Adam Warlock, One of Marvel's Greatest Characters

Talk about a severely underrated character, and one who epitomizes the cosmic superhero. Jim Starlin is the premier writer for the character and it's not difficult to understand why, knowing that he is the master of cosmic storytelling. I've known of this character for quite some time but once I truly discovered him, he quickly became a favorite of mine.

Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as an genetically-engineered supreme being, "Him" was destined to grow and learn among the starways. But this journey would end up being Adam's eternal struggle; the search for his place and meaning in the vast universe. After Adam makes a Messianic sacrifice for the people of counter-earth, Starlin commandeered this character and took him to new heights (and lows), making Adam schizophrenic, depressive and downright suicidal. It's an unconventional take on one of comicdom's most unconventional heroes. Not only that but he wrests the Infinity Gauntlet and is its chosen keeper for quite some time, along with a team he later selects on his own.

Warlock is supremely powerful and often the carrier of the soul gem - which also happens to be a place he'd rather hide in blissful ignorance. Adam is less a reluctant hero than he is a cautious one. He's bound by a feeling of responsibility and duty, as well as his own feelings of guilt. But rest assured, he'd just as soon be done with all this "hero" business. Warlock represents a more introspective take on heroism, one that shows being a hero as a tremendous burden, often at the sacrifice of any or all joy. One that's even shown to be regrettable. Talk about grim. It's a unique take that you just don't find in mainstream comics.

If you haven't, check out Adam Warlock. You're in for one of Marvel's best kept secrets.

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The MCU Countup! #1. Captain America: TWS

In anticipation of Avengers: Age of Ultron coming out next week, here's my ranking of the 10 current MCU movies as they stand. I'll be doing one at a time but rather than doing the typical countdown, I'll be doing a "countup". Why? Because I'm a jerk who goes against the grain.

Let's start with #1:

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Captain America: TWS standing over the MCU competition
Captain America: TWS standing over the MCU competition

When Marvel announced they would be adapting a screen version of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, comic fans rejoiced. The notion of bringing one of comic's most celebrated storylines, especially a recent one, was enough to get any Cap fan excited. Little did we know that the fresh faced Russo Bros. could actually deliver beyond our expectations. It was being billed as a spy thriller, and it wasn't difficult to see why upon an initial viewing. As a diehard fan of the Jason Bourne trilogy, I relished the similarities between the two. The gritty realism of it, paired with astounding fight choreography, made it the spiritual successor to the Bourne films in both style and execution. But it also served to push comic book movies forward as genre films, and I don't say that disparagingly. After all, this wasn't just another superhero flick. This was an espionage actioner of the highest order - something any fan of spy thrillers could enjoy.

The Russo's deft ability in crafting an intense build of suspense in big moments sets the film apart (See: The Highway Fight Scene). As per example, the fight choreography is, quite simply, the strongest we've seen in any comic book film to date. There's a palpable sense of danger and the fights convey that through earnest realism and badassery.

Beyond that, this movie proved once again - like The Dark Knight before it - that superhero movies could be more than just that. It proved that these films could strive beyond their typical trappings and play equally well as straight-up dramas; Ones with hefty, relevant themes. Without delving into a length analysis of the film's themes (perhaps a discussion for another day?), rest assured CA:TWS represents all that is possible with this particular slice of blockbuster entertainment. For this reason, along with its tightly written script and sly Bourne coolness, Captain America: The Winter Soldier tops my list of MCU films. Move over, Thor: The Dark World! ;P

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Simply can not wait for Venditti & Jensen's Flash!

Looks like I'm jumping on at issue 30. I was looking for a good jumping on point with Barry and I got quite the perfect chance with my current favorite writer being at the helm.

Just had to share my excitement. I've been following these guys (V-Ditti and Jensen) early on and anyone else paying attention knows these are two stars just about to break out big in the industry. Their take on Green Lantern and GL Corps respectively has been a highmark of DC superhero comics since they took over.

I got a good feeling about these guys. Can't wait to see what they have in store and what other future projects DC will have for them.

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X-Statix: The best team book ever!

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I don't know why I don't see more people talking about Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's run on X-Force and X-Statix. It was incredible! I just finished it and I had to make a post about it. It's the best superhero team book I've ever read! - No joke. So as for the premise, it's basically about a famous team of mutant superheroes whose main goal is to achieve fame and fortune.

