Kal-el. A poem.

Sky of blue up here
Where cacophony
And constancy
Plies the airwaves
And escape is the stuff
Of fantasy
Where responsibility
Is a tribulation
Accepted righteously
The world cries
In hypocrisy
And only a refugee
Can address it
With moral consistency
Two feet on the ground
Head in the clouds

For more Poetry, click here.

poetry books - stevestillstanding

For more of my poetry, check out Poetry for the Sad, Lonely and Hopelessly Endangered and The All or the Nothing, available in print or e-book formats.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Avengers Endgame. A movie review.

Avengers Endgame has been hyped to the nth degree, and for good reason: it’s really good.

The Marvel Studios movie universe has been going for 11 years. 22 movies later, and Endgame arrives as part 2 of the Infinity War saga, and a movie that keeps most of the fans happy. I say most, because not everyone will like the way some of their favourite heroes are treated.

avengers

I loved Endgame, but not because of the huge superhero battles, convoluted time travel plots, occasional plot holes and over-hyped appearances (yep, Captain Marvel is a blink or you’ll miss her opportunity at several points. It appears the only reason she was hyped so much was to sell her solo movie, as her impact on Endgame is negligible). I loved Endgame for the emotional character moments, of which there are many. This movie delivers these in a big way, with gravitas, sensitivity and poignancy. Yes, there is a fair bit of humour (some of which falls flat), and some characters (two in particular) have been transformed into shadows of their former selves, but Endgame really delivers as a bookend to 11 years of superhero movies. Several character arcs are given very satisfying conclusions. If you’re not a wee bit teary by the last scene then you’re obviously heartless.

Avengers Endgame delivers on the hype. This is the kind of movie that makes me happy to be a superhero fan. It has massive moments, dark moments, bright moments and emotional moments, and provides satisfactory closure to the storylines of several major characters. For people only seeing a Marvel movie for the first time, it will be confusing and probably lack the emotional investment required to really experience this movie at its best, but for fans, this is the superhero piece de resistance.

Bravo Marvel Studios. I predict Avengers Endgame will get a best movie Oscar, similar to the way Return of the King won for the Lord of the Rings series. You heard it here first.

Rating: A+ (Non-fans seeing a Marvel movie for the first time: B)

 

 

Glass. A movie review.

Minor spoilers!

Glass is the sequel to Unbreakable and Split. It’s the culmination of one journey and the start of another. It’s really good, and deserves more appreciation than it’s gotten from some critics.

M. Night Shyamalan is an auteur director with a reputation for ‘twist’ endings and a distinctly uneven quality to his releases over the years. Unbreakable starred Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a man discovering superpowers and coming to terms with his true purpose, aided by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Elijah, who believed superhero comics were a mythological representation of real events and people. The film premiered in 2000 as superhero movies were making their comeback and starting to dominate screens. Unbreakable was quiet, deliberate and allegorical. And under-appreciated by critics and the box office.

Split was a more recent (2016) conventional horror/thriller which showcased James McAvoy’s wonderful range as serial killer Kevin Crumb, a man with 23 personalities who could call forth the super-powerful ‘Beast’. Whilst it could have been deeper, it took a more conventional approach and did well at the box office. And included a final reveal that it was set in the Unbreakable ‘universe’. My initial impressions of Split were lukewarm, per my review in early 2017, but this has improved somewhat on consecutive viewings.

The scene was set for a sequel to both, bringing the best elements of the two movies together and providing a fitting conclusion to a trilogy that wasn’t really a trilogy (it’s now referred to as the ‘Eastrail 177’ trilogy, in relation to events from the first movie).

Glass brings together all the major characters from the two prior films. And it does this well, affording each character reasonable screen time to establish their current status quo and motivations. The first act sees David Dunn confronting The Beast. The second act takes place in a psychiatric institution, where David, Kevin and Elijah are assessed by psychiatrist Ellie (Sarah Paulson), who attempts to convince them they are merely human. The third act is the final showdown between the protagonists, with a setup for future movies in the same universe.

