Friday, May 25, 2018

Summer reading

cover story

When the summer heat kicks in, you have the perfect chance to chill out with a good book. Here are some new and recent offerings that you could enjoy this summer.

Fiction

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
It’s hard to resist John Grisham’s legal thrillers. If you haven’t had the chance to check out his latest novel yet, then the summer will be the perfect time to delve into the popular author’s newest page-turner. The American writer focuses on corruption in the legal field and for-profit educational institutions in The Rooster Bar, the story of three third-year debt-ridden law students at a third-tier law school who drop out and open a fake law firm. There’s intrigue, there’s drama, and while this isn’t Grisham’s best work, it’s still an entertaining light read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The debut novel by British writer Gail Honeyman has created quite a buzz since it was published last year. The story of a young, troubled office-worker in Glasgow who learns to overcome her lonely lifestyle, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a touching, thought-provoking novel that has been praised by critics and readers alike. The film rights were optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine, so you might want to read this one before the movie comes out!

The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
Best known for his work as a comic book writer for both DC and Marvel Comics, Charles Soule recently published his debut novel, The Oracle Year, a satirical, sharp-witted tale of a man who wakes up from a dream one morning with 108 predictions about the future that actually start coming true, giving him great power as well as leaving him targeted by many enemies. Its offbeat, intriguing plot makes this fast-paced adventure a riveting ride.

Bash Bash Revolution by Douglas Lain
Sci-fi and fantasy writer Douglas Lain ventures into the world of gaming for his latest novel, Bash Bash Revolution, the story of a high school dropout who excels at playing the titular outdated Nintendo game. His father, a computer geek, keeps appearing and disappearing from his life, which eventually sends the teenager on a journey that leads him to discovering “the true nature of the government-sponsored artificial intelligence programme his father has been involved in”. It’s an interesting concept and an engaging storyline that is likely to please fans of books like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Still Me by Jojo Moyes
English romance novelist Jojo Moyes is having considerable success with her Me Before You series, the first installment of which was turned into a film in 2016. She recently unveiled the third part of the series, Still Me, which continues the story of Louisa Clarke, as she moves to New York City and works for a wealthy young socialite. While the sequels may not live up to the original, those who are invested in the story might appreciate the chance to continue reading the protagonist’s saga.

The Outsider by Stephen King
The King of Horror is back with another suspenseful horror thriller. The Outsider revolves around the investigation into the brutal murder of an eleven-year-old boy. Who is the culprit? All the evidence points towards one of the city’s most popular, respected citizens, but the suspect has an alibi that conflicts the evidence, leaving the investigators to wonder if some other force may be at play here. With its twists and turns, this novel promises another gripping tale from the prolific writer.

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg
This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but readers who like peculiar stories are in for a treat. Mallory Ortberg has put a horror spin on classic fairy and folk tales in the short story collection The Merry Spinster. Homage is paid to the original source material while some creepy surprises are sprinkled into the adventures for a strange, unsettling experience. If you want to read something different and intense this summer, then this collection of horror tales just might be what you’re looking for.

Non-fiction

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
At the time of her sudden death in 2016, crime blogger Michelle McNamara was working on her book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The unfinished volume was posthumously updated and finalized by true crime writer Paul Haynes, with an introduction by author Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her widower, actor Patton Oswalt. The finished effort was released this year, almost two years after her death, and only two months before authorities captured Joseph James DeAngelo, the alleged Golden State Killer. McNamara is credited with coining the “Golden State Killer” moniker to refer to the man who committed at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California, U.S., from 1974 to 1986, and in the book she writes about her hunt for the criminal behind those heinous acts. HBO has purchased the rights for I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and are now developing it into a documentary series.

