Friday, February 13, 2015

This Week in Neat-O

:: The trailer for Straight Outta Compton, which I very much want to see.

:: The trailer for Trainwreck, which, maybe. I can't believe I would even want to give Judd Apatow another chance after This Is 40 (Minutes Too Long), but I like Amy Schumer and I kind of dig that she's got what's stereotypically the guy's role in this, but on the other hand, in addition to being too long, Apatow's movies have a conservative streak that I'm not usually thrilled about.

:: The trailer for Russell Crowe's directorial debut, The Water Diviner.

:: I think Giant African Land Snails are wonderful, Here's a video of one eating a leaf.

:: In this week's Weird Al news, Weird Al is apparently teaming up with the Jim Henson Company to produce an animated series. You had me at "Weird Al." You also had me at Henson. I'm damn excited, is the take-away here.

Speaking of Al, nice video bomb there.

:: Dr. Phil without dialogue is just a tense series of reaction shots.

:: The full trailer for Kenneth Branagh's Disney's Cinderella is a lot more appealing than the teasers were. I'll definitely see it because I like Branagh as a director and Cate Blanchett looks quite good, but seeing Helena Bonham Carter in it just makes me want to not bother. She and Johnny Depp have just become indicators of overacted crap to me, and it disheartens me when I see either one of them in something that looks good.

Disney wants to keep making these movies, and they make a lot of money, but I'm skeptical because none of them have been truly great. I liked Oz the Great and Powerful despite its many faults, which had to do more with production design and Sam Raimi and James Franco than anything. I loved Angelina Jolie in Maleficent, but it's not a satisfying film. I haven't seen Into the Woods yet, but there's that Johnny Depp again, and my eyes roll and I decide I can wait. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is one of the worst excuses for a movie that I've ever seen.

"There's more to the legend than you've ever dreamed." Yeah, but it's usually just pretentious filler to attempt to justify making a pumped-up version of a fairy tale rather than just, say, making an enjoyable pumped-up fairy tale.

:: I quite enjoyed the trailer for The Man from UNCLE, though. I don't really have any expectations; I've never seen an episode of the old series. It just looked like an enjoyable spy action movie.

:: Fun Facts About Jurassic Park. It takes me right back to the time when that movie came out. The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and I was SO. INTO. this movie. That summer was partially spent with a book about the making of the movie that I must have read four times.

:: Alyson Stoner's Missy Elliott tribute made me surprisingly nostalgic for really not that long ago. I was a little annoyed when she appeared at this year's Halftime Show and all the kids were tweeting "Who dat?" Missy's never gotten the credit she deserves. Of course, that same generation doesn't know who Paul McCartney is, either, apparently...

:: One more trailer: Crimson Peak. I can't wait to see what Guillermo del Toro does with the gothic horror genre.

:: Ending this all on something that makes me think of the confidence I'd like to have...

I may be fat, but remember, you can't spell "chunky" without "hunk."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Spider-Man and the MCU

I couldn't have been less excited when it was announced the other day that Sony and Marvel Studios had reached a deal that would allow Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I know there were a lot of people who were excited by it and love the idea of Spider-Man finally fighting alongside Captain America on the big screen, but I'm not one of them. I think the MCU is as great as it is precisely because it doesn't have Spider-Man in it. It's been a blessing that Marvel Studios hasn't had the rights to Spider-Man, X-Men, or the Fantastic Four, because that's forced Kevin Feige and his creative teams to really explore and build up characters who are, well, less overexposed. Focusing on the Avengers has been one hell of a ride, and if we had to deal with a Fantastic Four or a Spider-Man movie getting mixed in there, do you really think Marvel would ever have taken a chance on Guardians of the Galaxy? I don't need to see Spider-Man again. I want to see characters I've never seen in a film before.

My first words to Becca when I read the news were: "Great, so they're pushing Black Panther and Captain Marvel back in order to remind us of Peter Parker's origin for the third time in fifteen years?"

I don't want to be disappointed in the MCU, and this... I just didn't like this. And hey, Kevin Feige has earned my faith as a fan, so I didn't want to get online and talk about my disappointment like an entitled fanboy. I'll just wait and see what happens. Who know, maybe it'll work.

Anyway, like a lot of people I'm seeing online, I immediately wanted to see Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker. Because there's something the movies haven't done yet, and since we have to wait longer to get Black Panther, they should give us Miles instead.

I had a whole idea in my head, but didn't bother to set it down until today. A gent I follow on Tumblr seems to feel like Miles Morales wouldn't make an interesting story because he's only been around a short while and doesn't seem to have a true nemesis or really be well established. He asked people to explain how they'd pitch Miles in the MCU rather than just yelling "This must happen!" So I finally wrote out all of my thoughts, and what the hell, here they are:

I don’t think Spider-Man will play a role in the Civil War movie because I think it’s too close and there’s no room, and no one’s going to care which side he’s on, because no one knows the kid yet in the MCU.

