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SOLO is so awesome

I admit that THE LAST JEDI left me a little chilled, if not cold, with some of the choices made by the singular writer/director. And my ...

Monday, May 28, 2018

SOLO is so awesome

I admit that THE LAST JEDI left me a little chilled, if not cold, with some of the choices made by the singular writer/director. And my solace was that THE Lawrence Kasdan had helped write SOLO.

SOLO is out and may not be making the kind of bank I think it deserves (though I think it will have legs), it is such a warm and joyous film that appeals to the very core of the very heart of this fanboy.

Alden Ehrenreich is so effortlessly Han Solo, that you don't really miss Harrison Ford. And how hard must that have been? He is Han Solo. The character. Sure, he has Ford's posture, some vocal cadences and devil-may-care swagger, but he is not imitating Ford. He is inhabiting Han. No easy feat.

We get the scamp turned rogue, we get the meeting of Chewie and Lando, we get two major card games, we get massive action set pieces, romance, and so many little Easter eggs it will take repeat viewings to find them all. (Crystal skull anyone? A massive bridge between the animated shows and the movie world, and some really honest feeling moments of early growth of a future hero.)

This is a quick review, but - damn! This is part far-flung adventure, classic storytelling beats and characters mixed with comedy that is not-forced.

This easily sets up another film or two with this cast. And I feel confident that a new generation of hope for Star Wars is in full bloom!

I'll be back for more SOLO. You should be too!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

DC'S LEGENDS is flat out fun

I was not an instant fan of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW when it started, but by the end of season one, I was on board. An ensemble cast of super heroes doing a kind of QUANTUM LEAP thing, with more than a little bit of the 1987 JUSTICE LEAGUE Bwahahaha team comedy sensibilities.

In other words: just my kind of show!

Confession time: I've just now gotten around to watching the back end of the new season, so I am several weeks behind. But episode 11 made me stop and want to write this post.

In season two, the show cemented itself for me, when they ended up meeting George Lucas in the early 1970s and a madcap adventure ensued. Also, Civil War Zombies.!

The cast has rotated a bit, losing the Hawkman and Hawkwoman characters from early one, and (thankfully) losing Rip Hunter for the most part (the character is great, but the actor not so much). Then in the incredible 4 part crossover of CW shows this year, they lost Martin Stein, and soon after Jackson, thus ending Firestorm. It was a gripping and emotional loss that carried significant weight. And it was incredibly well done. It helps when you have someone like Victor Garber in the role of Stein.

Newest cast member, Zari (The Mighty Isis, though they are never going to use THAT name) played by Tala Ashe is a great addition who just earned her stripes in season three episode 11 "Here I Go Again." It is a straight up GROUNDHOG DAY send up, though Ray Palmer references the Star Trek Next Gen episode, "Cause and Effect."

Zari is trapped in a time loop, and goes from being a pain in the ass new member to actually caring deeply for the team, and she employees Nate (Steel) first, then Ray (The Atom) as she has an hour each time she reboots to save the ship from exploding. Along the way she learns deep secrets, fears, and desires of her team mates.

The team return from a Disco era mission that we don't see, but hear enough to figure out that Napoleon Bonaparte somehow escaped his time and ended up making an 8 track tape, including a song called "Waterloo." (It's that kind of humor.) Zari has been secretly planning to use the time ship to manipulate her own past, and her tinkering would seem to have set off a series of events that cause the ship to explode, after which she returns to an hour prior to the explosion and repeats.

No spoilers, but towards the end, Zari gives an emotional plea to them all, addressing each of them individually with sincerity and love.

Mind you, this episode was incredibly funny as well as exciting.

At first I bristled a little with Nate and Ray became the Beetle and Booster stand ins for the show, with Mick as Guy Gardner essentially. I had wanted to see those characters show up in the rotating ensemble from the jump, and was hoping it would come to pass. But clearly, the writers are going for that vibe without those characters. And, at this point, introducing the Blue and Gold. would be redundant to the show.

Still, I'm OK with this team, and the way they are evolving.

LEGENDS is, hands down my favorite of the CW shows. It is most boundlessly fun. It doesn't really get the credit I think it deserves among those shows, and maybe that's why it can get away with being so random and fun. Time travel means that they can bounce around, screw things up, and fix them, without worrying about the larger CW DC U. That must be liberating to the staff behind the show.

Constantine is going to be a regular in season 4, which was recently announced. I'm OK with that, though his appearance in episode 10 of season 3 was the least favorite of mine thus far this year.

Overall, the show has as much heart as it does a sense of humor. And the blend makes for some of the most enjoyable super hero TV you're likely to see anywhere.

Check it out, if you're not already!

Monday, February 26, 2018

I Love Kevin Smith (in a purely hetero, buddy Christ kind of way) and you should too

A few months ago, upon waking and turning on my phone to see what was up in the world, I was floored by the news that greeted me: Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens had died. Pat and his band had ushered me out of high school and into adulthood with their great rock and roll.

