Today’s Recommended Podcast: 3rd DEGREE BYRNE Ep# 1 AVENGERS 164-166

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:

 

Avengers Epic Collection: The Final Threat

 

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.

http://twotruefreaks.com/media/podcasts/byrne/rss.xml

 

 

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First Great Theatrical Experience of 2017 — KONG : SKULL ISLAND in 3D!

It takes a lot to get me out to the theater these days. 2016 was one of my most anemic theater going years. Having only seen a couple movies in the theater (among them the excellent CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR).

The slow movie going year could be linked to several reasons, some personal and singular, and some endemic of larger more encompassing perspectives.

The rise of Netflix and Streaming options has brought cinema quality programming to your living room or bedroom, around your schedule. So no trying to make your schedule fit around a movie showing, and all the baggage of parking, and seats, and annoying crowds, and of course the expense.

So for those reasons and others the theater wasn’t top on my list in 2016.

2017 and I’m incentivized to see quite a few movies in the theater. One reason is the reopening of one of my favorite regional movie theaters, as an upscale adults only dinner and a movie venue.

Perfect for couples or close friends, I decided to check out a matinee showing of KONG : SKULL ISLAND over other available options at this theater (such as LOGAN and JOHN WICK II and GET OUT, all of which I intend to see) for the main reason I wanted to test out the spectacle and 3D quality of this new theater, and what better way than a loud, explosive, monster movie.

So I reserved my seats, picking the perfect seats of course, and quite impressed with their meal and drink menu. Forget the overpriced artery clogging Popcorn and Hotdogs and Candy that comprises the fare of your typical theater, this theater offered a full and quite impressive meal and drink menu, brought to your spacious clean, well kept seats, no less. We had the crabcakes, bistro burger, korean wings, with a Berry Blast drink for me and a Mocha Latte for her. And did I mention the excellent attentive service.

So we are planted in front our huge curved screen, it’s a matinee showing so not only do we have our whole row free, we have our whole section free, with probably a total of less than 20 people in the large yet intimate theater. Meaning the theater and screen is large, but the number of seats are few.

So that’s the setup. What about the movie?

The best part of the Peter Jackson 2005 KING KONG movie, was the one hour period on the island (once we get past Peter Jackson’s annoying portrayal of Native Life as monstrous, evil and subhuman), that one hour was fantastic sequences of monster and Kong Mayhem, and should have been the whole movie.

Once that movie leaves the island it loses all interest and excitement, crawling toward a tepid ending.

KONG:SKULL ISLAND, 12 years after Peter Jackson’s mistake, learns admirably from the flaws of his film, crafting an entire movie on Kong’s home, the Island of Monsters, Skull Island, and it is absolutely kick-ass!

The idea to set it in 1973, at a pivotal time for America and the World, I thought was a stroke of genius and gives real motivation to Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab inclined character, who see’s in the monster of Kong, this fight, a chance to win the war that he was denied, to change shame into glory. I like the opening, the setup to the actual Mayhem that is Kong, quite a bit, which says a lot about the quality of the filmmaker and the film.

Usually the least interesting part of any monster movie, is the prelude to the appearance of the Monster, when you have to endure boring cardboard characters killing time. That was the issue with the GODZILLA movie by the producers of this film, it was mostly setup and concentration on the human drama, but the humans and the human drama in that movie was as of much interest as watching paint dry.

Here, the setup and the characters feel fleshed out and earned, and part of that is grounding these soldiers in 1973. Survivors, but somehow not victors. Going from one barely war abroad, to a frightening barely understood war at home awaiting them, Skull Island, is very much a reprieve to Jackson’s Colonel. And the men under him, caught in the machinations of dreams of Glory, well they are understood to.

And all the characters are quickly enlisted for this obscure mission, all powerful, compelling actors, not a Jack Black insight. But actors all who can compel and own their time onscreen… their closeups. So I’m thoroughly entertained and into the movie, before Kong goes Ape, so to speak. And when he does go Ape… it is… EPIC!!!

This is why Theaters have value in an age of Netflix and Home Theaters, because a home theater is no match for a commercial theater when you have no annoying audience to deal with, this was the fury of Kong unleashed… this was spectacle, this was Blockbuster, and this was worth every penny paid!

Should you see it in 3D? I typically find 3D is a wasted expense in most situations. I think it is expertly done here, and is really the type of movie that cries out for really good 3D. KONG is really good use of 3D, and I think like AVATAR is a must see in 3D!

