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Film Review: X-Men Days of Future Past

The X-Men. These are some seriously awesome comics featuring a diverse range of characters – I was particularly ecstatic to see the inclusion of LGBT characters in the series and in such an un-apologetically romantic light too. But those are the comics, and film adaptations often don’t do the source material justice. While there wasn’t the same amount of diversity in the original trilogy, I’ve got to admit I really enjoyed the films. I enjoyed the Wolverine Origins film even more, which had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Taylor Kitsch as Gambit – nope, not at all – and I adored the First Class film, which of course had absolutely nothing to do with James McAvoy. (I’m going to pretend that the abomination that is The Wolverine just doesn’t exist and never happened to this otherwise kickass franchise). After the trilogy and wicked-cool origin movies, it was with mingling excitement and trepidation that I sat down to watch Days of Future Past.

*Spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned*

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Firstly, I adored First Class. The story was epic, the music was epic, Jennifer Lawrence in body paint was epic, James McAvoy even without the beard was epic – there wasn’t much I didn’t love about the movie. I can’t quite believe I’m going to say it, but I think Days of Future Past might’ve actually been a little bit more epic, although that’s not to say it didn’t have any flaws.

Sadly, the film opened with voice-over exposition, which is my pet peeve, and that did not bode well. However, the narration was short lived and the film kicked off with some intense action sequences. While I’m not entirely sure of the timeline and how the future turned so bleak so quickly – it seems to have happened over night since Bobby looks as baby-faced as ever – it was the sort of cyberpunkish dystopia I love. Couple that with new characters like Warpath (Booboo Stewart sure grew up) and the portal girl (coolest power ever although how does this power come from a genetic mutation, pray tell?) who deserves a far more kickass name than Blink, and I was in serious fangirl territory. Then Ellen Page rocked up and I just couldn’t even any more. Things were off to a good start!

I like Wolverine, I do, but to be honest, I’m little sick of him. I really wish they could’ve given the spotlight to another mutant in this film. The reason why it’s Logan is apparently because few other X-Men were around in 1973 and even fewer could survive being constantly ripped about by the various forces exerted on the time traveler, so Logan it is. But then James McAvoy enters the mix and steals the show, so I actually can’t complain too much about Wolverine’s presence. Right, so the basic premise is that the future has gone to s**t and Logan is sent back fifty years to delightfully retro 1973 to get Xavier and Magneto to work things out so that Mystique doesn’t chart a course toward the apocalypse. This is a great premise with one major, giant, toe-curling problem. If their plan succeeds, it completely nullifies the original trilogy and basically pokes a huge whole in the canon. Let’s ignore that for now and return to the awesomeness that is James McAvoy’s beard…

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As I said before, James McAvoy steals the show and delivers a great performance as the mentally unstable, possibly PTSD-suffering Xavier. I wish the film had spent more time on his psychological development but there were giant robots to fight and special effects to exploit so, sadly, we got less character development and more CGI. The best new addition to the cast was undoubtedly Quicksilver played by Evan Peters. I can’t really look at this actor without seeing deranged Tate from American Horror Story, but Peters was wonderful as Quicksilver, lending some levity to a rather dark storyline. That said, it was an absolute sin of the director/producers to only have Quicksilver on screen for a handful of minutes. I want to see more of this character and would love to see his origin film because he’s witty and fun and seems a lot less broken than many of the other tortured hero types proliferating the X-Men universe.

The rest of the film unfolded as expected with no twists to the plot whatsoever except that according to the new timeline, the first trilogy could never have happened. This brings me to the biggest flaw in this film: the whole concept of time travel and changing history. Very few sci-fi films get time travel right because it is a notoriously complex concept – ask your local quantum physicist to explain – and any attempt to change the past immediately obliterates the future unless you’re in a separate time stream (as attempted by the short lived series Terra Nova). But ‘because science’ Logan goes back in time and achieves the impossible by giving the middle finger to physics and I’m mildly okay with that because the film was extremely entertaining and, to be fair, comic books in general have a tenuous relationship with the laws of physics.

