“Normandy Gold” Graphic Novel

Normandy Gold
Titan Comics
Written by: Megan Abbott & Alison Gaylin
Art by: Steve Scott
Colors by: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters by: Rodney Ramos
Release date: April 10th 2018
“Normandy Gold” is a different sort of graphic novel than I am used to reading. Far removed from the normal super hero fare, this is a hard-edged, gritty and visceral crime thriller set against the turbulent backdrop of Washington, D.C. in the 1970’s. The story immediately draws you in and the relentlessness of the plot and depth of the protagonist insist that you stick around until the end. Calling it a “page-turner” doesn’t do it justice! I was fortunate enough to be able to probe the minds of the writers behind this whirlwind of a tale, Megan Abbott & Alison Gaylin and here is what they had to say about “Normandy Gold”:
**THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T HAD THE CHANCE TO READ THE GRAPHIC NOVEL YET!!**

ME: You say this was born out of your mutual love of 70s movies. Was this a culmination of various plot threads you saw in the movies or was this a story that you always wanted to tell and the movies just prompted you to go ahead and tell it?

GWW: I think it was more the world of these movies rather than specific plot threads that inspired us. We wanted to create a story with the same, gritty, paranoid feel as films like Hardcore, Taxi Driver and Parallax View, with a single-minded, revenge-consumed protagonist like Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies, or Lee Marvin in Point Blank. And we wanted her to be a woman.

MA: Yeah, we really just wanted to enter the world of those films, but with a character you likely wouldn’t find in them. Normandy became our avatar to enter the seamy 70s cinemascape.

GWW: When I first saw the image of Johnny Deeper, I immediately thought of Sam Elliott from ‘Roadhouse’. Was I imagining this? Or was that intentional?

AG: Good eye! We actually included a lot of visuals in our script – and many of those visuals happened to be movie stills and headshots…

MA: Certain characters, especially the secondary ones, were directly inspired by actors (Nancy Allen, for instance, and PJ Soles—how’s that for an obscure 70s reference?) or certain scenes (like the diner one in Taxi Driver, which influenced a scene with Normandy and Charity).

GWW: Modern technology (I.E. cell phones, text messages, internet) takes away some of the “allure” of mysteries such as this one. Did you find it simpler and more rewarding telling a period piece for that reason? AG: Yes, I think the thing that sets these 70s thrillers apart from their modern counterparts is that feeling of isolation on the part of the protagonist. That’s a lot harder to achieve in a world in which everyone is connected. Also, there is something about reel-to-reel tape as an image that I find incredibly foreboding. It could be a Watergate thing.

MA: The analog nature of the 70s—there’s a weird nostalgia in it now, for me as much as anyone. And yet that nostalgia doesn’t strip these objects of their power. On the contrary, because it makes us think now we can’t even the mechanisms of surveillance. They’re invisible.

GWW: While the story certainly has a tangible grit to it, is it a story that necessarily had to be told in the 70’s era or would it have worked just as well in, say, the 80’s or 90’s and, if you were to update it to one of those decades, what do you think would have fundamentally changed about the story?

AG: I imagine it could have been told in either of those eras, but I think the 70s was a uniquely cynical time, in which distrust for all institutions – the government, the police – was pervasive. I think if we’d updated it to the Reagan Era or the Clinton Era, that distrust might have been subtler. Sexual politics too were darker back then… Interestingly, I think it’s a story we could have set in the present day easier than in the 80s or 90s.

MA: The disillusionment of the 70s—I guess that only comes once. After that, there’s not a strong enough faith in traditional institutions to experience disillusionment on that scale again.

GWW: Are there any plans for a sequel or even a possible on-going “Normandy Gold” series? If so, where would you envision her going from here?

AG: No definite plans, but we have discussed it, and I’d love to work with Megan – and Normandy – again. We did come up with another story for her, in which she did some work for the government and became emmeshed in a plot that had a bit of an Apocalypse Now feel.

