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A Guardians of the Galaxy Review – For God’s Sake, A Talking Raccoon!

TITLE: Guardians of the Galaxy
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe SaldanaBradley Cooper (voice), Dave Bautista, Lee Pace
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
STUDIOS: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
RATED:
PG-13
RUN TIME:
122 min
RELEASED:
August 1, 2014 

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great movie, and a great accomplishment for Marvel Studios. Strictly at face value, the film features none of the A-list Marvel superheroes (Iron Man, Captain America, etc.) to gain the quick attention of mainstream audiences. Yet it has still managed to be a big draw because it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. And much like moviegoers have come to associate clean and innocent merriment with Disney, or gorgeous animation with Pixar, audiences have put their money down for Guardians because they know they’ll get a fun and epic thrill ride from Marvel.

And Guardians of the Galaxy delivers.

Twenty-six years ago, young Peter Quill was abducted by a group of space smugglers called the Ravagers. Fast forward to present day, and he’s become the space pirate codenamed Star-Lord. But when a mysterious orb comes into Star-Lord’s possession, he finds himself swept up the business of Ronan the Accuser, who seeks to use the orb in a twisted bargain with galactic warlord Thanos (who moviegoers will remember from the post-credits scene in The Avengers). Ronan sends the assassin Gamora to retrieve it. Along with a humanoid raccoon named Rocket, a giant tree-like creature called Groot, and the musclebound Drax the Destroyer, they soon become swept up in a conflict that will decide the fate of billions.

Despite the incredibly high stakes and all the dizzying dangers our heroes find themselves in, Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s that sense of humor that sets the film apart from anything else in the Marvel has ever brought to screen. Movies like Captain AmericaThor, and of course, The Avengers, have been mostly action and drama with a touch of humor thrown in. Guardians ups the humor quotient to the point that it’s what you’ll walk away from the movie thinking about. As I’ve discussed before, Marvel smartly carves out cinematic niches and territories for its characters. With Iron Man its technological wonder mixed with wit, with Thor it’s mysticism from other realms, with Hulk it’s monster movie drama, etc. Clearly, with Guardians of the Galaxy it’s a blend of high octane sci-fi action and comedy. It makes for an awesome mix.

Guardians also makes excellent use of music to not only help incorporate the humor, but make itself more accessible. The Peter Quill character stays in touch with his Earth roots via an old mix tape his mother made for him before she died. As such, the film is filled with songs from the ’70s and ’80s like “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The soundtrack injects the movie with a certain energy that better connects us to our hero, and the proceedings at large. And again, it sets Guardians apart from anything Marvel has done before.

Chris Pratt is the heart of our movie, and delivers the goods both sentimentally and comedically. At one point, Pratt described the Star-Lord character as a mix of Han Solo and Marty McFly, which is pretty spot-on. But Bradley Cooper also deserves immense credit for making Rocket Raccoon exactly what he needed to be. He had the snark we were all looking for. But the character also gets very emotional at times, which isn’t necessarily something you expect from a gun-toting raccoon. As for Dave Batista in his Drax role, he’s not a master thespian by any means. I’ve seen most of what he turns in here from watching him on WWE TV over the years. That being said, he does fine. He’s obviously very convincing as a big bruiser type, and he also gets some of the best one-liners in the movie. He may not have come out on top at Wrestlemania, but he got a nice victory here.

The most notable criticism I can hurl at Guardians is that all the details of who is aligned with who, and who came from where can be a bit much to take in at first. For instance, we’ve got Gamora, who is working alongside another assassin named Nebula. They both work for Ronan, who is aligned with Thanos. Gamora and Nebula are both Thanos’ adopted daughters (sort of…). But Gamora secretly hates Thanos because he murdered her family, and wants to keep the mysterious orb out of his hands. It’s also a bit awkward keeping track of where Peter comes from, and how he got to be what he is. The movie hammers it in enough times that you eventually get it. But still, it’s a rockier start than one would like.

As ever, Marvel is planting seeds for future films. Guardians has some fairly obvious implications as far as the Infinity Gauntlet story is concerned. Thanos is in this movie, but nothing is really done with him. Thus, in addition to being a pretty awesome movie in its own right, Guardians also serves as the next step on the road to Thanos’ showdown with The Avengers, which I can only assume will be in the third Avengers film. Foresight. It’s by God amazing when you use it correctly.

