Legendary Writer Dennis O’Neil Passes Away


Today we have lost a titan. Legendary writer Dennis On’Neil passed away yesterday (June 11th) at the age of 81. His contributions to the comic book industry are too numerous to count. From new characters that he helped create to the revolutionary stories he told along side some of the finest artists in the industry, it’s safe to say that comics as we know them now all bear the indelible imprint of the work that Denny gave us during his time. Perhaps best known for his work as both a writer and editor on the Batman books for D.C. Comics, he co-created several new characters over his nearly 25 year tenure there including Azrael, Ra’s Al Ghul & Talia Al Ghul. He also helped reshape Green Arrow into the character that fans know him as today and completely revitalized the Green Lantern comic by teaming him up with The Emerald Archer and telling more politically driven stories including one in which Green Arrow’s ward Roy Harper wrestles with drug addiction. He also introduced my personal favorite Green Lantern – John Stewart.


Denny also worked at both Charlton Comics and Marvel Comics during his career. While at Marvel he wrote on titles such as Strange Tales, X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and Iron Man. O’Neil is credited for many Marvel ideas such as co-creating the characters of Madame Webb, Hydro-Man & Lady Deathstrike, turning James Rhodes into Iron Man as well as helping Bob Budiansky with the concepts for Marvel’s Transformers series and even naming Optimus Prime! Perhaps his greatest contribution was making Frank Miller the lead writer on Daredevil; a move which Marvel’s editor-in-chief Jim Shooter said probably saved the book from being canceled!

On a personal note, I’m very sad that I never had the chance to meet nor to interview Dennis O’Neil. I always thought it was cool that he was born right here in my home town of St. Louis, MO and I was always such a fan of his stories growing up as a kid when I was reading comics before I was old enough to pay attention to things like “Who wrote this comic?” or “Who drew that issue?” This is just one of the many reasons I love meeting and speaking with creators who helped shape my childhood and, in many respects, who helped me look at the world through a different set of eyes. It’s certainly worth noting that Denny received numerous prestigious awards and accolades for his groundbreaking work and he also went on to teach writing in his later years. Few men can honestly claim that their writing or their work shaped an entire genre or helped to change minds as they simultaneously entertained. Of Dennis On’Neil, no truer words can be spoken.



‘Wow Signal’ Movie Review


Lately it seems like we are in a new golden age of documentaries. There are many being made and quite a few of them are really, quite good. Every so often, there may be a clunker or two, but in an age where we have the internet in our pockets and knowledge of any possible subject literally at our fingertips, these documentaries still are coming at us faster than ever. In a field so filled with choices, finding a niche can be a unique challenge. Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a company send me one to see that I might not have otherwise known about or would have gotten the opportunity to notice. I can honestly say that I’m glad that I did see it. ‘Wow Signal’ is a documentary about the interstellar signal that was received back on August 15th, 1977 that many professionals hold up, to this day, as the best proof of intelligent extra-terrestrial life out there in the galaxy.

The film details the history of the world’s interest in seeking life outside of our own planet at the close of World War 2 and specifically deals with how the USA began using new techniques and equipment to aid in that search. One of these pieces of equipment was the “Big Ear” radio telescope run by Ohio State University. On that fateful summer night over 40 years ago, an intensely strong narrow band radio signal was received that seemed to all but prove that intelligent life existed beyond the confines of our galaxy. As it was never repeated, the signal itself and whatever sent it has been a source of mystery and speculation to this day. The ‘Wow Signal’ film does a very thorough and thoroughly fascinating job of setting the post-war era stage for us and then treating us to the characters and events that helped lead us to this point of history. The reasons for and the many cases against the signal being a definitive sign of proof about our place in the universe are given equal measure as the film deftly traverses the decades and details the moments and people who worked on the project as well as those souls who still continue to put effort into the work of looking for answers and signs of life in the immense vastness of space.


‘Wow Signal’ does an excellent job of conveying the proper amount of knowledge in a clear, concise and relatable way while never being too bogged down in detail or exposition to the point where a novice like myself would lose interest. Bob Dawson’s film editing coupled with Eric Brown’s art direction make for a documentary that is as visually stunning as it is endlessly fascinating. At a time when there seems to be so much divisiveness in the world and when our own planet seems so small and claustrophobic, ‘Wow Signal’ is a great reminder of how small we all are compared to the vastness of space and, perhaps, allows us to contemplate with a different lens our place in the grand scheme of things. Are we alone in the universe? Could there be intelligent life out there somewhere? While we may not have these answers, this documentary is a great watch for those of us who may just need a different perspective on things. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this documentary an out-of-this-world 8! As interesting as it is compelling, ‘Wow Signal’ should definitely be on everyone’s watch list.


