Archive for the ‘Comic Books/Graphic Novels’ Category

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“I’m not gonna kill you…I’m just gonna hurt you…really, really bad.” – The Joker

That line really encapsulates Suicide Squad. After the Batman v Superman mess, DC/WB delivers us this film, which spares the DC Expanded Universe the bullet to the head, only to riddle it with the pain of knowing that folks in high places don’t know what they are doing.

First of all, Suicide Squad is miles better than Batman v Superman. Not even close. Suicide Squad actually gives us characters we care about, some awesome big screen debuts of iconic comic book characters and clear character motivations (mostly). The acting is also generally solid (like BvS). But that all gets bogged down in issues that come from the top down, namely the directing, editing, and writing. But good before bad, right? SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Good Stuff. 

  • Acting. Will Smith’s Deadshot was the best part of this film. We get some great scenes, including an amazing background flashback and some awesome action sequences. The script really undercuts his performance at times, but that’s not Smith’s fault. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is gold at times, and the voice she uses actually works, minus the couple times her British accent gets in the way. Everyone else does their job well, although the jury is still out for me regarding Jared Leto’s performance as Joker. Sometimes it was brilliant, and sometimes not.
  • Easter Eggs. As we all knew, Batman’s around for a little bit of the film, and another hero drops by as well. That hero’s interaction with a particular Suicide Squader is direct from the comics in its feel, look, and atmosphere. Also, seeing Joker dancing with Harley in her red and black harlequin outfit was magical. One of those “This is straight from the comics and I can’t believe how it is on screen!” moments.
  • Effects. Ok, no. Not the SFX used in actual action. Those were cheesy as all get out. The opening montage of sorts kicked off the film just how you want it to, with attention grabbing backstories and flashy letterings. We get to see where some of the Squad came from, and their run-ins with their superhero counterparts. Harley’s origin wasn’t her classic one, which was lame, but that didn’t take away from the film.
  • We Actually Care! In BvS we didn’t care about anyone on screen. Superman is mopey and broody and he dies…for no reason…because Wonder Woman could have been the one to kill Doomsday. Lois is a jerk, Batman wants to kill people, and well…you get the idea. In SS, the story and characters give us enough to care about. Yes, these are bad guys, but we actually can sympathize with their struggles, we care about Deadshot primarily, but also El Diablo, Harley, and even a bit for Flagg and Killer Croc. Its not just a bunch of villains running around that we have no emotional attachment to.

The Bad Stuff. 

  • The Script. I get that Ayer only had six months to write this (for some inexplicable reason), but boy is this screenplay a stinker. You can tell that they tried to shoehorn some comedy in, because almost every one-liner sticks out like a sore thumb. This is unfortunate, especially when Harley Quinn’s character should have made this easy. Robbie’s comedic timing actually seems pretty good, but there are some spots where a poor script and choppy editing render that skill useless. There are several groan-worthy lines that feel like they were written by a 5th-grader, and they are bad enough to take you right out of the film.
  • The Editing. Very jumpy. It chops up the story rather than progresses it.
  • The Pacing. There are several scenes that could have been used for emotional gutpunches and or profound moments, but these scenes were really rushed through way too fast. There was very little time to process things before the next scene was already there.

The other problem, the main problem, is the plot. Though generic, it made sense as it stood. But once again, motivations and decisions made by characters within that plot too often make little to no sense. This causes a real lack of depth that really twists things into nonsense way too much, because there’s nothing beyond the surface activity. This is a carryover from BvS (although it was much more handicapping in that film. Nobody even knows why Lex Luthor was motivated to do anything in that film). So here are some questions this lack of depth caused.

#1) Why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack?

The main concept behind Task Force X is using super-villains instead of soldiers so that other countries will believe the U.S. government when they say “we had nothing to do with this action that would be usually interpreted as an act of war.” Basically, they are black ops mission runners who are expendable. So why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack, when none of the Suicide Squad members actually have powers that would be better than ordinary soldiers? Deadshot, Katana, Captain Boomerang, yeah, they are good with their weapons, but are they really any better than just sending in more soldiers. The only one that actually has superpowers is the only one that refuses to use them. I know Waller wants to hide her connection to the Enchantress, but she already sends in ground troops with the SS! Its no secret that there’s tons of debris floating above one of the biggest cities in the U.S. No reason to choose volatile criminals in this case.

