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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 movie posterParamount

Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with their fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.

This was a movie I was looking forward to never watching, ever. It was the principle of the whole thing: Executive Producer Michael Bay–effectively this generation’s Ronald Emerich–when talking about this particular reboot of the beloved 80s pop culture icons, essentially boasted that “you may hate it, but you’ll go see it anyway.” That was the general gist of it. So, I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to watch this latest kick in the childhood, even for free. Ever. Screw you, Bay, this is $10 you’ll never see added to the several millions of dollars this movie has made you thus far! Feel the fluoride sting of my protest! GOONGALA!

Aaaaaaaand that lasted about a week before my 16-year-old nephew wanted to participate in some end-of-summer-break “bonding time”. Of course, this was the movie he wanted to see. Under protest, I agreed. I still didn’t have to pay for the movie (and no, I didn’t make the nephew pay for it all), and it was one of those posh movie theaters that had recliner seats. And retractable snack trays. And where the ushers come over to take your snack item orders. Listen, I went in not wanting to like this movie whatsoever, but the environment we were going to watch this in was not making this easy. It’s hard to brood in a Laz-E-Boy while college-aged employees bring you Milk Duds and popcorn, knowing you didn’t have to spend a dime for any of this. I still was daring the movie to entertain me, though.

First of all, I want to point out that I realize that Michael Bay was the Executive Producer on this movie, and not the director. I still hold him responsible, though. Now, with that aside, what did I think of the movie?

Well…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And considering the original idea for this movie–where they were space aliens and not turtles (nerd rage rising, RISING)–that’s saying a lot. Still, this is very much Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; which means it’s a big, dub and serviceable action flick that’s just interesting enough where you can almost look past the glaringly obvious fact that the script was written by a room full of dude-bros. Beyond the obvious utilization of on-screen eye candy non-actor Megan Fox as April O’Neal, just the designs of the Turtles themselves makes me morbidly curious as to the thought process behind the writers of this thing: “Hey, Donatello is a smart inventor genius type? Let’s give him a pair of thick-lensed nerd glasses and an awkward Poindexter type mannerisms! Raphael is a hothead, so…gruff, brooding and always talking like Batman! Michelangelo is so totally a stoner dude! Conch shell neclace, hoverboard and creepy surfer persona! Shredder needs a big honkin’ Mecha battlesuit! And can we try and shoehorn Will Arnett in there, somewhere? I totes loved him in Arrested Development, brah.”

Sorry. I’m afraid my sarcasm ran away with me, there. What I’m trying to say is they decided it was easier to go for exaggerated stereotypes rather than actual character development.

Mind you, I understand that this is a movie about human-sized mutated turtles that learned martial arts from an equally human-sized mutated rat and fight crime as ninjas on the streets of New York. And that it’s based on a comic book. That still doesn’t mean that you can half-arse it. One of the first things you hear the turtles say when April first runs into them on a rooftop was “I feel my shell tightening.” Yeah. Classy, there. And speaking of April…gads. She had to be the actress? We couldn’t find anyone competent? Someone less vapid eye candy, someone more…I don’t know, better?

Look, I’m going to try and wrap this up before it becomes yet another in a long line of whiny rants from a 40-something pseudo-journalist critic. The bottom line is, this reboot of a long running franchise that started life as a satire of violent comic books of the time to begin with…isn’t that bad. Yes, it’s a really slick, effects-laden action wank-fest big on ‘splosions and whatnot, with some canon tweaks that made me go “wha?” a few times, and a rather thin script as far as character development is concerned. But then, let’s realize what it’s supposed to be, here: a summer blockbuster popcorn movie that’s big on effects and ‘splosions while thin on plot and character development. Not the best Turtles movie, but then again, it’s not Turtles In Time either. It hovers somewhere between TMNT and that third live-action atrocity, methinks.

And hey, at least Bay managed to take enough Ritalin to realize that the whole “Turtles are Space Aliens” idea was probably not a good one.


