What Stan Lee Meant To A DC Fanboy.

The pop culture world has been mourning the loss of Stan Lee this last week after he passed away on Monday at the age of 95. The internet is still flooded with social media posts paying their digital respects to the man who will be remembered for co-creating some of the most iconic comic book characters ever to exist. Stan’s influence had an immeasurable impact on my life as well, and I wanted to write about that briefly.

Avengers #1. Art by Jack Kirby.

I definitely read plenty of comics as a kid, but some of my earliest memories interacting with the Marvel Universe are actually from watching two of the most legendary cartoons of the 90’s: Spider-Man and X-Men. Cartoons like these played a key role in getting me hooked into comics and cultivating a love of art in general. I remember buying several books over the years from school book fairs that detailed how to draw the Marvel characters, and for a long time I even considered becoming a cartoonist or comic book artist.

The X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons of the 90s were the best.

If you were unfortunate to have missed these animated gems growing up, the animation in both were top quality while also doing a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the comics. Both shows had memorable opening themes as well, with music that screamed 90s. Once either of these two shows started, nothing else mattered until the episode was over.

Do yourself a favor and check out the opening titles to both Spider-Man and X-Men.

Honestly, whenever forced to choose I’ve always leaned more to the DC Universe. My parents named me after Superman actor Christopher Reeve (a tale for another day), which naturally made me gravitate to that side of the superhero aisle. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe there is enough geek love to go around for both companies’ cast of characters.

Marvel and DC have always offered 2 sides of the same coin for me, allowing me to jump back and forth depending on what kind of story I’m in the mood for. And who was the person responsible for differentiating Marvel from the rest of the superheroes at the time? In large part it was Stan Lee of course.

The DC Universe roster has been around longer and excels at telling entertaining stories that provide an escape from reality. These heroes live more in the realm of fantasy and mythology as the universe is crowded with super powered beings from other planets who always do the right thing to protect their imaginary cities from the forces of evil. They are truly larger than life.

Stan saw this even back in the 60’s and decided to tell his stories from a different angle. He created characters along side legendary artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others who at their core were every day humans, based in real cities, dealing not just with bad guys wanting to wreck everything but their own real life dilemas as well.

This famous panel drawn by Steve Ditko was paid homage in Spiderman: Homecoming.

This artwork from iconic artist Steve Ditko was paid homage in Spiderman: Homecoming.

The Marvel characters don’t just provide entertaining escapism, they also resonate with readers. They’re not just tireless do-gooders who always do the right thing. They make mistakes. They fail. They give us hope that it’s possible to do great things while also struggling with every day life. I’m not saying these qualities are completely absent from the DC Universe; only that Stan set up Marvel to consistently do a far better job.

The X-men constantly face prejudice and racism from a world that doesn’t understand their mutant abilities. Tony Stark is his own worst enemy with a monster size ego and inner demons of alcoholism. Mathew Murdock, a nobody from Hell’s Kitchen, turned his crippling disability into one of his greatest strengths as a hero. Peter Parker is constantly forced to juggle the pressures of his personal life with crime fighting. The list could go on for pages.

The immense success of the Marvel movies over the past decade is also proof of how much these characters resonate with the world. I was 23 years old when Iron-Man released and now at 33, married, and a baby on the way the franchise is 20 movies in and still going strong. I, like so many others have been to every single opening weekend, and have collected each film as it came out on DVD/Blu ray. I absolutely love and am fascinated with how these movies all contect together and reference each other as every iteration builds the universe just a little deeper, just like issues of comic books.

President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige deserves a large amount of credit for crafting films that appeal to the masses, but the heart of the these characters wouldnt exist without Stan. Honestly, seeing Stan’s cameo in every single film is also part of the experience that will sadly end after his last cameo in the upcoming Avengers 4.

Despite all of this, I don’t find myself overly saddened thinking about Stan’s passing. He had a long and fulfilling life, and is now at rest after accomplishing more with his life than most ever think is possible. He has inspired countless artists and creators to leave their mark on the world and will continue to do so as future generations experience his universe for the first time.

My wife and I meeting Stan at Awesome Con.

I’m beyond grateful to have met Stan a year or so ago at Awesome Con in DC, but as incredible an experience as it was, I was surprised at how little he resembled the comic book rockstar from my childhood. He kept reminding me of someone’s grandfather that should probably just be at home, resting. I think it was in that moment that I knew and accepted this marvelous man (see what I did there) wouldnt be with us much longer.

