Random Warner Bros. – Gigi

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator takes us to France for some reason to watch Gigi.

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Here’s what happens: France, 1900. Gigi is a free-spirited young woman who thinks she has no need for love. Gaston is a wealthy playboy who is bored with life, and thinks he has no need for love. See if you can guess where this is going. Also, there’s a lot of singing.

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Why it’s famous: Uh…  for collecting a pile of Oscars in 1959. Also it gave us the unendingly creepy song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.”

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Get your film degree: Everything in this movie is big. Big sets, elaborate costumes, hundreds of extras, filming in Paris with the city streets done up to look like 1900.

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Movie geekishness: I looked up the 1959 Oscars, and it wasn’t a landmark year for film, with a whole bunch of forgotten movies. Gigi’s biggest competitor appears to be Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which I’d wager is talked about more today than Gigi. South Pacific got a bunch of tech nominations, and way, way down at the bottom of the list in the Sound Recording category was the lone nomination for Vertigo. Yeesh.

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Thoughts upon this viewing: I did not enjoy Gigi. The elaborate sets and lavish costumes only serve to cover up how paper-thin the characters and plot are. This was the follow-up from the creators of My Fair Lady, and that movie does everything Gigi does, but much, much better.

Next week: A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Panda (-monium) express

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #315, we’re still in this multi-issue arc in which the new FF — Ben, Johnny, Crystal, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel — are on an impromptu tour of some of the stranger, more forgotten areas of the Marvel Universe.

At the end of the last issue, the FF hopped on a boat on the underground River of Oblivion, which teleported them to the planet Arcturus, where they ran into a villain named Master Pandemonium. Confused? This issue begins with an extended flashback meant to explain what’s happening, but only makes this all more confusing. It begins with Morbius the Living Vampire, of all people, who also once encountered the underground cat people and fled into the river. He too was teleported to Arcturus where he met a collection of freak/outsider aliens. They’d been living under the harsh rule of the evil Caretakers. The Caretakers live on Earth, so Morbius returns to Earth to kill them, leaving behind a record of his experience. Then we re-flashback to Master Pandemonium, who also fled into the same river after a fight with the West Coast Avengers and the cat people. He teleported to Arcturus and found Morbius’ record. He is taken hostage by the freak aliens. Then there’s a re-re-flashback to Pandemonium’s origin. He’s a guy who lost an arm in a car accident, and made a deal with the devil-ish Mephisto to grow a new one. But Mephisto tricked him, gave him demon-summoning powers, and scattered five parts of his soul throughout the multiverse. If Pandemonium can recover all five pieces of his soul, he gets to be human again. He wonders if part of his soul might be found on Arcturus.

We finally cut back to the present, where the FF appear in the same jail cell as Pandemonium. Everybody fights! Pandemonium demonstrates his power by summons a bunch of demons from a star-shaped hole on his chest. Pandemonium and his monsters put up a good fight until Ben, with his now Hulk-level strength, only for the freak aliens to attack. There’s more fighting, until all the freaks abruptly fall to their knees and start worshipping Ben, apparently in awe of his strength.

Pandemonium withdraws his demons, and everyone compares notes. Pandemonium offers a truce, saying he and the FF should work together to find a way back to Earth. They travel out to a series of trenches in the planet’s wilderness. (Weren’t they just in jail? I guess the freaks let them go now that they love Ben.) Johnny flies around, investigating the trenches. This catches the attention of someone watching from a distance, whose identity we don’t yet see. Just as our heroes theorize that the trenches are ancient landing platforms for spaceships, a spaceship lands one, right in front of them. Out steps Comet Man, who is actually two men.

Okay, who is this? The Comet Men are space cops, in the Green Lantern/Nova Corps vein. The main character is Dr. Stephen Beckley of Earth, who became a Comet Man after almost being killed by his psycho half-brother. The other Comet Man is Max, an alien from the planet Fortisque who keeps trying and failing to speak in Earth lingo. Ben met Beckley in the Comet Man miniseries, and they’re pals.

The FF assume Comet Man can take them back to Earth, but Beckley refuses, suddenly becoming angry. He says he can’t go back to face his brother until his training is complete. They argue about this for a while, until Max says he’ll help. Max kicks a rock (?) and everyone is teleported to a snow-covered landscape, which Max says is Earth.

