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Comics Movies

Rest in Peace, Stan Lee

I think most of us know that Stan Lee’s legacy at Marvel for comics is fraught.  Who truly created what, who deserves credit.  That’s covered elsewhere, like the obituary/profile linked above.  I’d like to talk about Stan’s place in my life, as a budding geek who wasn’t sure of his place in the world.

Millenials, for the most part, only know Stan Lee as the kindly Grandpa who pops up in the movies to chew a bit of scenery.  For those of us around in the early 80s through the 90s, Stan was EVERYWHERE that Marvel characters were.  Stan Lee moved to California to hustle them into TV and movies, and he gave it his whole heart.  Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends?  Stan Lee opened every episode.  The Incredible Hulk?  He’s there too.  Every entertainment TV show, late night, daytime, game show, he was always putting Marvel out there.  The consummate showman.

Stan Lee always wore his heart on his sleeve, and his enthusiasm for comics as an art form was infectious.  You knew he was selling you, but he was so darn earnest about it you couldn’t help but grin along.  It helped that he seemed like a genuine good person, trying his best to push, in his own way, for civil rights and equality.  The world would be better than it is now if more people had gotten his message.  Excelsior, Stan.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Venom

I actually saw Venom not long after it came out, and I’m a bit amused at how well it’s done.  It is a deeply weird movie. At times feels like half of it is missing.  Why does the symbiote decide to “help” Eddie Brock save the Earth?  It must not matter, because they don’t tell us!

One thing I have trouble getting past is having Venom with no connection to Spider-Man.  I get that Sony wants desperately to have a whole movie franchise, but this still feels like the wrong play.  But here we are, so is it any good?  NO!  That doesn’t mean there’s not fun to be had.  Tom Hardy has a sort of goofy charm as Eddie Brock when he’s not mumbling his lines.  Riz Ahmed is obviously having fun as the over-the-top Elon Muskish villain.  Michelle Williams has the thankless task of love interest/lawyer Anne Weying, who dumps Eddie after he steals info from her on the villainous Carlton Drake.

Eddddieeeeeeeee

The strangest character in the movie is, of course, the Venom symbiote.  Not because he’s a terrible man-eating monster (as seen on the right), but because he’s kind of a wise-cracking partner for Eddie.  The folks that listed Venom as a buddy cop movie weren’t far off.  It’s almost funny enough that you’d forget that the only way Venom doesn’t kill Eddie’s body is if Brock lets him eat people once in a while!

Look, I wasn’t expecting high art, and I was entertained.  I laughed a lot, but only half of it was probably supposed to be funny.  I *CANNOT* wait for Rifftrax to get a hold of this.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Black Panther

Just when you think Marvel’s formula is getting stale, they shatter your expectations.  Their last movie was a family drama-buddy-action-comedy, Thor: Ragnarok.  There were a few truly serious moments when you stopped to think, but you didn’t have long as you’d be laughing your ass off 30 seconds later.  It’s a big contrast to Black Panther.  Not to spoil too much, at it’s core Black Panther is also filled with family drama, but also powerful political statements.  From the drop this movie has something to say to you about the inequality that drives our modern world.

Sympathetic Villainy

Note:  from here on out, there are spoilers.

The first time we meet Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, we don’t even realize it.  He’s being told the story of Wakanda’s origin by his father, N’Jobu.  N’Jobu is undercover in Oakland, but is disturbed by what he sees happening to people of African descent across the country and world.  N’Jobu assists Ulysses Klaue (last seen in Age of Ultron) in stealing some vibranium, in order to arm oppressed African.  It’s a stark contrast to Wakanda’s isolationist ways, and brings him into conflict with T’Chaka, his brother.  T’Chaka is forced to kill N’Jobu.  Erik is left behind, and the seeds for his rage are sown.  It’s not hard to feel something for Killmonger when you see the tragedy.  Especially later in the film where you get the full picture of just what happened.

Black Panther(s)

I thought Black Panther did a great job of balancing the mystical aspects of the Black Panther mythos with the high-tech.  This far into the MCU, you don’t need to explain the mystical, it can just exist.  We’ve met gods (small G, son) and sorcerers.  It’s okay for T’Challa to go on a spiritual journey and see his ancestors.  It was a fantastic way to keep John Kani’s T’Chaka relevant for one more movie.

