Four Letter Nerd

Author - A Nerdy Guest Contributor

I Am The Villain Behind Marvel’s Sales Slump

What you are reading is an admission of guilt.  I take responsibility for my actions and, with sound mind and clarity present myself to you with no prejudice and no pre-conceived master plan. I am responsible for MARVEL’s slump of comic book sales, and MARVEL has no one but themselves to blame.

I take no pleasure in revealing myself as the villain.  I thought about it long and hard before I decided to make my actions known to the world.  In fact, I woke up this morning and had pretty much come to the personal realization that this would be something I would just keep to myself until I shuffled off this lowly plane of existence.  However, I have seen an increase in articles written by people who claim to be experts in this industry, with their 5K Twitter followers or the reach of their audience through one of the plethora<h3 “”=”” id=”yui_3_16_0_ym19_1_1491345529012_2727″> I Am The Villain Behind Marvel’s Sales Slump of comic book news websites, podcasts, forums or Facebook groups.  Even as you read this, you may think this is a clever piece written by a staff writer who wanted to take a fresh angle on a subject that everyone thinks they know.

All posers, amateurs and false.

This is the true story, and I share it, along with who I am and why I did what I did, with you today.

I am an average, unassuming middle age comic reader and collector.  In fact, short of my love for comics and the comic book industry as a whole, I’m quite boring.  If you are a comic retailer, I am both the man who comes into your store who has a pullbox with you out of loyalty or the man who wanders in off the street to spend money in your shop simply to help support it.  I will cherry pick your $1 boxes for that 1:25 variant you couldn’t sell and put it in the hands of a collector across the country.  I listen to your conversations, critique, and complaints in casual conversations and chime in with ease.  You’ll even find my name in the SPECIAL THANKS section of some MARVEL COMICS.  I have been both comic customer and retailer.  I am everyone and no one and where I once bought 20-30 MARVEL comics a month.  Now I don’t buy MARVEL at all, and I don’t sing MARVEL’s praises like I used to.

First reason:  MARVEL EVENTS.  I’m sick of them.  They have inconsistent artwork and are used as nothing more than a rinse-and-repeat cash grab.  They also often begin or end with the death of a long-time classic MARVEL character that I grew up with and have invested years of time and money of my life in coming to know.  They’re confusing, often unnecessary, sometimes late and numerous.  Back in the day, it might be a year between Events.  Now it might be every 3-6 months, and they bleed over, making it hard to tell when one ends and another begins.  So instead of not buying the crossover books and just buying the event limited series…now I don’t buy events at all.  I also echo this opinion to the friends in my network.

Second reason:  DIVERSITY.  I attended a MARVEL RETAILER SUMMIT at NYCC a couple years back, and Marvel was both praised and were praising themselves over diversity in comics.  And yes, MARVEL should be applauded for their progressive and aggressive stance on this issue.  BUT I feel it was too much too soon, and it’s not thought out well.  While characters like KAMALA KHAN and MILES MORALES are exceptional gems, MARVEL is slowing replacing (not adding, replacing) their cast with fresh characters that I have little personal investment in.  When DC relaunched their books under the NEW 52 banner, I stopped buying DC (except BATMAN…I don’t know anyone who dropped BATMAN) for the very same reason.  THESE WEREN’T MY CHARACTERS.  MARVEL was unique to DC because of their focus on down-to-earth, regular, every-day, conflicted alter-egos.  Now, I would be buying TOTALLY AWESOME HULK just because I love the HULK.  No.  I love BRUCE BANNER, who happens to BE the HULK.  Basically, I support the idea of characters who broaden religion, sex or ethnicity.  But it’s getting to where we’re seeing an “All-New, All-Different” line-up isn’t speaking to me as a long-time reader.  You took the chance that the prospect of having new, fresh faces in the shops to become readers would be more than the current readership.  That chance doesn’t seem to be working very well.  This hip, fresh approach isn’t appealing to old fogeys like me…and our opinions matter to other readers, both new and old.

Third reason:  VARIANT OVERLOAD.  What once was a fun and casual twist to collecting has now become the bane of a collector’s existence.  I now have short boxes that hold single titles due to the number of variations this company pumps out.  You can spend thousands of dollars as a collector just buying the same book over and over and over again…which I don’t think this gimmick was meant for that.  GWENPOOL, VENOMIZED, ACTION FIGURE, BABY, 1:1000s…there is no end in sight to the bottomless pit of money a collector or shop can lose.

Also, as a retailer, while these variants can be a way to make an insane amount of money, that only happens if DIAMOND doesn’t muck it up.   Case in point:  a few years ago, I ran a comic shop a few years ago and ordered 300 copies of a comic to qualify for a single 1:300 variant that I knew would sell.  When the book came out, DIAMOND didn’t ship the book.  When they were able to fulfill it, the window of hype and opportunity closed and cost the shop hundreds of dollars.  I blame MARVEL and DIAMOND for that.  So instead of buying new books…I spend my time wandering like a zombie into different stores just looking to buy a copy of a book I already have because I would rather have a 1:75 variant than take several $4 chances on books that might not be any good.  MARVEL’S STAR WARS #1 has over 100 different covers via MARVEL or various retailers all over the country.  I’ve seen comic shops with entire boxes of unsold product that were simply variations of the same comic.  You can browse MARVEL’s CLOSEOUT LIST sent to retailers every few months, and it will be littered with variants for a buck.  Everyone remember what happened to HASTINGS?  This is where the market is going if it continues.

Fourth Reason:  INCONSISTENT CREATIVE TEAMS.  I guess I’m old school, but I miss the days when a comic might have the same writer and artist on a title for years.  If I want that, I need to go to IMAGE.  That’s not a huge sticking point, but some of my friends still buy comics for art.

Fifth Reason:  CONSTANT REBOOTS and RELAUNCHES.  Retailers and collectors LOVE #1 issues.  It looks like a jumping on point.  But it’s not.  It’s just a way to sell more books.  Some MARVEL books even have a large “#1” printed that is larger than the actual issue number.  This is misleading.  Stop relaunching titles with new #1s.  It waters down the collectability and confuses readers.