To be continued!

Clobberin’ time: Ben remarks that if could get home from Battleworld after the Secret Wars, then the team should have no problem getting home from Arcturus. This also has him reflecting how Sharon used to look just like Battleworld’s barbarian swordswoman Tariana.

Flame on: Johnny continues to show some renewed attraction to Crystal. He thinks about how her FF costume “really fits her.” I wish I could say he means this in the way that her courage and heroism makes worthy of the FF uniform, but no. The way it’s drawn, he’s just checking out her butt.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal uses her elemental powers to cancel a lot of Pandemonium’s demons. She uses water to fight fire-type demons and fire to fight water-types. She should play Pokemon.

Sharon is also confident in the team’s ability to get back to Earth, saying the FF survives on pure spirit as much as it ever deed on Reed Richard’s brain power. She continues to be in good spirits, saying she wanted to go on a grand FF adventure, and that’s what she’s getting — demon fights and all.

Commercial break: This book was the first appearance of Drizzt Do’Urden. All these years later, I still don’t know how pronounce the name Drizzt Do’Urden.

Trivia time: The Morbius storyline took place in Fear #20-23, which went much farther in exploring life on planet Arcturus, with a plot involving those underground cat people, some wizards, genetic engineering, and androids. Those issues never revealed how Morbius made it back to Earth, hence the continuity-fixing explanation in this one. (This week, I’m learning way more about underground cat people and planet Arcturus then I ever would’ve thought.)

I guess I should also talk about Comet Man. The miniseries was co-created and co-written by actors Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer. Many have suspected that this was a stealth movie pitch, which would’ve starred Mumy as Beckley and Ferrer as Max. The characters later returned for a second run in Marvel Comics Presents and had cameos in Peter David’s Captain Marvel and Civil War: Battle Damage Report.

Fantastic or frightful? Stories like these that attempt to “tie together” or “clean up” comic continuity rarely work for me. Too often writers are too caught up in continuity that they forget the basics of plot, character, etc. This issue, and this story arc, is a parade of “here’s this obscure thing from Marvel history” without doing anything with those obscure things.

Next week: So savage.

****

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: Fellowship of the Ring

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator has big ol’ hairy hobbit feet for The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.

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Here’s what happens: In the fantasy world of Middle Earth, the One Ring is the most powerful item of all. The Dark Lord Sauron is returning from the dead (or something) and his armies are on the march. The ring, however, has ended up in the hands of a lowly hobbit, Frodo. Now, Frodo and a group of friends and warriors must take the ring across country in hopes of eventually destroying it.

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Why it’s famous: For years, everyone in Hollywood considered Tolkien’s three brick-sized novels to be unfilmable, until Peter Jackson and his team took them on like madmen, with an audacious plan for three three-hour movies. And they actually pulled it off!

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Get your film degree: While there is plenty of CGI, a lot of the movie was filmed practically. There are actual New Zealand landscapes instead of virtual ones, and the hobbit size differences were done with simple forced perspective instead of putting the actors in front of a greenscreen. On one of the commentaries, actor Elijah Wood said it felt more like being on the set of a student film rather than a big blockbuster.

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Movie geekishness: A lot of fantasy adventure stories are about a group of heroes, each with differing personalities and skill sets, on the quest together. Tolkien’s Fellowship is really the one that gave birth to that, or at least popularized it. Seeing all nine members of the fellowship interacting with each other and fighting alongside each other are my favorite parts of both the book and movie series.

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Thoughts upon this viewing: Like I said before, I remain a big fan of the LOTR movies. Everyone, from the director to the writers to the crew and especially the actors, are all on the same page right from the get-go. This makes a strong start to keep us invested for the next six hours of this thing.

Next week: Viva la France!

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Belasco sauce

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Who doesn’t love a good “hidden underground kingdom” adventure story?  In issue #314, the new FF — Ben, Johnny, Crystal, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel — find not one but multiple hidden underground kingdoms!

The issue picks up right where the last one left off, with the FF in an underground cavern, surrounded by the Mole Man’s Subterraneans, after failing to reach the Mole Man. After two pages of our heroes discussing the battle of the sexes (?), Ben decides to take the team on a tour of the Mole Man’s former kingdom… just for fun! There’s a little bit of talk about the FF being like astronauts, exploring an unseen world, and with that, they’re off.

