Marvel reimagines the lineage of the Mandarin in the new “Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings” movie

After a dismal failure at introducing the Mandarin in Iron Man III, Marvel is trying to get it right with their new movie, Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings coming to theaters, Sept. 3. As a comic book purist, especially when it comes to movies, this version of the Iron Man supervillain is a better representation of the character instead of the campy Sir Ben Kingsley attempt. But, you need to know the history of this character, as well as Shang-Chi himself, to understand the changes being reimagined for the movies.

To know that you are superior— in mind, in body, in spirit. That is everything! To know that power is your birthright— to know what untold thousands exist on this world for no reason but to serve you– to channel their powers through your empire, be it of land or of business– channeling it upward to fuel you, to fuel your glory!

The Mandarin (Marvel Fandom Wiki)

The Mandarin was created in the 1960s as a supervillain for Iron Man at a time when the U.S. was under the “Red Scare” from Communist China, the Soviet Union, etc. Comic book villains reflected the hysteria at the time, so the villains were all tied to the idea of the communist take over of the world. This time period gave us The Mandarin, Red Ghost, Yellow Fang, the Titanium Man, Red Guardian, and yes, even Black Widow. These Asian characters had over-exaggerated features, yellow skin, sharp fingernails, and were portrayed as the epitome of evil. I would call it a holdover from World War II and the animosity toward the Japanese. The Mandarin was no exception.

In the comics, the man that would become the Mandarin was born from an English prostitute in an opium den located within the small village of Habuquan in Inner Mongolia, China, where he spent his entire childhood doing forced labor. Following his mother’s death due to overdose, the Mandarin killed her procurer, whom he figured was his father, and delved into a life of crime. When the communist revolution occurred, he went on the run. While running away, the Mandarin found a cave in the Valley of Spirits that housed the wreckage of an alien spaceship. Becoming transfixed by a set of ten small cylinders spinning in the ship’s engine, the Mandarin took the artifacts. Having found them similar in appearance to rings, the Mandarin started wearing them as such, slowly studying each of them and gaining access to their powers. When the Mandarin first worn them all at once, his mind was reached by the warrior spirits trapped within the rings. These spirits influenced the Mandarin so his ultimate goal in life would be to resurrect them.

Thus began the life of a supervillain that would span the decades. From the Shang-Chi trailers, we know this will partly remain true, i.e. criminal empire, alien rings (on his wrists instead of fingers), but that’s where the similarities end. His rings seem more power-based (force blast similar to Iron Man’s repulsors) than each ring having an individual power, like it is in the comics. This will be a fundamental shift but, for those audiences not familiar with the comics, it will be easier to understand.

My father has often said to me: ‘A man may not be too careful in his choice of enemies, for once he has chosen… he has forfeited a friend.’ These are words my father has lived by, for he is Fu Manchu, and his life is his word.

—Shang-Chi (Marvel Fandom Wiki)
Shang-Chi (Character) - Comic Vine

Then there’s the updated origin for Shang-Chi. Originally created during the Bruce Lee “Kung Fu” craze of the 1970s, this “Master of Kung Fu” has been upgraded from his abilities to his lineage. In the comics, Shang-Chi was born in the Honan province of China, and is the son of Fu Manchu, the Chinese mastermind who has repeatedly attempted world conquest and had a thirst for blood. His mother was a white American woman genetically selected by his father. Shang-Chi was raised and trained from infancy in the martial arts by his father and his tutors. Once he discovered about his father’s evil empire, he broke free and fought Fu Manchu at every turn. Now, it appears, that Fu Manchu is being replaced by the Mandarin in the MCU. That’s not really a big change, as they’re both leaders of criminal empires in China, and with Tony Stark’s Iron Man dead in the MCU, it’s a way of bringing the true Mandarin into the fold.

As fans, we understand that precise interpretations of the comics is impossible. Comic book characters themselves have evolved and changed over the years. You can’t take these characters from the 1960s and 70s, with their racist overtones as originally developed, to the big or little screen. For example, people are clamoring over the Disney+ series where Loki declares himself bisexual. If you read the comics, you knew this was a possibility. I mean, he has gone from man to kid to women on multiple occasions throughout his run. We knew it was coming, but those who never read the comics are screaming “heresy” and “political correctness” at this revelation. Chill out!

If you want something to scream about, the portrayal of the Mandarin in Iron Man III is something to get pissed off at. Again, I have nothing against Sir Ben Kingsley. I love him as an actor and it wasn’t his fault. However, that version of the Mandarin was a joke, an their little one shot was done just to appeased the fans who hated that movie. At least Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will bring it back to an origin closely resembling these characters. I hope Marvel has learned its lesson in totally revamping these characters for movies.