#2) Why didn’t Waller destroy the Enchantress’ heart?

She specifically finds and keeps the heart to control the Enchantress. The understanding is that if the Enchantress steps out of line, the heart gets destroyed. So why does Waller just stab the heart instead of destroying it.

#3) Why did Waller kill all her “co-workers.”

The obvious reason is that it would make her look more like cold, cruel, BA woman. The reason Waller gives is that they have seen too much. But Waller brought those very same people in. The room is militarily labeled in the building. This all goes back to the fact that if all Waller wanted was an extraction, why send in Task Force X? And there are plenty of folks that work for top secret military functions. They all don’t get shot.

#4) Why didn’t Enchantress notice that the only weapon that could cut her heart out was sitting right in Harley Quinn’s reach?

#5) Why does the Joker get jealous of the guy he “gives” Harley to when he’s the one who “gave” Harley too in the first place?

Yeah, I dunno the answer to either of those either. Basically, this films could have been great, but suffers from way too much dumb decision making. The actors did their best with what they could, but it wasn’t enough to make a flawed film great.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.)

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Suicide Squad: Adaptation of the DC Comics comic book series.
  • Nine Lives: Original film written by Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin.

Original: 34

Adaptation: 22

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( +2 )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Love and Friendship ( –2 )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople ( – )
5) Captain America: Civil War ( – )
6) Finding Dory ( – )
7) The Jungle Book ( – )
8) Indignation (NEW)
9) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
10) Don’t Think Twice ( -1 )

 

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Usually when a major comic book character gets replaced, its a difficult challenge for a writer to come up with something that doesn’t seem like a ploy to sell more comics. Superheavy isn’t in the “usual” category.

In the previous collection of Batman, the Joker’s endgame leads to Bruce Wayne vacating his role as the Caped Crusader. His successor is none other than Jim Gordon. The twist here is that Gordon is actually working for the city, officially, rather than partaking in the usual shadowy comings and goings Gotham is used to dealing with.

Gordon’s Batman is a mechanical behemoth operating much like a Starkian suit of armor rather than just a man in a cape and cowl, and this Batman actually has a boss.

In this volume, we see a Gotham where Batman is an employee, with supervisors and responsibilities to folks ranking higher than he. This makes for a very interesting dynamic, because Jim Gordon is still classic Jim Gordon, a good detective with a nose for catching the bad guys. So when his Batman is removed from a case, how will he respond when he’s not in agreement with his supervisor?

I try to keep things mostly spoiler free, so you’ll have to find out that answer for yourself. But regarding the actual composition of the books, you’ll find that this is not just your standard “replacement superhero” story. Scott Snyder continues his great work on the Batman title and delivers a creepy new villain (Mr. Bloom), along with a solid plot. It deals with some heavy issues, and lays the groundwork for a good conclusion and for Bruce Wayne’s return.

Final Grade: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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For the first time since being replaced in the Justice League by Cyborg (a decision obviously based more in politics rather than artistic choice), J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, finally gets his due in a brand new DC title that actually bears his name. Sure, he had appeared as a member of Stormwatch and the JLA, but he finally takes center stage here. And while his origin story gets tweaked a bit, the issues presented in Volume 1 – “Epiphany” deliver a story that gets a lot right, especially the loyal, caring nature of the “last” Martian. And the artwork is amazing too!

Early on in this graphic novel collection, J’onn makes a startling discovery while assisting NASA on the moon. As memories of his past come flooding back, J’onn heads back to Earth to try to head off an alien invasion that would leave Earth lifeless. As the Earth descends into chaos, J’onn splits his personality into different forms across the globe in an attempt to keep the invaders’ greatest weapon from being unleashed. This all might sound a bit similar to Man of Steel, but that’s only thanks to the spoiler-free nature of this review. It gets a lot weirder!

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Mr. Biscuits arrives on the scene.

