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Movies Review

Movie Review – Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Full disclosure:  if I saw the original movie as a kid, I don’t remember it.  This version of Pete’s Dragon starts out in the most Disney manner ever, with Pete (Oakes Fegley) losing his parents but being rescued by Elliott.  Pete lives in the forest for several years with Elliott, until he’s found by Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), a forest ranger who reminds him of his mother.

Look, I’m not going to surprise you if I tell you what happens.  Bonds will form, there’s danger, happy ending, lots of tears if that’s your thing.  It’s a well-made movie, and Elliott is beautifully animated.  It moves a bit slow on occasion, so if you have younger children who are fidgety, keep that in mind.  The cast is rounded out by Wes Bentley, Karl Urban (as the closest thing to a villain, he wants to capture Elliott), and Robert Redford.  All are very earnest, I guess is the best way I can describe it.

Pete’s Dragon is a great way to spend an afternoon with your family, and hey, sometimes you need that.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Star Trek Beyond

I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with the “Kelvin-verse” Star Trek movies.  I really like the cast, and have come to grips with the fact that, since it’s not a TV show, the movies need to shade a bit more to the action side of things than the more cerebral Trek episodes.  Still, the first two movies (especially Star Trek Into Darkness) made some really painful story choices and had me looking at Star Trek Beyond with a bit of trepidation.  I’m happy to report that Star Trek Beyond was pretty darn great, and definitely my favorite of the three so far.

I think what works here more than the previous two movies is, you actually feel like these individuals have come together as a crew.  There are quiet moments of contemplation and camaraderie mixed in with the action beats and it just makes it feel more like Star Trek.  I could actually believe this crew having to deal with some of the stranger stuff from the original series, like Trelaine or Apollo or planets where everybody talks like a gangster.

Beyond follow this crew right in the middle of their 5 year mission, with Kirk handling a diplomatic exchange between two warring races.  Unlike what we’re used to with Picard, it does not go well.  “I ripped my shirt again,” Kirk laments at one point in a tongue-in-cheek moment.  He feels a bit lost, which makes sense as this version of Kirk didn’t have his Starfleet dad to watch and look up to his whole life.

It isn’t uncommon, you know? It’s easy to get lost. In the vastness of space, there’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.

This line comes from Commodore Paris, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo of The Expanse, as Kirk discusses taking a desk job with her.  This is a different spin on the original cast movies, with Admiral Kirk leaving the desk job behind to get out and make a difference in the galaxy again.  Pine’s Kirk is chafing under the monotony of a five year mission, feeling ‘episodic’ (:wink:) and having trouble with the idea that you never really reach a destination out in the vastness of space.  It also works as a counterpoint to the villain, who was sent out into space himself (remaining vague so as not to spoil things) and was broken by it.

I loved the character beats between the leads, it felt very much like the classic series Kirk/Spock/McCoy interactions.  Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah fit in fairly well, and I liked that they didn’t shoehorn in some romantic subplot just because they were adding a female lead.  If there’s one thing that bothered me about Beyond, it’s that 20-21st century music played a role again.  Yeah, it was a callback to the first movie but it felt a bit out of place then and it still does now.  Minor quibble, though, to be sure.

If you are a Trek fan but were turned off by Star Trek Into Darkness, give Star Trek Beyond a try.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Ghostbusters (2016)

I’m happy to report that I have seen the new Ghostbusters movie and did not, in fact, experience the death of my childhood.  We all enjoyed it quite a bit.  Sure, there’s a few bits that don’t land but that’s true of the original Ghostbusters if you can manage to view it without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.

The story focuses mostly on Melissa McCarthy’s Dr. Abby Yates and Kristen Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert, who used to work together and wrote a book on the paranormal.  Gilbert distanced herself from it, while Yates continues to research ghosts.  They come back together when Yates puts the book up on Amazon, threatening her tenure at Columbia.  Of course, they DO end up both finding a ghost and losing their jobs which leads to the creation of the Ghostbusters.

