Sunday, June 30, 2024

Redbox's Owner is Bankrupt

Redbox was once a popular option for renting movies and games. Then with the rise of streaming and digital rentals, it pretty much fell off. In 2022 the company was acquired by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. Yes, the company that made those books with motivational stories and essays that were huge some decades ago but also had a decline in business. Now, in 2024, CSSE, as I will call it for short, is out of money and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company hopes to secure a loan and reorganize, but it seems CSSE owes a ton of people money and cannot even make payroll for employees. CSSE is in debt to everyone from Walmart to Hollywood studios and their landlord. It sounds dire, which isn't surprising for a company in the hole--let me check my notes here--$970 million? Good God, that's a lot of moolah! I only hope Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment can figure something out so that at least its employees have functional insurance (they currently do not) and get their paychecks. As of now, however, this is quite a mess for the company.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

I Tried Two New Scooter's Drinks

I love coffee but it is not the only beverage I drink. The popular chain known as Scooter's has an assortment of fun drinks--including special limited flavors--and when I'm not solely after coffee I'll sample the other stuff sometimes. I recently tried two iced drinks that are around for a brief period of time and thought I'd offer my opinion on them! Without further ado...

Electric Peach Infusion

This beverage features the tropical flavors of the SCOOOT! Energy drink that Scooter's features with peach (plus a hint of cherry and pomegranate). To top it all off, they include some peach ring candies as well. I enjoyed this drink a lot, although it definitely leaned over toward the almost-too-sweet side. The SCOOOT! drink worked very well with the peach, however, and the drink has a nice crisp mouth feel. The peach candies look cute but are a relatively unnecessary edition--they're soggy by the time you finish the drink and not really worth eating. Overall, a nice drink!

4 out of 5 Stars.

SCOOOT! Energy Sparkler

Meant to tie in with the upcoming Fourth of July, this drink has a blend of peach and pomegranate flavors that are topped with some whipped cream and then a layer of blue raspberry cold foam. The result looks patriotic and is quite tasty. I'm not sure it is necessary to have whipped cream and foam in terms of flavor as both are light and (obviously) dairy. They mix together well with the energy drink, however, balancing out the fruity acidity. To be honest, I didn't sense any raspberry in the cold foam and while it looks cool in terms of optics, the whipped cream and foam just blended together to make the aforementioned blend of taste with the energy drink. This drink looks cool but the flavor isn't anything to write home about. Still, a solid option if you want something that is visually snazzy to sip upon.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 28, 2024

That Was a Mess of a Debate Last Night

In the words of Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino, "This is America."  That song came out in 2018 and just always manages to be relevant one way or another. I watched the debate last night and it was horrific. Two elderly men argued about who was more mentally competent and better at golf. Donald Trump did nothing but lie and Joe Biden seemed feeble and prone to mubling. Trump made up things like, "Post-birth abortions," and dodged questions about the January 6th insurrection he supported and inspired. Joe Biden seemed disconnected and uninterested in the proceedings except for a few moments where he thankfully, "Woke up," and pointed out that he was debating a convicted felon for the highest office in the land. The whole thing was a mess and upsetting. 

A well-meaning but frail old guy is trying to protect the United States from a narcissist and con artist. Donald Trump definitely is unfit for office, but Biden struggled to make it appear like he was particularly ready for another term as well. This is America, may God and the rest of the World have mercy on us all.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Dark Horse and Marvel to Collaborate On Comic-Focused Art Books

Marvel has teamed up with other publishers in the past for one reason or another. IDW has published some impressive, "Artist's Editions," of classic stories, there were some fun crossovers with DC that occurred long ago and are finally being republished, and Dynamite has worked with the publisher as well such as that fun time Ash (from "Evil Dead/Army of Darkness," and so forth) met the Marvel Zombies. Now, Marvel and Dark Horse are going to collaborate on a, "New range of Marvel art books."

Called, "Bullpen Books," these deluxe publications will, "...honor the works of legendary Marvel Comics characters and creators," with the debut title being, "The Art of the Amazing Spider-Man by John Romita." It will focus on Romita Sr. and his work on the series with essays about his work, scans of original art, and more. It sounds a bit like the Artist's Editions but instead of having full stories will provide a bit of an overview of an artist's time on a particular series or such. That's pretty cool and it will all look great as these books are nice and oversized (10 inches by 14 inches) but not too pricey at $60. The initial Spider-Man book hits stores this October and will be followed by plenty more titles, I imagine. It is pleasing to see big publishers, "Playing nice," as you want the business of comics to be successful for everyone involved (a rising tide raises all boats, as the saying goes). I look forward to seeing what else Bullpen Books puts out in the future!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Television Tuesday: Bring Back, "Modern Family," for Real, You Cowards!

"Modern Family," was a hilarious sitcom that went for 11 seasons (2009-2020). It probably ran a bit too long, losing some of the initial, "Spark," after a bit. It still remained at least decent viewing until the end even if it wasn't as amazing after the first 5 or so seasons. Spin-offs were rumored but didn't happen. Now, in this day and age where old shows get revived some years later I'd argue, "Modern Family," is practically begging to be brought back in some form! Well, just recently it sort of was...but for an advertisement.

