They’re All Dead!!! (Spoilers Ahead)

Avengers_Infinity_War_logo_001Wow!!! 10 years and 18 films later and Infinity War is the first MCU film where I did not leave with excitement about what I just saw, but instead excitement for the next Avengers film and the start of a new 10 year story line. That is not to say I did not like the movie. By all means it was fantastic and had so many great moments I cannot list them all here. It was just the first film for me from the MCU that did not have some optimism towards the end.

We saw Loki die very early on, Gamora was sacrificed by Thanos, and Vision was destroyed by Thanos towards the end of the movie (not to mention the whole Black Order was destroyed). It was the end where Thanos achieved his goal of wiping out half of existence and we saw many heroes die (which you will have to find out who by watching the movie). I am familiar with the original comic book story line, but I was shocked that the directors (the Russo brothers) had the guts to depict so much death and sadness on screen for many fans who were not comic book geeks. Of course, I know that most of these characters will come back because no one stays dead in comics, but some may not, especially those whose deaths were depicted earlier in the story. Walking out of the movie I just shook my head and said “Hmmm…what are they doing next?”.

The Russo brothers were perfect choices to direct this movie since they not only had no issues filming this intense of a story in a mostly lighthearted cinematic universe, but they also handled the insane amount of characters quite well. The antagonistic relationship between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange was entertaining as was Spider-Man’s excitement over becoming an Avenger. The Guardians of the Galaxy were their usual hilarious selves and inserting Thor into their dynamic worked masterfully. Seeing Captain America and Black Panther fight side by side was awe inspiring and for me there were no weak points in this movie.

The shocking, but not totally unexpected, ending sets up next year’s 4th Avengers film perfectly and I cannot wait to see how this is all resolved and how they start up a new version of the Avengers along with another 10 years of amazing films.

This film does require you to have knowledge of the previous films so if you do and you have not seen Infinity War yet, get out there now!

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Hate has no place in America

It has been over a year since I last wrote on my blog due to many personal issues that I have had to deal with that has kept my mind elsewhere. I decided that now is the time to focus on something I enjoy, which is writing, and voicing my opinion on the things I love.

A couple of days back I was trying to decide if I should write about the state of the WWE, the brilliance of NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling), Star Wars comic books under the Marvel banner, or many other geek related things when yesterday happened.

Unless you have been living under a rock, or refuse to know what is happening around you, you are well aware of what happened this weekend in Charlottesville. Without going into great detail on what we should all know by now, there was a violent clash between white supremacists and anti-racist protestors. Many people were hurt, 3 lives were lost, and our country has been rattled to it’s core. I followed Friday night through Saturday closely and was sick to my stomach to see the hatred and symbols of evil and oppression that were being displayed by these supremacists. I found myself ashamed to be a white male.

This year has been difficult for me on many levels, but the one pain that I feel I share with the majority of Americans is our current political climate. I have spent most of my adult life not discussing politics outside of my family. They get the “pleasure” of hearing my rants while I try to spare others of differing opinions outside of my home such ramblings. With where we are now as a nation I have decided to discontinue that. When people would say something offensive to me or others I would try to ignore it and move on to another topic. No more. From this day forward I will call you out and back you down if you spew anything from your mouth that is misogynist, racist, homophobic, etc… I feel that in some way I am part of the problem as a white male when I do not chew someone out for speaking in an offensive manner. I am going to correct that problem immediately.

You DO NOT have the right to spew hatred and ignorance. I have the right to make you stop by whatever means necessary. The Nazi symbol in America is grotesque since we fought and defeated them in World War II. I have family who fought against the Nazis who I know would be disgusted to see such things if they were still alive.

This is not a good time to be an American, but it can be again if we fight against hatred and do not cower from it. I am not going to tell you to pray for things to get better since that has never worked. I am not going to tell you to call your political leaders because that rarely works. I am only going to tell you to fight for human decency. To fight against what we all know is wrong. And to bring kindness back to our country despite what our leaders may do or in some cases not say.