‘The Gentlemen’ Movie Review


‘The Gentlemen’ (2020)
Miramax Films

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Henry Golding, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell & Hugh Grant

There is something I’ve always enjoyed about “gangster” films. Obviously the range of them can be quite broad from dramatic to comedic to downright outlandish, but the appeal is somehow always consistent. ‘The Gentlemen‘ by Guy Ritchie is certainly a gangster film but one with a joie de vivre that I’ve seldom seen in others. Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Pearson who controls the marijuana trade throughout all of England. He decides he is ready to sell his business and retire with his wife Rosalind (played by Michelle Dockery). With a business as lucrative as his, there are a few interested parties who, naturally, feel Mickey’s $400 million asking price may be a bit steep. The dominoes start to fall as a gambit to drive down Mickey’s asking price spirals out of control coupled with an attempt to discredit Mickey by disgruntled newspaper editor Big Dave (played by Eddie Marsan). We see most of the film as told by Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleazy P.I. hired by Big Dave, to Mickey’s right-hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam) as Fletcher attempts to extort Ray for $20 million instead of turning over all of the vital information he has gathered on Mickey and his operation to Big Dave.


This movie was an absolute blast. The cast seems to be having as much fun as the audience throughout the jaunty 1 hr 53 min run time. There is action a-plenty, intrigue, and just the right amount of comedic moments to keep the film perfectly paced. The entire cast was stellar from Matthew McConaughey’s normal smooth, commanding grace to Michelle Dockery’s street-wise purposefulness to Henry Golding‘s seething ambition. I will also say that this may be my very favorite performance yet for Colin Farrell who was effortlessly perfect in his role of Coach. Hugh Grant is also charmingly wretched as the double-crossing, only out for himself Fletcher. Not a single performance was lacking whether the characters were onscreen for the whole film or for only 3 minutes. Guy Ritchie is to be praised for his masterful handling of this entire project which is truly a return to form for this writer / director. While there is a lot of violence in the film (it IS a gangster story, after all), it never felt like violence for the pure sake of violence. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give ‘The Gentleman’ a solid 9 for the sheer, unbridled fun of it all. Make sure you get out and see it this weekend at a theater near you!


‘Jay & Silent Bob Reboot’ Movie Review


‘Jay & Silent Bob Reboot’ (2019)
View Askew Productions & Miramax Films

Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Shannon Elizabeth, Aparna Brielle, Treshelle Edmond, Alice Wen, Jason Lee, Rosario Dawson & Craig Robinson

What is the difference between a reboot, a remake, a re-imagining, etc? Have no fear – ‘Jay & Silent Bob Reboot‘ will explain it all to you while also adding in equal parts heart, humor & nostalgia. After Jay & Silent Bob are duped into relinquishing the use of their names by Saban Films, the duo must once again make their way to Hollywood in order to stop a reboot of ‘Bluntman & Chronic’ from being made. If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because it is almost exactly the same plot as ‘Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back’ (hence the whole “Reboot” joke). Jason Mewes & Kevin Smith once again reprise the roles of the titular characters and the rest of the cast is filled out by a bevy of faces that will be familiar to anyone who is a fan of the View Askewniverse movies along with actors from other pop culture favorite shows & films from Fred Armisen and Melissa Benoist to Val Kilmer and Chris Hemsworth. It’s evident that Smith left nothing out when it comes to fan service in this remake, I mean… reboot.


