Monday, August 29, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings


Kubo and the Two Strings is easily one of the best and most visually beautiful animated films I have seen. It is an amazing blend of mostly stop motion animation and some cgi. Laika, the production company behind Kubo, has been steadily building it's resume and skill level at what seems like the almost lost art of stop motion. The first Laika film I saw was Paranorman, a kids supernatural comedy. Their next film, The Boxtrolls was a also a  family friendly fantasy adventure that got a little dark at times, but was mostly light and comedic. I enjoyed it a lot. Their other projects include Coraline and doing the animation for Tim Burton's, The Corpse Bride. With Kubo and the Two Strings, they go much further into the fantasy adventure territory. And while technically a family film, it's rated PG, it gets dark. There are funny moments, but this coming of age tale will pull at your heart strings. I'm trying REALLY hard not to give any spoilers.


Kubo lives with his mother in a cave overlooking the ocean. His mother suffers from memory loss and will occasionally become lucid enough to be her normal self and tell Kubo tales about his father, a Samurai. But mostly she remains catatonic, staring off into the ocean. Kubo does his best to take care of her and makes some money at the nearby village by making origami creature come to life as he tells stories. He is only supposed to be out only during daylight because his grandfather, the Moon King can see everything at night and wants to find Kubo and take his other eye. The Moon King succeeded in taking one of Kubo's eyes when Kubo was a baby, which is why his mother ran away with Kubo and hid in a cave.


The story really begins to kick in when Kubo fails to make it home before nightfall and is met with his aunts, his mother's sisters, who wish to take Kubo to the Moon King. Kubo's only hope is to find three pieces of ancient armor that can defeat the Moon King. His mother sends him on a quest to find the armor with a talking monkey that she brought to life from a charm. Kubo and Monkey are joined by Beetle, a former samurai who served Kubo's father but was cursed to live as a man/beetle monster by Kubo's aunts.


Laika really ups their game with Kubo and the Two Strings. As I stated earlier, it is a visually beautiful and stunning film. You almost want to believe it is all cgi, but the stop motion characters are that well done. If not for the movie posters you might even forget the star voice cast which includes Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, and Ralph Finnes.  Kubo at the very least should receive a Best Animated Feature nomination at this year's Academy Awards and I think it should win. Not only is the animation incredible, but the character designs are amazing. You should really go see this film. I can't wait to see what Liaka produces next.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Is MARVEL pandering?


pander (pan·der)
verb
To do or provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good, or reasonable. (Merriam-Webster)

Is Marvel Comics, or MARVEL in general, pandering to the masses? I'm only asking because I recently saw some comments online claiming that Marvel is pandering by introducing new characters that are more diverse. Specifically the comments were in reference to the character of Ironheart taking over Iron Man's duties in the Invincible Iron Man comic. In case you were not aware, Ironheart is a female African American teen who is a genius that got into M.I.T at age fifteen and built her own Iron Man suit. But the pander label was also in reference to several other characters taking on the names and roles of iconic, longstanding Marvel characters. 


Thor is now a woman, Jane Foster. (unless of course Thor is a dude again. These things are hard to follow sometimes.)


There is/has been a new Spider-Man, Miles Morales. He was in a different universe where Peter Parker died but is not in the main Marvel universe. It's comics. Things get complicated.


Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) briefly took on the role of Captain America. Cap is also an African American Woman in the Spider-Gwen series. Yes, more alt-universe stuff.



Kamala Khan is Ms. Marvel. The original Ms. Marvel is now Captain Marvel.


Oh and the new Iron Man/Ironheart, meet Riri Williams.


This "pandering" may also be in reference to actors of more ethnic origins taking on the roles of traditionally white Marvel characters in Marvel movies like Idris Elba as Heimdall in the Thor films and now Zendaya portraying Peter Parker's girlfriend, Mary-Jane Watson.

But is this pandering? Marvel is trying to appeal to a more diverse audience. And it is working. But are these changes "not proper, good, or reasonable?" A better question would be, REALLY? This is an actual question people are asking? These are fictional characters. Comic book fictional characters where even if someone dies (especially the popular/iconic ones) they will not stay dead. And why not put a spin on a characters race and/or gender. It's like James Bond. Every actor brought something to that role and different charters bring different styles and points of view to the heroes they become. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And lets be honest, something like making Thor a woman isn't as dumb as making the original Captain America an agent of Hydra. Because that just happened recently. (Not that Jane Foster becoming Thor was dumb... You know what I mean.)

