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Happy Birthday, Star Trek! September 8, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Science Ficton.
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Fig. 1: 45 years of (mostly) awesomeness!


First Look: Henry Cavill as Superman August 4, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Comics, Movies, Popular Culture.
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Are you ready for some awesomeness? Of course you are!

(Image: www.joblo.com)
Fig. 1: Yes!!

I’d write more, but I’m busy having a nerdgasm.

Ok, I can write more now. What I find interesting about this suit is—if it is indeed the suit we’ll see on-screen—that it borrows from an older interpretation of the “S” shield. I like the metallic/leathery look of the suit; it retains the familiar elements of the uniform (thank Spock that they didn’t follow the color palette of the “Superman Returns” uniform), while adding some touches that make it look distinctly “alien.” It will be fascinating to see more shots of Cavill in the suit—if I have any nitpicks (and honestly, what kind of nerd would I be if I didn’t), it’s in the form of a question. Where’s Superman’s trademark spit curl?

Skippy Goes To The Movies!: “X-Men: First Class” June 11, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Movies, Popular Culture, Science Ficton.
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Verdict: An excellent superhero movie that surpasses its predecessors.

I have to admit that when I saw the trailers for “X-Men: First Class,” I put this movie on my “wait for Netflix” mental list. After the abominations that were “X-Men 3: The Last Stand” and “Wolverine,” I was ready to write off the X-Men movie franchise. Further, this movie was sandwiched between “Thor” and “Green Lantern,” two movies for which I was/am infinitely more excited, primarily because both movies have not hesitated to play up the beefcake factor. And for that, my shallow ass is eternally grateful.

However, I am pleased to report that “X-Men: First Class” is far and away one of the best superhero “origin” movies in recent years. It deftly balances weightier, philosophical issues with action pieces. At a running length of just over two hours, it doesn’t feel like it drags. Some critics have claimed that this movie is “too talky”—to that I say, balderdash. Do not pay those reviewers any mind. While I think it would have fared better at the box office had it been a late summer/early fall release, it is not so ponderous as to leave the viewer wanting more action and less talk (e.g., 2006’s “Superman Returns”).

One reason this movie works so well is that, even though it is a movie that revolves around a team, we focus only on two characters, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender). Picking up from the first scenes in the first X-Men movie, we see young Erik Lensherr, the future “villain” Magneto, come into contact with this movie’s antagonist, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Shaw is a sadist who is working for the Nazis; he wants to unlock Erik’s power, so he tortures young Erik. Meanwhile, in the United States, Charles Xavier meets another mutant, the future Mystique. Charles takes Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) under his wing, and they grow up together, but Charles appears rather oblivious to the fact that Raven loves him. This movie presents Charles as a brash, arrogant figure—and if you had his ability to read people’s minds and influence them to do what you wanted, wouldn’t you? We see that Xavier’s views about human-mutant coexistence emerge from his youthful naivete and arrogance; he does not take into account that he is able to “pass,” a point that both Raven and Erik point out to him. Erik especially functions as a counterpoint to Charles’s views about human-mutant coexistence. A survivor of the Holocaust, Erik has seen the worst of humanity and knows that humans would and could not tolerate this evolutionary leap. This is a nice nod to the way in which the X-Men comics have functioned as an allegory for, first, the Civil Rights movement and the tension between Martin Luther King’s arguments about integration and Malcolm X’s arguments about separation and self determination and second, the emerging gay and lesbian movement, the problem of “passing” as a heterosexual, and the question of “nature vs. nurture.”

Eventually, Charles and Erik meet (Erik has become a Nazi hunter in pursuit of Shaw, Charles is working for the government). They learn that Shaw and his band of mutants are trying to incite World War III in an effort to eradicate the world of the sub-optimal homo sapien. So Charles and Erik attempt to recruit more mutants—leading to a cameo that is hilarious and ten kinds of awesome. Again, there are some critics of this movie who say that it is short on humor. And again, I think they’re dead wrong. This movie has more of a James Bond feel than a strictly comic book movie feel—and that works in this movie’s favor. Thus, the humor in this movie has a decidedly dry wit to it. However, that humor doesn’t overwhelm the seriousness of the situation. Indeed, we see how Xavier is injured so that he is confined to a wheelchair—and it is appropriately tragic. Director Matthew Vaughn and the bevy of screenwriters (Bryan Singer being one of them) have crafted a rare gem: a superb, action-packed superhero movie that doesn’t insult its audience.

Skippy Goes To The Movies!: “Thor” May 12, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Movies, Popular Culture, Science Ficton, Uncategorized.
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Verdict: The best superhero movie since “Superman: The Movie”

Children, I think I’m on record for not being a big fan of movies based on Marvel Comics superheroes. While I liked “X-Men” and loved “X-Men 2,” I absolutely despised each and every one of the “Spider-Man” movies (especially that third abomination), loathed “X-Men 3,” and found the “Iron Man” movies merely tolerable. The less said about both of the “Hulk” movies, the better. This, of course, is part of my DC Comics partisan fanboyism. A Marvel superhero movie has to be awesome for me to like it (see the aforementioned “X-Men 2”).

