Random Warner Bros. – Amadeus


Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator yawns during the opera, making things tough for Amadeus.

Here’s what happens: Salieri is the most respected composer in the emperor’s court, until unsophisticated young upstart Mozart shows up. Salieri is overcome with jealously over Mozart’s genius, so he plots to ruin and eventually kill Mozart, even after learning of Mozart’s troubled home life.

Why it’s famous: Huge production value combined with huge production values, brought together by Milos Foreman’s confident direction. Also, a soundtrack from Mozart himself, naturally.

Get your film degree: This Blu-ray is the director’s cut, adding 25 minutes to an already long movie. Forman claims that the material was cut because they didn’t know if the movie would be a success in the MTV era. After it did well and won tons of Oscars, Forman added the deleted material back in, with his argument being that folks like the movie, so here’s giving them more of it.

Movie geekishness: Actor Tom Hulce has the most show-offy role as Mozart, but it’s odd that he never really exploded into superstardom. His roles have been built around three bizarre points of Amadeus, Animal House, and Disney’s Hercules. The internet informs me that these days he produces and directs live theater, not bothering with Hollywood.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Amadeus sometimes has a reputation for being too long, but this time, even with the longer director’s cut, I wasn’t feeling the time. It flew by, as I was once again immersed in the characters, the world, and the music. Just great filmmaking all around.

Next week: And I…


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Fantastic Friday: Human again… again

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #327, the original four are back together (sort of) for some old-fashioned villain-punching.

Recap: Reed and Sue have paid a visit to the new FF, and they may or may not be re-joining the team full time. A brand-new Frightful Four attacked, and during the battle, Reed’s latest machine turned Ben back into a human. As this issue begins, Ben is immediately overcome with doubt, losing his strength, while the battle continues all around him. Reed, Sue, Johnny, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel fight against the new Frightful Four, made up of the Wizard, Titania, Klaw, and Hydro-Man. Johnny turns Hydro-Man into steam, Sharon and Titania bicker about ugliness versus inner beauty as they trade punches, and Franklin uses a “mind thrust” to attack the Wizard, allowing Reed to take the offensive. The FF eventually defeats the Frightful Four to the point where the Frightful Four retreats. Reed says to let them go, so the FF can regroup.

Ben asks Reed how his transformation is possible, since Reed said Ben could never be human again because of his mental block. Reed promises to do some tests to find the answer. Sharon expresses concern about how small Ben is now, and that she could potentially crush him, but Ben responds by giving her a big hug. He still loves her! Reed gets to work not on Ben’s condition, but on the building’s defenses, finding out how the Wizard got inside. Sue tells him it’s not official that he’s team leader again. He assumes he is, but she tells him nothing has been decided.

Back at the Frightful Four’s headquarters, a warehouse in Long Island, the team bickers while the Wizard gives a big speech comparing him and Reed. He says their intellects are equal, so it’s their teams that make the difference. Reed’s team is like family, and loyal to him, while the Wizard’s team is made up of hired thugs, loyal to themselves. The Wizard sees a shape fly by outside the window, and thinks he’s found someone new to hire.

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza (I still don’t like that name) Ben says he’s enjoying being human, but again reassures Sharon that he loves her no matter what her body type is. Reed says he has not only found the computer virus the Wizard used to break into the building, but he’s tracked it back to the source, locating the Frightful Four’s hideout. Ben turns leadership of the FF over to Reed, so Reed, Sue, Johnny and Sharon take off to attack the villains.

Catching the Frightful Four by surprise, the FF make short work of the baddies. Just as they’ve won the fight, an unseen force knocks them all out. The Wizard then introduces his new recruits — Dragon Man (the shape he saw flying by earlier) and Aron the Watcher (whom we know has been stalking the FF for some time).

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed punches out Klaw with metal knuckles made of Vibranium. Because Klaw is made of pure sound, Vibranium has no effect on him. Predictably, we’re not told where Reed got these things from.

