Monday, January 14, 2019

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2018

I realize that it’s been basically a whole year since my last post, which is bad. In the unlikely event that any of my original readership happen to see this, I sympathize with the radio silence. Here’s the thing; today is the ninth anniversary of the first post I ever made and I figured I might as well throw up my annual Top Ten Favorite Movies list. However, one year from now is the damn ten-year anniversary, which is both hilarious and terrifying. It does seem like I should do something for a milestone that big, but also it feels like it would be very lame to do something for it without having touched the site in years and that there should be content leading up to it. So…food for thought?

Anyway, I somehow managed to watch a decent number of movies this year despite having one of the strangest and most life changing eighteen months of my life. But, as always, I managed to miss several key films over the course of the year, Bad Times at the El Royale being a particularly annoying omission. So if you’re favorite film isn’t on the list then that may be why. Also, this is a subjective list of my personal FAVORITE films, not necessarily the objectively best movies of the year. You may disagree with the list; that’s okay. Your opinion is valid. We’re all friends here. Feel free to post your own list in the comments.

Something a little different this year; I’m going to throw up some Panda Scores as well. For old times sake.

Before I get into the list, let me shout out a few movies that didn’t quite make the list but that I want to give a little love to. First of all, Avengers: Infinity Wars was actually on the original version of this list but was bumped off at the last minute. Still a great movie, especially if you think of Thanos as being the protagonist. Game Night ended up being a better than it had any right to be and is a comedy that worked on just about every level.  The Wife features a killer performance from Glenn Close that may well earn her a well deserved Oscar. And finally, Deadpool 2 in many ways felt like a more complete movie then its predecessor and continues to show that Ryan Reynolds is one of the best actors bringing a comic book superhero to life today. Too bad about its Women in Refrigerators moment.

Sorry, Captain America. Maybe next year...
(Also, I don't feel so good)
Full Top Ten list after the jump.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2017

I pretty much fell off the blog in 2017. I ended up losing a job, getting a new job, starting a new relationship, and ultimately spending months in sheer terror as I panicked over what I was doing with my life. So updating a blog that I do not get paid for didn’t feel like a priority. But I’m still a stickler for tradition and my favorite one associated with this blog is my annual Top Ten Favorite Movie list. It’s a new year so let's go for it.

Same rules as always: this is a list of my favorite flicks, not necessarily the best ones as I’m unqualified to make that judgement. Also, I can only react to the movies I actually saw so there’s always a chance that I missed your favorite movie and that’s why it’s not on the list (or maybe I didn’t like it; whatever). If you are really up in arms about it feel free to post your own Top Ten list in the comments.

One thing I want to point out before we get started: The Last Jedi absolutely was on this list at#10 but was bumped of earlier on the day I’m writing this after seeing the current #5 film. Though it didn’t end up on the list I want to point out that I really enjoyed that movie and strongly believe it’s one of the best outings in the Star Wars franchise precisely because of how different it feels from a Stars Wars movie. Frankly, I do not understand why so many people hate it much.

My favorite movies after the jump.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Ben Reilly - The Scarlet Spider #1

Ben Reilly, aka the Scarlet Spider, is my favorite superhero of all time. I even wrote a song about him once.

Due to his being my favorite hero, and the complexity of his comic book history, it would likely require an entire post for me to really explain who this guy is. In order to get to the review ASAP I will try my hardest to be brief here.

The character first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #149, in 1975 as a clone of Peter Parker/Spider-Man created by the Jackal as a weapon against the web slinger. In the end both Spider-Men joined forces to take the villain down but the clone died in the exchange. Nineteen years later (in real time) Marvel Comics decided to revisit the old story by bringing the clone back to shake-up the then kind of off the rails Spider-Man books. Retroactively speaking, the clone actually survived and had spent the past five years (in comic book time) wandering the country until finally returning to New York City. Now calling himself “Ben Reilly” he decides to don a costume and fight crime, dubbed by the press as “the Scarlet Spider.”

This was the beginning of the Clone Saga, one of the most infamous storylines in comic book history. Long story short, Ben is revealed to be the real Spider-Man, Peter retires to have a baby with Mary Jane Watson Parker, Ben becomes Spider-Man for a short while, it turns out it was all an elaborate lie to torture Peter by the long thought dead Green Goblin who kills Ben for good thus paving the way for Pete to emerge as the one true Spider-Man. It’s a messy, messy plot that last for YEARS!

Also, the whole thing was a convoluted way to end the Spider-Marriage
Comics books are ridiculous
Fast forward twenty real-time years later, during the Clone Conspiracy storyline, where the Jackal returns having seemingly brought many dead Spider-Man supporting characters back to life. It was soon revealed that this Jackal was actually a revived Ben Reilly. Having been restored to life shortly after his death by the real Jackal, Ben was killed and resurrected dozens of times over due to MAD SCIENCE and the process ultimately drove him insane. This lead him to essentially become a new supervillain, which kind of bums me out but whatever.

