Comics Review: Deathstroke Vol. 1 Gods of War

  
I bought the first issue of this Deathstroke series when it was released. I liked it well enough, cool art work and everything, but there were so many other books that I loved reading that it didn’t bother me to not follow up on this series. So I only had #1. I recently bought issues 7-8 and the Annual because I was intrigued by the new story arc “Godkiller.” Especially seeing Slade take on Wonder Woman. So I decided to go back and grab the collected issues 1-6. 

 The first thing I will do is praise the art work. It’s pretty visceral especially in capturing the violence in Deathstroke’s world. Body parts fly and it’s really stylistically appealing. Similar in a way to Kill Bill. The action is well depicted and is the closest I feel to a Deathstroke big budget action film. The colors are bright yet grimy in a way that we know this is world that’s not a part of the world we all know. The story however is what is lacking for me. 

The story involves Deathstroke looking for his son Jericho who is also being sought by Odysseus, who is Slade’s father. Also popping up is Rose Wilson, Slade’s daughter who is protecting her brother. Jericho has a power that Odysseus is trying to harness.  

 There were a couple issues I had with the story. One is the lack of relationships between the fathers and sons. Slade mentions his lack of relationship with his father and Jericho the same with his father. There really is no explanation other than both fathers were never around for their sons. Therefore there really is no drama to it. I know this is a more action-oriented book, but since they threw that out there it would have been nice to be explored. The other issue is the story takes so long to get to the point. There is a lot of encounters with other characters including Batman and Harley Quinn. It felt like issue 1-2 set up the story, 3-5 got off track and 6 had to hurry and finish. It just meanders on for me. Hopefully this current storyline is a bit more cohesive and direct.

Final Rating (2.5/5) Great Artwork, meandering story

 

First Reaction: Blunt Talk Episodes 1 & 2

  

I’ll keep this one short as there are only 2 episodes up right now and I want to give the entire season a fair shake.

I had a moment to watch the first 2 episodes of this new comedy series on Starz from Jonathan Ames (HBO’s Bored To Death). Blunt Talk stars Patrick Stewart as Walter Blunt, a television journalist who’s life is going off the rails. 

Having grew up with Stewart as Captain Picard, Professor X and later as Director Bullock on American Dad, it is a blast to see him just acting a fool. He really is as good a comedic actor as he is dramatic. These first 2 episodes were quite hilarious. Another good note is the supporting cast. Similar to HBO’s Veep, (another show I enjoy) the secondary players are just as important to the train wreck that is Walter Blunt.

I look forward to more of this humor  and based on these 2 episodes I will stick around for the rest of season.

Youth is not wasted on these young people: Young Justice Season 1

  

So I knew of the reputation of this show after it had gone off the air. Like another short-lived animated show, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice ended before it could truly begin. The first season had been on Netflix streaming for a while and I had it in my list. I finally started it a couple weeks ago. Before I finished the first season, I ordered the second and last season from Amazon. I didn’t want to wait for Netflix to get the second season. I had to have it ready for when this viewing was finished. This is one of the most gripping and character driven series, live action or animated I have ever seen. There is so much here. I hope I can explain it all.

  

The action begins when Aqualad (Kaldur’ahm), Robin (Dick Grayson) and Kid Flash (Wally West) tire of just being sidekicks and long for more responsibility alongside the veteran Justice League. Right there we already have outer first bit of character depth. Teenagers who want more responsibilities. Something almost all of us can relate to at one point in our lives. Their mission leads them to underground chambers of Cadmus Labs where they come upon a clone of Superman who soon after joins the team as Superboy. The team gets 2 additional members in Miss Martian, the niece of Martian Manhunter and Artemis, an archer who may or may not be related to  Green Arrow. Black Canary trains them, Batman assigns the missions and Red Tornado acts as their guardian for their headquarters.

First let me say the animation is brilliant. Crisp and easy on the eyes. It has a visual style that is fitting of the DC Animated Universe. There is a darker color tone, but the characters are bright and stand out.