Killer Cast

One of Marvel’s biggest advantages has been their casting.  Black Panther might be the best example of this.  We already knew Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, as well as Martin Freeman as Everett Ross and Andy Serkis as Klaue.  Add to that the delightful Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, it’s amazing.  Michael B. Jordan OWNS the Killmonger role, to the point where it’s difficult to look away when he’s on screen.

If you missed Black Panther in theaters (it’s still in many of the larger ones, at least as of now), you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Especially if you haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War yet.  The digital copy unlocks May 8th.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

*some spoilers, but seriously I’m like the last person to see this*

I really loved Spider-Man: Homecoming, though I can see why there were a few people who didn’t.  It’s not what you expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not exactly.  Sure, it’s a superhero story, there’s Iron Man flying around, supervillains with crazy weapons, the usual.  But it is counter-balanced by teen drama (and comedy) which is a bit of a shift compared to the rest of the MCU.  I thought it was a solid balance, and very entertaining, even if it won’t supplant my top MCU movies (which are, in no particular order, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Winter Soldier, and Civil War).

The other thing which bothers a certain subset of fans is changes from the source.  Whether it’s Ned basically being Ganke, or hot Aunt May, or “MJ”, they’ll find something to complain about.  I’ve said it before, an adaptation HAS TO change things to be interesting.  Sure, there’s a balancing act where if you go too far, you don’t recognize how one connects to the other but we’re nowhere near that line here.  Peter still got bit by a radioactive spider, he lost Uncle Ben, he’s got the ol’ Parker luck.  The words may not have been said directly in this or Civil War but Peter is absolutely living by “With Great Power comes Great Responsibility”.  Tony Stark was quite different from RDJr, but it worked out for everyone.  Peter Quill didn’t stand out at all until they ported in James Gunn’s version to the comics.

Okay, to the rest of the movie.  I loved Michael Keaton as Toomes/The Vulture.  I found myself both feeling sorry for him (seriously, Tony Stark fucks up EVERYTHING), and recoiling from a legitimately scary villain.  The scene when Peter goes to pick Liz up for the prom, and the car ride was tense.  I can hear Zendaya’s MJ calling Parker ‘Tiger’, easily.  I love Marisa Tomei, and you can’t help but laugh at the mom jeans and ugly glasses they try to use to make her seem old and unattractive.  Laura Harrier, Jacob Batalon, and the other “kids” did a solid job as well.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is great if you like your MCU mixed up with a coming-of-age tale.  There’s superheroics, teen angst, marriage proposals, and goofy public service announcements.  And Peter, maybe learn to lock your door.

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Comics Movies Review

Movie Review – Wonder Woman

We saw an early screening, and I’m happy to report director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is everything DC should be doing in all of their movies.  It’s epic in scope, as befitting one of DC’s trinity of heroes.  It’s does something interesting with Diana’s origin, managing to homage both her classic origin and the more recent takes.  It has a great deal of heart, something DC’s other EU movies have so far lacked.  It’s genuinely funny, and not in the “this is a joke, please laugh” way that Bruce delivers that “I’m rich” line in the Justice League trailer.  Gal Gadot embodies Diana admirably, whether it’s handling her business on the battlefield or delighting in her first experience with snow.

The cast of characters surrounding Diana are great, with Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen leading the way on Themyscira.  Chris Pine’s is sneaky good as Steve Trevor, a man capable of being rescued and upstaged by a powerful woman.  The baby-men still railing against all-women showings of the movie could learn something from him.  Their romance never feels forced.  I wish we had more of Etta Candy as Lucy Davis’s reaction faces are great.  I was also surprised with how well Wonder Woman handled the particular horrors of World War 1 – since it wasn’t the focus of the movie it would’ve been easy to gloss over what trench warfare was doing to people, but they didn’t.

Any downsides are fairly minor.  The villain is a bit undercooked, taking a page from Marvel’s book, once you get past the surprise reveal regarding him.  The last third of the movie is a bit of a tone-shift from the first two thirds, but you just know they had to have a big battle scene to end things on.  The slow-motion, 300-esque bits with Diana fighting was overused but I’ll allow it.

