Photo by Matthew Lancaster on Unsplash

After an unseasonably warm winter and the 7th warmest January on record globally, Texans are no doubt wondering what the 2023 spring bluebonnet and wildflower season will look like.

Though they typically bloom in late March and early April, some areas of Texas are already noticing pockets of the flowers earlier than expected.

Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, says it’s typical to see the first patches of flowers along highways due to the heat. Cooler areas on the outskirts of town will start to see their blooms later.

“The warm, sunny weather is what triggers how soon they bloom,” she explained. “Last year, for example, it was a little unusually cold [in Austin], so they came out a lot later than they are this year.”

Austin and Houston are currently experiencing their early blooms. Farther north in Dallas-Fort Worth, it might be another two weeks before any bluebonnets pop up. But in San Antonio, they might already be seeing plenty.

“It’s like a gradient from south to north,” DeLong-Amaya says. “It’s warmer generally as you go south, so they bloom a little bit earlier.”

The most famous bluebonnet spot in North Texas - the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails - posted to Facebook on February 14 that bluebonnet plants were starting to emerge.

"They are still in the very early plant stage," the post said. "There are no blooms. Typically they bloom between April 1-30 in the Ennis area. Ennis Bluebonnet driving trail maps will be available around April 1st when they start to bloom."

The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival will take place April 14-16.

Out in the West Texas-Big Bend area, there’s an entirely different species of bluebonnet that blooms earlier in February and March, which isn’t necessarily dependent on the heat.

One of the biggest factors that impacts the bluebonnet season is drought. But DeLong-Amaya says there was plenty of rain when seedlings started to germinate, which was especially fortunate for Central Texas areas like Austin.

“In some years where we’ve had a very dry winter; that definitely impacts the show in spring and would reduce how many plants we would have to see and possibly how big they get.”

Though many were worried about the bluebonnets getting burned by the February 2021 freeze, the flowers escaped mostly unscathed. They were mostly in a rosette form that hugged the ground while the snowfall acted as an “insulated blanket.” DeLong-Amaya says she’s never seen a freeze kill a bluebonnet, though taller plants above the snow might occasionally see some damage.

Texans wanting to get the most out of the peak bluebonnet season should visit state and national parks toward the end of March. While you’re getting the perfect photo in that big patch of flowers, DeLong-Amaya does encourage fellow bluebonnet-lovers to be respectful and not trample them.

“All of the plants that get trampled are then not going to survive to set seed and replenish the next year,” she warns. “It also puts plants out of commission for bees that are pollinators.”

If you’re worried if you might be breaking a law by picking a few bluebonnets, don’t be. There are no special laws that prevent you picking the state flower. Just don't pick or destroy any plants on state or national park grounds since they have their own laws against it. Now get ready to enjoy one of Texas’ most beautiful spring features.

Photo courtesy of Visit Plano

Ready, set, go for all the fun spring things to do in Plano

Let Fun Bloom

Whether you're seeking spring break inspiration or are just ready to get out and enjoy the beautiful Texas weather, you don't have to travel far.

Plano is home to a host of adventures and activities for all ages, from horseback riding to crayon-making, football bowling to ziplines, and even a major festival celebrating all things Texas.

Here what you can get into this spring in Plano:

Let the games begin
You've heard of pickleball, but have you tried fowling? Fowling is the original football bowling pin game, where you throw a football at 10 bowling pins until someone knocks them all down. Of course, there are things such as Fair Ups, Overtime, Sudden Death, and more to make it even more interesting, but fowling is a simple and fun game for anyone to play.

And you can do just that at the recently opened Fowling Warehouse DFW, which combines reserved lanes with a killer menu of apps, burgers, flatbreads and pizzas, and even salads, along with a full-service bar. Find it at 1714 14th St., suite 300.

If you're more into techy fun, Farm + Feed merges a chef-driven restaurant and full bar with all the latest gaming technology, plus old-school board games. Rent booths for a group and try your skills at Xbox, PS5, Switch, and PC titles, or pay $5 for unlimited board games at the bar.