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Guardians Of The GalaxyWalt Disney / Marvel

“Really? Well, on my planet, we have a legend about people like you. It’s called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that, dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is.”

Peter Quill, a man of the ’80s, finds himself caught in the middle of a conflict spanning the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe attempting to earn his title of Star-Lord with a team of ex-cons that includes a genetically engineered raccoon, a sentient alien tree of royal descent, a human who died and came back a killing machine, and a powerful assassin who vows revenge against her master.

I have to humbly admit that I was not expecting to enjoy Guardians Of The Galaxy as much as I did. I didn’t watch this in the theater during its initial run, mainly due to my unfamiliarity with the source material. Normally, that wouldn’t deter me from watching a movie adaptation: I was right there at the theaters the opening night for Iron Man and The Avengers, after all. But, where I at least had a general grasp of the other better-known characters, I literally knew next to nothing about the source material on this one. I maybe had heard of Rocket Racoon due to my reading of Wizard Magazine back in the day, but other than that, everything else that I knew you could have fit on a cocktail napkin.

So, because of the relative obscurity of it, and having one of the fellow Exalted Geeks tell me I could go ahead and wait for the rental after having caught it on the big screen himself, I did just that: waited until it came out on DVD, and then rented it to give it a watch. Then forgot about watching it, returned it, then promptly forgot to care enough to re-rent it to watch, and then got around to actually doing it for realsies some time later, when I was bored enough to remember to watch it, and needing some background noise going whilst I was packing my things in my old crypt for the move to the Haunted Victorian. What? I can multi-task.

After having finally watched it, I have to admit that, once again, Marvel Studios has made me enjoy something I could initially care less for far more than was possible. This movie had everything going against it as far as I was concerned…and yet, by the first ten minutes I was hooked fast, the film having lured me in with its gorgeous cinematography, then nailing me with its well-crafted story and great character development, as well as some of the snappiest banter and breath-taking action sequences I’ve seen. Once again, James Gunn has taken what could potentially have been a disaster for the Marvel Movie Universe and made it one of the best ones out of the entire stable of Disney/Marvel movies.

I don’t say this often, but I will here: I am very sorry I didn’t catch this on the big screen when I had the chance. If you haven’t seen this one yet, make it a point to do so. Even if you haven’t seen the other Marvel movies, if you’re a fan of space operas like Star Wars and Buck Rogers, and appreciate well-written and snappy dialogue this side of Joss Whedon, you need to check out Guardians Of The Galaxy. If nothing more than to believe that a pro wrestler can have tight comic timing as a Straight Man. That came off sounding far more sexualized than intended. Point is, watch Guardians Of The Galaxy. Highly recommended.


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Green Lantern Movie PosterWarner Bros.

You’re impertinent, Hal Jordan. You’re rash, volatile, opinionated; it seems Abin Sur found another just like himself.”

In a vast, mysterious universe, a powerful force has existed for centuries…the Green Lantern Corps- a brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order, each Green Lantern wears a ring that grants him superpowers. But when a new enemy threatens the balance of power in the Universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of a new recruit, the first human ever selected: Hal Jordan. While Hal is a gifted and cocky pilot, the Green Lanterns have little respect for humans, who have never harnessed the infinite powers of the ring before. With the encouragement of childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris, if Hal can quickly master his new powers and find the courage to overcome his fears, he may prove to be not only the key to saving the Universe…but he will become the greatest Green Lantern of all!

For some reason, when it comes to comic book movies, DC Comics just can’t seem to get much of a hit beyond their two big characters—namely, Batman and Superman. Not that any of the other stable of classic DC heroes are slouches; it just seems that translating any other hero to the big screen hasn’t been as easy for DC than it has for Marvel.

