Saturday, December 31, 2016

Some of the best and worst movies of 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War

I was actually excited about this movie. Even though the first one had a few issues, there were some positives. Chris Hemsworth did a great job. It was somewhat of an action movie, but it wasn't about a flying God in a cape. Therefore it was in Hemsworth's wheelhouse but it wasn't the same old thing either.

Plus, it gave a fresh spin on the tale of Snow White. I thought the second one might be as good, but unfortunately it ended up falling short of my expectations.

There was the sister of the Evil Queen. Then there was the Huntsman's former wife. They were both taken in as children and trained by the Evil Queen's sister.

Meanwhile the Evil Queen comes back into the story, too. It felt like it was all just a little too much. Too much going on, too much of an attempt to build a backstory. I guess it's good that they put effort into it, but the backstory they used felt a little too standard.

No surprises, really. No drama. Just waiting for the movie to end. It wasn't one of those movies that you are dreading while you're watching it. It's not until after that you end up realizing, 'That wasn't very good, was it?'

I don't regret seeing the movie, but I won't be adding it to my DVD collection either.

Final Rating: 2 and a half stars

Finding Dory

So much disappointment. That may be an exaggeration, but I was anticipating so much more. Unfortunately the sequel that I was waiting for maybe shouldn't have been made.

Finding Nemo was such an unexpected and entertaining movie. Finding Dory seemed like an effort to make a sequel for the sake of making a sequel.

Seeing as how this sequel was 10 years too late, I figured they would've at least had a good story developed.

While it wasn't a bad movie, it lacked the creativity and wit that Finding Nemo's script was full of.

 To be fair, there were a few fun moments that made me laugh out loud, but they were few and far between in comparison to the first movie.

Final Rating: 3 stars

X-Men: Apocalypse

Here is another movie that failed to live up to the expectations. I was so excited to see that this latest X-Men movie was going to feature X-Men's uber villain: Apocalypse.

While Magneto has been involved in all of the X-Men movies (either played by Ian McKellen or by Michael Fassbender as the younger version), Apocalypse had never been featured before.

Sabretooth, Mystique, Emma Frost, and Juggernaut have all been featured as well. Yet one of the main villains had never been brought to life on the big screen?

I was excited about the makers of this movie correcting that oversight.

After seeing the movie, I wish they hadn't.

There were some really great moments in the movie, actually. 20th Century Fox's version of Quicksilver is incredible. That's one thing they beat Marvel at. While this movie's Quicksilver scene wasn't quite as good as the scene in Days of Future Past, it was right up there.

The young Nightcrawler was great. The actors playing Cyclops and Jean Grey were OK. Seeing Jubilee on screen was cool (even if she had a minimal, minimal role). They did a much better job with Archangel in this movie (remember the awful version in X3?). Psyclocke was in this movie, too, which was another fresh face we hadn't seen before.

Really, the positives outweighed the negatives.

The only bad part of the movie was Apocalypse. When the movie is named X-Men: Apocalypse and your main villain is Apocalypse, it's a very bad thing when Apocalypse's portrayal is awful.

Everything about him was awful. The voice. The outfit. The horrible blue paint on his face.

Instead of coming off as intimidating and bad-ass, he came of as a creepy, oddball mutant.

They really wasted an opportunity to do something cool with Apocalypse. The story wasn't even that bad. It wasn't amazing, but it was OK. The biggest problem was what they did with the main character of the entire movie.

Final Rating: 3 stars


A lot of people loved Deadpool. Some people didn't like it. I was kind of torn.

I was very surprised. Even though I knew it was Rated R and even after my friends said it was graphic, I was still very surprised at how the movie played out.

It was kind of a bloody, raunchy, spoof of a superhero movie. It was a different kind of super hero, for sure. And it kind of worked. After all, Deadpool is that way in a lot of the comics.

Given how saturated the movie theater is with super hero movies, you need to stand out sometimes. Between Marvel's Cinematic Universe, DC/Warner Brothers and Fox all making super hero movies, there's a lot of competition. And that doesn't even include DC's string of shows on the CW Network or the Marvel series on Netflix.

It was kind of a refreshing change of pace to see a movie break the fourth wall and not have such a serious tone.

They did a nice job including comedy with action and a little bit of drama.

Deadpool really had no competitors in 2016 because there was no other movie like Deadpool in 2016.

Final Rating: 3 stars

Star Trek: Beyond

I hate to sound like a broken record, but, just like with a few movies I named above, I started 2016 being really excited to see Star Trek: Beyond and I ended 2016 feeling a little disappointed with it.

Instead of feeling like a big, cinematic space adventure, this Star Trek flick seemed more like an extended version of one of the television shows or maybe a made-for-TV reunion movie.

The main actors of the movie (Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, and Zachary Quinto) didn't seem to have the passion they did in the previous two movies.

It seemed, to me, like they were just going through the motions. They seemed like three actors who were locked into contracts and had to make a third movie in the franchise rather than three actors who were really excited about the content they were working with.

I can't really pinpoint the problem with the movie. The story was alright. The action was OK. The graphics were great.

I think my main complaint is that the extra effort wasn't there.

