Saturday, August 27, 2016

SUICIDE SQUAD - A Popcorn for One Review (Few SPOILERS)

 I finally had a chance to catch SUICIDE SQUAD and was pleasantly pleased by the movie.  It was impossible to not hear the pod casts or read social media, even before the official release, without already getting the impression that this might be another missed opportunity by DC.  I'm glad that I ignored all that and decided to see for myself.

These are just some quick comments (Notice I always say that and end up going on at length.) about the movie, with as few SPOILERS as I can give away.  If you don't want to know anything about the movie you can quit now or take your chances.

The film opens with scenes of various criminals, who would eventually become Task Force X/The Suicide Squad, being captured and some of their background revealed.  Most of the screen time, naturally goes to the highest profiled and popular characters, Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).  A different version of Smith's character had been portrayed by Michael Row on the ARROW television series.  The Harley character was teased in the initial episode of ARROW revealing the Squad in that show, but she was not actually seen.  Both Smith and Robbie are the standouts in the film and they actually have a chemistry that I'd love to see used in future appearances of either in the DCU franchise. Ultimately, I think both could carry solo films if DC wants to go that way.  I understand that a Harley film has been mentioned.

Early on we also get to see Ben Affleck's Batman having confrontations with both Deadshot and Harley, who is in the early stages of her relationship with The Joker (played nicely by Jared Leto).  It's hard not to compare Leto with the other actors who have played Batman's greatest foe over the decades. While I don't find Leto's interpretation as riveting as that of Heath Ledger, Leto doesn't try to model his version on any of the earlier actor's.  In some way's he is closer in showing the sheer joy of mayhem that Jack Nicholson displayed way back in the first modern Batman film. But this Joker is intense and really scary. It will be interesting to see how he does when he appears again, probably in the solo Batman film that Affleck is working on.

The other villains who are forced into the Squad are Boomerang(Jai Courtney),  Diablo (Jay Hernanadez), and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).  The team is formed by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who is just as ruthless as she is in most of her comic and ARROW incarnations.  Waller, known by most as The Wall, who was given her personality by John Ostrander and his late wife, Kim Yale, is a force to be reckoned with. She uses anyone without mercy to do what she believes to be the 'right' thing for her country, even if the country might not agree if they knew what she was up to.  She puts career Army officer Capt. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) in charge of the group, partly for his military expertise and partly because of the romantic connection he has formed with June Moone (Cara Delevingne),  Moone has become inhabited by the supernatural being known as The Enchantress, and Waller hopes to use that being for her own missions, not knowing that the creature has her own agenda all along.  The final member of the team, brought in by Flag as his own enforcer, is Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a skilled swords woman whose blade absorbs the souls of those she kills.

Boomerang, Waller and Katana have all appeared before, played by other actors in the CW/DC universe. I do want to mention a quick cameo in the scene where Boomerang is captured.  The audience I was with seemed pleased.

When The Enchantress is able to escape and completely possess the body of June Moone, she puts her plan into effect by resurrecting her brother so they can once again rule the world as 'gods'. This scene is creepy on several levels and probably the best one featuring Delevingne. It's up to Waller's new team to put a stop to the destruction the pair is causing, whether they want to or not.

The action is great for the most part and just about every character gets some nice scenes.  I really liked Diablo and feel he brought a lot to the film. It would be nice to see him return, but that might be problematic.  I know some folks didn't care for Killer Croc, but I don't think you can blame that on the actor.  He was given some weak jokes which didn't always work, but I'd like to see him return.  I really wish that Boomerang had more to do, because Courtney nails the character and he's a lot of fun.  Especially nice is how he tricks another character into doing something just to see the results.  Sadly, Katana, while effective in the fight scenes really didn't add anything, but again it's more the script than the actress.  I'd have to say that I'd like to see most of the team return.

