Monday, May 8, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Bigger, Badder, and back with more Music

Over the weekend, I sat down with my girlfriend and two of our friends to watch the Guardians of the Galaxy return to the big screen, with a story that brought a lot more development to the cast (each in its own way), and brought the team that much closer to the eventual super-team up that will occur in Avengers: Infinity War. This latest blockbuster from Marvel Studios is another piece in the very long awaited puzzle building up to a titanic showdown.

As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has just opened several days ago, I'm not going to give away any of the plot for all those who have not seen it yet.

But I am going to say this, there is a lot of great character development throughout the course of the movie, and it unifies the Guardians in a way that was totally unexpected, but when the dust and smoke of the movie and its action had settled, made total and perfect sense. In particular, the character development for Yondu (played again by Michael Rooker) and Rocket Raccoon (voiced again by Bradley Cooper), was very stand out and lent a very strong element of these two gruff and tough space hard-cases being even more likable and memorable then the first time around.

The special effects for this movie were a treat, just like with the previous one, with the Guardians knocking about the galaxy, making it safe for all inhabitants and visiting some pretty strange and outrageous worlds in the process.

Vol. 2 has a soundtrack that is just as fun and full of great sound as the first time around, including songs from Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick, Sweet and Looking Glass. Each song was clearly chosen in a precise manner to line up with different parts of the story, adding that old school music touch to another film that has some salutes to the 80's and Star-Lord's childhood.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a welcome return for the entire cast (and with some new faces added into the mix as well). It was refreshing to see the team back together again, kicking butt, saving the day, all to the tunes of the 20th century, with special effects that are to die for. This is a another cinematic triumph for Marvel Studios, and after Avengers: Infinity War hits theater's in 2018, I can't wait to see what direction the Guardians of the Galaxy are taken next. I am giving this superhero smash high marks, and urge anyone and everyone who reads this review, if you haven't seen it yet, go see it!!!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Onward Golden Guard Interview: A Kickstarter Comic/RPG Tribute to Golden Age Superheroes

In the 21st century, comic books and superheroes have changed a lot. Companies are doing constant revisions of the overall history of their characters, characters are being redone and redesigned to fit the changing tastes and desires of the fanbase. Books are canceled, then revived, then canceled again, and teams/groups that at one point were the #1 sellers are shuffled under the rug or given such a makeover that there's no resemblance to the original. That's where The ONWARD GOLDEN GUARD Kickstarter from 3 Rogues Studios comes into play. This project, the brainchild of Vito Delsante, Carlos Cabalerio and Charlie McElvy, is a comic book/tabletop RPG that introduces backers to the world of The Golden Guard, a superteam from the grand Golden Age of the 1940s. All three of these fellows are accomplished members of the comic book/RPG community, so a collaboration of this magnitude will have a fantastic end result. And now to tell you about the project and The Golden Guard itself in their own words, is the three fine gentlemen who are the fathers of this superhero world. 

Carlos and Charlie: How did Vito bring you both in on the project? 

Carlos- Vito and I go back to meeting at SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) back in 2006. Through mostly my fault (ok, all my fault--I never responded back to his email), that meeting didn't lead to any collaboration. Flash forward years later and I found Vito on FB and sent him a friend request. I supported both Stray KS campaigns, cheered him on. I had just worked on a trading card set for DC and I had a chance to draw some of my favorite characters, the Golden Age JSA. I had a bit of rare down time between gigs and decided to do a little piece for myself of the JSA. At that same time, Charlie and Vito were getting the ball rolling on Golden Guard and had no artist attached to the project yet when this JSA piece of mine showed up on Vito's newsfeed. He contacted me if I had sequential work and after sharing that with Charlie, they pitched me the idea for the project and I said yes.

Charlie- Vito and I shared a mutual affection for each other's work, and we just naturally gravitated together. It's probably a longer story than that, but not particularly exciting. It's more like trying to explain how you met your lifelong friend -- you don't recall all of the really fine details, it just...happens. :) 

Questions for Carlos

Carlos: What has been the most challenging part of doing all the art for the comics and the RPG?

Carlos- Time is the biggest challenge. This project is a labor of passion, that means no payments till this book gets funded. Now, most of the work I've been doing has been character creation and the History Book pages. All this has been going on between paid work, and I've been insanely busy since late last year. I've worked my butt off to secure enough in the bank and with the funding of this book to take off the next 3-4 months to work exclusively on getting the main book completed and out to backers by October. I'm a page a day guy, so that is more than enough time for me. The History Book is there to keep the backers engaged (and informed) as I toll away on the book.
Follow up: Are there any panels or pages in the RPG you are especially proud of?

