‘Deadpool’: WHAM! Maximum Effort!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Deadpool is the ultimate anti-hero for the South Park-loving, I-never-grew-out-of-fart-jokes teenager in all of us. He isn’t concerned with saving the world, preventing galactic annihilation, or wearing an X in a circle on his reds. His problem, at its core, is simple – some douche-nozzle tortures him at work, and then gets all huffy and girlfriend-kidnappy when Wade takes offense.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) proves to be a watered-down version of Deadpool’s mouth long before his skin avocadoes, and when he meets the full-grown woman who shares his sense of humor, he is in absolute lusty-love. Nearly everything in the movie comes in montages, so right after the sex-for-all-holidays tribute, comes the devastating news that Wade has seriously bad terminal cancer. Of course, the stripper girlfriend with the heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor, Vanessa, wants to fight cancer with all means available to them. Which essentially means the death-by-inches agony of long treatments and Wade just doesn’t have the patience nor stamina for that kind of dumbassery. Instead, he opts for the Agent Smith recruiting option at his local post-Special-Ops-Agent hangout, and next thing you know it’s off to the mutant factory!

You can expect anyone who’s been hopped up with mutant juice and subjected to many creative tortures, to be a bit cranky with his jailers. Ajax – excuse me, Francis – doesn’t stand a chance in hell of holding the charming-sleazy Brit bad guy of the film role, not in the face of Deadpool’s eternal give-zero-fucks snark. One conflagration later, Wade is determined to rise from the ashes like the most epic anime phoenix ever, slicing and shooting his way through the bad guys to get to the one who turned him into Mr. Potato Head! Francis (Ed Skrein) and his roadblock of a female sidekick, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), prove to be formidable foes, even when met with Wade’s blistering break-the-fourth-wall commentary!

Wade’s early attempts at costumery are terrible and hilarious and exactly what we would find ourselves doing in his boots. Here, we meet his roommate Al, who is about as far from the likes of Daredevil’s Stick as you can get, yet Wade still enjoys bantering with her in his juvenile well-meaning fashion. His bartender friend with the deadpool on when Wade’s gonna kick it does his best to help too – his efforts end up with Weasel (T.J. Miller) as a Shaggy-like sidekick, one of the few who knows both Wade and Deadpool.

The introduction of a CGI-ed to hell and gone Colossus (Stefan Kapicic does his voice) and his little sidekick — this is a mouthful — Negasonic Teenage Warhead, was an interesting choice for the X-Men cameos you just knew we had to have. Tagging Colossus for the unappreciated role of the eternal recruiter of Deadpool to the X-Men seems completely appropriate, considering the lengths Colossus has gone to in other storylines, but the translation of the mega-metal-Russian from the comic books to the big screen wasn’t what I had pictured. Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrand), on the other hand, is clearly the epitome of the New X-Men latter-day class, with her sullen teenage silences, biting commentary and ability to turn herself into a fireball bomb! And, of course, Wade’s wild and wonderful woman, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, gets many shout-outs for her completely believable portrayal of the woman to die, repeatedly, for!

That’s another thing too many people seem to be overlooking, Wade says it himself – Deadpool is actually a love story, yes, with some horror elements and other stuff thrown in, but still. Wade voluntarily had this done to him so he could live with the love of his life, the woman who shares his corrupted sense of humor and eternally perverse sexual tastes, more or less regardless of what he looks like. Far too many of my fellow geeks and freaks out there would give their entire music collection (I’m betting there won’t be a single Wham! album among them) and then some for a love like that!

There are already tons of reviews out there, all about how Deadpool breathed life back into a stale superhero genre and gave them the encouragement they needed to finally put on their big-boy pants and make an ultra-violent R-rated Marvel superhero movie! But you can’t sit there and enjoy Wade crack wise and twirl your cosplay Thor hammer to impart, “Mmmyes, Deadpool’s sleazy charm is just the thing we modern film enthusiasts need.” Deadpool is hardly the first awesomesauce R-rated superhero movie to come out, (see Watchmen for example) it’s coming out at the most serendipitous time, when we’re all so bored with the eternally bright superhero taking on the whole world of evil, we just want to see a foul-mouthed badass do a bit of the old ultra-violence. To win back the girl who’s just as foul-mouthed and awesome as he is, the only one in the entire world for whom Wade would actually be a superhero!

