Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - A Popcorn For One Review (Possible Spoilers)

I might accidentally throw in a SPOILER or two without meaning to, depending on how much attention you've already paid to the trailers, early reviews and rumors that preceded the release of the film.  I'm not going to give away the ending or the fates of the characters, so with that warning we can get down to it.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is the first of the stand alone films that tie into the SW universe, but are not part of the trilogies that make up the Skywalker legacy, if you will.  To be honest, if this film is going to set the pattern for future ones it does seem to help to be somewhat familiar with what is already canon in the world created by George Lucas and others.  This film, especially, assumes you have seen or have some knowledge of the prequels (Revenge of the Seth) in particular. Also, it does set up things we already know from SW: A New Hope, as Rogue One pretty much leads directly into that film.

In the years following events in RotS the Empire has tightened it's grip on just about everything and everyone.  A fledgling rebellion is forming among many worlds and the Emperor desires a weapon that will inspire fear and crush the spirit of those who will not yield.  Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) was one of the most brilliant engineers working for the Empire until he left with his wife and child to become a farmer.  When the Empire's own scientists are unable to complete work on the great weapon, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is sent to retrieve him. When Galen refuses his wife is killed and his daughter, Jyn goes into hiding until rescued by Galen's friend, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).  Saw raises Jyn for years until he leaves her to find her own way.  The older Jyn (Felicity Jones) has spent the following years as a petty thief, so when we first see her she is imprisoned by the Empire and being sent to a penal colony.  At this point she is rescued and ends up in the hands of the rebel alliance, who want her assistance in finding her father.

As you can see from the trailers she soon becomes actively involved in the rebellion and eventually takes part in an attempt to retrieve the plans for the Death Star, which may contain information that will aid in its destruction. 

That's if for plot points since I don't want to give away too much, but all the above you pretty much get from the TV spots and trailers already released.  There are a few surprises, including characters we have seen in the prequels and in the original trilogy.  We also finally get an answer to something that has been bothering some fans since the very, first film came out and has not been answered (at least in the films) up until now.  It has actually become something of a joke among even casual folks familiar with the SW story.

I can't say that RO ranks up there with SW IV - VIII, but I enjoyed the film, despite some weaker moments.  As other reviewers have said the early parts of the movie have some wonderful scenes, but there is also a lot of time introducing a pretty large cast and filling us in on things most of already know.  I'm still not sure how I feel about the CGI recreation of some characters, although it was done brilliantly in the case of one of them.  We also get to see Darth Vader in action and it becomes evident why he was so feared in the earlier movies. The final third of the film leads up to the action we have been shown in the trailers and the battles themselves.  This is indeed a 'war movie' taking place in the SW universe, making the fights we have seen in previous films pale in comparison.

I'm giving the movie a solid "B" throughout and ending in a "B+" thanks to the final battle and it's outcome.  Not a perfect film, but any means, but the folks involved have shown that you can continue the SW saga even without the major players we've grown up with.


Just quickly I want to mention that it was nice to see a decent number of trailers before the movie began and these were well chosen.  I've seen more than my share of movie previews that seem ill-fitted for the audiences waiting for a particular feature.  Here, however, the trailers were all for SF and super-hero films which fit in perfectly.  Not sure if what you'll see are different, as I saw the movie in a Regal theater and other chains may play others.

What I did see were:  LOGAN (an X-Men related film and possibly Hugh Jackman's final one as Wolverine. One I want to see.); PASSENGERS (an SF film with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence); TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (which interests me as much as the others I have never seen); SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (the first solo film in the new Tom Holland led franchise of that character. A must in my book.); THE MUMMY (another attempt to create a Universal monster universe, this time with Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, plus a female mummy. Action looks good, and Cruise can do that well, but the scenes of the mummy remind me too much of the Enchantress character in Suicide Squad so this may continue to bother me.); PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEADMEN TELL NO TALES (to be honest I gave up after the second film and this looks something only a PotC fan would care about);GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (the only trailer that got a noticeable and positive reaction from the audience and the theater was almost full. I think everybody in there seemed excited about this movie.)

