Toronto Comicon 2019 – Legendary Comics Writer and Editor Denny O’Neil

Toronto Comicon as presented by FAN EXPO Canada has now grown to become a spectacular 3 day event!

Located in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the show will be boasting unique exhibitors, presentations, workshops, and many celebrity guests.

Toronto Comicon is owned by FAN EXPO HQ, one of the largest entertainment convention groups in North America. Collectively it hosts over 500,000 fans annually at FAN EXPO Canada, FAN EXPO Dallas, Calgary Expo, FAN EXPO Regina, MEGACON Orlando, FAN EXPO Boston, Edmonton Expo, MEGACON Tampa Bay, Dallas Fan Days, Toronto Comicon, and FAN EXPO Vancouver.

Comic fans you don’t want to miss this! Denny O’Neil is stepping into the spotlight. This comic book writer and editor worked principally for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the 1960s through the 1990s, and was Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement. His best-known works include Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman with Neal Adams, The Shadow with Michael Kaluta and The Question with Denys Cowan. As an editor, he is principally known for editing the various Batman titles.

Toronto Comicon: https://www.comicontoronto.com/

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Captain Marvel (2019) – Movie Review

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There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding the release of this movie with one side wanting it to do well to support their camp, and the other side wanting it to fail to support theirs.

I don’t care about that either way (but I will take this opportunity to be a little provocative and use an OG Captain Marvel image on this post instead of the current movie poster). I just want to be entertained by a good superhero movie which continues the story that Marvel has been telling for the last 10 years. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of the better ones. I found it to be very mediocre and forgettable. And that’s really as charitable as I can be with this movie.

Brie Larson certainly looks the part, but based upon her performance it seems like she was miscast in the role. Her time on screen is spent vacillating between looking indifferent and an unidentifiable expression, which many have attributed to smugness, for most of the movie. Personally I found it to be a bit off-putting and not only was the Carol Danvers character unlikable as a result, it also kept pushing me out of the movie by making it hard to suspend my disbelief.

Unfortunately, it goes downhill from here.

The underlying subtext of the movie is female empowerment, which is fine. Comic books are allegories, and always have been, at least when it comes to Marvel Comics. It’s one of the (many) things I love about comics, but there’s a fine line when creating these kinds of stories. They still have to be relatable and engaging, and ultimately entertaining, which is something that the comic book industry does quite well (for the most part). If you lean a little too far towards the underlying subtext then it looks a little ham-fisted and people perceive it as propaganda. And that’s what happens here; it’s so busy trying to be a feminist film that it forgets to be a superhero movie.

It’s clear that Marvel (and ultimately Disney) is trying to capitalise on the current zeitgeist, which is a bit of a departure for them. Past efforts have been focused more on telling entertaining stories which remained reasonably faithful to the source material. This movie doesn’t do that and as such has a different look and feel than its predecessors. So much so that it doesn’t really feel like a Marvel movie at all.

An unfortunate side effect of this are the changes made to existing characters, both from the source material and the MCU itself. In this movie Nick Fury doesn’t resemble the character we’ve seen over the course of his appearances in 11 of the MCU movies. His character is not bad within the context of the narrative they’re trying to support, but his actions are not congruent with what we’ve seen and know about that character. On the back of that, having him lose his eye to a cat is a disservice to the character and shows that the filmmakers don’t really have any respect for the source material or, I would argue, the fans.

It’s the casual fan base which underwrites the financial viability of these movies, not the fringe elements. When you dogmatically service these elements specifically, on one side or the other, you risk marginalizing the culture we love by forcing out this casual fan base.

Personally, I enjoyed Alita: Battle Angel much more as a female empowerment movie. These two films essentially have the same plot, but the execution of the story, of the allegory, is done more competently in Alita with characters that are more fully formed, coupled with superior performances from the actors. It’s a superior movie in every way and I recommend seeing this one instead and giving Captain Marvel a miss.

