Tag Archives: Mrs. Primary Ignition

A Christopher Robin Review – What Would Pooh Do?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I really love Winnie the Pooh.

As a 30-something dude, it’s weird to hear myself say that. But it’s true, and has been for a few years now. I wrote something about this a few years ago. Long story short, I keep it as a daily reminder to be kind in a world that’s increasingly mean. Almost like a sign that asks, “What would Pooh do?”

This weekend, Mrs. Primary Ignition and I went to see Christopher Robin. I almost couldn’t help but go. Keep in mind what I just said about the world we’re in right now, and look at the trailer…

Christopher Robin was essentially marketed as a movie where Pooh and his friends put the title character, a cynical and withdrawn adult who neglects his family in favor of work, back in touch with his inner child. Something you can take your kids to see, while also taking something home for yourself. And that’s what it turns out to be. It’s a very nice movie. It’s true to the characters, Jim Cummings hits all the right notes as the voice of Pooh (and Tigger), and Ewan McGregor is a fine choice for an adult Christopher Robin.

All that said, Christopher Robin underachieves. Or at least it feels like it does.

As we were leaving the theater, Mrs. Primary Ignition and I realized what we’d been expecting, based on the trailers and advertising: Toy Story 3. Or perhaps Toy Story 3 in reverse.

If you were an adult when Toy Story 3 came out, I’ll bet what you remember most about it is the ending. Andy has to leave his childhood, i.e. Woody and the gang, behind as he goes off to college. In Christopher Robin, our main character has long since left his childhood behind. But now his old toys have popped back up to remind him of who he used to be, and what’s really important in life.

Whether Disney meant for this or not, the trailers for Christopher Robin very much evoke that sentimental tearjerker vibe we got from Toy Story 3. But it doesn’t deliver on that.  So it ends up being just another movie. Which is a real shame.

I’m not suggesting Christopher Robin should have been a more mature movie. It doesn’t need to be. But I think it could have benefited from Ewan McGregor being a little more Scrooge-ish. The movie depicts him as someone who’s lost touch with his own heart because the world has ground him down so much. Let’s see a little more of that. He didn’t need to yell or scream. We just needed him to be a little more…cold. Then it’s that much more impactful to see his heart warm in the end.

Christopher Robin is a perfectly serviceable night at the movies. But it could have been so much more. It could have prompted moviegoers to look into their own lives, and ask that all-important question: “What would Pooh do?”

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

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Weekly Comic Haul: May 16, 2018: Batman, Flavor, “Shattered Grid”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m Rob, and these are the comics I spent my hard-earned money on this week…

Flavor #1
I picked this one up for the sake of sheer curiosity. Flavor was advertised as The Hunger Games mixed with world-building akin to that of Hayao Miyazaki. Based purely on how it looks, I might throw Hell’s Kitchen in there as well. I mentioned this to Mrs. Primary Ignition, who doesn’t read a lot of comics. She promptly exclaimed, “That sounds amazing!” If it’s got her sold, it’s at least worth a look.

Batman #47
I’m not big on Batman using guns. It feels like a cheap trick to me. Or “cheap heat,” as they’d say in the wrestling world. “The Gift” introduced us to such a Batman. In an alternate timeline, of course.  But I’m nonetheless enjoying the story. It’s a tremendous spotlight for Booster Gold, who’s been a favorite of mine for a long time.

Dead Hand #2
Kyle Higgins had a double-header this week. The next chapter of “Shattered Grid” (more on that in a moment), and this baby. Dead Hand #1 surprised many a reader with a twist on its final page, leading us into this sophomore issue. This noir spy thriller is packed with plenty of intrigue, which is based a little more in reality than one might think.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #27
Higgins’ second outing of the week. I’m not big on the way “Shattered Grid” is prominently framed like a multiverse story, as opposed to a time-travel one. But it’s nonetheless amazing to see all these Rangers from all these eras getting to meet one another. I can certainly appreciate the use of Lauren Shiba from Power Rangers Samurai. She was about as underutilized as any Ranger in the show’s 25-year history.

A Walk Through Hell #1
I’ve been diving into the AfterShock Comics library in recent months. Babyteeth, Her Infernal Descent, Animosity, Black-Eyed Kids, etc. So I picked this one up for that reason above all else. I know very little about what to expect here, which is probably what they’re counting on. I know its about FBI agents investigating a mall shooting. That’s about it…

Justice League: No Justice #2
Someone needed to clarify this for me the other day: These four cooky teams aren’t staying together full time. They’re just here for this miniseries, and then the new Justice League book launches next month. That’s a little bit of a disappointment, as we’ve got some really interesting combinations here. Either way, No Justice has me picking up a Justice League book for the first time in a few years.

