First Look: PlayStation 4 Spider-Man

One from the to play pile…

First Look: PlayStation 4 Spider-Man

I love superhero video games, even more than horror-related ones. I think it’s because in general I find that horror games occasionally plod, and depend on jump-scares for their horror value, but that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it?

Games occasionally try to replicate the feelings one get when one is encountering another source of that genre. Horror games want to emulate a great horror film, but they can’t really as the greatest horror films tell a lot of story in their short timespan, and a horror game that does that doesn’t have much interaction, which defeats the purpose of it being a ‘game’.

Superhero games work perfectly as superhero comics are action surrounded by story, which means a LOT of interaction as part of the storytelling, as that is the nature of the genre.

When people talk about superhero games, DC usually gets discussed first as they have dominated video games with their brilliant Arkham Asylum games and the Injustice series, which combined the best of the DC Universe and Mortal Kombat… but Insomniac Games may have turned that around.

Now I have only had this game for a little over a day, but I’m in love with what it does. It’s true to the character and the design of everything is immaculate, from the Fisk security employees to the multiple Spidey costumes, which so far I have opened his original suit, the video game suit, a punk suit, the Scarlett Spider suit, the Iron Spider suit and it looks like heaps more are available.

It really feels like a Marvel comic set in New York as well. The city is magnificent and bloody huge! It’s obviously not as densely populated as one would expect to see as the real New York, but I imagine the processor of most systems would have trouble with that kind of population.

Our story isn’t a part of either the regular Marvel Universe or of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but is instead it’s own thing and starts about 8 years after Peter Parker first became Spider-man, and the arrest of Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin starts a series of events that will bring a new gang to light on New York, and will bring Spidey up against many of his old foes.

The action is fast and you get very quickly into the game as it tastes like a Marvel product, especially with Stan Lee making an appearance as Restauranteur Mick!

There is heaps of cool releases of this game, I grabbed the special edition which came with an art book (which contains spoilers) and a download code for some cosmetic extras. Also available was a ‘statue’ edition, which came with a statue of Spiderman, and a PS4 edition which came with a ‘Spiderman’ themed PS4.

There is heaps of cool other stuff available too. Funko have made Pops of the 4 main characters, and there is an amazing art book from Titan Books, which is totally worth it if you are into cosplay as the designs of EVERYTHING from this game feature within its pages.

So far I am having a blast with this game and am finding it a decent challenge with a fun skill tree to advance through. The last open-world game I played for a long time was Watchdogs 2, and I’m thinking that this game will take over from that with mindless fun can be had with bank-robbery styled side quests, and puzzles to expand your Spider-armoury.

All in all, if you have a PS4 or like Marvel characters, you need this game.

R.I.P. Steve Ditko

Was sad to see that comics legend Steve Ditko, co-creator Of Spiderman, Dr Strange, and the lesser know, but still important Charlton comics Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, as well as supernatural comic from Defiant Dark Dominion.

I discovered Ditko’s work as a kid with the reprints that Newton comics did in Australia of various Marvel comics, and whilst I was really into the dynamic action of Jack Kirby, I also appreciated the quiet moments that Ditko was able to convey, as well as his depiction of Spidey as a lithe hero, something Kirby perhaps could not have done.

He also had this amazing capacity to add an almost regal, austereness to every panel featuring Dr. strange.

I think the last time I really read a Ditko comic, other than reprints, was in the failed Jim Shooter comic company Defiant, who he drew an amazing comic called Dark Dominion, and his artwork always contained that same calm beauty.

Rest In Peace, Steve, and thank you so much for giving us opportunities to see some amazing artwork.

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.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Review

One from the re watch pile for Jack Kirby month…
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: Captain America has always been ‘my’ superhero. When I was a early teen, which is when I really started to collect comics properly (before that I just bought them at random, rather than collect a series consistently), and that first series that I couldn’t do without was Cap’s. I remember clearly that it was issue 262, drawn my Mike Zeck and it had Cap being held aloft by a giant version of himself known as ‘The Ameridroid’. I had a great friend in high school and the two of us were ‘the comic nerds’ though he was an Iron Man guy, whilst I was all about Cap.