Fade out: Sue says she doesn’t know if she could handle all the ups and downs Ben has gone through lately. Are we just ignoring the emotional hell she suffered during the whole “Malice” story arc?

Clobberin’ time: Ben has some clothes stashed away from the last time he turned human (not counting his time on Battleworld) and jokes about the ‘70s wide lapels on shirts. Predictably, we’re not told how these clothes survived the destruction of the original Baxter Building.

Flame on: You’d think Hydro-Man would be a good opponent for Johnny, but he doesn’t stand a chance. Johnny turns him into steam during the first fight, and then turns him into ice by drawing the heat from his body in the second fight.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Once again, the comic is ahead of its time by having Sharon be a non-conventionally beautiful hero, but then the others have to keep reassuring her that she is loved over and over. Baby steps, I guess.

Four and a half: Where did Franklin get this telekinesis-like “mind-thrust” power from? In Silver Surfer and Avengers, we saw Reed decide to encourage Franklin using his powers and exploring what all Franklin can do, rather than trying to repress those powers.

The Alicia problem: Alicia, who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise, is quick to approach Ben and touch his face. Remember that Lyja wears contacts to simulate blindness, so this is the first time she’s “seen” Ben as a human.

Commercial break: The Campbell’s kids are sooo creepy:

Trivia time: What happened with the Avengers after Reed and Sue left? Captain America established a “revolving door” team, meaning that different Avengers would and wouldn’t be on the team at any given time, sort of like the Defenders constantly-changing membership. During this time, the Avengers faced some Fantastic Four villains, Dr. Doom and Blastaar.

Fantastic or frightful? I wonder if someone at Marvel editorial demanded more action, because this issue is pretty much all fighting. I love a superhero brawl as much as anyone, but it’s better to have more of a balance between slugfest and story, something this issue lacks.

Next week: Who watches this watcher? No one!


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Random Warner Bros. – Mrs. Miniver

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator enlists to fight the good fight as we watch Mrs. Miniver.

Here’s what happens: Mrs. Miniver and her family live an idyllic life in the pastoral English country. Their lives are disrupted in numerous ways when World War II breaks out. The conflict is distant at first, but eventually lands on their doorstep.

Why it’s famous: A huge blockbuster in 1942, earning Oscars for actors Greer Garson, Teresa White, for director Walter Pidgeon, and for Best Picture.

Get your film degree: The movie occupies an interesting spot in history. When the film started production, the US was neutral. Pearl Harbor happened during filming, and the war was truly a global conflict by the time the movie hit theaters. There were constant re-writes during shooting to keep up with current events, most notably a big speech near the end.

Movie geekishness: Mrs. Miniver’s most famous scene is when a stranded enemy soldier washes up on Miniver’s property. I agree it’s the best part of the movie, with the horror of war going from a distant concept to trouble right at home.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Honestly, reading about this movie’s history was more interesting than the movie itself, which on the surface is a weepy melodrama, with the main character constantly worrying and fretting about her family. Your basic late ‘30s/early ’40s tearjerker.

Next week: Hey, where’s Falco?


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Fantastic Friday: Hitting the reset button

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Getting used to the “new” Fantastic Four? Too bad, because issue #236 hits the reset button.

After 20 or so issues of the “new” Fantastic Four, Reed and Sue are back, and we’re abruptly getting the classic team back together with little fanfare. Writer Steve Englehart alleges that readers loved his bold new direction. He further alleges that Marvel editorial re-wrote his scripts to the point where almost nothing of his original work remained.  Marvel editorial allegedly cited low sales, and readers’ fondness for the original four. I’m using “allegedly” a lot because we’ll probably never know what really happened. What we do know is that for the remainder of his run on Fantastic Four Englehart’s writing credit is replaced with the pseudonym “John Harkness.”

We begin with Reed and Sue out for a walk, with Reed admitting he isn’t happy. Despite their recent short-lived membership in the Avengers, Reed says his mind isn’t “active,” and that he wants to stay involved and engaged. Sue reminds him that he promised he wouldn’t interfere with Ben’s leadership in the new FF team. He says he won’t and that he’ll just pay the FF a friendly visit instead.

