Review of The Boys on Amazon Prime

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“You are not the hero of this story…” 

I have been collecting and reading comic books for well over four decades. I’m no expert in the genre, I just know what I like, and that changes a lot over time.

When I saw The Boys advertised on Prime I thought I’d give it a shot.  It starts out simple enough.  The world has superheroes.  They are owned/controlled by a corporation.  They are big business – from reality shows to product endorsements.  The best known group, The Seven, seem squeaky clean.

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You should never meet your heroes…especially if it is one of these guys

That was the first ten minutes or so.  After that, you see things take a hard left into the bizarre.

Then you see one of the heroes kill a young girl – picture the Flash running through someone standing still.  Of course the crime is covered up.  Then you learn that there is a group out there that is out to pay back the supers for their heinous and wanton acts of death and destruction.

Bit by bit in the series you learn that nothing is what you thought it was.  The supers origins are not as American as apple pie as everyone is led to believe.  There are drugs that the supers take…and these drugs have a big role in this.

The Seven are not quite what they seem.  The group that is out “spanking” the supers become darker and more twisted.  Starlight, the newest member of the Seven learns not only the truth about the corporation calling the shots, but about her own origin.  You see the rise of super villains whose origins are a bit predictable but still cool.  You find yourself rooting for people that are into some pretty grim shit, but you cannot help it.

I loved it.

Let me say, this is a dark series.  It is a story where the true heroes are blurred and often confused.  There is blood, gore and sex – don’t let little kids watch this.  It is gritty, edgy, and engaging.  It helped fill that gap after Avengers Endgame and left me wanting more.  Sure, it’s another “evil corporation” combining with “corrupt politicians” but the messages here are more on a personal level.  It pushes you into areas of discomfort and does it often in the eight episodes. Karl Urban as Butcher is diabolical and by the end of the season, a sad person that you find yourself pitying. The character of Hughie goes on an amazing journey and development arc.

It’s gross and cool and twisted.

The writing for this series is off the charts.  The writers never get enough praise but the guys that did this.

And, more importantly, it has been renewed for a second season.

Non-Spoiler Review of Spider-Man Far From Home

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This image about sums it up for me

I was fully prepared for this movie to be a let-down after Avengers Endgame.  It’s the first out of the chute after the massive climax…how good could it be?

It is great.  I always gauge my superhero movies by my wife being able to stay awake – and she did!  There are some plot twists to this one, one of which is hopelessly obvious to anyone that has read a Spider-Man comic in the last four decades or so…but they managed to pull it off in an awesome way.

We get our first glimpse into the universe post the snap, called The Blip in the film.  I hated the name mostly because it is what my initials spell, BLP.  That was a tough one to live down as a kid – but I digress.

The movie has a good mix of serious stuff and humor, which is trademark for the MCU films.  More importantly, I felt like it really dove into the classic Spider-Man mythos.  Spider-Man was a kid for many years, dealing with the issues of a teenager.  That is what made a lot of classic Spider-Man comic stories. It was great to see the writers going to that source material and giving us all a cool Spider-Man story.

The plot was solid, well-paced, and gives us a perspective of Spider-Man as an Avenger which is new and refreshing.  Fury and Hill are well played too, which made the movie pop for me.  The secondary characters of May and Happy are well written into the script as well.  Kudos for the writers who did a top-notch job with this script.  Following Endgame had to have really put some pressure on them.

There are two post-credit scenes – so stay in your seat.  One leaves more questions than it answers.  The final one was a stunner.  An absolutely brilliant piece of casting (the casting folks never get the credit they deserve) and really was a shocker in terms of the potential storylines.

I loved it – so did my son, my grandson, and my wife. How often can you pull that off with a movie?  Five out of five stars.

Non-Spoiler Review of Avengers Endgame

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I ask your indulgence as I try to put into words how much I loved this film.  I took my grandson Trenton to the film and as we settled in, I heard someone comment a few seats down, “This all began for me 11 years ago with Iron Man.”

My own journey began further back…sometime in the early 1970’s.  Saturday mornings my grandmother would sometimes take me to downtown Marshall, Michigan and turn me loose on Michigan Avenue.  We didn’t have “stranger danger,” then, we had communities of people that cared.

