I haven’t done a lot of blogging this year, but, don’t worry, I’ve still been watching a ton of movies! I’ve even been keeping track of everything I’ve watched or read in a pair of Composition Note Books that I’ve (not so) cleverly dubbed Pop Notes. Thanks to them, I’m pretty confident looking back at the year and piecing together thoughts on some of my fave film-watching experiences (minus horror, which will get a list or two of their own). This one’s pretty long, so hit that jump and get into it!Continue reading My Favorite Film Experiences Of 2018
Right 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 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.
This week’s TCT is a fun little double whammy thanks to YouTuber CraigLeeThomas. As you can see it starts off with an Iron Man spot followed by an X-Men one. I found this particular video because I couldn’t remember if there were actual X-Men toy commercials back in the 90s. I figured there must have been more than that first one I wrote about a while back, especially considering the cartoon was so popular and that Toy Biz line seemed like it was around forever, but couldn’t remember any specifics.
So, we kick off with that Iron Man commercial and, while I don’t remember seeing it, I definitely had all of those toys. Those were the glorious days you could get four figures for a $20, so I added a lot to my collection especially while visiting my grandma in Cleveland. I loved the snap on armors with all the different accessories, but also how the bad guys in this line each had a cool action feature. Oh, plus, MODOK toy, right?
Then you’ve got the X-Men commercial which featured that huge, rad Sentinel toy. I didn’t have him, but I’m sure I wanted it if and when I saw it. Gotta love all those destruction points for a variety of play options. As far as the action figures go, that was definitely my first Wolverine toy and I might have gotten Rogue later on down the line, but I gravitated towards other versions of Gambit, Beast and Cyclops.
Finally, while I find the commercial’s conceit that Rogue would be so easily captured and need saving is problematic, it’s kind of adorable hearing that boy do a Southern accent.
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.
We’re pretty lucky to live in an area with not one, but three drive-in movie theaters that are less than an hour away. We usually go to the Warwick, but they’ve had some pretty strange pairings this year. I’m still not sure why they didn’t go with an Iron Man 3/Star Trek Into Darkness combo, but that’s neither here not there. As the parents of a 2-year-old without a regular babysitter, we’re pretty limited in our movie-going options, so we like to have at least one film that Lu will kinda-sorta like. So, when we saw that Hyde Park had Monsters University paired up with Iron Man 3, we figured it’d make for a pretty good outing.
Lu and I actually have never seen Monsters Inc., but we did both see the show at Disney World based on the film. Even so, I’d say we both enjoyed the experience. Lu loves pretty much anything that’s big and bright and I thought the movie was a fun, kid friendly version of the kinds of college flicks I’ve loved since I was a kid myself.
The film follows Mike (Billy Crystal), a young monster who wants to be a scarer who winds up getting in to the number one school for such things, Monsters University. There, the overachieving bookworm meets Sulley (the glorious John Goodman), another scaring student who’s the latest in a long line of scarers. The problem? Mike isn’t actually scary and Sulley relies too much on his family name. The two wind up in the same geeky fraternity which allows them to compete in the Scare Games. Thanks to a deal made with the dean (Helen Mirren!), if they win the Games, she will let them back into the scare program. From there they have to join forces, become friends and learn to work together.
I like everything from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds to PCU and Pitch Perfect, all of which either influenced or are somewhat similar to this movie, so it’s right there in my wheelhouse. Even though I haven’t seen the original, I didn’t feel lost when it came to this movie which was nice. I didn’t realize that one of the villains from the original was also in this one, but my wife told me about it on the way home, so I was in on the joke after the fact. I’d say this works extremely well as a stand alone film and a prequel because it does actually make me want to see how these characters act as adults. Time to move that flick to the top of the ol’ Netflix Queue!
Much as I wound up liking Monsters University, Iron Man 3 was the movie I was more excited about. Movies like this which are big on the geek radar can get a little tiresome to folks like myself who cover them on the interwebs. Even though I probably wrote a dozen or two stories about this film for Spinoff, I still enjoyed it and — more surprisingly — was still in the dark on a lot of the major plot points. It helped that I avoided every tweet and conversation about the film after it came out.
So, the story this time around is that Tony Stark’s going down a fairly dark path. He’s pretty disturbed after the events of The Avengers which saw him possibly destroy an entire world/army/dimension. He’s building all kinds of armors, but there’s a more physical threat gunning for him: The Mandarin. An international terrorist played by Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin has plenty of shady people working for him like Guy Pearce, but more importantly, his people have been imbued with Extremis, a techno-organic program that can rewrite a person’s DNA, making them a fire-breathing, superpowered menaces. They blow up Tony’s house which sends him out on his own without a suit to figure out what’s up with the Mandarin and spoilerific things ensue.
