Better Late Reviews – Bridge of Spies

Tales of the unsung-hero seem to be the best reason to make true-story films, and Spielberg’s latest film definitely fuels that argument.  “Bridge of Spies” is tense, smart, and very human.  Taking place during the early Cold War (1957, specifically), the tale makes some stark commentaries about surveillance and public perception.  It may not be a traditional slow-burn Cold War spy thriller, but it does make the argument that the style (a lot of dim lighting and heavy shadows) should be as much of a staple as the authentic clothing, cars, and mannerisms.

ST. JAMES PLACE

Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a sharp-as-a-tack insurance attorney with experience in criminal law.  After being approached by his boss (Alan Alda) to defend an accused Russian spy, Rudolph Abel (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance) in court, James reluctantly agrees.  After losing the case, the attorney goes beyond what was asked of him and publically claims he’s going to file an appeal.  After a backlash from strangers and even his family, James takes another case, in Berlin.  His mission: negotiating the exchange of a captured American U2 –pilot (Austin Stowell), and a captured American student studying Economy in Berlin (Will Rogers), for the return of Rudolph to Russia.  James has everything to lose in taking the hefty task.

True to Spielberg’s style, small moments of levity bring some light to an otherwise desperate and dark tale.  One of this film geek’s dreams has come true: the Coen brothers, and Matt Charman, have co-written a Spielberg film.  The dialogue is often sharp and clever and the film never drags in its hefty two-and-a-half-hours run time.  That alone is quite the task in a movie where the bulk of time is spent on the details of a negotiation. Characters such as James’ wife (Amy Ryan), who could have been easily overlooked, have moments to shine and bring to light exactly how dangerous the job is.

bridge of spies bridge

The performances are spot on.  Hanks sells the gravitas and desperate-perseverance (the actor can sweat on command, for Pete’s sake!) and Abel is a delight as the stoic and mysterious Rudolph.  There are no villains in the film and the impressive ensemble shows both professional and personal sides of their characters in believable ways.

True-tales of people going against all-odds to try to obtain the unobtainable are something movie-goers are quite familiar with.  Yet there’s something original in the telling of James Donovan’s tale, a detailed perspective that may be otherwise seen as dry and yet is presented with the intensity of a spy-thriller.  “Bridge of Spies” not only tells us a lesser-known part of our history, but also what can come from unbiased determination.

 

My Grade: A

 

“Bridge of Spies” stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, and Amy Ryan, and is Directed by Stephen Spielberg.  It is rated PG-13 for: some violence and brief strong language, and is released by Touchstone Pictures.

 

Please like if you enjoyed and feel free to comment.  And thanks!

 

 

All So Comical – Catching Up and Cleaning Out

Buying and reading physical comics is harder to justify these days.  A few months ago when I was crossing off books such as “Rat Queens” and “Black Science” it was purely for the fact that I was running out of room in my box and had to “thin the herd”.  It was a hard choice, but between Rat Queen’s sporadic release-schedule and Black Science’s long-term commitment, it was easier to fall back on the familiar, and odder choices, among Marvel’s books.

What have I indeed been reading then these past few months?  Chip Zdarsky’s “Howard the Duck” series is pretty awesome, scratching that wacky-cosmic-capers itch.  Dan Slott’s “Silver Surfer” series also scratches the cosmic itch, though in a more nostalgic way.  Also, there’s “Saga” and “The Wicked + The Divine”, making up my Image books (I should read more Image books, though I do wait for trade for “Sex Criminals”).  Also, there’s Star Wars.

Howard

Star Wars remains so good.  Not just the “main” Jason Aaron book, either, but also Kieron Gillen’s “Darth Vader”.  Characters such as an anti-Dr. Jones, as well as murderous facsimiles of C-3P0 and R2-D2, and Vader himself, continue to expand the Star Wars universe in exciting ways and gives me confidence that the franchise, a favorite of mine, is in good hands.