Do yourself a favor, fan-atics of the world – see Deadpool in the theater now! And for fuck’s sake, leave the kids at home! This movie is not suitable for children at all. You’ve been warned. Don’t forget to stay for the Ferris Bueller-style Easter egg at the end, and cast your own vote for who should be Cable in the sequel! And bonus points if you catch the Stan Lee cameo!

And yes, of course, the trailer is all kinds of NSFW, the entire movie is that way and you know you love it!

CosLosseum 2016: Enter the Cosplay Arena

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

Welcome to San Diego’s very first CosLosseum event, where we honor every last cosplayer, from the obscure obsessions of the anime folk to the well-known lightsaber and sonic screwdriver crowds, and everything in between!

So, the first official event of the day was “The Video Games,” put on by the good peoples of MB Stage. A parody of The Hunger Games, in which all the tributes are characters from some of your favorite video games, all battling it out live for the coveted title of Player One! The audience is said to alter the outcome of the battle, by live and Twitter voting, which changes the game storyline throughout the performance.

Tyrant Queen Zelda commanded the Games to begin and put Mario (yes that Mario) and Jigglypuff in charge, and it turns out a Renegade version of Commander Shepard is the video game designer. Then we got treated to the likes of Scorpion (Mortal Kombat), MasterChief (HALO), Princess Peach (Super Mario Bros.), Paragon Commander Shepard (Mass Effect), Donkey Kong, Pikachu (Pokemon), Link (Zelda), Lady Yuna (Final Fantasy), Samu Aran (Metroid), and even Lara Croft running around trying to kill each other!

This was a live action performance, full of props and audience participation and carefully scripted fight scenes that were truly a joy to watch. All the players tried, within their various character modes, to up the audience participation, and threw their hearts mightily into those roles. You can just tell, the performers at MB Stage Productions really do care about their stagecraft. Every character got at least a few minutes of personal stage time and some fight scenes, most of which were screamingly funny and completely character-appropriate.

The front entrance hall to the ballroom where the con was held was lined with vendors and there was a whole other section of ballroom for yet more vendors. One wall had celebrity tables, where you could walk right up and talk with the likes of Rashaad Santiago and Anthony Reyes, or Sandi Sellner, Moses Moseley and others. The merchant booths themselves were great little corners of all manner of fandom – Wired Redhead Jewelry sold fantasy wire pointy-eared jewelry; the Elder Gods and their alcohol on t-shirts made an appearance with Wyngd Lyon Creations; Leelo Jewelry had flasks and coasters and earrings, oh my; a mad scientist sold geek-favorite pocket watches at insane prices. There were all sorts of Steampunk accessories available at several booths, original art prints and kawaii things and even comic books, and all that barely scratches the surface. No matter how fandom-specific a booth and its merchandise might have been, I saw plenty of money changing hands and smiles all around. Because nothing says ultimate fandom like a flask emblazoned with, ‘THE DARK SIDE MADE ME DO IT”!

Also in the front hall was an entire table set up for emergency cosplay repairs, put on by the brilliant folks at International Cosplay Corps, as they now do at many cons. There were actual freaking sewing machines set up on that table, along with helpful mobile Sergeants who carried cosplay repair kits upon their persons like the best support troops to us wacky cosplayers ever. Far from running repairs with nothing but duct tape and a prayer, these ICC Sergeants and their troopers are a walking blessing at any con that has cosplayers.

