfriend pregnant and together they decide to have an abortion.

However, by the end of the song, though it’s not explicitly stated, the melancholy mood and subtle lyrics of the song itself convey the message “we can’t undo what we’ve done or beat ourselves up over it, but we do regret and it’s definitely a sad thing that happened”.  Rightly assuming that Country music fans are mostly Christians (simple demographics), they helped the song rise to the #2 position on the Country charts.

Entertain this thought: Ask yourself privately, as a Christian, whether or not you would play the role of a character in a play, musical, TV show, or movie who would do any of the following things:

-use minor profanity

-use stronger profanity including racial or gender slurs, up to the “f-word”

-use God’s name in vain, whether it’s by saying “oh my God” or “G.D.”

-play a character who has premarital sex and never encounters any real negative consequences

-play a gay character who never actually kisses another actor

-play a gay character who does kiss another person of the same gender

-play a heterosexual character who jokingly kisses a person of the same gender on the lips, which happens quite often on Saturday Night Live

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and who never curses or participates in any pre-material sexual relationship

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and but does participate in some premarital sex and who does some cursing

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and but does participate in some premarital sex and who does some cursing, but at the end accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and from that point on lives a life in accordance to the teachings of Jesus

How is it any more wrong to play a homosexual actor than it is to play heterosexual actor who has premarital sex?  Though both situations are perceived much differently by the general population, when it comes to my understanding of the Bible’s teaching of righteousness, I don’t see how one is any different or worse than the other.  The way I understand it, Jesus died for all sin.  Sin is sin is sin.  No matter what kind it is, it separates us from God and causes every single one of us to need His grace.

Where do you draw the line as a Christian actor? Obviously to be involved in straight-up porno-graphy is out of the question for any sincere Christian.  But there are so many millionths of the scale to get to that extreme.  On the much slighter end of the scale is a man with his shirt off showing off his six-pack while he rides a horse bareback.  Further down the scale is that same man passionately kissing a woman while in a hot tub, both in their swimsuits.  Next is the same man and woman acting out a love scene in bed and though they are actually naked, they aren’t acting having sex underneath the blankets which strategically cover up certain parts of their bodies.

I remind myself that outside the culture of conservative Christianity, in reality the rest of the world behaves its own way regardless of our censorship.  To imagine a real life group of people who in their everyday lives never cursed or had premarital sex (outside of the conservative Christian world) is to me, simply unbelievable.  Taking away the elements of entertainment that are unChristian-like either makes the TV show or movie either A) unrealistic or B) a Christian movie like Facing the Giants.

I also remind myself that the Bible itself is full of violence, premarital sex, rape, and murder. There is homosexuality.  There are concubines.  There are instances were people cursed (like when Peter denied Christ).  The King James Version of the Bible even contains the words “piss” and “ass”.  If the entire Bible were made into an epic movie, could born-again Christians play every role?

But some point, acting is no longer simply just acting.  It’s doing.  So here’s my final thought about all this.  In some technical, annoying way, are we as conservative, born-again Christians actually hypocrites for being spectators of popular entertainment?

Imagine this: Instead of the majority of the cast of Friends and Seinfeld being Jewish, instead they were all born-again Christians.  Because of their faith-based convictions, none of them were willing to use any profanity or be involved in any situations that involved premarital sex.  I know how beloved these two sitcoms are among the majority of Christians I know.  But imagine a world where Ross Geller saying “We were on a break!” meant nothing to us.

Two Questions for You about This Today:

A) As much as we Christians love our sitcoms and movies, would they truly exist if we didn’t support them with our viewership because we ourselves wouldn’t be willing to play those roles the same way?

B) Where would you personally draw the line in regards to what you would or would not do for an acting role, hypothetically speaking, if you were an actor?

I sincerely would love to hear feedback from you, the invisible reader, on either or both of these proposed questions, by leaving a comment below.  You don’t have to leave your name; you can easily remain anonymous if you wish.

If you’re not a conservative, born-again Christian, still free to answer as well… and please know how aware I am that the content of this entire post probably seems a bit… out there.  For all I know, you may find it either laughable or offensive that we believe premarital sex is wrong or that kissing someone’s spouse is both weird and taboo.  But what good is a religion that has no backbone or reasonable standards, despite how counter-culture those limitations may be? Thanks for reading despite the culture shock of it.

A) Why I Could Never Be a Cartoon Character, and B) Who I Would Be If I Was an Action Figure

Granted, most cartoon characters only have four fingers on each hand and wear the same outfit everyday.  So in that case, none of us (assuming…) could be a cartoon character, accordingly.  But with action figures, it’s a whole different story.

