Wednesday, May 28, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past ~ I'm an Avengers guy. I have been aware of the X-Men for decades, but very rarely have I sampled those titles. The only time I did regularly read and collect X-Men comics was the original Chris Claremont/John Byrne era (yeah, I'm that old). The best and greatest story of that run, just behind the Dark Phoenix saga, would be the two-part "Days of Future Past" story in X-Men #141-142. Oh sure, I realize that the storyline has been revisited time and time again, many slipped past my notice, but I think the first was the best. That said, I was really looking forward to the film version of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Warning - spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the movie yet, it might be a good idea to wait until you have before reading further. You've been warned.

I can't go any further without mentioning how groundbreaking this movie actually is. There were three official X-Men films, and two Wolverine spin-off films, and then there's X-Men First Class, a film that I loved, and one that effectively rebooted the franchise. The film took place in the early sixties, and other than some of the characters, it was recast younger, and showed the beginnings of the X-Men. Had a sequel been made directly to this movie, I don't think anyone would have been disappointed if they completely ignored the other three X-Men flicks, or even the two Wolverines as well.

They could have done it easy, but director Bryan Singer, returning to the franchise had other ideas. He chose to blend the continuities, and mold a story that would include both of the franchise's two casts, young and old. If it worked, it would be brilliance, and if it didn't, a confusing mess no one would want to see. The plan worked beautifully. This is just as a good a crossover film as Marvel's The Avengers was. Fact, comic book folks know how to do crossovers on film.

The plot is the only part where it might become a bit convoluted, but as time travel movies go, this is child's play. The future is overrun by robots called Sentinels, programmed to hunt and destroy mutants, devastating the Earth as they do it. The remaining X-Men send Wolverine's future mind back to his 1973 body to try to convince Professor X and Magneto to work together to stop Mystique from assassinating a weapons dealer. His death is what starts the dominos falling toward the creation of the Sentinels. Changing time is not as easy as it sounds. Wolverine has to first straighten out a wasted Xavier, and then break magneto out of a concrete prison below the Pentagon. Not that easy at all.

There are changes from the original comics of course. Wolverine goes back in time instead of Kitty Pryde. It's arms dealer Boliver Trask who's the target instead of Senator Robert Kelly because Kelly, played by Bruce Davison, had already been used early on in the movie series. There's no Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the movie, and the Sentinels are more like Super-Adaptoids programmed using Mystique's shape-changing DNA.

The cast is superb. Professor X and Magento, past and present - Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender - are all superior actors and perfect in this film every moment they are on screen. Hugh Jackman just about is Wolverine at this point. Halle Berry insisted on much higher billing than she deserves, but at least she wasn't awful. Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde and Nicholas Hoult as the Beast are terrific, and I wish Anna Paquin's Rogue hadn't been cut from most of her shots in the flick. Shawn Ashmore's Iceman has as much screen time as Berry's Storm, but is much more charismatic and memorable. I wanted more Iceman, but was meh on Storm.

Peter Dinklage of "Game of Thrones" is clearly wasted in the film as Bolivar Trask. He is seen but rarely heard. This is a sad waste of a terrific actor, who also has a fan base that would bring folks to the film. On the same note, seeing how Mystique was a major character in the story, I was hoping that Jennifer Lawrence would have been given more to do. She looks good, has amazing action sequences, but as an Oscar nominated and winning actress, it would have been nice to see her actually, you know, act. Now don't get me wrong, I liked them both, I just wish there was more of them, just like Rogue.

The breakout performance of the flick however is Evan Peters as Quicksilver. For my money, he was the best part of the movie. This is teenaged Quicksilver, a smartass, but not the prime jerk he becomes as an adult in the Avengers. I was reminded much of the upcoming "Flash" TV series on the CW, because this is a character who enjoys his speed and using his powers, sooo refreshing. And again, much like Mystique and Trask, why not more Quicksilver?