That does it for me until the next time.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Popcorn For One: Reviews of DOCTOR STRANGE and ARRIVAL

I think I’m getting into a bad habit again.  Back when I was in New York I’d pretty regularly spend hours on a day off going to several movies back-to-back.  Most Manhattan theaters were turning into multiplexes in the ‘80s and it was pretty easy to move from one film into another, especially if several were getting out at the same time. I have not done it in years, but find that it’s still pretty easy to get away with.  Of course, I have a feeling that the theater staff would be more likely to question a few teenagers they saw trying that, while they wouldn’t consider the senior citizen wandering the lobby to be much of a problem.  Anyway, onto the movies.

As you can imagine, if you regularly read this blog (when I remember it’s here) or actually know me, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the new Doctor Strange film from Marvel for the past few months.  Benedict Cumberbatch was perfect as Doctor Stephen Strange, a famous, if egotistical, surgeon who has little use for anyone or anything unless it reflects well on himself.  About the only person who actually likes him is fellow doctor, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), who may have been his lover at one point prior to the film’s opening scenes. After a tragic car accident causes Strange to lose the use of his hands as a surgeon he goes out of his way to alienate everyone else, including Christine, as he continues in a downward spiral.  One day he happens to hear of another man who seemingly recovered from physical injuries that should have been impossible to overcome.  The only thing this man will tell him is that he should seek Kathmandu, in Nepal. Narrowly escaping a vicious beating by local thugs thanks to the intervention of the mysterious Mordo (Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor), Strange is led to his destination.  There he meets the order’s master, The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, in a role portrayed as a male in the comics since his introduction), who finds him wanting so has him cast out.  It is again Mordo who comes to his defense allowing Strange another chance.

It is unclear how long Stephen is undergoing training in the mystic arts, but one assumes it is months, if not years.  When an earlier apprentice of the Ancient One, Kaecilius (a very intense and menacing, Mads Mekkelsen) steals a spell that will allow him to contact the ruler of the Dark Dimension, Dormammu, thereby giving this being access to Earth which he wishes to conquer and merge with his own worlds.

I’m not going to give anything else away, since most of the above you can get from the trailers that have been coming out since Comic-Con this past summer.  Needless to say the film was everything I could have wanted and I even sprung for the extra four bucks to see it in 3-D, which I generally pass on but would recommend for this film.  I’m not sure how the interdimensional travels of the good Doctor work in 2-D and I think you would miss out on just how impressive the city twisting battles (reminiscent in a way of INCEPTION) appear.  Nicely acted, with just perhaps a little too much humor for the character as fans know him.  Of course, you expect that from the Marvel films we’ve already seen so it should come as no surprise.  Some of the jokes work better than others, and those featuring the Cloak of Levitation are priceless.

There is one comment seemingly tossed off by one character towards the end of the film that should get the attention of folks already familiar with the MCU’s workings, plus it adds to one of the post credit scenes (there are two of them, so be patient) in setting up future events featuring Strange. 
It was nice to give my eyes a rest, as the 3-D glasses still bother me a bit as I have to put them on over my regular eyeglasses, as my next choice was ARRIVAL.  I had to admit that the trailers for the film really didn’t do much for me, but several online reviewers spoke so highly of the film that I decided to give it a chance.  I’m so happy that I did as I think this film is the best film I have seen so far this year.  Not only are Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner (perhaps best known to many of you as Hawkeye from the Avengers films) excellent, but supporting actors Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg are also quite good in their roles. 

Adams portrays Dr. Louise Banks a linguist called in by the U.S. military to help decipher the language of an alien race who have suddenly appeared in twelve different areas of the world.  Renner is a physicist and mathematician also enlisted in an attempt at understanding the technology the aliens have used to travel from wherever they call home. 

I can’t really say much more without ruining the story and how the relationships develop in the film. If you go in expecting dazzling special effects or space battles I think you might be disappointed. Think more along the lines of the film CONTACT with Jodi Foster or some parts of Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.   Just keep in mind that the trailers you have seen for the film barely give you an idea of what to expect.  This is a movie that will have you thinking after it ends and is one of the few SF films I have seen where many in the audience were applauding at the end.  I expect and hope that there will be some Oscar consideration for this film.  Amy Adams was absolutely wonderful and you forget how good Renner can be in a serious non-action role.  Do yourself a favor and see this movie.