Incidentally, hey Warner Bros? This is what Green Lantern should have been like. Just saying.

At the end of the day, Guardians of the Galaxy surpassed virtually all my expectations. What we have here resembles a blend between The Avengers and Star Wars, with a bit of Men in Black thrown in. Marvel continues to expand its boundaries, and with luck, change a few opinions about what a comic book movie can be.

RATING: 9/10

 Front page image from majorspoilers.com. Interior images from rottentomatoes.com.

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Gotham Casts Dexter Star David Zayas

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Salvatore Maroni, the character who (at least in most story continuities) was ultimately responsible for creating Two-Face by throwing acid into Harvey Dent’s face, has been cast in Fox’s Gotham.

David Zayas, best known for his role as Angel Batista in Dexter, will play Maroni in a recurring role on the series. Maroni’s arch rival will be another gangster Batman fans are familiar with, Carmine Falcone (played by John Doman).

The Maroni character was also featured in 2008′s The Dark Knight, played by Eric Roberts.

Gotham premieres this fall on Fox.

Source: Newsarama

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TNA’s TV Woes, Selling SummerSlam and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not at all happy to hear TNA is allegedly getting the boot from Spike TV this fall. That company may now finds itself in the very scary position of having to find itself another network in time, or risk going belly up.

People can crack all the jokes they want about the creative at TNA. But the fact is, the number 2 wrestling company in the United States could be in a potentially devastating position. If this turns out to be true, it could be terrible news for wrestling fans, and it’s especially bad news for wrestlers looking for work, experience, and mainstream exposure.

To my knowledge, nothing has been officially announced yet, so I’m going to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions. But here’s hoping that if TNA is indeed leaving Spike TV, another network will pick Impact Wrestling up. The show, after all, continues to draw in the ballpark of a million viewers every week.

Thoughts From Raw:

John Cena and Paul Heyman open the show with a verbal confrontation. I loved the “Biggest Fight of the Summer” promo WWE produced for Lesnar vs. Cena at Summerslam, and the opening segment between Cena and Heyman was an awesome way to follow it up. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When John Cena has a topic he can sink his teeth into, and he doesn’t have to pander or blatantly promote anything, he can be awesome on the mic. We saw that from him this week, and it’s no coincidence that a mic master like Paul Heyman was the one to bring it out of him.

I’m of the mindset that we don’t need to see Brock Lesnar again until the Raw before Summerslam. Let Cena and Heyman carry it, and build to a mini-confrontation between Brock and Cena on the go-home Raw.

John Cena def. Cesaro. Any time these two are in the ring, it’s essentially a giant test of strength. And hey, that’s a good thing. As unlikely as it may be considering their different backgrounds, Cena and Cesaro seem made for each other. This match also showed us Cesaro and Heyman may not have completely severed ties…

Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella close the show with an in-ring brawl. I’m not a fan of either Brie or Nikki Bella. But I will say this: When was the last time a diva segment closed Raw? You’ve probably got to go back to the days of Trish Stratus and Lita to answer that one. Granted, Stephanie isn’t a wrestler, per se. But still, it placed an added emphasis on women’s wrestling that hasn’t been seen in WWE in quite some time. And to her credit, Brie’s acting has gotten a little bit better. Though that “You deserve to go to hell!” line was a bit much.

Has it really been over a decade since Stephanie wrestled? It doesn’t seem that way. The two Stephanie matches that immediately come to mind are her bout with Trish from February 2001, and her match with Vince from fall 2003. I have no doubt she’s as capable as ever. Lord knows she’s as muscled as we’ve ever seen her, and is probably much stronger. I doubt this will be a beautifully coordinated masterpiece of a match, considering Brie isn’t exactly Shawn Michaels. But then again, neither was Trish when Steph wrestled her. So who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us.

Randy Orton and Kane brutalize Roman Reigns. I like the idea of a Reigns/Orton match at Summerslam. Distancing Orton from the WWE Title picture for a bit will be good for him, in my opinion. He’s done just fine in his role as The Authority’s chosen one. But let’s have him help elevate Roman Reigns, and possibly Dean Ambrose, before we put that bright a spotlight back on him.

Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins went to a no contest when The Wyatt Family interfered. I was really enjoying Jericho’s work with Rollins before the Wyatts got involved. I believe one of the announcers called Rollins “cat-like.” Corny as it sounds, it’s true. From an in-ring standpoint, there’s nobody else on the roster quite like him. That can only work in his favor as time goes on.

R-Truth def. Bo Dallas, ending his undefeated streak. So…R-Truth, huh? The guy with little to no discernible momentum, who’s been singing the same song since 2008, is the guy who finally pins Bo Dallas? Well that sucks. Granted, it wasn’t the most prestigious streak in wrestling history, but it could have amounted to a little more than what it did. Nothing personal, but R-Truth? Still, it allowed Bo to show off his vicious side, and that’s a plus.

Front page image from betweentheropes.com. Image 1 from tnanews.com. Images 2 and 3 from wwe.com.

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The Red Hood Lives in Batman: Arkham Knight

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Jason Todd, a.k.a. The Red Hood, may be making his debut in the “Arkhamverse” next year.

American gamers who order Batman: Arkham Knight via Gamestop will have access to exclusive character missions featuring the character, in addition to the ones already announced for Harley Quinn.

In the DC Comics Universe, The Red Hood was the criminal identity adopted by The Joker before the accident that turned him into a maniacal clown. In 2005, The Red Hood identity was taken up by Jason Todd. As a youngster Todd had succeeded Dick Grayson as Robin alongside Batman, but was tragically murdered by The Joker. When he returned from the dead, he took up his killer’s former moniker.

While it’s unclear whether the “Arkhamverse” version of The Red Hood will indeed be Jason Todd, the character’s appearance is indeed vaguely similar to the costume Jason currently wears in the comics.

Source and Image: Newsarama

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Daniel Bryan Uses Chokehold to Catch Burglar

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a would-be thief found out this weekend, Daniel Bryan’s arsenal of wrestling maneuvers can be utilized both inside and outside the ring.

Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, the real life Bryan and Brianna Danielson, were returning to their home in Phoenix, Arizona late this past Thursday when they discovered two burglars attempting to break into their home using rocks.

When Danielson  gave chase, he was able to catch 22-year-old Cesar Sosa and subdue him in a rear naked choke until police arrived. The second burglar escaped.

At a subsequent news conference, Danielson said Sosa was “very tired and it literally took zero effort to take him down,” later adding he was “borderline ashamed” for taking matters into his own hands, and was happy nothing bad had happened.

Danielson would later tell WWE.com: ”We’re lucky because we had multiple neighbors calling the cops…There are a lot of people watching out for each other in this community.”

Source: The Daily MirrorWWE.com

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A Superman #33 Review – “You’ve Out-Neiled Him!”

TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 23, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For John Romita Jr’s big DC Comics debut, he and Geoff Johns have pulled an “alternate Superman” story out of their hats. At face value that’s a bit of a let down, just because we’ve seen so many of those. Hell, Scott Snyder and Jim Lee are essentially doing that in Superman Unchained. Thus, the pressure’s on our creative team to give this “The Men of Tomorrow” story a completely different feel than Snyder and Lee’s story…

Ulysses, a.k.a. Neil, was transported from Earth to an alternate dimension as an infant. His parents, two scientists at the Ulysses Research Center in Nebraska, had feared the impending destruction of Earth. Upon returning to Earth, Ulysses is shocked to discover that didn’t happen. He’s quickly taken in by Clark Kent. But getting Neil accustomed to Metropolis, and teaching him certain boundaries will prove difficult. All the while, Superman investigates what has become of the Ulysses facility, and sees what he can learn about Neil’s past.

One thing “The Men of Tomorrow” has going for it thus far that Superman Unchained doesn’t is that we haven’t seen Batman, Wonder Woman (aside from a brief phone conversation where we don’t actually see her), or the Justice League. What frustrated me about Unchained from the start was how Batman kept being unnecessarily shoe-horned into the proceedings. Hell, half of the most recent issue consists of the Batcave being destroyed in a fight between Batman and Wraith (that story’s alternate Superman). Johns and Romita haven’t done anything like that yet. They haven’t fallen victim to the “over-Baturation” trend. They’re not taking the cheap route. They’re on Superman, and they’re using Superman characters. That’s a very respectable move.