We all know, from the 24 hour news cycle, that there are issues with China, from the coronavirus to free speech in Hong Kong to the mistreatment of the Uyghurs. That issue is with the Chinese government, not the people of China. They have a rich history which is a big part of the mythology that a fantasy reader, like myself, loves to dive into. Those are the stories that need to be told and Marvel is trying to bring it to life in the MCU.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

Is “Krull” the most underappreciated science fiction and fantasy movie of all time? YES! Yes it is!

Krull Movie Poster #2 | Fantasy movies, Movies by genre, Movie posters
Movie poster for Krull (1983)

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for some time but I never got around to it. I know I’ve mentioned Krull and shown my love for this movie in previous blogs, i.e. Top sci-fi/fantasy movies of the 1980s, etc., but I’ve never focused in on just how AWESOME this movie is. You had an all-star cast (by today’s standards), a fantastic storyline, and great special effects (okay, by the 80’s standards anyway!) So, why has this movie been relegated to the back shelves of video stores, streaming services, and the dustbin of many dvd collections. The fact is it shouldn’t be. This movie is a gem that should be watched and often. It’s binge worthy in more ways than one.

Krull is a 1983 science fiction/fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Peter Yates and written by Stanford Sherman. It followed the journey of Prince Colwyn and a group of outlaws on the planet Krull who are attempting to save Princess Lyssa (Colwyn’s bride) from the Beast and his army of Slayers from her captivity in the Black Fortress, an impregnable citadel that teleports to a new location at dawn. To aid in his fight, he seeks soothsayers, sorcerers, a cyclops, and a mystical weapon called the Glaive.

The film stars an ensemble cast: Ken Marshall as Prince Colwyn, Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa, Trevor Martin as the voice of the Beast, Freddie Jones as Ynyr, Bernard Bresslaw as Rell the Cyclops, David Battley as Ergo the Magnificent, Alun Armstrong as Torquil, the leader of a group of outlaws (including early screen roles for actors Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane), John Welsh as The Emerald Seer, Graham McGrath as Titch, and Francesca Annis as The Widow of the Web.

The first thing you need to understand that this is the early 1980s, when everyone was trying to match the popularity and box office bonanza that Star Wars brought with it. So, it had a big budget for special effects, marketing, etc. I mean, Krull had an arcade video game, not something they did for every movie. They really thought they had a box office hit on their hands. Unfortunately, the critics were not on their side.

Critic Janet Maslin found Krull to be “a gentle, pensive sci-fi adventure film that winds up a little too moody and melancholy for the Star Wars set”, praising director Yates for “giving the film poise and sophistication, as well as a distinctly British air”, and also “bring[ing] understatement and dimension to the material.” Baird Searles described Krull as “an unpretentious movie … with a lot of good things going for it.” A retrospective review by AllMovie journalist Jason Buchanan hailed it as “an ambitious sci-fi/fantasy that even in its failures can usually be forgiven for its sheer sense of bravado.” Ryan Lambie, reviewing for Den of Geek in 2011, called it “among [t]he most visually creative and downright fun movies of the enchanted 80s” and “a well-made film, and an entire galaxy away from other cheap, quickly made knock-offs that showed up in the wake of Star Wars.”

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Krull | 411MANIA
Ken Marshall as Prince Colwyn and Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa in Krull (1983)

Everything sci-fi that came into the movie theater megaplexes of the 1980s was compared to Star Wars or considered a Star Wars ripoff, but Krull was different. It had one thing that other movies did not… Magic! This was a full-bore fantasy genre movie locked into a world of science fiction. Yes, Star Wars has some fantasy elements in it with “the force” and other abilities, but in Krull, we are talking swords and sorcery. I mean, there are three certifiable “Gandalf-type” wizards (and one “not so much”) in the mix here. Krull blends the two together so perfectly that you don’t know what your watching, and by the time you do, the movie has already sucked you in.

Then there’s the weapon… The Glaive. It’s a bladed, flying metal starfish that, in truth, reminds me of Xena’s Chakram in how it flies through the air and returns to his hand. We are told in the beginning of the movie that the Glaive was just a myth, but the old wizard Ynyr knows where it is and that Colwyn will need it to defeat the Beast. My one complaint about this movie is that we don’t get to see him use it until the very end. Granted, the final fight between Colwyn and the Beast and Slayers is fun to watch, but it’s not enough. I mean, this weapon is what sold the movie to many fantasy fans like myself, and we didn’t see enough of it. You have to wonder how many D&D Dungeon Masters tried to recreate this weapon in a game (hint, I did!)

This movie also has your various fantasy tropes including magical beasts (Fire Mares or “Clydesdales on Steroids” running across canyons without stopping), magical beings (Changelings that kill with a touch) and an ancient, albeit bad ass soothsayer, living in the heart of a spider web (the Widow of the Web, aptly named). Not to mention a cyclops with a tragic back story, a great overhand throw, and a heart-breaking death (sorry for the spoilers but it’s true!) This is a true fantasy world invaded by a space-faring megalomaniacs hell-bent on destroying one world, then the next. You get this from the end of the movie when the narrator (Ynyr) proclaims they (Colwyn and Lyssa) would rule Krull, and their son would rule the galaxy! Really? I’d like to see that sequel!

