Sunday, September 4, 2016

San Francisco Comic Con

Wonder Woman by Mike Mayhew
Since the departure of WonderCon to Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area has been making several attempts to replace what was easily the biggest comic book related event of Northern California. It was looking like the Big Wow Comicfest might have taken its place, but that seems to be a thing of the past, and it's been replaced by the Silicon Valley Comic Con. I didn't attend that one, mainly because it seemed like more of a media convention and I was still hoping that Big Wow might be making a return. (I'm not including the East Bay Comic Con. I've been to the past two of them, but it's a pretty small, although worthwhile, show.)

Since that idea is apparently a bust, I went ahead and bought a ticket to the San Francisco Comic Con. The ticket price was a bit steep at $50 for a Saturday ticket, but I have been dying to go to a big show, so I ponied up. It didn't have nearly the star-power of the Silicon Valley show, and there weren't too many artists in attendance that I wanted to see, but when a buddy of mine expressed interest in going, I figured that was a good enough reason to at least check it out.

Overall, I think that it was a pretty good convention. While there weren't a lot of comics professionals there, the ones I got to see where kind of a big deal to a long-time comics fan like myself. For some reason, I've managed to go nearly 30 years of reading comics without meeting Mike Zeck, who drew one of the greatest Spider-Man stories, Kraven's Last Hunt. He's also the guy who designed Spidey's black costume.

I not only got his autograph on the first part of the aforementioned Kraven story, I had him sign the issue of Secret Wars that detailed how Spider-Man received the black costume. On top of that, I got the signatures of the inkers: Bob McLeod on Kraven's Last Hunt and John Beatty on Secret Wars. One more signature topped off the Secret Wars, and that was writer (and former editor in chief of Marvel Comics) Jim Shooter.

I also parted with some money when I bought some art prints with some classic covers that Zeck did, along with a really cool profile of The Punisher. (I had two Zeck-drawn Punisher posters hanging in my room when I was a kid.)

Writer, penciler, inker - all signed
Those guys were all some of the best in the business, but you don't find them doing much in comics lately. Zeck and Beatty informed me that they work more in licensing now rather than do the monthly comics grind. I'm assuming the same is true with Bob McLeod. (McLeod also signed the first two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man that were penciled by Todd McFarlane. In my opinion, his inks improved McFarlane's art. I told him so, but he said that McFarlane didn't think so.)

I did get to meet one artist who's currently putting out some great work, and that's Mike Mayhew. He has recently illustrated a couple of issues of Star Wars that feature the exploits of Obi Wan Kenobi and young Luke Skywalker, filling in some gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. I got him to sign those tow comics, but I was disappointed to hear that there weren't any more issues like that in the works. I also got into an interesting conversation where I got some insight into the workings of Disney and Marvel regarding keeping all of the continuity straight between the movies and comic books. Just like with Zeck, I also purchased some pretty cool art prints from him. One was with Wonder Woman, one with Batgirl, and one with Jean Grey of the X-Men.

One other thing I observed was the overall quality coming from the independent comic book publishers. Usually it's pretty easy for me to bypass what they're selling, and maybe once in a while I'll see something interesting. This time I found myself passing on a lot of stuff that looked pretty cool. (But I did pick up a couple of them - most notably from Emet Comics. Their focus is female creators and female characters, but I was drawn to the obvious quality of the artwork. I haven't read them yet, so I can't speak to the quality of the stories. One way or the other, the female angle is definitely not just a gimmick.)

As for shopping, you'd be happy if you were looking to buy some classic comics (think Golden and Silver Age) as there were a few vendors specializing in those. I didn't see as many dealers selling trade paperbacks and graphic novels as I'm used to seeing, and I didn't see a whole lot of toys or cool T-shirts either.

They apologized for looking exhausted,
but they were good sports as I geeked out.
I only checked out one panel, and that was the one with Ian McDiarmid. You probably know him better as The Emperor from the Star Wars movies. He took audience questions and shared stories from filming the movies and his stage career. Fun fact - he does an uncanny impression of George Lucas.

