“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is worthy of the legacy

It’s a Christmas tradition (at least in my house) to watch a Star Wars movie over the holiday. First, I spent the holidays thrilling over The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda. Then, on Christmas Day, I got to see the end of the original series with Episode IX.

My son called me before I saw it to let me know he really didn’t care for it and I may be disappointed. I wasn’t fazed by his review. After all, he liked The Last Jedi.

BTW, NO SPOILERS HERE!

In any event, I think people seeing this movie will either like it or hate it. It’s that polarizing. The way the story of Rey, the Resistance, the First Order, the Jedi and the Sith, and the Emperor all came to a conclusion was a bit clunky. It was all over the place, from beginning to end, not sure which way was up or down, light side or dark side, etc. But even through all that, the story came to a close with a bang, not a whimper. It was brilliant.

The way this all started out, I thought they were taking Rey down the dark side, learn to control her emotions or end up like Vader and Kylo Ren. We all got that vibe from images in the trailer. Luckily, there was more to it than that. Rey’s story is the most complex within the movie, and I wish it didn’t take the whole movie to sort it out, but I’m glad it finally did.

The Rise of Skywalker ticked all the right boxes for a Star Wars movie… Epic battle scenes, beautiful vistas, balanced comedic and tender moments, and “edge of your seat” suspense. It was quintessential Star Wars.

One of the things I tend to hate about Star Wars movies is the over/under use of characters. Rose, who played a big role in The Last Jedi was so under used here. Likewise was Dominic Monaghan. You don’t bring in someone like him to Star Wars and give him four lines. I am thrilled they were able to work in the last scenes of Carrie Fisher. It was an appropriate end for “our” princess!

I loved the various cameos and the nods to characters from film, television, books and comic books. That’s one of the things that made this movie great for me. They didn’t forget where the story began and brought it to a close.

We can now look forward to new stories from the Star Wars universe, or so we’re told by our Disney Sithlords. Let’s hope we get more like The Mandalorian and less like The Last Jedi.

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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 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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WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN CAPTAIN MARVEL YET!

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!

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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 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.

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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 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.

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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.

 

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.

Go See “I Can Only Imagine” and take a box of tissues with you

Image result for i can only imagineI don’t like to touch on religion a lot in my blog. It’s a subject that can go ten ways from Sunday, for lack of a better word. But after seeing “I Can Only Imagine” at the movies today, I just can’t help myself. No matter what you believe when it comes to God, this movie will bring you closer than ever before.

As much as I love the fantasy/adventure genre in most of the movies I watch, its rather refreshing to sit through a real heartwarming, family, faith-based movie. The story of Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band Mercy Me and writer of the song “I Can Only Imagine” is one of personal struggle, abuse, and redemption. This is the story of how he fought his demons to follow his dream of being a singer/songwriter, that ended with him writing the most popular song in the history of Christian music.

The beginning of this movie was heart wrenching. His father abused him, mentally and physically, and his mother left him behind with his abusive father. Even with the love of his longtime girlfriend, he kept the pain from that abuse bottled up inside. It caused him to almost lose the passion he had for music. Then his life changed forever, and he wrote the song that would change him, his band, and the world of Christian music.

This is a simple story… No plot twists, tricks, or things out of left field. The story flows beautifully that it draws you in with each passing moment. The music is the heart of this story and it will bring you to tears. From the moment he started to reconcile with his father until the very end, it was like Niagara Falls. It brought joy to my heart and soul, to the very end, when he sings his iconic song for the first time. You can’t help but feel the presence of God, especially at the very end.

Like I said earlier, its so nice to see a movie like this out of Hollywood. Faith-based movies are on the rise, and I think Hollywood is starting to take notice. Even the actors and actresses are beginning to see the change in the industry. Dennis Quaid, who played the father Arthur Millard brilliantly, said “I hadn’t’ heard the song, but when I read the script it hit me so profoundly in the heart in a place where I don’t even have words.”