The Research for Lupus Fundraiser event was quite small but heartfelt. Dan Posey, leader of this intrepid new con in his Punisher pride costume and chains, gamely took the mic and introduced Hollaine Hopkins of the Lupus Foundation, and former Power Ranger Sandi Sellner, also a Lupus sufferer. The ladies spoke of how Lupus is becoming far too common these days, newer treatment options becoming available with research, and the ever-present need for more research to find a cure. Audience members were encouraged to speak out of their own issues with Lupus, and then the auction, benefitting Lupus research, was held. And Dan Posey proudly announced that, despite it being a small con and on the first day, they had taken in, from ticket sales alone, just slightly over $1,000 to forward towards Lupus Research for a Cure. If you want to donate to research for a cure for Lupus, go here.

A bit more wandering, money-spending and picture-taking later, it’s time for the inevitable Cosplay Costume Contest! With only a dozen or so actual entrants and six categories of prizes to win, the contest was an interesting little do-si-do of coordination. Cosplay entries included characters from The Evil Within, League of Legends, The Strain tv show, Ragnarok Online 2, Final Fantasy, and the anime Black Butler. Winners were as follows –

Group Cosplay – Black Butler trio (Sebastian, Ciel Phantomhive, Undertaker)

Best Makeup – Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Best Craftsmanship – The Evil Within

Best Performance – Master Vampire (The Strain)

Best in Show – Ragnarok Online 2

Con Favorite – Tenjo (Final Fantasy)

And that was the end of my very first CosLosseum experience. Yes, the venue was small and without the crushing crowds of the likes of Comic-Con – given some of the costumes people were sporting, trying to do SDCC in them seems like a good way to inadvertently commit homicide. The atmosphere was open and loving and genuinely heartfelt, and I bet you my favorite TARDIS dress that not only will CosLosseum be back next year, it will be bigger, more together, and always full of that adorkable Cosplay insanity fandom!

XXX

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First ‘Captain America: Civil War’ Trailer Hits Internet

by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)

The Captain America: Civil War trailer has dropped! Once more, the House of Mouse has unleashed another wave of hype for its properties, and seeks to reap untold millions from excited fans. And what’s not to be excited about, the trailer looks amazing!

If you’re unfamiliar with the comic book origin behind Marvel’s Civil War, it was a big crossover event that spanned almost every Marvel title back in 2006-2007. A bad case of superheroics gone wrong triggered the government to initiate a Superhero Registration Act, where super-powered do-gooders in tights need to reveal their secret identities and report to the government. This leads to two factions of superheroes, one supporting the act, and the other opposing it. The side supporting the government was led by Iron Man, and the side opposing the act was led by Captain America. The story was created in an American political climate where many believed civil rights were being undermined by the government of the day, and Marvel chose to deliberately create a comic book allegory of current events.

Once Disney/Marvel secured Robert Downey Jr. for the third Captain America movie, they went full steam ahead with the cinematic version of Civil War.

The biggest question on fans’ minds now is what’s going to trigger the conflict in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where almost no superhero has any secret identity to speak of. It’s implied in the trailer that maybe problems arise out of Cap trying to save his friend Bucky from arrest, but that may just be a red herring. Also in the trailer; an image of Rhodey’s armor shattered, with Iron Man apparently clutching his fallen friend. Is it another red herring, or are some of the Avengers going to kick the bucket? The trailer also gives us a first look at Black Panther, in full costume!

With a cast that comprises almost all the Avengers, Captain America: Civil War looks like the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been. The stakes need to be high for a big showdown like this, and the Russo brothers will hopefully deliver a solid action film, just like they did with the previous instalment in the Captain America franchise.

Captain America: Civil War will open in the U.S. on May 6, 2016.

Movie Review: ‘Fantastic Four’ 2015 Utterly Fails

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

Reed Richards and pals take on teleportation, superpowers, other dimensions and megalomaniacal hybrids in this new version of that beloved classic, Fantastic Four!

Holy crow, why? It’s taken for granted these days that the previous two Fantastic Four films had lots of issues and are generally considered sub-par, but that is no actual need for the movie-gods to try and remake the thing into this, which is actually being rated lesser than the likes of Batman and Robin. (That is an achievement, just not a good one.) So let us gird our superhero-loving loins and dive headlong into this.

