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Spider-Man: Homecoming Review (Spoiler Free)

Spider-Man: Homecoming review
Spider-Man climbs the Washington Monument in Columbia Pictures’ “Spider-Man: Homecoming” [Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures]

Class in session for a review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Hey, guys, Professor Bill of Comic Book University and I saw “Spider-Man: Homecoming” twice… because comic books!
Spider-Man is one of the most recognizable characters in the pop culture world. In 1992, I remember reading a “Stan’s Soapbox” where Stan Lee, whose wife just died a few days ago, discussed Marvel’s first trip to Japan in that same year. Due to the import regulations of the time, Japan never permitted a single comic book to enter within its territories nor a single cartoon to pass over its airwaves. Aside from a few travelers bringing in a comic or two, there was no previous exposure to the character.
Yet, when Stan Lee worked out a deal to bring the medium to Japan and walked down the streets with a man dressed as Spider-Man next to him, the streets were crowded with Japanese people, young and old, who were calling out for Spider-Man by name. Talk about crossing barriers!
So of course, this movie had to be good because Marvel Studios was getting behind it. Well, the film lived up to the hype.
We get to pretty much skip the origin story because none of us need to be reminded. The driving force behind this film doesn’t even revolve around the standard Spider-Man film, rather focusing on Peter Parker trying to prove himself worthy to Tony Stark to gain admission into the Avengers.
This new motivation for ol’ Web-head is a breath of fresh air to the other films in that life doesn’t necessarily ­happen­ to Spider-Man. He’s not some victim, he goes out and tries to be a hero in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Again, no spoilers, but I think that you’ll agree by the end of the film after all the smoke is clear and the surprises revealed, Spider-Man feels as though he’s actually earned his place in the world – just like in the comics.
I’m keeping this one short, guys, now use that extra time to go out and see this film.
Professor Bill
Comic Book University
Class dismissed

 

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What’s going on at the movies?

[Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the mission or views of Nerdarchy.]
WARNING: A rant on movies is forthcoming
So, with all the problems Warner Brothers has with their DC Extended Universe films, they make a better than average movie in “Wonder Woman” and then decide that their problems are cured (even though “Justice League” is a mess, “The Batman” is up in the air, and “The Flash” is like a ghost story – people are afraid of it even though there’s no proof of its existence.)
Now, these morons (I mean that with all the love and care in the respect in the world) want to start pumping three to four of these monstrosities out at us per year.

Continue reading What’s going on at the movies?

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Screenwriting Broke My Writer’s Block

Screenwriting saves the day

screenwritingI began writing fiction about thirty years ago, unless you count a couple of short novels I wrote back in fourth and sixth grades; those novels would be called fan fiction today, one being about James Bond and the other about Don Pendleton’s character The Executioner, Mack Bolan. But other than those early novels, the first real fiction I wrote was a short story called “Entering Jupiter.” I wrote that story for an astronomy class in college; the professor allowed me to do so instead of writing a paper. Continue reading Screenwriting Broke My Writer’s Block

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Blind characters not unknown in film, books, comics

On Last Monday’s “Nerdarchy: Live Chat,” the chat itself talked for more than a half hour about different kinds of blind characters. I figured I’d expand on the lore a bit more. Continue reading Blind characters not unknown in film, books, comics

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Blast from the Past: My favorite episodes of the original Star Trek

Amazon Studios
Star Trek Kirk Enterprise
Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the television program Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like a lot of kids who grew up in the 1970s, I watched a lot of Star Trek. I’m talking the original series here. This was when the notion of a Star Trek movie was just a dream, and the very idea of another television show (let alone a half dozen) was beyond imagination. But then Star Wars happened in 1977 and all things science fiction were suddenly cool.

Still, I can never forget those episodes, the ones I watched in re-runs late at night. To this day a number of them stick with me quite well. Below are my five favorites. Some minor spoilers are likely. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Balance of Terror

This might be my favorite episode from the original series. It involve the ship and crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise becoming embroiled in a deep-space battle with a Romulan Bird of Prey battleship. The story unfolds like that of a naval battle, with each side trying different maneuvers and tactics against the other. One of the most intense episodes ever.