Spider guardian of the Widow of the Web, Krull (1983)

The special effects were, without a doubt, some of the best to come out of the 80s. It’s not CGI, but the different sets combined with brilliant costumes, make-up, and effects blended well together. The fighting was a little staged and rigid in places, but it was overall well done. I loved the weapons of the Slayers, firing off a laser blast from one end before turning it around to use as a sword. The main magic we see used by the wizards in this movie was foresight and shapeshifting. There was no fireballs or lightning bolts, but transformations into everything from a tiger to a puppy (yes, a cute little puppy!) With all that, it was laid out brilliantly in the story.

Like I said, this movie is not Shakespeare and it’s nowhere near Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or other big movie genres. Krull is just plain fun, from start to finish. It’s a great story to follow along, interesting characters to laugh and cry with, and keeps you in your seat from beginning to end. Krull is a movie that should be part of a film festival, not relegated to the back row of your dvd collection. If you haven’t seen it, watch it today! If you have seen it, but not in a while, pull it out and watch it again! See what you’re missing!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

My Top 5 movies of the legendary Sir Sean Connery

I was sad to hear about the passing of the legendary actor Sir Sean Connery. He was a mainstay in Hollywood and his movies are, without a doubt, some of the best out there. As an actor, his movies crossed generations from the 1960s to today. There was only one Sean Connery and he will live forever in his countless memorable film roles. So, I wanted to take the time and give my list of his best movies. I know we all have our favorites, and both writers and sci-fi/fantasy fans are quite particular about their “favs” more so than other genres. But these are mine, and I hope you can relate to my choices.

Our Favorite Cameos: Sean Connery in 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' |  Movie News | Robin hood, Sean connery, King richard
Sean Connery as King Richard the Lionheart

I want to start off with an Honorable Mention. In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Connery cameoed as King Richard the Lionheart at the end of the movie, “photobombing” the wedding of Robin and Marian. I was shocked when I saw it in the theater and its one of my all-time favorite cameo appearances by any actor. Little trivia note, Connery played Robin Hood in the 1976 movie, Robin and Marian next to another legendary actress, Audrey Hepburn.

Another Honorable Mention is Time Bandits (1981) as King Agamemnon. It was a small part but quite memorable in this crazy, wild, wonderful movie. He was formidable as Agamemnon, and played the role with the fun that was Time Bandits. For some odd reason, when he asked the boy for his name and replied “Kevin?” as if it was a weird name (which it would be in ancient Greece) that sticks out in my head. So funny!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1989 - Original Movie Poster – Art of  the Movies

At number FIVE, it has to be Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Although Connery took second billing to Harrison Ford, he stole the show as Indiana’s father. His comedic moments were spot on, as were his tender ones. The part was a perfect fit for Connery as the aging archeologist who never went in the field. His portrayal was witty, charming, and sometimes maniacal. I loved it at the end when he said, “We named the dog Indiana!”

However, Harrison Ford said it best when he eulogized Connery…

“He was my father…not in life…but in ‘Indy 3,’” Ford said in a statement sent to Variety. “You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm. God, we had fun — if he’s in heaven, I hope they have golf courses. Rest in peace, dear friend.”

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) - IMDb

At number FOUR, the adaptation of Frank Miller’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) was panned by critics and fans of the graphic novel alike. However, I loved the movie, and enjoyed it through and through. Connery as the dashing yet forgotten hunter and hero Allan Quatermain was great casting for this movie. Even though they changed some things from the book, i.e. adding Tom Sawyer as a U.S. Secret Service agent, it was an eye-popping, steampunk-style story, which is why I liked it. The father/son relationship between Sawyer and Quatermain was a special aspect of the movie as well. It reminded me of Connery passing on the torch to the next generation of actors as this was his last movie role.

The Hunt for Red October (1990) - IMDb

At number THREE, The Hunt for Red October (1990) was a classic Connery role. As a retired U.S. Navy sailor, this is a no-brainer. The novel was great and the movie, even better, thanks to Connery. During the Cold War, this movie was the ultimate representation of the U.S./Russia relations at that time, but it also represented the hope that we could come together. It was also a great Navy movie, with submarines, aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and the like. This was “Top Gun” but for surface warfare nerds like me! Connery was commanding in this role with a great supporting cast that gave us one of his best movies. You can’t watch the scene where they are being attacked by a Soviet submarine hunter, as the torpedo closes in, and Connery’s Captain Marko Ramius is as cool as a cucumber, shouting orders. He was like “James Bond under the ocean” cool.

