Archive for July, 2014

In Defense of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

July 31, 2014

The first 20 minutes or so of this movie are pure gold.  I don’t even have to defend that part but I will trumpet them because I love low-hanging fruit.  Besides, at the beginning is usually the best place to start.  We begin with the origin story of young James Howlett and Victor Creed.  We learn that Victor and James are brothers which is an interesting twist on what we have seen in the comic books.  It definitely sets up complication within their later adversarial relationship.

Anyway, the first scene is followed by a great title sequence where we see James and Victor fighting in several wars through history in the United States Army (and earlier incarnations of it).  I liked the idea of the two of them being warriors because they’re the best at what they do and what they do is fighting.  It clearly and quickly paints a picture of the two of them as a brothers and teammates.  With no dialogue and brilliant facial expressions and editing, we get the entire big picture between these two characters.

This is followed by meeting Team X, a team pretty much comprised of characters ripped from the comic books.

They threw in Fred Dukes but he really works especially the way that Kevin Durand plays him in a more military setting.  He comes off as a meat and potatoes kind of guy who lacks fear due to having indestructible skin.  When he reappears he is fat, hard to move, hard to hurt and operates on a more mercenary mentality.

Zero is played by Daniel Henney and does a great job.  Not much to say here as he is a loyal government soldier who seems emotionless at first but it turns out their are subtle touches here and there that betray him as an actual human being. plays John Wraith which I didn’t even realize until I looked it up just now.  He does a good job for somebody who probably has fifteen lines in the whole movie.  He especially does a good job considering that rappers are notoriously bad actors.

Dominic Monaghan plays Chris Bradley and is actually really a fun character.  He’s a little sad and a little mischievous and he comes off great in the movie.  Unfortunately he is so under utilized that he either needed a bigger part or needed to be taken out.  I love his first scene in the carnival.  It’s one of the highlights of the movie.

Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson is very much how I imagine a proto-Deadpool on film.  He constantly ran his mouth in an amusing fashion and believably kicked ass.   My problems come later when he gets his mouth sewn shut and gains everybody’s superpower.  I’m all for throwing out an original idea and taking a left turn from the comics sometimes.  What they did was take a character who has “talkative wise-ass” as a main trait and then turned him into a cold and unfeeling character.  They definitely would have done better to put the wackier Deadpool onscreen and just trick him into being the bad guy somehow.  I’m looking forward to them giving this a second chance in the rumored Ryan Reynolds Deadpool movie.

Danny Huston’s William Stryker is a great take on the character.  Obviously Brian Cox was too old to play a young William Stryker.  Huston plays Stryker with ambition while Cox plays him with smoldering hatred.  Both are valid and the events of this movie show a lot of how the character makes that change.

Liev Shreiber is awesome as Sabertooth.  He really captures the dangerous arrogance that I always saw in the character.  He is really fun to watch in the role, especially in confrontations with Wolverine.  It’s unfortunate that they cast Tyler Mane as Sabertooth in X-Men.  He had the basic look of the comic book version but either did not have the acting chops or simply was not written as knowing Wolverine from before.  I love pro-wrestlers but he should never have been cast in the role.  Shreiber brings more fun and more depth to the character.

Lynn Collins is good as Kayla and I loved the back and forth between her and Wolvie.  This is pretty much straight out of the comics and they couldn’t have done better with her.  It did not hurt that Hugh Jackman seemed to bring out the best in her portrayal.

Which brings us to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  He was excellent but he is always excellent as Wolverine.  There is a reason they keep building the X-Franchise around the guy.  I don’t care that he’s too tall or whatever because he is entertaining.  He’s funny, believable as an action star and has the acting chops to pull off drama.  Period.

There’s a lot of little cameos and supporting roles in the movie.  None of them are awful.  They could have trimmed it down a little because we don’t get to spend much time with people who look interesting.  That goes for the main cast as well (minus Wolvie and Sabertooth).  They could have taken a breath now and then or just cut the cast down a bit to give each more screen time.  I’m especially talking about Gambit because he’s a real fan-favorite and there was a lot there to like but it was very brief especially considering he only shows up at the end of the second act and the end of the third.

Now that this is entirely too long, I will talk about what I don’t like.  Weapon XI is interesting but not as interesting as following the comic more closely.  Deadpool sells a lot of comics and they should have trusted that.  The plot meanders a lot in the third act.  I’m especially troubled about the movie being unclear about which side Victor is on constantly.  We lose a lot of momentum in the third act which makes me want to get up and grab something to eat.  And lastly they kill too many characters that could have been fun to use later.  The good news?  They have hand waved a lot of this movie’s plot away already so we can conceivably see some characters again.