“And that’s what the song does and it grows on you, too. Just like you grow in the Spirit, the song grows on you in that way, too. In the end, it’s just a song of joy,” he concluded.

If you need to find that something to lift your spirit, fill your heart with love, and bring you a little bit closer to God, you need to see this movie. Even if you don’t have that kind of relationship with God, see this movie. It might just change your perspective.

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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.

Ignore the reviews, Justice League is a geek’s wet dream

JusticeLeague-IMAX-poster-1I normally don’t listen to a lot of movie critics when it comes to superhero movies, and I’ll tell you why. The majority of movie reviewers are not 100% certified comic book geeks. Additionally, those who are comic book nerds are such purists that even the tiniest of flaws ruins the movie for them. That being said…

I left the movie theater in awe, full of a giddy excitement over each and every “Easter Egg” I saw in the movie. That’s what Justice League did for me today.

You have to understand, I grew up in an era with spandex costumes, bad or relatively weak special effects, and scripts written by TV writers who never picked up a comic book in my life. The comic book movies coming out today are a million times better, and Justice League is one of them.

Okay, so here’s my warning… SPOILER ALERT!

I loved Justice League. It was a faithful culmination from Man of Steel, to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then Wonder Woman. The story brought the League together in search of three “Mother Boxes,” alien devices that could destroy the world in the hands of the villainous Steppenwolf and his Para-Demons. That’s the basic background but the movie went even further than that.

We got to see the undersea kingdom of Atlantis and the first meeting between Aquaman and his future wife, Mera. I was concerned hoe they were going to do the undersea battle, and it was brilliant, especially when Mera pushed the water aside so she and Aquaman could talk to each other. It was that simple attention to detail that made that moment work.

The fighting was amazing, especially since we actually got to see a Green Lantern (but not THE Green Lantern) in the historic battle between Steppenwolf and the combined armies of the Amazons, Atlantians, men and Gods. And when Superman came back, it made the fighting even better. The League used everything thing they had fighting Steppenwolf, even to go as far as show the Batman’s vulnerabilities as a mortal man.

The “Easter Eggs” are so numerous, it’s hard to miss them and that makes me giddy even now:  Steppenwolf calls out the name Darkseid, the Green Lantern, Bruce talking about a round table with six chairs in a new HQ (set up in the old Wayne Manor (Holy #$%* Batman!), Cyborg getting his more traditional armor at the end (not to mention “Booyah!”), Superman racing the Flash (mid-credits) was right out of the comic book, and Luthor and Deathstroke talking about forming a league of their own (end credits) and how awesome Deathstroke looks. I mean,wow!

Are there ploy holes and challenges with how the story is laid out? Yes, but it didn’t bother me. I was seeing the comic book team I read as a kid on the big screen together. I was hooked from the very beginning, glued to my seat.

I also enjoyed a lot of the sentimentality and the comedy in the movie. Watching Superman standing the cornfield as his mother pulls up and sees that he’s alive brought a tear to my eye, as did watching Barry Allen dealing with his father in prison. Speaking of Flash, he provided some great humor throughout the movie. Watching the back-and-forth between Flash and Cyborg in the graveyard while they’re digging up Superman is comedy gold.

It’s up to you, but I would recommend it to everyone… GO AND SEE IT! Justice League (#2) and Wonder Woman (#1) are my top two superhero movies of 2017, with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, at a respectable third. I really think Marvel was out shined this year, in my opinion. Thor: Ragnarok had too much comedy for my tastes and, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in another Spider-man origin movie.

I left the theater today in love with this movie. It makes me want to watch the next series of DC movies, anticipating the sequel to Justice League. I am geeked out over this movie, and I think you will too!

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

No “WONDER” it took them this long, they had to find the right “WOMAN” for the role

gal-Gadot-Wonder-Woman-movie-June-2017I think Wonder Woman is one of the most inspiring characters in comics today. Since her creation in World War II, she has fought for the same values as Superman (Truth, Justice, and the American Way) while at the same time confronting the unreal stereotypes of women outside the home. Though she has been portrayed on TV by many great actresses, it took her more than 75 years to finally end up on the silver screen. In my opinion, they had to wait until Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins came along.