This morning, another inspirational hero from New Jersey gave me a scare that sent even deeper ripples than Pat's death. Kevin Smith had posted a selfie from his hospital bed after suffering a massive heart attack and being saved by the incredible staff there. He shared it, colorfully, as only he could:

I was trying to do a killer standup special this evening but I might’ve gone too far. After the first show, I felt kinda nauseous. I threw up a little but it didn’t seem to help. Then I started sweating buckets and my chest felt heavy. Turns out I had a massive heart attack. The Doctor who saved my life at the#glendale hospital told me I had 100% blockage of my LAD artery (also known as “the Widow-Maker” because when it goes, you’re a goner). If I hadn’t canceled the second show to go to the hospital, the Doc said I would’ve died tonight. For now, I’m still above ground! But this is what I learned about myself during this crisis: death was always the thing I was most terrified of in life. When the time came, I never imagined I’d ever be able to die with dignity - I assumed I’d die screaming, like my Dad (who lost his life to a massive heart attack). But even as they cut into my groin to slip a stent into the lethal Widow-Maker, I was filled with a sense of calm. I’ve had a great life: loved by parents who raised me to become the individual I am. I’ve had a weird, wonderful career in all sorts of media, amazing friends, the best wife in the world and an incredible daughter who made me a Dad. But as I stared into the infinite, I realized I was relatively content. Yes, I’d miss life as it moved on without me - and I was bummed we weren’t gonna get to make#jayandsilentbobreboot before I shuffled loose the mortal coil. But generally speaking, I was okay with the end, if this was gonna be it. I’ve gotten to do so many cool things and I’ve had so many adventures - how could I be shitty about finally paying the tab. But the good folks at the Glendale hospital had other plans and the expertise to mend me. Total strangers saved my life tonight (as well as my friends @jordanmonsanto & @iamemilydawn, who called the ambulance). This is all a part of my mythology now and I’m sure I’ll be facing some lifestyle changes (maybe it’s time to go Vegan). But the point of this post is to tell you that I faced my greatest fear tonight... and it wasn’t as bad as I’ve always imagined it’d be. I don’t want my life to end but if it ends, I can’t complain. It was such a gift.#KevinSmith

And I was deeply moved. In fact, for a funny guy, Kevin Smith makes me feel hope and happiness as much (if not more than) he makes me laugh.

You see, I'm kind of like Kevin.

Well, sort of.

I'm not in great shape, having a few (dozen) more pounds that I would like, and would like to get healthier sooner than later. The sad irony is that Kevin lost 85 pounds last year and was working on improving his health. The heart attack came none-the-less.

I'm 47 (born a couple of months after Kevin.) I'm a comic book nerd, who was so awestruck by Star Wars as a kid that I allowed myself to dream of becoming THAT kind of storyteller. I never felt like I was good enough or given enough credit for my talents, so I chose to make my own way. In my early 20s, I wrote and directed and produced my own stage play to prove to the world that I was talented and that I could, indeed, do this artsy fartsy thing.

Of course, Kevin made the move CLERKS, which launched him into stardom as in indie filmmaker. I pretty much stayed with live theatre (which is not nearly as glamorous, but no less fulfilling).

Kevin's writing and sensibilities in CLERKS and CHASING AMY aligned so well with my own writings at the time that many of my friends made comments that connected me with Kevin's works tonally, and comically. It was an honor to be thought of in such regards.

I continued to make my own way, stumbling some in may career trajectory during the same years that Kevin found difficulty getting acceptance, and then rose to new heights, taking on new avenues of getting my message out. Kevin became a trailblazer in podcasting, and it inspired me greatly. I was on the verge of launching my own podcasts when a magical opportunity to do live radio fell in my lap, and took me down a wondrous new path.

Kevin's podcasts Hollywood Babble On, Edumacation, and Fatman on Batman are such staples in my aural diet that I am listening to Kevin and his friends many days of the week as I drive. I feel connected.

And it is easy to feel connected to Kevin. There is no bigger cheerleader of all things Geeky and nerdy and fun. He is an unabashed fan of comics, movies, TV and entertainment. He often jokes that he wants to get healthy so that he can live as long as possible to see as many Marvel movies and Star Wars movies as he possibly can. And those of us like Kevin get it. On a special level.

I felt a knot in my stomach as I read that Kevin came very close to dying last night, and thus being cut off from all those future geek delights. His words about it, however, gave me a feeling of peace. He felt at peace as he saw the doorstep of death looming. He was happy. He had lived on his own terms and done the things he felt inspired to do, and inspired others. He had lived a good life in 47 years. And he was happy.

It made me think: Could I say the same thing? How many of us could?

Kevin very often encourages fans in his audiences who tell him of dreams to be podcasters or filmmakers or comic book creators. He tells them all to go for it, and to refuse to listen to naysayers who would discourage them. He lifts people up and gives wind to their sails. Even if he doesn't know them or what it is they would do. He is a fan of the doing, of the aspiring. Go for it. To hell with what people say or think.

He makes fun of himself regularly, and seems to be at peace with how multitudes of people discredit him or dislike his work. He could care less. He does what makes him happy, and he hopes that others (even if they are few) will be uplifted and inspired by it. The rest can go fuck themselves.

That's a way to live. It really is. But it is hard to be so brave and so relentless. Yet he is.

At least once a week, Kevin says something on one of his shows that touches me or inspires me. It gives me hope to keep moving forward, even though I have such deep doubts at times. (Don't we all.) Then, somehow, a Kevin Smith podcast will magically say something that turns my doubt around. Just the right words at the right moment.

