The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – A Movie Review

So I’ll be honest – I never had much interest in the Spider-Man reboot.  I liked the original two by Sam Raimi, not so much the third, and I didn’t see much point in starting over with a new set of actors and a new director.

When Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man came out with Andrew Garfield as our favorite web-head, I didn’t rush to the theater, though I found myself intrigued by the inclusion of Gwen Stacy over Mary Jane Watson.

I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man more than I thought I would, and I really think Emma Stone made that film work.  Garfield is a good Spider-Man – funny, lanky, athletic.  However, it’s Stone’s Stacy that stole the show.  Much of the movie felt like a retread, but the Lizard and Gwen Stacy gave it a much-needed dose of originality.

Yet again, when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 arrived in theaters, I felt no urge to see it.  The reappearance of Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin really turned me off, and Electro never appealed to me much when I read the comics.

And, honestly, there was another reason I didn’t particularly want to go see it.  I’m thirty-seven and I’ve read comic books since the age of three, so I know Gwen Stacy’s story.  I know the circumstances of the character’s fate.  I truly did not want to see it happen, especially with Emma Stone making her the soul of the franchise.

But, when it recently came out on DVD, I couldn’t resist.  Guess what?  I loved it.  Putting Garfield in the classic Spider-Man costume made him seem more authentic, and Emma Stone delivered yet another magnetic performance.  Jamie Foxx was okay as Electro, but the special effects surrounding the character really and truly blew me away. The stuff they did with Electro looked amazing.  Dane DeHaan defied my bitterness concerning the overuse of Harry Osborn.  In fact, up until the moment he became the Green Goblin I found him extremely charismatic and I actually rooted for Osborn a little.  But then he became the Green Goblin and I stopped caring – I found him way too similar to what Raimi did.

I’ll be truthful – this was a great looking movie.  I loved the special effects, the costumes, the cinematography, the sheer scale – almost everything!  This is a big movie.  I really felt like I was in New York when Spider-Man hit the streets to battle the bad guys.  Webb got almost all of it right.  I’m not going to pretend the story riveted me, but it certainly kept my attention.  But the thing looked beautiful.  With Elector’s electricity and Spider-Man swinging through the city streets – it looked like a comic book come to life.

I think what they got particularly right from a character standpoint is Peter and Gwen’s relationship.  These two have real chemistry together, and they were a lot of fun to watch.  I won’t get into Gwen’s fate, but I am so glad they didn’t just make her a damsel in distress.  She played every bit as much the role of hero as did Peter Parker.  If they ever introduce Mary Jane Watson, they will have a hard time making the fans forget Gwen Stacy.  There were rumors Watson would make an appearance in this movie, and I’m so glad they decided against it.  It would have been undignified.

Webb also made a hopeful movie. Spider-Man has gone through some serious shit since 1962.  Life constantly beats him up, yet he keeps putting on the costume and trying to do the right thing.  Webb captured the essence of that optimism.  Like in the comics, every good thing Peter tries to do usually backfires on him, yet he knows people count on him to be the hero, and he lives up to that responsibility.  In a world where Batman is dark as night and Superman would rather punch a villain in the face than save a crumbling city, it’s nice to see Spider-Man still saving the innocent while making quips.

Finally, I think they nailed Spider-Man’s relationship with New Yorkers.  He’s about as New York as they come, and he’s their hero, through and through.  In fact, Webb made a genius move by having Spider-Man interact with New York children, and it could not have been more heartwarming.  I won’t give it away, but there’s a final scene with a little boy that about had me in tears (the happy kind).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had far more heart and originality than I expected, especially when compared to its previous installment.  There are rumors that they are going to make a Sinister Six movie, and if the groundwork they laid in this movie is any indication, it actually might be pretty good!  Paul Giamatti is in this film for about eight minutes, but his Rhino character looked awesome.  If they get actors of his caliber to work alongside DeHaan’s Green Goblin, they might have something inexplicably interesting.