He was my friend regardless of his bad taste in heroes.

My father one day took me to Comic Kingdom in Sydney, and bought for me a full second run of Jack Kirby’s Captain America from the 70s (and a full run of Jack Kirby’s The Demon from DC) and I was totally enamoured by how awesome Kirby’s art was and became a lifelong fan. I did have other Kirby comics in my collection, I quickly discovered, and they became the jewels in my comic crown.

So fast forward to about 30 years later, and I hear that a ‘proper’ Captain America film was being made that would be part of a greater collective of a Cinema version of the Marvel Universe, and am stoked that the guy who was cast as Johnny Storm in a substandard Fantastic Four movie previously.

More importantly, I heard it was going to be pretty true to the comic, and the lack of an Italian Red Skull made my heart flutter.

… and boy, was I not disappointed!

The Captain (Chris Evans) is somewhat disappointed in his way effort as an entertainer.


Captain America: The First Avenger tells of a young man Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) during the Second World War who, due to a lack of physical prowess, was rejected to join the army, though he is eventually accepted to join a test program to create the perfect ‘super soldier’. 

When he proves himself not in strength or skill, but in mind and heart, he is accepted into the experimental program, overseen by Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci). He finds that he is not the first to undergo such a procedure, and that a German soldie, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, who I still think would be an amazing Joker in a Batman film), went through an imperfect version of the process which caused him to become deformed with a red, skull-like visage.

Unfortunately, Dr. Erskine is killed by a German spy during the procedure and when Steve emerges as a muscular heroic figure and pursues him, he kills himself with a cyanide pill. With Erskine dead, Rogers is not used as a soldier, but instead a promoter of war bonds and a part of the war effort entertainment troupe, until he is caught up in a rescue mission which not only reunites him with his childhood friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) but puts him at odds with Schmidt, and his collaborator, Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).

Will Captain America survive his first mission, or will he end up in a plane crash and be frozen for 50 years…?

Achtung, Baby! It’s the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).


They nailed the entire creation of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s character in this film. The beauty of do a film set in the past is you don’t have to ‘update’ it like they did with Iron Man, who got his chest injuries differently in the comics (well, basically the same, but in a different war) so there is no part really where the comic fan might get a cringe… like the Joker killing Batman’s parents in Tim Burton’s Batman…

Sigh.

They do modernise Bucky though, as the concept of a young boy being sent to war to fight alongside men would have child endangerment groups livid, and let’s face it, the kid sidekick is a terrible idea (sorry Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, Aqualad, etc). Any ‘hero’ who puts kids in danger is no hero at all!

The amazing thing is that this film never really falls into the trappings of what could make it a bad movie. Captain America is seen as an icon of good, rather than a pro-America cheerleader, and that is something that could have very easily been mistakenly done. This is due to the excellent writing from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, which never talks down, nor does it feel comic-y: it’s a war movie with a superhero in it! The only time it goes into melodramatic areas is with the Red Skull, which it has to as he is an over-the-top supervillain!

The direction is really good too. Joe Johnson didn’t just set this film in the 40s, sometimes it even is filmed like a movie of that era, and I got bits and pieces of things like Raoul Walsh’s White Heat out of the occasional visual. He didn’t copy scenes, but there is an occasional stylistic emulation, which never becomes parody which is a nice touch.

Anyway, this is a great superhero movie and a pretty good war movie too, and throw in a brief cameo of Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman just to make the nerd in me jump up and take notice!

Score: ****

The Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This Australian bluray copy of the film runs for approximately 124 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.35: 1 image with an astonishing Dolby DTS-HD 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of cool extras on this disc!

Commentary by Director Joe Johnson, Director Of Photography Shelley Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford which is a good one, insomuch as it’s informative and conversational.

Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer is, upon reflection, a tool to prepare us for Coulson’s character becoming a bigger part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s an entertaining short, in the vein of ‘bully gets his just deserts’ styled YouTube videos.

Next there is a bunch of really interesting featurettes:

Outfitting Cap looks at the entire design process and styling of Cap’s outfit and his shield.