MA: Yes, we got a story up our sleeves!

GWW: If this were to be made into a movie in the next year or so, who would you envision playing the main parts? AG: Well, we did envision Mark Ruffalo as Sturgis when we wrote the script, but I also think Ryan Gosling would do in a pinch. And Eva Mendes would be great as Normandy. I could also see Margot Robbie in the part. Or Beyonce. (Ah, to dream…) How about you, Megan?

MA: Those sound good to me! Maybe Eiza Gonzalez from Baby Driver as Normandy?

GWW: You obviously had a lot of inspiration that you mentioned from various films and this story flows so incredibly well. Were there any moments of Writer’s Block during the process or did it flow seamlessly from conceptualization to printing? AG: I feel like that’s where collaborating worked to our advantage. We did a lot of brainstorming. If one of us got tripped up, we’d get on the phone and hash out ideas. We were so much on the same wavelength throughout the writing process. For me, it was the most fun and least amount of torture I’ve ever experienced writing.

MA: Whenever one of us would slow down, the other’s enthusiasm would spark us again. The ideal collaborative spirit!

GWW: What would be the most important element of this graphic novel to you? What would you tell the average reader about it to encourage them to go out and buy it?

AG: When we wrote it, we’d never seen a thriller that was driven by female rage. And I still think it’s rather unique in that way. Normandy isn’t victim, a superhero or a femme fatale. She’s just very pissed off. I find that very compelling.

MA: Normandy really speaks to this moment in ways we couldn’t have anticipated. And she’s also kind of eternal. A force for justice for women. That’s evergreen!

“Normandy Gold” completely blew me away and I, for one, am sincerely hoping that we get a sequel to this gripping tale! Make sure you pick it up for YOUR collection this week at your LCS!!

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‘Ready Player One’ Movie Review

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Last night was the press screening of the new Steven Spielberg film ‘Ready Player One‘ based on the book by author Ernie Cline. This movie has been highly anticipated ever since it was announced that it was being made and if ever a director was a good fit for helming a film, it’s definitely Spielberg and it’s definitely for this film! For those unfamiliar with the premise, the story takes place in the future (the year 2045 to be exact) where the entire population engages in a virtual reality world called The Oasis in order to escape the drudge of real life with it’s overpopulation, pollution, poverty, etc. When the creator of The Oasis, James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance) dies, he reveals that he has hidden an Easter Egg in the game that, when discovered, will grant the winner his entire fortune as well as full control of The Oasis! The race is on (literally!) as everyone seeks to find clues that will lead them to this Easter Egg. A corporation known as IOI headed by Nolan Sorrento (portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn) wants control of The Oasis  for themselves in order to complete their stranglehold on the populace. However, the first person to break on to the leader board is not one of IOI’s “sixer” workers, but lone player & Halliday super-fan Wade Watts (actor Tye Sheridan) who goes by the avatar Parzival. Now with the 1st of 3 keys in his possession, he becomes the target of IOI who will stop at nothing to make sure that they are the ones to win “Anorak’s Quest” (Halliday’s in-game avatar) and gain complete control of The Oasis.

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Full disclosure: I may be a bit biased as this movie was made for someone like me. I’m in my early 40’s, I love video games, I grew up seeing the movies that are referenced in this film (and there are a LOT of them), I am an 80’s fan so, yes, this movie hit on everything I love and hold dear. Even with that being said, this movie is outstanding and would be enjoyed by anyone! Older people will appreciate the nods to items like King Kong and the Batmobile from the ’66 Batman series, younger fans will love the action and VR aspect of the movie which will seem as incredible & futuristic to them as the notion of ‘Knight Rider‘ seemed to those of us who grew up in the 80’s and those who are right around my age will love seeing the Delorean from ‘Back To The Future‘ and hearing “Jump” by Van Halen. The run time of 2 hours 20 minutes flew by before I knew what had happened as my brain struggled to catch all of the visual gems which were replete throughout the film.