There’s been a theme in the MCU of experiments gone wrong, so the origin already fits, and you can bring Norman Osborn in, but just tweak it that Oscorp is attempting to make money by creating their own Super Soldier Serum. They’re testing on animals, Miles' Uncle Aaron tries to steal the formula, Miles gets bitten. I’d weave this into Civil War and show Miles as a kid who loves the Avengers and doesn't understand what he sees on the news and in the streets with the Avengers fighting among themselves. Then he gets really sick from the spider bite and they can play this as a moral dilemma: this new world of superheroes has created opportunism and tragedy, this kid is paying the price. He gets sick and, hell, maybe Captain America visits him in the hospital, feeling somewhat responsible.

And Miles appears to die in the movie.

Then, post-credits scene: Miles waking up in bed, no longer sick. In fact, he feels pretty amazing. And you end on this shot:

Cut to black screen. “Miles Morales Will Return in 2017”

Then I’d keep the kid far in the background through the Doctor Strange movie--just some mentions of a new hero called Spider-Man being seen--and then we’ll learn all about Miles in the Spider-Man movie. My only thing is that I think there should be another MCU character helping Miles along in the Spider-Man movie. And I think that character should be Sam Wilson.

The real opportunity they have in Phase Three is to introduce a lot of new heroes before the Avengers regroup in Infinity War. I feel like what they’re doing, starting with Age of Ultron, is getting a lot of our Phase One heroes out of the way. I have my suspicions about how they’ll do it, but I’m convinced that Thor and the Hulk won’t be around for Civil War because they won’t be around at all. The whole world of the Avengers is going to fray and fall apart, and who’s going to keep the dream alive? Characters like Iron Patriot and Winter Soldier, who can serve more or less as new versions of Iron Man and Captain America. Black Panther, who is going to appear in Civil War. Ant-Man.

And this is where you get the Falcon back in: as Miles’ superhero mentor. You start the Spider-Man movie with Miles already acting as Spider-Man, but still starting out. There’s been no real test yet against some kind of supervillain. Sam finds Spider-Man and is shocked as hell that he’s just a kid. I’d stick mainly with that Scorpion/Prowler storyline from the comics (especially since the Sony movies didn't use the Scorpion already), but put the Falcon in there, too, even if it’s just as a bookend. Let the lure of being an Avenger stand there and build.

And this is really why I think Miles could be such a good idea, and why I mentioned Captain America visiting him in the hospital: this is the first time we’re going to be able to see a young superhero who does what he does because he was inspired by the example of the Avengers. And in trying to do right by them, he introduces a streak of idealism into Phase Three that could easily pay off by the time Infinity War rolls around, because imagine Miles being instrumental in putting the original team back together to fight Thanos.

That’s really something I’d like to see. Just cut the Sony continuity off, don’t bother about Peter Parker (we all get what he’s about by now), and do something new.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #105

"The Cobra and Mr. Hyde!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Chic Stone
(June 1964)

I wasn't really a fan of the Cobra or of Mr. Hyde on their own. Together? Still doesn't do much for me, but at least they feel like slightly more of a realistic threat against the God of Thunder.

I appreciate that the Cobra is a little weirder this time than he was in his first appearance. I think Jack Kirby draws the costume better than Don Heck did, too, so he doesn't look quite so silly. (You know, relatively speaking, considering this is 1960s Marvel.) But his powers are still sort of vaguely defined. He can stick to walls and slither around them, and this time we get this amazing panel that shows you just how much the Cobra can contort his body...

...but he still has his "cobra cable" and "cobra gas" and he seems more worried about branding than just figuring his shit out. It's just a cable! There's nothing uniquely snakelike about it.

But what really annoyed me this issue is Mr. Hyde. If you remember, he's really a scientist named Calvin Zabo who once tried to get a job at Donald Blake's office so he could rob Blake, the way he apparently had other doctors in the past. The word was out enough in the medical community that Blake felt informed enough to turn down Zabo's job request immediately, which is what inspired Zabo to become the powerful Mr. Hyde in the first place. But in this issue, he acts like Calvin Zabo is some unknown scientist toiling away in obscurity, and really acts like he's never even met Donald Blake before, even though his entire story was about trying to murder the guy.. I don't know why this bothers me as much as it does, but it seems like they're slightly retconning Hyde's past with Blake, and I'm not sure doing that really adds anything to the story.

Okay, so the story: the Cobra eludes Thor by popping into a random apartment window, which belongs to Calvin Zabo. Zabo turns into Mr. Hyde and the two fight, then realize they should team up to defeat Thor. They track Thor by capturing his image with Hyde's "Time Reversal Ray," which you aim at someone, photograph them, and then you can see projected images of all of their actions backwards. Don't ask me to explain the science of it, because there isn't any. With the Time Reversal Ray, they track Thor back to Don Blake's office.

Now, of course, Don is still pining over how he can't be with Jane. He's forbidden by Odin to reveal himself as Thor to her, and Thor is forbidden to marry a mortal. So, as Jane leaves to go out on a date--a date she was hoping Don would stop her from going on, because the course of true love never did refrain from playing childish, hurtful, passive-aggressive mind games--Don is nursing a broken heart. He decides to give up the identity of Thor and pursue Jane as Donald Blake. He locks away his cane to test his resolve... and of course, that's when Hyde and the Cobra break into his office and demand to know where Thor is. Oh, and Jane walks in just to up the peril potential.