So, if you’re like me and sort of ambivalent about the Spider-Man reboot, I do recommend you check out The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  It’s exciting, looks beautiful, has some seriously emotional moments (both happy and sad), and for Spidey fans, it does not disappoint in that it felt pretty true to the source material.

 

 

Dr. Drew Sommerville – A Man I Admire

I’d better say this right off the bat – I’ve been friends with Drew Sommerville since the age of three.  In fact, I’m proud to say I consider him a best friend.  Drew and I are both from a small town, so we literally grew up together.  After high school, we even chose to room together at Illinois State University.  I’m not sure there’s many people out there who can claim to know Drew better.

And truthfully, the whole point of this article is to voice just how proud I am of my friend.  For as far back as I can remember, Drew always said he wanted to be an eye surgeon.  Lots of kids say things like that to impress, but Drew could not have been more serious.  Back in our home town, we played together as children, then, as we got older, joined the same sports teams and generally hung out.  But even as we had fun, laughed, acted goofy, and clowned around, Drew always studied hard and worked to achieve the best grades possible.

But even as much as Drew studied in high school, I hadn’t seen anything yet.  For the rest of my life, I will remember our very first day together at college.  From day one, Drew hit the books harder than anyone I’ve seen before or since.  The man knew what he wanted, and he did not falter, he did not flinch, and he never lost focus.  That sort of sustained effort over four years is incredibly admirable, but for Drew, it was just the beginning.  He still had medical school to go, as well as an internship, a residency, and a fellowship.  By the time it was said and done, Drew powered through over ten years of studies and training to get to where he is today.

At the same time, though, he never lost his sense of fun.  Drew and I had many laughs during college, enjoyed each other’s company, and made lots of mutual friends.  But you rarely caught Drew taking a night off.  Weekends were no less important than weeknights when it came to his studies.  He knew what it took to reach his goal.  Most of us in college barely thought about the following week, but Drew had a plan spanning decades.

And now here we are, nearly twenty years after we graduated from high school, and Drew has exceeded even his own expectations.  He is a renowned ophthalmologist and published expert in his field.  He is part of a successful eye clinic, gives talks across the nation, and even serves as a consultant.

Drew sacrificed much to achieve his dream, but his wife, Heather, helped him through the entire ordeal.  In fact, they are high school sweethearts, and you cannot talk about one without mentioning the other.  They are a true team, have been since that first day of college, and I have no doubt that Drew’s success is largely due to Heather’s love, support, and understanding.  It’s not easy to date a medical student, it’s even less easy to be married to one.  Doctors are constantly on call, deal with an incredible amount of pressure, and must be ready to perform at peak levels all the time – a doctor’s spouse feels much of that stress, I’m sure.  But it’s obvious they are as much in love as the day they married.  They have beautiful children.  They are amazing parents.  When you hear people say that some couples are destined to be together, I very much believe that to be true in the case of Drew and Heather.

So wouldn’t you think after all that work, after all the success, Drew might have a bit of an ego?  Don’t you think he might remind all of his old high school friends that he lived up to his words, that he did what he set out to do, and that his bank account probably makes ours look like a piggy bank?  No.  Drew has always been humble, he’s always served a higher power, and he’s always been held to a high moral and ethical standard by his own fantastic parents.

Drew Sommerville is, as he has always been, an honest, fair, compassionate man.  It truly seems like the more success he enjoys, the more humility he projects.  Even though he’s worked his tail off for decades to be where he is today,  I’m certain he still considers himself blessed and gets on his knees everyday to offer thanks.

I admire Dr. Drew Sommerville on every level possible – as a man, a father, a husband, a friend, a son, and as a doctor.  He has inspired me my entire life, and he continues to do so to this day.

If you would like to visit Dr. Drew Sommerville, you can find his workplace HERE.