I honestly don't have a favorite. I think every page and every panel matter in a story. I'm really proud of the work I'm doing on this project overall. Ask me again when the whole book is done and in people's hands because there are amazing panels and pages coming up that I haven't finished yet.

Is there a character you’ve enjoyed drawing and bringing to life for the comic and RPG?

I think Eidolon and Cadmus are my 2 favorite designs and the first 2 solely created with my involvement but I really enjoy getting to come up with outfits for Americana to fit each time period she's been active in. 

Questions for Charlie

I’ve read through the WatchGuard (Charlie's own published comic book) and the characters you crafted for the issue all stand out in their own ways, but especially the characters of James, Sentinel and Garrison. Are there going to be characters in the Golden Guard RPG that you place the spotlight on in particular?

First, I'm glad a few characters stand out, and I'm always excited to find out who gravitates to whom, so thanks! Voyager (James) is technically the leader of the team, so he was a natural fit for more attention; Sentinel just happened. I didn't mean to love that guy so much, but he's a personal favorite, so I probably, subconsciously, wrote him more affectionately. As for TGG characters in the RPG works for this Kickstarter, I have my admitted passion for Cadmus, but thankfully Vito wrote the bios already. That said, who knows what scenarios I'll cook up for these guys. I also have some guest writers, so you can bet their favorite(s) will get a little spotlight writer's love.

Questions for Vito

How did the idea for the Golden Guard project come about?

It just came from a need, a desire, to create a really all encompassing history for a lot of my work. I try to make sure that everything I do has a connection. That everything fits together, everything is a piece of a larger puzzle. You have to stand back and look at the big picture really closely, but it's all there.

In the FAQ, you answer the question of that the Kickstarter will tie into the Stray Universe (a comic book universe Vito created), but HOW will it fit into the world you’ve been building over the years?

The ties are loose. As I have a contract with Action Lab, I can't be extremely overt in how the two projects fit together, but you don't have to read one to enjoy the other. Again, you have to stand back and look at the bigger picture once everything is done.

Questions for All Three Creators

What’s been your favorite part working on this project together?

Vito: Everything, really. There's a lot of back and forth, there's a lot of ideas thrown at each other and a lot of compromise. I think we all have a unique talent to spot the best idea in "the room," and it's not always the one we personally suggest. It's a tight team...the only thing we're missing currently is a colorist, but once we have one, that compromise and being open to an idea that's not yours will extend to her or him.

Carlos: The team and by that I mean Charlie and Vito. We really work well together and genuinely care for each other. Comics isn't an easy business. 96 pages and additional art for covers and the RPG is a HUGE chunk of my life. Its a big ass commitment but I have faith in these guys and dealing with them day in and day out makes this significant investment of my career worth it.

Charlie: Just that: working together! Collaboration is so rewarding when there's a natural synergy amongst the creators. I love these guys, and I love how they think and work. When I did WatchGuard, I worked 100% solo. Writing, publishing, developing, hiring freelancers, building designs, page layouts, figuring out how to get stuff done...LOTS of work went into that project, and it was entirely on my shoulders to get it done. So, just having someone to share the load would be enough, but doing so with guys you enjoy working with is its own reward!

Do each of you have a character you’re excited for backers and fans to see?

Vito: I've gone on record as saying King Jaguar and Captain Scarab are my favorites. They have a Booster Gold/Blue Beetle relationship, and just like how they bounce off of each other.

Carlos: Not a character, but the team together in action. Both in the past and in the present. That's what I'm excited for them to see.

Charlie: CADMUS!!! AMERICANA!!! CAPTAIN SCARAB!!! Honestly, I'm excited for readers to get a chance to really meet each of these characters!

After the Kickstarter is fully funded and the books come out, what is the next step for the Golden Guard?

Vito: Sleep. Then make the book.

Carlos: BOOK 2 and a that book's free weekly 48 page book...Tales of the Golden Guard. 4 page shorts featuring characters from the History Book and tackling a multitude of genres (western, war, sci fi, adventure, pulp, noir, crime, etc).

Charlie: For me, it'll probably be expanding the RPG with more characters, some new scenarios, and so forth. I'm pretty sure we'll have plenty to show off in the next couple years with TGG, well beyond this Kickstarter's goals. ONWARD GOLDEN GUARD!!

And there you have it readers! Straight from all three of The Golden Guard's creators!! This is one Kickstarter that when fully funded, will be worth the while of all its backers!! A comic book series and RPG bringing forth a new world of superheroes, each one unique and fantastic in their own right!! Click this link here:  and show your support and bring The Golden Guard out of the minds of these guys and into the light!! Its a superpowered adventure you don't want to miss out on!! ONWARD GOLDEN GUARD!!!!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Power Rangers: The Classic Franchise Gets A Reboot

Last evening I took in a showing of the new Power Rangers movie with my girlfriend and two of our friends. While I grew up in the 90's, sadly I did not get into the craze like everyone else did, though I have remained a fan over the years, and so going into this movie, could appreciate and like it for what it was.