By now, the fanboy backlash concerning the live action Green Lantern movie—the very one we’re reviewing right now—has been well documented. Personally, I have never been what you would call a fan of the comic book; though, as any proper comic book geek, I have a decent understanding of the various incarnations and story arcs of the Emerald Knight. Enough to know where the movie was drawing from, but not enough to be so emotionally invested that I feel the need to spend pages and pages deconstructions it. Still, I did manage to hold off watching until now, because…well, I had more interesting things to watch and complain about.

The story in this here live action Green Lantern movie, as to be expected, draws from the classic Silver Age origin of the character: Cocky test pilot Hal Jordan discovers after a rather bad day on the job, that he has been chosen by an alien-made ring to take the place of a dying alien as a Green Lantern, a kind of intergalactic peace-keeping military force, created by neigh-immortal fuchsia-colored munchkins called the Guardians of the Universe. And if that isn’t a power metal band name, it really should be. Anyway, all the other Green Lanterns in the Corps find it hard to believe that a gross, cootie-covered human would be picked by the ring…including Hal, who pretty much quits after a bit of training by the likes of Kilowog and Sinestro. But then, a yellow-colored alien entity made up of pure fear by the name of Parallax—the very entity that Hal’s predecessor tangled with and defeated ages ago—threatens to take out the Earth, and thus Hal has to pull himself out of his pity party and figure out a way to handle Parallax and his bulbous-headed minion by himself. Because the rest of the Corps isn’t helping out, because…reasons.

When all is said and done, I found this live action Green Lantern movie to be entertaining enough to warrant some enjoyment. In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t think Ryan Reynolds was the right pick to play Hal Jordan. If you would ask my not-so-humble opinion, I think David Boreanaz would have been a better pick over Reynolds. But, I wouldn’t rule Reynolds out for playing Kyle Rayner. That’s besides the point, though. Maybe I’m not too overly familiar with the character of Hal Jordon, but Reynolds’ depiction of him came off as rather unlikable, even when he was getting his “save the world from the indestructible evil” thing going. The overall story felt rushed in several areas, especially with the training sequences (there needed more Kilowog, most definitely), and I don’t buy that the rest of the Lanterns are going to just let a wet-behind-the-ears rookie go off and save an entire planet by himself from an entity that, and then just show up right when he saves the day. Kinda seeing why Sinestro went rogue, there. Oh, and also, SPOILERS: Sinestro goes rogue in the very end. But you saw that coming, didn’t you? His name’s freakin’ Sinestro, for crying out loud. The Silver Age wasn’t known for subtlety when it came to bad guy names.

For all its flaws, though Green Lantern was just fun to watch. It was nice and shiny, the effects were fantastic, especially the cosmic scope of the thing. Overall, I don’t think Green Lantern was the great cinematic travesty everyone is saying it is. It’s not threatening to take down either of the Big Two in DC’s movie stable, but it could have been oh, so very much worse than it was.

Movie Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Winter Solder

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Captain America_ The Winter Soldier Movie PosterMarvel Entertainment

“How do we tell the good guys from the bad guys?”
“If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad.”

After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D. C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S. H. I. E. L. D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy–the Winter Soldier.

I’m just going to have to come out and say it: I, your beloved Uncle NecRo, identify as a post-Comic Book Geek. I used to be all about the comic book love…then Marvel more or less killed it for me with the all but universally reviled “One More Day” Spider-Man storyline, with DC’s New 52 being the final nail in the coffin of my former obsession of the four-color print medium. But, that didn’t kill my love of modern superheroes, and fortunately we’re still in the midst of a superhero movie renaissance, and thus I can get a decent geek fix without feeling overcharged for something that normally boils down to a quick couple’a minutes read on the crapper.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the second Captain America movie to be produced by Marvel Studios as part of the Marvel Movie Universe, and takes place two years after the events of the first Avengers movie. The Cap is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. under Nick Fury, and is first seen in this movie helping to free hostages on a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel by mercenaries lead by none other than Batroc the Leaper. Geek-boy senses, tingling. The Black Widow is along, and seems to have a different agenda than Cap was expecting, and thus after everything is taken care of, confronts Fury about the deviation and not being told about it. Cap is then told about some satellites that were designed to eliminate potential threats, information of which was stored on the ship, but was unable to decrypt. Fury is then ambushed by the titular Winter Soldier, escapes and gives Cappy a flash drive containing the data from the ship, and then is gunned down and presumably dies in surgery. Cap is then declared persona non grata by S.H.I.E.L.D., and is now hunted as a fugitive, with only a small handful of friends he can trust, including the Falcon, a former Air Force pararescueman with some badass wings. Slowly, they peel back the layers of the conspiracy, discover that the Winter Soldier is actually Bucky all brainwashed for evil, and work to bring down Hydra within, take down the death satellites, and maybe try to save Bucky in the process.

