Tag Archives: superheroes

The Astounding Broccoli Boy

Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

My rating: 4 of 5

Rory Rooney is all about being ready for everything, but the truth is there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Like being bullied by the biggest kid in your class. Or being accused of trying to poison him after he steals your food and has an allergic reaction. Or falling in a river and turning green. Broccoli green. But surprisingly enough, being green is something Rory can deal with. The doctors are baffled, but he’s convinced that his verdancy can only have one diagnosis: super.

I swear, where has this author been my whole life?! I just recently discovered Boyce’s writing when I read Cosmic, and The Astounding Broccoli Boy is another homerun of an absurd middle-grade adventure story. The author does a great job of creating relatable but interesting characters. The situations in which the characters find themselves are absolutely ridiculous–totally the realm of tall tales–yet with enough Truth (the kind that impacts people, not necessarily the kind that is scientifically provable) that the story is still grounded and real to the reader. The author uses the ridiculous, the humorous, and the adventurous events the characters encounter to express something practical and immediate, and I love that. Plus, the story is just fun, full of hijinks and misunderstandings and fun references. I would definitely recommend The Astounding Broccoli Boy for middle-grade readers in particular, but also just in general; it’s good fun.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014 movie)

Marvel Studios

My rating: 3.5 of 5

An unlikely band of misfits and unsavory types is thrown together–mostly by their own greed and/or hatred of each other, surprisingly enough. And in the midst of their joint efforts at prison breaks, selling of stolen goods, and running for their lives, they somehow manage to go from being at each others’ throats to having each others’ backs. Which is good, because they might just be the only thing standing between the galaxy and total destruction.

I’ve probably stated this before, but I’m generally not a big fan of superhero/comic-based stories–and Marvel ones in particular. I actually mostly watched Guardians of the Galaxy because Karen Gillan is in it. That was a bit of a disappointment; I felt like her character ended up being pretty flat. *cries* But I did enjoy other aspects of the story and characters. It was weird to me that the entire main group of characters are really not what would typically be considered good people–thieves, bounty hunters, traitors, and individuals bent on revenge. But they made for an amusing and sympathetic group, I have to admit, and the tension between the characters is a big part of the enjoyment of the film. Obviously, Rocket and Groot are the best (and funniest) part of the whole story. But with that, I also have to give fair warning that this is PG-13, and it shows in the humor–as well as in the language and the violence, although it’s not particularly bloody or anything. I think one of the things I loved the most is how integral music and dance are to the story throughout. Plus, it’s an origin story of sorts, which I generally enjoy, so there’s that. Overall, the whole film has a funky, off-kilter flair that feels almost indie, although that’s immediately belied by the impressive visual production, which is quite attractive and fun. While it will probably never be my favorite movie, I think Guardians of the Galaxy was a funny, quirky tale that I did enjoy and will likely watch again sometime.

Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman/Directed by James Gunn/Produced by Kevin Feige/Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Music by Tyler Bates/Starring  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, & Benicio del Toro

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The Return of Doctor Mysterio

BBC

My rating: 4.5 of 5

NOTE: This TV special takes place following The Husbands of River Song” and immediately preceding series 10 of Doctor Who. It’s relatively spoiler-free, but you should still be sure to watch “The Husbands of River Song” first because you’ll miss half the feels of this episode if you don’t.

On Christmas Eve of 1992, the Doctor is in New York, trying to stabilize the mess he’s made of time there. That night, he encounters a young boy named Grant and accidentally gives the boy superpowers (don’t ask; it’s the Doctor) . . . and a strict command to never use those powers. Twenty-four years later, the Doctor returns to New York to investigate an alien invasion (surprise) only to encounter Grant–who is living a double life as both nanny to a small baby and local masked superhero “Ghost.” So much for never using those powers. . . .

At first, I was kind of exasperated with the writers for choosing a superhero story–I mean, that’s basically the only sort of movie that seems to be coming out right now! And honestly, I’m not the superhero movie type. But “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is Doctor Who, and I have to admit that it brings in the best of both worlds. You’ve got all the quirkiness and geekiness of Capaldi’s Doctor (absolutely brilliant!) and the classic Who alien invasion story. Plus you’ve got a good guy trying to protect the people he loves and live up to the ideals of the old superhero comics he read as a kid . . . all the while keeping his true identity a secret from the very clever and insightful (except as it regards him) journalist that he works for. The lightness and action of the superhero plot (and the sweet, innocent romance they work in) actually do a lot to counterbalance what may otherwise have been a very dark and angsty story (if you’ve watched “The Husbands of River Song,” you know why). On the other hand, the interactions between the Doctor and the journalist, Lucy, are humorous on the surface but serve to draw out and develop the Doctor’s inner turmoil, which is neat to see. In any case, I would definitely recommend “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” to any fan of Doctor Who.

