Fairer Sex Heroes by Jae Gibbs.
Feminism Finally came to Asgard in 2014.
Did you know that the first masked super-heroes were created for and by women? In 1902, Emma Orczy wrote the Scarlet Pimpernel, about a masked vigilante, and in 1936 “The Phantom” was first published in an Australian women’s magazine. If not for women readers, would modern comic books exist? Doubtful, since in the early days of the medium, (1930’s-40’s) more girls read them than boys, regardless of subject matter. And now, studies show that women and girls are buying and reading about half of all comics and graphic novels, more than that if you include sales of Manga.
(The Mighty Thor from our Marvel T-Shirts collection.)
So, when I saw that Marvel’s THOR was going to become a female character, I thought it a ploy, as did many fans and critics. Then I read it. It was really damn good. The writer, Jason Aaron, denied that it was a ploy from on high and said he’d been planning this arc for the two years strong he’d been writing for Thor. Along with outstanding art by Russell Dauterman and colors by Matthew Wilson, the story of Thor Odinson losing his worth to carry the mighty Mjolnir, his arm and his heroic will, while Freya reigns as All-Mother of Asgardia, enchanting the hammer so that it says “If SHE be Worthy” was an amazing story to behold, even if you’re not a fan of super-hero comics or Norse Mythology.
“Hel Yes!” indeed.
Have you ever been hanging out with a little kid in a group of adults and he makes a fart joke that just happens to have the perfect timing and words to be hilarious and the entire group bursts out into raucous laughter? At that point you can do nothing but look at the kids parents in sympathy because you know that for the next 12 years or so that kid will do nothing but fart jokes, ever looking for that magical humor lightning to strike twice and probably lead him to a future career as tow truck driver, mall security guard, or writer of a bitter and acerbic movie review blog. Basically if it doesn’t involve flatulence he will no longer think it funny just because a bunch of moronic grown ups laughed at a joke he made at age 6.
That’s pretty much what I see happening here. Robert Rodriguez teamed up with Frank Miller and came out with a mind blowing movie that was lauded for it’s camera work and noir heritage. Since whenever he’s not doing a film like this or Machete he is doing films with titles like The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl one can only imagine he is very hungry for a repeat of that adulation and as I pointed out in my review of Machete Kills he is of the “humor and excitement through repetition” school of movie making it makes sense that he would be totally cool with doing essentially the same movie with a few new characters in it. The problem is the original Sin City was mind blowing for it’s originality whereas this film ends up feeling like you just watched a really well done documentary on a subject you are already very familiar with.
Not that it’s bad. If you loved the original Sin City and found yourself wishing it would go on for another 102 minutes your dreams have come true. Also if you are a fan of Cool World-esque cartoonish camera angles, black and white, and gravel voiced monologues forgetaboutit. If you feel guilty because every year you skip the Film Noir festival at the Castro Theater you could probably fill up your artsy dark movie tank and dash off into the night like a pretentiously mysterious Spanish gentleman in a romance novel.
Pretty frickin’ awesome.
It cannot be said that either DC or Marvel is batting 1000 when it comes to movies but I have to say for the most part Marvel does way better than DC. Sure, they have had their Hulks, Wolverine Origins, Howard the Ducks, Ghost Riders, Daredevils, and Electras but for the most part when they set out to do a cinema exxxxxxxtravaganza they pull it off and it has only gotten better since Disney took over (thanks Disney. You are still evil but I appreciate your movies). DC, on the other hand, is still struggling to do anything more than mediocre with any comic book that doesn’t have “Bat” in the title (and even the last Batman kind of sucked. Plus let us never forget or forgive Batnipples). If you lower things down the the base level and compare worst to worst Electra was better than Catwoman, Ghost Rider was better than Green Lantern, Daredevil was better than Jonah Hex, and the collective sum of all the evils released by Pandora that plague mankind is better than Batman and Robin (Haw. Mythology humor. Every day I get better and better).
Of course my Review-y sense tingles whenever I see the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy. I want my comic book movies to be taken seriously by the studio, not turned into a laugh-a-minute circus. Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede is not a song designed to make you take anything seriously. Time will tell.
All that aside I thought Captain America: the Winter Soldier was freaking awesome. It had almost all the elements needed for a fun, exciting movie: a story with drama, great action, great special effects, appealing characters, excellent camera work and editing, a guy with a shield, and S.H.I.E.L.D. They stayed true to the Captain America from Civil War in that he believes in the true freedom of America rather than the compromises we seem to be making every day (Retro Capt. image courtesy of the Marvel Comic t shirt category).
Of course the true strength of a comic book movie comes from the villain rather than the hero and in this the Winter Soldier excels. He is truly bad ass and strong enough to kick the hell out of Captain America but not so over the top that they have to come up with a magic bullet to kill him. In this regard Captain America is probably one of the best super heroes in that he is powerful but not so powerful that you have to have him fighting a god like Thor or Superman. When villains and heroes are on the level that a human could at least compete with them through luck or skill than they become much more interesting and engaging. I would be a grease stain on the sole of General Zod’s boot but against Scarecrow I could get lucky if I held my breath. It wouldn’t feel like a total waste of effort to try to run him over in my ’79 Thunderbird.