Sixth Reason:  STAN LEE.  Marvel needs another Stan Lee.  Joe Quesada is a cool guy who knows comics and is an extremely talented man.  But he’s no Stan Lee.  As a kid, Stan made me feel good about every dollar I spent on a Marvel Comic.  When Stan would speak to me in the comics, that’s what it felt like.  He was speaking directly to me as if he and I, publisher and reader, connected on a personal level.  That kind of marketing is rare.  IDW, BOOM! and VALIANT seem to be the publishers that have figured this out…putting emphasis on the reader and making you feel good about the book you read.  That builds personal investment.  MARVEL has gotten a little lazy in this regard in the last few years, and Stan has evolved far beyond Marvel into a brand of his own.  Someone needs to come forward, step up and tell people WHY they need to buy Marvel and how that $4-$10 they are spending on a comic is a $10 well spent.

Joe Q:  we love you.  Step up, sir.

I’m sure there are a few others that I didn’t touch on here, but it really doesn’t matter.  MARVEL is scratching their heads and wondering “WHY?  We’re MARVEL!”  but the answer is in their own question.  Marvel made it easy NOT to buy them with inconsistent story-telling, false market buzz, self-hype and changing too much too soon…making it easier for me to plant seeds into the minds of my peers as to why they shouldn’t buy MARVEL anymore.  Beyond this sentence, I’ve made no reference to the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE either, so the movies play little factor in my piece.

If it’s any consolation, this has come with a price.  I don’t sleep as well anymore knowing that I have been responsible for the woes of a company who has brought so much joy in my life.  Marvel can fill a room with retailers, send out press releases and fill the shelves with new #1 issues every Wednesday until the Badoon Invasion but until they decide to attack the issue on the reader level and not just on the retail one, this will continue to happen.  I don’t know if I have the answer as to how this can be reversed.  The ball is rolling so fast now that it might just need to play out on a grand scale and see where MARVEL lands in the big picture.  On my end, dropping $20-$30 bucks a week on MARVEL COMICS now seems like a waste of money to me and that’s terribly sad.

I wish I knew how much money I’ve spent on MARVEL COMICS my whole life.

Those days are gone.

*(rubs hands together)* You’re welcome.

 

(Editor’s note: this was written by a guest contributor who wishes to remain anonymous)

Resident Evil Reaches 2.5 Million Units Sold to Retailers

Resident Evil is a wonderfully horrifying series that has been around since 1996 when the first game launched on Playstation. The newest installment has already shipped 2.5 million copies to retailers this week! This isn’t the official units sold but just the amount sold to retailers like Gamestop, Best Buy, Walmart, and etc. So what does that say about the series future? 2.5 million copies is a HUGE number and I think it is safe to say this series wont’t slow down anytime soon. Personally, I am curious to see how many of those units are the virtual reality copies because that way to play the game is brand new to the franchise and I want to know if it will take off like they had hoped. Also, the Resident Evil movie franchise concluded this past week with their last movie Resident Evil: The Final Chapter so it is a big week for Capcom money wise. I think it is safe to say we will be getting more games in the future from Capcom that I assure you will be creepier than the last. What do you think gamers? What are you wanting from this series?

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4LN Comic Review: Motor Crush #1

Series: Motor Crush
Written by: Cameron Stewart, Brendan Flecher, Babs Tarr
Art by: Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics

Summary from Comixology: “The team behind the critically acclaimed revamp of Batgirl returns with an exciting sci-fiaction-adventure series! By day, Domino Swift competes for fame and fortune in a worldwide motorcycle racing league. By night, she cracks heads of rival gangs in brutal bike wars to gain possession of a rare, valuable contraband: an engine-boosting “machine narcotic” known as Crush.”

Motor Crush #1

Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr are probably most well known for their critically acclaimed reworking of Batgirl which brought a fresh narrative, youthfulness, and a sense of quirky modernity to the character. Originally received with tentative optimism, what was intended as a six issue jaunt became a full fifteen issue run. The trio’s collaborative effort seems to have acted as a bit of a watershed moment in the world of comics by shining a light on younger female readers who’d been looking for themselves in the pages, and finally saw a heroine they could relate to. That, combined with the integration of technology in it’s everyday glory and not just as the means to another gadget, the quippy lingo, and the overall brightness of the thing was, for this reader at least, to comics what Buffy the Vampire Slayer was to the TV “supers” of the late 90’s. I didn’t just want to be Batgirl of Burnside, I wanted to be her friend. So, needless to say, the dynamic trio (Tarr, Stewart, Fletcher) have their work cut out for them in attempting to win over the same audience with a new female heroine in a completely different genre. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous to dive in…

First things first, this cover is fantastic. The colors are far more muted than we’ve come to expect from Tarr, but all of the sass remains. The story takes place in a tech driven, reality TV heavy future, and centers around motorcycle racer Domino Swift, who is training for The World Grand Prix. Although the narrative focuses entirely on Dom’s personal experience, you get the feel of a Black Mirror: Fifteen Million Merits, or Hunger Games-like future where everyone’s lives revolve around televised events. The intrusiveness of the media is used to great effect. You really feel the omnipresence of the cameras, and the seeming lack of anything personal in this world. I love the way the panels become like screen grabs. It literally makes you a part of the audience, and serves to make the reader’s intrusion into the quiet moments feel almost jarring. The entire issue is a really great balance of contrasts.

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I grew up surrounded by cars and motorcycles. My dad was an amateur race car driver for a time, and a self taught mechanic, as are both of my brothers. I’ve seen my fair share of races in my day, and the comic does an amazing job of capturing the tension, crazy characters, and bravado that surround these events. The page listing the contenders and stats at a shady underground race is probably my favorite. I’m a sucker for names, tidbits, and perfect characterization. These panels really capture the individuals. That one rectangle tells you everything you need to know about who you’re dealing with. It’s just so well done. And look at the diversity! You have women, men, black, white, and muppet all on one page. It really is a step in the right direction for muppet equality!