Gideon Falls #3
I wasn’t sure if I was going to stick with Gideon Falls after issue #1. But I found myself drawn back to it as the weeks went by. I’m grateful for that, as the characters have only gotten more interesting. Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and the Gideon Falls team have given us something irresistibly haunting.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #72
This book has had its share of flaws. But it’s still one of the best TMNT runs ever. Dave Watcher’s art has a nice gritty texture to it. And Ronda Pattison’s colors are gorgeous as always. The Toad Baron character is a lot of fun too.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Astonishing Art: Classic Justice League by Mike Mahle

***In “Astonishing Art,” we spotlight a particular work or series of works from a specific artist or creative team. The only requirement? That the work be simply and purely astonishing!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Mrs. Primary Ignition and I stumbled across Mike Mahle’s table at C2E2 this year, and were immediately struck by what we saw. Specifically, posters featuring his digital renderings of DC Comics superheroes in their unabashedly colorful glory. These pieces celebrate the iconic looks of characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, with a delightfully retro (and often retro-futuristic) flair.

We purchased a print of Mahle’s take on Superman, as I found myself hopelessly drawn to it. In an era where so many want to darken the character, or make him a moody brooder, Mahle casts the Man of Steel in the idealistic light he was meant to be shown in. This is the true face of Superman.

Mahle actually sells a collected book of these DC posters, which is the size of a standard comic book. It’s got his tributes to most of the big DC names, as well as some of the lesser known characters. Booster Gold, Power Girl, Captain Atom, etc.

Particularly popular at the convention was Mahle’s take on Batman: The Movie, with Adam West and Burt Ward (shown left). Like so many, my first exposure to the character came from the 1966 show. So this one hit me right in the feels. Especially now that Adam West is gone.

Mahle’s art isn’t limited to retro DC stuff, of course. In his portfolio, you’ll find more modern takes on comic book heroes, including Marvel’s cast of characters. You can also find his take on posters for both classic and current films. Mahle has also crowdfunded his own book, Empire City, an art and design collection scheduled for release later this year.

Mike Mahle’s work can be found at MikeMahle.com. I’d also recommend checking out his Instagram and DeviantArt for his latest stuff.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

The Fanboy’s Closet: BB-8 and Back to the Future Socks

***In ”The Fanboy’s Closet,” I pull a geeky item of clothing from the closet, snap a pic, and then see what subjects it takes us into. Why? Why the hell not?!?***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

More socks this week. I’ve got a lot of socks, folks. You’re going to see a lot of them.

My sister-in-law got me a Loot Wear subscription this past Christmas. So I’ve been getting two pairs of geeky character socks in the mail once a month. Most of them are pretty cool one way or the other. But this photo is from the month they really landed in my wheelhouse. On the left you have the Hoverboard design from Back to the Future Part II. And of course, on the right you have BB-8 of Star Wars fame.

I spent the first few days of 2015 extremely annoyed at all the Back to the Future memes that were popping up. Most of them (at least the ones in my feeds) were pictures of the future sequence from Part II, with text that said something to the effect of, “It’s 2015. Why don’t things look this way???”

It’s one thing to hear an extremely obvious, low-hanging fruit of a joke. It’s another thing entirely to be bombarded with it over and over. If you want me to hate something, shove it down my throat over and over. Call it the John Cena/Roman Reigns effect.

Mrs. Primary Ignition bought me The Last Jedi on DVD a couple of weeks ago, and a few days ago we finally watched it together. While the movie has a fair share of problems (in case you hadn’t heard the legions who complained about it), a second viewing left me feeling a little warmer toward it. In contrast, my view of Rogue One hasn’t shifted at all. It remains the only Star Wars movie I knew I disliked as I was leaving the theater.

I’m cautiously optimistic about Solo: A Star Wars Story. Unlike Rogue One, at least I know that movie actually has characters in it. Characters I care about.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Fanboy Flashback: Gene Ha and a LOT of Librarians

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Mrs. Primary Ignition is a youth librarian. As such, every year she attends the annual children’s literature breakfast put on by Anderson’s Bookshop. I’ve been lucky enough to go with her twice. Both times, we’ve been lucky enough to be in the company of Eisner Award winning artist Gene Ha.