The weakest performances, and unfortunately, those that hurt the film the most (and I don't seem to be the only reviewer feeling this way), were those of Flag and Moone, who really had little chemistry, except for what was written on the page.  Flag was pretty much a cipher and Kinnaman really didn't do much to make the character stand out.  Tough soldier with a 'heart of gold' underneath but he was just going through the motions.  I'm not familiar with the work of Delevingne, but as the primary villain she was 'comicbook' in the worst way.  Her portrayal of Moone was as a rather weak woman, who needed a man to help her and as The Enchantress the initial dark incarnation was creepy, but when she later transformed it was like she decided she was auditioning for a role in a Joel Schmacher Batman film.  It totally threw the viewer out of the film and her 'hoochie coochie' dance moves were laughable.  Why did director David Ayer, or anyone else behind the camera not see how bad this was?

Finally, this was for me the best of the three DC released in this new franchise.  While I personally didn't dislike (or hate as some seem to) Man of Steel & Batman v Superman as much as some folks, they weren't up to what the best of the Marvel films have been able to bring us.  I thought both movies had some merit and Ben Affleck's Batman stood out as a wonderful character.  I'm looking forward to his return in the new Justice League film and thought that Gal Gadot, as Wonder Woman, was a refreshing surprise in BvS.  I have high hopes for her solo movie. 

I'm going to give this one a solid B+ for the performances of most of the cast, with an overall B for the final product. I just wish that more thought and effort had gone into the casting of two of the major characters.

Not a spoiler, but stick around after the initial credit sequence for a scene that may reveal something happening in a future film. Nice bit with two good actors.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con: Part III

Thursday, July 21 - Dan and I took Uber downtown that morning and split up.  He had some items to pick up and I was registered for a conference at the San Diego Public Library.  For several years the SDPL has given space to Comic-Con for some off-site programs, as well as holding events that tied into comics culture (such as exhibits of art).  This year for the first time the organizations co-sponsored the 'Comics Conference for Librarians and Educators', a three-day series of panels covering the use of graphic novels in education, creating graphic novel collections in Libraries and how-to programs on a series of topics.  As I was going to be in San Diego, and a Comic-Con registration was required for attendance it wasn't hard to decide to take in the Thursday events which focused on comics/graphic novels in the Library.

The panels ranged from creating a graphic novel collection policy, to working with the Free Comic Book Day organization and putting together a Library comics convention.  The panelists were from the comics industry, Librarians, and SDCC reps, among others.  All were very informative and it was nice to actually run into a couple of other Librarians I know also in attendance.  If everything works out, we might actually attempt a mini-con here at the Orange Public Library.

Following the last panel I headed back to the Convention Center area where ComicCon HQ (a website run in affiliation with the con) was holding a 'meet & greet' for fans of the Schmoes Know podcasts.  These are now connected with the Collider Video and Popcorn Talk podcast networks, that you can find over on YouTube.  I've been watching and listening to the main Schmoes, Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis (both of whom met while doing stand-up comedy) for several years.  One of the first YouTube videos I ever made, in the short time I was doing those, was in response to one of their early movie review podcasts.  I've run into them a few times at earlier cons, but wanted to use this opportunity to do so again.  The CCHQ gathering was held at the Fox Sports Bar near the con center. There were freebies, contests, free juice and water, as well as some of the other Collider folks taking selfies and meeting their fans. Only had a few minutes to chat with Kristian, Mark, Jeremy Jahns, Mark Rielly and a couple of others, before heading off to meet Dan.

Despite what I had vowed last year and up to that morning, I somehow found myself with Dan standing in line behind the marina waiting for armbands to once again get into Hall H on Friday.  The good thing was that this was after 6:00 pm and we were ONLY needed to wait about three hours before we got our bands were able to head back to homebase.