That's right, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson returned as their characters Phil Dunphy, Claire Dunphy, Cam Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett to promote Whatsapp. The ad is a bit funny, but it really just makes me irritated that we don't have a real return of, "Modern Family," in some form. With all the characters on the show you'd think we could follow at least some of the families if we checked in all these years later to see how their fictional selves were doing. Instead, we get this little tease of what could be. Plenty of shows that don't even really make sense to be revived have had it done or we even get spin-offs of spin-offs these days--seriously, a show spun out of, "Young Sheldon," of all things? Broadcast companies don't leave money on the table, but a fat sack of cash is just sitting there with no revival plans. Let's make it happen because even if it is just good and not great, I"ll enjoy seeing the characters again outside the context of a tedious advertisment, at the very least.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Let People Work Remotely if it is Feasible

Dell told employees who had been working remotely during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic they needed to be at least hybrid or could stay remote and face certain consequences. Almost half chose the, "Or else," that was threatened as they preferred to work remotely. Now they can no longer be promoted, but aren't sitting in mostly empty offices having Zoom calls with other mostly empty offices as compared to staying home and saving time and money on a commute. If people can work remotely with it causing little-to-no issues, why do big companies want to force them into the office?

I mean, the answers to why a lot of companies are anti-work-from-home is obvious once you get past the B.S. response of it, "Helping building community/a good work culture," or something. It makes certain middle managers unnecessary, and that scares those in positions of power. There are the real estate companies wanting to sell land and/or people who want rent money. There are tax perks, and the list goes on. Hence, we get those claiming remote work is bad for some reason or another. It is silly.

If you work remotely and get results for your employer, that's what matters. If you work in an office and fail to get results, how is that any better? You can fake looking busy in an office but accomplish very little but when you're working remotely it is all about what gets done. You think employers would like this, but a number of them are opposed to work-from-home. I just hope that some balance can be struck between those who work in an office, those who follow a hybrid model, and the folks who want to be fully remote.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

It's Too Hot in 2024

It is too hot in America. We've got heat advisories coast to coast as well as flooding from storms, tornadoes, and the Continental U.S. is a mess. It isn't just America, with over 1,000 people making the Islamic pilgrimage known as Hajj dying of extreme temperatures in the Middle East, to give one example of the weather being awful in the World. People deny it, but the climate is changing and the scary thing isn't that this may be the hottest Summer so far, but that this may be the coolest Summer within the next number of years at the rate things are going. It is like a meme my wife sent me of the devil farting on a village--that's how hot it is. Observe:

I only hope that people in areas impacted by extreme heat or other dangerous weather are able to stay safe and find relief from the weather.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Nadine Redlich's, "Doing the Work," is as Funny as it is Tragic

\In 2018 I admired the dark wit of Nadine Redlich's, "I Hate You--You Just Don't Know it Yet," and in 2021 I loved the weird minimalism of her, "Stones," comic. Her latest book is, "Doing the Work," and as with the previous titles is being published by Rotopol. It assembles a number of strips from ones revisiting the rock in, "Stones," to pieces with birds, a dog that is alarmingly joyful while at the same time seeming a bit, "Off," weird representations of the human ego, and plenty of other comics that range from a single page to a handful.

There is a clever and intentional disconnect in some of the pieces as they are brightly illustrated while at the same time carrying an immense sadness or sense of dread. A man being interviewed is asked what superpower he'd pick if he could have any and after thinking declares, "Empathy." Someone working in an office checks their watch and notices it is the designated time to cry. A piece titled, "Happy Forever," features a cartoonish with an unending smile that almost looks more like a toothy scream than a vignette of joy. There is a nice sharp edge to the illustrations and while at first glance things look joyful with bold reds, yellows, and blues often featured, there is a melancholy undercurrent to Redlich's work once you look past the, "Cute," and see the hint of despondency sneaking in around the metaphorical edges. It's fantastic, in other words. It isn't all cynical, by any means, with some strips carrying a nice little bit of optimism to balance the book out, but the pieces with, "Bite," are the ones that really stuck with me.

"Doing the Work," impressed me with author Nadine Redlich's lovely illustrations that combine wonderfully with her sardonic wit. I'd encourage you to ask your local bookstore or comic shop to get you a copy--that or you can visit Rotopol's site if you'd like to order directly from them. I loved everything by Redlich I've read, so I can't wait for what she cooks up next!

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Film Friday: What is Up with the, "Blade," Movie and Its Development Hell?

The new iteration of, "Blade," was announced back in 2019. Mahershala Ali is to play the titular vampire-hunter, but everything else has been in flux since then. As William Hughes of the AV Club notes, "It's been a very messy 5 years." By all accounts, there have been a bunch of scripts with rewrite after rewrite, and a couple directors. We are now waiting to hear who the third supposed option for a director will be and if a script will be completed anytime soon. 5 years later and we've got almost nothing to show? The original Blade, Wesley Snipes, even cracked some jokes recently about all this.