There were a few missed opportunities. In each Star Trek movie, Capt. Kirk has been put in a spot where he does this dive. In the first installment, he dove onto the enemy-controlled drilling platform. In the second, he went from one spaceship to another alongside Khan. There was a quick line in Into Darkness where Kirk made reference to his first dive. He said something along the lines of, 'I've done this before.'

Sure enough, there's a similar scene in this installment. Only thing is that there was no line reference that he'd done it before.

Little things like that -- quips that show Kirk's personality -- were really missing in Beyond.

Simon Pegg (as Scotty) really helped save this movie. It seemed as though he and Karl Urban ('Bones') were given more screen time this time around. I don't know if they actually had more screen time, but they certainly maximized their minutes in front of the camera by putting forth entertaining performances.

I'm hoping the already in-the-works Star Trek 4 will make up for this less-than-stellar effort.

Final Rating: 3 and a half stars

Suicide Squad

We'll start with the biggie here. Yes, Jared Leto's portrayal of The Joker was different. No, he doesn't compare to Heath Ledger, but those are huge shoes to fill.

Now that that's out of the way, Leto did well. I thought he successfully portrayed Joker's back-and-forth feelings for Harley Quinn.

And Harley Quinn! It was her first appearance in a movie and it was definitely successful. Margot Robbie (although possibly featured a little too much compared to the other characters) did a absolutely amazing job as Harley Quinn.

There were lots of great moments with her. Very dynamic performance that showcased her vulnerability, her craziness and her independence.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller was a great casting choice as well. Very no-nonsense portrayal there.

Will Smith as Deadshot was OK. I was neither here nor there on it. He could've easily been replaced by someone else, but he didn't detract from the movie with a bad performance either.

Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) were all decent characters as well.

I think Killer Croc probably stole a bit of their thunder despite being given just a few lines in the movie. He was a fun character.

Rick Flag wasn't a character I expected much from, but Joel Kinnaman's performance really helped that character stand out -- which is good because the character was fairly important in the overall movie.

I'd seen Kinnaman in a couple of his previous acting endeavors (House of Cards and 2014's RoboCop), but wasn't that familiar with him.

He's got some acting chops.

DC was obviously thinking ahead with this movie, as they did have a few cameos that help introduce or familiarize ourselves with the Justice League characters.

The story itself was probably lacking a little bit. I joke with some of my family members about the super hero movies that always feature a big, bright light going into the sky. The light of destruction. Or the wormhole (or portal) of destruction.

It's overdone. Come up with something new.

That was the case here, too.

But, considering they were squeezing a bunch of new characters (new to the general public anyway) into this movie and trying to set up for the future, I can forgive some of the more generic aspects of the movie.

I don't know if we'll get a Suicide Squad 2, but I sure hope to see more of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn (and yeah, Leto as Joker, too).

Final Rating: 3 and a half stars

Dr. Strange

This movie was question mark. Would it be as successful as some of the other Marvel movies? I once suggested Eric Dane as a possibility for Dr. Strange, but had they made that casting choice, it probably wouldn't have been as successful.

Benedict Cumberbatch almost guaranteed a box office hit and I'm glad it did because there's lots of potential with Dr. Strange on the big screen.

To me, he's kind of like Thor. While Iron Man can do amazing things with his technology and money, Spider-Man has genetically-altered powers, and the Black Widow is a highly entertaining and highly dangerous super spy, none of them can travel to other dimensions like Thor or Dr. Strange can.

Dealing with Thanos in the upcoming Avengers movies means Dr. Strange will likely be utilized in a big way. Cumberbatch was very good at portraying an egotistical, selfish doctor and making the transition into an enlightened man who was willing to put his own well being on the line to save others.

It was kind of like Marvel's Tony Stark in that he's not a boy scout. Yet it had a different twist. It didn't feel like Cumberbatch was replicating what Robert Downey Jr. did in Iron Man.

Rachel McAdams is usually pretty good in movies and she provided a little comic relief in a couple of scenes. Her role in the movie was more supplemental to Dr. Strange -- to develop his character moreso than develop anything meaningful of her own. To that extent, McAdams did her role well.

Chiwetel Ejiofor played Mordo (who, in the comics was apparently a white dude). This was a very good choice as he is a very believable actor.

I haven't seen him too much before, but I remember his role in Salt (a movie I have a soft spot for and have seen several times over). He did a great job there. I always wondered why he never had bigger roles.

But over the past few years he ended up getting roles in 12 Years a Slave and The Martian. I haven't seen those movies, but I do know that they were critically acclaimed.

While Marvel didn't really seem to get praise for casting a black man in a role that was a white character, they sure felt the heat for Tilda Swinton portraying The Ancient One.

As you probably read at some point this year, The Ancient One is a Tibetan male.

But because Tibet and China don't get on so well and China is a big market for the movie industry, they cast Tilda Swinton in the role instead and made her a Celtic version of The Ancient One.

I really didn't have much of a problem with this. Though I do think characters should probably stick to how they were portrayed in whatever medium they became popular in (whether it's comics or a TV show, etc., etc.), there are several instances of change working out for the better.

I felt that this was one of them.

Swinton did a very good job playing a complex, powerful sorcerer who kind of walked the line of moral standing, depending on the viewpoint of the characters in the movie.

