Film Review: Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018)

Release Date: March 23rd, 2018 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Alan Burnett
Based on: Suicide Squad by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, John Ostrander
Music by: Robert J. Kral
Cast: Christian Slater, Billy Brown, Liam McIntyre, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Gideon Emery, Tara Strong, Vanessa Williams, C. Thomas Howell, Greg Grunberg

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, DR Movie, 86 Minutes

Review:

“I know I’m going to Heaven – anyone who can put up with Mr. J deserves a break.” – Harley Quinn

It seems as if these DC Comics animated movies are getting better and better. Pretty much most of the stuff that Sam Liu produces and directs is top notch. Also, I love that these are for an adult audience.

While I pretty much hated the live action Suicide Squad movie, I’ve been a fan of the comics for some time. This animated feature does a pretty good job of capturing that magic in a way that the live action film completely missed.

The voice cast in this was really good too and I especially enjoyed Christian Slater as Deadshot. I hope he plays the character more in the future and if this spawned its own series, I’d watch the followups.

This movie is violent but it works, as this film is presented in a grindhouse style. Now the look of it is crisp and clean like other DC animated films but it has that modern grindhouse edge to it in it’s credits sequences, editing style and musical score. While the modern grindhouse thing really peaked with Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse movie over ten years ago, it’s interesting seeing that style in this format.

The story is also good and it sets up a situation where these characters have a sort of loophole to work around the protocols the government has in order to control these villains forced to do good. There is a lot of back stabbing, twists and turns.

This also features a ton of villains whether they are members of the Suicide Squad or not. And while a lot of characters are crammed into this 86 minute picture, everything flows well.

This is solid. It’s one of the better DC Comics animated features to come out.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC animated features for adult audiences.

Comic Review: Marvel’s What If? (2018 Minieries)

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Marvel has had several different runs with their What If? title. I have always been a fan of it, as it gives us new and different takes on Marvel characters. Usually, they show what happens if characters made different choices or if a major event had a different outcome. I couldn’t read enough of these when I was a kid and in a lot of ways, when I first came into comics, it was What If? that pinpointed the moments throughout Marvel history that were the most pivotal.

This 2018 miniseries was only six issues and all of them were unfortunately released over just five weeks. I wish they would make this an ongoing series again or at least spread them out more.

Like the X-Men: Black miniseries, which also came out weekly over October, this had different creative teams with each issue and it showed.

The six stories in this series were What If Flash Thompson Became Spider-Man?What If X-Men? (not a clearly defined title), What If Peter Parker Became the Punisher?What If Marvel Comics Went Metal with Ghost Rider?, What if Thor Was Raised by Frost Giants? and What If Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme?

Out of the six titles, the only ones I really enjoyed were the Magik and Punisher ones. Thor and Flash Thompson were okay but the X-Men one was a mess and the Ghost Rider one was one of the worst comics I’ve read in several years. I mean, it was beyond atrocious and getting through it was a hell of a chore.

Marvel could rectify their problems with this series, if they don’t rush them next time. If this was a regular monthly series like it was at its peak, the stories would probably have more time devoted to them.

Some of the art even felt rushed and half assed.

Ultimately, I liked a few issues but I can’t really recommend the series over all.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: old school What If? comics, many of which have been re-released for $1 under the True Believers imprint.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 1 (working title)
Release Date: November 28th, 2012 (Wellington, New Zealand premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)

New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 169 Minutes, 182 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.” – Gandalf

When these movies first came out, I was really disappointed with them. Granted, they were still mostly enjoyable but they lacked the magic that made Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so spectacular a decade earlier.

I finally revisited this, as I got a great deal on the entire set of Hobbit films in their Extended Edition format, which is also the versions of the Lord of the Rings films I own. And like the other Extended Editions, this beefed up version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey became a better, more fleshed out movie.

Also, I’ve had six years to let this movie digest and I did find it more palatable this time around. Although, some of my issues with it are still there.

To start, this feels like a disjointed film, tonally. It’s as if it isn’t sure what it needs to be. Frankly, the tone of Lord of the Rings was perfect and this should have mirrored that. There isn’t really any reason why it couldn’t, as it had the same creative team behind it.

The film suffers from being too hokey at times and its the kind of hokey that is cringe. The dwarves look goofy as hell, the humor is usually off key or unnecessary and the musical bits, whether or not they exist in the book, really bogged this movie down and made it exude Disney level cheese but really bad Disney. I’m sorry but Aragon and the Mouth of Sauron didn’t break out into song and dance in Return of the King.

There’s also weird moments like the dwarf snoring and breathing moths in and out of his nose. And then there are strange, unnecessary things like Radagast the Brown having bird shit crusted to the side of his head. I also can’t leave out the insane physics of this movie and how the dwarves and Bilbo are seemingly indestructible and have incredible balance between the Stone Giants fight scene and sliding down a massive rock chute without splattering all over the place or breaking every bone in their bodies.