Howling Commandos looks at the actors who played Cap’s platoon, the Howling Commandos, firmly placed in comic lore, though Nick Fury is absent (he was their sergeant in the comics).

Heightened Technology looks at the tech used in the film, which needed to look like ACTUAL WWII technology, but still have a scifi element to it.

The Transformation tells of the special effects needed to make ‘skinny Steve’, the pre-super soldiered Steve Rogers, on Chris Evans’ muscular body/

Behind the Skull explores the performance by Hugo Weaving and special effects of the Red Skull, Cap’s arch enemy.

Captain America’s Origin is a discussion with Captain America co-creator Joe Simon about his and Jack Kirby’s creation.

The Assembly Begins is, of course, a first look at what would become The Avengers.

Deleted Scenes has 4 deleted scenes which can be watched with a commentary by the previously mention members of the film commentary team (for some reason one doesn’t have the commentary, but you’ll have to deal with it).

There are four trailers: two for the film, one for the video game and one for the Avengers cartoon.

This version of the film also came with the film on DVD and a downloadable digital copy as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s Captain America; you bet I’ll watch it again… and again…. and again….

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes aim…

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

Doctor Strange (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Doctor Strange (2016) Review


Film: Disney and its Marvel movies: that unstoppable juggernaut that is telling one gigantic tale. The series of films that as they go on, people who are behind need to spend even more time attempting to catch up. The series of films that some blindly follow as if they are the ultimate form of cinematic storytelling. The series of films that will eventually implode due to either the fact that no viewer will want to accept a replacement Tony Stark or Steve Rogers (when the actors get too old to play them), that the weight of how many films you need to watch becomes inconceivable or just cinema moves on and away from superhero movies.

… and don’t think that won’t happen: it has before! Ask all those failed superhero films that fell apart, or worse, failed at the box office, after 1989’s Batman. I still to this day wish that the Plastic Man film with Paul Ruebens had been made!

To their credit, I have enjoyed most of them, but noticed some of them have been shoehorned into the series for no reason other than to introduce the character, which I feel the first Thor was like, and others have had their inclusion in the Marvel Universe forced upon us, like the ‘Falcon’ scene in Ant-man. I do have to admit to getting a minor twinge of excitement when I watch them though, having been a lifelong comics reader.

Doctor Strange was one film I was quite interested to see how it would pan out. The visual style of the early comics, especially those drawn by Steve Ditko were going to be a MAJOR part of how the film should look, but they were so way out, and so revolutionary in their art design that I couldn’t actually perceive how it would translate to cinema.


Thankfully, they managed to pull that part of the design off, but I found another few problems within the film. Much like the movies, the comic of Doctor Strange, invented by comic legend Stan Lee and the aforementioned artist Ditko, was invented to show a more mystical side of the Marvel Universe after so much had been science based, like mutations, or radiation.

Our story introduces us to pompous blowhard surgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who whilst driving, and picking and choosing which medical case he should help to further his career, has an accident which destroys his hands.

He spends his fortune on trying to get them rebuilt so they can be used again, but instead finds salvation in a place that a skeptical man of science wouldn’t: spiritualism.

He meets a man who’s irreparable backbone is seemingly fixed and he attributed it to the teachings of the citizens of Kamar-Taj, and so Strange journeys to Kathmandu hoping for a quick fix, but what he finds is that the teachings of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) do much more for him than just fix his hands.

Strange is a quick and cheeky student and quickly is caught up in a skirmish within Kamar-Taj’s ranks when renegade student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) steals pages from a mystical book so he can destroy the barrier between the astral planes letting the ancient being Dormammu (also played by Cumberbatch) take control.

Strange, along with disciples of the Ancient One, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) band together to try and stop Kaecilius, but will they all survive the time-bending will of this being from another dimension? Only the end of the film will know for sure!

This being a Marvel film, don’t forget to stray for two post credit sequences, one which reveals this film’s link to the rest of the Marvel films, and also a revelation as to whom may be Strange’s villain in a sequel, should it come about…

I had high hopes for this film as Strange has always been an amazing comic, so visually exciting that I couldn’t wait to see how it would be executed. The initial trailers depressed me as all I could see was a visual rip off of Inception, but I’m glad to say that those thoughts were abated by the actual film. 