I would always go to the party store in the middle of town, right next to the Michigan National Bank.  I cannot remember its name, but I remember everything else about it – the flooring, the smells, the nice owner who didn’t chase kids out.  There was a wire rotating comic rack at the end of the magazines, right next to the wood-plaque covered dirty magazines.  Stuffed into this squeaky rack was all of the comics you could hope for, new ones to the front, older issues in the back.  The owner never chased us out, he would always smile at us.

Comic books cost 12 to 20 cents then, which seemed like a lot.  You had to be judicious in your choices.  There were no comic stores or graphic novels to get caught up with stories if you missed an issue.  I would purchase my comics and read them, over and over.  They were not collectables…there were no plastic covers for them.  These were comics that were meant to be read cover to cover.  From the letters to the editor to the ads for X-ray glasses, these stapled tomes were meant to be devoured.  I took part in a tradition of visual storytelling that harkened back to the cavemen painting images on their walls though at the time, I only thrilled at the art and the writing.

I never shed that love of comics, though as I was older it was more of an underground love affair. We didn’t have cyber bullying, we had real bullying. People were not accepting of adults reading comics for years.  Just finding a superhero t-shirt was difficult, back in the day.

Comic books led me to gaming and reading other books – which led me to be an author.  I will never forget that debt and the responsibility that comes with it.

The love never went away nor did my subscribing and reading.  I have passed on that love to my grandson and we share comics just like I used to with my friends so many decades ago.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed all of that.  Suddenly comics were acceptable…mainstream.  Yet I like to think that for millions of us, our journey to this film began the same simple way, in drug stores or book stores, or party stores on the main streets of our home towns.  Simple origins are the best of all.  ‘Nuff said.

When I took Trenton to Avengers Infinity War he experienced the same thing I did the first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back…that mold-breaking effect of the good guys losing.

Then came Avengers Endgame.  For three and a half hours, we were transfixed to the screen.  This was storytelling on an epic scale.  Characters completed their arcs so masterfully that it was a thrill to be there.  We had come to know these actors and characters.

The writers of this film will never get the dues they so richly deserve.  So many Easter Eggs are opened for us in this movie that it is a true fan’s delight.  Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus deserve Academy Awards for what they have done with this screenplay.

Before I went to the movies, a friend at work, Scott, asked me what I had to have to be perfect.  I rattled off three things.  They were all there.  I won’t share them now, because I refuse to spoil this film.

There are moments of deep sadness and others where, and I am not exaggerating, the audience cheered.  I have never in my life heard so many applause and cheering moments in a movie.

And therein lies the sadness.  I doubt in my lifetime I will ever see 22 films so masterfully interconnected in such a compelling tale.  Marvel has delivered something that makes DC pale by comparison.  It reminds of Alexander the Great.  “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”  While a misquote, it resonates here.

But…as a comic fan…I can tell you there are plenty of other great Marvel stories that are chafing for their chance in the sun.  The bar has been set high though.

Next to seeing Star Wars for the first time, this is my favorite movie ever.  It delivered on every single front and swept me, my grandson, the entire audience away.

 

Non-Spoiler Review of Shazam!

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I will admit it, when I was in the 1970’s I subscribed to Shazam!  Captain Marvel (the DC version) was an interesting contrast to the darkness of Batman and the Boy Scouty Superman.  I liked the Marvel family as well.  Sure, some parts were silly, but it worked for me as a kid.

Now comes the movie version and I have to admit, I cringed.  Would DC go all dark and brooding like they had for almost every other movie?  Would they ruin the character background?

The response is a resounding no!  DC finally did a super hero movie that stayed true to the character and was fun.  They even took a relatively cardboard villian and made him tangible.

Holy moly!

I took my grandson with me to Shazam! and we both loved it.  First, other than a nosebleed, there was no gore.  There’s no swearing.  This is the story of a boy that becomes a superhero.  Even though he appears as an adult, he’s still a kid at heart.  That is the essence of Captain Marvel and they managed to keep it.