Abby’s new partner, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), comes along with her as the engineer who builds the ghostbusting equipment, and Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan joins up after she encounters a ghost in the subway, bringing her knowledge of New York City (and her uncle’s hearse) to the team.  Chris Hemsworth rounds out the main cast as Kevin, the extremely dim-witted but hunky secretary.  I thought all the leads were great, especially Kate McKinnon as you no doubt have heard by now.  Holtzmann is wonderfully weird, and my daughters both loved Abby.  I even saw my son, who was totally “Why did they remake it with GIRLS?” before smiling and laughing at multiple points.

The original Ghostbusters cast (those still with us, RIP Harold Ramis) all had fun cameos, especially Bill Murray as a James Randi-esque paranormal debunker. There’s a bit of off-color humor, though not nearly as much as the original, about on par with Guardians of the Galaxy.  There’s a lot of fun to be had here, so if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a trip to check it out.

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Comics Movies

Why Wolverine: Weapon X Makes More Sense Than Old Man Logan

For a long time, the rumors were persistent that Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine would be inspired by the Old Man Logan comics by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.  It never made a ton of sense to me, unless the only bit of inspiration taken from it was the name (similar to Age of Ultron).  Too many of the players in that comic are off the board due to rights issues (Hulks, Hawkeye, Abomination, Red Skull, and on and on) that to even try to make something off that, it would be in name only.

No, it’s clear that Weapon X HAS to be the end of Logan’s story.  Just like in the Death of Wolverine storyline from a couple of years back, it just feels right to end it back where it began.  Which is why I was confused when people seemed surprised or taken aback at the title.  I mean, it doesn’t seem like a huge stretch, after DOFP we’ve seen that despite their meddling in the past, Professor X and Logan are both alive and still doing the Xavier school thing in the future, so it’s not like anybody dies after X-Men: Apocalypse.  They could fit in part of OML here – Logan could’ve ‘put away’ his claws and started living a somewhat normal life when he and the Professor discover what I assume to be Weapon X cloning him (perhaps with Mister Sinister’s help).  Cue the ‘one last time!’ adventure where they rescue X-23 and conveniently set up a teen girl Wolverine to join the X-Men in the next team movie.

The Wolverine continuity *was* fixed, more or less, after Days of Future Past, so this all works.  Any continuity issues that remain in the X-Men movies (and boy do they still exist) are mostly the fault of Singer’s movies.  How are the same actors supposed to keep playing these characters if you keep jumping 10 years forward in time?  “Wow, Moira hasn’t aged a day!” only works for so long.  The strange age difference for Cyclops and Havok.  Teen Jean having a moment with Wolverine.  I know Wolverine may not remember, but should Xavier address Mystique abandoning Logan to Weapon X for what, ten years?  I thought she might be ruthless enough to let them take him and get the Adamantium bonded to his skeleton, but to leave him there?  That’s cold, considering she was rescuing mutants, just not him.

I’ll be looking forward to more Wolverine/Weapon X information as it comes.  My one nerdy hope is that he wears the suit at least once (that’s fan art above).

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

note:  some spoilers

There’s a huge reason Captain America: Civil War works and Batman v Superman doesn’t, and that’s emotional investment.  I know Zack Snyder and DC/WB wanted to do thing their own way and not ape Marvel’s so far successful approach, but when you are rebooting two legendary characters and making significant changes, you need to get the fans used to these new versions.  We KNOW Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.  We’ve seen them overcome numerous obstacles, both separately and together.  They’ve fallen on hard times, been betrayed, beaten, come back stronger.  Mistakes were made, characters have evolved, things have changed.  It’s why we can believe Captain America, the guy who wears flag colors and beat the snot out of Nazis and HYDRA for his country, would now decide “the safest hands are still our own”.  Why we can believe Tony Stark, the rebel genius whose not a team player, admonished for his ‘ready-fire-aim’ mentality, would toe the line this time after never even looking for the line before.  Cap, since being unfrozen, was lied to by Fury, found out SHIELD was infiltrated by his greatest enemy, and then had to bail Tony’s ass out after one of his creations came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the Earth.  Tony for his part, finally has to come to grips with the fact that his first impulse may not always be his best.  And this time, it wasn’t just his own life getting torn to shreds, but the entire planet.