The Jason Aaron train is one I’ve been enjoying riding.  “Star Wars”, “Doctor Strange”, “Thor”, and “Southern Bastards” provide most of my favorite reads.  His take on Strange is pretty original and he brings in some elements that I have never seen in a Marvel book before.  Thor continues to be the biggest bad-ass in that book and the plot keeps moving and I keep wanting to read more – so good!

DC Comics wise, I ended dropping Action Comics (though Super Man is my favorite superhero).  It just stopped being satisfying at one point.  I am reading Snyder’s “Batman”, but in trade form.  Any superhero fan would be hard pressed to not read that book, as well as “Justice League.”

Jack

Tastes change.  Lately I’ve tended to lean more to nostalgia and light wackiness in books.  “Samurai Jack” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” definitely scratch that itch, and are accessible with a couple of taps on my phone, or tablet.  There, space isn’t an issue.  It’s harder for me to justify buying actual books.  Maybe it’s the want to keep brick and mortar stores in business and a return to something comforting from my childhood.  I don’t plan to stop reading comics anytime soon, but how I read them definitely may change.

 

Comics are bought from Silvermoon Comics in Salem, MA.  Many graphic novels are purchased through Amazon.com or Comixology.  If you enjoyed, please like.  Feel free to comment.  And thanks!

 

Writer’s Digest Weekly Writing Prompt, 2/23/16

Prompt By: Brian A. Klems | February 23, 2016

You are an expert at capturing alligators—they call you “The Alligator Whisperer.” Your work has helped scientists gather extensive information on the life of alligators and you are hailed as a hero in the scientific community. Everything is going great until one day the alligators start hunting you. What do you do?

Warning: This story has strong language and some disturbing imagery.

‘Shit!  Shit!  Shit!’ Harold thought as he hobbled as quickly as he could toward the Cold Turkey Convenience Store.  He was tired, dehydrated, had a twisted ankle, and was hearing voices.  To make it worse, it was night.

“Crush!”  One voice said.

“Kill!”  Another responded.

“Meat!”  Came yet another.

Harold gritted his teeth and did his best to move faster.  The voices were getting louder.  They were getting closer.  He was running out of time.

Inside the Cold Turkey, Ralph was leaning on the wall next to the scratch-off tickets.  His green vest was pristine, the store’s golden letters embroidered over his left breast.  Below that was his nametag, covered in grease after months of him swearing he would clean it.  His friend and trusty co-worker, Jay, was leaning against the front counter, arms folded next to the register.

“Yeah, man,” Ralph said, staring contemplatively at the hotdogs turning on the warmer.  “Darcy’s a bad-ass.  I mean, who gets to be a total dick and still gets the girl at the end?”

“Nah,” Jay said, shaking his head.  “It’s more of a statement of Elizabeth’s character, if anything.  She doesn’t even like the dude until she finds out he’s rich.”

“Money talks,” Ralph smirked, scratching the back of his head.  Jay snorted and shook his.

The unlocked-side of the banged open and in walked a very scared, hurt and tired Harold.  Both of the clerks jolted.  Jay gave Harold a weary look and white knuckled the front counter, his thumb hovering over the silent alarm.  Ralph casually leaned forward, hand resting on the butt of a baseball bat.

Harold flipped the lock on the door and closed the blinds. He thought, ‘How the fuck did this go so wrong?  Why would the gators wait so long?  Why now?’  He stood at the door, breathing hard, body tense, staring at nothing.

“Excuse me, sir!”  Jay said.  “We don’t close until 2 and it’s only 8.  It’s even still too early for a robbery, if you ask me.”  He smirked and looked at Ralph, who responded with a scolding look and a disappointed shake of his head.

“Yeah,” Harold quickly contemplated and nodded.  “This is a robbery!”  He reached inside his vest and pulled out his buck-knife.  Jay pushed the silent alarm.

“The problem here, sir,” Ralph said, pulling out the bat, “is that celebrities like you already have a ton of money.  I don’t think Harold ‘Wrangler’ Jacobs is having a hard time supplying for his family, or feeding some heavy drug-addiction.  I don’t think this is really a robbery.”