Madds Mikkelsen playing the villain Kaecilius was alright. This guy stood out a little more than your typical villain, but certainly won't make it with a spot on the list of best villains of all time. He did his job though and it worked.

I think the writing and Cumberbatch's acting are really what made this movie more than just watchable and made it something you'd want to see more of.

Final Rating: 4 stars

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

A lot of people crapped on this movie with their reviews, but what was so bad about it? Granted, I'm a big fan of the Bat, but I thought it was really well done.

It fought the odds and delivered (Ben Affleck was Batman and it was still good!). The story in the theatrical version was a little tough to follow because there were some things they left on the cutting room floor that they shouldn't have.

If you watch the extended cut (which should have been the theatrical version ... it wasn't that long), then it makes sense.

That's the only version I'll be watching in the future.

If we're talking the extended cut, then I don't have much to complain about. Lois Lane didn't really seem that intelligent, but Amy Adams' portrayal is something I've made peace with back during Man of Steel. She's not a bad actress, but not my ideal Lois Lane either.

Nonetheless, there were lots of great things about this movie.

Lex Luthor was great. Jesse Eisenberg really studied that character. I wasn't sure he'd be able to compare to the very good performances of Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, but he made the part his own while keeping with the traditional aspects of the character. His speaking, his mannerisms and his facial expressions all pulled me into the movie.

The few glimpses of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller) made me anxious for the full Justice League movie.

Alfred (played by Jeremy Irons) was a little stiff. He wasn't as fun as some of the other actors who tackled that role in the past.

They had some great actors in supporting roles that were specific to this movie too. Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, for example. Holly Hunter is always 100% natural in her roles.

The big three did well too. Henry Cavill did an even better job as Superman in this movie than in the first. He seems comfortable, which says something because it's a big role. Christopher Reeve did it justice for 4 movies. There were others before Reeve and, of course, small-screen versions after him. Cavill looks the part and his acting doesn't come off as hokey, which could probably happen at times given the fact that you're dealing with alien super-monsters like Doomsday.

Ben Affleck. Oh, Ben Affleck. People were not on his bandwagon when the casting was announced. I, too, would've preferred to see Christian Bale take the cape once again --- even if it's just for continuity.

I hate it when there are multiple actors playing the same character in such a short time span.

It kind of bastardizes the character's legitimacy in my opinion.

But, good job Ben. You didn't ruin anything.

And, of course, Wonder Woman finally made her big screen debut. The people in the movie theater I was at actually clapped when she appeared for the first time in her Wonder Woman gear.

I'd never heard of Gal Gadot when she was announced but after seeing her in this movie, I think she'll do the role justice (no pun intended).

Final Rating: 4 stars

Captain America 3: Civil War

While DC did a great job in trying to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 2016 was still Marvel's year. Civil War was the best super hero movie by far. Marvel knows itself. They know their audience and what their audience likes.

While Captain America: Civil War did kind of cheat by basically becoming Avengers number 3, it was still very fun to watch hero against hero.

The story with Iron Man's parents passing was a little too sappy for my taste, but it would require something traumatic like that in order to pit two good pals like Captain America and Iron Man to do battle with each other.

Overall, the movie served several purposes: introducing new characters for future stories, continuing the stories of current characters and telling it's own story.

When you think about all that the movie accomplished, it's impossible to not give this movie at least 4 stars. Only complaint is that the story line with the villain was a little hard to follow the first time around.

The Black Panther should be a really cool character going forward. Spider-Man's inclusion worked as well. Ant-Man pretty much stole the entire fight scene with his involvement. What would a Marvel movie be without Black Widow, right? This wasn't her movie though. She was there to support the others, which was fine.

The Scarlet Witch ended up having a larger role this time and her quasi-relationship with Vision was interesting.

This is kind of a short synopsis, but I'm not really sure what to say other than it was what you've come to expect out of a Marvel movie. It was really good. The writing, the acting, the action and the cinematography were all on point.

Final Rating: 4 and a half stars

Star Wars: Rogue One

I saw this movie twice -- once in its' regular format. The second time in 3D. It'd be a long time since I'd seen a movie in 3D. Avatar was the last movie and that was --- 2009? 2010?

I don't know that 3D was necessarily that much better, but it was good seeing the movie for a second time. I caught a few things that I missed the first time around.

I've seen all of the Star Wars movies (I'm actually rewatching them now because I'm on a bit of a Star Wars kick) but not to the point that I know every detail.

However, if my memory serves me correctly (and as I'm watching them again now), I've got to say: this is probably one of my favorite movies of the entire franchise.

It was definitely a sacrifice story, but considering the makers of this movie had a huge task in bridging the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequels, they did an incredible job!

Add in a little bit of cameos from some aged or deceased actors and you also have a major technological feat. It was the story that grabbed me though.

There were great characters who fit right in with the rest of the Star Wars universe.

I don't really remember the Death Star being such a huge part of the franchise. I remembered the destruction of the Death Star from reruns of the trilogy that aired on the USA Network back in the 90's. But I didn't realize how well the prequels did in setting it all up. Ever since Episode I, it was all about planning and building the Death Star.

They planted the seeds very well through little images of the schematics in Episodes II and III. This was the first full-on movie that went in-depth about how it was created though.

