See The Wonder, Detective Comics is Back!

I saw Wonder Woman Thursday night and I will start off by saying Warner Brothers pulled a rabbit out of the hat. The metaphor fits in more than one way. But in this case it is about going back to old school. Rabbit out of the Hat is a classic magic trick for the ages. This film may not quite be one for the ages, but it is done in classic style.

This movie did something that so many films today fail to do. They decided to go back to the timeless idea that a good movie should always tell us a good story. Storytelling is a lost art in Hollywood these days, what with all the explosions, fake blood, super aliens, and wise cracks, that allow a good movie to get away with a wobbly story. But a great movie can not be great without at least a solid B+ story.

Patty Jenkins gives us simple, but well thought out story and presents it with emotion, humor, superpowers, explosions, and of course bloodthirsty Germans, gotta have that right ūüėČ Wonder Woman doesn’t try too hard to be all things, like Batman v Superman did. We all know how well that worked out. No, Warner Brothers went to the age-old well of storytelling that all of us have always enjoyed dating back to our earliest memories. “Hey Grandpa, tell me story about the olden days…”

And so they did. They went back a hundred years so grandpa had to tell a story that his grandma told him, methinks. This did not need to be a super hero movie featuring one of the greatest of all comic book characters to be good. The story was good. This is a period piece and WB did an excellent job of immersing us in the WWI era. Industrial Age London comes alive with reasonable period costumes and all the modern trickery that made the city of London look like that smelly, smokey shit hole it was in 1917.

The story they give us, was well done, not fantastic, not the greatest ever told, but a solid well spun tale. While telling us a story about the malleable soul of man and the nature of what we are, we also get a story about a great war with a decent bit of historical value, and a diabolical plot by a powerful antagonist. We get a nice twist in the story and a villain we don’t expect. We get some superhero kick ass, we get a little Shakespearian drama, we get a fair amount of funny, and Patty Jenkins pulls off making Wonder Woman look so epic all the time. Just standing there she looks like a boss.

This was a really great story. I am not certain why they went to WWI instead of WWII but that’s OK because I was getting a little tired of all the Nazis over there in the Marvel Universe. A little classic ‘Kaiser’ was a nice change of villainous scenery.

As I predicted in the last article, Ms. Gadot delivers. She has it all, the class, the grace, the style, and when needed the ultimate bad ass complete with a full shot of intense. She is regal and she is a frickin’ boss on the battlefield. What the hell more do we need than that?

Chris Pine continues to impress me. He plays the same character in this film as he does in Star Trek and he even has the same rank ūüėČ But he gives us a fine performance as the mortal hero to contrast our demigod¬†title character.

At the end of the film I did feel they made her just a tick too powerful. My beef with Superman has always been that he is basically God and of course they created Kryptonite to give him a weakness. Diana gets a little too close to the Kryptonians on the power meter, but that is a minor issue that is quite forgivable.

I would ask you to sit through the entirety of the movies long credit roll so you can see the epic Bruce Wayne after credit scene, but there isn’t one so stay if you want. If the 42oz soda is calling you to the restroom, it’s safe to go, I stayed and there was no after credit scene.

My friends this film isn’t the best superhero movie, but what I really like about it is the storytelling; this is great storytelling. The movie had some holes and they probably left some stuff on the cutting room floor that should have been left in. With a 2:21 running time though, I understand the cuts. We are left with a nice clean origin story in a historical context, and all the great superhero stuff needed for a great superhero movie.

This is the best DC movie ever made not featuring the Bat. DC is back and they mean business. Sure, there are many little gripes I could write about, but I won’t, because I left the theater with a buzz like I did when I was ten years old and grandma spun a wild yarn about the olden days. Hollywood needs to give us a lot more of movies like this.

 

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Wonder Woman: Maximum Anticipation

Picture of Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman 2017

After seeing Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman in the under achieving film, Batman v Superman, I have had an increasing level of anticipation for the long-awaited big screen presentation of the Wonder Woman origin story. In last year’s near miss, Batman v Superman, two things kept that picture from a toilet flush; Ben Affleck hit a soaring home run portraying an older and wiser Bruce Wayne / Batman and Gal Gadot shattered my worries about whether she could be Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot seems to relish the role of Wonder Woman. In the small part she had last year and the trailers for the June 2nd Wonder Woman movie she IS definitively pulling off the role. No live action version of Wonder Woman has ever really hit the mark, will 2017 be different? I do hope so.

Adrian Palicki dressed as Wonder Woman

Adrian Palicki as Wonder Woman. 2011 TV movie.