Naturally it wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t find something to bitch about. I can’t really talk about this without dropping some spoilers so skip ahead to the last couple paragraphs if that bothers you. SPOILER ALERT! The part that bugged the hell out of me is how freaking stupid the bad guys plan is. How exactly does a successful, rational human being working in politics decide the thing to do is follow the plan of a captured Nazi scientist to control the world through what can only be described as Nazi tactics? A scientist who wants everyone who is part of his secret plan to swear fealty to Hydra and whisper Hail Hydra in each others ear? And his plan is to launch three flying death fortresses that will kill 20,000,000 people based on an algorithm developed by that scientist around his own already proven murky sense of morality? The one who used to work for the most evil regime in history and who looks and sounds like he heats his house in the winter by throwing babies in the furnace? Who wants to recreate an organization that was so evil and dangerous that they had to form a special task force just to stop them? That guy?
Also how about that guy having his consciousness transferred into a computer made of reel to reel machines circa 1976? My iPhone has about 10000 times the computing power.
They just can’t let go of the scope issues. Instead of making this about a power struggle inside S.H.I.E.L.D. it has to be about Hydra somehow infiltrating the organization created to fight against them and then coming up with a really dumb and expensive plan to kill millions. How about a S.H.I.E.L.D. plan to read every email, text, and listen to every phone call in order to restrict our freedoms? Or is that hitting too close to home? I don’t know. I just found the whole base concept stupid. An analogy I thought of while headed home last night is that a movie is like a submarine, navigating the Sea of Disbelief. A good plot cruises long on the surface, enjoying the sun and fresh air. Every time you do something that makes the audience say “huh?” you dive another hundred feet under the water, causing the hull to strain as all the pressure of disbelief gets stronger and stronger. Some movies creak and groan, some movies spring leaks, and some are totally crushed like a beer can against a frat boys forehead.
This movie wasn’t on the crushed side but I could definitely hear the hull plates groaning. The story starts off with Captain America (Chris Evans-What’s Your Number?, the Avengers, Scott Pilgrim versus the World) running laps with his African American side kick (are we not as a nation over that yet?) Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie-Real Steel, Hurt Locker, Pain and Gain). He gets picked up by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson-Her, The Prestige, We Bought a Zoo) in a Corvette and goes off on a mission to save a SHIELD ship from pirates. If you saw the opening scene from the Expendables you have seen this segment, except Captain America gets into an extended fight against the main pirate.
They rescue a bunch of hostages including SHIELD Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández-Warrior, Thor, the Avengers). Black Widow reveals she has a secret mission to recover data from the computer, a fact that pisses off Captain America. Back in the USA Nick Fury (Samual L. Jackson-Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, the Incredibles) tells him to suck it up and then shows the Captain a secret project to launch three giant flying death stars who’s job is to assassinate enemies from the air using sophisticated targeting. Captain Americas belief in the American way makes him very unhappy with that.
On the drive home Nick is attacked by a ton of guys and barely manages to escape. He shows up wounded to Captain America’s apartment and tells the Capt that SHIELD is compromised. He gives Steve a USB drive right before he gets shot by an assassin. The assassin is the mythical Winter Solder and kicks 7 kinds of crap out of Captain America every time they meet.
Fury dies and the Captain goes to SHIELD headquarters. He is double crossed and has to flee. He hooks up with Black Widow and together they try to figure out who is behind the whole thing. Guys get shot, Winter Solder kicks more crap out of Captain America, giant flying aircraft carriers shoot at stuff, and bad guys never learn to try to shoot at Captain America’s legs under his shield. A master plan to control the world is revealed and Capt has to stop it with help from Black Widow, Falcon, and the woman of my dreams Colby Smoulders. Some old faces from the last movie surface to screw with Steve’s head.
Great comic book movie. Two stars. Now that I’m used to him being Captain America I really liked Chris Evans in this film. The rest of the cast nailed it too. One star. Great action, especially for PG-13. They kind of pushed the envelope and didn’t shy away from collateral casualties. One star. The Winter Soldier was freaking awesome. One star. My future wife Colby Smoulders was in this one and looking super hot. Somebody let her know she is destined to marry me. One star. Awesome CGI and special effects. One star. The back story of the Winter Soldier and Captain America was great and almost made up for the stupidity of the rest of the evil plot. One black hole. Robert Redford resurfaced and rocked it. One star. Overall super fun and exciting to watch. Three stars. Total: twelves stars.
The black holes:
Not a lot, but the one I have is pretty big. The whole Hydra/SHIELD/flying death star evil plot was like the finest 40 year old oak fermented wine, only substitute stupidity for wine. Sorry but it really pulled me out of the theater into the back ally where it gave my suspension of disbelief a sound thrashing. Two black holes. The 40 year old reel to reel computer housing the downloaded intellect of a human was super dumb too. It really felt like Disney was clearing out an old props warehouse and decided to get one more run out of the props from War Games before selling them off for scrap. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of nine stars. Very fun and well worth your time. Date movie? Sure if she likes comic book movies and super heroes. Otherwise take her to see the Grand Budapest Hotel. Bathroom break? The film runs a whopping 136 minutes so odds are you will need it. There’s a scene towards the last 1/3rd where Captain America is on a bridge looking wistful and trying to sort out the morality of something that is pretty disposable. Most of the non-action scenes that don’t involve Nick Fury don’t contribute much to the movie so honestly any time you see Steve and Black Widow not blowing stuff up is a great time.
Thanks for reading. Fun movie to see and review. Most other films took the wise road and opted to not go head to head with this juggernaut so not a lot to see. I think I’m going to see Cesar Chavez on Sunday with a person I am very interested in (more optimistic souls might call it a third date but I am just going to try to enjoy the day) so look for that review soon. I have a big tournament coming up and am going to spend a lot of time this next week painting some new figures. I’ll try to get some stuff written this week (probably more Star Trek). Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu and post comments on this film or review here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to email@example.com. Have a great weekend and enjoy this film. Talk to you soon.
Pretty but not great.