Arena

This is another of my favorites. Captain Kirk and crew go into battle against an alien race known as the Gorn only to have the Metrons, a seemingly omnipotent race, force Kirk and the Gorn captain to fight one another in single combat, the winner being allowed to live while the loser and his crew to be destroyed.

Miri

In this episode, crew members of the starship Enterprise teleport down to a planet that looks exactly like Earth. Once down on the planet, the crew soon discovers a disease has wiped out all the adults, but leaves children unscathed. What’s worse, the disease still lingers in the atmosphere and the Enterprise crew and the oldest of the children are beginning to be affected.

The Squire of Gothos

English: Logo from the television program Star...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always thought this was one of the most fun Star Trek episodes, while still having a message to it in the end. A near-godlike being who calls himself the Squire of Gothos takes it upon himself to entertain Captain Kirk and some of the Enterprise crew on the planet Gothos, apparently a planet of the Squire’s own making. But the entertainment quickly turns to imprisonment and eventually Kirk finds himself having to physically confront a being who can do just about anything. What to do? What to do?

The City on the Edge of Forever

For many fans, this is considered the best episode ever of Star Trek. Entertainment Weekly and IGN.com have it listed as the first of the ten-best episodes. The plot involves Captain Kirk and a handful of his crew traveling back in time through the powers of the Guardians of Forever only to find themselves in 1930s New York City. Kirk falls in love with a peace activist, Edith Keeler, and then learns Edith will be killed in an auto accident. The captain wants desperately to save the love of his life, but it is revealed that if Edith is not allowed to die then Nazi Germany will conquer the world. What can Kirk do? Watch and find out. And yes, I have to agree this is one of the best episodes ever.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review

Guardians of the GalaxyHey, guys, Professor Bill of Comic Book University, and what kind of professor of comics would I be if I didn’t see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 (GotGv2)? Here are my thoughts. Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review

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World Building in Dune

DuneHey guys, Professor Bill of Comic Book University here, and I really want to thank everyone who commented and contributed to my last two articles. That says a lot about your love for the Open Legend content and the campaign.

This week I just want to chillax a little and talk about Dune, my hands down favorite sci-fi story ever. Continue reading World Building in Dune

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The Punisher gets a 2017 release date

Punisher

Punisher
Curtis Hoyle

It has been announced that The Punisher Netflix series Season One will premiere sometime this year.

This announcement comes directly from Marvel as they announced four new cast members for the first season. Continue reading The Punisher gets a 2017 release date

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First Impressions of ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ movie

Underworld : Blood WarsIf you’re a fan of the Underworld series, you won’t be disappointed. It hasn’t changed at all over the past 14 years, and hasn’t bothered to modernize in any way since its last sequel 5 years ago. For those expecting more, there is a small glimmer of hope  Blood Wars may not be a standalone movie. I think it’s a transition into a new direction. It wasn’t a predominant feature of the film, which largely hit all of the exact same notes as the previous installments, including the increase of power levels not too dissimilar to the Resident Evil movies, or Dragon Ball Z. That being said, the introduction of new elements to the world may be the precursor of things to come. I, for one, welcome these changes. I was never a fan of the overboard Goth/Hot Topic aesthetic, nor of the ham-fisted melodrama, but I always enjoyed the premise.

Continue reading First Impressions of ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ movie

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First Impressions of ‘A Monster Calls’ movie

A Monster CallsI’ve never read A Monster Calls, but if the traditional ratio of quality from books to movies is any indication, the film has inspired me to pick up the children’s book. For those who never read the book, I won’t spoil it. Having come fresh eyed from the film, I felt the journey was easily the most important Continue reading First Impressions of ‘A Monster Calls’ movie

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Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie (Peter Hooten)

blast from the past dr. Strange movie
Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange in 1978.

Everybody knows Marvel is releasing a Dr. Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch next month, but did you know there was a Dr. Strange movie for television way back in 1978? It’s true.