The first third of the movie was a little slow and had a few cringe-worthy moments as well. After this, the film seems to course correct and take a massive upswing delivering not only a great deal of heart and comedy, but a solid self-awareness as it pokes fun of itself and at writer / director Kevin Smith as well. Many of the funny moments are inside jokes for those familiar with other Kevin Smith films, so I would advise the casual movie goer to at least see ‘Clerks‘, ‘Dogma‘ & ‘Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back‘ in order to not be completely lost when seeing this latest installment. (I’d recommend that anyone and everyone should see ‘Dogma‘ anyway, but that’s a topic for another post.) As the credits began and we got to see B-roll and outtakes, I looked around and saw many people smiling and laughing about the film experience in which they had just engaged and it did seem that a good time was had by all. I personally enjoyed the film as well aside from the one or two problems I mentioned earlier. However, I didn’t go away feeling that this was Smith’s magnum opus. It felt very solid and certainly delivered on its promises of what was offered. Arguably this is the very best at which we’ve ever seen Jason Mewes acting wise in these films. For me, his performance stole the show and if we never got another Jay & Silent Bob film again then I do feel that they went out on a high note. That being said, I worry that the slow beginning and the vast array of inside jokes may make this a film that will not be highly regarded by the average cinephile. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to say that ‘Jay & Silent Bob Reboot’ only serves up a light buzz of a 7 for me. Tickets are on sale now at a theater near you. Snoochie Boochies!!


‘Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil’ Movie Review


‘Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil’ (2019)
Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by: Matt Joachim Ronning
Written by: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster & Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Leslie Manville & Michelle Pfeifferr

Another Disney movie in theaters this weekend is ‘Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil‘ which is a sequel to the 2014 box office hit centered on the titular character best known as the villain from ‘Sleeping Beauty‘. The premise is simple: after years of raising Aurora as her own daughter in The Moors, Maleficent is invited to a dinner at the royal palace to celebrate Aurora’s engagement to Prince Phillip. Unbeknownst to all, Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith, is determined to use the dinner as a way to paint Maleficent as a truly wicked creature in her bid to expand the kingdom, destroy all the mystical creatures in The Moors and claim its resources for her own. Angelina Jolie stylishly reprises her role as Maleficent while Elle Fanning returns to the role of Aurora with wonderful doe-eyed innocence. Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple are also back as the 3 colorful fairies while Sam Riley returns with his wry humor and perfect comedic timing in the role of Diaval. The role of Prince Phillip has been recast in the form of Harris Dickinson who plays a serviceable role, but for me, lacks Brandon Thwaites‘ (who played Phillip in the original film) stormy presence.maleficent_02

New characters Conall (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Queen Ingrith (portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer) were the standout performances for me along with Angelina Jolie who I would have liked to see more of in her own film. Visually, the film is wonderful – colorful when it needs to be and appropriately dark when necessary. The concept of xenophobia looms large in this one and it showcases the harm that can come from fear and intolerance. Overall though, I feel like this would have been just as good as an animated feature instead of a live action opus. A sequel was inevitable with as much money as its predecessor brought in at the box office, but “inevitable” doesn’t always nor should it equate to “required”. There isn’t quite as much fun in the second go around and, while it presents a beautiful spectacle, it’s just a little on the underwhelming side overall. Die-hard Disney fans will no doubt turn out to see it and, to it’s credit, it is an original story and not another one of the live-action remakes of an original cartoon classic so it does have that going for it. Overall, I’d rate this film as a worthy effort that falls somewhat short making it a 6 out of 10 for me and I’m adding a point due to the performances delivered by Jolie, Pfeiffer & Ejiofor. This may be one you want to save for Redbox or On Demand.


‘The Addams Family’ Movie Review


‘The Addams Family’ (2019)
MGM Pictures

Directed by: Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon 
Written by: Matt Lieberman, Pamela Pettler & Erica Rivinoja
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg & Allison Janney

Halloween is just around the corner. And while most people’s minds turn to horror films, a charming new animated addition to the box office this coming weekend will be a revisiting of one of the creepiest and kookiest families in America – The Addams Family! Originally springing from the mind of cartoonist Charles Addams and first appearing in “The New Yorker”, the characters have been around for nearly a century but this is their very first animated feature-film. Having been driven out of “the old country” on the day of their wedding, Gomez & Morticia decide to begin their life together somewhere new. Upon arriving in New Jersey, they find an old, abandoned & haunted lunatic asylum and find it to be just horrible enough to make it their home. Trouble begins when TV home makeover queen Margaux Needler realizes that the Addams’ hilltop macabre mansion and their bizarre visiting relatives could upset her plans to sell homes in the town of Assimilation and sets out to rally the townspeople against the family.