Batman V Superman just didn’t have that weight behind it.  WB wanted us to care about them fighting, and spent a lot of words during the movie hyping it up, and trying to tell us how important it was, but during Civil War?  Didn’t need a word of it.  I felt every punch in that final battle especially.  Tony, GUTTED by the horrific video of the Winter Soldier killing his parents, feeling the sting of their death again, the betrayal that Steve knew about it (remember in CA:TWS it was shown by Zola), lashes out.  The battle, which had so far been over an idea, becomes brutally personal.  I was enjoying the movie to that point, but at that point?  Riveted.

She's got her own fan art already! @marcusthevisual
She’s got her own fan art already! @marcusthevisual

Shifting gears a bit, it’s kind of amazing that I can be this far in and only now discussing everything else that happened in the movie.  We meet Spider-Man!  And it’s a poor, nerdy kid whose quippy yet awkward.  Tom Holland nails it.  BLACK PANTHER, I mean, come on.  His moves are unreal, he dismantles Bucky, but even in the midst of righteous anger over the death of his father, T’Challa can step back from his vengeance to serve justice.  What an example for the two sides fighting, eh?  The Russos made Florence Kasumba’s “Security Chief” (gotta be one of the Dora Milaje) more interesting in one scene with one line than BvS did for 90% of the characters in it.

If you are concerned this sounds too heavy, well, it’s got more weight than a lot of Marvel movies, but rest assured, it brings the funny.  Many of the best lines aren’t in the trailers, including the scene with Falcon and Bucky in the car, or Falcon fighting Spider-Man.  Or Ant-Man and the truck.  Even crazier, there was a character building moment or two for everybody.  OH, and much has already been said about the Vision and his dapper look – his relaxed home attire always slays me in his current comic, and I’m glad to see it here, but it’s his interactions with Wanda that are most interesting.  He isn’t yet to “even an android can cry” territory yet, but the groundwork is there.

Zemo, technically the villain since he really sets in motion the acts that get Avengers fighting Avengers, fares better than some of the recent Marvel villains.  Quite different from the comics but built with real, complex motivations.

As for flaws, I think the movie wasn’t as well paced out as The Winter Soldier.  Considering the sheer amount of content, that’s understandable.  With that, Captain America: Civil War can’t quite dethrone Iron Man and The Winter Soldier as my go-to Marvel movies, but it gets massive, Giant-Man sized points for being to pull off as many heroes and storylines as it did.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – The Jungle Book

Live-action versions of their classic animated features is a thing for Disney right now, and the next one is The Jungle Book.  Yeah, I know it’s technically adapted from the Kipling book but make no mistake the classic animated version is the inspiration here.  Thankfully, it’s a really good adaptation.

The first thing that stands out are the visuals.  It was super important for the animal characters to fit in seamlessly with Neel Sethi’s Mowgli, and the 3D animators did a fantastic job.  I never once thought of the animal characters as not being real and present in the scenes.  It’s honestly pretty amazing, movies have tried to get talking animals to work for years, and it really does here.  The 3D was well done, too, this may be one of the few movies where 3D is worth the extra couple of bucks.

Speaking of Neel Sethi, he did a great job as Mowgli for the most part.  There was a time or two where he seemed to be doing the ‘standing and talking to nothing’ thing that happens with kid actors but considering he had NO other humans to talk to I can’t blame him.  He nailed the emotional parts, which is the main thing.

Idris Elba’s Shere Khan is genuinely terrifying (younger or sensitive children WILL be scared at a couple of places), and the rest of the voice cast are excellent.  Bill Murray (Baloo) and Christopher Walken (King Louie) even manage to pull off their songs, though I’d agree with critics who feel they are a bit out of place in this version.  But hey, they’re fun so I let it slide.  Lupita Nyong’o and Ben Kingsley deserve praise as well.

I heartily recommend The Jungle Book for any family looking for a movie to share.  My girls spent the ride home quoting lines back and forth (they love the “Bears don’t hibernate in a jungle!” exchange in the trailers) and even my son cracked a smile while being too cool to hang with us.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The elephant in the room, right?  Yes, I saw BvS: DoJ.  I don’t hate it, but there hasn’t been a comic book movie that’s ever elicited a wider range of reactions from me.  For every cool moment or visual, there are long stretches where my only reaction is a sigh or eyeroll or double facepalm.  Let me break down what I loved and hated with the film.