Of course there were also plenty of cosplayers, which is a bigger deal now than when I started
reading comics. There were the ones you'd expect like Boba Fett, Stormtroopers, Deadpool, Spider-Man, and Batman. I only caught a few surprises like a 90s era Superboy and Captain America's dancers. (I did the closest thing to a catcall in my life when I saw them on the street, pointed at them and shouted, "Awesome!" They thanked me, so I guess I can keep my Not-a-sexual-harasser card.)

I'm glad I went, but I'm also glad that I just went with a friend and fellow comic book fan. I didn't bring the wife and kid, and I'm not sure if they would have enjoyed themselves as much as they did at Big Wow. There wasn't as much kid-friendly stuff, and it was a lot more crowded. It's not that I think my wife would have hated it, but I don't know if she would have wanted to stay as long as I did. Hopefully this is just the beginning for this con, and we'll see an even more impressive guest list for next year.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Suicide Squad - movie review

For those who haven't read any of my comic book movie reviews before, I should probably start with the disclaimer that I'm almost always positive when I write about these films. In some cases, like Batman V. Superman, I could recognize the movie's shortcomings while still enjoying it. In other words, it's pretty tough to create something that I don't like so long as it's based on comic books.

With that said, I really wasn't going in to Suicide Squad with super high expectations. I've never read the comic, and the only characters that I cared about were the ones who were Batman-related. And while I realize that many people loved the trailers, I was a bit underwhelmed. That feeling only sank when the negative reviews started to pour in. I wasn't going to let that stop me from seeing the movie, but I continue to worry that Warner doesn't know how to handle its DC properties the way that Marvel Studios knows how to handle theirs.

Once again though, I'll say that while I understand the negative criticism, I still liked the movie. Much like DC's last effort, Batman V. Superman, I found this to be a pretty frustrating movie, only I have less personally invested in this particular property. I thought that the movie had a really great original style, but it seemed to be the victim of (once again) too much executive interference with the creative process. And Warner is still trying to artificially catch up to Marvel by throwing as many characters in one movie as possible. (How cool would it have been if we already knew most of these villains from various superhero movies and then have this become an anti-Avengers by having them all team up?)

One thing that I can definitely say for it is that the movie really kept up a nice, brisk pace up until the final act, which got caught up in the whole "Why are they all fighting this guy?" trap that so many of these movies do. I thought that the director, David Ayer, made good use of various classic rock songs throughout. Sometimes when people do that, it feels like they're ripping off Scorsese, but I guess it doesn't feel that way when it's done in this particular genre.

All right, here are some scattered thoughts:

Jared Leto as The Joker - I was more than willing to give Leto a chance, and I didn't really pay too much attention the fact that the guy seems to be a real creep. Obviously, Heath Ledger's performance is still fresh in a lot of people's minds, so that would be tough to top. Leto was going to have to take the character in a different direction if he was going to stand out? Did he do that? I guess, but he didn't really do anything all that interesting with the role at all. The Joker just felt like a generic bad guy.

I also think that, with the exception of the flashback scenes, the character felt pretty perfunctory in this movie. I'm not entirely sure what he added to the story other than that.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn - She was probably the perfect choice for this part. She's a very pretty woman, but she's also able to pull off crazy pretty well with that wide smile of hers. It was pretty clear that she looked to the character's original portrayal in Batman: The Animated Series for inspiration. (And you actually get to see her in the original outfit! And you quickly realize why they changed it.)

I think that we can blame the issues with The Joker on the fact that the movie had Harley in it, as her origin is so tied to that character. Still, Robbie's portrayal was interesting enough that I think that they could have had her merely hint at her origins.

Will Smith as Deadshot - I don't know too much about the character, but I liked Smith's portrayal. He's always pretty likable, and he was a good choice if they were going to make at least one of these villains have a bit of a heart. I'd be really happy to see more of him in other DC films.

