Thursday, April 28, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

Now THAT is how you make a hero vs hero movie!

Captain America: Civil War had no right to be this good. With over a dozen characters vying for attention, and adapting a very polarizing comic book storyline, it was a clusterfuck waiting to happen (Spider-Man 3, anyone?). But in the end, it defied expectations to become THE superhero movie to beat this year.

The Russo Brothers had their work cut out for them after the rousing success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Their solution? Go bigger. After the events of Age of Ultron, the Avengers are now taken to task for the destruction they've caused from their superheroics. Enter the Sokovia Accords, a document that will make the Avengers answerable to the U.N. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) thinks it's a good idea and will give the team some much needed credibility, while Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is against the idea of turning the Avengers into government lapdogs. Evans continues to nail Rogers' idealistic stubbornness in the face of adversity, but it's RDJ who steals the show with his pragmatic take on Tony Stark, who's torn between his friendship with Steve and the need to make the world feel safe around Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Really, there were a lot of ways this movie wouldn't have worked. But it worked for a lot of reasons. One of them being the cast. No one felt out of place or left in the dust. Guys like Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie's Falcon were more fleshed out, and owned the funniest parts of the film. The two newcomers, Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) were amazing. Boseman nailed the regal stature of T'Challa and the badassness of the Black Panther, basically curb-stomping everyone he faces off with, while Tom Holland was the highlight of the film as Spider-Man, quips, moves and all. Hell, even Paul Rudd's Ant-Man got a few good lines and moments in, and he's practically a cameo!

It worked because it unabashedly embraced its comic book roots. Captain America: Civil War is jam-packed with so many superheroic moments that you'll be hard pressed to pick just one favorite. The airport fight between #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan will go down in history as one of the most exciting superhero fights in recent history, with the Russo brothers throwing every possible match up and team up on the screen to give those "Who would win? Hero x vs Hero y?" fans palpitations to last them months.

Finally, Captain America: Civil War worked thanks to the lasting impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We've followed these characters for 8 years, and seen them go from heroes to friends to family, which only added to the gravity of the inevitable Cap vs Iron Man showdown. Sitting in the theater watching Captain America whale on Iron Man pained me, like I was watching family members fight. You were friends, dudes, I said to myself. Please stop fighting. Please. And the very fact that I said that meant it was working. I was invested in the story, I was all-in, and I loved every minute of it.

Captain America: Civil War is by no means perfect (Winter Soldier is still the better movie, IMO), but it's a damn good superhero film that has once again shaken the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its core. I laughed, I cried, I awesomed, and you will too. Highly recommended!

And to whoever's listening: THAT is how you make a hero vs hero movie.

Friday, April 22, 2016

My Week in Comics: April 22, 2016

The Big 2 take a backseat for me this week as I shine a spotlight on other publishers! Surprise surprise, they can also publish awesome comics worthy of your time and money! Who knew, right? But I digress...let's check out what I got myself into this week in comics!

For a sequel to Divinity, the titular hero is nowhere to be seen in  Valiant's Divinity II #1. As a newbie, I would have wanted to see "the best new superhero of 2015", but I will have to settle for his cosmonaut teammate Miska, who is the focus of the book. A staunch believer in the Communist ideal, Miska's desperation to return home leads her through the same journey that gave Divinity his powers. Now, the god-like Miska returns home with a mission: to bring back the glory days of the Soviet Union, no matter the cost!

Even if I've never met Miska before, writer Matt Kindt made me want to know her more. It's easy to write off a zealous Soviet Communist character with god-like powers as boring and been-there, done-that, but Kindt writes her as this troubled yet fascinating character who just wants what's to make the Motherland proud, and I'd love to see where the story takes her. Trevor Hairsine's art serves this gritty story well enough, though I would like him to make more daring art choices when the inevitable god vs god showdown arrives. It's a nice issue and all, but at this point we're just waiting for the fights. This gets a 3.5 out of 5.

Having loved the first issue, Boom! Studios' Turncoat #2 was an easy purchase. Writer Alex Paknadel is peeling back the sticky, alien layers that make up the world of Turncoat bit by bit, and I love what I'm seeing. Marta begins to unravel the mystery of the missing boy from the first issue, but all it's done is raise even more questions...and the answers may lie in her turncoat past!

What makes the book so good is that Paknadel knows how to craft not just a compelling narrative but also a rich world full of living spaceships ("Don't feed the engines!") and gooey alien hybrids, and the gritty art of Artyom Trakhanov and Jason Wordie takes it to a whole 'nother level. It's what draws me into Marta's journey, making me feel like I'm right there with her sloughing through alien entrails and dirty cops in search of the truth. Not only that, but Marta growing to be an incredibly interesting character, hard-boiled but vulnerable, and I hope to see more of that in the coming months.

Turncoat #2 gave us answers, only to reveal new ones. And you know what? I'm not in a hurry for answers...I just want more of this sweet, sweet comic. This gets a 4 out of 5.

Finally, we come to Joyride #1, another Boom! Studios comic that'll take you on a rip-roaring ride through space stations and the dark side of the moon!

I love this book. There's a sense of no-holds-barred fun that I haven't felt in comics for quite a while. Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly writes a fast-paced comic that's suitable for all ages, filled with spunky teenagers in a future where the world has been shut off from the stars for so long that people have forgotten what it's like out there in the vast beyond. And you know what bored teenagers do, right? That's right: steal a spaceship and go on a joyride through space!