Another plus? This story is being published in the ongoing Superman series. Obviously, big name creators reinstate that sense of value to staple books like this, in contrast to some prestige format series that abruptly ends when the creative team has told their initial story. Yeah, my Superman Unchained review is going to be a bit…volatile.

As for Romita’s art, he continues to give us what we came to see: His take on Superman’s world. In this issue, he gives us Clark Kent, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, The Daily Planet building, and a bit of Lois Lane. However, in my experience every John Romita Jr. story has at least one panel that’s drawn awkwardly. This issue has such a panel, and it’s a close up shot of Neil’s face. Unbeknownst to him, Neil is about to come face to face with a huge part of his past. Before the reveal, Romita gives us the panel at left.

What is this face, exactly? Skepticism? Trying to play it cool in the face of anxiety? Boredom? Curiosity? Whatever it’s supposed to be, it took me out of the scene immediately.

From a writing standpoint, Johns makes abundantly clear that Superman is looking at Neil’s life and asking: “What if?” He uses an old photo of Jonathan and Martha Kent as a storytelling tool, although they don’t look like the people we saw in Action Comics, or even Batman/Superman. Still, the advantage Ulysses has over other “alternate Supermen” is that he’s easier to relate to. He’s human, and as such it’s that much simpler for readers to project themselves on to him. This also plays up Superman’s alienation from humans, literally and figuatively. He’ll never truly be one of them, and his parents, the two people who made him feel most at home on Earth, are gone. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how start to tell an emotionally gripping Superman story. Mind you, it’s merely a start. Lord knows we may venture off into all sorts of crazy directions at any point.

But at this point, I’m willing to trust Geoff Johns with Superman. He’s done well with the character in the past (See: Superman: Brainiac, Superman and the Legion of Superheroes), and has a firm grasp on how to write Superman as the compassionate idealist that he should be, without making him into a wuss with a cape. That’s the kind of Superman I want to see, and that’s the kind of Superman that’s worthy of a John Romita Jr. pencil.

Front page image from blastr.com. Image 1 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 2 from author’s collection.

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First Image of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman Released

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The first official image of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released this weekend at the Warner Bros. panel at Comic-Con International.

Gadot’s previous credits include Fast & FuriousFast & Furious 6Knight and Day, and Date Night. She will play Wonder Woman when the character makes her big screen debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on May 6, 2016.

Sources: Newsarama, Batman-News.com

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New Ben Affleck/Batman Image Surfaces Online

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

A new close-up image of Ben Affleck as Batman from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice surfaced online this week.

The image made its debut on the floor of Comic-Con International this week before DC Entertainment officially released it July 24.

Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice will see Affleck’s Batman cross paths with Henry Cavill’s Superman. The movies comes out May 6, 2016.

Source: Yahoo Movies

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Sony Announces The Amazing Spider-Man 3, Sinister Six Release Dates

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The near future of the Spider-Man movie franchise has officially been set by Sony.

This week, Sony announced Sinister Six will hit theaters November 11, 2016. Produced by Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach and written by Drew Goddard, it will mark the first time a Spider-Man film has been released outside the summer.

In the Marvel Universe, the original Sinister Six consisted of Doctor Octopus, Electro, Vulture, Mysterio, Sandman, and Kraven the Hunter. Various incarnations have since existed since the group’s debut in 1964.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3 will then follow in 2018.

Spidey’s most recent film venture, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, made more than $706 million worldwide.

Image from marvel.wikia.com.

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A Teen Titans #1 Review – Missed Opportunities

TITLE: Teen Titans #1
AUTHOR: Will Pfiefer
PENCILLER: Kenneth Rocafort
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 17, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Teen Titans #1 was DC’s chance to take a series that had fallen on its butt since the New 52 began, and take it in an entirely new direction. There were so many ways the company could have taken this book about teenage superheroes, and made it different than anything else they’re putting out right now. They could have taken a more light-hearted, almost cartoony approach, like Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl did with Teen Titans: Year One. They could have recruited a young adult author to take advantage of the popularity of that genre, while also getting some new eyes on the product. Heck, they could have even played up the teens’ everyday lives more than their actual superheroics.