After walking through some caves, the team finds themselves in an entirely different cave, discovering that the underground kingdom is full of teleportation portals (Cordelia: “There are portals now?”) which explains how the Mole Man and his people get around without a lot of vehicles.

In New York, Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) is meeting with art critic, Frederick, and they’re both shocked to discover the sky above NYC filled with flames. Similarly, the FF come across an underground “firefall” which I guess is supposed to be like a waterfall but with fire. Johnny flies off to check it out, while Ben and Sharon have a heart-to-heart. Ben says that he never had someone he could relate to like he can with her, thanks to her transformation. “Ya really are still beautiful ta me!” he says.

Their moment is broken up when Johnny returns and notices Crystal is missing. Everyone assumes she went through another one of the teleportation portals. Sharon finds a hidden tunnel, leading to a huge underground castle. Johnny’s flame doesn’t work on the castle walls, leading him to deduce that the castle is magick (with a K!). Ben and Sharon use their awesome strength to bust into the place. Our heroes inside and find Crystal held captive by the demon Belasco.

Who is Belasco? He was originally a Ka-Zar villain, a one-armed demon always trying to seduce Ka-Zar’s ladyfriend Shanna. He later became a major player in the X-Men comics, by always trying to seduce Illyana Rasputin of the New Mutants. (Dude, she’s too young for you.) Now, as the FF confront him, he says he’s over Shanna and Illyana, and he plans to make Crystal his bride. A fight breaks out, in which Belasco transforms Johnny into a pig (!) before Sharon punches him out. This turns Johnny human again, with a “No more bacon!” wisecrack. The FF escape, seeing fireballs in the air not created by Johnny.

Johnny flies ahead, and then leads the team through some more portals until they run into yet another underground city. This one is the kingdom of the cat people, who Ben met during his short time with West Coast Avengers (or, as he calls them in this issue, the “Whackers”) when they were searching for a cure for Tigra. Ben assumes the cat people are still his friends, but they attack the FF on site. Then Belasco reappears, announcing that he is one of the sorcerers who created the cat people, and their loyalty is to him. Another fight is about to break out, but it’s interrupted one more burst of flame in the sky. We learn these fires are from a scene in Strange Tales #14, where Dr. Strange was battling Shuma-Gorath for the fate of the Earth. Belasco knows this somehow, and says he has to stop Strange and Shuma-Gorath, or else their battle will collapse all the nether-realms.

The FF escape down an underground river, which just happens to be right there, on a boat that also just happens to be right there. They think they’ve gotten away, but no. This is the “River of Oblivion” and it teleports them again, complete with a “teleportation” sound effect. They end up at the feet of Master Pandemonium, another demonic Marvel villain, who welcomes them to the “the fourth world of the star-sun Arcturus,” and tells them they will spend the rest of their lives in captivity there.

To be continued!

Clobberin’ time: Ben all but flat-out admits that he’s fallen for Sharon now. Action interrupts before she can give him an answer, though.

Flame on: Why does Johnny say that because he can’t burn something, it must be made of magick (with a K!)? We’ve seen him fly through fighter jets, instantly melting them into liquid, so maybe this isn’t too out of character.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon continues to enjoy her newfound strength, and is now not so down on her appearance, saying it’s freeing not have men ogling her. Crystal kinda/sorta agrees with her, saying all women “tire of being put on display.” The whole battle-of-the-sexes debate that starts this issue is very confusing.

The Alicia problem: Alicia/Lyja says that being married to Johnny has helped inspire her to create new art. We can take this as another sign that Lyja has truly fallen for Johnny, and is not just faking it as part of a Skrull infiltration.

Commercial break: One hundred levels!

Trivia time: The West Coast Avengers eventually did learn that the cat people were really demonic monsters, but it wasn’t until well after Ben stopped hanging out with them. (You’d think the superheroes would compare notes on stuff like this. Maybe start a newsletter.)

Why does Dr. Strange have long blond hair in this issue? That happened after he absorbed the powers of Chaos Lord Arioch to help with the fight against Shuma-Gorath. (I guess absorbing Arioch’s powers also means absorbing his hairstyle.) As for Dr. Strange’s eyepatch, he lost the eye several issues earlier in a fight against a multi-dimensional being named Ghaszaszh Nyirh. (Dr. Strange eventually healed from all this, but only after coming back from the dead.)

