Category Archives: Marvel

Strange Affairs

Hello Dear Reader

Doctor Strange

The Marvel universe is now complete, at least for me. I have read comics since I was 4 or 5, as my granddad owned a newsagent shop and we lived there. I grew up surrounded by them, Dandy, Beano, Hotspur and more. As I understood more about comics I found Marvel and DC, their characters had something different, something more. One character stood out for me, Doctor Strange.

He first appeared back in July 1963, so technically I am almost one year older. I started reading his stories mid 70’s along with others. What drew me to him was magic. Strange controlled powers beyond what others had, like the X-Men and Ironman. He went to places in the comics that were out of this world and out of the earthly plane. His powers were both mystical and physical something that you felt you could almost obtain if you knew where to look.

Doctor Strange did not have the greatest of starts, as far as the comic book world was concerned. Going up against established characters even back then, took time to break into the mainstream. For me, he had something different. I did not quite understand it at that point but he was vulnerable, unlike other Marvel characters. You did not need money, be a brilliant engineer or have different genes in order to save the world and universe. Strange was human.

He grew in popularity within the comic world but never like others. Never reaching that real pinnacle of the top Marvel character. Yet I saw him as the one who could step in at the end and save everyone even if that meant true self-sacrifice. The problem with most of the comic characters is how to kill them off without killing them off. In comics, their lifespan is never-ending since they just don’t need to get old. You age, they don’t or can’t.

Comics faced their own enemy in the form of a rival for attention. That of television. In the past, cinema had tried and to a degree sort of won, but comics could create fantasies that movies found hard to reproduce. Also, they were mainly in black and white, whereas comics had bold colours. Enter the 70’s. Television finally started to get it’s comic heroes and picked on a few it thought it could handle. There was an attempt to produce a number of series, Doctor Strange was picked as a character that could be done. There was a TV film, I know I have a copy of it. Of course here is the link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strange_(film). It was ok but sadly or not, picked up. The studio picked the Hulk instead.

Move forward to now and how the cinema can make comics come alive. Marvel, as I have said before, have understood how to use this medium to basically make comics grow again. They have planned, properly. When Doctor Strange was announced as a project I was keen to see how who and what they would do. It was not long before we knew who was playing the main role, that of Steven Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch. Interesting choice? That name immediately drew attention and hope that such an actor would and could pull off this role. Gone were the days that comic book characters did not attract top names. Money helps of course. But there is that global element. You get everywhere.

The movie was something I thought might never be made. It was made and I have seen it.

Strange Affairs

Spoilers, of course, come next.

Doctor Strange is brilliant. The costume, perfect. The look of Cumberbatch as Strange, perfect. The right amount of everything, perfect. At least for me. There has been some talk about a so-called gaff from another movie; Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you really listen to the scene in question the clues are all there for it not to be a gaff. Insight sees past and future problems. Keyword – future.

Enough of that as I really don’t think it’s worth more than that. I am sure others will try and argue but I am happy.

The set design, story, music are as they have been now, just comic book and more. Now the cinema can really make the comic stories come alive. As with all these movies, you can’t spend hours going over the hundreds of comic pages to tell every element nor should they. That is the comics job. It has the time and space to do that. The movie should grab you, pull you in and make you want to read more.

The assembled cast is brilliant. The production brilliant. Even the little hints at where this takes place is cleverly done if you listen. There is a car ride and the clue is there. The story is woven from a number of the comic stories which is fine and moves the action along at the right pace.

You also need to stay until the end. Really the end. Marvel and others have been putting little end clips which are gems. The first ending is just neat. The second ending is the cliffhanger. Stay in your seat, it’s worth it.

Doctor Strange was a hit for me. My favorite Marvel character came to life. It might be my favorite movie. But then again I have to wait to the next one. And the next.

How would I rate this movie? 10 out of 10.

Tagline: ‘The Doctor will see right through you now’

 

Marvellous Summer – Part 1

Hello Dear Reader

Marvellous Summer – Part 1

So the fight begins. Well to be fair, there appears to be no contest in this particular battle. The fight I am referring to, Marvel v DC or at least some people feel that way. For me, it is another summer of superhero movies.