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As a fellow reviewer pointed out as we discussed the film after last night’s screening – It’s almost mind-boggling to think that the same director responsible for the very serious and almost academic film ‘The Post‘ which came out earlier this year, is also the man who directed a mind-blowingly fantastical joyride of a film like ‘Ready Player One’. This only further proves beyond doubt that Steven Spielberg is deservedly one of Hollywood’s greatest directors! I found myself grinning profusely during the opening race sequence, at the “Staying Alive” dance scene, during the cast’s VR exploration of ‘The Shining‘ world and every part in between! Through the magic of Spielberg’s movie making, I was once again that little 7 year old boy watching Elliott and his friends fly in front of the moon with E.T. , filled with the same wonder and excitement I felt watching Indiana Jones escape The Temple Of Doom and cheering on the hero like I did when Peter Pan finally realized who he was as he battled Hook! Steven Spielberg has a unique style of directing that can be tangibly felt in much the same way other truly great directors like Hitchcock, Soderbergh & del Toro have with their work and this film was almost like a love letter from Spielberg to his fans. The showing that I went to was standard format but I am very excited to see how it looks in a 3D setting (something I will be undertaking this weekend when the film is released.). It bears mentioning that the entire cast never missed a beat and was totally up to the task of selling this film with vigor and conviction! Olivia Cooke (aka: Art3mis), Lena Waithe (aka: Aech), Simon Pegg (Ogden Morrow) & Hannah john-Kamen (F’nale) were all outstanding while never being over-the-top which, in a movie like this one, could have possibly happened. A solid story, great cast and rock-steady directing allows this film to LEVEL UP and become the very first movie which I have ever scored as a perfect 10 out of 10!!! This is one that you will need to see in theaters and, if you want to try to catch all of the Easter Eggs, that you’ll need to see at least 2 or 3 times!!!

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‘A Wrinkle In Time’ Movie Review

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Disney’s newest film ‘A Wrinkle In Time‘ will hit theaters this weekend. The spectacular cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Deric McCabe, Levi Miller, Zach Galifianakis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michael Pena. This film is based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle which was also adapted into a TV movie back in 2003 with a completely different cast. It follows a young girl named Meg Murray (Reid) & her younger adopted brother Charles Wallace Murray (McCabe) who, with the help of their friend Calvin (Miller) and three mysterious beings (Winfrey, Witherspoon & Kaling), seek to find their scientist father (Pine) who disappeared 4 years ago while searching for a way to traverse the galaxy using only the power of the human mind. The visuals are beautiful and quite stunning! The acting by the entire cast is absolutely fantastic! Sadly, these elements only barely manage to lift the film beyond the status of the TV movie that preceded it.

A Wrinkle In Time - Golden Globes TV Spot (screen grab) CR: Disney

As I was watching it, the acting drew me in and allowed me to overlook the rather simplistic and trite script which is a huge credit to the actors in the film. Great actors are able to do great things with even very mediocre writing and that was certainly the case here. I also found the movie to be very predictable and the plot to be very generic. Obviously the effects and the visuals employed were gorgeous and, again, that helped keep an otherwise dull movie afloat longer than it would have without them. However, I left the film feeling as though I had just watched a “Made-For-TV movie” that had been somehow forced into existence by someone with a nearly unlimited budget. I was excited by the idea of the movie and the previews certainly make you think you’re getting ready to see an epic film, but this is definitely a picture where it’s reach far exceeds it’s grasp. If you’re a fan of the players in this piece and are looking for a diversion on a rainy Saturday afternoon this month, then by all means you should see this movie. Otherwise, I’d say that some movies currently playing in theaters are a better bet and you can save this one for viewing from the comfort of your home. On your TV… like it was originally intended to be seen. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’m sorry to say ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ only manages to “tesser” it’s way to a 6.5.