Even before the storyline finished Marvel announced the first solo series starring Ben in twenty years, which is what we’ll be looking at today. Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1 is written by Peter David with art by Mark Bagley, with inks by John Dell and colors by Jason Keith. Though I cannot tell you how excited I am for new Scarlet Spider adventures the fact that Ben was reintroduced as a half-crazed supervillain makes me more than a little wary.

 Full, if cautiously optimistic, review after the jump.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Black Superheroes: Shard

Is that hair part of her mutation or because of a good salon?
Name: Shard Bishop

First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Annual #17 (1993)

History: Shard Bishop was born roughly eighty years in the future. In her time mutants were rounded up into concentration camps and branded. It is in one such camp where she was raised. Once mutants were emancipated she found herself on the streets but was always looked after by her older brother Lucas. When Lucas joined the Xavier Security Enforcers, a mutant police force, Shard followed suit becoming the youngest graduated in the organization’s history. While on a mission Shard was killed in action by a group of vampire-like creatures known as Emplates. However her brainwaves were saved into a holographic projector that Lucas kept on him at all times, including when he was later trapped in the present. Eventually, during an accident, the projector was destroyed but Shard ended up being reborn as a being of living photonic energy. Now with a new lease on life Shard went on to join the government sponsored team X-Factor in a bid to make her own way outside of her brother’s shadow.

Beta Says: Here we have yet another character who has come back from the future to present times. Its weird how often that sort of thing happens in comic books, especially with X-Men related characters. Anyway the ridiculously named "Shard Bishop" obviously also hails from her gun toting brother’s bummer timeline but it seems that history has been less kind to her. While Bishop’s character was assassinated starting in Messiah Complex where he became depicted as a lunatic hell bent on murdering a child he has since been more or less redeemed and still has a few ongoing and limited solo comic series to his name. Hell, he was even in an X-Men live action movie once. Most comic book fans know who Bishop is, even if they aren’t familiar with his history. But Shard, on the other hand, is a woman who never gets talked about when discussing X-Men and, honestly, doesn’t come up all that often when discussed by other characters. Perhaps it was because she was never a member of the X-Men proper, or perhaps it was that she was only active for about seven years. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because she’s been dead the last seventeen years with no signs of her ever coming back. Yeah, that will definitely hurt your visibility.

More on this time displaced hologram woman after the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Black Superheroes: The Blue Marvel

Blue is the new black!
(Also, black is still black)
Name: Adam Brashear

First Appearance: Adam – Legend of the Blue Marvel (2008)

History: Adam Brashear was a naturally gifted man. A brilliant scientist, a college football star and a decorated soldier; his accomplishments somewhat unrecognized due to the racism plaguing the United States at the time. Nevertheless, during the early 1960s, Adam was the team lead on a science experiment to try to harness antimatter. The experiment ended in disaster when the Negative Reactor that had been built exploded, bombarding Adam and his best friend, Conner Sims, with antimatter mutating them both. Conner became both physically and mentally unstable, and soon donned the villainous persona of Anti-Man, while Adam became a perfect, living antimatter reactor. Armed with superhuman strength, durability, speed and flight Brashear became the Blue Marvel and dedicated his life to fighting crime. For a about a year and a half the Blue Marvel was America’s greatest hero until his final battle with Anti-Man revealed him to the public as a black man, thus destroying the general populations trust in him. With racial tensions at an all-time high President John F. Kennedy personally, though reluctantly, requested that Blue Marvel retire. Out of patriotic duty, as well and genuine fear that his presence could start a nationwide race war, Adam agreed.

Forty-five years later Anti-Man returned to wreak destruction yet again, defeating the Avengers in the process. Iron Man came to Adam, still fit and vibrant due to his powers, asking for help. They succeeded in defeating Anti-Man once and for all and in the aftermath Brashear decided that the time was right to don his costume once more. The Blue Marvel lives again!

Beta Says: I feel I need to make sure this is clear; the Blue Marvel is NOT a character from the 1960s but a new character created in 2008 whose background was retroactively added to Marvel’s history. This isn’t out of the ordinary; both Marvel and DC have created characters that supposedly existed in decades past. Amazing-Man (a character who we’ll get to one day) is in a lot of ways DC’s equivalent to Blue Marvel as he was a character created in the 1980s who supposedly was a hero in the 1940s. However because Blue Marvel is an obvious Superman analogue the character that I assume he would draw the most comparison would be the Sentry. The Sentry is a goddamn garbage character whom I hate with the fiery passion of a million exploding suns. And yet I think Blue Marvel is pretty darn cool. Am I hypocrite? I mean, in addition to all the things I’m already hypocritical about.