I’m not going to get into specific spoilers just yet, but I do want to talk about the ending of the film. Like I said, I went in relatively spoiler free, but I did figure that the extra armors Tony built would come into play during the film and boy do they. It’s so rad seeing Tony running around a giant structure, hopping in and out of different suits and fighting off bad guys. It’s the kind of thing that Joss Whedon did really well with the final battle scene in Avengers and something director Shane Black followed up on pretty well in this film.
Okay now it’s time to get into SPOILERS. Consider yourself WARNED. Man, I really liked what they did with the Mandarin in this movie even though the reveal feels a bit like the one used in Batman Begins with Ra’s al Ghul. In this case it helped that they got such a weighty actor and had him turn in first, a scary performance and second, a hilarious one. Going for the complete personality switch is what sets this apart and makes for a great moment. This was the element of the film I was most surprised hadn’t been spoiled for me yet. Then you’ve got the ending which certainly leaves Tony Stark in an interesting place in the Marvel Studios Universe. He’s still got that big brain of his, but he doesn’t have the ARC reactor which powers his suit. It’s the kind of move that would last for maybe a few years in the comics before something else would pop up and he’d have to, I don’t know, have his heart get blown up again or something. But, since we’re dealing with a film universe — even a shared one — they get to play with the elements and the players a bit more. The real world side of things is that RDJ might not want to play Iron Man much longer — Tony Stark seems less taxing — and it might make sense within this new world to go a different route and have someone else fill in inside the suit. Of course, since the Extremis now exists in the movie-verse, it’s within reason that Tony will find himself in a situation where he needs to inject himself, this becoming Iron Man Version 2.0. There’s a lot of possibilities and it will be interesting to see where things go with the character from here.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a fun viewing experience. I also really liked the kid who played Harley and think he needs to be in a kids-dealing-with-craziness movie like The Goonies. At this point, I’m a general fan of the Marvel Studios films. Avengers is rad, I dig the Iron Man flicks and Captain America, Thor was okay and I haven’t seen Incredible Hulk in a long time, but didn’t like it at the time. I’m curious about the Thor and Cap sequels, but am far more interested in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the other flicks starring new characters. Let’s see what they can do with some new old characters.
I 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).
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!
I’m still insanely behind on my link reading, but I figured I’d get these particular ones from the past month or so out there for all to read…and to unload a bit.
My pal Rob Bricken left ToplessRobot.com for io9.com. I will definitely miss coming up with crazy lists and writing them for him. Onwards and upwards good sir!
Speaking of Topless Robot, I wrote a few lists for them recently. This one’s about the craziest mini-monsters in horror, this one’s about Green Lanterns we want to see on the delayed Green Lantern Animated Series and this one’s about evil monkeys.
Speaking of me writing stuff, in addition to my usual CBR duties covering Image and doing daily posts for Spinoff Online, I also launched a collecting column over on CBR called Toying Around, I’m pretty psyched about it, here’s the latest one.
While on the subject of things seen on CBR, I was really excited to hear about IDW reprinting Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents material. Everything that guy did should be in trade format if you ask me.
Would it be awesome to have Robert Plant’s level of talent where you just go over to a friend’s house and make a record without really meaning to? (via Rolling Stone)I would very much like to see Ulises Farinas draw all the comics, much like he draw all these Iron Man armors going up against the Hulk.
I know it’s well past the election, but I finally caught up on a few political pieces I really found interesting. First off, director Adam McKay’s HuffPo piece pointed out to everyone that, even though he wasn’t outright saying it, Romney’s politics are almost exactly the same as George W. Bush’s.
I also found Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece on the big/small government argument is essentially moot considering how huge Bush made the government when he was in power. When will people start actually listening to facts? Man, Tyler Stout’s Reservoir Dogs poster for Mondo is pretty amazing.
The HMAD review of Don Coscarelli’s John Dies At The End makes me really excited about seeing that flick.
John Carpenter talked to Hero Complex about They Live! What an awesome movie.
Elmore Leonard did the Proust Questionnaire over at Vanity Fair. That guy is so damn cool.
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never actually read anything by Harlan Ellison, but I will read his new DC graphic novel with the amazing Paul Chadwick called 7 Against Chaos (via Blastr)
I liked this Hero Complex piece about Adventure Time, then again, I like pretty much anything having to do with that wonderfully weird show.
