Tea & Book Chat: Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson Review

This week I couldn’t put down Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  The book serves as a prequel to Peter Pan, who at the time is an orphan without a last name.  Peter and the other orphan boys are sent aboard a ship named the Wasp, to go to Rundoon and serve the evil King Zarboff, the third.  During their journey, Peter sneaks out of the boys’ quarters to attempt to find real food for them to eat.  Along the way he makes a new friend named Molly, who is an apprentice and descends from a long line of Starcatchers.  Molly is traveling separate from her father and guarding a magical trunk aboard their ship which is to be delivered to the Queen.  Peter and the Starcatchers is a mystical page turning adventure involving familiar characters such as the pirates Black Stache and Smee, Captain and first mate aboard the Jolly Roger, the most terrifying pirate ship in the sea.  As more sailors become privy to the magic withheld inside the trunk, chaos ensues on the high seas and five separate parties (Slank and Little Richard, Black Stache and Smee, Peter and Molly, the mermaids, and once they hit land, the Mollusks) battle each other to acquire the trunk.

If you have an affinity for the story of Peter Pan, you will fall deeply in love with Peter and the Starcatchers.  It’s wonderful to read the events which shaped Peter into the legend he is today.  You also learn about the origin of  the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, the mermaids, and Mr. Grin, the crocodile.  The story is rich with easter eggs its fast paced narrative instantly engages the reader.  I often found myself saying I would read “just one more page,” before I put it down, but in actuality I would end up reading twenty to forty more pages.  I loved the story so much that after completing the novel I felt compelled to look further into Peter and the Starcatchers online.  I had already known about the off-Broadway play in New York (which I’m going to force someone to take me to on my birthday), but I also discovered that Disney is planning on turning the book into a film.  They’ve already employed Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) to direct, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Peter and the Starcatchers is the first book in a four book series, and you can order a copy from Amazon.

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Tea & Book Chat: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher

As a total literature nerd and major Star Wars enthusiast, I can confidently state that the one thing missing from my life up until now was William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher.  Doescher uses iambic pentameter to adapt A New Hope into a 5 act Shakespearian adventure involving a captured Princess (Leia), a wise (Jedi) knight, and evil (Sith) lord, a young hero (Luke), and his comedic relief (C3PO & R2D2).  (That means we get to read R2D2’s bleeping in iambic pentameter!) We all know the plot of A New Hope, but what many of us may not have realized is how well the characters in Star Wars mirror Shakespearian archetypes.  I especially love Doescher’s use of literary devices.  For example, Vader’s speech in Act I, Scene II of the book foreshadows the events that are soon to follow. Verily, A New Hope, recounts the 1977 film scene for scene, and Doescher solves the lack of visuals, by adding a Chorus who explain the actions of the characters and enhance their soliloquies.  The book also includes 19 beautiful illustrations which depict the Elizabethan attire of the cast of characters in the dramatis personae. I would love to see Doescher’s retelling performed onstage, or simply read aloud by friends at a house party.  Perhaps, next May the Fourth!  I am convinced that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, William Shakespeare had every intention of this interpretation existing.  Believe me when I say William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is the book you’re looking for. (I had to get in some Star Wars-isms!)  I’ll leave you with this satisfying line spoken by Han Solo:

[To bartender:] Pray, goodly Sir, forgive me for the

mess.

[Aside:] And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!

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You can purchase a copy of the book here, and view the trailer below.  Happy reading!

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Iron Man 3 Review [Spoilers]

I would just like to preface this review by saying that when judging a film adaptation of anything whether it be a book, a comic, a video game or anything else, each entity should be judged as an individual because essentially, that’s what it is.  Although two entities may be based on the same character, there are things that work in films that do not work in books, and vice versa.  With that being said, I am still going to draw comparisons between Marvel’s Iron Man comic, and Marvel Entertainment’s newest film, Iron Man 3, but I am not in any way criticizing one or the other based on how story elements have differed.

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I absolutely loved Iron Man 3.  Since Marvel’s first Iron Man film it has been clear that Robert Downey Jr., is Tony Stark, and when paired with director Shane Black, magic happened.  Black and Downey are literally a match made in movie heaven.  Black’s witty dialogue is a trademark of his, and Downey’s delivery of the script is nothing less than perfect.  Then cue Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in the role of a strong and independent female lead, Don Cheadle in War Machine’s newly made over armor as the Iron Patriot, our main villains – Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian and Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, Jon Favreau as the overprotective head of security with a Downton Abbey obsession, and an unbelievably talented cast of supporting characters.  The casting in Iron Man 3 was phenomenal.  It was as if every actor hit their stride and each cast member played really well off one another.  The major theme expressed throughout the film is that a person, especially an influential person, has a certain sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions.  Tony talks about his past and creating demons on a night he barely remembered.  It just goes to show that one event that can hold little to no meaning for one person, can be someone else’s most significant milestone.