It is weird to say that I could not live without Kevin Smith in my life. But I would certainly be deeply saddened at that prospect. So today I listened to last week's Hollywood Babble On with Kevin and Ralph Garman.

listen here:

It was a spiritual awakening that made my day. The love and laughter only further proved to me that the world can not be left without Kevin Smith in it. Happily, God seemed to feel that way too last night.

I want to be more like Kevin Smith. I want to podcast and get my voice out there. I want to write, I want to direct, I want to make movies, I want to spread the gospel of the geek.

In May Kevin is slated to come to Asheville for his one man show. (I'm doing monthly comedy shows myself starting next month, in front of a live audience, recorded for podcast and streaming), and I want to meet him and say hello, and thank you.

He is always generous with fans and people, gaining a reputation for being one of the most approachable and humble celebrities out there, so this is easy to see happening.

But more than that, I want to spend time and talk with him. I want to get some of that inspiration one on one, from the master.

Sure, there's this comic book movie project that I am trying to get off the ground and be a producer on that is stalled (when it isn't inching along at a handicapped snail's pace), and I have dreams of spilling out all my enthusiasm to him, just to hear his enthusiastic reaction and inspirational words of encouragement. Hell, there's that little part of me that wants to say, "hey, why not be an executive producer for me, and when we succeed, I'll come and help you produce your next thing with my team of people (or whatever)."  It's not that I want to be famous or part of the club, or anything like that. I just want to be MAKING, and making a difference in the making. And I think - I know - Kevin Smith "gets" it. More than most.

I've got comic book scripts I would love to get in front of the right people. I've got my own scripts and movies I would like to see made.

Some days I feel like I have so much that is on the edge of being successful, but I just can't seem to get it over the right hill and on a roll down the other side. But I never let that stop my hope and ambition. I can thank someone like Kevin Smith for always being a beacon for me. And so many others.

Maybe it will happen. Maybe I will get my time alone with Kevin Smith in May. Maybe magic will come of it. Like the man himself encourages, I just have to go for it.

And, all of that (and more) came crashing through my mind as I was greeted with the thought that we almost lost Kevin Smtih this morning.  And what a sadder world it would be without him. I was sad to think how close my potential of meeting him, and even having an interview with him for The Geek Brain, was nearly robbed by a heart attack. Life is cruel. Death is crueler. Kevin dodged it last night, and we should all be thankful.

A lot of people know what I'm talking about. Many others may not. I encourage you all to go and seek out Kevin's world of podcasts at and give some a listen. Maybe you too will find inspiration in his musing. Maybe not. But I'm sure you will laugh out loud more than once, so you have nothing to lose.

And long live Kevin Smith!

Sunday, January 7, 2018


I was way behind. Life got in the way, and the DVR stacked up the second half of season 3 of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. Last night I finished season 3, and I am here to say that FEAR may have started out with a deadly dull season 1, but in seasons 2 and 3 they have turned the show into what may very well be a better show than the flagship THE WALKING DEAD.

Yes. I said it.

TWD has been under fire for a while. First the Glen under a dumpster move, followed by Negan's play by play arrival right off the panels of the comics, then any number of bitchy fans who tune in weekly just so they can go online the next morning and declare: "I'm done with this show." Every week. Every episode.

Now, my fandom must function differently, since it is my love of characters and their journey that keeps me tuning in. Sure, the longer TWD goes, and the bigger the world and cast become, the more unbalanced and top heavy it feels. And with each passing season, the feeling that they have to make bigger moves puts the producers in a tough spot. How do you keep a show about the dead, alive and fresh, and keep outdoing yourself?

Of course, I remember fans bitching about season 2 being too slow on the farm.

I have complained about the habit TWD established in seasons 4, 5, 6 and 7 of having something big happen, split the characters up, and then spend whole episodes with just a few characters, and not move the story forward for weeks upon weeks. It is inconceivable that they would think it was smart to have 3 episodes without Rick, or Daryl, or Carol, etc.  They too often slowed things down, to only build up to a season cliff hanger. Some folks joked that they could watch episodes 1, 8, 9 and 16 of each season, and it wouldn't matter because the producers chose to use all the episodes in between to just guild the lily and spin their wheels.

It is a fair criticism. And in the world of binge watching, it is easier to just wait and blast through a whole season in a weekend. And, it would seem that the show is being catered to that binge approach. Try it. The show is still good. Just not with having to wait weeks between episodes.

Enter FEAR. Season 3 has ended, and episode for episode, beat for beat, they have told 5 seasons worth of TWD story in two less seasons. In fact, it is mind-boggling - given what we're used to - to think about how much ground FEAR has covered in only 3 seasons.

From the dragged out season 1 in Los Angeles at the breakout of the zombie plague, to the high seas for season 2's first half, then the resort hotel for the second half, the to ranch and the dam in season 3. That's 5 major tent pole moments compared to TWD's Altanta, to Farm, to prison in 4 seasons.

The pacing of FEAR is fiercer, and the tensions are higher than they have been on TWD for some time. It is more satisfying too.