Inside FF headquarters, Reed is attacked by all the automatic defenses, the same ones he invented. He switches the defenses off, and is reunited with Ben, Johnny, and Sharon. Note that Johnny’s flame is still burning out of control since the Inferno event. Reed knows his machines need adjustments, but he doesn’t want to say so in front of Ben. Reed then says he’ll look into Johnny’s condition, all the while reassuring Ben that he’s not there to get in Ben’s way.

Cut to the FF’s old enemy the Wizard, who is spying on them from inside his new hideout, a “nondescript warehouse” in NYC. We learn the Wizard has assembled a brand-new Frightful Four, made up of him, Klaw, Titania, and Hydro-Man. Titania is a super-strong brawler, Hydro-Man is a bank-robbing thug who can turn himself into water and back, and Klaw is the master of sound, who recently regained his sanity after losing it during the first Secret War. The Wizard says now that Reed is back, it’s time for the new Frightful Four to strike.

At FF headquarters, Sue and Franklin arrive, and there are hugs all around as the family is reunited. While Reed works in the lab on Johnny’s cure, Sue and Ben have a heart-to-heart. She too says Reed isn’t there to take leadership away from Ben. Reed and Sharon have a heart-to-heart, with Reed saying how impressed he is with her.

Reed finishes a device to cure Johnny, saying part of it comes from what he learned in his recent magic-based adventure with the Silver Surfer (in Silver Surfer #15-17). Johnny is hooked up to the machine, and says he feels a freezing sensation as all the excess flame is being drawn out of him. Just as the procedure reaches a crucial point, the Frightful Four attack. (The Wizard used a computer virus to help his team gain entry.)

Everybody fights, with Reed warning them the whole time not to interrupt Johnny’s procedure. The two teams seem evenly matched, until Klaw and Titania team up against Ben, throwing him into the machine curing Johnny. The machine falls apart, and in the wreckage we see that Johnny is cured and Ben is… human again!

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed makes a big deal of how he owns a personal computer now, hooking it up to the machines in his lab. He says it’s remarkable that there’s one in every home now.

Fade out: Sue’s FF uniform is missing the “4” symbol in the chest, with just a plain white circle in its place. Not sure what we’re supposed to make of that.

Clobberin’ time: Ben says he and Titania are evenly matched, except that he has a lifetime of fighting experience she doesn’t have. (According to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Titania can lift or press 85 tons, while Ben in his spikey form can lift or press more than 100 tons.)

Flame on: Johnny is at first hesitant to accept Reed’s help, because Reed never cured Ben. It’s not until Reed says the machine is partially based on magic that Johnny comes around, because the Inferno magic is what caused his problems to begin with.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon approaches Reed on whether she is able to turn back into a human. Reed doesn’t directly answer, instead saying he’d heard she didn’t want to be human anymore.

Four and a half: Franklin says he’s going by “Frank” from now. We’ll how long that lasts.

The Alicia problem: Alicia, who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise, appears briefly, saying she’s concerned for Johnny. When the fight begins, if you look closely you can see her in the background leading Franklin to safety. That’s Lyja’s spy training in action, no doubt.

Commercial break: I dare somebody to call this number:

Trivia time: After the Secret Wars, Titania was in a relationship with Absorbing Man for quite a while. After a recent Thor story, she believes Absorbing Man is dead. She doesn’t mention him in this issue.

This is the first time Hydro-Man appeared outside of a Spider-Man comic. When we last saw him, Spidey mixed him with some cement. No word on how he got out of that, though we can probably assume the Wizard found him and helped him out.

Fantastic or frightful? Editorial meddling or not, this issue feels like a step in the right direction. It’s not just that Reed and Sue are back, it’s that the team genuinely comes across as a family again.

Next issue: Human again.