I have always made it my goal to not blog too much of my personal opinion in regards to things like politics, etc… but I felt in this case I had no choice.

I have studied Buddhism for around 7 years now and I do believe strongly that we must all learn to love and respect one another despite our differences, but if you are part of the alt-right, white supremacy groups, or anything that involves hatred towards people that are different from you…FUCK OFF.

The New Era

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Most periods of time in wrestling are referred to as ‘eras’. The Rock ‘N Wrestling era of the 1980’s, The New Generation era of the 1990’s, The Attitude era of the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, and to the somewhat maligned PG era of recent times there has always been an overriding theme to the content that is presented to the audience. Now we are in the midst of the latest time period in wrestling which is being referred to simply as ‘The New Era’.

In this New Era we have seen the brand split return to WWE programming this past week with Smackdown and Raw going back to acting like competing brands, a significant amount of new wrestlers being brought up and various other changes in the presentation of the product. We are very early into this new version of WWE programming, but to say things are looking promising is an understatement. This past week’s new look Raw was one of the best shows in a very long time. Finn Balor made his long anticipated Raw debut and put on a great show. Raw was action heavy with the wrestlers putting on some perfectly choreographed matches that showed great athleticism and kept you on the edge of your seat. The best match of the night goes to the Women’s Championship match between the defending champion Charlotte going against strong fan favorite Sasha Banks. It was a match that was given time to tell an excellent story in the ring and gave the audience the much desired result of Banks finally winning the title.

Smackdown was solid as well, but suffered from airing the night after such an amazing Raw. It still featured some solid moments with fan favorite Dolph Ziggler finally becoming number one contender to the WWE title and the announcement that another favorite Shelton Benjamin was going to be making his long awaited return to the WWE.

One thing that has been very promising lately is how the WWE writers and head honchos have been booking the shows. Not every match will go the way we all want it to, but it does seem that the WWE is listening to the fans and paying attention to crowd reactions. Storylines are making more sense, the matches are being given more time to develop, and different people are being featured on television and in the main events which is making the overall product more unpredictable and significantly more entertaining.

Hopefully, this trend will continue and we will continue to get some great wrestling television and see a whole new set of great memories created for those of us who love professional wrestling.

 

Deadpool

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*As usual…spoilers ahead”

One of the most surprising and best films of 2016 so far is Deadpool. Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld in 1991 and debuting in The New Mutants #98, this character has a long history and is one of the most popular in Marvel’s line of mutant characters. In recent years the character has taken on a more adult sensibility and added large amounts of over the top humor to make the fans want a movie adaptation for some time.

We did get to see Wade Wilson/Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and even though Ryan Reynolds showed us the potential for the character earlier in the film the ending dashed all hopes at the time (just watch the ending of the film to see why so many people abhor it). Despite all this Reynolds still wanted a Deadpool solo movie so he could do justice to the character and give us a much better interpretation of the ‘Merc with a Mouth”.

20th Century Fox seemed to have zero desire to greenlight this film based on the previous movie’s reception, but that did not deter Reynolds. Test footage was leaked in 2014 that showed a hilarious, action packed scene that gave fans the Deadpool we all wanted to see. this caught the attention of Fox and the movie was finally greenlit  and the world is better for it!

What we got was a dirty, foul mouthed, action packed movie that broke all sorts of box-office records for an R-rated film and gave the audience the Deadpool we all wanted and deserved. The beginning of the money shows us the finalized scene of the test footage that went viral and was an amazing way to start the film. The violence, over the top humor, and amazing action got this movie off to the right start and let the audience know up front that they were in for a treat.

Ryan Reynolds has finally found the role of his career so far. He is simply hilarious and knows the character inside and out which gives us an incredible performance. There is no one that could of played this character any better.

The cast is solid overall, but the one who really sticks out is T.J. Miller as Weasel who is Wilson’s best friend. He delivers some classic lines in his unique way that only adds to the humor of the movie and makes it that much better overall.

I also enjoyed Deadpool’s sidekicks Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus (Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapicic respectively). Both performers played their roles perfectly and held their own despite the outstanding performance of Reynolds.