Written by Steven Moffat/Directed by Ed Bazalgette/Produced by  Peter Bennett/Music by Murray Gold/Starring Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin, & Charity Wakefield

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Omnibus Edition)

Author: Alan Moorethe league of extraordinary gentelmen omnibus

Illustrator: Kevin O’Neill

My Rating: DNF

Warning: Mature Audience

In England during the year 1898, a mysterious unnamed individual–going merely by M–has begun collecting a most unusual group of people together. Strayed to the outskirts of society and beyond by choice or chance, these individuals have both the will and the abilities to do what many might consider impossible. And perhaps, for the sake of their country, they might even be motivated to have the will to work together and accomplish the task.

First off, apologies to those who love this, admittedly classic, comic book–you should probably stop reading now. Actually, this particular review is for myself more than for anyone else, so that when I look back in 5 years and wonder whatever happened to the characters, I’ll be reminded of all the reasons I stopped reading to begin with. Because The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has the potential to be a wonderful story. The premise is intriguing, the blending of Victorian period literature and style with the superhero comic. I would even say that, at times, Moore and O’Neill manage to pull it off. Certainly, a familiarity with and appreciation of classic literature will certainly increase one’s appreciation of the comic–the incorporation of characters and stylistic elements was one of the things I appreciated the most. So if there’s that much good, why did I stop halfway through with no intention of ever picking this comic up again to finish it? Because I found this comic to also be racist, sexist, violent, bawdy, and offensive in the extreme. Is that seriously necessary?! So yes, I won’t elaborate further, but I can’t recommend The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, nor will I ever read any of it again.

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Nimona

Author/Illustrator: Noelle Stevensonnimona

My rating: 5 of 5

Lord Ballister Blackheart has settled fairly comfortably into his role as villain and arch-nemesis to his former best friend Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, enjoying some dabbling in scientific research on the side, when Nimona shows up. This young girl with her shaved head and radical ideas throws Blackheart’s routine all out of whack, claiming to be his new sidekick and quickly demonstrating that his version of villainy–one that is predictable and follows certain set guidelines–is not nearly as villainous as what she can cook up. And while not exactly willing to go along with Nimona’s crazy schemes, Blackheart does certainly find this vivacious young shapeshifter growing on him, making his life more interesting and his home less lonely. Because the truth is that Nimona might just be the most lonely one of all.

I was thrilled to accidentally discover Nimona at the library recently. This graphic novel (which gets bonus points for having started out as a webcomic) is a delight to read throughout. The style is dynamic and unique–I love the visual contrast of magical stuff, knights in armor, and such against science, explosions, and girls turning into sharks! And the characters are great, full of individuality and interesting to try to understand. The story is this great combination; it’s surprising, funny, and heartwarming, sometimes all at once. Theoretically, there’s supposed to be a lot of political/social symbolism and commentary mixed in; honestly, my brain’s too tired to really pick it all out, but it’s a great story even without all that. If you’re up for a graphic novel that’s a bit out of the ordinary in an awesome sort of way, I would definitely recommend Nimona as a great, fun read.

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Big Hero 6

Walt Disney StudiosBig Hero 6

Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams/Produced by Roy Conli/Screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, & Robert L. Baird/Music by Henry Jackman/Based on the graphic novel by Steven T. Seagle & Duncan Rouleau

My rating: 5 of 5

Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada has a great brain, but he’s not exactly motivated to put it to use . . . until some well-placed encouragement from his brother Tadashi and four of Tadashi’s “nerd friends” inspires him to join them at their college’s robotics program. Hiro seems set on a course for great success when the unthinkable happens: an accidental fire at the school kills his brother Tadashi and destroy’s Hiro’s robotics project as well. Overwhelmed with depression over his brother’s death, Hiro again finds himself completely unmotivated to do anything with his life. That is, until he accidentally activates Baymax, a nurse-robot that his brother had been working on. With Baymax, Hiro discovers that the fire at the school may not have been as accidental as it seemed–and so, Hiro, Baymax, and Tadashi’s four college friends team up to find the truth and bring justice where it’s due. True superhero style.