KONG is only the second feature film of Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, nothing in his filmography would indicate he could handle a big budget blockbuster of a monster movie, but much like the Russo Brothers of CAPTAIN AMERICA fame (who also came out of feature film obscurity) Roberts rises to the occasion, shattering expectations.

I loved this movie from beginning to end. It blows away recent failures such as GODZILLA and the aforementioned KING KONG, and bodes well for future films. Stay past the trailer for a nice Marvel style Easter Egg.

Grade: A solid and easy B+!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Cary Fukunaga (TRUE DETECTIVE) to direct Stephen King’s IT


Stephen King’s greatest monster movie coming to a theater near you?!!

Stephen King for four decades (This year marking the 40th anniversary of his first novel, CARRIE) has been the undisputed king of the horror blockbuster. His name on a novel, for longer than most of you have been alive, a straight shot to the bestseller list.

That said, as someone who has read much of his output, I’ve personally found him hit and miss. However his 1000+ page novel… IT, I consider a masterpiece and King at his apex.

Some factions will argue THE STAND, but these are misguided types who should be avoided. :). THE STAND emphasing the bloat for bloat’s sake, and caricature finally falling into stereotype that would become too prevalent in King’s work, it cannot stand, when placed against his… IT.

And the TV mini-series adaptation of IT starring a great cast (including the late, great John Ritter) I was a huge fan of as kid, and remain so as an adult. It is, for all its horror, a sentimental and bitter-sweet ode to friendship and faith and childhood’s gains and losses.

So the news that this celebrated property is slated to come to the big screen in the 21st century, has me interested. King Adaptations are typically a hard sell, for the reason… most aren’t very good at adapting King.

What is oft strongest in King’s work is the internal monologues and scene setting that don’ t lend themselves to the pacing or the look of the big screen blockbuster.

But I will be happy for the new film to be an exception to recent King adaptations, and surprise me in a goodway. However I am concerned about talks of splitting this into two films, recent history showing studio’s moneygrubbing greed, comes at the expense of a quality, satisfying story.

But time will tell, read the above link for the details.

 

Movie News: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is it worth seeing in 3D?


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:

AVENGERS
CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
IRON MAN
HULK

IRON MAN 2
THOR
IRON MAN 3
THOR 2

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!

MOVIE TRAILER Update : STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS in IMAX

star_trek_into_darkness_ver2_xlg

The third and latest trailer for STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is out, and while it still doesn’t make me as excited as the trailer to JJ Abram’s first STAR TREK movie, it however is far better than the earlier teaser trailers. There’s actually a story here that I’m intrigued to view and the visuals are, in a word, sublime.

For those of us who grew us with the Star Trek mythos, the trailer doesn’t particularly scream Star Trek. It feels like something decidedly different and I for one think that’s a good thing. With sequences shot in the 70mm IMAX format (not with the IMAX 3D cameras) it should be a great film to see on a REAL IMAX movie theater.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (would it have killed them to put a ‘The” in there?! 🙂 ) hits theaters on May 17th.

startrekintodrk

2012 MOVIE Review : THE Verdict is in! AVENGERS… Avenged!!! :)

You are reading this either because you saw the film and want to compare your experience with others, or haven’t seen the film, and want to get a general idea of what people thought of it. I’ll answer both demographics, without going into details about the film.

I think most of you coming to this blog know, my grumpy persona aside I’m not a contrarian. I’m not one of these IMDB idiots who rate all films either 1 or 5 (on a 5 star system, I use a 4 star system), the concept of grading and gradations seemingly lost on them.

That said neither am I a bandwagon jumper who is going to praise a film when it’s trendy to do so, and eviscerate it when it is trendy to do so.(SUPERMAN RETURNS and TITANIC being two movies with more than their share of flip-floppers).

I often listen to pod-casts, and it is amazing how often you can hear one person excited by a film, but then his friends don’t like the film, so you can hear the person backtrack from his/her position, so they can be in line with the likes of their ‘friends’.

An anthropologist might define it as a clannish race survival technique (“Bubba let’s go lynch that thar 12 year old boy, for looking at that thar white woman.” “Why Bubba Senior, that thar’s a fine idea. Hyuck. Hyuck. Hyuck.”), I’ve always just defined it as cowardice.

I’m saying my good opinion or my bad is not formed by the whims of the mob.

Never has been. Never will be.

So if I give you a review you can be sure it is my review, my considered opinion… and I stand behind it.

So my considered opinion on the AVENGERS movie?

