Gaming Gallery 7 – Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is an action/adventure game from Insomniac Games for the PlayStation 4. You are placed in the shoes of Peter Parker as he does whatever a spider can around New York City. Like most games of this generation, there is a photo mode and it just may be my favorite one yet. Here are some of my shots I’ve taken throughout the game so far.


Shots around New York:

Like many games with photo modes, it’s so easy to get caught up in capturing these moments. This is one I highly recommend!

Black Panther – DeaconsDen Reaction

The first time we meet T’Challa, it’s during the events of Captain America: Civil War. Now we are given our first cinematic experience of Wakanda and all its lore, culture and citizenship.

If you’ve been reading my reviews (and I appreciate it), you’ve become accustomed to my review format. This time however, I want to forgo my usual style and just write my feelings because it’s the only way I’ll properly get out what I’m thinking.

Black Panther is amazing.

Yes. That’s the short of it. Why? Why did I find this amazing? I found it amazing due to being a perfect storm of characters, culture, sociopolitical themes, acting and action. Ryan Coogler ups his ante as a director from the already fantastic Creed. Here he brings Wakanda to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and just may have crafted its best installment.

The film is a tapestry and I’m not just talking about the beautiful costumes designed for it. In his first solo outing T’Challa confronts an enemy who may not be wrong in his motivations. He also faces his nation’s past, present and future. Such a burden for a new king.

This conflict however is not just played out in the plot, it’s brought to life within the characters of the story. Prior to release we’ve seen these epic character posters:

Every single tagline for each of the characters is accurate. And they come to fruition during the film. The story of an isolationist country facing what role it should take in the days to come is layered and textured. Everyone has their own motivations that want the best, but maybe they aren’t what is best. T’Challa, Nakia, Shuri, Okoye, W’Kabi (who of all characters I really seemed to vibe with his dilemma), M’Baku, and Erik all have a vision for Wakanda that may be right, but might not be. I found this to be quite relatable to the world today.

Black Panther is a statement on culture, history and responsibilities. One that needs to be seen. I loved this film. For anyone who thinks superhero films don’t handle these type of themes, this is why we need these films to show these type of themes.

And even though I haven’t formally reviewed it, here’s my rating.

Final Rating: 4/4

Oh, and here’s a picture of Shuri being awesome because she is.

DeaconsDen 2017 Film Recap

2017 has drawn to a close and so has another year of DeaconsDen. I’ve had the opportunity to see many films. Some great, some not so great. This was a great year for film and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see quite a few of them. So here is a rundown of some of the films I’ve seen and reviewed this year.

First I’ll start with my biggest disappointments of the year:

Atomic BlondeBrutal and brilliant performance by Charlize Theron. However, when she wasn’t mopping the floor the people, I was quite bored with the film’s story which interested me being an 80s era Cold War thriller, but never became interesting.

DunkirkI was greatly disappointed with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. It’s a masterpiece of filmmaking prowess. The technical nature of the film is fantastic and proves Nolan is a master of his craft. Yet the film’s decision to weave multiple stories left me cold, without an easily identifiable main character and story to follow. I respect Nolan’s decision, it just never vibes with me.

Favorite Surprises of the Year:

Happy Death DayA horror thriller with a sci-fi twist that’s funny and entertaining. Also a nice introduction to actress Jessica Rothe

Power Rangers

Didn’t get to see Power Rangers in theaters, but I wished I had. I had no major interest in seeing this, but the really surprised me. I really liked this movie’s cast and story. I liked the way it played with the Power Ranger mythos. It was just a really fun superhero action film that I hope gets a sequel one day.

And now, my ten favorite films of 2017!

10) John Wick Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves is back for more super stylized action that expands the mythology of the John Wick universe.

9) Kong: Skull Island

Probably the best pure blockbuster this year, Kong: Skull Island boasts impressive visuals and some great, pulpy monster action.

8) Split

James McAvoy gives one of the year’s best performances in this great thriller that also marks a return to form for M. Night Shayamalan. I can’t wait for what comes next.

7) Spider-Man Homecoming

Spidey now has his own film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it’s a great almost slice of life picture that’s as much a Peter Parker story as it is about Spider-Man.

6) Get Out

Missed this in theaters, but Get Out is one of the most creative thrillers I’ve seen. One that uses the genre to tell a very real and socially conscious story.

5) Baby Driver

I did not review Baby Driver, but this was certainly one stylish action flick with the best soundtrack of 2017.

4) Your Name

A gem of a film. A story of love that uses one of my favorite ways to tell a story. Yet to say anything else would spoil it.

3) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A New Hope? No a new beginning. Star Wars takes a huge leap forward in an amazing way that will have tremendous impact on the franchise in the future.