As the different aspects of J’onn’s personalities try to halt Earth’s invasion, we meet Mr. Biscuits, a spindly fellow with an ever present sweet tooth. He’s basically J’onn’s subconsciousness, is about 8 feet tall, and somehow enjoys Paul Blart films. Oh, and his cane naturally doubles as nunchakus. Through Mr. Biscuits we see the compassion of the Martian Manhunter, and a willingness to sacrifice at all costs. This is what has always made J’onn Jonzz a compelling character. He’s more powerful than Superman, but is more often seen as the soul, rather than the muscle, of the Justice League, and writer Rob Williams has brought this soul back where it belongs.

We also get a rare real cliffhanger at the end of this book. So often while reading comics, there’s no sense of peril, because the good guys always win in some sort of way that is at least semi-foreseeable. That’s not the case here!

If you’re a fan of Martian Manhunter, read this book. If you don’t know anything about him, this is a great jumping on point. You’ll really get the essence of the character and what makes him one of DC’s greatest, albeit under-appreciated, characters.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

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I’m Catholic. I’m used to people saying I’m silly for believing things that no Catholic actually believes. Being Catholic, I have a deep love of truth. Its both sensationalist, and foolish, to spread lies or misinformation based on an incomplete picture. I’m used to people doing this to my beliefs. I’m not used to Catholic priests doing this to my favorite comic book characters, which is what just happened.

Upon seeing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Fr. Barron declared it a Nietzschian parable. Director Joss Whedon is a proud atheist. And of course, when an artist does their job properly, they do embed, in their work, an imprint of themselves, to varying degrees. On the surface, the claim that Whedon has injected atheism or nihilism into this film is not a ludicrous one. If one knew nothing about the film itself, it might even be an easy conclusion to jump to…without the facts.

Father Barron’s central tenet, the point upon which his entire argument rests, is that the Vision, upon erupting into existence and being asked for his name, replies: “I am.”

Father Barron points out that, in declaring himself “I am” and proceeding to set himself up as a god, the Vision, who is essentially the engine of victory for the heroes, establishes himself as Joss Whedon’s version of Nietzsche’s “ubermensch.” This is dangerous. After all, this is a highly popular franchise, and with the Vision and Ultron spouting off Nietzsche-like concepts, its something that good Christian folks would not want their youngsters to pick up on. This view is problematic.

No, I’m not talking about Whedon’s. I’m talking about Father Barron’s.

You see, Father’s Barron’s entire article falls completely apart once you actually realize what the Vision means when he’s saying “I am.” Don’t get me wrong, Father Barron is a good shepherd, who frequently unlocks the deeper meaning of scripture and the Catholic faith. Yet here he is incorrect. The Vision is not setting himself up as a messiah, not as a god. In fact, he’s not even saying “I am.” He’s saying “I am…” Those two extra periods are essential! The Vision is not declaring himself to be anything because he doesn’t even know who he is! He’s asked for a name and he can’t provide one, so he pauses. Instead of rushing to define himself, he stays quiet and lets his actions do the talking.

Now let’s stop and back up a second. Let’s see the full picture before jumping to conclusions, which is, unfortunately what Father Barron did. In writing this film, Joss Whedon tasked himself with bringing iconic characters to life. One of his strengths in both Avengers films is taking decades of comic book history and breaking it down to give his characters the essential parts of their personalities, the parts of their personalities that make the characters who they are, and keep them faithful to their comic book counterparts. We see this in Captain America’s leadership, we see this in Bruce Banner’s anxiety, in Stark’s pride, in Scarlet Witch’s frailty. So why wouldn’t we see it in the Vision? We would. And we do.

When the Vision makes his first appearance in the pages of The Avengers comic books, he’s created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers. During their first meeting, Hawkeye asks him “Who are you fella?” The Vision’s response: “You need not believe me archer, but, in truth, I do not know.” (The Avengers #57).

In the next issue, when the Vision’s origin is revealed, he cries in anguish to his creator, Ultron: “You’ve told me only what powers I possess – not what I wish to know! Who am I? What name is mine?”

So why does the Vision say “I am…” in Age of Ultron? Its because he doesn’t know who he is.

This is from Avengers #57, after Ultron's first defeat. The Ozymandias poem perfectly sums up Ultron's mentality.

This is from Avengers #57, after Ultron’s first defeat. The Ozymandias poem perfectly sums up Ultron’s mentality.