Joss Whedon, whose other film this year CABIN IN THE WOODS I wasn’t a fan of (more due to the first time Director on that film, than to Whedon’s script), here in his role as Director and Writer, knocks this film out of the park.

THE AVENGERS is… I’m trying to avoid hyperbole here, leaving that to everyone else, but it has to be said… it is a FANTASTIC film.

It’s as smart as CABIN IN THE WOODS, but with Whedon behind the camera you also get characters and moments you really care about. You get the pathos to go with the pomp and circumstance.

I mean how do you pull this off? The culmination of all these films, all this planning, all these actors, how do you pull it together and make it work and make it live up to expectations? It is really an amazingly ambitious film, a daunting prospect, and Joss Whedon… does it.

It’s really rare for me to laugh out loud in a film, I laughed out loud numerous times in this film, just because it is so knowing, and so sharp, and so biting, and so friggin fun!!!

I’m so glad I went into this film without watching a bunch of trailers or features, or ruining any surprises because I just had a ball. And along with the fun, Whedon gave space and weight to the tragedy, something that is glossed over sometimes in epic films. The weight and cost of this battle. Whedon never loses sight of the street level view, the common men and women caught in the midst of a war of Gods and Monsters.

The humanity he imbues the attack scene with is reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s phenomenal direction in the criminally underrated Clooney action film PEACEMAKER. Where every loss and every life… was felt.


The Peacemaker (Widescreen Edition)

And going along with that, for a big, loud, blow stuff up action flick on par with Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON (which the battle scenes bear a resemblance to) everyone gets a chance to actually act and emote in this film. Whedon’s TV/Buffy dialog/experience serving the film well.

Every principal actor really gets a chance to shine, Scarlett Johanson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo (Who I didn’t think could fill Ed Norton’s shoes, is phenomenal. Both as Banner and the Jade Giant he has some of the great scenes/lines in the film), Downey, they all bring it. And big kudos to Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki as more than one dimensional, but with charm and depth to match his machinations.

Anything more would be me… gushing. Suffice to say, if my math is correct this is the 6th Marvel Studios film, the culmination of half a dozen years, and their shared Universe experiment, and they pull it off. Creating a cinematic climax to this multi-year and multi-film storyline that is actually bigger and better than the films leading up to it.

I’m seldom the guy to tip my hat to MARVEL, but you have to give them their due. STAR WARS couldn’t do it (RETURN not quite living up to the greatness of EMPIRE), STAR TREK every other film is bad and they are all one off stories, BOND also is one off stories, INDIANA JONES no, MATRIX… no, LORD OF THE RINGS … no, but Marvel Studios managed to end their ambitious story… even stronger than they began it (Though it is worth noting that the heart of this whole AVENGERS cinematic concept, starts with one writer, Mark Millar of WANTED and KICK-ASS fame. His vision is what Marvel Studios followed from page to screen. And in the dozen years since his ULTIMATES comics, his involvement is perhaps not credited as much as it should be).

The AVENGERS storyline that began with the first IRON MAN, went out on a high-note with this film. Arguably only Harry Potter could claim to have as effectively told a story over multiple films. Plus they give us a great teaser at the end, can you say…. awww but that would be telling! 🙂

Go see the film. It’s earned its praise. Highest Recommendation A+.

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet

Joss Whedon, AVENGERS and Imax 3D vs 2D Comparison!!! Should you pay IMAX 3D prices?


“The 3D enhances a few scenes here and there but is not at all eye-popping, largely because this was a post-production conversion rather than offering the more authentic spatial depth of a movie shot with 3D cameras. Only with films shot in 3D do you get the mesmerising immersion of something like Avatar.”
—coventrytelegraph.net (they saw the movie both in 2D and IMAX 3D)

The above reinforces my negative view on films not shot in IMAX 3D that are later post converted. Pure and simple, it is a cash grab by the studios and does little to improve the way the filmmaker intended you to experience the film, and in some cases because of the darkness factor may actually weaken the viewing experience (I had this issue seeing THOR in 3D, it didn’t look 3D, and the image was dark. It was better taking off the stupid glasses, then enduring the so-called 3D).

So my advice, save your money and see AVENGERS in 2D, as it was meant to be seen. 🙂

And who knows, if enough of you begin doing that, you may send a message to the suits to 1/ stop the post conversion money grab and 2/stop charging more for IMAX 3D.

Now wouldn’t that be grand! 🙂

Come back tomorrow for my AVENGERS review!

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet