Archive for Marvel

Countdown to Avengers 3: Thor Ragnarok review

Posted in comic books, movies with tags , , , on April 19, 2018 by Paxton

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began. And here we are, along with Robert from To the Escape Hatch and CT on Nerd Lunch doing a third “Countdown to Avengers” series. AND, we are joined by a new blogger, Jay from Life vs. Film. You can check out the start of this series with Robert’s post about Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Robert, Jay, CT and I are all splitting the films up in anticipation of May’s Avengers: Infinity War. With this film and next year’s Avengers 4, the expectation is that we will be done on some level with this iteration of the MCU.  But I doubt it’ll go away completely. If you want to check out my last review in this series, it was for Captain America: Civil War. Now, let’s turn to my next review, Thor Ragnarok.

Like last time, let’s start off with my quick takes on the first two Thor movies.  First off, I read comics in the 80s and 90s.  I never really liked Thor as a character.  He just never honestly seemed to click with me.  That being said, I really like that first movie.  There’s not really a lot going on, but Hemsworth is great as Thor.  Hiddlesworth is good as Loki (he doesn’t become *great* until Avengers).  Portman is good as Jane and Kat Dennings is almost a show stealer as Darcy.  It’s fun to see Hemsworth playing “fish out of water” on Earth but we get precious little of Asgard.  The movie is mostly enjoyable and a good intro to MCU Thor.  If nothing else, the movie got me reading the Thor comics right about the time Jason Aaron started writing them and *that* has made me a huge fan of Thor.  Check out my full review of Thor for the very first Countdown to Avengers back in 2012.

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Thor: The Dark World has its flaws.  It tries to do too much and in the process squanders one of Thor’s best villains, Malekith the Accursed.  Hemsworth is still great as Thor.  We see Hiddleston in his post-Avengers awesomeness.  Portman is a problem and obviously doesn’t really even want to be there.  Kat Dennings brings more Darcy and she’s a delight.  There’s a lot more humor in this movie than I remember whenever I see it, but ultimately the movie is cluttered, hard to follow and doesn’t really seem to go anywhere.  So while I was okay with the Thor movies they had put out so far, I was ready for them to try something new.  This Thor has lots of potential as he’s great in the team up movies, but his solo efforts have been only okay.

When announcements started coming out about Thor Raganarok it was clear they were going in a different direction.  A New Zealand director, Cate Blanchett as the villain, a bright color palate and a humorous tone that seemed to have been clearly inspired by the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.  I was okay with all of this.  Chris Hemsworth has proven he can be funny.  He has the timing.  And Thor can be funny.  The aforementioned Jason Aaron’s run on Thor is infused with lots of humor and takes Thor in a more cosmic direction which it looks like this movie wants to do.  So I was all on board with what they were trying to do.  And that first trailer just ROCKED.

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The movie 100% delivers.  They *nailed* the tone perfectly for me.  I know many people said there was too much humor, but I don’t agree.  The humor was great and *everyone* got to have their moments.  Not just Thor.  Hulk was funny, Valkyrie, Loki, hell, a brand new character, Korg, practically stole the movie.  I loved every bit of this lightened up Thor.

Loki returns and is awesome once again.  We even get some really nice scenes between on screen brothers, Thor and Loki.  Hemsworth and Hiddleston really work well together.  I’ll be sad if/when this particular pairing ends.

What about the big bad, Hela?  She is as awesome as I wanted her to be.  Cate is the best anyway, so to see her really chew up the scenery here I loved it.  Actually, I could have done with *more* Hela.  Like, this movie maybe could have been split into two movies, with the Grandmaster/Hulk parts in one movie and the Hela parts in another.  But that’s a minor quibble.  We get so much awesomeness throughout this movie….The Grandmaster!  What can I say about how awesomely weird Jeff Goldblum is as Grandmaster?  So good.  And I like *this* Hulk.  He can talk and have a bit of a conversation.  And he’s funny.  I can’t say enough how on point I think the tone of this movie was.  I think I liked it better than the Guardians movies.

Wrapping up the movie, we see the Asgardians leaving to start New Asgard.  Thor is king and ready to lead his people, sans hammer.  I’m hoping we get to see Thor wield his battle axe, Jarnbjorn, in Infinity War.  Even if only for a little bit.  Loki has made off with the cosmic cube again and it looks like Thor may be the first hero to actually have an interaction with Thanos, or Thanos’ people.  I can’t wait to see this Thor meet up with the Guardians.  So much fun potential coming up in Infinity War.  I can’t wait.

But I’m not the only one who had thoughts on this movie. Here are some quick thoughts from CT:

This movie was for Thor and Hulk what Civil War was for the rest of the MCU characters (sans GotG). It further alters the status quo and makes big shocking changes for Thor that will have to affect him in some way moving forward.

