‘Cars 3’ Movie Review

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That’s right: ‘Cars’ now joins ‘Toy Story‘ in a very exclusive club of Pixar trilogies with the release of ‘Cars 3‘ which arrives in theaters this weekend. It’s been 9 years since the first film raced into the cinema. Evidently that’s enough time for one-time great Lightning McQueen (voiced again by Owen Wilson) to become a thing of the past as new generation of high-tech racers begin to take over the track. McQueen’s newest rival is the slick and streamlined Jackson Storm (voice by Armie Hammer). One by one, Lightning’s contemporaries begin to retire as they are unable to keep up with the new kids on the black. Lightning refuses to give in and ends up wiping out, unable to race for the next 4 months as he idles around his home in a base coat of primer. After a pep talk from his girlfriend Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt), Lightning decides to get back to it with help from new sponsor & financier Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion) who, with the help of trainer Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) aims to secure Lightning’s legacy… as a spokesman.

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Unsatisfied with this arrangement, McQueen makes a deal with Sterling: Let him race one more time and, if he wins, then HE decides when he retires – not Sterling. Reluctantly, Sterling agrees and McQueen sets off to rediscover his mojo as Cruz reluctantly tags along. After some road trip worthy hijinks involving accidentally entering into a demolition derby and seeking out his mentor Doc Hudson’s mechanic & crew chief: Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper), Lightning makes his way to The Florida 500 and his last chance to beat Jackson Storm.

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The previews that I’ve seen so far made the movie seem like it was a bit darker than previous ‘Cars‘ films or any other features from Pixar for that matter. While the movie wasn’t dark, it definitely had moments that I found… depressing. (I say that as someone in their middle-age years who may be able to relate a little TOO well to what Lightning is experiencing.) The comic relief of Mater (voiced by Larry The Cable Guy) was present and there were certainly fun moments but the film definitely had a heavier feel than previous installments of the series. As is to be expected from Pixar Studios, the voice acting was pitch perfect across the board and the animation was flawless and smooth. Of course this is an animated film so it’s not necessarily going to surprise anyone that the story line offered few surprises with one slight exception to the ending of the film which I can’t mention without spoiling the final outcome (which I am very careful not to do in my reviews). With ‘Wonder Woman‘ now entering her 3rd weekend at the box office and with the number of kids who will be clamoring to see anything from Pixar, I would expect that ‘Cars 3’ will take the #1 spot at the box office thus relegating ‘Wonder Woman’ to 2nd place. Overall, while the movie was enjoyable, I don’t think it was anything innovative or special enough for me to give it anything but a 6.5 out of 10.

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‘The Mummy’ Movie Review

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Admittedly, Universal was taking a risk with this film. It was another reboot of a movie that has been done (not counting spin-offs) 5 times since the original debuted in 1932. But for the most part, I think the risk paid off for them. If you are looking for a fun, new summer movie, then this updated version of ‘The Mummy‘ may be the one for you. The opening excitedly sets the stage for what I was hoping would be a good old-fashion horror movie that quickly takes a bit of a turn and heads more into the action, adventure realm that the Brendan Fraser one was (only less stylized). Tom Cruise is Nick Morton, a military man who also deals in black market antiquities with the help of his partner Chris Vail, played wonderfully by Jake Johnson. While looking for treasure in a hostile part of Iraq, they end up discovering a hidden Egyptian tomb (which is odd since they are in what used to be Mesopotamia.) The military comes in to assist along with archaeologist Jenny Halsey, from whom Nick stole the map after a one-night stand. Halsey (played confidently by actress Annabelle Wallis) realizes that it isn’t a tomb, but a prison. In an effort to quickly extract their findings before insurgents sweep in to overtake the area, Nick unknowing releases Ahmanet (divinely portrayed by the sublime Sofia Boutella) which begins to allows her, and the curse she carries, to awaken!

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The whole idea behind this reboot is to make a connected movie universe using Universal Pictures “Monsters” in an effort to mimic the success enjoyed by Disney with their Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a concept I think would be a lot of fun if they get it right. Overall, with one or two hiccups in this movie, I’d say they are off to a decent start. This means we may end up seeing a Dracula VS The Mummy film or Creature From The Black Lagoon VS The Wolf Man feature in the not too distant future. Given the success of their “Monster” brand, it sounds like a gold mine of an idea and the writers and producers did a great job giving us a little taste of what that might look like within the course of this film along with a great turn by Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry (wait for it…) Jeckyll.