This is a movie that has been in the works for over ten years. There have been many “suitors” for the role in other efforts including Adrian Palicki who has proven after the fact, her on screen badass potential from her efforts in Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But she really doesn’t pull off the whole Wonder Woman image well and the TV movie sucked. Rileah Vanderbuilt portrayed her in the excellent 2013 internet short movie.

picture of Wonder woman

Rileah Vanderbuilt as Wonder Woman, 2013

Warner Brothers has continued to push the feature film further out, until now as they can begin assembling the ‘Super Friends’ of the ‘Justice League’. The comparisons to Linda Carter’s epic TV portrayal of this comic classic are inevitable. No comparison can be made however as the TV show was made during the heavy insulated era of FCC blindfolds and quasi censorship of television. Linda Carter portrayed more of a girl scout Diana Prince rather than the immortal Demi-God she is. The FCC shackles will not apply and therefore cannot stop Warner Brothers from giving us the Wonder Woman we all deserve.

Wonder Woman was the creation of a man who was well outside the conventional thinking in 1940. Yes I said 1940! William Moulton Marston was a psychologist and the inventor of the polygraph machine. Yep, the lie detector. He was outside the conventional thinking of the day in that he embraced some very liberal social and relationship ideas that are pretty wild even by 21st century standards. He was into submission and bondage, he believed that women should rule the world, and he had a polyamorous three way live in relationship with his wife and mistress who remained¬†‘partners’ after Marston’s death in 1947. In 1940 women were by no means the liberated force in society they are today and this made Marston an outsider in his day and a very early adopter of women’s liberation ideas. ¬†Marston however gave us the first real super-heroine and a pretty good role model for girls. The notion that women can do anything a man can do in this modern world was an unspoken idea until Marston and others like him broke that mold. The world is a better place without idealistic shackles placed on anyone. Read about Marston here.

His Wonder Woman creation was never presented in the comics quite like he envisioned. In all honesty it is a good thing as she may have never been the 76 year old success story we love and adore today. She has had a revision in each of the four traditional “ages” of comics. She made her debut in December of 1941, the “Golden Age” of comics. In the 1960s, the “Silver Age” of comics she was rewritten with a Greek mythological background. She was tweaked again in the “Bronze Age” of comics, the 1970s that led us to the campy but still good TV series with the ever gorgeous Linda Carter portraying her on the ‘tube’. She was revised in the “Modern Age” back in the late 80s. The 21st century adaptation of Wonder Woman which largely draws on the 1987 reboot, is my personal favorite because she isn’t the love princess of¬†Marston design but rather she is the Amazon demigod badass she was always destined to become.

Despite the revisions to his character idea, Marston’s mark will forever remain on this, the greatest of heroines in the every age of comics and one of the very best super heroes of ALL TIME. The lie detecting “lasso” his tribute to his own invention and the bracelets which were inspired from those worn by his live in mistress, Olivia.

The movie looks very promising and Warner Brothers official trailer is shown below.

 

Warner Brothers has an opportunity to kick rival Marvel Entertainment in the teeth with this film. They also have a history of strike outs on the silver screen. The looming question is, “which will this latest installment be?” Thus the “anticipation.” I have had many words of concern over who is selected to play Wonder Woman. I have opined in great detail. I was a bit worried when Gal Gadot was selected for the Batman v Superman movie, but she squarely laid to rest any and all concerns about her ability to portray one of my all time favorite super-heroes.

comic book, wonder woman

Wonder Woman in the modern age comics

This movie will succeed¬†or fail on the script and the director beacuse Gal Gadot will no doubt secure a lasting impression on all of us as Wonder Woman. Gadot is legitimately tall, and unlike Linda Carter (who I adore by the way) she has a ferocity and intensity in her that is what I always believed Wonder Woman should have. Even with the believable Warrior she pulls off, she yet retains the regal aura that Linda Carter had as well. Look at the ‘Modern Age’ comics and see how Wonder Woman is drawn with intense and fierce facial expressions, yet in her alter ego Diana Prince she is warm, soft, and feminine. Gal Gadot pulls it ALL off, quite well in fact. The only thing missing is the “blue eyes” that are ever presnet in the comics over the entirety of her 76 year run. I can live without that since Gal is crushing it every where else.

I do so truly hope that Warner Brothers doesn’t screw the pooch on this movie. All the chips are riding on this and the success of the upcoming Justice League film is on the line here. I am sure Ms. Gadot will knock it out of the park, lets hope Patty Jenkins whose primary credit is Directing the 2003 crime drama, “Monster” is up to the task. This will be her biggest directorial effort ever as this film’s budget is FIFTEEN times more than “Monster.”