Peter Hooten starred as Dr. Strange, looking more than a little like Gabe Kaplan in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter. Also, Hooten’s costume was more than a little goofy looking, at one point sporting a giant star and at another showing ancient Egyptian iconography, but it was the 1970s, so what could you expect? Just don’t get me started on that faux silky cape.

Originally appearing on CBS from 8 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, the TV movie served as a pilot for a show which never appeared. Keep in mind this was during the height of fame for The Incredible Hulk show and The Amazing Spider-Man TV series, with two Captain America made-for-TV movies coming in 1979, so there were high expectations for Dr. Strange.

Unfortunately, despite Stan Lee acting as a consultant, the Dr. Strange pilot did not get picked up for a regular television series.

blast from the past dr. Strange movie
Would you trust a man dressed like this to perform magic?

The plot for the show was rather complicated and rambling, sometimes making little sense, but again, this was the ’70s. To keep it short, the evil enchantress Morgan LeFey (played by Jessica Walters) seeks to gain ultimate power by slaying the Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Lindmer, or his apprentice. LeFey possesses one Clea Lake into making an attempt on Lindmer’s life, but the sorcerer pulls through. Meanwhile, Clea is put under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange investigates Clea’s case and eventually stumbles upon the fact that he is the apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme though his memory has been wiped in order to protect him. The plot is more complex than that, much more, but I would prefer not to give anything away in case you, the reader, manages to find a copy of this TV movie on VHS or DVD, or maybe you can find it online somewhere.

I will warn, however, that you won’t find a lot of magical goings-on in the show. Much of the screen time is filled with Dr. Strange actually performing his tasks as a doctor within a hospital, though here and there a little odd magic makes an appearance.

Despite the goofiness, the TV version of Dr. Strange does have a certain campy charm to it. It’s filled with the expected 1970s overacting and dramatic moments loaded with gangly music, but that in itself can be quite charming, at least from a nostalgic point of view if not from an it’s-so-bad-it’s-good point of view. Whatever your own opinion, this TV movie does still have its own small following to this day.

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie

And by the way, yes, the show was known as Dr. Strange, not Doctor Strange. Stay Nerdy!

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV movie
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Blast from the Past: Big Trouble in Little China

blast from the past
Jack Burton, center, has plenty of pals backing him up as he prepares to face down the evils of Lo Pan. And remember, if they’re not back by dawn, call the president.

This month 30 years ago, a movie decades ahead of its time came out in theaters. I am talking about Big Trouble in Little China, directed by John Carpenter.

At the time, Carpenter was perhaps at the top of his game. He was coming off a streak of what in an earlier age could have been labeled B action or horror movies, but ones that filled audience seats and even brought along some of the critics. Movies like Halloween, The Thing, and Escape from New York, these and others had thrilled movie-goers for nearly a decade at that point.

Unfortunately, Big Trouble in Little China at the time seemed to be a stretch beyond what movie audiences were willing to accept as viable entertainment. The theaters weren’t exactly packed for this film. However, with the birth of at-home video, first with the VCR and later with digital, Big Trouble in Little China found something of a cult following, one that has grown over the years until this movie practically has become a legend.

And why not? Featuring Kurt Russell at his finest and funniest, this film offers some of the wittiest dialogue to hit the big screen during the 1980s. There’s also plenty of action and fantasy to keep the story moving, as well as more than a touch of cheese that easily brings a smile to one’s lips.

big trouble in little china
Lo Pan in all his finest glory. Indeed!

In case you’ve not seen the movie, here’s a brief, hopefully spoiler-free synopsis: Kurt Russell is Jack Burton, a truck driver who pays a visit to an old friend, Wang Chi, portrayed by Dennis Dun. Soon after the two meet up, Chi’s girlfriend is kidnapped and our pair of heroes go on a search for her in the seedier parts of Chinatown. Matters take a turn for the worse when Burton’s big rig, the Porkchop Express, is left behind during a gang battle in the middle of the streets, a gang battle in which first appears mystical wizard Lo Pan and The Three Storms, warriors of a sort with strong magical abilities. Burton and Chi then regroup at Chi’s restaurant, and there they gather with others in hopes of finding out what has happened to Chi’s girlfriend. Along the way our heroes receive some help from Egg Shen, played by Victor Wong, who at first seems little more than a dabbler, a hedge wizard, but in truth has more than a little power of his own. Also helping are Gracie Law, Burton’s sort-of love interest as played by Kim Cattrall (way before her Sex and the City days), and Eddie Lee, a friend of Chi’s who is played by Donald Li. One thing leads to another (yes, I’m skipping a lot here) and Burton and Chi lead a small army into the heart of evil wizard Lo Pan’s hideout, with Lo Pan acted by James Hong.