X-Men readers are probably wondering what Belasco is doing with an underground fortress when he’s usually seen in the otherworldly Limbo. Back in his Ka-Zar days, though, Belasco’s base of operations was indeed an underground fortress, and his henchmen were the subterranean Children of Dis.

Fantastic or Frightful? With this issue and the previous one, it looks like they simply made a list of all the underground kingdoms in the Marvel Universe, and then decided to use them all in one story. I like digging into Marvel lore as much as the next dorknoggin, but there’s just no plot here. Other than Ben’s declaration of “it’ll be fun,” we have zero reason for any of this happening. This era of FF is supposed to when it gets quirky and weird, but I’m just not feeling it.

Next week: Panda (-monium) express.

****

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. – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator checks us into the psych ward for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

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Here’s what happens: Criminal thug McMurphy is transferred from jail to the psych ward. Is he really crazy or is he faking it to get out of work detail? Either way, the outrageous McMurphy makes some attempt to befriend his fellow patients, and he clashes with the strict Nurse Ratched.

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Why it’s famous: Killer performances by Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, along with a whole cast of before-they-were famous character actors.

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Get your film degree: With the exception of the famous sailboat scene and one short scene at a swimming pool, most of the movie takes place on the same three or four sets. This gives the sense that the characters are trapped, but there’s still enough breathing room to keep the whole movie visually interesting.

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Movie geekishness: Nurse Ratched appears on a lot of “best movie villain” lists, but is she really evil, or just doing her job? I could go either way. She’s a harsh disciplinarian, but these bunch of jokers could probably use a little discipline.

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Thoughts upon this viewing: This is a good movie with good acting, yet I’m rather perplexed as to how it was such a huge blockbuster back in the day. Everyone went to see this, yet it feels like a small indie movie and not big Hollywood. I guess you never know about these things.

Next week: Something something bling something.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Underground is FUN-derground

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #313 begins a multi-part story that will see the new FF — Ben, Johnny, Crystal, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel — visiting some of weirdest, wackiest corners of the Marvel Universe. To begin, we’re heading back into the world of the Mole Man.

We begin with the new FF visiting Project Pegasus. This is a crazy sci-fi science lab where Ben had a series of adventures when he was the star of Marvel Two-in-one. They’re greeted by the lab’s new leader, Dr. Devere, an ominous man who gives Crystal the creeps. Ben explains that the FF are searching for the Mole Man, and want to check out the tunnels beneath Project Pegasus. We then get more info in a flashback, sort of. We see Ben upset about Dr. Doom placing hidden cameras inside their headquarters, and from there he makes an odd leap to try to contact the Mole Man and convince him the surface world isn’t so bad.

The FF enter the tunnels, with a lot of talk about running into lava men. Instead, they’re confronted by the Mole Man’s Subterraneans. There’s a brief fight, which ends when Johnny uses bright flame to stun the Subterraneans’ weak eyes. The Subterraneans say that the Mole Man has departed his underground kingdom, leaving them leaderless. They further say they are at the mercy of vicious lava men, and another underground tyrant, appropriately named Tyrannus.

Our heroes go deeper underground, running to Tyranoids, a tougher breed of Subterranean loyal to Tyrannus. Ben and Crystal work together to destroy the power source that fuels all the Tyranoids’ weapons, and the fight is over. They learn that the Mole Man stole a suit of armor from the Tyranoids, after which he went even deeper underground, where the heat is almost unbearable. The FF follow, with Crystal promising that she use her powers to keep the heat from overwhelming the team.

They find the Mole Man, just sitting by himself in a cavern. He’s all sad, feeling rejected by both the surface world and his own kingdom. Ben reminds him that he and Mole Man were once friends, and he offers to help. Before Mole Man can answer, the oft-mentioned lava men finally attack. Johnny fights them, but Ben and Sharon have to stick close to Crystal to be protected from the heat. During the fight, two lava men grab the Mole Man and pull him down into a pool of molten rock. (We’re told that the Mole Man’s suit protects him from this, even though his head is clearly exposed.)

