Ant-Man…Need I Say More?

Film - Ant-Man 01.jpg

Have you seen the new superhero Ant-Man movie yet?

(As opposed to the old Ant-Man movie…which, yeah, there wasn’t one.)

If haven’t seen the film yet, you should. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Ant-Man was the perfect example of Marvel at its best.

I was never an avid follower of Ant-Man during my comic book phase as a kid, but I had heard of him. Let’s be honest, though cute-sounding, his name doesn’t inspire visions of daring heroic feats. Rather, you think of a small guy running around, which frankly “ant” the sort of thing that ranks up there with the powers of the other Avengers. So, imagine my complete and utter surprise when I found that this film was among one of the best, most enjoyable, superhero films that I have seen in many years. I became an immediate Ant-Man fan! (By the way, I get tickled over how that sounds when you say it over and over again: Ant-Man fan, Ant-Man fan, Ant-Man fan!)

To avoid spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ll keep my comments and observations very general in nature. Maybe I’ll add a spoiler-inclusive video in my YouTube channel sometime soon for my other opinions and insights. Moving on…

Paul Rudd portrays Ant-Man.

Paul Rudd portrays Ant-Man.

Part of the enjoyment of the film is the impeccable casting of the main characters. Paul Rudd is, by far, the most wonderful selection to represent Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man. (Granted, Rudd is technically portraying the second incarnation of Ant-Man, following the original by Hank Pym, but let’s not split hairs here.) Nevertheless, I’ve been an ardent fan of Paul Rudd and his work for many, many years. He’s like the perfect “everyman” which many of you know is the type of hero reflected with Caleb, the human protagonist from my Sunset Vampire series.

Hell, I’m an everyman sort of person in real life, so what’s not to love about Paul Rudd as Ant-Man? Rudd embodies the intelligent sort of nice guy who’s trying to turn his life around and take an active role in his young daughter’s life. Oh, and the little girl who portrays his daughter Cassie in the movie, young actress Abby Ryder Fortson, is SO CUTE and adorable!

Michael Pena portrays a humorous character named Luis in the Ant-Man film.

Michael Pena portrays a humorous character named Luis in the Ant-Man film.

The added humor interjected by supporting actor, Michael Pena, adds laughs to numerous moments in the movie and providing a nice foil to Paul Rudd’s more subtle, tongue-in-cheek situational humor and dialogue.

 The movie Ant-Man explores father-daughter relationships.

 The movie Ant-Man explores father-daughter relationships.

The film does a good job of presenting the primary characters and their backstories to viewers who have no knowledge of Ant-Man or his lore in comic history. To its credit, the central story doesn’t rely heavily on science fiction themes and superheroes/villains, but rather emphasizes the personal challenges and very human-relatable relationship struggles between the central characters. The movie has a great underlying theme about father-daughter relationships that plays well among multiple characters and helps the audience to empathize with them. Honestly, that sort of blew me away because I wasn’t expecting the movie to resonate with me at such an emotional level. This sort of approach gives me hope that Hollywood is FINALLY starting to present basic human interest subplots and themes in ways that mass audiences can appreciate and easily digest, while also generously heaping on the superhero/villain conflicts that traditional comic fanboys and fangirls are expecting. Now I’m looking to DC Comics and wondering if they can credibly approach what Marvel Studios is already perfecting. While we may see something hopeful next year with Batman v Superman, I don’t expect much in the human relations category from the Suicide Squad film that follows. We’ll see.

Who is Ant-Man?

Who is Ant-Man?

So, back to the Ant-Man movie. Who is Ant-Man? Well, in briefest form, Ant-Man is a human wearing a special suit that uses a secret chemical formula to shrink him down to much smaller form (essentially, insect sized), yet imbuing him with 20 times (or more) his normal strength, as its all compacted into a smaller area. There’s also technology in the helmet that permits him to interact with ants (of all subspecies and varieties) to assist him with his missions. I know that doesn’t sound impressive, but believe me, it’s quite formidable when you see how it’s married together on the big screen. I’m very impressed, and it makes logical sense…from a purely fantastical, science-fictiony perspective.

Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas in the Ant-Man film.

Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas in the Ant-Man film.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the film was that it posed the question, “Do you think that everyone deserves a second chance?” The film explored the idea of redemption, which I found as a refreshing undercurrent that guided the central characters. It’s a topic that doesn’t regularly get explored in superhero films in a manner that the average person can relate to. There’s a sincere quality to the way it’s handled in Ant-Man that’s both reassuring and realistic.

Overall, I give the film my whole-hearted endorsement. It’s a 10 out of 10, and also a film that I eagerly intend to add to my home movie collection. Moreover, stay until the FINAL credits finish rolling to not only gain insight into where the Ant-Man storyline is continuing, but also get a brief sneak-peek into next year’s Captain America: Civil War movie.

That’s all for now, but leave me a comment telling me if you’re already an Ant-Man fan, and/or what you thought of the movie. Until next time, enjoy life; be kind to those around you, and Happy Reading! Peace.

The Newest Marvel and DC Plans Go on Forever? Hell, Yeah!

Upcoming Marvel Films

Recently, I’ve read online tweets or snarky blog posts about Marvel’s aggressive grand plan for interweaving the various superhero franchises into common threads of storylines, including movie crossover events. One sardonic reviewer for the film Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (which I loved!) had the audacity to sound shocked that there was already a seven year strategic plan by Marvel to develop continuing sequels for both individual and team-based superhero events. Shocked? Seriously?

My response to that person is, you must have never read superhero comics during your lifetime. Personally, I couldn’t be HAPPIER that Marvel has a strategic plan for their superhero franchises. The fact that they plan to continue interlocking characters and storylines as the films progress is particularly encouraging. So often in the past, films and television programs based upon comic book heroes have operated seemingly independent of the various superhero universes, which always seemed strange to me because comics have a long history of crossover storylines and cameo appearances with heroes, villains, and the casts of key supporting characters.

I’ve primarily been a Marvel fan since childhood, especially Iron Man and Spiderman. The tangible angst and personal failures of Marvel heroes always seemed both believable and often germane to real-world problems that I was experiencing. I identified with Peter Parker’s self-confidence issues, as well as his desire to do the right thing even when it ran contrary to either public opinion or political machinations. As for Iron Man, Tony Stark’s personal demons were palpable and helped provide his hyper-intelligent wealthy aura of perfection with a real-world counterbalance that I could also identify with. Hell, even Tony’s and Peter’s personal relationships were challenged and imperfect. Who couldn’t identify with that?

By contrast with DC, though I was (and still am!) a huge Wonder Woman fan, few of the heroes from the DC universe seemed anywhere near realistic compared to the rest of us mere mortals. I never saw Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne struggle with ANY problems that real-world people seemed to have. Even the way their characters’ lives were conducted seemed not only idealistic but unrealistic. While idealistic in nature, I believe that most readers want to see shadows of themselves, or at least their real-world problems, reflected in the fictional characters they invest their time (and money) into.

But I digress…

Back to Marvel’s Master Plan for Success. Interestingly enough, DC appears to be catching on.

DC Franchises

Yes, for all of you DC lovers out there, take heart. It appears that DC’s management team has FINALLY managed to get their collective acts together and take a few key ideas from Marvel’s playbook. First and foremost, DC has begun linking the character and storyline universes together. Next DC has established a timeline for release of their future films and television programs.

If there is a challenge to both DC and Marvel’s strategies, it’s the prospects of maintaining the momentum for filming schedules, strong storylines, and compelling character developments over a series of arcs and seasons. Still, as a longtime fan of all things superhero, I’m hopeful that these new developments will provide fans with everything they have patiently waited for quality conversions of their heroes from the small comics pages to both the big and small screens.

Thus far, I’ve been pleased with The Flash and Daredevil, and I’m cautiously optimistic regarding how well Gotham has progressed. And of course, I’ve loved all of the Marvel films that have been released in the past five years. Moreover, I’m feeling hopeful for the upcoming Supergirl show, as well. Now if they can just get Wonder Woman right on the big screen, I’ll be one step closer to completely satisfied.