It has original and compelling characters (mutants such as U-Go Girl, The Anarchist, Vivisector, Venus Dee Milo, and my personal favorite Mister Sensitive); great dialogue and character development; superb art; and it's totally unpredictable from a story standpoint. Team members actually die, which is really saying something for a superhero title.

Death adds to the story because the lineup is constantly changing. We get to continually meet new characters as well as the book keeping the "no one is safe" mentality. It really invests you in the story not knowing if your favorite characters will make it through a story arc or not.

But it isn't just a bit morbid, it's also hilarious, even sad. I got so invested in these characters that when certain things go inevitably wrong, I can't help but feel for them. To me that's the essence of great storytelling: creating a world that the reader can immerse themselves in and characters they can empathize with. Between Allred's lively pencils and Milligan's exemplary dialogue, this comic hits all the beats.

X-Statix carved out it's own little self-contained corner of the Marvel universe in the early 2000's. Apparently the reason why such creative freedom was allowed with this book was because this was when Joe Quesada came on as Editor-in-chief. This was when Marvel was trying something new with the X books and the result was Grant Morrison on New X-Men and this gem here. Obviously Morrison's run is well known, but this run is so undeservedly under the radar.

Anyway, check this title out if you haven't. It's seriously awesome. This X-Force/X-Statix run is even collected in an Omnibus if you're interested.

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The Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: #3

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I'd contribute to the spirit of the holiday with this blog. This is part of my "The Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen" blog where I discuss - what else? - but underrated horror films. I plan on doing about a movie a day until Halloween, and this is my third installment in the series. With each installment I talk about one specific film which I think is deserving of attention. I hope this blog to bring recognition to some under-appreciated classics of the genre.

Link to my first installment: #1 Candyman

Link to my second installment: #2 Videodrome

For this installment we have one of my personal favorites:

#3 Tremors (1990) - Horror/Comedy

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The premise:

This buddy comedy delight of 90's horror takes place in a town called Perfection, Nevada - Population: 14 (I'm not kidding). Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) play two handymen, with ambitions of moving out of Perfection. As they attempt to leave Val and Earl come across some strange occurences. After the two run in with a local seismologist they find out the problem seems to be originating from underground. We soon find out the problem is the existence of these enormous underground worm monsters called "Graboids". Then, high jinks ensue.

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Why you should watch it:

(1) How many buddy comedy-horror films are there?

Seriously, how many films mix elements of buddy comedy and horror? In recent years this genre hybrid has become quite popular with movies like Shaun of the Dead, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, and even This Is the End. But before it was popular, Tremors was the one of the few movies approaching this type of genre marriage. t's such a unique spin on the horror genre that it's guaranteed fun. Not only that, but our two protagonists pair up with the whole town to fend off these monsters, one of whom is a seismology student, another a store owner and two local kooks who are crazy survivalists that are armed and ready for this exact situation.

(2) Kevin Bacon is enjoyable, seriously.

Now I don't have a problem with Kevin Bacon, but I know some people on the internet do. So this is why I make this point. Let it be known, he's actually really funny in this movie. I read somewhere that Mr. Bacon, around the time he was making this movie, had a breakdown in front of his wife because he couldn't handle that at that point in his career he was starring in a movie about worm monsters. You have to remember that this came out after Footloose and he was supposed to be this rising star. Ironically, years later, this movie has become something of a little cult classic.

Bacon is hilarious in it, even if it is a bit over-the-top it makes it that much more enjoyable:

More Kevin Bacon awesomeness:

(3) It's a cult classic.

Some of you may have caught it on the weekend playing on some random channel on tv. Some of you, maybe many of you, have even passed by it channel surfing without even noticing it. Surprisingly there's still many people who don't even know about this movie and it's a darn shame. It's established quite a dedicated fanbase over the years and it's not hard to see why.

It's not your conventional horror film as much of it, if not entirely, takes place doing the daytime. It's not a particularly "dark" film, but it represents all that's wacky and fun about ridiculously conceived horror movies.

(4) Graboids are freakin' scary!

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Not only are gigantic worm monsters scary in general, but the fact that they live under our feet and are able to attack us at any moment on land makes them quite the worthy adversary. Much of this movie is about the trouble in finding a safe haven from such adversaries, and realizing how limited you are against them. You can't walk, run or drive anywhere on land! They'll eat you, for real.

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(5) It has an 88% rating on RottenTomatoes.

For you fans of critical praise and horror movie gems, Tremors is the movie for you!