At first I hated the cast of FEAR. They just didn't seem to click with me. Nick was awful in season 1. In season 2 he was amazing. Daniel was as much a loathsome pain in the ass as Hershel, when he first joined the show. Now he's one of my favorites. (I loved Hershel after the farm was ripped from him too). Madison is every bit as badass as Rick or Daryl. Alicia is one of my favorite characters because her character was 17 years old at the outset, and is further along her journey than Carl, who was only 10 at the start, and had some awkward growing pains to become the cool character he has become. Strand is one of my favorite characters on all of TV. The smooth con man, who fails forward at all turns.

How did this cast become so much better than TWD?

Well, TWD was at its best, some say, when they were still in the early stages of the outbreak, and still learning and a bit shell shocked by the experience. That's great tension and serves up great storytelling.  Now TWD are perhaps too seasoned and too comfortable in the uncomfortable world they inhabit. And we the audience are too used to it. Rick is great, but we can predict how he will react to every situation. Daryl has ceased any and all character growth since Beth died, and he is pretty much an invulnerable super hero redneck now. Carol is still a badass, but her recent flip to being anti-violence and back again, was just pointless and exhausting. How many times can every single character have a 180 change of heart for half a season, then back again? Feels like that's happening a lot.

Keep in mind, I still love TWD. It is still better than most shows. And I hold it much higher than the more beloved darling GAME OF THRONES, which I find to be watchable though tedious and gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous. TWD still tries to keep the human condition front and center.

FEAR has the luxury of still being within the first 6 months of the outbreak, and even though that was the major thing that held it back in season 1, the journeys of seasons 2 and 3 felt fresh and exciting. The writing is edgier and unencumbered from having to follow (though slightly) the comic book series that gave it rise.

I know that some folks only watched season 1, then dropped it, but I implore them to go and binge watch seasons 2 and 3. If you are used to TWD pacing, binging FEAR will melt your minds. You may have to take some breaks to catch your breath.

As I finally finished season 3, it was episodes 12 and 13 that grabbed me in a way I haven't been grabbed by TWD in some time. Consequences and stakes felt more urgent than I expected. Spite, revenge, anger, trust, fear and paranoia propel the characters as they react to and step up to the challenges before them.

FEAR also isn't afraid to maim or kill characters you don't expect. And they do it sometimes as casually as one would expect of an un-named Stormtrooper in STAR WARS.

Maybe because they really didn't kill anyone we liked for a long time. And when they did kill some major characters it was ones you either didn't really like, or actually wanted to see dead.

Season 3 ended with an epic run of deaths that were almost dizzying. In fact, there's only one character that we can say for certain even survived the massive finale, where the human drama and tension still out did the special effects extravaganza final moments.

In fact, the show looks like it costs more than TWD does. But, watching behind the scenes bits, shows that the team behind the show are just smart and clever with how they are doing it. Genius film making at every turn. And excellent writing, acting and direction.

Also, if you were a fan of DEADWOOD back in the day, Kim Dickens (Madison) is giving a star turn here that amazes. Also several DEADWOOD alum have made their way onto the show.

Frank Dillane as Nick is a frustratingly appealing character, struggling with drug addiction in the world of zombies, and finding that he can feel more alive covered in zombie guts and walking among them than with people. Alycia Debnam Carey's Alicia is excellent, as I stated before. Reuben Blades was an unexpected addition to the cast as a former death squad killer turned barber, who is pulled back into his previous vocation's skill set. Blades is great, and his character, Daniel, is one badass killing machine when it is called for. He smolders on screen. Mercedes Mason's Ofelia, Daniel Sharman's Troy, Sam Underwood's Jake and Michael Greyeyes Chacka all added to the great tapestry of the show. But the MVP standout is the perplexing Strand, as played by Colman Domingo.

Instantly he grabbed me. His twists and turns as a character were unexpected, baffling, and inspiring to watch at times.

Of course, the show has also had Cliff Curtis as the moral core of the family unit and Lorenzo Henry as his dipshit son Chris, who just frustrated everyone. And a great array of guest stars showing up from Dougray Scott to Jesse McCartney and Dayton Callie.

Top to bottom, the cast is exceptional. And unlike TWD, you feel a constant fear for the fates of these people. At any moment, any one of them may be next!

Of course, we know that season 4 will bring a TWD regular to FEAR in the form of Lennie James's Morgan. How? Well, I am interested to see how they thread this needle.

We saw Morgan in Episode 1 of TWD, then near the end of season 3 when he had lost it in the episode "Clear." About a year and a half (maybe) had passed.

Fear is currently up to maybe the end of season one of TWD in chronology, since FEAR went back to the beginning of the outbreak. We've been told that Rick wakes from his coma about a month into the outbreak, so I'm basing it on that. Then I'm using the birth of Judith in season 3 as a time stamp, since that was at least 9 months from TWD episode 1. Then "Clear" was maybe 6 months later. At the most. Maybe less.

So, for Morgan to be on FEAR, he would have to leave Atlanta, head West, hook up with FEAR, then make it back to Atlanta within a year, and go bonkers. Or does his son die before he leaves Atlanta, and he's bonkers in FEAR when he pops up? Of all characters to blend into FEAR, Morgan is perhaps the most problematic. Abraham, Eugene and Rosita make much more sense, since they started out in Houston to being with, and it looks like FEAR could end up making its way East soon. And for Morgan to appear in season 4 episode 1, makes it even harder to imagine, since we know where they are at the end of season 3, and it is still in Mexico.

