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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 – 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

Marvel’s Biggest Missed Opportunity

It’s kind of shocking how quickly the tables have turned on the big two in the comics industry.  Just a few years ago, while DC was languishing under the “New 52”, Marvel was having a creative boom.  Whether it was Matt Fraction and David Aja bringing a fresh take to Hawkeye, their first headlining Muslim hero, or amazing women taking on important roles in their universe (Carol as Captain Marvel, Jane Foster Thor, SQUIRREL GIRL), things seemed to be looking up for the House of Ideas.  It all came to a satisfying crescendo with 2015’s Secret Wars event, which should’ve allowed Marvel to set up their new universe exactly as they saw fit.  Somebody dead that you need alive?  Go for it.  It was a golden opportunity.

So what went wrong?  To me, it comes down to one thing, and that’s the constant stream of events.  Crossover events can be fun, no doubt, but when you are ALWAYS preparing for the next big thing (and there’s 2 or 3 of them every year), you’re not able to do any justice to the stories of the individual characters.  A rebooted universe, renumbered and starting over to boot, should be all about bringing new readers into the fold.  The guy reading Spider-Man for the past 10 years is in, you know?  The grognards might roll their eyes at yet another renumbering, but as long as the book is still there and Spidey is still himself, they’ll stick around.  A new number 1 issue should be a jumping-on point for the MCU fans, or kids, or whoever it is you want to start reading comics.  But with the constant event cycle churning, you never give that new reader a chance to get to know the character before their life and story are interrupted.

Post-Secret Wars, you rolled straight into Avengers: Standoff!, with Spider-Women and Apocalypse Wars disrupting some of the Spider-centric and X-Men books.  That all led into Civil War II, a sequel event nobody asked for, which included some character assassination of Captain Marvel to boot.  But you barely caught your breath before the Spider-books were disrupted by another event, a Clone Conspiracy revival.  The X-Men and Inhumans fought, a bunch of monsters were fought, and then you may have heard about that whole Secret Empire thing.  It’s exhausting just to read all of that.  Imagine you are a new comics fan, how do you reconcile all of that?  If fifteen to twenty books every month have some event banner on ’em, and put the character building on hold for some other story, why would you keep reading?

I stopped reading comics as a teen mostly because of the event cycle.  While Infinity Gauntlet was classic, I got annoyed at having things happening across multiple books that I couldn’t afford to buy (and that was when comic books were only $1-$1.50).  Your choice was either to not know what was going on, or to stop buying.  What brought me back to comics was my friends raving about the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye series, which did it’s own thing and built a deep, interesting story about Clint and Kate.  It was funny, it was experimental, and I fell back in love with comics.  I branched out from there, but always with an eye to comics that had a solid running story of their own (Tom King’s The Vision series for example).  The thing is, whenever I might start to get invested in a more mainline comic, it would get interrupted and I would throw up my hands and decide to trade-wait it, or at least see if the event as a whole that was pre-empting my normal programming was worth it.  Spoiler alert:  most of them haven’t been, so I’ve pretty much stopped buying Marvel comics.  There are still some gems here and there (Black Widow, Ms. Marvel although she’s well and truly embedded in the event cycle now, one or two others) but most I’m content to wait for Marvel Unlimited to go on sale again to catch up.

Marvel’s comic books are in fairly dire straits right now – a gimmick Spider-Man issue was number 1, but beyond that, the top 25 is dominated by DC.  Star Wars comics are helping Marvel from being totally embarrassed in the top 100.  When DC can put both double-shipped Batman comics ahead of every Marvel comic but the aforementioned gimmick Spider-Man, you need to make changes.  Some suggestions:

  1. Pare down the lineup.  Marvel released 94 different comics in March.  There were seven different Avengers or related books if you count Great Lakes Avengers (and I’m not counting the Avengers cartoon tie-in book).  Deadpool (or a Deadpool-adjacent character such as Deadpool the Duck) appears in at least 5 or 6 books.  Doctor Strange was in 3!  If you love a specific character, it’s ridiculous to try and follow them.  Trim it down.
  2. Let the stories develop.  I would put this to Marvel as a challenge – the next time the universe is rebooted (and you know they will), let all the comics go one full calendar year telling their own story.  Let the characters shine and develop a following before smashing them against a planet- or universe-destroying entity.
  3. Retain your talent.  Tom King.  Tim Seeley.  Sam Humphries.  James Tynion IV.  It seemed for a while in 2016 you couldn’t go a week without someone new signing an exclusive deal with DC, many of whom had been creating for both companies.  Tom King and Sam Humphries were huge losses in particular.  Marvel has their own stable of talent, but you can’t keep losing creators without it affecting quality.  The same 6 people can’t write all your books, especially if you are releasing 100 a month.
  4. Count the trades and digital sales.  I know they look at the sales, but they are still mostly concerned with monthly sales at your local shop.  Sorry, but not everyone goes to the local comic shop for individual floppy issues.  Especially since they aren’t particularly collectible in modern times.  I much prefer sturdier trade paperbacks, as I share a lot of my comics with my kids.  I also have quite a few in the digital format from various sources (Comixology/Amazon sales, Humble Bundles, etc.).
  5. Keep the diversity going.  Any media is improved by having other viewpoints, so efforts need to be re-doubled to engage with and retain writers and artists of color, women, and LGBTQ+ creators.