 

1 out of 5 stars

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Captain Marvel and Neurokinesis

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Nothing lasts. You think it’s going to. You think, ‘Here’s something I can hold on to,’ but it always slips away. 

Status: good. overslept a little bit this morning. not fuzzy, sinuses are clear. My mood: good, not depressed and am generally upbeat.

Writing.

Sitting here struggling to write a review on Captain Marvel. I have that sinking unproductive feeling as I’m staring blankly at the page while intermittently watching the minutes tick past, and then distracting myself with a little YT dopamine loveliness to avoid experiencing that feeling.

I can charitably define it as a hit piece, which I’ve already decided I’m going to post to a number of different review sites. But, I’m hesitating. I’m thinking that this is overly venomous and negative, and at the end of the day I don’t know what I’m going to gain from doing this. Yes, I’m disappointed that they appropriated one of my favourite characters and turned it on its ear with a foreign narrative in order to sell more product. As companies do. However, my two cents won’t change that. Maybe it’s best to concentrate on more productive endeavours.

Fitness.

I’ve been struggling with shoulder injuries for years, tearing both rotator cuffs multiple times and then making numerous mistakes in both treatment and subsequent training regimens which have then perpetuated the injury cycle. Fortunately I’ve learned a little bit along the way, and I now know what to do and what not to do, so it’s not a completely wasted exercise.

Earlier this year I started to feel a pinching in my left shoulder when I raised the elbow above shoulder level. I’m not doing any exercises which require that movement anymore; a result of the frequent injuries and the implementation of preventative measures in order to enable me to workout normally and stay healthy. But I would feel it pinching when putting on a t-shirt or applying deodorant, and while mildly alarming, I did what I normally do: ignore it. As long as I can workout then I’m good, which is not the smartest thing to do.

I finally decided that it’s been long enough and I should probably have someone take a look at it before it get’s worse. (Side note: I need to start rewarding that kind of productive self-care type behaviour.) In any case, I booked an appointment with an RMT I’ve used in the past to see if the issue could be resolved.

Calling Tim an RMT is not the best descriptor. A kinesiologist by training, he’s also certified in a number of different techniques to promote healing and alleviate pain from sports injuries. And he clearly has a passion for what he does. I booked an ART (deep tissue massage) session online, but when I arrived he suggested neurokinetic therapy instead, explaining that this will permanently solve the problem.

It is honestly a very odd treatment; a combination of light touching, functional movement and viewing cue cards with either an ‘X’ or an ‘=’ sign on it. The end result however far exceeded expectations. At the end of the session, and even now as I write this, the pain is gone and the shoulder is moving freely. Tim explained that the muscles surrounding the rotator cuff had contracted and become “locked” in place which was preventing the shoulder from rotating properly when I moved it in specific ways. The end result of which was the rotator cuff muscle would get pinched between the bones in the shoulder, thus the pinching feeling. By releasing the “locked” muscles, the shoulder was able to rotate properly and therefore was no longer pinching the rotator cuff muscle.

It’s a fkn miracle. I’m so impressed with the treatment. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I move back to the island, because I’m pretty sure they don’t have this level of (cutting edge) sports/physical therapy there.

Photography.

Finished processing the food photos from my visit to The Chase last Saturday night. Other than the desert, the food wasn’t very photogenic. Despite my poor photography skills the end results were passable, but not great. I’m beginning to suspect that I don’t have the right lens for this kind of photography, but a poor workman blames his tools, so I’ll take it as a learning experience. I’m likely not going to post these to IG as I don’t think they’re good enough, but I will put them on YT for completeness’ sake.

