What's In The Box? episode 11: Big Damn Heroes

As I'm sure you recall, I'm all about the Loot Crate Firefly Cargo Crate, one of which I unboxed in my first ever What's In The Box? video. And I'm extraordinarily happy with the second box, themed "Big Damn Heroes" and focusing on the ever-lovely-and-exceptional-badass Zoe. (What I'm not happy with, however, is how long this video took to edit and post, so sorry about that.)

Take a gander at all the cool stuff it included.

And I'm sure you know by now that I'm not gonna leave you without a quick recap of each of the items so here's me sticking to my theme.
The box is worth it for the Mini-Masters alone.
The pin and the sticker. Both awesome.
I love small vinyl toys.
T-shirt. Nothing to add, really.

An easily produced item but cool nonetheless.
I'm not sure why they needed to call it a "Challenge Coin". Like I couldn't tell it wasn't legal currency.
Can't wait to try the recipe for "Wife Soup".
Saved the best for last. +1 to my notebook collection.

Fan of Firefly? Like what you saw here? Then get the Cargo Crate for yourself! Head over to Loot Crate and sign up. It's only $40 every two months and if you sign up with that link, you get $5 off your first crate. Not too shabby, huh?

Thanks again for watching What's In The Box?. Make sure you subscribe to the YouTube channel to get all the latest WitB? videos and follow me on all of the major (and not so major) social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Catch ya next time!


Movie Review: Suicide Squad

Despite the popularity of the MCU, being a fan of comic book and super hero movies can be rough at times; for every Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there's a Fantastic Four or Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. And even the first few films in the DC Cinematic Universe were shaky, with the less that broad accepting of Man of Steel and damn near universal panning of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which is why I was looking forward to Suicide Squad, the latest offering in the DCCU.

Barely "super" and not necessarily "heroes", the Suicide Squad focuses on a team of bad guys slapped together by a covert government organization in order to provide protection against over-powered threats while offering the most deniability should events turn south. The movie boasts major star power and fan-favorite characters like Harley Quinn (hell, even Batman makes an appearance). But does that mean the movie is any good? (Warning: slight spoilers ahead.)

Whether it's good or not, this poster is goddamn perfect.
Shockingly, one of my favorite parts of Suicide Squad was Will Smith's Deadshot. Since I don't know much about the character (besides what I've seen on Arrow), I really wasn't all that interested in him, but being that they cast Smith in the role I figured he'd be an important part of the film. As the movie progressed Deadshot became the emotional center of the team; grounding Harley and making her see reason, pushing Diablo (Jay Hernandez) to his limits and getting him into the fray. But I loved the way he and Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) played off of each other. They each oozed a distrust of the other but there was a mutual respect just beneath the surface. Two sides of the same coin, almost. I liked how their relationship unfolded throughout the film and really hope to have a Deadshot/Rick Flagg buddy movie at some point in the future.

You can practically hear "I'm too old for this shit".
Viola Davis was wonderful as Amanda Waller. Cold, calculating and unflinching, Davis had a great screen presence and held her own. I really can't say enough good things about her and the gravitas she brought to the role.

She gives no fucks, especially about my opinion.
Jared Leto was a great Joker. Instead of trying to ape the performances of Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, he clearly went in his own direction, taking the vision that David Ayers had for the character and putting his own spin on it. However, I can understand it fans of other versions of the character may not like this one. Instead of the over-the-top criminal mastermind that the Joker is portrayed as in the comics, Leto's Joker is more like a twisted mob boss. A godfather of sorts. But there were times that he didn't feel like the Joker but more like a silver-teethed Scarface. They did manage to work in a few Joker-esque flourishes, though, like dressing his henchmen up in weird costumes (and kudos for the cheap Batman mask on that one dude) and the baby clothes laid out on the floor with the collection of knives was creepy as hell.
Double kudos to the homage to this Alex Ross painting.
The worst part about Joker was that he seemed to be shoehorned in. His story wasn't tied to the Squad's; he was the subplot happening congruently to the main story. His plot made a ton of sense, though, given his connection to Harley Quinn. However, most of his scenes slowed the movie down. It became jarring, especially when you wanted to see what happens to the Squad next. That said, I cannot wait to see Leto's Joker in his next outing. Fingers crossed for a Joker/Harley film.