I still give this movie a higher grade than most reviewers gave it.  It’s still fun and still has a decent story to tell.


The Key Pt. 2

July 27, 2014

(For Part One Click Here)

“The what?” Robin asked.  She was suddenly and extremely unnerved by the man which felt like a thousand insects marching over her skin.  His movements seemed perhaps too jerky and definitely too unnatural.  It  was kind of like a full-size puppet with shiny black beetle eyes.  His imploring look was too eager as if he would not survive without this mark that he asked for.

“The Mark of the Hound, girl!” The thing that was kind of a man asked for again. “The one thing that can make me whole.”  His head tilted sideways slowly and awkwardly as he replied.  His accent was impossible to place, at least for Robin.  All she was getting was that he was foreign.  Highly foreign.

She took a deep breath. “How about we start you off with something to drink?”  She gave her best smile like an honest-to-God professional waitress.  She fought the urge to run away and maybe even hit the door at the back of the kitchen and keep running.  Fear ran through her like a million volts and it was nearly unberable.  She swallowed and bore it because it was her job and she wasn’t just some dazed, tatooed nutcase.  Wasn’t she?

The man opened his mouth and Robin thought he would request that mark again.   Instead he closed his mouth and those beetle eyes unfocused for a moment before settling back on her.  There were two clicking sounds that came from his skull and Robin could swear that flames lit up in his eyes and there was flickering movement on the surface of his eyes.  She looked away, somehow feeling it was too private to look at.

“Black coffee?  I what believe preffered is that would have this I.” It finally responded.  Robin had ceased to think of it as a him at some point because it was too disturbing to be human.
“What did you say?!”  She asked, wondering if she just heard him wrong or he had actually mispoken so much.

“Black Coffee.  I believe that this is what I would have preferred.  Yes.” It responded.  If it realized what it had done, it did not show it.  Of course, reading its facial expressions was already problematic at best.  It was doing its best impression of a human but that only meant that it failed spectacularly instead of utterly.

Robin did not wait for more commentary, she nodded and scurried off to the coffee station.   Her hands shook as she poured the coffee and wondered if they had been shaking earlier or not.  She took three deep breaths and then put the coffee down on its table without breaking stride.  She hung a u-turn and ducked  through the double doors and into the kitchen.   She glanced at the back door but somehow managed to decide against escaping.  She was unclear on why it was such a good idea to stick around but there she was.

She stood in front of the sink and splashed water on her face and looked at herself in the mirror.  She could feel the dishwasher’s eye on her but ignored Felipe for the moment.  Why was she so scared of the thing out in the booth?  It seemed harmless enough but so strange.  She had had strange customers before but this thing made her heart beat faster.  It beat too fast.  She felt hot all over but she wasn’t sweating.  She was tingling.  She found it hard to focus her eyes.  This must be what an episode feels like, she thought.

Perhaps if she waited right there at the sink, the thing with the coffee would eventually wander away to terrorize some other unfortunate soul.  Of course, by then Robin would be fired for not serving a customer and did she really want that?  The job wasn’t much to lose but it was hers and she was proud and needed the paycheck.  She could feel pressure welling up inside of her and at some point she became dimly aware that she was screaming.  This was the point where she must have passed out.

The Toughest Frail Pt 1

July 17, 2014

To the police Lucy Hart was just another dead body. She was just another homicide case to run down so they could close another file in a never ending quest for a raise or a promotion.  To me, she was my client or at least she had been.  Now she was face down on Sullivan Street and starting to smell.  I had wondered where she was with that last check and now I knew.  Damn, I wish she had just skipped out on the bill.

My name is Caleb Harper but most people who know me just call me Ace or just Harper.  I’m a private detective and most of my cases involve catching people doing what they ought not to do and that meant cheating spouses.  Ocassionally I ran down leads for the police but those jobs were few and far between.  I was good, damned good but times were tight and I had sunk to living in my office’s second room.  I had hoped when the Captain called that they had a job for me.  This did not smell like a job.

I took one last drag of my cigarette and then stamped it out on the pavement, still damp from last night’s downpour.   The city of Baltimore had been drenched all week and tonight was shaping up to be another rainy summer evening.  The uniform standing with me gave me a sour look and didn’t flinch when I gave him one back.  I bent down and picked up the butt and walked it over to the trashcan and gave the cop a good hard look as I dropped it in.   He still did not flinch.  I had to respect that but I did not have to like it.