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‘Annihilation’ Movie Review

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I got to see the film ‘Annihilation‘ last night. While I loved the movie, I find myself having a hard time telling you succinctly why I loved the movie. What I find most interesting about that is that my inability to describe the movie with great clarity and relative ease perfectly mirrors the protagonist’s (Lena, played with a voracious intensity by Natalie Portman) inability to describe what she encountered during her journey into what the characters call “The Shimmer”. Let me begin there: Portman plays a former soldier and current John Hopkins biologist named Lena who, at the start of the film, is in an isolation chamber describing what she just witnessed to several scientists who have been studying and probing “The Shimmer” – an ever-expanding area of energy radiating out from a lighthouse that was struck by a small meteor a few years back. Attempts to send in probes, animals, even teams of researchers have proven futile as nothing ever comes back out after going inside of its field. Lena’s husband Kane, a soldier in the army (a haunting performance by Oscar Isaac), is the only person to ever come out of “The Shimmer” and he doesn’t appear to have come back quite the same. Soon, Lena finds herself at a secret research base on the edge of the phenomenon and, in an effort to save her husband, volunteers to go along with a group of researchers who plan to make their way to the lighthouse and discover the source of whatever is happening in an attempt to understand and stop it.

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The cast and their performances are nothing short of brilliant. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny are all riveting to watch as the group of explorers each with a different field of expertise and each driven by their own distinct purposes for being there. The pace of the movie never falters and there is constant sense of unease that I got while viewing it that I don’t recall feeling from any other movie since last year’s ‘Split’. As the team pushes ahead, they encounter images and sights that range from surreal, to spectacular to downright horrifying until the film’s climactic end which truly defies description. Director Alex Garland, who gave us 2014’s ‘Ex Machina‘, once again delivers an incredible spectacle of cinema that is as thought-provoking as it is breathtaking. I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person but even I was perplexed by what exactly the ending signified and that made me like the film even more. There are a few “Gotcha!” type scares but there are also plenty of horrific images that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. For a movie to be so brilliant and gorgeous and frightening all at the same time is quite the achievement. ‘Annihilation’ is the first movie of 2018 that I am already planning to see again at the first available opportunity and that kind of immediate rewatchability on a film forces me to score it as a solid 9.5. Get out there and see it in a theater near you THIS WEEKEND!!

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‘Game Night’ Movie Review

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Anyone looking for a hilarious, adventure-filled and just plain FUN film definitely needs to check out ‘Game Night‘ in theaters this weekend! Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams play married couple Max & Annie who host a weekly game night with their friends. On this particular evening, Max’s big-shot brother Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler) comes to town and insists on hosting game night at his place – with a twist! Brooks arranges for a company to stage a kidnapping leaving the other players to follow a set of clues to solve the mystery. But when real criminals show up to attack and kidnap Brooks, the group realizes that the stakes have been raised significantly as they race against time to rescue Max’s brother.

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The movie is directed by the same gentlemen that wrote ‘Horrible Bosses‘ (Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley) so the humor is very similar with Jason Bateman being his usual charmingly wry Jason Bateman-y self. Rachel McAdams shows exceptional comedic timing as she and Bateman play off of each other with remarkable chemistry. Kyle Chandler is perfectly douchey as the older brother driven by sibling rivalry. The rest of the cast (Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen & Jesse Plemons) also help deliver plenty of laughs as they go from just being competitively driven to win into being driven just to stay alive as they enter into a world of mob bosses, stolen jewelry and double-crosses. It’s a great blend of action and comedy that will have you laughing each time you reach for your Jenga game. Some of the plot is a tad predictable from time-to-time and one or two of the jokes are telegraphed a little too much, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate ‘Game Night’ a very playable 8.0!gamenight_02

Review of the Special Features on ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Bluray