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The film serves as a believable transitory period, taking place after The Avengers, as the traumatizing events that occurred in New York leaves us with a Tony Stark who is having difficulty coping with day to day life after facing the Chitauri army.  Almost losing Pepper has, in a sense, put things into perspective for Tony, but he becomes so obsessed with protecting Pepper from imminent potential threats, that he spends his sleepless nights developing an entire basement full of Iron Man armor.  This is where the uncomfortableness for the audience commences.  We’re given a glimpse of a superhero who we depend on to protect us, at his most vulnerable (i.e.. crying in his sleep from flashbacks).  Tony finally reaches his breaking point and threatens The Mandarin in front of a herd of news reporters, and thus the action begins… and it never stops until the end of the film.  After Tony discloses his address, his home is attacked and destroyed by three helicopters piloted by people who have taken doses of Extremis. Tony is separated from Pepper and Maya (a scientist who works for Aldrich Killian on Extremis), and JARVIS follows his original flight plan and takes Tony to Tennessee, the first known site for the suspicious bombings that follow The Mandarin’s protocol.

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While in Tennessee, Tony begrudgingly relies on the help of a child (played by Ty Simpkins) who helps inspire Tony to rebuild things… when he’s not causing Tony to have anxiety attacks by asking questions about New York.  The pair hit it off and Downey again nails Black’s dialogue and converses with Harley like he’s an adult.  He offers him useful life tips, such as being cool about saving people, handling bullies, and he even shows some tough love when he takes off like Harley’s father did.  Meanwhile Pepper travels with Maya, discovers she’s involved in Extremis, and gets captured by Aldrich who injects her with Extremis doses.  Iron Patriot and Iron Man uncover Aldrich’s plan to take control of the government and execute the President in The Mandarin’s final broadcast, and it is one scene after another of destruction, explosions, plane crashes, and the like.

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After seeing the reaction on Twitter, it was clear that many people were upset with the way that The Mandarin was portrayed.  I’ve heard die hard comic fans express devastation that they turned The Mandarin into a joke, but in all honesty, it completely worked for the film.  Iron Man 3 is one of the darker superhero films currently in existence, and the impending terrorist threats combined with the large number of ex-military personnel who had taken doses of Extremis was terrifying.  The Mandarin provided a sense of comic relief which was a necessary factor in Iron Man’s seemingly hopeless situation.  Before we learn that The Mandarin is an actor, there is a scene where he gives the President an ultimatum – to call him within 30 seconds or he will take a man’s life on national television for the sake of teaching a lesson.  When the President caves in, against his advisors orders, he shows the American public that he is vulnerable to the terrorist attack, and The Mandarin proceeds to shoot the man in the head despite receiving the phone call.  After this scene, I remember gasping, becoming teary-eyed, and being extremely uncomfortable and terrified.  Particularly because this is something that could actually happen.  By turning The Mandarin into a stage actor struggling with a substance abuse addiction, and acting as the face of terrorism, it gave us the opportunity to laugh.

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Overall, the film was brilliantly executed.  There is no denying several of the plot holes, and the lack of involvement that S.H.I.E.L.D. played, but with a runtime of 130 minutes, there wasn’t much more that could’ve been packed into the film without sacrificing essential scenes.  It was a pleasure to see Pepper Potts step up as the strongest character (in less eloquent terms, she was a certified badass).  Whether she was in her powerful white suit making decisions as the CEO of Stark Industries, or after her Extremis treatment fighting Aldrich in a sports bra, Gwyneth Paltrow really stole the screen.  Also noteworthy is the number of Iron Man suits we saw shooting throughout the sky and attacking the enemies.  And adorably so, at the end of the film, Tony proves his love for Pepper by instructing JARVIS to initiate “clean slate,” which destroys all of the Iron Man armor, a much better gesture than the giant stuffed bunny he buys her for Christmas.  Even the end credits of the film are worth discussing.  The music along with the inter spliced images and video of characters had a sort of James Bond-like feel to it.  I hope you enjoyed the movie as much as I did! I’m going to detail some of the differences between the film and the comic in the section below!

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One aspect of the film that I particularly enjoyed was that although we had been told that the script was loosely based on Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s Extremis, after viewing the film, it was evident that it also utilized story elements from Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man run.  Here are four of the minor differences from comic to film:

1) In the comic – There is a doctor partnered with Maya Hansen who commits suicide after writing a note apologizing for what he’s done.  Maya seeks out Tony Stark’s help because she’s concerned about the human trials and claims she has no idea who the doctor sold their prototype to.  We later learn that Maya was also involved in the scheme of sending Extremis to human trials, but she was working alone since the doctor had killed himself.

In the film – Maya is working for Aldrich Killian, who is the main villain in the Extremis scheme.  Although Maya does go along with his plan initially, she redeems herself and tries to protect Tony right before Aldrich shoots her.