It's a shame that they are limited in what direction they can go in due to the ages of the original actors (R.I.P. Carrie Fisher, by the way) and the fact that certain characters have been killed off. Even though this movie is set in between the two trilogies, it did a great job of making me even more excited to see Episode VIII.

Final Rating: 4 and a half stars (only missing half a star because Vader's first appearance in the movie wasn't as intimidating as I'd hoped).

Related Content:
Star Wars: Rogue One - reviewed.
Captain America: Civil War – reviewed.
Daredevil, Season 1 – reviewed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

WWE should sign Melina as well

It was announced recently that, after her outstanding performance against Asuka at Takeover: Toronto in NXT, Mickie James has signed a new, 3-year contract with WWE and will be assigned to the Smackdown brand.

Mickie is one talent who has only gotten better with age. She was a good wrestler when she first signed a developmental deal with WWE in 2003, but since then she's refined her skills, expanded her move set and truly lives in the moment during her matches.

 As a result, her matches have psychology and lack the rehearsed feeling that sometimes even Sasha Banks and Charlotte end up having.

I'm very happy, as a longtime Mickie fan, that she's getting a second shot in WWE and will, hopefully, end her tenure on a better note. I see a Hall of Fame induction in her future.

Meanwhile, there's another former Diva who I hope will attract some interest from WWE: Melina.

For several years after being released back in August of 2011, Melina kept a relatively low profile, making occasional appearances at autograph signings or fan expos. 2016 was the year that she returned to the ring, capturing two championship titles --- one for a Los Angeles-based promotion.

Apparently she and John Morrison (now 'Mundo' in Lucha Underground) broke up within the last year or so. I'm assuming that's why she's stepping back into the ring. John Morrison has kept a steady schedule, whether it be with wrestling or with appearing in small-scale movies. Now that they've split, she's got to support herself.

She doesn't have a reality show deal with E! like Kelly Kelly, she didn't sign onto a deal with Vivid like Sunny, and the probability of her making it big as an actress in Hollywood just isn't good.

With the exception of The Rock and, to a lesser extent, Batista, there aren't too many people who have had luck getting anything other than bit parts in movies. Steve Austin has made a second career out of making straight-to-DVD movies and hosting reality competitions, but Melina isn't Steve Austin.

That means stepping back into the ring to earn a paycheck. I have no idea what her financial situation is. This is all purely speculation on my part, but it makes sense.

Now that Melina is back in the ring, she's become more active on her social media accounts as well. She posted a video to her YouTube channel earlier this December about her feelings on Mickie James.

 Apparently some fans had asked her a question (probably since there was rumored heat from their OVW days). They obviously mended any issues they had.

Melina also spoke about Mickie in a second video that was posted on the Southside Wrestling YouTube page.

Melina spoke about how fans still talk to her about the matches she and Mickie had while they were both in WWE.

If you're not familiar with all of their work, I'd recommend doing some YouTube searching (look for a series of matches on Heat in 2008).

She mentioned the idea that if they had such good chemistry at the time, then they'd have even greater matches now. That idea got me thinking: she's probably right. Surely a few matches with a familiar ring mate would end up in some rave reviews.

I haven't seen any of Melina's return matches, but Mickie James really grew as a performer during her run in TNA after she was released from WWE. Mickie had very good matches with the likes of Gail Kim, ODB, Madison Rayne, Winter and Angelina Love.

If those matches are any indication of what she can do with top level talents, then I like the idea of Mickie James vs. Melina -- revisited.

WWE could make that happen by signing Melina to another contract as well. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of faith that this will happen since WWE has a history of not making obvious and easy decisions that lead to a good TV product.

Knowing WWE, if they were to sign Melina, she'd probably wind up on Raw as Nia Jax's jobber and never even cross paths with Mickie James.

I remember WWE's awful women's division during the initial brand split. The talent was there. Beth Phoenix, Melina, Jillian, Mickie, Trinity, Victoria and others all on the same roster but rarely used together or in a meaningful way.

That's probably what would happen this time around too. Still, I have hope.

 WWE signing Curt Hawkins, using The Headbangers, bringing in the Spirit Squad, and having interest in Shelton Benjamin gives me hope that they'd give Melina a second run with the company as well.

Ideally she, too, would go to Smackdown and Raw could have the likes of Asuka, Ember Moon, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay when they are called up.

Even if they were just matches on Superstars or Main Event (or whatever secondary TV show WWE has these days), Melina vs. Mickie James would be a fun feud to update. They've both still got it in them.

I hope they both get the chance to show it.

In the mean time, take a look at some of Mickie and Melina's best matches:
Monday Night Raw - July 16, 2007
Monday Night Raw - October 1, 2007
Sunday Night Heat - October 21, 2007
Monday Night Raw - November 26, 2007
Sunday Night Heat - March 9, 2008

Related Content:
20 talents that WWE needs to keep if they buy TNA
Nia Jax and Layla El --- the same person?
RIP Chyna
My Wrestlemania vs. The Real Wrestlemania

Monday, December 26, 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One - reviewed.

As a fairly knowledgeable fan of the Star Wars franchise (I've seen all the movies, but not over and over again like some have), I wasn't extremely excited about Rogue One.