I would have loved a "Mad Love" movie but that's not likely.
It wasn't just the Joker that slowed the movie down. Most of the character's stories are told in flashbacks, especially in the beginning when Amanda Waller introduced the team. After the action kicked in, however, they held to this trope and the pacing suffered because of it. When Katana (Karen Fukuhara) was introduced, we saw a quick scene of her past, giving us a glimpse at her fighting skill. Even later, Flagg took a moment to expound on Katana and what she can do, which seemed like a more logical place to put her flashback. Also, Harley stopped in the middle of the movie to think back on a pivotal moment for her and the Joker, however, this scene didn't add any emotional weight to their relationship or further reveal her character; it was just there.

Good actress. Good character. Majorly underutilized.
And yes, we are going to talk about Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. It was fantastic. She managed to balance the crazy with the heart, giving Harley the depth that the character needs. The film expands on her origin a bit; she's still Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who falls in love with the Joker, but they push it slightly. Again, it was a logical choice that helps to cement the change for the audience so it shouldn't be too hard to swallow by hardcore fans. But going back to Robbie's portrayal, she seems to channel Arleen Sorkin in the way she handles the character. Robbie gives Harley a harsh accent, something akin to the stereotypical New Jersey accent, which makes sense considering Suicide Squad confirms that Gotham is in NJ (represent, son!).She gets the crazy down pat, oozing psychosis from her eyes, but she can also be compassionate. Harley Quinn was one of the biggest, fan-favorite characters in the movie and it's good to see that at least Margot Robbie legitimized that favoritism.

Audiences were concerned about Suicide Squad with the news it had gone back to reshoots a few months before its release. Word was the studios wanted to enhance the levity after critics panned Batman vs Superman for its bleakness. That was probably a wise decision and one that paid off. The movie had quite a few funny bits, quick one-liners that drew some chuckles. But these reshoots are probably the reason the film stumbled in pats. There was a sense on incongruity between scenes and even though it was fairly easy to get back on track, the film suffered slightly for it.

Given the cast of this size, though, not everyone is going to be given much screen time, notably Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang. Croc made a good fit for the team; a part of Batman's Rogue's Gallery, he is one of the highest profile characters in the film. Even the casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (of Oz and Lost fame) only further legitimized it. But while he did play an important part to the plot, his role on-screen was limited to heavily-synthesized one-liners in a bad Louisiana accent. That said, I would love to see him return in a future Batman movie where he can really stretch his muscles, both literally and figuratively.

He looked cool, too.
And Captain Boomerang... I'm a fan of Jai Courtney despite most people's opinions of him. And he did a great job with the part. But unfortunately Courtney wasn't given much to work with. Boomerang seemed to be the loose cannon on a team of loose cannons so he didn't really stick out all that well. He played well within the confines of the team and helped to move the plot along, but the character could have been removed without much detriment to the main story. Most likely Suicide Squad was only used as a vehicle to introduce the character to modern audiences so he can pop up in a future film (a theory supported by the character's flashback).

Finally, the main villain. Unsurprisingly, the "villain" of the story turns out to be a character that's linked to the Squad. (PS, here's where the spoilers come up.) The Enchantress, an millennia-old mystical being played by Cara Delevingne, turns on humanity for no longer worshiping her and summons her brother to help destroy them. It's a logical twist given the history of the character and it offers a true threat for a team that's composed of a guy who can't miss whatever he's shooting at, a human crocodile and a dude that can make and control fire. The only problem with the antagonist is that there's very little depth. They manage to create an emotional attachment through Rick Flagg and his love for June Moone and that's all well and good. But at the end of it, the climax was just another ho-hum action sequence filled with slow motion and CGI. It was a little bit of a let down even though it managed to stay true to the plot.

But Cara Delevingne did great with the part.
In fact, the most disappointing part of the movie wasn't even the movie itself. It was the lack of free giveaway posters at the AMC Theater I went to. As you probably know. AMC was giving away posters to people who bought a ticket to the IMAX 3D showings. I went to a 10:30 AM show on Saturday morning, basically right in the middle of the opening weekend, and they had no posters left. Usually they keep those freebie giveaways under lock and key; they had stacks of the tattoos for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles well into the following week and I still had to ask to get them. But by Saturday, they were all out of the Suicide Squad posters. Which leads me to believe that either the movie did that good in the one location (which is not very likely) or that the employees just left the posters on the counter and patrons took stacks of them to flip on eBay (more likely). Either way, I'm both disappointed and annoyed that I could get a Harley Quinn poster.