Of all the more recent comic book movies, Wonder Woman is one of the best I’ve seen. It ranks right up there with Captain America: Civil War. The fight scenes are incredible, the cinematography beautiful and the story flows from beginning to end. It was a pleasure to sit and watch this movie. All it did was make me more and more anxious for the Justice League movie.

The story is a basic origin story, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of World War II, we find Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) and U.S. soldier/spy Steve Trevor fighting the Kaiser and the German forces in the trenches of World War I. If you never read about the horrors of “trench warfare” this movie demonstrates how bad it really was during that time. The “War to End All Wars” was a perfect setting for the return of Ares, the God of War. Diana is convinced that if she kills Ares, she will end the war.

It’s funny watching her wade through a society that sees women as a lower class, not smart enough to even be in the war room with senior military officers and politicians. Her naivety is her strength in standing up to these outdated attitudes, but its her actions that prove them all wrong.

The one scene that has played over and over again in the trailers is where Diana drops her outer garments and steps out of the trench, in full armor, to save a village caught in “No Man’s Land” between the trenches. The entire fight scene is not only flawless, but the set up really showed the audience how much she cared about protecting the innocent and fighting for justice.

I said it was a brilliant script and the final scene was riveting when you learn the true identity of Ares and see a true heroic sacrifice. I’m not going to spoil the movie but it was surprising, even to me.

I want to go back to my original thought that started it all, about Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins. Gal was a delight to watch and absolutely perfect for this role. She portrayed Diana’s naivety, her raw emotion and the power of Wonder Woman as if she stepped out of a comic book. Though highly criticized, Gal was who we (comic book fans) were waiting for.

As for Patty Jenkins, she brought a level of attention-to-detail rarely seen in comic book movies. She made a movie that we fans can enjoy and watch over and over again. I can’t wait for the next installment.

Wonder Woman has brought DC out of its “creative funk” (as it were) to where they finally have a movie on par with some of Marvel’s best. This will definitely rank in the Top 5 of superhero movie lists for years to come. It reminded me a lot of Captain America: The First Avenger and that’s saying a lot. Many of these great heroes started out fighting in World War II, so it’s nice to see WWI get a hero it deserves.

And her name is Wonder Woman!

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a rock n’ roll extravaganza, even if you don’t read comic books

Guardians_Of_The_Galaxy_Vol_2_Official_Poster_Landscape“I am Groot!” says it all, but for those of you who don’t speak Groot, let me give you my review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in theaters now! I want to start out with a slight confession … I’m not a big fan of Marvel Comics’ Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series. I grew up with the original 30th Century Guardians (some of who actually make an appearance in GotG Vol. 2) of Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, Starhawk, Nikki  and Yondu). The new Guardians are a mish-mash of space-spawned superheroes that have had their origins altered and/or updated for both the new continuity and the films.

That being said … I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with all its “Easter Eggs” and subtle hints to the comics, and a “nod and a wink” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) future. It is action-packed, fast-paced, and quite funny. It also had a few emotional, tear-jerker moments that tie the first two movies together. Overall, it is a great start to the summer movie season with more on the way (Spiderman: Homecoming and Wonder Woman, ‘nuff said!).

Set to the backdrop of another amazing soundtrack, “Awesome Mixtape #2,” Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures, a few months after the events of the first movie, as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they fight off a race of genetically-superior beings, and the Ravagers, all while they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the MCU continues to expand.

First and foremost, the cast is top-notch. They have cast awesome actors to fill these roles. From Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel to Kurt Russell as Ego (Peter’s father) and even cameos by Sylvester Stallone and others. They have these characters laid out perfectly and make them 100% real, like they just stepped out of the comic book.