Every moment of this film is fun, exciting, and leaves you wanting more when the movie is done. The post credits scene is very memorable as well showing Deadpool’s homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off while letting the audience know that there will be a sequel featuring Cable which we have seen in the comics as a hilarious duo.

I cannot stress more that this is a very adult movie. With heavy violence and gore, very adult language, nudity and sex, this is a movie that young children should not see. I only stress this because I heard several stories about the movie’s theatrical run with many an ignorant parent bringing their children to see the film because a “superhero” is in it only to complain over the content. FYI…it is R-rated for a reason.

If you are not too sensitive to adult material and are looking for a fun movie with big laughs then go to the store and buy a copy on blu-ray. You will not be disappointed.

Captain America: Civil War

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*Be forewarned…there are spoilers ahead*

There is a always a great deal of excitement when a new Marvel movie comes out. The success rate for these movies is quite high and even though some are better than others, all the movies in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) have been entertaining and important to watch considering how each movie effects the others. After watching Civil War I realized that superhero movies are not in a slump as some people claim and are in no danger of wearing out their welcome as long as they continue to be as excellent of a movie as this one. The Russo brothers have given us great hope that their spin on the MCU will be the best to date.

One thing was made very clear to me after watching this film…all those before it were leading to this movie. The very first Iron Man made a clear reference to the Civil War comic book event when the movie ended with Tony Stark telling everyone he is Iron Man which was a key moment early on in the comic book event. Also, the destruction at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron hinted strongly at the fact that something was going to happen as a result of so many civilians being killed and injured.

The conflict between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers has been shown throughout their previous meetings and due to the Sokovia Accords (which essentially gives the government control over the Avengers) the antagonism between them come to a boiling point. What impressed me most is how the movie makes you see and somewhat agree with both sides. Controlling the superheroes could be a good way of preventing more deaths of civilians, but the concept of any government possibly using them for their own personal gain is an uncomfortable idea.

Iron Man leads the pro-Sokovia Accords side and Captain America leads the side that is against the proposed laws. What truly brings things to a head is when Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier is framed for killing the king of Wakanda, T’Chaka. Iron Man wants to bring him in to pay for his supposed crime and Captain America wants to protect his life-long friend.

The action scenes in this movie are insane and I will not go into great detail since these moments have already been well chronicled, but there are so many incredible moments without making the viewer feel overwhelmed. When T’Challa/Black Panther hunts down Bucky we get to see one of the most incredible chase scenes captured on film in a long time. The big airport battle between Team Cap and Team Iron Man has so many amazing moments it is hard to pin them all down, but when Ant Man becomes Giant Man we are treated to a humorous and awesome moment.

When Spider-Man enters the fray we see nothing but one great moment after the other starting with him fighting Captain America one-on-one in a pitch perfect battle and then Spider-Man taking on Bucky and Falcon that will having you smiling throughout. The final battle, which is the most emotional and brutal, shows Iron Man taking on Bucky and Captain America in an amazingly choreographed scene. We find out that Bucky murdered Stark’s parents decades ago while he was being brain washed and the anguish and rage we see on Stark’s face when he discovers this is extremely powerful.

The one thing I really appreciated was that none of the main heroes died. Some came close, but none actually perished. In the comic books we see Captain America die at the end of the storyline which causes Tony Stark  to rethink his position, but we do not get such an easy out in the movie. We see a hint of reconciliation, but they still are not fully on the same side which makes sense and gives an intriguing spin on what we may see in the next two Avengers movies.

It is amazing to me that a movie which has some dark/serious undertones can still come off as bright, humorous, and positive. Everything does not have to be constant doom and gloom to be an effective movie in today’s world. Civil War proves that.

Despite all of the amazing moments and performances the two actors that stick out the most are Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther/T’Challa. We have finally found the perfect Spider-Man who truly embodies the role better than anyone before and Boseman’s portrayal of Black Panther gives us a performance that is truly gripping and gives us a new character in the MCU that could turn out to be it’s best and most popular. Their performances give me great confidence in their upcoming solo movies.