I certainly don’t expect everyone to have read through every comic book issue ever published before they watch a film, but before they spread lies about someone’s intentions, they should be informed. They should do their research. Could it possibly be that Joss Whedon was simply trying to bring the Vision to the big screen in a manner faithful to the source?

Of course, the real issue here is that Father Barron offered an uninformed version of the film to his readers, and now those readers are irate. Some are calling Whedon “despicable” and accusing him of infusing the film with hate. Interestingly enough, these are likely the very same people who lauded the Whedon-written Captain America line “There’s only one God ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that”, and plastered it all over their Facebook walls.

When one has a following like Father Barron does, its important not to jump to conclusions. Writers like Joss Whedon and Father Barron have a duty to the truth, but now a decent chunk of public perception has been steered away from the truth by an article that was written without having the full picture. Father Barron’s entire argument, in this case, is based on a falsehood. Without the atheistic “I am” that Father Barron hears, the entire remainder of his analysis falls apart. If the Vision does not fancy himself a god, then his opinion that chaos and order are both part of humanity becomes simply an observation, not a declaration of dogma. And it turns out that the marble statue shown over the end credits, which Father Barron says is “a neo-classical sculpture of all of the major figures in the film locked in struggle, straining against one another…in complete conformity with the aesthetic favored by Albert Speer, Leni Riefenstahl, and the other artists of the Nazi period” is actually just a marble statue (not even designed by Whedon) of good guys fighting bad guys.

Father Barron says that Age of Ultron promotes a certain attitude. An attitude that maintains that humans need to move beyond good and evil, like Nietzsche’s supermen. He says that the Vision embodies this attitude, because he “was brought about by players on both sides of the divide, by both Iron Man and Ultron. Like Nietzsche’s superman, he is indeed beyond good and evil.” This is Whedon’s whole point, according to Father Barron. Except it isn’t.

What’s the first thing the Avengers do when the Vision emerges? They test him. Is he good or evil? Only the good can pick up Thor’s hammer, which Vision does. Vision expresses that he has no desire to kill, but realizes Ultron must be destroyed. How is this different from Captain America’s declaration in his debut film that he “doesn’t like bullies?”

It is Ultron, not the Vision, that teaches us about nihilism. And guess what? He’s the bad guy. The only way for there to be peace is human extinction. Its Ultron who thinks he’s beyond good and evil, not the Vision. Where the Vision pauses to discover what is truly good -existence, friendship, kindness- Ultron acts without thought. Ultron declares himself the messiah. “I’m going to save the world,” he says. He’s a machine, utterly focused on his programming. Upon a rock of destruction will he build his church of death. Father Barron thinks that the Vision is presented as the herald of Nietzsche, that Joss Whedon is covertly trying to turn us into nihilists. Ultron is the herald here, and he sows and reaps destruction. He also loses in the end, and I’ve yet to see a scenario where losing attracts people to a cause.

When Ultron becomes self-aware, he processes everything at once. His purpose: “to save the world” is processed at the exact same time as every bad thing the Avengers have done. Does he stop and think about right and wrong? No. He interrupts and disconnects JARVIS, declares himself a savior, and starts a wave of destruction. “Ultron?” Banner asks. “In the flesh!” is the instant reply. The Vision bursts on the scene, and his first action upon getting his bearings is to stop and look at the beauty of New York City. He stops to process the wonder of humanity, stops to ponder man’s achievements, stops to declare that he is on the side of life and that Ultron is wrong, and must be stopped. This is who the Vision is. A powerful, thoughtful, innocently naive individual who clearly sees right and wrong because he has taken the time to look at them. Before anyone knows his name, they know what he stands for. His name is not important. Its not even important to the Vision that he can lift Thor’s hammer. This is not a figure with a messiah complex who considers himself above everyone else. “Who are you?” they ask. “I am…” he pauses…he doesn’t know. This is the power of putting the mission first, this is the power of seeing something going horrendously wrong and acting to end that wrong, this is the power of the selfless giver. This is the power in a pause.

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If you follow me on Twitter (@JesseMeehl) or have taken a gander to the left here on Haunted by Humans, you may have noticed quite a few Marvel Comics volumes appearing in my “recently read” widget. Well, there’s a method to this madness. I’ll let you in on it.