Like all Marvel movies there’s a final scene that comes after the credits. Like all Marvel movies this final scene is almost completely meaningless except to those uber geeks au fait with the franchise. The final scene was creepy cool but I didn’t understand the relevance until I googled it. Now I understand the title of the next X-Men movie – X-Men: Apocalypse.

So Days of Future Past presented dubious science and destroyed their own canon, but they did so with kickass awesomeness and I loved every minute of this film. Days of Future Past scores 4.5/5 ink splats for me. It lost half a splat because of that unnecessary voice over at the beginning and for under-utilizing Quicksilver.

4.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Reviews

 

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TV Review: Constantine

Comic book adaptations are all the rage at the moment. Just look at all the films from the Marvel universe! Being a bit of a comic geek myself, I’m certainly not complaining about the numerous and often awesome adaptations gracing the small and silver screen, but some are certainly better than others.

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There were two shows I was extremely excited for this autumn, one being Gotham and the other being NBC’s Constantine. I didn’t hate the 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves like so many fans of the comic books did. No, the film wasn’t perfect, but it did capture the spirit of the Hellblazer anti-hero in a way that left me feeling somewhat satisfied. Also, Tilda Swinton, but I digress. Point is, after that incarnation of John Constantine, I was excited to see a blond, Welsh actor take the lead role in the series version of the story, which seemed to promise a more traditional and true-to-source rendition.

The Hellblazer comics – which I discovered via Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman – are super dark, gritty and unapologetic, starring the ever so snarky, cynical and somewhat unlikable Constantine. Given the superficial aesthetics the show seemed to be getting right with the blond, British hero, I thought they’d be on track to deliver an equally accurate story world complete with all the ghastliness of the source material. However, I had my reservations when I discovered that NBC would not be portraying Constantine as bisexual. This was a big red flag. If the studio was prepared to alter this trait (and do I even want to know why they felt having a bisexual protagonist wasn’t okay for television?), what else might they be planning to change.

Episode one did not blow me away. If anything, it irritated the living daylights out of me because once again we were treated to the ‘my name is…’ voice over that needs to die a sudden and eternal death. Not only this, but Matt Ryan who takes on the titular role, didn’t seem settled in the shoes of his character, not sure whether to play this detective dark and brooding ala Keanu or go for a more tongue-in-cheek jaded antihero type. Consequently, his portrayal is a bit of a mess as it jaunts between the two a little erratically, throwing off the tone of the show. Does it want to pull the comedy card and follow in the footsteps of paranormal shows like Supernatural or Buffy, or does it want to be Gotham and go for the throat? The writers can’t seem to make up their minds.

Episode two was worse in that it set the stage for an episodic series structure I was not expecting. I don’t want another monster-a-week type show. Even Supernatural moved away from that in favour of larger, longer story ARCs and with the likes of Gotham and Game of Thrones now on screen as proof that a show doesn’t have to follow the episodic formula to gain viewership, I’m a little disappointed with Constantine. Also, I wanted this series to be jet-black, not a grimy shade of grey, and I’m getting a sort of off-white. Splashes of fake blood do not a series dark make! Perhaps this is simply my own fault for expecting something different from what the show has so far delivered.

Episode three was actually a bit better and enjoyed this week’s offering a lot more than either of the previous episodes. Hooray, no voice over! This immediately gained the show some extra points. It’s also in episode three that we first encounter Midnite and learn a little more of John’s musical history – something sadly lacking in the 2005 film version. That said, I’m still not clear on why this show is set in America other than to perhaps give the US audience that sense of security that comes with familiar settings, but I honestly think it would’ve been a far more atmospheric and interesting show if they’d stuck with the London setting.