2) In the comic – Tony takes a dose of Extremis after being badly beaten by one of the other test subjects. He doesn’t know if he’ll survive but it’s the only way to merge man and machine and connect him closer to his Iron Man armor.  He appoints Pepper in charge of Stark Industries when he leaves in search of the Extremis patient, and he also leaves her an Iron Man suit which she names Rescue.  Pepper also teams up with Black Widow and Maria Hill in Tony’s absence rescues them after pretending to be Madame Masque.

In the film – Pepper is already CEO of Stark Industries and Tony has already developed technology himself which allows him to call him armor to himself by thinking his command.    Tony does not need to take an Extremis dose to face his enemy and instead Pepper survives the trial and puts Aldrich in his final resting place.  Black Widow and Maria Hill are both absent from the film, as well as Pepper’s Madame Masque disguise.  But here’e hoping we’ll see Pepper as Rescue in Iron Man 4!

3) In the comic – Tony breaches War Machine’s suit and doesn’t work with him in an effort to stop Extremis.

In the film – War Machine has been rebranded as Iron Patriot, and the pair work side by side to stop Aldrich and save the president.

4) The Mandarin (See above) – Aside from allowing us to laugh, The Mandarin also enhanced the threat of Aldrich Killian.  He put a face on terrorism and deceived the American public into believing that The Mandarin was the enemy they should be targeting.  (Similar to how Marvel Entertainment tricked us into believing The Mandarin was the bad guy.)  There’s nothing scarier than fighting an unknown enemy and by shifting the public’s focus he was able to conduct the real terror behind the scenes without much interference.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Iron Man’s armor throughout the years, you should check out this article my friend and comic book historian Alan Kistler wrote for Wired:  The Greatest Iron Man Armor’s of the Last 50 Years: An Interactive Timeline

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Kristin

Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans GO! Review

Last night, the newly rebooted series, Teen Titans GO!, premiered on Cartoon Network and I was absolutely blown away by the first episode.  I love the original series from the bottom of my heart, so I had been looking forward to the new series, especially since it stars the same voice actors as the original series.  It is so exciting to me to have a weekly Tuesday night date scheduled with Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg.  One of the elements that truly enhanced the episode is the animation style.  The characters are drawn adorably, and throughout the episode I found myself wishing that I could reach through my television to give them each a giant hug.  The colors are much brighter than those in the original series, and they not only capture the eye, but they really make each scene pop and enhance the story.  Admittedly, the new theme song which is somewhat a remixed version of the original will take a few episodes to get used to, but everything else about the show was perfect.

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The episode was divided into two parts, ‘Legendary Sandwich,’ and ‘Pie Bros.’  The first part ‘Legendary Sandwich,’ opens with Raven secretly watching a show called Pretty Pretty Pegasus (a show bearing a striking resemblance to My Little Pony, with main characters named Sparkle Face and Butter Bean) on her laptop.  That first scene is when I knew I was completely sold on the series.  For those who don’t know, Raven is voiced by Tara Strong who also does the voice Twilight Sparkle on MLP.  All Raven wants to do is watch her guilty pleasure show in peace and act out scenes with her toys so she sends the rest of the Titans out on a mission to obtain the ingredients to the legendary sandwich which will give the consumer eternal life.  Each Titan accepts their mission and endures a battle sustaining serious injuries for the mystical bacon (Cyborg), the King’s lettuce (Beast Boy), the stellar tomato (Starfire), and then there’s the pretzel bread which Robin has to wait on line for at the supermarket.  The supermarket scene gives us a glimpse into the comedic nature of Robin and it interlaced nicely with the more dramatic fight scenes.

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The next part of the episode, ‘Pie Bros,’ almost had me in tears. (It was a long day).  It’s Cyborg’s birthday and Beast Boy wants to buy his best friend an expensive present so he takes a job at a pie shop to help fund Cybrog’s gift.  Plus there’s singing.  Lots of singing.  ABOUT PIE.  So yeah, that in itself is a reason to watch the episode.  Beast Boy endures much torture from Cyborg about the ridiculous uniform he’s forced to wear during his shift (see: pie hat), and he’s even forced to attend Cyborg’s birthday as an employee because he needs the extra money.  Cyborg is livid that his best friend thinks a little extra cash is more important to him than their friendship so during the party he makes it his mission to throw pies on the floor for Beast Boy to clean up.  The adorable factor in this episode is through the roof.  Before Beast Boy even takes on the job, he draws Cyborg an awesome picture of the alien Cyborg riding dog Beast Boy, which he later finds out would’ve been enough.  There’s also a Sweeny Todd-esque element to the owner of the pie shop, but she fills a very secondary plot in the episode, while Beast Boy and Cyborg have a screaming pie fight that eventually morphs into more singing.