Nikon D3400
1/80 sec
f/3.5
18mm
ISO 1600

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – Movie Review

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The worlds of superhero movies and superhero comics are not as similar as they seem on the surface. Currently, film studios are all about the “extended universe”, seeing how many different titles and characters they can shove into one franchise (Avengers, X-Men, Justice League), making for an easy way to squeeze a few extra bucks out of their lesser known properties. Comics have this as well, of course. However, they also have something modern movies haven’t really tapped into yet: story one-offs, a chance for a storyteller to create a unique tale and not be constrained by the implications on or from the larger universe. Spider-Verse gets to do just that, while playfully taking on the fun (if convoluted) absurdity of extended superhero universes. Listen, I hear you. “How could we possibly need another Spider-Man movie?” Spider-Verse understands that question and has a take on it. Yes, Peter Parker is here. In fact, there are two Peter Parkers. There’s also a Spider-Woman, a Noir Spider-Man, an anime Spider-Girl/Robot, and a Spider-Pig. At the center though is Miles Morales, an Afro-Hispanic Brooklyn teen who must help these other Spider-People get back to their own planes of existence. He fights with his cop dad, he adores his shady uncle, hates being simply the smartest kid in the room, and just wants to do something that matters. Being Spider-Man wasn’t his idea, but hey, when a radioactive spider gives you powers, what choice do you have? Look, I don’t have any sort of hot take on this movie. It looks great, the humor pops with surprises, the voice casting is beyond perfect. It’s simply a stylishly exciting and refreshingly unique take on the superhero genre, and sometimes that’s more than enough.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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X-Men: First Class (2011) – Movie Review

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After two disappointing instalments, X-Men fans needed some heroes themselves, people who could revitalise the series and luckily, we got that with the director of the first two films and the man who was originally picked to direct X-Men: The Last Stand. The Bryan Singer/Matthew Vaughn combo was able to give the series the kick it needed, making a fun and action-packed film.

In 1962, the privileged Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has graduated from Oxford University with a PhD in Genetics and has a very close relationship with his adopted sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). On the other side of the coin is Erik Lehnsherr (the always awesome Michael Fassbender), a Holocaust surviving, hunting Nazis around the world, overall badass. Both are recruited by CIA agent Moira MacTarget (Rose Byrne) to help stop the Hellfire Club, lead by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his group of powerful mutants; Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez). As the Hellfire Club manipulates the United States and the Soviet Union towards nuclear war, Charles and Erik go on their own recruiting drive to train mutants for their team, including Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summers (Lucas Till), and Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz).

From what should have been a disaster of a film, Vaughn pulled it out of the bag and made a really fun summer blockbuster. Compared to Singer’s whose X-Men movies were dark, in both story and style, Vaughn made his X-Men film a lighter and more colourful film, with a strong mix of drama and comedy, very much like Spider-man and Iron Man. Because of the quick production time some of the CGI is a bit ropey, but Vaughn proves himself a talented director with a great visual style, from his montages that interject comic book visuals to his action scenes. Vaughn ensures that there is plenty of mutant versus mutant action and just like in the Singer films, mutants use their powers logically. Some of the comedy is predictable, but still funny and the action scenes were tense, unlike Brett Ratner’s approach in X-Men: The Last Stand who broke up action sequences with humour.

The plot itself is very similar to the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, since it comes down to an outside force trying to start a war for their own ends. Continuing with the Bond film there is a certain feel in the early part of the film with Erik’s global travelling and the scene with Moira in bra and panties, which was very much like something from a Bond or even Austin Powers movie.

X-Men: First Class is a film that focuses on characters and relationships, a strength of any good action film, or as I see it, an X-Men film with action in it. There are strong ideologies being formed with Shaw taking the place of Magneto in this world. There are also ideas about how government circles and intelligence agencies would react to the discovery of a new breed of humanity. The Nazi Scientist was very much like the Emperor in Star Wars, pretty much saying “let the anger consume you”.

What X-Men: First Class needed in order to be successful was a strong chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender, which we got. They have a yin and yang relationship as they share a goal but have two different ways about how to achieve it, yet you can still believe they are friends. Many of the supporting cast members were strong, Bacon is of course, intelligent and powerful with a sinister Southern accent and capably assisted by the beautiful January Jones. Some of the characters were sidelined, but I am sure they will be developed in the sequel.