Which superhero films or programs have you been anxiously awaiting? Also, which current superhero films and programs have you been enjoying?

As always, enjoy life; be kind to those around you, and Happy Reading!

TV Show-ing Instead of Reading or Writing

Hello and welcome to my unadulterated (because I’m still such a kid!) confession.

Whatever I reveal can – and likely, will – be held against me in a court of public opinion.

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned…but I’m LOVING it!

Foremost, instead of diligently writing on Bringer Unleashed, much less making any progress on recent novels I’ve begun reading, I’ve spent my time watching programs. Sometimes, I’ve even been…*gasp*…binge-watching.

Yes, I’ve been “TV show-ing” more than writing or reading.

Marvel's Daredevil Season 1 is on Netflix.

Marvel's Daredevil Season 1 is on Netflix.

First and foremost, I’ve fallen under the spell of Netflix’s Daredevil. In my defense, the entire 13-episode first season was tantalizingly dropped into my lap all at once, creating an immediate urge to plop onto my couch and stare at the huge plasma TV screen before me. Let’s face it, Daredevil is well-conceived and has marvelous character development with engaging plot lines. Who wouldn’t want to get lost in quality programming like that? It seems as if the Marvel properties have reached near-atmospheric engagement in recent years; a development that, as an avid Marvel fan since childhood, has pleased me to no end. Compelling storyline aside, the masterful casting of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock and Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) has skyrocketed this new series to the top of my binge-watching, even momentarily knocking Castle binging from my daily activity. (Fear not…Castle season 6 returns to my daily activities once Daredevil is complete.)

Wait, there’s more?

Game of Thrones Season 5 on HBO has elevated the fantasy drama genre for viewers.

Game of Thrones Season 5 on HBO has elevated the fantasy drama genre for viewers.

Yes! The new season of Game of Thrones has begun, so I’ve been watching (and re-watching) the newest episodes. Add to that, I’ve discovered a marvelous YouTube channel called Emergency Awesome that’s run by a pleasant, informed, and highly knowledgeable person named Charlie, who I now follow and check daily for informative and engaging revelations and insights into some of my favorite programs, films, and comics, including Game of Thrones, Daredevil, The Flash, Gotham, Agents of Shield, the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel superhero films, and the entire DC and Marvel character/comic universes. Charlie’s simply amazing!

You can subscribe to Emergency Awesome by clicking here.

What have you been binge-watching recently?

50 Shades of Contradiction – Episode 1

50 Shades of Grey Film

Happy Valentine's Day! It's time for romance. And what says romance today better than a romantic movie, right?

The film 50 Shades of Grey is out now, and over 200 million women have digested the entire Shades of Grey trilogy of novels, some multiple times over. (Full Disclosure: I’ve read the series already, as well.) And now…I’m completely confused about what women want sexually.

Henceforth, I’ll never date – much less have sex – with women EVER again.

Like I said, I read the novels. I get it. Anastasia Steele loves Christian Grey wholly and completely, and he’s the only guy who can unlock her heart…and unleash her climaxes.

Christian Grey is worldly, masculine, assertive, immeasurably wealthy, powerful, and drop-dead sexy. He’s also manipulative, controlling, domineering, and he loves to convey his love through erotic torment and varying levels of sadistic torture. Yet, he’s still the man that nearly every woman who reads the Fifty Shades novels desperately fantasizes about and wants for her own. Or rather, wants to be owned by.

As for me, I was raised for many years in a single-parent household by an independent-minded mother who taught me to respect women and treat them with dignity and appreciation, as well as treat them as completely equal partners in a relationship.

I’ve become the sort of man that my Mom would be proud of. And yet, I still can’t hold a candle to Christian Grey.

*shrugging* Do you see why I’m giving up?

Face it. I’m doomed with the ladies with that sort of expectation. I don’t think there’s enough drugs or alcohol in the world to screw up my mind enough to become anyone who’s even remotely like Christian Grey. (He's more like 50 Shades of Victims Protective Orders, if you ask me. Just sayin'.)