Loved:

  • Ben Affleck as Batman – For all the doubters, he actually makes a fine Batman.  Handles the fight scenes well, and can pull off Bruce Wayne as well.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred – The grumpy voice of reason in Bruce’s ear.  Not sure why he couldn’t still be the butler but he works.
  • Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman – So stunning and fierce.  Loved that they worked in both the wristbands and the lasso.  Can’t wait to see her movie, especially since it’s away from Zack Snyder’s influence and we may get some compassion from Diana.
  • Solid action and effects – Love Batman’s fights, though the actual Batman v Superman part may be the weakest.
  • The music – I’m not music critic, but it was good.  Not distracting and fit the scenes.

Hated:

  • Batman sure dreams a lot – Not only does the death of the Waynes shown at the beginning of the film segue into some weird dream where young Bruce falls into the future Batcave, and get lifted out by flying bats (really), but he has a nightmare about totalitarian Superman later too.  These may be related to the Flash’s attempt to time travel with some dire warning for Bruce but even that is hard to understand.
  • Plot holes – Every comic book has plot holes, and so do their movies.  Most can be overlooked or explained away fairly easy, but there’s one here that still bugs me, and it’s something a lot of other Batman movies screw up.  At one point during Bruce’s investigations, he uncovers a link to Lex Luthor via what he thinks is a person referred to as the “White Portuguese”.  It turns out the White Portuguese is actually a ship.  Not a secret ship, or a renamed ship, it’s got that name on the side in 15 foot high letters.  Does the Batcave not have Google?  Even the little pissant ships that come to Buffalo to the grain silos have webpages dedicated to them.  Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, star of Detective Comics.  UGH.
  • Lex Luthor – I get it, they wanted to do something a little different with Lex.  I’d even agree that a young Lex/old Bruce dynamic where they are known to each other as business rivals could work.  But the weird mincing and preening mannerisms, the barefoot genius act (oh, basketball in the lobby of his headquarters), all it does it manage to take his few menacing moments and offset them with the dumb.
  • Doubling down on what we hated in Man of Steel – Really, Zack, we didn’t need another of Clark’s parents telling him to maybe not be a hero.  If you are going to play up the dead parent angst with Bruce, why Superman too?  Instead of letting us move on and forget about the whole “maybe you shouldn’t help people Clark” they bring it up again.  Same thing with the destruction angle.  In no less than three places during fights Snyder goes out of his way to have someone mention ‘that place is deserted’, ‘the business district is empty now’, what have you.  It misses the point that those of us who complained about the death and destruction were making.  It’s not that it was happening, it’s that the film didn’t show Superman trying to stop it.  It would’ve been much better to still have people there, but show Clark saving some of them.  Zod smashes a building, Clark holds it up long enough for those trapped to get out, or he takes an extra beating to distract the Kryptonians so a bus can get off a bridge.  The way it’s handled here feels like Snyder and the writers saying “SEE, I SAID THERE’S NO PEOPLE TO GET KILLED THERE, SATISFIED???”.
  • We meet the Justice League via email? – Bruce hacks Lexcorp and finds information on other ‘metahumans’ and sends it to Diana.  We are literally shown Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman via video clips embedded in an email.  At least Cyborg and Aquaman look cool.
  • Doomsday still dumb – Doomsday was a dumb villain when he ‘killed’ Superman in the comics, still dumb now.  Guessing they didn’t want to do Luthor in a powersuit battling directly since they already put Batman in a suit like that to fight Superman.
  • Super Slo-Mo – A Snyder staple, overused here to ridiculous levels.  Particularly egregious during the death of the Waynes.
  • Speaking of the Waynes dying – Snyder’s version of the scene is particularly painful.  By having Thomas Wayne fight back, it changes the whole dynamic…who knows if he even gets shot without it?  The pearls snapped by the gun so they could drop to the ground, an excuse to show pearls fall to the ground in slow motion.  Compare it to Batman Begins where it all happens so fast, it feels like a real robbery gone wrong.  AND it introduces us to Gordon, the one good cop in Gotham.  It had meaning to the movie and the future of Batman.  Here, it means nothing except setting up Bruce and Clark bonding over having mothers named MARTHAAAAAAAA.

