Black Panther (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Black Panther (2018)

Film: Now even though this is technically a rewatched film, I’m going to label it a To Watch Piler… why? Well I received a free ticket to see this at the cinema, and unfortunately it was a Mum’s and Bubs session, which means the house lights were on the whole time, so any scene that takes place at night is almost unseeable, especially when the lead cast member is wearing all black!

Black Panther is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which all join together in a story ten years in the making which will all be resolved in 2019’s sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther has been an important character in the Marvel comics universe since his first appearance in Fantastic Four comics in 1966, and has been an important member of not just that team, but also the Avengers as well as having several impressive comics series’ himself.

The film was directed by Creed director Ryan Coogler from a script that he co-wrote with Amber Lake’s Joe Robert Cole, and what they created caused a massive bag of excitement for its positive role models.

Black Panther tells of the country of Wakanda’s new King T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), who has ascended to the throne after the death of his father (in the film Captain America: Civil War) but the road to his regency isn’t smooth.

First, whilst being watched by his people, including his mother Ramona (Angela Bassett), potential wife Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright – the real revelation of this film), he must prove his worth as a leader in battle, but all the while, machinations are happening outside of Wakanda that may still threaten his rule.

A man calling himself Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has teamed up with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) but what is there nefarious plan, and how does it effect the rule of the Black Panther.

This film initially reminds me of a superheroic version of a James Bond film, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did. It has exotic locations, improbable inventions and a wry sense of humour as Boseman performs his African James Bond alongside Wright’s ‘Q’ and Forrest Whitaker’s ‘M’ as they face off against an eccentric bad guy with a sidekick with a bizarre weapon, not to mention a bevy of women, all of whom are defined by their skill, brains and asskickery rather than their looks.

The design of the film is magnificent: quite possibly the best a Marvel film to date has to offer, and the colours jump from the screen and are a nice tribute to the beauty of many African cultures, but occasionally the CGI effects fail. Ok, they don’t actually fail, but there is a standard of effects that some blockbuster films seem to think is ok which occasionally don’t sit right, due to the physics of gravity or the extension limits the human body has. I get it’s a movie based on a comic, but if you are selling it as real, it shouldn’t look like a comic. Also, there is some CGI animals that just don’t look quite right.

Ultimately, the one thing I find about this film that doesn’t work is it’s just an introduction. The Black Panther storyline is reminiscent of the first Iron Man’s story of the rights of ascension in a technological world, and serves really as just frosting on the cake that is actually film that could be called Wakanda: A Prelude to Infinity War, as it sets up one of the battlefields for the next Avengers movie, just as the first Thor and Captain America films were really just a way of getting the punter ready for a more complete film experience with the first Avengers film.

In saying that though, I don’t want to discount the amazing work it did with having a sympathetic bad guy and a great set of role models for various groups that in pop culture don’t get as many as the white male population.

This film, even though it is a fun film, in 100% sticking to the Marvel formula so if you are expecting TOO much different from the stations that the hype train stopped at whilst this film was at the cinemas, you will be disappointed.

Score: ***

Format: This film is presented in an impeccable 16:9 image with a matching DTS-HDMA 7.1 audio which is absolutely amazing.

Score: *****

Extras: As one expects with Marvel films, they have a pack of extras ready to role, some about this film, and others to advertise other product, but why wouldn’t you do that with a captured audience?

There is a Featurettes section which contains 4 parts: Crowning a New King which looks at the character of Black Panther and his world, The Hidden Kingdom Revealed is an introduction to the fictional African nation of Wakanda and making it a ‘real’ place, The Warriors Within looks at the actors who play the various Wakandans throughout the film and finally, Wakanda Tevealed: Exploring the Technology looks at the cool toys in the film.

The usual Marvel Gag Reel is present which seem to get less and less funny each time, as the actors seem to almost be acting the gags.

There is four Deleted Scenes which, like the rest of the film, are quite charming, and honestly, whilst I normally think most deleted scenes are better off deleted, there are a couple of bits here that have some heart that would not have hurt the film at all.

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion is a really cool look at all the writers of the character, including not just the movie creators, but also comic writers like Don McGregor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christopher Priest.