That said, “Thor” was absolutely awesome. Director Kenneth Branaugh took a story written by J. Michael Straczynski (I was surprised when I saw his name pop up in the credits) and crafted a thoroughly delightful and visually arresting summer flick. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking, “THIS is what a superhero movie should be!”

The story is fairly simple: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a cocky son of god Odin. Because of his arrogance, he nearly starts a war with the Frost Giants; as a result of his arrogant disobedience of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), he is banished to Earth. On Earth, he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her band of merry scientists; meanwhile, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is causing all sorts of trouble back in Asgard. Needless to say, Thor’s time on Earth humbles him and he learns how to be a hero just in time to save the day and set up the impending Avengers movie. Unlike other superhero films, this isn’t about a human (or alien who finds out he’s an alien) coming to terms with superpowers. This is a simple story of redemption—Thor has been cast out of a heaven and has to reclaim his rightful place as heir to Asgard’s throne. As such, the movie flows fairly smoothly. There aren’t any spots in the movie where the narrative begins to drag and feel padded, even at an hour and fifty-four minutes. Frankly, the near two-hour running time flew by.

I have to say, I love how Marvel has structured their movies so that each movie (Spider-Man and X-Men excluded) is part of a shared universe. I think a major flaw in DC’s movie-making strategy is separating each movie franchise. For example, the upcoming Green Lantern movie will have nothing to do with Batman which has nothing to do with Superman which has nothing to do with either Batman or Green Lantern. On top of all that, Warner Brothers (the company that owns DC Comics) wants to do a Justice League movie! And as far as I can tell, they want different actors to play Batman and Superman in the JL movie—how stupid is that? Anyway, even though this movie is part of a shared universe, it doesn’t at all require having seen the Iron Man or Hulk movies. Frankly, I am interested to see how the Avengers movie turns out. How will they integrate all these superheroes in one movie without it turning into an incoherent mess? I guess time will tell.

While this movie will not be submitting any Oscar reels, I think that Branaugh got serviceable performances out of the actors. Anthony Hopkins didn’t have much to do, so there were times in which he seemed rather…listless. Natalie Portman shines in this movie; when she’s got a good director, she brings it. So, basically, her performance in the Star Wars prequels? All George Lucas’s no-directing fault. Anyway, she has amazing chemistry with Chris Hemsworth—it was reminiscent of the chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in “Superman.” Portman and Hemsworth’s rather chaste romance was actually believable and not (too) corny.

And can we talk about Chris Hemsworth?

Fig. 1: Well, hellooooooo, Thor!

Ok, let’s talk. While Hemsworth might be something of a putz in interviews, onscreen he has a magnetism that is…wow. He was an inspired–nay, perfect choice to play Thor. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s GORGEOUS. Seriously.

Basically, this movie is going to be the second Blu-Ray DVD I own.

Obama’s Best Week Ever May 2, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Politics.
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Fig. 1: Suck it, Trump.

Fig. 2: Guess who just won the 2012 Presidential election?

Existentialist Star Wars April 29, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Humor, Science Ficton.
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Fig. 1: Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

Superman Returns…And So Do I April 26, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Comics.
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Fig. 1: FINALLY!

Children, it’s been quite a while since I’ve set foot in a comic book shop. A few months ago, I decided that I was spending too much money on comic books and the return on the investment was diminishing. I wasn’t enjoying many of the storylines I was reading—such as my aforementioned rant about the horrible “Grounded” storyline in Superman—and I realized that I had better things to spend my money on. However, tomorrow DC Comics will release Action Comics #900. First of all, I have to buy it just because it’s Action Comics #900. Second, although Action Comics hasn’t been as execrable as Superman has, it still has had an overly long storyline focusing on Lex Luthor and his quest for ultimate power and has been completely devoid of Superman himself; I am going to be glad to see Superman back where he belongs. Third, the culmination of this storyline promises to be epic.

I haven’t been this excited about Comic Book Wednesday in a very, very long time.

AWESOME. April 2, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Comics, Movies, Popular Culture, Science Ficton.
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Children, the first footage from the upcoming Green Lantern movie hit Wondercon this weekend and OMGQWERTYAWESOMEPOIURE!!!111!! I cannot post a coherent thought, so powerful is this geeky AWESOMENESS.

Guess where I’m going to be on June 17th?

Mars, Bringer of War March 27, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Space.
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Fig. 1: Mars’ Grand Canyon can beat up your Grand Canyon

From NASA.gov:

The largest canyon in the Solar System cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. By comparison, the Earth’s Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA is 800 kilometers long, 30 kilometers across, and 1.8 kilometers deep. The origin of the Valles Marineris remains unknown, although a leading hypothesis holds that it started as a crack billions of years ago as the planet cooled. Several geologic processes have been identified in the canyon. The above mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s.

Just plain awesome.

The Galaxies of the Pisces Constellation February 28, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Space.
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Behold the Awesomeness:

(click on picture to supersize)
via io9