There was a lot to like in this film. The cast, for the most part, play their parts well, and the production design is fantastic, and I have to say that to not have the ending being a gigantic slugfest, but instead something more cerebral was a nice change for a superhero film. The inclusion of Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, one of the three main characters from a brief seventies comic called Night Nurse, is pretty cool. Mads Mikkelson and Benedict Wong both deserve a mention too as their performances are excellent.

The special effects are particularly amazing. I love how Marvel films push the envelope and really explore every technical thing they can do, and can’t do yet, to get the visual comic-ness happening in the film.

My criticisms of this film lies in only one area, but it repeatedly took me out of being ‘in’ the film: Cumberbatch’s American accent. My wife used to be a big fan of the TV series House, but I couldn’t stand it for one reason: Hugh Laurie’s awful American accent, and I feel Cumberbatch’s accent is similar here. It feels like a parody of the accent rather than an ‘actual’ cinematic American accent. That may seem petty, but every time he opened his mouth I was reminded that he was a British actor playing an American, and being removed from the roller coaster ride of a film so regularly makes it difficult to enjoy. That inability to maintain my suspension of disbelief made the film somewhat of a chore to watch. That may seem petty, but it was like being repeated interupted during the film, and I just had trouble investing my full attention into it due to that.

Overall I enjoyed the story of the film, but I couldn’t get INTO it due to the accent factor I mentioned above. I like to be absorbed by a film, and this didn’t do it for me.

Score: **


Format: As one would expect from a modern film on bluray, this looks magnificent. This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray, which runs for approximately 114 minutes and is presented in 2.39: 1 image with an outstanding DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: As expected on a Marvel Studios disc, there’s more extras than you can poke a stick at!

There’s a bunch of featurettes including which explore the creation of the film: A Strange Transformation (which looks at the character of Doctor Strange himself), Strange Company (an exploration of the co-stars), The Fabric of Reality (looks at the costuming and production design of the film), Across Time and Space (more production design but now with the more dimensional aspects of the Strange world) and The Score-cerer Supreme (obviously, about the score to the film as created by Michael Giacchino). These featurettes can be watched separately or as a whole, which I think is a far better way to watch it.

Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look explores where the Marvel films have come from, their impressive ability to make one story from different titles (which, like I mentioned, could also be there downfall), and where they are going to upon entering phase 3.

Team Thor Part 2 is an amusing look at what Thor has been doing whilst ‘off duty’ which is basically being a bum and torturing his flat mate in Australia.

Deleted and Extended Scenes features 5 scenes not seen in the film, my favourite being Strange meeting Daniel Drumm, who Marvel fans will not as being the brother of Brother Voodoo, the 70s horror character, and one time Sorcerer Supreme. Typically, none of these scenes move the story forward so the film is better or without them.

As using there is a Marvel gag reel, which is professional actors screwing around. Hilarious.

We also have a pretty cool commentary with Scott Derrickson, the director of the film, and it’s one of those interesting commentaries where the director is quite invested in the project.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ll probably only watch it again if I binge watch the entire Marvel catalogue, otherwise, probably not.

Comic Review: Secret Avengers Volume 1: Mission to Mars

Secret Avengers 1

You’re going to get an idea of where this review is going by my very next sentence…

I REALLY wanted to like this.

This collection combines the first five issues of Secret Avengers, which is an undercover, covert Avengers group. This comic took place right after the amazing Death of Captain America storyline which really shook up the Marvel status quo, as we now had the Winter Soldier as Captain America, and Steve Rogers (Cap’s alter ego) left without that role.

The newly christened ‘The Captain’ in charge of the aforementioned group, which confusingly consisted of Black Widow, the Beast, War Machine, Nova, Valkyrie, Ant-man (not Hank, and not Scott but some other guy) and Moon Night.

