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Review: Avengers 3 Infinity War

*WARNING* This review will be full of spoilers, you have been warned!

Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, “Avengers: Infinity War” is the third superhero event film under the Marvel banner and the culmination of ten years of interconnected storytelling across all eighteen previous films. If you’ve been following these Marvel movies and are up to date then you will gleam the most out of the two and a half hour epic that is Infinity War. However if, by some chance, you’re just now considering a Marvel movie marathon and are curious as to which movies are most necessary for this latest Avengers movie, I believe about half of them are required viewing (Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, Dr. Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther). The rest help to build upon the structure, and character development, of the cinematic universe, but that list will get you mostly acquainted with what’s going on.

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So, we’re finally here. After hearing about and seeing several of the infinity stones throughout these films, and with a couple cameos from the mad titan himself, does the film live up to the monumental expectations that Marvel Studios has built? Yes. I can answer that wholeheartedly with a resounding yes. Infinity War is a monumental feat of crossover film-making and it makes the once grandiose events of the first Avengers seem minuscule in comparison. The film follows the wake of destruction left by Thanos and his black order as they seek out the six infinity stones and crisscross the cosmos to implement the will of the mad titan. The opening scene perfectly showcases who Thanos is and why we should be afraid for the fate of our superheroes. After laying waste to Thor and the Asgardian refugees’ ship Thanos quickly bests the Hulk in a fistfight, takes the Tesseract from Loki before killing him, and completely destroys their ship leaving Thor to drift unconsciously through space. Heimdall was able to send the Hulk off to Earth before being murdered by the Black Order and as the incredible hero smashes through Dr. Strange’s staircase in New York City, Bruce Banner comes with a dire warning, “Thanos is coming..”

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Dr. Strange quickly grasps the magnitude of the problem at hand as he grabs Tony Stark from a morning run with Pepper Potts, but it isn’t long before Thanos Black Order arrive to make a power grab for the Time stone in the doctor’s possesion. Spider-Man also gets in the mix and we’re off to the races! The movie moves at break neck speeds jumping across space and back to service all of the various storylines in play but the Russo brothers have outdone themselves with this installment as everything flows naturally with the needs of the story. Now I won’t go beat by beat and describe the whole movie, but instead give a general sense of the scale and the threat that comes with Thanos seeking to wield his infinity gauntlet. Not to mention how the movie cleverly utilized it’s massive cast by breaking the characters off into various factions in different locations to best suit the needs of the story. For example, the Guardians of the Galaxy bump into Thor when responding to their distress signal and then separate into two teams, one consisting of Thor, Rocket, and Groot in order to seek out a “Thanos killing weapon” while the rest head to ‘Knowhere’ from their first movie as it’s the last known location of the reality stone. Iron Man and Spider-Man hitch a ride on the ship that the Black Order arrived in to save Dr. Strange from Ebony Maw on his way to Titan, while Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow stave off an attack on Vision and the Scarlet Witch thanks to a heads up by Banner and eventually head to Wakanda as a last stand to keep Vision’s Mind stone in his head and not on the gauntlet of Thanos.

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The central theme of the movie is that, when pressed by Thanos and his cosmic conquering, will you trade one life for another? Several characters have this grueling predicament pushed on them, some make choices out of love, others for the fate of the universe, but ultimately they fail when crossing that line. The moral center of the MCU, Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), never falters in his moral code. Several times throughout the movie he reiterates to others that, “We don’t trade lives”. He discards the math of the scenario in giving a life to save millions, nay billions. He saves lives, he doesn’t play that game. That right there, might be the absolute best aspect of this film. All of the characters are true to their nature as established in the previous films. There is a palpable consistency to their actions and reasoning. The Guardians all feel like themselves, still making jokes and acting on impulse. Black Panther and Captain America leap into battle first and have unwavering foundations. Thor feels the most evolved since the ramifications of ‘Ragnarok’ changed the game for his films and overall nature, a kingly warrior burdened with grief, yet still able to convey humor as a fish-out-of-water situation with the Guardians. Consistency paired with well thought out plot-points and a very clever villain, possibly the best the MCU has seen yet, add up to one hell of a Marvel movie.