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Overall, the first episode of Teen Titans GO! completely surpassed any expectation I had for the new series.  It’s a much more kid friendly series than Young Justice, which it has replaced (all the tears), but I have high hopes for this becoming an instant fan favorite.  The show stars Scott Menville as Robin, Tara Strong as Raven, Hynden Walch as Starfire, Greg Cipes as Beast Boy, and Khary Payton as Cyborg.  If you missed the first episode, have no fear! Teen Titans GO will be repeated on Saturday mornings as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block.  In the meantime, if you’re looking for more of the Titans, you can catch the old series online (Amazon, iTunes, etc.,), read Geoff Johns’ DC Comics run on the series (which is arguably one of the best series ever written), or play the game on Cartoon Network’s website.

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Kristin

How the Adventure Time Video Game Took Over My Life

So last week was pretty atypical in the sense that I had way too much free time.  It all started when I caught an awful cold last Sunday night and was forced to miss three days of work.  I always talk about how badly I’d love to get sick and be forced to lay in bed all day relaxing and watch movies/tv shows and read/write for countless hours and last week I got my wish.  Only it was terrible.  I spent most of my time home asleep which is super unproductive and boring.  Even when I tried to stay awake to watch things, it just didn’t happen.  I did watch some things though like Futurama, Veronica Mars, Empire Strikes Back, and three Harry Potter movies.  It pained me to stay in Thursday and Friday night but for once I decided to do the responsible thing by staying in and trying to get better.  On Saturday, Melissa, came to Long Island to visit me and we had a crazy long day of toy shopping, C2E2 cosplay material shopping, and roaming around the mall because Melissa moved here from Texas and there aren’t any good malls in NYC so she was in heaven.  Then we grabbed sushi for dinner with my awesome genius brother Bob and when we got home we told ghost stories, drank white wine, and drunk tweeted The Avengers (sorry followers!).

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After I dropped Melissa off the next morning I purchased a much needed treinta unsweetened green iced tea from Starbucks and went home to clean my room which didn’t last too long.  Then it happened.  I came across the Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage? game for Nintendo DS that I purchased after brunch with my friend Jamila a few weeks back.  Oh my glob! Looking back, I totally just realized that I spent Friday night watching Adventure Time with my brother, and on Saturday I purchased a plush Gunther and a BMO toy with a changing face to add to my collection of Adventure Time toys so maybe my caving in and playing the game this week was like *destiny* or something.  Or maybe I really did have too much free time.  Either way, I became as addicted to the game as the Ice King is to finding a Princess to be his wife.

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The game has cameo’s from nearly every character in the show (including Lemongrab! and LSP! and Snow Golem! and Hot Dog Princess! and well, you get the idea).  You play on BMO (obviously) as Finn and Jake traveling throughout the Land of Ooo in search of the Ice King because he stole your garbage and you want to know why.  The game starts in the Grasslands, progresses to the Candy Kingdom, then to the Red Rock Pass, and finally ends in the Ice Kingdom.  Along the way you help many creatures with their issues and acquire all kinds of fun swords and abilities.  There are even some surprising villains to you have to face such as Marceline (because the Ice King promised her $5), and as if killing one Gunther wouldn’t be bad enough, there’s a Gunther clone machine and you have to kill a total of ONE HUNDRED Gunthers.  It’s heartbreaking until they start to irritate you and you begin to yell at them as the Ice King would.  Now, when I say that this game began to consume my life, I mean it wholeheartedly.  I began playing on Sunday night at 11:30pm (already a bad idea).  I played until 2 am despite having to wake up at 6 am on Monday morning for work, and then I repeated the pattern on Monday night.  And you know how I wake up at 6am so I can write for On Wednesdays We Wear Pink and edit my tumblr queue?  Well I woke up at 6am on Tuesday morning and played more of the game until 8am when I had to get ready for work without writing anything at all.  I finally beat the game on Tuesday night (tonight), and now that I’m finished I feel completely free and relaxed.  There’s a chance I may even get a decent amount of sleep tonight unless I start playing something else.  I don’t want to give any spoilers about the end of the game in case you’re planning on purchasing a copy for yourself (which I highly recommend if you have or can make the time to devote to it) but trust me when I tell you that Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage? is a glorious addiction.  Friends, family and coworkers were worried about me but when I start communicating with the real world again tomorrow they’ll see that everything is okay.  One of my favorite things about the game besides the clever plot is that it plays much like Super Mario Brothers or Donkey Kong in that it has specific levels and bosses you must beat to save a princess from a misunderstood villain.  If you’re interested, you can buy a copy on Amazon for a reasonable price, and if you’re not, then I’m not sure why you’re reading this.