Sorry it's taken this long to get back to all this, but there should only be one or two more of these posts to cover the Friday & Saturday events.  See you then!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016 - Part II

Wednesday, July 20 - Preview Night (cont'd.): We were finally able to get into the Convention Center and up to the Sails Pavilion around 3:00 pm. This was the first time that we had to scan our badges, which have RFID tags.  From that point on you had to scan each time you entered or left the Convention Center, except Hall H where you had to show your badge and wristband.  I've heard that some folks had issues with this system causing them to go to the special officer over at the Marriot.  Dan and I had no problems at all during the four days we attended.

Once we got out lanyard, bag and program books, we found ourselves in yet another line.  The convention floor doesn't open up until 6:00 pm so there isn't much to do unless you go back outside.  While waiting we found that the swapping of bags has become even more of a 'thing' than it had been before.  It  unusual for attendees to swap the bags they were given for another as the Con generally has about half dozen different ones each year.  This year people were standing in the area directly across from where folks got their bags holding up the ones they wished to exchange.  Dan and I decided to swap out Supergirl bags for something else. I was able to score a bright red Banzinga , promoting The Big Bang Theory, while Dr. Dan swapped his for an iZombie one more fitting to his personality.

It never fails that Dan and I always find ourselves in line with your stereotypical fanboy, who believes that we need to know every item he wishes to purchase and why.  They also feel the need to regale us with the history of each of the characters he collects. Extensive background details that I'm sure even the character's creators have long forgotten. Fortunately, Dan is much better dealing with these folks, plus has a much better knowledge of some of these figures than I ever had, or could pretend.  I find myself tuning out pretty quickly, unless the discussion is actually about comics/movies/TV shows or characters I actually care about.

When we finally made it downstairs we quickly split up, each in search of something either we wanted or were trying to get for Kristina.  Dan struck out at Hasbro, but I was able to score both a Woodstock figure and a couple of Charlie Brown for President pins at the Peanuts booth.  Points for the step-father on that one!  I was also able to locate the WCG Comics booth where Randy Reynaldo was selling comics featuring his creation, Rob Hanes.  I first met Randy at an earlier SDCC in the '90s, where several other folks were singing his praises.  I've been a fan of both Randy and Rob since then. His art style and the adventures his creation remind me of the classic adventure strips of a Milt Caniff or Roy Crane.  I recommend you check them out if you think you might be interested.

Rather than spend a great deal of time at Preview Night, Dan and I had made plans have dinner with Kristina and Sarah.  The ladies picked us up in down and we drove to Ponce's Mexican Restaurant , one of the girl's favorites local places.  The food was good, plentiful and the Sino margaritas delicious.  We had a wonderful time, but as both ladies had to go to work the next day, we cut the evening short and went back to call if quits for the night.

I'll have more to add when I can, as this seems to be going on longer than I had thought.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016 - One Fan's Adventure

This year I promise my blog won't run on for several days.  I'll probably be able to wrap things up in at most two without cramming too much in.  To be honest, my SDCC adventure was much more laid back than it was last year. I didn't hit nearly as many panels, and took few photos.  Not that there wasn't a lot of stuff going on, but after the events following my trip last year, I thought I should be a bit more relaxed this time around.  Hell, I will be celebrating (?) the first anniversary of my heart attack in just a few days.

I was lucky enough to qualify for another professional pass this year and also to get a guest pass for my friend, Dan.  You still have to go through the routine of going online and sitting in the queue but have a slightly better chance than in open reg. I may have to re-register for next year, but we'll see how things go. As usual, by Saturday I'm wondering if I'm getting too old for this type of thing and might want to sit things out.  Then I recall everything I've done and the folks I've met, so by the time I start getting those e-mails about registration I'm psyched and ready again.

Tuesday, July 19: This year, rather than trying to get a seat on Amtrak for early Wednesday morning I decided to take a late-night Surfliner down the coast to San Diego after work.  I've also learned from past experience that it pays to spend an extra few dollars to get a Business class seat.  The seats are a bit more comfortable, plus you get 'free snacks' and a drink.  Each window seat also has an outlet so you can plug in any devices you might have, plus you get free wifi.  I certainly recommend it if you want to give it a try.  The final stop is right there in downtown San Diego, within walking distance of a number of hotels and the convention center itself.