The uniform was there to babysit me while we waited for Captain Hagar.  I had a tendency in the past to get a little too curious when left alone at crime scenes.   The police did not seem to like that sort of behavior so they assigned me a babysitter.  He didn’t look all that talkative which was great because I wasn’t in the mood to talk to any grunts.

The good Captain took his sweet time too.   He came walking up and waved his officer away so we could talk.

“Captain Hagher, to what do I owe the pleasure of getting dragged down to a crime scene this early in the morning.”

“It’s nine in the morning, Harper, and I would think it was obvious why you’re here.”
“And supposing it’s not?”

He gave me a look that would chill the heart of any lowlife.  A look he probably used in interrogations all the time.  “It should be, Harper.” He pointed over at the body that even now was being covered to stop the press from snapping a picture. “We found your card on her person and her being dead and all.  We thought you might have something to say about the whole thing.”

“If I checked in with you every time one of my former clients died, I’d be a regular fixture around the precinct.  I don’t know anything, Captain.”

“And would you say the same under a hot light at the station?”

“I’m telling you Captain, I had nothing to do with the frail anymore.  Well, maybe  an unpaid bill but that’s it.  Honest Injun.”

The Captain sighed. “I trust you, Harper.  I trust you about as far as I can throw you but I trust you.  Mind if we get a cup of coffee and talk?”

“Only if you’re buying.  Give me coffee and I’ll say anything you want.”

“That’s what I like about you, Harper. Your strong sense of ethics.  Let’s hit the shop on Walton. It’s just around the corner.”

“I know where it is but lead the way and I’ll follow, Captain.”

Robert Storm/William Cardona/Cass Calloway Promo

July 11, 2014

I posted a little bit of this before but I have a huge project that I have spent a lot of time on.  I created my own fake wrestling company with an ever-expanding roster.  I love writing pro-wrestling promos and exploring characters.  I do realize that my characters owe a lot of their inspiration to the entertainers and story lines I always loved.  I don’t care.  Actually, some of the characters I wrote appeared in my head before I saw performers just like them.  For instance, I wrote Paige before I saw her on NXT.  Well, not exactly but close enough.

*                            *                                  *

<With no fanfare or announcement, William Cardona, Esquire steps out onto the stage with a microphone in hand and starts down the ramp and towards the ring>

Cardona: Ladies and Gentlemen, if I could have your attention just for a little while.  I know this wasn’t scheduled and I will try to keep this brief.

<A chorus of boos and chatter make it so anything the young lawyer would say would most likely be inaudible.  Cardona, who is now in the middle of the ring, gives the crowd a ‘Really?’ look and rolls his eyes.  He mocks checking his watch and taps his foot.  He finally makes the ‘Wrap it Up’ signal with his hand.  The boos grow louder.  Cardona seems to signal something to the timekeepers area and speaks into the microphone which is now louder>

Cardona: That’s about as warm a welcome as I can expect in a place like Miami, I guess.  I can’t wait to get out of this town so I can take a long, long shower and feel clean again.  <More boos>  Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes.  I William Cardona Esquire, as a duly appointed representative of Storm Industries, stand before you in your time of need.  Believe me, your troubles have not gone unnoticed and our heartfelt sympathy is with you.  This situation with these ‘Wolves’ is bad.  If you think that a weak-willed boss like Ms. Trisha Cowan can manage damage control then I’m afraid you are sadly mistaken.  However, you can all start writing your thank you letters now because I have the perfect solution: my client, Robert Storm.

<Cardona points up the ramp as the lights go out and a single spotlight picks out a man in a suit sauntering into the light before fireworks go off and Robert Storm raises his hands in the air like a homecoming hero. Cardona applauds in the ring as he watches his client walk down the ramp and try to shake hands but the audience isn’t really buying it>

Storm: That’s right. I have returned. <Boos> You. Are. Welcome!  <He raises his arms in the air to more boos>  I have returned to save this company from those wolves at the gate and I am not asking for one thing in return. Trust me.  I hate to point out that I told you. I told you. I. Told. You.  You cannot trust Adam Wolf.  Well, I’m here to reassure you that I have experience with Adam. I can offer my expertise and my help. I don’t even want anything in return. Nothing at all. <Storm and Cardona share a look where they all but wink at each other>

<Storm and Cardona look up sharply as their time in the ring is interrupted by the music for Cass Calloway. Cass is carrying a microphone and as the music fades down and the crowd quiets back down, he speaks.>

Cass: I’ve got one question for you, Storm, with all due respect, of course.

Cardona: All questions, especially from inferior wrestlers, should be addressed in writing to Mr. Storm’s legal counsel first.