I’ll stop there. Anything more and I’d be giving too much away.

kurt russel big trouble in little china
Burton and Gracie Law eye some big trouble. Almost looks like they’re rubbing up against one another, doesn’t it?

I will say that one of the more enjoyable and humorous aspects of the movie is trying to determine between Burton and Chi who the actual hero is and who is the sidekick, because they are set up in such a fashion. The movie kind of sets it up for Jack Burton to be the hero, but he’s often quite ineffective while Wang Chi gets things done. When Burton is successful at something, it usually comes off as being more by accident than anything. Still, Burton has the swagger of a traditional cinema hero, and Kurt Russell plays the part to the hilt with gusto a great one-liners.

I was fortunate enough to see Big Trouble in Little China when it hit theaters in 1986, but I was only 16 at the time and didn’t fully appreciate it, though at the time I did think it an enjoyable enough movie. I’m not saying a 16 year old wouldn’t “get it,” but that the 16-year-old version of myself didn’t get it. The humor wasn’t exactly over my head, as the laughs mostly aren’t of the cerebral sort, but there was enough nuance and cleverness that I didn’t quite pick up on everything.

Fortunately I saw the movie several more times over the decades, usually on VCR though occasionally it would run on a movie channel. I fully came to love Big Trouble in Little China about the time I hit 30, so maybe by then I was grown up enough to appreciate the humor. Since then I have watched the film numerous more times, and each time fills me with excitement and downright giddiness.

Yes, I wrote “giddiness.” That’s just how funny some of the dialogue is.

Such as, “When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if you paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ole Jack Burton always says at a time like that: ‘Have ya paid your dues, Jack?’ ‘Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.'”

Apparently I’m not the only one to love this film, as its popularity has endured even beyond the movie business.

blast from the past kurt russel
Issue No. 6 of the Big Trouble in Little China comic book from BOOM! Studios. Each issue is better than having a six-demon bag!

For the last couple of years, publisher BOOM! Studios has been putting out a Big Trouble in Little China comic book, and recently the company announced it would release a special crossover comic bringing together Jack Burton and another John Carpenter protagonist, Snake Plissken from the famed Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. movies.

On top of that, BOOM! Studios has announced plans to introduce a tabletop game of Big Trouble in Little China. Not much information is available about this game as of yet, but it sounds as if it will be more of a traditional board game than a role-playing game, but we’ll all have to wait and see. Look for it in 2017.

Also, last year the company Funko began to put out action figures and Pop! vinyl figures based upon Big Trouble in Little China.

So, it seems this movie just won’t die. There are even rumors actor Dwayne Johnson (aka. The Rock) is working to develop a remake, and with Hollywood’s love of remakes this seems a sure bet at some point.

If you’ve not seen this movie, I highly suggest it. If you’re a role-playing gamer (which you are since you’re on the Nerdarchy site, right?), then you could do far, far worse for picking up campaign and character ideas. For that matter, you might even come away from Big Trouble in Little China thinking it seems something like the madness of a typical tabletop RPG session.

Now, go watch this movie!

And like Jack Burton always says, “It’s all in the reflexes,” and Stay Nerdy!

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Blast from the Past: Transformers: The Movie

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The Transformers in all their heroic glory. Oh, how soon the mighty would fall.

With the live-action Transformers movies of the last decade, it can be easy for some fans to forget the franchise was originally a cartoon series back in the 1980s, a series based upon a line of toys produced by Hasbro. Also, some fans might be too young to know about the old cartoons, and they might have missed the spectacle that was Transformers: The Movie from 1986.