I'm not a professional filmmaker, but I would think if you have Ali looking like a badass slicing up and shooting a bunch of vampires in some cool action scenes you're about halfway there. The, "Werewolf by Night," special already showed that Marvel can support horror-styled creatures in the MCU, so let's get to it and make a cool, "Blade," movie, please, sometime this decade!

Thursday, June 20, 2024

"White Boat," #1 is Creepy and Gorgeous

"White Boat," #1 is a new series from the publisher DSTLRY, who make treasury-sized comics in various genres. A short promotion for the story was in the debut book from the publisher, "The Devil's Cut," #1, along with other titles and it was the most intriguing yarn to me. The first full issue is a treat, with writer Scott Snyder and artist Francesco Francavilla following a character named Lee who writes about yachts for a living while trying to function with the horrible trauma of having lost his brother in a freak boating accident when they were young. Lee finds himself invited to tour the mysterious mega-yacht known as the White Boat, and from there, things only get weirder.

Both Snyder and Francavilla have been making comics long enough I expected them to knock it out of the park with this first issue of, "White Boat." They surpassed my already lofty expectations, as this initial issue was amazing. Full of moody imagery, things really get scary when Lee finds himself trapped deep within the boat and it morphs and shifts in ways that seem impossible. If the whole series had Lee stuck in a boat that might get old, but by the issue's end it seems the White Boat is only the start of a wild and twisty journey. I eagerly await the next issue!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

DC to Publish a Mature Readers Plastic Man Story With Ample Body Horror? Yes, Please!

"Plastic Man No More!" is a new DC mini-series that will be a part of their Black Label (kind of like a new Vertigo). It, "...mixes hard-boiled noir with intense body horror," as over four issues Plastic Man finds himself, "Dying," in the sense his plastic form begins degrading. The talented Christopher Cantwell is writing it with Alex Lins and Jacob Edgar providing artwork. Plastic Man tends to be a bit of a humorous character who has a weird edge to him, so leaning into the stranger stuff should be really fun with a great creative team involved. Plus, as this is the Black Label no punches will need to be pulled with how gruesome Plastic Man's depolymerization could get! The first issue hits stands this early September and should be quite a wild read.

"Where Monsters Lie: Cull-De-Sac," Should be an Exciting Sequel!

Some time ago, I wrote about how much I enjoyed the debut issue of, "Where Monsters Lie," and the whole mini-series ended up being quite a treat. Focused on a secret gated community where slasher-type folks lived when not out doing crimes, it was a hilarious dark comedy. The series ended with the community found by the authorities and destroyed, but a cliffhanger revealed there was another subdivision called, "Site B." Now, it has been announced that, "Where Monster's Lie: Cull-De-Sac," is coming around this Halloween! The extra, "L," makes for a nice pun.

The latest mini-series will be four issues in the same manner as the debut run. I'm pleased this features the original creative team of writer Kyle Starks and the stellar artist Piotr Kowalski as both are fantastic. I can't wait to see what the new horror-inspired location will have in store for us readers and I eagerly look forward to the first issue this October!

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

More AI News: A Real Photo Won in an AI Art Contest

I go from writing about an artist accused of using AI to discussing a photographer who passed a real picture off as AI. That's right, a real picture won awards in an AI Art contest. Such a sentence is both hilarious to read and exemplifies how pointless so-called AI, "Art," even is. A real image went on to earn plaudits, showing how having a human involved in the creation of art is key to making something people might actually want to view/read/watch/otherwise enjoy. 

The piece in question is a real picture of a flamingo that looks, "Wrong," and made it able to fool people until the photographer, Miles Astray, made his clever subterfuge clear to everyone. The art was disqualified but nobody was mad, instead seeing his point of how this should foster communication. All it took was a flamingo bending over just right to scratch itself with its beak to look like AI. It took a real human to capture this funny image and it goes to show even when the whole point of a category is AI, "Art," that real art is best.

Francesco Mattina Accused of Using AI for his Comic Covers

Mattina's latest work is being accused of mostly being AI.

I've seen a lot of rumors about Francesco Mattina in comics and just how much of his art he does versus ripping off from others and using Photoshop trickery to get away with the theft of fellow creators. Now, another comic artist is calling out Mattina. Adi Granov has been making posts online making it clear a new variant cover by Mattina is clearly produced by AI with some tweaks done by Mattina to attempt to hide the machine influence, but the nasty, "Fingerprints," of AI manifesting the work are there. The comic cover can be seen above with Superman.

My feelings on AI and how it isn't even really, "Art," are clear if you've read my blog. If the rumblings about Mattina are true (and things look damning) then why he would be getting work at a major publisher for doing little more than some typed prompts and hasty Photoshop alterations would be something DC should ask itself.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Dirty 20 Bar is a Great Place to Hang-Out

The Dirty 20 Bar just opened in Manchester, Missouri.  The idea behind the business is that there are sports bars in Saint Louis, but not a bar for playing board games, Dungeons and Dragons, and the like. Hence, it's a restaurant and bar with ample space for fun activities. It opens midday for lunch and is relatively quiet then before getting busy for the evening and late-night crowd. I went during the less-populated time and got permission to snap some pictures. I was with a friend of mine and enjoyed food. I didn't have any drinks but was impressed with the big variety on offer too.