The day after I saw this film a friend asked me what I thought and I replied “Kind of pretty but not a lot else” at which point she said “That’s too bad. I love Baz Luhrmann.” This struck me as odd as I had never heard of this guy before seeing about 800,000 The Making of the Great Gatsby shorts Regal Cinima liked to shove onto the screen prior to showing the actual trailers over the last several months. Could it be he was some icon of film making that my low brow taste in movies caused me to miss, like an Austrailian Lars von Trier? A quick look at his filmography assured me that I had not missed much, although it explained why my female friend was a fan of his. Basically he makes great visual chick movies like Moulin Rouge! and Strictly Ballroom. I can honestly say I have never seen any of his other films and am not going to rush out to find them.
This film has fallen victim to it’s own marketing. I have seen the same trailer for it before every movie for the last six months. This translates into a lot of times. The trailer shows all kinds of action, with explosive WWI scenes, a huge sailing boat, guys beating up other guys, Gatsby walking in out of the rain looking like he’s ready to kick 8 kinds of ass, and above all a cool yellow car tearing ass through New York city. The car was there and played it’s part, but for the most part every other really cool exciting scene had little to nothing to do with the actual movie. Most of them were flashbacks or parts of sub plots. I spent most of the movie willing something exciting to happen.
I have never read the Great Gatsby. My high school was in most ways sub par, unless you think having a state championship surf team is remotely significant. I don’t see this as inhibiting my ability to review this film as all movies need to be able to stand on its own run time with no prerequisites. However my best friend is a huge fan of the book and filled me in on a lot of stuff. It’s basically a story about decadence and privileged in the 20’s. The main characters sole motivation for injecting himself into that society was to win over vain, superficial socialite Daisy. She is supposed to be everything one could despise in that society, epitomizing what some see as the class struggle depicted in the book.
The parts of the movie that bugged the hell out of me ironically turned out to be the parts that it looks like Baz Lurhmann opted to change or not bother to portray. Instead of showing Daisy to be a vain golddigger he presents her as a kind, gentle spirit with a load of compassion and depth. In addition to illustrating the danger of directors falling in love with their lead characters it also makes her final decisions and actions in the last 20 minutes so at odds with her character that I kept looking for body snatcher pods in the greenery. The disparity was jarring and off putting. If you spend most of a movie establishing a character you can’t have her pull a U turn without any kind of motivation. There was also a tertiary attempt at showing the difference between the lavish and tasteless decadence of the upper classes and the struggling working class, but it was so glossed over that you could walk away with the feeling that there was no consequence to letting the proletariat eat cake. The narrator, while starting off as a main character himself, turns into the physical manifestation of deus ex machina and ends up having the personality of the background scenery. Gatsby himself is well portrayed by Leonardo di Caprio, but you don’t meet him for the first 40 minutes of the film and most of the time he seems so over the top you have a hard time identifying with him.
Also, ultimately this story is a total bummer. My friend tells me at least that part is true to the book but that doesn’t make it easier to absorb. A sad ending is great when it is well portrayed (if you want to see an amazing sad story watch the Deer Hunter) but at the end of a film that seems to want to have all the depth of a kiddie pool it feels out of place. It’s like Baz suddenly realized his movie was more glitz than content and cranked in a last minute deep ending. The parts don’t all seem to match (yes, I know this is the true ending from the book. I just call them like I see them, and I’m willing to bet the book had a lot more depth throughout).
By the way, is it fair to be truly annoyed that IMDB doesn’t even list F. Scott Fitzgerald as a writer in the main credits? For shame.
Before I get into the story I’d like to mentions something about the visuals. In that making of video I have seen about 100 times Baz talks about wanting to keep the aesthetic of the 20’s. In order to do so he uses extensive CGI and it shows, although not in a good way. Huge swaths of the film look like any of the daylight scenes of Coruscant from Star Wars Episode II or III. It just looks cartoonish and unreal. A certain amount of unreality is acceptable in science fiction but in a period piece like this one it just feels wrong. Also the effort put in to justify shooting this in 3D was considerable and for the most part wasted. I live for the day Hollywood realizes that 3D is a massive waste of time and money.
The story. Nick Carraway (Tobey McGuire-Spider Man and not a whole lot else. Spider-man image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category) starts off in a mental institution recounting the events that lead him here (this, by the way, is another plot device that Baz created that does not exist in the book and it really bugged. Don’t mess with the classics IMO). This thin premise allows him to do a voice over narration detailing his life in West Egg, a Long Island community. He has a cottage next to the biggest mansion in the world or so. He connects with his old Yale classmate Tom Buchannon (Joel Edgerton-Warrior, the Thing, Revenge of the Sith), to whom he seems to have no loyalty. Tom is married to Nicks cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan-Drive, an Education, Pride and Prejudice), a hauntingly beautiful socialite. They all have tea together with Daisy’s freakishly tall friend Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki-A Few Best Men) where Nick is told about Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who throws lavish parties in the very mansion Nick lives next to.
Nick eventually meets Gatsby (Leonardo di Caprio-Inception, Titanic, Shutter Island), who recruits him into helping set up a meeting between Daisy and he. He knew Daisy before the war and has been enamored of him ever since but for some mysterious reason she married Tom. Meanwhile Tom is having an affair with Myrtle (Isla Fisher-Rango, Rise of the Guardians, Home and Away), the wife of lower class auto mechanic George (Jason Clarke-Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless, Death Race). Gatsby finally gets his meeting with Daisy, and starts to woo her. At that point the story is supposed to be about Daisy’s conflict between her rich husband and rich boyfriend, but honestly it just seemed like she was all one way and then jumped ship with no thought whatsoever.