I don't think that this is the sort of movie that will win over people who normally don't like comic book movies. It might even turn off a lot of people who like what Marvel has been putting out over the past decade. As I said, I get the negative reviews, and it's a bit of a mess toward the end. Still, there was enough for this comic book nerd to enjoy, and I hope to see it again (especially if there's a director's cut.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) movie review

I have a confession to make. I never saw the original Ghostbusters in the theater even though I'm pretty much the perfect age to have done so. (It came out when I was in the fourth grade.) Back when I was a kid, I was easily scared of anything that looked even remotely scary, and my neighbor describing the scene with the librarian ghost at the beginning was enough to frighten me away until years later when I finally saw it on video. After that, it quickly became one of my all-time favorite movies and I watched my crappy VHS copy of a copy over and over again.

I did see Ghostbusters 2 in the theater, and I remember being really excited for it. I went out of my way to see it on the last day of school of my freshmen year of high school. And even though my standards were a lot lower back then, I remember being really disappointed in the whole thing. It just felt like a less funny and less exciting version of the first one. I watched it again recently when I bought a blu-ray combo pack of both movies, and I continue to be disappointed.

When I heard about the current remake/reboot, I was interested. I most definitely did not join the chorus of fans who freaked out when there were going to be four female Ghostbusters this time around. The last one had four men, and that wasn't a problem. Why would four women be a problem? I also am not somebody who bemoans the "lack of originality" in movies, as I teach Shakespeare and that guy was all about rewriting previously told stories.

The only thing that I cared about was whether the movie was going to be good or not. Four women is fine so long as they are four funny and talented women. The story also had to be good. It had to capture the spirit of the original while not simply giving me what I've already seen before.

My hopes were raised when they announced the cast. I was only really familiar with Kristen Wiig, who I think is awesome. Even the weaker Saturday Night Live bits with her in it were usually worth watching just to see what she'd do. I also liked Bridesmaids, and she's hilarious as the yoga instructor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (You have to watch the extended edition of that movie to catch that scene.) I also think that Melissa McCarthy is pretty funny as well, as she had a lot of the best bits in the aforementioned Bridesmaids. I didn't know too much about Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

If I'm totally honest, I did have an opinion regarding the all-female buster casting. It made me root for this movie to succeed because I'm a big believer in the notion that we need more diverse and positive roles featuring women. I'd personally like to see more completely original stories with female protagonists, but this is a decent step in between male dominated action movies and a more diverse fare.

Still, I figured all of this would be for naught if the movie stunk, so while I say that I was rooting for it, I was rooting for its potential to be something good. I wasn't going to praise it no matter what.

Which leads me to the first preview.

Egads. That did not look good. I know that I'm not alone, as I heard a lot of other people chime in, including Kevin Smith on his podcast. In fairness to Smith, he was quick to blame whoever cut the trailer, as he couldn't imagine how that cast with director Paul Feig could possibly make something that looked so horrible. All of the gags were slapstick and obvious. I mean, there was an Exorcist reference. What year is this? And it didn't help that Leslie Jones's character seemed to be a stereotype of a black woman.

I really wanted to be wrong, but I was ready to accept that for the second time, there was going to be a lousy Ghostbusters movie.

My hopes raised a bit when I saw some other trailers, but not too much. I figured that I'd wait until the reviews came in, and if they were mostly positive then I'd make the effort to see it in the theater. Lucky for me, that was the case, and I went to see it with my wife.

I don't know if anybody is outright praising this movie, but I absolutely loved it. In a way, it made me hate the trailer even more, as it really did the film a disservice. Maybe the problem is that the really funny bits require a certain context. Whenever there was a silly slapstick moment, what was usually funny was what the other characters were saying or doing as it was happening. I'm eager to see the film again, as there were some moments where I was laughing so hard that I no doubt missed two or three other funny lines that came right after them.

What else did I like? I thought it did a really good job of capturing the heart and spirit of the original without being slavish to it. The characters didn't evenly line up with their male counterparts from the original. At best, you could say that Kate McKinnon's part was a combination of Egon and Venkman. Other than that, they all brought something new to the franchise.