And more Quicksilver would have made perfect story sense. At a point when Professor X was powerless, the beast was reluctant, and Wolverine only had bone claws, wouldn't a super speedster be a much needed helping hand? It must be noted, but when the only complaints I have are wanting more of what we got, is it really a complaint?

I did have another quibble - the Kennedy thing. I just thought it was too easy. Not the idea that Magneto killed JFK, the whole idea of the bullet that changes course is a great and clever inside joke, but it's the concept that Magneto was captured while protecting the President. Charles believes Erik much too easily when the villain says he was trying to save JFK because he was 'one of us.' Prof. X might well have already known that the President was a mutant via Cerebro, but this exchange changes the two's dynamic too easily, too quickly. Charles just drops his anger at Erik like rock. Too easy.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a dark film, and there are long stretches of that is-it-time-for-the-good-guys-to-win-yet, but it pulls together in the end. There's a pay-off that makes the long periods and the darkness well worth it. Like Bobby Ewing stepping out of a shower, the film does what all good time travel movies should do. It fixes what was broken as a bonus. When Logan returns from the past, Jean Grey and Cyclops are alive, and uncredited but still played by Famke Jansson and James Marsden. Bryan Singer fixed the crappy ending of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Be ready, just like the Marvel films, this Fox X-Men flick has an after credits sequence, something The Bride and I have named an 'afterburner.' This one depicts the villain of the next X-Men film - Apocalypse, so wait through the credits, it's good, and will make you tingle with anticipation for the next chapter. I still think First Class is the best of the X-movies, but this one comes close, recommended.

For more of The Bride's and my thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past, you can listen to this week's Make Mine Magic Podcast, with our special X-Men episode that you can hear right here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Petals on the Wind

Petals on the Wind ~ When Lifetime did Flowers in the Attic and it was even a little bit successful, it was pretty much guaranteed they would do a sequel... especially when there's one tailor made as part of the book series it based on. I should note however this was given a green light before Flowers even aired. That's how sure Lifetime was of the source material. So here's Petals on the Wind, which was just as popular as Flowers back in the day, but didn't have a crappy movie version to tarnish it. Let's see how good or bad the Lifetime treatment is.

Just as Flowers artfully used a cover of "Sweet Child o' Mine" to promote it, Petals similarly uses a cover of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," a song that was actually around when the book came out, and intros the movie almost as if this was a series rather than movies. Is it? "Last time on Flowers in the Attic..." makes me wonder. Not that I would mind a well done TV series...

It begins ten years after Flowers, and the children have been recast. I guess the shooting schedule for the final season of "Mad Men" might interfered possibly for Kiernan Shipka. And while the book picks up immediately after Flowers, the movie is a decade later, necessitating older actors. Chicken or the egg here, I have to wonder what came first - time shift or recasting? Either way, Rose McIver as Cathy is a weak sister to Kiernan Shipka.

The ten year jump that begins at Paul Sheffield's funeral does happily evade the creepy doctor character who adopted the children and tried to marry Cathy. Sometimes gothic romance and horror take a left turn into soap opera so bizarre, it really is better left forgotten. Not that a story that centers on incest isn't already inappropriately creepy... but you know what I mean. Good move, Lifetime.

The sad news is however that all of the rest of this seems very forced. From Cathy's abusive relationship with Julian to Carrie being bullied at school, and on top of it all is Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn's characters being shoehorned roughly into the story. I had a lot of trouble with Burstyn especially after literally just watching her brilliant comedic turn on "Louie" just before this.

Will Kemp is great as Julian, Cathy's husband in the book, boyfriend here, as long as you stop visualizing him as Starsky from "Starsky and Hutch," a comparison that gets difficult when you see his car. Rose McIver is no Shipka as I mentioned but she is certainly as hatable as Cathy should be. She deserves what she gets in so many ways. This was okay, not as good as Flowers, but a suitable sequel. The over the top revenge ending is well worth the two hour watch.