I have begun a quest to read EVERY series from Marvel Comics (starting back in their Timely and Atlas days). Yes, that’s a lot of comics, and yes, I’m starting at the beginning. I’ve been a huge Marvel fan since I was a kid, have basked in their renaissance of late, and can never get enough of any kind of super hero. So instead of just reading the big storylines and crossovers (like I did with DC), I’m reading it all, even through the bumps.

My Five Rules:

1) My first mission is the 616 Universe, which Marvelites will recognize as the Marvel Universe where all the main stuff happens. I may delve into some parallel universe stuff, but I’ll take it as I go. This applies to non-fiction and adaptations of other works etc.

2) I reserve the right to opt out of series that are either to hard to obtain (this is rare), or if they aren’t up to snuff. This latter cause is even rarer than the first. Generally it will only happen if a series becomes too monotonous for me. The key is I need to at least read one story arc from every volume.

3) In the Timely Era, I made sure to read material from every available series, but as that is pre-Marvel, I’m not requiring myself to read all the series. Same with the Atlas Era.

4) As much of the reading as possible will be in reading collected volumes. If an issue or series is missing from volumes, I may be forced to skip it or obtain a hard or digital copy.

5) I’m not reading early romance comics (nuff said), or series that just collect previously published stories.

Currently I’m making my way through the 60’s, paging through the early tales of Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, Daredevil, the X-Men, and more. The villainous Dr. Doom, Mandarin, Magneto, Juggernaut, Green Goblin, and Baron Zemo, among others, have stepped from the shadows to terrorize the world, and thank goodness we know, over 60 years later, that the good guys win in the end.

Every month I’ll keep you updated as to my progress. Follow me on Twitter if you want “up to the book” updates.

As this is the first official mention of the Marvel Project, I’ll catch you all up!

Series Currently Reading

–  Strange Tales, Vol. 1 (1951)

– Journey Into Mystery, Vol. 1 (1952)

– Tales of Suspense, Vol. 1 (1959)

– Tales to Astonish, Vol. 1 (1959)

– Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 (1961)

– The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1 (1963)

– The Avengers, Vol. 1 (1963)

– The X-Men, Vol. 1 (1963)

– Daredevil, Vol. 1 (1964)

Completed Series

– Menace (1953)

– The Black Knight (1955)

– The Yellow Claw (1956)

– Amazing Adventures/Amazing Fantasy (1961)

– The Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1 (1962)

Dropped Series

– Sgt. Fury, Vol. 1 (1963)

Ok, so contrary to what the title may sound like, I actually did enjoy this film…when I was watching it. But, much like The Dark Knight Rises, as soon as you stop and think about things, the whole film is just nonsensical. What makes it worse is that this film could have been so much better very easily. None of the pressing questions I have would require big changes in the plot. I’m not sure whose fault it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s another case of director Bryan Singer just needing to throw “cool stuff” around instead of things that actually make sense. And actually, the “cool stuff” is REALLY cool. Storm and Magneto get an amazing team-up, Blink, Iceman, and Bishop are awesome, and Beast actually looks great. So what’s the problem? Spoilers follow, so be warned…

1) Blink and You’ll Miss It.

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Blink is probably the coolest X-Man in the film. Basically, she can play Portal in real life, which makes for amazing fight sequences. She gets Sentinels to fly right through her portals into attacks by Warpath, Iceman, and others. There’s even a time where a Sentinel’s arm gets caught, on accident, in a portal as it is closing. The robotic arm clangs to the floor, and is not regenerated. Of course, this begs the question: “Why didn’t you close your portal on the Sentinel and cut it in half, or cut its head off? Would have saved a lot of trouble.

2) Walking on Sunshine

Look ma, one hand!

Look ma, one hand!

A big question leading up to this film was “How can Xavier walk again?” Well, turns out that Beast comes up with a serum that can both cure paralysis AND dampen your mutant powers. Aside from the fact that Beast and Xavier had a flipping CURE FOR PARALYSIS that they weren’t sharing with the world, there’s another issue here. Nobody would confine themselves to a wheelchair constantly for the rest of their life if they had a way out of it, so why isn’t Xavier out of his wheelchair more often? In fact, Beast also takes the serum, with no harmful side effects. There’s no reason for Xavier to not take a few days off from his wheelchair now and then.