But probably the most important reason for making these characters more diverse is because it is in the very spirit of the United States. We are supposed to be able to aspire to anything. To dream big. And it is way easier to dream when you can see people that look like you being great and doing great things. It means a lot when you can point to a character like Captain America and tell a kid of any race or gender, "You can be Cap." And when you can go and read literally decades of comics that feature the characters you know and love, why is giving someone “different” a shot at an iconic role such a big deal? I thought all that mattered was if the story was good.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trek should be on TV

OPINION
 
We are getting closer and closer to the airing of the new Star Trek series, Discovery. It is an exciting thing for Trek lovers and sci-fi enthusiasts. Trek has not been on TV for a while now. But as much as I love Star Trek, I'm not sure I'll be tuning in because I don't see the point. After the premier episode, I'll have to subscribe to CBS's streaming service to catch the rest. Netflix will also be getting Star Trek: Discovery, but only for international streaming. Not that I am a Netflix subscriber. I suppose this is all well and good in the modern era of streaming series and movies, but it is a major departure from how people grew up with Star Trek. You used to be able to watch it for free over the air. Okay, some people caught the various series when they were rerun on various cable stations.

So my main concern, well more like personal feeling, is that Star Trek has always been  something for the general public, especially with it's message of inclusiveness and hope. It has always been a beacon of diversity on television that was easy to access for people with and without the money to afford cable. But CBS is asking fans for more. To pay for the privilege of watching something they have always been able to get for free. It makes sense from a business standpoint. There is a loyal fan base who will pay for the privilege. And having Star Trek as an anchor for a streaming service is good business too. But it is not in the spirit of Star Trek in my opinion. Star Trek has always shown a hopeful and diverse future for humanity that you didn't have to pay for monthly. It had it's moments of dark and edgy, but the core of the series is was always hope. It might make good business sense to charge for Star Trek. After all, the property does belong to a company that needs to make money to survive. But it is the right thing to to. The new ways of delivering entertainment are great. But delivering a vision of the future never needed a paid subscription. With all the other content CBS has, does Star Trek really need to be online only?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Suicide Squad

This review will contain some SPOILERS so keep that in mind as you read.

I was worried about all the negative press Suicide Squad has been getting but honestly, I like the film. It is by no means perfect. You don't have to be a film expert to notice how edited this movie is. But as choppy as it is I liked it more then Batman V Superman. Not to say that I didn't like Batman V Superman, but that film suffered from maybe getting overly complex with the story. Suicide Squad is a pretty straight forward villain is making something to destroy the world kind of thing. Not really all that original, but you come to this film for the cast performances. And the cast brings it.

Suicide Squad is based on the DC comic series of the same name. In the comics, a rotating roster of villains is forced together to go on covert suicide missions for the government. If they fail then they are left with the blame. Or they die. It's also refuse to follow orders and they die, as seen in the trailer. So lets get to the squad.

Deadshot (Will Smith)
Deadshot is a master assassin who is an unnaturally talented sniper and skilled with guns in general. It still looks like Will Smith playing Deadshot, but he was still pretty good.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)
Harleen Quinzell was a psychiatrist who became obsessed with and fell in love with the Joker.

Other than having some for of "condition" nothing is stated how Waylon Jones had crocodile features. But people treated him like a monster so he decided to become one.

Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney)
An Australian thief and killer who is good with boomerangs, Digger Harkness is also a bit crazy and unpredictable.

El Diablo (Jay Hernandez)
One of the most powerful members of the squad, Chato Santana was born with the power to make fire. And when he gets mad he can loose control. 

The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)
Dr. June Moone is an archeologist who had the misfortune to discover an ancient and extremely powerful witch imprisoned in an idol. The Enchantress now possesses Dr. Moone.

Slipknot (Adam Beach)
A specialist with ropes, knots, and climbing, Christopher Weiss unfortunately doesn't last long in the film. I'll get to that later.

Katana (Karen Fukuhara)
Tatsu Yamashiro, a government operative, is an expert swordsman who wields Soultaker, a blade that traps the souls of its victims. She is not

Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman)
One of the best Special Operations officers in the U.S. military, Flagg is tasked as the squad's handler and commander.

