Thursday, December 28, 2017

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and the Dark Side of Fandom

Yes, I loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It was by no means my favorite film in the saga, but I really enjoyed it (even more so upon second viewing), and I appreciated that it added to the mythology of that galaxy far, far away.

Maybe you felt differently. Maybe you were disappointed or (gasp!) hated Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII. And you know what? That’s OK, too. Believe me, it is. But you wouldn’t think that way if you’ve been on social media the past few weeks, with Last Jedi advocates and detractors waging their own Galactic Civil War over the film, even resorting to personal attacks against each other to further their point that The Last Jedi is the best/worst Star Wars movie. Ever. Something that should unite us only serves to break us into warring factions, and that shouldn’t be the case.

This isn’t something that’s new among genre fans or even Star Wars geeks. If you were a message board devotee when the prequel films were being released between 1999 and 2006, you saw all manner of bitter back-and-forth as Original Trilogy OGs battled Prequel Trilogy Proselytizers for all-important affirmation that the things they liked were better than the things other people liked.

With The Force Awakens, the quarrels continued, only this time the sticking point was whether or not geek culture lightning rod JJ Abrams had ripped off A New Hope to reboot George Lucas’ galaxy for the Disney Era. However, instead of these Star Wars shouting matches happening in the relatively confined space of message boards, they were now being waged on our Facebook feeds — not among anonymous strangers, mind you, but between loved ones. Now, you didn’t have XWing3855 ripping you a new one for your taste in movies, but your cousin Bob and your old high school classmate. It changes the whole dynamic, resulting in arguments that tend to devolve into personal attacks and block-worthy behavior quicker than you might expect.

And now we have The Last Jedi, a film that takes a lot more chances than The Force Awakens (which really had to play it safer to reintroduce the Star Wars brand to audiences). As such, it’s the most divisive Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back, and that divisiveness has spilled, naturally, onto our social feeds. At a time when it’s already dangerous to have an opinion online, whether it be social, political or otherwise, voicing your thoughts on Star Wars at this point is like walking into a minefield.

I haven’t blogged in this space since May 10. Mostly it’s because I’ve been busy (getting married will do that to you), but it’s also because defending an opinion on the Internet these days is an exhausting endeavor. I’d just as soon tap out a tweet and be done with it but, even then, I’m subject to paragraphs-long reprisals listing the ways in which I’m wrong. I’m sure others can relate.

And look, I’m not saying I’ve never dipped into the “Dark Side” before. I’ve left comments online that I’ve later regretted. But when it comes to online discourse about the things that we love, I think we’d all benefit from stepping into the “Light” just a little bit in 2018. I know I will.

Since you’re  probably curious, here’s the long and short of it when it comes to my opinion on The Last Jedi. Keep in mind, these are just my opinions and do not reflect fandom as a whole. If you disagree, that’s totally fine, and I’d be more than happy to have a civil debate (the key word being “civil”) on the topic over on Facebook. Spoilers abound below, so consider yourselves warned.

  • This film subverted just about every expectation I had, and I’ve never been this surprised by a Star Wars movie as an adult. I feel like that’s a good thing.
  • There’s more to the Force than we learned in the previous movies.
  • I appreciated that the heroes make a lot of mistakes in this movie. Sometimes heroes don’t live up to their own legend, and I think that’s an interesting theme to explore.
  • Puppet Yoda is the best Yoda.
  • This movie looked spectacular, both in terms of digital effects and set design. I want to visit Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne room.
  • Speaking of the throne room, it was home to one of the coolest Star Wars fight scenes I’ve ever witnessed. More like that in Episode IX, please.
  • Luke Skywalker is a badass. I loved everything about his character in this movie.
  • Ditto for Kylo Ren. This is a different kind of Star Wars villain.
  • The porgs were adorable and I want to own as many of them as possible.