Crystal uses her elemental powers to dive into the molten rock and swim down in search of the Mole Man. She fights a lava man down there, and then has to escape by expelling moisture from her mouth. This propels her out of the lava somehow. (Any scientists out there care to weigh in on this one.) She is unconscious, and Johnny heals her by drawing the heat out of her and into himself. Ben and Sharon tough it out this whole time, smoldering as the tough out the heat. Johnny seals up the molten rock pit, and our heroes leave.

The team regroups the spot where they fought the Tyranoids. (I think. It’s hard to tell) Ben grouses about the mission being a failure, and that the Mole Man’s whereabouts are still unknown. Sharon reveals that she knew Ben had an ulterior motive all along — he wanted to see if the Mole Man could turn her human again. She says she no longer wants to be human, because she’s now so strong that no man can ever hurt again. Johnny, meanwhile, stands off to the side, eyeing Crystal, thinking, “It felt so good, holding Crys again!” Uh-oh…

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s friendship with the Mole Man came from issue #296, in which Ben was a bigwig living in the Mole Man’s kingdom for a while, just before he rejoined the FF.

Flame on: During the fight, Johnny references being just like Dwight Gooden. I googled it: Gooden is a former MLB pitcher who had a 16-year career pitching for a bunch of different teams. I’ll assume the lava men are to blame for him being so sweaty on his Wikipedia page photo.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal again proves herself to be ridiculously powerful. She can swim through molten rock! That’s, like, Hulk-level action.

Speaking of rock, they’re definitely going for a superpowers-as-metaphor thing with Sharon, by having her rocky form standing in for her putting up an emotional shield around herself to deal with her PTSD. For as much as she says she’s all better now, I still have to wonder…

Commercial break: I always wanted one of these pins. They’re the highest quality jewelry cloisonné!

Trivia time: Who’s this Tyrannus guy? He’s an old-school Hulk villain, dating all the way back to the Hulk’s fifth appearance, most recently seen in Incredible Hulk #243. We even saw him briefly back in Fantastic Four issues 126-128. I suppose name-dropping him in this issue to show how both he and the Mole Man can both have giant underground kingdoms.

Fantastic or frightful? I’ve done some reading ahead, and this arc will go into some truly bizarre places. (Remember the Beyonder?) This issue, though, has a lighter, old-fashioned “let’s go an adventure” feeling to it, making it a nice change of pace from the uncomfortableness of the previous issues.

Next week: Still more underground action.

****

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. – Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator takes us back to old-timey England (sort of) for 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.

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Here’s what happens: It’s the later days of Holmes’ career as the world’s greatest detective. His friendship with Watson is tested with Watson about to be married. Meanwhile, the sinister Lord Blackwood has seemingly risen from the grave and is killing his politically powerful enemies with supernatural powers (or is he?).

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Why it’s famous: The first Sherlock Holmes movie in theaters after the excellent Without a Clue, 19 years earlier. Its depiction of Watson helped fans worldwide realize the character is not bumbling comic relief, but someone smart, capable, and even tough.

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Get your film degree: To illustrate Holmes’ deductive thought process visually, director Guy Ritchie slows down and speeds up the fight scenes at times, so we are in Holmes’ head during the precise seconds it takes for him to out-think, rather than out-fight, his opponent.

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Movie geekishness: Holmesians have long debated whether their favorite detective should or should not be labeled “action hero.” I fall in the “should” category as the original stories have numerous examples of Holmes’ excellent fighting and marksmanship skills, and him performing almost supernatural feats of strength. This movie, though, goes really far with the action hero stuff, emphasizing fights and chases, and rushing through the mystery-solving parts as quick as it can.

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Thoughts upon this viewing: The movie is a fun romp, but still not my favorite film version of Holmes. (I’m a Jeremy Brett fan.) Its inclusion in the Warner box set is an iffy decision, but there are others that are even more iffy, which we’ll get to.

Next week: Not-so-empty nest.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Mutants on parade

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #312, the team’s newest member continues to have a tough time with things. This is also part of a crossover that’s not much of crossover that we’re barely crossing over with anyway.