When the movie hit theaters, the TV cartoon already had been running strong for a couple of years along with a comic book series from Marvel. Autobot characters like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Jazz had become fan favorites while everyone loved to hate the evil Decepticons, such as Megatron, Thundercracker and Soundwave.

Most of the fans were young at the time, and soon many of them came to trust the world of and the storytelling about the Transformers.

Which was why more than a few fans were surprised by the events that took place in the 1986 movie.

megatron
This is Megatron. You can probably tell he’s a bad guy.

Transformers died. No, they were killed, out-and-out murdered. This film was a no-holds-barred match between the Autobots and the Decipticons, and both sides paid a heavy price. The nice little television cartoon about robots wanting to protect the world and save the universe had become something of a bloodbath on the big screen.

There was some little outcry, but this was a decade or so before the Internet and it wasn’t as easy to voice one’s opinion publicly, let alone stir up any serious outrage. So, viewers made their opinion known the old-fashioned way. They voted with their wallets.

The Transformers movie pretty much tanked in the theaters. According to author Stephen Kline’s 1993 book Out of the Garden, about marketing to young people, Hasbro lost more than $10 million between The Transformers film and a My Little Pony movie.

Things didn’t look good for Hasbro, or the Transformers.

Apparently Hasbro had wanted many of the Transformers killed off in the movie so the company could bring out a new toy line of the robot warriors. Even the famous Optimus Prime was killed off, though Hasbro eventually brought him back in the animated TV show.

planet
That really big ball is Unicron. He’s a giant robot that can change himself into a planet. So that he can eat other planets. Gulp.

Still, several decades later, Transformers: The Movie has something of a fan following. Though one might argue the artistic worth or entertainment value of The Transformers in general, or individual Transformers projects, there can be little doubt that these robot protectors continue to hold popularity. Every few years there’s a new live-action film or animated special. Despite Hasbro’s best attempts in the 1986 movie, The Transformers just won’t die.

Nowadays Autobots and Decepticons alike are killed off time and time again, only to rise once more at a later date, but all the butchery started with a movie back in the ’80s.

But the next time you watch some Transformer action on the tube, the big screen, or the computer monitor, remember to Stay Nerdy!

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Gaming like a box of chocolates: D&Dizing Forrest Gump

Gump running
Run, Forrest, run! The Mobile Feat in action.

Yes, this week I’m doing something silly. The idea occurred to me during a recent road trip. Behind the wheel of a car for hours on end, I had to have something to think about, and a Fifth Edition D&D version of Forrest Gump came to mind. Once I started thinking about it, Gump has a lot more talents than I initially thought.

And to be clear, all references are to the movie version of Forrest Gump, as I’ve not read the books the character is based upon.

I’ll provide some explanations below, but first, his stats:

Forrest Gump — D&D style

Continue reading Gaming like a box of chocolates: D&Dizing Forrest Gump

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New Dungeons & Dragons Movie| Musings on Wizards of the Coast Sins of the Past

dnd5e2, new dungeons & dragons movie, fantasy, rpg, Wizards of the Coast
Will The New D&D Movie Be A Critical Success?

 

In true geek culture fashion, I’m going to get heated about not real things that don’t really matter and quite possibly use some salty language (read assuredly):  you have been warned.  In preparation for writing about the upcoming new Dungeons & Dragons movie, I watched a YouTube clip of the “Top 20 Embarassing Dungeons & Dragons Moments”, a collection of clips from the prior two D&D movies, so seething nerd rage would be fresh on my mind, fanning the flickering flames of distant nerd wrongs into an inferno.  Wizards of the Coast, this is it.
In no time in history will you ever find society more affable to geek culture, it may be a very long time before it’s  more in vogue than it is right now!  The popularity of Magic the Gathering, the fact that nearly everyone has some experience with video games and it’s no longer just the “indoor kids”, shows like The Big Bang Theory, and the level of celebrity that geek culture icons such as Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day enjoy, this is the perfect nerd storm.  This is your moment- roll a natural 20 and not a critical fumble!  In short:  don’t fuck this up.
Continue reading New Dungeons & Dragons Movie| Musings on Wizards of the Coast Sins of the Past