Drew Sommerville

 Dr. Drew Sommerville
 (image taken from Talley Eye Care website)

My Initial Impression Of the Twelfth Doctor

Last night Peter Capaldi properly debuted as the Twelfth Doctor.  I happen to really like what I’ve previously seen of Capaldi, both as an actor and as an actor being interviewed (I can’t claim to actually know him as a person).  I must admit that I rooted for Capaldi to have a fantastic first appearance.

But did I like him as the Doctor?  I honestly don’t know yet.  I imagine this is what a lot of people are saying, because the first episode is just that – the first episode.  I wasn’t sold on the Ninth Doctor or the Tenth Doctor when they first appeared.  The Eleventh Doctor won me over immediately, but how could he not when he was so kind to little Amelia Pond?  Most Doctors need a little time to bounce back from the regeneration, and most actors need a little time to really sort out their interpretation of the icon.  The good news is that I’ve ended up loving all the Doctors, and I have no doubt I’ll love Capaldi as well.

But, frankly, I don’t love him yet.

There’s a few things working against him, most of which are beyond his control.  For example, like most fans I worked myself into an anticipatory frenzy awaiting his debut – and it was a long wait.  Could his debut ever live up to that kind of prolonged excitement?  Furthermore, I didn’t really enjoy the actual story of his debut episode.  Let’s be honest – most Doctor Who episodes aren’t very complete from a pure story standpoint.  Oftentimes the actors outshine the story, so no one notices, and that’s totally find with me.  I’m there for the Doctor.  (Of course there are exceptions, and there have been some brilliantly written episodes.  I’m speaking in generalities.)  Lastly, I don’t think he got enough Doctor moments.  In fact, the episode seemed to focus on Clara more than anything.  I understand this approach – giving the fans an anchor for which they are familiar makes sense.

But, even with all that being said, the Twelfth Doctor had a few standout moments.  For example, describing his frown to the homeless man really proved a pleasing moment.  The final scene on the streets of Glasgow also proved effective and gave Capaldi a chance to show his range.

Speaking of which, I saw some wonderful acting from Capaldi, and I am positive he will probably be the best “actor” of the recent group, but I’m not yet certain he has that intangible charisma that made Ten and Eleven so dynamic.

But that’s okay.  Most of Ten and Eleven’s magnetism came from funny, sweet moments, or outright silliness, and that does not suit Twelve.  It’s already obvious that Capladi will not don goofy hats or sneakers.

Where will Capaldi take Twelve?  I don’t know, but I am of course along for the ride.  I’m sure by the year’s end I will be raving about Twelve, but as of right now, I’m just not totally enraptured.

East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta – A Book Review

I recently checked out a batch of graphic novels in search of a few must-reads.  I’m a collector by nature, and I enjoy having a series (or twelve) to follow.  East of West could be counted among the batch, but honestly, I picked it up only because it was available.  I didn’t particularly like the summary I read online, nor did Volume One’s cover particularly catch my interest.  However, I heard good things, so I thought, “Why not?”

I’m hooked.  I had zero expectations for this book, but I knew it hooked me within the first five pages.

Here’s the premise: The Four Horsemen have been reborn to ravage mankind yet again, only there’s one problem—there’s only three of them.  The fourth, Death, did not die along their side to require a rebirth, and the other three don’t like that.  Though reborn as children, they already plot Death’s decimation.

Know, though, that this is not happening in our version of reality.  In East of West, America is divided among seven nations due to events dating back to 1908. There is also a prevailing religious fervor within the population referred to as “The Message.”  The time is “now,” but “now” seems to be a mixture of the old west and the far future.

We soon meet Death, and Death seeks revenge.  He travels with two witches, the Wolf and the Crow.  The three of them are a formidable posse, and also three of the most visually interesting characters in comic books.  Why does Death seek revenge?  You’ll have to read the book to find out, but it involves his former Horsemen, a romance, and a child.