“Damn!”  Jay exclaimed, making Ralph and Harold jump.  “You’re the gator whisperer dude!  From TV!”

Harold licked his lips, panicking at being recognized.  He lifted his knife, Ralph his bat.  Sweat was streaming down Harold’s face, his eyes were wide with fear and adrenaline.

“Listen to me,” Harold growled.  “This is going to sound bat-shit.  There was a gator rescue tonight.  Three twelve-footers got into a retirement community’s pond.  Happens all the time.  Something happened and they- they’re coming for me!”

“The gators?”  Ralph asked, dropping his arms.  He then jumped and screamed as there was a loud bang against the front door.  There came a stronger bang that shook the blinds.

Harold walked over to the door and peaked through the blinds.  There, eye to eye with him, was an alligator’s face.

“Meat!”  It screamed in Harold’s head.

Harold jumped back and opened the blinds just in time to see the alligator get on his hind legs and fall toward the door.  Harold swore under his breath and moved out of the way as the gator came crashing down, breaking the glass.  Both clerks screamed and jumped on the back counter, against the wall.

The alligator thrashed, growling and snapping.  Harold hit a piece of metal and the gator stopped moving for a moment.

“Meat!  Meat!”  The gator screamed in Harold’s head.  It flipped itself right-side up and seemed to hiss victorious.

“Meat!” it exclaimed as it rushed Harold.

Harold dove out of the way, down a small aisle, canned goods.  The started turning, slowed by the lack of space.  When its back was turned to him, Harold thought a prayer, took his buck knife in his teeth and leapt on its back.  The gator thrashed hard, Harold barely managing to pin its jaws shut.

“Meat!” It screamed at Harold, emitting loud growls.

Harold started wrestling the gator, trying to get it on its belly.  This is what he did.  It was what made him famous.  Of course he was known for saving gators.  Not this one.

“Thrash!”  He suddenly heard another voice.

“Destroy!”  Came another.

He finally pinned the meat-gator and, after a second’s hesitation, stuck his knife in its brain.  A guttural cry rang out in his head and then came the actual sounds of two more gators growling.

Ralph was shaking as two more gators came in through what was the front door.  One seemed interested in him and Jay and the other prowled toward Harold.

The one interested in the clerks stopped and opened its jaws wide, hissing menacingly, its tail thrashing.  Ralph hugged his knees and kept his eyes on the gator.  It leapt and bounced off the front counter, but still managed to to almost tip it over.  Ralph looked away for a second to see the baseball lying on the floor.  It was too far away.

“Destroy!” the gator hissed in Harold’s mind.

“Thrash!” Said the other.  Harold was sure it was preoccupied with the clerks.  He hoped he could get to that one in time.

In killing the meat-gator, he had knocked over the canned goods shelves, leaving more space.  Harold swallowed and ran.  The destroy-gator took chase.

Harold knocked over shelves and threw things at the gator.  Part of him knew he was pissing the cold-blooded killing-machine off while actually succeeding at slowing it down.  Then he tripped.

Thrash-gator leapt at the counter again, snapping at the air.  It was pushing the front counter closer to the two clerks, as well as over.  All both clerks could think to do was stare.  There was a loud crack as the twelve-foot long alligator leapt again and completely flattened the counter.  Then came Harold’s scream.

Destroy-gator had his lower left leg in its jaws.  The pain was unbearable; Harold knew he was going to pass out.  The gator thrashed and disconnected Harold’s knee.  Harold yowled and passed out.  The gator then tore his left leg  off at the knee and started swallowing.

Thrash-gator was getting ready to leap again.  Then there came a high pitched whistle from the doorway.  It worked, whoever it was, the gator looked at the doorway.  The two clerks did too.

Standing in the doorway was a police officer with a double-barreled shot-gun.  “Come here, you son of a bitch,” she muttered and cocked her gun.  There was a crack and the alligator attacking Harold fell over dead.  The shot-gun officer’s partner shot from the police car, right through destroy-gator’s mouth.