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Mystery Society Special 2013 by Steve Niles & Andrew Ritchie

I was overly delighted when IDW announced that Steve Niles would be penning a new special about the Mystery Society.  Although Fiona Staples, the other half of the creator owned team did not return on the artwork (it was instead illustrated by Andrew Ritchie), the issue in its entirety was worth the wait.   Previously, Mystery Society was released as a 5 issue miniseries, but thankfully Niles wrote one more oversized special issue this week.  When we left off, Nick Hammond and his wife Anastasia Collins, members of Mystery Society, had defeated a villain and obtained both the skull of Edgar Allen Poe and a pair of twin girls during their dangerous pursuit of the artifact.  See, the Mystery Society exists to uncover all of the paranormal secrets and myths in the world. In reading the previous issues of Mystery Society, I fell in love with Nick and Anastasia.  They are a very wealthy couple who work together to solve mysteries and uncover the truth, while motivating each other to be better people.  They are perfectly matched and within the course of the first five issues Niles did a fantastic job developing their relationship and demonstrating how much they love one another.  Although, my favorite character is Verne, a robot with the brain of Jules Verne, and not only because he calls Nostradamus an attention seeking hack that makes him want to vomit oil.  In the 2013 special, the gang heads underwater to trade Poe’s skull with an eclectic collector.  Within minutes of meeting the man conducting the trade, Mr, Hunley, it is evident that he was never planning playing fair.  He imprisons Verne and Secret Skull and threatens them with poisonous gas among other things.  As it turns out Mr. Hunley is housing some of the world’s most feared monsters.  Considering the Mystery Society consists of a band of misfits, caging creatures doesn’t sit well with Nick and Anastasia.  Even when they’re warned about setting a particular legend free, they recognize the fault in keeping him imprisoned.  Without giving anything away, let’s just say this character turns out to be quite charming despite his contemporaries warnings.  If you haven’t already read the initial miniseries, I would definitely recommend doing so.  The special issue can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone, but you will feel a much stronger connection to the characters if you’re familiar with their full history.  I can only hope that IDW will bring Mystery Society back at some point as an ongoing series because there are so many more stories that can be told about Nick, Anastasia and their motley crew.

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The Great Veronica Mars Kickstarter Debate

It was less than one one mere week ago that the Veronica Mars Kickstarter launched and broke several records all within 10 hours.  With a 2 million dollar goal until the project was fully funded, Veronica Mars had the highest asking price of any film Kickstarter to date.  It surpassed it’s goal by 9pm that very same night.  Rob Thomas, the shows creator, put together an endearing proposal using Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Jason Dohring (Logan Echolls), Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas), and Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars), to film a teaser video of the actors asking fans to donate, promising to film this summer should they reach their goal, and highlighting some of the top rewards a backer could choose from.  If you were already a fan of the show, after having watched the trailer, it would be impossible not to donate.  Just seeing all of the same actors together in one room is enough to realize that this reunion is something that could actually happen.  The immediate success of the Veronica Mars movie sparked hope in other cult television fans who prayed  the same could be done for shows like Firefly (Joss Whedon already denied this possibility), Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Deadwood, and even Twin Peaks.  But it wasn’t long until others like James Rocchi started criticizing studio use of Kickstarter, calling it such absurd things as “food stamps for the 1%.”  But as Wired points out, there is no sleight of hand going on here.  Fans have paid for a Veronica Mars movie and that is what they’ll get.

Kickstarter is a relatively new platform in the grand scheme of things and while many people are familiar with it and have even contributed to projects on the publishing level, it wasn’t until the Veronica Mars Kickstarter launch that people started to question it.  One of the major concerns being raised is that Kickstarting studio projects could potentially ruin the movie business.  This made me wonder, what makes this Kickstarter different than any of the comics Kickstarters I’ve contributed to?  My answer: Nothing.  Original, company funded comics are still being published in addition to projects that have been crowd funded.  So why would it be any different for film?  Some of our beloved shows have been cancelled due to a lack of viewers.  Regardless of whether a fan buys the DVDs or watches the show when it’s released on Netflix, if they are not watching live while the show airs, the ratings will inevitably result in the show to be cancelled.  For a series with a cult following like Veronica Mars, it’s clear that fans wanted more.  And if they were willing to back the show, what right does anyone else have to criticize their methods?  By launching a Kickstarter, they haven’t harmed anyone in the process of obtaining the necessary funds, and it can even be argued that they’ve developed a sense of community among “Marshmallows.”  The Veronica Mars movie has mostly been funded by the audience they already had.  By fans investing in something they believe in, a movie that never would’ve been made will come to fruition and their fan base will expand even further.  Kickstarter is a wonderful platform for creators who truly believe in their projects, to have the opportunity to make their dreams become a reality.  As for the opinion that fans funding projects should be raising money for charity instead of feeding more revenue into Hollywood, no one has the authority to claim that the same people donating to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter aren’t donating to charities as well.  I myself have donated to both Kickstarter projects that I would love to see funded, as well as a plethora of charities.  Plus, it will probably take a while before the trend catches on.  Until the Veronica Mars movie is successfully made, and fans receive all of the rewards they were promised, we probably will not see too many other major film projects using Kickstarter as their means of funding.  It’s safe to say that Veronica Mars is the guinea pig in this new crowd funded experiment.  So please, enough with the criticizing of Kickstarter and the fans who choose to put their hard earned money towards something they believe in.