HIGHLANDER 1986 Original Rolled English Movie Poster 16 | Etsy
Connery as Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez

At number TWO on my list is Highlander (1986) and this was an AWESOME movie! Connery starred as Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, an immortal from ancient Egypt who carried a Japanese katana made by the great swordsmith Masamune and fought against the villain of the movie, The Kurgan, over centuries in in Babylonia, Greece, and ancient China (phew!) until he met Conner MacLeod. I know that’s a lot to take in but that’s what made this movie and this role so memorable. Here you have a character whose origins span centuries and Connery portrayed it as if he lived those experiences. I mean, the costume alone made the role believable. How can you go wrong with a cape made of peacock feathers. Connery portrayed the role that he’s familiar with, as a mentor and friend, and he does it incredibly well. The beach scene where he introduces MacLeod to “the Quickening” was one of my favorites, as was the fight with the Kurgan in MacLeod’s castle home. My favorite quote is when he tried to explain being an immortal. To me, it’s a philosophy on life.

“Why does the sun come up? Or are the stars just pinholes in the curtain of night? Who knows?

Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, Highlander (1986)
1964 - James Bond - Goldfinger: title sequence - YouTube

There was only one NUMBER ONE in mind when it comes to Connery, and it has to be his most iconic role… “Bond, James Bond!” But to pick one of his six films (not counting Never Say Never Again (1983) which was just a reboot of Thunderball (1965) with a retired Bond) was a hard decision. Still, if I have to go with one movie, I picked Goldfinger (1964) as his best Bond film. First off, some of the best names in cinema (Pussy Galore, Odd Job, Goldfinger) as well as top notch weapons, gadgets, and plot twists. Plus, to be killed by being painted in gold is a horrible way to die and one of the most intriguing. It was his best work as James Bond, and I never miss a chance to watch it.

There are too many other great movies to mention in one sitting… Outland (1981), The Untouchables (1987), The Rock (1996), Entrapment (1999), Finding Forrester (2000) and even the voice over in Dragonheart (1996). All of his movies are too memorable and will live in annals of great cinema. He won numerous awards from an Oscar, Golden Globes, a Tony, even an MTV movie award. He was honored with an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honors, BAFTA and more.

Yet, with all those honors, it doesn’t matter. We will always remember the great actor, the humanitarian, the Scotsman, the knight, the man… Sir Sean Connery.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

The best fantasy/scifi movies you never watched, but you should

There are plenty of inspirations when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. Most people have their favorites, i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc. Me, I’m a little old school. My obsession with the fantasy and sci-fi genre began with movies many people today either haven’t seen, forgot or ignored. In any case, each one of these movies has a unique charm about them (for lack of a better term) making them a must-see for any fan or geek. These are my personal picks, so I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree. Either way, I hope you’ll take some “COVID19 down time” to watch some or all of these classics.

The Final Countdown (1980) — This is a kick-ass, “Red, White, & Blue” Hell-yah,  U-S-A, movie with a simple science fiction twist. The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is sent back in time to days before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It has an all-star cast ( Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning) but the real star is the U.S. Navy. As a young man, looking to his future after high school, this movie made me want to sign up.  The filming from the flight deck to the sky above, seeing two F-14 Tomcats take on Japanese Zeroes, was epic. This is not your average science fiction movie, but the whole time travel aspect was so well done and wrapped up nicely at the end.

The Black Cauldron poster.jpgThe Black Cauldron (1985) — This is a Disney film, but its one of the darkest Disney films they ever made. The plot is your basic boy becomes hero by defeating the evil sorcerer, your usual fantasy genre yarn, but the visuals of this film are stunning. Something I didn’t know was that it was loosely based on the first two books in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, a series of five novels that are, in turn, based on Welsh mythology. Set in the mythical land of Prydain during the Early Middle Ages, the film centers on the evil Horned King who hopes to secure an ancient magical cauldron that will aid him in his desire to conquer the world. He is opposed by a young pigherder named Taran, the princess Eilonwy, a bard and a wild creature named Gurgi who seek to destroy the cauldron. This was Disney’s 25th animated feature, the first animated film to receive a PG rating, and it doesn’t get the props like Disney’s other animated films because of the dark storyline. No matter what, this is a great fantasy movie to see.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) — In the age when every movie wanted to look like and have the success of Star Wars, this movie fits the bill to a “T” and then some. Staring Richard Thomas (John Boy from The Waltons TV series) and produced by the genius Roger Corman, this movie had every science fiction movie trope in it, including the kitchen sink. Corman intended this movie to be a remake of the classic The Magnificent Seven but set in outer space. It had a stellar cast, from the legendary John Saxon and George Peppard to Robert Vaughn, and the effects were as expected for 1980, pre-CGI. The story follows the expected plot… The farming world Akir is threatened by the tyrannical warlord Sador (Saxon). Sador’s huge dreadnaught has a “Stellar Converter”, a weapon that turns planets into small stars. He demands that the peaceful Akira submit to him or he will turn his Stellar Converter on their planet. They want to hire mercenaries to protect their world, but since Akir lacks valuable resources, its people can offer just food and shelter in payment. Shad (Thomas) volunteers for the recruiting mission. It is a strange movie, full of Corman’s classic sci-fi tropes,  including a Space Cowboy, half-dressed Valkyrie warrior, an elite assassin, and a reptilian slaver, but it is well laid out and fun to watch.