Lifetime has already announced plans to do the next two books in the Dollanganger series by V.C. Andrews, If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday in 2015, but there's been no word about the fifth and final installment, Garden of Shadows, probably because the ads refer to Seeds as the final installment. Interesting.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Voluted Tales: Nerdful Things

I just wanted to let folks know about one of my latest projects. I am currently writing a scifi genre pop culture column for the online speculative fiction magazine Voluted Tales.

If you haven't checked out Voluted Tales before, you definitely should, and if you're a writer of short speculative fiction, think seriously about submitting.

My new column, called Nerdful Things, can be found here. This month's article talks about Marvel has changed how we watch movies, and last issue's was about expectations for the new Godzilla film.

And you can check out the current issue of Voluted Tales, for a small subscription fee, right here. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Reality Burnout

The season finales for both "Survivor" and "American Idol" were last night, and while I have been a hardcore fan of both in the past, I really didn't give a rat's backside last night, this season, or quite frankly, several seasons. Both of these shows, along with "Big Brother" and "The Amazing Race," are really dependent on the contestants, and that gene pool has been iffy of late.

Of course there's also the attraction of a potential train wreck, and I do love a good train wreck. "The Amazing Race" is more The Bride's wheelhouse than mine but I was digging the mental and relationship breakdown of former "Big Brother" winners Brendon and Rachel. Now that was a train wreck.

However that kind of hot messiness couldn't seem to save "American Idol" this year. I lost interest early in the season when the show refused to highlight the usual freakshow of audition rejects in the cause of positivity. Let's face it, for every Kelly Clarkson, we can list five William Hungs or Ben Haars. That is what makes the show.

Getting back to train wrecks and "Idol," I couldn't believe who the two finalists were this season. Caleb had a strong rocker voice but he had some trouble on Twitter calling his fans the R word. One would think that would be enough to keep him from winning, but I guess the Bible Belt "AI" voters who kept Adam Lambert from winning probably don't care much about being politically correct.

I still don't know how Jena made final ten, let alone final two. Every time I saw her perform she was always butchering one song or another. And none if these judges have courage enough to tell the truth. Harry Connick Jr. comes close at times, but what "Idol" really needs is for Simon Cowell to return. It hasn't been the same, or as good, since he left.

I'm not sure what to watch in the reality TV realm any more. "America's Got Talent" has become a freakshow, and not in a good way, and "The Voice" has always bored me. Well, let's just hope the next bunch on "Big Brother" aren't just another group of vapid model wannabes, but have a but more personality or psychosis than usual.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rosemary's Baby 2014

Rosemary's Baby ~ My first thought when I had heard they were remaking Rosemary's Baby was why. It's almost a perfect film as it is, perhaps a bit dated now, but for its time, it was fabulous and changed the way we viewed horror. One could say that the original film, based on the Ira Levin novel, even created its own little subgenres of horror. It opened the door to several devil-related flicks, family-centric horror, and modern takes on old scare themes. The Stepford Wives, The Omen, even The Exorcist, they all owe a debt to Rosemary's Baby.

There are of course reasons to remake a movie, even one that was done right the first time. One reason would be to expand the original story, fill in details, complete connections, explain what was left unexplained. Another reason would be to update the film, as in a lot has changed since 1968 and now it's 2014. That means update the style of the filmmaking and storytelling, not just adding cellphones, the internet, and social media.

There is always the possibility that one has found a way to improve the original, to make it better, however in this case I doubt it. Some folks just want to do a remake as is, reproducing sets or shots, but with new actors or as above updated settings. Or it could simply be a bit of stunt casting, which does fit this case with Zoe Saldana in the Mia Farrow role.