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Why Marvel’s The Avengers Will Always Hold a Special Place in My Heart

First I would like to forewarn you that there will be spoilers in this post (not until the last paragraph, but still, they’re coming).  But if you haven’t seen The Avengers yet then you are doing yourself a disservice and I encourage to immediately disconnect from all social media and spend a solid 2+ hours reveling in Joss Whedon’s film adaptation.  The other day I had gotten into a conversation with a friend about Marvel’s The Avengers, when I realized what I dork I am when it comes to that epic masterpiece of a movie.  It turns out that I remember the exact date of the first time I saw the film (April 26th), and for me, it’s theatrical release date (May 4th – it was a struggle but I ultimately decided to sport apparel supporting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes even though it was Star Wars Day) has become intrinsic knowledge.  I attended a midnight showing despite having to wake up at 5:45am the next morning for work (even though I had already seen the movie!).  At the time that The Avengers was debuting, there were a ton of exciting things happening in my life.  Regardless of how the actual film was, I knew I would always have an emotional attachment to it, but as time has passed and certain memories have been corrupted, I am thrilled to say that The Avengers haven’t been tainted in the slightest.

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After many of the things I mentioned in my 2012 recap blog post had come to pass, I was finally ready to start going out and living my life again.  I’ll never forget sitting at my desk on what I thought was going to be just like any other day when suddenly, my Twitter DM notification went off.  I had my suspicions as to who would be sending me a private message at that time, so I was even more shocked when I looked down to find that one of my favorite Spider-Man writers, Dan Slott, had DM’ed me about going to the Marvel screening with him to see The Avengers a whole week before it debuted in theaters!  I was so excited during the week leading up to the release that I made an Avengers headband out of felt from Michaels (as seen above), among other things.  It’s events like this where it’s near impossible for me to suppress my inner nerd, so I obviously felt the need to accessorize with a plethora of pieces representing as many Avengers as I could.  I already owned an Avengers skirt, I had previously transformed my Tokidoki Iron Man frenzie into a necklace (also seen above), and I ordered squinkie Thor earrings, and a Captain America hair bow, to complete the look I wanted to create.  What can I say? I’m enthusiastic! AND THIS IS THE AVENGERS! Hence, no justification is really needed.

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During the screening, Dan and I sat next to Cliff Chiang (one of the most amazing comic book artists in the industry), and I met a bunch of other Marvelites before and after the show.  We also ran into my friend Lauren, who was currently interning at Marvel before she graduated college that semester, and best of all (well, besides the actual movie of course), was the super swag they gave to us before the screening.  We received pairs of the limited edition 3D glasses (I have Iron Man, and Captain America), a giant Thor poster, which has resided on the wall next to my bed ever since, and an awesome Avengers cup that I still use to this day!  And just before the film started Joe Quesada made a speech but to be honest, I was too excited to see the movie to pay attention to anything anyone may have said to me earlier that day.  As I’m sure you can imagine, I laughed, I cried, and for almost the entirety of the film my mouth was agape and my eyes were open wide due to complete and utter awe.  But more about my thoughts on the film later!

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For most people it would be pure torture to see such a film as The Avengers and then be forced to wait an entire week before discussing it’s genius with the rest of the world, but for me it was worth the wait.  The movie elated me because it was everything I was hoping it would be and then so much more.  The next time I saw the film was at the midnight showing with all of my closest friends from high school.  Just to interject a quick anecdote, my favorite superhero is Spider-Man, which everyone who has ever met me can easily determine.  During the midnight showing one of my friends was so excited to tell me that there was a Spider-Man cosplayer in the theater but when I turned around it quickly changed into a facepalm moment because the cosplayer in question was none other than Deadpool…  Yea.  For this showing (don’t worry, I promise I won’t go through all five times I saw it in theaters!), I wore my Tokidoki Captain America sweatshirt (which someone else in the theater thought was a Thor sweatshirt hence another facepalm moment), my Tokidoki Thor necklace, and I brought some of my favorite plushie Funko Avengers along with me.   I didn’t get home until 3am and I was so pumped from my second screening that I didn’t bother attempting to sleep that night.  My favorite part of my second viewing was at the end of the film during Marvel’s infamous after credits scene when all of my friends turned to me and asked who they had just seen on screen. It was Thanos!