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Random Warner Bros. – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator developed a sweet tooth when it picked Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Here’s what happens: Young Charlie Bucket miraculously scores a golden ticket, allowing him a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Wonka candy factory, run by mysterious recluse Willy Wonka. Inside, the factory is truly a magical place, but also dangerous. For the bad children who join Charlie on the tour, the punishments fit their crimes.

Why it’s famous: A perfectly eccentric performance by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, dazzling fantasy visuals, a handful of memorable tunes, and an undercurrent of (possibly sinister) weirdness make this one stand out from so many other children’s movies.

Get your film degree: Willy Wonka often get grouped up alongside The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins, but look at the date. In 1971, the movie was made in the waning days of the 1960s counterculture. This gives the movie a real subversive streak, going psychedelic during the tunnel scene, and a plot in which the snobby rich kids get what’s coming to them.

Movie geekishness: Not enough good can be said about Wilder’s performance. He’s funny and playful, but also dangerous under the surface. The end reveals Willy Wonka has an ulterior motive for his big contest, which put his actions throughout the film in a new light.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Equal parts fun yet cynical, playful yet creepy, there’s really no other movie like this.

Next week: This country’s going to war!


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Fantastic Friday: I know kung fu

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #325 wraps up the storyline that’s been happening during the Inferno crossover. Johnny’s powers are out of control, Mantis wants the FF’s help to rescue her son from aliens, and Kang stranded Johnny. Now you’re all caught up.

We begin with the Silver Surfer surfing through space. At this point in Marvel history, he’s been freed of his captivity on Earth, but still visits for crossovers and whatnot. He investigates a disturbance near Mercury, where he finds Johnny floating in space. Johnny’s newly increased powers are barely keeping him alive. Johnny fills him in on what’s happened. When the Surfer learns Mantis is in involved, he grabs Johnny and speeds back to Earth.

At FF headquarters, Ben, Sharon and Mantis are preparing the FF’s spaceship for launch, for a dual mission of rescuing both Johnny and Mantis’ infant son, who had been abducted by plantlike aliens called the Cotati. The Silver Surfer arrives with Johnny, and he Mantis catch up. (They have a history, these two.) The Surfer tries to cure Johnny, but the demonic of Inferno is somehow stronger than the Power Cosmic.

Speaking of cosmic, three objects appear in the sky over New York. One is Kang’s time ship, the other is a big pyramid with the Cotati (who are big trees) in it, and the third is a small pod which Mantis says holds her long-lost son. Kang steps out of his ship and says the Cotati will let Mantis live if she agrees to their terms. She, the Surfer, and the FF refuse, so the Cotati send their followers, the Priests of Parma. They’re a bunch of kung fu fightin’ monks, so we get several pages of fighting.

The monks are able to electrocute Ben and Sharon, but they’re no match for Johnny’s new powers or Mantis’ awesome fighting skills. Kang manages to subdue the Silver Surfer with some 30th century technology, until the Surfer’s surfboard flies up behind Kang and knocks him down. (The time-traveler didn’t see that coming.)

Mantis confronts the Cotati, engaging them in a “battle with the mind,” which I guess is some sort of psychic vs. psychic fight. The Cotati are defeated, and vanish into what Mantis says “the realm of pure thought.” Knowing he’s been beaten, Kang flees into his spaceship and disappears to another time. Mantis says that in order to pursue the Cotati and get her son back, she must abandon her physical form. She kisses the Silver Surfer goodbye, and then simply drops dead! Heartbroken, the Surfer returns to space. Sharon comments on Mantis’ self-sacrifice, saying “Nobody’s ever been as alone as that one.” Bummer.

Clobberin’ time/Fantastic fifth wheel: At one point during the fight, Sharon’s heart stops when one of the monks electrocutes her. Ben uses his strength to give her super-strong CPR through her rocky hide. Perhaps this is a metaphor for their relationship, in that he’s the only the one who can “get through” to her?

Flame on: The issue ends with Johnny swearing revenge on Kang, saying that Kang will be in trouble if or when he returns.