Maybe a time jump or something. But again, Morgan's on a tight time schedule here, so they can't jump too far ahead.

Maybe we will find out if Madison's maiden name was Dixon or Grimes and that could help tied things together.

And, if you are following the comics, apparently Nick may be in #175, which just came out last week. At least that's a theory:

I trust the team behind FEAR, and know that they will make it work, and make it interesting.

Already, we've added another DEADWOOD alum with Garrett Dillahunt joining the cast next season. As well, Jena Elfman is a series regular in season 4. Interesting.

Of course, they pretty much killed everyone in the supporting cast by the end of season 3. Maybe more. So they need some new characters fast!

Well, unless you count this spoiler-rific photo from a table read featuring Lennie James and three cast members who are unaccounted for at the end of season 3:

And I hope that the audiences continue to support the show. It is something of a redheaded stepchild in the Walking Dead world. But it deserves better recognition. In fact, if fans are tired of TWD, they should switch over to FEAR. I think what they complain they are missing in TWD is there in abundance in FEAR.

And wouldn't it be interesting if TWD's end in a few years, gives way to FEAR taking over and keeping going. If Nick is indeed in TWD's comic plotline currently, that puts FEAR eventually crossing into TWD's world, and they could pick it up and run with it from there.

The weird dream sequence in FEAR's final season 3 episode gave us an unseen baby that growled at Madison like a walker, which could foreshadow a theory that I've had. Well sort of anyway:

I think that Judith is the key to a cure. Now, how they get that cure is a whole new problem, but I think that she is going to be the major plot turning point in the final season, maybe sooner.

My theory is that anyone born after the outbreak is immune. Only those alive when it happened are infected. Thus, the show would become about repopulating and the older generations fighting to give a new human race the chance to rise and survive.

I also think that the major "ah-ha!" moment could come if Maggie's baby is either still born or dies at birth. Everyone will be tense that it will turn, but then it doesn't, which is like a bombshell being dropped.

Maybe Negan even knows this already. That's why he has a harem of wives and we had that scene dealing with Dwight's wife thinking she might be pregnant with Negan's child. Negan could have already seen evidence that a baby born after the outbreak didn't turn, and one of his twisted notions is to father as many babies as he can to further his lineage. Or some such delusion.

The writer in me thinks about these things. So, if anyone on TWD or FEAR reads this, I will write for cheap! Hire me. I can help!

In the meantime, however, if you are a TWD fan and have avoided or abandoned FEAR, I'm here to tell you that its time to come back over and dive in. The show is amazing, and you're missing out if you aren't watching!

Friday, January 5, 2018

More Fantastic Four please

I've never been a big Marvel guy. It just never clicked for me. Sure, in the heyday of the 1980s, I picked up X-Men for a while, and X-Factor. I liked Dark Phoenix and other tales, but it was never the religion to me it was to others. I wanted to like other Marvel books, but Hulk just didn't interest me, nor did Iron Man, Spiderman, Alpha Flight or Avengers. Captain America was a dull and unappealing concept to me.

I know I missed out on some great stuff by ignoring Marvel so much. I missed Frank Miller's epic Daredevil run, much to my regret. I didn't find The Punisher all that appealing, and didn't pick up those now-valuable minis and regular series runs.

But I did love the Fantastic Four. It was the only Marvel book I got regularly (outside of Star Wars, which I never missed).

Over at DC I was addicted to The Legion of Super Heroes (that was my religion), and I dug The New Teen Titans, lived for the massive Justice League crossovers with Justice Society and others. I knew the DC universe inside out. And despite trying to get into Marvel's Secret Wars and Contest of Champions, I just found it hard to get excited.

What was it about FF? Maybe their bold claim on the cover that they were the world's "greatest comic magazine" or maybe the great artwork by John Byrne pulled me in. I also liked the less super heroic approach. They were more a family than a super team, and the dynamic was somehow less grandiose than most other books. I liked that.

I also admit that I had a massive crush on Sue Storm. Massive.

This can, perhaps be explained in comparisons to my other super heroine crush, Saturn Girl from the Legion:

And later, Black Canary:

Yes, it would seem that my teenage self had a type.

For a while there Sue Storm was my favorite though. She was perhaps the first MILF to catch my eye. (I do not apologize for that comment, since I was in massive puberty at the time)

My love for FF continued, even though after Byrne left the book in the 80s, so did I. Once they came back in the 90s, I got back in, and have started collecting with every reboot since. In the most recent years, I gave up before the runs ended on most of them though, as they all sort of ran out of steam. And, of course, Marvel spitefully cancelled what should be their flagship book in an alleged attempt to do harm to the most recent movie. (Which was self-harming, so they didn't need to bother).

It s a crime that the FF are not on shelves now. And it seems like a no brainer for Marvel to bring them back. Of course, if you follow the news, Marvel may be working under the "no-brainer" banner these days as the company's publishing has fallen off a cliff. Or perhaps driven off it like Thelma and Louise. (Spoiler)

In recent months my love of the FF starting to bubble again. I've been on a path to collect nice hardcover and omnibus editions that have become a new rage. I managed to add the two Byrne FF Ominbuses to my collection, and they are incredible.

