Trade Post: Disney Kingdoms Seekers Of The Weird

disney kingdoms seekers of the weird HC Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird (Marvel)
Written by Brandon Seifert, drawn by Karl Moline with Filipe Andrade
Collects Disney Kingdoms: Seekers Of The Weird #1-5

Disney Kingdoms: Seekers Of The Weird is a book I was interested in for several reasons. First, I’d interviewed the writer Brandon Seifert a number of times. Second, my family loves Disney and third, it just sounded rad.

Back in 2011 I interviewed Brandon Seifert for CBR about his Image book Witch Doctor returning to stores. As I tend to do, I didn’t think much about the book again until a few months later I was combing through the Image releases and read what was out. Man, that’s a fun comic! It reminded me of a demented version of Doctor Who with a more magical leaning (many compare it to House, but I’ve never watched that show).

Anyway, I was psyched to later see him get a job writing the Doctor Who comic and jumped at the chance to interview him for Marvel.com in 2013 for the Seekers Of The Weird book which is part of Marvel’s exploration of Disney rides and attractions through comics. As it happens, my family belongs to the Disney Vacation Club so we’re fairly familiar with the place. One of my favorite attractions is the Haunted Mansion (I don’t like roller coasters), so I was even more interested when I heard that the Museum of the Weird was a planned add-on to the original attraction in Disneyland that never came to happen because of Walt Disney’s passing.

Seifert and Karl Moline were actually able to work with Rolly Crump, the Imagineer who developed the attraction to build this story around high school siblings Melody and Maxwell who soon discover that supernatural forces truly exist when their parents get kidnapped and their uncle Roland appears fighting monsters. From there, they learn the truth about a group called The Wardens that collects supernatural objects and puts them in the Museum so they can’t hurt the world at large. At the same time, they aim to save their parents even if it might threaten humanity at large.

Melody and Max are delightful protagonists. I’m sick of the always-fighting-siblings thing, and this is far from that. These kids love each other, even though they get on each others’ nerves. They also balance each other well as they go on this journey that includes a sentient living room, a bird-legged villainess and a unicorn made out of plants all of which are beautifully drafted by Moline (who also killed it on Buffy) and fill-in artist Andrade. It’s fantastic seeing Melody and her ever-present lacrosse stick taking on all manner of monster.

Supernatural and fantasy are far from my genre strong suits, but it still felt like when the story was leading to something expected, there was a turn that lead into a different direction. I’m always a fan of that, so I’m definitely down with this book and hope there are more in the works because it’s a lot of fun.

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Toy Commercial Tuesday: Batman Forever Figures

I was about 12 when Batman Forever came out. I’m fairly certain I saw it in the theaters, but don’t have much memory of the outing aside from chuckling at the “Holy rusted metal,” line that Chris O’Donnell says at the end. Even though I was down with Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Jim Carey as The Riddler, I think this was the first movie I saw where part of my brain was like, “This might not be good.” I can’t say for sure that’s where my love of bad movies started, but I can say that I liked it AND that I didn’t see Batman and Robin in theaters, so take that for whatever it’s worth.

At that time, I was still fully engrossed in the world of collecting Batman toys and did get the Two-Face toy, which comes with a gun permanently melded in his hand and a scratched up coin. I didn’t have the Dick Grayson seen in this spot, but would have grabbed him given the chance because that was my idea of awesome as a kid. Man, what a bonkers line and movie!

Warming Up To The Iceman (2012)

the iceman posterA few years back, before we had kids, my wife and I spent some time at her parents’ house in New Hampshire and I happened to see one of HBO’s documentaries on mob hitman Richard Kuklinski. I was instantly captivated by his seemingly honest, simple and concise recollection of over a hundred murders, some of which he was paid to commit and others that came as a result of simple misunderstandings or perceived insults from random people. After getting caught by police, he spoke to plenty of people about what he did and why and those people have written books and made documentaries. The Iceman by director Ariel Vromen is a dramatic retelling of some of those events plus healthy doses of fiction thrown in for added drama.