I have to give Baz credit for ambition, and for attempting to tell a story that does not fit in the normal Hollywood demographic. Two stars. Visually stunning at parts, and the attention to detail and costuming was amazing. One star. Leonardo did his usual great job. When exactly did I become a fan of his? I used to hate the guy. One star. Joel Edgerton also did a very fine job. One star. Aside from the cartoon like CGI the camera work and editing were impressive, with a lot of cool shots that go beyond the pale. One star. The movie ran a massive 143 minutes but managed to not feel like it, so great editing and pacing. One star. Carey Mulligan has the face that should inspire great paintings and sculptures, and Elizabeth Debicki is pretty damned hot as well. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes.
The movie really failed to latch on to any of the available themes from the book, and left me wondering “Why did all that happen exactly?”. One black hole. The insane asylum gag was hackneyed and cliche. For that matter I had a hard time taking anything Tobey McGuire did seriously. One black hole. The Daisy character was grossly underdeveloped, and what was presented of her was at odds with the character she was supposed to play. She bounced back and forth like a Ping Pong ball and had about as much volition. One black hole. There were a lot of sub plots that I’m sure are huge in the book but in here they needed to be explored a little more. Also a general lack of character motivation. One black hole. I have said before I rarely pay attention to a sound track and it has to be really bad or really good for me to even notice, and in this case it was really bad. A sound track should help you with the immersion, reinforcing the visuals and helping to set the tone. Having a film set in the 20’s but have songs by Jay-Z and Beyonce is completely wrong. It’s like watching Col. Kurtz get killed at the end of Apocalypse Now and have Barbie Girl by Aqua playing in the background (except that might have some LOL points that this film lacks). One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of three stars. Meh. Worth seeing if you are a huge Leonardo fan or just like watching rich people party. If you do want to see it be sure to do so on a big screen as the visual are nice. Date movie? Absolutely, 100% yes. The costumes, period, and romance will definitely hold your date’s interest, and if she has ever considered not going out with you because you are not rich this film will guilt the hell out of her. As an illustration of how women can be painfully shallow and bring about the destruction of otherwise decent film this film should be required viewing for all single women (not that I’m bitter). Bathroom break? At 143 minutes you are going to need something. Honestly any of the party scenes are pretty repetitive and one could be missed easily, but they are all in the first half of the film. The actual romance scenes between Gatsby and Daisy don’t do a whole lot so go then (unless you are on a date. If so hold it and use that chance to hold her hand or something).
Thanks for reading. I plan to see Peeples tonight. It looks awful but I have been enjoying a lot of decent films lately so eventually I guess I have to pay the piper. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this film or my review please post them here. Any off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Brought to you by Audi, Sun Microsytems, and Oracle.
I know the new trend is to inject products into media in order to offset the fact that no one bothers to watch commercials anymore, but the product placement for these companies in this movie is pretty rampant. Given the fact that this film is destined to probably make a billion dollars from ticket sales it strikes me as a little on the greedy side and honestly denigrates the quality of this film.
That aside, I tremendously enjoyed this film last night. Granted I am a huge comic book movie, Iron Man, and Marvel fan, which tends to make me more forgiving of film elements that are less than optimal. There were parts of this film that danced dangerously close to the edge of the suck cliff and were I less well disposed towards the franchise I might have happily pushed it over (or, depending on how you feel about me or my reviews, pulled it in. Marvel logo courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category).
The third movie in a trilogy is rarely the best. Normally the series tends to have a killer first movie followed by crap (the Matrix, the Hangover, Robocop) or it has a mediocre first one but enjoys a rebirth with a better sequel (Star Trek). In most cases you get a couple decent ones and then the creativity pump runs dry for the third (Spider Man, Star Wars, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Godfather, Mad Max) or later.
I honestly don’t know what happens. Maybe we the audience just get jaded and the characters become blase? Perhaps they literally burn up all their cool ideas in the first couple movies and leave you with ideas lifted from the land of lame or just retreads of old hats? Something is running on fumes, resulting in most third movies sucking.
The point is Iron Man bucks this trend by having a movie that is way better than the second film, but not quite a good as the first. This is actually a rousing endorsement as 80% of the first film still puts this movie way ahead of the movie pack. It is fun, exciting, visually stimulating, and has Robert Downey Jr. playing his best role ever as Tony Stark.
Again, not flawless and on a less happy day I might harp on these things in more detail. Throughout most of the film I kept asking “What is the villains actual plan? What does he hope to accomplish with his terrorism plot?” This is the sort of question one hopes to have resolved by the end of the movie but it is pretty much ignored. As far as I can tell the villain is motivated by the fact that he is an a-hole and in order to give Iron Man a reason to kick ass.
The film also almost pushed itself off the cliff by introducing a cute kid sidekick. I blame Disney for this and in most cases this is a sure indication of suckitude. However, I will give the director Shane Black (who did Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, BTW) credit for making this kid actually add to the film rather than anchor it down. He was kind of funny and they didn’t have him do something stupid like ninja kick some adult in the face. Also Tony Stark’s interaction with him was hilarious, and the kid they cast actually has some acting talent (Ty Simpkins-Insidious, the Next Three Days, Little Children).
The story. I am not going to get too deep into this as I expect you all to see this film anyway. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr-Iron Man, the Avengers, Sherlock Holmes) is working on more an more suits while haunted by memories of his extremely near death experience at the end of the Avengers and is suffering from massive insomnia. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow-Contagion, Thanks for Sharing, The Avengers) runs his company but now lives with Tony. A guy Tony treated badly in 1999 Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce-Momento, Hurt Locker, Prometheus) now has his own think tank and wants to partner up with Stark Industries. Pepper passes on moral grounds.