  

It’s quite difficult to pick out a favorite character from this series when every single one of them is handled so well. Each one has something they are going through over the course of the season. Robin has desires to be leader of the team, but isn’t ready yet in addition to becoming more like Batman. Aqualad, who is leader ponders what life would be like if he never left Atlantis while keeping the team in line. Miss Martian struggles with the team learning about her true identity. Superboy has anger issues stemming from a rejection of his generic father Superman. Kid Flash has a great moment where he felt he could have changed the outcome of something if he was just a bit faster. Artemis fears rejection from the team in regards to her heritage and is insecure about her role as team archer, particularly when Red Arrow comes into the picture. There is so much going on that you wonder as a viewer how they balance it all, but handled well it is. Oh yea and they spend the season dealing with the possibility that there is a mole on the team which makes for some great spy drama as well.

I can’t praise this series enough. Fantastic animation, amazing characters and an awesome superhero atmosphere make this a totally engaging show. If you have Netflix streaming, season one is up now. I do however think that this is a show that money won’t be wasted on. I purchased season 2, but will be going back and getting season 1 to own the series. This is worth having in your collection. 

Stay Tuned for my feelings on season 2 once I complete viewing.

Also check out my take on The Spectacular Spider-Man and the 2011 Thundercats

Takeover

Collection update time! Let’s greet the new arrivals…

First is Harley Quinn in her New 52 style. I love this comic and it introduced me to the work of Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti. 

 
My wife wanted a princess for our collection and she certainly picked a good one with Princess Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog 

 
James Whale returned to the director’s chair and gave us one of the earliest examples of a sequel that can be considered equal or better than the original. The Bride of Frankenstein. Cue that iconic scream. 

 
“To the Batcave Robin!” I couldn’t have my collection exist without 1960s Batman. This series and film’s cheesiness is infectious. 

 

*Updated* Forgot one! Can’t forget the ultimate anarchist The Dark Knight’s Joker 

 

Your Mission, should You Choose to Accept It – Revisiting Mission: Impossible

  

Since Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was released, I decided to revisit the film series and rank the films in order of enjoyment for me. Plus I had no idea that my wife never saw the first 2 movies so it certainly was perfect timing. I’ll tackle the movies in theatrical release order then at the end give my personal rankings

Mission: Impossible (1996) Directed by Brian De Palma

  

The first film is closest in spirit to the original television series. It presents itself as a spy thriller and the elements that made the show fun to watch are presented here. De Palma really did a fantastic job in bringing this to the big screen, at the same time a new audience who had never seen the show (I was 11 when this came out). Aside from some changes to the character of Jim Phelps, this is a taut and pretty engaging spy thriller with great set pieces and who can forget this moment: 

 
De Palma’s films to me always seem to exist slightly one off of the rest of reality and Mission: Impossible is no different. Although taking place in real world locales, they feel almost like an alternate version of those locations. The tension builds, the action is good and it’s the only one in the series where Cruise feels like a spy. The rest of the series did not take on this style, but I would certainly welcome it back.

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) Directed by John Woo 

 
This was the first film in the series I actually saw in theaters. I remember watching it and being totally thrilled from beginning to end. I thought it was going to go down as one of the defining action films ever. I was 15 years old. After seeing it again, at age 30, I see how the mind plays tricks on you. 

  
John Woo’s style is totally prevalent throughout the film, but that’s not really the issue. I can appreciate the stylistic changes as we will see it becomes a staple of the franchise. The problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. The film’s threat of a deadly virus never feels real enough. I think that is due to a weak antagonist who is worst than Bond’s worst villain. The romance has no chemistry which takes away any emotional investment we may have. Ethan is a  superagent and never feels in danger. The camera lets us know this many times. Plus we get no tension during the break-in of the pharmaceutical company because the score is in the way so much. And the rock vibe of the theme is annoying as well.

 
I thought this movie was wall to wall action, but it’s not even that. However when we do get to the action it’s fantastic. It’s still an ok enough of a ride for a bored Saturday afternoon if it’s on TV.

Mission: Impossible III (2006) Directed by J. J. Abrams 

 

I saw M:I 3 twice in theaters and once when it was released on DVD. After this recent viewing, I forgot how good this installment was. J.J. Abrams is in the director’s chair this time around and like his predecessors De Palma and Woo, his style is felt throughout. 