First of all, it was a prequel story and I'm not always the biggest fan of those. Sometimes it ends up being a money-making attempt by the studio rather than a full force effort to produce something of quality.

Second, it wasn't going to feature any of the classic Star Wars characters or any of the newer ones from Episode 8.

However, when I went to see Dr. Strange there was a trailer for the Rogue One movie and I was impressed.

I was faced with the decision of being stubborn and refusing to go see Rogue One or putting my pride aside, admitting I was wrong and going to see the movie.

I decided to go with the later. And I'm glad I did because it was a great movie.

I haven't read any full reviews yet, but I saw some tweets and/or headlines that mentioned some continuity issues.

I was kind of surprised by that because I thought it was a great bridge between Episode III and Episode IV.

Granted, as I said before, I'm not a Star Wars fanatic so I don't have every single detail memorized.

The makers of this movie did a great job of making this movie a Star Wars, Episode III.5, which, when you think about it, isn't an easy thing to do.

You have to create new, likeable or detestable characters right away. Yes, the Star Wars backstory is there, but this film wasn't using those established characters.

Shockingly (small SPOILER ALERT!) ....


.... there weren't many light sabers used in the movie. Very little Jedi mind tricks.

The entire Star Wars backstory was there (and a few welcomed cameos), but this was very much a standalone movie (while still bridging the gap between the previous movies).

I've heard a few people complain that the movie was too dark, but I thought it was very poetic.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers, so we'll just say that what happened probably had to happen to prevent any continuity issues.

The acting choices and chemistry of the cast was very impressive (though it seems anyone with blonde hair just doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe).

Ben Mendelsohn makes such a great villain. I immediately recognized him from The Dark Knight Rises (where his part was too minimal).

Felicity Jones was great.  I took a quick look at her IMDB credits and I think this is my first introduction to her. I guess she was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but I didn't recognize her at the time and that was such a bit part that it almost doesn't even count.

Diego Luna did well as the character of "Cassian Andor" while Donnie Yen (playing "Chirrut Imwe") was one of my favorite characters in the movie.

Chirrut's pal "Baze Malbus" (played by actor Jiang Wen) provided some great comic relief as well.

It's kind of unfortunate that this was a stand-alone prequel/sequel because the actors in this movie would be fun to watch in future installments.

Rogue One opened my eyes as to the potential of the Star Wars universe.

 Sure, we all probably figured that there was success to be had with the continuation of the original two trilogies, but how many of us were betting on branch-off movies without Yoda, R2D2, Luke Skywalker, etc.? You may have seen that coming, but I sure didn't.

I'm not enticed by the idea of the upcoming pre-trilogies Han Solo movie without Harrison Ford, but maybe that'll work out too.

So far this Disney / Lucasfilm Star Wars deal seems to be going very well. Maybe they'll prove me wrong again.

Just two movies in and Star Wars seems to be the new Marvel.  By that, I mean that they've done a great job with the storytelling, the action, the cinematography, the comedy and the drama all rolled into one package.  An epic, fun adventure that shouldn't be missed.

Final rating?  Four and a half "death" stars out of five (only because the first appearance of Darth Vader in this movie was a little underwhelming ... I feel he was wimpified to begin with).

Related Content:
Pan - reviewed.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3 finale - reaction (yes, there are spoilers in here)
Captain America: Civil War – reviewed.
Daredevil, Season 1 – reviewed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Your guide to Pumpkin Spice

We're halfway through Pumpkin Spice season here, so I figured I'd review a few of the items I've tried since I'm (slightly) Pumpkin Spice-obsessed.

Pumpin Spice Twinkies

I didn't see this last year, so, whether or not it was actually new, this amazing item was new to me. Ever since they went defunct and then came back a few years ago, Twinkies has been experimenting with different flavors (chocolate covered, banana flavored, etc.). Their experimentation paid off.

Twinkies usually gets the flavoring right and, in this case, it was no exception. It's got the soft outer layer of a Twinkie, but has a very nice (and not overwhelming) pumpkin spice flavored-filling inside.

Sometimes companies that go the pumpkin spice route end up missing the flavor.  The pumpkin spice M&M's, for example?  Way too much spice there.  Final rating on this one: 4 and a half stars out of 5.

Pumpkin Spice Extra

From a new item to an old one.

 I'm not sure if Extra is even putting this flavor out this year. I haven't actually seen it anywhere.

Boy, was it good though. It sounds crazy, right? Of all the foods in the world to try to pumpkin spice it up with, who would've thought of gum? Extra did.

No mint or bubble gum flavored gum here.

I was actually really amazed at how much of a natural flavor it was.

 It tasted like pumpkin spice (not too strong), but it was juicy and what you'd expect a stick of gum to be. So, although a little strange, it was a home run.

Final rating: 5 out of 5.

Fiber One Pumpin Bar

This isn't exactly a pumpkin spice flavor. It's not really pumpkin pie either. I'm a fan of most of the Fiber One bar flavors that are out there. The chocolate bars (even though the cheapskates are making them smaller now!) are amazing. The lemon? Eh. They're OK.