In the comics, Bucky was killed off (implied, anyway) in the 1940s, after the comic book itself was discontinued in the Golden Age, and remained that way through the decades. The joke was that, in the Marvel Universe, the only characters that stay dead are Bucky and Uncle Ben. Then they brought him back, when they revealed in 2005 that the mysterious Winter Solider that was introduced in Captain America comics was in reality Captain America’s former sidekick all grown up and brainwashed for evil. Not to mention looking rather good and young thanks to being put in cryo-freeze in-between missions for the bad guys. It’s only a matter of time before they figure out a way to bring back Uncle Ben, and make him one of Spider-Man’s rogues.

I bring that up because, admittedly, I never really got into the Captain America comics. Like a lot of the Marvel icons that I never got into reading, I am familiar with certain story arcs and character developments and such. And the Winter Soldier arc, due to the waves it caused in fandom with the reveal of his identity, was one I was well familiar with without having to actually read the story line. All things considered, it makes sense to introduce him into this movie, despite not being considered one of Captain America’s “classic” villains. The Winter Soldier seems to work well with the overarching story that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is telling, and let’s face it—Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one fine piece of movie storytelling in and of itself. And again, I didn’t think I’d be all that interested, until I decided to go watch it at the second-run theater out of boredom. It’s yet another fine action adventure movie, filled with some great action scenes, snappy dialogue, a good spy thriller undertone, and enough fanboy nods that even I was able to point out. The movie is a lot darker in tone than the previous, and they did a very good job at making the Captain a much deeper and palpable character without loosing the inspirational icon in the process.

Once again, I have to admit that I enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier much more than I had anticipated. Unlike the first Captain America movie (which I have yet to get around to reviewing as of this writing, my bad), I at least caught it on the big screen at the El Cheepo second-run theater. Recommended watching.

Movie Review: BATMAN: Assault On Arkham

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batman assault on arkhamWarner Home Video

“Anyone who throws boomerangs has got some real issues letting go.”

Welcome to Gotham City’s heart of darkness. At the center of the shadows rises Arkham Asylum, a festering depository of the vile, the dangerous and the delirious, with an ever-growing population courtesy of the Dark Knight. But when Batman foils the Riddler’s latest caper and the crucial piece of evidence needs to be secretly recovered from Arkham, the solution comes from an unexpected source: a covert government strike team hand assembled from Gotham City’s underworld. The assassin Deadshot leads the Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, King Shark and Black Spider, a roster of rogues who know Arkham Asylum and its residents all too well. Get ready for an all-out assault as Batman faces a fearless legion of criminals with nothing to lose. Some will live, some will die and some just want revenge. It’s an unadulterated adventure through the criminal mind in the latest DC Universe animated movie.­

This year’s offerings of direct-to-video DC animated movies have, admittedly, been not as up to par with the majority of the other original animated movies released since 2007’s Superman/Doomsday. I’m still working on the full reviews of both Justice League: War and Son Of Batman, but for purpose of comparison, let’s just say there’s something to be desired. Which is why I sighed rather heavily with the thought of watching this movie. I held off, until I watched uber-fanboy reviewer E-Rod (aka the Blockbuster Buster) give this video a “10” on his Badassatude Meter, which then intrigued me enough to give it a watch myself.

