‘The Snowman’ Movie Review

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The Snowman‘ film, based on the best-selling novel by author Jo Nesbo, has all the markings of a fantastic crime thriller. The cast is an extraordinary one consisting of A-Listers such as Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones and Val Kilmer. The premise of a cat-and-mouse game between an elite detective (Fassbender) and a vicious and elusive serial killer who is triggered by the first snowfall sounds exciting. The exotic backdrop of Norway and beautiful scenes shown throughout the film hold a decorative yet unsettling thrall for the viewer. Sadly, all of these elements fail to save the incoherent and jumbled story of the movie itself. This is a film I was anxious to see, somewhat glad I saw, but still felt somehow very disappointed by the end product.

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Michael Fassbender as the lead (Harry Hole – yes, that’s the character’s name) gives a stoic but sincere performance as a brilliant detective who struggles with alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, while we are given examples of his alcoholism, we are merely left to understand, through some weak dialogue, about the brilliant detective part. That seems to be the theme of the movie – some jumbled scenes and a line or two of dialogue to establish the motives and backstory of the main characters. This, unfortunately, doesn’t help the audience to really feel invested in any of the players that we are randomly introduced to throughout the film. Some characters almost feel as though they were added as an afterthought to help shore up the shaky storyline and force it forward. Val Kilmer and Toby Jones are especially underutlized as a means of giving Rebecca Ferguson‘s character some sort of motivation in the case of Kilmer and then as a means to provide a bit of much needed exposition to Fassbender’s character in the case of Jones.

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J.K. Simmons shows up as part of an almost secondary plot which never quite runs fully tangent to the main narrative. While his portrayal of his character is fantastic, it once again feels like he doesn’t NEED to be there due to the rambling plot and sloppy story which feels like it’s just all over the map. Towards the end, the movie makes a desperate attempt to pull the meandering threads together but it’s too little too late for my tastes. Having not read the original novel on which the film is based, I can only assume that the fault rests with Peter Straughan for the screenplay adaptation or with Tomas Alfredson‘s direction. There were even several quick scenes that I questioned the reasoning as to why they were included at all. The real letdown came at the end with how the killer is finally stopped. I understand the symmetry perhaps, but the finale doesn’t do much in the way of making it feel like our hero won the day. (You’ll understand when you see it.) Overall, if you’re a Fassbender fan (and who isn’t) then you may still want to check this movie out this weekend. Otherwise, you may want to hold off until it hits Netflix or Redbox. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to , sadly, rate ‘The Snowman’ a very cold and disappointing 4.

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‘Breathe’ Movie Review

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The movie ‘Breathe‘ will be released in theaters this weekend and it marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. For my money, he has a winner on his hands right out of the gate! Based on the true story of Robin Cavendish, diagnosed at age 28 with polio and given only 3 months to live, the film is equal parts heart-breaking and uplifting. At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Robin (played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield) as he meets, falls in love with and, subsequently marries, Diana Blacker (portrayed by the ever graceful Claire Foy). In 1957 while in Africa for his job as a tea broker, Robin suddenly falls ill and becomes paralysed from the neck down, unable to breathe on his own. A few weeks later, Diana gives birth to their son Jonathan but due to Robin’s condition, he is unable to even hold his newborn child. Despair sets in and Robin begs for death but Diana refuses to let him give in. (Interesting side note: the real life Jonathan Cavendish is one of this film’s producers!)

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After forcing his release from the hospital and being told by a doctor that he would be dead within 2 weeks outside of their medical confines, his family and friends move him into a new home and Robin slowly begins to find his reasons for living. With the help of his friend Teddy Hall (played gleefully by Hugh Bonneville), an inventor and a professor at Oxford, Robin is able to mount his respirator on a makeshift wheel chair which allows him to experience more of life. The story is thick with emotion as you experience both the highs and lows of the characters in this gripping film about the heights of the human spirit. The entire cast is absolutely superb and they are skillfully guided by Serkis’ steady hand. While I felt there was a slight lack of chemistry between Garfield & Foy early on in the film, that didn’t seem to matter by the end as they both slowly draw you in to this sobering look at how life can change almost instantly and how what we choose to do with our life can be impacted by those with whom we surround ourselves. This will almost certainly get some award nominations in the upcoming season and I would rate the film a solid 8 out of 10. Just make sure to order a side of tissues with your popcorn and soda.