Three episodes in and Constantine reminds me a whole lot of Supernatural without the awesomeness of the Winchesters. Like Sam and Dean, Constantine and crew traipse about the US hunting down nasty outbreaks of magic/demons/monsters/sorcery etc. Like Sam and Dean, Constantine has a complicated relationship with an angel. Like Sam and Dean, Constantine has a tubby bearded guy as his research guru who usually holds down the fort in their home full of strange artifacts. Unlike Sam and Dean, Constantine does not provide anywhere near the same amount of eye-candy or sex appeal. Unlike Sam and Dean, Constantine lacks a significant other with whom to trade barbs and witty banter and consequently much of the humour falls flat. I think Matt Ryan is trying his best, but he’s all alone behind the camera and isn’t quite able to carry the story on his narrow shoulders, especially given that he appears to be a character with nothing to lose, thus there’s a distinct lack of conflict and lack of stakes for this guy. So every bit of magic he performs shaves off a few days of his life, meh, he doesn’t seem to care so why should we? Also, any attempts at the silliness and parody Supernatural has got down to a fine art, merely induces eye-rolls in Constantine.

In short, Constantine did not live up to my expectations and certainly doesn’t deliver the kind of story or personality I wanted considering the source material. In the wake of an epic show like Supernatural that’s now in its tenth season, Constantine just doesn’t feel fresh and has yet to offer anything new to the paranormal/urban fantasy genre. Honestly, I’ve seen it all and done better on Supernatural. My constant thought while watching Constantine is ‘if only Sam and Dean were here to help,’ so… I will give Constantine a few more episodes to find its feet, but I am so far underwhelmed and strongly recommend watching Supernatural instead if you’re in need of werebeasties and pentagrams. Constantine gets 2/5 ink splats, saved by this third installment and my hope that it will continue to improve.

2 inksplats

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Reviews

 

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TV Show Review: Gotham

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A few months ago when I first saw the trailer for this series, my heart skipped a beat and butterflies created hurricanes in my belly and all other palpable feelings of excitement ran amok through my synpases. It looked dark and gritty – as it should – it looked slick and sexy, and best of all, we were going to get the origin stories of not one, but many of the Gotham city heroes and villains. I was particularly thrilled by the prospect of the latter, which is not something you often see in these sorts of comic book adaptations. With the exception of Marvel’s Loki, I can’t really think of too many films/shows where they’ve given significant motivation and character development to the bad guys. (Please let me know if you have) Gotham promised to do all this and more.

Finally, the Fall TV season started and I couldn’t wait for Gotham to air. I watched the pilot fresh out of a White Collar addiction – by addiction I mean, I watched all five seasons in three weeks and then proceeded to start rewatching it because I was that hooked and did not want to watch anything else except more White Collar and Gotham was the first series I’d attempted since my love affair with Neal Caffrey, just so you understand my state of mind. That said, the two shows couldn’t be more different so I don’t think my opinion would be coloured or clouded by the debonair conman.

The pilot of Gotham started out great. Beautiful cinematography, a really cool retro vibe to the city, gritty and dark as anticipated, this was going well. Then things went awry and the pilot rolled to a close leaving me feeling disappointed. Perhaps it was simply a case of having too high expectations for a show that could never have lived up to the hype, perhaps it was a lack of White Collar snide humour, but I wasn’t convinced Gotham was all that.

Problem 1) Predictability. I was kind of hoping for a new approach here since it’s all about the origins of the characters, but it didn’t feel fresh at all.

Problem 2) Fish. I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen Jada Pinkett Smith act in anything, but her acting in this drove me crazy. I’m not sure quite what it was, but her performance felt forced, almost to the point of pastiche – intentional or not, I couldn’t say.

Problem 3) I did not relate to Gordon. Felt nothing for him. Couldn’t care less what happened to him and he’s meant to be the leading hero of the show. At the end of the pilot, I was most enthralled by Selina Kyle, finding her alluring and delightfully feline I’ll admit in a somewhat sexy kind of way.