Directed by Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon, this movie boasts some seriously heavy hitters when it comes to voice talent. From Oscar Isaac & Charlize Theron as Gomez & Morticia to Finn Wolfhard & Chloe Grace Moretz as Pugsley & Wednesday, we even get powerhouses Bette Midler & Snoop Dogg as Grandma & Cousin It. The film does a great job of being original while also incorporating several nods and homages to the original TV series as well as to the 1991 film of the same name. It’s well-done on the animation front with a solid story line that gives all of the characters plenty to do and Conrad Vernon deftly handles the incredible voice cast making the most of everyone’s talents.  What this means is that we get a fun and clever movie that the adults will enjoy every bit as much as the children. Clocking in at just 1 hour & 27 minutes, this film will be easy to slip into your weekend plans. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say that ‘The Addams Family‘ manages to conjure up a solid 8 for me. Don’t be scared to get out and see it at a theater near you for part of your Halloween plans.


“Butcher Queen” Comic Review


A new comic hits the shelves today from the same team that brought you “The Rough & Tumble” and “The Dead Palace”. Jim Ousley (writer) and Ben Sawyer (artist) bring you “Butcher Queen”, a sci-fi dystopian world of humans and aliens that feels like equal parts “Fray” and “Blade Runner” in just the perfect measures. In this story, we find former cop Syd Kiowa finding her way as a gun-for-hire after the brutal murder of her partner several years prior. After an horrific attack on a train full of alien off-worlders, Syd answers a distress call from someone who may have information about just who perpetrated the attack as well as how to potentially stop these mysterious Overseers who are determined to eradicate the off-worlders completely.


Published by Red 5 Comics, “Butcher Queen” expertly weaves Ousley’s smooth-flowing words with Sawyer’s versatile pencils into a rich tale of action-edged science fiction that feels somehow both alien and yet familiar given current events. Having collaborated on projects in the past, it’s no wonder that Ousley & Sawyer are able to bring a new comic to life that seems effortless both in it’s presentation and in reader immersion. Many times comics take-off quickly and with independent titles performing better and better in recent months, “Butcher Queen” is a title that you won’t want to let slip past your radar! There are several variant covers from which to choose so make sure to pick this one up on today’s NCBD and be sure to ask your local comic book store to order the future issues as well. I, for one, can’t wait to see where this thrill ride takes us!



‘Ready Or Not’ Movie Review


‘Ready Or Not’ (2019)
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Written by: Guy Busick & Ryan Murphy
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell,Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque & Nicky Guadagni

In a vast desert of mediocre end-of-Summer releases currently plaguing the box office, ‘Ready Or Not‘ is an oasis of fun and thrills! The premise is simple: a newlywed bride (played by Samara Weaving) marries into a board game dynasty family. On her wedding night, the family insists that she follow tradition and play one game at midnight in order to truly be part of the family. An antique puzzle box decides which game will be played and that game turns out to be hide and seek. She hides somewhere in the huge estate owned by the groom’s (Mark O’Brien) family and the family then tries to find her. Little does she know that the family must not only find her but also kill her before dawn in order to keep their pact with the devil which allows them to maintain their wealth and power. What she thinks is just a game quickly becomes a fight for survival as she realizes that she must not only stay hidden, but she must also stay alive!


I was initially thinking that this was going to be a straight up horror film, but soon realized that it was more of a suspense flick with great elements of dark comedy thrown in to the mix. Think: ‘Saw‘ meets ‘Cabin In The Woods‘ with a dash of ‘War Of The Roses‘. The cat-and-mouse game between the family and their newest member pivots effortlessly from dire to droll and then back again. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t quite see coming (which is always welcome) and the pacing of the film never once felt labored. The acting from the cast is solid all around and the comical moments are peppered in along the way although perhaps just a little too much in one or two instances. Adam Brody and Nicky Guadagni were my two favorites of the cast as the conflicted brother-in-law and the creepy aunt, respectively. Samara Weaving establishes herself as a dynamic presence able to portray a wide range of emotions in the span of a single film and I can only imagine that this was a delightful role to get as an actor.

The ending of the film, while over-the-top, was probably the perfect coda for this 95 minute whirligig. Considering the originality of the conept, the quick pacing of the story and the strength of the acting in this movie, I’d say that ‘Ready Or Not’ manages to seek its way to a 7.5 out of 10 for me. If you’re looking for a truly fun experience at the movies this weekend, I’d say go ahead and get your tickets for this one and see it at a theater near you!! With the current batch of clunkers out right now, ‘Ready Or Not’ is a film that won’t stay hidden for long.