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‘Friend Request’ Movie Review

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A new horror movie hitting theaters this weekend is ‘Friend Request‘ starring ‘Fear The Walking Dead‘ actor Alycia Debnam-Carey as college student Laura Woodson. Laura seemingly has it all: A perfect boyfriend, popularity, good grades, etc. As a result, she feels compelled to accept the friend request of a loner student with 0 friends, Marina Mills (played by Liesl Ahlers). But when Marina becomes obsessed with Laura and begins to cyberstalk her, Laura unfriends her causing Marina to take her own life on video for all to see and sets into motion a curse that will change Laura’s life forever.

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The premise of the film is a good one: Take something like technology, that makes us feel safe in the face of ancient practices of witchcraft and scrying, and make that technology the very vehicle that spirals us deeper into the supernatural clutches of evil. After Marina takes her own life by setting herself on fire and hanging herself in front of her laptop, the video appears in Laura’s Facebook feed leading to many people commenting on how awful she is to post such a thing. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to remove the video and even delete her account, she is questioned by the police and the dean of the college. After Laura receives a posthumous message from Marina warning her “u will know how it feels to be lonely.”, one-by-one her real life friends begin to die horribly after mysteriously becoming online friends with the now deceased Marina. This leads Laura in a race against time to find a way to break the curse before everyone she cares about dies.

The first half of the movie does well and pulls you in immediately. The imagery used in both the Facebook rendering of Marina’s page and the jump scares throughout are what one would expect from a solid, modern-day horror film. Sadly, the second half of the movie begins to unravel quickly and the film almost seems to not know what to do with itself. By the movie’s climax, there are some rather large plot points that strain credulity and the actual finale lacks any significant punch at all and leaves one rolling one’s eyes instead of looking over one’s shoulder. I’m sure this movie will appeal to the teenage crowd who want to kick off the “scary movie season” with a mindless flick, but the seasoned movie goer and horror movie buff will find the overall film rather lacking in the face of several recent genre hits such as ‘It‘ and ‘Annabelle: Creation‘. If I were you, I’d save this one for a watch at home with no better option and save your movie theater money for something better. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to sadly give ‘Friend Request’ a weak 4.5. Feel free to unfriend me if you disagree. 😉

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Movie Review

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For those who may not have seen the original film, Kingsman is an independent British spy agency that works behind the scenes to protect the world. The idea is sort of a mashup of the slick espionage shows and movies like ‘The Avengers‘ and ‘James Bond‘. The first film even slyly poked fun at this notion much in the way the ‘Scream’ films poked fun at the horror movie genre. Sadly, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle‘, comes up a little short of the original. While still enjoyable, the plot strains the limits of one’s suspension of disbelief and isn’t quite as fun as the preceding entry. Opening with an assassination attempt of Eggsy (played again by Taron Egerton) by a rejected Kingsman applicant Charlie (a role reprised by Edward Holcroft), the movie delves breathlessly into action with a well-choreographed close-quarters fight scene and explosive car chase through the streets of London. It’s revealed that this assassination attempt wasn’t merely revenge but part of a plot to take out Kingsman as Charlie is seen to be working for illegal drug czar Poppy (played gleefully, but a bit over-the-top, by Julianne Moore). A country-wide missile strike ends up being Plan B and all of the Kingsman agents are wiped out except for Eggsy and Merlin (once again played by Mark Strong). The “Doomsday Protocol” is performed by Merlin leading the pair across the Atlantic to the state of Kentucky where they are introduced to their American cousins: The Statesman.