Basically, Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) grew up in an abusive family that eventually lead him down a life of violence and crime. Before long he found himself married to Deborah (Winona Ryder), but also working for mobster Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who made him an enforcer and hitman. As his life progressed, Kuklinski branched out working for other people, with a fellow killer Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans), knocked off a few of his friends and eventually got caught by the cops.

In addition to being somewhat familiar with the film’s subject, I was also very interested in this cast. Shannon, who I’ve only ever seen as Zod in Man Of Steel, turned out to be positively captivating. I haven’t gone back and looked at the tapes, but his performance made my brain buzz with memories of that viewing experience. On top of that, he also has a real quiet menace to him that makes him scarier than an alien overlord. Captain America himself Evans also stars in the film as a fellow killer who’s a bit looser and crazier. Frankly, the scenes they were in together were delightful in a creepy way.

As far as the actual story goes, it’s pretty solid, though ends abruptly. I guess that’s how it works in real life sometimes, but after reading about Kuklinksi on Wikipedia, I found out about this huge sting operation in the works that was eventually sprung on him. This film is completely told from his perspective (I’m fairly sure there aren’t any scenes where he’s not present, but can’t be positive) so it would make sense that he wouldn’t know, but it felt like a bit of a let down.

And you can’t completely chalk that up to the whole “life is like that sometimes” idea because they definitely made changes to his story for the film. In the movie, his first hit for Demeo is a bum. In real life it was apparently a guy walking his dog. Does that change matter? Not when it comes to showing what they’re trying to show about these characters, but there’s also something to be said about sticking with the facts if the point is to show how complex this guy’s life was. I mean, being a sociopath is one thing, we see it all the time, but to be one with a wife and kids who have NO CLUE what he does is a lot more interesting. Then again, I’m always more scared by the idea of the maniac who blends into the crowd than the one holed up in his house.

At the end of the day, The Iceman is an interesting character study. Shannon and the rest of the cast pull their weight and give solid performances that seem to capture these real life people. While some of it might play off like plenty of other mobster movies, this one benefits from the real life aspects incorporated into the proceedings.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: The 12-inch Talking Cryptkeeper

I was pretty excited to hear that TNT is working on a new Tales From The Crypt series produced by M. Night Shyamalan. That show was a huge deal to me as a kid watching the edited versions that would show on my local Fox network. As a kid who had zero interest in horror at the time, it was my first real foray into the genre and I still love it even if it’s a bit over the top (and very 90s) to these days.

It seemed like the perfect time to talk about some of the TFTC toys that came out from that era when this show really took off. Here you can see the Ace 12-inch Cryptkeeper based on the cartoon that was based on the HBO show. I remember seeing these and the more traditional action figures around when I was a kid, but never got any of them. I would definitely drop some coin on this guy if I saw him at a flea market or yard sale, today though.

Marvel Double Feature: Avengers Age Of Ultron & Ant-Man

avengers the age of ultronRight off the bat, I’ll admit that I did not actually watch Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man as a true double feature. We probably watched the latter a month ago and just peeped the former yesterday. But, since I didn’t write about the Avengers sequel, it seemed liked a proper time.

I went into Joss Whedon’s Ultron with fairly low expectations. It seemed like a lot of the people I follow on Twitter and actually communicate with weren’t super into it. The general feeling I was picking up on seemed to be that, while it’s got all kinds of spectacle, it didn’t live up to the original.

And that was my experience as well, but then again, this is a different kind of blockbuster super hero movie. The original — which I love — seemed custom built to show that all of these series-leading, mega stars could come together, fight the bad guys and look good doing it. Meanwhile, this film seemed built with a different goal in mind: showing how said group (plus new members) can work together even when times are tough.

It’s also clearly a bigger piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle leading up to Captain America: Civil War and the Infinity War movies. To me as a viewer, the first felt like it was worked into the bigger tale while this one was more obviously built to lead to something else. This is something I’m not usually a fan of in comics and even less so in comic films and it all just boils down to a feeling I get while watching.