Because the guy is just that talented, he sits there and does personalized sketches of people at the convention. Last year, he was actually sitting at our table. We happened to mention we were going to The Lego Batman Movie later that day. So he drew yours truly under the Lego Batman helmet. Then this year, he drew my wife. I wouldn’t presume to speak for Mr. Ha, but I’d say she made a much better subject than I did.

If you get the chance to be drawn by an Eisner Award-winning artist, you jump at it. All the more so if that artist happens to be Gene Ha.

For more from Gene Ha, check out the first volume of Mae, and check out the first issue of the new Mae series from Lion Forge Comics when it hits comic shops on June 20. Mr. Ha is on Twitter at @GeneHa.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Talking Star Wars: Looking Back at The Force Awakens

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Mrs. Primary Ignition and I are going to see The Last Jedi tonight. So naturally, last night we sat down to watch The Force Awakens. It was her idea, actually. Ladies, if you’re husband is a geek, ask him if he’s up for sitting down with some chili and a Star Wars movie. See what happens.

Obviously I’ve seen it a number of times already. In addition to officially reviewing it two years ago, I’ve discussed numerous elements here and there. The Force Awakens rightfully got a lot of flack for mimicking the original film. But I still love it. I can’t help it. There’s just something about Star Wars that brings out the inner child in so many of us. The Force Awakens did that in a way the prequels didn’t.

Moreso, The Force Awakens was a hell of an accomplishment. It breathed so much new life into the franchise, by introducing new faces and telling new stories. It restored some of the magic of the original trilogy by incorporating more practical effects, and not leaning so heavily on CGI. We had yet another epic score from the incomparable John Williams. In the end, it set the bar pretty damn high for Disney’s foray into the Star Wars universe.

What follows are a some notes I jotted down during the movie. This was my last stop on the road to The Last Jedi. Sometimes in order to appreciate where we’re going, you must first remember where you’ve been…

Mere minutes into the movie, Mrs. Primary Ignition asks: “Who built BB-8?” A fair question, I suppose. It’s sometimes tough to wrap your head around the idea that these robots, who play such pivotal roles in these movies, were mass produced in a factory somewhere. Unless you’re C-3PO, of course.

What The Force Awakens suffers from more than anything is a lack of exposition. When we were last in this universe, the Empire was being dealt a fatal blow. The implication was that they were gone for good. Then in the opening title crawl we’re told the First Order has “risen from the ashes of the Empire.” So where did they come from, and when? How did they acquire all their resources? Has there been relative peace in the three decades since Return of the Jedi? I understand certain things had to be kept a mystery. But little tidbits here and there to fill in the gaps would have been helpful.

Captain Phasma has a great look. Her armor is a nice extension of the stormtrooper get-up, and works as a symbol of the unwavering strength of the First Order. It’s also perfect to base toys off of. That always helps.

On a similar note, I’ve never liked the blasters the First Order troopers use. The mix of white and black makes them look like toy guns.

You can pinpoint the moment the audience is supposed to understand Rey is a good guy. When she’s sitting there cleaning off the parts she found in the old Star Destroyer, she looks at a frail old lady across from her doing some cleaning of her own. We see sympathy and compassion on her face. Thus, we make a positive connection with her. Remember, t this point in the film Rey hasn’t spoken yet. So it’s a nice subtle move.

The Empire’s last stand took place on Jakku. That’s why we see the crashed Star Destroyer, the downed AT-AT that Rey lives in, etc. But no one else us this. Again, lack of exposition. It doesn’t make or break the film either way, but it would have helped.

There are a lot of little details that are meant to make your brain associate The Force Awakens with the original trilogy. The noise the mouse droids make. The placement of the gas masks on the Millennium Falcon. The belch noise from the rathtar monster. That’s to say nothing of the more overt stuff, like the chess board and remote on the Falcon.

The Mos Eisley Cantina has to be one of the most imitated settings in cinematic history. Even within in the Star Wars universe, creators can’t help but put their spin on the idea. We obviously get that here with Maz Kanata’s cantina. It was fine. But it was pretty obvious what they were doing.

Should Kylo Ren/Ben Solo have had a pale, worn face that hadn’t seen light in awhile? When he takes his helmet off, he just looks like a normal guy. But I picture him never wanting to be seen without it, much like Darth Vader.

There’s a great little moment with Leia that was cut from the movie. Now that Carrie Fisher is gone, I really wish they’d kept it in. Leia is talking to someone about contacting the Senate and insisting action be taking against the First Order.