The Black Hole.jpgThe Black Hole (1979) — Yet another Disney film that  has been relegated to the void that is the Disney vault due to its dark and violent nature. Another great cast ( Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine) fills the screen with astounding visuals of a black hole in space, before Interstellar. The Palomino, nearing the end of its deep space mission, discovers a black hole in space with a large spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole’s massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS Cygnus. Deciding to investigate, the Palomino encounters a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. What they find on board is far worse… Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a brilliant scientist, and what appears to be a crew of robots. They are not faceless drones, but are in fact the human crew who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth and had been lobotomized and “reprogrammed” by Reinhardt to serve him and his floating murder-bot Maximilian. Again, a very dark movie for Disney that was not well received by critics but earned two Academy award nominations for cinematography and visual effects.

Dragonslayer (1981) — This movie is very familiar to anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 80’s, but it is not seen as a top-rated movie like LOTR and others. It should be. Dragonslayer gave us our first look at a dragon, an honest to God dragon and all its power and glory. Before there was CGI, there was GoMotion, created by Industrial, Light and Magic for The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other classic movies of the 80s. In this movie, we got a dragon named Vermithrax that was everything you expected it to be… Evil, deadly, and downright terrifying. Another great cast (Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke) fills out this epic tale of a young apprentice taking on the beast to prove himself worthy as a sorcerer against a King who for years has placated the dragon with a virgin sacrifice. This is a worthy fantasy epic and a must see movie!

Deathstalker (1983) - Rotten TomatoesDeathstalker (1983) — The last movie on my list is another 80’s Roger Corman classic, filled with your favorite fantasy genre movie tropes just like he did in Battle Beyond the Stars. It’s a very Conan-esque movie, with buff men in leather, scantily-clad women, swords and sorcerers. It spawned four sequels, but this is the one to watch. Against, a basic storyline of sword-wielding mercenary on a quest to retrieve four magical items to stop a sorcerer from destroying his world. Along the way, he meets other warriors entering a tournament to find the greatest warrior and gain control over the kingdom. It’s not Shakespeare but it has all the qualities of a sword/sorcerer movie of the 80’s. It fits right in with The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian, and other fantasy movies of that time. Corman is a genius of the screen when it comes to movies like these.

So again, these are far from the Oscar-worthy movies you normally think of in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but they have all the elements you think of when you watch these movies. I would love to hear about your favorites that I might have missed in my list, please comment and let me know.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

What did I just see? “Avengers: End Game” was the best superhero movie EVER

Image result for avengers endgame

No spoilers but plenty of accolades! Oh my frick’n God, what did I just see? This has to be a GREATEST superhero movie ever. Yeah, I know, I’ve said that before. But each time, a new movie comes out, it overtakes the last one that was previously the greatest. Just the final battle scene was enough to tag this as THE GREATEST.

It’s not enough to undo the snap, Thanos’ universe-ending action at the end of INFINITY WAR. There were plenty of clues in IW that led us to what was happening in ENDGAME. I know that Marvel has said that SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME is the final movie of Phase 4, but make no mistake, it’s really this one.

This movie had it all… Comedy, drama, action, adventure, etc. Sometimes, I think they go a little too far with the comedy. The Ant-Man jokes were expected, but EG went back to THOR: RAGNAROK to give us Thor/Hulk as the “straight man” in an ongoing comedy routine throughout the whole movie. It was funny, but to me, out of character for these two original Avengers.

I will admit that I cried a couple of times in this movie, and I don’t normally expect to cry when watching a superhero movie. This movie gave you unforgettable moments that you need a handkerchief or box of tissues. One person was so shaken after watching this movie, they had to be hospitalized, or so I read.

I will say one, kind of, spoiler, but this is something that has been suggested from the beginning of the EG rumormill. There is time travel involved and this gave us the opportunity to see characters that have died in previous movies. That made it a lot of fun to see these great characters one last time. There was also another great Stan Lee cameo, so the “Godfather of Marvel Comics” still lives in these movies. Excelsior!

After just watching CAPTAIN MARVEL last month, I expected her to have a bigger role in the movie, and to be honest, I was disappointed that she wasn’t there a lot. Her character in the MCU seems to be more focused on the galaxy rather than Earth, and this movie demonstrated that. Still, when she was there, she kicked ass, and she led a female superheroine group that took to the forefront in one scene.