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From the premise of this being an opening gambit for what they are referring to as their “Dark Universe“, the film does a fine job in setting the stage. All of the acting is solid and the Easter Eggs given (more in-your-face than subtle) are still very cool to behold. The plot is a little choppy and some of this new Mummy’s powers are rather inexplicable given what we are used to from previous versions of this creature that we’ve seen. I also would have rather seen a more horror laden film as opposed to the action-adventure flick sprinkled a little too heavily with comedic moments that we actually ended up with in the final product. That being said, I think that most people will enjoy ‘The Mummy’ for what it is and be able to look forward to what monster Universal has in-store for us lurking in the cinematic shadows.
**TWO THINGS TO NOTE**
1) I saw the movie in 3-D and I will say that it was NOT a movie that needs to be seen in that format. If you have a problem with 3-D viewing or just don’t want to spend the extra few bucks for the upgrade, do not.
2) There are NO post-credit scenes. I stuck around until the very end hoping to see something since this is the beginning of a connected universe but, to my dismay, nothing was shown. Feel free to head to your car as soon as the first credits begin to roll.

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‘Wonder Woman’ Movie Review

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FINALLY!!!!! Finally, after two lackluster attempts to launch a movie that successfully captures the true spirit of the DC Comics characters that Warner Bros has in their stable, finally they get a win. A true win in every sense of the word. ‘Wonder Woman‘ is outstanding which not only lit the embers of hope for the struggling DC Cinematic Universe, it blazed them into a raging inferno. This is a film that not only truly captures the essence of Princess Diana of Themyscira, it perfectly balances exactly what she was meant to be: an emissary of peace, a symbol of hope and a warrior without peer. Patty Jenkins is to be commended for her insightful directing and for carefully crafting a comic book movie that stacks up solidly against some of rival studio Marvel’s top-rated films to date.

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Within the seemingly fast span of the film’s 2 hour 21 minute run time, we get a comprehensive origin story, a fully-fleshed out cast of characters, a compelling narrative that is neither too simple nor overly complex and a stunning finish that hits all the proper notes that one would hope to see from a movie that has been as highly anticipated as this one. Gal Gadot brings Wonder Woman to life before our eyes and carries herself throughout the film with the proper poise and grace of the warrior she is supposed to be while still displaying those small signs of understandable uncertainty as she takes on the new world into which she has flung herself. Chris Pine is his usual charming self and displays an understated urgency to his role as Steve Trevor. It’s always a pleasure to see Robin Wright on screen and her versatility as an actor shines yet again in this role as the Amazon General Antiope who takes it upon herself to train Diana for what is to come. The villains played by Elena Anaya and Danny Huston are classically evil and never over-the-top or silly (looking at you Jesse Eisenberg‘s Lex Luthor).

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I have been saying for some time now how much of a DC Comics fan I am and how desperately I want the films to be good. Now, I am proud to say that they are getting there. Whatever the formula was that brought us this nearly perfect comic book film needs to be the formula that Warner Bros and DC stays with going forward. At no point did the movie ever drag, it never felt too dark or heavy (which is interesting given it was set against the backdrop of The Great War) and, perhaps most importantly, it raised the bar for future films to be headed by a female lead. I am very, very pleased to say that ‘Wonder Woman’ scored a solid 10 with me and it will also be the first film from the DC Cinematic Universe that I will be going back to see in theaters for a second time. And maybe a third. Possibly a fourth. The only downside I foresee is that we’ll now have to deal with all of the people who are suddenly Wonder Woman fans just like real Cubs fans had to put up with when the team finally won the World Series this past season. #WWFanProblems. (P.S. There were, sadly, no stingers or post-credit scenes at the end of the film so feel free to disperse as soon as the credits begin to roll. You’re welcome.)