Unlike the other two afore-mentioned videos, Batman: Assault On Arkham is based on the Arkham Asylum video games, rather than specific comic book story lines. Kind of a prequel, if Wikipedia is to be trusted. Here, Batman takes a back seat to the Suicide Squad, which is kind of a government black ops made up of super-villains to do high-risk missions in exchange for commuted prison sentences, and headed up by one Dr. Amanda Waller. Let’s just say Dr. Waller is the thing that the scary things are scared of. You don’t want to mess with her. She send in a team consisting of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Shark King, Black Spider, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Frost (KGBeast deciding not to participate) into Arkham to retrieve an item hidden in The Riddler’s cane. Of course, when Dr. Waller is involved, there’s more to it than just what’s on the surface, so when they all discover the reason why the Riddler is being targeted to be “taken care of”, all bets are off. Then the Joker decides to break out of his cell and join the fun.

As animated DC movies go, Batman: Assault On Arkham was satisfying. It had an action-packed story, the voice acting was top-notch (Troy Baker seemed to be channeling Mark Hamill in his depiction of the Joker, instead of trying to do a bad imitation, which worked out beautifully), the animation was…tolerable, and the characterization and direction made for some good depth for a group that I really had no experience with at all, outside of maybe a couple of episodes of Justice League Unlimited. And here, the PG-13 rating is well-earned, in case you were thinking this is just a cartoon for your young kids to watch.

Overall, while I’m not a fan of the type of animation style they’ve been using in the recent animated movies, Batman: Assault On Arkham is easily the best of the four that were released in 2014. There’s one more that I haven’t watched from that bunch yet, but so far, I would recommend a viewing of Batman: Assault On Arkham some night.

Movie Review: V FOR VENDETTA

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Movie Review: V FOR VENDETTAWarner Bros. Pictures

“Remember, remember, the Fifth of November…”

It’s a bleak and dark future. America is now known as the “former United States” (what are we called now, Canada? That is chilling), and is torn asunder from wars and epidemics. England, meanwhile, is now under an Orwelian fascist dictatorship, keeping its citizens in line with fear. One night, though, a vigilante madman decked out in a cape and a Guy Fawkes mask begins his work to destroy the fascist regime, and profoundly affect the citizens of England to take back their freedom. Things go boom…

It’s rather hard for me to write this review of the movie right now. See, on the one hand, I absolutely enjoyed this cinematic romp, what with its very stylish sets and complete futuristic dystopian vibe like something out of a George Orwell novel. The character of V was an absolute treat to watch, whether it was taking out key members and institutions of the government, explaining his method to the madness with a theatrical flourish, or merely cooking up an egg. Natalie Portman, I thought, was a good choice for the character of Evey, playing the role very well, I thought. All the other characters, from the villainous party members that V takes out one by one, to the common citizens added much depth to the setting. Very stylish, very nice…

On the other hand, though, I am a staunch fan of Alan Moore’s work. As a matter of fact, I consider V For Vendetta superior to the greater-known Watchmen (though by a very narrow margin). There’s so much more depth to the story in the graphic novel, and much of that was cut for the movie. Yes, I understand that in the process of translating a comic, even a heady and (I’ll just say it) grown up title as V For Vendetta, to the big screen, certain compromises and changes have to be made. For the most part, I think the Wachowski brothers stuck very close to the tone of the comic, as well as making the source material recognizable for those familiar with the comic. There were some very noticeable changes, but for the most part they were to condense everything for the purpose of running time. Really, if they went with a strict panel-by-panel recreation, V For Vendetta would wind-up as either a week-long miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel, or a trilogy (and given the last two of the Matrix series, I’m glad they didn’t go that route). The changes that kind of got to me were the way they thrown in a romantic angle, which may be a tried and true Hollywood device, but I didn’t really think that worked. Simply because it betrays the V character’s motivation. Look, not to get into a geeky comic rant here, but in the TPB Evey tries to get cozy with V, but V don’t play dat. Matter of fact, that was the catalyst that made him decide to abandon Evey temporarily, thereby making her go through the trials that would lead to her eventual breakdown and ultimately understanding what V’s grand scheme is. Here, she still goes through the trials (very effective, and glad they included that dummy), but then it seems V starts falling for Evey, and starts questioning his purpose. That doesn’t jive with me at all. But that’s just me…heartless nurf herder that I am…