Sorry, Mom…you obviously had it wrong. The women of today’s world have spoken, and it’s Christian Grey who wins the rose on the present-day Bachelorette shows.

I never claimed to know precisely what women wanted, but I’d always considered it might have something to do with a stable, safe partner who not only loved them, but valued and cherished them, as well as placed them on a wholly equal footing in the relationship. But now, if the millions of box office tickets and 50 Shades novels being sold are any reflection of reality with women and what they actually want from their men, then I realize that I’m obviously not anywhere near what women are REALLY wanting. And worse yet, I’m definitely not in the same league with a Christian Grey; not even close. And I’m not just referring to the fact that I’m not filthy rich, either.

Okay, so instead of roses, a sweet bottle of wine, some hot kissing, and perhaps a relaxing legs and feet massage, women really want a guy wearing a worn pair of denim jeans who has a zealous expertise with plastic zip ties, nipple clamps, and a host of various-sized leather flogs? Oh, yeah…and don’t forget those silver Inner Goddess Ben Wa Pleasure Balls. (And I thought kangaroos already had it rough carrying things in THEIR pouches!)

Don’t get me wrong…I’m a firm believer that kinky can be both fun and refreshing in any healthy sexual relationship. Tie me up and spank me tonight and I’ll trade off with you tomorrow night. But a 50 Shades of Christian Grey sort of fun and refreshing? Nah, that’s way outside what I thought was supposed to be emotionally and physically safe. Oh, sure, Anastasia used a safe word. But what about the years of therapy that might be needed when that form of romance gets old? I mean, how are you supposed to raise the bar from a Christian Grey fun-time without actually killing someone? Geez!

Yep, I suppose that I’ll never make the cut for that major league franchise form of sexual fulfillment. Count me out, ladies. Enjoy the Christian Greys of the world, my dears. Instead, I’m off to join the nearest chapter of the Benedictine Monks. There’s obviously no more action with the ladies destined for me, I suppose. I won’t pretend that I stand a chance against the Christian Greys.

Probably for the best, really. Besides, I could learn to like chanting. Maybe I’ll even be on the Monks’ next album release.

Hey, are the Benedictine Monks on iTunes?

The Operating System of My Dreams?

Recently, I watched an excellent, Academy-nominated 2013 film called Her. While the acting was outstanding and emotions evoked were compelling, the premise of the near-future storyline itself was especially thought-provoking. In the movie, a man named Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) installs a sweeping new operating system on his computer that’s supposed to present refined artificial intelligence that interacts with the computer user. The operating system (voiced by the talented actress Scarlett Johansson) begins its independent existence by naming itself Samantha. The OS soon interacts with Theodore in a highly realistic, nearly human, manner. Over time, Samantha’s personality develops in highly nuanced fashion, eventually reaching self-realization and sentience.
I won’t spoil the film for you, but what proceeds is an emotional journey between two beings. Suffice to say, the movie made me contemplate humanity’s continued technological innovations and improvements in computer processing and operating systems development. I wonder if there will come a time in the not-too-distant future – or at least, during my lifetime – when an operating system might reach a quasi-sentient level of interaction (or simulated interaction) with people that mimics a fellow human being. Would that be a good thing, or would it merely encourage people with reclusive personalities to further withdraw from interacting with other people?
It occurs to me that there are situations or conditions where people might not have the luxury of living in areas where there are large numbers of people to interact with; in which case, having a computer-based, human-simulated entity might be reassuring for someone.
Granted, a number of films and books have examined this situation before. Consider the station computer named GERTY from the engaging 2009 film Moon starring Sam Rockwell, or Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey in which the H.A.L. 9000 computer system serves as both human nurturer and suspicious antagonist for the astronauts. Despite a series of past examples, there are always fresh human drama opportunities available for an author to mine for future novels and films on the subject. Essentially, the human experience is dynamic and there’s always a demand by readers for compelling, emotional storyline.
Perhaps I’ll consider my own future storyline. Hmm…