“Come on!”  She then yelled.  Thrash-gator hissed and charged.  It opened its mouth as it got ready to attack her legs and she pulled the trigger against its head.

It was over.  Ralph threw up.

The other officer ran in with a first-aid kit and started tending to Harold.  He also called it in to the precinct.  The shot-gun officer turned to check on the two clerks.

“How’re you two doing?” She asked.

“F-fine,” Ralph managed, then turned to throw up again.  Jay nodded that he was fine too.

The shot-gun officer went and got the two clerks waters from the cooler, trying to not kill herself on the mess.  Ralph looked worse for ware, pale and clammy.

“I actually have a question,” Jay started when the officer returned.  “What do you think of Darcy?”

“Jane Austin’s Darcy?”  The shot-gun officer asked rhetorically, with a small smile.  “He’s a douche.”

Prompt is from www.writersdigest.com.   This is my first fictional story in a while.  If you enjoyed, please like.  Also, feel free to comment.  And thanks!

 

Better Late Review: Deadpool

Better Late Movie Review: Deadpool

deadpool-ver9-11e99

Superhero movies that focus more on the absurd, than the grounded-seriousness of reality, are rare these days.  Along successful R-rated film adaptations of Alan Moore’s grittier “V for Vendetta” and “Watchmen” graphic novels, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies also embrace gritty realism over comic-book antics.  Marvel Studios has embraced both the gritty and the absurd, sometimes in the same movies.  Along the lines of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man”, Twentieth Century Fox’s “Deadpool” embraces its absurdity and delivers a movie even the smallest of fans (yours truly included) deserves.

Being a slap-happy, action packed, raunchy, very R-rated romp, Ryan Reynolds fits naturally as the title character.  Reynolds (Deadpool/ Wade Wilson), is at his best as the infamous Merc-with-a-mouth.  His delivery of quips and physical gags impress, but he also embraces the character’s more serious and, subtly, legitimately crazy side.  Reynolds makes the title hero the rightful star of the show.

Plot-wise, the movie is unapologetically standard origin-story/ revenge-tale.  There’s a hooker with a heart of gold turned love interest, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), sketchy best friend, Weasel (T.J. Miller), and British-accented villain, Ajax/ Francis (Ed Skrein).  Where the film excels is in its conservative fourth-wall breaking self-awareness and Deadpool’s overall absurdity.  It actually embraces it’s basic ‘80’s – ‘90’s formula by referencing such things as “Wham!”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, and holding a boom-box over your head outside of a window (while listening to Wham!).

Wade Wilson is a once-upon-a-time military elite killing machine, dishonorably discharged and turned mercenary.  He hangs out at a bar with other mercenaries and is ran by his friend, Weasel.  The bar is also where he gets his assignments.  One night Vanessa bumps into his life and Wade’s life seems to be vastly improving.  Then he gets cancer.  A very shady character (Jed Reese) shows up and offers Wade not only a chance to cure his cancer, but to become a hero, which Wade doesn’t particularly want to become.  It ends up the cancer curing place is not what it seems and Ajax tortures Wade Wilson causing him to become very deformed, but turning him into a mutant.  It is set in the X-Men universe after all.

From the opening credits, it’s very obvious the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.  There are references to such things as the movie’s budget, and to Ryan Reynolds in general.  Be warned, though: if you’re not a fan of Reynolds, or Deadpool, this movie won’t change your mind.  This also isn’t a movie for kids: there is both male and female full-frontal nudity, sex-jokes, drug-jokes, overall silliness, gore, slapstick, flying decapitated heads, gore, f-bombs, old woman jokes, masturbation jokes, gore, and f-bombs.

X-Men and comic fans have a lot to chew on with this movie.  Colossus (CGI character, voiced by Stefan Kapicic) has a small part as a moral compass of sorts, as does lesser-known Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).  There are many Easter eggs to find, speculate about, and be excited about the future of superhero flicks.