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Starting today, fans of the most anticipated sequel of perhaps the BEST science fiction movie ever created have cause to rejoice! ‘Blade Runner 2049‘ is available on Bluray and DVD. Those who have seen the movie are no doubt anxious to bring home this film to add to their personal collection. But the question always asked is: “What about the special features?” Sometimes the special features may consist of nothing more than a few deleted scenes and the original TV spot for the film, etc. Luckily for us, the special features on ‘Blade Runner 2049‘ are very special indeed! It’s easy to appreciate the unique style and feel of this movie on its own merits, but after viewing all of the work and incredible effort that went into making it, one feels truly awestruck and daunted at the grand scope of elements that the common movie-goer may take for granted. Director Denis Villeneuve gleefully introduces various the viewer to the incredible efforts of everyone involved from the actors to the lightning & sound crew, to the set designers and beyond.bladerunner2049_04

Probably my very favorite special feature was one of the short films that Villeneuve charged the brilliant Shinichiro Watanbe to create that acts as a sort of small prequel that leads into the events of the actual feature film. This gorgeous anime called ‘Black Out 2022‘ bridges the gap a bit between the original ‘Blade Runner‘ movie gives us some backstory of “The Black Out” that is referred to in the sequel on a few occasions and provides a new perspective on the actual movie and some of it’s characters. Whether you have not seen the movie in theaters before or if you’re now seeing it again for the 2nd or 3rd time, I’d advise you to watch this short film first before delving into the feature presentation as well as another that is directed by Luke Scott and focuses on the character Sapper Morton played wonderfully by Dave Bautista.

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One of the other special features I was impressed by was entitled “Designing The World of ‘Blade Runner 2049′” in which Villeneuve gives us a clear insight of the grandeur of all that went into creating the futuristic, dystopian world in which the we see before us. Villeneuve’s insistence on using as little green screen as possible is very admirable in it’s premise and even more unbelievable upon seeing the finished product. In the modern era of movie making where so many films are using green screens and motion capture tech to achieve their results, you’ll be significantly impressed and truly blown away by all of the work that went into giving us this breathtaking piece of cinema. The in depth look at the different characters, the commentary by the stars of the film and fresh look at the tech and story of this movie are all right there for you to see with just the click of a remote. I had a blast going through each and every one of them and had a newfound appreciation for the film itself and for the level of commitment from both the director and the crew. Be sure to take the time to savor all of the special features that are loaded into this release! This is one instance where they are, truly, quite special indeed! I’d assign them a solid 9 out of 10!

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‘The Commuter’ Movie Review

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Your first “Must See!” movie of 2018 hits theaters this weekend in the form of ‘The Commuter‘. Liam Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, an ex-cop turned life insurance salesman, whose day-to-day routine is always the same: Wake up, eat breakfast with his wife, help get his son ready of school, head to the train, go to work in the city, come home on the train, rinse, lather, repeat. When his big insurance company lets him go after 10 years, he meets up with his former police partner (Patrick Wilson) for a drink to commiserate over his extended double mortgage and how he will be able to pay for his son’s college. On his way home, he meets a woman named Joanna on the train (Vera Farmiga) who poses a hypothetical situation to him: Would you do a seemingly simple task for someone you just met if the reward was $100,000? MacCauley’s unwitting acceptance of the $25,000 upfront money launches him into a race against time to find a mystery person on the train and plant a GPS device on them before the train reaches the last stop. The stakes are raised when MacCauley learns that his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and son are being threatened and when people he knows on the train begin to be murdered. Without knowing for whom he is searching or what it is the unknown person is carrying, MacCauley desperately searches the train, narrowing down the possibilities while the mysterious Joanna seems to be watching his every move reminding him of how much he has to lost if he fails.