“Not all the senators think I’m insane. Or maybe they do. I don’t care.”

That line, and the way she delivers it, are so great. Considering how open Carrie Fisher was about her own mental illness, I bet she loved that line. I don’t think the line between Carrie and Leia was ever thinner than during those three sentences.

My favorite exchange in the movie happens between Han and Finn while they’re trying to infiltrate the Starkiller Base.

“Solo, we’ll figure it out. We’ll use the Force!”

“That’s not how the Force works!”

Han’s death scene is still hard to watch. Even when you know it’s coming, it doesn’t help. That horrified roar from Chewie might be the worst part of it all.

There’s a fan theory that Han actually pointed the lightsaber at himself, allowing Ben to turn it on and kill him. The idea being that he knew Snoke would kill Ben if he failed to carry out the deed. It doesn’t make the most sense. But stranger things have happened.

I love the fight between Kylo Ren and Rey. There’s very little fancy fight choreography, and neither look like extremely polished fighters. They’re just wailing on each other. It’s also a different environment than we’ve ever seen a lightsaber fight, which is accentuated when Rey uses the snow to extinguish Ren’s weapon.

The music callback from A New Hope when Rey catches the lightsaber is a touching moment. We heard it when Luke accepted his call to adventure, and now Rey is accepting hers. A hero is born.

On paper, you’d think the ending to this movie would be infuriating. We finally find Luke Skywalker, and then the movie ends. But it works.

Despite only appearing on camera for a matter of seconds, Mark Hamill did not have an easy job. He had so much to covey in so little time. This is the first time we’ve seen the character in so many years, and so much has happened. So the audience is just staring at him, taking in all the details.

I’ve heard that Hamill steals the show in The Last Jedi. I hope that’s the case. It’s time for mainstream moviegoers to see what we in the geek community have known for a long time: This man is a gem.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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A Justice League Review – Lessons Learned

TITLE: Justice League
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME:
 120 min
RELEASED: November 17, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Justice League is a standard superhero popcorn flick. It’s nowhere near as dark, dreary, and generally abysmal as Batman v Superman. But it also doesn’t accomplish anything remotely special. It’s about a team of heroes coming together to fight a villain with a doomsday plan. Been there, done that. Several times, actually. So what we get comes off completely and utterly average.

After all these years, the first Justice League feature film is just average. What an awful, heartbreaking waste…

The plot is basic enough to surmise from the advertising. As the world continues to mourn the death of Superman, we’ve got a new big bad in town. Steppenwolf, a tyrant from the hellscape world of Apokalips, has returned to Earth after thousands of years with his army of Parademons in tow. He aims to conquer the world using the immense power of three “Mother Boxes.” Batman and Wonder Woman prepare to meet this invasion head on by assembling a team of super-powered heroes. The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman are all called to action. But in the end, they won’t be enough. For this new team to triumph, Superman must return…

Trust me, it’s a lot more exciting on paper than it is on screen.

Justice League is the culmination of the years-long comedy of errors that is the “DC Extended Universe.” Man of Steel was an adequate start, flawed as it was with it’s dreary look and overindulgent third act. It was followed by the downright dour Batman v Superman, which robbed its characters of almost any charm, heart, or likability. Suicide Squad wasted arguably pop culture’s most iconic supervillain in the Joker, but managed to be fun in a mindless hot mess sort of way. Wonder Woman was the exception that made the rule. It felt like a single vision, with purpose, heart, and passion put into it.

And so, on one the most rickety foundations in cinematic history, Justice League was built. Like Suicide Squad before it, this movie feels like a melting pot of visions, voices, and priorities clumped together to form a viable commercial product. Our director is once again Zack Snyder. But with their confidence shaken from the backlash to Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. brought in Avengers director Joss Whedon to reshape the script. Thus, we have a Joss Whedon superhero movie taking place in Zack Snyder’s grim DC Universe, under the management of a studio desperate to compete with Marvel at the box office. Hot damn! Sign me up!

One of the major missteps in Justice League is it’s choice of villain. DC Comics lore is full of baddies worthy of challenging Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Darkseid is the obvious choice. But you’ve also got big cosmic villains like Brainiac, Mongul, and Despero. Professor Ivo and the Amazo android could have made for an interesting story. Hell, team Lex Luthor up with the Joker! It sure as hell beats Steppenwolf…

Yes, Steppenwolf. A second-rate, paper-thin, poorly rendered Darkseid stand-in with an army of space bugs, a silly name, and a generic doomsday plot. This is who they came up with to face the Justice League in their debut feature film. Strictly from a cynical marketing standpoint, how the hell to you pass up slapping Darkseid, Brainiac, or Lex Luthor on t-shirts and posters, and instead opt for someone called Steppenwolf?