Farm + Feed occupies the former Gordon Biersch brewpub space at 7401 Lone Star Dr.

Nature now
While exploring the 800-acre Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve, swing into Go Ape!, which offers a canopy tour, five individual rope ladder sections, and 40 obstacles — all up to 28 feet in the air. There's even a 423-foot-long zipline that crosses Rowlett Creek.

Be adventurous a little closer to the ground at Southfork Ranch — yes, that famous Southfork Ranch. Saddle up and head out for a trail ride led by a professional wrangler, or sign up for horseback riding lessons to learn the finer points of equine etiquette.

A party as big as Texas
Come celebrate the food, music and culture of our great state at Texas Forever Fest, sponsored by H-E-B and organized by Plano Arts & Events. The free and family-friendly party is happening March 25 from 11 am-6 pm in Downtown Plano’s Haggard Park at 901 E. 15th St.

Expect live music, entertainment, activities, food, drinks, and shopping all influenced by Texas’ diverse culture and spirit.

Bands will play Texas country and Americana music all day, with headliner Casey Donahew taking the Main Stage at 5 pm (the full lineup will be announced soon).

Line-dancing lessons, mechanical bull rides, calf-roping, quick-shoot cowboys and a trick roper will offer entertainment for all ages. Attendees can burn off excess energy in the free H-E-B Zone for all ages and the free Wild West Corral for kids. Texas natives and those who just got here as fast as they could can learn more about our state’s history and culture in the heritage area.

Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, Plano’s own Ye Ole Butcher Shop, food trucks, and other vendors will offer festival-food favorites. The Spirits of Texas Tasting hosted by the friendly folks at Texas Whiskey Festival will allow guests to sample 10-plus Texas whiskeys with the advanced purchase of a ticket here. Beer will be sold at a cash bar, and nonalcoholic drinks will also be available throughout the fest.

For the kiddos
Color your world at the Crayola Experience inside The Shops at Willow Bend, where kids can name and wrap their own crayons, star in their own coloring page, and embark on a 4-D coloring adventure.

Ready to refuel
Take your pick from more than a thousand restaurants spanning all cuisine types, reflecting Plano's diverse culture. A must-visit is Legacy Hall, the dining mecca that brings everything from brisket to wine under one roof.

Make it a weekend
If you're hitting up The Shops at Legacy or Legacy West, then the Marriott at Legacy Town Center is an excellent nearby choice. Surrounded by scenic parks and water features, the luxurious hotel offers free guest self-parking Fridays and Saturdays.

Family at Texas Forever Fest

Photo courtesy of Visit Plano

Mark your calendar for March 25.

For slightly funkier digs, check into the NYLO Plano Hotel. Its industrial-chic decor and loft-style rooms are minutes from the Dallas North Tollway and Sam Rayburn Tollway. A free shuttle goes anywhere within five miles, including Dr Pepper Ballpark, Comerica Center, and Ford Center at the Star.

Side note: The hotels featured here are just a sampling and are not "preferred" hotels. See all your Plano accommodation options here.


For a complete guide to Plano, head to www.visitplano.com.

Photo courtesy of Old Settler's Music Festival

4-day Americana festival rolls out the camping mats this spring in Central Texas

Texas getaways

Music festivals are one of the best reasons to road-trip to the Austin area. The 2023 OId Settler’s Music Festival, taking place April 20-23, will bring in some of the best names in folk, Americana, and Southern traditions.

This means 28 groups and solo artists across four days of camping and enjoying the outdoors in Dale, about 45 minutes southeast of Austin (near Lockhart).