Dirty 20's menu focuses a lot on Mac and Cheese. There are all kinds of cool variations and you can build your own. I had the pretzel bites as well as an order of the flaming hot bites and loved them. There were three but I forgot to snap a picture until l had already eaten one:

My friend loved his spicy Mac and Cheese as well. We both thought the decor was fun--especially with the walls nd tables featuring the artwork of everything from, "Magic: The Gathering," to maps and character info from D&D. The employees were all incredibly nice as well, creating a friendly vibe where you were welcome to hang-out and play all the provided games (or bring your own)!

Between the good grub, ample space for people to play tabletop/card games, and chill atmosphere I was impressed with Dirty 20 and hope they have lots of success in these opening months and into the future!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Happy Father's Day 2024!

Please excuse Gibson's lack of his usual smile, he had just woken up.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads and father figures out there! This is my first Father's Day with Gibson as a member of the family and I am so thankful for Clarkson and Gibby! I love my boys a lot and we enjoyed going and riding the local carousel earlier today, as the above picture shows. I want to thank my wife, Samii, for our wonderful family and I hope everyone else has a fantastic day too!

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Upper Deck Partners with DC to Produce Trading Cards

Upper Deck is a big name in trading cards. They own the sole rights to the NHL, so anytime I buy, "Official," hockey cards they bear the Upper Deck name. They also work extensively with Marvel to make trading cards that draw from the comics as well as the movies/shows. Just this week, Upper Deck announced they have partnered with DC. There are already plans to do card sets similar to the Marvel ones such as the, "Annual," and, "Masterpieces," plus boxes focused on key characters like Batman and Superman. It has been decades since there have been official DC trading cards so this is pretty cool. 

The first sets seem focused on the comics but as the new Gunn/Safran Universe of movies and shows gets into gear that'll probably result in some tie-in cards too. You can already buy a, "Preview," card on the Upper Deck's ePack site. Those are cards that you buy and open virtually but the can be shipped to you as soon as you've opened them or once the physical copies are produced if they aren't yet manufactured (so thank God they are not like NFTs in that there is an actual item). The debut Preview card is Superman and can be purchased for just a week before--one assumes--a new preview card will occur to make a little set. Observe:

Readers of the blog are aware that in late 2023 I got into hockey cards as well as some of the Marvel lines. I enjoy DC too so this is snazzy news and I look forward to whatever cool stuff Upper Deck and DC put out via this new partnership!

Friday, June 14, 2024

Sony Has Bought the Alamo Drafthouse and It Makes Me Nervous

Once upon a time, we had the Paramount Decree. That made it illegal for film production companies/studios to own movie theaters because then they'd be controlling the production, distribution, and exhibition of movies. It was an antitrust measure put in place in 1948 by the Supreme Court. It was weakened during the Reagan era (he truly was one of the worst Presidents ever) and in 2020 was completely struck down. Now, Sony has bought out the Alamo Drafthouse chain of movie theaters.

The idea of Sony buying this chain of movie theaters is that it can allow them to emphasize their catalog of properties they own, such as promoting a lot more anime in theaters thanks to their acquisition of Crunchyroll (America's largest legal way to stream anime) in 2021. Even with promises made this will add to the moviegoing experience it still makes me nervous. What's to stop Sony from prioritizing one of their flicks by offering it at a discounted price exclusively at the theaters they own? What if they chose to do something like only releasing certain limited-run flicks they've created at Alamo Drafthouse to optimize profit on an otherwise potentially less-popular movie? Sony, obviously, doesn't own a huge number of movie theaters so this isn't some kind of theater monopoly, but they carved out a little chunk for themselves that can be used to test various ideas, some better and more ethical than others. I worries me a bit, and I think it should concern you at least somewhat too. 

Whenever a smaller entity gets bought out by a bigger one there are always promises of how very little will change and things will mostly stay the same. That's what Funko said when they bought out Mondo before butchering it. That's what Amazon said before dismantling Comixology. Those are just two recent examples and the list obviously goes on. I feel a bit ill at ease with Sony buying the Alamo Drafthouse brand of theaters. I'm not freaking out, but I'm cautious. I guess we'll see what happens.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

We Lost Kim 4 Years Ago Today

Weird things make you think of people you've lost. My Mother-in-law, Kim, would often buy me Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy sponges for Christmas as a bit of a gag gift that was also quite useful. It stemmed from a joke where we enjoyed watching the show, "Shark Tank." Sponge Daddy was actually featured on that show and became huge thanks to the press attention and an investment from Lori Greiner. We loved watching, "Shark Tank," and I said how I really wanted some Scrub Daddy sponges to try. So, one Christmas she bought me some. I, actually, really liked the sponge so when the holidays would roll around she'd buy me Scrub Daddy sponges and the various spin-offs like Scurb Mommy as a bit of a humorous gift. It always kept me stocked, however! Now, anytime I am running low on my Scrub Daddy sponges I think of Kim and how I wish she were still here to buy some every Christmas. 