Another thing that hurts the film is that it relies on CGI much more heavily than its predecessors. The Lord of the Rings films had a bunch of guys in fantastic orc makeup and they looked real and totally badass. Here, we have computer animated orcs that look more like video game characters than something organic on the screen. Granted, I love that Manu Bennett plays the orc leader.

But the reason why CGI orcs don’t work for the film is because practical effects, if they can be utilized properly, just look better. The original Lord of the Rings trilogy was heralded as being a huge step forward in special effects on every level. The Hobbit movies, however, are just stagnation.

The film has some strong positives though.

All of the new main characters were well cast. I loved Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin. It was also really cool seeing Lee Pace as the Elvenking, Thranduil. He wasn’t in this chapter very much but his role gets bigger in the two pictures after this one.

I also liked the additions to the story, at least in this film. The side story with the Necromancer is really cool and I liked seeing Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond come together to discuss the rising darkness in Middle Earth.

The problem with this trilogy, which becomes more apparent in the second and third film, is that this didn’t need to be a trilogy. The Hobbit is a short book when compared to the Lord of the Rings novels. This could have been expanded into two films and even included some of the additions to the story but three movies spreads the narrative too thin. Especially for movies roughly around the three hour mark.

An Unexpected Journey doesn’t quite work in the way that it should but it is still a hell of a good time for fans of Lord of the Rings.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.

Comic Review: X-Men: Black

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

Part of me wanted to be excited when I first heard about X-Men: Black, an anthology of five issues, each of which showcased a famous X-Men villain, along with a sixth story that was broken up over the five issues.

However, I knew that it would probably miss the mark, as X-Men comics, outside of Old Man Logan, haven’t been good for quite some time. I did have a little light of hope though, as Chris Claremont returned to pen the Magneto issue.

But unfortunately, this did miss the mark almost completely.

Most of the stories were beyond awful. The Apocalypse tale was the best one and the Juggernaut story was pretty darn good. Now Claremont’s Magneto issue was okay but it didn’t really cut the mustard and didn’t live up to the great standard that Claremont set in the X-Men‘s heyday.

The Mojo issues wasn’t completely terrible and it was entertaining and certainly not a bore. But it still felt out of place and didn’t work in the grander scheme of things.

Now the Mystique and Emma Frost issues were atrocious.

Mystique was a terrible person, doing terrible things and didn’t act like Mystique at all. The book read like a violent and vindictive fantasy of the author without any real purpose other than to make you hate the character, hate the author and hate the issue. This chapter alone really drags this entire series deep down into the muck.

The Emma Frost story wasn’t that different from Mystique’s and also didn’t do this series any favors. Plus, Emma looked like an anorexic college freshman and felt more like Emma Roberts from Scream Queens than Emma Frost, the voluptuous blonde that’s almost naked and has melted boys hearts since 1980.

Overall, this had potential but only two writers even seemed to actually try to write something worth anyone’s time. The rest phoned this in and obviously didn’t give a shit.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: modern X-Men schlock.

Comic Review: Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: various

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

This picks up right after the recent Justice League Dark arc The Last Days of Magic.

This was a big crossover event that was stretched over five issues: Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark – The Witching Hour #1, Wonder Woman #56, Justice League Dark #4, Wonder Woman #57 and Justice League Dark/Wonder Woman – The Witching Hour #1. The way it was organized was a clusterfuck but it was worth hunting down all five issues, all of which came out over the course of October.

In a way, this felt like Wonder Woman starring in her version of the X-Men‘s famous Dark Phoenix story arc.

The reason I say that, is that Wonder Woman has essentially been possessed by this powerful force that takes control of her body and makes her evil and incredibly powerful. However, this doesn’t quite commit to the bit like Dark Phoenix did, as she doesn’t really cause that much damage overall and she also sort of wills herself good again with the help of her friends and allies.

The force in this is Hecate, an ancient witch that actually came into contact with Wonder Woman when she was still a child. So, essentially, this Hecate thing has been in her this whole time. This seems incredibly ambitious and somewhat suspect but I have really enjoyed James Tynion’s writing, so I went with it. Plus, DC’s continuity is incredibly confusing at this point.

The biggest highlight of the previous Justice League Dark story was the cast of characters coming together to fight magical evil. While those characters are here and even more are added, this put more emphasis on Wonder Woman’s journey and lacked the great camaraderie I enjoyed before this. I hope that comes back in the next story arc. The Detective Chimp and Man Bat stuff was great in The Last Days of Magic.

In the end, this wasn’t as iconic as the Dark Phoenix tale but it didn’t need to be. However, the build up made this feel like it was going to be a darker, bigger event than it turned out to be. It really didn’t have any effect on anything in the larger DC Comics universe.

This could have been a good mega event, as it had a much better premise than the current one: Heroes In Crisis.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the current Justice League Dark series.