Wiig and McCarthy didn't disappoint, and Jones's character rose above the stereotype to the point where I didn't even think about it anymore. It was really McKinnon who nearly stole the movie for me though. She was definitely not quite in her right mind, but she had enough charm to her that you could believe that she'd get away with it.

I was also pretty surprised with Chris Hemsworth, better known as Thor from the Marvel movies. I knew that he could be funny, as he's had some good bits as the Thunder god. However, he really got to show his comic timing in this one. He was a complete airhead, yet he still was able to inject his character with enough humanity to make him more than just a figure to laugh at.

I don't think that this is ever going to hold up to the original, but it was loads better than Ghostbusters 2, and hopefully if they do a sequel, they can outdo the previous franchise.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hope for the Ark Encounter?

Utnapishtim's, ahem...Noah's ark
Depending on how much you pay attention to issues regarding religion, you may or may not have heard of the Ark Encounter. In a nutshell, it's a museum devoted to the Biblical flood story, and it's a life-size reconstruction of Noah's boat. I suppose it's more of a construction than a reconstruction for the simple fact that NOAH'S ARK NEVER FRIKKEN' EXISTED.

Yeah, I'm being a little harsh, but if you think that the Noah story actually happened, or you even entertain the possibility that it happened, then the rest of this post isn't going to appeal to you. Unless you can provide some AMAZING evidence (you can't) of a global flood, I'm going to put flood believers into the same category as Scientologists who learn about Emperor Xenu and still stay in the organization anyway.

It opened on July 7th, and from what I've read, opening day didn't have quite the turnout that they were expecting. Maybe there aren't as many Biblical literalists as they were hoping for? Or maybe the literalists just don't care that much? Who knows? I'm not expert in these matters, and I haven't seen any official figures, but I have to wonder if this thing will one day go the way of Jim Bakker's Heritage USA, and become a monument to religious folly.
Let's just assume that I'm right and this thing will eventually go bankrupt and have to close down one day. Overall, this would be a good thing. Perhaps it's too bad that the state of Kentucky is losing out considering how many tax breaks Answers in Genesis (the company that built the thing) got for it, but the good far outweighs the bad. For starters, the place is basically devoted to spreading ignorance and anti-science. Even worse, it's targeted at children with its inclusion of dinosaurs. (It's funny how for some people the dinosaur thing is what puts it over the top into Crazy Town territory. Guess what? It's crazy without dinosaurs.) It will also be good to see the end of a place that has discriminatory hiring practices (no non-Christians, no gay people) while receiving taxpayer money. 

With that said, I wouldn't want to see the place get torn down. I also wouldn't want to see it just sit there and rot. Here are some possibilities as to what can be done with it:

1. Turn it into a science museum. Have a big part explaining how flood geology is riddled with fallacies.

2. Have it be a museum devoted to mythology. Utilize much of what's there, and keep the dinosaurs in a section entitled "What happens when people take myths literally." Include displays for various flood myths, paying special attention to Utnapishtim and his similarities/differences with Noah. 

3. Make a nautical museum. Yeah, it's in a landlocked part of the country. Well, who would be more starved for boat-related stuff than them? People on the coasts have their fill of that sort of a thing, thank you very much.

4. Make it a literal monument to religious folly. Have displays ranging from the weird to the outright dangerous like snake handlers and Jim Jones.

5. Why was the world flooded? Because of sin, right? Make it a museum of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. People will love it. Throw in some hookers while you're at it. See if the firmament opens and the waters pour forth. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thoughts on the DC Rebirth

Honestly, if push comes to shove, I'm more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. The first comics I ever bought were Marvel, and it took a few years for me to actually start buying some DC titles as well. (Keep in mind that I started reading regularly back in the sixth grade.) This doesn't mean that I think that Marvel is "better", it's just that I've gravitated more to the House that Stan and Jack Built more than the Distinguished Competition. With that said, it's strange that I've written more about the various developments at DC several times now while not writing too much about Marvel.

