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Review TV

Pilot Season – The Gifted

The Gifted is a new X-Men-adjacent show on Fox, which I will explain momentarily, and it’s pretty awesome.  It’s almost too bad for Marvel that The Inhumans release around the same time, because it’s not even a contest as to which is better.

“Adjacent”

The first question with most comic book adaptations nowadays is what does it connect to.  The short answer so far for The Gifted is, nothing really.  It exists in an alternate universe where “something” has happened that has caused both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to disappear.  The rest of the mutants are just trying to stay alive, with the government actively hunting down any mutant that uses their powers and “threatens public safety”.  More than any property since X-Men: The Animated Series, they truly show a world where mutants are hated and feared.

The Story

The Gifted follows Reed and Kate Strucker, and their mutant children Andy and Lauren.  After an event that outs Andy and Lauren as mutants (Lauren knew and had been hiding her abilities), the family has to go on the run.  A major complicating factor is the fact that Reed is a prosecutor that focuses on mutant cases.  That doesn’t exactly make him a trusted figure in the mutant community.

What Works

They have a great set of actors, save maybe for the young man playing Andy (Percy Hynes White).  However, he’s got time to grow into the role.  Stephen Moyer (late of True Blood) and Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) are very good as the parents, expertly showing the stress and conflict of people who had been comfortable in a life, now thrust into something very different.  The mutants are solid so far, with a mix of new characters for the show and familiar faces from the comics.  This includes Emma Dumont as Lorna Dane/Polaris, Jamie Chung as Clarice Ferguson/Blink, and Blair Redford as John Proudstar/Thunderbird.

What Doesn’t

Like I said, not sold on Andy but there’s time to grow.  Lorna’s story leans heavily on prison cliches but I’m still interested to see what happens.

Where We Go From Here

The next episode has already aired, and continues the solid presentation of this version of the X-Men universe.  They’ve nailed ‘hated and feared’ much better than the movies, and The Gifted should continue being more accessible than Legion.  I’m all in.

Categories
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).

Categories
Comics Review

What’s New on Marvel Unlimited – May 11, 2016

Every week, Marvel adds new comics to their Marvel Unlimited service.  Sometimes it’s new stuff – most series they publish get issues added about 6 months after they are released in shops – and others it’s older comics.  But there’s always something interesting and I will point them out weekly.

First thing to check out is All-New Wolverine #1, starring Laura Kinney.  She’s rumored to be appearing soon in the movies, and she’s now got the Wolverine name all to herself.  This is a great set-up if you aren’t 100% up to speed on what’s up with Laura (formerly X-23), and involves a team-up with Angel.  Tom Taylor writes, with David Lopez and David Navarrot covering the art.  Nathan Fairbain (colors) and Corey Petit (letters) round out the team.

The Vision #1 is the next stop, and seriously, if you haven’t read my previous reviews, check yourself and read it.  Don’t wait.  Or just buy the trade already.

Other titles of note:

  • This appears to go back for a while, but Marvel is adding a ton of X-Men issues to Marvel Unlimited, mostly from their heyday in the 90s.  Lee, Kubert, Nicieza, that era.
  • All-New, All-Different Avengers #1
  • Carnage #1
  • Darth Vader #12, Chewbacca #3 – go back and read the rest if you haven’t.
Categories
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.

Categories
Comics Review

Classic Comics – X-Men: Days of Future Past

I’ve been on a comics kick of late, as well as a nostalgia high from Comics Alliance’s X-Men animated series recaps, so checking out some classic X-Men storylines seemed like a no-brainer.  Especially when I saw Comixology having a sale on several collections.  I bought the X-Men: Days of Future Past book as prepwork for the movie coming out this summer.

The first thing you notice is that most of what you get in that collection is NOT ‘Days of Future Past’, though the other issues ARE useful.  Nowadays, comics are collected into trade paperbacks like clockwork, and each one usually contains a storyline of 5 or 6 issues.  DoFP was only 2 issues.  The first issue is actually an epilogue for the Jean’s ‘death’ and Scott leaving after the Phoenix saga, and serves as a recap of X-Men history.  The next few issues introduce Kitty Pryde (a pivotal X-book character from here on out) and explore Wolverine’s history with Alpha Flight.  Also, he tangles with the Wendigo.

StormOldOutfitFinally, you get to the actual Days of Future Past story.  It begins in the deep dark future of mankind…2013.  Most super-powered people in North America are dead, the few that remain are in hiding or in chains, serving the Sentinels.  A desperate plan is in play by the remaining mutants – break free of the power dampening collars long enough to send Kate Pryde’s mind back into her younger self (who you just met in those previous issues).  She enlists the X-Men to stop Mystique from killing Robert Kelly (senator and Prez candidate) along with Professor X and Moira MacTaggart.