Anyway, the pumpkin bar isn't as good as the caramel cheesecake bar that Fiber One puts out, but it's good. This one doesn't have too much of a spice flavor to it, but it does have some bits of cream cheese inside.

You'd think that'd be a slam dunk, right? But I think it's actually the bits of cream cheese that prevent this pumpkin bar from being as good as it could be. The bar is soft and the bits are hard. I don't know. Something about that just doesn't work for me.

Final rating: 4 and a half out of 5.

Eggo Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Oh my goodness! Wow! These are limited edition, as are most of the other pumpkin spice Fall offerings, so get them quick!

I tried the Pumpkin Spice Eggos last year, but they weren't of the thick and fluffy variety. The thick and fluffy is always the way to go. A lot of companies just throw the 'pumpkin spice' word out there, but don't do the best job on the actual flavoring.

That's not the case with these waffles. There's the perfect blend of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. It's the variety that's included really makes this work so well.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 (of course!)

Pumpkin Spice Oreos

The cookie isn't actually flavored (though Oreo should try that!), but the creme filling (pumpkin spice-flavored) makes this treat amazing.

It's got a powerful little bit of spice in there, but it's not overdone. It doesn't actually seem too artificial even though it's obviously artificially flavored (it's written on the bag).

I mentioned Twinkies putting out the themed flavorings, but Oreo has got to be the King in that category. All of their special flavors and limited edition offers have me buying a new pack every month, it seems.

Not surprisingly, Oreo got it right again. Delicious!

Final rating: 5 out of 5.

Kristpy Kreme Pumpkin Spice Cake Doughnuts

Is there anything better than a pumpkin spice waffle? Or a pumpkin spice Oreo? A glaze-covered, pumpkin spice-flavored, set of cake doughnuts might just be it.

Personally, warming them up is the way to go. I microwave these babies for about 20 seconds (two on a plate), which melts the glaze a bit and warms the doughnut up.

 A warm baked good with some delicious glaze. Mmmm!

I've purchased two of these this fall so far. One in September and one in October. It's a good thing Fall doesn't last longer than a few months because I'd have to spend a lot of time in the gym to counteract my Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice addiction.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 (or maybe a 6 out of 5, if it were mathematically possible)

Pumpkin Noosa

My cousins were torn on this. One of them loved it (said to buy lots of them). The other said it was OK, but that it wasn't worth trying.

I split the difference of their opinions and bought one.

I mixed it up a little (at my cousin's recommendation). At first I wasn't the biggest fan, though. I mixed it a little more and then, with each bite, the yogurt got better. There was a strong pumpkin flavoring, but it wasn't just pumpkin.

The gluten free yogurt (that you should be able to find at Target) is really good because of the mix of flavors. You just have to physically mix the yogurt to get the best blend of it all.

Final rating: 4 out of 5.

Milano Pumpkin Spice cookies

You know earlier I'd mentioned how sometimes these companies don't get the recipe right? How the spices are too strong (like with the M&M's)? That's the situation with the Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies.

The spice flavor is way too strong -- overpowering, in fact -- to make for a good cookie.

It's unfortunate since Milano cookies are usually in high demand. They should've just left it alone, though. These cookies aren't worth experimenting on.

Final rating: 2 and a half out of 5.

Pumpkin Spice Mini-Wheats

I expected these to be better. I liked the blueberry Mini-Wheats and I love the Maple and Brown Sugar Mini-Wheats. I figured it'd be hard to mess up pumpkin spice Mini-Wheats, but they managed to do it.

Again, the spice is off. That's a reoccurring theme for some of these foods, but it's also a huge factor in whether or not they are successful. It's probably the most important factor as to whether or not a pumpkin spice product is successful.

I couldn't even pinpoint what the problem was, but they need to take a second look at their flavoring recipe because it doesn't work.

Final rating: 3 out of 5.

Lance Pumpin Cheesecake Cookie Sandwiches

Pumpkin cheesecake? Even better than pumpkin spice! That was my thought process as I bought these at Walmart. I was wrong, though.

The crackers just ... weren't good. They didn't taste like pumpkin cheesecake. They didn't taste like pumpkin spice.

 I ended up throwing the box away (or taking it to work and leaving it in the break room ... I can't remember which).

 I didn't finish eating them -- that's how much I didn't enjoy them.

Final rating: Two and a half out of 5.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Can superheroes do it solo anymore?

In the day and age of epic Avengers movies and Batman vs. Superman, it seems that ensemble superhero movies are the new norm.

You have Hulk apparently appearing in the next Thor movie.

 The Flash appeared in an episode of last season's Supergirl. Superman (not Henry Cavill) is going to be making appearances in this season of Supergirl.

Then you have Ghost Rider appearing in this season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In Season 2 of Daredevil, you had Elektra and The Punisher making appearances.

Even Deadpool had a little crossover assistance from Colossus (because Fox couldn't afford to get any big names, as Deadpool stated in the movie).

That's a lot of crossover situations there.

I'm thrilled, as a fan. It's fun to see different superheroes interact with each other and it really stirs up the storylines.

It got me thinking though: are there any superheroes left who could carry a television show or box office on their own?

The X-Men, the Avengers and the Justice League have always been about the group rather than one character, but now it seems even shows that characters or shows that once relied on themselves are now recruiting help.