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In an interesting twist, in this reality it’s not only people, but machines as well who can be addicts. We discover that Domino has been racing with the aid of Crush, an additive or “machine narcotic” that can give an engine extra power but that, like most drugs, can be lethal in large doses. She participates in the legit televised events to gain fame and notoriety, but she runs anonymously in the brawlers to win ampules of Crush. Exactly how and why she uses the Crush is what makes her so intriguing. As the issue unfolds, we get hints that we’re not just dealing with an average badass motorcycle riding, attitude having teenage rebel. But hints are all we get. She uses an inhaler. She’s really great at what she does. Like, really great. She needs Crush. She’s a fighter, but not a killer. And then there’s that brief glimpse of a pink light…

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…so very brief. It’s a pretty audacious first issue that tells you little to nothing about the protagonist. But they did it, and it works.

Motor Crush #1 is at times bleak and harsh, but it still manages to maintain the sharp wit and overall sense of fun at which this trio of artists excels. I have a really hard time with bleak. It has been a long running problem for me with comics in general. I’m finding this new wave of artists that understand how to simultaneously take themselves 100% seriously, and yet maintain a sense of self deprecation in their characters, and whimsy in their worlds incredibly novel. In Motor Crush I also see the promise of a strong African American female heroine who is not exceptional because of her race or her gender, but is extraordinary in her own super-heroic right. There is, in this first issue at least, no indication that her presence in the racing world is anything other than accepted. It is that simple acceptance, that could make Domino and Motor Crush so exceptional. The complete lack of focus by other characters on her gender or her race is quietly revolutionary, and I like it. I like it a lot.

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Overall, what really stands out in my mind is the adept handling of contrasts. It is brilliantly subtle. The character design is succinct and and yet perfectly descriptive. The world is so well defined, from the intrusion of the catball cameras, down to the artistic choice to make it somehow simultaneously washed out and riot of color. The action sequences make your heart race, but the still moments are beautifully captured as well. It even manages relevant social commentary through lack of commentary. Finally, there’s the fact that there is only the slightest hint that Domino may be anything other than a normal human, all the while showing us just how gifted she is in seemingly normal ways. There’s an overall trust in the intelligence of the reader to pick up on the nuance and come along for the ride (pun absolutely intended), and it is really refreshing. As far as first reads go, I call it a success. I’m invested. I’ll worry about Dom until I’m able to join her again. I believe in the world that Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr have created, and I believe in Domino Swift’s potential to be a genre bending heroine in this very bendy modern world. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

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(Editor’s Note: This review was written by Melody Dobbins. Melody is a lifelong book nerd with a particular passion for Tolkien, Joseph Campbell, and comparative religion. When she’s not trapped in her own head, re-watching the Whedonverse, or crafting, she’s a freelance author, artist and illustrator, and proud mama to the two brightest geekletts in all the world. Her favorite graphic novel is Blankets by Craig Thompson, she speaks fluent R2D2, and she’s standing right behind you.)

The 5th Wave – Is The Book Better? (SPOILERS)

(Editor’s Note – This article was written by Paige Clark)

I consider myself an “almost” avid reader. I don’t always have time to sit down and read books, but I can listen to an audiobook like nobodies business. I saw the trailer for The 5th Wave and knew it was right up my alley as far as something I would like to read. I mean, alien invasions, disasters, plagues, AND a love story?! Don’t mind if I do!

The book starts off with the heroine of the story, Cassie (played by Chloe Grace Moretz in the film), pointing the barrel of her M-16 rifle at a solider and begging him to show his hands. When he doesn’t she fires, turns out he was only holding onto a crucifix. That did a great job of setting up her story. She describes her life as totally normal until one day “the Others”, as they are called, showed up. Nothing will ever be the same for them after that. The 1st Wave was a giant EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that turned everything in the entire world off. The 2nd Wave was an earthquake that shook the whole world creating tsunamis that decimated coastal regions and other areas below sea level. The 3rd Wave was a virus spread by birds. The 4th Wave was a little more complicated. The 5th Wave was sad and terrifying.

 

The movie followed the book almost perfectly, which I was quite please with because I absolutely loved the book. I hated when I had to stop listening to it, and may or may not have taken longer than usual showers and potty breaks so I could listen to it (#sorrynotsorry). I don’t think there was ever a dull moment when I zoned out while listening to the audiobook. The book did such a great job developing each character. Both the book and the movie were fairly faced paced even though the story took place over a few months time. The movie made you feel like it was weeks at the most.

I will say that the book did a much better job at making you believe that they were actually in a apocalyptic type setting in the sense that she had to forage for food and was filthy. In the movie her hair was beautiful the whole time. I can’t make my hair do what hers did after an hour at the park, and she had been trying to survive in the woods by herself for days on end. I don’t know about you, but I would have been much more concerned about survival than a proper hair care regimen. I mean, I get that she couldn’t have been rough looking the whole time, but they could have done at least a little better.

“Journal Entry #145: This Pantene Pro-V leave-in conditioner I put in my hair 3 months ago is STILL WORKING.”

I was a little disappointed that they weren’t able to set up Cassie and Evan’s relationship as much as they did in the book, but that is to be expected since a book offers way more time to develop that sort of thing. On her way to get her brother Sammy back she was shot by a “Silencer,” the Others’s snipers. She woke up with a super hottie, Evan Walker (played by Alex Roe), taking care of her. How could she not fall in love with him when he takes care of her, washes her hair, shows her how to shoot, and tells her things like “You saved me, Cassie.” I mean, good golly! Well turns out he was the Silencer who shot her. He is technically an Other but Cassie made him want to be human again (because, duh). One scene that they just threw into the movie to show that she was becoming more fond of Evan, before she found out he was the one who shot her, was him chopping wood. Men chopping wood will always be one of the most attractive things, assuming that the man chopping is remotely good looking. Alex Roe is extremely good looking.