This is the last of the buildup movies for the Justice League. The Justice League is going to have the four primary DC characters, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. We already have Henry Cavill’s mediocre Superman from two previous films, Affleck’s AMAZING Batman, Gal Gadot’s likely outstanding Wonder Woman, and the future Aquaman portrayed by Jason Mamoa, best known as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. We are briefly introduced to Aquaman at the end of Batman v¬†Superman and will see him again in the ‘Justice League’ origin story later this year. He has a feature film slated for next year.

I am very excited about this Wonder Woman movie but I may not be able to see it until Sunday the 5th as I have a big out-of-town weekend starting on June 2nd. I will try to catch a Thursday night (late June 1st) showing. I have high hopes for this movie and I can’t remember having more anticipation for a comic book movie since Christopher Nolan’s epic, ‘Batman Begins’ back in 2005. Let’s hope Wonder Woman, 2017 goes the way of Batman Begins, and not the way of the “Green Lantern, shall we?

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Why does the Galaxy Always Need Saving…

Somebody has to do it. Marvel has a team in Guardians that seems to have amazing on-screen chemistry. Whether that is a credit to actors, director, music, or a bit of all of that, it worked in the first film and works again here in “Volume 2.”

Since this movie is ‘fresh off the boat’, I’ll avoid any spoilers. There are things that really make Guardians 2.0 really work and a few things that drag it down towards mediocrity; “towards” that is, not to. That is an important distinction in favor of this second James Gunn effort on behalf of the Marvel Galaxy.

Those of you familiar with my totally bias and heavily subjective movie reviews of all things super hero-ey, you know that I have the opening installment of Guardians of the Galaxy at the lofty perch atop the list of comic themed movies. I will say early and right now, that the top five positions on the chart are safe. To ply the archives of my Guardians past comments here are the two reviews and the epiphany, post screening, post Blu-Ray,  and the announcement a New King is Crowned.

But that safe haven is not because ‘Vol. 2’ isn’t a great movie, it is just that the first movie had such a strong impact. It was the ‘came out of no where’, type of feeling. This one doesn’t benefit from that initial awe. It is very difficult for a sequel to a groundbreaking type movie to better the original. It happened in Star Wars as Empire Strikes Back overcame the ‘been there, done that’ with excellent dialog and fantastic character chemistry. Oh and a “I am your Father”¬†deal at the end didn’t hurt either.

Guardians Vol. 2 has a lot of that. Like its progenitor, this movie uses an excellent sound track, fabulous score, and even manages to work the lyrics of the songs into the plot! Brandy the one hit wonder by Looking Glass has been a bit a trivia I was proud to have stashed in my gray matter; but¬†it’s forever ruined. Kurt Russell has released it to the universe and now everyone knows it, but do they have it on vinyl? I do ūüėČ

OK, I brought up ‘Kurt Russell’ and I have to talk about K.R. What a stud! And without mentioning any spoilers there is a scene, and it is not just a fleeting scene, but a series of images and action of what appears to be a young Kurt from way back in the day. We’re talking Escape from New York young. We saw Disney do a pretty creepy Princess Leia CGI de-aging in Rogue One¬†but this was brilliant. Seriously they nailed that shit down. I thought the moment I saw it that it was old footage from K.R.’s Disney youth acting days somehow merged into the movie or something. But it was a wonderful combination of a young actor with some similar facial features, some excellent make-up and a dash of CGI. Bravo, quite possibly the best de-aging ever.

So Russell plays a God-like being that is deeply connected to this franchise and serves to provide some additional back story on our galactic saving protagonist. Kurt pulls it off well. Like the first movie, this one does not take itself too serious. The movie is filled with classic comedic setups and most of them are well executed. There are however, more than a couple of forced moments to grab a chuckle.

James Gunn doesn’t break any barriers in bringing us this story and in fact the plot is reaped from a well tilled field. But a predictable plot can be overcome with well-timed humor, a fair amount of destruction, and solid character building revelations. We get all of that in Volume 2 and a two scene cameo with Sly Stallone!