Oliver Queen has a team of pals on Arrow. Supergirl evidently needs Superman after CBS cancelled the show and CW picked it up. S.H.I.E.L.D. needs Ghost Rider to spice things up.

Are fans interested in solo superheroes anymore?

I think that the movie producers have just upped the ante so much that now, if you're doing a superhero project, you've got to be prepared to have additional names in mind.

There are a few examples of solo superhero projects coming up.

Wonder Woman doesn't appear to be utilizing any hero pals for that movie.

Granted, it is a biopic, so it takes place before Superman got to Earth, before Bruce Wayne was even born, and before Flash was the Flash.

There's not really any way for someone to make a cameo in that movie.  Still, Wonder Woman is probably one of the only big names left that is an automatic box office draw.

Batman, Superman, Spider-Man --- they've all been recast and rebooted repeatedly.

Robert Downey Jr. doesn't seem interested in doing any additional Iron Man movies -- though they'd do well, I'm sure.

Captain America never really was a solo hero. Captain America: The First Avenger didn't feature any additional comic book names. Black Widow was a main character in the sequel though. The third installment was Civil War --- pretty much an Avengers, Part 3.

The first two Thor movies have been successes at the box office, but I'm not sure what Hulk being added to the third movie says about Marvel's confidence in the God of Thunder.

I'm assuming the Black Panther movie will feature The Winter Soldier since he was taken to the Panther's compound for safekeeping at the end of Civil War. So that means a possible Captain America appearance too?

Dr. Strange probably won't have too many cameos or appearances from other heroes, but it is a starter picture.

 It's to set up for Strange's involvement in the Avengers Infinity War movies.

It seems like the new norm on superhero projects is to include as many people as possible into each movie or TV show. Maybe that will change with future projects though. Maybe these newer, underutilized superheroes will indeed reverse the trend and focus specifically on those characters.

There are lots of seemingly solo projects coming up, like: Spider-man: Homecoming, The Flash, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Shazam, etc., etc.

Then again, unless those are introductory movies, I wouldn't be surprised to see some big names added to those movies to help out with box office draw.

Related Content:
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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3 finale - reaction (yes, there are spoilers in here)
Captain America: Civil War – reviewed.
Daredevil, Season 1 – reviewed.
Arrow, Season 1 - reviewed.
Thor 2: The Dark World - reviewed.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Casting the He-Man movie: King Randor and Queen Marlena

Two characters in the 1980's Filmation Masters of the Universe series who were somewhat underused were King Randor and Queen Marlena --- the parents of Prince Adam/He-Man.

Of course, due to them being the King and Queen of Eternia, they were fairly prominent in terms of their status.

 They certainly had more appearances than someone like Ram Man or Buzz-Off, but what they contributed to those episodes was usually fairly minimal.

The 2002 Mike Young Productions writing team seemed to focus a little more on Randor and Marlena --- treating them more as a king and queen, showcasing how they made decisions on Eternia and had parts in peace treaties. It was definitely a little more realistic than the more kid-friendly Filmation version.

As far as costuming goes, I think Randor's depiction in MYP is the way to go over the very jester-looking depiction in Filmation.

Marlena is a different story. She looks extremely bland, to me, in the MYP version. She stands out a bit more in the Filmation version with the long green gown and the orange hair.

In terms of casting, there are actually several options. Let's explore the possibilities for Marlena first:

Tilda Swinton

If Tilda Swinton isn't cast as The Sorceress, as I suggested previously, then she'd be a decent choice for Queen Marlena.

 I don't know for certain that Swinton can portray the serene, compassionate presence that Marlena usually had, but she likely could pull it off.

It might be a good change of pace to have Swinton, known for her avant-garde style, to play Queen Marlena.

Swinton's style might make Marlena stand out a little more in what is sure to be a bit player in the movie.

Sandra Bullock

This might seem like an odd choice, as Bullock is usually in a starring role than a supporting one. She still looks pretty young, but she is 52.

Just like Marisa Tomei (age 51) is portraying a younger version than the usual depiction of Aunt May in the new Spider-Man movie, Bullock would give more of a youthful look to the role than one might expect.

Bullock obviously has the acting ability. People know who she is, too. Granted, I don't know that He-Man fans will rush to the movie theaters to see Sandra Bullock as Marlena, but she'd bring some credibility to the movie with her acting ability and her name alone. It would help set it up as a legitimate movie (like Iron Man or The Avengers) rather than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-type of movie.

Bullock is also in great shape, so she could handle some physicality if they wanted to make Marlena have a more active role in this movie. Bullock's widespread appeal is the biggest benefit to her being in this role.

Geena Davis

At age 60, Geena Davis is the oldest possibility on this list, but she's got a great resume behind her. That compassion I was talking about earlier? Davis can definitely portray that. There's just something in her nature that seems to project that.

I don't know that her name would appeal to anyone in a younger generation, but Davis in the role of Queen Marlena would ensure that the role is in good hands and that the acting would be believable.

Anette Bening

Speaking of a good actress, there's always Anette Bening. She was very good in Being Julia, American Beauty and, of course, The American President.

She's pretty much in the same league as Davis in terms of acting ability and career longevity. She does well in her co-starring roles as well.