Secondly, the script had a great mix of humor and action with the over-arching theme of family. You learn a lot of evil truths about Peter’s father (which I won’t spoil here) and how it shaped him into the Star-Lord of today. The Ravagers go from “a space gang of thugs” to a more meanable, yet honorable, group that covers the entire quadrant of space in the MCU. The Sovereign, especially their uppity, genetically superior Ayesha, are more of a nuisance than a threat, but the idea of “Adam” awaiting his birth (true believers will know who I’m talking about) is one of the best “Easter Eggs” in the movie.

Speaking of which, James Gunn goes all out to out to give us every hint, clue and subtle reference to the MCU in his movies. Cameos from some of the original Guardians by Hollywood stars, MCU characters from Howard the Duck (even with a reference to the God-awful Howard the Duck movie), the Watchers (with the legend, Stan “The Man” Lee) and even some of the most obscure characters from the MCU filling the ranks of the Ravagers.

Even if you’ve never read a comic book before, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great roller coaster ride you will enjoy. You may not get some of the quirky, comic book references, but you will enjoy it. It’s funny, sometimes irreverent humor, will make you laugh, the death of one MCU character (again, no spoilers here) will touch you, and Baby Groot is so damn adorable, you will want one for yourself.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt

Magic and mysticism make Marvel movie magic memorable

doctor_strange_ver5As a lifelong comic book geek who has put up with lots of bad movies and TV shows prior to CGI, I am in nirvana right now. We have had an annual dose of great comic book movies, some good and some bad, but they keep getting better and better. This weekend, I went to see the latest Marvel Studios movie, Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen. I saw it in IMAX 3D, which I would recommend you seeing it in. The visual effects of this movie will amaze you in IMAX and it’s well worth a few dollars more. The creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko was actually made into a TV movie in the 70s (I remember watching it, it was terrible) but this is his first jaunt onto the big screen.

This is our first venture into magic and mysticism in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), although one could say the two Thor movies, and Thor: Ragnarok coming out next year, was like dipping your big toe in the pool of magic. Magic in the MCU, according to Thor, is what we call science in the real world. I did like how the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) explained it in Doctor Strange. Magic is energy and “spells are programs” to bend it to the will of the sorcerer.

In any case, this is a full-on origin story but it does take place over the span of previous Marvel movies. Stephen Strange’s name was mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a target Hydra needed to eliminate; and in this movie, he was given the option of a surgical consult on an “Air Force Colonel who severed his spine in an armored mech suit” a la War Machine in Captain America: Civil War. You also see the Avengers Tower in the New York skyline during various scenes in the movie. As an origin movie, I like how they cut straight to the chase and didn’t draw out his entire life story in the first hour. It was quick and to the point, though a rumored scene showing how the death of his sister led him to medicine might have been a nice touch, Maybe we’ll see it in the Blu-Ray/DvD release.

The whole movie is not about Strange becoming a sorcerer, but rather it focuses on a former student of Ancient One (Mads Mikkelsen) who wants to “save” our world by ending death through eternal life in the Dark Dimension. Here we see the real villain behind the scenes, Dormammu. Whereas Thanos is the big bad cosmic being the rest of the MCU is worried about, Dormammu is the big bad of the magical world within the MCU. You really get to see all the evil that is Dormammu in the final boss fight (sorry but a video game reference is the only way to describe it).

This movie has a great cast, outstanding visual effects, and story that even the most novice comic book fan can follow. It takes Doctor Strange from being an egotistical surgeon to being a humble man taking on the awesome responsibilities as sorcerer supreme. It’s a great story with the perfect blend of action, humor, and serious drama. I wanted to see more backstory on some of the other characters, but I do realize it’s a movie about Doctor Strange so the others will have to wait for the sequel.

Like all Marvel movies, there were great mid-credits and post-credits scenes. The mid-credit scene set up Thor: Ragnarok beautifully while the end credits gave us a glimpse as to where they would take a sequel to Doctor Strange. In addition, there are dozens of “Easter Eggs” that many comic book fans will know and appreciate.

This is a great movie and worth the price of admission. It just leaves you wanting more from the MCU, but now we have to wait until 2017 for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 2017), Spiderman: Homecoming (July 2017) and Thor: Ragnarok (November 2017).

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.