So what are you waiting for? You know you want to watch Tremors now, it's awesome!

Join us next time for another 90's horror/comedy, this time directed by Peter Jackson ('the guy who directed the LOTR movies?' you ask. Yes, that very same man): #4 The Frighteners...

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The Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: #2

This is part of my "The Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen" blog where I discuss - what else? - but underrated horror films. I plan on doing about a movie a day, and this is my second installment in the series. With each installment I talk about one specific film which I think is deserving of attention. I hope this blog to bring recognition to some under-appreciated classics of the genre.

Link to my first installment: #1 Candyman

Link to my third installment: #3 Tremors

For this segment we have:

#2 Videodrome (1983) - Horror/Sci-fi

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The premise:

This sci-fi/horror hybrid follows our protagonist, Max (played by James Woods), who is a regional TV broadcasting executive looking for a new sensationalized program for his special interest audience. Problems arise when Max picks up a strange broadcasting signal. On the channel appears to be extremely violent and pornographic acts. This channel is Videodrome. Max, looking for his own sensationalistic fix, is thrilled to enjoy the perversion and newness of such a show. But the more he partakes, the more obsessed he becomes, even going as far as to become detached from reality.

Why you should watch it:

(1) Videodrome was and still is a groundbreaking film.

It's thoughtful ponderings on the nature of sexual perversion, technology and obsession still resonate with our society today. In a world with nearly everything at our fingertips, what is there to keep us in check but ourselves?

(2) It's weird and surreal like nothing you've ever seen.

There's also lots of talk about "the new flesh" and the tv screen becoming the retina to the mind's eye. In a way the point the movie drives at makes sense in a way as we often feel we have experienced things plainly by watching them happen on the screen. Visual experience becomes raw experience. Here, have a look at this clip to further understand this point and overall tone of the movie:

(3) The practical effects, props and make-up are killer.

Another film on this list that deserves its recognition if even just for the make-up, props and practical effects alone. Moreso than Candyman, this film relies heavily on the skills of it's make-up and design teams and they do not disappoint. For fans of this kind of stuff, Videodrome is basically required viewing. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Here's some visuals to aid your enjoyment:

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(4) Did I mention how weird it is?

Seriously this movie is screwed 6 ways to Sunday. It's most surely to rank amongst your most surreal horror flicks you've ever seen, so for that alone it's worth a shot right? I mean you saw Max's (somewhat genital looking) stomach wound, don't you want to know what the heck is going on there!? Watch it. You're not soon to forget this movie, let's just leave it at that.

Make sure to keep your dynamite handy for my next installment: #3 Tremors...

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The Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: #1

Since Halloween is around the corner, I thought I'd contribute to the spirit of the holiday with this blog. Halloween, being my favorite holiday - a time where I have an excuse to sit at home and watch Fear Fest for days on end and countless other horror flicks - I'd like to take the time to highlight some less popular, underrated horror films maybe in the hopes that some of you who haven't seen these yet will give them a shot.

I will continue to release a new somewhat brief installment every so often all the way through the Halloween holiday, every time detailing another horror movie that begs your attention. For this first installment, I will be talking about Clive Barker's Candyman.

Link to my second installment: #2 Videodrome

Link to my third installment: #3 Tremors

#1. Candyman (1992)

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The premise:

Our main character, Helen, is a graduate student doing research for her thesis on urban legends. Her journey brings us to urban Chicago, where Helen is researching the legend of Candyman. An artist, and son of a slave, Candyman was attacked by a lynch mob during the era of the Civil War when they learned of his relationship with a local white woman. The mob cut off his hand (to which it was replaced with a hook) and killed him by covering him in honey and having bees feast on his flesh, thus earning him the name Candyman.

Why you should see it:

If that premise alone isn't enough to draw in a horror fan, I don't know much else that could. But just to be fair, I intend to provide a few more reasons why you should see this underrated masterpiece:

(1) Phillip Glass' soundtrack is incredible. All great films have a great soundtrack to accompany it. And here we have a truly brilliant, haunting sountrack that lifts this movie to immediate recognition. Here's a sample:

(2) Top notch make-up and practical effects. In this day and age we are constantly drowned out in the noise of endless CGI. It's overuse is apparent in action films, but even moreso in horror flicks these days. It's become a popular crutch for creators to go the cheaper, quicker route of computer effects instead of the creative, practical ones.