You know the outcome, of course, and it does involve a fun battle against Mystique’s version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  My favorite aspect of the art is how expressive the faces can be – Kitty especially.  Her squinting in concentration, arms behind her back in shyness.  Say what you want about comics of this era, they weren’t afraid to go nuts with costumes and character designs.  I have a soft spot for these looks.  The writing is good for the time, though Claremont and Byrne overuse the constant barrage of thoughts from the characters for exposition in the middle of fights.  I can’t wait to see what it looks like on the big screen.

The last issue in this collection is a Kitty Pryde ‘Home Alone’ story, with a scary monster loose in the mansion, and Kitty wrecking the place while taking it out on her own.  All in all, it was a fun look back into what comic books were like before they went full-on dark and gritty.  Wolverine joking around like an actual team member.  No one glancing twice at Storm’s dominatrix outfit.  Colossus’s, uh, side-abs.  Purple robot overlords.  WEN-DI-GO!!!

Categories
Movies Review

Movie Review – The Wolverine

Adaptation movies are such balancing acts, especially with comic book movies.  Alienate the fans, and the negative backlash on the geek sites will wash you away.  But the superfans alone do not bring in the box office numbers (just look at Joss and Serenity) so you can’t hew too close to the source if it means the movie will suck.  A movie like The Wolverine, which covers some of the bases in a specific Wolvie mini-series (by Frank Miller no less, talk about a signal to the superfans) and you’ve got trouble.

It’s tough to look back now and judge that Claremont/Miller Wolverine storyline.  There’s a ton of love for it, but when reading it now, it seems like pure 80s Japanophile cheese.  It’s high art for a 1982 comic book, but I had to laugh when I read complaints about how the movie was such an over-the-top Japan fanboy wank.  Source material’s got ya beat there, guy.

As for the movie, it’s got the important parts from that storyline, necessarily modified to fit the X-Men movie universe, including the fact that it’s now 30 years past when that was written.  We see Wolverine in WWII, captured by the Japanese in Nagasaki, just as the atomic bomb is being dropped.  He saves the life of a young officer who declines to commit seppuku and moves on.  In the present, we see a haunted Logan living in the wilderness, seeing Jean Grey in his nightmares calling him to her.  He is ready to die, but he can’t.  He tracks down a hunter who shot a bear with a poisoned arrow (as in the comic) that went on a rampage when he is found by Yukio.  Yukio takes him to Japan to pay respects to the man he saved, Yashida, as he is about to die.  Turns out the old man has a proposal – he has developed a process to extract Logan’s mutant healing factor and transfer it.  Logan declines to participate, but he gets caught up in Yashida’s world, most notably when he stops Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from jumping off a cliff.

From there, the movie advances through some eye-roll inducing (but still sort of funny) ‘foreigner in a strange land’ moments with Logan and Mariko as he rescues her from an assassination attempt and flees her grandfather’s funeral.  They bond, but Logan is weakened from some sort of mechanical parasite implanted in him by Viper, a mutant scientist working for Yashida.  It surpresses his healing ability somewhat (I mean, he still gets riddled with bullets and survives) but it levels the playing field for a while.  Mariko is taken, and that leads to the final battle between Wolverine and the Silver Samurai.  Well, more like Adamantium Samurai but that doesn’t sound as good. 

I enjoyed the movie, but then I enjoyed the last Wolverine movie more than most.  There’s a few things I didn’t see coming, and I genuinely liked both of the female leads (for Yukio and Mariko).  I like how they didn’t create a love triangle as in the comic, but there was an understated “Why does he keep running after her when I’m right here?” look Yukio gives Logan a few times.  It felt more realistic to me, especially in the compressed timeframe of the movie.  There are a few eye-roll moments as I mentioned, and the shaky-cam sequence is just as jarring as everyone says.  I get that it’s probably to illustrate just how off Logan is while his healing factor is out of whack, but it was tough to watch.  Thankfully it’s pretty short.  Viper was lame.  Wish there could’ve been a real “Wolverine destroys a ton of ninjas” scene.  Stay until the mid-credits scene, if you are curious about Days of Future Past.