The movie’s strongest asset of focusing on Deadpool may also be its weakest.  Weasel is a character that could use a fleshed out story, as is the bad-guy, Ajax/ Francis, who just comes off as a super-powered asshole.  Performance wise, everyone knocks it out of the park.  Even smaller roles, such as Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Wade’s blind crack-addicted (and Ikea furniture assembling) room-mate, are likable and believable in the context of Wade Wilson’s world.

A huge factor is that Deadpool looks like Deadpool.  This is the most authentic a superhero has looked like their comic book counterpart since Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies.  Even the many pants and vest pouches and the little flip-top to Deadpool’s mask are there.  CGI is subtly used to white out Deadpool’s eyes when he’s wearing the mask and to make it more emotive.  Brilliant!  Keep in mind of what you’re getting into with this movie – the full Deadpool experience – and what that implies.

 

My Grade: B

 

Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and Ed Skrein, is directed by Tim Miller, and, is released by Twentieth Century Fox.  It is rated R for: strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.

Feel free to like, comment, and share.  And thanks!

 

Better Late Impressions – The Witcher: Wild Hunt

Yar! Thar be light spoilers ahead! Ye be warned!

   

(This is an impression of the first twelve, or so, hours of gameplay. It is said to take up to two-hundred hours for 100% completion.)

  The Witcher: Wild Hunt, Developer CD Projekt RED’s third and final Witcher game, brings Polish author, Adrezej Sapkowski’s, fantasy book series to digital life with incredible detail and authenticity. As a result, Wild Hunt feels like much more than just another fantasy RPG. 

 You play as Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher. What’s a witcher, you may ask? They are pretty bad-ass mutated monster slaying bounty hunters. People aren’t exactly thrilled with their existence, but they are necessary means of ridding the world of pesky ghouls, murloc like drowners, angry ghosts and other monstrosities. You just happen to be the most popular of the dwindling witchers.

 The Wild Hunt refers to a band of ominously black-armored knights hunting down Ciri, your none-altered apprentice. Finding her, and why she is being hunted, makes up the bulk of the lengthy main quest. The subtitle is also a generalization for the game. Exploring the literal wilds plays a big part in this brutal epic. Fore-mentioned monsters share the world with wildlife, common folk, bandits, kings, barons, gnomes, dwarfs and elves.

 There is a constant sense of various tensions in the world, politics play as important a role as monster-slaying. You have some tough choices to make. None playable characters are rarely black and white and their intentions may not be ones that you agree with. Choices themselves are more natural, no gage depicts how “good” or “bad” you are, things just are. Choices play out with natural feeling consequences that are not always immediately apparent..

Unusual for recent games containing similarly moody tales, the world pops with bright vivid colors, bringing the digital world to glorious life. This world feels lived in, not just by people, but by the various creatures who inhabit it. Wolves and bears attack wild life, and you, if you get too close. Wind can violently blow trees and rain spatters against the game camera.

Travel is made easy by giving you a horse named Roach, who you can summon almost anywhere, and also by widely placed fast-travel sign posts. Question marks pocking the map give reason to explore as there is often loot and something very cool to see and experience and also kill. Likewise, the side quests add more to the world, not feeling tacked on or redundant, and some of them can lead to quite extensive and enthralling stories of their own.

Even on the normal difficulty level, hacking and slashing can only get you so far, as sometimes even preparing with various oils and potions (created through a deep alchemy system) can make a huge difference of survival. Different signs, your magic spells, add offensive and defensive elements and can be enhanced in various ways.  

 Fighting isn’t always smooth, but dodging blocking and parrying is fun and require skill, while using various signs is fast and satisfying. Potions can be taken, enhancing health-regen or attack power, but each potion has a toxicity level, so just chugging them is not encouraged.

 Outside of combat, control takes some getting used to. Your movement seems to be momentum based. Stopping on a dime is not often an option and looting can be a little bit of an issue. You sure can book it on foot, though! You also often use your Witcher-sense (think “detective vision” ala The Batman: Arkham games) to play detective, make looting easier and to pick flowers (seriously).