However, this is not how he will be remembered. He will be remembered for all the things previously mentioned in this post; as the man that revolutionized not just comics but art, TV, and film as well. He will be remembered for his bombastic story telling, a knack for alliteration, and his trademark sunglasses and mustache.

Never fear true believers. Though he is no longer among us, his legacy on pop culture will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Excelsior.

Our Geeked-Out Star Wars Baby Announcement!

It’s no secret that my wife and I love movies. Sure we have different taste in genre sometimes, but it’s a fun thing to share.

At our wedding reception last year, we decided to give it a movie theme:

our favors were movie candy:

Our seating cart had a different movie poster at each table with guests’ faces photoshopped into the poster:

and our photo booth had a movie theme:

It’s been a great year (Michelle didn’t make me say that I swear) and this week we announced excitedly that we are pregnant with our first baby.

When we first found out, we went back and forth on how exactly we should do the official announcement on social media. We kept coming back to keeping the movie theme from the wedding going, but we couldn’t agree on how exactly to do it.

That is until our first sonogram, where we found out the due date: May 4th. Star Wars day. Suddenly it all became clear, almost as if a light came down from geek heaven: A Star Wars baby announcement.

The first part consisted of creating our own unique version of the “crawl” featured at the beginning of every Star Wars movie. There’s a great little app called “Star Words” that is very simple to use: just type in whatever you want the text to say and it takes care of the rest.

We also decided (aka Michelle allowed me) to take our picture in Star Wars themed shirts as you see below. Thanks to our friends Katie and Christian for playing photographer for us!

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The final part was to include our sonogram in the announcement. Michelle got very good at photoshopping faces for our wedding seating chart and she quickly created this little master piece:

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While it’s not likely that the baby will actually be born on May 4th, it is still a pretty awesome due date and was a blast putting together the announcement for our first kid. Hopefully they’ll appreciate it one day. Either that or they’ll think it’s the most embarrassing thing ever. Most likely both.

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Joonas Sutamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Warwick Davis

Watch the trailer

Rated PG-13. Runtime: 2hrs 15mins.

It’s been a rough time for me as far a blogging the last few months. My last post was back in March, and I haven’t been able to consistently write since then. Leaving one job, and then adjusting to a new one…there just hasn’t been a lot of extra mental energy left each day to write about movies, which is disappointing. Whether or not my posts are actually interesting to read, I do enjoy it.

I have been encouraged however by several people who have asked about the lack of new posts. So, to everyone that actually noticed I had stopped writing and were even marginally disappointed…thank you. It feels good to know people were reading regularly.

Now that I’m starting to get back into some sort of work/life pattern again, I really want to take back up the digital pen and continue to write about one of my favorite past times: movies. I’d like to go back at some point and review a couple movies from the last couple months as well: Infinity War, A Quiet Place…so stay tuned. OK. Enough of all that. Review time.

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. While I was too young to catch the original trilogy in theaters, I did grow up watching them repeatedly on TV and VHS…whatever that is. Those 3 movies and characters were and still are larger than life to me, as they are with so many fans. Honestly, there hasn’t been a single Star Wars movie I haven’t looked forward to coming out…that is until the first trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story was released.

Was anyone actually asking for a stand alone Han Solo movie? It didn’t seem like it. Sure, it would be nice to watch a younger Han get his start in the scoundrel business, but there’s always been one obvious problem. Harrison Ford IS Han Solo. Even though he’s too old to play a younger Han, most fans wouldn’t even think of casting someone else to play him. In today’s movie world it would be like trying to replace Robert Downey Jr as Iron-Man or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It’s one of those nightmare situations where no matter who it is, there’s no way to make everyone happy.

Usually, I don’t play the part of the angry fanboy, but the first time I saw Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo…it just didn’t work for me. I felt like I was watching someone imitating Harrison Ford, dressed in a Han Solo cosplay; a terrific looking one mind you, but a cosplay all the same. For the first time in my life, I was looking at a Star Wars movie that I wasn’t excited for. There was even a little anxiety, because no matter how bad it was I knew I was still going to see the new Star Wars.

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That’s exactly what Disney was banking on. There certainly have been controversial Star Wars movies in the past, but they still always make a crap ton of money regardless of how much people like them. However, after movie goers were essentially split on whether or not they enjoyed The Last Jedi, people are less likely to go running out to the next Star Wars unless they know beyond a shadow of a doubt they’ll get what they want.