Marvel Studios:The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe is the first of the Marvel sales pitches on this disc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no doubt it is extraordinarily clever and it is pretty cool when any series of films have a linking world, like Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and more importantly, Universal’s monster movies of the 40s that had multiple crossovers in the form of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. This is a fine albeit short celebration and for a moment, you look at all these separate movies as one big story, rather than a series of films with a, to date, continually unresolved plot device as it’s connective tissue.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Antman and the Wasp is another one of those aforementioned self-promotional pieces that shows off the next attraction coming to the ci emas, in this case, Antman and the Wasp. The first movie was so charming that I actually am really looking more forward to this that either the sequel to Infinity War or my beloved Captain Marvel movie (in which I believe the main character has been miscast, but prove me wrong, Marvel).

There is also an Audio Commentary by writer/ director Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler is fascinating as it doesn’t talk about the usual writer/ director stuff, it also explores the design of the entire world of Black Panther and Wakanda.

Score: *****

WISIA: As it is a part of the greater world of the Marvel movies, I will watch it again, but it’s not a top tier Marvel movie for me.

Comic Book Confidential (1988) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Comic Book Confidential (1988)

The Australian DVD cover


Film: I am and always will be a comic fan. Sure there have been periods of time where I haven’t collection, the post-Image world of the 90s for example (I’m sorry guys, I like the old artwork, and the anime/ graffiti styled artwork of those guys never rubbed me the right way… I want my superheroes to be done by the old masters like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, John Buscema and their ilk) and recently I’ve become disappointed with the storylines which seem to be repetitive and basically made to sell the movies. I understand it’s a business but there seems to be a creative lull, which has happened before as the history of comics is circular and fad based. Something hot today will not even be published tomorrow.

Hell, as of this review we don’t even have the cornerstone of the Marvel universe, the Fantastic Four being published, and that was once taglined as ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’.

I do still however get collections of old stuff, and I’m fascinated by the history of the art form too, and my book collection has many ‘history of comics’ books amongst it.

William Gaines


This, however, is Ron Mann’s documentary of the history of comic books and it’s a pretty concise and interesting look at how they came about, but the best thing about this doco is the absolutely essential stories from some of the old men, and young guns, of the industry.

It’s pretty special to know the history of Bill Gaines, and then hear him tell stories himself, and to actually hear my hero, Jack Kirby’s voice, is amazing. 

This doesn’t just look at the history of the art of comics, it also takes a walk down the history of comics legacy, and how it was effected by, and how it effected society. There is some great archival footage of the Senatorial Commitee on Juvenile Delinquency and some disturbing stories about court cases where artists and writers were sued for things they wrote or drew.

There is some cool presentations of classic comic covers rarely seen, but occasionally that footage is spoilt by some poorly executed, amateurish animation of the covers which was unnecessary and detracts from the amazing original art.

Harvey Kurtzman


If you want a brief history of the industry, and one that is American centric as none of the great European or Asian artists really get a look in, this is your place to go, but there is so much more to many of the stories discussed in this doco. Honestly. This doco could do with a 1988 to now sequel!

Ron, are you listening?

Score: ****

The Australian DVD menu screen


Format: This documentary was reviewed with the Australian DVD release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The film is presented in 4:3 and has a 2.0 audio track, both of which are of various degrees of quality due to the historical nature of some of the footage and audio. It doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the film though.

Score: ***

Extras: There is several extra on this disc though the first couple are a bit Kevin Smith indulgent. I guess if you pay someone to turn up you take advantage of the time.

The first note is that this doco from the 80s has a new introduction by Kevin Smith, where he basically points out that even ten years later when his introduction was done, it was still relevant.

A Conversation with Kevin Smith is more ‘ a justification for reading comics by Kevin Smith’ and whilst I get the heart of where it’s coming from I don’t get why I have to justify, or convince someone that adults can read comic, the same as a cricket fan does have to justify to me why he likes it. It doesn’t matter what you dig, just respect each other, and if you think you have to justify your passion to a friend, you need new friends.

Silent Bobs Speaks is a not very funny series of questions aimed at Smith’s ‘Silent Bob’ character. Lame.

There is also a trailer for the film.

The is an interview with director Ron Mann who talks about the making of this film and his career in general.

Last there are text biographies of some of the artists featured in the doco, including Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Jaime Hernandez, Shary Flenniken, Lynda Barry, Victor Moscow, Bill Griffith, Jack Kirby (of course), William M. Gaines, Francoise Molly, Al Feldstein, Art Spiegelman, Sue Coe, Gilbert Shelton, Dan O’Neill, Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Pekar, Spain, Charles Burns and Paul Mavrides. They are single paragraph bios so don’t expect an entire indepth history of each person.

Score: ***

WISIA: I have watched this many times and will probably continue to watch it many more times.