Having seen DC’s film, that was reviewed elsewhere, I was slightly apprehensive regarding Marvel’s first film of the summer. Given this story is taken from a very complex and long comic story, to try to tell it on-screen could have started the downfall of this growing market.

Marvel’s civil war basically pits friends against friends (although they may not see that friendship) and like many wars, causes people to pick sides. In essence a fairly simple story but in true comic book fashion there is always much more.

Captain America: Civil War opens at pace, you don’t have time to relax into the movie. Good or bad? I liked the style, it grabs you just as a good book should do. But there is a flash back and mystery, with enough clues so you could see what is coming. Unlike the comics, this civil war version has to take a different tack. That tack works for me.

Marvel seem to have the formula of these movies down to almost perfection. I have said before that the transfer of a comic book to screen can be difficult. Given that in drawings you have unlimited imagination, the screen format used to be restrictive. The imagination element seems to have caught up if not surpassed. It is now the story telling part that remains.

Like books, you can do so much more in a comic and the story can run over many issues throughout a year, without losing the reader. They also have no concept of time or the aging of a subject or in fact bringing them back from the dead just as they were aged 20. Movies can’t do that, yet.

Now for the spoiler alert – for those who have not seen the movie don’t read on!! You have been warned.

Captain America:Civil War is breathtaking – again. The action moves around the world, there are pauses for breath, introduction of new characters and the happy inclusion of one old favourite. There were moments when I was actually becoming too involved in the story. That is good. Tony Stark however, did appear truly troubled, he seemed at odds with himself, friends and the world. Here was the change in this version of the civil war. The movie cleverly used the death of two people to put him at odds with others. It was manipulated by another grieving the loss of his family. But that took time. Warning from friends are ignored by Stack but he reaches his own conclusion. The Avengers took more than the physical blows it normally does.

Once again the movie has superb filming, cinematography, music and all. It just sits better than DC. The fight sequences are well put together, not too long and not the ‘wham bam’ some use. The film leaves us at an unsettled point, mankind starting to fear what the Avengers could do and looking down a dark path. Yet, there is still something missing. I feel that there is more to show.

Marvel has two more movies lined up for the summer, another X-Men and the first Doctor Strange episode. According to the list we have much more to come. At present there seems no slowing of both the movies or the appeal to fans around the world. Maybe they never will considering science fiction has been around in one form or another for hundreds of years.

Captain America” Civil War might have split the Avengers but it did not split the fans.

Here is an official trailer for those yet to see the movie Captain America

Rating: 4.8/5 (It was that close)

Tagline: “There is a spider’s web forming.”

Sound of Silence

Hello Dear Reader

Sound of Silence

I have not blogged in a couple of months due to various things in real-life. Some may say real-life includes blogging these days however, I have been and still am, busy with my first book. Hence the sound of silence.

Today I decided to listen to a song which I thought I knew very well, Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. I have listened to it hundreds of times but this time was different.

The heavy metal band Disturbed have produced their version of the song. It is often very difficult in my view to take a ‘classic’ song and improve it. This is one of those times when you really do need to listen to the remake.

It is stunning. It is just grabs the soul and digs deep inside. The words nearly take on another meaning. Played at a slower pace than the original, it feels better. I did not expect such a gritty polished song from a band that might have gone the other way. Thrashed out at high volume, destroying all before it. Yet this is so calm and understated that brings out true emotion in this song.

I would recommend this version to many people. It even made me think it had been done for one of the latest blockbuster movies given the orchestra accompany in the vocals. I can imagine this as part of the upcoming X-Men movie. The words fit the known story so well, so long as you know the X-Men universe. If it is not used there, then why?

As I said at the beginning, not often does a remake sound better for me. This one does. Thanks to Ken Bruce, BBC Radio 2 for playing it.

Here is the obvious link Sound of Silence

As for me, my silence is sort of ending as my book draws near to completion.

Tagline:’I’ve come to talk to you again.’

DC Strikes back?

Hello Dear Reader

DC Strikes back?

So we have had the latest superhero movie, this time from the DC universe.