Glass succeeds admirably as a sequel. On its own, however, it doesn’t have individual narrative strength—those who have seen the previous movies may appreciate it (as I did), but newbies may find themselves at a bit of a loss without the context of the previous films.

Don’t expect this to be a Marvel-style movie, just because it’s about superheroes. It’s a serious take, and it works. There’s a time and a place for mindless, humorous superhero antics, but Glass is not one of them. Glass is thought-provoking, dark and visceral. The acting, script, direction and music are top notch and show what superhero movies could be if the current mainstream gave intelligent superhero dramas a chance.

I loved Glass. I didn’t find the second act dragged. I didn’t feel any character received short shrift. I felt the movie was balanced in its storyline, and the dialogue was good, in keeping with the prequels. Shyamalan is a stylish director, who can deliver fine films when he puts his mind to it. Smaller budgets appear to have reined in his excesses, and this “franchise” looks like having feet for some time to come.

Rating: B+ (if you haven’t seen the two prior films: C)

Aquaman. A movie review.

No spoilers!

A fun, vibrant and visually spectacular superhero movie.

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is the son of a lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean queen. His half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) currently rules the hidden underwater kingdom of Atlantis and plans to bring war to the surface world. Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe) conspire against their leader to bring Arthur to Atlantis to claim his crown and bring peace. Trouble is, Arthur doesn’t want to rule.

Aquaman is a hugely bombastic superhero movie, full of wild and extravagant designs and visuals. It’s also hugely popular with audiences, so there’s not much I can say, other than its storytelling drives the narrative forward in a straightforward way that appeals to a broad base of moviegoers. It’s not deep, there’s not much in the way of character development, but it’s a fun experience, nonetheless.

I enjoyed Aquaman a lot, despite the fact I prefer more complex superhero movies. Go see it. You’ll enjoy it, too.

Rating: B

Comics: All-Time Personal Faves

I looooove comic books. I’ve been reading them since I was a kid, and in my currently bereft and almost moneyless state I don’t get as many opportunities to buy them as I used to.

A loooong time ago, I said I was going to talk about some of my favourite comic book stories. Sorry it took so long. Here they are, in no particular order.

Watchmen

Watchmen – arguably the greatest comic book story ever written, and often included in all-time best novel lists. In the 80’s, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons produced this seminal piece of adult literature that works on so many levels. If you never read any other comics, read this one. I have a first edition collected volume and a re-released hardcover, and bought the original issues when they came out. This comic book is the altar I pray at.

The Dark Knight Returns

The Dark Knight Returns – This comic sits in front of that altar. Frank Miller brought an older Batman out of retirement and made this one of the greatest and most influential comics ever created.

Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One – …and then Frank and David Mazzuchelli redefined the Dark Knight’s origin in a gritty tale that has inspired TV shows and comics everywhere. And made my altar very crowded.

Superman: Red Son

Superman: Red Son – Mark Millar made his mark on the Superman canon with this incredible Elseworlds story of a man of steel raised in Soviet Russia. The ending is one of the coolest ever.

Swamp Thing

Saga of the Swamp Thing – Alan Moore is my favourite writer. Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s 70’s Swamp Thing is my all-time fave character, but Moore’s take took it, and his career, into the stratosphere during the 80’s and brought on a flurry of astounding work, including the aforementioned Watchmen.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern – Geoff Johns is one of the most amazing creators in comics today. He has an understanding of the characters and the medium that raises the bar with every book he takes on. This is his ground-breaking run on titular character Hal Jordan.

Marvels

Marvels – Marvel’s superheroes and seminal founding events, seen through the eyes of conventional people, by Kurt Busiek and with art by the incredible Alex Ross. If you haven’t seen Mr Ross’s lifelike painted artworks, you don’t know what you’re missing. Awesome.

Justice League

JLA – Grant Morison has written some unbelievable comics, including this superb and influential run on the Justice League in the 90’s. Big moments. Big characters. Big stories. Big creativity.

Y the last man

Y: The Last Man – Brian K. Vaughn is a brilliant writer. This is a brilliant story. It also contains the saddest scene I’ve ever read in a comic. No contender.