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis)
Waller may as well be a villain because she is scary and borderline evil. She is a government agent will do almost literally anything to protect the United States such as gather a group a villains and use them to covertly fight evil under the threat of death.

The Joker (Jared Leto)
The Joker is the Joker. Though we don't get a whole lot of time with this incarnation. And not a member of the squad. The Joker fill more of a subplot in the film. You get some Joker to fill in Harley Quinn's backstory.

So as choppy as the movie is, I thought it was great. It is a lot of fun in spite of the editing. You can feel how much they tried to get the film to match the first two trailers. But by far what makes the film suffer most is the Enchantress/Flagg romantic subplot. Waller, being the evil manipulator that she is, arranged to have Flagg and Dr. Moone/Enchantress work together, setting up a romance to develop and it works. This gives Waller leverage on Flagg, essentially forcing him to stay under her command and to be the handler/leader of the team. I really don't think this subplot was necessary. It could have been just as easy to keep the Enchantress as the big bad and give Flagg some emotional layers in other ways. Ditching the romance would have also given more time to develop the characters of the other squad members. Granted, each of the Suicide Squad members have very unique personalities and traits that shine. They didn't need much development for you to know what they are about. But a little more screen time would have been nice. Especially for Slipknot who ended up being a throwaway character used to help the story along. It's a shame because like the others, he has a unique look. You just don't really get a chance to get to know much about him before he gets killed off. Oh, The Enchantress ended up being the big villain of the film. You might have gotten that from the trailers.

Which kind of brings me to my other minor beef with Suicide Squad. Why did all the brown guys have to die? We don't get much in Slipknot's heritage, or background but the actor who played him is Native American. Then El Diablo... Talk about layered. He is a former LA gang banger whose fiery powers come, as he describes it, from the devil. He tells the team that he always had the powers and became stronger every time he used them. Then after a accidentally wiping out his family, he resigns himself to being locked up and never using his power again. We also get to see El Diablo at full power later, turning into an Aztec or Mayan fire demon. Then he dies. He would have been one hell of an interesting character to keep around and build up.

And it's not beef or a problem, more like a minor disappointment. Jared Leto doesn't get much time to shine as the Joker. You get how this Joker is crazy and he is creepier then previous incarnations, to me anyway. But we didn't get any funny out of him.

Anyway, some good things. I appreciated the references to Harley Quinn's origin in the animated series such as the brief appearance of the original costume and the Mr. J and Puddin references. The future Justice League member cameos were pretty good to. Stay for a mid credits scene in case you have yet to see the film. Also, Amanda Waller. This is a film loaded with evil and villains, but Waller is the scariest person on screen. Viola Davis sells the dangerous. There are moments that want to make you say "DUDE." Which brings me back to the main reason to see this film, the characters. Hopefully the next film will be a little more even, but I can't stress how much I liked this movie even with all it's flaws.




Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Angel Jackets Comic Con Costume Collection


In a first for this blog, I'm reviewing a clothing collection. No really. But these jackets are not just your normal nerd gear. (or geek gear if you prefer) Angel Jackets has put together a collection of it's film and comic themed/cosplay jackets just in time for this weeks Comic-Con in San Diego. Fortunately you don't need to go to Comic-Con or any other con to get your hands on these.Want the jacket that Poe gave to Fin in the Force Awakens? You're covered.


You have to have Harley Quinn's jacket from the soon to be released Suicide Squad film? They have that one too.


The Comic Con Collection also includes jackets from and inspired by The Avengers, Deadpool, Doctor Who, Arrow, The Flash, The Dark Knight films, and Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice, just to name a few. Some in the collection are cosplay worthy but they also function well for every day wear. These jackets are designed to look like (or very close to) their onscreen counterparts. Other jackets in the collection are themed after your favorite characters. While this collection was made to honor SDCC, you can browse the rest of the Angel Jackets site for more properties and themes.

Ghostbusters


I'm just going to get right to it. I like the new Ghostbusters film. It was entertaining and funny. It was not the most awesome movie I have ever seen, but I enjoyed it and I will buy it once it goes to blu-ray. So lets get to the cast because that is what everyone (well not everyone) was concerned about. This fantastic cast is led by Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig with Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones taking on more supporting roles. And Chris Hemsworth. Being that this is a reboot, this film is the new Ghostbusters' origin story.