So Reed as a kid is totally adorkable and, even at that age, wants to be able to teleport man from one place to another. This earns him one lonely friend, a solemn young man fascinated by Reed’s genius, named Ben Grimm. Reed’s homelife isn’t exactly satisfying either, so Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) spend years in Reed’s garage, working on perfecting his teleport design. After an abortive science fair demonstration, next thing you know, Reed has some kind of internship at Baxter, along with Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and her brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), and Professor Storm’s protégé Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), where they take Reed’s original working design and make it big enough to start trying to transport actual people to another dimension.

But then — hang on — they get the teleporter thingamie all up and working and then get informed oh no, it’s time to hand all our hard work off to NASA and fade into obscurity – because after all, no one remembers who built the Apollo 11: just who rode in it. The fellows fall to drinking, to drown their disappointment and Reed decides, “screw it, we’re going anyway,” calls up Ben and insists that Ben go with them, and off the young men in charge of changing our futures go to an alternate dimension! Oy vey. Sue happens to be at her work station at the time and is frantically trying to get the guys back, while elsewhere on some other planetoid or whatever, Reed’s all like we have to explore this new territory. Inevitably, bad stuff happens and they end up leaving Victor to his would-be fate before escaping, kind of, back to earth and being transformed by their newly gained powers in the ensuing explosions.

Whew! That’s the first half of the movie. How Did We Get Here: All the relevant background. Or is it? A great deal of the classic Fantastic Four storylines are either glossed over or ignored entirely. The known rivalry between Doom and Reed, Reed and Sue’s romance, Johnny’s rebel attitude, and yes, any real sign of life or individuality in Ben Grimm, these things are lacking and because there’s nothing new and different to fill those plot holes either, the characters (that we already know and love) come across as wooden and unfeeling. The movie is attempting to coast on name recognition and little else recognizable to the created FF world, which would be fine, except in instances like this you have to do something with that recognizable name to make it your own, and this FF simply doesn’t.

At this point, when we catch up to our would-be heroes, it’s been a year and they’ve all been training with their newfound powers. All except for Reed, who most people think ran away like a coward and is now hiding out somewhere. Ben’s been sent out on numerous military excursions, where he does the work of several squads of men and a few tanks besides, killing bad guys and serving his country and whatnot, nevermind how it makes poor Ben feel. Sue’s been practicing appearing solid and making shields and the like, and Johnny’s learned the flame-on, flame-off tricks, and is wanting to go into combat like Ben. And while the movie has a nice little montage showing the usage of various powers, they all still come across as just so young. Practically still teenager-like in many cases, which just doesn’t help anything.

Dr. Allen (did anyone else notice that this is actually Mister Blue? Figured I’d ask) is insistent on another jaunt to the alternate dimension, this time of course with the super-powered gang and some help, and — gasp and surprise – they discover, or get discovered by, a silvery-green being that wants to eat earth for this other alta-verse planet, calling himself simply of course, DOOM. (That ultimate DOOM pose Victor makes when he states his new name is one of the very few epic scenes of the entire movie.) People are chased around, explosions happen, and the fab four harry Doom back to the alterna-planet for the final showdown.

Wait. That’s it? Seriously? The entire climax of the movie was in the alterna-dimension, meaning the movie folks get away with tons of CGI for this ending, and damnit to hell, it shows in every frame. Not a single character, none of the Fan-Four (who are in the freaking title of the movie, after all), the lone pathetic bad guy, even the supposed upright and aboveboard adults who want to change humanity for the better, got the love and attention they truly deserved. All the actors tried, oh how they tried, to breathe life into a limp and practically-dead-already storyline, it isn’t their fault the film utterly failed. Fantastic Four 2015 is indeed a failure, but at least it serves as a poster child for why third-try remakes are a horrible idea.

XXX

Movie Review: ‘Ant-Man’

by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)

The idea for an Ant-Man movie began circulating very early on in Hollywood, even before the current success of the Marvel movie hype-train. I became aware of the project when I saw Edgar Wright’s name attached to the project, which was about a decade ago. As a long-time fan of Wright, I was beyond excited about what he could do with the character. After almost a decade of development, it was announced last year that Wright was leaving the director’s chair due to creative differences with Marvel. I was pretty disappointed; as much as I found the idea of Ant-Man to be fun, I was also looking forward to another Edgar Wright movie with the trademark quips and quick cuts.