Meanwhile, the news is full of coverage of bombings by a terrorist called the Mandarin who blows people up in the advancement of something(?). His trick is there is never a trace of the bomb components after the explosion. He blows up Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood and managed to catch long time Stark employee and friend Happy (John Favreau-Swingers, Made, Iron Man). Tony challenges the Mandarin who responds by blowing up his house. Tony has to save Pepper and an ex one night stand super hot scientist (this is the part where I get frustrated with my life) Maya (Rebecca Hall-the Prestige, The Town, Dorian Gray). He gets beat up and knocked unconscious and ends up in the town where the first explosion happened (somehow. Jarvis sent him there based on the last flight plan programmed but really it was to make up for a lack of connecting plot devices).
There he meets the kid Harley who helps him rebuild the suit and find out some information regarding the first bombing. He then gets attacked by a couple henchmen who have red glowing heat healing power (still not sure what that was about. They really didn’t bother to explain it. Red glow=melt steel, super strong, and heal anything. For the record the main henchman was James Badge Dale-the Grey, Shame, the Departed and his assistant was Stephanie Szostak-the Devil Wears Prada, Dinner for Schmucks, We Bought a Zoo).
At this point going much further would kind of spoil things so I won’t. Pepper gets kidnapped. Tony has to rescue her. We meet the Mandarin played brilliantly by the great Ben Kingsley (Ghandi, Sexy Beast, Hugo). Stuff starts blowing up, Jarvis does a lot of the action heavy lifting, and Tony gets to show off a bunch of the new suits he has been creating.
Comic book movie. Two stars. Great action. Two stars. Flawless CGI and effects. Two stars. Excellent acting all around, even the kid. Two stars. If Rebecca Hall ever wants to give up the acting life and marry a guy who sells t-shirts and reviews films she should call me. Heartbreaker. Gwyneth is easy to look at too. One star. While they were kind of lacking in motivation all the villains were super bad ass and cool. One star. Pacing was excellent for a long movie. One star. Some of the suit dynamics and choreography they worked out was really cool, even War Machine. One star. Overall a fun, exciting movie. Two stars. Total: Fourteen stars.
The Black Holes:
While the action was cool, it labored under the burden of PG-13 (Disney style PG-13) like a man with massive elephantitis of the testicles. One black hole. The confusion surrounding what the villains hoped to accomplish drained a lot of the believability from the plot. Being evil for evil’s sake does not enhance a movie villain. One black hole. While the movie was long (130 minutes) there were a lot of missing connective scenes. You could almost see the directors hand gently pushing the plot along. One black hole. I am going to hit this movie for the fact that the trailers (which as a reviewer I have seen about 40 times. No joke) included a lot of scenes that indicated really cool angst or desperation from Stark but when you got to them in the film they were a lot more trivial. There was a lack of motivation for them. The scene where Tony is dragging his suit through the snow could have been fixed had he made one phone call to any of the thousands of Stark employees, and they never established why he didn’t want to make that call. One black hole. This is about as petty as I can get, but at one point Tony has a blood stain dripping from his left eye. However, in a scene a few seconds later it’s on his right side. Then, one more scene later it’s on his left again. I’m willing to put this on the editor for reversing the image, but you would expect a film with a $200 million budget to hire a continuity checker. One black hole. Finally, product placement a go go. One black hole. Total: Six black holes.
A grand total of eight stars and my recommendation that you see this film. You will enjoy the heck out of it. See it on a big screen or you will lose a lot of the visual appeal. A good film, but if you are looking for my vote for best sci fi film so far this year I am still going to go with Oblivion. It had a plot symmetry that this film lacks. Date movie? Sure. However, if your date gets turned on by Robert Downey Jr. be sure to grow a goatee beforehand in order to take advantage of her mental state afterwards. Bathroom break? There is a scene where Pepper is talking to Maya on a bed in a hotel room that could be missed with impunity about 2/3rds of the way through. I’d try to hold it if you can however. You don’t want to miss much of this.
Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Post comments on this review or movie here. If you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
About 911 times better than I thought it would be.
I will admit I was not expecting much from this movie. Halle Berry has never before been on my list of actresses who are so engaging that I need to see whatever she stars in. As far as I was concerned all she was known for would be a really bad Storm from X-Men and a really, really, awfully super bad Catwoman in Catwoman. I have been told she did some good work in Monsters Ball but I was so annoyed about Catwoman that even the promise of seeing her topless could not entice me to watch that film.(X-Men image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category)
In a sense I’m actually annoyed at this film for not sucking more because now I have to take Halle Berry seriously as an actress. I won’t say she made the movie happen but she was in every scene and played her roll very well. Of course in almost every scene she was either stressed out or freaked out and for all I know that might be her natural state of being, making her role very easy. Since I liked her for the most part in Cloud Atlas I guess she is starting to unbury her needle for me. She will have to do a lot more great movies to undo Catwoman, but this is a great step in the right direction.
What made this movie good in my mind is the fact that the director Brad Anderson (Transiberian, Session 9, the Machinist (awesome movie BTW)) managed to take a pretty formulaic story and have my friend and I gripping our armrests in true tension for most of the film. Having seen so many bad movies the part of my brain that actually connects with the films and feels such rarities as excitement or worry about the characters has shriveled up and more or less almost died, kept alive only through the occasional episode of the Walking Dead. This film however managed to connect to that dejected little clump of brain cells and throw a wild fiesta for them.