Lastly, I would like to add that this was the end of a journey for many of the actors involved. It’s not clear where we’re going from here in the MCU. We know they’ll be sequels to Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel in the future, as well as a Black Widow prequel and The Eternals, maybe Nova too. With the acquisition of Fantastic Four and X-Men from Fox, there may be more there too.

The future awaits and “Avengers: Endgame” set it up beautifully.



Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Captain Marvel is better than the hype and the bad reviews it’s getting

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I’ve never been one to rely on reviews, which is kind of weird since I write them on my blog now. Anyway, I go the movies because I want to see it, ignoring the bad reviews or condemnation. I don’t regret going to see 1980’s Flash Gordon but I really regret going to see 1995’s Waterworld. In any case, the same can be said for Marvel movies.

I have seen every Marvel movie in the past 10 years. I do have some regrets there too (i.e. Iron Man III and Thor: Ragnarok) but they still had some good moments in them too. In any case, I saw Captain Marvel this week and, despite the weeks of awkward publicity and bad stories, it was a genuinely good Marvel movie. In fact, I would say it’s one of their better movies.

First and foremost, Brie Larson was great. Although, I think she went for the emotionless route too much. She has Danvers’ grit and determination down pat, and she finally showed some emotion in her reunion with Maria Rambeau near the end, but still… She’ll need a little more than that sly grin to carry her down the road in future movies. She has the look and the attitude, and now she has an origin.

Did they change her origin for the movie? Yes, but they stayed true to it while making her story fit into the MCU. Overall, they did a great job, especially since they did it as a prequel to the current Marvel universe. They changed a few things, like making Mar-Vell a woman (great performance Annette Benning) and turned the Skrulls from villains into a race to feel sorry for. However, Marvel’s been making these adjustments to the MCU since the beginning (i.e. making the villain Ghost a woman, casting Heimdall and Valkyrie with black actors (best decision to date), and making the Mandarin an idiot). Even a comic book purist like myself can appreciate the brilliance behind the casting and creative license.

I loved the fact that you had to sit through the whole movie to understand her complete backstory. It wasn’t difficult for someone like me, who knows her origin like the back of my hand. But for anyone else, it’s a great way to learn about her character. Also, by adding in the younger versions of Agent Phil Coulson and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). I especially loved finding out how Fury got his eye scratched out. There are plenty of “Easter Eggs” in the movie too, from how Fury came up with the Avengers Initiative, how the Tesseract got back into Shield’s hands, the space-pager and plenty more.

The Kree are turning into the true intergalactic villains of the MCU, in both movies and television. The movie left things open for the return on Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the Supreme Intelligence, although I’m hoping for the floating green octopus head next time around. As for the Skrulls, who can say. Even though Marvel got back the Fantastic Four from Fox, I doubt we’ll see them terrorizing Earth or the “Super Skrull” anytime soon.

The plot kept me engaged the entire movie and it was fun. It had a good mix of serious and humor. The movie made a big statement about sexism in the 80’s and 90’s, showing the bad side of men in the military (“You know why they call it a cockpit…” Gimme a break!). This was the time of “Tailgate” and other scandals like it, so bringing it into the film showed how far we’ve come with women pilots in the military. You really get the feel for that with the “Women of the Air Force” commercial they showed before the movie.

Captain Marvel got a lot of bad press and internet “trolls” trying to bring it down, but the movie is too good for that. It’s a fun movie that brings together the MCU, heading into Avengers: Endgame. That’s only a month away, and I can’t wait!



Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

I never saw a documentary like this! My review of “They Shall Not Grow Old”…

I’ve watched a few documentaries in my day, but I never paid movie theater price to see one… Until now! If you get a chance, go to the theater to see “They Shall Not Grow Old”. It is worth the price of admission.

Peter Jackson did a great service to the men who fought in World War I in producing and directing this film. What I learned about the war in history class and other films doesn’t compare to what I learned from this movie.

Hearing the stories from the soldiers themselves, and seeing the images as clear as if it was filmed with modern equipment stands out and shows the real horror, and sheer bravery, of the men who fought in this war.

The technology used by Jackson not only colorized the footage, but also turned 2D to 3D. Some of it was footage never seen before, like bodies sinking in the mud and much of the trenches, rats crawling everywhere, “trenchfoot” and other wounds. I know it sounds gross, but this isn’t a Friday the 13th remake. This actually happened to men as young as 16.

It was funny how Wonder Woman brought World War I to the silver screen recently, even movies like Flyboys or classics like Goodbye Mr. Chips and All Quiet on the Western Front. These movies showed the war from a film perspective but without the realism that a documentary. What made Jackson’s film different is the great work his crew did in cleaning up, colorizing and turning 2D to 3D. They even added sound effects and people talking as if it was footage taken today. It made the war real for me, 100 years after it happened.

Watching this documentary reminded me of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg went out to make the Normandy landing real for those watching the movie, shooting with hand-held cameras and really showing the horror of war. I saw that in this movie, but it wasn’t done through special effects. It was real.