More on Black Superman after the jump.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Black Superheroes: Mal Duncan

I think this is "Herald" but I CANNOT  keep these names straight
Name: Malcolm Duncan

First Appearance: Teen Titans #26 (1970)

History: Born in raised in the inner city, Mal Duncan had a chance encounter with the Teen Titans where he saved their lives. Impressed with Mal's fighting skills the team offered him the chance to join their ranks despite his lack of superpowers. While Mal often felt out of place due to not having super human abilities (and occasionally because of his race) he proved to be a vital member of the team for years. During his tenure as a superhero Mal adopted several identities including Guardian (after donning an exoskeleton granting him enhanced physical stats), Hornblower (after earning a magic horn that, when blown, evens the odds of any fight he is in), the Herald (where he had a technological horn rather than a magic one) and more recently Vox (gaining sonic powers due to cybernetic enhancements). In addition to being a Teen Titan Mal has been a member of Doom Patrol and is in a long time relationship with fellow hero Bumblebee .

Beta Says: Well friends, it's time for me to eat a little crow as I was a bit short with Mal in my write-up for Bumblebee a few years ago. The fact is that Mal Duncan is not only a very important figure in Teen Titans lore he is, historically speaking, one of the most important black characters in superhero comics. While I can’t find specific confirmation for this, Mal might be DC's first successful African-American superhero creation, predating both John Stewart and Black Lightning! Despite this Mal doesn't get anywhere near the recognition he deserves (i.e., no recognition). Even if you discount his historical significance you can there is still at least one reason you need to respect this dude: one time, fairly early in his existence, he is killed but then subsequently challenges Azrael, the Angel of Death, to a fist fight for the right to come back to life...and wins! Mal may be greatest comic book creation in history!

So why then has Mal Duncan drifted so far in though the background when he should be considered on the same level of importance as the likes of Storm, Black Lightning and Black Panther? I'm sure there were all sorts of factors but politics and racism seem to be at play. What a refreshing change of pace for 1970s comics.

More on Guardian/Hornblower/Herald/Vox/Mal after the jump.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review in Progress: Countdown #51 - #41

In 2007 DC Comics was bringing their critically acclaimed, yearlong limited series 52 to a conclusion. I hadn't read a single issue of that comic and it killed me. The reviews were great and what I had glimpsed of the story was epic. As luck would have it in those final weeks and months DC begun releasing teasers for a follow-up called "Countdown" which would also be a yearlong/weekly series. Knowing how well received 52 had been I promised myself that I would buy every issue of the comic without fail so I could capture what I had missed out on during the previous twelve months. And, sure enough, I kept my promise.

It was the single biggest blunder of my comic book fandom.

Countdown sucked, plain and simple. When it was over I had never felt so grateful to be done with a comic book in my life. Once it was complete I tossed the books un-bagged and un-boarded on a bookshelf in my rented house and never thought of them again. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Nearly ten years later, during a move, those same comics came back into my possession having been bounced around un-read through a few houses of friends of mine. They were mostly undamaged. Initially I thought that maybe I should just toss them out to make space but then I thought it might be more fun to revisit them. After all it had been a decade. I'm older, I'm wiser and perhaps I might be able to appreciate the comic more. Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment back then. And what's the point of revisiting such an epic comic if you don't document your thoughts and stick them on the internet?

So here's what's going on: I will read every issue of Countdown and talk about it in a "Review in Progress". This will be several parts, with each post looking at a batch of issues (this first one looks at the first eleven issues). I probably won't be releasing them super regularly but the plan is to have the entire run reviewed by the summer at the latest. We'll see. If you would like more information regarding background story information feel free to check out my previous blogs "Countdown to Countdown Parts One Two”.

Countdown #51 to #41 after the jump.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Countdown to Countdown, Part II

I feel like most of this stuff doesn't play out in Countdown
Better buy every DC Comic to make sure
We've reached the second and final part of the Countdown pre-blog. If you haven't yet be sure to check out Part I. I'll wait.

There are a lot of characters in Countdown and we follow a lot of plot lines, much like in 52. While looking at every single character that is important in this book would not only be hard to write and hard to read but it would also spoil important plots that I’m not willing to do. (“Yet”, I should say. Trust me; I’ll be spoiling the hell out of this series once we get to the reviews).

However there are certain key characters that I think would be helpful for someone reading my review to have passing knowledge of and know what they were up too leading up to the series. For example, the average person reading this may not know who Kyle Rayner is, that Donna Troy is one of DC’s most complicated characters or that Superman was once Jimmy Olsen’s abusive father.

Superman: "Your love and admiration disgusts me, Jimmy."
Okay, that last one isn’t really all that important, but still…never forget.
Important character notes after the jump.