That’s not to say the film is perfect. Like I said, the story is really formulaic and about as simple and straightforward as riding a subway through a long tunnel. Towards the end the film shifted gears from a cool CSI style crime drama into an episode of Scooby Doo meets Saw, but for the most part it kept the tension levels high.
The story. Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, X-Men, New Year’s Eve) plays Jordan Turner, a 911 dispatch operator working for the LAPD. It is established early on that she is very competent and experienced. A young girl calls in to report a man breaking into the house. She hides under the bed but when the phone disconnects Jordan calls her back, alerting the intruder as to where she is. The girl is kidnapped and later turns up in a shallow grave. Flash forward six months and Jordan is now in charge of training new operators and no longer works calls. One of her trainees gets a call from another girl (Abigail Breslin-Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine, Signs) who is being kidnapped and is trapped in the trunk of the kidnappers car.
At that point the tension ramps up dramatically. The phone the girl is using is disposable making tracing it very hard. Jordan takes over the call and uses a series of really cool and interesting police tactics to try to find the car. You get to see a lot of neat internal stuff that I hope is actually accurate and not just made up for Hollywood. The girl kicks out a taillight and waves at another car. She pours a can of paint out and tries to leave a trail. The kidnapper (Michael Eklund-the Watchmen, 88 Minutes, the Divide) gets waived down by another car. He kills the guy and switches the car.
The story progresses this way, with the police doing all they can to track down the kidnapper. Eventually the trail goes cold at an old cabin his family owns. Eventually the story changes lanes from really cool to kinda stupid when Jordan opts to Scooby Doo it out herself. Things get creepier but dumber at the same time.
The stars. As much as it galls me to say this with the taste of Catwoman in my mouth I have to give props to Halle Berry for a very credible performance. One star. Abagail Breslin was pretty good too. One star. I’m not sure how best to describe this, but the fact that the movie kept me engaged as well as it did was awesome. Three stars. Pacing was dead on perfect for the story and genre. One star. Seeing how the 911 dispatch service operates was very cool. One star. Overall a very exciting time. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes. The story was stupid simple and so formulaic that had it not been for the tension it would have felt like filling out your tax return. One black hole. The villain was every sociopathic stereotype possible and extremely one dimensional. They tried to give him some back story but for the most part it didn’t really work. One black hole. The Third Act was lifted straight out from Saw. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A total of five stars. I’m as surprised as you are. I rolled into this film sharpening my canines in anticipation of delivering a brutal mauling to a crap movie and was pleasantly shocked. I know I am enjoying a movie when I stop writing the review in my head and just watch. This film got some bad reviews from other people but I think it worth seeing. Date movie? If you are in a relationship and know she likes serial killers go for it. Otherwise not a good one. Some of this gets pretty creepy. Bathroom break? The scene where Jordan finally leaves the dispatch building and goes driving out is pretty unnecessary. Go for it. Honestly if you just pretended they caught the guy when they raided his cabin you might enjoy the movie more anyway.
Thanks for reading. I’m actually in town this week so expect to see a couple more reviews this weekend. I might have to go to LA to deal with some stupid crap Sunday night. Feel free to post comments here for this movie or my review. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Thanks again and have a great day. Talk to you soon.
I have had about eight of my friends ask me to express my opinion on this recent major change in the geek-osphere. To be perfectly honest, I am kind of apathetic. Thirteen years ago, prior to the Phantom Menace, I would have seen this as a betrayal and disaster on the order of Benedict Arnold having sex with the captain of the Exxon Valdez in the reactor room of Three Mile Island and giving birth to the most treasonous, mutated disaster in the history of the universe.
That, of course, was when I still believed that Star Wars and George Lucas were paragons of sci fi virtue to which nothing short of season 4 of Star Trek TOS could compare. However, like finding your sisters journal and discovering that not only is she no longer a virgin but has had enough action to put some porn stars to shame (at the time I remember being both really upset and jealous at the same time) George has ruined whatever virtue Star Wars ever really had by whoring it out to death and then selling it’s corpse to weird sexual fetish people. Like a creepy child molester dressed as a clown (ugh!) he has put his filthy hands all over his own creation and touched all of it’s bathing suit parts in ways that will continue to resurface for decades and the question I have to ask is “Can Disney really screw it up any worse?”
Sure, as their acquisition of Pixar has proven they can’t absorb anything without infusing it with their weird brand of cheerful corporate smiley totalitarianism, but say what you will about them (believe me, I have) the one thing they are good at is making films. It does seem that whenever they dip into the science fiction pool they seem to come out with John Carter of Mars or Tron Legacy, but as bad as films may be I would take all the bad in every Disney sci fi movie combined (yes, even Around the World in 80 Days) to having to watch even one full minute of Jar Jar Binks on screen.
The thing is, George Lucas might have been visionary and a special effect genius back in the 70’s but honestly he sucks at making movies. Disney can actually hire good actors (rather than guys who should haven’t even been considered for the role of C3PO) and create a romance that doesn’t make me want to sterilize the entire human race. While their stories are pretty pat and lame they don’t look like they were written by a brain damaged eight year old. Most importantly, they don’t have a Death Star sized ego or the drive to control every aspect of the film. They are fully capably of hiring good directors, writers, and producers rather than feel the need to do it all themselves.
I think the recent amazing hit the Avengers is a perfect example of that. They seem to have understood that the fans didn’t want to see Tinkerbell team up with the Hulk (image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category) in a fight to save dogs from Cruella DeVille and for the most part gave us what we wanted. I can only hope they have the same understanding with Star Wars and opt to stay away from giant racist cartoon rabbits who make me want to punch every fat white bearded man I see in the head.