I've said it before and it bears repeating, a good first issue hooks you in and doesn't let go. Lanzing and Kelly built an amazing world that you won't get lost in, as they take time to walk you through this utopian vision of the future in-between hijacking spaceships and escaping future cops. Uma Akkolyte and her friend Dewydd are fun characters, and Uma's optimism is so infectious that you can't help but be as happy as her to see the stars and the universe (especially in that big space splash page rendered with love by Marcus To and Irma Kniivila)!

Make no mistake, Joyride more than lives up to its name. If you ever want to feel the fun of comics again, pick this up on sight. This gets a 5 out of 5!

This week proves that you don't have to go to the Big 2 for fun and amazing comic books, and the road less traveled can yield amazing stories as well! What did you pull this week? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks and happy reading!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lego Ideas Doctor Who Set Review

Finally, finally, after months of waiting, I got my hands on one of the most anticipated Lego sets in recent history: the Lego Ideas Doctor Who Set! It was a long-fought battle to get a Doctor Who Lego set, and thankfully fan reaction was through the roof! What makes this set so special? Read on to find out!

Forgive me, the last time I held a Lego brick and actually built stuff, I was in grade school making airplanes and guns and stuff. Seeing all the bricks this Lego set comes with gave me a bit of a heart attack. Thankfully there are easy to follow instructions and a tip I only learned today to make building Lego sets easier (separating them by color? Genius!)

This Doctor Who Lego set had us building two sections, the TARDIS console, and the outer TARDIS shell. It took me and my girlfriend around 2 hours to build the whole Lego set. Once we were done, we had ourselves a Lego-fied version of the TARDIS console as seen in the latest season of Doctor Who!

It looks great! It's sturdy enough, and it has a lot of the little details right, from the console doodads right down to the lever the Doctor uses to fire up the TARDIS for time travel. A working lever, I might add!

It's a bit too small for my taste, though. At the price point, I was hoping for something more...substantial. Also, the central column looks off and weird. I've seen Lego builds of the TARDIS console that uses existing Lego pieces and looks closer to the actual thing, so it's not like it couldn't actually be done.

The Lego TARDIS is a thing of beauty and the most straightforward build of the Doctor Who Lego set. It stands around 4 inches tall and looks great with Lego minifigures. In a clever twist, the TARDIS opens at the back and even pegs into the TARDIS console section seamlessly, portraying the TARDIS' ability to be "bigger on the inside"!

Be careful, though, as the TARDIS itself has a lot of little pieces and tend to come loose as you "transform" it. So if you don't want to get rug burns on your knees from looking for tiny Lego pieces, handle the police box with care.

It's not a Lego set without minifigures, and this Doctor Who Lego set is packed with some very important ones, namely Clara Oswald, the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, and a Weeping Angel. The Lego minifigs capture the characters well, like Eleven's whimsical smile, Twelve's attack eyebrows (tm)(c), and Clara's eyebrow-on-fleek skeptical look. What's more, you could turn the heads around to get a different expression, so you could switch the Weeping Angel's serene look and scary fanged look with a simple twist.

The Daleks, of course, are in this set. And it's not just one Dalek...the Doctor Who Lego set gives you two walking murder tanks to harass the Doctor with! I've always wondered how they would make Daleks in Lego, and the solutions they came up with to build them (Lego studs are Dalek bumps? Brilliant!) are mind-boggling-ly simple yet clever.

And that's what I love about Lego. The possibilities are literally endless, and the imagination required to cook up a set like this is damn impressive. Take a couple of Lego bricks, give yourself some time, and who knows what you can create?

Bottom line, the Lego Ideas Doctor Who Set is a great-looking addition to any Doctor Who collection. It's been available in stores for some time now, so if you have the time (and the money, as Lego sets are notorious for being a tad expensive), grab a box before it's gone!

I hope you enjoyed my review as much as I did writing it! Do you have the Doctor Who Lego set? What did you think of it? Let's talk about it in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 08, 2016

My Week in Comics: April 8, 2016

Wow, it's been a while hasn't it? Sucky stories and price hikes have forced me out of the comics scene for a while now, as you may have already noticed, but with a new job I've finally found time (and funds!) to restart this baby! Now let's check out what I pulled this week!

Black Panther #1 is a gorgeous-looking book, even if there's not much to see. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes T'Challa as a humbled king, doing his best to serve a country that may or may not believe in his leadership anymore. His supporting cast expands to bring both guidance and intrigue into his life, from his stepmother to the Dora Milaje (the female royal guard), but all the layers Coates' story weaves doesn't hide the fact that it's mostly a set-up issue with no clear plot.

Brian Stelfreeze's art steps up to keep things interesting, at least. His Wakandan designs are tops, and never has the Black Panther looked this regal and menacing at the same time. The comic ends with a cliffhanger that's confusing for first-time Black Panther readers, and time will tell if people are willing to see where this goes. This issue gets a 3 out of 5.

Empress #1 opens with a space dictator sanctioning an execution by T-Rex, and that's all reason you need to keep reading Mark Millar's sci-fi epic. The dictator's wife, the titular Empress, has had enough of the sick displays of affection, and from there Millar takes you for a ride as she and her family go on a daring escape!

This first issue sounds deceptively simple, but there are more things at stake here than Millar lets on, things I can't wait to find out. If you're just here for the action and explosions, Empress #1 has it in spades, and with Stuart Immonen doing the art, you just know it's gonna be awesome. Immonen's pencils, with Wade von Grawbadger on inks and Ive Svorcina on colors, is a perfect fit for Millar's grand storytelling, making this one of the best-looking books on the stands this week.

With the Empress not being who she seems on the surface, there's plenty of ways this story may go. One thing's for sure, this title is going on my pull list! Empress #1 gets a 4 out of 5.

It feels pretty good to be reading comics again! But from the looks of it, I'll be sticking to the indies for now. What did get this week? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

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