Batman V Superman:Dawn of Justice is the start of what DC hopes will put them on the same footing as the current Marvel universe. DC comics began in the late 1930’s featuring Batman as a detective outside of the law. This proved a success and other characters started to be introduced in their own spaces. Soon we had Superman, the man of steel from another planet.

In 1960, DC brought together its core of characters as the Justice League. This team consisted of AquamanBatmanthe FlashGreen Lanternthe Martian ManhunterSuperman, and Wonder Woman. The comics were a success and in turn prompted Marvel to bring together its own team, the Avengers.

Moving forward to the digital age and the dawn of the superhero movie. For the past few years we have been treated to the carefully planned building of Marvel’s team and it has been a stunning success. There are back stories, each major character having its own movie working towards the Avengers.

DC must have realised the success was something they had to follow. They had a number of poor reviews for some of their films, including the Green Lantern and Superman Returns. One film barely recovered its production costs, so DC had to come up with a new blockbuster.

Bringing together its core characters and introducing the non DC public to the Justice League was a clear option.

There is now an art to selling a movie to the public. Fans of whatever it might will clearly split into two camps; the hoping its great and the worried it’s going to fail (again). For myself, being a Marvel fan, I was honestly hoping for a good movie to push Marvel to be better.

Batman V Superman had the right selling points, it looked good and it appeared brilliant. The trailers gave all the teasers. I don’t often give spoilers about any new movie as a rule. My reviews tend to just review. However, I do want to comment about what I feel are the differences between the two universes.

This movie opens once more with how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. Why? Do people forget this every time the last movie ends? Yet nothing on Superman. There is a darkness to this as there appears to be with many DC movies. Some of it is good, some is over played. We sort of recap the end of Man of Steel using it to feed into this movie. It is a clever idea but it takes a bit too long to get going. The movie drags from the starts. It has stunning visual effects, yet there was little noticeable music. I am not sure I could place any themes anywhere, was that good or bad?

The story itself is disjointed, while Batman was torturing bad guys looking for a certain someone, Superman was being setup. Bruce Wayne was also ‘unhappy’ at the destruction Superman caused yet being hailed a hero. It seemed to annoy him. Clark Kent for his part did not seem to like the vigilante dispensing justice. Yet both of them were doing something of a similar role. Plot hole? That is one of many but all films have them. It seems to me that the DC executives have watched so many other versions of Big X V Big Y and thought that’s our movie!

Yet they have forgotten to build in the sub-elements of the plot. Batman uses guns, not just to scare but kill and he has dreams of killing. Superman appears bored almost trying to recoup his mantel in human eyes by saving a few people. He fails in a couple of places. Then there is Lex Luther. An attempt at a psychotic, match-maker who helps telegraph the plot in stunning fashion. That is one of the biggest disappointments of this movie. Not only are some elements telegraphed, they are pounded out time and time again.

The plot device to make the two fight is weak, how did Luther find out about a secret that no one else could find, Superman’s mum. Did I miss that?

How did Batman know that Luther was planning to get Superman to make the two fight?

How did a supposed alien spaceship who clearly says you can’t make this alien, let an alien make a bigger badder alien?

One good point (I think) was the introduction of Wonder Woman. However no back story unlike how Marvel handle the main characters. She just appears, trying to keep a photo private that shows her to a whole bunch of people while she is in costume. She seems to have half the powers of Superman with the strength of Batman and more brains. There is also the brief flash (pardon the pun) of Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman without knowing who they are. Lex however seems to know it all, maybe he read the comics.

The film is way over 2 hours, it dragged for me. There are times when you think they should have expanded on that point, explained more yet they miss it. Somehow DC keep missing the mark in the movie universe but in the TV they have the edge. As I said before, Green Lantern was an almost movie, Man of Steel lost the end and Superman sort of returned. There is no humour in this film and it lacks a little humanity for me. There are so many words one could describe this film and it has been by many both ‘professional’ critics and fans alike.

My rating for this movie is 6 out 10.

Tagline: ‘Not again. We just finished building that darn place.’

2015 – My review

2015 – My Review

Hello Dear Reader

Well 2015 has now passed and often people reflect on their year, a personal review you might say. I am no different than millions of others, so beware spoilers ahead. (Well for time travellers at least).