In this story, the Secret Avengers find themselves on a … yep, Mission to Mars… in pursuit of the Serpent Crown, a powerful icon that would be deadly in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, something called The Shadow Council is also in pursuit, the weird thing is though, is the guy in charge looks like a certain Nick Fury… and what happens when one of the members of the Avengers turns against them…

This was written by Ed Brubaker, who wrote the Death of Cap storyline and is an amazing writer, but it seems that this comic was a massive misstep. Moon Knight and Black Widow are completely wasted and by sticking them on Mars, are outclassed., and the new Ant-man is, well, a jerk.

The art of issues 1 to 4 is by Mike Deodato Jr , and this is an artist who just gets better every time I see his work. If you look back at his early art, he seemed little more than a post-Image comics stooge whos talent lay in his ability to emulate them, with his art looking like the unwanted child of a marriage between Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld’s early work, but now it’s leaning towards the great John Buscema.

The fifth issue has art by David Aja, who is a spectacular artist who worked on the fantastic Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon with support from Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano.

The reviewed copy of this comic is a really nice hardcover volume from Marvel, which in addition to the five issues has a bunch of alternate covers.

Visually this story is a treat but the mix of characters is like eating chocolate and fried cheese: by themselves nice, but together, just wrong, and the story suffers for it.

SCORE: ***

 

Nerds of Oz: Week Ending 4th February 2017

Week Ending 4th February 2017
A few different things this week…

Blurays


Grabbed two new releases from Cinema Cult this week: John Waters’ hilarious Serial Mom and the snakey 70s flick Sssssss.

Comics


Nice bunch of comics this week. Some from my local comics shop and other off eBay, not many of them read, unfortunately!

Slayer Repentless #1 from Dark Horse Comics. I dig the band Slayer, so I couldn’t resist this.

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 #1 from DC Comics.

Justice League Vs Suicide Squad #6 from DC Comics.

Kamandi Challenge #1 from DC Comics.

Hulk #2 from Marvel Comics.

Infamous Iron Man #4 from Marvel Comics.

Inhumans Vs X-Men #3 from Marvel Comics.


Marvel’s Greatest Comics starring the Fantastic Four #94 from Marvel Comics. Written by Stan Lee with art by John Buscema, this comic reprints Fantastic Four issue 114 from 1971, and is an example, in both art and story, as to why modern comics will never hold up to Marvel’s heyday, and why classics are called ‘classics’. I’m not trying to be facetious there either: it’s not just about art and story. When Buscema drew a comic, every panel was laid out perfectly and the story always read true. There’s a cool back up story by Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby starring the Ant Man too.

READ! Marvel Two-in-One presents the Thing and the Black Widow #10 from Marvel Comics. From 1975 this Chris Claremont shined and Bob Brown drawn book . The Thing gets caught up in a terrorist plot that the Black Widow wouldn’t have had a chance thwarting by herself at all. It’s, sexist, and it the seventies.

READ! The New Mutants #3, 15, 17, 31, 36, 37, 85, 89, 91, 95, 96 and 97. In an effort to reclaim a full set of The New Mutants (I stupidly sold mine several years ago) I have picked up a bunch of issues. Even though none of them are necessarily favourite characters, I always really liked the comic… well, until the later issues when it turned into a badly drawn prequel to X-Force. The early ones with stories by Chris Claremont and art by the likes of Bob McLeod, Bill Sienkiewicz and Mary Wiltshire are so much better than the later ones written by Louise Simonson and art by Rob Liefled, which are just horrible.

Vinyl


Scored a cheap copy of Stranger Things Volume one on blue/ red vinyl. I’m not a great fan of the show, but I LOVED the soundtrack.

Video Games


Grabbed a copy of Fallout 4 for under 20 bucks, brand new! I’m not really big on RPGs so much, but for under 20 I’ll suffer along with it.

Board/ Card Games



I haven’t bought any new games in ages so I thought i’d give a few new ones a go!

Mars Attacks Tabletop Wargame has super simple rules for a super simple fella! I’ve always thought the Mars Attacks trading cards were awesome and the movie is a bit of a hoot, so I’m prepared to give this a full-tilt go!

I also grabbed a two pack of decks for Magic the Gathering. I loved this game when it first came out and thought I’d give this a go.