“Nice guns. Need help cleaning them? Oh god, I just realized how inappropriate that sounded. I actually literally meant that I could help clean your guns because I have some experience with them and I’m just gonna shut up now.”

Another main character that I really enjoyed was Zombie aka Ben Parish (played by Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson) He was Cassie’s love interested in High School because everything about him was perfect. Well turns out he was not so perfect. His back story was a little darker – he kind of ran away instead of trying to do more to save his little sister. The movie didn’t go into much of his back story at all, I think because it was so unlikable. I completely fell in love with Ben Parish (it helps that I love Nick Robinson too, I’m a big Melissa and Joey fan) He tries so hard to make up for his mistakes that he made and when he smiles I’d give him all the things. One thing he does is try to help take care of Sammy who ends up in his squad.

“Nice guns. Need help clea… wait, never mind.”

Liev Schreiber, as always, is phenomenal. He plays Colonel Vosch, who is the leader of the Others. He orchestrates the 5th Wave. The reason that Cassie is trying to get her brother Sammy back is because he was taken to a local air force base thinking that he was going to be taken somewhere safe. After they took all the children from the refugee camp that her family was staying at, Vosch had all the adults killed while Cassie was hiding in the woods. She realized then that the army was not who people thought they were. They were actually the Others. They recruited children, trained them as soldiers, and sent them out into the field to kill what they thought were the Others, but they were actually killing the remaining humans that had managed to survive. Ben Parish and his squad figure this out when they were sent into combat. He realizes that he has to go back for Sammy as well. Sammy was put in his squad, but was not old enough to be sent to fight. What is it with this kid that makes him so special? Well, he was pretty adorable in both the book and the movie.

“Who the %$#& is Sabertooth? You will refer to me as Colonel, maggot.”

Of course Cassie and Ben end up running into each other when they are trying to both save Sammy. They are shocked, especially her considering she use to have a big crush on him, to see each other but work out that they are actually on the same team. In the movie, Cassie refused Evan’s help once she learned that he was really an Other, but of course he helped anyways. In the book she had a little more time to kind of figure out who/what he was so she was a little more keen on him helping her since he knew exactly what was going on. When Evan jumped in just when he was needed to save Cassie he said something in the movie that pretty much melted my heart, “I was wrong when I said I was one of them and one of you. You can’t be both, you have to chose. I chose you.” Then he kisses her <3 I could be misquoting that but you get the point.

“I have to tell you a secret… this isn’t my real hair.”

Eventually, Evan blows up the base. Cassie, Sammy, and Ben barely get away from the explosions. And it ends with setting up to the next part of the story.

The book (and movie) start with a hopeless situation because the 4th Wave caused everyone to stop trusting one another because anyone, even your mom, could be an Other.  That’s the reason the movie starts off with her shooting that soldier, she had no choice and no hope.  In the end though,the movie left me with all the hope you can imagine a human can have.  I could go on and on, but now I am off to start the second book. Enjoy both the book and the movie!

 

(Editor’s Note: This article was written by our favorite YA Novel enthusiast, Paige Clark.)

Broke Nerd Wondering Again If Old Pokemon Cards Have Increased In Currency Exchange Rate

NASHVILLE, TN– In the midst of an unfortunate financial crisis, Tim McArthur desperately goes over the possibility that his Pokemon cards may now be worth some money.

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“It seems I dug myself quite a hole after purchasing a new processor for my computer,” says McArthur as he goes through a bin of old collectible nerd merchandise. “I could never give up any of my valuable Magic cards, rare Lightsaber replicas, or comic books. However, I’ve never known what else to do with this entire collection of Pokemon cards.”

McArthur goes on to describe his collection as more of something that interested him as a child and assumed it would benefit him monetarily in the future.

“Friends would always tell me that I should hold on to this card or that card because they’re going to be worth a lot more in the future,” explains McArthur as he flips through pages in his card notebook. “I though it was supposed to work like sports cards but it’s almost like these 20 Caterpie’s are going under in value.”

Caterpie

After hours of going through the internet and calling various card games stores McArthur believes he’d be better off building a hat out of his old playing cards than trying to sell them.

Weeks following our conversation with Tim we caught up with him to see how he’s doing. He told us he had plans to go over to his parents house to check on his sister’s old Beanie Baby collection. “It could take another 15 years for those cards to be worth anything, but I’m starting to think now is the time to cash in on those Beanie Babies.”

4LN Movie Review – San Andreas

(Editor’s note: this article was written by 4LN’s Disaster Movie Expert, Paige Clark)

 

This weekend I had the pleasure of scratching my disaster movie itch by going to see San Andreas. Being the 4LN disaster movie expert (I would have minored in it in college had it been an option), it is only natural that I review it.

Before we get started it is important for you to know that I love disaster movies… like LOVE-love them. I can quote Twister word for word, and I spend my free nights watching whatever B-movie, disaster flick that happens to be named after whatever the disaster happens to be (such as Earthquake, Category 7, Ice Storm, and Firestorm). So I was excited when I found out that their was going to be an A-list disaster movie and had to be there opening weekend.

Now for the spoiler-free synopsis!

San Andreas stars Dwayne Johnson as a member of the LAFD. He is a part of the super special rescue squad (I don’t know if that is the technical name for it but that is what I call it). He and his team make the daring rescues that save people from unfortunate circumstances. Alexandra Daddario (she plays Annabeth in the Percy Jackson movies, or the hot girl that Woody Harrelson cheats on his wife with in True Detective) plays Johnson’s daughter. They are about to take a trip to Seattle so he can drop her off at school for her freshman year, but before they can take off on their road trip an unprecedented earthquake takes Nevada by surprise. Paul Giamatti plays a Caltech seismologist who is working on the cutting edge of seismologic technology (I am assuming he is a seismologist because he was a scientist who studies earthquakery) that will help predict earthquakes. He and his partner are at the Hoover Dam testing their theory when a 7.0+ earthquake destroys it. While it sucks that the Hoover Dam was destroyed, Giamatti’s theory was proven correct, meaning the world now has the ability to predict earthquakes. The timing couldn’t be better because California is about to get rocked.