‘Yesterday’ Movie Review


‘Yesterday’ (2019)
Working Title Films

Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Jack Barth & Richard Curtis
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran & Ana de Armas

Summer is always a grab bag of movies. Some are the standard schlock, we get several blockbusters, a few romantic comedies, the occasional horror flick, etc. Every so often, we also get a film that defies exact classification and hits us like a refreshing evening breeze. ‘Yesterday‘ is just such a film. Co-written by Richard Curtis (‘Love Actually‘, ‘Pirate Radio‘) and directed by Danny Boyle (‘Slumdog Millionaire‘), ‘Yesterday’ isn’t exactly a rom-com, nor is it technically a drama or a plain outright comedy movie but it blends a little bit of all of these aspects into a fun, trip down the imaginary “What if…?” path.

The premise is simple: a struggling songwriter & musician (played brilliantly by Himesh Patel) gets into an accident during a mysterious world wide blackout. When he regains consciousness, he finds he’s the only one in the world who is able to remember The Beatles. With no one else having ever written these classic songs, he immediately sets to recording the many hits from The Beatles catalog and then passes them off as his own which suddenly catapults him into the fame, stardom and acclaim that he’s always wanted. But it doesn’t come without a cost. The cast is wonderful and seem to have a natural chemistry. Ed Sheeran was delightful as himself (one would hope, yeah?) and Lily James always lights up any scene in which she appears with a charismatic grace that effortlessly seems to guide her along. Kate McKinnon is a favorite of mine and there simply aren’t enough adjectives to describe her comedic exuberance. 


The few problems I did have with this film are that the “incident” that resulted in this “Beatles blackout” was never explained. Not a deal-breaker and who knows if an explanation would have added or detracted from the story, but it still left me puzzled that it was never really addressed. The other issue I had was with the romantic aspect of the movie. The two main characters of Jack & Ellie are JUST friends throughout the first half of the film with Ellie also acting as Jack’s manager. They even make it a point of saying so several times early on in the movie. Therefore the sudden confession from Ellie that she has always loved Jack felt to me as though it were merely an afterthought in the plot. Luckily Himesh Patel & Lily James have such a good on-screen chemistry that it was something else I was able to brush aside. The music is great and the journey on which we are taken in the film is a fun one. I was also surprised once or twice by where the film went which was something that I’m not used to with many of today’s  Hollywood fare. ‘Yesterday’ is a fun, feel-good flick that you don’t need to think too hard about so just sit back, listen to the music and enjoy the ride. Even with it’s minor flaws, I’d say ‘Yesterday’ is able to “Come Together” to a 7.5 out of 10. Get your “Ticket To Ride” at theaters now for what promises to be one of the warmest movies of the summer.


‘Men In Black: International’ Movie Review


‘Men In Black: International’ (2019)
Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures & Amblin Entertainment

Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by: Matt Holloway, Art Marcum & Lowell Cunningham
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson & Kumail Nanjiani

Now that we are in June, it’s time for the onslaught of summer blockbusters to start hitting theaters. And when it comes to summer blockbusters, ‘Men In Black‘ always comes to mind. It’s been 7 years since the third movie in the franchise was released. This time around, we get a different cast and an international setting (it even says so in the title). Tessa Thompson plays Agent M who has spent her whole life trying to find and join MIB since an alien encounter as a child changed her life. Now that the head of the New York office (Emma Thompson) has given her a chance, her first mission is to investigate something “off” about the London branch. She is greeted by the head of that bureau (Liam Neeson) and ends up forcing her way onto an assignment with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) protecting an alien dignitary. But when the job goes sideways, the alien reveals the fact that MIB has a mole within its ranks and it becomes a race against time to protect a weapon given to M by the alien and discover just who the traitor among them could be!


While this film isn’t quite as perfect as the original ‘MIB’, it still carries a hefty amount of fun. Tessa Thompson & Chris Hemsworth have the same chemistry that they displayed in 2017’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘ and seem to effortlessly glide through the film while charming the audience along the way as they carry us across the globe with them. The CGI alien character of Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) becomes the duo’s de facto sidekick and provides some great comedic bits without ever veering into “Jar Jar” territory. As a fan of the MIB films, I would say that this latest entry is serviceable & solid, but it just never quite feels like it stretches to the heights that the original or even the sequel attained. The acting is great and there is no shortage of action, but my main gripe is that the reveal of the mole is telegraphed early on and I easily saw it coming from the first act leaving no real surprise for me at the end of the film. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give ‘Men In Black: International‘ a solid 7. Despite the flaws, it’s still a very engaging and fun way to kick off summer movie season!