You Are Awesome: Find Your Confidence and Dare to be Brilliant at (Almost) Anything by Matthew Syed
If you need a quick shot of motivation at any point this summer, then try English journalist Matthew Syed’s You Are Awesome, an inspiring little volume that aims to empower you to “find the confidence to realize [your] potential”. While the book is aimed mainly towards young readers, grown-ups can benefit from its contents as well and learn that self-improvement isn’t as hard as it seems.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
It’s one of the most talked-about books of the year, which isn’t surprising given its subject matter. American journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury takes a peek into the inner workings of the Trump administration, highlighting the incompetence of those at the highest level of power. It’s all very controversial and critics are skeptical of some of the volume’s most shocking claims, but if you’re into international politics, then you might want to read this book - as well as James Comey’s autobiography A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership - and see what the hoopla is all about.

My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher
Todd Fisher has unique insight into the lives of two of the most iconic actresses of all time: his mother Debbie Reynolds and sister Carrie Fisher. It’s hard to imagine what he must have gone through when they both died, one day after the other, in December 2016. Now, Fisher is opening up about his life with the silver screen legends in the touching memoir, My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie. Fisher writes about the good times and the bad, sharing details from his mother’s financial troubles and his sister’s mental issues, looking back at their extraordinary lives with love and affection.

Brave by Rose McGowan
Italian-born American actress Rose McGowan was among the many women of Hollywood who spoke up against Harvey Weinstein last year as part of the Me Too movement. This year she has released her memoir, Brave, detailing her account of the alleged assault and its aftermath, and also discussing other aspects of her life, like her tough childhood living as part of the controversial Children of God cult. McGowan’s experiences as a survivor of cults and harassment are tough and harrowing, and make Brave a compelling, albeit difficult, read.

The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth by Michio Kaku
As we keep depleting the Earth’s resources (and generally ruining it in every possible way we can think of), humankind might find itself in need of a new home. Renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku takes a look at the possibility of leaving the Earth and settling elsewhere in The Future of Humanity, an effort that makes scientific ideas about developing a sustainable civilization in outer space accessible to the layman. If you’re interested in space exploration and astronomy, then you might want to add this volume to your reading list and find out how science fiction is turning into reality.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Ancient mythologies have often been a source of inspiration for fantasy writers, and the great Neil Gaiman is no exception. After being inspired by these legends to create the magical realms in his fiction, the English author has now explored the old stories of the Norse gods in his new book, Norse Mythology, a retelling of various myths revolving around well-known names like Odin, Thor, and Loki, giving us a glimpse into their world from their origin through their upheaval in Ragnarok. If all you know about this topic comes from the Marvel movies, then this book will offer a nice introduction to these ancient tales, all presented in Gaiman’s enjoyable writing style.

- S.A. 

Us Magazine, The News International - 25th May, 2018 *

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A look at the new releases by Kylie Minogue, The Vaccines, and Janelle Monáe

album reviews

Artist: Kylie Minogue
Album: Golden

It would have been hard to predict, 30 years ago, that Kylie Minogue’smusic career would have such longevity, given her vocal limitations and the disposable nature of the dance pop genre. Yet here she is, three decades later, still a prominent pop star around the globe, now releasing her fourteenth studio album, Golden.

Powered by her skill for reinvention, the new record finds the Australian artist seeking inspiration from Nashville and wading into the waters of country pop for a set of 16 songs, all of which wereco-written by the singer herself.

The album starts strong with lead single ‘Dancing’, a catchy, country-infused dance pop gem about enjoying life in the face of mortality. But things soon start to lose steam. The instrumentation starts to feel samey with each new song, the singer’s attention inevitably moves to relationship woes, and the over-processed vocals get progressively underwhelming, which makes much of Golden seem unexceptional.

When the songs work, it’s simply because of the singer’s considerable charms, and her fans are likely to appreciate the confessional lyrics; they may not be poetic masterpieces but her personal musings are still likely to interest her admirers. But her foray into country feels too tepid, like using a genre as an occasional, vacant adornment instead of actually exploring its sounds and depths. And while this detour won’t damage her brand, it is not likely to expand her appeal either. Sure there are some songs like ‘Dancing’ that instantly stand out and could find a home on your iPod, but after giving Golden a listen, only the most diehard Kylie fan would be eager to press play on this entire disc again.