And yet, I still found myself enjoying this darker take on team superheroics. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision all make interesting additions to not just the team, but the universe at large. Plus, it’s not all dark. I could watch an entire TV series about the Avengers hanging out like they did at that party. I also just adore James Spader (as I mentioned here) so watching and listening to his take on the killer robot Ultron was a treat as he’s basically Blacklist‘s Raymond Reddington but crazy and a robot.

I think that the problem with this movie as related to the first one comes down to this fact: I don’t want to rewatch it a bunch. I probably could have sat through another showing of Whedon’s first Avengers film right after the first one and even stop flipping or pop in for a few minutes every time I see it on TV. I don’t see that happening here. In other words, it’s not nearly as fun as the first one, which it clearly wasn’t supposed to be, but it’s still a bummer.

ant-man posterAnt-Man is far from a bummer, though, which is great. I admit, my feelings towards these movies have been a bit tainted by elements from beyond the movies themselves. I’m not sure how I feel about every single film moving forward painting towards this gigantic epic that will end Phase Three. I love the inter-connectivity between these films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them all to be about this one big thing leading forward.

And then I watched Ant-Man and it felt like a nice step away from all that intergalactic craziness to just tell the story of a few people trying their best to not make the world a worse place. I love the approach of using this intelligent thief to wear a potentially fatal suit in an attempt to stop tech from ruining the world. It’s perfectly comic book-y, but also fits in so well with this universe and Paul Rudd just kills it. I also really enjoyed watching Michael Douglas who seemed to break the rule that every old dude in a Marvel Studios movie turns out to be bad. Oh, and how fun is Michael Pena? And how bad ass is Lilly? More of both of them please! Basically, everything came together to give me a beautiful mix of heist and hero that gets a major thumbs up from this guy.

However, all respect to director Peyton Reed who did a great job, but I still wish we would have been able to see Edgar Wright’s version of this film which we reported on all the way back in the days of Wizard and ToyFare. Yes I bet it would have been an amazing movie, but it more so bums me out that a relatively slow filmmaker like Wright spent ALL that time on a movie that just didn’t happen. He’s got such an amazing vision for what he makes that I want him to make all the movies he can and this felt like a major entanglement that resulted in a great vision for Ant-Man, but not a full-on Edgar Wright movie.

And, yes, I still remain a bit nervous about Marvel tying up too many of their films to Infinity War, but then I must remind myself that Guardians Of The Galaxy did a great job of incorporating some of that into its movie and this one basically skips over all of that. Back to what I was saying above, it feels like Ant-Man is its own thing that will get incorporated into the larger goings-on of the MCU instead of the other way around. I like that and as long as that’s the way these things go, I’ll keep enjoying them.

Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015

monkey-typing2015 was the fifth full year that I worked as a freelance writer. It’s wild to think about. I got unceremoniously and somewhat surprisingly laid off from Wizard in September of 2009. With no idea what I would do with the rest of my career (a fun thought to have at 26) my friends jumped at the chance to set me up with freelance work. I wasn’t sure if it would stick, but dove in and am still rolling today.

That year I wrote for Marvel.com, Maxim.com, Topless Robot, Wizard, ToyFare, UGO, MTV Geek, Click and even a bit for CBR and realized I could actually do alright for myself with just my brain, a computer and a solid internet connection. Since then, a few of those outlets have gone defunct (I miss seeing my work on the magazine stand) and some completely changed directions since then. These days I find myself mainly working for three sites: Marvel.com, CBR and Geek.com and I’m digging it. Looking back at the past year, it seemed like an okay time to reflect a bit on the ups and downs of the year. Continue reading Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015

What We Watched In 2015

Back in the day, this blog got traffic boosts from the posts I wrote about Jersey Shore, The Challenge, Real Housewives and The Big Bang Theory. Taking notes while watching and posting that night got pretty exhausting and when the kids starting coming, those fell to the wayside. But, I still love television and wanted to share some of our favorite shows from this past year. Continue reading What We Watched In 2015