Simply put, this movie is an origin story, reintroducing the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers into the 21st century, with the core characters of the original team (Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Zack), all being given depth in terms of their character backgrounds and personalities, the things that make them stand out as individuals, and that draws them together to find the Morphing Coins and become the Power Rangers. Zordon and Rita (played by Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks) are also given more depth for audiences and Power Rangers fans, broadening the scope of who they are beyond mentor and primary villainess. Even Alpha 5 fills a larger role, helping to take these five teens with attitude and train them to become the saviors of Earth.

The special effects for the movie were quite literally out of this world!! Whether its the armor the Rangers wear (looking more like actual armor befitting warriors going into battle), or Rita's large monster she uses to try and destroy Earth, Zordon's face booming out instructions and mentor-style speech, or...the Zords!!! Because lets face it, this wouldn't be a Power Rangers movie without our heroes not only suiting up, but getting in the cockpits of their large and prehistoric modeled fighting machines!!! And the special effects on the Zords and the MegaZord do not disappoint!!

Power Rangers contains lots of elements that are part homage to the original series, and also takes cues from the modern age, especially in terms of characterization and story structure. Overall, if you are someone who has grown up loving the franchise and the Power Rangers, then this movie will not disappoint you. If you're like me and you know Power Rangers and appreciate it, then this movie will also not disappoint you either. And if you are someone who never gave a darn about Power Rangers before or are just now getting into it, then as an introduction to the world of the Rangers that will entice you to go back and watch the original series's, then this is definitely the movie for you!!! I am giving this movie a high rating and excellent marks for taking a beloved 90's franchise, and bringing it forward into the 21st century!! Go go go see Power Rangers as soon as you can!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kong: Skull Island: The King of Apes Is Back

On Saturday I settled in to a movie theater once again, this time to watch 'Kong: Skull Island' with my girlfriend and a good friend of ours. It delivered up a hair-raising, action filled epic featuring King Kong making his return to the big screen, with a well-rounded cast and a story that is sure to set-up other classic giant movie monsters returning as well.

With a backdrop of 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, Tom Hiddleston plays one of the principal roles, James Conrad a former British Special Air Service Captain who joins up with William Randa (John Goodman) and his research team alongside United States Army Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and joined by his multi-casted military squadron of troops, set out for the aptly named Skull Island, being drawn into a land of horrors and death, all the while dealing with the realization that they, the human race, are not alone on the planet, when confronted again and again by Kong.

The special effects for 'Kong: Skull Island' are out of this world! Kong is so real, his movements and everything about him, one would actually expect him to suddenly reach a massive paw out through the screen to grab at audiences. And the special effects for the other inhabitants of Skull Island, well lets just say it will surprise, shock and awe you movie-lovers, and that's all you are going to get out of this review.

If like me, you are a fan of King Kong and other movie monsters, and all their various films, then this is one movie you are going to want to see in theaters. 'Kong: Skull Island' is a fine comeback for Kong, and with characters like the ones played by Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson, each installment that comes out after this one will only serve to build upon the world that is laid out before us, and just adds another notch on the wide belt of accomplishments that are the other King Kong movies that have come out over the years. 

Beauty and the Beast: A Tale As Old As Time

On Friday evening, I surprised my girlfriend with tickets to a movie that has been talked about for several years now and generated massive amounts of chatter, both online and offline.

I am of course talking about Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast', starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Under the direction of Bill Condon, with Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos writing the script, the end result was a film that is not a direct adaptation of the original 1991 Disney animated classic, nor an adaptation of the hit Broadway show, but its own story, wedded to the music and songs of both the animated original and the Broadway production.

This review is not intended to be chock-full of spoilers, rather, I will state as I have with other reviews, the primary motivations/reasons why this movie was an amazing release for Disney's live-action film line.

1. Casting: What a cast this was! Each actor and actress brought their character to life, giving them all more depth and background, fleshing out certain characters who were central to the story, but didn't have much in the way of their own story beyond what was seen on the screen or stage. Everyone who see's this film will be delighted by the cast, and I would not be surprised if certain leads get nominated/win Oscar's for their performances.

2. Music/Soundtrack: Many of the original songs composed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman for the original animated movie were used, with Menken returning to score the movie along with Tim Rice. To all who grew up delighting in these songs, you will not be disappointed one bit, plus a few song surprises thrown in by Menken, so make sure to keep your ears open.

