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REVIEW: Aquaman

REVIEW: Aquaman

Aquaman is wet and wild fun while not entirely holding together as well as it should. The film, the sixth in the in the loosely-connected DC Extended Universe, continues the momentum started with Wonder Woman. Director James Wan certainly makes the undersea world come to vivid life although I wish he spent a little more time on the world-building and character interrelationships.

We pick up a year after his appearance in the disappointing Justice League and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) continues to reject his fate as a hero. While he opens the film by stopping a sub full of pirates, including the man who will become Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), it seems an infrequent activity. He’s quickly back to drinking and bar fighting, hoping the world will leave him alone.

Instead, forces are at work to make certain that never happens.

While hanging out with dad, Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), he’s under attack and Mera (Amber Heard), whose relationship with him is never clearly established her or in JL, shows up to explain Atlantis is readying to make war on the surface world and this was just the beginning.

His half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), is scheming with Mera’s dad to either forge alliances with the various undersea kingdoms, or seize them, creating an unstoppable force.

Well, there’s one force: Arthur. He is convinced to claim his birthright and we get some lovely flashbacks about his origins so we see Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), an exiled queen, fall in love with the lonely lighthouse keeper until the day soldiers came crashing into their home to take her away. Young Arthur is trained by Vulko (Willem Dafoe), adviser to throne, and we watch his burgeoning telepathic command of sea life.

He challenges Orm, gets beaten, and goes on the run as the film shifts to a quest adventure to find the powerful trident of King Atlan, which will acknowledge his right to the throne. (Atlan was created by Peter David and Esteban Maroto for DC’s The Atlantis Chronicles which I edited and personally, couldn’t have been happier to see their names in the credits.)

While on the quest, the relationship between allies becomes something more, but they get interrupted by Black Manta, who is out for revenge since Arthur allowed his dad to die during the pre-credits sequence.

Everything builds to the all-out war between Aquaman and Meta versus Orm’s army. Lots of special effects, bombastic music, and special effects galore. Of course, once we reach the mid-point, the film stops surprising us and delivers every anticipated beat, robbing the film of being something above average.

The film is bloated but entertaining and with the backstory established, maybe the inevitable sequel (and unnecessary Trench spinoff) will go in fresh directions.

The movie is out in the usual assortment of packages, complete with retail exclusives. The Blu-ray combo was reviewed and the 1080p transfer looks sharp and brilliantly colorful. The aspect ratio is 2.40:1, with the IMAX-formatted scenes framed at 1.78:1. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is actually superior with TrueHD 7.1 in the mix. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is adequate.

One would think that with Aquaman a staple of television since his animated debut in 1967, there’d be some special features about the character and his comic book origins, but no such luck. Instead, its all about the movie, ranging from interesting to boring to perfunctory.

We open with Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman (19:00); Becoming Aquaman (13:00); James Wan: World Builder (8:00); Aqua Tech (6:00), Atlantis Warfare (5:00), The Dark Depths of Black Manta (7:00), Heroines of Atlantis (6:00), Villainous Training (6:00), Kingdoms of the Seven Seas (7:00), Creating Undersea Creatures (7:00), A Match Made in Atlantis (3:00), and finally, Scene Study Breakdowns (11:00). There’s also a Shazam! Sneak Peek (3:00), with a scene from the following film in the series.

Sony battles DC Comics over ‘Zero Hour’ TM

Sony battles DC Comics over ‘Zero Hour’ TM

See, we’re not the only comic company with trademark fights!

Sony has filed a petition to cancel DC Comics’ trademark hfor its 1994 comic book series ‘Zero Hour’.

In December 2017 Sony filed a trademark application (US number 87713622) for the title. The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application in September last year as the examiner found it was likely to cause confusion with DC’s marks.

Sony has now taken its fight to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, claiming that DC has not shown sufficient use of the mark in the period since it was registered.

Sales of a series published in 1994 cannot be considered “continuous” use of the mark, according to Sony.

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Gina Rodriguez’s “Miss Bala” Hunts for Home in April