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The Fall of the Mutants was an epic X-Men crossover, in which the X-characters didn’t actually cross over with one another. (If I were more cynical, I might almost think that Marvel slapped a crossover logo on covers of a bunch of otherwise unrelated comics to sell more copies. Marvel wouldn’t do that, would they?) In Uncanny X-Men, the X-Men died fighting demons (there are more demons in X-Men lore than you’d think). Except they didn’t really die, and instead got a top-secret new headquarters in Australia. In New Mutants, there was a lot of sitcom-type humor as the teen heroes helped the alien-like Bird Brain explore life on Earth. The real action took place in X-Factor, where the reunited original five X-Men had their first-ever battle against Apocalypse (his first appearance) and then dropped the they’re-pretending-to-be-evil-mutant-hunters-to-secretly-rescue-mutants storyline. After saving New York from Apocalypse, the city gave X-Factor an old-timey ticker tape parade! Along the way, Incredible Hulk, Power Pack, Captain America, Daredevil, and, yes, Fantastic Four had tangential tie-in issues. All you really need to know for this FF issue is that X-Factor is getting a parade, and you’re good.

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We begin in Wakanda, where Johnny and Crystal are reunited with Ben and Sharon, learning for the first time that Sharon has been transformed into a Thing. Sharon’s still not taking it well, exclaiming that if Reed could never cure Ben, then there’ll never be a cure for her. Our heroes also catch up with Dr. Doom, who is staying in Wakanda in political asylum after he was overthrown as king of Latveria by Kristoff. The FF don’t like Doom hanging around, but Black Panther assures them that while monarchs share a certain bond, the Panther’s bond with the FF and the Avengers is even stronger.

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The Panther and the FF return to New York, and Dr. Doom tags along, claiming to have unrelated business in NYC. Then we check in with Kristoff. Remember that he’s the little kid who’s been brainwashed to think he’s Dr. Doom, and wears an adult-sized suit of armor to fool everyone into thinking he’s Doom. A servant reports that “the imposter” a.k.a. the real Dr. Doom, is on the way to New York.

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Our heroes, with Doom still in tow, arrive in New York and attend the X-Factor parade. They just barely are able to remark how the mutants have been accepted as heroes now, when the parade is attacked by soldiers on flying platforms. These are Latverian Stormtroopers, there to destroy Doom on Kristoff’s orders.

The FF, X-Factor, Black Panther, and Dr. Doom all work together to fight the Stormtroopers. During the battle, Sharon hides off to the side, freaking out about how she’s a monster now. The Beast hides out alongside her. His current subplot in X-Factor is how he loses more and more of his intelligence every time he uses his powers, so he too is afraid to fight.

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The Stormtroopers retreat, and Doom reveals why he came to New York: He wants to recruit X-Factor to help him reclaim the Latverian throne. X-Factor turns him down immediately (what on Earth made Doom think they’d want to join him?), so Doom retaliates by trapping Sharon and  Beast in an energy field shaped like a big fist (comics!). Doom escapes into the sewers, and the heroes pursue him.

Doom makes his way to a hidden elevator deep underground, which takes him straight to Reed’s sealed up laboratory inside the FF’s headquarters. Doom says he knows the way there because he has hidden cameras everywhere in New York. The heroes pursue, with Black Panther tracking Doom’s path through the sewer, and the mutants clearing debris out of his way.

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In Reed’s lab, Doom traps Sharon and Beast inside a “static cage.” Sharon says she doesn’t know how to fight back against Doom. Beast tells her to snap out of it, saying that unlike him, she has both her strength and her mind. Sharon uses her newfound Thing strength to break out of the cage. Doom fights her using a “nega-neutrino displacement diaphragm,” which looks like a big gun. Beast joins the fight, acting animalistic as he uses his powers. The rest of the heroes arrive, and Ben subdues the out-of-control Beast.

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Still in the fight, Doom grabs Crystal by the neck, saying it’s her life in exchange for his freedom. Black Panther says Doom may leave the building under his protection, but after this they’re enemies again. Doom departs, and Ben and Sharon have a heart-to-heart. She says that even though her body is horribly mutated, she still has her mind, and her honor. Sharon promises “No more moaning!” (We’ll see about that.) Then she says it’s time to get on with being the Fantastic Four.

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Clobberin’ time: In his thoughts, Ben admits feeling the same way about himself that Sharon feels about herself, but that he can’t say it out loud because he’s expected to be the team leader now.