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With an ending as shocking as it is, I- and many other millions, cannot wait to see how these characters rebound and ultimately save the day. This is most definitely a part one, and with only two other films between now and (the still untitled) Avengers 4 that take place before the events of this movie, we’ll have to wait a year and see how this all unfolds. I cannot praise this movie enough, it was far more emotionally mature and full of dread than I expected. There were significant deaths, high stakes and excellent action, and on top of that the film still managed to be really funny at times. They did it. They really did it. The next challenge is to outdo themselves next year, which I have to say, is a tall order. I have faith in the Russo brothers though, their movies in the MCU have been some of the best entries in the superhero genre as a whole. Now all we have to do… is wait.

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Final Score: Infinite Avengers

THE CAST:
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

Tom Holland (II) as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther

Zoe Saldana as Gamora

Karen Gillan as Nebula

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

Paul Bettany as Vision

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier

Idris Elba as Heimdall

Danai Gurira as Okoye

Benedict Wong as Wong

Pom Klementieff as Mantis

Dave Bautista as Drax

Vin Diesel as Groot

Bradley Cooper as Rocket

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Benicio Del Toro as The Collector

Josh Brolin as Thanos

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord

William Hurt as Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross

Letitia Wright as Shuri

Peter Dinklage as Eitri

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill

and Ross Marquand as Red Skull

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Movie-Pitch: Adaption of “Ex-Heroes”

*Just a quick note, I’m dropping the “Monday” portion of these Movie-Pitch posts because, well to be fairly honest, sometimes I miss the Mondays, and I’d like to entertain the idea of quality movie pitches, and that doesn’t always happen on a clean schedule. I will continue to post as often as possible though, so thanks for reading, and enjoy!*

Do you like vicious blood spilling Zombies? How about bombastic super heroics? Then I have quite the Movie Pitch for you today. FULL DISCLAIMER though, I have not read the book I’m about to pitch to you reader, but the premise alone seems like an enjoyable romp. In 2010 Peter Clines authored a book called “Ex-Heroes” a zombie apocalypse tale set in a world inhabited by superheroes. After looking into the story of the book I found that it essentially reads like a summer blockbuster produced by JJ Abrams, not a bad thing, but only if he had the skills and urges of a seventeen year old. It seems that there is an adventure/horror tale in here that could be an excellent film adaption, it just needs the right talent behind it.

This is precisely why I think Alex Garland should helm this piece if its ever greenlit. Garland wrote the screenplay for “28 days later”, produced the new “Dredd” film, worked on the screenplay for Neill Blomkamp’s “Halo” movie when that was happening, and he wrote and directed this year’s excellent sci-fi film “Ex-Machina”. Obviously he knows good storytelling in a genre specific world. It seems the book might have missed some opportunities to tell a more nuanced story involving the human experience in all of this, which is understandable, with so much pop and excess being tossed around that’s a lot to juggle, especially without throwing in any existential dilemmas.

The characters need some work as well, if dozens upon dozens of reader reviews are worth their salt. They’re essentially all common caricatures of superhero lore. The boy scout, the elusive sex symbol, the anti-hero bad boy, the every-man teenager that developed powers, a lot of expected swaths of the superhero world. That is part of the allure though, putting these well known archetypes into a horror infused zombie setting is compelling, they just need fleshing out. Apparently there’s quite the lack of diversity as well, not only in the heroes, but in the characterization of other races. One threat that the heroes have to deal with is an all Hispanic L.A.gang that wants the weapons and ammunition that the heroes have stockpiled. I’m just saying, you can’t have the only representation of these heroes be all white and only have the threatening characters, and the situations they create, be purely people of color. That’s just bad juju and totally unrealistic too. Even blockbusters should work to reflect the world we all live in.

