Avengers: Infinity War – A Spoiler-Free Review

At long last, the film we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.  It’s hard to believe that the groundwork for Infinity War began all the way back in 2011 with Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor.  2012 brought The Avengers which introduced us to Thanos and his quest for those pesky Infinity Stones.

Was Infinity War worth the wait?

I literally just finished watching it about forty minutes ago and I can tell you … YES!  Infinity War surpassed my expectations and satisfied in ways I will address without getting too specific.

As always, I live a spoiler-free life, and I will not ruin this movie for you, I promise.

I’d like to first and foremost give the movie credit for fully realizing Thanos as a character.  This guy has been teased for the last several years, but this is HIS movie.  You get to know him very well and he proves far more complicated than I expected.  Furthermore, he looks great.  Special effects obviously played a big role with this character, yet they are seamless.  He looks to be physically present in every scene, and that’s rare in today’s CGI-obsessed movie world.  I’ve always considered Thanos a Darkseid ripoff and never given him much thought, but he definitely won me over as a worthwhile villain.

Also, they managed to bring us virtually the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Almost every character you know and love gets a moment in this movie.   I’m actually surprised at how much screen time several of our favorite Avengers received.  With story lines unfolding in various locales on Earth and in space, I’m amazed how it all somehow worked.  This is not a cash-grab.  Infinity War has a real story with several characters playing vital roles.

Make no mistake, by the way.  Thanos does indeed bring war with him.  He unleashes carnage, mayhem, and destruction at every opportunity.  This movie revels in chaos and pushes every one of our heroes to their breaking points.  This is the first Marvel movie in which the heroes’ victory is not a foregone conclusion.

Which brings me to my final point: Infinity War has real consequences.  This movie is not afraid to break convention.  It’s daring, bold, and, frankly, a breath of fresh air in a time of supposed cinematic super hero fatigue.  Infinity War has done something different with the cinematic super hero genre, something new.

I left the movie theater in shock.  That’s the highest compliment I can give any movie.

If you’re invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll want to go see this movie as soon as possible.  It will be very hard to avoid spoilers in the coming days.

All right, I have to get up for work in about five hours, so I better call it a night.  Thanks for reading!

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – A Book Review

I took a chance on this very quick read after a friend recommended it.

Ella Minnow Pea is a unique concept.  The premise is that a small island exists off the coast of South Carolina.  This entire island’s culture is based upon Nevin Nollop, the man responsible for the blessed phrase: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Though a literate, incredibly well-spoken people, the island’s inhabitants are thrown into complete disarray as a statue of Nollop begins to lose letters from the sacred phrase.  They take these jettisoned letters as spiritual intervention, and so they remove each letter from usage as it falls.

Because the book is written as literal correspondence between characters, a dark farce ensues.  The messages begin missing those outlawed letters, and, by book’s end, the notes between characters are nearly incomprehensible.

To make matters worse, the town punishes anyone caught using the banned letters.  Beatings, exile, even death can result as a byproduct of usage.  Things get very bleak very quickly, yet the circumstances continuously remain hilarious.

While the story itself did not make a lasting impact upon me, Mark Dunn’s execution absolutely impressed.  To literally omit those letters banned by the town in the actual story — that’s no easy feat!  I enjoyed the structure, construction, and style of the book immensely, and I would recommend reading it for that experience alone.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis – A Book Review

You all know I struggle with Superman.  Many writers get the “super” right, but fail to truly capture the “man.”

Max Landis absolutely put the “man” before the “super” in this collection, and Superman is all the more “super” as a result.

The premise is short and sweet: Landis depicts key moments in Clark Kent’s life that define the hero he will one day become.  As a result, we get to see what is not often addressed: failure.  We see Clark as a child fearful of his own abilities.  We see Clark as a teenager reluctant to help out for fear of hurting someone.  We see Clark take a walk on the wild side with booze, boats, and women.  We see Clark get outsmarted and embarrassed by Lex Luthor.  We see Clark, for the first time in his life, have to truly fight to survive.

I love this collection because Clark is so normal.  He’s funny; he’s a jerk; he’s fearful; he’s clever; he’s heroic; he’s full of doubt.  In a word, he’s all of us at some point in our lives.

Landis also addresses some nagging issues about Clark’s childhood such as how in the world did he avoid doctors?  The answer may surprise you.  Also, with the way  kids talk, could he ever really keep his abilities a secret while in Smallville?  That answer may surprise you as well.