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose comic review

BLACK WIDOW: THE NAME OF THE ROSE



I have always been more of a fan of the low or no powered superheroes who tell low key crime stories: I like my heroes grounded a little. Subsequently, I really like characters like Batman, The Punisher, Captain America, Robin, Catwoman and their ilk… and yes, I know some of them are ‘enhanced’ but those with powers still have a gravity effect to them: no flying, invisibility, they can’t burst into flames etc etc. At the end of the day, if you fire enough bullets into these guys, they are going to die, and I like that sense of vulnerability. Don’t get me wrong, the galaxy spanning stories of Superman or Silver Surfer can be exiting, but I like to think that these guys are defending my neighbourhood, or country.

In amongst these characters is the wonderful Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, whom I have been a fan of since I first saw her in Daredevil comics in the 70s when she was ol’ Hornhead’s main squeeze. Thankfully since those days of the female hero not being of any use unless they are the girlfriend of a hero are gone, and the Widow has become a major player in the Marvel Universe, not just due to the many mini-series’ and regular series’ that have been released, but also due to the excellent portrayal by Scarlett Johansson in the various Marvel movies.
*sigh* Scarlett…
This review is of the hardcover collection of the story The Name of the Rose, which collects Black Widow Issues 1 to 5, with some additional bits and pieces from Enter the Heroic Age issue 1.

Story: There is essentially two stories in this collection. The first, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story Coppélia, is little more than a throwaway introduction to the character, which name drops Captain America and displays an ineffective origin of Black Widow in 8 pages, told through actions rather than rehashing the story we have seen a hundred times over, but essentially, if you don’t know her origin, it appears a little vague. It’s generic, and the art does it no favours, but more on that later.

The main story, The Name of the Rose, is written by New York Times best selling fantasy author Marjorie Liu, who won a comics industry Eisner award for her work on Image Comics’ Monstress.

The story tells of Black Widow meeting up with an old acquaintance name Black Rose, but after the meeting she is assaulted and cut open. She is returned to Avengers HQ where Tony Stark (Iron Man), Logan (Wolverine) and James Buchanan Barnes (the Winter Soldier) watch over her whilst she recovers, but soon, rumours start spreading about Black Widow having files on all her friends, and she she will eventually use them to destroy their lives. Is this true, or is she being manipulated by someone from her past…

It feels to me like this story is one that writers only lend to heroines: the story ends up being about love, and loves lost, instead of just telling a good spy story. It seems to me it’s rare that a spy story would have a tender core to it, and for me it doesn’t quite sit well with Black Widow, who, let’s face it, is a reformed killer.

To her credit though, Widow is shown as a scrappy fighter with a streak of cruelty that leans her more towards the bad guy side of the Marvel Universe than the whit hat brigade!

It’s well written, but I would have preferred a straight spy story a lá James Bond or some of the Bendis/ Maleev stories that in recent years have been told through Daredevil or even the Death of Captain America tale delivered by Ed Brubaker.

The last few pages of this book are dedicated to an illustrated text history of Black Widow as well, me the alternate covers the the individual issues of the comic that came out on release.

Score: ***

Art: Spanish artist Daniel Acuña’s art in this is amazing, as his work mostly is. His work looks like it is done with something like Copic markers and has very few black lines on the interior surface of a subject, instead using darker shades of the main colour to provide those lines. He sites John Romita and Jack Kirby as influences and they are definitely present, along with Hal Foster and Kevin Nolan. 

This being a more realistic spy story than a straight up superhero one, his style suits it perfectly and is a pleasure to look at. A special note has to go to the cover of this collection as the Widow looks a little like Kat Von D, upon whom I have somewhat of a crush.

Unfortunately, the introduction to the story, from the aforementioned ‘Enter the Heroic Age’ comic, is done by far lesser artists Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, provide a lacklustre first few pages to this collection. Their artistic efforts feel little more than a by-the-numbers ‘how to draw comics’ experience. If you overlook those pages, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest. The whole book loses a point for their efforts.

Score: ****

WIRIA: It’s a cool spy story, with only a touch of superheroics in it, illustrated beautifully… you’ll return to this for sure!