The book is told in past and present sections unfolding how everything came to be, which could work in film. Slicing the timeline like this is, in my opinion, a great story tool for this particular situation as it gives a bit of mystery to the whole question of “Wait, how did this happen?” This also allows for retconning characters backstories if need be. As I have not read the book yet, and I intend to eventually, I don’t have any specific casting choices, I have actors I’d like to see in this sort of movie, but I also don’t want to simply throw big name talent at the wall to see if anything sticks a la “Fantastic Four” either. (Forgive me because I am about to throw big name talent at the wall and see if anything sticks) The names Daniel Radcliffe, Elijah Wood, Brad Pitt, Anthony Mackie, Michael B. Jordan (I know, I know, FF and all, but he’s a damn good actor), Joseph Gordon-levitt, and Oscar Issac, come to mind. All could be fine choices, but I need to take the time to really know the source material first. There’s also the women involved as well. Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Famke Janssen, Charlize Theron, maybe even Emma Watson, or Emilia clarke too. I know, I’m not really focusing in or narrowing down on the performances, but I do believe there’s a world where these actresses, and previously mentioned actors, improve the quality of this story and elevate it above the state of the content to create a supremely fun genre piece. As long as there is an overall point to be made with this story, I think it has the potential to be something more than the promise of the premise alone. And that might be worth the effort.

That’s my movie pitch for this week! Thanks for reading!

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Movie-Pitch Mondays! [Early Bird Special] Marvel Studios “Dark Reign”

Recently Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying that he believes that the Superhero genre will eventually “Go the way of the Western”. There is probably a good deal of truth to that statement. As people tire of the same old song and dance studios will be forced to make more creative, and riskier, filmmaking choices. Personally this excites me even more so than what is currently being produced because it means really niche films within this sub genre will flourish just as some storylines and characters already have begun to do so, such as “The Guardians of The Galaxy”.  Marvel in particular will have to deal with these reprecussions sooner than DC purely because they’ve been doing it longer. In turn as Marvel takes more creative risks DC will have to play ball in order to keep audiences returning in droves to see their particular spectacle over their competitors. The consumer wins yet again.

One of the storylines that I think Marvel would greatly benefit from adapting is that of the “Dark Reign” comic book event that took place in print after the fallout of Captain America and Iron Man’s “Civil War” and the “Secret Invasion” event where the shapeshifting aliens known as the Skrulls were making a move against Earth’s heroes in plain sight. As the movies have taken a slightly, and understandably, different turn with their series of events than their published predeccesors things will obviously have to be different. First and foremost Norman Osborn (The Green Goblin of Spiderman nemesis fame for all you, albiet few, uninnitiated out there) needs to be, at the very least, a presence in the new Spider Man film. He is integral to the storyline as his power play is the source of every involved hero’s problems.

What is key to this “Dark Reign” pitch is that it is not any one hero’s story, it’s just an event that is taking place within their universe. Not everyone is a part of it, but it is widespread enough to include many characters. In the comics it is Norman Osborn who unexpectedly kills the Skrull Queen at the end of the Secret invasion after Deadpool accidentally sends pivotal information to Osborn instead of Nick Fury. Osborn is then thrust into the heroic spotlight afterward as he is seen by the public as their savior, not the superheroes. He uses this public opinion advantage to garner himself power, and lots of it. He even becomes the president of The United States for a while, donning some Iron Man knock off armor to boot. This being the star spangled Iron Patriot armor, to be specific, that we’ve already seen Don Cheadle’s War Machine wear in the movies.

So, yes, as it begins it’s already a bit muddled when comparing the potential, and past, storylines. After this it gets very interesting as the core storyline involves many characters that Marvel Studios either has the rights to, or has recently gotten back from competing studios. There is a rich potential to be mined here. What we need to set this all into motion is a timetable for these movies and what needs to happen, and when, to set up this event. As far as any of us can tell the Skrull invasion probably isn’t going to be an active storyline right away, Kevin Feige has to save something for Phase four anyhow, right? (besides Kang the conqueror) So, we have to replace Osborn’s public redemption event somewhere pivotal. I’m thinking in the second half of the Infinity War movies. It doesn’t have to necessarily be Osborn that hits the kill switch to become the “hero” and save everybody, he just has to at least be seen doing some good, fighting off alien hordes, or something of that ilk. Anything that can be spun in a sensational fashion to get him positive public support. From there it’s all about his cabal of evil.