It's like being a kid again, flipping through those pages. I still have many original issues in bags and boxes, but it is nice to have a first class presentation in hardcover.

I was skeptical when I saw a new issue on stands last month. It was under the title: Marvel Legacy Fate of the Four part 1, Marvel 2 in One, The Thing and the Human Torch. (Marvel needs to hire someone to help them with titling books, I think).

I ignored it for a week as it sat there on stands. Marvel's attempt to "fix" their recent sins with the whole "Legacy" approach felt tired and too on the nose. The old trope of returning to original numbering was only confusing to me. Why do any of us need to know it is Black Panther #157 or Moonknight #138 if you counted up all the previous issues and combined them. With Captain America's #695 and Iron Man #593, it looks embarrassing to see lower numbers on some of those books, doesn't it? Legacy of what?

And with Action Comics rolling up on #1000, it only looks less impressive. Maybe that's just me.

Maybe Marvel should focus on telling better stories. Like DC has with Rebirth. Not that DC didn't slip and fail repeatedly in recent years, before course correcting. DC You anyone? Convergence? And where's the freaking Legion of Super Heroes and JSA, DC?

Still, I could not resist the temptation that perhaps Marvel was sneaking the FF back into the line up. I knew the Sue Storm had appeared in an Agents of SHIELD comic a while back, and apparently The Thing ran with Guardians of The Galaxy for a while there. But who can keep up and chase scant appearances by the characters in other titles?

During a couple days of vacationing at the beach after Christmas, I did what I typically do in a vacation setting: I google "comic shops near me" and I seek them out.

I found Coastal Comics in Myrtle Beach ( ) and dropped in to check them out. Lovely store, with a lot of back issues and a huge array of current titles. And there it was again. The Marvel 2 in One thing. Now, I have a pull list at Pastimes ( )  in Asheville (which I've had for about 30 years now), so I had to resist picking up Doomsday Clock #2 and other titles. But I did have to get something, right? So I picked it up.

And I am very encouraged with the story and direction it seems to be headed. And the last page cliffhanger was a major gut punch of emotion that will help propel the tale forward.

I have not been this excited about a Marvel Comic in ages. Here's hoping they bring back the FF and keep the great momentum going that has been set up here!

CBR has a great breakdown of the issue:

And there's a peak at second issue and some more details from

Here are the details of #1:


  • Variant Cover by ALEX ROSS
  • LH Variant Cover by JON MALIN
  • 1965 T-Shirt Variant by JACK KIRBY
  • Kirby 100th Anniversary Variant Cover by JACK KIRBY
  • Trading Card Variant Cover by JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
  • The Fate of the Four Part 1
  • THE FOUR ARE NO MORE, SO TWO MUST DO! Something is very wrong with THE HUMAN TORCH and only THE THING can help him! It’s the Marvel Universe reunion you’ve all been waiting for (well, HALF of it, at least!). Plus: What monumental secret has DOOM been hiding since the end of SECRET WARS, and how will it completely change the lives of Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm? PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
  • 32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

LAST JEDI a second (and third) look

I have now seen STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI 3 times. After a tepid take on the first viewing and several off-base moments that felt decidedly un-Star Wars, I found the film much more enjoyable the second time, and I was able to find a deeper emotional core on the third viewing.

Now, as I said before, it should not take multiple viewings to "get" a Star Wars film, but there it is.

In the plus column:

Daisy Ridley is an amazing actresses, and she gives this film (much like The Force Awakens) its emotional foundation. This is her story, and her journey to becoming a powerful Jedi  (well, unless JJ Abrams does the same degree of about facing that Rian Johnson did to him. More on that later).

Mark Hamill gives a great performance as the hermit Luke who is more like Yoda in Empire than Obi Wan, which is actually great. He's cranky, and likes to have some fun at the expense of his young apprentice. His final scenes in the film are among the best for him among all the films.

Carrie Fisher gets some nice moments and nice send off, despite a horrible FU to fans who are still morning her death.

The hyperdrive scene with Holdo taking down the First Order ships is awesome!

Resistance Bomber run sequence was among one of the best, most tense in all of Star Wars.

Rey stealing the Jedi books and hiding them on the Falcon is great. Or did Luke put them there when he went on board? Either way, the hidden Jedi books was a nice little moment. Personally, I think Rey stole them.

Throne room fight was among the best of the entire saga. Breaking the lightsaber was a great bit of symbolism. It calls to Rey, but Kylo wants it and has legitimate bloodline connections to it. Still, it seems to be more hers than his. Perhaps because of the light side balance that she represents over his dark.

Kylo killing Snoke was a cool move (but I could have done without the overly telegraphed way it was filmed. It would have been more of a surprise for the audience to have not seen it coming).

I'll get on board with the Force linking that Rey and Kylo do. Seems like a natural extension to the Force. Much like how Obi Wan or Yoda have appeared previously and in this movie (Yoda).

Yoda's appearance and look were nice to see, and gave some nice closure to the old Jedi Order.