I'm still annoyed the next day.
Was Suicide Squad a perfect movie? Nope. But was it a great movie? Hell, I'm gonna say "nope" here, too. But it was a fun movie full of vibrant characters, tight action sequence and spot-on humor. The characterization alone makes the film worthwhile and not to mention to doors it will open up to future installments. I don't think it deserved the overly harsh criticism it's been getting, nor do I think that a petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes was necessary. The movie stands by its own merits and is probably the best movie in the DC Cinematic Universe so far.


What's In The Box? Episode The Big "One Oh": The Bam Box - Galactic

Holy crapbot, have I really done ten episodes of What's In The Box? That blows my mind since I never seem to stick with anything long enough to become accomplished (as evidenced by the huge gaps of time that this blog goes without updates). So having done ten episodes in two months is just astounding.

Anyhoo, today's entry is our second Bam Box being featured on WItB (all courtesy of The Nerdy Pumpkin's subscription). The theme for July was "Galactic" and featured a bunch of keen outer space-themed goodies like... Well, how about you watch the video and take a look for yourself?

Oh, are you one of those "I don't watch videos, just give me the pictures" type? Ugh, fine. Here they are...

Part of me is content with Rocket while part of me wishes I got Groot.
Not entirely sure what I'll do with these... (They're nicely made, though.)
An odd addition, I will say. But at least it's not another fucking t-shirt.

Alien: Resurrection is still not as bad as AvP: Requiem.
I honestly thought this was a bookend and they forgot the second one.

Check out more of Logan Pack's art on his Instagram. (He's damn good.)
Don't forget that signing up for The Bam Box gives you access to their trading community, which allows you to trade any item that's not to your liking with other subscribers, saving you the hassle of trying to eBay anything or the waste of throwing it out.

And now I need your help. Being on episode 10 makes me realize that this channel could go stale real quick if I don't switch it up so I'm looking for suggestions for new subscription boxes to try. If you know of any that you think I might like, let me know. You can comment below or hit me up on various social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, or even god awful Facebook. If you have an affiliate link, feel free to drop that, too. I won't guarantee that I'll sign up for every box recommended to me or that yours will be the affiliate link that I use, but if I can help one of my readers make a little bit of money, I'll be happy to do so.

Thanks again for watching and keep it close for more What's In The Box?!


What's In The Box? episode 9: OwlCrate's "Good vs Evil"

Well, I had a hell of a busy week. After coming home from work the other day to find two boxes stacked outside my door, I knew that there would be much to do. I'm just shocked I got it done so quickly.

If you missed it, the other day I posted the unboxing video for the July Dinosaur Dracula Funpack.

Which brings us to today...

The Nerdy Pumpkin and I have been getting OwlCrate for a few months and last month I showed you the June "Royalty" box. But this month's OwlCrate, themed "Good vs Evil", was unique in the sense that subscribers would get one of two boxes; one of them was all about Good while the other about Evil.

So which did I get?

The Evil box, which is right up my alley. I was pretty happy with it, too. Here's a few closeups of the items. (Again, apologies for the crappy photos.)

If you want your own Dementor, swing by Amazon.
They have a ton of cool stuff in their Etsy store.
Also worth checking out Jane's Tiny Things on Etsy, too.

Also, I need to pause here to point how my misrepresentation of the quote on the sticker. While I thought that it was from the movie Gladiator (which it is so I'm technically not wrong), given the context of OwlCrate, it's actually from a book called "Illuminae" by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. So there's that.

Sounds like a book I can get into.
Never got a coloring book from a subscription box. I'm pleased.
I dug the evil box. It had some really cool stuff and "This Savage Song" seems interesting. But now I'm curious as to what was in the "Good" box. If you're an OwlCrate subscriber and you got Good, show me your swag! You can hit me up on Twitter or Instagram, or even drop a pic on the Facebook page.

Also, if you like what you see and want the OwlCrate for yourself, head over to their site.

(Oh, and that shirt I'm wearing in the video? I got that from a "The Legend of Zelda: Symphony Of The Goddesses" orchestral concert I went to a few years ago. Funny story about it. I was second from the front on line at the merch booth and the people in front of me were so occupied with their conversation that the lady at the booth waved me up and sold me the last shirt. When the people (who were) in front of me walked up to the other lady at the booth, she had to break the news to them that the shirts were all gone. Sucks, huh? Anyway, I posted a few pics and a short video from the event here if you want to check it out.)