Commercial break: I looked them up and sure enough, both of these “one-time offers” are on Youtube.

Trivia time: Although it’s barely mentioned in this issue, this wraps up the Inferno crossover. I’m going to try to summarize it here, but (as is the case with X-Men lore) it’s way too complicated. Cyclops’ second wife Madeline Pryor was revealed to be a clone of Jean Grey. We met lil’ baby Nathan Summers, who would go on to become Cable. Illyana Rasputin (a.k.a. Magik of the New Mutants) lost her demonic powers and was de-aged back to childhood. The X-Men and X-Factor teams learned of each other’s existence and stopped the demon invasion. That’s all I’ve got.

Not counting her unofficial appearances in other companies’ comics, Mantis returned to the Marvel Universe in Avengers: Celestial Quest, where her soul was restored, and she helped the Avengers save the life of her son. The son, named Quoi, decided to stay with Cotati and make a new life with them. (There was an another Avengers story where she came back as a villain married to Kang, but this was revealed to be a Space Phantom disguised as Mantis.)

Fantastic or frightful? A simplistic ending after such a long-winded set-up. We get a lot of action, and we kinda/sorta wrap up Mantis’ storyline. All that is good, but there’s not much else of substance here.

Next week: Look who’s back.


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Random Warner Bros.: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator does not simply walk into Mordor (although it kind of does) in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Here’s what happens: In part three of the LOTR trilogy, Aragorn and the other members of the fellowship rally three armies to make a last stand against the armies of Mordor, in the hopes of drawing the enemy troops away from Mount Doom, where Hobbits Frodo and Sam are headed, to destroy the ring. The creature Gollum, getting increasingly unhinged, is also headed toward Mount Doom.

Why it’s famous: After the hugely successful first two installments, everyone wondered if director Peter Jackson and his team could stick the landing. They do, concluding this epic series with some epic battles.

Get your film degree: While LOTR: ROTK is famous for the big action scenes, the movie covers a lot of ground in its character work. Aragorn learns what it means to be a king, Gandalf struggles to keep two kingdoms from falling apart, Merry and Pippin fight to prove themselves, Frodo keeps moving forward despite the ring eating away at his mind, and Sam maintains his course no matter what.

Movie geekishness: For as big as this movie is, it succeeds in a lot of little details as well. I like how Gandalf is called by the name “Mithrandir” at one point, and the filmmakers don’t stop to explain this, instead trusting the audience to understand that all the action on screen is part of an even bigger world.

Thoughts upon this viewing: I remain a big fan of the LOTR movies, and this third one’s “go big or go home” works in its favor, for a satisfying fantasy adventure filmmaking.

Next week: You can even eat the dishes.


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Fantastic Friday: Behold the planet Mercury

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #324, the Fantastic Three — Ben, Johnny, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel — are in the middle of the Inferno crossover, while also dealing with all the cosmic continuity dealing former Avenger Mantis. I’m sure this won’t be confusing at all.

To recap: Mantis (different from the one in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2) sought the FF’s help to go to space and get back her abducted child. She was then kidnapped by time-travelling villain Kang. Also, demons are attacking NYC. We begin outside the city, where Johnny survived a crash at the Mountain of the Dreaming Celestial (which is where?) and he can’t turn off his flame. Instead, he’s out of control, burning hotter and hotter. Mantis escapes from Kang, and he can’t determine where she’s gone, so he time-travels to find out, leaving behind a bomb for the FF. Johnny throws the bomb into space, remarking that he’s burning so hot that not even the vacuum of space can put out his fire.