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(3) A terrifying, original villain acted by Tony Todd. Many horror movie villains can seem fairly cookie-cutter anymore. But Candyman is a uniquely horrifying villain. The guy is enormous in stature, has a hook for a hand, has bees come out of his mouth, and invades your mind in the most disturbing ways. Not to mention his creepy voice. Tony Todd is utterly chilling.

Tune in for my next installment: #2 Videodrome...

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Green Lantern the movie: Why you should see it again

After revisiting the Green Lantern film recently, I have to say I picked up on some surprising things (and some not so surprising). Firstly, and the reason that prompted me to make this blog, is that I actually found it to be more enjoyable than I remembered.

Now before you all stone me to death for saying this fellow viners, I'm not trying to prove that this film is a great superhero film by any stretch of the imagination, but I do hope to show that maybe it isn't as terrible as we thought it was. I don't aim to explain all the obvious bad things with this movie because a) it's been done by countless people already and b) I really have little to refute about the obvious "bad" in this film anyway.

Let's face it, this movie missed the mark in quite a few ways and I don't wish to really discuss certain things because it's been done to death already.

So, with this particular blog I hope to (1) detail some good, maybe overlooked, things about the film and (2) explain why the film was ultimately unsuccessful in spite of it.

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I. Good things about the movie

1. Mark Strong as Sinestro

Possibly the greatest thing this movie had going for it was the casting of Mark Strong as Thaal Sinestro. The Korugarian is arguably just as, if not more, important to the Green Lantern story as Hal Jordan is. Sinestro's rise and fall within the Green Lantern pantheon was one of the most important character arcs in the Green Lantern story, starting with the work of Geoff Johns. Considering Johns had significant involvement with this film, and his stories were the basis for this movie, it's not hard to see that casting the proper actor for Sinestro was of utmost importance.

As a fan of the character, and Green Lantern in general, one of the most important things to me as a fan was doing the main characters justice. And though the writing for this film is often cited as it's ultimate downfall, the Sinestro-written parts don't seem to reflect that. Or it could be that Mark Strong is just so on point that he grabs the audience and elevates the film beyond what it was, if even for just the few minutes he's in the film. Either way, Strong is masterful here.

Mark Strong's performance is the saving grace of this movie. It's understated, nuanced, and shamefully overlooked. Sadly, it's hard not to overlook it considering barely anyone saw this movie. And when you take into consideration the types of crowds that "The Dark Knight" and "Man of Steel" draw, Green Lantern's audience pales in comparison.

But for anyone who has seen this movie, you know what I am talking about when I say Mark Strong is the saving grace of this film. He's one of the reasons this film is not only watchable, but even quite enjoyable in parts. I would like to conclude my statements on Mark Strong by submitting my petition for his return as Sinestro in the future. With Warner Bros. and DC working on a connected cinematic universe, I could understand changes being made. But if there is one thing they need to keep from the Green Lantern film it is Mark Strong as Sinestro. It would be a travesty not to give him another opportunity with that character.

2. Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan

Some people might scoff or cringe at this, even I did originally. I swore to myself that Ryan Reynolds was not Hal Jordan and that the movie would have been better with someone else. Upon revisiting this film, I've come to realize I couldn't have been more wrong. I will be the first to admit: I was wrong about Ryan Reynolds. He wasn't what was wrong with this movie. If anything, like Mark Strong, he was one of the redeeming parts of this film. If not handled correctly Hal Jordan could have come off as bland or boring. But Reynold's more than rises to the challenge giving Hal charm and humanity.

Ryan Reynold's performance is more subtle and understated than I originally conceived. He actually adds quite a few layers to Hal in the amount of time he's given. He makes Hal funny without coming off as a jackass; he makes Hal likable, and most importantly, he's made Hal human. Ryan's take on Hal has him being unsure of himself at times. Even going as far as to question his own worthiness of the Oan power ring as he admits he is afraid. Now as I watched Reynolds unfold the Hal character like this, I began to realize he was weaving quite a wonderful web of characterization, especially considering the his script wasn't always up to par. He has pathos and that means a lot.

It's also apparent that Ryan Reynold's not only respects these characters, but the fans as well. And this moment here always makes me happy that he's the one who played Green Lantern. You can tell he enjoys being a part of the culture and really knows these characters. He respects them and the fans. Not to mention this is probably the best GL oath I've ever seen, even gives me goosebumps:

3. Abin Sur passes on the ring to Hal

Another shining moment from this film is how they handled Abin Sur. I was glad to see that his is the story where the film starts off. That whole scene with Parallax coming after Abin Sur and his crash landing could hardly have been done better. The special effects and his makeup also lended themselves nicely to those scenes.