Highlights: ‘Dancing’, ‘Stop Me From Falling’, ‘A Lifetime to Repair’
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

*****

Artist: The Vaccines 
Album: Combat Sports

The Vaccines sound revived on their new album, Combat Sports, a record that may not have had the smoothest road to creation but has ultimately turned out to be perhaps their most satisfying effort to date.

After a period of uncertainty and a line-up change, the British rock outfit has returned with another energetic set of guitar rock driven by frontman Justin Young’s wry lyrics and Ross Orton’s focused, on point production.

You can hear their influences in their work – the Strokes in particular are channeled a couple of times on tracks like ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ and ‘Maybe (Luck of the Draw)’ – but it’s still
hard to resist songs as catchy as ‘I Can’t Quit’, ‘Surfing in the Sky’ and ‘Someone to Lose’ that put together infectious pop melodies with slick guitars and spunky drums. The up-tempo songs remain the band’s strength. The only time the group really falters is on the slower ‘Young American’ but that track isn’t a major faux pas; it’s just a bit dull.

Overall, this is a pleasant set of 11 radio-friendly pop rock tunes that are imminently enjoyable but don’t show much variation or experimentation. The band sticks to a safe sound here and does notchoose to try anything particularly innovative, but their enthusiasm certainly makes Combat Sports a contagious, entertaining listen.

Highlights: ‘I Can’t Quit’, ‘Surfing in the Sky’, ‘Out On the Street’, ‘Someone to Lose’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

*****

Artist: Janelle Monáe
Album: Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe has put together her singing, rapping, dancing, acting, and artistic talents to create the terrific concept album Dirty Computer and its accompanying “emotion picture”, a fierce, bold, sensual, defiant statement about identity, individuality, sexuality, and empowerment.

With a dystopian sci-fi narrative revolving around Jane 57821, a “dirty computer” who is being cleansed by being stripped of her memories, the set serves as the multi-talented artist’s third record.

Like a cross between Janet Jackson and Prince, Monáe glides her way through 14 songs, weaving genres from R&B and soul to funk and new wave into an intriguing sonic tapestry. And even when that leaves her sounding distractingly derivative, it’s still hard to not be impressed by her craft that has been influenced so meticulously by some of the industry’s brightest trailblazers.

Her beautiful voice is showcased on melodious songs like ‘I Like That’ and ‘So Afraid’, while danceable tracks like ‘Make Me Feel’ and ‘Take a Byte’ are just undeniably catchy. Her social commentary may be direct, and at times a bit on the nose, but it is always accompanied by a hummable tune or a toe-tapping beat.

Monáe knows how to craft a solid pop song, and she has done so repeatedly on Dirty Computer. With the help of primary producers Nate Wonder and Chuck Lightning along with contributions from guests including Brian Wilson, Grimes, Zoë Kravitz, and Pharrell Williams, Monáe has arguably made the most interesting pop album of the year so far.

Highlights: ‘Crazy, Classic, Life’, ‘Take a Byte’, ‘Make Me Feel’, ‘I Like That’, ‘Americans’
Rating: 4 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 20th May, 2018 *

Friday, May 18, 2018

Can Bohemian Rhapsody do justice to a band as legendary as Queen?

trailer review


Seeing how eager Hollywood is to immediately turn even mildly intriguing people and events into the subjects of elaborate films, it seems peculiar that there hasn’t been any major Queen or Freddie Mercury biopic so far.

Watch the trailer for the upcoming Bohemian Rhapsody – a film that has been in development hell for the better part of a decade but will finally come out later this year – and it quickly becomes apparent why filmmakers might have been reluctant to pursue such a project: it’s just so hard to do justice to a band as legendary as Queen.

The movie focuses on the group, and Mercury in particular, spanning the period from the band’s formation till their performance at Live Aid in 1985, but so much about the trailer has polarized viewers. Some are more excited than ever to see the film when it comes out in November; others are now planning to sit this one out.