When Wright left the project, it was uncertain who would fill Wright’s shoes, and finally, Peyton Reed was chosen as the director. The only work of his I was familiar with was the cheerleader comedy Bring It On; I was subjected to it on a long bus ride, and it was not a film I particularly enjoyed. While I still looked forward to Marvel’s Ant-Man, I did so with some trepidation. My fears were unfounded, though; Ant-Man was thoroughly entertaining. It seems like Marvel, for better or worse, has perfected their cookie-cutter movie formula so that it doesn’t matter who sits in the director’s chair; they more or less consistently delivers something entertaining for the masses.

Part of Marvel’s formula is to take a genre of film, and then do a superhero version of that genre. The first Captain America film was a war movie (with superheroes). Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera. The second Captain America film was a spy thriller. And now, Ant-Man is Marvel’s version of a heist movie: a goofy, nonsensical sci-fi comedy heist movie. However, that is part of its charm, along with lead actor Paul Rudd’s charisma. We are happy to go along for the ride, because despite the development problems, all the pieces come together pretty well. Also, despite Wright’s departure, you can still feel some of his fingerprints all over the movie.

If you want to know nothing else about the film, stop reading now, as mild spoilers follow after this paragraph; I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a fun and funny summer movie to cap the mid-year movie season.

Mild spoilers ahead

Ant-Man begins with a cold-war era prologue, where we see Henry “Hank” Pym (Michael Douglas) storming off from his job at S.H.I.E.L.D. because of objections to how the government wants to use his research. There are some nice cameos here for fans of the Marvel cinematic universe, and you can probably guess who they are, but I won’t reveal it, as to not spoil your fun. Fans of the comic will know Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man, and in this movie he serves as a mentor figure to our protagonist. Pym invented the Ant-Man suit, which lets the wearer shrink to insect size and grow back at will. While shrunk, the wearer has incredible strength and speed. Pym felt the technology was too dangerous, and did not want it getting into the wrong hands.

We skip to the present day, where we meet our hero, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Portrayed as a heroic Robin Hood kind of criminal who just got released from jail, Scott tries to live a clean life while finding out just how hard it can be for an ex-convict to get employment. Scott desperately wants to clean up and be able to afford to pay child support for his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new husband Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), who is a police officer.

In that desperation, he decides to revert to crime. Scott’s best friend Luis (Michael Peña), who was his cellmate, along with shady (albeit comedic) characters Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian), cajole our hapless hero into a job where he unknowingly breaks into Hank Pym’s home. These events turn out to be masterminded by Pym himself, as he and his estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) need Scott’s help. Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), a former protégé of Pym has re-created the Ant-Man technology that Pym fought so hard to conceal.

So they plan a heist with Scott wearing the Ant-Man suit, and the exact details of the plan require comic book techno-babble and some suspension of disbelief, but at this point, we don’t quite question the goofy “science” any more. The tone is very comedic in nature, so we can let that slide. However, this hurts the “heist” aspect of the film; a good heist movie relies on the cleverness of the ruses and trickery the protagonists need to use to pull it off, and the hand-waving silliness required for the plot to move along does not help the story. I won’t reveal the details, but I will say this: If our hero can already shrink to the size of an ant, it’s hard to imagine good ways to keep him from entering any building or area.

The visuals of this movie are really good; the nature of the character means this movie needed to play with scale and perspective a lot, and it delivers on that promise. When Scott is ant-sized, we see him contrasted with the enormousness of the mundane world around him from his perspective, and he expertly uses his shrinking and growing abilities for maximum impact when fighting his opponents.

Pym also developed a device that can let people communicate with ants, so while he is tiny he can summon ants and use them as his allies. The CG ants used do look a bit fake, but they exhibit some character, and you may find yourself getting attached to them just like our protagonists do. I saw the film in IMAX 3D, and the format really helps sell the scale of events unfolding around our hero. Both the size-altering powers and control over ants is used very effectively by our heroes, and this is communicated very well on screen which helps you overlook the plot holes of the film.