Kang finds the future in flux, thanks to the Inferno event, so he returns to New York, finding the whole city emerged in a fiery hellscape. The FF pursue, with Johnny’s fire continuing to blaze out of control. Both heroes and villain are drawn to the same spot, where they come across this odd scene:

That’s Necrodamus, an old Defenders villain. He’s a magic user in search of eternal youth, who in this issue has added world domination to his list of wants. The Inferno event is making magic powerful all over the world, so he’s going to sacrifice Mantis to the all demons for godlike power or some such. In addition to Inferno, there’s also a rare planetary alignment about to happen (because of course there is). Necrodamus surrounds himself with an impenetrable shield, which attacks with a familiar sound effect:

Sharon says she has a plan to defeat Necrodamus, whispering it to Kang. Kang promises to subdue Johnny’s flame, and teleports himself and Johnny away. The demon N’Astirh, one of Inferno’s main villains, appears before Necrodamus. Necrodamus pledges his loyalty to N’Astirh. Kang teleports Johnny to the planet Mercury, giving Johnny a high-tech device with instructions to bury it deep within the planet’s surface. Johnny is able to do this with his flame burning so hot. The device puts the planet outside of temporal alignment, so the planetary line-up doesn’t happen. This causes Necrodamus to fade away into nothingness.

Mantis is free, and once again asks that the FF help her rescue her child. In space, Kang betrays Johnny, leaving him all alone in orbit around Mercury. Even with his newly-increased powers, Johnny is certain he can’t make the 120 million mile flight back to Earth. Unbeknownst to him, help is already on the way. The Silver Surfer is in space nearby. He can sense that something’s happened to Mercury, so he’s off to investigate.

To be continued!

Clobberin’ time: Ben promises he’ll do whatever it takes to get Johnny back to normal. Johnny points out that’s what Reed always used to say to Ben.

Flame on: Johnny says melting his way through solid rock, which he does on Mercury, gives him a splitting headache. I don’t know if this was always the case, or a side effect of his new powers.

Fantastic fifth wheel: I’m at a loss as to how taking the planet Mercury out of space and time was Sharon’s idea. It’s good that they’re giving her more to do than just swing punches, but this is a stretch.

Commercial break: Two ways to win!

Trivia time: Writer Steve Englehart is credited in this issue as “S.F.X. Englehart.” The story goes that he asked for the name change because, allegedly, he says Marvel editorial changed so much of his script that the sound effects are all that’s left of what he wrote.

This being the Marvel Universe, I was surprised to see them visit the planet Mercury and find no aliens living there. I looked it up, and yes, there are Mercurians in the MU. Nikki of the original Guardians of the Galaxy is from Mercury.

Fantastic or frightful? Here’s yet another issue that wants to be cosmic grandeur but ends up a whole lot of nothing. I’ve gone from looking forward to these posts every week to dreading them.

Next week: I know space kung fu.


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Random Warner Bros.: The Maltese Falcon

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator hits the mean streets in search of The Maltese Falcon.

Here’s what happens: Private eye Sam Spade takes what appears to be a routine job, helping a woman protect her sister. When Spade’s business partner is murdered, the trail leads to a group of criminal types in search of a long-lost treasure.

Why it’s famous: Humphrey Bogart’s standout performance as detective Sam Spade, more or less defining what we think of as the “Bogie” personality.

Get your film degree: Notice how there’s no extended character introduction scenes for Sam Spade. The movie begins when the client walks into office, and the plot is off and running with the first lines of dialogue.

Movie geekishness: Although there is the occasional punch thrown, the real “action” in the movie is in the wordplay. The thrills come from those moments when Spade outwits and out-talks his enemies.

Thoughts upon this viewing: It took me a while to get into The Maltese Falcon, as it’s more dialogue driven and less hard-boiled noir than I expected. Once I got into the movie’s vibe, however, I was totally on board. I’m guessing it’ll reward multiple rewatches in the future.

Next week: What’s a “Mithrandir,” exactly?


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Fantastic Friday: Mantis, look out!

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #323 has the Fantastic Three — Ben, Johnny, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel — encountering demonic weirdness, time travel, and one writer’s favorite character.

We’re still in the middle of the Inferno crossover, where the X-Men and X-Factor battled demons atop the Empire State Building. This caused demon-related fallout to occur all over NYC, including inanimate objects coming to life. That’s where we find the FF at the start of this issue, out on patrol on the city streets, trying to deal with all this madness. They round a corner and find Mantis fighting some living parking meters.