There were some tweaks to the history of the character that were new – but nothing that took away from that essence.  The film was entertaining, something that some of the DC movies have seemed afraid to embrace.  This film felt genuine, authentic.  The kids were close to real kids in term of character.

So, if you are looking for a good family movie that just happens to be about a super hero, check out Shazam!

Non-Spoiler Review of Captain Marvel

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“I feel the need…the need for nostalgia” 

I have to admit, I was never a big Captain Marvel fan from the comics.  I found this movie to be okay, not great, but it didn’t suck like so many have said.

As far as origin stories, this didn’t follow the traditional format of telling the story.  Instead much of the movie is the hero learning her true origin and origin story – which is fine. For this kind of format to work, you really have to care about the character to begin with.  I never really bonded with Carol Danvers on screen, so I found myself saying, “let’s get to it.” With a slow-reveal origin, you really don’t get what the plot is until you are well into the film.

There are some nice plot twists in all of this that I didn’t see coming.  I appreciate that in a film like this. It wasn’t a linear plot, but one that was well crafted – if not a bit drawn out.

I wish these films wouldn’t push their PC agenda on me.  Let her be a hero that happens to be female, don’t make it out that she’s different because of that.  I didn’t like that in Wonder Woman either.  Just tell the story.  Trust me, I know she’s female.  Releasing it on International Women’s Day just was over the top too.  Look, I’m a fan, just give me a good script and casting.

Things I liked was seeing a younger Nick Fury and Agent Colson in the field.  This was not the embittered Nick Fury of Winter Soldier.  He’s fun, joking, kind of cool.  It was a bit strange to see the 1990’s in the light of nostalgia. God we had ugly cars back then.  Seeing Ronan the Accuser and some other characters we experience later in the Marvel cinema universe is neat too.

There are two post-credit scenes, so stay in your seat. The first one has a direct tie to Avengers Infinity War Endgame – which was awesome!

Overall this was not the best outing in the MCU but it wasn’t as horrific as some people have insinuated.  I liked it and got my money’s worth – which is what you want with a movie.  It adds to the Marvel universe and sets the stage for stuff coming in Endgame.  I give it a 3.7 stars out of five.

 

Non-Spoiler Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

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I took my wife and grandson to Ant Man and the Wasp.  I was nervous, given the last superhero movie I took him to was Infinity War and it bothered him for weeks.  I was hoping for something a little lighter than the last Avengers film – and this new movie didn’t fail me.

First off, the title should be Wasp and the Ant Man – because it is all about the Hope van Dyne character.  She has as much, if not more action than Paul Rudd’s Ant Man.  The story picks up in the post-Civil War era with Scott under house arrest and Hank Pym and Hope on the run because he used their tech.

Hank is on the search for his missing wife, trapped in the quantum realm.  They need Scott Lang and in many ways, Scott needs them.  That’s all you really need to know without ruining the film.

There’s a lot of undercurrent here – a decent villain or two with their own sub-plots that add complexities to the main story line.  What makes this movie work is that humor.  I heard my wife and grandson laugh several times in the film, especially at the character Luis who is PERFECT in this role.  Given the gravity of the last Avenger’s film, this movie was fantastic.

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Easily my favorite character in the film.  

The special effects were very good, probably with the exception of the quantum realm.  That wasn’t a big part of the movie really.

Watch for the 1970’s Hot Wheels carrier (which we all had as kids from that era).  There’s a lot of action in this movie, a decent plot, and wonderful characters.  Hope as the Wasp is a solid female that could do a film all on her own.

Yes, there is a post-credits scene.  I won’t ruin it for you, but you need to see Infinity War first for it to make sense.

I’m giving this 4.5 out of 5 stars.  My wife, who often sleeps during movies, was awake and enjoyed the movie – which speaks volumes.

 

Non-Spoiler Review of Avengers – Infinity War

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I took my grandson to see this in IMAX-3D because I have waited almost a decade for this.  That’s right, Ironman released in May of 2008, starting us on this rollercoaster ride of films leading to this moment. My expectations were high.  But like riding a rollercoaster for the first time, nothing can quite compare you for the parts of the ride you can’t see from the line.