"I'm an earthquakeologist!"

“I’m an earthquakeologist!”

 

Johnson’s trip with his daughter is cut short because of the earthquake and he is called away to help in Nevada. She travels with her mom’s new boyfriend to San Francisco, just in time for a HUMONGOUS earthquake (because of course she did). Johnson is conveniently in a helicopter and happens to be on the phone with his ex-wife at the time. She’s able to make to the roof of the building before it collapses and jump to the helicopter in the nick of time. They hear from their daughter and figure out where she is and they are off to San Francisco to rescue her. Throughout the film, stronger and stronger earthquakes continuously rock California, which creates a series of very unfortunate and “totally believable” (quotes added for sarcasm) circumstances that the characters had to survive.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, but it’s definitely cheesy. My mom and my sister laughed pretty much the whole time at the level of Velveeta grade liquid gold this movie contains. The dialogue is pretty predictable and the acting was not all that great, but I don’t think it would have been as good of a disaster movie if it was better in those areas. Where would the fun in that be? You don’t go to a disaster movie for believability and Oscar grade acting – you go because the genre itself is awesome (although a giant earthquake along the San Andreas fault is totally plausible).

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This film was definitely terrific when it comes to imagery. So even though you probably wouldn’t actually survive any of the situations you see, you really feel like you are right there. The movie packs so many anxiety-inducing situations in it that it left me at the edge of my seat the entire time and made me wish I had taken a Xanax before I left the house.

Here’s the thing, San Andreas has everything that I love about movies in it. It has action, disaster, family drama, a budding and healing love story, and a multitude of cheesy one-liners, but unless you just really love disaster movies (like I do) or really enjoy looking at Dwayne Johnson for two straight hours (like I do) I’d say you should probably just wait to rent it (but you should definitely see it).

"Hey girl."

“Hey girl.”

 

4LN writer Stephen Andrew also saw the movie this weekend and here’s what he thought:

Stephen – I loved San Andreas. One of the main things Paige and I have in common is our love of cheesy disaster movies. I’ll concede that she’s definitely the expert, but I consider myself a pretty big fan of the genre. (If there was a Disaster Movie Trivial Pursuit Paige would still totally kick my ass at it. Also, hey Trivial Pursuit people, you’re welcome for basically just HANDING YOU a billion dollar idea…)

One thing I really loved about the film is the fact that Dwayne Johnson’s character isn’t just some guy who happens to be street-smart. Dude is a legit rescue specialist. It’s what he does and he’s good at it. Normally in these movies it’s the dashingly handsome, uncharacteristically brave scientist, or some grizzled retired marine that saves everyone’s life (“everyone” is this scenario refers to the 5 people that usually make it out of these movies alive).

I pretty much agree with Paige on all her points. The movie had a ton of cheese-factor, but it was also so incredibly intense at times. There were so many moments that made nervous and tense. The scene Paige previously mentioned where Carla Gugino’s character (The Rock’s ex) was in a tall building that was falling down made me CRAZY. I was nervous the entire time. That’s the testament to a disaster movie’s quality. If they can be cheesy and STILL make you feel like you’re gonna jump out of your skin, then they’re top-notch. If you like disaster movies, or you just want to see a movie and you’ve already seen Avengers: Age of Ultron (twice), then you should definitely see San Andreas.

Mighty Mitchell & “Legends of the Knight”

(This article is written by our nerdy friend, Tyler Haines. Cousin of Mighty Mitchell)

 

For those of you who don’t know who Mighty Mitchell is, he is a young hero with the courage that can best Star-Lord and can overcome great fear that would put Green Lantern to shame. Mitchell is a 4 year old kid that was diagnosed with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on August 20th 2014. Since then he has had many treatments to overcome this disease and has battled it like many of the other hero’s before him. He is most passionate about superheroes and thus has been given the name Mighty Mitchell by his fans and followers. Mitchell is currently finishing up what they call the Interim Maintenance 2 phase which ends on 4/23/2015 and starts his next phase which is called the Maintenance phase at the beginning of May. The phase includes two and a half years of chemo treatments at home as well as spinal taps with chemo flushes every 12 weeks.

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“Legends of the Knight” is a film made by Brett Culp, and it’s about a various amount of people that are heroes like our Mighty Mitchell. The film brings stories of people who have truly heroic tales and have overcome great challenges and obstacles like their favorite superhero Batman. The film has played at over a 100 cities and has raised over $70,000 for charity!

The movie will be playing in Madison, TN on Wednesday May 20th at 4:30 PM to 5:51 PM at Carmike Wynnsong 10 – Madison 721 Myatt Dr, Madison, TN, US, 37115. This movie will be in honor of Mitchell and every single proceed will go to Vanderbilt Children’s hematology oncology clinic and to the bank account that has been set up for the small food and drinks for the kid’s on the floor that helps take care of Mitchell. You can already buy tickets at this time for this event at https://www.tugg.com/events/15211#.VTA6wCS6uvJ.mailto

We would love to have you all come out and support Mitchell and the other heroes that are out there in this world. Come out and enjoy a good movie, popcorn, & good company. If you are coming or need an invite to the Facebook page please contact myself or any of the other Four Letter Nerd crew and we will send you an invite to the page. He is courageous, brave, and without fear he is the……… Mighty Mitchell!!!

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Q and A

Season 5 is fast approaching folks!!!! And in honor of that, I posted several weeks back at 4LN a request for questions pertaining to the upcoming season. I received ten such submissions that I will be splitting up into two categories: non-spoilers and somewhat spoilers. If you want nothing spoiled for you at all this season, stop when we get to the somewhat spoiler part (it will be the last two questions and include a standard warning of “please stop reading if). I will explain that section in detail further when we get there. So let’s get this starting with Joe, who has a question about a popular character who went missing during Season 4:

“What happened to Gendry? Is he ever coming back?”