Robert Crumb

Necessary Evil: Super-villains of DC Comics (2013)

One from the re watch pile…
Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)

The cover of the US DVD


Film: I’ve been collecting comics for well over 40 years, and I still love them to death. I do admit that I did have a period in the 90s where I did not buy any, but that was due to Image comics; not the comics or artists themselves as what they did for artists and writers in the industry was long overdue, but the style of their art.

I’m an old school, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corbin, Robert Crumb guy, so these new flashy artists had no interest to me, and when Marvel and DC started emulating their style, I was out!

Thankfully this didn’t last too long and soon I was back in the fold, enjoying the adventures of masked heroes fighting the good fight against evil, and being a bi-fan: that is, I buy both Marvel and DC comics… but why both? Why in a world where most people buy one or the other, would I get comics from both universes?

The answer is this: I love the realism of most of Marvel’s heroes having a basis in science rather than magic, and without a doubt, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four is still the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, even though as of the date of this review it hasn’t been published for several years. 

On the flip side of that, I think that DC’s bad guys are greater than Marvel’s. Lex Luther is a great example: in Marvel comics, his equivalent is a good guy, Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer who became Iron Man. In reality, those sorts of people are seen by the general public as villains, like Luthor. Luther doesn’t hate mankind or want world destruction, he’s xenophobic against Superman.

The man responsible for some of the greatest Batman comics ever written, Scott Snyder


In reality, what would mankind do if an alien came to earth? Luthor’s actions are probably more accurate. Acceptable? No, but when are mankind’s actions acceptable?

Another DC villain that I think is possibly the greatest villain of all time is Jack Kirby’s Darkseid. Darkseid is the dictator of a world called Apokalips, and is at odds with the ENTIRE DC universe. You Marvel fans think Thanos is something to be concerned about? Darkseid would eat Thanos for breakfast!

Anyway, this documentary, Necessary Evil, sits as a great companion piece to the previous documentary Secret Origins: The History of DC Comics, which was released three years earlier. Necessary Evil is hosted by Christopher Lee (the ultimate super villain?) and has interviews with creative types from all walks of life. From psychologists to actors, including but not limited to director Zach Snyder, screenplay writer Geoff Boucher, co-creator of Harley Quinn Paul Dini, DC editor Bobbie Chase, DC editor in chief Bob Harras and many many more.

Producer and author of The Boy Who Loved Batman, Michael Uslan


The film features clips from comics, cartoons, video games, animated films and major motion pictures, and displays many incarnations of the various villains, and is not just a great history of the villains of the DC universe, but is also an interesting psychological look at why we love heroes, but love villains even more.

Recommended, but it’s really only for the most devout of DC comics fans.

Score: *****

The US DVD menu screen


Format: Necessary Evil was reviewed on a region 1 DVD which runs for 99 minutes. The image is presented in a 1.78:1 image and a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, both of which are pretty good.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc starts with a trailer for DC’s We Can Be Heroes incentive (which is a pretty cool cause http://www.wecambeheroes.org), Man of Steel, the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, the DC animated feature Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and the DC animated TV series, Green Lantern, Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and that’s the entirety of the extras.

Score: **

WISIA: Being a comic nut, I have to admit to watching this many many times.

An animated Green Lantern villain: Star Sapphire

Marvel Masterwork: The Fantastic Four Volume 1

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE FANTASTIC FOUR VOLUME 1

Ask any comics fan what is the most important ‘modern’ comic, and most will say Fantastic Four issue 1. It’s the comic that put Marvel on the map and for years was known as ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’ and for years, it was!

The creation of the Fantastic Four was instigated by publisher Martin Goodman, when he heard that DC’s Justice League of America was doing well, so he asked one of his writers, Stan Lee, to create something similar. Lee’s concept was to instead of making the members ‘super-friends’, he would instead create a super-family so the connection between the members was more permanent. The one member who wasn’t ‘family’ was made to think of his powers as a disability, and stayed with the team to get a ‘cure’. Lee created this by using older characters mixed with new ideas, and comic legend Jack Kirby was called in to co-create not just the team, but what would become the Marvel Universe.

The Fantastic Four is a super hero/ adventuring group consisting of four people with extraordinary powers bestowed on them by cosmic rays that washed over them: super intelligent Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic, who has a stretchy, malleable body, the powerful Sue Richards, aka The Invisible Woman (though in this particular collection is Invisible Girl) who can turn invisible and create invisible constructs, pilot Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, a man with a literal rocky exterior and young hothead, John Storm, the Human Torch, who can burst into flames and fly.