Thanks again for watching!


What's In The Box? episode 8: July Dino Drac Funpack

Well, we've made it back around since starting "What's In The Box?'. You probably remember the unboxing of the June Funpack from Dinosaur Dracula (if you don't you should probably go check it out), and here we are taking a look at July's. How about that?

As you probably know, unlike most subscription boxes, the Funpack doesn't really have a theme, but often it doesn't need one. So since I can't give you much background, let's just jump right into it.

And I know some people just want to look at the items so I am happy to oblige. (Also, the pictures are really terrible since I used an old camera. I'll be sure to go back to my regular camera next time.)

No Funpack is complete without snacks.
The Mystery bag. It's like a Funpack in the Funpack!
The Nerdy Pumpkin loves these games so she's a fan of "Where Are They?"
Unfortunately, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is not on Netflix, but you can rent or buy it on Amazon.
Comic Ball... I would have preferred more sports than just baseball but whatevs.
Hombre Lobo. The "star" of the box.
Trading card poster and the trading cards they promote? Card-ception!
I love The Legend of Zelda so this was damn exciting.
I need a decent binder for all these ugly posters.
This Funpack was extra special since it was its two-year anniversary. Twenty four magnificent months of nostalgic goodness, even though I've only been with it for 16 months. Regardless, that's a heck of a milestone.

If you're interested in getting the Funpack for yourself, head over to Dinosaur Dracula and sign up. It's only $25 shipped for all this cool junk!


Movie Review: Ghostbusters

It's been about a week since I viewed the new Ghostbusters movie and I've been on the fence about writing up my thoughts on the film. On the one hand, I feel I have a strong understanding of movies, have written numerous movie reviews here on the blog as well as for other sites, and have an opinion, which is at least worth something. On the other hand, given the way I extol the Ghostbusters franchise and that I've been a champion for the all-woman lineup since it was announced, any plaudits I give it will be seen as biased. But, well, here we are.

Warning: Spoilers ahead so if you haven't seen it yet and plan to, proceed with caution.

The newest Ghostbusters centers on Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a quantum physicist at Columbia University. She's on the precipice of securing her career when it comes to light that she's a co-author of a wildly unfounded book on parapsychology, "Ghost From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal". She goes to her old friend and colleague, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), to demand that she take down the book when she gets sucked into an actual ghost sighting. Her reaction to the phenomenon gets her fired from the university, leaving her to join Yates and Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) in creating a paranormal investigation business.

One of my biggest fears going in was that the humor wouldn't resonate with me. I hadn't seen much of Paul Feig's filmography and while I thought Bridesmaids was OK, I couldn't stand The Heat. On top of that, the only actor in Ghostbusters that I had any passing knowledge of was Melissa McCarthy (well, and Chris Hemsworth but I wasn't too focused on him). And even the trailers left much to be desired; though they didn't deserve the vitriol they received, the jokes they showed were luke warm at best.

But as everything unfolded on screen you see how it all works. There were a few rocky starts at the beginning with a couple of punchlines landing awkwardly, but as the movie progressed it started to gel. Even the "ho-hum" jokes from the trailer were funny in context. It has been a long time since I laughed so hard in a movie theater and I'm grateful for Ghostbusters for helping me do so.

What Ghostbusters gets right is the tone. While I hate to compare it to the 1984 classic, it is of course going to become inevitable so let's just go ahead and do that. Feig's Ghostbusters does not have the same tone as Reitman's, but that's not at all a criticism. The new Ghostbusters manages to find its own tone and stick with it. It doesn't try to emulate the magic of Aykroyd and Ramis's script, or the flawless dry humor of Bill Murray. Instead, Feig plays to the strengths of his four leading ladies (and one blonde beefcake) and amplifies their comedic talents. He finds a good balance between comedy and action and maintains that balance throughout most of the film. Granted, the humor took a back seat during the CG-filled finale but overall it still managed to fit some funny bits in there.

Presented without comment.

Ghostbusters sees a ton of celebrity cameos. Nearly the full cast from 1984 graces the screen, with the only holdout being Rick Moranis. While most of the cameos were a fun treat, like Bill Murray as the spectral skeptic or Ernie Hudson as Patty Tolan's (Leslie Jones) mortician uncle, the real disappointment was Dan Aykroyd's crabby cabbie. He spits his lines like he's had a stroke and delivers one of the most half-hearted nods to his original film possible. Don't get me wrong; I respect the hell out of Aykroyd and all the work he did to make this movie a reality, but his cameo made me cringe. I am willing to overlook it, though, based on the classy way they worked a Harold Ramis cameo into the film.