Now that sounds like a lot of negatives, but I did like parts of the film.  Cut out the dream sequences, and the needless Lois in peril subplot and you’d have a solid 1hr 45min superhero movie.  Not great but a better base to work from.  The idea that they want to ADD 30 minutes to this is mind-boggling.

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Comics Movies TV

Stop making Batman v Superman about Marvel versus DC

If there’s a thing in comics fandom I hate right now it’s this adversarial tone a lot of the chatter takes on nowadays.  A spirited debate is fun, no doubt, but this isn’t that, it’s just angry people shouting at each other.  It’s there in sports now, video games, even politics.  There are certain groups who cling desperately to their ‘thing’, and that other ‘thing’?  You’re the most vile piece of trash not fit for life for liking it!  UGH.  And some of the media outlets support this sort of binary thinking – they encourage it, basking in the clicks and not caring that they make discourse demonstrably worse.  Take this article in the NY Post that made the rounds yesterday, provocatively titled ‘Batman v Superman’ is too smart for Marvel fans.  In it, Kyle “Women are not capable of understanding Goodfellas” Smith posits that Marvel fans’ intelligence levels are low:

This dimension lends the film a gravity and level of interest that places it at the opposite end of the spectrum from such sophomoric Marvel movies as “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool.” All three feature brainless, low-stakes action that’s as interesting as watching a waiter fall down the stairs while carrying a tray of dishes;

While I love a good pratfall (Pratt-fall?) as much as the next guy, you’ll notice he singles out a couple of things from the Marvel canon, as if only Guardians and AoU represent the MCU.  As I read that, I pictured Mr. Smith as Anton Ego in Ratatouille, sitting in his coffin-shaped room, ready to eviscerate Marvel for releasing a movie that has the audacity to be ‘fun’.  Where is The Winter Soldier on his ‘spectrum’?  TWS may be the perfect comic book movie in that it isn’t really a comic book movie.  It’s a spy thriller that just happens to star Cap, Natasha and Nick Fury.  The first Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Jessica Jones, Daredevil…none of those represent Marvel, because it doesn’t fit Smith’s ‘us versus them’ narrative.

Ratatouille coffin

We need to stop letting the media gleefully hammer on the wedges that are splitting us apart.  There’s no reason we can’t like BOTH The Avengers and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  But even if you don’t like a thing, it doesn’t make the people who DO like it stupid.  Let’s be better than that.  Comic book fans were marginalized, looked down upon for so long, now that we are finally getting our day in the pop culture spotlight we shouldn’t turn on each other, we should be celebrating.  DC fans, you are FINALLY getting your Justice League movie!  Marvel fans, you get the freaking Infinity Gauntlet!  Don’t stomp on something just because it’s too dark/gritty/goofy/noisy or whatever.  We can be better than this.  Build, don’t tear down.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Kung Fu Panda 3

I previously held up Kung Fu Panda 2 as an example of how a sequel should be done.  I don’t think Kung Fu Panda 3 reaches those same heights but it’s still a fun ride.

Kung Fu Panda 3 picks up not long after 2 – Po is living his ideal life as the Dragon Warrior.  He gets to kick the butts of bandits and protect the valley, alongside his best friends, the Furious Five…until Master Shifu steps away from teaching and puts Po in charge.  His first attempts at teaching go poorly, and his life gets spun completely around when his father comes to town to bring him home (you’ll recall he learned Po was alive at the end of KFP 2).

What follows from here is basically a love letter to the Kung Fu movie genre, right down to the unconventional training techniques, montages, and “your chi is no match for mine!” moments.  You also get the expected drama from the goose that raised Po, Ping, who must learn to be happy for his son and support him in his new journey.

One of my favorite actors, JK Simmons voiced the villain, Kai, and Bryan Cranston was Li, Po’s father.  Both excellent additions.  One thing that bugged me throughout the movie was, I’m fairly certain they cut some scenes with Po and Tigress, possibly even more with Mei Mei (lady panda voiced by Kate Hudson).  After KFP 2 seemed to indicate Tigress developing feelings for Po, and Mei Mei basically built up as a complication to that, it seemed like it was dropped and everybody is just friends.  Oh, and while I thought the animation was great, it seemed like a few times they didn’t show something that would’ve been awesome – like Crane and Mantis fighting Kai.  Having more good moments for the Five keep them from sidekick status, and considering they were masters before Po, that’s a good thing.