To hear the men who fought in this war talk about the training they went through, the day-to-day life in the trenches, even their off-duty time in France was a great way to tell the story. It was scary to hear how, on the last push against the German line, the British soldiers readied themselves in the trenches and they had guns in front of them, and guns behind them (aimed by their officers, ensuring they would charge across the field).

We need every school child watch this movie. It needs to become a teaching tool for educators to teach about World War I, about what these men went through and what happened when they got home. I always though that those who served in Vietnam were forgotten heroes, but so were the men who returned to England after World War I. It’s sad that anyone who volunteered to serve their country should be treated that way.

This is a FIVE STAR documentary and I highly recommend you see it in the theater if you have the chance. You won’t regret it.



Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Take a trip back to your childhood through the Hundred Acre Woods

nullWe all want that magic formula for staying and feeling young. For some, it’s exercising, eating right, no smoking or drinking, etc. For me, it’s watching things like anime, cartoons, and other movies and TV shows from my youth. We’re talking about the 70’s and 80’s, so that includes the classic Winnie the Pooh cartoons. This past weekend, I did just that when I went to see Christopher Robin. I will keep this SPOILER free so as not to ruin the movie for you.

This is definitely a movie that will make you laugh, make you cry, and give you that shot from the Fountain of Youth. I felt so alive after watching this movie. It has your basic plot of man working too hard, ignoring his family, needing a visit back to his childhood to make him see the error of his ways; but this is even better because it includes Winnie the Pooh and friends.

The first thing you have to understand about the movie is the setting. We’re talking England in the early 1900s, so for a young boy its boarding school, responsibilities after a parent dies, war, marriage and family, etc. This was the world of author A.A. Milne, and it was recreated with such precision. Another thing that was done perfectly was the characters. Don’t look for the cartoon Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, etc., but rather a faithful recreation of the art of Ernest H. Shepard. They look like stuffed animals that have been left outside in the yard, but they move and sound like the beloved characters.

Along with the story, you get to hear some of the familiar songs from the original Disney cartoons, like the Tigger song and Pooh’s morning exercise song, as well as some familiar quotes made famous by the characters. That’s what will tie it back to your childhood, at least for the adults going to see the movie; but there are plenty of new moments that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Pooh is as delightful and as charming as ever. He had a certain wit about him that you come to expect from Winnie the Pooh. For a “bear of very little brain” there is a wisdom to what he says that makes him a joy to watch. Personally, I am a diehard Tigger fan, and really expected him to stand out, but it was Eeyore that stole the show. The scene where he and Christopher Robin fight of the Heffalumps is hysterical. He had some of the funniest lines that made me laugh the hardest. Piglet is as adorable as always and, believe it not, former Doctor Who alum Peter Capaldi surprised me as the voice of Rabbit. It was a great ensemble for all these beloved characters.

227679_1063370351891_734_nThe human cast was also quite wonderful. Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, and Bronte Carmichael were brilliant as Christopher Robin and his family. The whole movie was so much fun to watch, from beginning to end, that I actually called my grown-up children afterwards and told them they better go see this movie. It not only reminded me of my childhood, but my time with them too. Want proof? Here’s me and my son with our “idols” at Disney!

You may or may not be a fan of these beloved characters, but I really don’t think that matters with this movie. It such a joy to watch, you won’t be able to help yourself. This a great movie, for couples, families, teenagers, young adults, anyone! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.




Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.


Fahrenheit 451 remake speaks of social influences changing from books to social media

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I recently watched the remake of the Ray Bradbury classic “Fahrenheit 451” and, unlike some remakes, this one was spot on. It was updated to reflect the influence of social media and the control it has on society today. It still paid homage to the original, including the original movie, while bringing it into the modern world.

The casting of Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon was brilliant. They were a perfect foil for the other, each one with their own demons and secrets. I loved how Shannon (as Beatty) spends his nights at home, writing down his own thoughts on tissue paper with an illegal pen, burning them at dawn. At the same time, Jordan’s Montag kept a collection of relics including a Blockbuster videotape of the movie “Taxi Driver” in his bathroom vent.

All under the watchful eye of Yuixi, a futuristic version of Alexa which scares the Hell out of me. The movie talks about the influence of social media, bringing back memories of Mark Zuckerberg and his testimony about Facebook controlling what people see. Everything they do is broadcast live with emoji’s littering the screen from the millions of viewers. The movie showed us the future we are heading to in our social media driven world.

Then there’s the books. I found it interesting that the only three books available to people is the Holy Bible, Moby Dick, and To The Lighthouse. The rest? As the firemen teach the little kids… Burn them! It’s sad to see all the classics burn like this. It’s a testament to the staying power of literature that’s represented in these books. That’s why I love this book, this movie, this story… Ray Bradbury wrote a classic that stands the test of time.