I think the main reason I didn't want to see Rosemary's Baby remade was that it seems to be recent memory, and then I remember it's a relic of my childhood, and lastly as my mind shrivels a bit more I realize the original was made almost five decades ago. Damn, I feel old. It was a long time ago, and I even remember the ill-advised ABC Movie of the Week sequel Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby. Now that was a disaster, but at least it was a fun disaster. I don't think I can even call this remake fun.

Let's talk about the stunt casting of Zoe Saldana. Zoe is Uhura, she's Columbiana, she's Gamora. And it's not a matter of typecasting either she's better in those kinds of roles. This is not to say the woman doesn't have range, but she just doesn't pull it off here. I don't believe her for a second as naive, innocent, and demure Rosemary Woodhouse. There's a hint of the Zoe we all know and love in the beginning of the miniseries but she never surfaces again.

The other major change that director Agnieszka Holland made was the location move to Paris. This is disappointing as New York is very much a character in the original film. Holland is well known for a completely different kind of movie, the kind that would normally occur in France, but let's face it, this is Rosemary's Baby, and it's a miniseries for prime time American network television. What the hell were they thinking at NBC?

This new version of course add new details, as they do have double the time to fill being a four hour miniseries 'event' as opposed to just a two hour movie. That also means it drags everything out. Waiting and extended talky scenes do not a suspenseful story make. I love Zoe but she exudes as much (or as little) charisma here as the rest of her co-stars. The score by Antoni Lazarkiewicz is relentlessly uninteresting and pales in comparison with the stunning soundtrack of the original by Krzysztof Komeda.

This had the potential to be a refreshing and original take on the story but it fails both due to length and casting, and yes, even location. While the original presented tense subtle creeping horror, this version is boring, underwhelming, and overly and unnecessarily complex - and ultimately disappointing. Give this a pass. Read the book, see the original, hell, see the sequel, but give this 2014 remake a wide berth.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Arrow S02 E23: "Unthinkable"

Here we are, the season two finale, and it all leads to a final showdown with Slade Wilson, Deathstroke. Slade's Mirakuru army is on the rampage in Starling City. Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. have the city quarantined, and if the Arrow hasn't disposed of the threat by dawn, drones will level the city. Things are looking very dark for our heroes.

As we open, the clock tower, the temporary Arrowcave, is under attack by Slade's men. A surprise player intervenes to save the day - Lyla, AKA Harbinger. That was unexpected. The good news is that the Mirakuru cure works, so Roy is back to normal, and red masked. Canary has also brought in help - Nyssa and the League of Assassins. Hmmm... the odds are starting to seem a bit more even now.

The ensuing battles go as expected, albeit too quickly in the case of Canary vs. Ravager. I talked last time about how I felt about villains killing villains. It's very dissatisfying. Nyssa's murder of Isabel is a harsh point for Oliver. He has vowed this season not to be a killer, yet those he's allied himself with really know no other way. Thus the episode's title, under these extreme circumstances, can Oliver do the unthinkable?

Things escalate when Slade takes Laurel prisoner. Even Quentin begins to question Arrow's non-murderous ways when confronted with losing his daughter. If that's not enough, as Slade's army seeks to escape through the Giordano Tunnel (nice shout out to legendary DC Comics artist and editor Dick Giordano), drones are on their way to the city.

As if Oliver didn't have enough to worry about, he takes Felicity to his house so she's safe. He tells her that Slade wanted to hurt him by taking the woman he loves, but Slade took the wrong woman. Yeah. That came out of nowhere, and plunges this formerly one-sided love affair into the show wrecking territory of "Cheers" and "Moonlighting." And sadly, Oliver telling Felicity he loves her significantly triples her chances of not making it through the episode. Or does it?

The battle between Team Arrow, the League of Assassins, and Slade's army in the tunnel is simply awesome. The best part for this comics fanboy? Roy in red, with mask and bow, side by side with Arrow and Canary. Awesome. Can we have more of this please next season? If that's not enough comic book superhero action, Diggle and Lyla free the Suicide Squad to stop the drone at its source. Nice.