Kristina and Sarah used to rent a condo a block or so away from the depot, which was really convenient, but have since moved out of town.  They were nice enough to pick me up and I was able to stay the next few days on the TV room couch.  Of course, I did have to share it with Wilbur their cat.  At about 15+ lbs. Wilbur can pretty much take up as much room as he likes.

Wednesday, July 20: While this was Preview Night at the convention, it is surprising how little, even off-site, was open to attendees.  Some of the restaurants and bars were already offering specials,but the exhibits and outside venues were still in the process of being put together.  Kristina and I left around 8:30 am to pick up Dan from the airport, as he had decided to fly in from Phoenix, rather than drive he generally did.  The parking downtown has become such a hassle that we ended up taking Uber to and from the convention last year most days anyway.

SDCC now sends out the actual Pro badge in the mail prior to the con now, so it's only necessary to pick up your lanyard, bag and programs when you arrive.  With a few hours before we could get in to Sails Pavilion, Dan left his suitcase with Kristina and she dropped us off near the con center. Both of us had a desire for coffee, so we stopped off at a small cafe in the Gaslamp Quarter.  Simon's Cafe is a nice little place on First Ave.  They have a few tables and the place had a lot of comic inspired art and SDCC stuff up on the walls.

I'll try to finish up on Preview night and maybe Thursday in a day or two.  See you then!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cleaning up and Future Posts

I've finally gotten around to checking some of the links over on the side and deleted outdated or bad links. The Lone Ranger one hasn't been updated in years, but the information is still valid, so I've let stand.

I know I've promised before, but I really do want to start posting more often here.  It will be primarily reviews of the current comics or commentary on announcements and previews.  Comixology and other sites are allowing me to check out comics I normally don't purchase, so I'm going to try to read and review those. 

Beginning on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning I'll start posting photos from San Diego and Comic-Con 2016.  Most of these will be either on my Twitter or Facebook pages, so if you don't follow me you might think about it. 

Catch you later!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Is the San Diego Comic-Con really only a week away?

My very first Comic-Con, and second visit to any convention, was way back in '75.  That first one was held several months earlier at a high school that was closed for the summer.  Mostly what we would call a 'marketplace' nowadays, but with a few panels for those interested.The con was held at the now defunct El Cortez hotel and the entire place could fit easily into a corner of Hall H and be missed by most folks in attendance.  The idea of a few hundred folks wandering around, looking at old comics and even panels discussing them was amazing to me.  Those folks who complain that SDCC is no longer about comics, should know that even then there were panels on movies, television and animation.  Actors like Jock Mahoney and Kirk Alyn were there among others.  The following year people were there promoting some film called, STAR WARS that was still in production.  Whatever happened with that?

Comic-Con is so huge now that major stars show up promoting their latest projects. Companies vie for space on the convention hall floor, taking up hundreds of square feet to push and sell their products to over a 150,000+ folks.  Media reporters from around the world cover the event like it was the Super Bowl. The fans snickered at four decades ago are now shaping the culture of the entertainment industry.  Yeah, there are still those who laugh at the folks dressed up in costumes, but many of them are shelling out hundreds of dollars a year to see the films and play the video games based on those same characters.

I never know what to expect when I go to the Con every year, despite that list of 'must attend' panels and comic book creators I want to meet.  There are always surprises, from running into a celebrity at a restaurant or hotel lobby to ducking into a panel room, just to rest, and discover some new film, TV show or comic I'd never heard of before.  Heck, I've even come to know some of my favorite creators by their first names and to have shared a lunch or beer with a few.  The coolest part is when one of them unexpectedly remembers me and says hello on a crowded convention floor or walking into a room for a presentation.

Like every year I'll try to post some of my daily adventures when I get back.  I will also be posting some photos on Facebook and Twitter when something cool catches my eye.  Hope I can share a little of what goes on.