Abby Yates (McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Wiig) are childhood friends who had a falling out. Yates is currently working at a 10th rate college with Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) where their paranormal research department isn't even recognized to exist. Erin is trying to get tenure at a prestigious university when a book she co-wrote with Abby gets released without Erin's permission. When she confronts Abby, they get a lead on a haunting. Abby and Jillian convince Erin to come and investigate and the movie take off from there. They are joined by Patty Tolan, an MTA worker who witnessed a ghost in a subway tunnel. Patty is also an amateur expert on New York sights and history. The crew is rounded out by aspiring male model Kevin Beckman (Hemsworth) taking on secretarial duties.Their investigation into the surge in hauntings around New York reveal devices that are amplifying paranormal activity and a plot to bring about a ghost apocalypse.


Scattered throughout the film are great cameos from the original Ghostbusters cast minus Rick Moranis and obviously Harold Ramis who passed away in 2014. Although there is supposed to be a bust of Ramis somewhere in the film so technically all four original members cameo. While this new film is not directly connected to the original two, I did not feel like it really needed to. It would have been interesting if this new Ghostbusters were part of the original Ghostbusters universe, but it stands alone very well on it's own. I doubt any of the fans who expressed nerd rage over a new female cast will be impressed but that is their loss. With Ramis' passing, the chances of the original group making any form of a film pretty much disappeared. And it's not like the original films are forgotten. References and nods to the first two are scattered throughout the film as well as something in the after credits scene that could set up a sequel.


I have to state again that I really enjoyed this movie. I expected it to be good and it was. And for the record I never had an issue with a new cast, let alone an all female one. As with any reboot, I was just worried it would be bad for other reasons. But I didn't have to worry about anything.

So now that that is out, I have to address something really disturbing. As some of you may know, Leslie Jones left twitter this week after being attacked with racist, vulgar, and pornographic posts. I am not going to get into the specifics because I do not want to validate that hate and stupidity in any way. Just do a search if you are curious to see how she was attacked. I thought Leslie was fantastic in Ghostbusters and I have been a fan of hers ever since she started to appear on SNL's Weekend Update. I have the utmost respect for her. It's just sad that others don't feel the need to offer even a basic amount of respect and decency to a person seemingly because a woman had the nerve to be in a comedy about ghosts. I wonder if the idiots who think posting anonymous crap online would show any real balls and tell Leslie Jones any of that to her face. I doubt it. It does not take balls to hide behind the internet.

#LoveforLeslieJ

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Scorched


Scorched is book one in the Scorched series by Mari Mancusi. The easiest way to describe this series is that it is the cross between The Terminator and that dragon apocalypse movie with Matthew McConaughey/Christian Bale, Reign of Fire. Not to sound like Stefon from Saturday Night Live, but this book has everything, dragons, time travel, evil twins, maybe not so evil twins, love triangles, men in black, secret societies, cults, telepathy... and that already might be saying too much.

Trinity Foxx is trying to be a normal girl. Emphasis on trying. Her mother committed suicide, her did is out of the picture, and she has been living with her eccentric grandfather. She is also trying to keep her grandfathers fossil/roadside attraction museum afloat. Then he goes and buys what he calls a dragon egg that he paid someone to dig out of the arctic. Connor and Caleb are twin brothers from the future whose father was killed by a dragon. They have taken different paths ever since. Connor goes back in time to destroy the egg and prevent the word from being burned up by dragons. Caleb goes back in time to save the last dragon egg and help Trinity and her dragon user in a new age of peace and prosperity where dragons will save humanity.

If you have not already read Scorched, you will probably pick this trio as the love triangle and you will be correct. But love triangle might be too strong of a word. I knocked one of Mari's other books, Tomorrow Land, a bit for having a bit much teen angst and romance. And yes, I know it is a YA book. But FYI, I still enjoyed that novel. In scorched, while Trinity does develop feelings for each of the brothers, there is no big romantic subplot here. The focus is mainly on Trinity's evolution. The book has a pretty quick pace as Trinity's world falls apart and begins again with a dragon. There are some good twists in the story. Mari does a good job at keeping you wondering who the evil twin is, or are they both just being manipulated. And are dragons really all that bad or will they scorch the earth?