Three trailers for upcoming films caught my attention.  I already was excited for both ROGUE ONE and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Vol. 2, but VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS really caught me by surprise.  I don’t recall hearing of the film prior to seeing a trailer on YouTube, but have seen some pages of the French graphic novel on which it is based.  This is from Luc Besson, who directed and co-wrote FIFTH ELEMENT, so you know he can do visually stunning stuff.  I may add this to my list of films ‘to see’ next year.

Next up, expect my review of ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story in the later part of December.  Of course, I might actually write something about comics before that, but I’m not promising anything.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

DC Rebirth #1 - A review with some SPOILERS

So we're starting all over again.  Well, maybe not so much re-starting from scratch, but cleaning out some of the crap from the stalls that has accumulated over the past decade.  Sadly, some of the dumber stuff, IMHO, is continuing but it looks like they are making an attempt.

Beware, as I'm giving away a lot of stuff: SPOILERS AHEAD 

Writer/demi-god Geoff Johns takes the lead with this issue, beginning with the event that lead up to this (New 52 Superman is gone and presumed dead) and setting up the events that that will lead to a newer DCU. The older pre-52 Superman, along with his wife, Lois and son are now in place here on Earth-1 or Prime or whatever it is called. Batman, thanks to events in some earlier story line now knows the Joker's name.  Of course, since things can't be that simple as it appears that there are actually three Jokers running around.  I'm guessing that they must know each other, or at least be aware of the others, but that isn't made clear. It also seems that Wonder Woman actually has a brother who had been secreted away after his birth and Darkseid (dead, but reborn) may have had something to do with it. As if that wasn't enough....

Wally West is trying to escape the Speed Force, which in someways resembles what we have seen on the TV series, THE FLASH, and events in the CW/DCU may begin to reflect things in the print versions and the other way around.  At least, some of the things that Johns has Wally reveal seem to imply that to me.  Then again, I've not been reading much of the DC output for the past few years, quitting well before Flashpoint, which seems to be where this Wally left us.  I admit to being confused.  Wally is trying to find his long-lost love, Linda Park, but like everyone else he encounters she has no memory of him.  We see a number of characters who had interacted with Wally from the time he was Kid Flash, but nobody recalls him and his connection to our world seems to be slipping away, until... I'll let you find that one out, as it nearly brought me to tears and somethings should not be spoiled.

Ted Kord is back and he is trying to help out Jamie Reyes the new Blue Beetle, who would like nothing better than to be rid of the scarab that gives him his powers.  At this point we get a visit from Doctor Fate who tells Ted that both of them are mistaken when it comes to the origin of the scarab.   We get brief glimpses of a number of other DC characters, from a new Green Lantern, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, and Johnny Thunder (the original), plus a couple of folks from the supernatural side of the DCU, other than the good Doctor.

Most of that seems on the good side, although DC editorial still believes that Bruce's sociopath son, Damien still needs to be hanging around. Never a good idea in my opinion and one I've never understood the need for.  If ever there was someone who should be written out of continuity it is that little psycho.

Finally, I've debated whether to reveal something that I really do hate and that spoils much of this whole thing from the beginning.  DC has decided that characters created decades ago as part of a stand-alone series and not a part of the DCU are now not among the characters of this Earth, but may have been the cause of much of the past decade's events that many fans have disliked.  Nah, find out for yourself and judge how you feel.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Captain America: Civil War - A Popcorn for One review (with SPOILERS)

As some of you may recall, and you can scroll down to check, when I saw BATMAN v SUPERMAN I gave the film a solid "B". I can still see why, although it really had more to do with the main actors in the film and how they interpreted the characters rather than the overall film. It's easy now to give it perhaps a "B-" when you compare it to the newest super-hero film.