The casting of the lead role is a hot topic for debate. Mercury was such a distinctive, incomparable personality that finding the right actor to portray him was clearly no mean task. Some fans are still disgruntled that Sacha Baron Cohen, who was initially set to portray the singer, isn’t playing the part anymore, having parted ways with the production years ago due to creative differences, and it’s hard to deny that the eccentric Cohen could have been a good choice for the role.

The movie now rests on the shoulders of Rami Malek, an American actor (of Egyptian descent) who doesn’t exactly bear a striking resemblance to the late British singer (of Indian lineage), but there are scenes in the trailer in which his transformation seems very convincing. Malek is a talented actor with a lot of charisma, and is likely to deliver a strong acting performance in the role. How well he ultimately fares remains to be seen, but the fact remains that whoever had been cast in role would have been up against a very difficult challenge.

The main bone of contention when it comes to this long-awaited film, though, is the apparent reluctance of the filmmakers to discuss Mercury’s sexuality and death from AIDS. But it’s too early and quite unfair to pass judgment on the entire project based on a one-and-a-half minute trailer.

Queen have such a legendary part in rock and roll history that making a perfect biopic about them is a very tricky task. Maybe we should just enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody for what it is – a reminder of the musical genius of a band that gave us some of the most memorable songs of all time and the celebration of the life of a brilliant singer we lost too soon but whose voice lives on decades after he left us.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 18th May, 2018 *

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The 10 most anticipated movies of summer 2018

summer movies

As always, summer promises lots of exciting new releases from Hollywood, ranging from action blockbusters to amusing comedies. Here’s a look at some of the most anticipated projects that we will be able to enjoy in the next few months.

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel is having a terrific year, with both Black Panther (February) and Avengers: Infinity War (April) making more than $1 billion each at the box office while earning critical praise along the way. The studio is now gearing up to release its third MCU film of the year, Ant-Man and the Wasp. The sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man will hit cinemas in July and is set between the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Directed by Peyton Reed, who also helmed the previous instalment, the movie will see Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) embark on a new mission while trying to balance his personal life with his superhero activities and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) take on the Wasp mantle that was previously held by her mother.

Deadpool 2
After smashing all box office expectations in 2016, the irreverent Deadpool returns to cinemas this year for another R-Rated adventure in Deadpool 2. Intended to be the eleventh instalment in the X-Men film series, the movie finds its protagonist (portrayed by Ryan Reynolds) setting up the X-Force team to protect a young mutant from time travelling cybernetic mutant soldier Cable (Josh Brolin). David Leitch is in charge of the vehicle after Tim Miller exited the project due to creative differences with Reynolds who has more creative control over this sequel, so expect more raunchy comedy from the unconventional superhero this May.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Reviving the Jurassic Park franchise a decade and a half after it originally wrapped up may not have seemed like the most inspired idea when it was first announced, but it sure paid off. The resulting Jurassic World trilogy will now get its second chapter in the form of June’s Fallen Kingdom. J. A. Bayona has been handed the reins of this instalment. Chris Pratt returns as the hero, Owen, teaming up once again with Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, this time in an attempt to save the dinosaurs after a volcanic eruption threatens their very existence.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
We get another chance to revisit the uber-popular world of Star Wars later this month in Solo, a stand-alone prequel centred on a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and his adventures with his Wookiee pal Chewbacca, including their encounter with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the original owner of the Millennium Falcon. It would have been interesting to watch directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s take on the tale, but what we will see now will be Ron Howard’s vision as he has been in control of the movie since the duo’s firing.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Ethan Hunk (Tom Cruise) is back for another “impossible” mission in Fallout, the sixth instalment in the Mission: Impossible film series. The protagonist and his team find themselves in a race against time as they try to prevent a global catastrophe after a mission goes wrong. An impressive supporting cast – which includes Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, and Henry Cavill – assists Cruise in bringing this irresistible, action-packed summer blockbuster to cinematic life. The film has been directed by Christopher McQuarrie and will be out in July.