 Gendry’s book 3 story ended with season 3. So there was no reason to have him in season 4. But Gendry should be back and he should be running into some familiar characters in which he has not interacted with previously (I emphasize “should,” which I will address with another question further down).

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Nathan asks: “Without giving any details, could there be any Red Wedding or Mountain crushing heads type scenes this season? Ones that make you go from up here smiling to questioning your existence?”

If the producers follow the book on this, no. The fourth and fifth books (the basis for season 5) are almost a reboot for the characters of the series. So many important characters in the first three books are dead, so it is like everyone that survived is starting over and reestablishing their place in this redrawn world. That reestablishing takes time for Martin to develop and really slows the pace down until the end of book four and about the middle of book five. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people dying in these books, just not the punch-to-the-gut, life questioning moments those two were. But there is a chance the producers will decide to create their own shock ending for a character (several cast members have hinted this will happen). So if one happens, I will just as shocked as you are. Speaking of changes in the source material, Richard has a question directly addressing just that:

 

“How close to the books do you think the show will be this season?”

This season will move farther from the source material than any of the previous seasons. It has already been confirmed that the first part of Jamie’s story will be nothing like the books. Sansa’s plot will take a different direction as well. Previews also indicate that Tyrion and Jon Snow’s arcs, though likely headed in the same directions as the book, will take a much different route getting there. And many characters (Bronn, Trystane Martell, Mrycella Lannis….I mean Baratheon) will receive more focus than the books have given them to this point. So while I think the TV show will end up in the same place as the books do, the path getting there will be different. So referring back to the first question, the producers might decide the rest of Gendry’s story doesn’t help meet their end game, so they decide to end his story where it is. I doubt this will happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Daisy has our next question about a popular online theory:

 

“What are your thoughts on the “R+L=J theory”?”

I am a firm believer in it and here are my reasons:

 

  1. No character in the Game of Thrones universe has the honor Ned Stark had (R.I.P.). He wouldn’t even sneak around when he had the information that would have kept Joffrey off the throne. Instead, he tried to do the honorable thing and be upfront with the info he had. He held true to every vow he made right to his demise, but he broke his marriage vows for a random prostitute?

 

  1. In the first book, Ned thinks frequently about the last words his sister Lyanna said to him, which were “Promise me, Ned.” Now considering there were only a few causes of death possible for young Lyanna, complications during pregnancy seems as likely as anything. And it makes sense that Ned would “promise” to raise Jon Snow as his own and keep Jon’s true parentage a secret (even in his own damn thoughts, Ned would not break his honor or reveal what he promised!!!!). It would also make sense for Ned and Lyanna to want Jon’s real parents a secret because being half “man Robert killed in battle” and half “woman King Robert loved” would not have made him very popular in the new king’s eyes.

 

Now I believe the theory is true, but I don’t know if the show will follow up on this. One reason is only one man, Howland Reed, is still alive who knows what happened and could confirm Lyanna’s pregnancy. And we have yet to meet present day Mr. Reed in the books or the show (though we have met his kids). So either the show would have to bring Howland Reed into the story or someone would have to see a vision and then get that vision communicated to Jon somehow. And that would take up a fair amount of screen time to accomplish, so with the season’s left being limited, this may require more screen time than can be budgeted. Speaking of the number of seasons left, Pete asks:

 

“How many seasons of GoT do you think there WILL be, and how many do you think there SHOULD be?”

The producers have said 7 seasons is the goal. That would mean events from (THE FRUSTRATINGLY YET TO BE RELEASED) “Winds of Winter” would cover next season and the not even worked on “A Dream of Spring” would be the source for the last season. Considering the last two books are expected to be 1500 pages long (the previous books were 900 to 1100 pages), that is a lot of content to be filled. Ideally, I think the next two books should have two seasons a piece, bringing the total to 9 or 10 depending on how much of books 4 and 5 carryover to next season (and I don’t think much will). But how many shows went in the crapper because they were on the air too long (I’m looking at you Dexter!!!!)? If keeping GoT a quality show means fewer season, than I’m all for it. My bold prediction is HBO will convince the producers to go eight as a compromise between the 10 HBO would like and the seven the producers want.

 

David asks: “This season will be the first to not have an episode written by George R. R. Martin. Will that have a negative impact on the quality of the show?”

I doubt that it will. As you said, Martin only wrote one episode a season, meaning there were plenty of episodes written by other professionals that turned out just fine. Though I have to say some of the best episodes (including Blackwater from Season 2 and the Lion and the Rose from last season where the bastard Joffrey met his demise) were penned by Martin. But at this point, I think the man should be put under house arrest until “The Winds of Winter” is (finally!!!) complete. Next up is Quinn, who has an ummm…”unique” theory?

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“Is it at all plausible that Game of Thrones is a prequel story to the (tragically underrated) 2002 Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey film Reign of Fire?”

Well I was not aware that Batman and the guy from the Lincoln car commercials made a movie. But from what I’ve read about it, it sounds like a horrible idea, especially considering that the setting is London (what scenario gets Matthew McConaghey in London facing dragons?) But GoT being a prequel to “Reign of Fire sure seems more plausible than the guy from “Failure to Launch” and “Sahara” in London fighting dragons, so sure, why not? You might recognize this next fellow:

hodor

Hodor asks: “Hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor. Hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor?”

Calm down big guy!!! We’re all bummed you’re not in this season as well. I guess there’s only so much the writers of the show can do with a fireball throwing child and a decrepit old man stuck to a tree inside a cave. But this just gives you more time to practice all that dialogue you’ll have for season six and further your career as a DJ (that’s right, Hodor is a DJ!!!!)