Ex Machina

Ex Machina – Brian K. Vaughn (there’s that name again) puts the politics in superhero, with this amazing work with artist Tony Harris.

Sandman

Sandman – The work that made Neil Gaiman BIG. Yep, even before the novel writing. Eerily good. And Dave McKean does the best covers EVER. Hands down.

That’s not all of them, of course. The list goes on and on. But that’s enough, for now…

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Lazy Movie Reviews: The Predator and Venom

Yep. I love movies, but I’m over long movie reviews. Maybe you are, too?

The Predator

  • Unlikeable protagonists. The gung ho military men are caricature crazy, like everything in this franchise.
  • “Let’s make the bad guy even bigger”. What is this, Jaws?
  • The world building would be more interesting if the movie wasn’t so dumb.
  • 20th Century Fox should leave the Predator franchise alone. At least the earlier movies weren’t trying so hard.

Rating: D

Venom

  • Tom Hardy is good. Shame he’s wasted on such an unnecessary and pointless story/anti-hero.
  • So many plot holes, so little time. Sigh.
  • Decent special effects. The bike action sequence is well done. The rest? Yawn.
  • No likeable characters anywhere; the villain is one-note: “I’m rich and crazy. Oh, and now I’ve got a symbiote in me.”
  • You’ll forget this movie not long after exiting the cinema.

Rating: D+

Lazy Movie Reviews: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Teen Titans Go to the Movies’

Yeah, I’m lazy. But I just love seeing movies. Here’s a couple of reviews.

Crazy Rich Asians

• Bright and colourful Singapore setting

• Conventional story with average acting

• Much of the humour falls flat

• Some great actors wasted in minor roles

• I know this movie was considered a breakthrough for Hollywood because of its all-Asian casting and storyline, but Asia and England have been making these sorts of movies for decades, and better than this

Rating: C-

Teen Titans Go to the Movies

• A cartoon that often seems more for adults than kids

• Lots of movie parodies and references that many kids just won’t get

• Very funny at times, only the occasional fart jokes

• Gorgeous and bright animation

• Better than some of the live action superhero movies of the last few years

Rating: B

New Movie Trailers!

I’m a movie fan. More than that, I’m a HUGE superhero and monster fan, and a number of the announcements coming out of the San Diego Comic Con had me nerdgasming. Aquaman, Shazam! and Glass are superhero movies I’m really looking forward to next year. The next Harry Potter universe Fantastic Beasts movie premiered a new trailer, as well as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, sequel to the popular Godzilla movie from a few years back and set in the same universe as the Kong: Skull Island movie.

Here are the newest trailers to geek out to:

I can’t wait to see these films! In the meantime, enjoy!

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Ant-Man and the Wasp. A movie review.

No spoilers!

Marvel pumps out another enjoyable superhero sequel. Amusing but non-essential viewing.

Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-man) and Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne/Wasp) reprise their roles from Ant-man, along with Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) and motor-mouthed Michael Peña (Luis). Along for the ride this time are Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne.

Scott Lang has nearly completed two years of house arrest after the Civil War incident. He has a vision of Hank Pym’s wife, who was trapped in the subatomic quantum universe many years ago. Hank wants to bring his wife back but villainess the Ghost is slowly wasting away and wants Pym’s tech to save herself. So do some other bad guys. Time to save the day.

Ant-man and the Wasp is pretty funny, with Rudd and Peña assisting with the script (I’m assuming there were a few ad libbed jokes in some of the scenes). Unfortunately, I’m one of those dreary souls who prefers more drama—I love humour, but I like my superheroes a touch more serious. It would have been nice to let non-fans know that Evangeline Lilly’s character was Wasp. It’s never mentioned—as a comic book fan, I knew, but some casual viewers I spoke with didn’t make the connection.

Ant-man and the Wasp is an enjoyable evening’s entertainment, but it won’t leave you with the burning desire to discuss the bigger issues raised by the film afterward, because there are none. It’s fun, but ultimately disposable.

Rating: C+

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