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Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 23: ‘Lian Yu’

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So the Season 5 Finale of ‘Arrow’ ended with a BANG. Quite literally. We witnessed the end of Oliver Queen’s 5 years away with the flashbacks concluding in his escape from Constantine Kovar who had followed Oliver back to Lian Yu to torture him. Oliver then kills Kovar, manages to signal the boat that was scheduled to pass by and be “rescued” from the island. We even witness a touching moment as he calls his mother, Moira Queen, to inform her that he is alive and on his way home. It was great to see Susanna Thompson return for the scene and put a nice coda on Oliver’s “5 years in hell.”

Moira Queen wasn’t the only familiar face we saw in the finale. Manu Bennett returned to play Deathstroke (now free of the Mirakuru that turned him evil) & Nick E. Tarabay reprises his role of Digger Harkness who Oliver recruits to help him, Nyssa & Malcolm free his friends and beat Adrian Chase once and for all. The finale was breathless, exciting and seemed to shift effortlessly between flashback to present day even more so than past episodes.  Whether this is due to the flashback sequences finally catching up to where the series first began or if it was just the nature of the action in this particular episode is anyone’s guess. Everything that this season had been hinting at or building up to finally came to a head. It was great seeing Oliver ally himself with his former enemies and rivals and we got some spectacular battles as a result including the NEW Black Canary (played flawlessly by Juliana Harkavy) VS Black Siren (an evil version of Laurel played by fan favorite Katie Cassidy) as well as a battle between Talia Al Ghul and Nyssa Al Ghul. The final battle between Team Arrow and Prometheus’ gang was excellently staged and climaxed with a showdown between Oliver & Chase as the latter attempts to escape on a boat with Oliver’s son, William.

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Meanwhile, Felicity & Curtis have realized that Chase rigged the entire island to be blown up with plastique explosive charges set ALL OVER the island and if Chase dies, the bombs will go off. Oliver manages to wound Chase without killing him in order to save William but Chase is once again “ten moves ahead” and uses a hidden gun to kill himself. Oliver and William watch in horror from the boat as explosions rip across all of Lian Yu making it appear that none of Oliver’s friends could have possibly survived. The episode, like the one that preceded it, was pitch perfect and may very well be some of the finest comic book television that we’ve been treated to since ‘Arrow‘ kicked off this small screen DC Universe just a hair under 5 years ago. Obviously we are left with questions about who will survive the events witnessed here as well as what, if anything, will take the place of the flashback sequences that have become a staple of this show? It seems like the adrenaline fueled finale has somehow closed the book on the first volume of the story of Green Arrow and leaves us open to a bold new direction for the show and the characters’ storylines. The hard part now will be waiting to see how the show and the characters move forward from here in a way that we have yet to witness in the “Arrowverse” to date. Regardless, THIS is how you do a season finale and I have no choice but to score it as a perfect 10! Bravo to the entire cast, crew and all of the writers. You all have surpassed yourselves and I, for one, can’t wait to see how you top this.

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‘Pirates Of The Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Movie Review

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Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales‘ will be in theaters this weekend. The 5th installment of Disney’s popular franchise has been highly anticipated and previous films have broken box office records across the globe. While this current offering is on-track to an $80 million opening weekend domestically and $175 million internationally, that still puts it below the last 3 iterations and I predict a sharp decline after that. Here is my spoiler free take on ‘Pirates 5’:

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As a fan of the original trilogy, I was looking forward to seeing more of the same breathless adventure that I’d come to expect from Captain Jack Sparrow & Company. With the exceptions of the always outstanding Geoffrey Rush and the intriguing new villain played brilliantly by Javier Bardem, it seemed like the rest of the cast was tired and almost bored. Even the youthful injection of Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites as Carina Smyth and Henry Turner, respectively, weren’t enough to ever propel the film forward with any compelling amount of vigor. The plot also seemed a little muddled and gave the impression that there were too many strings that had to be pulled together to make the story cohesive. I didn’t feel invested in the movie until a little past the half way point when we see Javier Bardem’s character of Captain Salazar tell his origin story. The action from there picked up significantly and the film ended on a strong note while, naturally, leaving the possibility of another movie should Disney decide to go there.