The Incredibles 2
The summer movie lineup just isn’t complete without the magic of Pixar. The animation studio’s decision to make fewer new, original projects and focus more on sequels has now led us to the long-awaited continuation of 2004’s beloved The Incredibles. Brad Bird returns as writer and director, and the movie resumes where its predecessor ended, as the superhero family struggles to maintain normal lives while Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) fights crime and Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) takes care of the kids, and the supers end up having to fight a new villain, Screenslaver, who uses television and other screens to get people to do his bidding.

The Happytime Murders
A neo-noir puppet comedy, anyone? If you’re a fan of The Muppets, then you must be looking forward to Brian Henson’s new film, The Happytime Murders, which comes out in August. Set in a world where puppets co-exist with humans but are considered second class citizens, a disgraced former cop (Bill Barretta) has to clear his name by teaming up with his ex-partner (Melissa McCarthy) and catch the serial killer who is targeting the cast members of the iconic ’80s TV series The Happytime Gang. A decade in the making, the long-delayed movie has gone through various changes over the years, and in a few months we’ll finally find out if the project was worth the wait.

Ocean’s 8
The all-female spin-off of Steven Soderbergh’s The Oceans Trilogy comes out in June, and there’s so much to be excited about when it comes to this movie. There is no shortage of talent associated with this action comedy. Sandra Bullock stars in the lead role as Debbie Ocean, Danny Ocean’s estranged sister, who is trying to pull off the heist of the century. And the supporting cast includes the likes of Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, and Helena Bonham Carter. Plus, there are lots of cameos and hopefully some entertaining action in store for us in this Gary Ross-directed film.

The Hustle
The Ocean’s reboot isn’t the only female-led revival we’re getting this summer. We also have a female-centric remake of the 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that originally starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway appear as two down-and-out con artists in this remake that hits cinemas in June, with Chris Addison directing the movie.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
Cheesy ’70s music, bad singing, awkward dancing … how can we resist that? The internet habeen having a collective meltdown ever since it became apparent that Meryl Streep is missing in much of the Here We Go Again! trailer. Is Donna alive? We finally find out in July when this sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical Mamma Mia! arrives a decade after its predecessor conquered the box office. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is having a child with fiancé Sky (Dominic Copper); Cher will show up in the role of Sophie’s grandmother; we’re going to get the back story to Streep’s character (Lily James portrays a young Donna); and we will, of course, bask in nostalgia as old characters return and older songs are re-sung.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 18th May, 2018 *

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Breaking In - Panic Room meets Taken

trailer review


From Bryan Mills and his (by now legendary) particular set of skills in Taken to the yippie-kai-yay-ing John McClane in Die Hard, Hollywood has often given us tales of action hero fathers doing whatever it takes to save their children.

Now Breaking In is on a mission to prove that a mother can be just as fierce as any of her male counterparts!

Helmed by V for Vendetta director James McTeigue, the home-invasion thriller stars Gabrielle Union in the lead as Shaun Russell, a single mother who must protect her kids from armed dakoits.

While visiting her late father’s mansion with her two children in order to settle his estate, the protagonist and her family are targeted by burglars who are trying to get their hands on a fortune that has been stashed somewhere on the premises. Shaun is locked out of the house that happens to have impenetrable security, while her kids are taken hostage inside by four ruthless criminals.

With a premise reminiscent of Panic Room and Taken, Breaking In focuses on the mother’s quest to save her children by fighting back against anyone who stands in her way.

While it’s hard to expect anything ground-breaking from the thriller genre, it is still great to see an intense action movie with a female lead, and the talented Union seems well suited for the starring role. Ajiona Alexus also seems very well cast in the role of Union’s daughter. The cast also includes Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, and Seth Carr.

The overenthusiastic trailer (that shows a lot more than it should and gives away several details that could have been kept under wraps till the film’s release) promises a lot of action. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly different or innovative about the proceedings, but if you’re in the mood for a female-driven thriller, then don’t forget to check this film out. This tale of a strong, defiant mother will be in theatres this weekend, right in time for Mother’s Day.