3) Magic Bullets

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Turns out that Magneto is in prison for killing JFK. Thus explaining the curving of the magic bullet. However, once freed from prison, Magneto says that he actually was trying to save the president. When Xavier challenges him on this, mentioning that only the Master of Magnetism could curve a bullet, Magneto says that the actual people that wanted Kennedy dead stopped him before he could guide the bullet out of the way. What? I gotta think that curving a bullet out of the way would be pretty high up on your list of things not to do Mr. Magneto. How about stopping it in mid-air? Moving the car out of the way? Taking the gun away from Oswald? This is a guy that weaves metal fibers into multiple huge Sentinels at the same time, without looking at them, and he couldn’t stop one bullet?

4) Speaking of Bullets.

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Wolverine, Beast, Professor X, and Magneto set out to stop an assassination from happening that will trigger a horrible dystopia. Since he’s still walking around, Xavier’s powers aren’t working. So that leaves Magneto, Beast, and Wolverine. None of those people have powers that would allow them to sneak around easily. Well, maybe Nightcrawler wasn’t born yet? Ok, so its too bad that they couldn’t find someone that could sneak places. Oh, wait, except they just tracked down Quicksilver, who used his superspeed to save all of them from being shot the day before. And of course, there’s always Magneto, who should be able to stop a bullet…but he couldn’t stop one in the case of JFK, and he’s also the most unstable of all of them.

5) Blue Hulk

Beast Smash! Oh, wait, hang on...

Beast Smash! Oh, wait, hang on…

In a clear case of “needing” to get Nicholas Hoult more facetime, they went with the “I turn into a monster when I’m angry” route. Pathetic.

6) Phasing Out

See, it says "intangibility," nothing to do with time travel.

See, it says “intangibility,” nothing to do with time travel.

Can someone explain how Shadowcat, who has the power to phase through objects, can also send someone’s brain back in time?

So yeah, that’s a pretty bad job putting things together. But in the end, the movie is STILL great. Why? Because it erases or heavily changes the events portrayed in EVERY other X-Men film, except First Class! Brilliant! Also, the after credits scene is awesome!

But seriously, Bryan Singer, get your crap together and make a movie that still makes sense once you’re done thinking about it. And while you’re at it, we can go without hearing an F-bomb, or seeing Hugh Jackman’s nude bum. (Yes, both of those things happened in DOFP.)

My rating: 6/10 stars.

This Weekend in Cinema

Also out this weekend, the (bi-)annual stupid-fest that is an Adam Sandler film (Blended), Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, and forgettable films Words and Pictures and The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.

Must see: None.

Worth Your Time: X-Men: Days of Future PastStand Clear of the Closing Doors

Meh: None.

Stay Away: BlendedWords and PicturesThe Angriest Man in Brooklyn

Where do They Come From?

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: A sequel yes, but directly adapted from the comic book story line. 
  • Blended: Original

Original: 20

Adaptation: 20

Sequel/Prequel: 6

Remake: 1

Re-release: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely.

International films not included until end of year if Oscar potential exists. This weekend’s releases not included. Numbers in parenthesis are indicative of how many places the film moved from week to week.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel ( – )

2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier ( – )

3) The Lego Movie ( – )

4) Blue Ruin ( – )

5) Locke ( – )

6) Chef ( – )

7) Veronica Mars ( – )

8) Joe ( – )

9) Godzilla (NEW)

10) Belle ( – )

Absinthe USA

New deal –  if I’m doing a new release film review, then it will accompany TWIC. So…here goes.

Captain America and Falcon

Basically, Marvel’s done it again. Captain America: Winter Soldier is one of their best, safely making the top tier along with The Avengers and Iron Man. Marvel has an amazing knack for putting people in perfect roles. The Russo brothers, best known for the TV show Community, completely knock it out of the park, and a great cast is along for the ride.

Simply put, this is the best fight choreography I’ve seen in a film (martial arts films aside), and everyone gets in on it: Captain America, Falcon, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, (the soon to be) Crossbones, everyone. The dialogue is witty, but not too over-the-top funny, well crafted, and not full of hot air.