  • This is nothing against Laura Dern, but I wasn’t crazy about the Vice Admiral Holdo character. I feel like that role in this story (and her big moment toward the end) could have been given to someone else entirely.
  • Princess Leia floating through space like a superhero genuinely made my cringe in the theater. It just looked goofy, and it actually got a laugh both times I saw the movie. That’s probably not the reaction Rian Johnson was looking for.
  • I know the trip to Canto Bight helped to strengthen the relationship between Finn and Rose Tico, but after my first viewing, I couldn’t help but feel like a lot of these scenes weren’t completely necessary.
  • Captain Phasma might be the most wasted Star Wars character of all time, which is a shame because Gwendoline Christie is a gem.
  • Porgs don’t really exist, and I want to own as many of them as possible.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Force Awakens
  4. The Last Jedi
  5. Return of the Jedi
  6. Rogue One
  7. Revenge of the Sith
  8. The Phantom Menace
  9. Attack of the Clones

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is the Blockbuster We Need in 2017

It's not controversial to state that 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy is among Marvel Studios' best efforts, with a solid ensemble cast, an incredible blend of humor and action and a cinematic swagger rarely seen in modern-day blockbusters. There's no way a sequel could measure up, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. Somehow, James Gunn did it again, giving us a follow-up that takes even more risks than the original while maintaining that rebellious spark that made us all fall in love with Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Groot three years ago.

My new obsession with all things Baby Groot aside (various plush and plastic iterations of the little guy seem to be making their way into my apartment lately), Guardians 2 immediately struck me as a welcome rarity among recent, laboriously interconnected Marvel Studios films in that it exists solely as a sequel to the first movie. As such, the film is able to take its time telling a smaller, character-driven story that doesn't exist solely to bring us crossover cameos or propel the Guardians team toward Avengers: Infinity War.

Granted, I just called a story revolving around a sentient planet "smaller," but all things being relative in the Marvel Universe, it's fairly focused in its scope.

Without delving into spoiler territory, I'll state that the film revolves mostly around the relationship between Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and his otherworldly dad Ego (Kurt Russell), who has a lot of explaining to do regarding his relationship with Peter's late mother. Meanwhile, Peter's blue-skinned "adoptive" dad Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) is on the outs with the Ravagers since we last saw him, and the rest of the Guardians, including the aforementioned infant Groot, get incredibly involved in Star-Lord's daddy issues, making a friend or two along the way.

With its story being fairly simple, Guardians 2 spends much of its screen time building on relationships, including the aforementioned father/son connections. We see Gamora (Zoe Saldana) make amends with her "sister" Nebula (Karen Gillan) as Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) realizes he has more in common with Yondu than their love of money. The overtly literal Drax (Dave Bautista) strikes up an unexpected friendship with empathic series newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff), while Groot (still somehow voiced by Vin Diesel) essentially brings the whole dysfunctional family together as its curious, mischievous and sometimes stubborn child.

The film just works as a humorous, escapist fantasy, which is something that's pretty necessary given how crazy, unpredictable, divisive and, at times, scary the real world has gotten lately. For 136 minutes, I was completely immersed in the spacey Marvel Universe and for that, I'm grateful.

But Guardians 2 is not necessarily a perfect movie. The effects-laden climax drags out for a bit too long, and the soundtrack, while memorable, doesn't resonate as much as that of the first film. That doesn't mean I haven't been rocking out to "Mr. Blue Sky" before work every day this week, but it's hard to complete with the music of the original Guardians.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an easy film to love, and if you enjoyed the first movie, there's no reason why you won't have a blast this time around. And, as is always the case with Marvel flicks, be sure you stay through the credits.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Disney Wants You to Live in a "Star Wars" Spaceship

I haven't talked it over with my fianceƩ yet, but given the fact that Walt Disney World is planning Star Wars-themed resort that lets you live inside a spaceship, a permanent move to Orlando might need to happen.

As reported by Walt Disney World News Today, the resort would immerse visitors in a two-day night interactive story involving live performers, lightsaber training and secret missions in Disney's Hollywood Studios' Star Wars land. This is of course in addition to an "on-board" cantinas, dinner shows, exclusive park access and droid butlers.

I repeat: Droid. Butlers. 

The resort experience would cost roughly $1000 per guest, and would coincide with the anticipated Star Wars land opening in 2019.

This information came to light thanks to a Disney guest survey about the forthcoming resort that was distributed by a third party. Naturally, people are excited.

If this actually happens, the Force faithful will finally get the chance to legitimately live, eat, drink and breathe Star Wars for two nights. I know I basically do that every weekend, but never with droid butlers or actors dressed like Duros. 

For more details on Disney's plans for a Star Wars resort, head to

Friday, April 14, 2017

The First "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Trailer is Here

It's here.

This morning at Star Wars Celebration Orlando, director Rian Johnson unveiled the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, giving us our first glimpses of Rey's training, all-new vehicles and at least one new planet.