The finale is almost exactly as one would have predicted. Slade will make Oliver choose once again as he was forced to choose between Sara and Shado on the island. I had always assumed it would be Sara and Laurel on the chopping block. I suppose however, with fan favorite Felicity there with Laurel, it raises the stakes with the viewers. The producers aren't stupid, they know how to grease the wheels to real nail biting suspense.

And right before it happened, I knew what Oliver did. He knew. He knew Slade had the house bugged, was listening in to their plans. Oliver said what he said to get Felicity kidnapped, and she of course would have the Mirakuru cure. At the same time I was like Go Felicity! and Poor Felicity, as she had to hear Oliver say the words knowing they didn't mean what they sounded like they meant. Good plan, but as usual with Oliver, no tact.

Beautifully, both fights between Deathstroke and Arrow, in the present and back on Flashback Island, mirror each other. The choreography is executed perfectly. Like the other fight scenes in this episode, except for Ravager, it is played well. In the end, Arrow wins, because he doesn't kill Slade, and leaves him in an ARGUS supermax facility on Flashback Island.

There are no happy endings however, and only more loose ends to be tied up hopefully next season. Diggle is going to be a father with Lyla, but that's good news. After finding Roy's Speedy gear, Thea leaves with her father Malcolm, supposedly 'never coming back.' I wonder if she'll return as a new Dark Archer, or Dark Speedy, or perhaps even a female Merlyn the Magician...

Sara leaves as well with Nyssa, but not before giving her leather jacket to Laurel. After she says it fits, her dad tells her not to get any ideas. Now comics fans are getting ideas, because Dinah Laurel Lance is actually the second Black Canary, so Laurel taking up the mantle does make a bit of sense, and we know Laurel can fight, not like an Assassin of course, but she can fight.

While we comics fans are getting excited for the possibilities of next season (hey, finally a reason to like Laurel!), the bad thing happens, Quentin doubles over in pain, suffering from injuries inflicted by Slade's men, he passes out. And that's when the comics fans among us know where this is probably going. Quentin Lance has always been living on borrowed time because of the character he's based upon.

Essentially Quentin is Larry Lance, poor doomed Larry Lance. It fits. He is/was a police detective, he's Dinah Lance's husband, and they're the parents of the current Black Canary. He's Larry Lance, and like poor doomed Gwen Stacy, he's destined to die. And if you add in the rumor that Quentin wasn't supposed to make it through The Undertaking alive at the end of last season, he's really living on borrowed time.

In the comics, Larry dies saving Black Canary from the cosmic star-being Aquarius. It's this tragedy that drives her to leave the Justice Society on Earth-Two and join the Justice League on Earth-One. There she becomes romantically linked to Green Arrow. That's the original story, many reboots and continuities later, it's still basically the same, long story short. Larry Lance is still doomed. I wonder if his TV counterpart Quentin will share his fate? I, for one, hope not.

Also on the epilogue agenda is Flashback Island. After leaving both Slade and Sara thought dead on the sunk Amazo, Oliver woke up in Hong Kong to be greeted by Amanda Waller. This should be fun next season. I didn't care for "Arrow" all that much when I started watching it, but I'm very happy it's turned into the best superhero show, if not one of the best shows on television this season, I look forward to more.

And speaking of more, we were also treated to a sneak peek at the new Flash TV series at the end of this episode. It was followed the next day by a longer more impressive trailer. To see them both, head on over to Biff Bam Pop! or click right here. See you next time… in a flash!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Godzilla 2014

You know me, I am a hardcore Godzilla fan, and earlier this week, thanks to friend Skott Stotland of The Nerd Signal, I got to see an early showing of the new American Godzilla film.

You can read my spoiler-filled review of the movie over at Biff Bam Pop!, click here. I've got a lot to say.