  

Ethan is now an IMF instructor and engaged to a nurse named Julia (Michelle Monaghan) who is unaware of his true work. He is thrust back into the field when a former protege is kidnapped by arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The focus of the film involves the hunt for the “Rabbit’s Foot” a macguffin if there ever was one. 

Believe it or not this the most personal film in the series as we get to see two of Ethan’s relationships center stage. His and Julia’s and his relationship with his protégée Lindsey (Keri Russell). Even though Lindsey has short screen time, you can see the turmoil on Ethan throughout as he internalizes responsibility. If she fails it is because he failed to train her properly. This carries over into the climax of the film when he has to instruct Julia in how to use a gun to protect herself. There actually is a bit of character development here that isn’t prevalent in the rest of their series. 

 
Fantastic action sequences, character development and Ethan’s most terrifying antagonist make the third film a huge improvement over the second.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) Directed by Brad Bird 

 

Ethan’s fourth mission is certainly an action extravaganza. Here he and his team are blamed for an international incident and are on the run with no backup or government backing. They have been disavowed and work to clear their name.

This film has a lot of fantastic action sequences. An awesome sandstorm scene and a scaling of a really tall building in Dubai are the highlights for me.

  
Cruise and Pegg return from M:I-3 and we are introduced to Renner’s Brandt and Paula Patton as Jane Carter. In addition to some awesome action, we see the team dynamic with Ethan more than previous films. As the series goes on I begin to see Ethan as more of a selfless character as opposed to being a fictionalized avatar of Tom Cruise.  

 
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) Directed By Chrisopher McQuarrie

Check out the DeaconsDen review of the 5th film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Series Rankings: 

5) Mission: Impossible 2

4) Mission: Impossible (A hard decision as I really love this one.)

3) Mission: Impossible 3 (Difficult to place this and the first one. I forgot how good this one actually is.)

2) Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

1) Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

There you have it folks. The DeaconsDen coverage of the Mission: Impossible series. For having so few films over a long period of time, it very manages to keep fresh. I hope that the sixth installment is as fun as all the others have been.

Review: Fantastic 4 (2015)

  

Directed by: Josh Trank

The third time is certainly not the charm here.

The reviews were pretty unanimous that this film was terrible and worst than the last 2 Fantastic Four films from 2005 & 2007. And in a way they are. This film is technically a bit better those 2, but the biggest sin this movie commits is that it feels so incomplete especially since there was a hint of something good. It’s not even a case of wasted potential, but a total disregard for whatever was in place. After seeing it, there is a bit of credibility to director Josh Trank’s tweet regarding studio meddling but not specifically saying they meddled as seen here: 

 

Was this film another example of studio meddling? It damn sure looks like it. I saw Trank’s previous film “Chroncle” and loved it. I thought it was a cool take on the superhero story and that movie has none of the major flaws that this commits. So I find it hard to believe that he could put this out for audiences. Let’s break this thing down and see if there is anything worth saving (not really, but let’s try).

Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a gifted youth who is working on teleportation when approached by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to work for the Baxter Foundation to make a larger version of his machine which he made in a high school science fair with his best friend Ben Grimm (Jaime Bell) He meets Sue Storm (Kate Mara) her brother Johnny (Michae B. Jordan) and Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). They discover another dimension, get their powers. Story ends. No seriously that’s pretty much it. This movie has a beginning and and end. No climax, no buildup. It starts and its over. It honestly reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Bart’s friend Milhouse was Fallout Boy in the Radioactive Man movie. At the end of the episode the movie was just a bunch of scenes. That’s what Fantastic Four felt like. And honestly it’s a shame because the first hour or so I enjoyed. 

  Some people are divided on the cast. I actually liked the cast. Unlike the previous films, this isn’t Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben the established characters and scientists. This was supposed an origin for them as people not just as the Fantastic Four. Toby Kebbell as Doom is wasted however. He’s presented as a bitter ex-protégé but nothing is expanded upon and he’s just a guy named Victor. Not Doctor Doom. 
 I repeat: NOT DR. DOOM!!!!!!!