Look, as quickly as things went south for Marvel, they can turn it around.  They’ve got a built in audience thanks to the MCU that would love to engage with them, and they only need the content to be there.  This time next year, the roles could be reverse – or we could have a new golden age where Marvel and DC are both high quality at the same time.  Imagine that!Marvel versus DC

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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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Movies Review

Movie Review – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a tough movie to get my head around.  It’s really two movies, a great Peter Parker movie, and a decent Spider-Man movie.  The personal moments between Peter and Gwen, and Peter and Harry, and Peter and Aunt May are all spot-on.  So much so that it feels like an odd shift when they go back to the heroes and villains side of the movie, with hammy over-the-top accents, weird characterizations (Dr. Kafka for instance), though the action was still great.  There was none of the feared villain overload, as it was really just Electro and the Green Goblin.  The Rhino is a barely-there reference at the end.  Justice is done to Gwen’s comic storyline.  The set-up for future villains is to be expected.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, though the shifts from the emotional bits to the action bits are jarring, thanks to the way the villains are characterized.

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Featured Movies

The Top 10 Superhero Movies Of All Time

I got to thinking about this thanks to a forum post at one of the sites I frequent.  Someone said there hadn’t BEEN ten good ones, which just seemed silly, so I quickly banged out my list.  But there are so many more movies, I know you guys will differ!  So I present to you, the poll for your top 10 Superhero movies:

Top 10 Superhero Movies Of All Time

  • The Dark Knight (18%, 12 Votes)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (15%, 10 Votes)
  • The Avengers (14%, 9 Votes)
  • X-Men: First Class (6%, 4 Votes)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (6%, 4 Votes)
  • The Incredibles (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Iron Man (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Batman Begins (3%, 2 Votes)
  • X-Men (3%, 2 Votes)
  • X2: X-Men United (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Iron Man 2 (3%, 2 Votes)
  • The Crow (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Hellboy (2%, 1 Votes)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Batman (Burton) (2%, 1 Votes)
  • The Watchmen (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Kick-Ass (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Superman (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Mystery Men (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Judge Dredd (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jonah Hex (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spider-Man (Raimi) (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Batman Returns (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spawn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spider-Man 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Hancock (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fantastic Four (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade: Trinity (0%, 0 Votes)
  • The Incredible Hulk (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Thor (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Superman Returns (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Green Lantern (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Superman 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spider-Man 3 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • The Spirit (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 31

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A few notes…this is semi-complete as I left off some of the lesser-known options (and of course ones I didn’t think of).  If you are missing a top choice, let me know and I can add it, but I think I’ve got the ones that will be on most of your lists.  The choices aren’t ranked in the poll, just put your 10 best (use the comments if you want to post a ranking) and I’ll see which moves get the most votes.

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Featured Media Movies Review

Movie Review – The Amazing Spider-Man

Note:  some minor spoilers.

I’m going to shift things up a bit, as the movie has been out for a while.  First, I’d suggest reading this, which compares the Raimi Spider-Man movies with The Amazing Spider-Man.  This covers many of my problems with the movie, though I enjoyed it a bit more than that reviewer.

I’d like to doubly call out the new movie’s score for being terrible.  A good score stays out of the way of what’s happening on screen.  A great score adds depth and dimension.  A terrible score knocks you out of your immersion into the movie, and this one does that at a few different points.  Seriously, Gwen is hiding in a closet from a huge fucking lizard monster, and it sounds like there’s a pianist just hammering away on the keys just a few feet away.  I don’t normally get distracted by the music in a movie but I was rolling my eyes big-time.  Way to ruin a moment.

Speaking of Gwen, Emma Stone is absolutely gorgeous as Gwen Stacy, even though they wedged her firmly in the plot by having her work for Dr. Connors.  How convenient!  Much better love interest than Kirsten Dunst as MJ.