If this movie did anything wrong, it was how it wiped out the Warriors Three so effortlessly. It would have been nice to see them get a few more moments to shine. Hopefully Lady Sif’s absence means she’s still out there able to play a role in a future MCU installment someday.

Hulk finally advances to a level I’ve always wanted to see on screen–that of the talking brute who doesn’t want to become Banner. The TV show and previous movies have made a point of playing up that Banner doesn’t want to be the Hulk, but until now, we’ve really not seen that Hulk doesn’t want to be Banner.

Loki promises to be a big player in Infinity War having clearly saved the Cosmic Cube. This movie ends with a clear set up for an early encounter between Thanos and New Asgard. Hopefully these refugees don’t have worse luck after this meeting with the Mad Titan.

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Countdown to Avengers 3: Captain America: Civil War review

Posted in movies with tags , , , , on April 6, 2018 by Paxton

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began. And here we are, along with Robert from To the Escape Hatch and CT on Nerd Lunch doing a third “Countdown to Avengers” series. AND, we are joined by a new blogger, Jay from Life vs. Film. You can check out the start of this series with Robert’s post about Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Robert, Jay, CT and I are all splitting the films up in anticipation of May’s Avengers: Infinity War. With this film and next year’s Avengers 4, the expectation is that we will be done on some level with this iteration of the MCU.  But I doubt it’ll go away completely.

For now, let’s talk about what I came here to talk about…Captain America: Civil War.

Quickly, before we start, my hot take on the first two Captain America movies. The first one is a good, but not outstanding origin movie with lots of great performances including Evans, Atwell, and Weaving. I liked the movie more than I expected and I liked Chris Evans as Cap a *lot* more than I expected. Winter Soldier was a game changer not only for the MCU but for this version of Cap as well. We see Cap in a modern movie kicking all kinds of ass and being awesome. We also get the introduction of two more awesome characters in the Winter Soldier and Sam Wilson, aka Falcon. And while the movie is a great action movie, the political intrigue subplot is well played out as well. The Winter Soldier movie was an eye opener and made Chris Evans’ Cap my new favorite MCU hero over Iron Man.

Fast forward to Civil War. Some may even call it Avengers 2.5. The Avengers taking sides over the fate of Winter Soldier. The first appearance of several new characters. I was pretty excited to see it going into it. And it more than delivers. As these movies have gone on, especially the Avengers movies, I think one of my favorite parts are the cold openings. Usually we see the group in the middle of some mission, working together, bantering, being “The Avengers”. The teamwork and dialogue in these scenes are so fun and I love it. Civil War doesn’t disappoint. It opens with the current Avengers, plus Wanda and minus Tony, in Lagos trying to stop Brock Rumlow from stealing a biological weapon. We get to see everyone in action, Falcon has Red Wing who gets to shine in battle. Lots of really fun stuff here. Then the drama starts with the thrust of the plot and the entrance (and return!) of General Thunderbolt Ross (shout out to The Incredible Hulk movie!).

The crux of the plot makes sense.  Honestly, even the split of the heroes makes sense to me, each hero going where their natural proclivities lie.  I love the return of Clint.  I know his character gets a lot of crap from fans, but you know what, I like Renner and I like his portrayal of Hawkeye.  How we haven’t gotten a Black Widow/Hawkeye team up movie is beyond me.  We also get the appearance of Scott Lang from Ant-Man (which CT reviewed a little while ago) and he’s great in several *almost* show stealing scenes (Giant Man!).  They continue to build out Winter Soldier’s character.  He gets better and more interesting every single movie he’s in.  And if I don’t get a Winter Soldier/Falcon buddy movie at some point, we will have words, Marvel.

There’s so much to unpack I’m not sure where I want to go next. How about the debut of Black Panther? I’ve read comics since the mid-80s, I’ve never really read Black Panther but this particular iteration of him made me a fan and the Black Panther solo movie further cemented that. The debut of the new Spider-Man? Amazing (pun intended). Tom Holland *nails* Peter Parker. And he *nails* Spider-Man in the suit. Again, the Spider-Man solo movie cemented *that* even further. There’s not much I don’t really like about this movie. The action set pieces are drop dead gorgeous. When Cap goes to confront Bucky while special forces are busting down the door to his apartment…fantastic. Perfectly staged. And the Berlin airport sequence? I don’t need to expend any more words describing how awesome that whole sequence is.