Some idiots want to secede my hometown of Toledo back to Michigan. What a great use of one’s time. (via The Detroit News)
I like the idea of a new Kurt Cobain documentary, though less so when I find out Courtney Love’s partially involved. I don’t trust that lady. (via Rolling Stone)
Ron Marz’s Shelf Life column over on CBR focused on his days at CrossGen which actually sound a lot like my days at Wizard: a lot of people from all over the place coming together and doing some great work. He wrote a second CG-centric post that I have yet to read, but am excited to.
Thanks to a vacation last week I got way behind in both blogging and reading links. I got caught up recently and here’s what I found interesting.
As always, I will hype my own stuff. Before SDCC got underway I talked to Brandon Graham about his amazing series Prophet, Jamie S. Rich about the upcoming It Girl series and wrote up a Dark Knight Rises press conference without even attending. Yes, I’m that good.
SDCC really kept me busy the week leading up to the convention. I wrote about the Cyber Force Kickstarter campaign, Brandon Seifert’s upcoming Hellraiser comic, Ales Kot’s new book Change, Whilce Portacio and Glen Brunswick’s Non-Humans, Top Cow’s other panel announcements and Oliver by Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson.
Speaking of the con, my pal Kiel Phegley got interviewed for his hometown paper in Flint. It’s a good piece except the dude misspelled Spider-Man, one of my biggest pet peeves.
Forget comics news, I’m super psyched that Marvel’s characters will be teaming up with Phineas & Ferb, that show is fantastic. (via CBR)
Still on the subject of SDCC, I thought this THR piece about whether presenting at Comic-Con is actually worth it to studios or not. My guess is it’s not, but it definitely earns good will.
These minor league baseball jerseys made to look like Chewbacca are fantastic. How far away do I live from Rochester, NY? (via MPN Now)
I’m not quite sure what I think of Billy Corgan or the new Smashing Pumpkins because I haven’t heard any of it, but this Rolling Stone interview with him was pretty interesting.
I was a huge fan of Ron Marz’s Green Lantern, much of which was drawn by the rad Darryl Banks. Marz’s most recent Shelf Life Column on CBR caught up with him. Gabriel Hardman did a Dr. Phibes piece. I will now follow his blog forever.
I can really relate to Alex Noriega’s latest Stuff No One Told Me called Everybody Else.
I was bummed out to read that Krist Novoselic doesn’t play bass much anymore, but then at the end of this Rolling Stone piece he hints at getting back together with Dave Grohl. I like the sound of that very much.
Goodness, it’s funny how these things get away from me. When I started keeping track of this back of links, Mad Men had just come back out.
I know there’s no details about this Dan Aykroyd/Chevy Chase movie, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it. I hope they don’t disappoint. (via THR)
I haven’t listened to Aziz Ansari‘s new hour called Dangerously Delicious, but I did buy it for $5. I really like this new method of getting stand-up out there, but do wish the video came with a separate audio file as well.
The day Ansari’s new set went on sale, The New York Times did a story on this new model of business that Louis CK started. I am a big fan of this model.
I also bought but haven’t listened to Jim Gaffigan‘s latest special. Jeez, I need to set some me time aside, you know?
I remember Derek Trucks when he was just a young kid blowing my mind with both his skill and the fact that he got to play with the Allman Brothers. This Rolling Stone interview with him was equally interesting.
Also from RS, I had no idea Amazon bought used stuff, let alone the news of them accepting CDs for credit. This could be worth while.
Yes, I kind of want to go to the Summerland Tour, which features Everclear, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms and Marcy Playground. 90s Nostalgia! Here’s another old one, this 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Mondo poster already went up for sale and is gone, but it lives on as my wallpaper.
Speaking of Mondo, the gang at /Film interview the brains behind the operation. I still think their desire to keep numbers low on their runs is less about keeping quality up and more about trying to stay cool, but they still do amazing work.
In one more bit of Mondo-related news, they’re opening an Alamo Drafthouse in NYC! I will probably never go there, but I am excited (via Bad Ass Digest)
Chef and food guru Michael Ruhlman wrote a post about the perfect martini, which includes gin if you didn’t know. I made half of one of these after reading this post and was doing quite well. Highly recommended.
Mark Waid’s post about the math that goes into making comics these days was pretty eye opening.
This story from my hometown newspaper The Toledo Blade about a group of dudes who regularly gather to play old school Techmo Bowl made me nostalgic for several reasons. Gizmodo says that Jeffrey Brown is doing a Star Wars book about Darth Vader being a dad. Yes, this will be in Lu’s library when it comes out.