TV Review: Cloak & Dagger (2018- )

Original Run: June 7th, 2018 – current
Created by: Joe Pokaski
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Cloak & Dagger by Bill Mantlo, Ed Hannigan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph, Gloria Reuben, Andrea Roth, J. D. Evermore, Miles Mussenden, Carl Lundstedt, Emma Lahana, Jaime Zevallos

Wandering Rocks Productions, ABC Signature Studios, Marvel, Disney-ABC, Freeform, 10 Episodes (so far), 42-49 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I watched this right after I quit watching Runaways in the middle of its inaugural season. Sadly, this is pretty cringeworthy too and I couldn’t finish it. But at least I got further before my body couldn’t physically hit the “play” button around episode 7 or so.

Cloak & Dagger is lame as hell. Where is the superheroing? 7 episodes into this and they’ve barely explored their powers. This is just teen drama crap that feels more like it belongs in the Twilight franchise than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where it is supposed to take place.

The acting isn’t terrible but it’s nothing to praise. I mostly like the characters but if I’m being honest, they do not feel like the Tandy Bowen or Tyrone Johnson that I’ve gotten to know in the comics over three decades.

Also, why is this in New Orleans? I mean I love New Orleans but these characters are from New York City and often times cross paths with Spider-Man, Daredevil and other street level heroes of the Big Apple. Honestly, this feels completely separate from the larger universe it is supposed to be a part of.

The writing is slow, dull and I don’t care about the story one friggin’ iota.

The writing is also the biggest source of this show’s cringe. The dialogue is rough, unrefined and sounds like it was written by an intern that won’t get hired by the studio after graduation. Also, this gets pretty sociopolitical, not that that’s a bad thing but the show tends to hit you in the face with Mjolnir when trying to make those statements.

I have no urge to finish this or to watch a second season. I doubt that the show will last much longer and this is just further proof that the MCU is stretching itself way too thin, regardless of each project having its own filmmakers or showrunners. It’s just becoming so tiresome and this put me past the point of exhaustion. I wouldn’t call it “superhero fatigue”, as some people have called this market over saturation of superheroes, I would just call it a lack of the right people to steer these multiple ships.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Runaways, as both are mind numbingly bad and nearly unwatchable.

Comic Review: X-Infernus

Published: December 3rd, 2008 – March 25th, 2009
Written by: C.B. Cebulski
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jesse Delperdang

Marvel Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

I have always loved Magik and this series has one of my two favorite covers that she’s ever been on. Just ten years ago, heroines could still look super sexy and display the ideal form. Nowadays, the ideal female form is being pushed out of comic books, even though it’s been a very important staple in art throughout history, as well as escapism entertainment. Nowadays, we aren’t supposed to look at things that attract us because that’s implied rape or something. Also, I’m going to excuse the Papyrus typeface on the cover because the art distract from it. But c’mon, Marvel… fucking Papyrus, really?!

This is one of the better stories centered around Magik and her association with Limbo. Although, it isn’t as good as the original Magik miniseries from the early ’80s, it really brought me back to that special place. C.B. Cebulski weaves a good story here but on the flipside of that, his dialogue can induce a bit of cringe sometimes. For instance, here’s an actual quote from Pixie, immediately after she thinks she stabbed Nightcrawler to death:

“Oh my god Dr. McCoy I don’t know what happened Mr. Wagner asked to see my soul dagger so I pulled it out and then it was like it had a mind of its own and the next thing I know I’m all evil and like GRRRR and then it all goes black and Mr. Wagner’s on the ground with my soul dagger plunged into his–“

Yeah, wow… is that bad or am I just crazy? It’s the world’s longest unpunctuated string of dialogue ever but I guess you’re supposed to interpret that as her being scared, nervous and in shock. But really, did she need to say “GRRRR”? Who talks like this?

Apart from that, I don’t have any gripes with this story, except that it felt a bit too short. But the original Magik miniseries was the same length. That one just felt like it had more in it though.

When this starts, Magik is a demon ruling over Limbo. She discovers that Belasco, the demon warlock that made her what she is, has a daughter named Witchfire. While this isn’t Witchfire’s first appearance, it’s the first time that she and Magik have crossed paths.

The X-Men intervene to bring Magik back to the light and to help stop Withfire, who has grown extremely powerful in her quest to rule Limbo and to be more powerful than her underworld peers: Hela, Dormammu, Mephisto, Blackheart and Satannish.

I love Magik and the world of Limbo because these tales bring something really cool to the Marvel universe. They feel like ’80s Dungeons & Dragons stories.

Now this isn’t as good as the Magik miniseries but it’s a great continuation of the things that were established by it.

I also can’t end this without giving props to the art. I loved the look of this book, the character design and the atmosphere of Limbo. Overall, this was a fun, dark read.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Magik-centric stories: the Magik miniseries, the classic New Mutants stuff and the more recent New Mutants: Dead Souls but that one was pretty weak.