Old Settler’s Homestead, a 145-acre ranchland, has been hosting this barn dance, so to speak, for 36 years. Over time, it’s succeeded in drawing some major talents, but stayed grounded. These approachable sounds are great for visitors new to the fray:

  • Yola sounds like the American South but hails from the United Kingdom. The powerful singer is known for her emotional rawness over smooth instrumental arrangements, both leaning into genre conventions (country, soul, disco, and beyond) and floating stoically above them.
  • The Wood Brothers bring the poetry to the festival, and that’s saying something in such a lyric-heavy genre. The trio has stuck together for nearly two decades and been in the industry even longer, and the wisdom comes through the introspective acoustic-electric jams.
  • Shovels & Rope play with chemistry, abundant between Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, whose weathered, twangy voices bring a frankness to dramatic songwriting. This duo could play their own festival as moods and styles change from track to track.
  • Shinyribs is a warning from Austin to anyone who thinks folk music is always reserved. Frontman Kevin Russell, initially from Beaumont, is known for his performance antics — a force to be reckoned with, or otherwise, willingly swept up in.
  • Buffalo Nichols is turning the green venue blue with twangy slide guitar and a rich, nearly gravelly voice. The singer commanded a small, but dense crowd at his first year at Austin City Limits Festival in 2022, with a mellow tone amid the madness.
  • Matt the Electrician represents more country than many on the lineup, and has been active in the Austin music scene since 1998. His songwriting comes from cerebral origins, but sounds welcoming and promises easy listening as the festival rolls on.
  • Ley Line, also from Austin, is a standout for its comparatively exotic style. The four women sing in English, Portuguese, Swahili, and more, reminding fans in attendance — mostly seeking Americana — that the sphere of folk music extends far beyond our own borders.

In addition to the main attraction — the music — there will be food and artisan vendors, music workshops, and a youth talent competition. The camping, powered with renewable energy, sprawls around the active performance area, and the festival prides itself on the atmosphere away from the stages.

Old Settler’s is a 501(c)(3) organization staffed by volunteers, so in addition to providing a good time, it aims to foster a lasting appreciation for Americana and the human connections available through it.

"This is one of the greatest festivals I've ever been a part of,” said Kevin Russell of Shinyribs in a press release. “In fact, I think of this as my home festival."

Tickets (starting at $60, kids under 12 free) to Old Settler’s Music Festival 2023, from April 20-23, are currently on sale at prekindle.com.

Photo courtesy of Yo-Yo Ma

These are the 10 best things to do in Fort Worth this weekend

Weekend Event Planner

This weekend around Fort Worth will be full of dualities. There will be two different renowned classical music performers, two events full of beauty, screenings of a movie about a long professional partnership, two comedians, two country music concerts, and racers competing on two wheels (motorcycles, that is).

Below are the best ways to spend your precious free time this weekend. Want more options? Lucky for you, we have a much longer list of the city's best events.

Thursday, February 23

Yo-Yo Ma

Photo courtesy of Yo-Yo Ma

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will present A Gala Evening with Yo-Yo Ma at Bass Performance Hall on February 25.

The Cliburn presents Timo Andres
Timo Andres is an American composer and pianist who has written works commissioned by such major cultural institutions as the Boston Symphony, Carnegie Hall, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. He was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2016. As a pianist, he’s played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as the North Carolina, New World, and Albany Symphonies, and at Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, Phillips Collection, and (le) Poisson Rouge. He'll play at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Friday, February 24

Fort Worth Botanic Garden presents "World of Orchids"
The indoor exhibit "World of Orchids" will showcase the largest family of flowering plants in the world, which has approximately 30,000 species and grows on every continent except Antarctica. Some orchids are terrestrial (ground-dwelling) and grow in temperate and boreal regions. Many orchid species are epiphytic, which means they grow on other plants but derive moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around them. The exhibit will be on display at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden through April 9.

Magnolia at the Modern: Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb
Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb is a charming documentary that focuses on the remarkable 50-year relationship between two literary legends, writer Robert Caro and his longtime editor Robert Gottlieb. Now 86, Caro is working to complete the final volume of his masterwork, The Years of Lyndon Johnson; Gottlieb, 90, waits to edit it. The task of finishing their life's work looms before them. The film will screen seven times through Sunday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Improv Arlington presents Eddie Griffin
A popular comedian-turned-actor who started his career on-stage as a dare, funnyman Eddie Griffin has built an ever-growing fan base since jumping onto the comedy scene in 1990. He has a long filmography, including appearances in The Meteor Man, Undercover Brother, and A Star is Born. He'll perform four times - twice on Friday and twice on Saturday - at Improv Arlington.