Justice League cost a whopping $300 million to make. That’s astounding, considering our CGI-rendered Steppenwolf looks like he was done in the late ’90s. It’s not just him, either. It’s been well documented that reshoots were done with a mustached Henry Cavill. The movie’s opening sequence wasn’t even over before Mrs. Primary Ignition turned to me and asked, “What’s up with Superman’s mouth?” Certain shots in Batman’s introduction are also extremely fake looking. Makes you wonder what the hell happened to good old fashioned stunt doubles and prosthetic make up…

Superman has a certain aura of reverence in this movie. Had that been earned or established in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, that would have been fantastic. I’ve always been a proponent of Superman being the center, or at least part of the center, of the DC Universe. He’s certainly its moral backbone. But all this mourning we see over Superman doesn’t match the controversial figure we saw in Batman v Superman. Yes, some people loved him. But he was also the subject of protests and a congressional hearing. Lois Lane, Batman, Wonder Woman, and those who knew Superman have a reason to miss him. But based on what we saw before, there’d be a large contingent of people who’d be glad Superman died.

So now that I’ve sufficiently ripped Justice League apart, what’s there to like? What did they get right? Believe it or not, all was not lost from the get go…

Unlike in Batman v. Superman, almost all of our heroes are likable. Superman knows how to smile. Wonder Woman is compassionate, but still fierce. I’ve never needed a lot of selling on Ben Affleck’s Batman. Joss Whedon’s influence in the movie is obvious when the Dark Knight gets in a quip or two. Ezra Miller plays a socially inept Flash, who provides much of the comic relief. His costume looks absolutely ridiculous. But there’s a certain charm to him. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is surprisingly okay as a dude bro. For a team flick, it works fine. Granted it’s not the approach I would have gone with, and they’ll obviously need to deepen his character for the Aquaman solo movie. Assuming that’s still in the pipeline after all this.

As much as this movie fell short of what it could have been, there is a certain warm and fuzzy quality to seeing these characters on the big screen together. Most of them aren’t true to the essence of the iconic characters they’re based on. But at the very least it’s cool on a superficial level to see Batman is standing next to Wonder Woman. Superman is running next to the Flash! Aquaman is in Atlantis! It’s a highly tarnished version of what we should be getting. But at least we’re getting it in some form. That counts for something.

And so, four years into the DC Extended Universe, what have we learned? What has the road to Justice League taught us? More than anything, it’s this: Darkness doesn’t equate to quality. At least not to larger audiences.

Some people point to darker tales like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen as the pinnacle of the superhero genre. But while they pushed the boundaries of how these stories and characters could work and be seen, they weren’t simply dark for the sake of darkness. The Dark Knight Returns isn’t just about an older and grittier Batman getting to punch Superman in the face. It’s about a hero returning to face a world that’s changed in his absence. Watchmen isn’t about Rorschach beating people up. It’s a look at superheroes from a different, more grounded angle. The dark tones fit the stories and the characters, not the other way around.

We also need to remember that at the end of the day these characters are meant for children. That doesn’t mean we can’t love them as adults. We don’t need to dumb them down for kids, but we can’t keep them all for ourselves either. If DC and Warner Bros. should have learned one thing from Disney and Marvel, it wasn’t the cinematic universe element. It’s that these movies can be accessible to viewers of all ages. They can be mature without being meant for mature audiences.

The blame Justice League‘s failures, creative and otherwise, falls primarily on the studio higher-ups. But the finger also needs to be pointed at Zack Snyder. He’s got a devoted fanbase that will filet me for saying so. But if Batman v Superman didn’t convince you, the fact that the first Justice League movie didn’t outperform the third Thor movie should say it all. Snyder must be kept far away from any and all future DC films. I shudder to think what this movie would have looked like without Joss Whedon’s influence. 

Superhero movies can be thrilling, emotional, and surprisingly versatile. But at their core, they aren’t complicated. Give us a hero worth rooting for, a villain worth rooting against, and a reason for them to fight. We don’t need to see a bad guy get his neck snapped, a bomb inside a jar of piss, or a city destroyed to compensate for a lack of emotional connection with the audience. 

Lessons learned. Six years and millions of dollars too late. But lessons learned…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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