So bottom line, I think I am OK with this huge merger. Lucas scored big ($4.05 billion. Remember begging your mother to buy you that Hoth Han Solo action figure? Guess where all that money ended up) and I hope he enjoys it. My only hope is that Disney hires Joss Whedon to direct the next one and he produces a movie that makes all other Star Wars (after Empire, of course. I’m not asking for the Second Coming here) look like the dross they are, and that George Lucas is so shamed by what he did to a great series that he either moves to Tibet to become a penniless monk or chokes on his own bile.
Sorry no new reviews for a while. Headed to Texas tomorrow and am painting my ass off tonight. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu.com. If you have comments on this topic feel free to post them. If you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks, and have a great night.
P.S. I suppose I should say something about Disney also acquiring the rights to Indiana Jones. However, again, after the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull how much worse can they damage it? Honestly, I was never that much an Indiana fan. Also, can someone explain to me how the 13 crystal skeleton aliens all died in the control chairs for the space craft and the last one cut off his own head to hide out in the jungle somewhere? What part of that makes sense? You can thank Lucas for the aliens as well.
OK, I finally got around to seeing this film, and a couple things struck me as painfully stupid. I’m only going to as one tonight, as Dave keeps wanting me to post more frequently, but this one is bugging the hell out of me.
Here it is. Peter Parker walks into the very high security OsCorp building, complete with some serious security guards, and manages to convince the receptionist that is is some foreign guy. Is she so dumb that she never thought to check an ID? Especially after he seems vague and confused as to the whole intern thing? Then, a few minutes later another guy shows up who probably has legitimate ID and they frog march him out of the building. At that point Peter is more or less free to roam the building at will and defeat hi tech security in order to get into the radioactive spider room. How stupid do they think we really are? This is just dumb.
The Spider Man picture I pulled out of Dave’s Marvel T Shirt collection. I am a fan of those old school images.
For those of you who don’t follow this sort of thing, Warhammer 40,000 just got their 6th Edition rulebook last week. In the world of miniatures this is kind of a huge event, and as a fan of the game and a huge fan of the 40K backstory I have been following it closely.
So I came up with this scenario and am wondering who would win. Space Marines are incredibly tough, with reflexes, strength, and training to put the hurt on almost anything. Furthermore, they are to a man encased in advanced battle armor and armed with very destructive weapons (bolters, for the most part). Finally, they would see the alien symbiote part of Venom as a xenos abomination and Eddie Brock as a heretic for consorting with xenos.
On the other hand, I honestly believe that Venom would be able to force itself in through the respirators of the power armor and choke to death or even spike the brains of the Marines inside. His ability to enhance Eddies already high strength makes him capable of throwing a Rhino around.
It would be close, and I think it boils down to equipment. If the Space Marine squad were armed with one or more flamers I think it would go badly for Venom. I’m going to give this one to the Marines.
The Venom face I got from Dave’s Marvel Comic t shirts by the way.
Can someone please explain to me why this movie was made?
I’m not saying it was bad (I’m also not saying it was good. Like so many movies lately it qualifies as entertaining and not a whole lot more). I’m just saying that the best term to use in describing this movie is unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the Spider-Man story as told by Sam Raime 10 years ago. It is a reboot, but not truly a reimagining. It doesn’t come up with anything new or exciting. That acting is not any better. The special effects are superior (after 10 years I would be shocked if they weren’t improved) but the action scenes are significantly less exciting or well shot. Overall it’s just another Spider-Man movie that will fade into the mishmash of other mediocre comic book movies like an Alka Seltzer tablet dropped into a toilet bowl.
(Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category)
It’s really hard to do a review about a franchise reboot without comparing it to the first film and since today is the 4th of July and I have a BBQ to get to I’m not even going to try. Honestly, this film, while better technologically, is not as good as the first Tobey MacGuire film. Sorry fan boys. There it is.
There are a few other words that could be used to describe this movie. I suppose I have to give them competent. The movie is competently made in the same way you expect your dentist to fill your cavity competently. You would be shocked if he was incompetent and drilled the wrong tooth, or slipped and drilled a hole into your brain. However, would you want to go to a tattoo artist who was merely competent? Obviously competence would be a requirement for a good tattoo artist, but I would want someone both creative and artistic, with the ability to come up with something amazing that I had not thought of myself. For a hallowed franchise such as Spider-Man competence is not enough. There are no glaring plot holes, bad direction, or bad acting. Just nothing mind blowing.
Another term I would use to describe this story is glossed over. Every aspect of the Spider-Man story felt rushed and glossed over. The spider bite? Glossed over. Remember how in the first one Peter Parker spent a lot of time trying to even figure out how to use his powers? They sort of did that here but rushed through it and kind of, well, glossed it over. Ben Parkers death and the dramatic effect it had on Peter Parker? Glossed over and hardly mentioned. Development of a villain to fight? Glossed over. The action scene were brief, glossed over, and felt included out of a sense of obligation rather than a desire to make an action film (I liken it to my mom forcing me to bring my little sister along to everything as a kid). Even the romance between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, which seemed to dominate the screen time, felt stunted and malnourished. Critical aspects of it was seriously glossed over. I hate myself for saying this, but I found myself missing Kirstin Dunst as Mary Jane Parker. At least she and Tobey MacGuire had some on screen chemistry and the romance was allowed to develop organically. Here the romance is shoved on the screen and we are told they love each other but not offered any real evidence. The movie feels like they took every minor story from the Spider-Man canon and trimmed off all the corners in order to fit them all into a single 136 minute film. The funny thing is Sam Raime did the same thing and managed to come up with a great movie. Here it all just feels rushed and abbreviated.