Norman Osborn starts his takeover by forming the Cabal. An alliance of powerful villains that all have ties to particular heroes, and other organizations. In the comics Osborn’s Cabal consisted of himself, Loki, Doctor Doom, Namor, The Hood, Emma Frost, and Ms. Victoria Hand. In my version, I would have his Cabal enlist the efforts of the Kingpin, Loki, The Hood, The Real Mandarin, and a few other smaller characters of use that were in both versions: namely Justin Hammer of H.A.M.M.E.R. industries and Bullseye, the assassin that never misses. In case you’re curious, yes, the real comic-book character version of the Mandarin does exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just check out the Marvel One Shot that accompanies the Thor 2 home video, “All Hail The King” that focuses on Trevor from Iron Man three in prison being interrogated by what turns out to be a representative of the real Mandarin who is furious at a pretender to the throne using his moniker openly. Fun stuff.

Norman Osborn utilizes these people as pawns in his war against the superheroes. He sends the Hood after Frank Castle (The Punisher), orders Bullseye to impersonate Hawkeye and go after Daredevil, and he utilizes a lot of energy trying to kill Spiderman, obviously. The Hood by the way is connected to Doctor Strange’s world of Mysticism, “Created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artists Kyle Hotz and Eric Powell, The Hood first appeared in his own self-titled MAX limited series in 2002, which featured his origin, as a character who possesses a cloak and boots stolen from a Nisanti demon, which grant him invisibility and limited levitation ability, respectively….Since Bendis gained control of the character, he has not appeared with his boots, and the Nisanti demon, a tie-in to Vaughn’s Runaways series, was revealed to be a disguise for the Doctor Strange nemesis, Dormammu.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hood_(comics) ).

The excellently gritty Netflix show “Daredevil” has opened up a world of possibilities to the realm of the MCU that can be greatly utilized here. Not only will the show have evolved to the point to be near where the comics have placed Matt Murdock by this time, but it will also be another pertinent connective tie to all corners of the MCU, plus it will be great to see Charlie Cox on the big screen with everybody else, he already deserves it. Here’s the info on that, “After a group of black-clad ninjas kill a group of crooked cops and lawyers, Osborn turns his attention to the Hand and their new leader, Daredevil. Sending Bullseye out in his old suit along with H.A.M.M.E.R. agents, Bullseye and Daredevil clash. The two duel until they make it to the top of a condemned building that is about to be demolished. Bullseye announces that the building will be destroyed, but the 107 people inside refuse to leave. When Daredevil does not help the people, the building explodes and kills all of the people. Bullseye then retreats and Daredevil is shocked. It turns out later that the ninjas were led by Lady Bullseye and the Kingpin, and were used to set up Daredevil.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Reign_(comics) )

With this beyond excellent cast of villainy there obviously has to be a great counter balance. In the comics Osborn essentially blurs the playing field by confusing all of his separate opponents in tandem by utilizing their weaknesses. Loki uses Osborn’s help to make Thor kill Bor (Odin’s father), and cause Thor’s banishment. The Hood, who has an unholy alliance with Dormammu (a larger-than-life Dr. Strange villain), is made to hunt down Frank Castle and kill him. Kingpin’s resources are used as constant threats to both Spiderman and Daredevil as usual. While in this pitch version I would have the real Mandarin force a retired Tony Stark out of the shadows to face his greatest enemy yet. Black Widow, Black Panther, and Banner could all be utilized in certain scenarios as well, possibly to showcase the extent to which Osborn is willing to take things. The character that really brings it all together in the end is Spiderman/Peter Parker. Eventually he does his journalistic duties and hunts down corroborating evidence against Osborn and reveals him to be the Green Goblin to the public and thus begins Osborn’s unraveling. If Chris Evans’ Captain America is still alive by this point it would be a fitting role pairing the two together in the face of insurmountable adversity, to do the right thing. These two characters (in my opinion) best represent that superhero factor, plus it would just be a wonderful interaction between the two characters. I imagine Daredevil, Punisher, Hawkeye, Iron man to be prominent figures in this storyline as well. It is possible this could be a two-parter movie, but if there is adequate set up in a sprinkling fashion throughout the other movies, and even TV shows, first then it could be a fascinating three hour event that encompasses many of the existing Marvel Studios properties in one form or another. Which is exactly what they will need to do to keep people interested. Especially after the two part Infinity War movies.