I was also bothered by Dr. Connors – I never felt sorry for him, not really.  He was successful, despite his missing arm, and the (small) references to Peter’s parents hurt the likability too.  Rhys Ifans is a good enough actor, but he just wasn’t given enough to work with to make Connors the tragic figure he needed to be.  You just sort of…shrug.

However, the action scenes with Spider-Man fighting the Lizard are AMAZING (heh).  The action looks like how Spider-Man would fight, using the webshooters in clever ways especially.  I used to think the Raimi movies had decent fights, but these blow them away.  I feel I got my money’s worth just from the combat.

Nitpicky stuff:  The shoes – I didn’t actually think that his shoes were sticking to the walls, any more than regular rubber-soled shoes would.  I’d have to see it again, though.  I liked the tech-based webshooters.  I thought they didn’t establish his love of science quite enough.  Why is Flash Thompson at a ‘Science’ high school if he’s a jock?  Seemed an odd change.  Denis Leary as Captain Stacy was fun.  Martin Sheen makes a good Uncle Ben, but the famous line didn’t make the cut.  I thought Raimi’s Spider-Man dealt with him dying better.  The older Aunt May worked better for me too, more like the comics and cartoons I’m used to.  Sorry Sally Field.

I’ll say the movie was worth it for me just for the action and Gwen, despite the rest of the emotional parts falling flat.  Still needs more humor, though I can see the conflict of putting more in when they are playing things a bit more serious than Raimi did.  Bring back JK Simmons as JJJ and I’m good.

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Featured Media

Where Comic Books Make Us Uncomfortable

By now, you may have heard of DC’s mass reboot of most of their comic books, and some of the expected backlash.  A new spin, though, is the shall we say gratuitous sexyfication of females that occurred along with it.  You can read this response to what’s happened to Starfire from a 7 year-old comic fan, as told to her mom, an author.  Now none of the ‘boobs and skin’ focus in comics is particularly new, or specific to DC, although these recent changes kind of drive it all home.  As an occasional comic reader, I’ve always rolled my eyes at fact that you have to be a designated ‘kid sister’ type character in a comic to NOT have large projectiles jutting out in front of you, held perfectly in place by  – of course! – a skin tight costume.  Looking at them now as a parent, I’m even more uncomfortable.  I am actually much more likely to avoid the books with female characters, as I don’t want my kids to think this is normal.  Male superheroes can be tall, short, skinny, musclebound whatever.  Why are all females scantily clad and buxom?  It’s like the big companies got caught in a loop of declining sales – make it edgier/sexier – slight improvement – go further! – until they reached a point where it was too much.  The uncanny mountains are a bit too in your face.

I don’t know, now I’m rambling.  I know there are good independent artists doing fine work, and probably one or two of the ‘mainstream’ books that would be OK, but these are the characters I grew up with.  I’d like to share Spider-Man with my son {and later, my daughter} without wincing every time someone like the Black Cat slithers onto the page.

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Media

Lanterns, Hornets and Captains of America

Some Twitter discussion sparked by back to back viewing of the Green Lantern and Green Hornet trailers has got me thinking about these movies.  Okay, and other comic book movies forthcoming too.  The question is:  why are fans the way we are?

Think about what happens when the first stills and teasers and trailers appear.  You had one of two reactions.  Regular movie-goers either thought ‘Cool!’ or ‘Lame!’ and moved on.  The rest of us, who grew up with the comics or the shows, immediately started looking for flaws.  They picked HIM?  The color green is ALL WRONG.  That guy can’t act in his native language, why make him speak English?  That uniform is NOTHING like what he wore during <insert favorite story arc> so the choice to use it is STUPID.  They left out <favorite obscure character only you care about>!

The thing is, none of these changes should matter if the movie is good.  I guess the movie industry only has itself to blame, as they set the bar high in the modern era of superhero movies from the start (X-Men, Spider-man).  There’s not much margin for error.  Iron Man was fantastic, but Iron Man 2 probably got more heat than it should’ve, it was still a fun ride.  I liked Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but a few unfortunate choices by the filmmakers is all anybody talked about (Jessica Alba’s hair).  Daredevil is just plain terrible, though, no one denies this.

My point is this:  can’t we just enjoy these movie adaptations for what they are, and not worry over what changed in adapting it?  If the movie is bad, fine, but don’t put two strikes against it because you don’t like this actor, or the stripes on the uniform are off.  Pop in Hellboy, ignore the fact that Liz isn’t supposed to be a love interest for Hellboy, and enjoy.