Nov 12, 2018

My Top 10 Favorite Stan Lee Created Characters

Stan Lee
On November 12, 2018, comic book creator Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. To some extent, he is one of the most influential people of the 21st century, even if his creators could be seen as decades old. Between his work in creating Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man, he created three series that would in some ways change the course of film forever. It's why it only makes sense that I pay tribute to him through the only medium that I truly understood him in.The following is a rundown of 10 of my favorite characters that he helped to create and give life to. While this list is predominantly pulled from film, there's a few that I grew affection for with my limited exposure to comics and TV. Still, this is only a fraction of the hundreds of iconic characters he created, and these are the ones that meant the most to me.

Trailing Off: "Detective Pikachu" (2019)

Scene from Detective Pikachu
Welcome to the sporadic column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Nov 10, 2018

Review: "The Girl in the Spider's Web" Fixes the Issues of the Book Yet Still Feels Inessential

Scene from The Girl in the Spider's Web
In 2005, Stieg Larsson published "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" posthumously and created a new phenomenon in protagonist Lisbeth Salander. Here was a woman with a cyber-hacking career and a dark, gritty past that included sexual abuse and some clever revenge fantasies amid a murder mystery that pulled from the bible. To say the least, the book left a mark that spawned a Swedish trilogy and a 2011 American remake. Despite all of this, The Girl in the Spider's Web is the first to be based off of material that had no involvement from the original author, instead pulling from the David Lagercrantz novel of the same name. Like all transitions, there's elements missing such as charm and darkness that would make the novel feel essential. It's why director Fede Alvarez deserves some credit with a film that's likely doomed to be the fifth best Lisbeth Salander movie (until the next one) for making it interesting and, something that the others don't, accessible to audiences. It's not great, but the reinvention doesn't just do its poor source material justice, it improves upon it.

Nov 7, 2018

A Look at the Enduring Legacy of Lisbeth Salander

Scene from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
While director Fede Alvarez's The Girl in the Spider's Web will be the fifth time that the cyber-hacker Lisbeth Salander character is seen on the big screen, it's also a momentous moment for another reason: it's the first in the series to not be based off of the original Stieg Larsson series known as the Millennium Trilogy. Speaking as the entire series has been released posthumously, it's quite strange that "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the subsequent sequels have all had a strong cultural resonance to the point of a 2011 American adaptation that landed actress Rooney Mara her first Best Actress nomination, and earned the film a Best Editing award. Still, there's a lot to love about the franchise, even if the early reviews for the latest suggest a sharp decline in quality, and it's mostly Salander. She isn't just a compelling character on the page, but thanks to Mara and previously Noomi Rapace in the Swedish versions, she has become something grander, more interesting. She is one of the few literary characters of the 21st century so far that's worth remembering, and it helps that she's got a great family story to boot.

Nov 5, 2018

Theater Review: The Long Beach Playhouse's "Stephen Sondheim's Assassins"

Stephen Sondheim's Assassins
For audiences walking into the upstairs stage at The Long Beach Playhouse right now, there will be one disconcerting sight. The stage is made up like a carnival with bright colors, even banners waving the familiar red, white, and blue. It's the image of Americana set to a calliope of familiar patriotic melodies, giving off the sense that this will be a musical about the joys of being American. But no, this is far from the earnestness of Rodgers & Hammerstein. This is Stephen Sondheim's Assassins: a show that gleefully pays tribute to the few men and women who have at one point or another tried to shoot an American president. It's still a vision of the American Dream, but only this time denied and projected through a fun house mirror where historical figures like John Wilkes Booth and Squeaky Fromme get big song and dance numbers and the right to more emotion and depth than many think they deserve. It's a carnival of morbidity, and those who claim to laugh at every gallows humor joke is probably lying. It's dark and hilarious as well as uncomfortable, and it's the perfect musical for those wanting a little edge to their pomp and circumstance.