Personally, and I don't think I'm the only one, I find the Captain America trilogy the strongest of the Marvel franchise films.  The first film was fun, because it was Cap as we've always wanted to see him on the screen. The second was a very, good thriller which changed the dynamics of the Marvel cinematic universe, both in films and in television.  This third film wraps everything up nicely and sets up how, not only Captain America, but the other Avengers will interact in coming films.

When several incidents involving the Avengers go wrong and civilians are killed, the world governments decide that the team must be put in check.  Accords are drawn up and the members of the team must sign and agree to them, if not they may be prosecuted.  Steve Rogers/Captain America feels this will put too many restrictions on any future actions, while Tony Stark/Iron Man believes the U.N. and world governments have a right to be concerned given past destruction caused by the Avengers when dealing with their foes.  This splits the team and individual members must decide where their loyalties lie.

On the day when the representatives of the world meet to vote on the accords a bomb kills dozens, including the king of Wakanda.  His son, T'Challa, is his heir and also the current Black Panther, a hero dedicated to protecting his homeland and its people.  He vows revenge on the person believed to be the Winter Soldier.  Captain America is just as sure his former partner and friends, Bucky Barnes is not responsible for the actions. This brings the underlying tensions in the Avenger team to the boiling point and both sides decide to take action.

The first Avenger's film brought us the Marvel universe as we fans had always envisioned it. The most powerful heroes in the world united, after initial bickering, to fight together for a common goal.  This third Captain America film brings that era to an end as we see the team broken apart, with some members missing and new heroes appearing to take their place. 

Thor and the Hulk are not around, the Thunder God having returned to his home and the big green guy MIA since he stole an aircraft and disappeared from sight. On the other hand, The Falcon calls upon Scott Lang/Ant-Man to join he and Cap, while the Panther (for his own reasons) finds himself fighting along side Stark's group.  It's exciting to see theses characters in action and the fight scenes are spectacular.  The events taking place in the airport will have a long-lasting effect not only because former friends and teammates must confront each other, but because of the appearance of a certain web-slinging teenager making his first appearance in this part of the Marvel universe.

I'm not sure if this film holds together as well as Winter Soldier but has instantly become one of my favorite super-hero films.  This is what we grew up seeing in those Marvel Bullpen days.  Pages and pages of heroes in action, characters interacting that you never expected to see together.  It was all up there. 

Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as T'Challa and the scenes of the Panther in action prove that a solo film will be pretty exciting. The final scenes set up some events we can expect in future films.  Tom Holland is absolutely perfect as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, his awestruck reaction to being included in Stark's team and his scenes with his aunt (Marisa Tomei) give us a hint of what new Spider-Man films will have in store.  If it wasn't for the appearance of Spidey, I think everyone would be talking about the Panther.

Okay, before I wrap this up I need to talk about the major weak point in the film and the one thing that the Marvel films rarely seem to get right.  The villain in this film is pretty much in namesake only one of the biggest and longest running foes of Captain America.  Zemo (played by Daniel Bruhl) is not the former Nazi and contemporary of the Red Skull we have known in the comics for decades.  Here is simply a resident of the nearly destroyed nation of Sokovia, who seeks vengeance.  What the hell?  Why even give him the name of a super-villain when you don't use him in that capacity.  He cold have been just as effective as some guy called Siegfried, or something.  Save the 'real' Zemo for a later film incarnation.

Overall a well-acted and written film that far surpasses the big screen battle of the DC titans only a few months earlier.  If that earlier film was set up, this was wraps up some things and promises even more.  Easy to give this one an "A", even if that one little problem still bugs the hell out of me.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

My Free Comic Book Day Haul - 2016

We worked today, but thanks to the fact that Big Red Comics is located only a few blocks from the Library, I was able to go over on my lunch break to take part.  I had to stand in line for a bit, but the back room was set aside with several tables of goodies.  It was difficult to choose, but I did get a decent sampling of stuff.

You were allowed to select six comics from the thirty or so available.  I was able to pick up two others because I have a pull list, plus I was lucky enough to be in a drawing which scored me a few additional titles.

