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.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: The Avengers

Over the weekend, I introduced my daughter to a bunch of Avengers toys I was sent years ago as a way of hyping the toy tie-in line from Hasbro. Everything came in a super cool, locker-like box but the toys inside proved to be a lot more interesting three years later. My daughter’s just at the right age to actually play with the smaller scale figures and get a kick out of things like a Hulk mask and Iron Man repulsor ray. We’ve also got that shield-slinging Cap which is fun, but the real highlights are the 3 3/4 inch figures which have made their way with us on various outings.

Personal story aside, I forgot how crazy the rap was in these Avengers toy commercials. Wowzers.

Christmas Stories: 2012 Geek Ornaments From Hallmark

IMG_2185I actually snapped these pictures at our local Hallmark weeks ago, well before Thanksgiving, but forgot about them until now. Hopefully you’re all set on your Christmas shopping, but if not, the geek in your life will surely enjoy something from this line-up (assuming they’re still available, I really have no idea). Either way, I’d love to get my hands on the giant cardboard Darth Vader wearing red cloves and cape AND a Santa hat!

It seemed like there were a lot more available this year, which is pretty cool. I guess geeks like to go all out when decorating their Christmas tree. Of course, I know this. A few years back, we only had a tiny artificial tree that I decorated entirely with the superhero, movie and TV ornaments I’ve been given over the years. Speaking of superheroes, considering the huge summer they had at the box office, it comes as no surprise that they’re featured so heavily. You’ve got Spidey, Catwoman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Captain American, Green Lantern and of course Lion-O. That last one is the most exciting to me as it seems to come out of nowhere (especially because it’s in the classic style instead of the new-but-failed style of this year’s excellent remake). IMG_2184

Of course, you can’t have a giant cardboard Vader and not have a goodly offering of Star Wars ornaments. Looks like you’ve got your choice between a TIE Fighter, Hoth Han on Tauntaun, General Grievous, Darth Maul and a pair of Lego dudes. I have a longstanding love of Hoth Han, so I really should get my hands on that ornament.

I’m also a big fan of the movie and TV ornaments they make. I’m as much a product of the thousands of comics I’ve read as the hundreds of movies I’ve watched over and over again, so I’m just as, if not more excited by the Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshamallow Man, ET with flowers and Caddyshack groundhog dressed like Rodney Dangerfield as I am about the superheroes. Looks like a pretty darn good crop of ornaments to me!

Late To The Xbox Party: Captain America Super Soldier (2011)

I was a little apprehensive about picking up Captain America: Super Soldier for Xbox 360 a few weeks back. Don’t get me wrong, I love superhero based video games, but I aside from the Wolverine game, I haven’t heard much in the way of positive reviews for superhero games in a while. Actually, when it came to this one, I hadn’t heard anything at all, but a quick look on Metacritic told me that the game got pretty good reviews and that’s pretty much all I was looking for. I wanted to throw a shield at Nazis and punch them until they disappeared.

And that’s pretty much what this game is. You’re Cap from the movie running around World War II kicking ass and taking dossiers. I liked that aspect of the game. The fighting mechanic wasn’t overly complicated — or complicated at all, really now that I think about it — so it was kind of a smash em up which was what I was looking for. There’s even a Super Soldier Sense type vision thing that reminded me of a similar mechanic as the Detective Mode or whatever it was in Arkham Asylum. The problem this time around is that the mechanic made everything yellow-ish, which doesn’t make sense when you realize that the things you’re looking at are in a similar color scheme. You don’t really need it much, so it’s not that big of a deal.

There are other parts, where you hit a particular button at a certain point which launches you through the air to a pole or branch or something you swing from to hit something else. It sounds fun, but it’s actually pretty boring because I never once missed. I feel like I’ve played a game with a similar idea that was executed a lot better, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wished these were more interesting, I also wished there were fewer parts where you have to jam a certain button over and over. I had trouble with the timing a few times, so I’d screw the finishing kill up, but THEN the enemy would get a certain amount of life back and I’d have to beat on him more. So, basically, you had to do these somewhat complex things just to knock a dumb robot over.

So, no, it wasn’t a perfect game, but I had more fun than frustration with it, so I was happy. My enjoyment level doesn’t always rely on that kind of balance, especially if I’m really looking forward to a game, but I literally went into this hoping to throw shields and punch Nazis. Some of the levels were a little more complicated than they needed to be or the save points were in annoying points, but none of those things were SUPER annoying.

Quick Movie Review: Captain America The First Avengers (2011)

I’ve got to say, I’m digging what Marvel Entertainment is doing with their Marvel movies. Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger might not be my favorite movies or even on the same level with each other (Thor and Hulk haven’t aged well in my mind) but, as a comic geek, I do appreciate all the little bits and pieces they throw in for us to slobber over. Plus, the connections between the films leading up to The Avengers have just been fun. I have no idea if normal people care about this stuff at all, but I get giddy.