Luke's stand off with Kylo was every bit as badass as it needed to be, and perhaps even more so because Luke held true to his promise to not leave Ack To, while still being there to save the day. I have a feeling we'll see Luke again, in Force Ghost glory. And wouldn't it be nice to see Rey being visited by Luke, Obi Wan, Yoda, Qui Gon and even Anakin. Perhaps when they reveal to her the real truth of who she is.

Still in the minus column:

I heard someone relate the moments of Luke chucking the lightsaber over his shoulder, and the Poe and Hux "phone" call scene in the beginning, as being too much like sketches on the MTV Movie Awards show than a Star Wars film. I have to agree. Though I liken those two moments in particular to those Billy Crystal sketches at the top of the Oscars when he hosted. Also, flying Leia feels like that too, only more ridiculous.

Speaking of which: It was a solid gut punch to see Leia being blown out into space, not at the hands of her son, who debates but chickens out. Rather, his wingman does the deed. This was a devastating moment for the audience, and should have been for Kylo.

Therein lies the problem. Kylo had a moment of horror, then he seems to forget about it. As well, there's no way that he could ever know that she survived, nor does he ever acknowledge it again. Shame.

Having Leia survive that moment is even more unforgivable, if only for having "killed" her off in that way to start with. Why orchestrate such a moment, then take it back. Especially after Carrie Fisher's real death last year? The emotional weight of taking her away like that - and the pitch perfect look on her face as she greeted death - made this the most powerful way to send her out. (And motivation for Luke to get off his ass and back in the fight).

It just feels wrong and cheap to have her survive in such a way, with the whole audience knowing that she is really dead and won't be in Episode 9. Fisher's real death gave Johnson a chance to really give weight to that moment (which was obviously filmed previously - which seems insane too).

So casually killing of Admiral Ackbar felt wrong too.

And what happened to Snaps Wexley? He survived Force Awakens. Doe he only work with JJ?

Flying Leia, Lightsaber chucking Luke and "I'll hold" Poe were the 3 things that I felt were the most wrong in the film.

I could have done without the whole Canto Bight diversion. Why couldn't Finn and Rose do the sabotage job without having to leave the slow speed chase, go half way across the galaxy and back to the slow speed chase? The DJ character was fun, and Benicio Del Torro was great in it, but that whole sequence felt like too much for the film. Poe could have gone with them, and BB-8 could have been the code breaker role. Especially since we see a BB unit working for the First Order.

Yes, we needed a Lando stand in moment to mirror EMPIRE (which Johnson did, even if people are applauding him for not).

Having Poe tag along on the mission and striking the whole Holdo/mutiny plot line would have been a much better way to go. Poe had precious little to do in the film other than be a pain in the ass to command, and seeing him in action helping Finn and Rose would have been very satisfying.

If we had to go to Canto Bight (to meet the kids for the coda moment) why not have Lando thrown in there in a cameo. Maybe with Lobot still as his pal. Maybe Lobot wearing the pin that indicated the master code breaker. Lando and Lobot as high rollers would have been fun, and could have been a mere moment that would have excited the entire fan base.

Did we have to meet those kids to still make the final moment work? I don't think so. And while I agree with Rian Johnson's clear politics on display in that sequence, I still think it needlessly bloated the film.

I think Rose should have died saving Finn in the end. If they weren't going to let Finn sacrifice himself (which would have been amazing!) then having Rose die to save him would have been a great new character wrinkle for him. (I won't even quibble over the fact that Johnson healed Finn and ignored a major injury that could have also altered Finn's character.)

I also think that it felt too much like Rian Johnson was simply being defiant to JJ Abrams and The Force Awakens. It was as if he was giving JJ the finger by doing things like ignoring the story of Snoke, Rey's parents, and even destroying Kylo's helmet.

It IS important who Snoke is. How did he gain such power to reunite the Empire into the First Order over 30 years? Is he a powerful Sith Lord? Is he a fallen Jedi? He clearly has Force powers that rival The Emperor, Yoda and Luke. That makes who he is pretty important. To ignore it was an FU to JJ and the fans.

It IS important who Rey is. She has such incredible Force ability that both Luke and Snoke recognize that she is a game changer. Kylo certainly could have lied to her about her parents. He lied to Hux about Snoke's death. He is in it for his own gain, and will lie to achieve that.

I think Rey could be a manifestation of the Force, like Anakin. She was created by the Force to bring back balance after the birth of Ben Solo established a threat to that balance.

On that front: was Snoke partly responsible for Ben Solo being bad? Did he manipulate the Force while Ben was in the womb to make sure he could control Ben and turn him once he came of age? (A mirror of Palpatine when he meets young Anakin in PHANTOM MENACE?)

I enjoyed the film. It was entertaining. But I feel that Rian Johnson was not serving a master plan for the trilogy, but rather being a dick to JJ Abrams for all he established and handed off to Johnson to further or resolve. In a way it was also a dick move toward fans who were strongly invested in the questions of who Snoke and Rey are and how they fit into the grand tapestry.

Again, those two things in particular ARE important details.

I have high hopes that Abrams course corrects a few of those details upon his return.