Marvel Studios faced a daunting task…how do you bring together the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and all of the secondary characters together into something that is big and somehow cohesive?  They pull it off with this film, with style and in ways we never could have anticipated.

Having said that, not every character gets a chance to shine the way you might hope. If they did that this would be six hours long.  The interplay between the egos of Dr. Strange and Tony Stark is brilliantly written.  Thor emerges as one of the true superheroes of the Marvel universe.  I actually cheered out loud when he arrives on the battlefield, announced by Bruce Banner.

Some of our heroes aren’t there.  Ant-Man and Hawkeye are on the sidelines…for now.

There are parts of this film that will tear at you.  Thanos is out after the Infinity Stones.  All roads have led to this confrontation.  They can’t just take him down in a single confrontation; that would have been unfulfilling.  Having said that nothing can prepare you emotionally for the final scenes of this movie.

There are some stunning surprises and character/villain returns.  I won’t ruin it for you, but I have been waiting for this one character to return for years now.

My grandson did not like the end of the movie, which I understand from an eight-year-olds perspective.  I saw measures of brilliance in it.  Marvel is setting up the next phase, and have done so masterfully.  Thanos is the big baddy and to simply make his defeat unfold in 2.5 hours in some straight-up battle would have likely disappointed me.  Yes, I understand the criticisms about the end of the movie, but I saw something in it that made the antagonist even more dangerous and deadly.

There is one post-credit scene that is awesome, because it tells you where this is going.  I cannot say more without ruining this for you.  If you don’t get it, Google the upcoming Marvel films and you will.  The last word spoken in the film was perfectly done.

This is not your typical superhero film – it is much more.  It wipes you out emotionally.  Where you might have been thinking that this the end of the rollercoaster ride, you come to the realization that there are more hills, twists and turns to come.  Bravo Marvel.  Five out of five stars.

Now I need to console my grandson until next year…or until AntMan and Wasp…

Review of Justice League – Spoiler Alert

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I will attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum but consider this fair warning.

I came into this film with two frames of mind.  First, I have waited my entire life (five decades-plus) to see a good Justice League film.  I am a child of the Silver Age of comics and everyone has wanted to see all of the DC heroes on the screen at once.  It was going to be hard for any film to live up to a lifetime of internal hype and hope.

My second mindset was that I dislike the whole Zack Synder take on the DC universe. I didn’t love Man of Steel and it took a few viewings of Batman vs Superman to fully appreciate it.

So that I had perspective, I viewed the film with my daughter and grandson who also had a lifetime of waiting to see these characters on the screen.  Three generations of us, mentally braced with the acceptance that we may not like it.

We loved it.  We really did.  I know that will make some fanboys whine, but all that matters is that we enjoyed the film.  Heck, I might go again.

The things that made this movie good was a relatively simple plot (one of the many failings in Batman vs Superman).  The story was simple. The heroes were true to form and everyone got good airtime.  I think that Ben Affleck is outstanding as Batman – perhaps one of the best casting decisions ever. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman.

Things I enjoyed:

  • They made Aquaman cool.  It’s hard to believe, but true.
  • The movie didn’t dwell on origin stories so that the pacing was good.
  • The interplay between Batman and Wonder Woman was good, very true to their characters.
  • There were moments of humor that were unexpected and good – like Aquaman sitting on the lasso of truth.
  • Nothing beat that moment when the Flash was running past Superman and the Supes turned and tracked him.  Yeah, he’s that fast Barry.
  • The post credit scenes honored us Silver Age/Silver Hair crowd and took us in a new direction other than some grim Darkseid plotline which seemed to be the previous course. The first post-credits scene made the movie for me, the icing on the cake.
  • Superman smiled and even laughed.  Gone was Syderian-era of the grim and brooding Man of Steel.