I enjoyed this book and while mixing the fantasy genera of dragons with the sci-fi element of time travel might seem a bit too much to handle in one story, Mari does strike a good balance. The method of time travel isn't explained in this book. It might later on, but unless you are a picky about that kind of thing, the story doesn't really need to get technical. If you can suspend your disbelief about dragons in the modern world, then you should not be bothered by the lack of technicalities of time travel. I didn't bother me. I look forward to the next books, Shattered and Smoked.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Captain America: Civil War



This is the end of the Avengers as we know it. Or at least until the next movie. Captain America: Civil War could really be the third Avengers movie. It is primarily Cap/Bucky oriented, but this is an Avengers story with everyone showing up. Well, not Thor and Hulk. You have to wait for Thor: Ragnarok to see them two again. Two external forces are responsible for the Avengers breakup. First, The Sokovia Accords. Carrying over from the Civil War crossover series from Marvel Comics, the word governments decide that enhanced beings are too dangerous to remain unchecked. Not only do the accords require people with powers to register themselves, The Avengers can now only act with the approval of the UN. Second,the death of King T'Chaka in what looked like a terrorist attack carried out by the Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes).

As we see all the strings are being pulled by Zemo in an attempt to get revenge on the Avengers for his family dying in Socovia during Ultron's attack. We also get to go deeper into The Winter Soldier program, learning that Bucky was only the first and that Bucky was the one who assassinated Tony Stark's father and mother. But to be fair, Bucky was in has brainwashed state up until the end of the last Captain America film. So if you are reading this, you have already seen the film so you know all this. I just want to make a few points.

1. Sharon Carter. We learn that Agent 99 is the niece of Peggy Carter. The Peggy Carter that has a funeral in this film. Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter kiss in this film not long after the funeral. Did anyone else feel like this new love interest for Cap was a tad bit forced? Not to mention isn't it a little weird for Cap to be romantically involved with the niece of the woman he loved.... not long after the funeral?

2. The new Avengers. Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man and the new arrivals to the franchise. We have already seen Ant-Man in his solo film and Paul Rudd was fantastic blending into an already packed roster. This is the first times we get to see Black Panther and Spider-Man. Chadwik Bowsman is great as T'Challa. He had a lot to live up to bringing a character to the screen that has never been on film. And speaking of a lot to live up to, Tom Holland nailed it as Spider-Man. For one, seeing Spider-Man onscreen with the Avengers was amazing, bot Tom had just the right amount of humor and youthfulness on screen. Oh, and back to Ant-Man, the Giant Man sequence was a fantastic surprise.

3. Blame it all on Tony Stark. Call the whole Iron Man saga a tale of Stark overcompensating for something. Tony Stark feels guilty about something and goes overboard to correct it. Or he does something that comes back to haunt him. Basically his whole story arc.

4. It was also refreshing to see The Avengers in a non-cosmic struggle. While I am anticipating The Infinity War, it is good to keep some stories more grounded in the Earthly realm. It's also interesting to see the Avengers tackle some political/moral problems more relevant to real life. But the cosmic stuff is pretty entertaining too.

This was a fun film. The Russo Brothers did a great job directing and really pulling the whole thing together. They have pretty big shoes to fill taking control of the Avengers saga now that Joss Whedon is taking a break but it looks as though the MCU is in good hands.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost)


And you thought you were awkward and weird growing up? Felicia Day's book, You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is a way to look back on your awkward youth and think, "okay, maybe I wasn't that bad." But in a good way. This memoir will tell you everything you need to know about how this nerd queen (though she does not see herself that way) came to be molded into the person we admire. The super short answer, blame it on her mom. Kidding. Sort of. But there is more to it than that.

The book details a childhood moving a lot and a particular brand of homeschooling that some might call "home schooling." While Felicia's mother could possibly have been over encouraging, the end result of Felicia's upbringing combined with an apparent natural talent for music and math, and the the influence of the internet formed one of the bright lights in nerd culture. The book also highlights how gaming (and internet gaming) would be both a blessing and a curse to Felicia Day.