2) Logan

High Jackman ends his tenure as Wolverine with a visceral, brutal and emotional grinder of a film. It’s the examination of a man and his legacy.

1) Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman explodes onto our screens with some dynamic action by director Patty Jenkins and a star making turn by Gal Gadot.

So there you have it folks! The DeaconsDen 2017 film recap. I hope you all had great cinema experiences this year and I hope that continues into 2018!

Spider-Man: Homecoming – DeaconsDen Review

After a 3 year absence Spidey is back on the big screen in his own film. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the second reboot of the cinematic Spider-Man and his first solo film as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The last time we saw our friendly, neighborhood webhead, was last year's Captain America: Civil War. There we were introduced to this version of the character played by Tom Holland. Although brief, the character and actor were certainly highlights for that film and now we travel to Queens, NY to see the next chapter of Peter Parker's superhero career.

Although Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place early in Peter's time as Spider-Man, it is not covering old ground with his origin. We've gotten that twice with both Sam Raimi's 2002 "Spider-Man" and 2012's "The Amazing Spider-Man" directed by Marc Webb. Here we get a film about Peter learning to be a hero. He's young, excited and eager to help people. He's not that good at it either. He makes mistakes. A few mistakes actually. Other than being enlisted by Tony Stark to take on Captain America, he hasn't had much experience in crime fighting. That's all soon to change however.

Spider-Man: Homecoming really feels like an issue of the 1960s comic series (obviously set in the here and now). It's exuberant and funny. Thrilling and inspiring. I really associate it best with the animated series "The Spectacular Spider-Man." That show (which I wrote about), gave a split focus to Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Specifically the impact being Spider-Man has on Peter's life at home and school. This film feels most like that. In order for that to work, you have to have a great cast and we certainly get that here.

We have a group of characters that present a believable experience in high school. They go about their lives in the way that high schoolers would. I found it quite sincere. Also I want to give credit to superhero veteran Michael Keaton who gives a very human performance as Vulture. There's a moment in the film between him and Peter that matches any of the big scale set pieces in terms of suspense.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a homecoming indeed. Spidey is back in the overall Marvel film fold with an action packed but also very human adventure where a young man simply wants to prove his worth.

Final Rating (3/4)

Still Growing, Never Stopping

Time for a new update to the constant growth of our Funko Pop collection!

Here we have that high flying kicker from Capcom, Chun-LiFrank Castle aka The Punisher always is on the hunt.

She’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way. Taking the stage is Jessica RabbitThe Hyborian Age comes alive with Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian

Spider-Man’s ultimate nemesis flies in. The Green Goblin“Get away from here you B–ch!” Ellen Ripley plays no games with the Alien Queen.Last we have one of the original Legends of Tomorrow, Hawkgirl. 

Film Review: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is Marvel Studios 2nd film release of 2016 and the 14th Marvel Cinematic Universe entry. It’s based on the Marvel Comics character of Doctor Strange who was created by Steve Ditko back in 1963. The film was directed by Scott Derrickson who is best know for horror films such as Sinister and Deliver Us From Evil.

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, a renowned and neurosurgeon who after getting into a car accident loses the use of his hands. He spends time and money having all sorts of procedures done to regain his hands and resume his surgical career. This leads him to an audience with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who then shows him a world and power beyond himself.

That’s the story in a nutshell. It’s actually very similar to Iron Man. As far as story goes, Doctor Strange is more of what we expect from Marvel Studios in terms of origin stories. It does standout however in some of its own unique ways, but for me lack of character development really hurts the final product.

Doctor Strange is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that showcases the mystical side of things. As I watched the film I couldn’t help but continually be intrigued by the lessons the Ancient One taught Strange and the amount of world building that it set up. Because of this, any moment the film got to showcase magic, it was truly magical. The biggest strength of Doctor Strange from a technical perspective is its visuals. Inspired by Ditko’s art, yet with a modern perspective that we have seen in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the visuals suck you in. It felt like a living piece of Escher art.  I did not see this in 3D, but I think it would have been worth the money to do so. Especially shots like this.

The film’s shortcomings come in its story which is standard end of the world stuff, and it’s use of its characters. Doctors Strange actually has a pretty fantastic cast that sadly isn’t given enough time to shine. 

Cumberbatch as Strange certainly gives the character the weight of a man who goes from unbeliever to believer. It feels right from a storytelling perspective. It’s the rest of the cast that seems to have gotten the short end of development. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo actually interested me as a character far more than even Strange. Sadly, it appears we have to wait for the sequel to get that. The same goes for Rachel McAdams Christine Palmer. We get fed a sample of her relationship with Strange but she’s cut out of the film for a significant amount of time and then reappears and then is gone again.

Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One gets shortchanged on story as well. We discover a mystery about the character and eventually we get what she did, but not why she did, at least in a way that was pleasing to me. 

Last there is Mads Mikkelsen’s villain Kaecilius who according to most reviews continues a trend of underwhelming Marvel antagonists. I believe that to be partially correct as he certainly is not as fleshed out as could be, yet his role is fundamentally different as his motivations do not lie with the main character. So while he is not the best comic book movie villain, doing something a tad different with the character motivations is a step in the right direction.

I did enjoy Doctor Strange. I enjoyed the new elements of mysticism that have been added to the Marvel Universe as a whole. It felt thematically like its own film and not just a piece to lead to the next crossover film. It reminded me most of the Phase One films which are the MCU films I enjoy the most. It’s a visual treat, but left me wanting more from a story perspective.

Final Rating (3.5/5) Doctor Strange looks good, with some really good world building. Yet it’s standard story and lacking character development keeps this sorcerer from reigning supreme.

Film Review – Captain America: Civil War

The third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off with a film inspired by the 2007 Marvel Comics storyline “Civil War.” I was a tiny bit skeptical about this one. Not that I don’t think that Marvel Studios wouldn’t do a good job, rather that with the smaller amount of characters involved the impact may not have been as strong as it did in the comics. Skepticism should never have entered my mind. This film met and surpassed my expectations and while it may be too early to say, has taken the top spot on my MCU rankings. What held the title? Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That movie was a high bar and this one basically set a new bar. 

Taking place in the aftermath of Age of Ultron, Civil War has the Avengers facing government accountability for all their actions after a mission in Lagos goes terribly awry. The United Nations comes together to issue the Sokovia Accords which would let the Avengers know when and where they should step in. Steve Rogers is in opposition to these terms as he feels the team works best when not under the thumb of any entity but themselves. Tony Stark is in favor of the oversight, feeling that the fallout of their actions is too great. Their conflict on this splinters the team. To add fuel to the fire, Cap’s friend Bucky (The Winter Soldier) is a wanted man after a bombing at the UN kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda leaving his son T’Challa as the new king.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo continue using the political backdrop as a setting in the vein of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They know how to take this complex genre and make it even more complex with the addition of superheroes. This makes for a great ideological drama between Rogers and Stark, further complicated by the situation with Bucky. 

I loved this film. I loved both the action and the acting. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr both bring such gravitas to their roles. As you watch how things deteriorate between them you really see the results of the reverse character arcs they have been on since their characters first films. The rest of our Avengers veterans (Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen) are superb as usual and for the most part do a decent job showing us who they side with and why. 

I wanted to bring special mention to the two stand outs of the Civil War cast, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther and Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Boseman as the Prince, later King of Wakanda brings a stoic gracefulness to the role and that carries over when he appears as Black Panther. Even his fighting style is as graceful as his diplomacy is. Holland on the other hand displays quite the youthful exuberance as Spider-Man. He actually reminds me in a way of the Spectacular Spider-Man version of Parker. I felt I could see the excitement on his face as he met the team for the first time.The action sequences are a step up in my opinion from Winter Soldier. As great as that film was it appeared to have been just slightly influenced by the shaky cam style of fight scenes. By no means was it the worst example of that but it did at times make the action a bit hard to follow for me. Civil War on the other hand has nice fluid action that I was able to follow. In addition the dialogue was well written and other than your standard MCU jokes, never felt cheesy. Especially in the final confrontation, you see not so much the enmity, but rather hurt between Tony and Steve. As a viewer you realize both have presented viewpoints that make you not want to pick a side even if you have before you sat down in the theater.

The only aspect of the film that I felt was weak was the film’s villain. I won’t disclose who it is since it wasn’t revealed in any trailers, but while I understand the motivations of their actions, it felt almost inconsequential. You could have removed that aspect of the story and it would not have made any difference.Knowing that the comic book storyline had some immediate changes for the Marvel universe, I was concerned that this wouldn’t have consequences for the movie universe. Considering that the MCU is heading toward the battle with Thanos in Infinity War, would this change anything before we get to that moment? It certainly does and I am even more hooked into the upcoming films to see how the Avengers can recover as we draw closer to meeting the Mad Titan.

Captain America: Civil War is for me an automatic top tier MCU entry. There is action aplenty and most importantly a conflict that threatens to tear apart characters we care about from within. It kind of makes Ultron’s words about doing that a little more poignant. The MCU has changed now and I can’t wait for what’s next.

Final Rating (4.5/5) Only weakness involves the villain’s storyline. It doesn’t however detract from the rest of the movie. It just felt a little pointless. Other than that. Fantastic movie!


Some shots of my Funko Pops squaring off and ready for battle.