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So now, for the reasons I was driven to see The Avengers in theaters five times before purchasing a copy of the blu-ray on it’s release date and deeming the film the official montage to every moment spent in my room thereafter.  I’ll start with the writing.  It’s Whedon, thus it’s perfect.  The amount of humor he was able to inject into the film, particularly with Iron Man’s lines, is enough to make you crave multiple viewings.  With the exception of Hawkeye who I would’ve liked to see more of, each Avenger had a complete and thorough storyline with ample screen time.  Prior to seeing the film I had been nervous about Black Widow’s less than impressive handguns, but Natasha proved to be a badass.  I would love to see ScarJo star in her own Black Widow film sometime in the near future!  Another minor concern before the movie, mostly for continuity’s sake, was the replacement of Edward Norton (my favorite actor of all time despite detesting The Hulk movie), with Mark Ruffalo.  But many people would agree that Bruce Banner stole the show.  Especially in his ending scene with my favorite troublemaking villain, Loki.  Tom Hiddleston simply nails the part of Loki.  He has beautiful and mischievous eyes with a pristine demeanor fit for an Asgardian.  And speaking of Asgardian’s, it would be impossible to neglect to mention Thor who has the best beard in any dimension.  The film was an action packed adventure as The Avengers battled each other before coming together to defeat the Chitauri army which Loki had unleashed upon New York City.  But the event that brought them all together was the most heartbreaking scene in superhero movie I have ever seen.  Admittedly, even after viewing The Avengers more times than I can possibly count, I still break out into hysterics every time I witness Coulson’s demise.  I can sincerely say that The Avengers is one of the only movies I’ve ever been to where the entire audience was completely invested.  It took three viewings before I could finally  hear Hulk’s line after smashing Loki into the ground in Stark Tower (“Puny god,” for all those who may have missed it).  Oftentimes, when a movie is saturated with great talent, they’re trying to compensate for a lackluster script.  This was not the case with The Avengers.  Whedon seriously raised the bar, and not only for comic book genre films.  But anyway, enough of my gushing! I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I encourage you to share them in the comments section! And then eat Shwarma after.

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Jack the Giant Slayer Movie Review

I was pleasantly surprised with Jack the Giant Slayer.  Despite starring my new actor husband, Nicholas Hoult (see Warm Bodies), I hadn’t had high expectations for the film, but I was wrong in my assumption.  Strangely enough, as I have read and re-read my review, I keep finding that it sounds more negative than I meant for it to.  I really did enjoy this film even though it may seem like I am being overly critical.  Jack the Giant Slayer places a modern twist on a classic fairytale.  It infuses a fair amount of humor into some of the otherwise nightmarish scenes (warranting its PG-13 rating).  There are numerous murders committed by Roderick (Stanley Tucci) and his evil henchman Wicke (Ewan Bremner), a touch of cannibalism (the race of giants have an appetite for normal size humans), and the film depicts the violent deaths of both humans and giants, leaving little to the imagination.  Jack the Giant Slayer includes all of the typical elements of a fairytale from the princess in distress, to the overbearing King forcing his daughter into a loveless marriage, to the underestimated farm boy who ends up saving the day.

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One of the obvious themes of the film is forbidden love.  There are many parallels drawn between the childhoods of the main characters, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), and it is evident within the first few minutes that the pair are destined to be together despite their incompatible social statuses.  Their major connecting factor is their mutual fondness of the legend of King Erik saving Cloister from the race of giants.  After a brief run-in in the marketplace during their teenage years, the pair reconnect in Jack’s highly-in-need-of-maintenance house just before the rain hits and causes one of the magic beans to spout a stalk straight up into the sky.  After many valiant attempts at rescuing the Princess, who is trapped in Jack’s house, the pair become separated, Jack slips and lays unconscious in the human world, while Isabelle is propelled by the rapidly growing beanstalk into the giant world above.  Jack, who is terrified of heights, eagerly volunteers to climb the beanstalk along with the King’s royal army, and Isabelle’s betrothed, Roderick, on their search for the Princess.  The film is titled for Jack and rightly so because, Princess Isabelle only proves to be a strong female lead for the beginning half of the film.  Ever since she was a child, Isabelle had a strong desire for adventure, and she would sneak out of the castle to learn about the people she would eventually be leading.  When she is separated from Jack, she ventures off into the new and mysterious world on her own to explore her surroundings.  But once she enters the giant world, she quickly morphs into the stereotypical princess who needs saving.  And while we’re on the subject of women, female giants, and all women in general aside from the Princess and her deceased mother were noticeably absent from the film.

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Elmont, played by Ewan McGregor, is arguably the best supporting character in the film.  He truly has the Princess’s best interest in mind, and while he reminds Jack before their journey that he is unfit for Isabelle, he recognizes how much the pair care for each other and gives them his blessing so to speak.  Elmont is a strong leader, has a good judge of character (he immediately distrusts Roderick), and stays in the giant world to complete his duty without any regard for his own well being.  Also admirable is Elmont’s second in command, Crawe, who is played by Eddie Marsen.  As always, Stanley Tucci nails his role as the evil power hungry Rodderick, even though we are unable to clearly determine his motivation behind ruling the giants.