In a weird way, reading about her life you kind of both wish you grew up the same way and thank god you didn't. The weirdness of her childhood might not have worked so well on some of us. But then again, maybe we all could have benefited with a little more weirdness growing up. But moving on... The various adventures and experiences Felicia had growing up are interesting, entertaining, and in some cases a tad head scratching. I mean, there is some alternate timeline where Felicia Day is a Tejano singer in Texas. What would that have looked like?


Sometimes I have way too much time on my hands.

Anyway...  You're Never Weird on the Internet also gives you the the story of how the acclaimed web series The Guild came to be. Which still is one of the best things on the internet in my opinion. Felicia Day's memoir is an fascinating look into a not so normal life. But obviously, "normal" may not always be the best life. Even though she had her trials and tribulations she managed to not only be successful, but build her own brand and business and be someone who the rest of us nerds can look up to. More importantly, You're Never Weird on the Internet also shows us that being weird and/or different (on the internet or real world) does not have to mean you can't be happy.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mr. Robot


How to describe Mr. Robot.... Well first of all it is a fantastic series. What starts off as sort of a heist type thriller story involving hackers/hacktivists vs. corporate evil steadily becomes more of a psychological thriller. Typically I'd throw out spoilers, but this series is so good, I really don't want to give anything away to anyone. I know not everyone has seen Mr. Robot. There are just way too many good shows out there. Rami Malik is Elliot Anderson, a coder/hacker who works for an information security firm called Allsafe.


Ellot suffers from severe paranoia, delusions, and as we come to find out, sporadic memory loss. The series starts with a major cyber attack on E Corp, the biggest client of Allsafe. Although whenever someone mentions E Corp, Elliot perceives it as Evil Corp. Kinda a shot across the bow of corporate America. The corporate logo is even a purposely similar to the Enron logo.


Elliot is the only one who is able to stop the intrusion. In doing so he finds a file within the code that is directed at him. He is given the chance to delete the file or leave it in place and see what the hackers want from him. Unable to let go of the mystery, he leaves the file in place, hiding it so that he is the only one who knows it is there. We start to see how far down the rabbit hole goes when Elliot meets Mr. Robot.


Christian Slater, who's character is only referred to as Mr. Robot, is the the mysterious leader of a hacktivist group called fsociety. Their symbol is a hybrid of the Guy Fawkes mask (made popular by the film, V For Vendetta, and used by the hacktivist group Anonymous) and the the face of Monopoly guy. They are on a mission to completely destroy Evil Corp, the banking system in general, and erase the debt of all Americans, thus freeing society.


The entire season 1 arc revolves around fsociety setting up the cyber attack. We also get to see the subplots of other characters including Elliot's best friend and co-worker at Allsafe, Angela Moss, played by Portia Doubleday. They have know each other since childhood and both lost parents to the effects of a chemical spill attributed to Evil Corp. Actually, in a way the fsociety operation is really just the background for Elliot's deteriorating psychological condition. And as the series progresses we get to see how damaged all the characters are, and I do mean ALL. Well, maybe except for Elliot's boss at Allsafe. The poor guy just wants to run a good company and gets caught up in all the fallout. The series also peels back the layers of Evil Corp and the "too big to fail" notion as well as the darker side of hactivists and criminal hacking groups who sometimes cooperate when need be. Well, in this series anyway. I have no knowledge or experience with that stuff in the real world. I just wish I had those skills. Mr. Robot is a great psychological thriller/drama that has plenty of "What the..." moments that keep things plenty interesting. I look forward to season 2.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Deadpool


Oh, this is the spoliery kind of review, so... SPOILER ALERT

As it has been said many times, it is really a miracle that Deadpool is even a movie. By sheer force of will, it seems Ryan Reynolds was able to push through a film that is ground breaking in many respects even though it is a simple revenge story with what is still (though that may change now) cult favorite character. Impressive making 150 million over the Valentines/Presidents day weekend, Deadpool is now that highest grossing movie with a February premier, highest grossing rated R premier, and highest grossing X-Men movie premier. It also opened better then the first Spider-Man film and Man of Steel. And all this with a budget of only $58 million.