Now before we continue, the last two questions involve small spoilers involving characters from the books that may or may not appear on the show. I will not give away anything about the story arc of these characters so I don’t spoil them for non-book readers in case the show decides to use them. But if the very mention of potential names from the show arouses your curiosity so much that your fingers automatically jump on the keyboard and google their names, then stop right here. Once again, if you don’t want potential plot spoilers involving these characters to happen, do not google these names. Now Alan has the first of our semi spoiler questions:

 

“Think we’ll be seeing Griff and Young Griff?”

I am saying about 70/30 towards no. But I am holding out hope they do. There have been several rumors of actors who are cast for the end of the season under different character names to try and keep it secret. But that is a questionable rumor. If we do see them, I believe it will be towards the end of the season because their reveal will not mean very much to the TV viewer without more background information into their significance throughout the season. Now Cate has our last question:

 

“Do you think Lady Stoneheart will be introduced eventually?”

My odds are the same here as the previous question. I sure hope they do. And once again, there was a “casting leak” involving this character as there was with Griff and Young Griff which may or may not be hogwash. I really think it makes more sense to put her here in Season 5 than it would have been to put her in the place the books placed her (the end of the third book, which would’ve been the season 4 finale). A whole season can be spent building her up before revealing her as opposed to dropping her on everybody suddenly like Martin did.

 

Once again, I emphasize, DO NOT google the names of these characters unless you want a potential major spoiler.

Be on the lookout for my final installment of the preview series: a full primer to prepare for Season 5.

 

The Road to Game of Thrones Season 5: Dragons in Westeros

One of the most visually impressive elements of Game of Thrones so far has been the dragons. Since their hatching at the end of Season 1 to the full grown monsters we see in Season 4, Daenerys’s dragons are one of the finest examples of modern CGI placement in television history.

And nothing else in the GoT universe gives a character legitimacy quite like Dany’s dragons. Before them, the mother of dragon’s was mourning the death of the future Aquaman, Khal Drago, with few of his former khalasar remaining to stand behind her. But having dragons opened the doors of Qarth, helped conquer the cities along Slaver’s Bay, and brought the Unsullied and the Second Son sellsword company to the side of Daenerys Stormborn.

But Season 4 brought to attention a problem that has been in the back of our minds since their hatching. We may have figured the vicious beasts would be loyal to their mother or that Dany would learn how to tame them as they matured. But as it stands now, Dany’s dragons do what they want. One of them has already escaped and the other two had to be chained up for fear another child might die or damaged property could turn those loyal to Dany against her. How can Daenerys claim the throne of Westeros (or keep the seat of power she has now, for that matter) if she can’t control her dragons. For some speculation on the potential answers to these questions, let’s take a look at the history of dragons in Westeros and how that knowledge affects Dany’s interactions with her Dragons in the present.

 

Dragons in Westeros: A History

The Field of Fire

Dragons in Westeros first appeared with Aegon the Conquerer over 300 years before the events of a Game of Thrones. In a battle known as “The Field of Fire,” Aegon and his two sisters flew their dragons and burned thousands of men who opposed Aegon’s claim to rule all of Westeros. After the battle, the rest of Westeros (except Dorne) chose to bend the knee to Aegon instead of facing the wrath of the dragons, uniting the seven kingdoms (except, once again, Dorne) as one realm ruled by the Targaryens.

 

The Dance with the Dragons

Dragons were a regular part of the landscape of Westeros for the next 130 years of Targaryen rule. But one war, a civil war between two different factions of the Targaryen’s known as the Dance of the Dragons, ended dragons in Westeros. With both sides possessing them, many on field battles included skyward confrontations between dragons where one or both dragons died or were severely injured in battle. Of the twenty two dragons alive before the Dance, nineteen of them died. Two of the three disappeared never to be seen again. The only dragon that did not disappear or die, Morning, was too young to fight in the Dance and died at a very young age. Dragons have not been seen in Westeros since.

 

The Taming and Riding of Dragons

Targaryens riding dragons into battles proves they can be tamed and used. But what history shows us about them doesn’t help Dany’s cause. Not anyone can just ride any dragon they want. It may seem obvious that a giant, aggressive beast that shoots flames from its mouth would be tough to ride. But what I mean is dragons only accept one rider at a time. Once a dragon has chosen its rider, it will not accept any other rider until its current rider dies. And the opposite is true as well. A person cannot ride two dragons while they are both living. Only when a person’s dragon has died can they attempt to ride a different one. So even if Dany figures out how to tame her dragons, she could only ride one of them, leaving the other two to their own devices.

History also shows that one must have Targaryen blood in order to ride a dragon. That’s not to say that everyone has to be a pureblood Targaryen to ride a dragon. Many of the dragons flown in the dance were ridden by bastards whose moms believed they were impregnated by Targaryens. If true, this presents another problem for the mother of dragons. She is the only known Targaryen in the Game of Thrones universe. So in order for all three dragons to be used to their full effectiveness, Dany must find two secret Targaryens out there. And considering that dragons tend to burn those who try to ride or tame them that don’t have Targaryen blood, good luck finding people to volunteer for this task.

 

Questions Going Forward

-Will Daenerys learn to tame and ride one of her dragons?

-If she does, are there two other people out there with the courage and bloodlines to tame and ride her other two dragons?

-Assuming Daenerys learns to control one of her dragons, but can’t find a suitable rider for the other two, what damage will the wild dragons create for her cause? Will her lack of control for the dragons turn people against her?

-Will the producers of the show say “To hell with all this dragon mythology from the books, we will do our own thing Dany,” making everything I just wrote a waste of time.

A second trailer of the fifth season came out and showed what appeared to be Dany communicating something with one of her dragons and the dragon flying off after she did. We will see if that is a good omen for the mother of dragons or just a mirage covering up the many complications she will be having in taming her prized beasts.

 

Next Week: Q and A: Answering your questions about the upcoming season.