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The group is headed by Champagne (Jeff Bridges) with tech whiz Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and staffed by Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). After clarification of who Eggsy and Merlin are, The Statesman agree to help The Kingsman find and eliminate Poppy and the threat of poisoning drug addicts by obtaining her cure before world leaders capitulate to her demands of legalizing all drugs and granting her and her organization total amnesty. The real wrinkle comes in when it is revealed that Eggsy’s mentor Harry (played once again by Colin Firth) is actually alive, amnesiac and living in the care of The Statesman. From there, the world-saving begins in earnest with everything from robotic dogs, exotic locations and Elton John. (You read that correctly.)
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Even though the film clocks in at a lengthy 2 hours & 21 minutes, to its credit, the film never seems slow. I was a little disappointed by how sidelined the roles for Halle Berry and Channing Tatum were after how much they were both hyped in the previews. Jeff Bridges did a fine job of chewing the scenery and Julianne Moore as the villain was serviceable but her role lacked the charisma and punch that Samuel L. Jackson‘s villain has in the last film. This bit of criticism, from my standpoint, has less to do with her acting and more with the disconnected writing for her character. (I.E. The plot was wild but her motives and demands were mundane.) The standouts for me were Colin Firth, who tends to be superb in everything, and Marc Strong who gives, perhaps, the most real & grounded performance of the lot. It was also a delight seeing Elton John playing himself in a hilarious role as Poppy’s celebrity hostage / play thing who eventually gets his revenge in a deliciously fun and unmistakably Elton way.

So while this film carries the franchise forward, it also falls victim to “sequel syndrome” in not being able to completely recapture the elements and charm of the original. All of the actors do a fine job with what they are given, but some of the performances seem to suffer from being provided too little with which to work. Given the hype that the film has received and the anticipation of this sequel from fans who loved the first installment, I’d say that it will take the #1 Spot at the box office from ‘It‘ but will suffer a sharp decline for the second weekend. Based on all of this, I’d give the film a 6.5 out of 10.

AfterShock Comics “Dark Ark #1” Review

Hitting comic book stores on September 20th will be a very cool and incredibly interesting new series from AfterShock Comics called “Dark Ark“. It combines all of the elements of myth, lore, and alternate history into a deliciously dark tale set during the Biblical time of The Great Flood. Written by the always exceptional Cullen Bunn and smoothly drawn by Juan Doe, “Dark Ark” presents us with the idea that Noah may not have been the only one to build an ark to ride out the 40 day and 40 night deluge of the Earth. In this tale, a dark wizard by the name of Shrae takes two each of the demons & dark creatures (I.E. vampires, manticores, harpies, etc) aboard his own ark to survive the flood. But when a gathering of these monsters inhabit such a small space for so long, trouble is bound to happen. This is a fascinating look at a plot that runs tangent to a story with which we are all familiar. The scenes set by Bunn’s narrative and Doe’s accompanying art make for a compelling read that will make you hunger for the second issue as soon as you’ve finished the first! Comics like this are the reason independent publishers like AfterShock should be celebrated. “Dark Ark” is due out on September 20th so hurry and let your local comic book store know that you want them to put it on your pull list! You may even want to get 2 copies to make sure you get the alternate cover drawn by the phenomenal Phil Hester. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give “Dark Ark” a strong 8.5.