Big Hero 6 was one movie that I was actually excited to see from the time I first saw the previews, although it didn’t work out for me to see it until it came out on DVD. I wasn’t disappointed when I watched it either. Unlike many of Disney’s movies recently, I felt like this one came together extremely well. The characters were great; you could definitely tell that they were, well, based on stereotypes of sorts (probably because that worked better with their superhero transformations later), but they were also full of personality and individuality. Hiro himself is adorable in a punk sort of way . . . I think the first few minutes of the movie give a very good idea of his general character, but he also is someone who grows a lot during the story. (On that topic, the “hugging and learning” aspect of the story might be a bit much, but I guess we know it’s that kind of story going in to it.) Not that she shows up particularly much, but I really think Hiro and Tadashi’s aunt is an awesome character–I wish we saw more of her. I really appreciated the balance that was found in a lot of areas here: the combination of Japanese and American (especially in the architecture–wow), the meld of science and “superhero” tradition. It’s neat that this is based on an actual comic-book series (one I haven’t read, but it sounds interesting) by the same title . . . it sounds like the movie is almost something of an origin story from what I can tell. In any case, the use of science to explain/create the hero capabilities is fun. Also, bonus points for pretty art–I know CG has come incredibly far in just the past few years, and that’s not really even what I’m talking about–more like, the creators intentionally made pretty stuff (cloud patterns, incredible architecture, cool carp-kite wind machines, etc.) even when it wasn’t necessary. I appreciate that. So yeah, I would definitely recommend Big Hero 6 to anyone, say, elementary school and up who enjoys a solid, fun action movie with, yes, some hugging and learning mixed in.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Created by Joss Whedon

When Buffy Summers moved to the small town of Sunnydale, all she wanted was to leave slaying and destiny and vampires behind–lead a normal high-school life, you know? That might have worked better if the town she moved to weren’t built directly over a Hellmouth, a center of supernatural and paranormal activity of all sorts. As it is, before her first day of class is even over, she’s encountered the tell-tale work of vampires and met her Watcher, Rupert Giles (read “stuffed-shirt British librarian sent to tell her what to do” is what I’d like to say, but Giles is actually a pretty cool guy with some interesting surprises up his sleeve). It seems there is no running from destiny, and Buffy’s got plenty of destiny to deal with as The Slayer, the one and only girl in the world with the super-powers to fight the forces of darkness . . . whether she likes it or not. Destiny may put a crimp in her social life, but Buffy actually develops quite a delightful group of friends who join in her fight against evil–which is totally against all Slayer rules, I might add. Not that Buffy’s much for rules; she tends to meet the forces of darkness and the forces of red tape with much the same snarky attitude . . . and she usually wins.

I had honestly avoided watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years on the grounds that I generally hate American TV shows on principle. It was only when I realized that 1) the series has a huge cult following among the geekier types and 2) it’s created by the same guy who wrote Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog that I decided Buffy might be worth checking out–and I am so glad that I did. I really love the series. It’s a very multi-layered story. On the surface you have the story of a young girl going to school, making friends, fighting monsters–fun urban fantasy, maybe a little silly (and a little too much sex) but enjoyable nevertheless. But then underneath that you’ve got a very real, thoughtful, and sometimes vulnerable development of all sorts of real-life problems and complexities and questions–things we all struggle with, handled in a thought-provoking way. It’s neat the way the layers mingle and make each other richer. The characters are all incredible–highly developed and growing a lot over the course of the series–and the actors do an incredible job bringing the characters to life. I find the plot pacing interesting. It runs sort of like the Harry Potter books: one season per year in the characters’ lives, each season dealing with episodic issues but also culminating toward some big showdown with a “Big Bad” at the end (they actually make a joke about this in the seventh season). It’s kind of cliché, but it works. (Regarding age-appropriateness, I would generally say that it’s suited for people the age Buffy is in that season and up, so the first year is 15+, second season is 16+, etc.) Music is also a big part of Buffy, and I really enjoy the wide variety of music that is brought into the show. Plus the choreography that goes into the fights is really impressive–both intense and oddly beautiful. This is definitely a girl-power sort of show, I might add–although the guy characters are amazing too.  There’s a lot more I could say, nearly all positive as I truly enjoyed this show, but for now I’ll just say that if you enjoy funny yet thoughtful character-focused urban fantasy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is definitely a good option to check out–just be warned, it’s addictive!

Note: This TV series comprises 7 of 22 episodes each (except for the first season, which is 12 episodes). The plotline is continued in a canonical graphic novel series which I intend to review separately.

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Kristine Sutherland, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seth Green, Robia LaMorte, Emma Caulfield, Eliza Dushku, Juliet Landau, James Marsters, Amber Benson, Marc Blucas, Tom Lenk, Alexis Denisof, and a bunch of other cool people

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