Hyena's presents John Wesley Austin
John Wesley Austin has been working the comedy club circuit for over 20 years. He shoots off one-liners about real-life topics and his analytical, down-home approach exhilarates fans by relating to them with a unique, hilarious perspective on life. He also picks up the guitar and treats the crowd to parodies of familiar country songs, and some of his hysterical originals, too. He'll perform four times - twice on Friday and twice on Saturday - at Hyena's in downtown Fort Worth.

Dylan Scott in concert
Country singer Dylan Scott has been offering country fans something a little different since his debut in 2013. Incorporating elements of pop and even rap, he's made a name for himself with hit songs like "My Girl," "Hooked," "Nobody," and "New Truck." Scott will play at Billy Bob's Texas in support of his 2022 album, Livin' My Best Life.

Saturday, February 25

Monster Energy AMA Supercross
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship season features some of the most talented athletes the sport has ever seen. Three Supercross champions will be competing for another title – two-time defending Supercross World Champion and ESPY award winning Eli Tomac, two-time world champion Cooper Webb, and 2018 world champion Jason Anderson. The race will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Arlington Museum of Art presents Eat Your Art Out
The Arlington Museum of Art is partnering with confectionary artists from throughout the region to present the fifth annual Eat Your Art Out. More than a dozen sweet masterpieces will be on display throughout the museum's galleries from participating bakeries like Bronwen Cakes (Dallas), Buttermilk Sky Pies (Arlington), Sugarlicious (Lancaster), Sweet Kate Bakes (Mansfield), and Marcona Kitchen (Arlington). The decadent event is the AMA's largest fundraiser of the year.

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra presents A Gala Evening with Yo-Yo Ma
For one night only, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will showcase the ultimate artistic mastery of Yo-Yo Ma, one of classical music's best-recognized figures and ambassadors. Ma will perform composer Edward Elgar's final great offering, the Cello Concerto. To open the special evening, Robert Spano will conduct another English masterpiece, Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 2, "A London Symphony." The concert will be at Bass Performance Hall.

Tyler Farr in concert
Country singer Tyler Farr started his career as a songwriter, with artists like Cole Swindell and Joe Nichols recording songs of his. He went out on his own in 2012 and had a string of hits in the early 2010s, including "Redneck Crazy," "Whiskey in my Water," and "A Guy Walks Into a Bar" - we're sensing a theme here. Although he's only released two albums, most recently 2015's Suffer in Peace, his most recent release was the 2020 EP Only Truck in Town. He'll play at Billy Bob's Texas.

Photo courtesy of Houston Botanic Garden

Monumental new sculptures by  renowned 9/11 artist take root at Texas Botanic Garden

blooming work

Here is something new for Texas travelers who enjoy exploring art in nature. An intriguing new collection of sculptures called "Intertwined: Exploring Nature's Networks," by renowned artist Steve Tobin, opened at the Houston Botanic Garden on January 28.

Tobin's collection of pieces soar and wind and unfold against the backdrop of the gardens paths and trees, connecting the bronze, glass, ceramic, and steel sculptures to the landscape.

The connection is important for Tobin, an artist who may be most well known for his Trinity Root, a memorial that was cast from the roots of the tree that protected one of New York City's cathedrals during the 9/11 attacks. As a child, he was known as "Nature Boy," which he says was as apt then as now.

"I would find twigs or mushrooms, and they would mean something to me," he says. "I'm the guy with my nose in the sand and my butt in the air, looking deeper than most people. I think I see more. I think it's part of my DNA."

Originally from Pennsylvania, Tobin graduated from Tulane University in 1979 with a degree in math. He was always drawn to art, however, and his massive creations - from eggs in birds' nests to roots and limbs woven together to branches stretching to sky - evoke the powerful pull he feels to the natural world and a desire to help others see its beauty. The Christian Science Monitor described his works as "monuments to the meeting of science an art."

"Science is more creative that art," he explains. "Scientists have to describe the universe from nothing, and the explanation has to work. Artists can make up whole worlds. Scientists don't get credit for their vast creativity."

