Orange Thursday: Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) and Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)

Between Two Ferns

Every Thursday, TMINE reviews two movies, carefully avoiding infringing a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick

Looks like we made it. Or I thought so till today.

No, hang on. We really did. Look, it’s Thursday and here’s Orange Thursday.

A couple of odd ones this week. First up, we have a movie version of Zach Galifianakis celebrity chat show, Between Two Ferns. That’s the one where he sits with a guest between two ferns and insults them. How are they going to do a movie of that, hey?

And then, rolling like it’s 2018, it’s the return for one week – and one week only – of TMINE’s old feature, Weekly Wonder Woman, as we look at the release of new animated movie, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, which tells the story of how Diana, princess of the Amazons, rescues a wounded pilot, Steve Trevor…

What do you mean you’ve already seen that like half a dozen times already? You have a point. Yet surprisingly, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, is an origin story that should still be watched.

Both of those after the jump.

Paul Rudd - Between Two Ferns

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)

Available on Netflix

Zach Galifianakis hits the road to do celebrity interviews to restore his reputation.

Why?

Between Two Ferns is a frequently hilarious Internet show predicated on just one thing: virulent mockery of both his guests and its host. Guests go on to be insulted, just like at a roast, but by a man whose ineptitude and general failure as a human being is in direct contrast to his guests and the lines of questioning he takes.

Each individual episode lasts less than 10 minutes, and by the end of even that short runtime, you’re often wanting the cringing pain and horror to stop. Which makes you wonder how they could make a movie of it.

The simple answer: do ten of them, take the highlights, then craft a stupid narrative around them. Here, Will Ferrell (playing ‘Will Ferrell’) tells Galifianakis that he’ll get a network talk show if he can get 10 celebrity interviews. There’s no budget but Galifianakis still convinces a motley group of minions to go on the road trip with him, so they’ll get to come with him to the networks.

Character acting

This requires things like plot and character, so Galifianakis recycles his character from The Hangover for this. The result is if Alan from The Hangover organised a road-trip to somewhere other than Vegas.

To be fair, everything involving Galifianakis and Ferrell is hilarious. Pared down from even three to 10 minutes to just choice lines, those celebrity interviews with the likes of Paul Rudd (“What advice would you give to a young actor who wants to hide his jewishness as well as you have?”), David Letterman (“crystal meth Santa”) and Benedict Cumberbatch (“You started in independent movies and theatre. Now you’re acting in Marvel movies. How good does it feel to sell out?”) are shiny gems of genius, even if hardly anyone can keep a straight face. Not even Brie Larson.

Brie Larson in Between Two Ferns

It’s just everything that doesn’t involve those celebrities, Galifianakis and Ferrell is pretty thin stuff. It’s conventional “misfits who hate each other become friends through adversity” stuff. It’s not well written, funny or even interesting.

But… that doesn’t matter. Because this isn’t a long movie. It’s an hour, 22 minutes. As soon as something starts to flag, it moves on to another celebrity interview or more jokes. The ‘plot’ and ‘characters’ are just the oil and mechanics needed to get from situation to situation and the movie doesn’t pretend otherwise.

Cringe comedy isn’t my thing. Between Two Ferns: The Movie isn’t perfect, but I did love it.

Hang around for the blooper reel at the end.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)

Available on iTunes and Amazon

Wonder Woman embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue a troubled young girl from Villainy, Inc, a criminal organisation that plans to invade her island home of Themyscira.

Original thinking

Wonder Woman has not been best served in any medium. She’s not well served in the movies (one so far and some brief appearances in Batman v Superman and Justice League), TV shows (one in the 70s that got cancelled twice, plus three pilots that never went anywhere), or comics (just read the past eight years of Weekly Wonder Woman for proof of that).

Even the animated movies have been a bit rubbish. The last one was in 2009 and despite being written by Gail Simone was pretty poor, thanks to some rewriting that made it a bit ‘men’s rights activist’ at times. It did correspondingly poorly in sales.

Since then, she’s appeared in a few nu52-inspired animated movies, such as Justice League: War, to diminishing returns as they’ve focused on the likes of the Teen Titans and Justice League: Dark instead.

But there seems to be some sort of rule that says that you can redo the same superhero’s origin in a movie whenever you like, so here’s a new Wonder Woman origins movie, just two years after that one that earned $821.8 million at the box office so clearly no one has seen.