In the first installment I thought Rocket had the most funny lines, but this time I think the trophy goes to Drax. He was hilarious and the dialog and delivery for his funny moments were perfectly done. The movie has a few scenes where the warm and fuzzy touchy feeling is a little thick in light of the comedic approach. It even tries to have a poignant moment near the end, but Drax takes the edge off any tear inducing possibilities with a well timed funny that in itself is telling a story about what could happen to him in the closing of the trilogy. This movie, like the first is very funny throughout, and who doesn’t like a good laugh? Regarding the laughs, this movie seems to try and tap a little too much into the more adult humor like Deadpool did. But this is not an R rated movie and having more penis references than any two¬†Marvel movies combined is over the top. Parents bringing young ones based on the experience in the first might be a little perturbed, but the first one wasn’t really a Pixar film either ūüėČ

I don’t know if this latest Guardians will hold up like the original, but I do know that it will hold up. Once again Marvel has sent a fly ball into the stands to straight away center. I didn’t feel like the music and the moments were as well infused as they were in Vol. 1 but they were still very well done. The movie flows well, the action sequences get a little frantic at times but again never quite overdone for this type of film. This is a solid performer and it lands well in its debut on the All Time Super Hero Movie List.

All of this is building towards an epic finale of sorts called “Avengers: Infinity War” and the Guardians will be apart of that for sure. That film is due out in 2018. This year we see a new Spiderman and Thor movie, early 2018 the Black Panther makes a modern screen debut all leading to Infinity War where I presume Thanos will emerge as the primary bad guy.

Be sure to sit through the credits all the way to the very end. Never mind that you will see an after credit scene shortly after they start to roll, then another, then another, there will yet be another at the very end an it is a Stan Lee classic.

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Rogue One, A Fresh Take on Star Wars

I saw this movie last fall and for some strange reason, never wrote a review. Hmm, weird. Now the movie is out on BluRay and DVD and I get to watch it again. And so I did and here is the scoop. Some soft spoilers are ahead.

This story tells the tale of the Rogue One squadron that got the plans for the Death Star that were used to find the weakness in the ultimate weapon of mass destruction at the command of the evil Emperor. Buahahaha! At the conclusion of the original movie in 1977 these plans showed a flaw in the design that would allow a single well placed shot to cause a cascade reaction that would and in fact did destroy the whole station. That is a classic ‘Achilles Heel’ right there.

In the original ‘Star Wars, A New Hope’ we never really knew exactly how these plans conveniently landed in the hands of the rebellion. Rogue One shows us that it wasn’t “convenient” at all. Unlike the other Star Wars movies that focused largely on the primary characters and their ability to wield the mighty force, and of course Han Solo and Chewbacca who are just regular badasses, this new movie has very little “force”. For those expecting a whole lot of light saber duals, force pushing baddies away, and death grip force chokes from the dark side; you might be a little disappointed. You will get a tickle of that but this film is more about the rebels and not so much the Emperor or Darth Vader. The rest of us get to watch a fabulous, fresh new take on a tired old franchise.

Rouge One is a surprisingly good movie. One need not be a Star Wars fan to understand the plot nor follow the action and dialog. We will see some cheesy CGI used in a few select scenes, to make current aging actors look 40 years younger, yes my friends, the original Star Wars turns 40 this year! Holy Adult Diapers, Batman, how the hell did that happen? Well it did, so deal with it ūüėČ

Rouge One takes place just before the original opening sequence of Star Wars and the movie ends literally moments before the beginning of the original film. This is a nice tie in to the original trilogy without a lot of pomp and circumstance but rather a gritty tale of guts and determination. This film shows the ugly side of the rebellion in the sense that we see that the good guys sometimes have to do bad stuff for the cause.

I hope Disney decides to expand on this idea of the sub stories or Star Wars rather than try to do a reboot in the future after completeling Episode 8 this year and 9 presumably in 2 years. There are a great many of these stories that can be told. How about the story of Lando and how he acquired the cloud city, how he lost the Falcon to Han Solo “fair and square”. We could go back to the beginning of Chewbacca and Han Solo’s relationship. We could do a Boba Fett story, or even the story between Episode V and VI where Luke continues his training. He did jump from junior Padawan to pretty badass Jedi between those films. So many¬†possibilities and no need to reboot the franchise.

Rogue One delivers the goods, it’s not the best Star Wars movie ever made, but it is a fresh new look at a well developed franchise. Many didn’t like the Shakespearian end, I however did. Star Wars movies are well-known for their consistent plots that feature easy to identify good guys, obvious villains and usually a princess needs to be saved somewhere… yada yada yada. It’s like the plot of nearly every Disney animated movie ever made. Star Wars movies always have that classic ending where everyone lives happy ever after… at least until the next Death Star arrives.