Nick Dragotta provides exceptional artwork you have to see to believe.  Let’s be honest: the graphic novel covers are rather boring.  Trust me, though, the interior artwork is exquisite.  Dragotta makes futuristic cities and barren desert landscapes equally interesting.  But it’s the sense of movement that sets Dragotta apart.  His battle scenes are clean, violent, and frenetic.  He knows just the right angles, just the right times to open the panel up or draw it in tight.  It’s a delight to look upon.

You know I’m a color guy, so we can’t leave out Frank Martin.  Death, the Wolf, and the Crow are almost entirely black or white, but even so, Martin makes them unbelievably dynamic.  In the hands of the less talented, they would look washed out or bleed into the background, but Martin knows how to make them pop.

Hickman has built a complicated world comprised of diverse mythology, cutthroat politics, maniacal religion, insane science fiction, all-out action, and some chilling horror.  Somehow he blends it all together seamlessly, and the result is that must-read I so desperately craved.

Aquaman Confirmed For Batman v. Superman, and You Better Not Laugh!

So this will be the most geeky post you read today, if not the entire month.  Jason Momoa (of Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian, and Stargate: Atlantis) has been confirmed at Aquaman in the new Batman v. Superman movie, which is sort of the sequel to Man of Steel.

I can’t claim to be a Jason Momoa fan.  I’m really not that familiar with his work.  However, I am an Aquaman fan.  Yeah, I said it.

Aquaman gets no respect, and for the life of me, I don’t know why.  Peter David’s run on Aquaman completely won me over in the early ’90s.  This was when he grew a beard, lost a hand, replaced the hand with a hook, and donned gladiator armor.  Because it was Peter David, it worked.  (Check it out if you haven’t.)

Then, slowly but surely, they brought back the orange scale armor and green pants, lost the beard, shortened the hair, and even gave him his hand back.  But they kept the warrior attitude.

All too often people think of Aquman only as the guy who can talk to fish.  But let’s run down his powers and characteristics.  He’s the son of both a human and the queen of Atlantis.  He was raised by the father, but discovered his heritage as a young man.  After his father died, he went in search of Atlantis, and was named rightful king.  He is the king of the Seven Seas, which, as you know, accounts for 75% of the planet.  He can telepathically push aquatic life to do his bidding – this includes sharks, whales, etc.  His body is super dense which enables him to withstand the ocean depths, this gives  him incredible strength and also makes his skin impervious to most human weapons.  Furthermore, because of the dense muscles that allow him to swim hundreds of miles per hour, he can also leap incredible amounts of distance while on land.  Plus, during his current incarnation, he has an unbreakable trident which is a relic form ancient Atlantis.  Aquaman is more than capable of living outside of water for long spans of time.

Aquaman wants nothing more than to bring peace to both the surface world and his kingdom.  He is an environmentalist, a warrior king, and a hero when serving with the Justice League.

Let’s not forget Aquman’s queen, Mera.  Mera is a warrior as well, also an outsider of Atlantis, and a woman for whom you do not want to trifle.  She can control water, shape it as she wishes, move it as she wants.  She is a formidable character in her own right, a character more than capable of carrying her own series.  When coupled with Aquaman, they are irresistible.  I sincerely hope they cast Mera in Batman v. Superman as well, for she would amaze movie goers.

So, are you convinced?  Do you now see Aquaman as more than the guy who talks to fish?  A few years ago, DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe.  Geoff Johns, who is known for revitalizing old favorites, decided to make Aquman his pet project.  I’ve read the first four volumes, and I loved them.  Johns is building a mythology around both Atlantis and Aquaman like never before.  Check out the first volume – it’s called Aquaman: The Trench.

If done well, Aquaman could be like Lord of the Rings under water.  There is an epic story just waiting to be told.  If someone dedicated themselves to building a world for Aquaman like James Cameron did for Avatar, the potential is limitless.