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I found this movie to be very enjoyable. The entire cast was sharp and the action was relentless. To me, it felt a great deal like a 90’s action movie (and I mean that as a compliment) in the style of ‘Con-Air‘ or ‘The Fugitive‘. In fact, 20 years ago, this would have been a movie starring Tommy Lee Jones or Harrison Ford instead of Liam Neeson. That’s not to say that the movie was predictable or boring – quite the opposite! There were even a few times when I actually made an audible “OH NO!!” while in the theater. (I try not to be “that guy” but it happens. LOL!) The pacing was solid with great performances from every single cast member all the way down to the ensemble members (Clara Lago, Andy Nyman, etc). With a svelte run time of 1hr 44min, the movie hurtles by like the very train on which the majority of the film takes place. It’s ‘Taken‘ meets ‘Speed‘ and I loved ever single second of it. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d give it a strong 8.5! If you’re looking to get out of the house and shake off those winter blues, then ‘The Commuter’ is a movie that will definitely bring the heat to theaters all across the country this weekend!!!

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Movie Review

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Of all the movie reviews I’ve done, this may be the toughest one yet. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I was a little kid. I remember being given ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ on VHS for Christmas one year and watching it over and over again to the point where I had the entire thing memorized within a month’s time. ‘Return Of The Jedi‘ was the first movie that I was old enough to see when it came out in theaters and I was thrilled when my dad told me he was taking me to see it! Star Wars toys were the first ones that I actively collected as a child and the franchise has been part of my life for as long as I can recall. Even when the “new trilogy” came out, I still left the theater excited for what I had just seen. Unfortunately, ‘The Last Jedi‘ was the first one I can remember leaving the theater and thinking to myself: “That was… pretty good.”

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To be clear –  there were parts that worked really well but there were other parts that sort of fell flat or seemed wasted. In order to keep this review SPOILER FREE, I can’t give those details without revealing key moments in the film or crucial plot points. I will say that the acting from the entire cast was absolute perfection. There wasn’t a single performance that was weak or lacking in any way, shape or form. I will also say that the movie was very different from what I expected. For critics who complained that ‘The Force Awakens‘ was a formulaic rehash of ‘A New Hope‘, I can safely say that this is not a criticism that can be leveled against this most recent film. One of my complaints is that the movie felt long and, at times, felt like it didn’t know what to do with itself. The run time of 2 hrs and 32 mins could definitely have been shaved down had some of the unnecessary scenes been taken out or had the plot been simplified slightly (this was also a complaint I had with ‘Attack Of The Clones‘). Overall, Rian Johnson is to be commended for changing things up with this story and giving us a new look at the  Star Wars Universe as we’ve come to know it. I’m very interested to see what the final installment will bring and how things will move forward after the events of ‘The Last Jedi’.

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For my general takeaways:
1) I did get very teary-eyed with all of Carrie Fisher‘s scenes. Knowing that we won’t have our beloved Princess / General moving into Episode IX caused every appearance she made in this film to be all the more heart-breaking.
2) Adam Driver needs to be nominated for “Best Actor”. You could tangibly feel his internal struggle and his emotions wash over you as you watched his scenes.
3) Luke Skywalker will always be my favorite Jedi and Mark Hamill remains brilliant in everything he does. (And he gave us what will be, I’m sure, the most used .GIF of 2018. You’ll know it when you see it.)
4) Benicio Del Toro was underused and I’m hoping that he is brought back in a big way for Episode IX.

So with the release of this latest film, my order of favorite to least favorite now goes: Empire, New Hope, Rogue One, ROTJ, Force Awakens, Revenge, Last Jedi, AOTC, Phantom Menace. While the film excels as breaking the mold of Star Wars films as we’ve come to know them, it also fails to deliver the “Wow!” Factor that I was hoping for with Luke training Rey, the mystery of her parents, Finn vs Phasma, etc. I went and saw ‘The Force Awakens’ 3 times when it was released in theaters, but I am not so sure I feel the need to revisit ‘The Last Jedi’ until it hits Bluray. As it stands, I’d rate this movie a solid 7 out of 10. Get your tickets now for it’s release on Friday 12/15/17!!