But here comes Disney with Rogue One and there is no princess, no dashing leading man off to save her, no young learner finding his place at just the right time. None of that weak sauce that we have seen so many times we can quote the dialog in a movie we haven’t seen yet. Rouge One did not follow the mold, it is a ‘rogue’ Star Wars movie. Yes, I did just pun the living crap out of the title of movie. This movie had somewhat weak leads but the side characters were outstanding. The reprogrammed droid K-2SO is the Droid we’ve been looking for. He delivers the targeted and well timed humor to break up the darker and more action packed sequences. The two Jedi Temple guardians are outstanding as well.

One issue I had and I’m others did too; this movie bounces around from planet to planet quite often early in the film. That made the whole experience a little jolting initially and really nothing settles in until the end portion of the film that takes place in some Caribbean resort. They stuck around that locale for a while, now didn’t they ūüėČ You may remember I was hard on Force Awakens because I felt like the regurgitated old plot lines, and Rogue One regurgitated a fair amount of dialog. “Red One beginning our attack run… watch those towers and look out for fighters”. Yes this was almost verbatim from a New Hope. That’s OK I suppose, Rogue One is worth a look and I hope Disney feels compelled to take a few risks on future movies like they did on this one.

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Disturbingly Dark, Logan is Solid Cinema

Holy Cow! It’s been awhile. The last article I published on this blog was back in 2016. Well, I will say I have published dozens of articles on my other 11 blogs, so I have been busy ūüôā

I saw Logan today with my son, Nolan. Logan is not your typical Marvel character film. Logan of course refers to the one and only Wolverine, but this is no X-Men film. This film takes place roughly a dozen years from now and the world is a very disturbed and dark place indeed. I will not give any dangerous reveals to spoil your experience if you have yet to see the movie, so worry not. I will however say that this film departs from the Marvel model completely.

Yes, before you all head down to the comment section, I know that Wolverine is a character whose movie rights belong to 20th Century Fox. But Fox has made several X-Men and Fantastic Four themed films that at least tried to follow Marvel’s established comic book story lines. This movie is not a superhero movie, nor a comic book movie other than the fact that it features several Marvel characters. It is a departure from the status quo of these films, and a departure from the canned experience is not a bad thing.

This movie is very dark, bloody, and foul-mouthed. Not in a bad way, but in a way that children under the age of 14 are better suited without it. If you have seen the trailers you know there is a little girl, mutant with a certain set of skills that are eerily familiar. The story is that no mutants have been born in the last 15-20 years. We learn about why this is and how this little girl mutant came to be as the movie’s plot develops.

This movie doesn’t give us much in the way of comic relief, but it desperately needs some. It is the type of movie that makes you hope and pray the writers are wrong about the future. When I saw¬†Logan’s 2024 Chrysler, I looked at Nolan and said, “If this is the future, I want to go back” ūüėČ Damn that was an ugly car.

This film had a bit of the Terminator feel to it. The suspense was not intense like Terminator, but the darkness, and the persistence of the enemy and the feeling of being on the run permeated the film from beginning to end. This movie is not going to lift your spirits, not even a little.

The plot is a bit¬†thin but not so much that it bores you. The action sequences are intense but there are not many of them. The movie is heavy on drama, and unlike Guardians which didn’t take itself seriously at all, this film takes itself a little too serious perhaps.

It shows us an aged and feeble-minded version of the once great Charles Xavier. We see a Logan that has fallen into despair which is revealed immediately in the opening sequences.¬†Now that I mention it, the actual opening sequence to the movie has nothing to do with the movie at all and is in fact the funniest sequence in the film. Ryan Reynolds is involved and I’ll leave it at that.

In the end we are beaten down mentally as an audience and not necessarily in a bad way, but in a deep emotional way. This is a dark movie and the actors and director do a great job of depressing us. With only a few exceptions, every scene in the film is of a place you don’t want to be, a shit hole of sorts. There is a scene in Oklahoma City near a gambling casino that is somewhat cheery, but seriously, casinos are half exciting and half depressing, when you really think about it. And then there is the charming farmhouse that abuts the giant evil mass farming plant. And you get the feeling right away that whole thing will end up in a shit storm.

This movie is undeniably the darkest and most depressing film based on Marvel Characters I have ever seen. If Frank Castle had appeared in the film he might have cheered things up. That on the table, it is still a good film. This film is able to stand on the story and is not driven by the action sequences. Those action sequences are exciting and they are well done, but they don’t drive the story and they are not used as a crutch to prop up a bad script. The script is no masterpiece, but it works well enough. There is subtle and not so subtle underlying themes about aging, regrets, depression, greed, and so many of societies darkest fears. These are deep issues, and the film exposes us to all of them. Perhaps the director should have focused on just a couple of them.