Kim passed suddenly 4 years ago today. I wrote about her sudden death the day after back then. Gibson's official due date would have been her birthday, but we of course needed to have induced him early due to Samii's risk factors. I still really miss Kim and there are points in time when her passing feels surreal, where I swear I feel like I could just text her a funny meme and get a response from her or call her up and tell her to come over and watch the boys, but that is obviously not possible. Kim loved Clarkson so much. She would've loved our child that we lost, Shalom. I know she would've had a ball with Gibson too as he is a firecracker. The boy loves to laugh, climb on everyone, and fuss at us to give him a bite of anything we eat. I am thankful that my parents are still with us and get to enjoy our boys and I love them so much. It just is hard sometimes to think of the other people we have loved and have lost. Kim was a wonderful woman and an awesome grandma. We've been able to adjust to life without her here, but her absence is felt in things as seemingly small as having Sponge Daddy's in stock to bigger things like having her to chat with and enjoy spending time with Clarkson & Gibson. We love and miss you, Kim.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

On George Lopez, Hecklers, and Stand-Up Comedy Being Hard

Stand-up is hard. I've done open mic nights at various points in my life. I've killed and I've utterly bombed. It is always a bit of a rush, terrifying, and freaking hard. I enjoy studying the craft of comedy and how different people approach it. There have been some greats who didn't get enough love and some really mediocre talents who somehow became huge. Sometimes a person with immense talent does get the recognition they deserve while alive, too, and that is always great. As I've dabbled in stand-up I will tell you one of the absolute worst things is dealing with hecklers. It ruins your flow, makes you more likely to mess-up, and sucks. Hence, I have some sympathy for George Lopez and his feud with a casino mad he quit a set early.

I'm not a huge fan of Lopez or a hater. I like some of his stuff and don't giggle much at other bits. The man has been around forever honing his craft and is at an age where he probably doesn't want to have to deal with any B.S. when he's telling his jokes. Depending on whom you ask, he felt unsafe due to heckling when doing a set at the Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, California--or, he was being pissy due to the audience shouting positive things even if it was interrupting him. Comedians have been in danger due to telling jokes, with audience members throwing things or even rushing the stage to harm them, so if Lopez did feel unsafe I totally understand that. If the crowd was engaging in the oxymoron of positive heckling that still could be disruptive to him and I possibly understand it if Lopez was perturbed enough to walk off the stage when only 30 minutes had passed (that would have been incredibly disappointing for the crowd, however). 

It only takes one heckler--"nice," or mean to be a pain and disrupt a set. Lopez didn't want to put up with disruptions and called it a night earlier. Even if the heckling wasn't rude I still can see both sides of the argument regarding whether he should've powered-through or wrapped it up early. If I were in the audience I would have obviously been annoyed too, if we're being honest. The whole situation seems unfortunate and just goes to further illustrate, that stand-up comedy is really hard, whether you're a newbie or a seasoned professional.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Television Tuesday: The First Two Episodes of, "Clipped," Build Suspense Expertly

"Clipped," is a six-episode series by FX on Hulu and is based on a real event when audio was leaked of the owner of the L.A. Clippers, Donald Sterling, saying a whole lot of racist stuff. The show is based on the ESPN 30 for 30 podcast, "The Sterling Affairs," and as it is a dramatized version of events that means some parts are a bit fictionalized of the 2014 event but other aspects are disturbingly true. Episodes drop early in the morning on Tuesdays, so the third one is actually viewable now but I have not yet seen it. That said, I am excited to watch it as the first two entries are superb at building suspense and setting up the messy downfall of Donald Sterling.

To summarize what happened, Donald Sterling had an assistant (known as V) whom he had some sort of relationship with (not exactly even sexual, but more almost like he was coddling and infantilizing her) and when things went sour she leaked a lot of audio of him saying some really racist and otherwise offensive things. There was a ton of fallout and episodes 3-6 will clearly cover that. Such a short summary does a disservice to a number of complexities the podcast and now show dig into, however.

The primary cast is fantastic. V is portrayed by Cleopatra Coleman and comes across less as the evil opportunist some tried to paint her as and instead seems a bit scared, worried about her own livelihood, and dangerous enough to cause a lot of trouble if she feels threatened. Jacki Weaver plays Sterling's wife, Shelly, and is superb in showcasing a mix of rage, sadness, and abject terror at what will happen if the things her husband has said on tape are revealed. Ed O'Neill portrays Sterling and nails a solid blend of seeming a bit like a buffon but also having a scary and nefarious edge lurking below his aloof surface. 

 Laurence Fishburne absolutely kills it as Doc Rivers, however. Everyone has praised his portrayal as the coach of the Clippers, and he puts in work. With the way he walks, gestures, and does the voice he truly is showcasing some acting chops. That said, some of the actors portraying athletes have had it noted they don't look much like the people they are meant to represent. It isn't too distracting, but Blake Griffin really does not look like Blake Griffin.