By focusing his works on the natural world, Tobin looks to showcase how the two subjects work in harmony, and how people can interact with them. In Eagle Nest, a huge, polished steel egg sits perched in nest.

Polished to a high gloss, the egg becomes a mirror. "You look at the egg and you see yourself," Tobin says. "It shows that you are in the egg."

For Tobin, there is magic in helping people, whether they are art novices or aficionados, find a connection with his art.

"I've done my job when someone has an expression of magic," he says. "And once you open that door, even for a second, it can never be fully closed."

He says he is looking forward to Texas audiences seeing his works in the garden, which he feels is a natural place for his sculptures — the biggest of which is 30 feet high and took 2,000 hours of welding to complete.

Showcasing his sculptures there cements the harmony with nature he feel and thinks is something others should strive to see. Tobin even has a connection to Houston: one of his great friends, a woman he met at Tulane, lives there.

Two other pieces also have roots there. Tobin says Steel Roots will resonate particularly well in Texas. "It's made from repurposed oil pipe, a lot of it from Texas," he says. "So now, it's back home in a different context."

And when Botanic Garden guest encounter the Twisties, they'll likely recall hearing the terms from gymnast Simone Biles, who famously used the word to describe the disconnect she felt between her mind and her body. Tobin's sculptures are between eight and 17 feet high and evoke Asian calligraphy. He describes them as "distorted gymnastics."

Mostly, though, Tobin wants visitors to get a window into how he imagines the world.

"I try to translate into sculpture what I see so people can see what I see."


"Intertwined: Exploring Nature's Networks" runs Saturday, January 28 through August 13 at Houston Botanic Garden, 1 Botanic Garden Ln. Regular garden admission is $15. For tickets and more information, visit Houston Botanic Garden online.

Intertwined Romeo & Juliet Houston Botanic Garden Steve Tobin

Photo courtesy of Houston Botanic Garden

Tobin's 'Romeo & Juliet' sprouts from the grounds.

Dornith Doherty, 2023

Botanical Research Institute of Texas presents Dornith Doherty: Illuminations - "Past, Present, and Future of Fern Research" opening reception

Dornith Doherty: "Illuminations: Past, Present, and Future of Fern Research" is a tripartite environmental art exhibition emerging from a research-based creative collaboration with Dr. Alejandra Vasco, Research Botanist, Ana Niño, Librarian, and Tiana Rehman, Herbarium Director at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

As an artist affiliated with BRIT since July 2021, Doherty investigated the crucial physical artifacts of botanical biodiversity research, from a collection of diaphanized plants made in the 1950s to a contemporary Andean biodiversity project focused on diverse ferns threatened by climate change and ecosystem disruption.

With this exhibition, Doherty presents new large-scale artworks that engage with the past, chronicle the present, and project possible ecological futures. The exhibition includes Doherty’s large-scale transparencies made from mid-20th century American plant studies, artworks made from images of ferns recently discovered in the tropics of Colombia, and a projection of animated genomic data from these plants.

Following the opening reception, the exhibit will be on view through June 30.

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

Netflix series Waco: American Apocalypse debuts with newly unearthed footage

Documentary News

Netflix has a new series on the tragedy that took place in Waco three decades ago: Called Waco: American Apocalypse, it's a three-part series documenting the standoff between cult leader David Koresh and the federal government that ended in a fiery inferno, televised live, with 76 people dead.

The series debuts on March 22, to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the event which took place from February 28 to April 19, 1993. There's a trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scZ2x7R_XXc.

It's an oft-told tale and not the only new release to try and exploit the 30-year anniversary: Jeff Guinn, former books editor at the Fort Worth Star Telegram, just came out with a book in January, also described as definitive, called Waco: David Korsh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage.

Waco: American Apocalypse is directed by another "local": Dallas native Tiller Russell (Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer), who obtained never-before-seen videotapes of FBI negotiations, as well as raw news footage and interviews with insiders.

Those insiders include one of David Koresh’s spiritual wives; the last child released from the compound alive; a sniper from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team; the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief; journalists; and members of the ATF tactical team who watched colleagues die in the shootout against the heavily armed members of the religious sect.