"Glimpses" is the operative word here, as the trailer doesn't give us much (it's a teaser, after all), but that won't keep us from speculating on every frame until the next trailer hits later this year. Why is Luke determined to put an end to the Jedi? What are those cool speeders kicking up red dust? Why is Kylo Ren's helmet smashed? What's Finn's status after being slashed by a lightsaber in The Force Awakens? Is Captain Phasma still miffed about that whole trash compactor incident?

Join me in excitedly adding question marks to the end of sentences by watching and re-watching the debut teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi below.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hugh Jackman Takes Final Bow as Wolverine in Phenomenal 'Logan'

Let's be honest with ourselves: The X-Men movie franchise is a disaster. Yes, individually, it does contain some great films (X2: X-Men United and the hilarious Deadpool, for example), but by and large, it serves as an excellent example of how not to do a sprawling superhero series. Continuity is all over the place, the timelines (pick one) don't add up and the less said about how certain characters are treated, the better. I'm so, so sorry, Jubilee.

But that said, we love these movies in the grand scheme of things, and so when we learned that Logan would be Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart's last outing as Wolverine and Professor Charles Xavier, respectively, we couldn't help but be invested.

But man, does that investment pay off.

With a hard-R rating and the kind of wanton violence that would make Wade Wilson blush beneath his crimson mask, Logan is not only one of the best superhero movies released in recent years, but it's a damn fine film. Period.

Following Deadpool's surprise success as a blood-drenched comic book romp early last year, director James Mangold (who also directed 2013's The Wolverine) lets the iconic Canuck use his claws. A lot. The violence during the title character's berserker barrages during Logan  makes the action sequences in the previous X-Men films seem downright childish by comparison.

But Wolverine isn't the only one doing the bloodletting in this film. As Logan serves as protector of an aged, ill Professor X (played marvelously by Stewart, who made me feel every possible emotion during this movie), he encounters a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who displays some traits and, well, claws, that are curiously similar to his own. Of course, comic book readers figured out who she is during the first trailer, but since her identity is a bit of a spoiler for the uninitiated, I'll simply state that she's a big deal in this movie, and she kicks just as much ass as Wolverine.

Logan's not just about ass-kicking, however, even though it excels at it. Jackman, Stewart and Keen bring to life an off-kilter road trip film that bears more similarities to No Country for Old Men or Mad Max: Fury Road than it does to. say, X-Men: Apocalypse. Heck, there's even some Little Miss Sunshine thrown in there. Not necessarily beholden to the messy continuity of the previous films or engineered to produce sequels, Logan has the creative freedom to slow things down and truly get into the minds of these characters, who find themselves incredibly vulnerable and cast aside in a world where mutants have all but vanished. I'm not certain whether this film  is a follow-up to Days of Future Past or if it exists in some as-yet-unseen alternate timeline, but this standalone story is so engrossing and the characters are so richly drawn that you won't worry about any of those things. Logan is simply a great movie. Superhero or otherwise.

You'll squirm, you'll cheer, you'll laugh and you'll cry. Boy, will you cry. Logan has a lot of competition from other comic book flicks this year, including Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,  Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman and Justice League, but all of those films will be hard-pressed to match the emotional journey this movie provides. See it, bub.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why Ben Affleck Won't Direct 'The Batman'

Oh, DC Entertainment. You just can't catch a break, can you?

As comic book fans cross their fingers that this summer's Wonder Woman will redeem DC's cinematic universe following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Ben Affleck revealed that he will not direct The Batman, The Dark Knight's upcoming solo movie. He will remain as the star and as a producer on the project.

Affleck and Warner Bros. have released statements saying that Affleck stepping down was a mutual decision, and that the film will be moving forward with a different director. War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves is reportedly among those being considered.

Although it's easy to assume that this means that the production is troubled, it could also indicate that studio execs and even Affleck himself are being very careful with these movies moving forward. Affleck's a great director, but if he isn't right for this film or if there needs to be a course correction, it's better to find out now.

You can see a different take on The Caped Crusader in The LEGO Batman Movie, in theaters Feb. 10, and you can watch Affleck wear the cowl in Justice League this November. For more on this story, head over to

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Exactly is 'The Avengers Project'?

Confession time: I'm not particularly into mobile gaming. Yes, I understand its popularity and I can get into games like Super Mario Run and Pokemon Go as fleeting distractions, but it's hard for me to devote the kind of time to them as I would console titles. I also spend enough time playing around on my phone as it is.