And while you're in the monster mood, please check out Skott Stotland's review of Godzilla here, fellow Biff Bam Pop! staff writer J.P. Fallavollita on Gareth Edwards' Monsters here (and my review of that film as well), and good friend and fellow writer Becca Butcher's rebuttal to my review here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Make Mine Magic Podcast

For a little over half a year now, The GAR! Podcast family has grown by one. The Make Mine Magic Podcast, unlike its sister production, is focused, planned and rehearsed and features myself and The Bride talking about all things Disney.

This week we’re talking about the Disney animated film Beauty and the Beast, but not in the traditional way. There have been many articles on BuzzFeed about what's wrong with the movie - unanswered questions, illogical plot holes and the like - so we decided to take on those questions ourselves. We even invoke Spider-Man and Sweeney Todd in our discussion. You can hear Episode 30 here, and find out what all the Beauty and the Beast hubbub is about.

Previous episodes include discussions of the Disney Princesses, the NJ DIS Meet Weekend, memories of Pleasure Island, special episodes on Pixar, the Pixar Theory, and even reviews of Muppets Most Wanted and Captain America The Winter Soldier.

You can find The Make Mine Magic Podcast on its own website here, on Facebook, and can also contact me or my co-host Jennifer Walker on Twitter.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

And the Winner Is...

...Austria! "Rise Like a Phoenix" by Conchita Wurst!

For my full report on the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, check it out here at Biff Bam Pop!.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Arrow S02 E22: "Streets of Fire"

Now the first thing I think of when I hear the words "Streets of Fire," the title of this week's episode of "Arrow," I think of that less than satisfactory musical by Walter Hill from the early 1980s. Hopefully this will wipe that image from my mind.

When last we left Team Arrow, Brother Blood's Mirakuru army was on the rampage in Starling City. Diggle was about to get his ass handed to him by Isabel/Ravager, Arrow and Laurel were trapped underground, Thea was in danger, Quentin was in danger, and Felicity was taking a call... but I'm sure in danger as well. We pick up moments after we left off.

The cliffhangers are handled better than they have been recently. It's good to see the good guys on top of their game for once. I like seeing resourceful heroes. There is a great moment when Kate Spencer confronts Sebastian Blood about the chaos in the city, and the fanboy in me just wanted her to take matters into her own hands and change into Manhunter. But that ain't gonna happen. Apparently there is a limit to heroes in Starling City, and it's not cool, not cool at all.

And then there's the return of John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn, coming to Thea's rescue in full Dark Archer regalia. He claims he heard about Moira's death and returned to make sure his daughter was all right. Canary is also back, seemingly for the same reasons, but no, it's more like she needed to confess to her sister.

Felicity's phone call panned out however. Vibe and Killer Frost, ahem, I mean Cisco and Caitlin over at S.T.A.R. Labs in Central City have come up with a cure for Mirakuru. It just has to be retrieved, unfortunately Slade knows all about it. The team is intercepted en route with Slade's forces closing in. The episode is actually very much like the end of the first season, with the city in ruins and the cast dispersed.

We also see pieces of the puzzle finally coming together in this episode. We see the beginning of a trust between the Arrow and the police. Quentin's words about masks tearing up the city, and needing a mask to put a stop to it ring in a new era. On Flashback Island, we see the bond of trust made between Oliver and Anatoly, who in the comics becomes the KGBeast, cementing his connection to the Russian mob.

And now for the bad stuff. Sebastian Blood, becoming more and more dissatisfied with Slade's plans, devastation of the city, and obsession with the Arrow, betrays his superior. The cure goes from Slade's hands to Blood's to the Arrow's, thanks to Blood, and for that, the Ravager kills him. I'm not a fan of villains killing villains. It takes it out of the hero's hands, making the heroism a little less satisfying. We want to see the hero beat the villain, so let us.