As a fanboy, I could make a list of things the filmmakers got wrong from the comics and continuity with the first three films, but it was so well made as a stand-alone movie it doesn’t really matter. Really, it’s just as much a reboot as it is a prequel. There are also plenty of cameos that will keep fans happy. X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men film since X2: X-Men United.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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Poor Start

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Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.

Status: good. awake at 3:30am and then couldn’t get back to sleep. Drifted off just as the alarm rang, hit the snooze button and then slept for another hour and a quarter. Good grief. Need to work on recovering from poor starts like that. Was able to accomplish a few things this morning, but nothing of substance (I think), and the writing……

Writing.

Poor week for writing. Period. Because I didn’t know what to do next, I gave up yesterday and started working through the task list. Was able to tick a few boxes, but unfortunately this wasn’t one of them. And the poor start to the day today didn’t help. Need to regroup and try again. That said, I am going to set this aside and bang out a few items off the task list rather than let this hold me in place. Maybe I’ll be able to build some momentum this way.

Photography.

Finished processing all my photos from the last few weeks yesterday. I have a few good ones, others are WTF, but that’s okay. It’s all a learning experience. Will be going to The Chase on Saturday night, so good opportunity for food photos. And then will be working with a model on Sunday afternoon – two locations: street and boudoir. Curious to see how this plays out.

Did some cost analysis yesterday on buying new photography equipment here versus waiting until I arrive at the next place before purchasing it. If I wait, I’ll save almost $700, which is nothing to sneeze at and given the cost of the equipment, it’s a significant enough savings which will provide me with enough to spend on peripheral equipment like tripods and such.

Captain Marvel.

With a certain amount of trepidation, I’m going to see this movie on Saturday. Cautiously optimistic that it’ll be okay. Based upon the events in Avengers: Infinity War and what I know of the comic books (which is significant), Marvel is going to have to make some significant changes to the character’s origin, backstory and journey to get it to fit into the movie universe they’ve created. There was a bit of foreshadowing in Infinity War, which is in line with the comic, so I’m aware of one aspect likely to appear in the movie. But the rest is up for grabs. This is unlike any other Marvel movie to date, they’ll essentially be creating an almost brand-new character for the big screen, with the possibility that the only thing recognisable will be the character’s name. Everything else might be different.

Couple that with some rumblings I’m hearing about the potential political leanings of the movie and I’m not sure that I’m part of the target audience for this film. I just want to see an awesome Marvel superhero movie based on the comics I read as a kid. I have little interest in patronising someone’s self indulgent opportunity to do a little axe grinding. Which is what the filmmakers did with Black Panther.

Ok, let’s get on with it……

Nikon D3400
1/100 sec
f/3.5
18mm
ISO 100

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Movie Review

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I love time travel science fiction; however, I’m wary of sequels based in traveling to the past in order to wash away problems created in previous films. The storytellers need to have a strong sense of purpose, some stylish originality, and a good amount of self-awareness in order to pull it off (think Abrams brilliant “Star Trek” reboot). Luckily, Singer has nailed it with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Granted, it teeters on convolution and an over-abundance of comic-lore, but the story plays out gracefully and the characters are a blast. Add impeccable sound design and some top-notch sci-fi action, X-Men:DOFP is a tight and fun superhero romp. X-Men:DOFP follows Wolverine, sent to the past by old Magneto and Professor X to meet up with young Magneto, Professor X and other X-Men in the 1970s, in order to stop an event that sets a course for world war which destroys all mutants and much of civilization itself. Confused? Don’t worry, the Inception-like levels of plot are better focused within the film, and the emphasis is more on the socio-political themes of the first two X-Men: equality, weaponry, freedom. On top of this, the period pieces look outstanding, and the performances are great, especially Fassbender, Dinklage, and Jackman, who is a Godsend as Wolverine. The ultimate selling point here is the action, which while a bit overly violent for its rating, is stellar, especially with some truly unique use of bullet-time slow motion. This helps us overlook the silly and unnecessary over-explanation and exposition spewing. With strong direction, impressive visuals, and taut enthusiasm, X-Men:DOFP is the best X-Men yet.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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