I'll try to review some of these over the next week or so, but I'll only do that if I like a book.  Hate to bash something I've gotten for free, which is something I got into way back when I was doing reviews for Inside Joke and some apas.  If I bought a book it was fair game, but if a creator or publisher was good enough to put me on a comp list I felt it only fair to be kind.  Some books got by with a 'decently drawn' or 'some interesting concepts', if I was really reaching for anything good.

Here's the haul:

AVATAREX: Destroyer of Darkness (Graphic India) - Grant Morrison
BOOM! 2016 Summer Blast
DOCTOR WHO FCBD 2016 (Titan Comics)
MARCH (Top Shelf) - John Lewis auto-biographical
MIX TAPE 2016 (Devil's Due/1First Comics)
THE PHANTOM (Hermes Press - Reprints of Charlton Comics material
ROM #0 (IDW)
SCIENCE COMICS (:01 First Second)
SPONGE BOB FREESTYLE FUNNIES 2016 (United Plankton Pictures/Bongo)
2000 AD FCBD  Prog 2016 (Rebellion)

Hard to know where I should start, but I just might do them in the order I listed above.  Don't want to play favorites and there are a few I want to immediately jump into.

Trust me, I think I would have been happy with any of the books I missed.  Maybe there will be some left over when I make my weekly run next Wednesday.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lee Falk’s The Phantom - 80th Anniversary Special

One of my all-time favorite characters.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Batman v Superman - A Popcorn for One review (with SPOILERS)

There will be some SPOILERS thrown in here so if you haven't seen the film be warned.  I'll not give everything away, but the trailers already showed us quite a bit.

First off, I was not one of those folks that hated MAN OF STEEL nor did I have a problem with Henry Cavill as Clark/Superman. It was a different take and a bit darker than some folks might want their Kal-El, but I was fine with it. Like some folks I wasn't crazy about the ending of the film and the death of General Zod, but I could except it.  If anything, it showed that DC and Zack Snyder were creating a different film universe. You could look at the Nolan Batman films and get a hint where things might go.  Hell, things certainly aren't rosy in any of the Marvel films, either.

I also was willing to give Ben Affleck as Batman a chance, since I didn't think the things wrong with DAREDEVIL were his fault entirely.  Since then he has proven himself as both actor and director. Yeah, I did have some issues with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, but looking back it was more the costume which seemed a Xena knock-off and not the outfit we are accustomed to in classic WW.  She did seem a bit small in the first shots we saw of her, but she looked much better in the trailers and the WW teasers.

Beginning the film with Bruce, his 'origin' and witnessing of the Superman/Zod battle, I thought was smart.  The first time you see him in costume with the police finding the sex trade victims was really creepy.  You can see why criminals would fear him.  That's the Batman you want to see.  I think Affleck whether in cowl & cape or in a business suit was fantastic.  This is an older and much more cynical Batman, he is certainly more brutal and apparently lethal. I can't wait to see the solo Batman film.

Gal Gadot won me over as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.  She is, of course, beautiful, but she also beings an air of mystery that we haven't seen in the character before.  You believe this woman has been around a very, long time and has witnessed incredible things.  Her one comment in the heat of battle about having fought 'alien creatures' before really does have me looking forward to her solo adventure as well.

Okay, I admit to being one of those that threw a lot of hatred at Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor as he appeared in the teasers and trailers.  This certainly wasn't the Luthor we were expecting, even though I have never thought the big screen versions of Lex really captured the menace of the character at all.  Early on in the film however, it is revealed that this is not the Lex Luthor we thought, but his son.  The neurotic son of a domineering and brutal father certainly would have some issues, especially someone as intelligent as Eisenberg portrays him.  While physically he doesn't inspire fear, it becomes apparent that this is a much scarier Luthor than we have ever seen before.  Also, frightening is that he believes he is doing the 'right' thing no matter how brutal his methods may be.  He believes he will be the savior of mankind.

One of me small problems with the films were the portrayal of Lois Lane as the helpless woman in peril over and over again. I realize that plays into the importance of Lois in Clark's life, but the first time showed us that. The other times could have been written differently, especially the final time where there really wasn't a need to put Lois in danger as she was showing how brave she could be up to that point.