Wonder Woman was the first DC movie since The Dark Knight where I found myself leaning in, hanging on the action and the character building bits.  Take your kids (not just your daughters) and enjoy the ride.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

I saw the Scott Derrickson-directed Doctor Strange over the weekend, and enjoyed it a lot.  It’s not going to unseat any of my favorite MCU movies (currently Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Guardians and Civil War) but it was a fun if familiar tale.  I’ll get all the non-spoiler notes out of the way first:  the effects are as amazing as advertised, and I can’t wait to go back and see it in 3D.  The cast (for all the difficulties with casting a movie from a source so steeped in racial stereotypes) are great as a Marvel movie’s cast usually is, with Benedict Cumberbatch filling Strange’s robes admirably as the arrogant surgeon/distracted driving consequences example.  I really liked Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, he’s got such a great delivery of his lines.  It’s no surprise why he got to say most of the artifact names.

The visuals are simply jaw-dropping.  For those who scoffed at the early clips and trailers that mostly showed the city bending as “psh, Inception” that barely scratches the surface.  Basically take the visuals of the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man, add a bunch of psychedelic color, and jam the accelerator to the floor.  So cool.

<spoilers from here on out>

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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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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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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.

Categories
Comics Life

The “For Boys” Problem

MattieCapSweatshirt
My girls!

This is my daughter, Mattie (and the back of my other daughter, Eva).  The girls have taken on my love of comics, mostly due to the show Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  M is wearing her new Captain America hoodie which may be her new favorite possession.  Upon seeing it in the store, Eva squealed “Daddy, do they have a THOR ONE???” but a quick check of the racks showed that they did not.  Hey, his last movie came out a while back.  So I did a search for ‘Thor hooded sweatshirt’, and the first link went to the Disney store.  As soon as the link loaded though, I rolled my eyes.  “Thor Costume Hoodie for Boys” it says.  The thing is, for a kid that is under say, 10, hoodies are all pretty much the same.  I had no problem buying that out of the ‘boys’ section, but a lot of people would avoid that.  Online, it shouldn’t even BE a problem.  Just tag it for both and drop the “for boys” out of the name.

It didn’t get any better when I scrolled to the bottom of the page.  Six more related items, all hoodies for Marvel heroes (and R2D2), all “for boys”.  The Thor character page for girls is desolate, with a Mr. Potato Head toy, a set of figurines, and Disney Infinity 2.0.  Last I checked, glasses, wall clings and books work the same for either gender.

BoysHoodies

I find the lack of Thor stuff for girls particularly funny right now, as Thor in the comics is going to BE a woman in just a few weeks.  Cosplayers of both genders have been dressing as Thor forever.  Women and girls go to comic book movies, they work in comic book stores, they read comics.  Why don’t the companies making this stuff get that?  There are sources for stuff at some of the more niche sites on the web, but most folks aren’t going to WeLoveFine or SuperheroStuff.  The girls who want to wear this now are the ones who will pick up a Spider-Man comic on a whim when they get to be teens, and will be filling Tumblr (or whatever fills that role in 10 years) with GIFs of whoever the next Hugh Jackman, Chris Evans or ScarJo is.

I hope this gets better.  DC and Marvel both have some really great books starring female heroes they could get more gear out there for, but sometimes your daughter just ends up loving Captain America, despite how many times you read Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel around them.  Let’s support it, okay?

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy

I saw an early screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Thursday night, and let me tell you, I had a blast!  I may have only read the actual Guardians comic that was the biggest influence on this after the movie was announced, but I’ve quickly fallen in love with these a-holes.  Of course, I did know of Drax and Gamora from my reading of the Silver Surfer back in the day.  And Thanos and Ronan.