 

(This article was written by 4LN GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

4LN Movie Review: Insurgent

The Creative Fall of a Movie Franchise: How Insurgent Could Destroy the Divergent Movie Series

“Divergent,” the catalyst for this once promising franchise, was not exactly a critical darling. Rotten Tomatoes gave an average of 5.4 out of ten compiling the reviews of 196 movie critics. But people still thought enough of the film and the book that inspired it to the tune of 288.7 million dollars in revenue (it cost about 85 million to make). And if you loved that first book, at least the movie stayed true to that story, making only a handful of changes.

But after seeing the sequel earlier this week, I sure hope these same elements that determine a movie’s success will all come together in a rare occurrence of unity and purpose and declare this miserable attempt at entertainment a failure. Two of the three of these elements are already in place as negative reviews for the movie are already trickling in. And devoted book readers will find themselves, as my wife did throughout this picture, saying “That wasn’t in the book,” significantly more than any movie that claims to be based on a novel should be allowed to. Now if only the rest of you out there can make it a trifecta of motion picture failure and make this a box office flop in line with “Waterworld” and “The Long Ranger.”

In order to better analyze all the places where “Insurgent” failed as a movie, I will break them down into four significant reasons why “Divergent’s” sequel was so terrible.

 

1. Ignoring the Source Material Entirely

As someone who is familiar with numerous books that become movies or television series, I realize that not everything on book pages works well on screen. Some creative liberties have to be taken to both keep the movie or television show entertaining and allow for non-book readers the chance to follow the story without having to read the books. But there is a difference between taking “creative liberties” and discarding the story in the book entirely. Director Robert Schwenke’s vision (that is too nice a word to use to describe the man’s work on this film) for “Insurgent” bears no resemblance to Veronica Roth’s novel. And I do not have a problem with some changes to a story when they ultimately get to the same place the source material intended. Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings movies take some liberties to move their stories and transfer them over to their different mediums more effectively. But the end results that define those literary works are largely the same. Not this ending!!!! The major twist that ends Roth’s second book is completely discarded for some Kum-bay-yah crap that gives you no reason to see either of the remaining sequels (that’s right, there are two more of these). Also in this movie, there are devices created to determine how divergent one truly is. Once again, that is not in the books and it is just as horrible as it sounds (very similar to the Star Wars prequels and their introduction of the concept of Metaclorians to determine one’s potential as a Jedi). Making changes that aid a written work’s adaptation to the big screen is one thing. But to completely trash the plot of your source material for your own story, which is neither creative or entertaining, as Schwentke does with “Insurgent, is inexcusable.

 

2. Lazy, Cliché Filled Scriptwriting

While watching “Insurgent,” a picture in my mind developed of a large book that sits in every Hollywood Studio’s meeting room. This large book is filled with all the overused clichés that Hollywood makes a regular part of their movies. When writers are putting together their scripts and run out of things to say, they consult this manual to fill in those blanks in their scripts. I believe “Insurgent” was written entirely from the electronic version of this manual as the writers copied and pasted entire scenes from this manual onto their computers.

 

3. Lack of Development of the Minor Characters

The only problem for “Insurgent” that can be linked back to the first movie is right here. The backbone of Roth’s story is the main character, Tris and the relationships she builds with the various people she interacts with. These relationships help guide Tris through all the difficult situations she must endure as she loses her parents and becomes a wanted fugitive. The problem is that in the first movie, these important characters were either not introduced or relegated to the role of an extra. The result is random scenes like when a tall, African American male has a meaningful conversation about the direction of things on a roof with Tris. Because I read the books, I figured out the young man’s name was Uriah. In the books, Uriah was a born dauntless who helped Tris become accepted by her new Dauntless faction. But moviegoers haven’t seen that important relationship develop, taking away all meaning from this conversation. In the books, certain characters who Tris gets to know die. These losses have an emotional impact because of her previous experiences with them and that impacts the story. When similar deaths happen in the movie, we have little (if any) idea about who these characters are, significantly lessening the impact of their loss. If the structure of a motion picture didn’t allow for the proper character development that Roth’s work demanded, then maybe the Divergent series should have gone the route of a television show. Because when you remove those relationships from the equation, you’re left with actions taken by Tris that lose their effectiveness because of the essential nature of those relationships to explain Tris’s actions.

 

4. Poorly explained plot devices

In a story where the Erudite faction wants to take over and rule all the other factions, it makes sense that the smart ones of the Divergent post-apocalyptic world should be able to create devices that make it easier for them to take over. But being that this is the faction of the intelligent, you think they would be able to explain how these devices do the random things they do. But each little gadget the scholars over at Erudite create come with little or no explanation for how it does what it does. And since these gadgets don’t need explaining for how they work, then why do they need explaining for how the protagonists overcome the obstacles these gadgets present? An audience develops respect for the heroes of a story because of the strength of will or intelligence they use in overcoming the forces working against them. The way these obstacles are developed and overcome during “Insurgent” creates no reason for the audience to respect the heroes or the villains.

 

In Conclusion….

You may have noticed that I did not include the cast as one of the problems with “Insurgent.” You may have heard that Four’s mother looks the same age as him. Well if you haven’t heard, FOUR’S MOTHER LOOKS THE SAME AGE AS HIM. Only in the Justin Timberlake movie where nobody ages past 25 and they have to purchase time to live past that is that acceptable. While that casting decision was extremely poor, Shailene Woodley is acceptable as Tris (though some of her “intense” facial expressions may become the subject of some ridiculous memes in the future). And Kate Winslett (though we don’t see enough of her) is Kate FREAKING Winslett, owning the role of Jeanine like she does everything else she’s been in. But if you compare it to Hunger Games (which cost $15 million more to make) with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (RIP), Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Natalie Dormer, and other minor characters who fit their roles perfectly, the Divergent series just seems subpar. But at least after the first movie, there was hope for book fans of a movie that would give life to the story they love. “Insurgent” shatters that hope several times over, ignoring both the major plot points and relationship developments of Roth’s series. And while box office success may still be achievable, I really hope not. For the last thing Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate (the studios backing these films) need is vindication to be just as lazy for the two sequels of this series as they were with “Insurgent.”

 

(This article was written by Jeff Merrick.)