I have been off the movie radar for a bit.
I go in cycles like that.
Last movie I saw in the theater (twice) was the excellent BLACK PANTHER Directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by filmic juggernaut, Marvel Studios.
Today a few minutes ago I just got done watching AVENGERS INFINITY WAR courtesy of Amazon Prime, and streamed right in the comfort of my home.
It is definitely a movie that would have been great seen on a huge full size theatrical system, but as I said timing and interest sometimes works out for me to hit the theater, sometimes it doesn’t.
The movie, AVENGERS INFINITY WAR finally seen ( I avoided trailers, special features, reviews etc) it is ten years of Marvel Studios, and ten years of world building codified and paid tribute to; it is not just a great movie, it is a great mythology. It is that first story told around the raging fire to keep back the night. It is everything you want a film to be.
To call it just a superhero film is perhaps to miss the point, and the enduring power and place these four color heroes have held first on the comic page, and now the cinematic stage.
They are our modern myths writ large, and this film by the capable Russo Brothers improves and transcends the source material, to tell tales both of massive victories and massive defeats, but always managing to ground it on a very personal level.
The movie made me laugh, it made me cheer, it made me tear up, and it made me silent. A whole gamut of emotional states in a mere couple of hours. The Russo Brother’s have helmed yet another masterpiece and this one being their best and most haunting yet. Raising the stakes but not losing the man on the ground perspective, that make these films so relateable.
Tales of Gods and Monsters yes, but hinged on wheels of faith and loss and sacrifice and love.
The wheels all of us, can understand and be moved by.
There are reasons to be concerned about a monotheistic Movie Landscape, with all studios gobbled up by the mouse. I do not feel Disney acquiring Marvel Studios was a good thing. I do not feel the Lucas properties being engulfed by them is a good thing. I do not feel the Fox acquisition is a good thing.
I think in the long term this monotheistic film landscape is a very bad thing for culture, and choice, and competition. I think in the long term there are anti-trust and anti-competition issues that will affect all of us; whether fans or not, of these films. But those are fights and concerns separate from the actual review of this one singular film.
This one singular film, celebrating the 10th year of Marvel Studios unprecedented dynasty is filmmaking done as well as it can be done, on a scale and scope that is nearly as mythic as the story itself. I loved it. Full Stop. It is right in the mix with my top 5, being in no particular order AVENGERS, BLACK PANTHER, WINTER SOLDIER, CIVIL WAR, and this one… INFINITY WAR.
Grade: A+. As a fan of METROPOLIS and GREED and SEARCHERS and LION IN WINTER, even though this movie is a ‘Super-hero’ movie and a Blockbuster, and is popular, it is every bit as great and serious and beautiful a film as those lauded classics. It is a new minted classic, and will stand the test of time. From script, to direction, to special effects, to performances, especially performances, allowing the actors to act under those layers of makeup and costumes and CGI, the film is a rare achievement.
I look forward to the sequel. And I look forward to buying this film on DVD/Blu-Ray, and watching again, and enjoying the film commentary.
You can get your Blu-Ray here:
A simply stupendous interview with Larry Lieber, brother to the great Stan Lee, and unsung hero/creator in his own right.
A vocal few people like to praise Kirby, and then feel they can’t do that, without also taking shots at Stan Lee. A very diseased American either/or idea, that you can’t praise something without tearing something else down.
I’ll have no truck with that.
Stan Lee was (is? I think genius is a fleeting time frame for the best of us. It is an alchemic time that is short lived for the best of us) a genius… Full Stop. And his greatest genius besides his enthusiasm and invention and superlative imagination and ideas, and great writing, was he knew how to find and cheer-lead talent. And inspire talent and appreciation in and for others.
I don’t care how talented you are, either as an artist or writer, what you need is someone to champion that talent and get the masses excited. This is what Stan Lee did, he took a denigrated kids medium, and moved it from the corner store into the College campuses. And from the College campuses to the larger mainstream culture of television, music, merchandising and finally Movies.
Stan Lee did that.
Not alone at the end, but alone at the beginning, he was the visionary who saw a future for these four colored mythologies, beyond the recycling bin. He believed in outrageous ideas like a life for these four color concepts beyond their newsprint origins. He believed in a bookstore life for these books, when that was as much a thing of fiction as the stories in the books themselves.