 

 

 

Black Science: How To Fall Forever by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera – A Book Review

I saw this book earned a little buzz so I thought I’d check it out.  The premise is Grant McKay and his team have broken through the barrier between infinite dimensions.  The machine making this capable, The Pillar, got damaged though, so they only have a little time before they jump to another world, and if they want to make the jump, they better be near The Pillar or they will be left behind.  McKay’s two children were sucked along for the ride, as were two corporate representatives who don’t get along with McKay at all.  McKay is your narrator.  He is anti-authoritarian, smug, arrogant, cheats on his wife, and is not all that likable.

This first volume begins with McKay trying to escape some aliens and race back to The Pillar before the next jump.  Over the course of the volume, you discover why his kids are with him, why his wife is not, why the team seems so ill prepared, the identity of his mistress, and why the two corporate representatives accompany them.

The artwork is quite stunning.  Scalera creates some impressive aliens and exquisite settings.  His panels keep the story moving along wonderfully, and he delivers some dynamic, fast-paced action.  My only complaint is that because McKay’s crew wear the same uniforms, they tend to look quite a bit alike.  I appreciate the realism, because they likely would wear the same suits, but at times it’s hard to tell who is who.

Dean White does the painted art, and let me tell you, his colors alone make this book worth the price.  I have zero talent at colors, so I’ve learned to appreciate that which I cannot do.  White is a master.  Gorgeous colors.

In the end, though, while the book is very good, I can’t say I’m hooked.  I bought the first volume because I was sure I’d love it, but I didn’t.  I’ll probably check out the second volume when it comes to a local library.  I simply never connected to the characters.  McKay is an anti-hero, and that isn’t a bad thing, but I never really cared about him.  I never found any common ground.  I never necessarily rooted for him.  I can’t really say I have to know where his story goes next.

Of course, this is just my opinion.  I loved most of the art, the story proved interesting, the colors were beautiful, so there is a good chance you may very well adore it.  If the premise captured your interest, I encourage you to see for yourself.

Meet Kevin Suess: Educator Extraordinaire, Activist, and Good Man

Back in 1995 when I was just a freshmen at Illinois State University, a guy lived down the hall from me named Kevin Suess.  We became friends, and I’m glad to say it’s a friendship that has lasted almost twenty years.

Even back in 1995, Kevin struck me as an honest person, a guy who put others before himself, and a man unafraid to take risks.  With the advent of MySpace, Facebook, and later Twitter, Kevin and I got back in touch about eight or nine years ago.

Around that time, I took two years off to stay at home with my first daughter.  I don’t know if Kevin realizes it or not, but we would have coffee often during that time and he inspired me on a regular basis to be a better teacher, to truly grow passion for my career, and to wake up every morning excited to go to work.

When I returned to teaching in 2010, I was a new man, and I’ve loved my job ever since.  I owe it in large part to Kevin Suess.  I’m not even sure if he knows the impact he had upon me, for he’s the kind of person who leads unassumingly.

But it’s not just me Kevin influences.  He teaches high school Social Studies, he’s the chair of the department at his workplace, he is the president of the Illinois Geographical Society, and he’s the vice president of Bike BloNo, which is a group focused on making Bloomington-Normal more bicycle friendly.  In fact, he and his group recently got the city of Bloomington to move ahead on a bicycle master plan, so be on the lookout for that.  Kevin was also invited by National Geographic to attend a research voyage in 2010 to the arctic circle near Norway.    I’m sure there’s even more that I don’t know about, but as you can see, Kevin is a fascinating individual.

Furthermore, he’s a loving husband and caring father.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe he and his wife met long ago in my apartment during my junior year of college.  If I do indeed remember correctly, that is quite an honor for me.

I do hope you’ll support Kevin’s endeavors however possible.

Connect with Kevin at the following …

BikeBloNo’s Twitter Account

NormalGeo Twitter Account

Picture From The Pantagraph