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‘Justice League’ Movie Review

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It’s finally here. Whether you are excited by it or even if you are dreading it, in many ways ‘Justice League‘ may well be the most highly anticipated movie of 2017! The surrounding controversy and behind-the-scenes drama have certainly created a huge amount of buzz for this film with the news of multiple reshoots, the passing of the baton from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon for directorial duties, etc. After seeing it last night and going in with low expectations after the severe disappointment of ‘Batman vs Superman‘ and ‘Suicide Squad‘ but still cautiously optimistic in the wake of how incredible ‘Wonder Woman’ was, I’d have to say that Warner Bros & D.C. Comics have a bonafide hit on their hands and that the DCEU is finally on solid ground moving forward. If ‘Wonder Woman‘ was the movie that helped the franchise find it’s footing, then ‘Justice League’ is the film that sets them running full-speed ahead.

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As the world mourns the loss of Superman, Batman (played supremely well by Ben Affleck) continues to investigate a mysterious alien threat and, after an exciting and comic book worthy battle against a Parademon high above the rooftops of Gotham City, decides that his plan to assemble a team of people with powers must move ahead at once. While Batman goes to recruit The Flash (played with great comedic timing by Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (portrayed confidently & brilliantly by Gal Gadot) sets off to bring Cyborg (wonderfully performed by Ray Fisher) into the fold. The goal? Prevent Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) from uniting three Mother Boxes left behind during his previous attempt to conquer Earth and, thereby, turning the world into a new version of his home planet of Apokolips. Soon, Aquaman (brought to us in pitch(fork) perfect form by Jason Momoa) joins the fight but even he may not be enough to turn the tide (sorry, I’ll stop) in our heroes’ favor. Luckily, Batman has a plan: Use the remaining Mother Box currently in their possession in conjunction with the Kryptonian birthing chamber (used by Luthor to create Doomsday) to resurrect Superman! Will their plan work? Will Superman come back normal or “Pet Cemetery” style?!? (LOL! Ezra Miller…)

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Now… as for what worked and what didn’t: I will say that, overall, I think the movie was as close to comic book perfection as Warner Bros has given to us thus far. Considering all of the rewrites and reshoots, it is very hard to say which parts of this can be attributed to Zack Snyder and which parts are the responsibility of Joss Whedon and which parts are because of Geoff Johns being installed in a ‘Kevin Feige’ style position with the DCEU. For my money, the greatest area was the notable change in tone for Superman (a sparkling performance by Henry Cavill). He was brightly colored, smiling (even laughing) and full of light and hope in a way we’ve yet to see him in the previous two outings (aka: ‘Man Of Steel‘ & ‘Dawn Of Justice‘). The interaction between the lead characters was also very well done! Affleck’s portrayal of Batman is my favorite since Michael Keaton and the chemistry between him, Gadot, Momoa, Fisher & Miller was palpable! This goes double for the scenes shared by Ezra Miller’s Flash & Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. I would pay money to see a “The Brave & The Bold” style film with just the two of them. That being said, one of the negatives for me was the way The Flash’s character was written. Given his demeanor and style, he seemed more suited for a Wally West or, better yet, a Bart Allen style Flash than he did for a Barry Allen type. This is one glaringly obvious place where the writing stumbled over it’s own feet as far as characterization is concerned. Ray Fisher nails the role of Cyborg right out of the gate and the characterization here is a great mix of the original straight out of George Perez‘s & Marv Wolfman‘s “New Teen Titanscomic combined seamlessly with the “New 52” upgrades that we’ve come to accept and appreciate in the character. For the brief time they were in it, both J.K. Simmons‘ Commissioner Gordon & Amber Heard‘s Mera were also completely on-point!! I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more of them both in the upcoming solo films for Batman & Aquaman respectively! Some have complained about the story being a little flat, but I found it to be very solid. It perfectly incorporated aspects from all of the previous films into the narrative of this movie in a way that effectively made us feel that the build up to ‘Justice League’ was all worth it. Where ‘Dawn Of Justice‘ felt overstuffed with too many story lines being furiously cobbled together, this film felt well-paced, slick and exceptionally well-balanced. I could have also stood to see a little more of Aquaman, but aside from that, I think the once troubled DCEU franchise is now firmly established. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give ‘Justice League’ a strong 7.5 and I am looking forward with great anticipation and excitement to see where we go from here!! (BTW: There are TWO post-credit scenes and BOTH are very, very well worth sticking around for, I promise!)