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ Movie Review

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard‘ shoots into theaters this weekend starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek. If those names alone aren’t enough to pique your interest, then perhaps my review may persuade you further. The best way to describe this film is to say it’s like ‘The Odd Couple‘ meets ‘Lethal Weapon‘. Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a triple-A rated personal security operative who is at the top of his game until he loses a high value client. Fast forward 2 years and Bryce is on his own, providing security for drug-addled attorneys. Samuel L. Jackson plays Darius Kincaid, a professional & experienced hitman, who has been offered a deal by Interpol: testify against Belarus’s feared dictator Vladislov Dukhovich (impeccably played by Gary Oldman) and his imprisoned wife, Sonia Kincaid (delightfully portrayed by Salma Hayek) will go free. After accepting the deal, Interpol begins the transfer of Darius Kincaid to the International Court Of Justice hearings in Amsterdam under the watchful eye of Agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung).  Before they can make it out of London, the transfer caravan is hit by agents of Dukhovich who will stop at nothing to keep Kincaid from testifying. With no choice left, Roussel calls in ex-boyfriend Bryce to insure that Kincaid makes it to Amsterdam in time for the hearing. If Kincaid doesn’t appear in court to testify, Dukhovich will go free.

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The film is laced with the typical Ryan Reynolds‘ humor and Samuel L. Jackson‘s signature swearing. There is also a LOT of violence, but then again, the title IS “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” so one SHOULD expect quite a bit of the rough stuff. Action is the order of the day and both Reynolds and Jackson are easily up for the task. Their chemistry on-screen is fantastic and all of the supporting cast are also superb in their roles. (Honestly: When has Gary Oldman ever NOT been superb?) The plot itself is not particularly inventive and the story is rather predictable, but it moves along at such a great pace from the beginning that you never really have a chance to stop and think about this flaw until after the film is over. The fight choreography and stunt work throughout the movie are also exceptional and I think this is a project that should afford a great deal of pride to all of those involved with the entire production. For best action flick of the year, I’d say that this one comes in right behind ‘Atomic Blonde‘ for me as the most fun offering of the summer. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d give ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ a solid 7 with just a few points off for the aforementioned predictability. If you get the chance to see a film this weekend, I would certainly recommend checking this one out. If for no other reason than this: You get to see Elektra hire Deadpool to keep Sirius Black from killing Mace Windu. Now THAT’S entertainment!!
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‘Annabelle: Creation’ Movie Review

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Horror movies are generally quite bankable. People LIKE being scared. The last time a horror movie truly lived up to its name for me was 2013’s ‘The Conjuring‘ which is now in my “Top 10 Scary Movies of All Time” list. That movie had a side story featuring an incredibly creepy doll named Annabelle that was possessed by evil. I clearly was not alone in my fear of this gruesome creation because the doll got a spin-off movie in ‘Annabelle‘ which came out just a year after ‘The Conjuring’. Now, we get the origin story of the world’s creepiest doll with this weekend’s release of ‘Annabelle: Creation‘. This film stars Anthony LaPaglia as Samuel Mullins, the doll maker who, after suffering the loss of his young daughter, unknowingly allows a demonic force to possess his latest creation in an attempt to bring his daughter back. Twelve years later, Sister Charlotte (played by Stephanie Sigman) brings a group of young orphan girls to the Mullins’ large home to live until they can be adopted. But when young Janice (played by Talitha Bateman) unknowing finds the doll and takes it out of it’s hidden prison, the malevolent spirit is unleashed and takes its revenge on the Mullins and everyone else living under their roof in horrifying ways.

This film succeeds in delivering genuine frights along with a compelling narrative where many other horror films tend to do either one or the other. For me, supernatural tales are generally more frightening than slasher flicks and ‘Annabelle: Creation’ is no exception. There is something universally frightening about making a seemingly innocent doll or child the focal point of evil. It’s been done well in other films throughout the years and is something this movie does even better than it’s predecessor. All of the acting solidly delivers to keep the audience engaged with the characters throughout the lean 1 hour and 49 minute run time and the pacing never drags. While there was a moment or two when my suspension of disbelief was tested, it wasn’t enough that I couldn’t thoroughly enjoy the overall film. For everything ‘Annabelle: Creation’ gives us, I’d rate it a strong 7.5! I predict that this movie will be #1 at the box office for it’s opening weekend and I would certainly recommend seeing it to any of my fellow horror movie fans out there. Just make sure you leave a light on for when you get home. And maybe make sure any dolls you have in the house are put away. Just to be safe.