Instead, they gave the book to the guy who wrote Amazons Attack!

Teen Titans #1 sees a mysterious supervillain hijack a bus filled with schoolgirls and go speeding through Times Square. This quickly attracts the attention of our new line up of Teen Titans: Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Raven, and Bunker. For reasons unclear, the hijacker apparently has a grudge against S.T.A.R. Labs. In any event, the Titans definitely have a new enemy. They also may have a P.R. crisis on their hands, as Bunker snaps on a civilian who nearly uses a slur against homosexuals.

Before we get into why this issue sucks, let’s talk about why Teen Titans has sucked overall since the relaunch happened…

In the New 52 canon, the team that began forming in Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth’s 2011 Teen Titans is, for whatever reason, the first and only incarnation of the group that has ever existed. While the book itself, along with books like Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batwoman, initially indicated otherwise, all such conversations have subsequently been edited out of existence. Thus, in this continuity, Tim Drake, Cassandra Sandsmark, and the other heroes from the Lobdell series are the original Teen Titans.

To put it plainly, that sucks. It robs a sense of richness and history from not only the Teen Titans series, but from characters around the DCU. Dick Grayson, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire are just a few of those effected. Hell, even if they weren’t called the Teen Titans, can’t we at least say they hung out? Can’t they have been some sort of group to set the precedent?

Secondly, the Red Robin costume. It sucked in 2011, it continued to suck through 2012 and 2013, and it still sucks in 2014. Brett Booth completely butchered any aura of coolness Tim Drake had by giving him a suit that’s way too busy and gimmicked up. The wings are idiotic, and there are way too many belts, capsules, pouches, pads, etc. This new series was the perfect chance to clean Red Robin up. But they missed the boat on that one too.

Thirdly, and most importantly, for the past few years Teen Titans has been just another superhero team book. Again, a GIANT missed opportunity. The element that makes the Teen Titans different, and what can potentially draw in a different demographic than say, Justice League, is the fact that they’re teenagers. They’re young, moody, and haven’t fully discovered who they are yet. That concept has so much fertile ground for storytelling, and that’s why it’s used so often in popular culture. The last writer to really get what Teen Titans should be about in the 21st century was DC’s very own Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns. If you look back at the first issue of his run, which began in 2003, you see heroes who are rebelling against the adults in their lives, coming to grips with what’s expected of them, and trying to find their place in the world. They were acting like teenagers. Imagine that…

We got hardly any of that in Lobdell’s series, and in this issue we have next to none of it. We have a cover that looks like a Facebook photo, because social media exists. And we have a young hero that takes exception to his sexuality being demeaned. But that’s certainly not something specific to teenagers is it? So what we end up with is just another superhero story. And not a very interesting one, because we don’t know enough about our villain, or what she (it’s a woman, apparently) intends to do.

Kenneth Rocafort isn’t the best choice to handle the pencil, either. This is especially true when it comes to Wonder Girl. Cassandra Sandsmark’s New 52 redesign essentially turned her into a Power Girl clone wearing a variation on Donna Troy’s old costume. As if that weren’t enough, Rocafort draws her without a trace of human emotion. At one point, she rips one of the kidnappers out of the speeding bus, and subsequently stands atop the bus while holding him up with one arm (shown below). She did this because she was angry he threatened to kill a young girl. But judging by her face, you’d think she was picturing herself laying on the beach or something. She seems to be there just to be the hot blonde with big boobs. What is this, The Big Bang Theory?

As for Bunker’s little outburst toward the end of the issue, I don’t have a problem with superhero comics tastefully addressing and incorporating gay issues in our culture. But I don’t have even the slightest confidence that Teen Titans can do that effectively. Yet another missed opportunity.

At the risk of sounding like a run of the mill fickle comic book geek, Teen Titans #1 gives us almost everything the series shouldn’t be. It’s business as usual. And when I open Teen Titans I’m not looking for business as usual. I’m looking for something different, something that takes on the DCU from a different angle. That’s not what this is. And unfortunately, it may be a long time before we see it again.

Front page image from dccomics.com. Image 1 from comicbook.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. 

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