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The film also gives us a look at how Jack Sparrow became Captain which is tied directly into the back-story of Bardem’s creepy, yet majestic Captain Salazar. While the movie’s first half seems to drag and Johnny Depp himself seems to have lost that whimsical spring in his step that we’ve come to expect from Captain Jack over the years, the film will no doubt dominate the Memorial Day box office just as the Bond movies continue to do well each time a new one is released. If you are a fan of the ‘Pirates’ franchise, then this movie is definitely worth your time, but it ends up being my least favorite installment to date and probably not one that I would revisit until it hits Bluray. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ fails to get the gold and, for me, sails in at only a 6.5.

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‘Baywatch’ Movie Review

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Okay! Summer is just around the corner so bring on the season’s blockbusters. But before those come out, we have ‘Baywatch‘. I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a movie fan and so even when a movie is bad, it’s never all bad. That being said, ‘Baywatch’ is still a decent “bad movie.” I would also say that I’ll keep my review spoiler free, but unless you are expecting an awesome action film, then it’s hard to spoil this one at all. There is action, there are explosions, there is comedy and some fun to be had, sure. But overall, I think this is one you may want to hold off on seeing until it hits Netflix or Redbox. The cast are all great at their parts and the movie does a fine job of never taking itself too seriously which was its main saving grace. No matter the role, Dwayne Johnson always seems to have fun on camera and that oozes through the screen making it nearly impossible to hate any movie in which he appears. That holds true here as he takes on the role of Mitch Buchannon (originally played by David Hasselhoff in the TV series) who is the lead lifeguard of Baywatch and maybe takes his role as the bay’s protector a little too seriously.

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Joining him are Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden (played by Alexandra Paul on the series for those keeping track at home), who is sadly under utilized in the film, and Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker (played by Pamela Anderson in the series). They have 3 openings for new trainees on the team and one of those new trainees is disgraced Olympic Swimming star Matt Brody. Zac Effron channels his inner douche to a tee as he takes on this role and his interactions with Dwayne Johnson’s character provide equal parts comical and “buddy cop”-esque. Several laughs also come from Jon Bass‘s character of Ronnie Greenbaum as the tech kid with gumption and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II‘s portrayal of Police Sgt. Ellerbee who continually has to remind the gang that they aren’t actual law enforcement agents. Rounding out the cast is Priyanka Chopra who you can tell is doing her best to have fun with her role as an over-the-top and not very well written villain looking to buy up all of the property on the bay and start selling drugs out of her lavish club.

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All of that being said, the overall movie is predictable yet still fun. The jokes along with the copious amounts of skin (but hey… it’s ‘Baywatch’) and use of the “F-bomb” (I’m no prude, but it’s needlessly overused) seem mostly designed to be appreciated by the age 12 – 24 male audience but that’s not to say it isn’t a fun movie to watch. For those who enjoyed the TV series, there are some enjoyable cameos by both “The Hoff” and Pamela Anderson as well as some clever nods to the show. But if you’re looking for a movie to see this weekend, I’d recommend holding off on this one unless you’ve already seen everything else currently in theaters. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to sadly give ‘Baywatch’ a very middling 5.

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Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 22: ‘Missing’

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Last night, ‘Arrow’ gave us what may have been the best episode of the season thus far. All preparing us for next week’s Season 5 Finale! After having finally captured Adrian Chase (aka: Prometheus), Team Arrow can begin to relax and start planning for the future which includes celebrating Oliver’s birthday (with a cake from Lord Mesa Bakery – an inside joke but quite brilliantly played) and discussing summer plans. Quentin is worried because Rene didn’t show up to his custody hearing and Dinah is a no-show to Oliver’s surprise party. When Curtis leaves to check on Dinah, he is attacked which alerts the team that Prometheus must have someone on the outside who is picking off the team one-by-one. Quentin and Thea head to an ARGUS safe house and Oliver orders Felicity and John to leave the state. That plan fails to work out when Evelyn and Black Siren along with Talia & The League of Assassins end up capturing all of them anyway. When Oliver confronts Prometheus about his friends’ whereabouts, Prometheus reveals that he also has Oliver’s son William. He promises to tell Oliver where everyone is once he is released. Oliver teams with Malcolm Merlyn to free Prometheus and then also brings Nyssa in to aid them in stopping Chase and freeing his friends. The trio realize that Chase has taken his prisoners to Lian Yu and they head there themselves to get one more person to help them stop Prometheus once and for all – Slade Wilson.slade_01
This episode was about as perfect as it gets for me. It had the full roster of guest appearances & familiar faces, the classic superhero / supervillain team up, the struggle of doing what is right vs what is necessary and it’s all leading up to what promises to be an incredible season finale. I’ve been very impressed with this season over all and I believe that the writers, actors, fight choreographers, etc, have all upped their game significantly. This is especially important since Season 4 felt like such a disappointment for most of its run. The flashback scenes in this episode with Kovar drugging and torturing Oliver on the island is set to bring everything full circle to where we first joined in for the start of Season 1. In the end, unless something goes terribly wrong with next week’s finale, I think Season 5 may go down in the books as possibly the strongest and most consistent season of ‘Arrow’ since Season 2. Given the immense amount of talent that this show has brought us over the past 5 years, that is really saying something and it speaks volumes about why this show is considered the touchstone of the DC TV Universe. Due to the strength of this episode, the phenomenal acting and the tense build-up that was perfectly orchestrated leading into the finale, I would rate this one a straight up 10. Now have some cake!