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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Movie Review

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It’s been almost a decade since Marvel Studios gave us ‘Iron Man‘ and began creating a connected film world that brought our favorite comic book characters to life on the big screen. Now with the release of ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘ next weekend, we will have our 17th installment in the wondrous world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! This 3rd film in the “Thor Trilogy” is a notable departure from the first two chapters in so much that it is laden with quite a bit more humor than the preceding movies even though the stakes are much higher for the Odinson than ever before. After the events of ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron‘, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been following his recurring visions in an attempt to ensure Asgard’s safety from outside threats. Upon his return, he realizes that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and ruling Asgard in their father’s place ever since the final events of ‘Thor: Dark World‘. On their way to find where Loki banished Odin, they are introduced to Odin’s first born; Hela the Goddess Of Death (Cate Blanchett). Hela easily defeats both Thor and Loki resulting in their being dumped on to a remote planet called Sakaar which is ruled by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor can win his freedom in the gladiator ring if he defeats Grandmaster’s champion – The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)!! Meanwhile, Hela is intent on ruling all of the Nine Realms but cannot leave Asgard because Heimdall (Idris Elba) has stolen the Bifrost Sword. Will Thor be able to find a way home and, even if he does, will he be able to defeat his elder sister Hela and prevent Ragnarok? Or will this finally be the end of fabled Asgard?

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Once more, Marvel has brought an incredible movie to the fans which gives us specific character focus while also still moving the overarching story of the combined Cinematic Universe closer to the climactic showdown with Thanos in next year’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War‘. The cast of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ may be one of the most impressive of any Marvel film to date! Cate Blanchett is terrifyingly perfect as Hela as she embodies the beauty and horror of The Goddess Of Death combined with the smoldering rage of the prodigal daughter come to forcibly take what she believes to be her rightful place as ruler of Asgard and beyond. Returning players Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba are excellent as always in their respective roles and it was fantastic to see more action from Elba’s Heimdall than we have been privy to in previous installments. The standout for me was Jeff Goldblum who chews the scenery as The Grandmaster in his own Jeff Goldblum-y style. Tessa Thompson is equal parts badass & divine in her portrayal of newcomer Valkrie and I’m hoping we get to see more of her character in future offerings from Marvel Studios.

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While this film is certainly my favorite of the three Thor movies, I still found a few little details that slightly bothered me. The previous two Thor films had a weighty gravitas to them that portrayed the style with which I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Thor. Almost Shakespearian in tone, if you will. This film almost had too much humor and felt more like an extension of ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘ than of ‘Thor‘. It also felt like a 70% Thor film and a 30% Hulk film simply because Marvel has neglected to do anything with Hulk outside of his 2008 standalone movie and then the two Avengers films. (Not entirely their fault as they have legal hurdles to overcome with Universal still owning the distribution rights to the character.) There was also a scene with Odin & Thor that was a little too Dumbledore-esque for my tastes. Again, these are small wrinkles and, to me, easily overlooked given the clever plot that almost seamlessly combines the Ragnarok story from the Thor books together with the now classic Planet Hulk saga. I also loved the 80’s look and feel of the graphics and colors in the film and the style of music throughout. While certainly not the best of the MCU films up to this point, ‘Thor Ragnarok’ is still an impressive outing for the franchise and one that you should definitely get out there and see sooner rather than later!! On a scale of 1 – 10, I would rate ‘Thor 3’ as a strong 8. AND… there are TWO post-credits scenes on this one so if anyone tries to get you to leave the theater before they both play, hold Mjolnir high over your head and tell them “NAY!!”

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