Note that Mantis in the comics is not the gentle alien empath you just met in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The original Mantis is Vietnamese, trained from a young age to be a great martial artist, and believed by the Kree aliens to be the “Celestial Madonna.” As such, she tends to take part in various space/cosmic Marvel stories. She has the power to control every part of her body, including autonomous functions, which makes her nearly unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat. She was briefly a member of two separate Avengers teams and she’s had romance with the Swordsman and the Silver Surfer.

It should also be noted that it was only a matter of time before Mantis showed up in this run of Fantastic Four, since writer Steven Englehart has quite a fascination with this character. Not only did he write her into almost every Marvel title he worked on, but he took her with him to other companies. When he wrote for DC, he introduced Willow (no relation to Ufgood or Rosenberg), who had come from another universe, all but flat-out saying that this was Mantis. Then, when he started his creator-owned work for Eclipse and Image, he introduced Lorelai, with her story picking up where Mantis and Willow’s left off. Lorelai even cameoed in one of Englehart’s novels. Why bring all this up? Because the next two issues are continuing an unfinished Mantis story Englehart began in Avengers.

Mantis catches the FF up to speed in a confusingly-written recap. She gave birth to a son, and her “old comrades” took the baby into space. She wants the FF’s help — specifically the FF’s spacecraft — to get the kid back. Johnny is still having trouble turning his flame off, and can only do so with much concentration. Elsewhere Aron the Watcher is still spying on our heroes, saying he needs the FF to enact his plan, while some other mysterious figure spies on him. In another elsewhere, we’re reintroduced to time-travelling supervillain Kang, who is also spying on our heroes. He wants revenge on Mantis for when she defeated him in an Avengers story.

Kang’s ship appears in New York. He attacks the FF, hitting them with a paralysis ray. He abducts Mantis and leaves a bomb behind. Ben, with the increased strength that came with his new mutation, throws the bomb into orbit, where it explodes without harming anyone. Aboard Kang’s ship, Mantis explains she no longer has her Celestial Madonna powers, but Kang says he’ll keep her trapped aboard his ship anyway.

The FF board a Fantasticar and pursue Kang’s ship. Outside of New York, Johnny’s flame is under control again. The strange figure who was spying on Aron is now secretly following the FF. Kang’s ship arrives at Diablo Mountain in front of a giant door he calls “the Door of the Dreaming Celestial.” The FF fight Diablo’s ship, not making much of a dent in its defenses. Johnny loses control of powers again, causing a huge explosion. This doesn’t damage the ship, but it sends Johnny falling off into the distance. Aboard the ship, Kang gloats about his victory, but then turns to see Mantis has disappeared.

To be continued!

Clobberin’ time: During the opening fight scene, the FF banter about their favorite New York sports teams. Ben’s team is the Mets…

Flame on: …Johnny’s team is the Jets…

Fantastic fifth wheel: …and Sharon’s team is the Giants.

Commercial break: Sequel to the Spielberg movie?

Trivia time: What else happened during Inferno? Mostly, the other Marvel heroes continued their ongoing stories, but with some added demon stuff. A brand new Avengers team formed after an awkward run of issues that had no Avengers. Daredevil got the crap beaten out of him, so he donned a badass covered-with-tattered-bandages outfit to fight back. The Power Pack kids revealed their secret identities to their parents, only for their parents to be mind-wiped and forget. (I think this happened a couple of times.) The Spider-Man books took the most advantage of the crossover, by using Inferno to turn the Lizard from a good guy back into a bad guy, and transforming the Hobgoblin (the second Hobgoblin, that is) from a guy in a goblin mask into an actual goblin.

Fantastic or frightful? This is a tough one to recap, because so much of the issue is Mantis and Kang explaining what happened in previous comics, but doing so in a way that’s so dense and overwritten it’s practically unreadable. The fight scenes have some fun bits, but other than that, ugh.

Next week: Infer-NO!


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