These four are essentially explorers (like DC’s Challengers of the Unknown, a comic Kirby worked on) but end up in situations where they have to use their powers to perform acts of heroism.

Unfortunately for Lee and Kirby’s greatest creation, the FF has been cinematically mistreated over the last few years with three films that contained some gross miscasting, bad storytelling and even just daft realisations of classic comic imagery. Actually, Galactus from Rise of the Silver Surfer is probably one of the top three badly realised comic to movie bad guys ever (he’s like a giant cosmic fart), the other’s being Green Lantern’s undulating vomitus, baby faced Parallax and Doctor Strange’s pan-dimensional burp version of Dormammu… seriously, three of comicdom’s greatest villains reduced to various excretions.

These have of course, caused Marvel to stop production of the comic after several awesome relaunches by major writing and artistic talents! For me, the Marvel universe is a lesser place without Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny, and even though Johnny is now a member of the Inhumans and the Thing has been a Guardian of the Galaxy and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (well, kind of), it’s not enough. 

I impatiently await their return…

Story: Stan Lee’s writing of this period may seem hokey now, but it was revolutionary at the time. His depiction of a family in crisis as they become more than adventurers, and their subsequent battles as they get used to acting as a fighting team and become accustomed to their powers is wonderful, and the jargon is a fun read too. This collection sees the FF get their powers, and then come up against the threats of the Mole Man, Skrulls, Miracle Man, Doctor Doom, the Sub-Mariner, Kurrgo…. and many more! It’s a roller coaster of fun which has time travel and adventure of all types. The best thing about this collection is that it kept some of the little mistakes made when these comics were first published, like when the first time Sue, the Invisible Girl, becomes ‘invinsible’…

Score: ****

Art: Jack Kirby is my favourite comic artist of all time, but I prefer his work from the 70s to his sixties work. That’s not to say this isn’t amazingly detailed art, it’s just not as much for me as what he was doing in OMAC, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Demon, which was blockier, but for me more dynamic.

Score: ****1/2

WIRIA: It where the comics we read today come from, so how could I not revisit it regularly. Revolutionary.

Fantastic 4 (2015) Review

If he had still been alive, comics legend and creative genius Jack Kirby would have been 100 this month, so to celebrate a centenary of ‘The King’, the To Watch Pile is going to commemorate his creative output with a selection of reviews of Kirby’s creations that have made it to screen.
Thank you, Jack Kirby, for the amazing characters you created or co-created: Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Etrigan the Demon, Darkseid, Groot, Kamandi, OMAC, etc etc.

The comics community became a lesser place with your passing, and we owe you everything.

One from the re watch pile…

Fantastic 4 (2015)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: You think it wouldn’t be hard, and yet for some reason, production companies seem to find it difficult to do 100% of the time. I don’t get how writers or directors of films based on comics (or books for that matter) can have a problem making a good superhero movie, and I especially don’t understand how someone can take an established franchise like the Fantastic Four, the cornerstone of the entire Marvel Universe, part of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s literary and artistic legacy, and screw it up.

… and it’s been done by more than one creative team too. I can only imagine this means there is far too much ego involved, as what Stan and Jack created all those years ago was perfect. Sure our knowledge about science has extended so we know that travelling through ‘cosmic rays’ (do those things even exist) won’t change us into mutated heroes with the powers to stretch, turn invisible, burst into flames or become a massive stony thing, but surely with solid foundations, something strong can be built

Do I really need to go to far into the origins of the comic? Maybe a brief word: the original FF comic told of a scientist, Reed Richards, his pilot friend Ben Grimm, his girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny who steal a rocket to go into space but the experiment backfired, and the four of them end up with superpowers which they use to further their experiments, explore alternate universes and of course, fight against villains who may step in front of them, like Mole Man, Namor and Doctor Doom.

This film takes the core elements and both updates it socially and scientifically which is a great idea. In this film, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has discovered, as a teenager, a way to send things to an alternate dimension. He and his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) enter the device in the school science fair where they are visited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) who take Reed as a student at his school/ think tank as he has solved a problem they had with creating a dimensional gate.

They are almost completely finished the gate, with the help of Storm’s natural son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and ne’er do well Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) when the group funding the project decide to hand it over to NASA before they can send a human occupant. Johnny, Victor, Reed, who insists on bringing Ben, get drunk one night and decide to use the device first, but it has desperately horrible results.