MTV Geek broke the news about a He-Man comic from DC written by James Robinson. Five years ago, this would make me giddy. Today I face it with cautious optimism.
Legend has it that my AP European History teacher from high school wrote some of the backs of action figures, I wonder if he did any on this G.I. Joe Topless Robot list.
I love the idea of Green Day producing three albums in four months. Why not? Might as well put out the music as it comes. (via Rolling Stone)
Finally, this is the coolest Rube Goldberg device I’ve ever seen. (via Wired)
Sequels are funny things. Like a lot of people who think about movies way too much, I tend to judge them pretty harshly. Do they hold up to the original? Are they better? Does this story make sense? Is it necessary? The real question should simply be, is it any good? Was it entertaining? Did I like it? Upon re-watching a pair of sequels recently, I feel like I’m either becoming a nicer viewer or (hopefully) less judgmental. I think there’s also something to be said for experience with a story making it easier to digest even if there are elements that you find bothersome. You know they’re they, you see them coming and you adjust your viewing as necessary.
That actually wasn’t the case with Scream 3, which I watched towards the end of last week. The first and only other time I saw this movie was in the theaters when it came out in 2000. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Scream series (you can read my review of the first one here), but they were gigantic to the horror community that I was just getting into as they came out. I remember liking the third installment, thinking that the filmmakers were really playing with the genre and having fun with it. I mean, it’s not a flat out comedy by any means, but I remember feeling a sense of winking towards the audience, especially in the scene where the killer throws a knife at Dewey and the handle smacks him in the head. That bit still made me laugh.
But, I wasn’t seeing or noticing the humor as much this time around. Yes, I was working and it was kind of on in the background while I was doing other things, but it just wasn’t as prevalent. I still liked the movie and think it’s pretty good, but there were two aspects that got on my nerves. First off, and I know I liked this at the time, but the Jay and Silent Bob cameos are just super weird and kind of pointless. I’m saying this as someone who loves those characters, those movies and Smith in general, but they really took me out of the movie. But, they weren’t nearly as bad as that ridiculous voice modulator thing that so much of the movie depends on. Does that kind of thing even exist? I feel like if it did, there would be an app. Anyway, I get the idea that it makes everyone you’re not seeing directly in front of you suspect, but it gets to the point where you as a viewer can’t trust anyone and just become more and more disconnected. It also made me far more aware of off-screen dialog which took me out of the store even more. Without that aspect, the movie would actually be pretty damn solid. I don’t even mind the retconning stuff because I think it fits in pretty well and all makes sense. Plus, it’s another not to old horror movies, though this one far more unsettling. With that, I’ve watched the first and third movies in the past few years and just need to rewatch 2 and see 4 for the first time. I’ve heard good things.
After writing up a piece about Iron Man 3 for Spinoff, I remembered that 2 was on Netflix Instant and gave it another watch. I honestly didn’t remember many of my opinions about the movie from the first time I saw it other than a deep desire to punch Justin Hammer in the face. After going back and re-reading my original review of the film, it turns out that that same elements spoke to me both times. I liked it, it’s a big fun action movie. The performances are great. I didn’t like Sam Jackson that time around, but none of that stuff bothered me this time. And, while I still despise Justin Hammer as a character and think he came off kind of cartoony, I don’t think Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of him is all that far from people like him in the real world.
It’s actually kind of funny that I remembered most of the scenes of the movie, but couldn’t remember how I felt about them. There were bits I forgot, like Tony Stark’s dad as a kind of Walt Disney character. I’m actually listening to a book about Pixar right now that got into some of the “I’ve got these ideas, but haven’t developed the technology just yet, maybe they will n the future” ideas that were directly stated in this film. It’s interesting how the things you’re reading/watching/listening to can inadvertently segue into one another.
Anyway, I’ve found that repeated viewings of the first Iron Man tend to leave me a little flat. I still like all the character stuff they did and Robert Downey Jr. makes an awesome Tony Stark, but the ending definitely has diminishing returns. I understand that they wanted to show that Tony Stark could perservere over a larger, more powerful oponent, but that battle is just boring the third or fourth time around. Similarly, the one between Iron Man, War Machine and Mickey Rourke at the end of this one’s a bit lame. You get that awesome sequence with them taking on the drones and then you finish up with Tony and Rhodey aiming blasters at the Ruskie and he explodes? Eh. These things are great the first time around, but don’t always make for the best repeated viewings which is what I want from my movies. Still, it’s a movie packed with fun and shows just one small aspect of how cool an Avengers movie can and hopefully will be.