All said and done, V For Vendetta is a pretty good dystopian sci-fi drama piece that should appeal to anyone that has no idea what the source is about. Those who are fans of the TPB (like myself) can and will find things to bitch about, but overall, when taken for what it is by itself without all that comparisons, you’ll still get something out of it. Just check your preconceptions at the door, sit back, and enjoy the view. And buildings ‘sploding to the tune of the “1812 Overture”. Can’t get any better than that…


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Movie Review: ULTIMATE AVENGERSMarvel Studios

“Are you really Russian, or are you just trying to make an impression?”

In 1945, in one of the last battles against the Nazis, Super Soldier Steve Rogers, a. k. a. Captain America, stumbles upon an alien plot to help the Nazis build a nuclear warhead to take out the United States. The Captain manages to stop the bomb and destroy it, but at the cost of being hurtled into the Atlantic Ocean and put into suspended animation within an underwater glacier. Flash forward 60 years, and the top-secret Government agency S. H. I. E. L. D., led by General Nick Fury, has found the body of Steve Rogers, and retrieves him in order to duplicate the lost Super Soldier serum to build a new army of super soldiers to take on the lingering alien threat. Only, the Captain is still alive, and the government is getting impatient for results. Now, Steve Rogers finds himself a man out of time, and leading a group of cocky, hot headed modern heroes against the extraterrestrial threat. Only thing is, the aliens aren’t the biggest threat to the Avengers…

As a comic book geek, I do believe that we’re experiencing a neo-Renaissance of sorts with movies and cartoons based on comic book properties. The release of this direct-to-video animated movie based on the first storyline in the uber-popular (and kick arse, I might add) Ultimates comic is, in my not-so-humble opinion, quite spectacular. It’s not perfect, mind you, but realize what it could have been if it was made in, say, the 80s…or even the 90s. I shudder to think…

The animation is top-notch, with a style like that of the late lamented X-Men: Evolution cartoon. There are some noticeable instances where the CGI and traditional animation don’t mix too well, mostly with the scenes involving S. H. I. E. L. D.’s flying machines. Otherwise, it’s pretty smooth and tight. Story-wise, it sticks pretty close to the source material, albeit a bit toned down (anyone who’s read the Ultimates know what I’m talking about…somehow I don’t think Captain America kicking Bruce Banner in the nuts would’ve played out too well). Still, it doesn’t skimp on the explosive action, or the rather deep characterization with the Marvel icons. Steve Rogers trying to adjust to the future present he’s stuck in with almost all ties to his past gone is handled really well. Also, Bruce Banner as the obsessive yet brilliant scientist trying to find a way to control his Hulk alter-ego is nicely done. And call me crazy, heretical, or whatnow, but I personally prefer the Ultimate version of Nick Fury rather than the regular continuity version. The obvious Samuel L. Jackson design works for him. Seriously…

Sadly, this movie’s only 73 minutes long. Not really a full-length movie, but still very satisfying. Well done. I’d like to see more Marvel-based DTV movies like this in the future, perhaps with more obscure characters. Maybe an animated miniseries based on the Alex Ross / Mark Waid opus Marvels. In the extras, for all you George Perez freaks out there, there’s an interesting 25-minute documentary entitled “Avengers Assemble!”, which features interviews with Perez and a couple of others involved with the Avengers comic in various incarnations. In any case, check this nifty gem out…

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