"Clipped," and its first two episodes build a bundle of suspense while moving at a nice breezy speed putting the pieces in place for the infamous P.R. fiasco. There is a bit of a trashy soap opera feel to it all, but the show leans into that vibe with little Instagram montages and such between scenes. This was a social media event right as social media really began taking off a decade ago, and, "Clipped," doesn't show away from that. I am excited to watch the next four episodes of this series as I only vaguely recall just how messy everything got and taking a deeper dive into what occurred should be interesting and entertaining!

5 out of 5 stars (for the first two episodes).

Monday, June 10, 2024

"Hellverine," #1 Continues Taking an Idea That Seems Absurd and Making it Work Remarkably Well

Imagine if Wolverine was infused with a devil--kind of like Ghost Rider (occasional retcons with angels aside). It would make him have a flaming metal noggin and look pretty crazy. It sounds like a 90's concept but it happened in the recent, "Ghost Rider," run with the character having a really 90's name in the form of, "Hellverine." It sounds stupid and shouldn't have worked, but writer Benjamin Percy made it so that it did! Still, taking such a concept and treating it as anything else than a fun and slightly silly one-off would be foolish, right? I mean, how could a, "Hellverine," mini-series work? I guess with the first issue of, "Hellverine," we are finding out.

Wolverine is not the new Hellverine. It is revealed at the end of the first issue (and on a spoiler variant cover that has been selling well) it is Wolverine's son, Daken, who recently died but has somehow been stitched back together like a bit of a Frankenstein's Monster and infused with some Hellfire. It all sounds silly, but the comic has enough self-awareness at the zany elements to be a good read! The Hellverine is out finding guilty folks and making them pay, now the government needs its help to fight other Hell-powered monstrosities (that our Government actually made but that part is being kept a secret from heroes). It helps that Julius Ohta is a skilled artist, making all the Hellfire look gorgeous as the Hellverine/Daken slices and dices those deserving of his vengeance.

A Ghost-Rider-styled Wolverine should be silly and read more like the idea of a sugared-up child yelling out various superhero concepts they think are edgy and cool than a competent comic. Benjamin Percy is a great writer, however, and with his skilled collaborators I guess it goes to show a fiery Wolverine with a flaming metallic head can also give us some solid stories!

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

"The Thing," Video-game Has a Remastered Edition Coming This Year

"The Thing," is an amazing movie (directed by John Carpenter) and the sequel-ish game, "The Thing," was immense fun when I played it on the original Xbox over two decades ago (I know, I 'm old). The game followed a team dispatched to find out just what happened to the Antarctic research base from the flick, but of course things go horribly awry due to the titular alien that can perfectly imitate humans. The company that remade, "System Shock," known as Nightdive is giving us a remaster of, "The Thing," with the difference between remake and remaster being this updates a lot of stuff...but isn't a total retooling.

With improvements to textures, character models, the environment, and so forth a lot of the original fun will remain where you get to be suspicious of your team and if they are, in fact, human--but the game will look a lot prettier. This new iteration of, "The Thing," will be released for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC later this year. I'm excited to revisit the game with some snazzy updates!

Saturday, June 8, 2024

My Latest Slabbed Comics Look Amazing Thanks to Steve's Comic Cleaning and Pressing!

I know CGC has been the news for mini-scandals off and on lately, but at the end of the day, they still are a good company to use if you want your comics preserved. I like how their slabs look and display when I have a comic I want to keep safe so I still use CGC. Before you ever send your comics to be graded, however, it makes sense to have them pressed and cleaned so that they are in the best condition possible for grading. That's why I continue to love Steve's Comic Cleaning and Pressing. Steve's prices are great, his work is amazing, and if you look at the above pictures he took some rough comics and really bumped them up.

My first appearance of Moon Knight in, "Werewolf by Night," #32 is a treasured comic of mine even if it is lower in grade. I thought it would maybe grade as a 2.0 but with Steve's work it got a nice 3.0! I was even more shocked at what he was able to do with my newsstand copy of, "Secret Wars," #8. It had a lot of foxing, wear, and so forth but he made that thing beautiful and it scored an 8.0 thanks to how much work he put in on it to get the various concerns with the comic fixed. If you ever get your comics graded by CGC, CBCS, or any other entity, I'd highly recommend Steve's Comics Cleaning and Pressing work on them before they get graded. I know anytime I continue to use a grading service I'll have Steve attend to my books first!

Friday, June 7, 2024

Film Friday: "MoviePass, MovieCrash," Tells a Cautionary Tale

People might remember the quick rise and just as fast fall of MoviePass back right before the 2020s (I know, things are hazy pre-pandemic as that was a whole thing). The documentary, "MoviePass, MovieCrash," follows the company and how it had been around for a bit but in the process of struggling to grow brought in a new CEO and funders who proceeded to wreck the whole thing. It is a fascinating and sad story full of opportunists and fraudsters. It is also touched upon how the founders happened to be men of color (Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt) and they struggled to acquire funding but once more white guys with questionable business ideas appeared a lot of money seemed to be available--even if that power was then used to force-out the founders run everything into the ground. It's a sad tale but at least there is a bit of a happy ending as (spoiler alert) after MoviePass is wrecked Stacy Spikes returns to help it rise from the ashes and now it currently exists in a sustainable form.