Kate Mara as Sue Storm


First the planet in the other dimension starts to fall apart, and Doom is lost, and upon the return home, the rest of them, including Sue who is still on earth, are irradiated by the alternate dimensions energy, and they end up with powers: Sue can become invisible, Reed can stretch to impossible lengths, Johnny can set himself on fire (and is resistant to it) and Ben has become a horrible stone creature.

The government starts experiments on them and using them for secret missions, but not before Reed escapes, trying to find a cure for their ‘diseases’.

He is recaptured and they return to the other dimension where they find that Doom is now in complete control, and wants to destroy Earth…. It will the FF over come Doom’s evil scheme?

Probably.

I’d like to compliment this film on a couple of things. The production design is fantastic. The whole film looks ‘realistic’ and even the alternate dimension looks like something real, and not an over coloured, over saturated CGI experiment gone crazy, like in Doctor Strange for example.

Another thing I liked about this film was it treated a Fantastic Four story as a story about science and exploration, and not about superheroes. If the FF never had gained superpowers, they still would have been scientists and explorers, and that is the core of the group.

I liked the fact that even though this is a Marvel comics film, it’s not a Marvel Cinematic Universe film (it’s not produced by Disney, is why) which means that it doesn’t have the weight that all Marvel films have now. You miss one Marvel film and half the time you won’t know what’s going on or who some of the characters are in the next one, which is a clever way to make sure consumers inhale all your products. This you can sit down and watch and walk away from… and you probably will.

Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm


The last thing I like about it was the modernising of the family dynamics, in having Sue being a Caucasian adopted into an African American family is barely even dealt with, and that was cool. I have no real problem with characters having their ‘race’ changed if there is a story device to it, and not just for social constructs and approval. In actual fact, I don’t care about a person’s race in playing a character as long as they play it well. Did this part of the story need to be updated for today? Probably not, but it works.

A little bit of updating is fine, but another issue I have with some comic movies is the need to adapt the villain into the heroes origin. I didn’t like it in Tim Burton’s Batman, and I don’t like it here where Doctor Doom was merged into the FF’s origin, much like they felt the need to do in the previous incarnation of the characters. What is really frustrating is that with the change here with pan-dimensional travel, the door was open to use a completely different villain from the FF’s history, Annihilus, instead of retreading Doom’s ground.

The problem with this film though is the pacing. The build up should be slow and deliberate, which for either a first film in a franchise or a science fiction film is ok as the ‘physics’ of the universe in which the main characters exist needs to be established, but this build up needs to have a powerhouse payoff… unfortunately FF doesn’t only have weird pacing throughout the film, with a lot of false starts, it also just… stops. The big battle against the antagonist just finishes with no real payoff: it feels like they ran out of money or something and just said’ yeah, that’ll do, pack it up’, which is sad because there is SO much potential.

I feel this film commits the worst crime a film can commit: it’s a missed opportunity.

Score: **1/2

Fantastic 4 Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 100 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.39:1 video with a matching DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: A few extras on this disc.

The disc opens with an auto play of a trailer of Maze Runner: The Scotch Trials, before going to the main menu.

The main extras include:

Powering Up: Superpowers of the Fantastic Four shows the effects of the powers of all the FF, and how the accident caused all their powers to manifest differently. Basically it explains outside the confines of the film why they all got different powers.

The Quantum Gates looks at the special effects development of the portal to the other dimension.

Planet Zero sees how the cats and effects people made a convincing alternate dimensional world.

The Score interviews director Josh Trank and composer Marco Beltrami about the soundtrack for the film.

There is also concept art for Planet Zero and the Quantum Gates but if I want to look at still pictures, I’ll buy a book. No sale.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I like the look of this film, but the pacing is all over the place and it just doesn’t sit well. If I watch it again it will be just for the production design and Kate Mara.

Miles Teller as Reed Richards

Nerds of Oz: week ending 10th February 2017

Week Ending 10th February 2017
Mini-haul…
Blurays

This week I grabbed a couple of new releases: the animated Justice League Dark and Ouija Origin of Evil.


Bust/ Statues

Grabbed this cool Harley Quinn (yes, again) Mugshot bust. Normally I’d do a YouTube opening, but I couldn’t resist getting stuck into this straight away!


Board/ Card Games

Picked up a copy of Games Workshop’s Space Hulk. I had this years ago, and saw one quite cheap so I jumped on it. I loved this game in my twenties, this and another called Talisman, and I’m glad to have it again.