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‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’ Movie Review

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The highly anticipated sequel to Marvel Studios‘ smash hit ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘ lands in theaters this coming weekend. Expectations are high given the success of the original film which broke several box office records when it was released in 2014. James Gunn has done a great job of keeping things under wraps and has tried his best to make sure that the movie’s more surprising moments remain a surprise. I always endeavor to keep my reviews spoiler free so don’t be concerned about reading onward from here. Comparing this current film to its predecessor is difficult on several fronts. The original movie was a shock to most in so much as very, VERY few people had heard of The Guardians outside of those in the comic book crowd which meant that Marvel took a very big risk by including them in their cinematic world. That gamble paid off in spades as the favorable reviews came pouring in partly from people who went in not knowing what to expect and who ended up getting a fun, full-fledged space adventure the likes of which few had seen since 2009’s ‘Star Trek’ reboot.  That being said, even without the surprise factor, ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2‘ is a solid film that gives us all of the elements we loved in the original while still moving along the larger narrative within Phase 3 of the MCU and pushing us ever closer to ‘Infinity War’.

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The film opens on our heroes being contracted to keep a planet’s power batteries from being devoured by a giant space monster. Hilarity and the opening credits ensue. The Guardians are successful in their battle and receive their payment – a captive Nebula, Gamora’s evil sister. But after Rocket Raccoon steals some of the batteries upon leaving, they are all branded as criminals and hunted by the planet’s inhabitants. After crash landing on an alien world while making their escape, the Guardians are approached by a being called Ego who claims to be Peter Quill / Star-Lord‘s biological father.  Star Lord, Gamora and Drax agree to accompany Ego and his companion, Mantis, back to his home world while Rocket & Groot stay behind to guard Nebula and repair the ship. To go much further into the details of the story would risk tipping you off to a spoiler or two so I’ll stop there. Needless to say that I didn’t find too much about the movie that I didn’t enjoy. The epic music soundtrack was well utilized just as it was in the first film and rolled right along in lockstep with the plot. James Gunn did a terrific job of maintaining the balance of humor, feels and action as a writer and an equally admirable job of mining each actor’s talents and range as their director.

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All of the actors now seem comfortable in their roles and play their parts to a tee. Kurt Russell almost seems like he’s been waiting for a role in the MCU his entire career and delivers a fun and noteworthy performance as Ego. Dave Bautista‘s performance as Drax is even more enjoyable in this 2nd installment than it was last time around and his interactions with Pom Klementieff‘s nuanced take as Mantis were delightful to behold. Of all of the actors in the movie, the standout for me was Michael Rooker as Yondu who finally gets the extra film time he so richly deserves and seems to savor each second he spends on screen. Karen Gillan also enjoys more time on camera as her character of Nebula has a bigger role in the sequel. Her ruthlessness and ferocity on full display while portraying Nebula’s revenge-obsessed sister makes you realize just what a fantastic actress Karen truly is. The comic book fan in me also “squeeed” a little at the nods to the 90’s version of The Guardians of The Galaxy within the film. Sylvester Stallone & Michael Rosenbaum as Starhawk & Martinex? Yes, please!!