She can stand out without taking attention away from the rest of the cast.

That being said, she wouldn't be my first pick. I think she could However, she certainly wouldn't be a bad choice.

Julianne Moore

Truth be told , Julianne Moore has always been a little bit annoying to me. Maybe it's because one of my first introductions to her was in 2001's Hannibal, where she took on the role that Jodie Foster did so well in the previous versions. Moore was stepping into an impossible role of replacing Foster and it did not work.

 I remember thinking, 'Who the hell is this lady supposed to be?' Then I saw Laws of Attraction, which wasn't a good movie -- at all. Then it was The Forgotten (meh). She was OK in Don Jon and did very well in The Hunger games movies, though.

I also watched the Jurassic Park movies recently (yep, for the first time). Moore did a decent job portraying the eager scientist in the sequel.

I don't know that she has the acting ability or the appeal to be a key player. Moore does best, actually, when she's in an ensemble cast and not the main focus. She could handle the role as Marlena. She may not be my first choice, but she'd make it work.

Marcia Cross

It's been a while since I've seen Marcia Cross do anything. Since Desperate Housewives ended, Cross seems to have been keeping a relatively low profile.

 On the show she displayed her range of ability, going from comedy to drama in the same episode at times.

She's got the poise and regal look to her that would be required to portray the Queen of Eternia. She also has the experience working in an ensemble cast.

Of all the choices on this list, I think Cross would be my first. Cross has the look and the acting ability to be Queen Marlena.

Now, let's turn to King Randor. There are also several possibilities to play that role. He's got to be someone with a strong on-camera presence who can be bold and maintain a level of authority. Here are some of the choices I came up with:

Pierce Brosnan

Just like with Julianne Moore, I've been hot and cold on Brosnan over the years. His Bond movie with Halle Berry was awful.

 He did a great job playing the new boyfriend in Mrs. Doubtfire, though. He wasn't really a jerk in that movie, but he was the new, unwanted boyfriend, so, as a viewer of the movie, you had to be against him.

How could you not root for Robin Williams' character in that movie?

As good as he was in Mrs. Doubtfire, he was also in Laws of Attraction (again, not good) with Moore. Maybe it's just that movie that put me off to both of them?

Much like his co-star in Moore, Brosnan was always better off in an ensemble cast. He was never the steak dinner. Just the potatoes and gravy. He's British, isn't he? So I guess he'd be the bangers and mash then?

George Clooney

Eh. I'm torn on this one. George Clooney is a huge name, but he's had his fair share of duds. Then again, those movies are usually ones he's directed or assisted creatively.

He was in 2015's Tomorrowland and did a very good job -- in a movie that had a somewhat lackluster script. Gravity was different.

Not really stellar, but good. I gave the movie a 4 out of 5 stars in my review a few years ago.

Other actors on this list have acting ability that's up there with Clooney, but Clooney may be the most bankable name. He may also come with the highest price tag. For someone who will be a co-star, I don't know if Clooney is the best option when, especially when there are cheaper and better alternatives.

Russell Crowe

He'd do a really good job as King Randor! His work in Man of Steel proves that. I don't know that I want him to be King Randor because of that though. I hate when actors are in repeated roles that are so similar to each other.

 Being the father of Superman and then being the father of He-Man? Very similar.

I'd overlook that though because he did do a very good job as Superman's dad.

 He was also great in a string of other movies, of course. A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, Les Miserables, and 3:10 to Yuma all come to mind. Whether he's a villain or a hero, he can put on a heck of a performance.

Crowe would make an awesome Randor. I just worry that it'd be too similar a role to Jor-El in Man of Steel.

Viggo Mortensen

Mortensen isn't someone that came to mind immediately, but, after looking at a few of the options, Mortensen seems like a decent candidate. I'm probably the most familiar with Mortensen due to his role in Lord of the Rings.

I've seen bits and pieces of other movies, but the Lord of the Rings movies are probably the only movies of his I've seen all the way through.

I don't know that you need to see much more though.

 The Lord of the Rings trilogy (the extended versions) pretty much equal out to 9 or 10 hours. That's like seeing 5 normal movies.

I wasn't blown away by Mortensen in any of his work, but he's solid. He's convincing. Mortensen could successfully play King Randor.

Hugh Jackman

He's giving up the role of Wolverine because he is, after all, mortal. He's getting older. He's not a real-life mutant. Maybe he could move onto more of a supporting role as King Randor?

Jackman has shown that he has no issues being involved in a major motion picture, big budget franchise.

He's got the acting skills. More importantly, he can make what would be considered, by some, a goofy comic book role into a legitimate, action-packed, drama-filled movie character. Not all actors can do that. Have you watched a few of the superhero television shows on the CW Network? If so, you know that's a true statement.

Jackman wouldn't be a throne-sitting Randor. I think Jackman would be a mace-wielding King who would be smashing Skeletor's robots, just like he did in the Filmation series.

Jackman would be my ideal King Randor. He's the best overall package and he's easily the best choice for the job. It's probably a long shot, but I'm hoping it happens!

So that's it. Hugh Jackman as King Randor and Marcia Cross as Queen Marlena. Make it happen, producers! Make it happen.

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