The ending may have changed in this newest adaptation, but the story stayed true. When you erase literature, you erase history. Beatty talked about this when he showed Montag a copy of Huck Finn, how it offended black people so they burned it, erased it. That’s the bigger meaning of this story. You may not like what was written before, but you can’t erase it completely. To do that would wipe away the history as to why it was written and lessons we can learn from it.

Image result for fahrenheit 451 movieFahrenheit 451 remains to be a classic, in any form. It should be a required read for every child in school today just for the fact that it will show them the right way and the wrong way when it comes to books and history. We have to teach them the right way, otherwise the story Fahrenheit 451 will go from being a fantasy to being a reality. Remember that next time you toss a book aside.


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel movie yet – mostly SPOILER FREE movie review

Avengers-Infinity-War-IMAX-Poster-600x871First things first, this is going to be somewhat SPOILER FREE, though I doubt that’s necessary. After opening weekend, with more than $630 million at the worldwide box office, I doubt most of the secrets are out. I will be cautious in my review, but there will be some snippets of juicy information. You have been warned.

That being said, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR was–without a doubt–the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie to date. I was enthralled the entire movie. There was no lag, no slow spots, it was rolling thunder from beginning to end. Think of this movie as the waves off the North Shore in Hawaii… With each breaking wave, it built up, bigger and badder, until it finally broke across the shore.

In case you need a run down, Avengers: Infinity War brings the entire MCU cast of characters together to face off against Thanos, the Mad Titan. He wants to collect the six Infinity Stones (Power, Space, Time, Reality, Soul, and Mind) to achieve his ultimate goal… Wipe out half the population of the entire universe. In his twisted mind, doing this will save the universe from over-population, starvation, and war. Its going to take the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him.

First thing I want to mention is the many surprising deaths in this movie. I don’t know if those killed will stay that way (because, like all its comic books, Marvel has a way of constantly bringing dead characters back to life) but it was shocking, none the less. Again, I will not say who dies (SPOILER) because of the surprise deaths. I will reserve judgement for Avengers 4, coming out next year, to see if those killed are permanent or not.

Next, the villains. Thanos is played brilliantly by Josh Brolin. He is as evil, sick, calculating, twisted and deadly as he is in the comics. He uses the Infinity Stones to their complete potential as he brings down the heroes, one-by-one. His lieutenants, on the other hand, are another story. In the comics, the Black Order were so deadly that it took everything, and then some, to stand up to them. Yes, they are quite powerful in the movie and give the Avengers a run for their money. Overall, though, I found them to be less than worthy of being Thanos’ children.

Another complaint I have is the use of the Hulk (FYI, some spoilers here). He started out the movie better than expected. He went toe-to-toe with Thanos on the Asgardian refugee ship. It was so much fun to watch the fight, and a great way to start the movie. Yet, throughout the rest of the movie, he wouldn’t come out of Banner. It was as if the Hulk was afraid to face Thanos and his minions again. Yes, Bruce Banner stepped up to do the job, but it was hard to watch at times. That is definitely not the Hulk we all know and love since the 60’s. The Hulk is the strongest one there is. He needs to come back in Avengers 4.

On the positive side of all this was Thor. The Thor in Avengers: Infinity War makes up for the joking idiot we saw running around in Thor: Ragnarok. He was the essence of the last Asgardian, out to avenge his people. To do this, he goes to the dwarves of Nidavellier (who forged Mjolnir) to forge him a new weapon. There they find Eitri, the master weaponsmith, played by the unbelievably awesome Peter Dinklage. Yes I know, a dwarf playing a dwarf, but in Avengers: Infinity War, the dwarves of Nidavellier are three times the size of Thor. When Thor arrives in Wakanda to join the fight against Thanos’ army, he kicked ass with his new weapon Stormbreaker, and the audience erupted louder than any other point in the movie. Thor was the hero, the Avenger, we all knew him to be.

avengers-infinity-war1There were plenty of other surprises in this movie that tied back to all 18 previous films. It was incredible to watch and kept me on the edge of my seat:  Spider-man in his “Iron Spider” armor, complete with retractable legs, Iron Man’s “Bleeding Edge” nano-tech armor, finding out a certain Captain America is STILL ALIVE, and of course, Nick Fury’s return and the tease for Captain Marvel. It was all a comic book geek’s wet dream (apologize for the vernacular, but it’s quite accurate).

I think Avengers: Infinity War is a fun movie for anyone to see. It may take any non-comic book movie goers a little bit to understand the story as a whole, but it’s still an exciting roller coaster ride. It’s worth the price of admission to see it, especially in Real 3D and IMAX. The visuals are that impressive. So, great story, great cast, great visual effects, drama with the right amount of comedy, laughter and tears, shock and awe… It’s all in Avengers: Infinity War. A+++ Marvel! It was worth the wait!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.