For some of these actors, this is their second or third time around with these characters, and you can tell that they have grown into them. Chris Evans has always been great as Cap, but Scarlett Johanssen (Black Widow), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), and Toby Jones (Dr. Zola, in flashbacks) all take their characters to the next level. Thr0w in newcomers Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), and Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow), and you’ve got an amazing cast. UFC legend Georges St- Pierre, making his debut on the big screen, shows that he’s , delivering an engaging performance (and fight) as Marvel D-List villain Baltroc the Leaper.

As some people have already said, this is a spy movie dressed up in super hero clothing, with a story very relevant to what’s happening in the U.S. these days. And in a cinematic universe where the villains can be as charismatic as the heroes, Cap isn’t overshadowed, although we get a clear antithesis image of the shadowy Winter Soldier, a polar opposite to Steve Rodgers.

Whether you’re a comic book fan or not, you should really see this film. Oh, and on a side note, stay until after ALL the credits, or you’ll miss something really neat.

My rating: 9 out of 10 stars.

Also out this weekend in wide release: Afflicted, a new found-footage horror film.

Where do They Come From?

  • Captain America: Winter Solider : Sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers
  • Afflicted: Original

Original: 11

Adaptation: 15

Sequel/Prequel: 3

Remake: 1

Re-release: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely.

International films not included until end of year if Oscar potential exists. This weekend’s releases not included. Numbers in parenthesis are indicative of how many places the film moved from week to week.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel ( – )

2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (NEW)

3) The Lego Movie ( -1 )

4) Veronica Mars ( -1 )

5) Gimme Shelter ( -1 )

6) A Birder’s Guide to Everything ( -1 )

7) Mr. Peabody & Sherman ( -1 )

8) Muppets Most Wanted ( -1 )

9) Afflicted (NEW)

10) Grand Piano ( –2 )

The Blockbuster Report

The only wide release film of this weekend is Thor: The Dark World. And of course, me being the Marvel nerd that I am, will choose it as my Film to Catch this weekend.

Thor-The-Dark-World

In limited release, we have an adaptation of The Book Thief, a new version of Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations, and a couple interesting documentaries: Birth of the Living Dead, about zombie visionary George Romero, and The Armstrong Lie, a look into the scandal that rocked the cycling world and the life of its most iconic athlete.

Where Do They Come From?

The new Thor film is a sequel…duh.

Original: 43

Adaptation: 30

Sequel/Prequel: 16

Remake: 2

Re-release: 3

Oscarwatch (Not including this weekend’s films)

1) 12 Years a Slave

2) Gravity

3) Before Midnight

4) Captain Phillips

5) Fruitvale Station

6) Blue Jasmine

7) Mud 

8) The Spectacular Now

9) Rush

10) Dallas Buyers Club

Admittedly, I am a completest. I typically need to start at the start, and do things in order. I won’t skip things, even if they aren’t so great. I still haven’t seen any of The Walking Dead because I want to read all the comics/graphic novels AND start at episode one of the show.  So, all that being said, after DC Comics started out on their New 52, I was ready to start with #1 (or #0, I guess) and read ALL of it. Naturally, it took awhile, as I have neither the money or interest to buy every issue, and needed to resort to library availability, but I’m enough through Volume 1 at this point to make a judgement (the only ones I haven’t read are VoodooCaptain Atom, and The Shade miniseries). Before I do that, here’s my breakdown of the titles.

The Best – Titles I really liked

AQUAMAN-1-PREVIEW-reis

Justice League
Aquaman
Batman
Batman and Robin
Action Comics
Green Lantern
Green Lantern: New Guardians
DC Universe Presents

The Good – Titles I liked, but not as much

warrrrr

Batman: The Dark Knight
Detective Comics
Batgirl
Batwing
Green Arrow
Green Lantern Corps
Blue Beetle
Blackhawks
Men of War
Animal Man
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Birds of Prey
Huntress
(miniseries)

The OK – Titles that have some good things, but are mostly nothing special.