And this brings me to DC's latest initiative, which has been called Rebirth, which is kinda making me hate DC Comics. Is it because  the last major relaunch was a mere five years ago? Is it because it feels gimmicky? Is it due to the confusing continuity?

No, it's because I pretty much want to read everything that they're publishing. While I'm certain this problem will not be able to sustain itself for a long period of time, I'm finding myself intrigued by everything I've read so far, and I'm still looking forward to some titles. Oh, and did I mention that most of them come out twice a week? There's still plenty of stuff from Image, Boom, and IDW that I want to buy, not to mention the offerings from some random company owned by Disney. (And I should mention that company is still turning out great Star Wars comics.)

For those who aren't currently reading comics, or haven't been following the news of the relaunch, here's the brief synopsis of what's going on:

Less than five years ago, DC canceled its entire line and relaunched absolutely every title along with a bunch of new titles. There were 52 total, hence the name The New 52. It was a controversial move, and while there were definitely a lot of great comics to come out in that period (particularly Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo) overall a lot of fans, like myself, started to lose interest. While it might have helped to bring in a lot of new readers, I think that it might be safe to say that a lot of us felt like this new continuity was missing what we loved about DC Comics (even though we might not have realized that this is what we loved) and that's a sense of history. Or better put, the legacy of many classic characters had pretty much gone up in a puff of smoke. (The Flash is probably the one character who suffered the most from this.)

Rebirth isn't completely rebooting continuity so much as bringing back what was lost with the previous relaunch. It all started with a one-shot titled simply Rebirth, and I think that Mavel's Tom Breevort said it best: "I thought it was -- and I mean this in a good way -- the most 'DC' comic that I'd read in a long while." From there, a bunch of new Rebirth special issues and new #1's hit the stands, and I've read pretty much all of them. I picked up the usual suspects with the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman titles, but I also revisited Green Lanterns and gave Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Titans a shot.

And I can tell you, there isn't a weak link in the bunch. I'm obviously going to have to stop dropping titles simply because I won't be able to afford everything, but I think that it's just going to come down to sticking with my favorite characters.

Anyway, here are some highlights:

Batman #1 - I don't think that I've read anything by Tom King before, but holy crap that's the way that you start a first issue. I don't want to give away too much, but it's really one long and well-constructed action sequence. However, there's a real emotional heft to it, and the last page has me dying to find out what happens next.

Green Arrow - I don't know if I'm going to be able to stick with this one, but I like the interaction between him and Black Canary. One of my oldest comics is a Green Lantern/Green Arrow reprint, so I always associate her with Ollie. I haven't been following either one of them in the New 52, so I didn't even realize that their history had been taken away. I imagine that longtime fans will be really happy with this.

Mick Gray, inker on Superman to the left, me babbling on at the right.
Courtesy of Flying Colors Comics.
Superman - Geez, but I can't think of a time when I've been this excited to pick up every Superman related title. Maybe it was back when Kurt Busiek was on Superman and Geoff Johns was on Action Comics? Anyway, I'm not sure how much this one will appeal to people who are totally new to comics, but I can't be the only veteran fan who's intrigued about what's happening here. In a nutshell, Superman is dead. But Superman, from the pre-New 52 continuity is very much alive, and he's ready to be the Man of Steel for the universe he now inhabits. He has some problems though as Lex Luthor had ideas about doing the same thing. Oh, and this Superman is married. And he's got a kid who doesn't know his own strength.

And Gene Yang has a book with a Chinese Superman? I'm down for that one as well.

The Flash - I'm doubly excited about this one since Joshua Williamson is writing it. He's currently writing two of my favorite Image books, Birthright and Nailbiter. Hopefully he'll be given the freedom to really bring his best to the Scarlet Speedster, as he's great at writing about personal relationships.

Wonder Woman - I lost interest in her adventures shortly after the conclusion of Brian Azarello's run, but this one has me back on board. This one really exemplifies what Rebirth is all about, as her origin underwent a heavy revision in the New 52. The Rebirth one-shot didn't do much other than set up a story to come, but it looks like the theme is "Who is Wonder Woman?" which has a lot of potential considering the heavy symbolism that is inherent with the character.