Since the 7th grade, I haven’t been able to commit to a haircut.  I am constantly growing my hair out to a new hairstyle until it eventually gets too long and I start back over again with a buzz cut.  There is a progressive series of hairstyles I go by that has been subconsciously modeled after Jewish actors (I have an Asperger-like obsession with all things Jewish; most people have learned to overlook it by now).  I start with the David Schwimmer, then Zack Effron, next Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then David Arquette/Bronson Pinchot, and lastly, the Zack Braff.  But it’s not just the lack of a consistent hairstyle that prevents me from being a cartoon character who looks the same day after day, throughout the years.  I’ve got three different pairs of glasses, though often I don’t wear them at all.  Plus an enviable collection of hats, from ball caps to fedoras to “old man caps”.  Sometimes I grow a beard for a week or two.  I’m just not a physically consistent kind of guy.

Last week, I went back to the Nashville Chocolate Kitchen after having visited there for the first time a week ago, and when I walked in, the staff remembered me by name (which in addition to their unimaginably awesome gourmet sweet treats, is one of the things they are known for).  I was impressed that they recognized me since the first time was I there, they met the “glasses off, hair pushed-to-the-side” version of me and this time it was the “glasses on, hair pushed back” version.  I felt compelled to explain my change in appearance to them, but I refrained since they obviously could handle it.

I just think that I particularly don’t have what it takes to be comfortable in being physically consistent regarding my appearance.  Like The Boss says in his 1984 hit “Dancing in the Dark”, “Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself… I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face.”

But my realization is ultimately that I am not an easily recognizable person, in general. My hair, clothes, and accessories just simply help distract fro my indistinguishableness.  I am a default-looking man of classic proportions; like the host of a show on The Food Network or HGTV.  Since being featured in American Baby magazine this month, I’ve had more than one person tell me they didn’t realize that was me until they saw my name- the picture didn’t clue them in at all.

I try to imagine if I was an action figure based on a fictional character, who I would be.  Throughout the past decade, countless people have told me I look like Clark Kent.  And I see that, but the problem is that Clark Kent was already a large muscular man in a business suit, before turning into Superman.  At 5’ 9” and weighing in the low 150’s, I have a frame similar to Bruce Springsteen or Greg Kinnear.

So maybe Peter Parker (Spiderman) is the best option.  Though I could be Dexter (played by Michael C. Hall).  Or Bruce Banner on The Incredible Hulk TV series (played by Bill Bixby).  Or Maxwell Smart of Get Smart and/or Inspector Gadget (both played/voiced by Jewish actor Don Adams- surprisingly, I have also been told many times I look like both).  I would totally make a better action figure than I would a cartoon character because action figures typically have several different versions of themselves: There’s He-Man in his robe (Adam), He-Man with the revolving chest as it gets damaged (Battle Armor), “Flying Fists” He-Man…  But cartoons typically never change.  (Maggie Simpson is like 21 years old in human years, “but in Simpson years”, she’s still a baby.)

I am easily disguisable.  Coincidently, it’s in my nature to be a chameleon; not only in appearance but also in personality.  I would make a great spy.  If nothing else, I can very easily get away with going back every five minutes to get more free samples at grocery stores.

Unsurprisingly, I enlisted the help of facebook friends by asking them this question: “If I was an action figure based on a fictional character, who would I be? In other words, which action figure would you choose to best represent me?”  Interestingly, they mostly named powerful intellectual mutants.  I’ll take that as a compliment.  But it’s funny to see how their perception differs from mine.  My choices were pretty much normal men without superpowers or super strength.

Who others said should represent me as an action figure:

Clark Kent

The Beast from X-Men

Leonardo, the leader of the Ninja Turtles

Captain Planet (nice underwear!)

My Buddy

Stretch Armstrong

 

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of The Fantastic Four)

Maxwell Smart, the only fully human action figure any other person said I reminded them of

Who I said should represent me:

Peter Parker (before he turns into Spiderman)

Sam Witwicky (played by Jewish actor Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers movies)

Dexter Morgan

Bruce Banner (before he gets P.O.'d about Nancy Pelosi and turns into The Incredible Hulk)

But really… I’m just glad no one said Pee Wee Herman!

 

What Not to Name Your Kid

There are some topics I would love to write about but I know they’re way too controversial or potentially offensive- this is one of them.  But if I am vague enough and only give over-the-top examples, I might be able to pull this off.


When naming our son who is due to arrive in November, a few ground rules were that the name had to be easy to say and spell, easily recognizable, and not made-up.  So that’s one of the many reasons we went with the classic American “Jack”.  Other than my dad, I don’t know anyone else with that name, yet it’s highly popular in movies and TV- therefore making it popular but not overused.