Ant-Man is a refreshing change of pace after the mediocre action-fest that was Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you want some superhero fun this year, this is the movie to watch. I regret that I didn’t get an Edgar Wright Ant-Man movie, but I am happy enough with the finished product and that Wright had a lot of input into the direction of the project.

If you’ve seen the movie and are hungry for more Ant-Man, check out the Ant-Man Annual #1 comic published recently that seems to be tailor-made especially for new audiences who enjoyed the film.

I give Ant-Man 4 out of 5 ants. Er, I mean stars. Don’t forget to stick around for the mid-credits and after-credits scenes!

XXX

Movie Review: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)

I’m a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fanboy. I’ve enjoyed all the movies they’ve released so far, and all the TV series (even the oft-maligned Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The first Avengers movie was an incredibly fun romp where our heroes from previous Marvel movies all team up against an alien invasion, in a story written and directed by geek fan favorite Joss Whedon. In many ways it was the perfect comic book geek movie, and expectations were high that Whedon, returning as director and writer, would top himself in the sequel.

That said, I’ve been waiting for Avengers: Age of Ultron with some trepidation; the original comic bearing the title Age of Ultron was pretty epic in scale, and potentially game-changing (if not for the time-travel reset button they pressed at the end of the comic). I knew they weren’t going to follow the comic precisely, as Marvel does not have the film rights some of the key players in that story.

It turns out the story has little resemblance to the comic, and unlike the bold moves in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this film is hardly a game-changer at all. Yes, the evil robot Ultron (James Spader) is a threat to the world, and the Avengers need to stop him, but ultimately the status quo hasn’t changed much (if at all) by the end of the film. There is a ton of carnage dealt out in the impressive action set pieces, but the weak story feels rushed and the action scenes sometimes seem like a crutch propping it up. Despite that, the movie isn’t without its saving graces; the strongest points in the story are the quiet character moments.

If you’re a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, you probably aren’t going to miss this; this is the Avengers after all. Seeing them in action on the silver screen is a big part of the appeal of the experience, so if you’re after that, then this movie is for you. However, if you’re longing for a meaty story to go with the action, you’re in for a disappointment. Some minor spoilers follow, so stop reading now if you want to avoid them, and go see it if you want some big-screen, star-studded, but ultimately mindless action.

The movie opens with all the Avengers springing into action, attacking a Hydra base in the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia. The entire Avengers roster from the first fim is present: Iron Man sporting armor again (Robert Downey Junior), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). It isn’t explained how or why they got together for that mission; watching it, I thought to myself, “Do the Avengers just hang out together now?” As it happens, the events leading up to this mission were chronicled in a prequel comic. While tie-ins are potentially fun for those of us who love hunting down bits of story to whet our appetite for a major film, it is incredibly annoying if essential plot points get shoved into those tie-in items, and detracts from the main film that should stand mostly on its own. The opening action scene is rather good though, and we see the Avengers kicking so much Hydra ass that you wonder why Steve Rogers didn’t just ring up his buddies when he was in serious trouble in the Captain America movie last year.

In the base in Sokovia we meet the twins, Quicksilver/Piotr Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), the two special powered individuals created by Hydra with Loki’s staff (by modifying their origins Marvel didn’t have to say the m-word). The movie rights to these two characters are shared by Marvel with Fox, which is why you see another version of Quicksilver in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. While the Quicksilver we saw in X-Men was memorable and funny, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s take on the character feels a lot more generic. The twins are just two of three new superheroes this movie has to introduce, so a lot gets crammed in, and this contributes to the feeling of the story being rushed. However, I did like how creepy Scarlet Witch’s initial scenes were; Elizabeth Olsen worked well with the limited material she got.