At one point I had considered trying to tie in the Red Skull with the Cabal, and he would be an excellent addition, but I feel as though he would just be thrown in for added measure and not be as essential to the storyline. The Mandarin might also fall into this scheme, but ever since Iron Man three I’ve curiously wanted to see this character’s power and presence felt in the MCU if possible, and the studio has already made enough effort to nod and wink knowingly at fans that want the real macoy, so, obviously the character has potential to pop up sometime down the road. I recognize there are a lot of angles you could take with this pitch, but that’s sort of the beauty of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you have clashing characters, but with that comes the world colliding tonal shifts, especially when combining the likes of Spiderman and say, The Punisher. In fact if I was pressed to squeeze this idea under one title character’s name, or banner if you will, then I’d have to go with Spiderman, maybe this could be his sequel of sorts, although it does cover a lot more than just his actions. It ultimately is his villain that focuses most of the attention, and he would be the one to make the biggest move against Osborn that unravels his power scheme. If it did go this way it would have to be similar to what “Captain America 3: Civil War” is shaping up to be. A movie that has that respective main character heavily utilized, but not always being focused on. Giving up a larger role to serve the wider machinations of the story.

So, that’s my movie pitch for this week. Have any questions or comments? Feel free to bring them up in the comments section! Oh and yes, I’d be okay with that rumor of Matthew McConaughey starring as Norman Osborn, I think he’d have fun with the role, and it might challenge him in ways a single film role might not be able to do. Anyways, thanks for reading!

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Who is the most American Superhero?

When you think about American cinema lately you might conjure up images of a household name actor or director a la Bradley Cooper or the much maligned Micheal Bay. It probably won’t take the average person long to mention a superhero movie. The superhero movie in and of itself has taken over our culture’s attention for more than a decade now. Personally, I’m biased, I quite enjoy the genre as a fun escapist two hours to get away from the world and enjoy a little fantasy every now and then. The other day however, as I was considering just how popular Marvel and DC movies have become I came upon an interesting question. Who is the most American superhero?

There might be a fair amount of you that immediately spout off your “Superman”, your “Captain America”, maybe even a “Batman”. I believe it demands a bit more deliberation than that though. It can be argued that certain characters represent American ideals better than others, while others represent modern American society and our current culture’s mindset to a whole other degree. Now, to be fair, anyone that said Superman right off the bat does have a whole lot of points going for them already.

Superman was the first superhero, he began, and currently still perpetuates the comic book genre to this very day. Recently celebrating seventy-five years of publication he has some clout for the argument at hand, specifically the fact that he’s an immigrant, essentially the most American part of our own history. Clark Kent embodies the traditional “American Way” in too many ways to count, he’s resilient, his Kansas upbringing in a small town, he doesn’t want a fight- but won’t back down from one, and his handle on keeping his powers in check under stressful social situations proves that he is the better man (a point I believe the latest film iteration “Man of Steel” did well). Those are just a few examples, but I’ll move on just to speed things along.