Things I’m on the fence about:

  • Steppenwolf.  I’ve been reading comics for a long time and I didn’t recognize this villain – which was embarrassing. You would have thought that with the pantheon of characters, they could have come up with someone more recognizable to the masses.
  • This was not the Barry Allen or the Flash I knew or wanted to see in film.  Don’t get me wrong, he worked perfectly as a comic relief in the film, fitting into the ensemble well, but he wasn’t quite the Flash I had been hoping for.  I was torn between my expectations for the character and how well he was portrayed in the film. I didn’t hate this Flash, but I didn’t love him.
  • The producers seem unconcerned with the fact that most of these characters have their secret identities compromised.  Even Lois yelling, “Clark!” to Superman with the police on the ground seemed a little weird. Perhaps that is all intentional…hmm…

So, is it worth seeing?  Yes!  Who would have thought that 2017 would have given us two great DC films?  Perhaps this is a sign of things to come.

Spoiler Free Review of Thor Ragnarok

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If you don’t know from my previous blog posts, I’ll fill you in.  I am a comic book junkie.  This era of superhero movies is something that I have waited for my entire lifetime.  Geekiness has become accepted. It is my era.

I actually read the current Thor comic, despite its heavy political and social overtones.  I didn’t come into this movie with big expectations.  The trailers showed the Hulk and Loki, so I knew there was some potential for good stuff here.  The post-credit scene from Dr. Strange proves to be well-thought out and incorporates perfectly into this film.  Kudos to the writers!

Thor Ragnarok is the story of a boy growing to manhood, coping with his father’s past and fate.  It is the story of an awesome warrior seeking redemption.  It is the story of the boy’s wacky brother who is both hero and villain, often in the same scene. It is the story of an abused child with a wee-bit of homicidal rage in her makeup – who seeks to relive her glory days.  That is as much as I will say about the plot.

The humor and even some of the visual effects harken from Guardians of the Galaxy II. I found myself chuckling throughout the film, which makes this a departure from previous Thor outings.  It’s not just insider humor either.  My wife, who is not a fan of superhero movies, laughed throughout the movie.  The fact that she stayed awake during the entire film speaks volumes.

From a writer’s perspective, we see some real development and growth the characters.  The Hulk, who we rarely get more than a few words from, gets a fair amount of screen time and is fun. There are some scenes that harken back to the Avengers when Thor, Loki, and Hulk tangled that are fun.

I was on the fence with Jeff Goldbloom’s character until the second (yes there are two) post-credit scenes.

Marvel gets one thing – start with solid writing and you can produce a great, sometimes epic, film.  Frankly, they are just printing money….money that I am more than willing to hand them if they keep the quality up.

In a season where Hollywood has wallowed in the mire of scandal after scandal, and has produced films that were marginal at best – this movie is outstanding.  It was funny, had plenty of action, and a solid storyline.  A rip-roaring good time with a great choice of battle music.

I give it five out of five stars.

Spoiler Free Review of Spider-Man Homecoming

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The big question out there with geeky fans such as myself was whether Sony could work with Marvel to integrate Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinema universe.  Also looming like a shadow over the Spider-Man franchise was whether the first new Spider-Man movie would be able to stand on its own given its predecessors.  We all wondered what direction it might take.  How would this reboot work?

I’m happy to say that this was a fantastic film.

From the opening during the Marvel credits when they played the Spider-Man cartoon theme song, this is a well crafted story that stands completely on its own.

We didn’t get a whole origin story – thank God.  We all know it anyway.  Radioactive spider bites kid, he gets powers.  In a remarkable move, we didn’t get dragged through that in his film.  Instead this film focuses on a solid plot and characters.

I was concerned with the trailers and the emphasis on Iron Man/Tony Stark.  I was concerned that this would be Iron Man 4 rather than Spider-Man 1.  I was not disappointed in the least.  This was a movie where the supporting cast (Ned and Happy) really help add to the mythos of Spider-Man.  We got just enough Stark in this film, and in all the right way.  A man that is aging, coming to grips with the fact that his recruitment of 14 year old Peter Parker in Civil War put the young man at deadly risk.

The performance of Michael Keaton as the Vulture was great as well.  He plays a great villain who starts out in an almost Breaking Bad formula – being bad for good reasons.  That devolves as the character changes.

This movie is all about characters growing and evolving.  It is a fun romp in the Marvel universe.  We have a new Spider-Man for the new generation.  I took my young grandson to the movie and his take was that the movie was great, but they almost used a bad word at the end.  I wouldn’t say it is for every kid, but we had a blast.

Five out of five stars.  Go see this film!