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Featured Review

Rules and Guidelines for Watching Comic Book Movies

Some people just don’t ‘get’ comic book movies.  Critics, or more critical moviegoers at least, analyze the movies as if they are watching Citizen Kane, fretting over characterization and plumbing for deep meaning.  On the other hand, you have the comic book fanboys, who examine every teaser frame by frame, looking for inconsistencies in every facet of a comic book character’s on-screen interpretation.  If they complain about the wrong boots, or you catch them zooming in on Thor’s chest (but not a shirtless scene), or they start a Tumblr complaining about the shade of red on Magneto’s uniform, you’ve found a fanboy.

Neither one has a good time at your typical comic book movie, though.  The ‘critics’ (and I don’t just mean the ones that write for newspapers) are perpetually disappointed that Wolverine speaks in trailer-friendly quips and that his claws and hair are the most recognizable aspects of his character.  The fanboy complains that Wolvie is too tall, the hair isn’t big enough, the claws are the wrong shape, whatever.  The costume is too shiny, the collar is too tall, the cape is too short, he’d never say THAT, she’s WHOSE sister, why did they use THAT logo??

This is not to say that every comic book geek is like this, far from it.  Only the vocal minority that takes to the tubes as soon as the first teasers and trailers and stills and concept art leak out at AICN or wherever.  The at least the high-minded critics have to wait until the movie is able to be reviewed to annoy you.  Anyway, I thought I’d give some tips on movie watching for comic book adaptations, to keep things fun.

  • Changes are OK.  This is probably the biggest hurdle with adaptations, especially of comic books – plot points will change, costumes might be different.  THIS IS GOOD.  I’d hate to see something that is a line by line rehash of something I had read.  It’s a different medium, so of course things will be different.  Embrace it!
  • Temper your expectations.  I think a couple of fantastic comic book movies have unfairly raised expectations for the rest.  Most of these movies are going to land somewhere between Elektra and The Dark Knight on the spectrum of bad/good.  You can hope for better, but if a particular movie falls just short, it’s OK.
  • Do not excuse bad direction or acting.  On the other hand, these movies are attracting big names for stars and directors, so individual performances should be decent.  I’m looking at you, Brett Ratner.  I twitched at just about everything Magneto said in The Last Stand, seemed like Ratner had no feel for the character.  It’s not his script, but, standing on the set, you have to know a line isn’t working.  Or that there’s a scene where saying nothing is better.
  • Enjoy the good parts.  Even if a comic book movie is not the greatest, there might still be parts that are good.  They usually have a little bit of everything, some humor, plenty of action, and if you are lucky, some real emotion.  If one part falls flat, sigh and wait for the next fight scene.  That’s the only way The Phantom Menace is watchable for me, just watching the Jedi fights.

Do you have any other tips?  Disagree? Amazon Link, thanks for the support!

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Featured Review

Movie Review – X-Men: First Class

Went to see this movie Saturday night (had a busy weekend and needed the time), and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Great, not REALLY SUPER great, but one of the better comic book movies.  Lightyears beyond what Brett Ratner could do, that’s for sure.

Now, to reiterate something – I am not a comic fanboy to the extent where I’m going to be upset that the continuity gets messed up, or characters have somewhat arbitrary changes.  Movies have to be different, and there is a balance the filmmakers have to strike between faithfulness to the source material, and making a good movie.  I will be talking about possible spoilers, so read on after the jump.

Early in the movie, we see something very familiar – Erik Lensherr being separated from his parents, the bending of the gate at the concentration camp, the rifle butt to the face.  The difference is we see what happens after.  Sebastian Shaw torments Erik, killing his mother when he can’t move a coin on command (he has no control over the power, only able to activate it when angry).  This is contrasted with a scene from Charles Xavier’s childhood, with him discovering a girl in his mansion stealing food, who turns out to be Raven (Mystique).  Somehow she ends up as a foster sister, which is odd because Xavier is 12 and not exactly in charge of things.

Anyway, we next see Charles and Erik in their early 20s.  Charles graduates from Oxford, and Lensherr is hunting the Nazis from the camp he was at, trying to find Shaw.  Xavier gets recruited to help the CIA do the same thing after an agent (Moira McTaggart) witnesses the Hellfire Club using their mutant powers.

The movie truly begins then, with Xavier and Lensherr recruiting mutants to their team, found by using a crude first draft of Cerebro (reel to reel tape!  line printers!).  Beast was already there (human looking other than his feet), Havok joins out of prison (this bothers the comic fanboys, as in the comics, he’s Scott’s (Cyclops) younger brother), Banshee, Mystique and others are all present.  They wear blue and yellow suits reminiscent of the earlier X-Men costumes.