Except it’s a bit better and more varied than you might think. In fact, it’s a whole bunch of Wonder Woman origin stories, all at the same time.

Wonder Woman: Bloodlines

Fusion confusion

For about the first 10 minutes, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines feels like simply a new Wonder Woman origins movie for the animated movies’ nu52-inspired version, designed to give her a back story. This is how Steve Trevor ended up on Paradise Island – it involves those parademons for Justice League: Dark. This is why Diana decided to leave Paradise Island. And so on.

So far, so pedestrian and since everything’s taken for granted, the writing’s pretty ropey here. Steve takes everything from Diana being able to punch through stone walls to being able to fly as simply something that’s a bit cool, rather than generally amazing. Maybe it’s having Superman around in the outside world that does it, but there’s not much by way of human reaction, within the script.

But then there’s Diana and Hippolyta having literal fights with one another. It’s not really the Amazon way, is it? It’s certainly not ‘the Contest‘.

There is a hint or two that not all is as it seems, when the Amazons’ Golden Age Purple Healing Ray shows up, but that’s about it.

For about 10 minutes, this feels like a bad movie. A very bad one. One written by someone who doesn’t know too much about Wonder Woman at that.

And then all expectations start going out the window as script writer Mairghread Scott proves that she knows the Amazon way and starts drawing from pretty much every source you’d care to mention.

We get more Amazon technology, such as self-piloting boats. Diana’s latest comic book costume turns up, rather than her nu52-animated movie variety, although that gets its own origin story, too. We also get the latest comic book Etta Candy as well.

Once we’re in Man’s World, we’re suddenly getting all the Wonder Woman lore you can eat, as George Pérez’s Volume Two work comes to the fore thanks to the arrival of Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis. It all gets tied into that nu52 movie storyline, though, but pretty soon we’re getting more Pérez and the origin of the Silver Swan.

Silver Swan

Silver surfing

Concertinaed into about five minutes, rather than a dozen-odd issues, this doesn’t work at all, but once we’re into ‘normal time’, instead of flashback-origin time, things start to simmer down and we can tell what’s going on – and get a proper story.

Again, Scott does a good job of drawing on Wonder Woman lore, and before you know it, we’re getting the likes of Dr Cyber, Dr Poison, Giganta and Cheetah (and thankfully no Ares). The invisible jet gets its own (more logical) origin story. Nipping ahead to Greg Rucka’s Volume Two run, we get Veronica Cale, too, as well as no less a figure as (spoiler alert) Ferdinand. And that’s before we visit one of Rucka’s most famed storylines towards the end of the movie.

We also get head-nods to both the animated universe and the comic books’ decision to end Superman-Wonder Woman in favour of Steve Trevor-Diana. And towards the end, there’s even a borrow from Wonder Woman (2017)‘s armoury.

While that continuity fest is pleasing to the likes of Wondy fans such as me, does all of this make for a good movie? Actually, yes. The story’s quite gripping and Scott’s a decent writer of humorous lines. While Rosario Dawson’s back as Diana and bringing her somewhat charmless delivery to the character, Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan gets to play Steve Trevor and it’s more or less a joke a second with him. The villains aren’t also-rans and Cale, Cyber and co are as ingenious as they are in the comics.

The action sequences are also decent and inventive. While the constant complaint of Diana fans that she’s repeatedly depowered is still something Bloodlines can be charged with, Diana is nevertheless a strong adversary. It would be nice if someone, sometime could remember she has superspeed, but at least she can fly, her lasso works and when she takes a beating, it’s because she’s too busy trying to be nice, rather than because she’s not powerful enough.

Champion

To a certain extent, it’s damning with faint praise to describe this as better than previous animated Wonder Woman movies. It would have to try hard not to be. So let’s be charitable and say that in its own way, it’s as good as, if not better than the cinema Wonder Woman.

It never hits that movie’s heights, for sure, and it certainly has flaws, not least of which is that it really needed someone with Gal Gadot’s passion – or at least someone with as much presence as Jeffrey Donovan – in the central role. But I enjoyed it, particularly its embrace of the Wonder Woman comic book mythos, far more than I did the movie version.

All in all, once you’re overcome that rocky initial introduction, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines is a rollicking and often funny tour of the past 40 years or so of Wonder Woman comics, all rolled into a pretty decent origins movie. If you like Wonder Woman, this one’s definitely one to watch.

And hang around for the mid-credits sequence.

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