And don't let the hero's kid sister kill the villain either. But we'll see how that works out next week as well. Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. has blocked all roads and bridges out of Starling City in an effort to keep Slade's army from getting out. She'll level the city at dawn if the Arrow hasn't stopped them. That's the cliffhanger for the season finale, with a nice shout out to the JSA's Monument Point thrown in just for good measure. See you next week.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The 2014 Eurovision Finalists

After Tuesday's First Semi-Final and today's Second Semi-Final, we now have the official line-up for Saturday's Final. The competitors for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest are, in order of performance, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Norway, Romania, Armenia, Montenegro, Poland, Greece, Austria, Germany, Sweden, France, Russia, Italy, Slovenia, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Malta, Denmark, The Netherlands, San Marino, and the United Kingdom.

The Final will be held in Copenhagen Denmark Saturday afternoon US time. My favorites are Poland, Austria, and Ukraine, but I doubt any of those will be the winner this year. Of course, the voting is a little different this year with 50% of it going to a judges panel as opposed to being subject to the whims of the people of Europe. Who will you be rooting for?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

A Double Shot of Thunder

Thor: Hammer of the Gods ~ When I first saw this one on Netflix I thought for sure it was another Thor rip-off like Almighty Thor by The Asylum, but no, seriously this 2009 made for TV film is something else. Granted, it aired on SyFy, which is where most Asylum flicks end up, and obviously the concept was meant to cash in on the Marvel films based on the comics character and the Norse myth, but this has a little more depth than a copycat rip-off.

Here Thor is a Viking leading an expedition to a legendary land where he and his followers are set upon by monstrous beasts. Thor also has visions of a past life where it seems he was the god Thor, and he fought Fenris and the Midgard Serpent, children of the trickster god, Loki. See, it's a different mindset, and ends up being more Sinbad than superhero. Low budget, but well done, I really kinda dug this.

Adventures of Thunderstorm The Return of Thor ~ This movie has quite possibly the longest scrolling text intro I have ever seen, boring me into submission even before the actual movie has begun. It doesn't get any better after that. This nearly zero budget flick is bad, and in this case, amateur hour lasts an hour and twenty-five minutes.

Unlike Hammer of the Gods, this is a present day superhero movie, and weirdly more Iron Man than Thor. Cultists/terrorists are trying to bring about Ragnarok so the Norse gods, specifically Thor, send a little power Earthward to some schmuck scientist with a battlesuit to fight off the evildoers. The suit even comes with a hammer.

The acting is abysmal, the writing is worse, and the special effects are down there too. This is one of those that I watched so you won't have to. Avoid at all costs.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Rio 2

Rio 2 ~ Other than being very colorful, having some great Brazilian carnivale music, and explaining exactly what was going on in Angry Birds Rio, the first Rio didn't do much for me. If I remember correctly, I may have even dozed off during it. While the sequel has its faults, I think it was a bit better.

This time I think I got some of the subtext, intended or unintended, of Rio. This is a 1930s musical. It's got everything - stars, dance numbers, songs, romance, comedy, chase sequences, action, lots of subplots, and even a bit of action - it's the perfect 1930s musical. You can even see the casting, an all-star cast, fitting into a modern version of that style. The bits by Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, and Kristen Chenoweth steal the show. On that subtext, I really loved this.

As a movie however, like I said, it's got faults. There are dozens of characters, and at least a half-dozen subplots, not to mention the tiresome preaching about saving the rain forest and how bad man is. There are so many characters I gave up trying to keep track of them about halfway through. The subplots are spaced so far apart I sometimes forgot what was going on. The writers need to watch some HBO to learn quick cutting between scenes.

The kids will probably love it. If I ever get back to Angry Birds Rio, I might like it a bit more, but I probably won't see it again. I will buy the soundtrack though, I can't get enough Janelle Monae. And if you can't either, be warned, she gets about thirty seconds in this flick, as opposed to the soundtrack.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Eurovision 2014 Finalists

This is the week, Eurovision happens this week. The First Semi-Final is tomorrow, with the Second Semi-Final on Thursday and then the big event, the Final on Saturday.