This movie is definitely a must see wether you enjoy this genre of film or not since it is not only a great superhero film, but a great movie overall.

WWE Ride Along

wwe-ride-alongThe WWE Network has done a great job of adding original content in the past few months and one of the newest shows is called ‘Ride Along’.

Each episode features two groups of wrestlers traveling by car from one show to another one and gives the viewers the experience of seeing these performers out of character and just acting normal.

There are only a couple of episodes so far, but some of the early highlights are The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Big E) traveling together and being almost as silly out of the ring as they are in it, and Renee Young, Summer Rae and R-Truth traveling together and cracking each other up. Getting to see another side of a performer like Summer Rae, that we normally do not get to experience during typical WWE programming, is refreshing.

The WWE Network is great for die hard wrestling fans like myself to have access to 1000’s of hours of WWE, WCW, and ECW programming like weekly shows, PPV’s, etc… What keeps the network growing in subscribers is original programming with shows like this one that will convince people who have been on the fence about subscribing to give it a shot.

There are many new shows coming to the WWE Network in the next several months that I am looking forward to and I will feature them on my blog between opinions on PPV’s, Raw, Smackdown, etc…

For the Man Who Has Everything

 

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Featured in Superman Annual #11, ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ is a classic Superman tale written by one of the comic book industry’s greatest writers in Alan Moore. For the next few months I will be reviewing some classic mainstream Alan Moore titles.

This tale centers around a symbiotic alien plant called Black Mercy that attaches itself to it’s victim and feeds off of their ‘bio-aura’ while they are placed into a dream like state where all of their heart’s desires are occurring in their mind while they are slowly dying in reality.

The story begins with Batman, Robin (the Jason Todd version), and Wonder Woman meeting at the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman’s birthday. They suddenly come upon Superman who is standing still with this alien parasite attached to him. The villain Mongul is the culprit behind Superman’s predicament and Wonder Woman immediately begins to battle him while Batman and Robin attempt to remove Black Mercy from our red and blue spandexed hero.

During this mayhem we see what is going on in Superman’s mind. He is back on Krypton (having never been destroyed), married with a son, and living a regular non-heroic life. Very quickly though we see his dream world start coming apart. His father Jor-El has been ostracized by Kryptonian society since his prediction of the planet Krypton’s destruction never came to fruition. Kryptonian society is heading towards a civil war with various warring factions preparing to go head-to-head over differing views of how their world should be run. This is clearly not Superman getting to live out his heart’s desires and shows the reader that he is starting to come out of his catatonic state.

Batman and Robin are finally able to pry the alien plant off of Superman and he immediately awakens from his motionless state and, in a very violent rage, screams and goes after Mongul in what proceeds to be a brutal fight between to well matched adversaries.

While this is going on the parasite attaches itself to Batman and he starts to drift off into a world where his parent’s have never been murdered. Fortunately, Robin is able to pry the parasite off of Batman and just when it looks like Mongul is going to get the upper hand on Superman, he launches the Black Mercy and it attaches itself to the villain.

Mongul is now in a catatonic state and we get see his heart’s desire which is the death of Superman and him taking over the entire universe.

This story is very compelling since we get to see inside Superman’s mind more than usual and really feel sympathetic knowing that even though he became Earth’s greatest hero, he still wishes for a normal life which he can never have.

This is a classic tale which was very recently redone for an excellent episode of CBS’s Supergirl which really helped the progression of the character and give a nice nod to a classic comic book story.

Alan Moore has written some classic graphic novels over the decades and usually people focus on his more original work like V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, etc…. I will not argue on the merits of those works, but also encourage people to seek out his work on more well-known characters like Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, et al. A truly great writer can take a very well-known character and add his own flavor without ignoring it’s history. Moore is one of those writers and ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ is the perfect example of his amazing talent.

It has been reprinted many times over the years and I re-read it for the umpteenth time in my recently acquired DC Universe by Alan Moore hardcover which was released in 2013 and can still be easily found on Amazon and other book retailers. It features a lot of Moore’s mainstream DC output and is strongly recommended.