'Beauty and the Beast' is a wonderful romantic musical masterpiece from Disney, a fantastic and heart-warming story of love with songs that will continue to remain ingrained in the hearts and minds of all who have a passion for Disney musicals. I am giving 'Beauty and the Beast' a high approval rating, and will tell everyone who has not already seen it, to go see it right away! It will charm you, make you laugh, make you cry, make you cheer for the true love that blossoms between Belle and Beast and you will see first hand a tale as old as time come to life before your very eyes once more on the silver screen.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Logan: A Film Farewell to one heck of an X-Man

How does one say goodbye to a role and character who for the last 17 years has been a mainstay of the superhero film genre? This is a question many people will have been asking this past weekend, and those who have not seen Hugh Jackman's final performance as James "Logan" Howlett aka Wolverine, one of the most famous and well known members of the X-Men team and one of the main selling faces of the overall X-Men film franchise (this includes his spinoff films, of which 'Logan' is the third and final installment).

Last night I saw 'Logan' with my girlfriend, my brother and a group of our friends. And I will say this right now, be prepared (if you've not seen 'Logan' yet), to have your heart yanked out as you watch Hugh Jackman put on Logan's grit, grim determination, violent tendencies and innate desire to help out/save the world one last time.

I do not intend to give anything away in the way of plot, characters etc. As a nerd and fan of superhero films, I will not be like other blogs/reviewers out there who feel the need to spoil a film for fans who have not seen it yet. I will however talk about Jackman's performance, his last bow as Logan.

Hugh Jackman has always played the character with a certain brashness, because he is in many respects, an animal. Gruff (but with heart), violent, not giving a care about other people (until pulled in to another save the world scenario with the X-Men), and certainly the kind of guy who would sooner punch you then try to talk things out in a situation, this time, Jackman is playing a literally older Logan, a Logan worn down by not just age, but also by the state of the world, and a desire to be left alone, and not get involved in the problems of other people. This is not the Wolverine of old, this is a Wolverine who is ready to die, and would welcome death like a friend.

It's hard to believe, that after 17 years, Hugh Jackman is retired from a role that he has taken and made into his own, and brought the character of Wolverine to life in ways that no other actor could.

Seeing him up there on the screen, being Logan, in all of the characters gritty, hard as nails glory one last time was fantastic! There will quite literally never be another actor to take up that role (and hopefully studios will never try to recast), because how could anyone ever come close to the level of performance and character development that Jackman has put into the character these past 17 years.

In closing, I give 'Logan' the highest of marks for its characters, story, scenery, action and above all else, for allowing Hugh Jackman to hang up the claws in a way that did Wolverine justice, and gave for what I hope many (myself included) consider/will consider, to be a fitting finale to the Wolverine movie story. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie: The Dark Knight Has Fun

Yesterday evening I sat down with my girlfriend and two of our friends to take in the 'The Lego Batman Movie', and it was absolutely hilarious! This movie does everything so right, taking the entirety of the Batman franchise, putting it together with the outlandish humor that was a part of 'The Lego Movie', mix in a stellar voice cast and the end result is non-stop laughs!

'The Lego Batman Movie' is chock full of references to everything Batman, from the vast history of the character in the comics, to his many years of being both a presence in TV and movies, and there are plenty of other nerdy Easter Eggs thrown in as well (no spoilers, everyone who has not seen this movie will need to see it to pick out the Easter Eggs themselves).

Will Arnett returns once more as the whining, outrageous voice of this iteration of the Dark Knight, bringing a lot more depth to the character within the confines of the Lego Universe. Michael Cera joins as the other half of the Dynamic Duo, a plucky and overly eager to please/be loved Dick Grayson/Robin who is very fond of gasping in excitement at things and has insane energy (even for a Lego figure).

Added into the mix is Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth, still the stoic and wisdom dispensing butler that he is in the comic books and every other media that he's appeared in thus far. With one major difference, this version of Batman's loyal butler isn't above being more involved in keeping "Master Bruce" from going down a lonely road of sadness and despair. With Rosario Dawson as the voice of Barbara Gordon (newly minted Commissioner of Gotham City Police), fans are given a character who is very passionate about making a difference in Gotham, and in pursuing that goal, discovers along the way what happens when you team with Batman to save the day (pure awesome that is what happens).

Stepping into the purple suit and madness of The Joker is none other then Zach Galifianakis, and while I admit I was skeptical (I am spoiled growing up with Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker and I am not sorry for that), he brought his own brand of mayhem to the Clown Prince of Crime, and he did a bang up job of it too.

Whether you see it with your loved one, your kids, family or friends, 'The Lego Batman Movie' provides endless laughs for audiences, both fans and non-fans of Batman and his entire everything. It's a must see, feel good, fun-loving movie that will make you wanting to watch it again and again and again.