 Character models look great and everyone you have to speak to is fully voiced. The acting performances aren’t always great, but that doesn’t take away from the immersion. Some chugging on the PS4’s frame rate during more-frantic battles and cut-scenes can be distracting, but the game still looks gorgeous and plays fantastically.

 The Wild Hunt is something special. It’s just the meaty sandwich of a game you may have always wanted. Being truly open-world without sacrificing story, or character, in this manor feels like a major game breakthrough. There may be some flaws, but a game this deep and fun has a chance to not only define this generation of gaming, but the RPG genre moving forward.

The Witcher: Wild Hunt is developed by CD Projekt RED and published in the US by WB Games. It is rated M for Mature for: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol. Available for PS4 (played on), Xbox One and PC.

Feel free to comment. If interested, I’m on PSN as bad_gamer83 and twitter as badgamer83. And thanks!

All so Comical – February 2015 (Star Wars, kid!)

I haven’t shut up or stopped thinking about Star Wars since the teaser trailer for “The Force Awakens” was released. I’m once again six years old, imagining the possibilities and adventures in a galaxy far, far, away.
For years, I have pondered what happened between the destruction of the Death Star and the Rebel Alliance making camp on the frozen planet of Hoth. These stories were being told, but between me falling out with comics (it wasn’t them, it was me) and being weary of the stories being authentic, I didn’t pay them any mind. With the combination of Disney acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm and me relatively recently getting back into comics, I finally returned to characters I know and love.
Writer Jason Aaron (“Thor: God of Thunder”,”Southern Bastards”) and artist John Cassaday’s (“Astonishing X-Men”, “Uncanny Avengers”) telling of the events after the destruction of the Death Star does my imagination justice. It looks and feels like “Star Wars”. Even new character moments, like Leia really wanting to kill Vader, come to fruition like I haven’t imagined and the movies have never dealt with. For some, this is an issue. For me, it makes sense. Leia doesn’t have a home anymore, so, yeah she would want to kill whoever’s responsible! The characters look and read like their movie counterparts, and the environments and vehicles look similarly industrial and rundown, being characters in their own rights. Star Wars, how I have missed thee.
Likewise, Keiron Gillen (“Wicked + Devine”, “Journey Into Mystery”) and Salvador Larroca’s (“Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra”, “X-Men: No More Humans”) “Darth Vader” book brings familiar elements while introducing new ones. Yes, the Sith-Lord is still bad-ass, but also desperate. The destruction of the Death Star has put him in a bad spot; the emperor blaming its destruction on Vader. Gillen’s writing is spot on and entertaining (the homage opening-narrative is a fun twist). This book is more so artist Larroca’s shining star, conveying Vader’s desperation and even his sliver of humanity through drawn body language.
Both books are great for Star Wars fans and even for people interested in reading comics. They give me confidence that Star Wars is in good hands over at Disney and makes me even more excited to see what the new movies bring.
Follow me on twitter as badgamer83 and on PSN as bad_gamer83 when gaming. And thanks for reading.

Pull List: -Daredevil
– Rocket Raccoon
– Amazing Spider-Man
– Superman
– Action Comics
– Black Science
– Rat Queens
– Rumble
– Star Wars
– Stars Wars: Darth Vader
– Saga
– Silver Surfer
– Wicked + Devine
– Thor
– Copperhead
– Wytches
– Ms. Marvel
– Captain Marvel

Read in Collections: – Batman
– Aquaman
– Southern Bastards
– Sex Criminals
– Wonderwoman
– Deadpool
– Alex + Ada

Interested in Reading: – Lumberjanes
– Swamp Thing
– Justice League
– Samurai Jack
– Maus
– Breath of Bones
– Green Lantern

Favorite Series – Bone

Thanks to those at Talking Comics, specifically Bobby Shortle, for their podcast and replying to questions when they can. Their website (www.talkingcomicbooks.com) and podcast rock.
Comics are subscribed to/ bought at SilverMoon comics in Salem, MA. (www.silvermooncomics.com)