Green Lantern - I am a huge fan of what Geoff Johns did with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythology. I kinda lost interest in the title when there was that whole New Gods business, and I really just didn't think that Billy Tan was a good fit for the title. I like the setup for the new Green Lanterns series, as it focuses on the two newest recruits for Sector 2814: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. The setup is a pretty good one, as the two of them have to share a lantern battery, and the Justice League will have to do their training since the Green Lantern Corps is missing in action. I don't know what they have in store for Hal Jordan in his book, but I'll at least check it out.

The Green Lantern concept already had a rich history and mythology to it, and that only became even more true under Geoff Johns. Hopefully this will continue the tradition.

No doubt I will have more to say as this reboot plays itself out. In the meantime, I'm excited and a bit daunted as to how much good stuff there is to read.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hopes for Episode VIII

I've had the idea for this particular blog entry swimming around in my head for several months now, but after watching The Force Awakens yet again last night, I thought it was time that I finally sat down and wrote it. Another bit of motivation is that the movie is coming out next year, and no doubt some actual plot points are going to start being revealed soon.

Just to make one thing clear, I'm among the fans who loved Episode VII. I could nitpick at some things, but I'm really not interested in doing that. I also didn't have a problem with the fact that the movie's plot echoed the original as much as it did, as I thought that the characters and their personalities were all so very different from what we've seen before that it didn't matter seeing them go through the same motions that the original characters did.

I'm obviously looking forward to Episode VIII, and here are some of my hopes for what we can see next, some of them bordering on concerns.

1. Let's go in a new direction - Again, I have no problem with the plot echoes from The Force Awakens. But I want to see this take the audience into some unexpected places. I think it's safe to say that it will be darker, just as The Empire Strikes Back was to its predecessor. There will probably also be some revelations involving family relationships. With that said, we can definitely go somewhere new with this considering we have entire galaxy to play in. I have a feeling that the masterminds behind the saga have the same idea in mind.

2. Throw Rey for a loop - I have a feeling that we'll see this happen anyway, but one of the complaints about Rey in the previous movie was that she was a bit of a "Mary Sue" and was pretty much good at anything. Perhaps they were overcompensating now that there was a female protagonist? Maybe, but I don't think so. If we look at the previous two protagonists, Anakin and Luke, they both had it relatively easy compared to Rey. Sure, Anakin was a slave, but he was raised by his mother, and his slavemaster, Watto, was about as benevolent as one could possibly be. Luke had foster parents. Rey? She was an orphan, and it seems like she had basically been on her own on a junkyard, desert world ever since she was a little girl. She's had to fend entirely for herself, and it was not so strange that she would already have some grasp on the Force once it became "awakened".

Still, she did manage to take on each challenge quite well, and much of the fun was how surprised everybody was by her. Who the hell was this girl who could do so much and was channeling the Force like a boss? (Anybody else get the feeling that Han knew who she was? He kept giving knowing looks, and the camera cut away right after Maz Kanata asked him, "Who is this girl?")

With the next film, the bad guys need to be ready for her. And she just needs to barely escape with her life, perhaps with the help of her friend, Finn.

3. More new stuff to look at - Say what you will about the prequels, but they gave us a whole lot of new stuff to look at as far as different planets and spaceships were concerned. Yeah, we have different planets with the current trilogy so far, but is Jakku really all that different from Tatooine? Maybe they're running out of ideas, but I have to imagine that there are some things that nobody's done yet. Maybe we can even revisit one of those planets that we barely caught a glimpse of during Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.

And while it's not a big deal, why the heck are they still flying X-Wing fighters and TIE fighters? Sure, they're a little bit different, but I would have to imagine that some new spaceship designs have come along in thirty years time.

4. Who is Snoke? I sure hope that they figured this out when they first wrote him into the script. If he's just some run of the mill dark Jedi, that would be pretty lame. If he's a Sith, he violates the Rule of Two. There has to be something behind him, and I really think that his origin needs to be backdated at least before the original trilogy, if not the prequels.