So I said there isn’t really anything I don’t like about this movie.  Let me amend that a bit.  I feel like, and this has been a progression since Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is more and more becoming a crazy asshole.  I mean, I know he was always an asshole but his heart was in the right place and he was still lovable.  Continuing that progression here, he seems to go off the deep end a bit with these Sekovia Accords.  He acts like if the team had been under oversight from the beginning, then the people who died in New York, Sekovia and Lagos would have been saved.  Like, if the UN had oversight over the Avengers, then that kid building sustainable housing in Sekovia (Alfre Woodard’s son) during the Ultron incident wouldn’t have died.  I posit that if the UN had been involved that not only would he most likely still have died, probably millions more would have died as well.  But I also get this progression as ever since New York, Tony has been on edge with PTSD, then he created Ultron, causing all that death and destruction.  I totally get why he’s overcorrecting here.  But it just makes me love it more when he goes to Russia to bury the hatchet with Cap, and then it completely breaks my heart when he sees the video of his parents getting killed and it starts all over.  Such a powerful ending to this movie that I really hope when we get to the next Avengers movie that these issues are addressed in some form.  I don’t want these things to be brushed aside easily.  They really need to address the ending of this movie HARD (they don’t at all in Spider-Man: Homecoming or Black Panther).

So, as it stands, this is very nearly my favorite MCU movie to date.  And that’s a loaded statement because this movie lives on the backs of almost the entire 10 years of history of the MCU to date.  But that’s what makes it so special.

But I wasn’t the only one with thoughts on this movie, here are some final thoughts by CT:

That 14 minute airport fight was something I had waited my entire life to see. Super heroes are notorious for fighting amongst themselves in the comics. And we got a few seconds of an Iron vs. Thor battle in the first Avengers, but here we have two teams, each at “Avengers-level,” facing off. Not only that, to see Giant-Man make his debut here was a nice added touch.
 
While I’m “Team Cap,” if it were real life, I think I’d be Team Stark. The beauty of this movie is the debate between the two is one worth having. The downfall is that the discourse breaks down quickly and devolves into fighting. Hey! Just like the internet!
 
It was also great to see William Hurt’s Ross again which again confirms the Ed Norton movie is a part of this. A fact that some Marvel fans need to be reminded of. Yes, it would have been great to have Ruffalo retroactively in that film, but recasting is a part of life (see also War Machine).
 
This is an MCU-changing film drastically affecting the status quo and leaving things in an interesting place for Infinity War. The family has been shattered. Now they have to work past everything again to take on Thanos.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Marvel’s Dracula Lives magazine (1973)

Posted in comic books, Dracula, monsters, movies, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2011 by Paxton

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Welcome to Day 4 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2011.  This week I am looking at comic books featuring the character of Dracula.  Yesterday we looked at Marvel’s regular size Tomb of Dracula.  Today we look at Marvel’s magazine sized Dracula Lives.
Dracula Lives
Marvel released Dracula Lives after their comic Tomb of Dracula became popular.  It was a black and white magazine that featured Marvel talents such as Tomb of Dracula writer Marv Wolfman and artists Dick Giordano, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan.  The magazines would feature articles about Dracula movies as well as the actors that played Dracula.  The magazine would also become known for the comic stories featuring Dracula.  Since the magazine was released concurrently with the Tomb of Dracula comic, the stories would, for the most part, keep continuity between the two.  Events that happened in one would be reflected in the other.

Let’s look at some of the more notable comic stories in this magazine.

Dracula origin Dracula Lives 02

In Dracula Lives! #2, there is a Dracula origin story. It’s written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by the awesome Neal Adams. The artwork is truly fantastic. Adams is wonderful. I mentioned his work on Monday when I looked at the book and record set A Story of Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein.  The story involves Turks invading Transylvania and taking Dracula (who is a mortal man) prisoner and planning to use him as a puppet king.  Dracula is injured in battle and taken to a gypsy to keep him alive.  The gypsy reveals herself to be a vampire and the Turks kill her and take Dracula back to their stronghold.  Their the Turks threaten Dracula’s wife and child to make him to their bidding.  The Turks kill his wife, then Dracula reveals that the gypsy turned him into a vampire and he slaughters everyone.  Why he didn’t “vamp out” earlier to save his wife is a mystery.  Dracula then vows vengeance on the entire world for the death of his wife.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula (1972)

Posted in comic books, Dracula, Halloween, holiday, monsters, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by Paxton

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Continuing our look at comic books this week featuring the character of Dracula. Tomb of Dracula Today we look at the classic Marvel comic, Tomb of Dracula.  The first seven issues of the series had trouble keeping a writer.  Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin and Gardner Fox all took turns.  The book finally took off when Marv Wolfman became the permanent writer with issue 7.  The entire run was drawn by Gene Colan.  Colan didn’t model his Dracula on Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee.  He would use Jack Palance as his model.  Tomb of Dracula became a very popular part of Marvel’s horror comics in the 70s – 80s.

In Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973), the character of Blade the Vampire Hunter would be introduced. 1st BladeAt the time, Blade was just a guy who happened to be immune to vampire bites. He was more Shaft than super-vampire.  In 1998 Wesley Snipes would re-envision the character of Blade for the big screen.

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