The X-Men and the Hellfire Club take part in the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Sebastian Shaw trying to start a nuclear war to clear the world of ‘normal’ humans and leaving behind only their kind, the mutants, the ‘Children of the Atom’.  You know what has to happen at the end – Xavier and Lensherr split, the bad guy stopped, and Charles in a wheelchair.

A few of my issues with the movie (still spoilers):  Why does Xavier let Mystique go at the end?  At least try to reason with her.  And honestly the whole ‘Xavier is uncomfortable with Raven’s natural appearance’ thing seemed odd.  Also, Charles must be one HELL of an idealist to live in the 60s and think mutants will ever be accepted.  At this point Moira was still getting shit from her superiors at the CIA for being a woman, at one point one of them saying something along the lines of putting her back in the typing pool.  These people are going to accept Mystique, Beast or Nightcrawler?

I enjoyed the story very much on it’s own, despite the retcons and timeline quirks it brings up.  I highly recommend it.

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Featured Media

Spring and Summer 2011 Movies

The meat of the 2011 movie season is coming up, including the Summer blockbusters, and I thought I’d run them down and see which ones I’m planning to check out.  Note that as a Dad, the list leans towards animated movies as well as comic book movies and summer blockbusters.  I don’t like horror and dumb comedies.  Month by month breakdown:

March

Will see:

Rango– Interesting to see where Johnny Depp can go with this 3D animated/motion-capped role, with original Piratesdirector Gore Verbinski.

Sucker Punch – Zack Snyder and hot chicks, I’m guessing the guys at work will open the movie-going season here.

Maybes: 

Battle:  Los Angeles – Need more data on this one.

April

Will see:

Hop – From the Despicable Mefolks, so I’ll probably see it with my son.  I’d like to see more of a trailer, first, though.  They don’t have the built-up cred that Pixar has with me.

Rio – Another movie with the kids, from the Ice Age guy this time.

Maybes:

Source Code – Interesting premise, but time travel movies are tricky.

May

Will see:

Thor– Now we’re getting somewhere.  The latest in the inter-connected Marvel universe movies is also the one that seems most likely to, well, not fail, but perhaps underperform.  Fitting Norse gods into a fairly ‘real’ world, with a Shakespearean director in Branagh, is a tougher sell than a billionaire playboy with sleek toys.  For me, if you add Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins into the mix, with Chris Hemsworth as the Mighty Thor, and it could surprise the skeptics.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides– While the second and third movies weren’t super, there was some entertainment value.  I’m curious to see more of Captain Jack and Captain Barbossa, and just adding Ian McShane’s voice is a plus.

Kung Fu Panda 2– The original was a heck of a classic kung fu movie story, animated or not.  Might be looking forward to this more than anything.

June

Will see:

X-Men:  First Class – Sigh.  This might get dropped to ‘maybe’, just because I dislike the idea of rebooting something that isn’t that old (same with Spiderman).  The problems in X-Men:  The Last Stand were fixable.  But anyway, I’m a Marvel guy, so I am giving them just a little bit of rope with this one.

The Green Lantern – I’m only passingly familiar with this DC title, as I really only read Batman back when I used to buy comics.  But Ryan Reynolds is pumped, and hey, most comic movies are fun.  Definitely a guy’s night movie.

Cars 2– Ooh boy.  Would probably be a maybe if I didn’t have young children or this wasn’t Pixar.  I enjoy the original well enough, but I don’t think I need more of it.  Pixar has proved me wrong enough times though.

July

Will see:

Transformers:  Dark of the Moon – I like big robots blowing s$!# up.

Captain America:  The First Avenger– I actually liked Chris Evans as Johnny Storm, despite the failings of the Fantastic Four movies, so I think he can handle this.  Toss in Hugo Weaving and Joss Whedon, and it’s up towards the top of my list.

Maybe:

Cowboys and Aliens – Dimly on my radar at this point, but Daniel Craig and an interesting premise.  Requires further investigation.

August

Will see:

Nothing on my radar yet.

Maybes:

Conan the Barbarian – I don’t have any memories of this, save maybe being in the room by my older brothers when they watched it while ‘watching’ me. 

I’ll stop there – don’t see anything yet in September but that is far enough out that it’s subject to change.  By the way, the Smurfs movie looks like an unholy abomination.  I saw an episode of the show the other day, and while it’s not something that’s held up since childhood, I seriously hate the ‘take a “classic” set of characters and put them in the REAL WORLD’ idea here.  Like Yogi Bear, what works as a cartoon (talking bears that have a collar and tie with no shirt) just looks extremely odd as a mix of live-action and 3D animation.

Faithful readers, anything else you are looking forward to?

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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.