This movie carries the R rating and it uses every bit of it. More so than Deadpool, I’d say. This movie however is no Deadpool. Overall, I felt like the film was a little light on production values. The budget for the film was $97 million which isn’t exactly a B flick, Take¬†Deadpool for example, that only had a budget of $58 million, and look what they did with it!

The movie has a certain sense¬†of finality, in that is takes place in the future and so it is not leading us into the next film like most Marvel themed movies do. It leads us to the potential for new characters and completely new story lines for some future movie series starting in 2025 or something like that. Who knows where it will take us, but it did drop us off at the ‘Prozac Tavern’ for a bit while we wait. Hey Bartender, make mine a double.

I still need to catch Lego Batman before it leaves the theaters. I bought Doctor Strange on Bluray, Tuesday, that movie was just as good,¬†the second time around. Take a peek at the updated movie list.¬†Logan isn’t busting any records but, it is on the left side of the chart, so that’s good.

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Happy New Year!

2016 is in the books. After a contentious presidential election, crazy after election shenanigans, and an overload of general purpose meanness, good riddance! But 2016 was not a total loss. For those of us engaged in the sport of movie going, Marvel, DC, Star Trek, Star Wars what a fabulous year it was indeed.

The loss of Carrie Fisher at such a young age was truly saddening so much so that her legendary mother, Debbie Reynolds followed her the very next day.

Looking towards 2017 let’s keep the optimism up shall we? We’ll have Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Guardians 2, Star Wars and much more. We shall have an interesting political year regardless of one’s personal political leanings as President Elect Trump, for better or worse, will be unorthodox and possibly even entertaining.

Here’s spit in your eye 2016, thanks for the memories, and here’s to a wonderful 2017. It would be hard to be any worse than ’16, but that is NOT a challenge, let’s just go for the good stuff in the coming new year.

Tonight, here in the ‘Couv’ we have snow showers in the forecast. If this forecast materializes it will be my¬†5th white New Year since I started keeping track of such things in 2002. May all the revelers around the world stay safe and sane whilst we ring in the New Year!

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There is Something Strange Going On…

imagesNolan and I went to see Doctor Strange for an opening day matinée on Friday. Marvel Entertainment continues to churn out good material from the vast library of characters still under their control.

Doctor Strange is a character well suited to help merge the physical universe of the Avengers with the more mystical/other worldly universe of Guardians and Thor. This is all building up to the huge crescendo that will be the Infinity War movie slated for some time in 2018.

Doctor Stephen Strange is portrayed by British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch does an admirable job playing the cocky and arrogant doctor and ultimately Doctor Strange. This movie was well done but fairly predictable. The plot was a little thin but well executed. The movie stays on track and does a good job establishing the title character.

As we learn early in development of the story, every one of the “sorcerers” will have a “relic” attach themselves to them. The relic that eventually binds to Strange is shown in a foreshadowing scene mid-movie. And it just fits the personality of the Strange and frankly Cumberbatch pulls it off well. He looks like he was destined for it.

I liked the world bending effects used in the many battle sequences and the movie is filled with that excellent dialog that Marvel has consistently provided across more than a dozen feature films. It finds it self comfortable just inside the top 20 on the all time list.

Be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits… all the way! There is an early after credit scene that is funny and foretelling right after the main set of credits, then at the very end, after we know the names of all the “grips” and “gaffers” we get another very important after credit scene! So stay put and wait till the bitter end before leaving that theater. I know you sucked down that 40 oz soda, but hold it anyway ūüėČ

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X-Men Apocalypse on BluRay and A new Champ Up Top

917u3nefvql-_sx342_Yes it had its video release this month¬†and of course true to form, I went out and bought it. You may recall I reviewed this film shortly after its theatrical release giving it favorable marks. It managed to stay in the top half of the all time list but nothing too spectacular. Additional screenings on my home screen have not really changed my position on the film. It’s a solid effort and a decent movie. In my first screening of the movie I really liked the dramatic entrance into the final battle by Psylocke as she splits a car in half. The second time I saw it though it looked kinda of cheesy. I think the first time it was all Olivia Munn delicious and the next time I was more critically watching the special effects. This is a good movie and I really like “prequel” versions of the X-Men. Although I think I might prefer the original Raven played by Rebecca Romijn.¬†Everything I said in that first review holds up save for my over enthusiastic comments about Psylocke’s entrance into the final battle.