So for the uninitiated, who is Deadpool? This simple story is that Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), an ex-special operations soldier who worked as a mercenary got cancer, volunteered for a super soldier program that was supposed to cure his cancer, and got really messed up in the process. In the comics, Deadpool got his extreme healing ability from Wolverine's (aka Logan/Hugh Jackman in the movies) DNA. In the film Wade's latent mutant powers were activated through extreme experimentation. In the comics, and in the film as it seems but is not explicitly stated, Wade is not cured of cancer. The cancer spreads throughout his body at an inhuman rate and his mutant healing powers are constantly fighting it. This has the effect of giving Wade his physical deformities, looking like a burn victim. Or as stated in the previews, "You look like an avocado had sex with an older avocado."

You have probably heard by this point that the film is hilarious. And it is. It is also great for the numerous pop culture references (that might go over the heads of the younger audience) as well as direct references to Ryan Reynolds himself, the much hated Green Lantern film, and the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film where Deadpool first appeared on screen. There is a lot there for the hard core comic and Deadpool fans to love, but most of the jokes are not so obscure that a normal person can't enjoy the film. A lot Deadpool's story comes directly from the comic, featuring characters like Weasel (T.J. Miller), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), and featuring the bar where Wade hung out a lot and received his contracts. The villain Ajax/Francis (Ed Skrein) also comes directly out of Deadpool's comic book origin story.

When the movie was revealed to be R rated, I was a little worried about the language factor. It happens with a lot of things that when license is given to use foul language it like giving a kid permission to cuss. It just gets over used and becomes a crutch to be "edgy." I was happy to see that this was not the case. If there is an appropriate level of cussing that would take place in real world situations, Deadpool struck that balance dead on. My only beef is the nudity. Yeah, okay, I am a bit of a prude when it comes to stuff like that. The nudity in question comes along with Stan Lee's most bizarre film cameo ever. No, he isn't nude. Stan is the DJ of a strip club. And it being a strip club, there is blatant nudity. Wade goes there to find his girlfriend, Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), when he finds out the bad guys are after her. He doesn't get there in time of course. But back to the strippers. Two things, I've real a lot of the Deadpool comics, and sexual humor and situations are not a rarity. It adds to the weird charm of Deadpool. But there was no nudity. Although I cannot speak for the MAX line of comics that features Deadpool and a few other character that is not meant for younger readers. It just seemed like an excuse to get naked women on camera. Secondly, this being a "super hero" film and all, this is what had to be what the "real" world is like? Anyway, that is all I have to say on the topic. It's a flaw in the film in my opinion, but not something that ruins a movie that is spectacular. The only other issue is that all the previews prior to the film's release gave away a lot of the jokes.

So back to the good things. Pairing Deadpool with Collosus (Stefan Kapičić) was fantastic. Especially when this version of Collosus was a huge boy scout. So much of a boyscout that he even took a pause in battle to let his opponent, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), know that her breast had popped out. Angel Dust thought it was a real sweet gesture. Then she hit him. Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and yest that is the character's name, was pretty awesome for the small amount of time she was on screen. These two official X-Men characters also solidify Deadpool as being in the X-Men universe and will not doubt lead to Wade appear in other X-films and hopefully other X-Men stars making cameos in his film franchise. With this film's success, Deadpool is going to be a franchise.

Directed by Tim Miller, Deadpool is a fantastic film that blows out the mold for superhero movies. It even breaks the 4th wall x16. (If you saw the movie, you'll get it. If not, you'll get it when you do see it.) And this is a hard R film, so leave the kids at home. (Not that that stopped some people.) Oh, did anyone notice the decommissioned aircraft carrier where the final battle took places looked kind of like a hellicarrier? It was also nice to see Bob. (comic reference)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Reason For Dragons


The last thing a high school outcast needs out of life is something really weird happening. Wendell hasn't built and form of relationship with his stepfather aside from feeling awkward and intimidated by him. His stepfather Ted is big... and intimidating. Telling Wendel stories like how he annihilated a guy for scratching his pride and joy, a motorcycle named Lilly doesn't help the situation. Wendell’s only peace comes from going to the woods and escaping into a book. But that peace doesn't last when the local school bullies challenge Wendel to a feat of bravery. Grab some programs from the grounds of an abandoned renaissance fair that is allegedly haunted. It should have been easy. But then he meets a medieval knight… who is tasked to slay a dragon… that just might be real.