5. Lightsaber battles - The best lightsaber battle,visually, was the one in The Phantom Menace. Sure, it didn't have as much at stake as the one in Empire, so ultimately it's not quite as engaging, but it was finally a taste of the Jedi when they were in their prime. Obviously, Rey and Kylo Ren wouldn't be on the same level, but I think that they need to start approaching it in the next one. Personally, I would like to see a full restoration of the Jedi order, minus their dogmatic approach, by the time we get to Episode IX.

6. Kylo Ren is finishing what Vader started - This is just pure speculation. What, exactly, did Vader "start"? Is Ren referring to Vader's desire to "bring order to the galaxy"? Or could he be talking about how Vader tossed a Sith Lord down a pit, and with the rise of Snoke, somebody needs to finish wiping the evil force practitioners out of the galaxy? Then why join Snoke in the first place? Perhaps it's to get closer to him. Maybe only a true master of both the light and the dark can defeat the ultimate evil. I don't know, but I wonder if there is more to his plan than what we've been told so far.

7. Lando. Lando system? Lando's not a system, he's a man. And we need to find out what he's been up to. I'd like to think that he's living comfortably and having a nice retirement.

8. Lobot - Whatever happened to him? C'mon!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse - movie review

There was a lot that I liked about the recent installment of the X-Men franchise, but it was also missing something important that would have let it rise above just being average. It's certainly not the downturn that the third movie was (although I don't think it was as horrible as everybody says it was - the first Wolverine movie was far, far worse). However, it also is a bit of a letdown after the stellar Days of Future Past.

The major problem is that there simply wasn't anything interesting about the villain, Apocalypse. I could get over the fact that he looked kinda lame, but other than that there just wasn't anything very compelling about him. One thing that has always been good about these films is that there were always conflicts between the good guys and bad guys where things went beyond just the physical and were downright personal. With Apocalypse, he basically just has a god complex, but his ill-defined powers pretty much justify them.

That said, all of the good guys were interesting, and it was cool to see the character arcs for Mystique and Magneto get carried through into this chapter. Sure, it's not doing exactly what the comic books did, but by this point they need to do things that make sense in context of the previous films and not force the characters into predetermined roles.

Speaking of making sense though, I probably should point out that by this point, the continuity of these films make absolutely no sense at all. There are things that happen in this film that flat-out contradict what happened in the previous films. I'm pretty sure that they don't even really care, and they figure that maybe the time travel hijinks of the last film can miraculously explain it all away. Whatever, that's not very important to me, but I know that it will bug some people.

Anyway, there were a lot of great moments and highlights of this film, but I don't want to give away too much. I'll just say what I knew going in but yet still managed to thoroughly enjoy. For one, Quicksilver comes back, and they do a super-speed scene that might very well rival the one from the last film. Wolverine gets a brief scene that essentially undoes the damage from his lousy origin film, and it's a good one. However, I have to wonder if everything leading up to that scene detracted from the main plot, and we could have given Apocalypse more motivation. We also get to see a bit of Phoenix, and that's always cool.

One thing that I also liked was how Alexandra Shipp was a big step up from Halle Berry as Storm. Berry is a fine actress, but I never really felt like she did very much for that part. Shipp managed to hold an accent, and I was slightly surprised to see that the actress is from Phoenix, Arizona. (I figured that they might have gotten an actual African to play her.)

Speaking of Storm, it should also be noted that the ladies definitely get a lot to do in this story. They get some of the biggest moments and they're some of the most powerful players. While I think that The Avengers franchise is better overall, Marvel Studios could take some notes from what's going on with the X-Men movies.

If you've generally enjoyed most of the X-Men movies so far, you're probably going to like this one just fine while not being blown away. If they've never done anything for you, or you've been overall pretty ambivalent about them, this one won't change your mind. Brian Singer has done a fine job with this franchise, but I'm personally pretty eager to see some new blood show us what they can do.