It was a mistake to not have the full trilogy planned out before going in. The round robin approach feeling is what did not sit well with fans who took issue with Last Jedi. Sure, sure, Lucas may not have had a master plan in the original trilogy. Otherwise we need to get him help for making Luke and Leia kiss. But that was back when there were only a few stories in existence. Now there's 40 years of legacy that has to be kept in mind. You can't just change the way the Force works or alter major established dogma on such a whimsical way.

Again, I enjoyed the movie much more on the second and third viewing.

I'm not signing any petitions to strike the film from canon. Though I think it would be awesome to start a petition to ban all the "fans" who signed that petition from being allowed to see any future Star Wars movies. Wouldn't that be fun?

Fandom has become bitchdom on almost all fronts. We've seen the DC comic movies get the brunt of this, and now Disney is getting some of the sting back that they are used to chortling about as it falls on others.

I am typically an unabashed apologist for these types of movies. I may be less so with Star Wars because it hits closer to home for me. I did make excuses for the prequel trilogy, which is nowhere near as bad as some would lead you to believe (again, bitchdom). Phantom Menace suffers many problems just like Last Jedi. Last Jedi is infinitely more entertaining though. Attack of The Clones is not a bad movie, and Revenge of The Sith is actually as excellent film with a lot of amazing stuff happening in it. I defy anyone to decry the opera house scene with Ian McDiarmid winning Anakin over. McDiarmid was the MVP of the prequels.

I fully expect JJ Abrams to "fix" the flaws left behind by Rian Johnson, and Episode 9 to be a spectacular conclusion. I also wonder if Lucasfilm have second thoughts about the Johnson trilogy that they previously announced. I can see him working on some stand alone films, but I don't know about a full trilogy. In fact, if they do a 10, 11 and 12, I think they need to have it plotted and planned before they start. This on-the-fly thing is part of what created the pushback on this film.

More than my two cents. This was my roll of pennies worth of opinion.

Friday, December 15, 2017

LAST JEDI first viewing. I'll need another

I saw The Last Jedi this morning.

I'll need to see it again.

I will reserve a fuller review for later, and will avoid spoilers here, but I have to be honest that I was jarred a little by it. While a solid action, sci-fi/fantasy film with all the elements you need to have a popcorn chewing good time, I am not 100% sure it felt like STAR WARS enough for me.

The film felt like a really good story arc from a comic book, novel, or fan fiction of STAR WARS. At least that was my take away from the first viewing. It was as if Rian Johnson had a little too much freedom in the telling of the story, and could have used some writing assist from Lawrence Kasdan, whose tone and dialogue made The Force Awakens feel seamless in the STAR WARS world. This time it felt like Johnson was the fanboy who made up the whole "what happens next" story that won the prize and was adapted to the next film, rather than a well-planned follow up.

Some of the comedy is too on the nose and tonally too far out of STAR WARS realm of humor.

There are a few choices that he made that I outright disagree with, especially given the powerful emotional weight of the final frames of TFA, the next moments through the Rian Johnson lens squander that powerful moment for a cheap visual gag. No spoilers though.

Johnson hits all the beats, but they never quite land with the impact they should have, save a handful of times. And Johnson's lack of a better adherence to the classic 3 act structure makes it feel out of balance (with the Force of STAR WARS storytelling.)

Laura Dern's character and the whole minor subplot that pops up around her in the middle of the movie is filler and needless on almost every level, and could have been streamlined to trim about 15 minutes out of the movie. Had that beat been left out, the final act of the movie would not have felt like it was just a bit too much in an already stuffed movie.

Princess Leia has a Force using moment that is WAY off base from everything we know about the Force and those who can use it.

In fact, Johnson plays fast a loose with the Force in ways that felt like they needed to be reigned in. Its a whole new take on the Force that feels too much like it comes from a playground scenario I would have had at age 9 with friends as we all speculated the next movie.

I guess it sounds like I'm not a fan of Rian Johnson's take on STAR WARS, doesn't it? Well, I think that is correct. While delivering a technically great movie that has plenty of flash and flare, I don't think he "gets" the deeper soul of STAR WARS, but understands the surface of it incredibly well. This is a surface STAR WARS movie. It lacks true depth and misses the chance to leave the viewer as shocked as we all were with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, or as dazzled as we were with A NEW HOPE.

It does leave us and the characters in a darker place that they must overcome against all odds in the next film. But there was no real "holy crap" moment that left me feeling like I am on pins and needles to see how the next movie plays out. The stakes are high, but don't feel as significant as they should.

Perhaps upon a further viewing, I will feel differently. But it should not take a second viewing to "get it" when it comes to a STAR WARS movie.

My current ranking of the films lands this one in the middle of the pack:


It did make me feel one thing very strongly: I can't wait to see the Lawrence Kasdan scripted SOLO in May. Kasdan is a master and Johnson should beg him with the persistence of Rey to Luke, so that he might learn at the feet of the master.

I know it is popular to hate on TFA now, and decry it for being too formulaic and too much a NEW HOPE homage/rip off. But JJ Abrams was far better at tapping into the right tone and energy. He and Kasdan understood how to continue the universe while also recharging it. The task they had with that film was epic, and they succeeded on every level, in my opinion. Johnson simply furthers the plot a mere few paces, when he could have and should have taken it light years.