I know this movie had detractors from the moment it was announced. There were some who wanted it to fail. I did not. I have no issues with a different take on an established property. We see it in comics and I don’t mind it in film. This didn’t fail because it was different however, it failed because for some unknown reason a studio released an incomplete motion picture. Batman & Robin may not be a good movie, but at least it’s a finished product.

Final Rating (2/5) and I’m being generous since I actually enjoyed the first hour of the movie before we just jumped to the conclusion. I hope when it’s released for home viewing, there is some sort of cut that actually completes the movie.

First Reaction – Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre

  

I haven’t covered anything music related since I wrote about Jay-Z’s The Blueprint on one of my earliest posts. As a huge fan of Dr. Dre’s work as far back as N.W.A, I was excited to hear he was releasing an album. Great timing considering the Straight Outta Compton film will be released soon. The last album Dre released was in 1999 with “2001.” 16 years is a long time. Dre has put in a lot of work during that time working with Game, Eminem and 50 Cent. I know we were expecting “Detox,” but what we have here is a fantastic album and a great testament to the Doctor’s career and influence in hip hop. This isn’t “The Chronic” or “2001.” This isn’t a banger type of album. While obviously there are some songs I like more than others, there isn’t a song I can pick and skip to. This album must be taken in as a whole. It feels like the natural evolution of Dre’s sound that we love and at the same time, a love letter to his city. Even though I am from Philadelphia I can understand totally the love of your hometown and I deeply respect that. Will this album be considered classic? Probably not. You won’t be spinning this at clubs and parties. However as piece of music from one of the best producers ever, it works on all levels for me and I can feel the love that went into this project. I highly recommend it.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Review

  
Its hard to believe that this is only the 5th film in the Mission: Impossible series. We’re creeping up on 20 years and you would think that we get these films every year like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But here we are and boy does this film have a bit going on.

In Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt is on the run once again and the IMF is dissolved as he hunts down a spy network known as The Syndicate. Ethan enlists his usual crew, Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to investigate. Throughout the film, Hunt has encounters with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman whose loyalties are unknown. 

 

With the basics of the plot laid out, let’s get into the meat of this film. Each film in the series has had a different director, each of whom has had his own spin on it. Brian De Palma, John Woo, JJ Abrams, Brad Bird and now Christopher McQuarrie. This to me is what keeps the series fresh and why I want to see each installment when it comes out. The first Mission: Impossible is the one that is closest in spirit to the television series and the one that is the most like a spy movie as opposed to an action film. Rogue Nation is close in spirit to the original film. We spend time in the world of spies. We see what it’s like when they want to come in from the cold and the effects of being in for too long. It’s surprisingly deeper than a M:I film usually is.

McQuarrie seems to have taken elements from previous M:I films and placed them into Rogue Nation as a sort of love letter to the series. This manifests in many of the action set pieces, all of which were very well done. The opening sequence on a plane taking off (which Cruise reportedly preformed the stunt himself) reminds me of the building scaling scene in Ghost Protocol, a motorcycle chase that hardens back to M:I 2 and a tense underwater sequence (with some excellent sound design by the way) that takes me back to the CIA break-in during the original film. Plus we get some homages to Alfred Hitchcock during an opera similar to The Man Who Knew Too Much and a knife fight that reminds me of Skyfall in both action and how it was shot.

I was a little worried about the running time at 2 hours and 11 minutes, but the pacing is just fine and I was totally engaged from start to finish.

  
The cast is pretty good as expected. Tom Cruise to me always plays himself in all of his movies, but I like when we get to see Ethan Hunt serious and really dedicated to the mission. It really comes across as personal for him, so that form of expression is welcomed. Rhames, Pegg and Renner as his support do what they do and are good at it. The brightest spot is Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa. I loved her character from start to finish and I hope that she comes back for the next film and finally have a woman return for another adventure with Ethan’s crew. 

The Mission: Impossible series, while no where near the longevity nor impact of James Bond, has continually know how to keep thing fresh for its audiences and Rogue Nation does just that and very well. Having a different director makes each installment feel like a first installment and as long as they keep that up, we’ll keep getting these quality, entertaining spy/action flicks.

Final Rating (4.5/5)

Other DeaconsDen reviews Ant-Man

Self/Less