And he did this by finding and celebrating talent.Like Kirby, like Ditko, Like Romito, Like Heck, Like Buscema, like Roy Thomas.And like his Brother Steve Lieber. Absolutely fantastic interview, I say again. I found myself tearing up during it. And my appreciation for Stan Lee is already immense, him helping train and teach his brother, only increased it. And my appreciation for Larry Lieber has skyrocketed. I’m on a mission now to pick up all his work as writer and artist.
Listen now, true Believer!
I like Youtube courtesy of Roku because you can browse without comments. I don’t mind comments if they are moderated, but unmoderated comments is just like sewage, something I prefer not to wade thru. 🙂
So Roku allows me to actually be able to use Youtube and find it useful rather than nauseating. Case in point, unboxing videos. I am a HUGE graphic novel and Art Book fan, and I’ve become quite enamored of these videos where people show off their artbook or graphic novel or comic. It has given me so many great ideas regarding items to purchase, as well as helping me decide ites to pass on.
Though, unfortunate for my wallet, more of the former than the latter.
Here are some recent great ones as well as some of the best channels to visit.
THE CHINEST has great segments where you get to see the interior of the comic and decide if it is for you or not.
MARKET WATCH has a recent fantastic series of videos where he shows some of the great items he found in a recent collection purchase.
GEM MINT COLLECTIBLES does a phenomenal end of 2017 Room Tour. Really impressive man-cave even if you are not into figurines. I really want those GOON and FEAR AGENT Hardcovers/Omnibuses. And I love the idea of his desk in the middle of the room as well as his bookstand. I’m completely going to do that. Really interesting and informative videos on his channel. Check out his TOP TEN ABSOLUTE EDITION WHALES video as well.
Kudos to OMNIBUDS CAFE I really enjoyed his 2018 Omnibus collection overview. His bound and signed editions are great.
I have more of these shout outs coming, as well as a list of my favorite collections of 2017! So come back for more next time!
I stumbled across this relatively recent podcast today. An entire podcast dedicated to the works, the oeuvre, of one of the most influential artists, and later writer/artist, of the 1970s and 1980s… John Byrne.
As a kid of the 70s and 80s, I very much grew up on the artwork and collaborations and stories of John Byrne, so I still hold that work as formative and really ground breaking. And really his body of work remains a large part of the cultural storyboards that power today’s billion dollar comic films.
So this podcast that discusses his work, rather than the politics or quirks or controversy of Byrne the man, I find of great interest.
This 1st episode covers a classic three part story by Jim Shooter (writer), John Byrne(artist) and George Perez (cover artist).
For my money this is, in addition to visuals being borrowed liberally for for the 2nd Marvel Studios AVENGERS film, it is one of the best Avengers stories.
I’ve sold most of my comics from yesteryear keeping only those that wowed me as a kid, and that still impress me as an adult, books that remain quintessentially the best examples of Superhero Blockbuster action. These 1970s AVENGERS books, 164, 165,166 remain the impetus and heart and idea space for what now 40 years later, have become multi-billion dollar cinematic mythologies… for new generations.
For my money nothing surpasses those three books, and it would be decades before Kurt Busiek in his wonderful 4 part Ultron Story-line in the AVENGERS (vol III from 1999 – 19,20,21,22) wrote anything as iconic as those three Shooter/Byrne images. The 90s Busiek/Perez run being very much a homage to those 70s Shooter/Byrne issues. Shooter and Byrne telling in 3 perfect packed issues, what lesser creators would have ruined by trying to stretch to 4, 5, or 6 issues.
It is no mistake that those two disparate stories were mashed together to make the plot for AVENGERS II AGE OF ULTRON. A movie I liked quite a bit, it is a solid B/B+, but it is not as successful as the two story-lines that inspired it. Whereas the beauty of most of the Marvel Studios output is they are actually superior to the story-lines that inspired them; the movies written to be more sophisticated, and appeal to a very savvy adult audience. The first AVENGERS movie is better than the books that inspired it, as is the 3 CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, as is the GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY movies, and the IRON MAN movies (the first two Thor movies, not so much 🙂 ).