And on Saturday, the winners of the First and Second Finals will compete with last year's winning country, Denmark, and the original five countries. Here are those entries:

Denmark - "Cliché Love Song" by Basim

Spain - "Dancing in the Rain" by Ruth Lorenzo

Italy - "La Mia Citta" by Emma Marrone

Germany - "Is It Right" by Elaiza

France - "Moustache" by TWIN TWIN

United Kingdom - "Children of the Universe" by Molly

Friday, May 02, 2014

Free Comic Book Day 2014

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY is Saturday, May 3, 2014! Free Comic Book Day is a single day - the first Saturday in May each year - when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores. *Check with your local comic book shop for their participation and rules.

Click here for a list of this year's comics!

Come and join the largest celebration of Free Comic Book Day in South Jersey at both All Things Fun! locations (and at 4 area local libraries!)

It's not only a chance to get your hands on some great new free comics but each All Things Fun! location will be running a ONE DAY MEGA-SALE!

The first ten people on line at both stores will get a free graphic novel. Everything in both locations will be on sale! There will be kids costume contests, meet Batman, Spider-Man, and Zenescope artist Anthony Spay. West Berlin doors open at 11 AM and McGuire AFB doors open at 9 PM.

For more details on the event at ATF!, check out the Facebook page here. And if you're not in the South Jersey area, keep in mind that Free Comic Book Day is a worldwide event - find your local comic shop here or call 1-888-COMICBOOK.

Happy Free Comic Book Day!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Arrow S02 E21: "City of Blood"

We open on tragedy - the funeral of Moira Queen and the swearing in of Sebastian Blood as mayor of Starling City. And Oliver is missing.

The feeling at the wake is pretty much as expected. Thea hates Oliver, is feeling guilty over her Mom's death, and in general tired of secrets. And really who can blame her? Felicity and Diggle are surprised by the appearance of Isabel who has ominous words for them, threats really. Isn't she supposed to be dead? I kept waiting for one of them to verbalized it but it never came. At least not right away.

Oliver is not the only one in the wind. Sara has also drifted off the radar, and of course being the target of a manhunt, Slade Wilson is similarly missing. He does call Blood to congratulate him on becoming mayor however.

Speaking of Blood, Laurel and her dad plant a bug in his office and find he wrote a condolence press release the day before Moira was killed. All well and good, but isn't a red flashing bug the wrong thing to use on a stealth mission? There are also blinking explosive charges later. Why does it have to blink? Are we that dumb we won't know it's working unless it blinks?

After the weekly reminder that the Flash is coming, Diggle takes Felicity to see Amanda Waller in hopes she'll help them find Oliver. She does. He's in his lair. His other lair. Yep, there's a backup Arrowcave. There they find Oliver, depressed and obsessed. He has decided to surrender to Slade and let him kill him. I guess someone has hit rock bottom.

And of course, Team Arrow is going to need a second Arrowcave because Isabel is evicting Thea from Verdant, as the club is owned by Queen Consolidated. And as we know, Verdant is on top of the not-so-secret Arrowcave. This may be permanent as the producers have promised a few changes of venue for the third season.

When Laurel joins Team Arrow, all the pieces come together. She connects the dots for Oliver regarding Blood and Wilson. It re-energizes Oliver and he goes to meet with Sebastian Blood in a public restaurant. The subtle menace between these two actors, Stephen Amell and Kevin Alejandro, is power and heat - great scene with all the cards on the table.

As the episode closes, Blood's army is on the loose, and things look very dark for Team Arrow and Starling City. With only two episodes left in the season, next time we have Diggle vs. Ravager, the return of Malcolm Merlyn, Arrow and Laurel buried alive, Quentin and Thea under attack by Blood's Mirakuru minions, and Felicity gets a call from Vibe. All this and more, next week.