Don manages to trick Mr. Hyde by telling him that his cane is a way to signal the God of Thunder. Apparently, Don doesn't have to actually tap the cane himself; he gets Hyde to do it, and while Hyde and the Cobra are looking out the window, Donald Blake becomes Thor and the fight ensues.

The battle spills out onto the street and into an exhibition of heavy machinery, where the villains have rightly concluded that Thor will have to be on the defensive to avoid harming the crowd.


Now Thor doesn't have his hammer, and the Cobra and Mr. Hyde are closing in. If Thor can't get to his hammer in sixty seconds, he'll revert to Dr. Blake...

To be continued.

Stray observations:

:: This issue opens with two pages of pure filler as the Avengers adjourn their meeting. It's really only there because otherwise the entire set-up for this story would be "Thor happens to see the Cobra atop a building while just wandering by." It's just an coincidence that he sees him, just like it's a coincidence that the Cobra and Mr. Hyde meet at all.

:: I love it when Chic Stone inks Kirby, and I'm glad he does so here, because it makes this issue look much better than this story probably deserves. I'm not really salivating with anticipation over the conclusion of this thing.

:: When Thor appears in Dr. Blake's office, he's forced to offer another one of his convoluted explanations about What Happened to Dr. Blake, saying he ran off to call the police in all the confusion. But, Jane Foster was right there in that office. Would she have seen the entire thing happen? Didn't she see Don standing there one second and Thor the next? Doesn't she have some real questions? I'm much, much more interested in exploring that than I am anything to do with these two lesser villains.

"Tales of Asgard: When Heimdall Failed!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos

Another great tale of Heimdall, In the previous issue's Tale of Asgard, we saw how Heimdall became the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge because of his superior senses. He saw the approaching Storm Giants attacking days before they even arrived, so Odin led his army out and captured their king.

I don't know how much later this story is--given the nature of these tales, there's no reason to assume they're in any kind of order, really--but right away we are introduced to King Brimer, who identifies himself as King of the Storm Giants, so I guess he didn't stay prisoner for long. Or he did and this is much later. Or the two stories take place at the same time, who the hell knows. It doesn't matter. This is still an enjoyable story and Stan & Jack have the out of mythology to cover for any inconsistencies.

It's too bad that King Brimer and his queen, Nedra, seem to be one-off characters, because I'd love to see more of them, particularly Nedra, who has one of those weird-yet-glorious Kirby designs that makes me think of his later Fourth World comics. I'm not sure who these characters are supposed to correspond to in mythology. There is a giant called Brimir, but I don't remember the name Nedra.

Nedra summons forth a Vanna, some kind of air creature that looks like a pixie and which can become one with the wind itself, which should allow it to sneak past Heimdall undetected. I love the design of the Vanna, too.

I love his long fingers and toes. He really looks like a magic creature and not a tiny human. Nedra commands the Vanna to sneak into Asgard and report on the city's defenses. (I don't think these things are actually part of Norse myth, either, I wonder how Niord, God of the Wind, would feel about this wind creature spying on Asgard. Does the Vanna have an analogue in Norse myth? Nathan would know better than I would. It seems more like Stan or Jack or someone just took the word Vanir from the myths and shortened it. And does Niord ever appear in Marvel Comics? I'd love to see some more members of the Aesir with actual stories.)

When the Vanna passes Heimdall, Heimdall senses something is there and swings his sword, but strikes nothing. He's momentarily troubled by it, but sends word to Odin to be alert. Odin captures the Vanna by ordering anything invisible to reveal itself--powerful magic, for Odin must be obeyed. The Vanna tries to play it onto Heimdall, saying that he's helped Odin by exposing Heimdall's weakness, but Odin is instead impressed: "So loyal is your heart, that you sensed the evil Vanna although you could not see him! And so honorable is your soul that you reported your fears to me, although you knew others might scorn you for fearing the unseen!"

So, contrary to the story's title, Heimdall hasn't failed: he's proven his worth.

I really loved this story. I love what Stan & Jack can do with Norse myths in just five pages. It makes up for the less-than-thrilling main Thor story, honestly.

Next time: Plantman returns, for some reason.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Muppet Monday

Miss Piggy and Constantine, the World's Most Dangerous Frog, accept their Vevo Certification. There are a number of videos about it on the DisneyVevo page, but this was my favorite. God, I love Constantine, and I hope we keep seeing him.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Song of the Week: "One Love/People Get Ready"

Bob Marley would have been 70 years old two days ago. Marley's music used to really irritate me when I was younger, mainly because of all the pretentious idiots I knew who would play "Jammin'" ad nauseum and those damn tourism commercials that used this song with reworked lyrics. Those things played for, I dunno, felt like about 300 years. So it took me until I was older and someone just gave me their old copy of Legend on CD that I really sat and listened and really, really liked the music. This song in particular I reassessed, away from its horrible fate as an ad jingle. I had never heard the passages of the song that were, um, reworked from Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" (a fact unacknowledged when the Wailers recorded the song in 1965, but credited in this more famous 1977 version). It all added up to a beautiful whole.