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If I had to point to anything negative, I feel that the use of Groot as comic relief may have been carried as far as it dare be pushed. Adorable as Baby Groot was and as funny as the schtick they used him for ended up being, we don’t want to run the risk of veering into Ewok territory because, as any Star Wars fan will tell you, it’s just a small shuffle from there into full-on Jar Jar land. The viewing I went to was in 3-D and, given the CGI special effects used in a film like this, it made for spectacular visuals and helped rather than hurt the movie. Marvel seems to be able to do well when it comes to creating sequels that are equal to, if not better than (I.E. ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier‘) the original. If you enjoyed ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ the first time around then you will certainly not be disappointed with the 2nd installment of the series. And remember: There are FIVE, I say again, 5 post-credit scenes so stick around for ALL of them! Remember – Stan Lee IS “watching”….

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Planet Comic Con 2017

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I’ve attended several conventions already and the year isn’t even half over. Each convention has a different atmosphere, a unique energy and an almost signature feel. This is obviously due to many different factors. Apart from just physical location, there is how well the space is utilized, the type of guests who are brought in, the variety of vendors that are present, etc. Planet Comicon in Kansas City was no exception except in how it stood out from the others I’ve visited so far. There was an almost velvety smoothness to how things went off as if literally everything had been timed out to the minute and all of the visitors & volunteers had been handed a script, were off book and had already performed their roles before.
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There are so many fandoms out there that trying to satisfy everyone is a daunting task when planning a con. Me? I’m a proud Whovian which means when I saw that three of my favorite Companions from ‘Doctor Who‘ would be on-hand, I knew I had to check it out. Billie Piper, John Barrowman and Catherine Tate (in only her 2nd U.S. comic con appearance so far) all played companions to the 10th Doctor and each were a delight to interact with and to listen to at their panels. (It’s worth noting that John Barrowman was in considerable pain with his shoulder but still stayed late on Saturday after the convention was officially closed to make sure all the fans who were still waiting in line to see him got their turn. If you ever get to visit with him at a convention, make sure to put him at the top of your list!) But maybe you’re not a Whovian. No worries! Planet Comicon had something for everyone.  Also on the list were Clare Kramer and Emma Caulfield from ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘, Ron Perlman from ‘Sons Of Anarchy‘ and ‘Hellboy‘, Wil Wheaton from ‘Star Trek‘, Stephen Amell from ‘Arrow‘, Ric Flair & Jerry Lawler from the world of Professional Wrestling, Jason Isaacs from ‘Harry Potter‘, Shannon Elizabeth & Tara Reid from various film roles, etc, etc, etc.

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Another aspect for a successful Comic Con is to make sure that you remember the “comic” part of the show. Some recent cons have been criticized for turning their backs, so to speak, on the comic book aspect of the show. That couldn’t be farther from the truth at Planet Comicon. Chris Jackson, founder and CEO of the convention, spoke about his love of collecting comic books back in his youth. That love can be seen in looking at the line up of top-tier talent on display from industry veterans like Chris Claremont, Jim Steranko and Howard Chaykin to current red hot creators such as Jason Aaron, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and everyone in-between! (On a side note, if you ever get the chance to see Jim Steranko at a convention or a show, be sure to go see him. I could have literally spent the entire con just listening to this man tell stories.)

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As for everything else, the convention floor was spaced out well enough so that the booths didn’t feel crammed together (this is where a lot of conventions go wrong!). Even when people inevitably stop in front of you to look at something, there is plenty of room to move around them because the booths and displays aren’t tightly stacked on top of each other. Vendors sold a wide range of various goods from cosplay items to video games to comics to toys to the always popular Funko POP Vinyls. Also impressive was that I saw at least 3 or 4 food vendors pedaling refrigerated snacks around on bicycles for people who were standing in lines to get autographs and meet celebrities, thus insuring that you could keep your spot in line and still get a refreshing beverage or snack. Brilliant idea and something I’d not seen done at any other con so far.