It's not all sunshine and ectoplasm, though. One of the movie's biggest flaws was the editing. Time seems to flow rather abruptly, both from scene to scene as well as overall. While it's evident that they cut a lot of unnecessary scenes to keep the pace of the film moving, in some instances it became jarring. There are things that progressed so quickly that it just felt like it defied logic. Two examples are the numerous ghost-busting inventions Holtzmann creates and how quickly they outfit the hearse as a functioning Ecto-1. I mean, I understand the need to skip over that stuff but it  interrupted the flow.

I also had some problems with the plot, mostly with the main antagonist, Rowan. While I felt that Neil Casey did well with the character, I don't think he was given much to work with. Rowan starts out as an awkward human who makes everyone around him uncomfortable and wants to bring about the end of humanity. It's a decent enough plot but doesn't ring with the same paranormal vibe that I'd come to expect from a Ghostbusters movie. Everything works, it all fits together fine enough, but just feels flat, not to mention a bit cliche given the whole "revenge for bullying" angle.

Though he is really creepy.
Want to talk about the other performances? Sure, let's do that.

Without mincing words, Leslie Jones was hilarious. She seemed to have the most fun with the script and delivered many of the film's best lines. I'd actually be curious to know how much of what she said was scripted and what was improvised because her character just felt so real and vivid. She also played an important part in keeping the rest of the team grounded. As the only non-scientist of the group, her inclusion kept them from going off on techno-babble tangents and made sure their explanations were to the point and in layman's terms so that the audience could follow along.

Melissa McCarthy's Abby is the heart of the team. As one of the largest named stars, McCarthy has a fair share of screen time. Her humor is strong and the script really plays to one of her strengths: physical comedy. Many of her scenes rely on her getting tossed around, like in the proton pack testing scene, which McCarthy plays with aplomb. Unfortunately, I found her to be the weakest of the group but even that isn't much of a criticism of her, just a validation of the strength of the rest of the team.

I was actually fairly surprised by Kristin Wiig. As I haven't seen many of her movies, I wasn't familiar with her brand of comedy but she turned out to be one of my favorites. She mostly plays the straight (wo)man to everyone else but the times that she does stand out, such as her awkward flirting with receptionist Kevin, she manages to steal the scene.

Everyone seems to have fallen in love with Kate McKinnon's Holtzmann, and rightfully so. Holtzmann oozed personality, all thanks to a masterfully nuanced performance. Her odd mannerisms and awkward affectation made her memorable. She does have a few stilted one-liners but most of her humor is solid.

But the biggest surprise was Chris Hemsworth. As a big time action star/demi-god, audiences don't necessarily think of him as a comedic actor. His timing was impeccable, his delivery superb and he displayed a knack for dry humor that seemed almost supernatural. He remained deadpan throughout the entirety of the film and offered some of the movie's biggest laughs. With how excited I was to see a team of women Ghostbusters, I was disappointed that the man outshone them, but delighted that the movie was as fun as it was.

Since I've rambled on much more than I intended, here's a quick Lightning Round.
  • There were two Chekov's Gun type solutions in the film, which I didn't quite care for but they worked and that's all that matters.
  • I liked the nods to two hit horror movies (The Exorcist and Poltergeist), both of which fit the theme of the movie.
  • There was a lot of dancing in it, even with the big Hemsworth dance number cut from the end. I'm not sure why. There just was.
  • I loved the PKE meter. It reminded me of the one from The Real Ghostbusters.
  • While I found the CG to be outstanding, my favorite effect was Gertrude Aldridge, which was done using practical effects. The way the blue glow reflected off her face was creepy as hell. Even the slime-spewing moment startled me despite the fact that I knew it was coming. 
  • I was floored by the final action sequence. Though so much more dynamic than anything in the original films, it had a great flow, coherent action and awesome CGI.

And that's pretty much all I have. So was Ghostbusters a perfect film? No, not at all but it did have many genuinely funny moments and a great cast portraying lively characters. Wrap that up in a blanket of well directed action and you have the makings of a good summer movie. If pressed for a numerical rating, I'd give it a 7 out of 10 (on the PKE meter). Not quite burying the needle but it's a fun, energetic movie with a ton of laughs and a lot of heart.

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