Kung Fu Panda 3 was a fitting end to the trilogy, with Po maturing and coming full circle.  Like Toy Story 3, I’d be happy if this was the end but I believe they have another trilogy planned.  Considering the quality of the three movies so far, I’m good with that.

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Movies Review

Should I Read It? Secret Wars (1984)

I know what you are thinking – didn’t we just leave this party?  And the answer to that is…complicated.  I am talking about the original Secret Wars from 1984-1985 today, one of the very first big crossover events at the big publishers.  It debuted 32 years ago, though you can’t tell from the May date on the cover.  If you’ve already read the new event, you’ll find some similarities here.  Doctor Doom and Owen Reece (the Molecule Man) are important, there’s a Beyonder (who may or may not have anything to do with THE Beyonders), and a bunch of heroes and villains fighting on a Battleworld.

But should you read it?  I lean towards yes, if you can keep in mind that it came out in the mid 80’s.  There’s a lot of narration and expository babble, but there’s a decent job done to give the big players their due.  Jim Shooter’s story was fun but in the end, little changed for the Marvel U as a whole.  Spider-Man, however, had one HUGE change come out of this:

Secret Wars 8 1984 spidey

Parker OBVIOUSLY had never seen a sci-fi movie at this point – never, never, NEVER stick your head under something spraying out black goo.  And eff you, Thor and Hulk, for not being more specific about which device makes clothes and which one sprays out goo monsters.

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Comics Movies

How to Fix the Fantastic Four

FF84_zpsec633de3I finally broke down and watched last year’s Fantastic Four debacle.  It’s terrible, joyless and soulless in a way no movie with “Fantastic” in the title should be, let alone anything with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the DNA.  You can’t blame the actors here – we know every one of them can act.  It’s practically a who’s who of rising young stars and solid character actors for support.  Here’s just a few of the things that stood out to me after one viewing of this cinematic atrocity:

  1. It’s so DRAB.  Do a search for ‘Kirby Fantastic Four’ and take a look at the images that come up.  I’ve added an example to the post.  What do we have?  Vibrant colors, big action.  Where was that in this movie?  Trank’s FF looked like it was filmed in a warehouse almost exclusively with security cameras.
  2. Too much backstory.  Ben had an abusive background?  Nobody liked Reed’s inventions or believed in him?  Why did this stuff need to be added?  The FF’s origin is simple – they steal a ship and get zapped by cosmic rays.  I know they looked at the Ultimate FF for inspiration but even so, we don’t need 40 minutes of dreary “woe is me” bullshit before they get changed.  I felt more of Rocket’s pain after one drunken outburst in Guardians of the Galaxy than I did after all of this.
  3. Doom.  Sweet Christmas, stop fucking associating Doom’s powers with the same accident that gives the Fantastic Four theirs.  I’ll delve into this when I give my fixes later, but having Doom get powers like this takes away one of the big things that makes him unique as a supervillain – the fact that he’s the leader of his own country.  He has resources, and diplomatic immunity.  You dare to capture Doom and throw him in jail?  Be prepared to be swarmed by thousands of Doombots – assuming your prison could even HOLD Doom.
  4. It’s so humorless.  I can’t recall laughing even once.  There may have been things meant to be funny, but the dreary settings and the direction made it seem like you weren’t even supposed to.
  5. Sue.  This has been covered by other writers previously, but come ON, “I made the suits”???  Of COURSE the woman made the clothes.  At least in the previous two attempts Sue had an intellect that was nearly a match for Reed and Victor (even if Jessica Alba couldn’t quite demonstrate it/the writers and directors forgot about it for a whole movie).

Okay, I’m stopping at 5 so I’m not here complaining all night.  Obviously this is a deeply flawed movie even without considering the source material (possibly due to Fox’s interference), but I feel like the Fantastic Four can be done right.  The first thing I’d do is NOT make another movie.  Instead, do a TV show.  I’m not sure what the rights are for that, but I feel like a major problem with the latest movie especially is the filmmakers trying to wedge in all of this world-building and character introductions and backstory, and pushing action and fun to the bottom of the list.  A 9-13 episode season (similar to The Expanse or Legends of Tomorrow, even Daredevil or Jessica Jones) gives you time to get to know everybody, while not forgetting about great action set-pieces and humor.