Now this next segment is sure to cause a stir among some of my readers. For a great long while the Avengers has enjoyed the top perch on the all time super hero movie list. It took a second screening of that film in 2012 for me to feel compelled to bump Batman Begins down a notch. But ultimately, that’s exactly what I did. Now I have watched the Avengers on BluRay numerous times since and I have watched the other top five films too many times to recount. I often feel I need to be “in the mood” to watch say Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman or even Christopher Nolan’s exceptional Batman Begins. And yes, some times I am just not in the mood for the Avengers. Yet there is a movie on this list that debuted in the top ten and seems to have slowly worked it’s way to the inner circle of masterpiece greatness. I have watched it more times than either Batman begins or Avengers yet those movies have been out for a long time. I have probably seen Batman (1989) more, but come on, that movie has been out for nearly 30 years now.

There is one film I am always in the mood to watch. I watch it about every 6 weeks. It is funny, well acted, has a fabulous soundtrack and a brilliant score, and doesn’t take itself too serious. Yes, my friends Guardians of the Galaxy is simply the best superhero movie of all time.

 

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Netflix Delivers Yet Again!

Last Friday, Netflix released the first 13 episodes representing season one of “Luke Cage”. This is now the third series they have done based on Marvel characters and the 4th season overall as Daredevil has two seasons. Daredevil was the start. I wrote about that show here and it was nothing short of BRILLIANT. Daredevil was followed by the Netflix original series Jessica Jones, about a would be hero turned detective with super strength and an intuitive mind. Both of these first two series were based in Hell’s Kitchen NYC and had some crossover content. Jessica Jones introduced us to the title character of this latest series, Luke Cage. Luke was in fact a pretty significant part of the plot in Jessica Jones. That show was also BRILLIANT. I reviewed Jessica Jones, here.

As we learned in Jessica Jones and the Marvel Comics of course, Luke Cage is the result of an experiment that went wrong yet created in him bulletproof skin and extreme strength.

Well true to Marvel form, when introducing new characters they build them into a contiguous story line and narrative before spinning them off. Luke Cage is set in Harlem NY and this ties into the end of Jessica Jones as we see leave Hell’s Kitchen (his bar in ruins) and he is humbly and quietly working “under the radar” at the close of that series. These shows all tie into the Marvel universe that is being portrayed in the Feature Films , ABC’s Agents of Shield and other current Marvel plot lines. It’s all so seamlessly integrated into the overall Marvel Universe story.

This new Netflix show follows the other two into the dark and gritty. Netflix likes to take this to the R rating level with edgy violence, some partial nudity in some saucy sex scenes, and R rated words including a widespread use of the “N” word. That latter usage however seems to¬†be¬†utilized well within the context of the story and is by no means used in an egregious manner. This is not a Wolf of Wall Street F-bomb type thing at all.

Simone Missick as Misty Knight

Simone Missick as Misty Knight

The first episode starts out really slow. DO NOT let that stop you from watching the rest of this series. This is 13 hours of content. The equivalent of five full length movies. The first episode and a half spends time developing our devious and¬†delicious villains and the supporting characters that will complete the plot. The show does have a proper “conclusion” but also leaves several potential second season plot lines open through an ambiguous “end” to certain characters. ¬†It is thus far as its two predecessors have been, BRILLIANT.

The characters in this series are complex and written very deep. You get to do this when you have thirteen episodes not driven by individual episodic success but by the collective content of the whole season. The writers get to dive into the development of these characters to a level you rarely find on regular television and even in the movies. Simone Missick is killing it as Misty Knight. Who she is veiled in the beginning so I will not give away who she is (Marvel fan-boys already know). 

Actress Alfre Woodard says 12 Years a Slave offers a truthfulness that we don't normally get in cinema.

Alfre Woodard as Black Mariah

The scenes are largely dark and ominous, but there are beautiful bright sunny scenes as well showing a vibrant Harlem community that works and plays in the foreground. The people go about their daily business despite the sinister activities lurking in the night and in the shadows. This show dives in to local politics better than any of the other Netflix series featuring Marvel Universe stories and perhaps better than any Marvel franchise ever has. This is a show with intellectual political villains as well as tradition “powered” evil villains. This villainy was so well done it literally carries the show.

Thus far we have two villains. The first is a politician, the second a gangster boss. The two are related and have an interesting relationship. These villains are well written and deeply developed within the first few episodes. They are not simple,¬†single-minded villains. They are complicated and in some ways conflicted. They have a false sense of morality that permeates and clouds the things they do. As a side note: guess the age of actress Alfre Woodard, playing Black Mariah. No Googling… yeah, I did a double take on her birth date. 1952? Yes friends Harry S. Truman was still in office and Eisenhower had just been elected. Wow she looks fabulous for 63 years old. And she is all over this Villain role.