The second problem was the end, which seemed to be there simply to allow the use of Doomsday to be justified (no pun).  Yeah, the final shot we see indicates this isn't the last we'll see of one of the three leads, but there really wasn't a need for it.  And yes, I admit to actually feeling for the character at the end, but it was a bit of manipulation since comics fans know what is going to happen.

By the way, I think Jeremy Irons is fine as Alfred, a role that can be thankless, but here works perfectly.  It was cool seeing the three other Justice League members, even briefly. Loved the scene with The Flash and the short glimpse we see of the character who will become Cyborg is chilling to say the least.  Can't wait to see more of Aquaman as well.  I happen to like the look.

In the end, I'll give the film a solid 'B', and throw in a '+" for any scene with Affleck, This has me looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie as well as the up-coming DC films.  This surprises me, but also has me excited.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Have you read Squirrel Girl?

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL, VOL. 1 - I've heard nothing but good things of this book and the character, so when we received a copy of the TPB here at the Library I decided to take a chance. What a delight!

Ryan North and Erica Henderson do a wonderful job with Doreen Green, a young lady with the 'proportional strength and abilities of a squirrel'. Yep, you heard that right.  Heck, she even has her own theme song, which she made up and sings herself.  It does remind one of the old Spider-Man theme song, but that might just be a coincidence.  Heck, she is able to confront Kraven the Hunter, who seems to be fixated on another hero, until SG sets him straight.  And how many young super-heroes can claim to have fought Galactus on the Moon and actually convinced him to leave Earth alone for a while? Oh, did I mention that Squirrel Girl can also communicate with squirrels and that they are much more than we suspect? Tippy-Toe is her current squirrel sidekick, easily recognizable due to her pink bow.

If you take your heroes seriously, then this is not the book for you.  However if you have a sense of humor and want to see an all ages, female friendly book you can recommend to even non-superhero fans, this might be a good place to start.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Popcorn for One: DEADPOOL, my review (with spoilers)

There will be some minor SPOILERS in here so if you haven't seen DEADPOOL yet you might want to look away.

Wade Wilson is former military, now working as a small-time mercenary.  He's a wise-cracking guy who enjoys pop culture, drinking and sex.  One day he meets a girl and falls in love, unfortunately Wade soon discovers that he has cancer and may not have long to live.  Hoping to be cured he agrees to take part in some experiments, which will attempt to unlock any mutant abilities Wade might have. Quickly he  discovers that they are being conducted not by the government but by a group attempting to create super-powered assassins for hire.  When Wade survives the testing he finds he has become hideous, but with the power to survive almost any wound.  He also decides to find the man who did this to him.

I have to admit that while the comic book character, DEADPOOL has a huge following I'm not really among them. Like DC's LOBO, I always found him a rather one-joke character, plus I'm not really into the X-Men/mutant thing so that was two strikes against him. One of the things that turned me around on the character was the actor Ryan Reynolds, who loves the character and has been trying to get this movie made for years. I must say that I'm really glad he did.

The movie is just so much fun and never takes itself too seriously, but still finds time to really allow us to find the man beneath the mask. Wade is a much better man, in some ways, than he believes himself to be.  Still not a hero, as we'd normally think of them, he still can do the right thing, even if not in the way that a Superman or Captain America might. Deadpool might help you get your cat out of a tree, but then he'd probably steal your car so he could go out for pizza.

From the very opening credits to the ones at the end, the film seldom lets up.  In fact the opening credit scroll gives you a pretty good idea that this is not your standard super-hero movie.  Also, the movie has an "R" rating for several very good reasons, not just the violence and language.  I'm hoping that the fact that the movie has been doing so well doesn't push other folks into doing "R" rated comics films just because it worked here. Deadpool is a very different kind of movie and not for everyone.  You could almost say it's like THE WATCHMEN played for laughs.  Yeah, these are superheroes, but do you really want these folks running around unchecked.

If you've seen the trailers for this film or some of the remarkable promotional videos and posters online you already know some of what you'll see.  Oh, and a really nice surprise was seeing how the X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (the coolest name for a super-hero in like forever!) were not only there for a brief cameo, they were an essential part of the story.