Another term I could use here is enhanced, and I don’t mean it in a good way. The only time they really did anything different from the Sam Raime version is in making Peter Parker a super stud even before the spider bite. One of the greatest thing about Spider-Man is Peter Parker was pretty much a mundane “every man” before gaining his powers. In this film instead of being an awkward nerd about to graduate high school he is a good looking, skateboard riding, fashionable, scientific genius, contacts wearing hipster-esque dreamboat. There is none of the “Peter Parker coming of age” development that so aided the first couple movies (emo Peter Parker in the last one kind of derailed that aspect pretty badly).
A final word I will use to describe this movie is predictable. I don’t think I need to explain it any further.
Anyway, I could go on but won’t. Here is the story: Peter Parker gets bit by a genetically enhanced spider. Now go rent the 2002 Spider Man and you are good to go. Substitute Dr. Curtis Conner for Norman Osborne, the Lizard for the Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy for Mary Jane (blond for red head, basically), and Police Captain Stacy for J. Johah Jamison. Add in some odd ball continuity issues (how is it Peter Parker’s dad’s glasses are exactly Peters prescription?) and cut out a lot of the cooler story aspect in order to make more room for awkward chemistry-less romance. Get rid of the huge sweeping camera shots that made Spider Man swinging through NYC so cool and instead use the camera quick cut editing that has plagued movies for the last five years for everything that even smells like action. Throw in a grandiose evil villain plot that makes little sense and you are done.
By the way, a few weeks ago I posted a discussion as to why TWOK is the best of the Star Trek movies that I think applies to this movie in comparing it to the Sam Raimi one. If you recall, in the first movie the Green Goblin was more or less motivated to keep his company from being sold out from under him and then to either recruit Spider Man or destroy him. There was a personal and believable motivation that worked extremely well in conjunction with a well developed villain. In this movie Dr. Conners seems to have no real motivation for what his sceme is, and instead of having an axe to grind with Spider Man he has some dumb plan to save humanity by destroying it. The scope of the story actually hurts itself. Movies are always better when there is a personal reason for the antagonist to go after the protagonist. As soon as you expand his (or her) animosity to include the faceless unwashed masses of humanity you stop caring. As an audience we need to connect with a character and care about what happens to him or her. There isn’t enough caring to be had for the entire population of New York City.
Another issue I had was something Jason brought up a while ago about Spider Man running around without his mask on. In the comics he was religious about always wearing the mask. He never, ever ran around in the suit without it, to the point that even as a zombie he always wore the mask and talked about how it reminded him of his humanity. In this movie he couldn’t find enough excuses to take off the mask while wearing the suit. It’s like someone filled it with itching powder.
Finally, there were some real inconsistencies with regards to Spider Man’s powers. Did he have spidey sense or not? Sometimes it seemed like he did, like when he had to dodge bullets fired from three feet away. Other times he couldn’t sense a bus coming at him. Can he cling to buildings or not? He seems to do it all the time but then at the end needs someone to save him and haul his ass up the side of a building. When you see it you will understand.
Sigh. The stars. Comic book movie. Two stars. I am a Spider Man fan and will give it a bonus star for that. One star. No real glaring plot holes. One star. In spite of the difficulty in generating chemistry, I thought almost all of the acting was pretty well done. One star. I am a huge Emma Stone fan (Crazy, Stupid Love, Zombieland, the Help). I wasn’t really digging her as a blond but still. One star. CGI and special effects were nigh flawless. One star. Overall I was generally entertained and felt I got my money’s worth. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. Somehow not quite getting the story right IMO. One black hole. Very limited action, and what action there was felt purposefully shortened and rushed through. One black hole. The whole “glossing over” of so much of the canon. One black hole. Peter Parker as the cool kid. One black hole. It feels weird calling a movie derivative when it pretty much clones the original. I guess I will have to say I am awarding a black hole for lack of imagination or vision. One black hole. Finally, one more for creating a totally unnecessary film. This is basically the appendix of movies. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of three stars, which in my mind is a terrible score for a comic book movie. The Avengers scored a total of nine stars, and in my opinion is pretty much exactly three times as good. I still want to see the Avengers a second time, and honestly would not see this one again. Should you see it once? Sure, why not? It’s not bad, and you will probably enjoy it. However, a year from now it will have faded into the background. Overall it seems made more for kids that adults, and the kids in the audience seemed to love it (especially the little rug rat next to me who spilled his drink all over the floor, ruining my popcorn and more or less screaming through the first 30 minutes of the film until his dad had to take him out. Kids are generally cool, but parents generally suck). See it on a big screen, and honestly this is one of the few movies I am going to recommend you see in 3D. Seems like most of the action was designed to go better in 3D. Date movie? I supposed. This is another one that will neither enhance nor inhibit your campaign to get her into bed with you. Bathroom break? Dead easy. The dinner scene with Peter, Gwen, and her family is 100% worthless filler. The first time you see Peter Parker tap on Gwen’s window feel free to cut out, use the restroom, check your email, make a couple phone calls, and chat with the theater manager for five minutes.
By the way, during the course of writing this review I found out an answer to my original question as to why they made this film. Turns out the Sony license for Spider Man requires them to produce a movie in a timely manner or else it reverts back to Marvel (Disney). They had to rush something out and opted to go with mediocre rather than good. Too bad.
Thanks for reading, and I’m truly sorry I couldn’t gush about this movie a little more. It’s not bad. It’s just not great. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu.com. I don’t know if I am going to have time to see a lot of films this week as I am getting ready for Comic Con. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here. If you have off topic questions or suggestions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great 4th of July! Talk to you soon.