They not only handled the portrayal of Abin Sur appropriately but I also, for the most part, enjoyed how they handled the passing on of the ring. It had the right amount of emotional resonance when Abin Sur died without being over the top. After all, we have to remember that Hal doesn't know this man. Still makes me sad to see Abin go though :'(

II. Why the film was unsuccessful

It's important to note that the things I mention the film got right - (1) the portrayal of Sinestro, (2) the portrayal of Hal Jordan, and (3) the portrayal of Abin Sur and the passing on of the ring - are 3 of the most important things you could get right with Green Lantern. Obviously there is a vast mythology to be told (which I will explain more in a bit as to how this contributed to the film being unsuccessful), but this film is almost frustrating in that the few things you want out of a Green Lantern movie it actually delivers on. So why was it unsuccessful in spite of these good things I've mentioned?

Well there's quite a few possibilities for this, I think it can be narrowed down to three which are most likely related to the problem: (1) how was the marketing for the movie - did they do a good job advertising it and finding the right audience? (2) was it accessible to general audience? and (3) was it convoluted or just too much?

1. Now as for the marketing there's not much I can say that I know for sure. But the reason I included it in my main reasons as I know past movie failures are sometimes attributed to things as simple as how the movie was marketed to the public (i.e. John Carter). I'm not well versed enough on the subject, nor do I know Warner's particular strategy in how they marketed the film (what they spent compared to other superhero movies, etc.) so it's mostly speculation. For this reason, I really like to focus on the next two.

2. "Was the film accessible?" This might be the kicker right here. "Green Lantern", the name itself, certainly is recognizable but was the concept of the film a bit too out there for modern audiences? I think the answer could be yes. At first glance, people in general know who Green Lantern is. Say "Hal Jordan" and a fraction of those might know who he is, say "Oa" or "Parallax" and their eyes glaze over. Therein the problem might lie. The concept of Green Lantern and the mythology in general might be a tougher road to hoe than it seems at first glance. Especially to people seeing the trailer and realizing it's not your typical superhero flick. And for that reason it may not be as accessible to general audiences.

3. "Was it convoluted or 'just too much'?" I suspect this might be true for the general movie-going public as I know firsthand, by watching it with my girlfriend, she found that there was too much going on to really latch on to any one idea. You had Parallax and Abin Sur out in space, then you have this test pilot on earth, then you meet all these Green Lanterns on a foreign planet, then these little Blue men who seem up to now good who go by the name "Guardians", then you see this "Sinestro" fella who seems up to no good but before you learn more about him you have Hector Hammond on earth and then his relationship with his dad going to hell, and then Carol Ferris, who wasn't casted very well, and how this relates to Ferris airfield, and it just goes on and on.

After revisiting this film I realized it had one or two too many things going for it. It was trying to establish too much with an origin story. They probably could have left Hector Hammond out, or instead only hinted at Parallax and have Hammond be the front and center main villain. There's a lot of monday morning quarterbacking that can be done now, as hindsight is 20/20, but I think it's fair to say they bit off more than they could chew for a first film.

Needless to say, my girlfriend still enjoyed Green Lantern a lot. But she also had me there to explain things whenever it needed explaining, so that could have helped.

III. Conclusion

So to finish this out, I'd like to say I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this movie again. There's lots more to like about this movie than people give it credit for. Sure, it's not a "great" movie by any means, but it's actually quite fun. Being a Green Lantern fan probably helps, but by no means is it required to enjoy the movie. Like I said, my girlfriend loved it and I like it a lot too now.

I think there is a significant amount of things to enjoy with this movie; Ryan Reynolds is a good Hal, I was wrong about that in the past; Mark Strong is brilliant as Sinestro; Abin Sur is handled quite well and even the over the top, campy Hector Hammond stuff is pretty fun. You might be surprised how much you enjoy this movie. It has decent replay value too and to be honest I actually like this movie more than a lot of superhero flicks out there. Sure it has it's bad parts, but they're the kind of bad parts that make you take it less seriously and just have fun.

I'd like to conclude all this by issuing a challenge: All of you doubters and naysayers out there, I dare you to give this film another chance. It might not crack your list of "best superhero movies" anytime soon, but you just might find yourself enjoying a decent superhero flick.

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