"MoviePass, MovieCrash," is a brisk 90-ish minutes and stands as yet another cautionary tale of what happens when dubious folks do unethical and possibly illegal things in an effort to make money. We've seen it time and time again (Enron, the dot-com bubble, and so forth), and this documentary goes on to make it clear unscrupulous practices may just keep rolling along if some kind of action isn't taken. At least in this case, people got to see a lot of movies in the process of everything metaphorically burning to the ground. Give this a watch on HBO MAX, or as we are supposed to now call it, "MAX."

5 out of 5 Stars.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Remixing Marvel With "The Ultimates," #1

Back in, "Ultimate Invasion," a twisted version of Reed Richards known as, "The Maker," found a Marvel Universe much like the, "Regular," 616 one and his own original, "Ultimate," version. However, he altered much of the events in that World from the early 20th century on to ensure a place he ruled with little to no challenge. At the end of, "Ultimate Invasion," the Maker was trapped away in his own castle for a period of time, but not before framing the Stark family for attacking New York City (with Howard Stark now trapped too and his teenage son Tony left to try and make sense of how to help the World). Since, "Ultimate Invasion," we've had the launch of other Ultimate titles that range from amazing ("Ultimate Spider-Man,") to enjoyable ("Ultimate Black Panther,") to decent enough ("Ultimate X-Men,")...and now, "The Ultimates," itself has arrived. Oh, and it is good.

The, "Ultimate," line seems to intriguingly enough be advancing somewhat in real-time, with issues mirroring the flow of an actual month (flashbacks aside). Hence, when the characters within, "The Ultimates," observe they jumped six months into the future, it really has been that long since the main Ultimate books kicked off with Spidey. Hence, the observation they have a limited amount of time before The Maker emerges from his temporal jail in 18 months or so rings quite true. Johnathan Hickman has designed much of this new Ultimate Universe but Deniz Camp writes, "The Ultimates," itself and does a fantastic job bringing us a ragtag group of heroes painted as terrorists fighting against the secret evil powers of this World (The Maker had plenty of lackeys now trying to split-up territories around Earth in his absence). Juan Frigeri is the artist and excels at giving us some explosive fight scenes between the Ultimates and powers that would challenge them.

I especially like how this latest Ultimate Universe is not just a reboot, but a World where the heroes are aware they were meant to be different and can choose to try and achieve their destinies or reject them. This leads to a poignant scene with Hank Pym remarking how upon seeing what his 616 counterpart has been like he doesn't know if he actually wants to have powers and be anything like that person with a history that is relatively fraught (from creating Ultron to striking his wife and so forth). Others found this way of approaching Pym interesting too. This latest Ultimate Universe is both its own fascinating beast, but also in a way a reflection of the, "Main," Marvel Universe, commenting on it and tweaking itself to be both similar yet different. It's a little meta, and I always appreciate that kind of thing.

This first issue of, "The Ultimates," continues the tendency of this new line of comics to be full of great reads (and the passable X-Men one). With its real-time setup and a clear timetable for something big on the horizon, little time is wasted in any Ultimate-related issues and this newest series makes a fantastic addition to the relatively tight line-up--something I appreciate in an era where a new hit universe/concept/etc. can get bloated really fast with too many tie-ins or such. Whether you're new to this latest Ultimate Universe or have been following it since the, "Ultimate Invasion," series this debut issue of, "The Ultimates," is worth a read!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

"South Park," Actually Did a Great Job Skewering the Corporate Aspects of Healthcare

Out of all the shows riffing on weight-loss drugs and their monetary costs that we've seen of late, "South Park: The End of Obesity," summarized certain aspects remarkably well. I've missed some of the other recent specials but I did want to see this one as someone who has worked in the health field. It mostly didn't, "Punch down," about people needing weight-loss drugs, instead focusing much of its ire on health insurance companies. A lot of time is spent in the show discussing how if you have certain medical conditions or are wealthy you can get drugs like Ozempic or Wegovy. However, if you're poor you are prescribed body positivity via listening to music by artists such as Lizzo (she gets a little bit of shade). One scene, in particular, summarized the nightmare of dealing with healthcare insurance in regards to getting a service you need (but insurance wants to decline to assist you with). Take a look:

"South Park," with this mini-movie/extra-long episode (it is about 50 minutes) makes it clear that a lot of people could benefit from these drugs but can't get them due to shortages (sometimes from those buying the drugs who don't need them nearly as much to lose some vanity weight), insurance being a pain, or how some companies would prefer folks keep eating large amounts of junk food--there are a number of satirically sharp scenes with corporate mascots acting like mobsters. Healthcare shouldn't be a business where companies make loads of money off people, but the American Healthcare System is quite broken. I've studied it a lot as someone with a Master's in Public Health, and I tip my hat to, "South Park," for a straightforward critique of the kind of entities that make getting needed care so difficult. You can watch this new episode on Paramount+ and I'd recommend it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