StormWatch-2

Justice League International
The Savage Hawkman
Batwoman
Nightwing
Superboy
Supergirl
Red Lanterns
Hawk and Dove
Legion Lost
Deathstroke
Stormwatch
Grifter
Justice League Dark
Swamp Thing
Demon Knights
Resurrection Man
The Fury of Firestorm
Teen Titans
Penguin: Pain and Prejudice 
(miniseries)
Legion: Secret Origin 
(miniseries)

The Ugly – Avoid at all costs

2021814-flash1_big

Wonder Woman
The Flash
Mr. Terrific
Catwoman
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Superman
Static Shock
Legion of Superheroes
Suicide Squad
OMAC
All-Star Western
I, Vampire

The Verdict

The New 52 was DC’s big plan to revitalize their universe, it came along with a new logo and everything. And at some level, it was a good idea. A massive ret-con chance to line things up and make them smoother. But as I was reading through all of volume one, things were generally stale.

Aside from “the best” and some of “the good,” they told the same old story. New villain, need to fight, the hero learns something new about himself, etc. It was boring. The books that broke that mold were the ones that were the best, but they also had previously established supporting casts to use (Green Lantern: New Guardians and Batman for example). Aquaman was really the only character that came “out of the blue” to have a great story. The Batman, Action Comics and Green Lantern titles leaned heavily on past history, and DC Universe Presents did as well, with a great expansion of Deadman’s story, and a fun new origin to the Challengers of the Unknown.

The really sad thing here is the awful comics. DC has virtually no clue how to write a strong female character. If Barbara Gordon was around (BatgirlBirds of Prey) it was alright, everything else was bad, bad, bad. Wonder Woman was boring, stupid, and uninteresting, Catwoman was completely devoid of everything that made Ed Brubaker and Will Pfeifer’s run on the character so great: a Selina Kyle that was not one dimensional, that was struggling with her conscience, with protecting her friends and her child, and with starting a new life. OMAC, Static Shockand Mr. Terrific tried really hard, but were just boring attempts at sci-fi. The Flash and All Star Western promised much, but delivered recycled plots and thin characterization, and Legion of Superheroes threw literally, a legion of characters at you and expected you to know all of them. I was lost, and I don’t get lost easily.

At the end of the day, even with a new idea like this, things do stay pretty much the same. There are good stories, there are bad stories. Once they get out from under the “reboot” umbrella, which they are already starting to do, things will be better. We won’t have the need for new introductions to characters we may already know, and we’ll get some freedom to see some new things (I just finished the new Dial H volume, part of Wave 2 of the New 52, and it was great). But for the first wave, stick to the classics and you’ll be rewarded. DC will get back on track, and even though I’m a Marvel guy, I’m excited to see what folks like Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison have in store.

I get to write this while people all over are enjoying midnight showings. Yay for me!

This was always going to be a tricky one for Marvel. How to follow up The Avengers without building on it really, but still make a good film. I would say they were once again successful with Iron Man 3. However, this is the most polarizing Marvel Studios film to date, which I think is unfortunate. Most negative reviews I’ve read are not very well thought out or nit-picky, a consequence of having to deal with post-Avengers syndrome.

From the start, you can tell a new director is at the helm. This is a movie that is well written and funny, adding new darker tones to the quippy Stark, who can no longer sleep after the events in New York. The acting is great. Downey is his usual self, Cheadle gets to shine a bit and take the lead from time to time, Pierce and Kingsley are great villains, and Paltrow does fine as Pepper.

There’s a strong tinge of darker emotion in Iron Man 3. We’re not allowed to be light-hearted until the end, when we get a breath of fresh air. We see an emotionally wrecked Tony Stark, suffering from panic attacks and malfunctioning suits, undertaking a mission to save the woman he loves, we see Pepper Potts, taking a new role in protecting Tony and putting herself in danger, we see brutal attacks on the President and Stark, which leave savage distruction in their wake, and in the end, we see Stark trying to put a chapter of his life behind him.

There is one particular thing that is going to have many people upset, and it is odd that I am not one of them. I’ll just say this, don’t be bitter when you realize that Shane Black and Marvel completely had you fooled, hostage to the slight of hand. Also, I think it is fair to point out that Tony Stark does more detecting here than Batman does in the entire Dark Knight Trilogy, so thanks for that Chris Nolan.

You should go see this film, it is emotional, funny, and satisfying. Here’s hoping Downey is back for the next one.

Rating: 8/10