This is both a coming of age story and a tale of redemption. The very unlikely insanity that happens on the renaissance fair grounds not only helps Wendel to grow up, but it also accomplishes another seemingly unlikely feat, Wendel and Ted form a bond. It is also the tale of Sir Habersham, a knight who just might be crazy, but might also be telling the truth about a dragon.

Created by Chris Northrup with art by Jeff Stokely, The Reason For Dragons comes from the ashes of a cartoon Northrup was creating with artist and writer, Sean Murphy. The laptop with all their work was stolen. But fortunately for us, we still get to experience the story. In this books introduction, Murphy recounts the tale of how The Reason For Dragons came to be this graphic novel published by Archaia Entertainment. The main story is not too long. It's pretty much the perfect length to get lost in a fantasy tale for a little while. The Reason For Dragons also contains some other shorter tales that flesh out the characters some more. It's an all ages book that adults and kids should find entertaining. I wanted a little more time between Habersham and Wendell, but in no way was I disappointed with anything about this book. I really enjoyed it. Maybe it will become a cartoon again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tomorrow Land


Tomorrow Land, not to be confused with the Disney film and section of Disney World, is a sci-fi/zombie apocalypse novel by Mari Mancusi. It skews a little more into the young adult genre than I would typically read, but after my wife and I met the author at Wizard World in Austin, I decided to take a chance. There are a lot of zombie stories out there. That is the good thing about a zombie apocalypse. You can apply it to any time and place. In the case of Tomorrow Land, this apocalypse takes place in the near future of 2030. The youth of the word had moved on from being obsessed with mobile social media into the world of virtual social media with VR systems that allow them to enter the virtual internet.

Just before the world was about to fall, Peyton Anderson was a normal girl in high school. Or as normal as any teen can be with a father that is anti-technology government conspiracy theorist. And of course the world would fall apart just when it looks like she is about to find her first true love. But her father has a different destiny for her. Four years after the outbreak, Peyton emerges from a bunker under her house. She does not know what the world will be like. All she has to depend on are the cybernetic enhancements her father gave her. She must go to Florida and find her father and the scientific colony he was setting up under Disney World. She will also get help from the boy she abandoned before the fall of civiliation, Chris Parker, who has his own demons that could jeopardize everything.

The story flashes back and fourth between the outbreak in 2030 and the 2040 post apocalypse. I enjoyed the scifi/zombie elements a lot. The zombies in this world are the result of infection. No dying and reanimating here. Kind of like what we saw in I Am Legend. As usual I don’t think of things until I begin typing. It is somewhat poetic that in a world where people disappear themselves into a world where nothing is real that the population would fall to a disease that strips humans of their identities and turns them into a mindless hoard.

 The book is really interesting and I did enjoy it. But the teen angst took me out of the story sometimes. Especially in the 2030 chapters covering the initial outbreak. Although this could be a non-issue for some people. I mean, let's be honest, no matter what goes on in the world, as long as there are teenagers, there is going to be some levels of angst. But I will give Mancusi credit for not making Peyton the classic girl who needs to be saved. Even though she does need Chris to navigate the brave new world, and there is the budding romance subplot, Peyton is mission focused to get to her father and deliver a cure that is hidden in her cybernetics. And while Chris is the love interest, he was not a melodramatic motorcycle hood with a heard of gold, if you get my meaning. He is definitely flawed. But I never got a sense in the story that Peyton needed to "save" him.

While on the surface Tomorrow Land appears to fall into the YA romance mold (not that I am any kind of authority on YA), it does push into some hard sci-fi elements and themes, even directly referencing classic sci-fi. I wish the world in 2040 would have been fleshed out some more. I wanted to spend more time in 2034 and explore that world. For me too much time was spent on the initial budding romance in the early outbreak in 2030. It's close to a 50/50 split between the pre and post years. Or it felt that way to me. There are two human colonies in the book that are direct contrasts to one another and we only get a little time in each. Although thinking about it, it's also possible Mancusi gave enough time to those places. While I wasn't thrilled by some of Tomorrow Land's elements, I did find it to be a good read. It's staying on my shelf and I look forward to reading more of Mari Mancusi's novels. I have her Scroched trilogy in my backlog of things on the shelf I really need to get through. Book nerds know what I 'm talking about.

You can find out more about Tomorrow Land, Mari Mancusi, and her other novels at MariMancusi.com
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