"Venom: The Last Dance," Looks Sufficiently Bizarre

Back in the day, I thought the first, "Venom," movie would be terrible and bomb. Then, it did great at the box office and was actually relatively enjoyable. The sequel, "Venom: Let There Be Carage," received mixed reviews but I liked it (and plenty of money was made with it too). Now, after a brief cameo in the latest Spidey flick, Venom is back within his own, "Home," universe--it seems--and on the run from the government as they want to capture Eddie Brock/Venom due to aliens from his home planet coming to Earth en masse now to wreak havoc. Hence we have, "Venom: The Last Dance." Here's the trailer:

This looks like another silly and fun romp so I'd watch it! One kind of odd thing is how Chiwetel Ejiofor features heavily in the trailers as a mysterious military man, but in the MCU flicks that this series is kinda-sorta adjacent to he plays Mordo, a foe of sorts to Doctor Strange. Could this be a hint of broader multiversal happenings or is this just a case where an actor plays totally different characters within the superhero genre (for example Chris Evans as Johnny Storm/Captain America or Michael B. Jordan also as Johnny Storm/KIllmonger)? I imagine once, "Venom: The Last Dance," is out this October we will have a better idea of where this fits into the broader Marvel movie continuity (if at all). I'd say it is worth viewing if for no other reason than Tom Hardy is always delightfully odd.

Monday, June 3, 2024

So, Who Was the Ashley Madison Hacker?

Netflix recently released a three-part documentary titled, "Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal." This isn't really a review of it but I'd recommend giving it a viewing as it is pretty interesting. Ashely Madison is a site (it still exists) that got a lot of attention for being designed to help married folks cheat. A lot of folks who worked there or had their lives ruined (or sometimes weirdly improved) by the site are interviewed. The documentary makes it clear cheating on your spouse isn't a good idea, but is careful not to, "Throw stones," at people either, instead focusing on the site, the attention it got, the money it made, and what happened when it was hacked in 2015. Having watched the show, that is what really sticks with me the most. You see, we don't know who the hacker was, all these years later.

Some person or group named, "Impact Team," hacked Ashely Madison and demanded it shut down or it would leak everyone's data who used the site (and later on people who worked there too). The threat was made good on, obviously, and a lot of lives were ruined. Then the Impact Team...just disappeared. The documentary discusses how this just doesn't happen. Usually, a hacker or group of hackers continue hacking with some kind of agenda be it monetary, political, or whatever. Impact Team came from nowhere, engaged in a hack that made international headlines, then vanished. This is simply unheard of, but it happened. Nobody ever turned on fellow members of the team for money (there were massive rewards offered if the hackers could be stopped) or fame. Could it have been a single person? Did they work as Ashley Madison? Were they cheated on by a spouse? Was it a religious zealot outraged at the idea of a website facilitating affairs? A teenager mad Ashely Madison broke their parents up? We don't know, still!

People these days seem to crave recognition for the things they do, good or bad. How could a hacking team or individual do something this massive and then just keep it to themselves? I mean, they obviously don't want to face jail time, but they never slipped up? Ever? How? It just bugs me that we still don't know who hacked Ashley Madison as that was one of the biggest breaches of internet security in recent memory. Perhaps someday a few folks or a single person will come forward and say, "Yeah, I did it, and here's why," but for now, it is a huge mystery and it annoys me as someone who actually likes to know all the twists and turns in a story. I don't mind knowing how a tale ends and it is weird for us to all not know who a major player in the story of Ashley Madison's downfall could be. I want my spoilers, in other words, but aren't getting them anytime soon it would appear! It stinks, but I'd still recommend watching, "Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal," as it's a fascinating little docu-series.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

(A Day Late) Flashback/Film Friday: "Blazing Saddles," Remains a Hoot

I meant to post this yesterday but got busy/distracted. So, let's kick off June with a belated combination Film Friday/Flashback Friday! So yes, when people talk about Mel Brooks' movies sometimes they say, "Those couldn't get made today!" which is silly because Brooks himself will tell you they were told they couldn't make a flick like, 'Blazing Saddles," back in 1974! Yes, that is right, "Blazing Saddles," is 50 years old now. I honestly feel those who claim that it would offend liberals, conservatives, or etc. miss the point. The movie is designed to push the envelope and has arguably a, "Woke," message despite some claiming otherwise. It's a Western that follows an extremely smart and competent black man (played by Cleavon Little) who becomes the sheriff of a town full of white racists. They judge him for his skin color as opposed to his skills and it is incredibly hard on him. Thanks to there being people who see him as a human regardless of the color of his skin (Gene Wilder's character the Waco Kid) he does still find friendship and eventually ends up saving the day.

As Wilder puts it in a take where he ad-libbed the famous closing line that makes Little crack up, "You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.” The way Little laughs really does give the movie a warm moment of one friend consoling the other about all the judgemental assholes out there and it is one of my favorite more mellow scenes in a flick that often goes over-the-top. Oh, and, "Blazing Saddles," is never scared to, "Go there."

"Blazing Saddles," skewers racism, and a lot of racist words are said, but all the racists get what they have coming or learn to be better people. It is a Western that doesn't romanticize the past so much as makes it clear how far we've come as a society and how much farther we still need to go. That remains just as true 50 years later.