Unfortunately, after the first 3 weekends in theaters, the box office numbers for Solo have solidified that notion; currently having only brought in roughly $280 million on a production cost of $250 million (not including the millions more spent on promotion). Compare that to Rogue One, which made $150 million opening weekend alone and eventually raked in well over $1 billion. Solo: A Star Wars Story will most likely finish it’s run as the worst performing film in the history of the franchise (Unless you count the infamous 1978 TV Christmas special).

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So Solo isn’t doing all that great. Is the movie really that bad though? I went into the theater with extremely low expectations…similar to how someone knows they’re about to see a horrific accident: part of you doesn’t want to watch the carnage unfold, but you just can’t help yourself.

In reality, it wasn’t anywhere near that level. It’s true that it doesn’t quite have the same magic as the main movies, and I think casual fans of Star Wars (who don’t get caught up in comparing Ehrenreich to Ford) will have a better time with this movie. Hopefully, this financial shortfall will cause Disney to slow down a bit and really ensure the quality is there before churning out the next one.

However, if you can force yourself to put your fanboy/girl feelings aside, it’s actually a fairly enjoyable and entertaining movie (despite its issues). This will never be high on anyone’s list of favorite Star Wars movies, but it is a fun sci-fi space heist movie. Even if it is a little too predictable, Solo does a respectable job handling the backstory of one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

The Good.

Solid supporting characters. I must admit that I audibly laughed out loud when I saw that Woody Harrelson had made it into a Star Wars movie. For whatever reason, it’s hard for me to take him seriously outside of the comedy genre. His personality and acting style actually fit in quite well as the smuggler Tobias Beckett. I loved every time he twirled his blasters like a wild west gunslinger. It was a nice touch that added to the space-western theme they were going for and actually made me wish Han had picked up just a little of that with his own blaster skills.

After binge watching the terrific show West World, it was great seeing Thandie Newton with a small role in the movie as well. I wish it had been a slightly larger role though as the movie definitely could have benefited from more of her badassery (Side note: if you haven’t seen West World you should check it out as it’s a superb show).

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Emilia Clarke excels as Qi’ra. Since she is a new addition to the Star Wars universe, I was convinced Qi’ra was destined for a stereotypical death as Han’s first love interest. I was excited to learn that not only was I wrong, but I also enjoyed how her character evolved over the course of the movie. She actually is one of the most interesting characters to watch, and I want to see how she evolves further after the events of this film. She also throws a bit of precedence on why Han falls for Princess Leia. Apparently, he has a thing for strong women (I mean, who doesn’t?).

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Donald Glover was spot on as the young Lando Calrissian. Unlike Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Han, I felt like Glover’s voice and mannerisms were uncanny as a younger Lando. It was very believable. I heard beforehand several people talk about him as one of the best parts of the movie, and honestly I’d have to agree. Also, I never imagined Lando having an entire closet of nothing but capes, but now I’m not going to be able to watch The Empire Strikes Back without it in the back of my mind.

Chewie is Chewie; and that is exactly what I wanted. Joonas Suotamo has been playing Chewbacca the last couple movies due to original actor, Peter Mayhew becoming unable to physically continue in the role as he gets older. Probably the best compliment I can give to Suotamo is you can’t tell it’s not Mayhew. Chewbacca has always been my favorite character in the Star Wars universe, and every scene he was in here was perfect. The scene where Han and Chewie meet for the first time was entertaining, and I had a child-like smile on my face watching their lifelong friendship take shape.

Han’s backstory was fairly interesting. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who hasn’t read much of what has been dubbed the Star Wars “Expanded Universe”, such as novels or comics, but I thought Han’s backstory was handled better than expected. With such an iconic character, there’s no way to make everyone happy, but for the most part Ron Howard and the writers did him justice. From his last name to how he gains his hatred for the Empire and meets Chewie and Lando; I was happy with it overall. The only exception to that is maybe the famous Kessel run (the one Han made in 12 parsecs). The movie is nowhere close to what I had always imagined, and I feel like it could have been done much better.

An unexpected cameo (what an understatement!). There is a cameo 2/3rds of the way into the movie that has been a little controversial. Some have hated it, however I loved it and almost jumped up in the theater with excitement. I’m pretty sure I did yell “WHAT!?” with a huge smile on my face. I won’t say who it was, but it’s definitely a character I’ve always felt was spectacularly under-utilized in the films, and I hope we see more of them in an inevitable future movie.

The Meh.