Flame on: Although he’s present throughout the issue, Johnny does very little in this one. He admits he’s learned that not all mutants are bad people.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This debuts Sharon’s new FF uniform, the dark-blue-and-white style, featuring both a “4” and an “M” logo.

Crystal says she didn’t join X-Factor in the fight against Apocalypse, because she felt the mutants had it under control. This kind of makes her look like a jerk, but it’s consistent with her family the Inhumans, as their only desire has been to be left alone.

Here we have Dr. Doom fighting alongside the FF, but his status as an alternate member of the team isn’t mentioned, so I don’t think we can count this one.

Commercial break: This is an ad for The Pitt, the first big crossover for Marvel’s New Universe line. It was at this point that the New U stopped attempting highly realistic superhero comics, and instead became a kinda/sorta post-apocalypse-but-with-superheroes thing:

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Trivia time: The Beast started losing his intelligence after a fight with Pestilence, one of Apocalypse’s “four horsemen.” He got smart again much later, after mutating back into his blue-and-furry form.

Fantastic or frightful? What a mess. In the last issue, Sharon cried all issue then said she’s okay. Then in this issue, she cries all issue and says she’s okay at the end. It should be great to have a female superhero with a non-supermodel body type, but Sharon keeps crying about her body, which makes these comics all depressing and uncomfortable. It’s yet another example of “good idea, poor execution” that mars this era of the comic. Also, you’d be right in thinking the X-Factor appearance is little more than an extended cameo. None of this was even mentioned in their own series.

Next week: Way down in the underground.

****

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. – Superman: The Movie

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator came down from space and crash-landed in Smallville, just in time for Superman: The Movie.

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Here’s what happens: Clark Kent is Superman, last survivor of an alien world with powers and abilities far greater than human. He fights crime, romances Lois Lane, and confronts the evil-yet-comedic Lex Luthor.

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Why it’s famous: Christopher Reeve’s heartfelt performance as ol’ red boots, and the effects backing him up, bringing the classic character to life in a bigger way than ever before. You will believe a man can fly!

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Get your film degree: According to legend, director Richard Donner wanted the film to be a big action/sci-fi blockbuster, while producers the Salkinds wanted the movie to be whimsical comedy for children. The result is a movie at odds with itself, a sprawling epic one minute, and goofy slapstick the next.

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Movie geekishness: People talk about superhero movies as if they’re a relatively new phenomenon, but there’s been at least one theatrically-released movie based on a comic book superhero each year since 1978. Superman: The Movie is the one that really kicked it off.

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Thoughts upon this viewing: This one is a childhood favorite, so I can’t not enjoy it. Still, I’d argue that the big hero moments are so good that they outweigh the groan-worthy hacky jokes.

Next week: There’s no place like Holmes.

****

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. – Inception

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator selected the most recently-made move on the set, Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Here’s what happens: Cobb and his team are thieves, of a sort. Using a not-fully-defined technology, they are able to enter another person’s dreams and steal info straight from the subconscious. After getting into trouble with a rich businessman, Cobb’s crew is forced into one last job, to plant — or incept — an idea into someone else’s mind. This involves invading multiple dream levels, each one a different environment. Also, Cobb’s ex-wife Mal is lurking around in the dreams, and she’s not happy with Cobb.

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Why it’s famous: Eye-popping visual effects, and a twisty-turny plot that many found confusing. So much so, in fact, that the word “Inception” is often used on social media to describe anything weird or mind-bending.

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Get your film degree: If anything is possible in dreams (the movie says as much) then why does every dream environment look like a Christopher Nolan movie, either all golden-brown or bluish-grey? Part of that is just Nolan’s style, but I think part of it that Nolan wants everything fairly grounded so that the audience is never 100 percent certain just what is real and what is a dream. The movie’s final shot seems to agree with me.

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Movie geekishness: Inception famously ignores questions of how any of this dream-invading technology works, knowing that the audience doesn’t want to be bored with technobabble in an movie already overstuffed with exposition. What I want to know is, how widespread is this tech? Everyone acts like this dream-sharing stuff is relatively common in this world, but apparently only criminals use it?

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Thoughts upon this viewing: There’s no denying that Inception is a technical marvel, but something about it leaves me cold. I’m not sure it holds up to repeat viewings, as this time I felt impatient waiting for the next big set piece to begin.

Next week: Super duper!

****

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

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