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‘The Defenders’ Review of Episode 1.2

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After a slow start with Episode 1 to re-establish the main characters, Episode 2 starts off with Matt Murdock perched on the roof of his apartment listening to the various sounds of Hell’s Kitchen after an apparent earthquake has shaken the city. He reacts to a problem he feels can’t be ignored but is immediately upset by his decision to intervene. He is clearly still torn by his decision to stop being Daredevil. Meanwhile, Colleen and Danny continue to investigate the presence of The Hand in New York and follow their only lead in an attempt to get closer to their goal of stopping The Hand once and for all. Jessica Jones continues with her investigation into the suspected disappearance of a seemingly ordinary businessman who looks to be wrapped up in something far more complicated than Misty Knight and the police seem to think.. Luke Cage does what he can to help take care of the damage done to Harlem by the tremors from the night before and works a lead given to him by Turk in order to find out why young men in Harlem keep ending up dead after the working for a man by the name of White Hat.

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Whereas the first episode of this new series was a little slow and felt disjointed, we can see a more cohesive series being formed in the second episode as the various characters’ stories begin to slightly overlap. The overall style also seems reflective of that in this episode as the first seemed to be trying to keep each character’s scenes locked into their own show’s style of filming. Now that the interaction between some of the key characters is beginning to happen, I am completely invested. The acting was as solid from all of the players assembled as it was in their individual series. I am giddy about the possibilities of where the show goes from here. Given that this particular series is only 8 episodes long, I am sure the pace will pick-up dramatically and the complaint heard from some regarding the solo series about being a bit slow in some instances will not be a complaint that ‘The Defenders‘ will receive past the first episode. For only being the 2nd episode with all the occurred, I would rate it a solid 7.

 

 

‘Atomic Blonde’ Movie Review

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Buckle up, Friends! ‘Atomic Blonde‘ hits theaters this weekend and it hits hard!! Are you an action movie fan? You’ll love it. Do you enjoy films with a strong female lead? This is for you. Perhaps you can’t get enough of movies based on comics and graphic novels? Done! You love all things 80’s? Check! Perhaps you just enjoy spy movies with a bit of a twist at the end. Again… you’re covered. Of all of the summer releases so far this year (and we’ve had some doozies), ‘Atomic Blonde’, for my money, may be the best one yet! Set against the backdrop of Berlin during the final days of the Cold War, this highly stylized and masterfully shot film stars Charlize Theron as MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton who is tasked to bring back the body of a fellow agent and complete his assignment by getting a microfilm that could tip the balance of world power.

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Throughout the movie, there is the typical spy fare including double agents, car chases, dizzying fights, glamorous settings and action aplenty. James McAvoy is lovably despicable as the Berlin station chief who uses his position to further his own desires and goals. It’s always a delight to see Sofia Boutella on screen and she perfectly plays the still somewhat green French agent assigned to Berlin. The cast is rounded out by the always outstanding John Goodman as CIA liaison Emmett Kurzfeld, Eddie Marsan as Spyglass, Toby Jones as MI6 head Eric Gray and Roland Moller as KGB chief Aleksander Bremovych. Beautifully filmed by director David Leitch, ‘Atomic Blonde’ is a slick and stylized roundhouse kick to your senses. The soundtrack featuring such 80’s gems as “Voices Carry“, “Under Pressure“, “Der Kommissar” and “99 Luftballons” fit seamlessly into the action and help propel the film’s 1 hr 55 min run time along at an effortless pace. Speaking of effortless – Charlize Theron makes the incredibly choreographed and downright brutal fight scenes look like a perfectly practiced dance from which even Jason Bourne could learn a thing or two.