Alden Ehrenreich isn’t bad, but he also doesn’t make it past “adequate.” However, I don’t think that’s his fault; he literally did the best he could. He definitely grew on me as the movie progressed, but only to the point where I just accepted the fact he was there. Unlike Glover, there was never a point I truly believed I was watching the young Han in action, but I think he’s the best we’re going to get. I’m very curious what people in their early 20’s think of the actor choice, who maybe had something other than original trilogy as their first exposure to Star Wars. My guess is that maybe a large percentage have no issues at all with him and those of us who saw the original trilogy first just need to take off the nostalgia goggles. Feel free to let me know what you think!
This isn’t the droid I was looking for. A lot of people apparently love L3, the new droid in this movie, but she felt forced in order to keep the status quo of having a droid in every Star Wars movie. Not only was the personality too over the top for me, but she sounded a little too much like Gwendoline Christe which was extremely distracting since I didn’t know who was actually voicing the character (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Christe played Captain Phasma in the last 2 Star Wars movies, but is know primarily for her role as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones. I think this movie would have been just fine droid-less; we don’t need a new one every time.

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The Bad

Not enough lighting? I know what you’re thinking; if “lighting” is the first thing in the “bad” category then maybe I’m being a little ridiculous? Just hear me out. There were too many scenes that were covered in grey or shadows. Maybe I’m just starting to get old, but I was squinting to see what was going on the first 30 mins of the movie, and half of the rest of the movie left me thinking it would have been more interesting with just a little more light and color. Despite it being a spin off movie, this is still a space opera in a galaxy far far away, isn’t it? Why are 90% of the shots of the sky a dull grey? I wanted to see more colors. Check out how bland the picture below is. It just all mixes together into a boring mess:

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A lack-luster villain. Solo definitely struggles in the villain department. The big bad of the movie is supposed to be Paul Bettany’s gangster boss Dryden Voss. Bettany is a talented actor, but the character the way he was written is underwhelming. Actually, there’s a good portion of the movie’s interactions with Voss that felt…familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently. If you’ve never seen the TV space-western, Firefly, check out episode 2: “The Train Job.” Without giving anything away, I’m actually disappointed with how many similarities there are between Voss and the crime boss Niska of that episode. The ironic part is the show’s hero, Malcolm Reynolds is actually an archetype of Han Solo. With a movie this big coming out of a mega studio like Disney, you have to be more creative than that.

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Disney’s creative coincidences?? Speaking of sounding familiar, Solo has been plagued by accusations of creative theft. In addition to that, I made another promotional art similarity myself. Regal Cinemas was offering collectable cups with official artwork for the movie, and I couldn’t help but notice something I had seen before for the upcoming western video game Red Dead Redemption. You be the judge:

Final Verdict


Cinematic Quality: 6.9 out of 10

  • Most of the CGI was well done
  • Some scenes were a little too bland or dark, visually
  • Alden Ehrenrich does as well as can be expected with the iconic Star Wars character
  • Solid supporting cast
  • Be more creative, Disney!

Fun Factor: 6.5 out of 10

  • Entertaining to watch Han and Chewie’s origins
  • Villain and heist plot needed to be more creative and intimidating.

Worth the price of admission: 6.5 out of 10

  • See it in the theaters if you’re a Star Wars fan.
  • Meant to be viewed on the big screen, but if your money is tight, go see Infinity War instead and wait for Netflix.

Re-watch Value: 6.5 out of 10

  • Worth watching again, but this won’t be your first choice when you’re in the mood to watch a Star Wars movie.

Overall Score – 6.6 scruffy looking nerf herders out of 10

Geek to the Future’s Official Marvel Cinematic Universe Viewing Guide

Avengers: Infinity War will be, without a doubt, the biggest cinematic event of 2018. The entire Marvel franchise has been building to this moment almost from its beginning. With that in mind, this post will be geared mostly towards those movie goers who are interested in seeing Infinity War, but maybe haven’t had a chance to watch the entire MCU line up and want to catch up before May. Even if you’re a veteran, you might want a refresher. With 18 movies spanning over the last decade, it can be confusing to know where to start or what order.

Below is my guide for the recommended viewing order for the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe up until this point. Because each movie builds on the last (similar to a series of comic books) the best method is to watch in the order they were released. Of course, if you want to get the absolute most out of Infinity War, I would recommend watching every movie (except maybe The Incredible Hulk).

That being said, not everyone will want to sit through roughly 36 hours of movies before May, so I’ve also ranked each movie by how necessary it is in relation to the Infinity War story. If you’re looking for a “bare bones” crash course through the MCU, just hit the essential movies. Be warned though, Marvel is famous for adding easter eggs and references from previous movies so the more you watch, the more you’ll catch and enjoy.