Golden Globe® winner Gina Rodriguez (Annihilation, “Jane the Virgin”) takes charge in the high-octane action adventure, MISS BALA, debuting on Digital April 16 and coming to Blu-ray and DVD April 30, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Caught in the perilous world of a brutal cross-border cartel, a young woman finds powers she never knew she had as she seeks to rescue her friend. Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, Ismael Cruz-Córdova (Mary Queen of Scots), stars alongside Rodriguez as the cartel kingpin, whose growing attraction to his strong-willed female hostage raises the stakes for both as the CIA, DEA, and rival cartels close in. Rodriguez and Cruz-Córdova are joined by co-stars, Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Infinity War) and Matt Lauria (“Friday Night Lights”) in this female-driven action story directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Contrapelo).
MISS BALA on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital comes loaded with over 60 minutes of bonus material, including eight deleted and extended scenes, wardrobe and rehearsal footage with insights by director Catherine Hardwicke, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes. In “Gina: The Unstoppable Strength of a Woman”, Rodriguez explains the importance of portraying a strong Latina woman on the big screen, with the cast & crew proclaiming why she was the only actress who could tackle on this role. Learn how the cast and stunt team created the action-packed gun fights and explosive scenes in “The Bigger the Bang: Action on Set”. In “The Making of MISS BALA”, discover how this empowering story was brought to life from script to screen with a 95 percent Latinx cast and crew, a new benchmark for Hollywood diversity, with looks into the supporting cast and vibrant locations. Finally, delve deeper into the production with a feature audio commentary by Director Catherine Hardwicke, Executive Producer Jamie Marshall, and Associate Producer Shayda Frost.


“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” comes home in April

It’s time to go where no brick has gone before when The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part arrives on 4K UHD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD Special Edition and Digital. The much-anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, global box office phenomenon that started it all, The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all-new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city.

Reprising their starring roles from the first film are Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Jurassic World”) as Emmet; Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games” movies, “Love & Mercy”) as Lucy, aka Wyldstyle; Will Arnett (“The LEGO® Batman Movies,” TV’s “Arrested Development”) as LEGO Batman; Alison Brie (TV’s “GLOW,” TV’s “Community”) as Unikitty; Nick Offerman (“Fargo,” TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) as MetalBeard; and Charlie Day (the “Horrible Bosses” movies, TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia”) as Benny. They are joined by Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip,” “Keanu”) and Stephanie Beatriz (“Short Term 12,” TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) as new characters Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi and General Mayhem, respectively, and Maya Rudolph (“Bridesmaids,” TV’s “Big Mouth”), as Mom.

Senator Patrick Leahy writes a tribute for his longtime friend, Batman

Senator Patrick Leahy writes a tribute for his longtime friend, Batman

Senator Patrick Leahy, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, talks about his introduction for Detective Comics #1000, his longtime relationship with fellow crimefighter Batman, how he’s appeared in more Batman movies than any mere actor, and more in his local paper.

Decades after meeting him in Montpelier’s Kellogg-Hubbard Library, the longest-serving U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is wishing a happy 80th anniversary to his best-known associate and Gotham City’s Dark Knight, the Batman.

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Man, 39, Arrested In Modesto Comic Book Store Break-Ins

There’s been an arrest in Modesto comic book store burglaries

Detectives have made an arrest in the case of thousands of dollars worth of rare merchandise stolen from a Modesto comic book store.

Modesto police say 39-year-old David Garcia has been arrested in connection to the break-ins at Invincible Comics back in February. About $5,000 worth or rare comic books and other merchandise was taken.

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It’s official: Fox’s Marvel heroes go to Disney, along with everything else

Here we go, kids. The acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney is official today.

Ryan Reynolds is getting into the spirit of the thing:

And some happy soul has helpfully embedded Deadpool into Avengers: Endgame…

The Hollywood Reporter, umm, reports:

Reynolds’ Deadpool is expected to be the only iteration of the X-Men to make the jump to Disney, with Disney CEO Bob Iger having confirmed multiple times that popular, R-rated version of the character could exist at the studio. […] Marvel Studios has not publicly revealed any plans for integrating members of the X-Men and Fantastic Four into its cinematic universe, though Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is said to have met with several members of the X-Men old guard in recent months. Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley, who was hired to write a Doctor Doom movie in 2017, earlier this month confirmed he’s spoken to Feige about the script centering on the Fantastic Four villain, though Hawley downplayed how serious those discussions were.

Here’s hoping the, ah, crisis passes smoothly.

Mike Raub

Mike Raub: 1951-2019

Mike Raub, long-time comic fan, retailer, broadcaster and podcaster, passed away tonight after a long illness. He was 68.

Mike was the original podcaster here at ComicMix from 2006 to 2008, later creating Get The Point Radio, all while moonlighting from his day job as the director of AM programming for Cox Communication. If you listened to radio in the 2000s, you probably heard Mike on the dial on one station or another.

I first met Mike at the age of 15, at a meeting of the fledgling East Coast Comic Book Retailers Association, when he and his first wife Lori ran The Dream Factory in Connecticut, which he owned and operated from 1985 to 1994. He impressed me with his energy and passion in a field not exactly lacking in extroverts.

He was born in Marion, Ohio and turned into a hardcore comics fan at a very early age, writing letters and creating fanzines. He later studied radio broadcasting at Ohio State University.