Do yourself a favor and check this movie out, on the big screen if you can.  Oh, and please don't leave like some folks after the credits. You really will be sorry.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Is He Still Reading Comics or Is the Four-Color Fiend Still Around?

The answer to both those questions is a yes, which should come as a surprise to no one except a comic shop owner or two.  I'm currently back into collecting, or to be honest reading comics again, as I generally don't buy them to collect or sell.  I just don't toss the comics or pass them along immediately after I'm done with them. There are only a few titles that I ever actually get around to re-reading.

The Big Two (Marvel & DC for those non-fans out there) are usually the ones that drive me from collecting by sucking me into yet another one of their company-wide "events" or cross-overs.  For the past decade or so some 'new thing' will get me interested enough to purchase and a year or so later, realizing I've been suckered again, I get disgusted enough with the industry to drop everything from all publishers.  Probably an over-reaction, but if you know me you'll know that's not uncommon.

For DC it was the "New 52" that got me back after "Blackest Night" ended and I was disappointed with what came next.  Like so many others I ran down to my shop and put in an order for all fifty-two Number Ones prior to publication, to ensure I got them all.  In over half the cases a single issue was enough, but with some I hung on for six months or a year.  I think it was the Court of Owls storyline over in the Batman titles that pushed me out that time around from the last few books I was still collecting.  Everything else had either already been cancelled or I had given up on beforehand.
The only DC books I've picked up since have been a couple of issues of Hellblazer (the John Constantine series if you recall that short-lived TV show) and the limited SECTION EIGHT series, featuring secondary characters that had appeared in the HITMAN title years ago.

Marvel got me back with SECRET INVASION, after I had found myself dropping all the titles I was reading from them over a few years.  A lot of that was the company having the writers of their books drop everything to shoehorn their title characters into some cross-over event or other, half of which you couldn't understand if you were only reading regular titles and not the event-specific books.  Granted DC does/did much the same, but I was buying more Marvel at the time.  I stuck with Marvel through S.I. and whatever it was that followed immediately. Then they started something which I think was called the "Heroic Age" or something and it certainly didn't seem like that to me.

Call me stupid, but the recent SECRET WARS/Battle World titles from Marvel had me back in the shop at least for a while.  A few like THORS were actually pretty good and of course, if you put "Marvel Zombies" in the title I can't resist so that was a couple of books right off the bat.  After all that, and I actually gave up on the main S.W. (not the Lucas/Disney stuff if you have lost track) title I've only been getting a few of the new Marvel books. 

Both companies now seem on the verge of doing everything all over again, especially DC with something called REBIRTH, which they been promoting but I haven't quite figured out what it is all about.  I've heard that it isn't another reboot, but that it is supposed to being the print comics more in line with what we are seeing with the cinematic versions of their characters. It might be interesting but I don't know if that is enough to get me back into buying their books on a regular basis.

Marvel is now promoting something called CIVIL WAR II. Coincidentally enough there seems to be a film coming out this year with a similar title. Do we really need to see this all over again? Will somebody besides (SPOILER WARNING) Cap get offed this time (END SPOILER).

Next time out I'll mention some of the comics I am currently reading, most of which don't come from the Big Two, which shouldn't surprise anyone at this point.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Blue ManThe Blue Man by Kin Platt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this book in Jr. high and was completely blown away. I guess this was the first book, other than say the Tom Swift, Jr. and Hardy Boys novels, aimed at 'teens' that I read and could identify with. Possibly because the lead character was also named Steve.

Very happy living with his parents in New York City, Steve is not thrilled when his parents decide to send him off to spend the summer with his aunt & uncle. They run a small hotel in a rural area, and he finds himself pretty bored. When a rather odd looking guest registers and Steve accidentally discovers he is blue, things take a very, dangerous turn. Believing that his uncle has been killed, Steve steals his car and takes off in pursuit. However, how can a sixteen year old kid track down someone who may very well be an alien.

This book hooked me like few others. I must have read the book close to a dozen times over the next few years and still find it just as entertaining now that I'm more than forty years older than I was when I first discovered it.

View all my reviews

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Official Final Trailer [HD]