Furthermore, Landis does not shy away from the fact that Clark Kent lives in the DC Universe.  While this is not necessarily the mainstream Superman we enjoy from month to month, this world still offers us a glimpse at Oliver Queen, Batman, Dick Grayson, Hawkman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and many others.   The brief appearance by Batman is especially relevant to this Superman’s mythology.

Each installment of this collection is a must-read in part because of the story line but also because Landis works with a different artist for each chapter.  I want to say that each artist perfectly embodies the tone of that specific issue, but each of these artists are so talented that they make everything look good.  You could assign any of them any of the installments and they would make it shine.

Next to All-Star Superman, this is my favorite Superman story ever.  I would love to read more of Landis’ take on the DC Universe.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Wild Storm: Volume I by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt – A Book Review

The Wild Storm is a title that appears to be taking classic WildStorm characters, especially those from WildC.A.Ts, and rebooting them in a modern day, sophisticated world.

WildStorm was under the umbrella of Image Comics back in the 1990s when Jim Lee and other industry luminaries decided to start their own publishing house.  Jim Lee’s characters were cool, but rather shallow and derivatives of DC and Marvel’s icons.  Clearly, though, they had great potential as famed writers like Alan Moore and James Robinson took a crack at them.

In The Wild Storm, Warren Ellis, one of the absolute BEST science fiction writers alive today, takes the most charismatic elements of characters like Void, Voodoo, Grifter, Deathblow, Zealot, and Engineer and strips away all of the excess.  All of these characters now exist within one book, one story line, and are under the control of one vision, who happens to be visionary.

I’m all in on this book.  It is remarkably familiar yet utterly fresh.  I know the characters, I know the names, but I don’t know what’s going to happen next.  Ellis is always completely unpredictable and it’s obvious he’s building a comprehensive world in this title, not a super team.

Jon Davis-Hunt creates cinematic, dynamic panels in this book.  Most of the characters are wearing regular clothes in normal environments, but he makes all of it look GREAT.  He adds all of these little touches that strike the reader subconsciously but may not be obvious at first glance.  Things like shells flying though the air, glass shattering, hair blowing in the wind, or debris falling — these minor things connote movement and lead the reader sequentially from one panel to the next.  The art is so smooth and fluid.  Perfect.

The Wild Storm is full of intrigue, action, violence, heroism, originality, and just enough nostalgia to charm.  It’s obvious there is a sprawling, epic tale unfolding, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

I haven’t been this excited about a title in quite some time.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – A Book Review

A friend on GoodReads recommended this book to me, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  Honestly, I told him I wanted something really short that I could read quickly.

In that regard, Every Heart a Doorway is a raging success.

The concept of the book is fascinating.  We’ve all heard of those kids in stories who visit other realms, worlds, or dimensions.  This book deals with what happens when they come home … but want to go back.

It also delves into the fabric of each kind of world that exists beyond.  Because the story takes place at a school, there is some explanation as to the general laws and rules of each world the various children have visited.  Again, this is a very cool concept.

My only complaint is that the actual plot did not spark my interest all that much.  I adored the idea of dissatisfied travelers who want nothing more than to go back to their fantasy world.  I also love the idea of trying to categorize each world in an effort to force some semblance of sense upon them.

The story, though, is primarily about a series of grotesque murders occurring on the school grounds.  Something of a mystery ensues revolving around the fact that very specific parts of bodies are being taken from each victim.

Furthermore, there’s plenty of teenage angst in the dialogue.  Lots of feeling shunned and out of place.  During those moments, it became obvious I am not the target audience for this book.

However, I appreciated the quick pace, the vivid descriptions, and the very imaginative concepts.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Batman: The War Of Jokes and Riddles by Tom King and Mikel Janin – A Book Review

I’m not totally on board with Tom King’s Batman. Tom King is a good writer, don’t misunderstand, but his take on Batman just isn’t really doing much for me.

In this volume, Bruce Wayne is in bed with Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. He is baring his soul regarding a horrific moment during his first year as Batman, a moment that occurred during The War of Jokes and Riddles.

First of all, that’s a really awkward name for a war. Maybe a little too literal as well. Don’t you think?