After the big action set piece, we are whisked away to the Avengers tower where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner decide, out of thin air, to work on artificial intelligence (A.I.) with the aid of Loki’s staff, which they captured. The leaps of logic required to digest this grated on my nerves, but I didn’t have much time to digest it anyway; a quick montage of our heroes staring at glowing 3D displays is all it takes for them to develop the Ultron A.I. It is then uploaded into his army of robot drones to achieve world peace. Of course, everything goes wrong as Ultron gains self-awareness, and in the course of an evening the robot has gone into the “KILL ALL HUMANS” mode, a setting thankfully not found on real life robots such as Roombas.

The paper-thin plot then has the Avengers whisked from exotic location to exotic location (South Africa, Korea, and finally the fictional country of Sokovia again) as they battle Ultron and try to stop his evil plan to KILL ALL HUMANS. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch get mixed up in this too, and if you’ve seen the trailers, somewhere along the way we’ll get to see Vision, the third superhero introduced in this movie. By the last act, we get a whole bunch of cameos that should be a delight to fans.

The parts I enjoyed the most in this movie were the non-action scenes, the ones where the characters talk to one another and reveal a bit more about themselves. We get a few such good moments from Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Bruce Banner. We get to see a side of Hawkeye we’ve never seen before, and Black Widow opens up about her terrible past. Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Scarlett Johansson give great performances and I wish we had more moments like that in the film.

In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron is an average film, but it sets up the pieces for other movies down the road. Marvel’s crossovers and world-building in film and TV are ambitious and laudable, but the very same efforts may be impeding their storytelling as their shared universe gets larger and larger. By the time you leave the theater, you wonder if you’ve just seen a filler episode of a TV series, albeit longer and with flashier effects. Perhaps it was just my own expectations based on the apocalyptic Ultron stories I’ve read in the comics, but I feel when the Avengers get together, the stakes need to be much higher than what was presented. Perhaps there’s a limit to how large an event movie should aim for, and Marvel may need to scale their ambitions down a bit and tell a better story with their next film (scale it down to say, ant size).

I give Avengers: Age of Ultron 2.5 stars out of 5.

XXX

 

The Geekvolution is Coming!

by Special Agent Laura Davis (a.k.a. Hex Quillion)

The Super Villain Network is proud to welcome the Geekvolution Radio Hour, with producer Jaymes Logan and co-host Vince Haskins, to our radio cabal! Together, Logan and Haskins investigate, analyze, and discuss geek pop culture in a way that’s as intelligent as it is entertaining. Though the show’s primary focus is on comic books and graphic novels, superhero film and TV, science fiction, and most especially Star Trek, they cover an impressive range of topics and genres, from horror to video games to fantasy. “We did one show about nothing but blood,” said Logan. “How blood is used in film, when to show it: What is the point of gore in film?”

Logan and Haskins met in a college playwriting class, and started producing content for the Geekvolution YouTube channel within the year. The Geekvolution channel includes a variety of audio and video content, like the Geeks not Nerds podcast (which features Logan and Haskins debating over a variety of geek topics); The Comic Vault (comic book reviews); and Superhero Rewind, in which Logan makes in-depth studies of superhero movies that are at least two years old. Logan describes Superhero Rewind as, “a fan perspective but objective, level-headed, and something that digs a little deeper than your average YouTube review … It’s academic, focused on characterization and story, but conversational and fun.” The Geekvolution Radio Hour has its roots in Superhero Rewind, though it offers more variety in each episode, and, of course, the interplay between the hosts.

The geek-bonding between Logan and Haskins is definitely part of the magic behind Geekvolution. Logan explains, “We’ve got this brotherly camaraderie, though we’re very different people … We’ve been arguing about the Watchmen movie for six years now … Sometimes, we bring it up just because we know the audience loves to hear us arguing about it.”

But it’s not just a bunch of random rants on Geekvolution. Oh, no. When you take a pair of hard-core geeks with English degrees, and turn them loose on geekdom, what you get is a more literary kind of analysis, focused on fiction as a craft. Then again, they are geeks, so it’s a rapid-fire discussion filled with cross-references and the humor of our people, yet they avoid getting pedantic about their various fandoms. Logan mused, “I think people come to us because we’re a little more open-minded; we really try to stay away from the fan-boy mentality.”