- By Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 12th May, 2018 *

Friday, May 11, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War – an ambitious superhero spectacle

movie review

Avengers: Infinity War

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, and Chris Pratt
Director: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Tagline: An entire universe. Once and for all.

In the last decade, Marvel has (quite unexpectedly) established itself as the biggest cinematic attraction in the world. What started with Iron Man in 2008 has since become the world’s biggest, most lucrative movie franchise. By first bringing several superheroes from the pages of Marvel’s comic books to the big screen in their own outings and then bringing them all together in epic crossover adventures (while also supporting them with various small screen projects), the studio has created a cinematic universe like none other. It has been a strategy that has, by and large, paid off both critically and financially, and it continues to reward the studio with the release of their latest film, Avengers: Infinity War.

The yarns of Iron Man (portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and the Guardians of the Galaxy – Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) – all tie together in this, the third Avengers film and the nineteenth instalment overall in the franchise. You’d think viewer fatigue would have set in after so many adventures, but far from it. The movie has made a billion dollars in a little over a week, and there is a very simple reason for that: it’s a whole lot of fun.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Infinity War finds the aforementioned superheroes and their cohorts trying to stop the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) from causing havoc in the universe.

The villain longs to collect six Infinity Stones, cosmic gems that give their bearer immense powers, including the ability to wipe out half the universe’s population by snapping their fingers, which is exactly what Thanos has vowed to do in a bid to control overpopulation.

It is up to the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to set aside their differences and come together to stop Thanos from achieving his nefarious plans. And come together they do (all except Ant-Man and Hawkeye who are nowhere to be found), united in various permutations, much to the credit of the Russo brothers, who do a remarkable job working with such a huge cast of characters and making sure they retain their individual flair while fitting into this crossover tale. But because of their sheer number, not everyone gets much to do. With so many superheoes fighting against one villain, it’s the menacing Thanos who becomes the central figure, which is something the film largely uses as an asset by fleshing out the baddie and adding more emotional depth to his storyline, primarily through his connection to Gamora. It also helps that Brolin does an impressive job in the motion capture role of the antagonist.

The main talking point of the movie, though, is its ending … or lack thereof. If you absolutely detest cliff-hangers then be warned, you’re actually going to have to wait a whole year for the release of the fourth Avengers film for any sort of resolution to the story here. But the main problem with the ending of Infinity War is its obvious lack of permanence, which is something that becomes apparent as soon as you’ve had a minute to process the surprise twist. Ultimately, instead of leaving you feeling shocked, it might just leave you feeling a bit cheated.

That does not, however, mean that the film isn’t worth watching. Packed to the brim with action and some terrific combat sequences, powered by dependably awesome acting performances, and peppered with the standard Marvel wit, Avengers: Infinity War is a well-made, entertaining visit to the world’s most successful franchise. If you’re a Marvel fan then this is a highly recommended adventure that you’re guaranteed to enjoy. And if you haven’t seen any/many Marvel films before, then you might want to rectify that before you delve into the latest offering in order to fully appreciate this instalment.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News International - 11th May, 2018

Marvellous Marvel

quiz whiz 

1. Who founded the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics?
A. Martin Goodman
B. Stan Lee
C. Jack Kirby
D. Walt Disney

2. In what year was the aforementioned company originally started?
A. 1939
B. 1946
C. 1961
D. 1984

3. Who was the first Marvel superhero?
A. Captain America
B. Black Widow
C. Human Torch
D. Phantom Rider

4. Which of these superheroes was not an original member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers?
A. Iron Man
B. Thor
C. Captain America
D. Ant-Man

5. What is The Avengers famous battle cry?
A. Avengers Align!
B. Avengers Assemble!
C. Avengers Advance!
D. Avengers Avenge!