The FBI videotaped inside the hostage negation room, thinking they'd be there maybe 24 hours, not 51 days.

"These are video cassettes that were sitting in somebody’s closet for 30 years, that show the mechanics of hostage negotiations in an intimate setting - not the hostage negotiation scenarios you see in films, but a team of people grinding, day in and day out, for 51 days," Russell says.

He also procured footage from Waco TV station KWTX, who had a reporter embedded in the initial gunfight.

While the standoff was broadcast live on TV at the time, much of it was out of camera range. The film uses 3D graphics to recreate the details of the compound.

Russell acknowledges that the tale of the cult leader who was also a pedophile, the debate over the right to bear arms, the constitutional limits of religious freedom, dredge up painful conversations that continue today.

"It cast a long shadow, pre-saging the Timothy McVeigh bombing in Oklahoma, the shooting at Colombine, and a growing distrust of government, but I think it's important to reckon with our past so we don't repeat mistakes," he says.

"So much of what’s roiling in culture today can be traced to Waco, a story about God and guns in America with all these children at the center whose lives were determined by the adults around them," he says. "There was no playbook for what happened, everyone was out on a limb, and people made mistakes. But almost everybody was trying to do their very best."

"I think this is a story that's often recalled in politicized terms, with finger-pointing on who screwed up and how did we get here, but there's a profound humanity to it all," he says.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods fizzles with lack of charm and odd villains

Movie review

Unless you’re a superfan, it’s next to impossible to figure out what’s going on in the DC Comics at the movies. There’s the biggest part, the DC Extended Universe, that has included Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. But the two recent films with DC characters that were best reviewed were 2019’s Joker and 2022’s The Batman, neither of which are considered part of the DCEU.

One that does belong is 2019’s Shazam!, which is finally getting a sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Billy Batson (Asher Angel), Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), and the rest of their foster family who were turned into superheroes in the first film spend a lot of their time saving the day in and around Philadelphia. Billy – played in superhero form by Zachary Levi – is the most gung-ho about their adventures, with most of the others finding distractions in everyday life.

Without getting too deep in the finer details, a trio of ancient gods – Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) – reclaim a staff that was broken in the first film, regaining powers that had long been lost. Now they’re hellbent on world domination … or revenge on Billy for breaking the staff … or, oh, who knows, just watch things blow up and hope the Shazam heroes can save the day.

Directed once again by David Sandberg and written by Henry Gayden, Chris Morgan, and Bill Parker, the film has sequel-itis in the worst way. Everything has to be bigger, which totally negates the charm that the first film had. That includes a (totally unbelievable) bridge collapse early in the film, big CGI battles, and the destruction of more buildings than you can count.

The unavoidable fact that the kids have aged has much to do with the change in tone, as the innocent wonder with which they approached their new powers is gone. The shifting back-and-forth between the kid and adult versions of the characters worked well in the first film, but they struggle to justify it here, winding up with a mish-mash that’s unsatisfying on both sides.

The villains also leave a lot to be desired. Some of it has to do with the bizarre teaming of Mirren, Liu, and Zegler, who just don’t work either as a group or individually. This lack of chemistry makes them inert as bad guys, too. Their wildly different personalities don’t mesh, so even though they do a lot of dastardly things, it’s difficult to feel any enmity toward them.

Levi remains the best thing about the film, portraying a level of giddiness that any kid who can transform at will into a superhero would probably have. The foster family works well when everyone is in kid form, but when they’re all superheroes, the actors don’t seem to belong together at all. Sadly, the foster parents played by Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews don’t get much to do this time around.

Shazam! was a rare bright spot for the DCEU, but Fury of the Gods misses the mark in almost all aspects. It’s serviceable entertainment for anyone who doesn’t expect much from these types of films, but it will be a disappointment for anyone who thought Shazam and company could continue to bring something bright and different to comic book movies.


Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now playing in theaters.

Adam Brody, Grace Caroline Currey, Zachary Levi, and Meagan Good in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Adam Brody, Grace Caroline Currey, Zachary Levi, and Meagan Good in Shazam! Fury of the Gods.