Storm: I’ll make an exception this time, William.  I’m feeling generous.  Ask your question, Cass, I won’t even complain about how rude it is to interrupt.

Cass: Alright, who asked you?  Who asked you to come and “save” us?

Storm: Nobody asked me to.  I just decided that I owed it to the good people who enjoy the product and services we provide.

Cass: Sounds generous but I think you’re just upset about the Wolves crowding in on your territory.

Storm: My territory. Cass, the only thing I’ve ever wanted was fair and honest competition.

Cass: That’s funny. That’s really funny.  Paul Storm, you’re a bully and a cheat and a liar.

Cardona:  Mr. Calloway, you are crossing the line into actionable slander.

Cass: Again, apologies, I wouldn’t want to get sued.  Everybody out there knows the truth anyway <He points out at the crowd>.  Though, if you’re looking for a fight, you don’t have to look any further than me.
<Suddenly he was in Storm’s face and Storm didn’t shy away>

Storm: If I have to prove that I’m the man for the job then yes. The match is on. I could use a warm-up match.

Cass: You and me. In the center of that ring and you know what?  Let’s make it right now.

<Cardona tries to say something to Storm off microphone but Storm waves him off>

Storm: You’re on.  Get a ref down here! <Storm starts to strip off his jacket and dress shirt as Cass Calloway’s music hits and he and a referee start heading towards the ring. Cardona scurries out of the ring quickly>

The Key Pt. 1

July 4, 2014

The tattoo had always been there behind Robin’s ear, ever since she could remember.  Apparently, it had been put there by her parents whom Robin had never met.  She supposed that society tends to revoke parental rights from people who tattoo their infant daughter.  Nobody had ever told her differently so she tended to paint her birth parents as the villains and moved on with her life.

The tattoo was of a key and a crudely drawn key and she covered it up as best she could out of embarassment.  Therefore she had always grown her hair out long and she had always worn it down.  She ignored it and forgot about it and locked it away in the same mental vault that she had shoved her birth parents.

Her adopted parents were caring and understanding and she got along with them fine.  This continued even through her teenage years when she had added a single purple streak to her dark brown hair while she devolved into an angsty mess.  During those years she had also been forced to wear glasses but now she couldn’t imagine her face without them now.  Eventually she traded her normal glasses for ones that had a slight purple tint which soon became her trademark.  She slowly grew up and formed into a person just like all the ordinary people did.  An life interesting to her and those closest to her but most likely boring to everybody else.

She had learned to play the violin in high school which won her a scholarship to a prestigious university.  That all changed when the blackouts began during freshman year.  It was hard to get through a symphony when she was worried another blackout might swallow her mind whole.  So she dropped out and they revoked her scholarship.  She couldn’t really blame them for it.  She had promised to play and then didn’t follow through.  She would have loved to make beautiful music but now she was a waitress in a rundown bar but she made it work.  She rarely had blackouts during her shifts and the people were alright to her.

However, the blackouts continued and nobody could ever explain where they were coming from.  She would be doing one thing and when she came to she would often be in exactly the same place.  They didn’t last long at first, a few minutes here and there, later they would stretch on for hours.  It wasn’t until the tattoos started to appear that she figured out she was being productive during her blackouts.  After she turned fifteen, she would sometimes wake up from her blackouts with a new tattoo.  After a year, she was starting to get alarmed by how much skin they had started to take up.

The tattoos had raised several questions.  If she blacked out and got tattoos, then she must have asked for them.  However, it was not Robin who had asked for them because she would remember.  So who asked for the tattoos?  Who was she sharing space with?   She was no closer to answering those questions today then she had been when the first tattoo showed up.  She felt like she was losing her mind but she roughly shoved all of those thoughts into the vault as well.  She thought the vault of her mind must be a fairly scary place by now.  If only she could decipher the tattoos the other Robin had placed on their skin.

These are the thoughts that unexpectedly swam to the surface of her thoughts as she started her Saturday shift.  She tied her apron on in a daze and then tied a bandana over her hair and walked the tables.  She almost didn’t notice the guy in the third booth, sitting all by himself with his coat still on.  It was annoying when single customers wanted a booth, taking up all the space from potential groups.  The guy was still dripping from the rain as well which meant Robin would have to grab a mop after he left.

Impatient, Robin leaned on the table. “What can I get you, stranger?”

The guy looked up at her, one eye brown and the other blue.  He looked confused for the longest pause and then his mouth turned up into a grin. “I guess you wouldn’t remember me.  No matter.  I come for the mark of the hound.” He replied.

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