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Three quarters of the way through the film, there is a false resolution set forth, but fear not, the battle scene you’ve been waiting for is still on the horizon.  Originally it seemed disappointing to be subjected to so much fight scene build up, only to be let down by the false resolution.  Once I came to terms with the lack of action, I realized I had been tricked and the battle was just beginning.  While the film overall is interesting and exciting, it seems to run a little bit longer than necessary.  Not that I’m complaining at the prospect of seeing more Nicholas Hoult on the big screen.  It could’ve used a bit more focus and development, but as I stated before, despite my many criticisms, I did find Jack and the Giant Slayer to be an enjoyable film.  I remember loving it in the theater, and it wasn’t until I began writing and analyzing everything that my opinion was slightly altered.

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Midtown Comics Book Club: Kraven’s Last Hunt

About a year ago it became my monthly tradition to attend the Midtown Comics book club which is hosted by my good friend Thor Parker.  The comic book club convenes on the last Friday of each month at the Downtown location on Fulton Street in New York City.  It’s a really entertaining gathering of people who enjoy reading comics and each month there’s a special guest (usually the author, artist or editor of that month’s selection).  Thor moderates the discussion and the rest of the group listens attentively as we become privy to the anecdotal behind-the-scenes type stories and experiences that went into the creation of the book.  Did I also mention that there are donuts?  The discussion usually runs for about an hour and afterwards the guest will stick around and sign your book.  If you love reading comics, meeting creators, and collecting signed trades, you should definitely check out the Midtown Comics book club!

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At the end of each club, Thor announces the next month’s selection, and Midtown Comics always offers the book at 25% off the cover price from that night until the night of the next book club.  I was absolutely overjoyed when I found out that  February’s book club would focus on a Spider-Man graphic novel entitled Kraven’s Last Hunt.  And even more exciting, the guest speaker would be Jim Salicrup, who edited the series!  I really enjoyed reading Kraven’s Last Hunt several years ago and I found it to be an even more enjoyable read this time around, especially considering the recent direction that Dan has taken Amazing/Superior Spider-Man in.  (I wrote a post a little while back about Dan’s Amazing Spider-Man run which you can read here.)

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Kraven’s Last Hunt (written by J.M. Dematteis with art by Mike Zeck), is one of the few Spider-Man tales where the reader gets an in depth look into the mindset of the lesser used villain, Kraven the Hunter.  Kraven successfully ‘kills’ Peter Parker and begins parading around New York City in the black Spider-Man suit armed with the demented notion that by imitating Peter and embracing the spider, he will somehow master him, and become a superior Spider-Man (No really, he says that! See page 37!).  Hence, one of the intriguing parallels between Spider-Man now and Spider-Man then.  A fair portion of the story is also devoted to Peter’s new wife, Mary Jane Watson.  Part of Peter’s motivation to overcome the handicap that Kraven has imposed upon him is the prospect of spending more time with MJ.  While I have always and will always be a Gwen Stacy fan, I have to admit that Mary Jane’s vulnerability caused by her fear of losing Peter is quite endearing.  She even considers confiding in Peter’s boss at the Daily Bugle but she thinks better of it because she realizes that she’s been entrusted with Peter’s secret it’s her responsibility to maintain it.  There’s a scene where Mary Jane thinks she has found Peter, but she quickly realizes that it’s not her beloved in the suit after she witnesses the masked Kraven’s overly violent crime fighting techniques.  When Peter returns he is forced to deal with the repercussions caused by the havoc that Kraven has been wreaking.  The ending of Kraven’s tale is shocking, but you’ll just have to pick up the trade if you’re curious about how the story unfolds.

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Jim told us all about how Kraven’s Last Hunt was one of the grittiest and darkest Spider-Man tales ever told, especially at the time of its publication in 1987.  The story was originally shopped as a Batman/Joker story, but was transformed into a Spider-Man tale before it was released.  It was originally titled “Fearful Symmetry,” but the name was changed to Kraven’s Last Hunt in trade.  Jim was one of the first editor’s to attempt to streamline all of the Spider-Man titles under the Marvel umbrella instead of selling each title as an individual story.  This is why Kraven’s Last Hunt collects Web of Spider-Man #31-#32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-#294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-#132, yet when read together, the issues form one cohesive story arc.  I always love to hear stories about the inside workings at Marvel, and about the great comic legends who paved the industry for today’s writers and artists so I found Jim to be a particularly interesting speaker.  He touched upon his interactions with Stan Lee, and John Romita Sr., and several other Marvel bigwigs.  We also learned that Jim had originally gone by ‘James,’ until John Romita Sr., had dubbed him ‘Jim.’  While Jim’s time at Marvel has ended, he is still actively contributing to the comics industry.  Jim is currently the editor in chief of Paprercutz which publishes graphic novelizations of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and one of my childhood favorites, Tales From the Crypt.

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