Jim Shooter was a boy genius who understood hyperbole and the dream of the mythic and heroic, and arguably there is no better example of that than in AVENGERS 164, 165, and 166. These issues are relatively still very affordable as 1st printings, and recently have been reprinted along with other essential issues in a very affordable collection.
You can get the issues here:
This collection is close to going out of print and covers issues #150 to #166, which is really the very best issues of the run. Pick them up at the link above while they are in stock.
Once you have read them, or if you have already read them, check out the podcast below. I disagree with them on some points but overall an interesting listen, and an interesting idea for a podcast. And I have to thank their podcast for spurring this blog post.
Three years in the making, since the box office shattering and acclaimed first AVENGERS film, Joss Whedon’s hungrily awaited follow-up AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON has arrived.
So being a fan of the first film, I was happy to make it down to one of the better and newest theaters to see this film in RealD 3D. I’m not typically an advocate for 3D films, but 3D post processing on the Marvel Studio films has been very good.
So I plunked down the requisite coin and entered the theatrical showing of the AGE OF ULTRON, and quick thoughts? I quite enjoyed it. It wasn’t the masterwork that the first film was, but that was lightning in a bottle and very hard to recapture. This is a solid follow-up, with characters you’ve come to like, played ably by actors that have become household names, and a solid and inventive and witty script that hits all the requisite points.
World ending threats? Check. Cool Villains? Check. Astounding set pieces and fight scenes? Check. Witty repartee and good natured bickering? Check. Budding romance and Scarlett Johanson in skin-tight and fetching uniforms? Check and Check! 🙂 And moments of pathos and heroism? Check. And fun immersive 3D? Check.
All together Joss Whedon weaves together a 2+ hour blockbuster, a spectacle that is worthy of the big-screen, theatrical experience. That said it is not perfect. It lacks the immediate watchability and crowd pleasing nature of the first, oh it has its moments to be sure, but you’re not going to leave this AVENGERS movie immediately ready to see it again like its predecessor.
This film after one viewing you’re more than content to wait for it to hit Blu-Ray before watching it again. And I think on Blu-Ray it is a perfect format for really appreciating the immense work that goes into the battle scenes.
So all in all a worthy film to get you in the theaters. Grade: B+.
Marvel Studios 10th feature film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is breaking on American shores this weekend, and the decision people have to make is… ‘is it worth seeing in theaters and more specifically, is it worth seeing in 3D?’
Well, dealing with the broader questions first, whether or not you are a fan of the Marvel Movies, you really have to tip your cap to Kevin Feige and the whole Marvel Studios machine for really doing what seemed if not impossible, highly farfetched; namely creating a critically and commercially successful movie empire based on the shared universe approach of comic books.
It, in many ways, is the return of serial movies, the type popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but done on a massive scale, undreamed of by those low budget quickies of yesteryear.
And Marvel Studios films have managed to be not only popular, but entertaining, sometimes impressively so. I would list their movies from best to worst as:
CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER
IRON MAN 2
IRON MAN 3
And now their 10th film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is poised to carve out their place on the above list. I find myself largely uninterested in the film. Nothing about the premise, the characters, or the one trailer I’ve seen intrigues me at all. Add to that they have an unimpressive ‘Before the Window’ 3D rating from CINEMA BLEND, like all previous Marvel Movies, and it is no incentive to see this in 3D.
But what does stand out in opposition to all that disinterest is the director, James Gunn. James Gunn like many of the directors Marvel picks, lacks any pedigree in the action or blockbuster genre, but like other directors chosen, they have a personality to the films they have directed, and a way with actors and characters, they have glimmerings of potential.
I enjoyed James Gunn’s SLITHER and I do think Marvel Studios helmed by Kevin Feige have been nothing short of phenomenal in picking talent both in front of and behind the camera. For all the heat their choices engender prior to the film, their unconventional choices have proven movie after movie, to be great.
And it is hard to argue with great. I have no interest in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as a concept or as characters, but I am interested in seeing James Gunn do a big, fun, space hopping action picture.
So verdict: I’ll catch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY on a matinee, or 2nd run, without 3D
Hopes this helps anyone on the fence, and feel free to chime in with your opinions. ENJOY!