But the movie!  As you could tell from the way it was promoted, this is a whole new animal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  There’s no super-soldier, or technical genius inventing powered suits or serums.  Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill, an Earth kid (well…) abducted by aliens called the Ravagers, thieves and smugglers led by Yondu Udonta.  Quill has only what he was carrying with him, which includes the Walkman and the ‘Awesome Mix Vol. 1’ we’ve heard in the trailers and clips.  He’s stealing a mysterious orb – and getting away from the Ravagers at the same time.  He thoroughly establishes that he’s a goofy man-child (the dancing!  wait for the GIFs).

skip this next section for the biggest spoilers

This puts him on the path to meet the rest of the Guardians – who either want the orb, or to turn him in for a bounty.  That leads to the prison scenes (the Kyln!) you see featured in the trailers.  That orb contains another of the Infinity Stones (we’ve seen the Tesseract and the Aether so far), and Ronan the Accuser, renegade Kree, will not stop until he gets it.  Ronan, played by the Piemaker Lee Pace, is over the top evil.  He gets a bit more to do than Chris Eccleston did in Thor: The Dark World, but not by much.  He’s got a deal in place with THANOS to deliver the orb, assisted by Nebula and Gamora.  Once he realizes the orb has an Infinity Stone inside, well why does he need THANOS anyway?  He can destroy the Nova Corps home planet of Xandar all by himself!  Nebula is okay with this, which goes to show how little you can trust minions that you kidnap, experiment on, and abuse.

This leads Quill and the other misfits to loosely ally – Rocket, with Groot tagging along, to make sure his bounty stays alive, Gamora to make sure the orb stays away from THANOS and Ronan, and Drax who just wants to kill Ronan.  They bond, guys, and it’s great.

end major spoilers

I feel like I could try and explain what I loved about the movie for hours but it wouldn’t do it justice.  Yes, there are changes from the comics.  That happens any time you adapt to the big screen, especially the MCU which is getting well established all on it’s own.  The core of the Guardians are there, especially from Rocket and Groot.  You might find yourself tearing up just a bit as a talking raccoon laments being tortured and experimented on.  I AM GROOT will mean something.  You will laugh, more than you’ve laughed at any MCU movie.  My kids want a tiny Groot all their own.  The music, it’s just as great in the movie as it is in the trailers.  There are things that bug me, but seriously, there’s so much right here.  We see and hear THANOS – yeah, I’m gonna keep capitalizing that – we go to Knowhere, the cameos are there.  Now I just need to see the after-credits scene.  To Friday!

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Movies Review

Movie Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past

The X-Men movie franchise has had it’s ups and downs.  The first two movies were very good despite the myriad changes and tweaks to the characters, while X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were on the rough side.  First Class was good, but went a long way towards making the continuity issues worse (How much older is Havok than Cyclops?  Are they even related? Xavier knew Mystique as a child?).  The Wolverine went a little sideways for the ending but I freaking love Yukio.  A lot of eyebrows were raised when the next team movie was announced as Days of Future Past, with a cast of thousands.  I only exaggerate a little there.  DoFP (see my review of the comic) is a time travel story that covers both the younger First Class version of our favorite mutants, and the dystopic future that needs to be stopped.  I was very curious to see if a time travel story could be pulled off, and am happy to report that Singer and company probably did the best you could expect.

First things first – if you read the comics, you know that Kitty Pryde is supposed to be the one that goes back in time.  Unfortunately, they change that to Wolverine (who else?) mostly so they can keep both casts involved.  I really liked Kitty in those issues of the comics, and love Ellen Page, so it’s hard to see her basically stuck holding onto Wolverine’s brain for 2 hours instead of kicking ass herself.  We do get Storm and Blink with the future mutants, and with Blink in particular, I hope we see more of her.

The story hits the major comic beats as much as possible.  Mystique’s killing of Bolivar Trask (played ably by Peter Dinklage) sets their terrible future in motion, and Wolverine has to stop her.  We meet Quicksilver, who turned out to be a ton of fun.  Uneasy alliances form, and are crushed.

I had a lot of fun in the movie, but there were a couple of oddities.  They explain Wolverine having to be the one sent back that far with his healing factor, that only his mind could handle it.  The serum that Beast and Xavier use is stupid.  Something that can suppress mutant powers?  Why would beast be surprised at the ‘cure’ when he was halfway to making one decades before?  And young Xavier being able to walk while using it is almost as bad as the 90s cartoon, which also had his legs working while his powers were suppressed in the Savage Land.  The framing of Mystique’s arc as the choice between two men was a head-scratcher.

Despite all of that, you can tell Singer was here instead of Ratner – he manages to get some real emotional moments from these characters.  The big reveals after they win are great, and the setup is there for Apocalypse to take the stage.  Definitely worth a watch, though fans of Kitty may have a tough time with it.