6. Who was the hero of Marvel’s first theatrical release?
A. Captain America
B. The Punisher
C. Iron Man
D. X-Men

7. How many films have there been in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far?
A. 11
B. 14
C. 19
D. 23

8. The Avengers are trying to stop Thanos, the villain, from collecting all the infinity stones and gaining omnipotence in the new film, Avengers: Infinity War. How many infinity stones are there?
A. 4
B. 6
C. 8
D. 10

9. Marvel famously has post-credit sequences at the very end of its films. In the post-credit scene after Avengers Assemble, what are the Avengers eating?
A. Biryani
B. Falafel
C. Hummus
D. Shawarma
   
10. Who succeeded J.A.R.V.I.S. as Tony Stark’s AI personal assistant?
A. SIRI
B. FRIDAY
C. ULTRON
D. HAL

11. What is the name of Peter Quill’s ship?
A. Enterprise
B. Heart of Gold
C. Milano
D. Millennium Falcon

12. Had things gone differently, which of these actors would have portrayed Tony Stark/Iron Man, the role that eventually went to Robert Downey Jr.?
A. Tom Hanks
B. Tom Cruise
C. Tom Felton
D. Tom Hiddleston


*****

Answers

1. A
Martin Goodman (1908 – 1992), the publisher of pulp magazines, founded the company called Timely Publications that later became Marvel Comics. Marvel Entertainment was eventually acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2009.

2. A
Marvel started as Timely Publications in 1939. By the early 1950s, the company was generally known as Atlas Comics. The Marvel branding began in 1961, the year the company launched several superhero titles created by the likes of Stan Lee (the long-running editor of Marvel Comics, and later its publisher and chairman), Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko, among others.

3. C
Carl Burgos’ android superhero the Human Torch appeared in Timely’s first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939). The issue also included the first appearances of Bill Everett’s anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner.

4. D
The Avengers originally consisted of Ant-Man (who had become Giant-Man by issue #2), the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and the Wasp. Captain America was discovered trapped in ice in issue #4, and joined the group after he was revived.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the founding members Ant-Man and Wasp were cut from The Avengers (2012) because the film had too many characters and Ant-Man’s standalone movie had not yet been released.

5. B
The group’s battle cry is “Avengers Assemble!”.

6. A
Captain America – then a character of Timely Comics – was the titular hero of Captain America, a 1944 Republic black-and-white 15-part serial film (an episodic film that usually accompanied a longer movie) – the most expensive serial that Republic ever made – which was loosely based on the Marvel supersoldier, making it the first theatrical release connected to a Marvel character. The next theatrical release featuring a Marvel hero would not occur for more than 40 years.

7. C
Iron Man started the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, kicking off what would become the world’s biggest franchise which has collectively grossed over $15.5 billion at the global box office. Divided into three phases, the series has since seen a total of 19 films:
-    Phase One: Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
-    Phase Two: Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Ant-Man (2015)
-    Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (as well as the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), and an Untitled Avengers film (2019))

8. B
There are six Infinity Stones:
-    The Space Stone (blue)
-    The Reality Stone (red)
-    The Power Stone (purple)
-    The Mind Stone (yellow)
-    The Time Stone (green)
-    The Soul Stone (orange)
Whoever has all six gems gains immense power.

9. D
The Avengers are eating shawarma in the Avengers Assemble post-credit scene which was shot a day after the film’s global premiere. Captain America though isn’t eating in the scene because Chris Evans was filming Snowpiercer (2013) at the time and refused to shave off his beard.

10. B
FRIDAY – whose name might be an allusion to the term “girl Friday” – replaced J.A.R.V.I.S after the latter’s matrix was integrated with the Vibranium infused artificial body known as The Vision.

11. C
Peter Quill’s ship is The Milano, a customized M-ships that Quill used since he was ten years old for looting and piracy. The ship is named after his childhood crush Alyssa Milano.
In the original comics, Star-Lord’s ship was a sentient star called Aurora that was turned into a sentient spaceship by the Master of the Sun.

12. B
Years before Iron Man (2008) was made, the project was attached to many different stars and directors. At one point Tom Cruise was set to both star and produce the movie. By the time Marvel got the rights back in 2005, the actor had lost interest. Robert Downey Jr. was eventually cast in the role and went from being considered washed up to becoming one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News International - 12th May, 2018