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The casting of this movie couldn’t have been better and Charlize Theron demonstrates, yet again, how suited she is for playing the role of total badass. I can only imagine the delight from Antony Johnston and Sam Hart (who created the graphic novel “The Coldest City” on which the film is based) when it was announced that Charlize would be playing the lead role. As a fan of all things 80’s, the movie was a delight for me and I probably would have reviewed the film favorably just on those merits. The fact that it was breathtakingly beautiful, brilliantly acted and buoyantly fun means that I cannot, in good conscience, rate ‘Atomic Blonde’ anything less than a 9.5 with a half point taken off for some incredibly slight cliche tropes of the spy genre. If you are wanting to see some exciting thrills this weekend on the big screen, then ‘Atomic Blonde’ is just the woman for you!

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Legion M Celebrates Stan Lee

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It was a whirlwind of a day! Stan Lee was honored during an Imprint Ceremony at The TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood amid a day of fanfare that concluded with an epic party at “The Tony Stark Mansion”high in the Hollywood Hills. Legion M, the world’s first ever fan-owned film company, put together the whole event which was also sponsored by The Nerdist, TCL, IMAX, Audible and many more. As an investor in Legion M, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the day’s events and am able to tell you first hand what a truly amazing time was had by all in attendance. The event began at 10am with artist Rob Prior deftly crafting a custom art piece featuring Stan Lee’s face surrounded by images of Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Spider-Man. Afterwards, the celebrities began to show up including (from L to R below) Todd McFarlane, Kevin Feige, Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Chadwick Boseman and Clark Gregg. ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘ director James Gunn was also in attendance but did not speak at the ceremony.

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Following the event, all in attendance were invited to a screening of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming‘ on the giant IMAX screen at the TCL Chinese Theater. After that, it was time to clean up for the big party at “The Stark Mansion” up in the Hollywood Hills later that evening. The venue was gorgeous and was decked out with all sorts of Marvel-ous decor including a life size Iron Man statue, a giant poster of Stan Lee that was specially designed for the event, vintage comics under glass display cases, a TCL gaming lounge featuring a wide array of Marvel Comics themed video games and more. A few hours after the party got underway, the guest of honor made a fashionable entrance and then took to the stage to say a few words to the crowd of fans and celebrities who had come to celebrate his career and legacy.

There was live music, a tribute video featuring congratulations and well-wishes from the likes of Mark Hamill, Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Tom Hiddleston and many more. This was followed by a champagne toast, a huge Marvel themed cake, more art by the amazing Rob Prior and plenty of fun that lasted well in the wee hours of the morning. There were no strangers at this party. Everyone was glad to be there, very friendly and a good time was had by all. Did I mention the cosplay? Professional cosplayers were all over and each one of them brought their A-game to honor the man who invented the characters to whom their costumes paid homage. Some of the Marvel mainstays represented included Invisible Woman, Hercules, Black Panther, Phoenix and even Loki himself (who tried to eat the entire cake by himself). For more images and video from the Imprint Ceremony and the Hollywood Party, check out my YouTube page! (Feel free to subscribe while you’re there.)

It was a day that will always be remembered and a night that will be impossible to forget. Once in a great while, a man like Stan Lee comes along who is an inspiration to many, a champion of us all and a true icon to the world. He gave us thousands of larger than life characters and so many classic tales to entertain generations upon generations of readers. I listened to many people tell me what Stan Lee meant to them and how he and his work changed their lives in so many unique and special ways. That is why he is being honored. That is why he is being celebrated. His life wasn’t always easy, but his determination coupled with his imagination fueled the way for him to become the person who, at the age of 94, is recognized by a grateful public for leaving the world better and richer than it was before he came into it. His is a legacy that will stand the test of time and for me, personally, will always be seen as a super hero greater than any of the ones he created in his lifetime. So, from this fan: Thank you, Stan Lee, for teaching me how to be a better person, how to think big and how to never give up on your dreams. Excelsior!!!

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