2015 has, just like many other years, been filled with ups and downs across the board. It is often thought that the downs tend to come to the fore at this point and yes there were a few scary moments. It has not been the best of times but things did pick up towards the close. One of the up’s was the pleasure of seeing Michael Palin live talking about his dairies and what he wrote about. It did make me think and yes write a blog about them. Maybe more people need to remember what a dairy is all about. Another odd good moment was a trip down memory lane to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool and yes sitting watching a lot of people waltzing around the floor. Of course there were many other good moments most of which ended up in a blog or two. I also added to my list of achievements two presentations, one for the Keele Creative writing society which I was extremely proud. Add to this a very interesting trip to Buckingham Palace, one of the afternoon BBC Proms and an evening meal surrounded by most of the cast and writers of Sherlock. Now that was different.

Normally in the past I have reviewed a few good films, so why spoil a good format!

There have been a number of blockbusters yet again and surprisingly the best was saved for last (I am sure you can guess). Here are my top films (in no order whatsoever );

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Ant-Man

Jurassic World

Spectre

Minions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Of course they are all action based adventure films and the ones I saw at the cinema. There were a few I missed, noticeably Steve Jobs, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Martian and a few more.  It seemed as if each movie, for me, kept on building towards one of the best kept secrets of 2015. In this day it was surprising to find that there was little real information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Man from UNCLE started a short series of spy movies this year, along with Bridge of Spies and Spectre. The latest James Bond movie, rounded what was a very well put together story and left at least one person with a dilemma. If you wish to read my review on this film here is the link; Spectre. The Man from UNCLE was good in the sense to tried to explain the origins of the lead characters. Will there be a squeal? Bridge of Spies was one of those films I missed which was a shame, but there is always rental.

In keeping with the past few years, hard to think there was a time before them, we had the latest two Marvel films. Ant-Man introduced us to the smallest of Marvel’s characters, while the Avengers (still no Steed) came back to battle their own demons. Both films gave us more to enjoy in this growing universe, well at least to the non-comic reading part. Again I enjoyed them for differing reasons; Ant-Man was more of a comic feel, the humour fitted well as did the story. It is always difficult to present a 60s or 70s comic version so taking the best from the whole comic range seems Marvels plan. Age of Ultron on the other hand showed that sometimes it is best not to mess about with alien technology. It will lead into a series of films that could tear the audience apart.

Minions, cute, yellow, strangely understandable at times and one of those hits that was not meant to be. Why? Well they were sort of supporting characters (even in animation) that just took off. There first movie and who knows what else will turn up, was funny predictable and ok. Also returning was the Park, Jurassic one, remember that? It was a major hit of the summer and well worth it. It combined the old with new, basically the Park opened as Hammond always wanted and of course someone decided to play God and well guess the rest. Another good escape.

So finally the film of the year. You can’t argue with facts and figures, not these. Even before the film had been shown it was breaking, cinema servers and records. I have not reviewed this film as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However I did post just one word after I watched it … Emotional. It was all that everyone has said. It did take me back and yet did not reboot as many thought. It moved forward in a logical fanshion. The sets where real, the characters believable, the effects better, the story fine, yes there might be the odd plot hole but sometimes, just sometimes you have suspend everything. It was one of the few movies I could have just sat through a second time without moving. I did in fact see it twice already and plan to see it again given the chance. Many people tend to want to find problems with any film they see, I myself see plot mistakes – take IronMan 3. However, I don’t believe in just denocensing a film just because it does not explain where character A cane from.

So what else has happened that was memorable? A number of things really including having one of my poems published in the first Keele Creative Writing anthology. Completing my first book, which is due to be published in 2016, was a major achievement. That for me, is a goal I have slowly pushed for. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and I doubt it will gain me anything other than self pride. I will be able to say  not only have I written a book but it’s a published one.

Writing has been one of the more enjoyable outlets over the past few years. I have published more blogs in 2015 than before and branched out into posting photographs and a small video. I do plan on producing another short video in 2016.

To close then. 2015 another year to talk about.

Roll on 2016.

Tagline:’Are we there yet?’