I do take requests as far as topics I write about.  “What Not to Name Your Kids” was an idea suggested to me by a few different people and I decided to take the challenge.  After all, we all are familiar with baby names that we say, “oh, I like that” when the soon-to-be mom tell us, yet we later tell our friends “you gotta hear this name, it’s so weird…”  So I have come up with a list of “no no’s” when it comes to naming a North American child.

Last names for first names that are not classic or already decently popular. Madison and Mackenzie are acceptable.  But when I hear more obscure ones like Middleton, Smithwell, Dresden, Spurlock, Applegate, and Hester, I can’t help but feel sorry for that kid.

Wrong gender names. Obviously names like Jordan and Taylor are good names that truly are completely neutral and work well for a boy or a girl.  But when I hear of a girl being named James or Scott or Todd, or if a suffix is added to a boy’s name to make it feminine like Markley, Davidanna, or Johnlyn, I get irritated.

Funny names. Jack B. Nimble, Robert Robertson, and Sunshine Day.

Random, made-up names that are supposed to be cute. Spiffet, Tindle, Gladdon, and Marxon.

It used to be that a person’s middle name might be a little different or off-beat.  But nowadays, parents are going all out on the first names.  That will surely be a trait of the Class of 2030.  Weird names.

Mr. Daydream’s Personality Pyramid: Humorous, Philosophical, Analytical, Dramatic

It’s always funny to joke about other people having split personalities.  But the truth is, we have all split personalities.  It’d be kinda weird if we didn’t.

I’ve said before that I tend to “pull an Andy Bernard” in that I mirror personalities in order to better relate to people, which is found in the fundamental teachings of Dale Carnegie, the author of the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  But that’s different than the idea of having split personalities because mimicking another person’s manner of speech and body movement doesn’t reflect my own true split personalities.

We all have at least a few different “default mode” personalities we fall back on, which direct and guide our choices of words and actions.  After a little bit of self-analysis, I have narrowed my own collection of personalities down to four main selections:

Humorous

Philosophical

Analytical

Dramatic

Humorous: I am starting with the one at the bottom of my “personality pyramid”, the one the general public sees the most.  The most unguarded.  It’s my surface personality that is appropriate for most situations which is found in everything I do, even serious tasks.  But not “Jim Carrey/get hit in the head with a frying pan” kind of humor, though.

A more subtle type usually delivered in “dead pan” style, where I don’t laugh at my own attempts at humor.  I don’t tell jokes; I translate real life situations into jokes by sliding in sarcastic commentary about them, adding in nostalgic and pop culture references whenever I can.

Right now one of my major comedic icons is actually Alec Baldwin, a man who used to specialize in drama.  To me, that’s the funniest kind of humor out there.  Like the stand-up styles of Conan O’Brien, Joe Rogan, Zach Galifianakis, and Doug Benson.  But not so dry to the point of David Letterman.

Philosophical: For a guy who has never smoked pot, the conversation topics I come up with would reflect otherwise.  There’s a theory out there that whenever a person is exposed to the psychoactive elements found in marijuana, their “third eye” opens up, causing them to see the world in a different perspective.  But I think I was born with my third eye open.  That would explain a lot, actually.

When a person asks me, “What’s up?” or “What’s new?” or “What’s going on?” or “Whatch ya think?”, they will most definitely get an answer.  Not, “oh, not much” or “same ole, same ole”.  Instead, they will hear that I am currently debating whether or not I would be able to carry out capital punishment myself or whether Batman or Superman is the better superhero.  My third eye absolutely effects what I say, therefore coming across as my “philosophical personality”.

Analytical: Despite seeing the world through an abstract lens, I actually see everything in terms of black and white, cut and dry, “either it is or it isn’t”.  There is a formula for everything.   There is definite right and wrong.  That’s the teacher side of me.  I like explaining things to people.

My analytical personality is the one that will spend countless hours searching which celebrities are Jewish or learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  It’s my necessary inner dork.  It’s the part of me that has an elaborate system for keeping shoes looking new, despite being 8 years old, but I’ll have to get into that in a different post.

Dramatic: At the top of my personality pyramid is the one I reserve mainly just for close family and friends, because it is my personality that is engrained into my emotions.  This is not a personality that needs to be seen by the general public.  Its function is to manage the aspects of my life which are the most important to me.

My dramatic personality allows me to display necessary emotions where love is involved.  I do my best to confine my emotions to just the people I am closest to.  Otherwise, I could end up an emotional guy who wears my heart on my sleeve.  I am not afraid to be vulnerable enough to show my emotions, but I think it’s important to save them for the right situations and the right people.

So that’s how it works.  We are wired with different personalities equipped to suite the right situations and the right people.  The main four personalities that I named most likely do not correspond to hardly anyone else.  Everyone else in the world has their own combination of split personalities which they must decipher in order to better understand who they are.

We’re not crazy.  We just have split personalities.  Isn’t that crazy?