Anyway, Bruce is recounting his tale to Selina and we experience what is essentially a flashback. The Joker and the Riddler have declared war against each other, and all of the other villains in Gotham have chosen sides. There’s some perfunctory attempt at explaining why a band of murderous sociopaths would join forces, but it all fell a little flat with me. Eventually the story begins to focus on Kite Man. Yes. You read that right. That’s where it really lost its way with me.

I will admit that I appreciate King’s take on The Joker. Unfortunately, his Riddler seemed totally out of character in my mind. The whole story felt a little too contrived, a little too forced for my taste. It struck me as though they had a really cool idea to have Riddler and Joker wage war, but then couldn’t come up with anything any deeper than that concept.

Mikel Janin’s art, though, absolutely makes this volume worth reading. I believe his Joker is iconic, and his Batman is both regal and terrifying. I first discovered Janin on Justice League Dark, and his talent has only grown.

King’s moody, almost whiny Batman is not for me, but I appreciate the risks he’s taking and the new stories he’s trying to tell. His work is solid and well-executed, I just don’t care for his iteration of the character.

(His Mister Miracle, on the flip side, may be the best series that I’ve ever read.)

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Ready Player One – A Movie Review

You’ll remember when I heard Steven Spielberg intended to direct this movie, I instantly ran out and read the source material.  You can check out my review of the book HERE.

Let me say this about Spielberg’s film adaptation — I haven’t had a visual feast like Ready Player One since The Matrix.

I loved watching it.

It was just so fun.  If you love pop culture, especially 80s pop culture, this is the movie for you.  If you love gaming, this is the movie for you.  if you love seamless special effects, this is the movie for you.  If you love intricate, nuanced plot that is woven so taut that it’s airtight … maybe this isn’t for you.

Remember fun Spielberg movies?  E.T.?  Raiders Of the Lost ArkJurassic Park?  Yeah, he directed those.  What about these little ditties?  PoltergeistBack To the FutureThe GooniesGremlinsThe Money PitMen In Black?  He produced those.  Once upon a time, Spielberg made magical movies that influenced entire generations.  In my opinion, Ready Player One is a return to vintage Spielberg.

Is it a little simpler than the book?  Yeah, it’s fairly easily digestible if not always strictly logical.  But, it’s well-acted by very likable actors and actresses.  Ben Mendelsohn is always a charismatic bad guy who is hard to root against.  Tye Sheridan is so much better than when he played Cyclops in the latest X-Men movie.  I don’t know Olivia Cooke, but she was completely engaging.  TJ Miller is always hilarious.  Simon Pegg is, well, Simon Pegg, so he’s everyone’s favorite (obviously).  Lena Waithe steals every scene she’s in.  And Mark Rylance struck me as a guy who could influence an entire generation of gamers … Sound like someone you know?

But, the real star of this movie are the special effects.  The CGI in Ready Player One somehow managed to look CGI on purpose, but it otherwise looked totally real.  I’m not sure how to articulate this … You know how in some movies the CGI stands out against the rest of the scene?  That doesn’t happen in Ready Player One.  I know what you’re thinking — “Scott, the movie takes place in virtual reality, so … duh!”  I know, you’re right, that makes total sense, except it doesn’t.  When you see the avatars in the Oasis, they look so completely real … as digital avatars.  Just see the movie and let me know what you think, okay?

Let’s be honest — this movie is also a hit because of all the references.  I cannot WAIT to buy this thing on blu-ray so that I can hit pause every ten seconds and gawk at everything.  In the Oasis, you can choose your avatar and base it off of anything you want.  So, there are a ton of visual delights.  Not as many as the book, but still, more than I actually expected.

I have one concern … and only one.  I consider myself a pop culture junkie, and it concerns me that in TV, movies, comic books, even music, we’re getting a lot of referential story lines.  For example, before Ready Player One we saw previews for Overboard and Ocean’s 8 — both of which are remakes or derivative.  Tomb Raider was playing at our theater … you get the idea.  As great as Ready Player One is, it would not exist without riding the glorious nostalgia of the vastly more original works with which it plays.  Ready Player One even copies exact scenes from other movies.  Terminator 2 anyone?  While that’s totally fun, I do have to wonder if we’re producing anything new and original anymore …

Even with that being said, Ready Player One is magnificent.  I had so much fun watching it.  In fact, I can’t wait to go check it out in IMAX.  If you enjoy gaming, vintage Spielberg, or 80s pop culture, this is the movie for you.

 

Ready Player One (2018)

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)