We were very lucky that he combined his love of comics, pop culture, and broadcasting for us for so many years.

Our deepest condolences to his wife Kai, his children Matt, Max, Mark, Mickey, Mike, and Sammy, and to his hundreds of friends and thousands of listeners.

Gaze Inside The Studio Sanctorum of Steve Ditko!

Russ Maheras writes an incredibly detailed essay over at Pop Culture Squad about visiting Steve Ditko at his studio in the Times Square district, right around the corner from DC’s offices:

Steve was a fairly-thin, gray-haired older man. His thinning hair was combed back, and he wore narrow-frame glasses. He was wearing a short-sleeved soft-plaid shirt (with pocket) that buttoned up in front, a white t-shirt, and slacks. He stood nearly erect and appeared in excellent health. He was alert, moved deliberately, and had no signs of any age-related issues. His hearing was fine, and his mind was very quick and very sharp.

Read the entire thing– it’s as good a description as we’re going to get.

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REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

There is little doubt that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a fun movie, exceeding everyone’s expectations. It deserves its Oscar, its box office success, and its pioneering an animated path for Marvel to explore.

The film, out now on disc from Sony Home Entertainment, celebrates what it means to wear the suit. Everyone knows Peter Parker and his story so here, the masses are introduced to Mile Morales (Shameik Moore), who has been a part of the comics since 2011 and his world has been merged into the core Marvel Universe, making him a permanent addition.

We also meet other iterations of Spider-Man, each from a separate parallel universe, and these days the general public is fine with the concept of a multiverse. Writers Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman play with it, by having each of the main Spiders do a narration that emphasizes their variance from the well-known origin. In a nod to the film, Marvel had the messy and pointlessly bloated Spider-Geddon event that shows too much is never better.

Wisely, the film starts on Miles’ world, which is clearly not the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he gains his powers just in time for the Green Goblin to kill his world’s Peter Parker (Chris Pine). All of the hullabaloo is sparked because the Kingpin (Liev Shreiber) is using dangerous technology to access the multiverse to find a replacement Vanessa and Richard, having lost his wife and son in a car crash.

Miles, unsure of how to use his newfound abilities, is visited at Parker’s grave by the Peter B. Parker Jake Johnson) from a different world. Together, they agree Fisk has to be stopped, using the data on a damaged flash drive. As the story unfolds, we meet that world’s Doc Ock, Olivia Octavius (Kathryn Hahn), the Prowler (Mahershala Ali), and Aunt May (Lily Tomlin), the latter far more with it and supportive of her Peter’s heroic life.

The unlikely duo of young teen and overweight and far older adult is joined by Spider-Woman, a heroic Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), who controls the robotic SP//dr:. Here’s where the brilliantly colorful movie excels by rendering each of these characters in a unique style. Noir is merely in black and white, Ham is two-dimensional animation, and Peni is pure anime.  

There’s running, jumping, and fighting along with way too many things blowing up. The final third is pretty much pure action and if there’s any fault, the multiverse exploding threat is too over-the-top for these heroes, who deserve threats better scaled to who they are.

That said, the 117 minutes zip by with a strong score from Daniel Pemberton, and leaves us with a brand-new hero in Miles, who embraces the mantle he has inherited. By all means, stick through the credits for a hysterical nod to two more Spider-Men.

The film is available in numerous formats with retail exclusive editions at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Amazon. The standard Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD combo pack is the most common and offers up a superior high definition transfer. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is up to the noise made by characters bickering and things going boom. Word is the 4K Ultra HD version is even better, naturally. The 3D Blu-ray will be released separately on April 10.

There are some fine special features here, starting with a short feature, “Spider-Ham Caught in a Ham” (4:11), which is amusing enough but should have been funnier.

There’s an Audio Commentary — featuring directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman with producers Phil Lord, Christopher Miller — which details the four-year process of going from concept to finished film and the 800 technicians, artists, actors, and crew to make this CGI film a reality.

The most interesting option is to play the film in its Alternate Universe edition, which integrates deleted scenes, pencil tests, and more. You can see the creative process at work, which is a treat, and adds about 5 minutes to the run time.

Additionally, there are the usual behind the scenes features: We Are Spider-Man (7:51), Spider-Verse A New Dimension (5:09), The Ultimate Comic Cast (15:02), Designing Cinematic Comic Book Characters “Heroes and Hams” (7:45), Designing Cinematic Comic Book Characters “Scoundrels & Scorpions” (5:11), Spider-Verse Super Fan Easter Egg Challenge (5:02), and Sunflower music video by Post Malone & Swae Lee (3:00)

Fittingly, there is also a Tribute to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (8:34), both of whom we lost in 2018.