Also, just to be clear, these rankings have nothing to do with movie quality, only relevance to Infinity War. Virtually all of the MCU is fantastic and worth your time.

Here are the ranking definitions:

“Essential”: The bread and butter of the MCU and a must watch. These movies deliver key back story elements that build up to Infinity War (9 movies total).

“Important”: Try to fit these in if you have time. They will give you a more well-rounded understanding of the back story going into Infinity War, but you’ll still be fine without them (2 movies total).

“Not Necessary”: While great additions to the franchise, these movies are not a prerequisite for Infinity War. Watch them to learn more about each specific movie’s characters (6 movies total).

“Don’t Bother”: This rank is awarded to only one movie in the MCU. Watch if you want to say you’ve seen them all.

One final piece of information if you’re new to watching Marvel movies: make sure you sit through the credits. Every Marvel movie has at least one after credits scene and they usually give nuggets of info that build the franchise further. Ok, let’s get to it!

Phase One

1. Iron Man (2008)

Rank: Essential

Why: While this movie was too early on to set up anything for Infinity War, it is the movie that kicked off the MCU and should be watched for that reason alone.

2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Rank: Don’t Bother

Why: Marvel was still working out the kinks with its movie strategy. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner before being recast by Mark Ruffalo, and you can see why…this movie is a mess. Watch only if you really want to see every movie in the MCU. By the way, don’t confuse this movie with the older Hulk movie with Eric Bana…it’s even worse.

3. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Rank: Essential

Why: Full introduction into the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the start of Nick Fury’s “Avenger Initiative.” We also get to see the origin of War Machine.

4. Thor (2011)

Rank: Important

Why: The Thor movies are the least necessary to watch in regard to Infinity War. However, you should at the very least watch the first one to have a basic understanding of the characters.

5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Rank: Essential

Why: The Captain America movies are some of the most important movies to understanding the MCU. This is Cap’s origin story and helps to set up the plot of Avengers, including what will be the first Infinity Stone.

6. Avengers (2012)

Rank: Essential

Why: Here we have the first look at Thanos, as well as the first Avengers team up. The story has a large impact on future movies.

Phase 2

7. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: This movie is important to Tony’s story arc post Avengers but is not vital in regards to Infinity War.

8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: This movie introduces a power source called the Aether which is only significant because it will become another Infinity Stone. Watch if you want more back story on Thor, or to watch him battle space-elves.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Rank: Essential

Why: First appearance of Winter Soldier, and the story has a large impact on the MCU going forward.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Rank: Essential

Why: Introduction to the Guardians and another Infinity stone. Also, surprisingly this movie is where we have learned the most about Thanos and the history of the stones so far.

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Rank: Essential

Why: Introduction of new characters that will be in Infinity War and events will have impact on the MCU going forward.

12. Ant Man (2015)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: Intro to Ant Man and short glance at a younger S.H.I.E.L.D. Knowing that Paul Rudd plays a wise cracking criminal-turned hero, and can shrink to the size of a…well…ant is enough to get you by if you’re trying to shave off a few movies.

Phase 3

13. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Rank: Essential

Why: The fallout of this superhero showdown has a tremendous impact on setting up Infinity War. Also we get a small Spider Man introduction.

14. Doctor Strange (2016)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: Introduction to Doctor Strange and another Infinity stone. This movie was a little too Strange for some moviegoers. Knowing he uses magic and has an Infinity Stone is enough to get you by if the Sorcerer Supreme doesn’t interest you.

15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: A great movie that furthers the Guardians’s story but not essential to the overall MCU leading up to May. The character Mantis is introduced who will be in Infinity War. Other than that they’re still funny and still hate Thanos.

16. Spider Man: Homecoming (2017)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: The full introduction to Marvel’s friendly, neighborhood…well you know. A fantastic movie but knowing that Spidey is the rookie of the group and Iron Man has taken on the role of mentor is enough to get you by.

17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Rank: Important

Why: Ragnarok was a huge success this year and due to some major turn of events it’s important to know where Hulk, Thor and Loki will be at the beginning of Infinity War.

18. Black Panther

Release Date: February 16th, 2018

Rank: Essential

Why: Already introduced in Civil War, Black Panther / T’Challa is the King of Wakanda and will play a large role in Infinity War. My guess is that this will be the location of the final Infinity Stone…

19. Avengers: Infinity War

Release Date: May 4th, 2018!

Congratulations! You’re now ready for Thanos. It’s all led up to this!