Civil War

Alien Warfare

Ideological Conflict

The Lion vs Evil

Clown Prince vs Caped Crusader

Lightning and Ice

Film Review – Deadpool

They finally really did it. The Merc with a Mouth has made his cinematic debut. We won’t speak of things in the past (A certain movie in a certain series that we just won’t mention). Honestly Deadpool is a character I never would have thought would make it to the screen. I never really knew if his appeal was that far reaching. I’ve always enjoyed the antics of Wade Wilson, but Deadpool’s nature may or may not be appealing to others. So how does this superhero-action-comedy stack up?

If you’ve seen the trailers or tv spots for Deadpool you might think you’ve seen it all and there is nothing new. Believe it or not the trailers did not simply showcase all the best material. Clocking in at just under 2 hours Deadpool is crazy, stupid comic book fun with some pretty decent fight choreography and at times can be a bit touching. 

 The movie opens with a pretty funny opening title sequence that pokes fun at both the current state of superhero films and also Hollywood in general. I found it pretty funny. After that we get into the story.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary. Yet despite the title, he actually has a bit of an honest streak. Early in the film he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), an escort with who he hits it off instantly. This is one of the parts of the film that I say was actually quite touching. It isn’t the standard, star-studded way of showing a romance on screen. A line spoke by Wade indicates that “her crazy matches his crazy.” At first meeting the two have a banter back and forth about who had the harder childhood. It actually come off really sweet and adds realism to their relationship. Not to turn this review in a relationship piece but I think we all know that not every love story as the same standard formula. 

 Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer and he wishes to spare Vanessa the pain of seeing him die. He crosses path with Francis aka Ajax ( Ed Skrein) who offers a chance to cure his cancer. He accepts and in the process discovers he has a healing factor that cures his cancer but leaving him with a disfigured body and practically immortal. He then commences his hunt for Francis to fix his condition.

 As far as casting goes this was perfect for Ryan Reynolds. I actually thought he was fine as Hal Jordan, but Green Lantern had a whole array of issues not connected to him. Morena Baccarin also was well cast. She and Reynolds have great chemistry and bring believability to Wade and Vanessa’s love. Ed Skrein as Francis is alright. There’s nothing special about his character nor his performance. Another Marvel villain par for the course cinematically. The same goes for Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapicic as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus respectively. Gina Carano plays Angel Dust with imposing physical presence, but also not much to do. Two supporting highlights are Leslie Uggams as Blind Al and TJ Miller as Wade’s friend Weasel. These two are pretty damn funny and have great comedic timing.Although the story is a standard origin story, as a viewer I did not care because Deadpool never takes itself that serious as a superhero epic. It actually can stand alone if it wanted to since everything pretty much wrapped up by the end. 

 The movie also has some pretty nice action sequences. The scenes are never to fast or frantic for viewers to take in. Even when Deadpool is jumping all around, it has a fluid feeling and its brutal in its violence, but never revels in it. Heads and limbs are cut off throughout but it never bashes you over the head or feels at all uncomfortable. There’s no point in criticizing the CGI Colossus since the movie brings attention to that at the beginning. For those afraid of the film being overdone with Deadpool-isms need not worry as it knows when and when not to indulge.

I wouldn’t call Deadpool a game-changer in the superhero film genre. I can say that perhaps this will convince not only Marvel but DC as well to give some consideration to their more mature properties on a theatrical scale. Deadpool does what Deadpool does with some very entertaining results. It’s not The Avengers by any means. You are not going to be able to dig deep into the layers of Wade Wilson and find this story some commentary on whatever is going on in the world. I can say this however, if you want an entertaining, adult oriented superhero movie, you can’t go wrong with Deadpool. It’s just fun. 

 Final Rating (4.5/5) Weak villain and not much from the X-Men sidekicks, but that never really detracts from the movie. Funny with some really well done action and actually can be a bit heartfelt and touching. 


A Meeting of the Minds: Marvel Comics Hip-Hop Variants

I love comics. I love Marvel Comics. I love music. I love Hip-Hop. Well Marvel has taken these things I love and mashed them together for a special blend of superheroes and music. For each of their new #1 issues following the Secret Wars Event, Marvel has released a variant cover based on a hip-hop album covers from past and present. I saw that they were doing this and had to get in. I did not get all of them, but here are a few that I have gotten that I am pleased to share.

Doctor Strange #1 – Cover based on The Chronic by Dr. Dre 

The Astonishing Ant-Man #1 – Cover based on Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G. 


The Invincible Iron Man #1 – Cover based on Get Rich or Die Tryin by 50 Cent 

Amazing Spider-Man #1 – Cover based on Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest 

Spider-Gwen #1 – Cover based on The Great Adventures of Slick Rick by Slick Rick 

Contest of Champions #1 – Cover based on Liquid Swords by GZA