Cap is packed with those kinds of things, even if they don’t match up with the comics. Guys, Arnim freaking Zola was in this movie! The original Human Torch (or at least his costume) were on display! Howling Commandos! Union Jack! I don’t even care that Bucky Barnes knew Steve ahead of time and all that. His costume looked kind of like Winter Soldier’s! Ahhh! I don’t remember geeking out this much at a comic movie in a long time, so that was fun.

It also helped that it was a fun adventure story that even my inlaws liked (we watched it over the weekend). Someone in the room mentioned that it was like Indiana Jones and I think that’s a very apt comparison. This movie sets up an evil bad guy, a great good guy, gives him a solid, important missions and pits the two against each other. I even like how they changed Red Skull’s origin to put him more on par with Cap physically. I didn’t quite understand what the deal with the Cosmic Cube was this time around (the baby was making noise, so I might have missed some exposition) but I did like how it was connected to the World Tree and thus the alien gods seen in Thor.

One other quick thing, I was so, so, SO glad to see a comic book period flick. I know X-Men: First Class did the same thing last year too, but I haven’t seen that one yet. When I was at Wizard there was talk of a Fantastic Four movie being done as a period piece, set in the 60s. I don’t know if it was an actual rumor from somewhere or something we just got to talking about, but the idea struck me as kind of revelatory at the time. A swinging 60s FF would have been great! I’m glad that this idea whether something we just made up or not eventually became a reality. I know it would never happen, but I’d love to see a 30s-set Superman flick done with modern special effects tech! It works for Cap because he came back from WWII to be in the present day and the X-Men because they’re a team that have been around for a while. Speaking of which, all this Cap stuff got me even more jazzed for The Avengers! Is it out yet?

Casting Internets

I talked to Greg Pak about him ending his run on Hulk with “Heart Of The Monster” over on Marvel.com. I also chatted with David Liss about his upcoming “Storm Hunter” arc on Black Panther.

I also talked to Jimmy Palmiotti about his upcoming one-shot called The Tattered Man with Justin Gray on CBR.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the director’s cut of the 90s Captain America movie wound up being awesome? /Film only mentions a Blu-ray version, I hope they do a regular DVD as well because, well, I’m a Luddite when it comes to such things. Making it two hours and less action-y, though? We’ll see.

The new US co-produced season of Torchwood kicks off on July 8th on Starz which hopefully means it will be on Netflix Instant the next day. (via Topless Robot)

Yeah, this seems about right. Good work Sean.

My buddy Alex Segura talked to Robot 6 earlier this week. Interesting stuff.

Ben Morse sent me this link about Snooki being three hours late for a WWE shoot and reportedly being pretty sloshed the whole time. Remember when she wasn’t a walking parody of herself? Yeah, I’m starting to forget too. (via 411Mania)

If you’re a fan of reubens and macaroni and cheese, I highly recommend making Rachel Ray‘s Recipe for reuben mac and cheese, it’s AMAZING.

Beau Smith talks about things he misses over on The Flying Fist Ranch. I also miss him writing Guy Gardner Warrior, one of my all time favorite books.

I really enjoyed reading this Rolling Stone article about Alice In Chains from 1992.

Geek Briefs: Iron Man, Captain America & Batman

Hey look, more geeky underwear you can buy at Target! Last spring I posted pics of the Megatron and Spider-Man pairs, but this time there’s some really big guns to put your…I’m going to stop right there. I’m a boxer man myself, so I wouldn’t buy these on that level, but I’ve also never actually purchased geeky underwear for myself, that seems to be something other people do for a laugh when they know you’re into comics. Anyway, if you’re an ultra Iron Man, Captain America or Batman fan, I guess these are out there in the world for you to buy. Just don’t show anyone.

Captain America: Freelance Artist

One of my favorite aspects of Captain America, and something that isn’t really mentioned in Ed Brubaker’s ongoing series which I love, is the fact that Steve Rogers is an artist who, at one time, actually drew the Captain America comic book that existed in the Marvel Universe. While reading through an old version of Captain America: War & Remembrance (which I was pretty bored by, actually) I was reminded of all this thanks to a page from #248 I believe which co-written by Roger Stern and John Byrne and drawn by Byrne. You can read Steve’s frustration with the world of freelance as written by either man, really and still seems fairly accurate today. Sometimes it’s fun, but man, can it be rough and tedious too. Here’s another image in case you’re having trouble reading the above one. As if readers didn’t already want to be Captain America with his steadfast integrity, physical prowess and dyed in the wool heroic nature, the dude could also draw comics! I’m sure there’s a meta message in there, but I don’t feel like unpacking it. I do wonder if Cap ever gets the ol’ sketchbook out and doodles around. Maybe he’s working on a pitch for Image to bolster that S.H.I.E.L.D. paycheck.