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I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how fabulous all of the staff and volunteers were throughout the weekend. The “minions”, “sidekicks”, “superheroes” and everyone else were constantly polite, incredibly helpful and extremely eagle-eyed and efficient. Whoever at Planet Comicon is in charge of hiring them is worthy of praise. This was the first time I attempted a live broadcast of my radio show from a remote location and I have to thank Kirk Chritton and Chris Phelan for their help in putting me in touch with the people in charge of handling Bartle Hall’s wifi service to make a live show broadcast possible. If I had to point to any single thing that I saw as a negative, I would make note of the fact that the booths themselves were not always clearly labeled nor did the website list the booth number for the artist or creator when you pulled it up. That addition to the con’s app would have been a slight time saver when it came to tracking down where the individual creators were stationed. Aside from that and given the fact that I heard scant little else in the way of complaints from the other thousands upon thousands of attendees, I would be hard pressed to give Planet Comicon anything other than a 9.5 out of 10. My experience was wholly positive and I would have to say that Planet Comicon was easily my favorite convention which I have attended so far this year. Now…. how WILL they top it for their 20th anniversary?!? I, for one, cannot wait to find out!

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Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 19: ‘Dangerous Liasons’

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This week’s episode of ‘Arrow’ saw some changes in the relationships of several of the cast. Not the least of which strongly affected John & Lyla’s marriage, but I’ll get to that shortly. In an effort to quickly track down Adrian Chase, who escaped the Federal Marshals who were watching him in the last episode, Felicity makes a deal with Helix to help break one of their tech geniuses out of ARGUS custody. This puts her in direct conflict with Oliver and the team as they have been tasked by Lyla with keeping the prisoner and Helix founder, Cayden James, locked up without the benefit of a trial. The notion that Lyla (who as you remember is now in charge of ARGUS after the death of Amanda Waller) would deny this man his due process doesn’t sit well with Diggle and a rift forms between the couple. After successfully outmaneuvering Team Arrow with the help of Felicity, Helix frees Cayden James. They deliver the device to Felicity as promised in exchange for her help, but they scrub their base of operations and send Felicity a message telling her that her relationship with Green Arrow complicates things for them too much to be able to have her work with them any further.

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Meanwhile, Quentin grills Rene about why he hasn’t ever tried to see his daughter and Rene informs Quentin that he is worried he will hurt her again and he feels that he just isn’t any good for her. Not accepting this, and still reeling from the loss of his own daughter Laurel, Quentin arranges for a surprise visit between Rene and his little girl. Rene decides he will fight to get his daughter back in his life after all. Upon his return to base, Oliver and Felicity discuss her actions and Oliver tells her that he understands why she did what she did and the two seem to reach a new level of understanding. At this point, Felicity uses the device that Helix provided to begin tracking Adrian Chase which pinpoints his location as… right there with them! Cue the huge explosion aaaaaannd blackout.

Spectre of the Gun

Starting with the positive notes, I really enjoy how they are fleshing out Rene’s character more in these past few episodes. I am looking forward to him being promoted to a season regular for Season 6. Also enjoyable is the new take we are seeing from Felicity. Her character is expanding this season into something other than Oliver’s love interest and the team’s resident computer whiz (we even got to see her go all “Huntress” in the season finale of ‘Legends Of Tomorrow’ earlier this month). That being said, I am disappointed with the somewhat contrived conflict that has been set up between John & Lyla. John is concerned about a man’s due process being taken away by his wife, yet he hangs out with vigilantes who kill / have killed on the regular. Not to mention the fact that John killed his own brother last season! I don’t recall Andy Diggle getting a trial before you executed him, John. Other than a possible need by the writers to keep John from being happy (because happy = boring when it comes to our favorite TV characters), I don’t understand the need for this particular plot line. I also don’t feel that Curtis is being utilized as much as he could be in the show, BUT… I am happy where he appears to be headed. He’s got the jacket, he’s perfecting his T-Spheres, as soon as his fighting game gets stronger, I’m thinking that Mr. Terrific will be a true force to be reckoned with in the Arrowverse!! So while I dug the episode over all apart from the seemingly random conflict between Mr. & Mrs. Diggle, it still fit solidly within the realm of what has been happening this season and it ended, literally, with a bang. I’d give this week’s episode an overall 6.5. Now when are we getting an Echo Kellum led spinoff series?!?!?!

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