My conclusion? Gotham had put style before substance, and while it pleased the eyes, it wasn’t really satisfying my inner comic geek in the ways I wanted it to, in the ways that Arrow and The Flash have. But it was only one episode so I gave it another go, especially because I was really interested in young Catwoman.

Now I knew Catwoman would be young in this show, but I did not expect her to be thirteen. THIRTEEN!? Are you freaking kidding me!? See photo below.

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I’ll be honest, that made me feel weird. Maybe I’m projecting my previous knowledge of Catwoman ala Halle Berry style onto this kid, but it makes me a little uncomfortable that there’s a certain amount of sexualisation happening to a 13-year-old.

That aside, and despite my previous disappointment, I have to say the second episode got better. The third got way better and now I’m officially hooked, tuning in for my weekly dose of all things Arkham. However, my initial problems with the series haven’t been assuaged. I’m still not a fan of Fish, and I’m still struggling to feel much of anything for Gordon. Right now, I’m watching for Penguin and that in itself is perhaps proof of Gotham’s genius because the writers have made me feel the most connected to and the most sympathy for – perverse as it is – a major villain!

As the plot thickens and we start heading ever closer to Arkham Asylum, I find myself increasingly engrossed by this series and strongly recommend it for fellow comic geeks and fans of shows that are as much eye candy as they are story substance. Gotham scores 3.5/5 ink splats from me, but that rating may increase as the show progresses. I hope so. There’s so much to love here!

3.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews

 

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Spotlight: Heroes – Comic Store

Comic-fans of all ages, come closer! I’m very chuffed to be able to spread the news about this shop – we now have a place to go where we can get the latest issues, back issues that we need, and much more besides! 🙂

Welcome to Heroes!

Yes, the time has finally arrived for comic heroes to shine. Unmistakably within the South African market there is a huge gap when it comes to obtaining quality comics at reasonable prices. Most comic addicts within Johannesburg either have to purchase comics online (in foreign currency) or travel miles to obtain even the most (supposedly) accessible of comics. Well not anymore…

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Welcome to the new age of Comic Book accessibility! Cosmic Comics and Artifact Advertising have joined forces to open an exciting and tasteful new comic book shop in the Brightwater commons: Heroes, a concept that will answer the prayers of many a South African superhero fan. The store boasts a wide variety of products including comics, graphic novels, kiddie’s comics, figurines as well as prestigious, highly acclaimed comics for the more serious collectors.

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The partnership between leading South African comic distributors, Cosmic Comics and ad agency, Artifact Advertising heralds a new dawn for the industry. The grand opening of Heroes was held at the Brightwater Commons on April 10th- 12th of April. To add to the fun, on the 12th of April, Ethan Van Sciver a famous comic book artist who draws for the Green Lantern comic series was present in the Heroes store to sign autographs for all his fans.

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We have more events scheduled throughout the year to ensure the success of Heroes and to keep the comic book enthusiasts entertained. The 2nd of May 2009 is international free comic book day and we aim to celebrate with a massive promotion. Comic book artists shall be brought in to draw beautiful comics, a huge jumping castle for the kiddies shall be erected on the lawn and we shall have comic book heroes walking around the Brightwater Commons causing hype.

So don’t waste another second, all you comic book, superhero fans come and check it out!

The site is up-to-date and attractive, and goes a long way to showing just how proffesional these guys are. They love comics (which is a plus), they want to keep us informed and they want to make it as affordable as possible. 🙂

I’ve been a comic-collector since I was tiny (started with Richie Rich and Archie and Casper and Spooky, graduated to Superman, Batman, Flash, to name but a few) and the one thing that has always been against is the fact that comics never became a big industry here. Even with shops like Outer Limits, it’s a very difficult business to get into and get going, so that’s why I’m telling everyone about Heroes. 🙂

Pop by for a visit! I know I will when I’m in the area! 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2009 in Spotlight

 

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