Our protagonist is equally complex. As best as my knowledge allows, this appears to be a pretty good adaptation of Luke Cage from the comics. Luke Cage was born in Harlem and ended up at one point in Seagate Prison and part of Stryker’s heinous experiments. There is some dialog at one point in an early episode where Luke is asked where he’s from, his response was initially, “Chicago”. Pops replies, “you ain’t from no Chicago” Luke then says “Savannah, Georgia”. Now this does not mean Luke was “born” there so the integrity of the Marvel universe remains intact. Was the “Chicago” answer an Easter Egg nod to the second adaptation of this character in 1992, who did hail from Chicago after leaving New York?

We will learn a great deal about Luke Cage’s origin story in a series of flashback memories. The director also utilizes flash forward and even uses the same flash forward scene twice before actually continuing the story from that point. An interesting but by no means novel use of the flash forward technique. Yet this is used in conjunction with the flashback style of origin story telling that helps us learn about Luke. Despite all this plot and narrative complexity, it just seems to flow well. It works.

This is another huge win for Netflix and yet another feather in the cap of Marvel Entertainment’s epic success story.

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15 years later…

Of course it is September 11th, 2016 and this marks 15 years since the fateful events of September 11th, 2001. The world is a different place in the “post 9-11” aftermath and terrorism is a real threat all over the globe.

The groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS are filled to the brim with hatred. Hatred so strong that it virtually corrupts their moral center. How can such hatred be contained within a human being? Hatred with enough vitriol to murder thousands is hard to comprehend.

Yet there it is out there. Dozens and even scores murdered in violent rampages in Europe, the Middle East and right here in America. All of this hate in the name of “God”. This is not the will of “Allah” nor the will of “God”, this is the will of fanatical mullahs in places like Iran and even some of our “allies” like Saudi Arabia.

It is time that we as a nation stand up and honor those who have died at the hands of these detestable, fanatical thugs and diplomatically force our Arab “allies” to deal with this internal problem. These issues are complex to be sure.

Some suggest we should simply stop doing business with the OPEC nations that harbor these terrorist groups. That however would simply move those oil resources to our competitors like China who is more than willing to buy up any and all oil contracts it can get. Would that be beneficial to America? I am not sure.

One thing I am certain about is that our policy regarding the “refugees” and immigration are in serious need of adjustment. America needs a strong border, but we also need a much less bureaucratic legal entry system. We need to make sure that people coming to the United States are vetted. Are they healthy from a communicative disease standpoint? Are they radicalized terrorists? Are they coming here for that world-famous American opportunity?

There are many “illegals” that¬†have¬†come to America with the best of intentions. Perhaps they tried the “legal” method and became disenfranchised with the ridiculous amount of red tape, BS involved in that process. They “sneaked in” and now work here in America contributing positively to our society. But our acknowledgement of those is no excuse to continue allowing this free flow of illegals. Always there are they who will perpetrate evil using the freedom provided to others. All of the criminals and bad guys coming across are using the good people who come here to cover their own bad will. Whether it is bad drug cartel thugs blending in with the¬†well-intentioned, migrant workers or radical Islamic terrorists blending in with¬†genuinely needy refugees; we must be vigilant in our protection of our sovereignty as a nation and the safety of our citizens.

America by all means should continue to be that ‘shining beacon of hope’ and should continue to offer opportunity to those whom have had it oppressively denied. For our nation has produced great people for whom were forced¬†out of their native countries for racist, political, economic or religious reasons. They came to America and made great things from nothing. Greatness need not always be measured against iconic successes like those of George Soros, Sammy Sosa, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. It should¬†be measured by the millions of immigrants that have come to America with nothing more than a few coins in their pockets and built families and friends, while making the daily contributions to our society that make the whole economic machine work.

This is a day of reflection about a tragedy of such magnitude it influenced the entire world for better or worse, and perhaps a little of both. Shall we not at least try to set aside petty political arguments that mostly amount to a big box of nothing, and focus on the humanity of our nation. Hold our leaders to accountability and move our nation in a positive direction that affords opportunity for all and maintains a rational level of security.

On this day some 15 years later we find our selves as divided as we ever have been. The ONLY people in America that win under the divisive conditions we face right now, are the Washington DC insiders who are mostly corrupt and flying it in our faces. That my friends has to stop, but without at least a little American unity it will not.

May God bless these, The United States of America.

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