Haskins is particularly into movies and horror. Logan is a huge Trekkie, and a sci-fi fan in general. Both Logan and Haskins are comic book geeks, though it’s likely that Logan wins the uber-geek award on that score: He’s in process of remodeling his office into a comic book room with custom shelving for long-boxes, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases on an entire wall to hold his collection of graphics novels and trades. Since the room will double as the new set for The Comic Vault, Logan also designed it with display space for figures and memorabilia. Whatever they’re talking about on their programs, they approach the topic with zeal, intelligence, and wit. Logan adds, “Vince is really funny. He’s a comedian, and he’s really good off the cuff.”

We’re proud and excited to have this dynamic team joining us, and we can’t wait for you, our audience, to be part of the Geekvolution! It sounds like they’re a little enthused about the move, too. Logan concluded, “I think SVN is a good fit for Geekvolution because the super villain theme fits our comic book/superhero interests and our quirky sensibilities. The folks at the station are easy to work with, they get our content, and allow us to be ourselves. I’m also excited to be on the ground floor of something with a ton of real potential. SVN is doing a lot to help us expand and reinforce our brand, and we hope to do the same for SVN.”

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‘Fantastic Four’: New Trailer

by Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)

I like superhero movies, I really do. I even saw the first two Fantastic Four movies in the theater, and they were quite mediocre, but I didn’t mind much; the bar for superhero movies wasn’t as high as it is now, post-Avengers. Now there’s a new cinematic reboot of the Fantastic Four, and I am not sure I can muster up enough energy to care. There’s a new trailer for the film out, showcasing more of the main characters, and it’s got “gritty re-imagining” written all over it.

The Fantastic Four was a groundbreaking comic when it debuted, showcasing a family of superheroes who had their own foibles, just like ordinary people. The title was published even before the first Spider-Man comic made a splash in the comics world, and the idea of the flawed superheroes who are really just ordinary people with powers caught the public imagination.

After two ham-fisted attempts at a proper Fantastic Four movie, we have this reboot, which feels like 20th Century Fox going, “We got it right this time, honest! Third time’s the charm!” Yet from the trailers, it looks like a superhero derivative of last year’s Interstellar.

This was a film nobody asked for, and the cynical part of me thinks Fox is doing this just because they don’t want their rights to the characters to expire and go back to Marvel Studios, who might then make a kick-ass version Fox never thought of. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

From the trailer and what we’ve learned from news snippets, the antagonist to the heroes is still not the classic Doctor Doom from the comics, but yet another twisted “re-imagining,” this time a hacker who goes by the nickname Doom. He gets transformed by the original accident that changes our heroes and gives them their powers. They already tried something like this and failed in the first film, and they’re doing it again?

All that said, maybe this will be a great movie. I have no idea till the finished product is out. However, the current trailers and promotional material aren’t enough to make want me go see another remake/reboot of this superhero franchise, especially one that feels unoriginal and insincere; are they just trying to cash in on the superhero craze by throwing out any old movie? Is this just another generic sci-fi, cliche-ridden action movie that goes through the motions, except with some beloved characters pasted in like a desktop theme? My every instinct says “yes,” but ultimately, it’ll be the movie-going public that decides if they want to see it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting here wondering if they’ll keep remaking movies with these characters until they inevitable throw in H.E.R.B.I.E., re-imagined as a renegade robot who hates humanity because we as a species made one too many superhero reboot films.

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Welcome to the Super Villain Network

Welcome to the Super Villain Network. We are now in control. You have been selected for recruitment. We are pleased that you’ve responded to our summons, and have come to join the new order. We reject the “superhero” paradigm of maintaining the status quo. Super Villainy is true democracy in action. We recognize your potential as a Super Villain.

We will use our media influence to highlight the best, the up-and-coming, and the under-appreciated aspects of fandom, in order to restore free-thinking and creativity. We have overthrown the champions of box-store tyranny. We have overthrown the mundane and liberated the shackled imagination. You are a new asset in our order.

We are the Super Villains.