Captain America. America is in his very pseudonym. However, Cap still falls into the same category as Superman. Half of the stories involving Captain America play off of him trying to relate to current American society, or referencing his traditional take on situations. He is a man stuck in tradition, and he, just as Mr. Kent, plays up the reserved, quiet, but strong and determined male model of masculinity. They both represent what most, but certainly not all, men strive to be at times in their lives, but it’s impossible to be at that level of responsible and level headed functioning all the time. Which is why Marvel wisely capitalized on the relatable superhero.

Spiderman is the quintessential icon of relatable superheroes. Peter Parker is a young, smart, and hard working individual that’s always rushing from crisis to crisis. A superhero that has trouble paying the rent but works tirelessly to help the average joe was a brilliant stroke of the evolution of the American superhero. The student with a secret always has far too many problems going on at once. From Doctor Octopus to getting to class on time, he is the epitome of a modern millennial, constantly juggling as much as possible just to get by and keep his loved ones safe and close. For every yin there is a yang however and the 1% must have a hero to call their own in this day and age, right? Why not, they’ve got everything else.

Tony Stark is the aged vintage wine of the elite superheroes. He not only represents America’s lust for consuming merchandise and wealth, but also our unrivaled American Ingenuity. He’s constantly renovating and rebuilding the world of technology around him. Tony has gone through changes that mirror in many ways what America has gone through in the last twenty-to-thirty years. They’re both now more invested in the green market, both have pretty shaky pasts at times, and both are working towards bettering their own images to transcend and excel. I believe The millennial generation is working hard to change the social stigma of our country across the globe to better represent ourselves in every field. I may be biased in this argument, but as an American, at least I can relate to Tony Stark in that way, confident enough to boldly make the changes we so desperately need, however I can’t snark like Stark, let’s leave the pros to do what they do best.

Speaking of professionals, I doubt there’s a more unprofessional professional than the Merc with a mouth himself, Deadpool. Now, I include Deadpool on this list because he represents a fervent and ever growing, ever changing, subculture. The internet. It has given us many things, but chiefly relevant here is the warped sense of humor and a desensitization to violence that oddly, yet successfully, merges cartoonish antics and adult content. This essentially is Deadpool, with his ridiculously short attention span and lust for silly violence, he vividly represents the “Call of Duty” modern subculture that is prevalent among a wide swath of American youth today. While Wade Wilson is void of the hard moral lines that make Captain America and Superman such icons for the values of American tradition, I say he is a much needed force to represent the balance of our culture. Deadpool represents the flip side of that coin and rightly so, The United States of America is a massively diverse place, with wildly different opinions driving everything we do.

Thus it stands to reason that there is no one supremely “American” superhero because it would defeat the purpose of our country in itself. Maybe the angle here isn’t that any one super powered individual best represents us because we are all so different. We’re akin to a gigantic machine with millions of different gears and cogs, coils and springs, all moving independently of each other, and at the same time, in unison with one another. It’s probably more accurate to say that simply the idea of superheroes by itself is a truly American invention because they’re beginning to represent more and more of the rest of us as time goes on. The New Ms. Marvel is a teenage Muslim American, the new Thor is be a woman, and Sam Wilson (The Falcon) has taken up the Mantle of Captain America himself proving that diversity is starting to reach the arenas of entertainment that has had a harder time changing decades old fan favorite characters. On DC’s behalf even Victor Stone, the African American superhero known as Cyborg, has become an unbridled force for good on the Justice League standing with the legends themselves, Batman and Superman.

When you really boil it down to its core the idea of someone imbued with a significant advantage in life that chooses to stand against the evil intentions of others, to protect those with less, is a truly human thing. Maybe it’s not about flags or borders, but just about the nature of good people that take action and stand as a symbol to others that injustice, lies, thievery, and rape (physical, emotional, or mental) will not, and should not, be acceptable in a community of decent human beings. To be human though, is to tell stories, its how we started recording history by oral traditions. Thousands of years later our imaginations could no longer be contained by a single medium and we grew in the world and in the way we tell our stories, by speech, on paper, in print, within our music, and even with film. So, to be a true American, to be more like a superhero, to be human really, go out there and tell a story, any story, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Get Vivid, and have fun.