With the rise in popularity of mobile games in recent years has also come the pop-culture dominance of Marvel's mighty stable of superheroes under the stewardship of Disney. This convergence has resulted in no shortage of Marvel mobile experiences, such as Contest of Champions and Future Fight, but for anyone looking for a substantial, quality story-based game on a console or PC has been mostly out of luck. This year's Spider-Man PlayStation 4 exclusive is a glimmer of hope, but we want much more than we've been getting.

Square-Enix and Marvel are seemingly aiming to remedy that issue with The Avengers Project, a large-scale video game undertaking developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montreal, the folks behind the current Tomb Raider games. The project kicks off a multi-game deal between Square-Enix and Marvel. But what kind of game or games will we be getting with The Avengers Project? RPG? Action-adventure? Platformer? Will it take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? If so, when?

Until more info is released about this exciting new partnership, salivate over this announcement trailer for The Avengers Project below.

Monday, January 23, 2017

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Title Revealed

After months of speculation, the official title of Star Wars: Episode VIII has been revealed, spurring yet more speculation about what the ominous title might mean for the Skywalker family.

The official title of Rian Johnson's follow-up to The Force Awakens is Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Lucasfilm has released the logo for the film, which ditches the traditional yellow for a deep red, eerily similar to that of a Sith Lord's lightsaber.

Does this title refer to Luke Skywalker, who Rey found at the end of the last movie to begin her Jedi training? Or is the title referencing Rey herself, who will no doubt face Kylo Ren in a rematch in this film after defeating him the first time around? All will be revealed when Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters Dec. 15, 2017.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The New 'Logan' Trailer is Seriously Depressing

Fox's X-Men franchise is all over the place. It's got dizzying highs (Deadpool) dismal lows (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and daunting middles (X-Men: Apocalypse), so it's hard to gauge just what a new entry in the franchise will bring to the table. On March 3, we get Logan, an odd film that will likely be Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart's last outing as Wolverine and Professor X. It has the trappings of a road trip movie, with the titular Logan and Chuck Xavier on the move and encountering a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who bears a striking resemblance to Wolverine in the "disemboweling people with metal claws" department. In the film, Laura is likely Logan's clone, or at least we can assume that's the case given what's happened in Marvel's comic book universe, where she has taken up the Wolverine mantle after her "father's" death.

Logan seems to be loosely based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Old Man Logan, taking place in a dreary near-future where our favorite adamantium-infused mutant has lost a step in his advancing years. The film evidently makes full use of its R rating, with plenty of bloodshed and an older, decrepit Prof. X that has developed a bit of a potty mouth. It looks like a weird, sad movie, but by all accounts, it could be the satisfying sendoff that both Jackson and Stewart deserve.

Watch the second trailer for Logan below.

About That New 'Power Rangers' Trailer

When Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit U.S. TV screens in 1993, I was entering the fourth grade, and being one year removed from the perceived maturity of junior high school, I decided that I was too "old" to get involved, instead opting to devote my energy toward more grown-up pursuits like Marvel Comics, Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels, my Super Nintendo and collecting Jurassic Park and Aliens action figures. Clearly, I had an odd criteria for what could be considered "grown-up," but even today at 33 years old, I struggle with the definition.

Anyway, the inherent live-action cheesiness of Power Rangers didn't do much to draw me to the property fully as a nine-year-old, but I couldn't help but pay attention to it. MMPR was everywhere, and that's not even counting the knock-offs and also-rans like VR Troopers, Big Bad Beetleborgs and my personal favorite, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad. I never had any MMPR merchandise, but I definitely had Syber-Squad toys, likely thinking it was somehow more sophisticated because they were fighting monster "computer viruses" and were in a rock band. Thanks to YouTube, I now know I was very, very wrong.

I watched the show now and then in the early days, never really speaking publicly about it, and I've definitely seen Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie more times than I'd like to admit thanks to 1990s HBO, but it was the one big 1990s kiddie property that I juuuust missed.

Fast-forward to this week, and there's a new trailer for the grittier, edgier Power Rangers reboot. And you know what? I'm so in.

With the added credibility that comes with casting the likes of Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks in key roles, Power Rangers seems to be taking itself more seriously than any iteration of the franchise before it and looks, dare I say it, cool. Longtime fans of the franchise seem pretty happy with what we've seen so far, and I actually plan on being right there beside them when Power Rangers hits theaters on March 24.

Check out the trailer below!