Still, Fox may not be able to do a show, but there’s still a way to make a movie that can do justice to Marvel’s First Family.

  1. Don’t start with Doom.  I know he’s their most iconic villain.  Heck, he’s Marvel’s best villain at this point, and he just starred in their HUGE comic reboot.  But doing what’s been done before, having him be there and know them and be empowered by the same incident just doesn’t work.  Instead, have him working behind the scenes.  He’s in Latveria, he’s gathering power to himself – which INCLUDES SORCERY – but he hears about the accident that empowers our heroes.  Doom has worked his whole life to build what he has, sacrificed much…and these four just get power thrust on them.  Finding out it’s Reed would just amplify the resentment.  HOWEVER, in that first movie, Doom does nothing but watch.  He should be behind the scenes, biding his time, learning what he can about the Four and formulating plans.  Not quite Thanos, but the idea that he’s just out of sight playing puppetmaster should build tension for the sequels.
  2. Go Cosmic.  So far Marvel’s own Guardians of the Galaxy is the only comic book movie to successfully go into space and get really weird (hi, Green Lantern!).  There’s an opening here, and Fox should take it.  Blastaar, Annihilus and the Negative Zone?  Sure!  Mole Man?  Let’s do it.  Psycho-Man and the microverse?  Hey, that gets us Sue as Malice, there’s some strife for you!  The Skrulls, for crying out loud, there’s a lot of wacky stuff you can put out there.
  3. It’s a family.  I can see this is hard to pull off, but the attempt needs to be made.  It’s husband and wife, brother and sister, the childhood best friend.  It’s a subtly different dynamic than your standard super-team with interchangeable parts and the writing should reflect that.  It’s something that bugs me in the comics currently.  They just love to split the Four apart, but I know eventually they’ll be back.  It’s another thing that can separate the Fantastic Four from other comic book films.
  4. Gadgets!  Reed’s stretchiness may be fun, but his true power is his mind, and the best way to show that is with his inventions.  This latest movie never got past the teleporter thing, but there needs to be more than that.
  5. Galactus.  Not.  One.  Cloud.  The world is ready for the real Hunger That Does Not Cease.

Above all, whoever gets the next crack at the Fantastic Four needs to remember that this is supposed to be FUN.  They EXPLORE the unknown.  They have cool powers.  They fight monsters and forces of cosmic undoing.  And they love each other.  Show me that, and I’ll be a happy fan.

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Movies Review

Lightning Movie Reviews – Ant-Man, Ultron, Minions

I have some catching up to do, so you get some quick thoughts on some recent flicks.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – The first movie was so successful, so it would’ve been difficult to meet expectations here. Ultron definitely was a half-step down but still had some great action and humor. Ultron himself could’ve used a bit more menace – something Spader would’ve been capable of, and in the end Ultron comes off a bit odd. I loved the Vision though, and for all the worry about Quicksilver and the comparison to the X-Men movie version, he and Wanda were great in their limited role. Special shout-out to Hawkeye who filled the ‘heart of the team’ role admirably, and was probably the funniest of the Avengers.

Ant-Man – Okay, I really enjoyed Ant-Man. Thought of as the riskiest project in the MCU after Guardians of the Galaxy, especially with all the turmoil surrounding Edgar Wright’s departure. It didn’t catch fire like Guardians but has performed solidly, tracking to match or exceed Captain America: The First Avenger. The visuals were a ton of fun and seemed to keep some of the Edgar Wright weirdness around. I wish Hope could’ve been Wasp here but I’ll deal as long as they get her in for future MCU movies. I also hope we get to see more Hank Pym – I’d love to see Michael Douglas as Hank going toe to toe with Tony Stark.

Minions – Minions is the classic example of something that is funny in small bursts but drags when expanded out to feature-length. Like how Pinky and the Brain were funny on Animaniacs but significantly less so with their own 30 minute show. There were a few chuckles and it certainly wasn’t so bad as to be painful, but it’s telling that the biggest smile for me came from when (spoiler alert) young Gru appeared at the end. Catch it when it’s on FX or whatever.